Film Courage: During your two week notice (I assume) were you planning out what your day was going to be like once the six months was under way [Editor’s Note: this post explains more of this story]?
Christine Conradt: Yeah, I definitely had a plan and I knew that I wanted to spend the time writing and I needed to figure out what I was most efficient. I was always a really good character writer. So I knew I needed to learn structure better and that was one of the things I was going to have to work on. I bought the books and so I did all that kind of stuff and was definitely prepared during that time so I could jump off and begin my six month education since six months actually ticks by pretty quickly.
Film Courage: Yeah [it does]. I’m wondering what was day one like?
Christine Conradt: Oh my gosh. I don’t even want to think about it. I think there was a huge sense of relief in it in that I was finally doing what I what I should have been doing for the last couple of years and I felt like I was going to enjoy every moment of this. I may only get six months of doing it. I just really enjoyed that this was the life of a writer.
Film Courage: And probably it was sort of bittersweet, too because you thought maybe that this was the only six months that you would ever…that this would happen?
Christine Conradt: Exactly but I wasn’t thinking that far ahead because I had a lot of confidence that I could make it happen.
So I don’t think I got caught up in this might be the only time I get to do this. I was just thinking how do I make this last and how do I make the money last so I can continue to do it.
Film Courage: How did you know you could trust yourself? Because I think that’s probably the number one thing is knowing you could trust your time and allocating the right resources.
Christine Conradt: I think I’ve just always been someone who has trust myself. In that I guess when it comes to this kind of a thing, the only one who is going to make something happen is you. And I think just in my perspective you have a lot of control over that.
I’d gotten into USC. It was a very competitive program. I graduated at the top of my class. I had won awards while I was there. I knew I was a good writer. I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t working. I wasn’t sure why I wasn’t selling scripts. And so for me a lot of it was like…well it’s not because you’re not a good writer, it’s because you’re distracted, you’re not focused. So you’ve just got to get this back and once you do, you’ll be able to move forward. And I think that’s where my head was at the time.
Film Courage: I think for so many people it’s that big dilemma of “Do I want to be comfortable and have a job and have one that has a good title and that friends and family are going to respect and that I respect myself for having? Or do I want to (unfortunately) have life be a little bit uncomfortable?” So were you prepared to be uncomfortable, whether it’s cutting back on spending or whatever?
Christine Conradt: Oh yeah…and I think I still am to this day. I think I would tell any writer that, you have to be willing to sell your nice car, to sell your house and move back into an apartment. You have to love this job more than you love anything you own because it can go away like that.
Just because you have some success doesn’t mean you should ever get comfortable with it because things change. The industry is always changing, you’re changing, you’re getting older, there are new people coming in, there is so much in flux all the time that you really have to be in a place where you’re willing to give that up. You have to love it enough. And if you don’t want it enough and you really just want money, there are a lot easier ways to go make money than to be a screenwriter. So that would be my advice.
Film Courage: During the 6 months, were you doing this seven days a week?
Christine Conradt: Yes. But it didn’t feel like work because I felt like I was finally getting to do what I really wanted to do. And I woke up every morning loving to write. I couldn’t wait to get back on the script and keep working on it. So it never felt like work to me.
Film Courage: Lastly if someone said to you “Christine I know this is a huge risk and I know that I shouldn’t take out a line of credit or something else (use up my savings, whatever it is) but I want to risk it and I’m willing to face the consequences.” What would you say are some hard and fast do’s and don’ts?
Christine Conradt: That’s a great question. I would say go into it with a plan. You can’t waste a single minute of that time, so go into it with a plan. And tell other people your plan, if this is what you want to do. First of all if you tell many people that you’re going to spend your life savings to make a film or to present to be a screenwriter for 6 months. Most people told me not to do it. They thought I was crazy. But I think you have to ask yourself those really hard questions like how much do you trust yourself, how much are you willing to lose and give up? You can always go back and get a job at a Y[MCA] or a State Farm or wherever you were working. And in general, successful people tend to be successful no matter what they do, right? So if you were being promoted at that job, you can get another job. You’ll probably be promoted at that job as well.
But I would say go into it with a plan and know what you want to get out of it and have a way to measure that success. Because a lot of times I think writers, were not very good a measuring what’s working for us and what isn’t. We just sort of kind of willy-nilly just go Oh, today I feel like writing this. And now this script is done. And maybe tomorrow I will turn it in and maybe I won’t. You have to really look at your life like a business. And if you can manage it in that way, you’re better prepared for seeing what’s working and continuing on that route. Or seeing what’s not working an abandoning that strategy. So you have to look at it more like a business. That’s a big thing, too.
Question for the Viewers: Do you have a strategy on how you are going to break into the business?