Personal Page March 2, 2023
For me, it always comes back to A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies. In this documentary, the great director remembers cutting his teeth and asking: “What does it take to make it in Hollywood?” He wonders whether the thing to do is make one for them and then one for you. This back-and-forth routine is very cherished among certain directorial circles.
I find myself thinking of this question as it relates to screenwriting. Recently finished a new screenplay, I have turned to the asset’s market. It may surprise no one, but people treat scripts like shit. And why shouldn’t they? Every asshole and their dog has written one. Everyone wants to be in the movies.
I am no different. My only hope is to differentiate myself with a certain seriousness regarding the whole thing. When it comes to film history, I can spell you a number of interesting anecdotes. However, as I try to navigate the Hollywood of today, I find myself lost looking for Atlantis – for a city that no longer exists.
When I romanticize the idea of a screenwriter in my head, as a man is wont to do when he sits back and thinks upon his dream, I visualize the 1950s, and no, I don’t mean the ‘50s of Don’t Worry Darling. I mean the ‘50s of a certain building on Hollywood lots. A building with cubicle rooms and a screenwriter stationed in each. Their job was to sit there and pump out scripts for consideration by the studios. They had quotas, they had salaries and they had some space.
To many men, this would sound like a prison. How could I be a free bird in such a confined cage? Yes, but to me, and my masochistic tendencies, it was a haven. A place where I could be left alone to come up with ideas and put them into screenplays over and over. Whether they got made or not was no matter; I was still paid. The studio only wanted me for my continuation of ideas and putting those ideas into action. It is my dream job.
But, as I said, that was the 1950s – maybe even earlier like the ‘30s and ‘40s. Today, however, things have changed. In the world of the iconoclast, studio houses on Wall Street and a global audience in the billions (requiring base-level characterization to gloss over and touch as many people as possible), my dream position seems to no longer exist. Perhaps it does. I should find out.
The world of screenwriting, as I know it, consists of what is in front of me on the computer. It’s a world of contests, message boards, community and a million ways to fix your screenplay. However, the ways to actually sell your screenplay is a much scarcer resource.
Today was a disheartening day. Every door seemed locked. Competing in contests of over five thousand people seems more like a lottery than a chance. You can’t exactly call Netflix up and ask to be locked in a room with a typewriter and a salary. Maybe you can.
To submit a script, however, Netflix makes it clear that it can only be provided to the corporation through a medium, such as a literary agent, attorney or manager. That makes it a bit difficult, seeing as I don’t have those things.
The screenwriter of today seems to be more of an independent contractor. You can sell a screenplay. You can also take work on a screenplay. This would be like being hired by a producer. However, this is only for a short period of time, until the project is complete.
I’m running out of space for today. There is more to come. I thought I would switch the style. I hope you liked it.