The Two Worlds Of A Young Screenwriter by Mark Sanderson
Film Courage: Was there a blog post [scriptcat.wordpress.com] or chapter in the book [Mark’s new book A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success: Tips, tricks and tactics to survive as a working screenwriter in Hollywood] that was actually difficult for you to write? So I know your book is a culmination of these blog posts that you’ve collected over a 5-year period. But was there one where you thought “Oh, this is fine.” And then you realized “You know, [writing it] this is actually affecting me.”
Mark Sanderson: Ah…interesting. Yeah, I think going back to the slow periods in one’s career or having achieved something and not having the results that you think…like “Look, I sold a movie. I should be this.” And the reality is well no, that’s not always the case.
After I sold my first spec, it was my fifth spec but it was my first spec that I sold, I was at the time doing catering because I worked in restaurants before I went to film school and after [film school] because I didn’t want to get into a day job where I would not have any time to write and so a restaurant was good money and it would free you up to be able to write (as long as you would write). Because that’s important. I was in the restaurant with a lot of people wanting to be actors and they loved playing the role of an actors, but not actually doing the work.
So if you’re given the free time to do it, you better do it and I always did it.
But it was the time when I sold my spec and I was in the trade papers (Variety) and every writer wants to be in Variety, right? Then you say “I made it,” right?
Well the day that I was in Variety, the headline was this new company had formed and they optioned my script and they were going to buy it and make it into their first movie. And that day in Variety I had to do a catering job at one of the biggest producer’s in Hollywood’s house. And so it was this catering company and my friend and I drove up to Beverly Hills and here we are at this giant mansion of this producer and it was a big breakfast meeting with big power players, former Prime Minister of a Middle Eastern country, (you know) security everywhere, and I was thinking “Wow? I’m in Variety today? Why should I be catering?”
And also I was thinking in a way (which story is in the book) “What if this producer had rejected my screenplay?” Here I am in his house, serving him coffee, you know? So just be careful of who you disrespect on the way up or down because you just might end up in their house pouring coffee for them.
That was hard to write [in the book] and I look back on that now and I laugh. But it’s the reality of the business because as you know, it’s a step deal.
So when anything sells, it’s in steps and you may not get the final steps. When a screenplay sells you get a little bit of money and then a little bit of money from the next draft and the next. And it has to be made for you to get the bonus. So everyone thinks that just because a script sells, suddenly everybody’s calling on the phone and things like that.
I would say that was not difficult to revisit but I think about the time and I put myself back into the time. That’s what I’m trying to do when I was writing because I’m a very visual person and I can really have the sense memory and back in the time it wasn’t funny, you know? It was like “Oh my gosh, so now I have done this and still…I have to do this?” And you’re like yeah, many times you have to live in these two parallel worlds and that can mess with your head a lot. So you have to be very grounded and say this is the reality of it and it’s not the image of who I am. I am a writer, if I’m catering or always doing something else at the time.
Film Courage: You know, I think this is such an important story because I think people can be caught in two separate worlds here [in Los Angeles] for years.
Mark Sanderson: Absolutely.
Film Courage: And eventually some will definitely turn the corner and the party will be at their house (so to speak, to use this metaphor) and unfortunately for some, it won’t.
Question for the Viewers: Can you relate to Mark’s story? Has anything similar happened to you?
BUY THE BOOK – A SCREENWRITER’S JOURNEY TO SUCCESS: Tips, tricks and tactics to survive as a working screenwriter in Hollywood
MORE VIDEOS WITH MARK SANDERSON
About Mark Sanderson:
Mark Sanderson (aka @Scriptcat) is a Los Angeles based screenwriter, author, script consultant and sometimes actor blessed to be living his childhood dream of making movies with over two-dozen screenplays written in genres ranging from comedy to drama. His work ranges from his sketch comedy writing and performing as a founding member with The Amazing Onionheads, writing for MTV, to his spec sale, and nineteen screenplay assignments with television premieres and worldwide distribution of his twelve emotionally compelling films— the WWII indie feature “I’ll Remember April,” Lifetime Network’s “An Accidental Christmas” and “Deck the Halls,” the stylish indie noir feature “Stingers,” and action-packed thrillers “USS Poseidon: Phantom Below” (aka HereTV’s “Tides of War”) and SyFy Network’s “Sea Snakes” (aka Fox’s “Silent Venom”), LMN’s “Mother of All Lies” starring Franchesca Eastwood, Lifetime’s highly rated thriller “Mommy’s Little Girl,” the LMN Network premiere “One Small Indiscretion,” and his latest produced films “Deadly Vows” aka “A Wedding to Die For,” “A Night to Regret,” and “Hunted by My Ex.”
Mark’s films have premiered on Lifetime Network, LMN, SyFy, Fox, HereTV, HBO Canada, Christmas 24, and NBC/Universal, The Movie Network, and have been distributed globally. His films have been recognized at festivals including a premiere and opening the Palm Springs Int. Film Festival, premieres at the Hawaii Int. Film Festival, St. Louis Int. Film Festival, The Rainbow Festival in Hawaii, Newport Beach Int. Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale Int. Festival, and nominated for the Starboy award at the Oulu Int. Children’s Film Festival in Finland.
Mark’s long association with award winning Hollywood filmmakers dates back to his first produced screenplay and has since worked with Academy Award® winning producers Paul Colichman (Academy Award® winner “Gods & Monsters”) and Mark R. Harris (Academy Award® winner “Crash”), veteran directors Brian Trenchard-Smith, Fred Olen Ray, George Mendeluk, and the late Bob Clark, and has written films starring Academy Award® acting nominees Seymour Cassel, the late Pat Morita, Haley Joel Osment, Tom Berenger, and Emmy® acting nominees Mark Harmon and James Hong…(Read more here).