My friend Agnes has no sense of direction. If you want her to be somewhere you have to give her street names and landmarks because the woman once tried to drive from San Diego to Phoenix and wound up in Tijuana. I don’t just mean which way is east, either. If we’re having lunch and Agnes goes to the restroom, she drops bread crumbs to find her way back to the table. Agnes is a smart woman who has worked at the same company in the same department for fifteen years because she needs to stay in her own lane. Drive forward. Make no turns, steady as she goes and do not deviate until she reaches her destination. The rest of us having some trouble on the path to success may need to consider a route change.
Yes, yes, I am still an emerging screenwriter. But not for nothing, I’m getting sick of that label, aren’t you? Still (not) An (there) Emerging (yet) Screenwriter. But I am also a director. That occupation has gotten the short shrift after a disastrous film school experience. #issues. It’s my fault, really. I should have known better than to go to a school called The Film School From Hell. Anyway, nowadays you can do both from the giddyup. When I was starting out it was pick one and be branded. There was the possibility of crossing over further down the career path and do it all. But thanks to the over-crowded market, the desire for new voices, everyone and their sister having a great story they absolutely need to tell and access to equipment and audience, it is possible to be a content creator before being recognized as either a writer or a director.
The best way into Hollywoodland is to be invited with clear directions. But you can’t get the invite if no one knows who the hell you are. So this is my call to action. Set your route my fellow emerging artists. Make a name for yourselves and get your work out there on your own.
It’s not who you are or who you know, it’s who knows you.
There are many ways to do that: web series, pitch deck, graphic novel, short film, trailer, produce your own play – anything that is a visual representation of who you are and what kind of stories you tell.
I always note Lena Dunham who was an indie filmmaker recognized for her breakout feature, Tiny Furniture before HBO got into bed with her for Girls. And Issa Rae was a hit on YouTube with her web series “Awkward Black Girl” before HBO picked her up for Insecure. Same deal for Vimeo’s High Maintenance (Gee, HBO you sure do get around. I’m available and open to anything. Anything so call me, ‘kay 😉
Time To Change Lanes
I’ve chosen the short film road. Many (most?) writer/directors start with shorts. Fine, so I’m a little late to the game because film schools are a proving ground. But, in my defense, Film School From Hell, remember? I didn’t get the filmmaking opportunities because I was a registered screenwriter told to stay in my lane. In 2017 anyone who tells a writer the only way to break in is to sell a script or win a contest or get staffed can go scratch. I’m making a short.
Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson were classmates at the University of Texas’s playwriting course when they came up with an idea for a short called Bottle Rocket. Putting together their life savings they came up with a $4,000 budget to make a 13 minute black-and-white film.
Paul Thomas Anderson, the critically adored director of There Will Be Blood and The Master owes his career to the short, Coffee And Cigarettes. He worked it into the film Hard Eight, which premiered at Cannes in 1996, launching one of the most important cinematic careers of the past few decades.
Most recently, Damien Chazelle who landed in La La Land, where he found success as a screenwriter (Grand Piano), made Whiplash the short as a proof of concept calling card for Whiplash the multi-awarded feature.
“With the influx of material, I don’t think people really read anymore, so a little piece of footage can go further than a 120-page script.” – Damien Chazelle Variety 9/2/14
During 2017 I will send out notes from the road. The joys and sorrows of writing my short script, finding a producer, cast and crew, etc. Then casting, pre- and post-production to finally (hopefully) festival submission. I feel like Odysseus on his journey back to Ithaca. Where will the Fates take me and how long before I reach home? Maybe I should bring Agnes to ride shotgun. We may end up in T.J. At least we’ll have bread crumbs.
Stay tuned and always Live Your Passion…