08 May 2006

two kinds of wannabees

If you spend any time at all banging your head against the gates of Hollywood in this crazy fever-dream pursuit of screenwriting success, sooner or later you'll discover that there are two very different general classes of writers out there claiming to be pursuing that same goal.

On the one hand you have those folks who commit themselves to learning the craft and developing their skills and networking effectively to discover any possible inroad into the industry. These are the people who do things like work on draft after draft of the same script designed to have commercial appeal and fit established identifiable marketable trends and demonstrate a serious intelligent understanding of the business of the business. These are the people who go to industry gatherings and actually push themselves into the crowd to meet people and make connections. These are the people who work with something like a plan for advancing their career, and who don't waste much precious time at all fretting over every strike call but instead focusing on improving their swing so that the NEXT pitch is the one they hammer for a hit.

These are the folks who find agents, get scripts read, optioned, purchased, produced, and who generaly become actual working writers.

On the other hand you have those folks who commit themselves to portraying themselves as struggling writers prevented from achieving success due to events and personalities beyond their control. These are the people who do things like work for years on one never-quite finished draft of some huge magnum opus of limited or non-existent appeal, a project with no clearly identifiable market appeal and thus no clear justification for ever being considered, much less made. These are the people who opt for ceaseless online flirting and cavorting with fellow aspiring screenwriters and never really do anything to make their presence known to anyone who might advance their career. They very often sit and home and chat all night long with cyber-buddies, and the collaborate by the half-dozen on group scripts which completely camouflage whatever solid input and contributions one talented writer might be able to make to the group, and they swap reads with each other but never actually send a script out to anyone connected with professional moviemaking. These are the folks who often have thundering grand pronouncements to offer about all that is wrong with Hollywood, and usually they have some great insight which would guarantee better movies for all if only the morons in Hollywood would listen.

This group tends to generate a high percentage of the long-term members of online screenwriting groups.

The first group works on becoming better writers, while the latter group writes about how nobody wants to look at their work.

The first group treats the industry as a serious place of business and sets themselves on a course to make themselves sufficiently attractive as an asset that the industry has clear cause to offer them some sort of tryout. The second group treats the industry as a flawed mess somehow unworthy or unwilling to see the genius of of their own personal brilliance and humanity.

The first group works to find a chance in the business. The second group writes about needing a change in the business.

In a sense, this is a variation on the old "when life gives you lemons" scenario: the first group makes lemonade, while the second group shares wondrous recipes they'd use if only they'd been handed canteloupe or mutton or bulgur instead.

Now, it is entirely possible to engage in one or more behaviors from either or both groups. "Not chatting online" for example does not prove that you are a serious screenwriter with potential professional value and relevance (any more than the occasional session of chatting online indelibly marks you as a lost cause). My point is merely this: there are those who are serious about becoming a serious professional writer, and then there are those who like the sound of claiming to be serious about becoming a professional writer.

Neither class of people is somehow more or less worthwhile, but it's important to understand what you are doing (and/or what you are not) in regards to advancing either goal. It's easy to get distracted, and easier still to find yourself surrounded by folks with different priorities and intensities.

Look in the mirrror and be honest. Know your goal, then chase it down. But be careful that you're not wasting time by chasing down the wrong (other) path or running with a pack pursuing different quarry than what you seek, 'cuz either wrong path seems fraught with heartache and disappointment.

Here endeth the lesson.


Ryan Rasmussen said...

And then there are those in a peculiar subset of the first group who -- as I understand it -- fret endlessly about their erratic, or even lack of, stereotypical second-group behavior. Yeah! I'm glad I got that out -- it's always a good, non-fretty feeling to cross "career advancement" off the list at the beginning of the week. Watch out, Tuesday!

Anonymous said...

I feel I took the best of both worlds because I am neither one

aggiebrett said...

Perhaps I was unclear-- *I* get to assign people to their respective groupings.

Sorry for the confusion.
autocratic for the people B

suzbays said...

Ooh, what kind am I?

Dave said...

I just wrote about something you touch on at the end of your blog.

I believe it to be quite true in many respects. In fact, I believe it's probably a major reason why people who are firmly in group #2 are stuck there.

They are probably unaware of their fear in taking that next step or having to make some sacrifice they are unwilling to make.

Good observations.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

I don't know which group I am in. I have pondered it for days. But, I'm afraid of I won't like the outcome. Perhaps that makes me group 2.

Pooks said...

If you don't know you're in Group 1, that doesn't mean you're in Group 2. It may mean you haven't been doing Group 1 long enough yet.

Or something.

aggiebrett said...

Or maybe you just need to be more honest about which group you **want** to be a part of. It's nasty-easy to slip from Group 1 to Group 2 without really intending or realizing...