Features

Discerning eyes

"Discerning eyes" Continued...

Issue: "Fighting poverty," March 13, 2010

Q: Do you still have a copy or did you destroy it? I still have it but keep it locked up. I did a couple of versions of it, too. It was good practice. And that's what they tell you, that the first three scripts are usually terrible anyway. You just have to keep writing: That's how you get better. There are very few people who can write a really good script right out of the chute.

Q: At the time, did you understand that the first few scripts weren't going to go anywhere, or were you crushed? I'm a researcher, so whenever I want to learn or do something, I get a bunch of books. I got a bunch of books on screenwriting and that's what they all told me, and I believed it. I just said, "OK, that's fine, I'll just keep trying," because I really wanted to do it.

Q: How do you get a screenplay turned into a movie? You have to make connections with the Hollywood world: Cold-call production companies, try to get an agent, enter all the contests that you can. Today, hundreds of thousands of people are making phone calls and writing letters to LA saying, "I've got a great screenplay!" Hollywood works on connections, people they already know, or people who really stand out, so my task was to find that angle. It's salesmanship.

Q: You entered lots of screenwriting contests? For many years. It was about 10 or 11 years before I actually had a first movie made. I had been entering contests, writing about a script a year, and building up awards that became part of my resumé. Those awards became part of my pitch to producers. Some of the contests are meaningless-nowadays more and more are meaningless-but there are some big contests that make you stand out enough to producers to be considered.

Q: Some of the contests are meaningless because the competition isn't very strong, or everyone gets a blue ribbon for participation, or . . . A little of all of that. Production companies have realized that one of the ways to search for a script for free is to have a contest. You basically pay them to read your script, and the prize is-your script is produced by this company that happens to be putting on the contest. But a lot of that is a scam.

Q: As you went for a whole decade without getting anything produced, where did you get your encouragement? It's all within, because you don't get much encouragement at all. It's said that in Hollywood you have to have rhino skin, because you get rejected a lot. You just have to keep pounding and pounding. For every script I wrote, I would join 20 contests and send a query letter to a couple of hundred production companies. I'd be accepted to read the script at maybe 15 or 20 of those if I was lucky-it's usually more like 10.

Q: Were the positive responses helpful or just "nice"? You have to be tough, but on the other side they say you can die of kindness, because there's so much façade in Hollywood. Nobody wants to burn bridges because you don't know what little person will rise to fame in the future. So if you get people to read your script and they don't like it or it's not good, they won't say why, they'll just say, "Hey, good writing, but not for us." It's not that they're usually cruel, but nice in an unhelpful way.

Q: Did you keep your rejection letters? I've got hundreds of them.
To hear Marvin Olasky's interview with Brian Godawa, click here.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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