Once A Screenwriter Breaks Into Hollywood, What Is The Lifestyle?
by Corey Mandell
Film Courage: So you’ve worked with a lot of young students and I’m curious what the idea in their minds about what it’s like out there in the real world versus what the real world really is in terms of …[considering] whether they were the two best writers in the whole class?
Corey Mandell: Well when I teach a class at UCLA or my private workshops there are all these people that just want to be professional and they have no idea what it’s like to be a professional writer and I don’t think you ever know until you do it. And so it’s just “I want to be a professional writer and I have a vision of what that would be.”
Most people’s vision is I sit in a room (or in a room with other people) but let’s say I sit in a room and I write what I want to write and I write it in a way that I want to write it and I write what I love and everyone else will love it.
It don’t work that way. People have a process to how they write. And that process is usually what is comfortable because it plays to their strengths and hides their weaknesses. And it’s learning how to write in a way that other people love it as much as you love it. It takes a lot of work and training. And then there’s deadlines and there is politics. There’s a lot that goes into having a writing career beyond just the writing. I mean the reality was like you have two careers. You have the writing, you have to create the content. But then there’s the career management and the meetings and the marketing and the always be looking for your other job. There’s a lot that goes into it. But at the same time, I mean to get paid and to be able to make a living playing with characters and playing with stories and doing something that especially if it’s creatively fulfilling and you get paid for it? For people who do it right and train themselves the right way, they literally do something that they would do for free and they get paid and perhaps they get paid millions of dollars. Perhaps they get paid tens of millions of dollars. Perhaps they get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. Perhaps they get paid 100 thousand dollars to do what you would do for free? That actually is possible and I have a growing list of clients and students who have that lifestyle. So I think anyone who really is drawn to this should absolutely pursue it and just pursue it in the right ways.
Film Courage: Can we talk about thought the beginning stages of their career where a lot of it is going to rest on discipline and being your own taskmaster and it’s easy when you think “Okay, I have to get back to this person’s email about this or that once I have something finished.” But when in the beginning there is going to be a lot of time alone. There is going to be a lot of time being your own taskmaster, attempting to make something and how difficult this is.
Corey Mandell: Yeah so it’s really difficult in the beginning and lot of writers have this fantasy or this illusion (and I did and I was wrong) is that you’re working and you’re making money and you’re trying to write and you’re so busy and writing so hard and gosh, when you sell something and when you get hired, you can quit your day job and you can quit this and you can just write…Oh, what a luxury that would be because you are so time starved but when I first broke into the business I had two months to write the script to METROPOLIS but almost every day I had meetings and I had to go in meetings and I was talking to people about other projects and pitching and I actually was spending more time on that than I was on my day job. So I actually had less time to write. You were just pulled in so many directions and so discipline really matters. One of the things that I teach writers from the very beginning, non-writers who are starting out and then a lot of them wont do this but the ones that do, not only do they become better writers, this will save their rear-ends when they have a career, is I teach them the idea of a writer’s schedule. What that means is if you have a job that pays the bills and Thursday at 3:00 p.m. you have to do a marketing proposal to your boss. I know where you’re going to be on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. You’re going to be doing that proposal. If you don’t feel like it and you don’t feel like the proposal is that good, you’re still going to do the best you can. And if you feel like watching TV or napping, you’re going to be there or you are not going to have a job and from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. you are supposed to meet with this client, you’re going to do that. And you schedule your life around that.
So what I tell people is no one is going to treat you like a professional until you are a professional. No one is going to invest money in you until you put your money where your mouth is.
So you have a career. Perhaps you have a family. Perhaps you have all of these pulls on your time (I get that). Every Sunday night you are going to create a writer’s schedule for the next week. And maybe you can only write 45 minutes a day, ideally an hour or two hours. Let’s say 90 minutes a day. You will block out that writing time, be it at 7:30 in the morning, be it at 6:00 p.m., whatever it is for every day at that week. Now if you’ve blocked out Thursday from 7:30 to 8:30 is your writing time, I know where you are going to be at 7:30. You are going to be writing. And it’s not like if you feel like it. Because that’s like your marketing meeting with your boss. So you schedule out your writing time every single week and then you honor that. And if you’re not willing to do that and you’re not willing to honor that, why should anyone else invest money in you?
Question for the Viewers: How many days a week do you write? Do you keep a writer’s schedule?
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Paul Castro the original writer of the Warner Bros. hit movie, AUGUST RUSH.He is a produced, award winning screenwriter and world-renowned screenwriting professor. Success leaves clues and so do masterfully crafted screenplays that sell for millions of dollars.