“My Life as a Screenwriter You’ve Never Heard Of”

May 16th, 2013 by

From the Hollywood Reporter:

Justin Marks has written over 20 movie screenplays and seen his TV pilots greenlit — but as he explains, the life of a Hollywood scribe is far more lows than highs if your name isn’t Aaron Sorkin.

An excerpt:

Here’s a day in the life of a writer that you don’t always get to hear about.

It was 5 p.m., and I was playing Call of Duty. Why? Because I wanted to. The phone rang; it was a producer with whom I’d just spent the past two years laboring over a cable pilot, a time-travelly science fiction thing. We’d delivered the final cut to the network, and we were awaiting The Call — the one where you hear that your show, which tested well, is being picked up, that your life is about to change.

But the producer had That Voice. Any experienced writer knows That Voice. Because That Voice means one thing: The network passed. “Hey,” the producer said, “we fought for it till the end. We’ll find something else.” I agreed. And that was that.

Probably not three minutes had elapsed in my game of Call of Duty. Two more minutes to go upstairs and erase my now-dead pilot’s name off the list of projects on my dry-erase board. Two years of effort gone in five minutes.

As I wiped the board clean, I saw another project listed below. Kind of a back-burner thing — I was busy at the time — but I owed the producer a call. So I picked up the phone. Told him I was in. By the next morning, I was back at the keyboard, as if yesterday’s pilot had never happened.

And that, my friends, is what it means to be Just Another Working screenwriter.

This is true on so many levels. For every Sorkin, Zaillian, or Lindelof, there are dozens and dozens of hard-working, talented screenwriters who sell specs and pitches, and land open writing assignments, but have scant actual movie credits to their name.

Why? Because it is damn hard to get a movie made.

I don’t want to distract from Justin’s honest, evocative article, so I’ll leave it at that today. But tomorrow, I’ll post about a unique way that one screenwriter has dealt with all of his unproduced screenplays.

For more of Justin’s guest column, go here.

Also please note: I will be running an interview with Justin the week of May 27th. It’s terrific so you won’t want to miss it.

2 thoughts on ““My Life as a Screenwriter You’ve Never Heard Of”

  1. TheQuietAct says:

    Thanks for this Scott.
    Dust off. Pick up. Start again.

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