This Mistake Is What Holds Most Writers Back by Gary W. Goldstein

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: So let’s say someone has made a bold move come from wherever to Los Angeles or New York (one of these major cities) and they’ve been here several years and now they’re in a new kind of rut, a new kind of comfort zone…. “Yeah, I’m going out. I’m submitting [fill in the blank of whatever] but it’s habit-driven and it’s not really going anywhere.” But hey, they are here in this big city and are supposedly working, they are supposedly getting stuff out there, how do you shake that up? And I know I’m being a little bit vague.

Gary W. Goldstein: It’s not vague.

Film Courage: But let’s just say they are here.

Gary W. Goldstein:  If you want to play tennis, find yourself a pro. That’s the game. That’s how you improve. The problem with most creatives, they comes to LA, the come to New York and what do they do? Most of them learn bad habits, why? Because they are learning, mimicking like people around them. I’m an actor, I’m following what other actors are doing. I’m asking them, I’m learning from them, yet they are not at the top of the totem.

Same with writers, same with producers, it doesn’t matter. Human beings. Writers (as one example), I get query letters every day, blind query letters.  “Dear So and So…” It could be my name, it could be ‘creative executive,’ it could be my name misspelled, it could be anything. “Dear So and So…” Log line, short description, “Can I send a script? I’ll sign a release.” Signed…John.

That’s what I get repeatedly all day long in my inbox. There is not one lick of research. There is not one lick of anything personal, like why is this the writer (the only writer) who could have written this story? Why was it so compelling that they chose this out of all the stories in one’s imagination? Why did they choose to send it to me?

Now I don’t want to receive the agony and the ecstasy as a letter but something…a drop, a kernel, something that stands out and makes me think. Makes me react. Makes me wonder about this. But they don’t. I can promise you not even 1% do what I’m describing.

So this is what writers learn from other writers and the actors learning from other actors, etc.

They learn the habitual tried-and-true, day-to-day protocol which is usually very unsuccessful. The ROI (the return-on-investment) in sending blind query blind query letters has got to be horribly frustrating? If you’re a business, you’d be bankrupt. So why do it? Because this is what other people are doing.

You need to associate with more successful people and you need to think about it differently. If you were a fashion designer and you took that approach, you focus on your craft, focus on your craft, focus on your craft and you sent out letters saying “Here’s my designs. Aren’t I great!” You’d never have a brand.

You have to think in terms of business. You have to think in terms of ‘What more can I do that others aren’t doing?’ As opposed to ‘What they are doing. How do I stand out?’ Separating yourself out from the herd is definitely the name of the game and anyone who has invested that blood, sweat and tears, that sort of soul equity of investing all of that time writing 120 or 110 pages (whatever) of story and rewriting it until it is just so. But they want to share their wares with the world. Now they’re so proud of this. They should invest a like amount of time figuring out how to market and how to be a business person and how to reach out to people and how to do things differently than all of their peers. Like that’s a great measurement. Am I doing what everyone else is doing or am I being somehow, putting myself out into the world and speaking of myself to the right people in ways that matter?

Film Courage: You mentioned fashion and it had me thinking of [designer] Diane von Furstenberg and her wrap dress and how it was this dress that no one had ever really seen before and it fit every body type. It made every body type look good and so you are talking about fashion and it made me think of that.

Gary W. Goldstein: How many times do we see artists like Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash, Lady Gaga…I mean there’s a million ways to stand out.

Question for the Viewers: Do you personalize cold emails?


Check out Gary’s book Conquering Hollywood here


Writer’s Guide To Hollywood