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    Overnight success.
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    Read an interesting piece on the Guardian site today about Kelly Marcel (writer: Saving Mr Banks, 50 Shades of Grey). Most interesting thing about the article was the line:

    And so began a decade's worth of overnight success.
    That pretty much sums up the life of screenwriters (and actors and everyone else in Hollywood, honestly). The ones you hear about always seem to break onto the scene and suddenly their names are on everything that's in development at the time. But the reality is that in almost every case, they've been busting their asses for years unrecognized, and often uncredited (I didn't know Marcel had done uncredited rewrite work on Bronson - a film I really loved).

    I remember in one of his Wordplay columns, Terry Rossio talked about how when he and Ted Elliot decided to become a writing team, they set out to write ten scripts over five years before they would even try to sell one. That was their gameplan: spend years developing their craft before attempting to "break in." The idea always encouraged me when I would get frustrated at not being the wunderkind screenwriter I thought I'd be when I first got into the craft.

    Sometimes it's important to remind myself that every year I get older is another year I get better. And there's no such thing as overnight success.

    The other interesting thing, to me, was to learn that Marcel, who wrote and sold what would become Terra Nova, was offered $300,000 per episode to write the first 13 episodes of the series. That's almost $4mil. She turned it down. From the article:

    She was, she says, just unsure it was what she wanted to write. Spielberg's brainwave that the show should involve dinosaurs didn't help. Instead, she simply sold the idea...
    While I've little actual knowledge of Marcel's skills as a writer (I don't know what or how much she contributed to Bronson, and haven't seen any of her other work - honestly, the 50 Shades thing throws some doubt into the mix, but whatever), I thought it was refreshing to see a screenwriter turn down what would have been a career-making job because she didn't trust that the project would turn out well. So she cut her losses, took the check and walked away. Three years later, her career is finally taking off. I know it seems easy in hindsight for someone to have walked away from Terra Nova, but think about it: four million dollars to write a show, based on your own idea, with Steven Spielberg producing. That's a f--king WET DREAM for any writer, especially a writer without a single credit to their name.

    I'm not really trying to talk about Marcel here, I'm talking about the ideas underbellying the article: overnight success takes years of hard work, and sometimes it's better to walk away.

    I don't know. Food for thought, I guess.
    "Trying to make a movie in Hollywood is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it." - Douglas Adams


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    Yes. And no. You have to come to terms with the dire fact that at times you may have the wrong timing. That at times you've not met the right people. That at times you tried to push a comedy when the people you'd pushed them to were more interested in crime. And about twelve other things. A not yet established writer is like a complex puzzle-piece in search of the right void to fit in.

    So, for me the really important sentence in the article in that respect is:

    "Among the suitors was the British producer Alison Owen, who much to Marcel's surprise agreed to let her write the story"

    Meaning: Writers are - if they have it - talent-fireworks waiting to get ignited. In the meantime - while waiting for the striking match - they have indeed to try to develop their skills. By writing. Whatever.

    Turning down something like that Spielberg-produced series needs two things: Guts, yes. But even more so a dead-sure feeling and/or "putative assessment" about yourself, you abilities and the way your fantasy works. This is really hard because you have no facts at hand to help you in the decision making. Only a sense that maybe, for all the money, you might get trampled by the dinosaurs ..... and maybe will not be really good with a genre ..... and maybe will get fired later on .... or develop the feeling you will get devoured by the Spielbergosaur Rex... ;-)

    Have to raise three hats for that lady for not falling in that trap. Because, as I read it: You have to know who you are as a writer.


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    And just having watched the trailer to SAVING MR. BANKS: It's all there. Disney = Spielberg, P.L. Travers = Kelly Marcel. What a great idea of Allison Owens to let Marcel write the script. Daughter of a director who started with wacky SF-Fantasy. Born and raised in Twickenham, probably near and sometimes even in the studios.

    She knows this universe. She very probably also knows the daily frustrations coming from being stuck in the world of cardboard-spaceships and wonder swords while hoping one day the one project will appear which makes you ..... and it doesn't come.

    She must understand someone who is commercially succesful but also wants to produce art. And often get's stuck in the middle. Like Disney. Like Spielberg. Like her father.

    So, yes: No Dinosaurs! Don't feed the T-Rex! Don't get stuck with the Spielbergosaur. Not because you despise him but because he lives in the world you have left.

    Great story in itself, btw.
    Last edited by Rolf Silber; 11-27-2013 at 08:38 AM.


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    A couple of thoughts. Spielberg can be a challenge to work for as a writer(especially on tv). You have to turn jobs down as a writer,actor, director that don't make sense. Sometimes its the material, sometimes the money, sometimes the people involved or time commitment. 300k per episode. 25% to agent and manager, in Cali 50% in taxes (good accountant and a loan out company can reduce that number). I suspect that after the initial episode the money wasn't guaranteed (I'm just guessing and I could be wrong). Sometimes its better to work on more fulfilling jobs (or at least less soul sucking). At a certain point in your life it isn't worth it to work on crap. I was very influenced by the teaching methods of the playwright/screenwriter John Steppling in college. If not familiar with his work he's written with Elmore Leonard (52 pickup), on the tv show Cracker, and the screenplay for "Animal Factory" based on the Eddie Bunker novel. He stopped taking Hollywood assignments (according to his blog) because the money versus time wasn't worth it to him. Hopefully this is only temporary because I enjoy his work.


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    Senior Member nycineaste's Avatar
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    In addition to your movie-making books, your personal library should include titles such as these:

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Success-Pr...ess+principles

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Habits-Hig...cessful+people

    this is free and one of the best:

    https://archive.org/details/Law_Of_S..._in_16_Lessons


    I would stay away from anything too esoteric and new-agey ("The Secret"), but get a handful of business/success literature.

    Get a personal journal where you keep your goals written down, your personal "mission statement", etc.... My journal is a big fat binder with hole punched blank paper, I have tabbed sections for notes on screenwriting (I do plot analysis while watching movies), producing, cinematography, and I have a section labeled "business/success". The book is a mixture of ideas for my own work, notes on techniques, etc.

    To succeed, there is a "success skill set" you must acquire- persistence, focus, willingness to look foolish to learn from your mistakes, cooperating harmoniously with others, etc.

    it will take you years to acquire this skill set but then you will begin to profit from it- your weaknesses will be made glaringly obvious as you work towards this. You can then work on fixing these weaknesses. Mine have always been having trouble finishing things (related to willingness to look foolish), turning others off with arrogance,not letting others talk and teach me things etc etc. You will have your own (if you didnt, you'd be succesful by now).

    YOU CAN DO IT

    Excelsior!!!!!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT7FFVdl-kk
    Last edited by nycineaste; 11-28-2013 at 11:06 AM.
    Be wary, my pre-2014 posts are full of arrogant dogmatizing. Little older and wiser now.

    "Noone is as arrogant as a beginner"
    -Someone

    "The foundation of film art is editing"
    - V.I. Pudovkin

    -Cinema is closer to language than it is to painting"
    - Sergei Eisenstein


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    Quote Originally Posted by Rolf Silber View Post
    Because, as I read it: You have to know who you are as a writer.
    YES! Both your posts were spot on, Rolf.
    "Trying to make a movie in Hollywood is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it." - Douglas Adams


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    Quote Originally Posted by lambert View Post
    A couple of thoughts. Spielberg can be a challenge to work for as a writer(especially on tv). You have to turn jobs down as a writer,actor, director that don't make sense. Sometimes its the material, sometimes the money, sometimes the people involved or time commitment. 300k per episode. 25% to agent and manager, in Cali 50% in taxes (good accountant and a loan out company can reduce that number). I suspect that after the initial episode the money wasn't guaranteed (I'm just guessing and I could be wrong). Sometimes its better to work on more fulfilling jobs (or at least less soul sucking). At a certain point in your life it isn't worth it to work on crap. I was very influenced by the teaching methods of the playwright/screenwriter John Steppling in college. If not familiar with his work he's written with Elmore Leonard (52 pickup), on the tv show Cracker, and the screenplay for "Animal Factory" based on the Eddie Bunker novel. He stopped taking Hollywood assignments (according to his blog) because the money versus time wasn't worth it to him. Hopefully this is only temporary because I enjoy his work.
    I agree that there will always be jobs that make sense to turn down, but looking at this one from the onset and not in hindsight (knowing now that the show would flop), this wasn't one of them. At least, not from a business standpoint. The money was great by any standard, regardless of taxes and commissions, and the chance to not only write your own TV show (relatively speaking), but to also work with Spielberg - most writers would kill to even be in a position to say yes, and she was in that position and said no.

    I don't think it was a business decision for her at all - not just from what she said, about it not being something she really wanted to write, but because with all the factors involved, the show made sense, with or without the dinosaurs (despite its price tag, most people thought the show would do a lot better than it did).

    Still, you make a good point: sometimes writers will leap at the first possible hint of a paycheck or "their own TV show," but while it might look good on the surface, sometimes it's just not worth it.
    "Trying to make a movie in Hollywood is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it." - Douglas Adams


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    Quote Originally Posted by nycineaste View Post
    Get a personal journal where you keep your goals written down, your personal "mission statement", etc.... My journal is a big fat binder with hole punched blank paper, I have tabbed sections for notes on screenwriting (I do plot analysis while watching movies), producing, cinematography, and I have a section labeled "business/success". The book is a mixture of ideas for my own work, notes on techniques, etc.
    About every six months or so, I sit down and reevaluate where I am in my career, what I've got going for me, what obstacles I'm facing, and write out my thoughts on how to proceed. It's actually about that time of year. Maybe I'll do one for New Year's.
    "Trying to make a movie in Hollywood is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it." - Douglas Adams


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    Quote Originally Posted by nycineaste View Post
    WTF

    You sound like Alec Baldwin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elrnAl6ygeM


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    Senior Member wcmartell's Avatar
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    There used to be an annual book called Film Writers Guide that listed *unsold* specs by many pro writers, and it was amazing to see some Oscar nominated (or winning) writer who had written scripts *after they had been nominated* that no one bought. So even after that ten to fifteen years it takes you for your overnight success, there are still going to be rough patches and not all screenplays will work.

    Ages ago, I asked Paul Schrader about one of the scripts that had been mentioned in an interview, but never in the trades as a sale. He said they can't all be winners. That opened my mind to the difficulty of this job.

    Bill


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