Film Courage: You don’t need luck to be a successful screenwriter? Aren’t there people who luck into it or it just seems that way?
CSUN Professor, Eric Edson: I’m one of those people who believes in you create your own luck. Is luck a factor? In anything, the stars sometimes have to come into alignment before something becomes possible.
But the thing about luck is you have to be ready for it when it arrives. And that is where craft comes in. Yes…I remember…I got just plain lucky several times along the way. But then I had a closet full of work that I could use and prove and verify that I was really good at this and that I was the one worth taking a shot with.
It’s not just luck. You can’t blame it on luck if you’re not making headway. It takes a lot of time and you have to be improving your craft FOREVER! The thing about screenwriting and the best ones will say this (I’ve heard it from the best ones), you never master this craft…never. It’s too intricate, it’s too intricate. But if you master your tools, you can continue to have pleasure in it, live in it. The lives I’ve lived…I’ve hundreds of lives. It’s a very rewarding thing to do even when it’s rough. Even when it’s not selling. But it’s well worth doing. And when luck comes and if you’re around long enough, if you’re around it long enough, opportunity will come. But you must be ready to make the maximum for that opportunity. No deer in the headlight time, you know? When the headlights hit, you are ready to tap dance and you’ve got your scripts. You have studied pitching, you know how to pitch. We haven’t really gone into that but that is really the key to this business and there is really no way around it.
You’ve got to know this stuff and I don’t care if you’re shy, you can still find a way to sell your story. And there’s this thing, a story (and old story) that goes around that when we’re practicing working on pitching in courses and stuff. And people sometimes having fun, other people are upset by it and I say “Just be as nervous as you want to be.” Pitching is not about being nervous, it’s really not.
I’ve said once upon a time there was this creative executive that worked for a very powerful producer and he comes bursting into the producer’s office one day and he said “Alice I just heard the most dynamic story I’ve heard in five years. It’s perfect. There’s a role for a star. It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s just the best story I’ve heard for ages. But I had to pass because the writer was nervous.” They don’t give a damn. If you have trouble pitching and you’re doing something that everything in you wants to resist, tell them your story, whoever you are. There is room in this business for everybody. Tell them your story, be as nervous as you want to be. They are in the story business. If your story is ready, if you’ve chipped away and shaped it into a patchable form (really powerful story) and if your timing in life is right, don’t worry, it will take care of itself.
Question for the Viewers: How nervous do you get when you are pitching your ideas?
BUY THE BOOK – THE STORY SOLUTION: 23 Actions All Great Heroes Must Take
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About Professor Eric Edson:
Eric Edson has written seventeen feature screenplays on assignment. His produced script credits include PASSION’S WEB for Showtime, and he co-wrote and co-executive produced the NBC Movie of the Week LETHAL VOWS starring John Ritter and Marg Helgenberger. Other films include THE ROSE AND THE JACKAL starring Christopher Reeve, THE SOGGY BOTTOM GANG starring Don Johnson, and DIVING IN starring Kristy Swanson. Eric has also written for episodic television.
Professor Edson’s new book “THE STORY SOLUTION: 23 Actions All Great Heroes Must Take,” published by Michael Wiese Productions, uncovers for the first time the 23 Hero Goal Sequences® used in every successful motion picture to create dynamic, three dimensional heroes and link together all plot development from first page to last (Read more here).