Film Courage: Do you get nervous when there is nothing in the works [screenwriting wise] or is there a sense of freedom because of the possibilities of what could happen? Do you almost thrive off of that?
Screenwriter Gary Goldstein: Good question. I don’t know if I thrive? Honestly because careers can be such roller coasters and as a writer you can go through many periods where you are really not working for hire and hopefully you are writing on your own and cranking out material and utilizing the free time. But because there can be a lot of downtime. It can be nerve wracking.
Honestly, the ideal thing is to have enough work along the way to keep you financially solvent and have a little down time in between to work on your own projects. You know based upon what you like to do. I mean I like writing stage plays, so I like to have time here and there. Recently I had shoulder surgery and I was home (mostly I didn’t leave the house for 6 weeks) and I could only type with one hand but I was able to use my other hand. And I just said “You know what, I’m going to finish something at the end of this 6 weeks. It’s tough being here. I’m in pain. I’m going to finish writing something.” And I had started a new play before I had the surgery and I had literally just finished this new play at the end of this period and it was just so great. And I’m very happy with that particular play. I’m looking forward to continuing to work on it.
But I didn’t have an assignment at that time so it did give me the freedom to write it and during that period not feeling all that great, it was really nice not to have someone waiting for something from me because I didn’t want to have to disappoint them because of the pain or whatever.
So that was a good period to not be on assignment. But by and large I like it to be, air on the side of more work, more paperwork, more assignment work than not. It’s very, it’s like charging your batteries are charged. I like knowing there is stuff out there happening. But I’m always just working on something and writing something or trying to market old scripts or work with my agent and get new meetings and make things happen. So I really utilized the time to do that.
What’s nice about having a little free time is that you can get back to your career and your bigger picture of your career. Because when you’re nose-to-the-grindstone sometimes you forget “Well, I did have that script I was trying to sell.” Or “I still did want to get that assignment there” Or “I want to be on that show there” or whatever and you just can’t do it because you’re too focused on your work and the issue at hand. So it’s nice to have a combination of both. But you’re probably better off having the work (more work than not, I think).
Film Courage: Well, it goes back to what you said about focusing too much on the minutia, so it sounds like even though you do like to be working and you like to have stuff going, it sounds like to have a little bit of breathing room, you can stand back and see more.
Gary Goldstein: Yeah, you can sometimes lose the big picture when you’re in the cave. And then when you get out of it then you can say “Okay, out now. I’ve got a little time. Where am I?”
Because as you know, as a writer (and it’s similar for directors and producers) you have to be the master of your own ship, master of your own destiny in terms of your career. You have to keep it moving forward if you want to keep working. And an agent is great but they can do so much. It’s really up to us to really stay on top of it and focused in term of what our end-game is or what our goals are.
What are my goals? To keep writing movies that get made and write things that are meaningful to me and that I hope people will enjoy and all of that and tell my stories and that kind of thing. But that doesn’t just happen. And sometimes you have to really just keep your eye on the ball because time goes very fast. And if it’s not you, it will be somebody else and we have a finite amount of time on this planet.
Film Courage: Absolutely. And going back to when you left one career (and you don’t have to go into too many details about it) but were you able to step back from a lot of minutia at that point because you probably had more free time of your hands?
Gary Goldstein: It was a really weird time because I was so used to getting a steady paycheck. Fortunately I had stashed away enough money to go through this process until I got work again. But that was the thing to kind of be okay about just getting sporadic paychecks and not knowing when the next paycheck was going to be and then knowing that this was just a safety net (basically) and that part was difficult.
But when I left that job and started to become a screenwriter (TV writer at that point), it was all focus all the time for me. I mean it was like I just dove into the deep end. And I mean there was so much to do and so much to write. It was…like starting a whole new career. It was just a lot to learn and be out there a lot and really just keep my eye on the ball. So it was an exciting time but definitely challenging. It was not a lot of down time. And also back then I would feel very guilty about having down time. I would feel like I shouldn’t be going to the movies, I should be working on my new spec script or something. And I mean that was hard. It took a long time for me to not feel guilty for not working but that eventually happened when I was like “Okay, I’ve got enough work and I don’t want to be working at that moment.” That was okay.
But you got through phases, every career has its phases. And we grow as people as you experience more and as you become more confident or just more self-possessed or just less beholden to the forces out there.
Film Courage: Well I think too, it probably didn’t take training for you to get out of that 9-to-5 or whatever it was 9-to-7 mindset?
Gary Goldstein: Well it kept me pretty structured. I was so used to that kind of 9-to-5 (well that job was 9-to-9). But I was used to getting up early, used to getting my work done, used to having a goal for everyday. So that translated really well when I was on my own. Because otherwise I would have been like “Oh, my gosh. How am I going to organize this? What am I going to do?” That part wasn’t an issue. It was just like “Will I get a job? Will I be successful? Will I really be able to make a go of this?”
Question for the Viewers: Do you write more than one screenplay at a time?
Gary Goldstein is an award winning writer for film, TV and the stage. He has written numerous films for Hallmark Channel and its sister network, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, including the comedies “The Wish List,” “Hitched for the Holidays,” “This Magic Moment” and “My Boyfriends’ Dogs,” and the first two films in the “Flower Shop Mystery” series: “Mum’s the Word” and “Snipped in the Bud,” starring Brooke Shields.
Gary’s feature film “Politics of Love,” a romantic comedy set during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, was released in theaters August 2011. He also wrote the feature romantic comedy, “If You Only Knew,” which starred Johnathon Schaech, Alison Eastwood and James LeGros.
In addition, Gary has sold or optioned a number of original screenplays, has a string of episodic TV credits and has sold half-hour comedy pilots to both NBC and Warner Bros Television.
On the L.A. stage, Gary has been represented with the comedies “Just Men,” “Parental Discretion” and “Three Grooms and a Bride.” His family drama “Curtain Call” premiered in late 2008 at Carmel, CA’s Pacific Repertory Theatre. His newest play, the three-sisters dramedy “April, May & June,” will have its World Premiere in March 2017 at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills, as part of its 2016-17 subscription season.
Gary is also a freelance film reviewer and feature writer for the Los Angeles Times.
Find out more about Gary Goldstein’s play APRIL, MAY and JUNE here.