Business and Craft Of Screenwriting – Corey Mandell [FULL INTERVIEW]

Business and Craft Of Screenwriting – Corey Mandell [FULL INTERVIEW]

Film Courage: The question is what’s required to sell
your script in the current marketplace? The last time we visited with you Cory you
talked to us about this ‘six script cycles’ and having pitch-perfect
authentic scripts. Have things changed? Corey Mandell, Instructor/Screenwriter: Things have just gotten better and to
really put things in perspective I started teaching right during the
writers strike to 2007 and especially after the writers strike it was bleak
there were writers with impressive credits who couldn’t get work it was
nearly impossible to sell a script all the TV was almost all reality TV there
was very little scripted Studios were all finalizing their consolidation and
they just weren’t making movies back then it was like if a good month was one
or two of my students selling a pitch or an original script that was a good month
in the last week I’ve had 21 students all pitches or pilot scripts that’s a
pretty normal week so to put this in perspective around 2002 HBO their entire
budget all-in for original content was about five hundred five hundred million
dollars which is a lot of money this year Netflix will be spending about
fifteen to sixteen billion dollars amazon’s about six billion dollars those
just netflix and amazon are spending twenty one twenty two billion dollars
and everyone else is trying to catch up to them there’s never been so much
content sold there’s never been such an insatiable demand for original material
now that said while it’s far easier to sell a script than it used to it’s still
not easy it’s never easy to sell an original script especially for an
unknown writer who doesn’t have a track record it’s easier but it’s not
necessarily easy but there are things that people can do to give themselves a
much better chance so one of them is that definitely understand how to
properly set up and launch an engine in the pilot so a pilot script does not
have a proper engine it’s a pilot it’s not a TV show an engine is what is going
to propel the drama or the comedy it’s what’s going to organically propel the
content for many many episodes ideally many many seasons and whenever I bring
in executives and producers to my you la Casas they’ll say like one of the
biggest ways you can tell an amateur is they don’t have a proper engine built
into the pilot so that’s one thing that’s absolutely critical and probably
only 20% of writers are doing that so 80% of writers they might have the most
amazing characters and world and story but without that engine it’s not a TV
show it’s just a one-off script I’m going to put out a bunch of content on
engine so if anyone’s interested they can email my assistant Lisa at Corey
Mandel net and she can get you that information so let’s say you have an
engine then obviously you need amazing characters and an amazing story there
are a lot of writers who are really strong on one side of that but weaker on
the other so their writers who can create really compelling characters that
we love and we want to spend time with but their stories somehow just they’re
not where they need to be there’s other writers who can come up with really
strong stories with great twists and great escalations but their characters
either all have the same voice or just somehow they’re just not authentically
compelling enough to really pull us in and want to spend time with them which
is critical for a TV show the absolute essential way to overcome that is a
training process of creative integration and I talked about that a couple years
ago it film curse so you can go back and check out that video it’s called
creative integration and if you haven’t seen it I’d actually highly suggest you
give that a look so let’s say you have a really strong engine let’s say you have
great characters you have great story the next thing you want to be making
sure is that you’re nailing the genre and a lot of writers will fall a little
short here so if it’s a comedy we are we need to be laughing out loud multiple
times I know many agents that say if I don’t laugh out loud at least six times
when I read your script I’m not signing you if you’re a comedy writer I worked
with a couple writers recently who wrote horror scripts horror pilot scripts and
so what I challenge them is to write the script in such a way that if someone’s
reading the script alone especially at night they’re gonna stop and they’re
gonna go to their boyfriends or their girlfriends or a coffee shop because
they don’t want to read this script all because it’s scaring the bejesus out of
them and they really embrace that and that’s that’s absolutely what they went
for and both those scripts ended up selling if you’re writing a police
procedural a homicide detective trying to solve a murder when we read your
script we should feel like you were a homicide detective in so much as like
really feeling like this is someone who really knows they’ve been there this
feels real that doesn’t mean that you have to have been a homicide detective
but it means you need to have done your research and know how to develop
characters in such a way that when we read your script it at least feels like
you were a homicide detective so there are a lot of writers who are funny or
dramatic or horrific and they’re they’re really good at the genre but they’re not
amazing so you really want to make sure you can go that extra mile so having a
really strong engine is absolutely required in the marketplace compelling
characters in story and nailing the genre but the one thing that is probably
most important is the concept especially if you’re a newer writer and having high
impact concept or high concept where in one or two or three lines the
marketplace producers or executives are thinking there’s something unique here
and this is a great idea for a TV show and so having that concept is absolutely
essential and what writers really want to focus on is proof of concept and so
let me tell you a true story so there is a manager I love her she has one of the
best track records of developing new writers and launching their careers so
this is what she does so imagine you just got signed by this manager so what
she says is be home tonight at eleven o’clock so you just got signed by this
manager you’re excited 11 o’clock you’re at home like okay what’s and there’s a
knock on the door you open it up there’s a messenger or a courier with a box you
have to sign for it and you put the Box down and you open it up and what’s
inside 20 scripts and there’s a note from the manager says read all these
scripts be prepared to discuss particularly the concepts tomorrow
morning 8:30 my office okay so now it’s 11:08 you’ve got 20 scripts you start
reading now the reason she does this is imagine it’s 2:00 2:30 in the morning
you’ve read most of the scripts you’re boned tired you’ve got three scripts
left you grab one of them you start reading the characters are great the
dialogue is great it’s making you laugh you get through five pages seven pages
you don’t know what the concept is you get through ten pages you get through
twelve pages you don’t know what the concept for the show is you get really
frustrated you start to really hate that writer and at some point you just start
skimming trying to figure out the concept and you’re just so
overwhelmingly exhausted and frustrated when the writer shows up to the manager
the next morning the manager doesn’t want to talk about any of the scripts
what she wanted the writer to do is have that experience because that’s the
experience that the development executive or the producer has they’re
going home on Friday with the pile of scripts and especially if you’re an
unknown writer who hasn’t proven yourself if they start reading your
script if they don’t know what the concept is because you have to
understand that a pilot script is a selling document it’s different what
you’re actually going to see if they buy it and make the show the script you
write it’s job is to sell and the concept is what differentiates this
project think about how much TV there is is so overwhelming we can’t watch all of
the TV so the concept really it’s like the brand it differentiates what this
project is so they want to hit that hard and they want to hit that fast and I
know a lot of managers or agents that will tell their especially their newer
clients by page 10 you have to nail the concept where someone who reads the
script knows what this show what it what the concept for the show is it has to be
there by page 10 I know a lot of managers will say that I don’t think it
actually has to be there by page 10 but I think it wants to be there really as
fast as possible and a lot of writers will write the pilot where it’s not to
the very end of the pilot or sometimes even the second episode until you
actually know what the concept is so proof of concept is get that concept
across to the reader as fast as possible and make it as compelling as possible a
lot of writers and I don’t think they realize they do this is they can pull
their punches a little bit they can get a little nervous so there was a movie a
while ago now called Bad Santa very dark inappropriate about the worst Santa ever
doesn’t look like a mall Santa he’s drunk he’s sitting on the the moms and
that’s that’s the team stuff I mean it is crude and so inappropriate and if you
love Christmas and you cherish Christmas you’re gonna hate this concept but if
you’re in a dark mood and you’re like a movie that just goes all in I’m making
fun of Christmas in the worst possible way there’s going to be people are gonna
be like now that’s a great idea and that writer did not pull his punches
what a lot of writers would do is say well they’re gonna be people that might
be offended let me not quite go so far into this so that they can maybe they’ll
like it but you’re not trying to get the people who aren’t fans to like a little
bit more your big concern should be there are people out there that are
going to say the idea of a guy who sells crystal meth and sells it
who who blackmails his former students that he flunked out to cook meth with
him this very dark train wreck of a TV show someone out there says that is just
so amazingly interesting that’s your audience and your concern
shouldn’t be that you might offend some people your concern is that your
constituency would have bought it if you’d gone all in if you just absolutely
commit you know when the marvelous missus myzel was being developed
everyone in industry was saying we need dark we need edgy no one wanted light
the marvelous miss myzel is so sweet and it is just so beautiful and it is so not
edgy and that writer just went for it I mean she relished in it and there were I
know people that say oh I don’t watch that show it’s too sweet for me and I
know a lot of people myself included who loved that show you know given the world
everything that’s going on in the world for me watching that show is like a
delicious piece of dessert at the end of the day so whatever your
concept is proof of concept is establish it early and prove to us prove to the
industry prove to the marketplace that this is a great concept so if you’re
doing catastrophe and you’re saying look it’s two people who meet and get married
and they don’t live happily ever after it is the hell of marriage if you marry
the wrong person where every mundane thing in life is the just insufferable
then and you’re saying what’s gonna make this compelling is that people are gonna
love these two characters and this dark comedy then you’ve got an ale that dark
comedy real early on to prove to us that this is a TV show
I mean imagine that the the people who were developing Seinfeld to show about
nothing it’s these very immature narcissistic characters that make
mountains out of mole hills but nothing happens no one learns a lesson nothing
changes it’s what life is really like it’s a sitcom based on reality I can see
a lot of writers going a show about nothing I better make it Lisa in the
pilot about a little something because they would be nervous so go all in on
your concept and establish it as early as possible that’s proof of concept I
know a lot of managers who will bring in their writers and they’ll say where does
the concept launch where in this script is it clear what the concept for this
show is and the writer says page 12 they’ll take the first 12 pages the
first 12 pages rip it out of the script and all they’ll do is read those 12
pages and at the end they’re like how much do I understand and how excited I
am about this concept and they’ll share it around the office to other people
because if people are not all in on this concept they’re not going to keep
reading so it doesn’t really matter the rest of the script now that said let’s
say you have a great concept and you nailed it early and when people get
there they’re like or at least your constituency the people who would love
that concept or like yeah that’s a great concept for a show you’re gonna need to
have an engine the characters in the story need to unfold I’m not saying all
that stuff isn’t important I’m just saying
really focus on your concept really go all-in do not pull your punches and
especially as a new writer nail it early earlier than you want to so that the the
marketplace can quickly know here’s the concept for the show and if it’s not a
concept they’re interested in they won’t keep reading they won’t waste their time
because it’s not for them if it is a concept they’re interested in they’re
going to be Wow then they’ll read the rest of the script to see if you have
all those other pieces and just the last thing I’ll say is you know there are
writers your idea machines they just come up with so many really great
concepts there are other writers that really struggle to come up with high
concepts there are specific training there are specific tools that people can
use to come up with more and more high concepts and again I would direct you to
my assistant Lisa at Corey Mandel net and she could definitely provide you
some more information on that front can we give an example of a concept
versus an engine with one of these shows whether it’s Breaking Bad, Mr. Robot
Marvelous Mrs. Masial the problem is that an engine would take probably 30 minutes
to break down what an engine is and how it works so we wouldn’t have time to do
that I mean I can talk about concepts but to contrast it to an engine I guess
I’m just struggling with it seems to me that the concept is the engine but maybe
I’m missing something so so just trying to figure out you know
with Breaking Bad right we get what the concept is guys sort of had just wit’s
end financially and health-wise he needs to
turn things around he’s willing to make sort of this deal with the devil
but then what is the engine the engine is you’re introducing these different
characters yes so unfortunately that’s why I was sending people to the site
because it’s it’s a little bit more complex what an engine is it’s hard to
do that quickly I mean that the metaphor would be so I’m Breaking Bad the concept
is so we know what this show is and we know where it’s going to go
the engine is what propels the show there and that is there’s a sister
there’s a family there’s just no oh no it’s it’s trickier than it’s okay okay
okay yeah just trying to pinpoint how do I know that I could have a great concept
but how do I know this metaphorical engine is working and it’s not like a
crap engine and it’s gonna just sputter out it and so that’s why I’m just trying
to figure out what yeah and I’m I’m happy to send you some video content and
if you’re really I’m happy to do that to you
personally but in terms of now is it’s it would be beyond beyond the scope okay
okay but the but concept and engine are two different things
yes two different okay yes okay thank you why is it important for
screenwriters to know about selling their screenplay before they sit down
and write their screenplay yeah that’s a really smart and a really great question
so part of it is again that as much as we would love this scenario that someone
would read our pilot script and say yes and write a check and make it that just
almost never happens the best-case scenario is someone reads the script and
then they’re going to meet with you and they’re gonna want to ask you questions
and they want it the script is proving the concept it’s proving the characters
that you know how to write characters and these are really compelling
characters and that it’s a compelling world and there’s an engine so they know
this thing has potential but they’re gonna really want to know about the
first year because every production company has had an experience early on a
buying a pilot script that they loved and then when they tried to develop it
it just it can’t no one can figure out how to get a season or multiple seasons
of the show so in the past several years I know very
few writers including highly established writers who haven’t gone through the
following experience that with a pitch or a spec script they’ll end up a room
with multiple executives and they’re gonna ask a lot of questions about the
first season they’re gonna want to know what are we watching in the first season
so we don’t want to make sure that there is a compelling first season now some
executives are gonna want to see a breakdown of every episode other
executives are just gonna want to see some big arcs other executives just
gonna want to get a big high-level picture to know that there’s a first
season and they really want to know what’s the main thing we’re going to be
watching so in the marvelous miss are mrs. myzel there’s several things we’re
watching over the first season but the main thing that we’re watching is the
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel going from being a housewife who’s very you know very kind
of a very private person to becoming a stand-up comic putting the work to be a
stand-up comic that’s the main thing not the only thing the main thing we’re
gonna be watching in the first season in fleabags season two the main thing we’re
gonna be watching is Fleabag relentlessly pursuing having sex with
this priest how things are going on in there but that’s the main through lot
they want to know if the main through-line and the main thing that
they’re that they’re gonna be watching and the reason you want to figure that
out before you write your pilot is twofold
first of all so after you write your pilot when you get pulled in to these
meetings you have a really smart answer but secondly remember your pilot
launches the first season so if the first season is fleabag pursuing this
priest or missus myzel doing the work to become a stand-up comic that needs to be
launched in the pilot so by the time we’re done with the pilot episode
fleabag is pursuing that priest and we know why she’s doing it and we are
absolutely enthralled with seeing how that plays out
and at the end of the pilot episode of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel were like oh
the last woman in the world who would ever do stand-up comedy a woman who’s
just terrified and lives her life where she can never be rejected she’s the
perfect wife she’s the perfect daughter she’s the perfect friend so no one would
ever reject her she’s gonna try to be a stand-up comic in the 1950s when women
aren’t allowed to be stand-up comics especially the way that she wants to do
it which is the Lenny Bruce style so at the end of that we have to be in love
with seen her on stage and going that’s I want to go on that journey so if you
don’t know your first season and you don’t know how you’re gonna sell it you
don’t know how to do a pilot people will come to me for a consultation and so
I’ll read their pilot and I’ll start asking them about the first year they
can’t answer me that would be like going to someone and saying I wrote the first
scene of a feature script will you read it
is that the right first scene for my feature and you say well I don’t know
what is your feature where does it go and they say oh I don’t know I just got
the first scene that that is why pilots are so tricky there are a lot of writers
who can write on shows that have been structured and they’re amazing but they
can’t create a successful pilot a pilot works on double dimension so first of
all the pilot episode has to pull in strangers make them absolutely want to
keep reading relentlessly make us want to keep reading then deliver us to an
ending that exceeds their expectations a beginning a middle and a self-contained
story additionally the pilot is the beginning
of a larger story which is season 1 season 1 is the beginning of the series
but let’s just talk about season 1 so a pilot launches the first season so if
you don’t know the first season if you don’t know the engine you don’t know the
concept and you don’t know how you’re gonna sell this in the room then you
don’t know how you don’t know what the right pilot episode is because the pilot
episode is not the first thing we’re going to be watching necessarily on the
show it is a selling document to get people excited to want to meet with you
you write the pilot so you can pitch the show you write the pilot to prove the
concept and the characters and the world and the story and then you pitch the
show so it’s absolutely essential in TV that people understand how they’re
selling the show where it’s going to be positioned the engine the concept what’s
going to happen in the first year because that will lead them to know the
right way to design and execute on their pilot so I’m thinking of like let’s say
Judd Apatow This Is 40 which was just hilarious
if I were to then pitch that and then it’s a masterpiece for that two hours
whatever it was but then I don’t know where there’s gonna be continuations
yeah of that story I don’t know what what’s gonna keep happening over and
over again same thing with like let’s say Meet the Fockers I know there’s been
what three films about that like Little Fockers and the hilarious again but how
am I turn that you know how many Christmas
dinners can I have where something goes wrong over and over and over again so
it’s got to be something where there’s going to be and I guess that’s where the
engine comes into play yeah but there’s gonna be like a continuous so somebody
going to do stand-up night after night and 50s when they could be shut down by
law enforcement or whatever that there’s gonna be incidents over and over and
over again to test that show whereas a Christmas dinner a family birthday party
that’s hilarious but it just goes wrong do I need to have something right and
you mentioned Judd Apatow so Judd Apatow or Vince Gilligan or gingy Cohen come in
and they have a pilot they probably already have the show of figure it out
but if they didn’t much more likely that someone will say you’ll figure it out
well we’ll take that we’ll we’ll take that ride with you but if you’re not yet
have that track record it’s ridiculous to think that someone’s gonna invest the
money and go on that ride with you so again it’s so important and and I don’t
know I have a lot of students or former students who sell a lot of original
material and they always start figuring out the season one and then back into
the pilot okay so I figure out your screenplay then figure out how to open
it Oh interesting establish who those characters are their personality and
where it’s going and what makes it interesting so that that’s what the pipe
the pilot has to really prove that this has somewhere to go and it’s going to be
really interesting to people and going from a pilot to a season is it’s not
impossible but it’s a much lower probability harder way to do it
right so with marvelous misses myzel just knowing all of the characters that
are her in stand-up comedy world and and clubs and a frequenting and all you know
all the hecklers and things so there’s so many opportunities to back that
character in to an interesting that’s certainly part of it right right where
is a family dinner and you know somebody insults an in-law that can only go so
far kind of thing that that’s it that’s it as a full TV show sure yeah yeah and
that’s different soon a feature in a TV show
God okay how to properly test your script the absolute importance of script
testing what is script testing script script testing so when I was
starting out a manager did this for me and I’ll forever be grateful so the way
it works is most people they’ll write a script and they’ll give it to the
friends the writing group people they trust and they want feedback you know
what’s working what’s not working fatigue suggestions way to improve it
and what I was taught and I see a lot of the more success writers working that
way working this way is they don’t start there
what they start with is script testing and what script testing is is the first
thing is you realize that when you write a script do you experience a movie you
experience characters and when someone reads your script a movie plays in their
head and they experience a story and they experience characters now a lot of
people make the assumption that the movie that plays in my head is really
similar the movie that plays in your head script testing is strategically
asking a series of questions to find out what movie is playing in someone else’s
head what story are they watching what’s happening why is it happening why is it
interesting or not interesting who are the characters what a how are they
experiencing the characters how would they describe the characters are they
engaged with the characters or they not engage with the characters and it’s
literally be able to track what they’re experiencing story and character wise as
they move through your script and what script testing aims for is not to know
if someone likes your script loves it hates it
suggestions critique not at first the first is are they experiencing what I’m
experiencing and if they’re not why not what are they experiencing different
from me so when I first started teaching at UCLA I did a I had everyone bring in
seven copies of their scribe and so let’s say you and I would switch scripts
I’d give you seven copies of my script you’d give me seven copies of your
script you would take my seven copies and go to seven of your friends and say
hey will you read a script by someone in my class I haven’t read it and you don’t
have to have anything smart to say you don’t forget feedback you just have to
answer question about what you experienced when you read
the script and you really make it clear that you’re not testing their reading
comprehension it’s testing the writers ability to have it come off the page and
so let’s say seven of your friends say okay I’ll do that so they read my script
and then I would armed you with a series of questions that you would ask those
writers and you would record the the conversation and it’s really important
that you haven’t read the script because you’ll ask the question about the story
or the character and one of your friends would start to give an answer and then
say is that right and you would say I don’t know I didn’t read the script and
so at some point they’ll just relax and they’ll just tell you what they
experienced and you record that all seven of your friends and then you’d
come back to class and give me the recordings and I would do the same for
you and then I would have each writer transcribe the recordings because you
really have to hear it if you transcribe it I have to admit when I first started
teaching at UCLA there were things I did that were successful there were things
that there was a lot of trial and error when I first started teaching this was a
real mixed bag because people were so demoralized to have a script they poured
heart and soul into characters they loved more than anything and this is
their character but everyone else was seeing this and this is like no this is
despicable and this was an amazing character and a lot of people will come
up to me and they’re like you know be careful of Julie in the class because I
think there’s something wrong with Julie because Julie’s friends are like all
schizophrenic I’m telling you because look at the feedback her friends are so
there was that there was one person who just dropped out of an MFA program she
did come back oh and then I have another woman threaten to kill herself she
didn’t but that’s when I stopped doing this exercise mandatory and I would make
it you know voluntary yeah she did not kill herself a lot of people came out of
that class went on to be working writers and they said that this experience was
the most painful experience they had as a writer but the most valuable because
they didn’t realize that not everything that they were putting on the page was
fully I mean off the page to other people and
there are so many people that write scripts that get rejected in the
marketplace or they don’t get an agent to represent them or a manager and they
feel like okay my characters or story something’s not strong enough that might
be true and it might not be true it might be that if people actually fully
experience your characters and your story they would have fallen in love
with it but they didn’t here’s a true story now this is not a rep this is not
an average representation because this is a little clean and easy it’s not
usually this clean and easy but it’ll it’ll illustrate a point so an agent
sent me a writer I about not quite a year ago close to a year ago and is a
really talented writer who’s staffed on some really prestigious shows but had
never been able to sell original content always her stuff was great but it just
wasn’t great enough so the the manager had soft had soft shown as shown the
script to some people in the industry that he trusted to sort of unofficially
get feedback on it and people love there’s two main characters they love
this character they love the concept they love the engine they loved were
this good but the second main character found annoying just honestly like if
this character wasn’t in this story I would really be interested in this but
this character has ruined it for me and that was hard for the writer to hear
because this character was the main character as far as she was concerned
and it was sort of reflection it was sort of an autobiographical II
emotionally based character to her so that always hurts because then they’re
not just rejecting your writing it feels like they’re rejecting you so what I do
when I work with a writer is a set of reading their script and giving them my
opinions I always start with what I won’t know the movie that plays in their
head I want to know how they experience the story and the characters to see
where it’s not coming off the page the way they see it and I knew because she
shared with me that this character was the main issue so I started with this
character and I just asked her a series of questions describe the character Jen
and then whoever she said I said well why is the character this way and why
does why is the character this way and what is the character love more than
anything in the world and why is that and what do they fear more than anything
the role and why is that and when this happened in the script why did the
character do it and why do you find that so compelling and when the character did
this why did it and so it was it was a good 30 to 40 minutes and when we were
done I could I could identify two pieces of essential context let me just stop
and define how I would define essential context I would define essential context
as everything the audience reader or viewer everything the audience needs to
know or experience to understand what’s happening why it’s happening and why
they should care and that’s true for the story and for the character and I was
able to identify two pieces of essential context that were not in the script
there was something about the characters motivation for the main thing they were
trying to achieve that it wasn’t clear to a reader and there was also something
about the characters backstory that I think was really important
the writer kept talking about this as part of why she cared so much about the
character and it wasn’t clear in the script and at first the writer is like
well of course it’s clear and then I would ask them to highlight where it’s
clear and then in doing that the writer was able to realize oh it’s it’s implied
but I could see how now someone may not get that and then the other piece of
essential context was gone I mean it I’m sorry in an original draft that was
there but as she rewrote it and rewrote it it somehow got removed this is a
really common experience and just wasn’t there and she didn’t catch that
because when she reads her script the movie that and the characters that play
in her head she knows all of this she loves these characters he knows exactly
this character is her so of course she knows exactly why the character is doing
it now again this punch line is is really clean and simple it’s not usually
this clean and simple but with this particular writer and again three or
four very senior people in the industry at production companies had read this
forever and said really like this really love
this but this character ruins it for me okay
we just went it well she just went in and she changed one line of dialogue to
make something crystal clear and then she added a scene it was about a two
page scene to get that essential context across in the script so one change one
line of dialogue and added a new scene that was about two pages and the purpose
of this pay these two pages was to make this critical missing essential context
clear her in her backstory yes okay sorry I’m actually that it was her
motivation it was the lion dialogue for her backstory but yeah so both both what
the two things that she knew that we didn’t know her experience were remedied
with a change of dialogue and adding a two page scene Sena to her manager sent
it to actually a few of the people she sent it to some of the people had
already seen it and he sent some new people and everybody loved this
character and so this is this is one of my all-time favorite characters and
there was actually multiple there were multiple bids for that script now it’s
unfortunately not usually as such that after you do script testing you realize
I change one line a dialogue and it just add this one little scene and the script
goes from a pass to multiple bids but that can be the case usually there’s
more there’s more missing essential context so it’s a little messier than
this so it’s usually multiple things they’re going to have to be addressed
and that’s the whole key to script testing is to figure out where people
are not experiencing what you’re intending and why and it almost always
comes to essential context and then it’s figuring out how to rewrite the script
so here’s a true story that the writers have publicly talked about the writers
of of Game of Thrones so a lot of people probably know this maybe some people
don’t they originally shot that pilot and then decided to redo the whole thing
because they didn’t like some of the casting and so they literally reshot the
pilot which gave the showrunner is the Opera
to screen the original pilot for people and they screen it for some friends and
they realize there was a missing piece of essential context so people who watch
the original episode the original pilot that never aired when they got to the
end they knew that the Circe the Queen was having an affair with Jamie who was
like her main body card there’s a there’s a term for what he was like the
the head of the Queen’s Guard there’s an official term and that they were having
inappropriate relations because the Queen’s married to the king but people
didn’t know that that was her brother and that whole season doesn’t
necessarily work in the same way without knowing that because that’s the stakes
of the show the stakes of the show is that Cersei will go to any lengths to
make sure that nobody knows her children are illegitimate in that way and
illegitimate heirs to the throne so they taught that and then of course when they
went to redo the pilot they could rewrite and reshoot that so I this is
what I was told only an idiot this is wasn’t me talking
this was the manager talking to me only an idiot would take a script out to the
marketplace that they haven’t properly tested to see if you have to rewrite
redesign reshoot and testing again is making sure that is our strangers who
don’t know what you’re going for when they read your script they experience a
story you experience do they experience the characters you experience if so then
you certainly want to know what you think you have suggestions you have
critiques you know word that it hold your interest like you want to know all
that stuff after you know that people are experiencing what you’re
experiencing in the workshop that I teach I just came from last night we did
an exercise where they literally wrote a three to four page story so like a scene
but not a scene in a script like like a short film three to four pages as an as
a exercise and they have a main character who’s trying to achieve
something and they have reasons very motivated by the you know stakes to
achieve it and there’s another character of poses and they have really strong
reasons why they oppose three to four pages and then everyone tested their
three to four pages to see if everyone could fully see and experience all the
essential context and with two exceptions everyone discovered that
there was at least one piece of essential context that wasn’t being
clear in a three to four page the two people who nailed it are both
working writers I mean one’s an executive producer one’s a staff writer
on a really successful show so they’ve been trained that way so it was it is so
important to test your scripts and if anyone wants the questions very easy go
to my website Cory Mendel net and just sign up for the newsletter and the
autoresponder will give you the questions so I highly recommend after
you poured heart and soul in your script and you when you read it you’re like
okay this is the movie or this is the TV show that I want to create this is
exactly what I’m going for I love it now go test it and see what
other people are experiencing because when it does brought to the marketplace
I want it to be your characters I wanted to be your story I want it to be the
best possible version of what you’re going for so make sure by testing with
the student that you had where she wrote this sort of semi autobiographical story
and it seemed like the sidekick character whatever was the likable one
and the protagonist was the one that people are off putted by her it was too
off-putting once she changed a few things one line
dialogue you said and a two-page scene then people felt more empathy so would
that mean character you know it’d be like so in real life and you meet
someone and let’s say that they just rub you the wrong way and you just for
whatever reason just don’t want to spend time with them and you just don’t care
about them but then you find out that they’re really struggling because they
just lost their father to cancer a really terrible cancer
and they’re just having troubles in there in that mourning period and let’s
just say that you lost your father to cancer you immediately feel different
about that sure you right and it just changes your entire dynamic now imagine
that you meet this person you start to spend time with them and you never know
that they just lost their father to cancer you’re gonna have a very
different experience with him so in this case it her character when you really
understood why she was struggling why she was making some poor decisions it
changed how you felt about her it changed how you understood it and the
end people went from thinking this is a very very self-centered character who
just treats people poorly this is a character who’s in a really bad space
and they’re doing their best and they actually are trying to protect their
friend but they’re doing it in the wrong way but it’s and it just changed how
everyone felt about that god okay it could be that subtle 90% of scripts are
rejected by the industry after the first scene yeah so what are screenwriters
doing wrong and what well like what’s so horrible about her what’s so terrible
about these scenes yeah so when I was a studio reader so when I was in film
school with a crazy dream to be a writer I was working as a studio reader and
what we were trained is read the first two scenes but let me step back if a
script came in by the Coen brothers or Quentin Tarantino or you you’re reading
that whole script and if you don’t like it you’re reading it again to see what’s
wrong with you and then you’re calling your friends who read it like you taking
this very seriously because you giving them extreme benefit of the doubt but I
was taught when you’re reading a script by some unknown writer a new writer read
the first two scenes and stop and ask yourself do I have to keep reading and
if the answer’s no then don’t I have a lot of students who are readers now and
they do they have the one scene I guess you know tensions fans have shrunken
with Twitter and everything so they read one scene I think here’s what I would
say if I read a scene of a scrub and it doesn’t absolutely make me want
to read the next scene I know this writer is not going to be successful
script why it’s not gonna get better if you if you your first scene is like your
interviews if someone goes to a job interview for a job they really want
their late their disheveled the reek of alcohol they’re doing
inappropriate jokes they’re just doing everything wrong right you’re
interviewing this person you’re like okay this is this person on their best
behavior or you know you’re on a first date as person is a disaster this is
them on their best behavior yeah your first scene is if you know
anything about writing it’s your first impression that is you on your best
behavior oh I like that so if your first scene it doesn’t have conflict just
something I believe I talked about in a previous film courage video otherwise
there’s a lot on my site about that or the characters don’t feel like
compelling characters or it’s supposed to be funny but it’s not like all the
stuff we were talking about you know in terms of what you’re selling with a
pilot script now I’m not looking for an engine I don’t need to have the concept
but it bet you better nail the genre and and the characters better be characters
that absolutely want to spend time with and you better know how to write in
compelling conflict now let’s say someone can do all of that that doesn’t
mean that the whole script is going to be great it means it might and you know
one of the things and by the way I really would recommend for anyone who’s
serious about being a writer if possible try to go on the other side of the fence
for six months try to be a reader someone who value eight scripts for six
months you can do it for that for the like the writing competitions but if
possible especially if you live in LA I would try to do it for an agency a
management company a production company producer someone who’s in the industry
someone was involved with buying of projects and I always tell people do it
for six months but not a day longer because you’ll lose your soul
and I don’t mean that what I mean is most people most writers who start down
that path if they stay on that path too long they end up becoming executives or
producers and they stop writing and and maybe they’re happier for that but I
think six months is a great time to learn what it’s like to be on the other
side of the fence because as a writer your job is to write scripts that total
strangers will read and fall so in love with that they’re willing to go to their
boss and go to bat for you and you know I’ll put it an even more important way
when I was starting out I thought the key was I had to get a manager and then
an agent I had to get people who were out there advocating for me because I
can’t do that you know as an unknown writer I can’t call up Warner Brothers
or Netflix and say hey you don’t know me but I wrote a script and it’s great you
can’t first well they’re not going to take your call right and good luck
getting through yeah right good luck if you do Yeah right
so I thought I needed two people or at least one person out there advocating
for me if you’re really smart that’s not your objective your objective
is to get an army of people advocating for you and the way to do that goes back
to writing pitch perfect authentic scripts which I talked about in the
previous film courage videos check those out if you haven’t seen this because
when you write something that’s unique non formulaic with amazing characters an
engine an amazing concept people who read it and I was one of those people
and I have a lot of students who are these people they will to this a very
small community Hollywood and they will email or call or text people and say if
you read Karen’s script if you read this script and they’re like no and they’re
like you should and they send the script it’s called the script travels well the
script goes viral and within days everyone’s has read it and everyone
wants to meet you know who you are because your script has gone and
everyone’s buzzing about it so when you’re writing a script the the so I’m
sorry I’m going a little bit off tangent here but all I will bring it all
together in a moment so when I first thing I do in my you say
class because they’re so overly educated they don’t realize what a liability that
is what I’ll say is you’re writing I could do it with a feature or a TV TV
script 60 minutes what has to happen they say there’s four scenes in act 1
what has to happen in that last scene what’s the objective of that scene and I
get incredibly smart answers you know it’s the point of no return it’s the
first crisis it’s the it’s the first subplot it’s the reverse I mean I get
all these really smart answers they’re all wrong but they’re really smart the
answer is the fourth scene what it must do is get total strangers to have to
read the fifth C and the fifth scene has to get read the six it’s true every
scene every scene has to compel someone to read the next scene and so that first
scene has to get someone to read the second scene think about the first scene
as a first date you’re not getting married on that date they’re not buying
your script the job of a first date is to get a second date job of a second
date to get a third date now enough dates in a row and then someone will be
like okay like I want to get in a relationship with you that’s the moment
when they’re like I will read your whole script they’ll come a point where
someone will become such a fan because they’ll realize here’s the concept I
know where this is going and I think that’s an awesome idea for a show or a
movie love these characters and and these scenes are structured so tightly
and in such a compelling way I’m starting to get confidence that this
person knows how to structure and at some point you’re like I will read this
to the end and then when you get to the end your job is fun the fall in love and
when they fall in love that’s when they will tell everyone about your script
it’s like you’re watching a TV show that you love and no one else is watching it
you’re telling all your friends oh you’ve got to watch the show you got to
watch the show we do that with scripts so that’s your job
so now that that statistic of 98% sometimes people get mad at me and and
or they want to debate that number so just to be clear that’s not my number I
didn’t come up here if you’re upset don’t
directed at me I am just the messenger it’s very simple
I’ve been teaching at UCLA since 2007 I have brought in countless executives
producers agents managers I always ask these people the gatekeepers when you
get a script from a writer that’s not a current client and not an established
writer or a new writer how long do you read to then decide if you’re gonna keep
reading and they always say one or two scenes I
have heard people say the first 10 pages they were in a good mood but is usually
one or two scenes I ask those people what percentage of the time do you keep
reading and I have heard 1% 2% far less than 1% and it probably averages out to
about 1% but I tried to be a little more optimistic and I made it 2% so when I
say 98% of non established writers if they move mountains to get their script
into the marketplace 90% of the time people stopped reading
after one or two scenes that is solely based on what all these producers agents
and managers and what my experience was many years ago as a reader so anyone who
takes offense or son like that number I didn’t come up with it I am the
messenger sure and and then I I will when I teach I’ll say how many of you
right now are executives or readers or story and listen there’s usually like
six or seven hands that go up and I go so let me ask you when I say only 2% of
scripts are continued to be read after the first scene or two do you think
that’s accurate do you think that’s too generous you think that’s too
pessimistic and across the board they’ll say you’re being way too generous you’re
protecting these people it’s less than 2%
oh so that’s what these people are saying and why is sometimes being too
smart getting in your own way yeah because what happens is they they learn
all these rules so the industry has changed so the industry is dramatically
changed so it used to be that there were three
or four channels and basically what everyone was doing there’s Donald Glover
had a great interview on The New Yorker about this the brilliant creator and
star of Atlantis so back in the day like up to I don’t know 2000 2002 whatever
you have three or four networks and that was it and they were making macaroni and
cheese they were making comfort food you come home after a long day and you want
a drama you want a comedy you want a spiritual whatever and they would follow
paradigms so all the comedies were the same structure different jokes and the
crime scenes you know CSI Hollywood CSI Missouri CSI Australia
same structure just different crime and the idea was we’re creating comfort food
and what we’re gonna do is put a star that you like you like Ted Danson we’re
gonna do macaroni and cheese but Ted you like Hello yeah Ellen DeGeneres we’re
gonna do macaroni and cheese with Ellen DeGeneres and the truth is these shows
were designed to get the widest audience possible ratings for advertising so they
wanted two shows to be watched by as many people as possible so you wanna
show doesn’t offend people you want to show that a lot of people like and the
truth is people would watch a show and they’re like it’s okay it’s not great
but they don’t change the channel because they know there’s nothing better
in the other two or three channels and that says Ted Danson and I like Ted
Danson so I’ll just stick with this that’s how it used to be and now there’s
so much content that we know because we have metadata that people sample pilots
and then it’s like they’re on a date for 10 minutes they’re like well who else
can I date and they’re just jumping and what in most cases not all cases but in
most cases what determines success or failure is follow-through simple simply
put what percentage of the people who watch the first episode watch all the
episodes that’s follow-through because in a world
of too much content what you need is brand loyalty you need people that will
stick with your show so girls I think had about 2 million people watching it
that’s not a large aggregate number but I think it had one of the highest if not
the highest follow through well over 90 something percent of people who watch
the first episode of girls they watched every episode of girls that’s valuable
now because it used to be again largest number possible and also to have
a lot of episodes to put it into syndication very few shows go to
syndication there’s just so much original content so it’s all about
creating shows that in a world of too much content people are going to stick
with this show and so you see that a lot of the scripts that are being bought
they’re not the paradigm driven rule driven script anymore they used to be
like if you go back 15 years ago you’re an unknown writer that’s what you’d want
to write if you wanted to sell something nowadays as my agent well my former
agent we don’t have agents right now but my former agent WME has repeatedly said
if you’re doing a three camera standard paradigm driven comedy or paradigm
driven procedural unless you’ve been an executive producer or above in a hit
show in that space in the last three years your scripts do a no-one’s gonna
read it what you need to be doing is writing a script that no one has seen
before writing something that only you could have written and making an
elevated story so instead of preordained plot points the the story unfolds
organically and it’s not predictable and it feels that characters are doing what
they would really be doing and saying what they really be saying and it’s
captivating these are the hardest scripts to write these are the pitch
perfect authentic scripts but this is what the majority of scripts that are
selling these are the scripts that are selling now there are paradigm and rule
driven scripts that sell but they’re predominantly written by people who are
executive producers or above on those hit shows and further it used to be if
you want to get staffed on a TV show which is generally the entry way
starting place for a TV writer to get staffed on an existing show work your
way up the ladder you would want to write specs of existing show so if
you’re a comedy writer you would write spec episodes of hit comedies or spec
episodes of proceed Durrell’s almost no showrunner in town
would read dot script what they will read is original scripts they and here’s
why they need their show to make an
emotional connection to the audience to get follow through they need writers who
can create emotional attachment they want to read your script and see that
you’re a magician that you can write a script that is unique that has
characters that just I have to keep following these characters I have to
keep reading this script that’s what they’re looking for when they staff
their show I have a friend as a showrunner I mean he has a budget from
the streaming company for nine staff writers and you only have seven because
he can’t find nine because there’s so many shows and everyone who’s good is
working and they’re running shows or they’re the second that’s a big problem
is getting enough really amazing writers so the people coming out of these these
programs in a large a lot of time they have been trained to fight a war that
ended seven years ago so what these institutions are teaching was absolutely
true at the time and it’s just it’s a lot harder for a big institution to sort
of change course for a lot of reasons so anyway I’m not venomous a from UCLA I
love the experience I mean a lot of great connections a lot of great friends
but but to answer your question I I find a lot of I have a lot of agents and
managers send me writers to work with in my workshops because they’re overly
educated they know all the rules I know all the paradigms their heads full of
what you can do or can’t do it’s ridiculous when you see what is selling
when you see what show owners are looking for they’re looking for
something that is absolutely original and captivating they don’t want the
rules they don’t want the paradigm they don’t that’s that’s easy they want
someone who could create something that people is memorable it’s impactful that
you have an emotional attachment to because they need to create shows that
when someone watches it they will keep watching that show so almost as if
you’re talking about the marvelous missus myzel Mazal myzel sorry it
it’s almost that kind of that metaphor of she was the perfect
whatever friend mother everything is overly sanitized perfect but nobody
wants to watch that they want to see somebody who’s gonna really like like
push the envelope and offend people possibly maybe not but but really like
go outside the lines yes that’s really the same thing with the writers it
sounds like yes that’s really smart and if we want to use more of us myths might
as well we can go a little bit deeper as a metaphor cuz I he was a brilliant
metaphor in that show for writers so we have a character who doesn’t want to get
rejected so I mean as a wife she’s taken sex classes to be perfect in bed this is
in the show she not only have her makeup on perfectly in her hair when she goes
to bed she wakes up an hour earlier oh wow redoes her makeup and hair gargles
with mouthwash pretends to be asleep so when the alarm goes off when her husband
wakes up she is a angel she’s the perfect daughter she’s the perfect I
mean she’s so charming and she’s so wonderful but it comes from this
terrible terrible fear of being rejected so you already know as creating the show
she’s gonna get rejected a lot by her husband and by society and
her parents but to the metaphor I would say then this I can relate to this as a
writer it was one of my biggest struggles and I never overcame it and as
part of why I stopped writing and I see a lot of writers with this struggle if
you are so afraid of rejection then it makes you or it can compel you to be the
kind of person that you think people want you to be and this could be true as
a son or a daughter or a spouse or a writer so you start writing in a way
that you think is what people are looking for and you’re scared of writing
in a way that could offend people and so people who are so terrified of rejection
can become the kind of person who it’s hard to reject but the person they
become is not who they really are so the fear of rejection can lead people to
reject themselves so afraid of being rejected
you reject who you truly are in the marvelous miss myzel she has gone
through her whole life being a perfect person at the end of that pilot she’s
going to been the worst thing of her life as her husband not only is he
reject her but who we rejected her for and when he did it and she’s drunk
Manischewitz fine but she is drunk and gets on stage and for the first time
ever that character starts to search for and to express her truth not as a
stand-up just because she’s drunk and she does and then Susie tells her you
are amazing you know this town as the show unfolds what’s fascinating is the
character exists in two spheres her everyday normal sphere where she is a
perfect person and then a sphere where she will continue to find and speak her
truth and that is on stage and really the metaphor of the show that I take is
the only way to reach your full potential as a creative person well this
would be true of anyone but let’s stay focused with writers the only way to
reach your true potential is to express who you really are through your writing
to be completely authentic and and know that people will reject that and be okay
with that you have to be willing to be rejected to be authentic and I know
because I spent a decade as the studio writer never being authentic in my
writing and I wouldn’t take any script that was
close to who I was and my agent was repeatedly saying like you need to spec
something from your heart and I would never do that because I was so terrified
of being rejected I knew at least if I wrote a script that wasn’t me I didn’t
put myself into it if it got rejected then my skill set my talent was being
rejected I was terrifying to me but at least I
wasn’t being rejected by I was authentic in my writing as I as I knew I should be
and I was rejected that was just too terrifying
so you know this is film courage courage is so important and I lacked it as
rioter and that’s part of why I teach because I really want to do what I can
to help inspire other people to not make that mistake and so I think the
marvelous is myzel is a really beautiful metaphor and to really hit your full
potential you have to be okay with being rejected and what will happen is you
will there were people who read the pilot or they heard they did for
Seinfeld or you know catastrophe or Breaking Bad or orange is the new black
Russian doll hated it I I was once the some of your viewers might be a little
young to fully appreciate this but I was out of studio one so I’m like I named
the studio for reasons that will become clear and I was early for a meeting so I
was walking around and I kind of wandered in an area I don’t think I was
allowed to be and there was AI there was a box of coverage reports covers reports
is when scripts go into the studio of people write coverage
I saw a coverage report for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that’s represents a
minute that studio and they looked at the coverage this person heeded that
script they said this is the most annoying script I ever read first of all
you have a teen character who thinks he’s the smartest person he is and he
breaks the fourth wall and he talks to us in such a cloying superior way and
it’s like yes that was the magic of them oh like you loved Ferris but the point
is you take any amazing project I’ll guarantee people told Quentin Tarantino
and they read pulp fiction if you move forward with this you’re going back to
the video store like this you this is going to be a disaster of epic
proportions there are people who read American
Beauty and said this is just stylized melodrama there’s nothing here all it
when you are your authentic self you’re going to have detractors and then
you’re gonna have people that are gonna fall in love and that’s all you need is
one person to fall in love and then it can change your life all it needs is one
person to say I’m making this this is important and I’m doing it so
film courage writer courage is have the courage to don’t feel protected by the
rules and paradigms find what you’re trying to say create authentic
characters find the concept and go for it and just write it completely not
worrying about being rejected and there will be people who reject the script but
then people are gonna see who you really are and what your voice truly is and
there going to be people who love it and that’s how someone launches a career in
the current marketplace Cori you said in the beginning and believed of the last
question that you were listening or reading an interview with Donald Glover
yeah I’m The Hollywood Reporter I’m I think it was the New York The New Yorker
okay he was a New Yorker magazine and it was a in-depth look at Donald Glover and
it was also talking about Atlanta which if I’m correct has won more Awards in
his first two years than any TV show in his first two years and Donna Glover was
talking about how it used to be where they were trying to get the most people
possible to watch a show and now it was following these paradigms and these
tropes Oh people like families that argue then
come together and love each other then people love a mystery with a red herring
and then you find out who did it so everyone’s doing the same generic
stories just with different dialogue or different locations of different
characters but now in a world where there’s literally too much content
nobody can watch all of the shows nobody knows all the new shows in a
world of too much content concept and story are king yes you need great
characters but there’s so many scripts that have great characters and it’s no
longer the case it just because you have a certain star people are gonna watch
the show it’s just too many show so what he was the point he was making is oh and
there’s a really great really great funny quote I’ll let I’ll let people
read it so and there’s a great quote and there basically what he’s saying is it
used to be getting the right actor you know gimme a Ted Danson was the key
now it’s the story in the concept that’s what differentiates and it’s it’s
telling a story in a unique way it’s telling the story in the way that’s best
for that story and for the experience you want people to have so Atlanta is
brilliantly structured it’s one of the shows that have a plot casting class and
we do case studies and teach people how to deconstruct these shows to see how
they’re put together and Atlanta is just brilliant but if you look at any of the
paradigms or the rules that are widely taught and then you look at the really
successful shows like Atlanta or the marvelous missus myzel or fleabag or a
Russian doll and then if you also get scripts that have launch writers careers
in the past four years and I’ve done this with my UCLA classes just pile the
scripts have people grab whichever ones they want and then the question is what
percentage of these scripts adhere to the rules and the paradigms that you’ve
been taught and the answer ranges from none to almost none and then people get
upset well why am i forcing a square peg in a round hole and I don’t have to
exactly so the the article that Dong Glover was talking about the new
paradigm or the new reality of TV and how the stories have to make an
emotional connection they can’t be predictable no the reality we know this
from the meditate metadata is that these paradigm driven shows that’s what our
parents watched you know we grew up and came of age with on-demand video
platforms and we have as a generation watch more TV than is probably medically
advisable we know what’s a redo we know what’s a reheat and more and more our
generation is not watching those shows you know Murder She Wrote which was a
brilliant show in its day that’s what our parents watched and so that was the
Donald Glover was making that argument in a much
or articulate way than I just did and so you can go look at it I’m it’s in The
New Yorker two years ago or so do you have any advice for writers on getting
the career they most want the writing career and then first off how do they
even know what that looks like yeah so I want to I want to relay
something that my favorite is when the smartest agents ever what she said when
she came to my UCLA class so step one ask yourself if I if I was guaranteed
success absolutely guarantee success doing anything as a writer what would I
be doing and I want you to be specific so don’t say I want to write features do
you want to write Academy award-nominated winning features do you
want to be writing directing small interpersonal movies do you want to be
writing big popular culture successful movies everyone’s talking about
don’t say I want to be doing 60-minute TV what kind of system and be very
specific and what I really urge people to do is for this exercise don’t
constrain yourself by what you think is possible like if you’re like a lot to be
I’d love to create comedy shows but I don’t know if I’m funny enough well the
answer is if you were guaranteed success what would you be doing and why and I
think there’s a question writers should ask themselves at least twice a year and
and anyone who’s newer to this this journey absolutely something to ask
yourself in you know I think part of your question was well if someone’s new
and inexperienced enough maybe they’re not entirely sure that’s okay just write
down today what your answer would be your answer can change over time as you
get more experienced the more education but know what it is that you most know
what you would do if you were guaranteed success and then the agent said now hear
me when I tell you nobody gets the career they want you get the career you
deserve so the key is figure out the career you most want then figure out how
to deserve that and I’ll get there in a second but I
just want to do a little quick personal thing which is you know when we walk we
wear we look is where we move that’s our intent so when I was a young writer at
UCL I was very insecure didn’t know if I had what it took don’t come from wealthy
parents I was on student aid and I really had this idea of I need to know
if this is gonna work out for me because if it is and I’m going to law school and
so I I made a promise to myself that within one year I was going to sell a
script and 13 months later I sold a pitch to Ridley Scott and I was willing
to say that counts and then really said he was making the movie his front page a
variety and I was getting all of these offers to write projects high-profile
projects for money at least for me I didn’t know people made that kind of
money I don’t come from money but what I realized is these weren’t the kind of
things I wanted to be writing they were the kind of movies I’d want to see but I
don’t want to write these it’s not it’s not creatively fulfilling I want to be
doing these and I was stupid or naive or both enough to call my agent and say hey
I’m getting all these offers but I really want these kind of offers I want
to be doing this and my agent took a really long pause I think just to figure
out how the nicest way to say this but in her own very very sweet way what she
said is if you wanted that career why didn’t you write the spec scripts
that get you that career because you wrote the spec scripts to get you this
career and she said this is your career so you’re gonna follow this career for
five years and you were going to nail it knock it out of the park and after five
years if you want to start talking about how you might change the industry
perception of you and how you might want to bend your career over there we can do
that but if I’m representing you for the next five years this is your career
because that’s the career you’ve launched so there was a really important
question if that’s the correct one why did I write a script that launches this
career and the answer was I never asked myself what kind of career I wanted my
intent was to launch a career and I achieved that
my intent wasn’t to launch the career I most want and I worked with rioters
routinely who have careers who come to me and they’re like I want to change my
career I want to change what I’m known for I wouldn’t change a trajectory of my
career and they have very similar stories so it’s it takes a lot of effort
a lot of training a lot of hard work to launch a career if you’re going to do
that you might as well do it in service of a career you most want or at least
that ought to be your plan a you know at some point someone can say I’ve done all
this training I’ve done all this dedication this is the career I want
it’s just not happening for me maybe there is a career a more suited for
maybe there’s a different kind of writing maybe it’s not what I most love
doing but maybe I can make a living doing that that’s Plan B and there
certain is certainly our writers will do that at some point they’re like this
isn’t working let me go to plan B but for so many people like myself I just
started with Plan B and and for a lot of writers maybe they would have gotten
what they most wanted if they went there so that’s why it’s so important I
believe to start with what is the career you most want and why because I think
you owe it to yourself to do what’s required to have to give yourself a shot
at that okay now the question becomes you know the career you most want how do
you deserve that career then of course it is writing the right scripts but what
people have to realize is it’s not a good script it’s not a great script it’s
an exceptional script so let me tell you a true story Bruce Springsteen run the
greatest rock and roll gods of all time he talks a lot about his life in the
Netflix special but there’s a documentary also if you can watch on the
making of Born to Run oh that sounds good is really if you’re if you if
you’re like me and your nerd of the creative process it’s it’s it’s amazing
so Bruce Springsteen when the most talented musicians to ever walk the
earth dedicated you know all his friends are
going to college and start you know jobs and starting
families he was just playing music for free or for no money he was just all in
on having he want to be a rock star and he was all in and he was mega talented
and he got a record deal which almost nobody got and they promoted it and they
market it and they made radio stations play as music this is the 1970s there’s
no internet there’s no Spotify there’s no iTunes if radio stations don’t play
your music no one knows who you are they don’t want to play an unknown person but
Columbia Records could say do you want the new Fleetwood Mac album do you want
the right that you’re gonna play Bruce Springsteen this number of times and
we’re gonna have people listening to make sure so all of that and the record
came out and it bombed now I always have someone close to me who’s mad they’re
like it was brilliant you know I’m not saying it wasn’t artistically brilliant
I’m saying it commercially bombed bruce says that and he got something very
people to get in the record business a second chance and he poured heart and
soul and he knew the second album that was this or or he was given up his dream
and the second album came out and it bombed and God smiled on him he got a
third chance and that third album was born to run his first two albums sold
42,000 copies born to run ten million copies born run is considered one the
five greatest albums of all time he became and remains a rock god in the
1970s if you want to be famous there’s two ways to do it be on the cover of
People magazine or Newsweek magazine he’s gonna cover both in the same week
oh wow so here’s the question and this is the question that anyone who once you
know the career you most want how you deserve it here’s my question for you
what was different about Bruce Springsteen’s third album than the first
two albums mmm the most popular guess I get is luck gotta be in the right place
at the right time catch lightning in a bottle luck is an excuse born run was a
trend send an album it would have been goober successful if it was released
five years earlier five years later if it was released today it is transcendent
it’s not luck yes you can write an amazing script and if
you’re not in the right place at the right time it may not sell
or get made that is true but if you write a transcendent script you will
launch a career people want to work with you they’ll want to hear your pitches
they’ll want to staff you so it’s not luck the other answer I get is that he
found his voice he found his authentic voice no you go to the first two albums
and it is his authentic voice it is Bruce
you hear that talent and that voice and that melancholy and that aching and that
strength it he had his voice hone in those first
year albums so he he didn’t find his voice he didn’t get lucky so what is the
difference and the answer is Neal Landau and Bruce Springsteen talks about it in
this documentary Neal Landau was a reporter for The Rolling Stone who was
big fan of those first two albums and came on board as a producer and he
produced Bruce Springsteen’s third album and they talked about it in his
documentary both Neal and Bruce what Neal and Al did was he changed Bruce
Springsteen’s process evolve Bruce Springsteen’s process just that much and
changing his process because process is how we create product changing the
process that much can be the difference between a failure and being a rock god
or a failure and being an a-list writer a see this with writers they’re like
this close and so it’s changing your process it’s evolving your process and
almost every a-list writer I know will say there was someone in my life a
manager a showrunner a producer who helped me see a different creative way
of doing this an evolved way of doing it changing your process so that is so key
for someone who’s like this is the career I want the way I deserve it is to
write just exceptional scripts okay how do I write exceptional scripts well
talent you know make sure that you have properly trained yourself to create
characters and dialogue that are compelling compelling conflict I did all
this in a film courage video with the essential tools so you can go back and
watch that video then often the missing piece and this is
what I do my I have a three workshop series in the first two workshops are
really teaching those skill sets and the third workshop is all about process it’s
all about evolving your process there’s a lot of things I do in that workshop
I’ll I’ll share one with your audience so I’ll share one specific tool and just
to be clear this is this is just one of like 15 tools that are really important
but here’s one and one of the tools that I teach is the clarity index and so what
it it’s a very simple tool when you are trying to design and execute an
exceptional script so it’s not following the rules it’s not paradigm driven it’s
not predictable it’s not character serving preordained plot points but
you’re trying to write a script like Russian doll or Breaking Bad Pilar
Marvel’s mrs. myzel or fleabag or we could go on and on and on then you’re
creating something original and I guarantee you there’s going to be at
least one or more times in that process that’s going to get really hard and it’s
going to be really difficult to figure something out how do I motivate the
character to do this or how do I solve this dilemma that the characters in or
the there’s there’s a wide range of structural design issues that can be
really challenging every writer goes through that so when you’re trying to
solve a really challenging creative problem I ask people to think about a
spectrum between one and ten and one is I have no idea in the world how to do
this I have I don’t know the answer I don’t even know where to start looking
I am completely lost and a 10 is when you can concisely
and precisely answer it when people hear that answer they’re like yes you know if
you go back and look at the creative integration video for film courage like
their intuitive instinct just goes yes and their conceptual analytical brain
goes yes so a 10 is that is that answer and you can say it the more we have to
talk the less we know you can say it concisely and precisely and in a room
everyone’s just gonna look at you and go yes so that’s a 10 and a 1 is no idea I
don’t even know where to look so a 5 is like I have a sense the ideas
over here I think it’s sort of shaped this way but I don’t know what it is you
know an 8 is I know the answer but I can’t precisely tell it to you if you
let me talk as I talk it’s in there somewhere maybe you can help me find it
because I know it’s here but I can’t I don’t know exactly where it exactly what
it that’s like an 8 you know a 3 would be I don’t know the answer but I have a
pretty good sense I should look in this direction ok so this is the spectrum so
the first thing that I want to train people to do is know where you are know
where you are and understand that if you’re trying to write a script that can
change your life that can launch your career or take I work a lot right now I
used to work with writers who were trying to launch their careers I don’t
do that anymore I now work I do that in my workshops but one on one I primarily
work with people who’ve been staffed on shows who are trying to get to the next
level so I tell them inherently you’re going to be at a1 or a2 in the beginning
here’s one of the most important things what is your relationship with being at
a low number a lot of writers get really stressed they get anxious it’s very
uncomfortable you’re working on a script check if I can’t solve this problem the
script doesn’t work and I have no idea how to solve this problem I’ve been
thinking about it for three days and I the the example I give that I can relate
to is whenever I park in a large parking garage I can never find my car so if I’m
walking through a large parking garage I know my car is there but I can’t find it
it gets frustrating but imagine if I don’t even know if I drove the car there
now imagine if I don’t even know if I have a car because when you’re at a low
number on this clarity spectrum you don’t know the answer you don’t know if
there is an answer and if there is an answer you don’t know if you’re gonna
find you may not be able to find it there’s
no guarantee and that freaks people out and they get very stressed and
uncomfortable and we know about human beings is there’s an automatic part of
our brain that wants to when we get stressed and freaked out wants to soothe
and comfort ourselves and we have different ways of doing it here’s a
whole bunch of really destructive ways writers soothe themselves when they’re
really freaked out about a really tough problem they have no idea if they can
figure it out or not unfortunately I can relate to almost all of these strategies
so one strategy is to convince yourself it’s not a problem I’m overthinking this
now I’m making a mountain out of a molehill this is no one else is even
gonna see this problem and then that calms you down
soozee down lets you keep writing and then down the road when you give the
script to someone that you trust you’re gonna find out that this was a glaring
problem for them and the whole script doesn’t work so you’re just kicking the
can down the road one of my favorite strategies was to then another possible
strategy is to say now it’s a really big problem
it’s got to be solved and they come up with a kind of decent answer that’s like
a 5 on the clarity spectrum and I convinced myself it’s a 10 I have an
answer that kind of works but it’s not a really great answer and I’m like perfect
once again you’re gonna get your comeuppance when people read your scrap
people you trust because you didn’t solve the problem and now they’re a
mistake that people will make is they’ll say there just is no solution to this
problem that’s why no one’s done a TV show I hear people say this all the time
like if Breaking Bad didn’t exist you could I could see someone saying that’s
why no one’s done a TV show about a guy who cooks crystal meth because there’s
no way to care about that guy no one wants to spend time with a guy who cooks
crystal meth crystal meth is a scourge of the universe or you know no I have
this great idea of doing a spy story where the protagonists are Russian spies
they’re Russian spies they coming to America they are KGB agents they speak
perfect English they have kids they pretend to be married and they undermine
the American Way and everyone’s like oh that’s an interesting concept and then
it’s like yeah but no one cares these people were the stakes they’re
gonna get caught oh no they’re gonna get caught
killing Americans undermining the American Way they’re the enemy well of
course that guy figured out how to do that script and the Americans changed
his life not only did he sell that script he was a showrunner in year 2 and
that that has won so many Emmys and best drama and my point is any script that’s
gonna change your life has something about it that’s really hard to figure
out and so what a lot of writers will do is they’ll say yeah banana for three or
four days or a week there is no solution that’s why no one’s done a show like
this or maybe there’s a solution that someone smarter than me can figure out
and they just put that script away there are so many writers who had an instinct
for something unique and special and amazing have something really difficult
to figure out struggled with it and then just put that in a drawer that’s great
would have changed their life but it went into a drawer the reality is the
writers who we all admire the writers who create amazing shows
gave it chase really wanted to do a show about what it’s like to feel like your
mom is just crushing your life out of you it’s like she’s killing you but you
can’t escape her because you’re Roman Catholic it’s your mom
and he couldn’t figure out how to do that with stakes took him two years he
talked about this two years to figure it out he finally figured it out little
project called The Sopranos so the point being how many people have a Sopranos or
a Breaking Bad or a fleabag that’s just in their drawer and it took David the
difference between David chase and most writers or gingy Cohen and I think she
said took her like 11 months to figure out how to do and solve some of the
problems and orange is a new black the difference between gingy Cohen and David
chase isn’t that they don’t start at a low number it isn’t that they struggle
it isn’t that they’re lost it isn’t they go down a lot of dead alleys or you know
blind alleys that don’t go anywhere that’s that that’s not what’s different
for them what’s different is they don’t give up and they have a process to get
to attend but they don’t give up so many writers give up they they they
rationalize away the problem they rationalize that a
okay Solutions a brilliant solution or they just say well that’s why no one did
can you know I have this great concept but that’s why no one’s done it because
I can’t work or the classic I need a vacation from this I’ll put it in a
drawer work on something else and I’ll go back to this and then they acquire
drawer full so what’s really important is to train yourself to expect to be at
a low number and to relax into the unknown to be okay and then to have a
process to start moving up instead of trying to find the solution start
brainstorming possible ways of approaching the solution always be
looking for options always be brainstorming possibilities that’s the
way because when you’re trying to find the right solution you’re so constricted
and that judgmental part is coming in and throwing things away like no that’s
not perfect but if you’re brainstorming options if you’re just brainstorming
options for ways to find options then you can relax that critical judgmental
mind and you can start wandering and then you start moving up and you start
to have a sense and an idea and you start to move up and most writers will
stop at a nine a lot of writers don’t know what a 10 feels like and so they’re
always stopping at a nine so one of the things that I do in the workshops is I
will bring in a creative problem that a writer I worked with had and how this
was their first idea and how to solve it and it clearly isn’t very good and then
how they got all the way here to a really good solution but it was like a
nine and then I give them the ten and you can feel the difference I can’t do
this here because I had permission to do it in the workshops but people can go
through film courage videos there’s a lot of great writers talking and sharing
their stories and what I would be looking for is so there are writers are
going to talk about how they got in the business they’re going to talk about
this project they’re gonna talk about how this came together and all that’s
really interesting it can be educational and inspiring but what I would really
pay attention to is a writer and I know that this exists in in a lot of the
interviews is look for a writer who’s talking about
a really difficult creative process or creative problem they’re trying to solve
and then they give what the actual solution was and you’ll feel it you’ll
feel like in so few words they just nailed it so you need to know what a tin
feels like to hold yourself to ten so to sort of wrap this all together I’ll
share a true story my wife has a cousin whose dream was to be a baseball player
and he was the best high school baseball player in the eastern half the United
States and long story short when all his friends went to college he went to the
Yankees he was 18 and he went to the Yankees but in the minor league system
the the like triple-a and he was an Adonis I’m an amongst boys he broke all
the batting home run records Defensive Player of the Year and this guy was
going to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time and a pretty young
age the at a pretty young age the Yankees brought him up to the majors and
he was playing with his heroes and he was just striking out striking out he
couldn’t hit the ball so that’s ok the game a batting coach I said ecology
coach couldn’t hit the ball so he put him back down the minor at home run home
run home run brought him back up to the major strikeout strikeout that’s ok and
they just kept doing this for like four years and they eventually cut him
another team the Cleveland Indians picked him up same thing same cycle they
cut him another team with the three teams same thing in the minor leagues
broke records in the major league he could not hit the ball and then that was
over he was 27 years old and it was over now he saved his money he went to
architect school met a wonderful woman they’re married have kids he’s very
happy but here’s an inch I didn’t learn this whole thing because it was with the
metal wedding and we were walking from point A to point B which meant walking
over some grass he wouldn’t do it he walked a mile out of his way to not go
on grass and his wife’s like yeah he won’t walk on grass
we don’t have grass on our house he will never walk on grass as an entire life
and I’m like I gotta have to hear this story
central context what is this all about sense memory it reminds him walking on
grass reminds about baseball and it reminds him of his dream that he can’t
ever have they just never walks on grass so I asked him what’s the difference
between hitting the best minor-league pitch and an average major league pitch
and he looked at me and he said that that’s the difference and writers don’t
understand that that doesn’t seem like a lot but when that’s what stands between
you and your dream that’s a lot and I have writers that are sent to me by
agents and managers who are this close and on the clarity spectrum they can get
to a nine they think it’s a ten me no one’s gonna push that extra mile they
don’t you know if you think you’ve ran 26.2 miles you’re like I’ve done the
marathon and you can stop but what if you’ve only gone 25 miles that’s what a
really good manager will do for you is they believe is really good it’s not yet
exceptional you’ve got to make it that much better
because nobody does that on their own because they don’t realize it could be
that much better you know when I was starting out the greatest gift my
manager gave me is he held me to a standard I didn’t think I could hit and
he said I know you can hit that standard I don’t know if he really thought that
or not but I needed to hear that and so the clarity spectrum is not making the
mistakes at the smaller number yeah and as you go through life and you you watch
film courage videos or you know writer podcasts or you go to events where you
hear writers talk you will hear writers talk about creative problems or if they
talk about a creative problem they didn’t talk about solution try to social
media them or go up them after the event and just say hey I’m a writer and you
were talking about in the script you were struggling with this I’m really
curious like how did you what was your process how did you get to an answer
what was that answer in my I did it all I just all the time with writers they’re
usually excited to share this you know they usually people come up to them it’s
like how do I get it agent well you read my script but if you approach a writer
and you’re like I just want to learn what your process was and what was the
solution they’ll share it with you and if you do
that pay attention to how few of work how few words they use to give the
answer and how when you hear that answer how it
makes you feel like there’s a tuning fork inside you where you’re like yeah
yeah yeah no that’s it that’s brilliant and that’s what @n feels like and you
know what @n feels like then you’ll know when you’re not quite there you had
talked about in the last film courage interview that you read rewrites the
memoir by Neil Simon yeah and I just briefly skimmed the book on Amazon and
he kind of talked about the same thing he in terms of being unhappy working in
LA on a television show and he was like if I don’t I think his quote was if I
don’t start writing a Broadway play soon I wouldn’t inevitably become a permanent
part of the West Coast typography this very thought of that jump started me to
my desk so but but do you think it he was 30 I think when he was talking about
that do you think most writers know they just kind of think about that same thing
that you like I’ve got to get signed I’ve got to get yeah you know and and
how do they even know that this is the wrong genre or type of writing job for
them you might not so a mistake that I made and I think I made a lot of stupid
mistakes this mistake I don’t beat myself up too much because they think
this is a pretty understandable mistake and I see writers make this which is
just because you love a certain TV show or a certain movie or a certain genre TV
just because you love a certain TV show or a movie or a certain genre doesn’t
mean you love writing it it might I mean you know fleabag is your your all-time
favorite TV show and you could write something like that you might love it
you might not so what I suggest is especially if you’re new instead of
picking this is the kind of writer I’m gonna be playing with it and write 10 or
15 pages of this kind of a thing and Center 50 page of this kind of thing
Tennant and don’t worry if it’s great don’t worry about the engine and the
concepts and all that just see what is my experience in writing these pages
just experiment it’s like being a young kid in an attic and sure
different clothes and you pretend to be different people what what person what
type of writing really excited you I’ll tell you one of the things that I have
routinely see when I’ll work with a writer you know we always start with an
entry in an initial kind of interview conversation and there and the writer
will always say you know this is the kind of stuff I write this is what I
think’s in my wheelhouse this is the stuff that I would suck at
and I always make them try to do what they think they’d suck at like again not
an entire spread you know maybe just a couple days an assignment it’s not that
in common that someone when they do this it’s like holy shit it’s so good and I
loved it and I’ve seen writers who’ve had this career and they play around
with what they know they wouldn’t be too good at and they go on I have huge
careers not saying that’s always the case so experiment sort of you know just
like maybe when someone’s a young person they’re not really sure who they want to
be in a long-term relationship maybe you date around and you you meet different
people and you date different people maybe date people you wouldn’t think of
dating just to see what the experience is like the same date different kinds of
writing but yeah it’s really it’s it is uncut is common that writers will have a
career and then discover that’s not what I want to be doing that’s very common I
mean just talk to agents or managers they have a lot of good friends or
agents they they hear this all the time his early success in the entertainment
industry a blessing or a curse such a fascinating question I think it could be
both I mean I think it could be a blessing for someone it could be a curse
for someone it could be both and I see that I’ll talk about myself I had very
early success I was had been in film school year when I sold pitch to really
Scott frontpage a variety really is making the movie ultimately didn’t but
it was a front page of variety every studio was fighting for me in some ways
I feel so blessed and lucky because I deal with writers who have so much
talent and passion and they’ve been at it for three years five years seven
years ten years in they for goad they’ve forgotten a career and another career
you know they are just working on writing they
have a day job to pay the bills they’re not living the lifestyle they want
because everything is about their writing and they have this just is it
gonna happen for me and and you know I want to be married I want to have kids
and like if I’m gonna pivot I should do it soon I don’t want to keep doing this
if it’s not gonna work out for me I don’t want to pivot if it’s about to
work out for me what do I do it’s such a for someone to ask me that they’ve got
to be in a lot of pain to ask because no one else can answer I think God I never
had to go through that it all happened so quickly for me so like to happen was
a huge blessing I have to deal with that and I see so many writers make it so
much harder on themselves than they have to because they’re so impatient you know
that I’ve written this number of scripts and I’ve been in at this amount of time
and it’s got this next one has to happen they may just put all the weight of the
world on their next project and that’s a big reason why they don’t actually get
to attend and we were talking about the clarity spectrum in that previous video
that process video because they just they’ve got to get this thing out there
and it’s got to sell because if it doesn’t and they’re going to go back to
law school or graduate school or whatever so certainly a blessing to
don’t have to go through that it’s also a blessing because I I learned a lot as
in my first couple of assignments and I had producers and directors teach me so
much and I was getting paid I was getting paid good amount of money to
learn and get better so especially if you know for someone that doesn’t have a
lot of money that’s a nice way of learning because you you’re gaining
access to Ridley Scott you’re getting access to Wolfgang Petersen you’re
getting access for me like working title I was getting access that’s the thing
that is sort of heartbreaking is that when my career was started and it was
going really big I was going to all these parties and I was meeting the Coen
brothers I was mean Quentin Tarantino I was talking to them about craft and
process and learning from them and then my day job as I was working for working
title I think are the smartest producers I ever met and Ridley Scott and his team
like I had act says to everything that an aspiring
writer needs but for the most part it’s only the people who have success that
have access to that and for them I needed access to that because I didn’t
know what I didn’t know but most writers who have access to all that they they’re
already amazing writers so it’s like the people that need access to these people
can’t get access to the people so gave me access to people who were so
successful and smarter than me who are willing to help me I got paid to learn
and I didn’t have to go through that incredibly emotional struggle of how
long do I do this so I’m forever grateful for all of that and so that was
just straight-up blessings you know and for some people it’s just a straight-up
blessing but there can be some curses to it you know for me it just came so easy
and the right out of the gate I was working with his amazing people and
getting paid all this money I was so young and so naive and so stupid I just
thought that’s normal that’s just how it’s going to be you know I mean Studios
were flying me first class and it was just this amazing life and then when my
career took a dip it was just question for me you know because I had an
entitlement I didn’t I hadn’t been forged in the fire of what this is like
people who struggle for a while they will they will develop a stronger
process one of the reasons that I never have a success that I wanted and part of
reason I walked away from writing after 10 years is I had such a painful
relationship with and I talked about the sex fear of rejection and I was never
really writing to my best ability and I was pulling my punches and for the most
part I hated writing and I don’t know if it would have been different if I didn’t
have success early on but what the writers I work with I always tell them
your blessing right now that you’re not you don’t have a career is you get to
work on your relationship with writing you get to experiment like we’ve been
talking about these other videos you get to evolve your process I couldn’t do
that really because you know it’s really Scott had six weeks to write a script
that’s not a time to be experimenting with you
that’s not a time to be saying oh I have this strength but I have this weakness
as a writer let me just put this on hold and find a class or a workshop that can
help me turn this weakness into a strength no it’s like you go to war with
the army you have like I have to write the script to the best of my ability and
then I just got on this lake I was like an addict I just wanted another deal
more money another deal I never was willing to stop and develop myself and I
know so many managers and agents but particularly managers it drives them
crazy because though a writer is good enough to have a career but they’re not
quite good enough to have the career they want and they won’t get off the
gravy train there’s this fear of I see it in the writers I work with I saw it
in myself which is if I don’t take this deal I’ll never get another deal you
know cuz someday the inertia is gonna wake up and realize they made a mistake
with me I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m no good and so every deal was the
last deal so like me do this and Bank the money and then I’ll go train myself
but no then it was a new deal and you a mage at some point said you’re a crack
addict like this I mean you’reyou’re addicted to these deals you’re never
gonna stop doing this and it was true you know then my father passed away and
it just changed everything and and then I walked away but so I tell people you
know who it’s not happening for them right away which is north that’s the I
was incredibly just fortunate I had some really good mentoring some really good
training by people and I was at the right place at the right time so it was
just very fortunate but people who the normal experience that’s not the case I
just worked with a writer I’m gonna see him actually tomorrow night he’s been at
it for six years and he just sold three feature scripts but in those years what
his blessing was that he really got to change his relationship to writing he
got to realize that he has inherent strengths weaknesses and blind spots
blind spots are weaknesses we don’t know we have and he was willing and had the
mindset to find people to help show him as planning spots and how to attack
weaknesses and turn them into strengths that that’s entirely what I do
philosophically in my workshop and so people not necessarily my
workshops wherever you do it you have the opportunity to not only become a
stronger writer but change your relationship with writing where you’re
not so afraid of rejection and you’re not so favored to other you you have a
cord and you and no one can take that from you no one can take your voice from
you no one can take your integrity from you and you really have a you can really
Forge that in the fire of not succeeding and then when you do get a career you
could be more likely to make smarter decisions stand up for yourself say no
to projects because that’s the thing like I have no financial safety net and
I had all these loans to pay off and I just felt like they’re offering me this
amount of money I never can make that amount of money doing anything else I
have to say yes but people who have gone four or five years without success that
you know how to survive you know they know how to financially take care of
themselves so if they are in a situation where someone’s offering them a deal to
do a project and they know in their heart of hearts it’s not a good move for
them it’s not moving them to where they want to get to they might have more
strength than saying no you know cuz the idea of like okay so let’s just say I
say no a couple times and I stopped getting offers and I got to go back and
write us back they’re like well I’ve done that I survived that so I mean I if
I had to choose I would have chosen launching a career early on I think
there’s a lot of blessings in that but I think there could also be a lot of
blessings in having a struggle a while find your voice find your integrity find
why you’re doing this change your process evolve your process and get
stronger as a writer so then when it does happen for you you can really have
the career you most want in our 2017 interview Cory we touched
someone on on Battlefield Earth so maybe we can talk about it again and that is I
believe you’re one of the co writers on the movie can you explain what happened
and also help explain to other screenwriters maybe what could possibly
happen to them sure thanks for bringing that up Oh sir yeah
I’m here to open old wounds yeah so let me I’ll walk you through sort of what
happened and how it happened but then I with your permission I want
to back up and sort of talk about a more important aspect so what happened is I I
felt like I was so unlucky out of the gate well no I felt incredibly fortunate
I sold this pitch release guy was gonna make it he almost made it but then there
was just all this crazy stuff with German investment studio politics just
all the stuff that nothing to do with me or the script that didn’t get me to
Prague two projects later of a director of a greenlit movie studio greenlit
movie director in Africa scouting locations and then the head of studio
lost his job the new person came in and shut down all of the projects that the
previous person had greenlit so that now it was dead and I could go on I had five
projects in the first five years that were greenlit but didn’t get made and so
I just thought god hates me and I’m the unluckiest person in the world and then
I met more and more writers who had the exact same stories and I realized oh
it’s not that God hates me God hates writers and it’s just this is
just the nature of the beast now I so I had a so I’m sorry so what
happened is the last time I had I’d written script that almost got made but
the star backed out and it’s just so clear you need a star to get it over the
finish line so I got a call from agent saying that they want to meet you at MGM
John Travolta was a huge star at the time
and for Balfour so I want you to go take the meeting do not say yes to do not
take the project but meet John Travolta and his producing partner these are good
relationships and you’re going to meet the head of the studio the head of MGM
so I went in and took the meeting and they told me what I wanted to hear and I
wanted to hear it and they told me this has nothing to do with Scientology you
know we had a science we had a writer from Scientology and the script is
completely unusable we’re not following the book literally in fact John’s gonna
play the main character and the main character in the book is like a young
like 17 year old or 18 year old and you know John’s a middle-aged man at this
point and we spent a big Star Wars movie and it’s gonna be really fun and and
just told me everything I’m on here and John Travolta was like it was really
good that make me feel really special and this is gonna be a great movie and
all of this and I was very respectful but I I said no but I was really tempted
because I’m like this will get made and this could be a big fun Star Wars movie
maybe and it has Travolta he’s very motivated to do this but I said no it
was really hard because at the point I was feeling like if I don’t get
something made no one’s gonna hire me again because you can write some scripts
that get close to being made and they don’t get me but at some point if you’ve
written five six seven scripts that haven’t actually got made then at some
point people are gonna blame you and I really felt like I was and I went in
there I was getting there so then it leaves MGM and it goes to Fox 2000 they
pick it up and Laura Ziskin is running Fox 2000 and she came she was when the
first industry people ever met because I was in film school and she came to speak
to us and I was mesmerised she’s so intelligent and she’s just so amazing
and just feels it’s just so much ethics and has was involved in some of my
favorite movies so they once again made a run at me and
I had dinner and I said yes and Fox mm you know they were very clear like this
has got nothing to do with Scientology and it’s going to be this kind of a
movie all that I felt very secure in saying
yes now I want to be clear my wife said don’t say yes my agent said
don’t say yes my friend said don’t say yes my Golden Retriever Toby said don’t
say yes in his own Golden Retriever way so so everyone else was saying don’t do
it but I did it and I’m gonna come back to why I said yes the real reason I said
yes I’m gonna come back to that but I said yes and I got paid a lot of money
and I wrote this crap and two or three days before I turn the script in Fox
2000 was out there was a change with Laura I mean Fox 2000 was out and the
project got picked up by franchise films which isn’t a real film company there
are a financing company since gotten a lot of trouble but so when I turned the
script in there was no studio there were no executives it was just John and his
producing partner and as far as I can tell spiritual advisors came in to fill
that void because there’s no real record of what the development was at that
point because it was no longer a studio movie and so there were changes to the
script yeah I was not involved in and then the movie got made and and it had a
miniscule budget for the special effects and it was terrible and I don’t mean to
be offensive thing was a Scientologist but in the industry that was not seen as
a positive in fact I went on I could round of meetings for a year after that
movie where people just brought me in to see how did this happen and are you a
Scientologist everyone wanted to know if I was a Scientologist which I am NOT and
so yeah so basically the once you turn a script in you don’t own that script you
have no control over the changes if it’s a studio film there’s going to be a
record of the developmental changes there was no record nobody well some
people no I have no idea who I’ve heard rumors but I have no idea who rewrote it
and why but they rewrote it back to the book and then John for some reason
decided instead of playing the seventeen-year-old character he was
gonna play the space alien he was gonna play like this giant space alien which I
don’t think was the best choice so anyway the movie was
just a complete unmitigated disaster I remember I was in Vegas when it came out
I was so depressed cuz I was like that’s it my writing career is over
I was actually secretly a little relieved but I was mostly depressed I
remember talking to my agent who like talked me off the ledge he needs like
people in this industry know what happened and they are not gonna hold
this against you and your career is not over it’s gonna be a little more
challenging but your careers not over if this ever happens again your career is
over that you can survive this one and again
just I think I was just so blessed and fortunate I continued to work as a
writer at my full quote with heads of Studios major directors for four more
years like it should have ended my career I was fortunate that I had a
track record of writing scripts that had attracted major elements that almost got
made didn’t get made so I had that so people were willing to say okay this was
an unmitigated disaster we’re not gonna hold this one against you and and I got
to keep working I think if I was a newer writer without that track record it
would’ve been over for me but I want to I want to sort of back up because all of
that kind of does it kind of it kind of divorces me of a lot of the
responsibility is sort of like okay I knew I shouldn’t say yes but I said yes
and then right for a turn the script in the studio backed out and it was
franchise films and and all that’s true but I wanna back up after the really
Scott deal happened an agent Barbra Dreyfus was an agent at the time just
she wasn’t my agent but she was such a good person
that she took me out to lunch if that wasn’t her client and she said Cory the
script that you wrote to get your career and the script you wrote for metropolis
that really is going to make now is not the most important script of your career
the most important script of your career is the next script that you write
because now you’re on the radar now people know who
you are this next script will seal your fate
this next script will put you on a trajectory what career do you most want
and that’s what the script needs to be people are gonna offer you a lot of
money to write scripts that you don’t want to write you have to say no you
will be scared that the offers will will slow down and they may not come you have
to take that risk the offers won’t slow down worst case
everyone offers a script everyone offers your project to write and you don’t want
to write it you say no to everything and worst case they stop offering you things
write a spec you have to write the script that you most want to write that
is authentic you have to write the script that you’re going to that is
going to be a 10 on a scale in the tents gotta be exceptional because this next
script is going to seal your fade down the road if you want to take a project
just for because you’re getting paid obscene amount of money you can do that
down the road not right now and it was one of those times when when she said
that I Scott this chill up my spine I’m like this is true I was offered a
project I didn’t want to write I said no I was offered another project I said no
the studio came back and offered me more money I said no they came back and
offered me a lot more money I thought about it I said go on write the script I
absolutely do not want to write this crap I said no it’s really hard then
they said we want to meet with you at least so I went to meet to get the
relationship and in the room they offered me more money and they talked it
all up and they played in my ego and I said yes so there I was I I failed this
test really early on and like from that moment on I was just I was always
reacting I didn’t have a center I was just reacting I was scared I just wanted
more I just wanted I didn’t want the deals to end and I just kept taking
deals that in my soul I knew I shouldn’t be taking but I did and if you do that
over time it’s going to lead to Battlefield Earth if you just keep
reacting and you don’t find your integrity in your Center and you just
give your power to the industry and do whatever it takes to keep getting work
it’s going to end terrible I feel like I completely deserve battle
filter it was the I was just making reactive fear-based decisions and that’s
what it leads you to and I was able to talk myself into taking that project yes
I didn’t know Fox 2000 would drop out I had no idea about fan choice films there
was a lot I couldn’t foresee but I knew in my heart that I should say no and I
said yes so I own that and I deserve that I can
now look back at it and say it was it was literally one of the greatest things
that have ever happened in my life because I was so afraid of rejection I
was so afraid about other people thought this movie came out and like you could
imagine looking through the LA Times or the New York Times at the reviews I mean
they were brutal I mean this this movie is a punchline to jokes today I mean
this is considered one of the worst movies of all time and I am one of the
credited writers and even though most people don’t understand how the industry
works and what that really means I am one of the credited writers I’m one of
the worst movies of all time I you for me like there was no greater sense of
rejection or shame it was it was beyond what I was most afraid of didn’t kill me
I came out of it stronger I came out of it humbled I came out of it for the
first time starting to hear that voice inside me I started to pay attention to
who I was I started to realize and then when my father died I realized life
doesn’t last forever and I realized that I’d been living my
life based making all these fear-based decisions and not saying Who am I and
what matters to me and why am I on this planet and those questions and that led
me ultimately after 40 I worked for four years after Reiki oh I wish I was
breaking bad Battlefield Earth I worked for four years after that and then I
walked away and just to be clear I don’t want to make it look
like I was at the height of my career and I walked away the offers were
getting harder and harder they were slowing up it was getting harder and
harder to book a job I felt like I could squeeze another one out but I walked
away because I didn’t want to write I didn’t want to do this anymore and the
one thing that I’ve loved in life is teaching and I was teaching at UCLA like
once a year for for the fun of it when I was writing and I remember talking to my
wife and I’m like if I could just teach like I feel like that’s my purpose and
she’s like then that’s what you’re gonna do and I was saying I can’t make that
fear voice was still there like I can’t make any money doing that and she’s like
do it you you you just spent 10 years doing something for the money and you
were miserable I mean I I waited like 40 pounds more than this I treated myself
and other people badly has so much pain so much rage geez you deserve now we got
money in the bank for now you deserve to to pursue just what you
love just try it so I did and in it I am so proud of I
have six teachers now teaching under me I’m so proud of what we built over the
last seven years I’m so proud of everyone has gone through our program
who’s now working and selling stuff and I would never be the teacher I was today
if it wasn’t for Battlefield Earth I’ll just talk about process and creative
integration and it all came from that pain that I own that it was my fault
that it happened yeah I said yes when I knew I shouldn’t and it was the best
thing that ever happened to me you know from that moment on it’s like when I
would I want to make an instinct or I have to make a decision in my my
instinct is to do this but I have this fear voice of what what would people
think or you could be rejected it’s like well it ain’t gonna be a bad as battle
filler you know and I survived that so yeah it really softened me and it really
made me like really pay attention to like my instincts and my impulses and
that that’s allowed me to be the teacher that I am so I think everything happens
for a reason and I think that I was put on this or
to teach and Bala fell earth was a big part of that and it’s it was a big part
of my training to be the teacher that I am and I remember when I first started
teaching like well no one’s gonna take a class for me like who’s gonna say hmm
let’s take a writing class from the guy who wrote one of the worst movies ever
it I can’t explain it but ever since I started like my classes are sold out we
we have waiting lists as I said I have six teachers that teach under me I don’t
know why but but I think people it’s all referral-based and I think people
realize that what we’re teaching no one else is teaching we’re really teaching
people how to change your relationship with writing how to change your process
and how to become an even better writer than you knew you could be we’re not
teaching paradigms and rules we’re actually teaching people how to be
writers so sorry if I overreacted but and there’s anything else that you’re
curious about in terms of bath or thumb I’m happy to answer it don’t you think
it’s it’s almost better to have someone who’s gone through so many ups and downs
teach something rather than somebody who’s either flatlined or yeah it’s been
just nothing but successes well how somebody get up always because most
people’s careers are never just a straight line it’s not yes I agree and I
mean so first of all I feel so it’s just the danger of over answering it I think
what I do uniquely as a teacher is that I can help writers recognize their
process you know you’re in charge of your process or your process is in
charge of you and for so many creative people they’re not fully aware and
responsible for their process they’re not in charge of their process and I’m
really good and working with writers to figure out like where their pain and
fear is and where they have an unhealthy relationship and where it’s sabotaging
them and what they can do to get to heal that and to evolve their process to
become a much better writer and part of it is the whole time I was writing I was
obsessed with process I talked to every successful writer every unsuccessful
writer but particularly success writers and I wanted to know what’s your process
what’s your process because I was I thought if I could
you’re out the right process I could heal myself I could change my
relationship with writing it was really painful to know I was getting paid a lot
of money and I was writing something but I was never even close to my potential
like I knew I was so much better than I was then I was limiting myself to be so
I was always looking for a better process and and it never helped me I
couldn’t overcome my demons but I I have an encyclopedic I just I didn’t have any
cyclic knowledge of writer processes so when I worked with writers I think
especially because I I fought so hard against my demons and I never actually
overcame them I think I’m really attuned to people fight with their demons and so
when I first started teaching to be perfectly honest I taught to get out of
the house I talked those lonely as a writer I talked because it was fun I
talk because I wanted to be a stand-up so at least I it was sort of a way of
performing but the real reason I was teaching is I wanted to help people
evolve their process heal their process I wanted people I want to teach people I
want to teach people how they could become reach their full potential
because I figured if I could do that for someone else that I would know how to do
it for myself and what I found is I’m really good at doing it for other people
and I can’t do it for myself so so yes to rap back to your question I think
there are people who just know nothing but success they’re really smart I think
they can give really good feedback on a script I think they’re really smart and
they can really be beneficial but often in terms of process they don’t even know
they’re doing things about knowing they’re doing it and they can’t always
empathize or connect with people who are struggling in certain ways so yeah I
think the fact that in some ways you know I did a 19-4 hire studio projects I
worked with great people I got really close on some projects I made good money
in some ways I was very successful in terms of credits and Battlefield Earth
and and enjoying writing and feeling like I was writing the best of
my potential I was a failure so I feel like I was both successful and a failure
depend on how you want to look at it and I do think that really helps me as a
teacher because I can work with someone who’s brand-new who’s really struggling
as we know why they’re struggling and I work right now with a lot of show
runners who are so amazing but they just want to get that much better so I can I
can use all of all of that collective experience and I think that I in a lot
of ways I think my writing career was there to launch my teaching career I
just didn’t know it at the time it is yeah a question that comes up a lot amongst
creative people do you have to live in LA to launch a career yeah especially in
writing yeah you don’t have to live in LA to launch a career but it’s gonna be
harder if you don’t in certain way so what I would say is first of all think
about their stages so the first stage is writer development you know most people
start out they don’t quite realize how hard it is and they have a little bit of
a exuberant exuberant confidence which i think is great because it gets you
writing you know I know for myself if I knew how hard it was gonna be I don’t
think I would have even started when I first I’m like oh I’m good this isn’t
that hard I’ve seen this is as good as that movie and and then at some point
comes the point where someone tells you and shows you you’re not close to where
you need to be and then the question is what are you gonna do about that and so
there’s the phase of writer development and I’ve talked about this and I won’t
go into too much detail cuz it’s in a lot of the videos that I’ve done for you
guys at film courage but it just briefly is everyone has inherent strengths
weaknesses and blind spots and your job is to figure out have someone help you
figure out what of the blind spots so they become known weaknesses and then
how do you attack weaknesses and turn them into strengths how do you do
structured exercises they’re a little bit beyond what you’re capable of so
you’re going to fail but you’re gonna learn from those failures and eventually
be able to do it so then you’re going to become better if you just keep doing
that so Dziedzic li you can become enormous ly better so the first phase is
writer development you do not have to be in LA there are advantages and
disadvantages to being in LA there are a lot of classes and workshops and so much
educational opportunities in LA but the great thing with the internet my
workshops are online video conferencing you have people all over the role take
them I’m not the only one there’s certainly if you want to take
classes or workshops there are a multitude of options that you can do why
you don’t live in LA also you know in LA you can go to the writers guild you can
go to there’s these events where writers talk well if you don’t live in LA you
can watch the film videos and online you have so much
access so in terms of education now you can do that anywhere an advantage of LA
is you’re going to be around like-minded people forming communities you know when
I went to film school I didn’t grow up in LA when I came down here you know was
a bunch of us we all have the same crazy dream we supported each other we watched
movies together we discussed movies we we read each other scripts who really
helped each other and when one of us was feeling down the other people would
encourage them you can do that anywhere in the world now with social media like
you you have to put more effort into it but you can create communities I don’t
think it’s the same as face-to-face but I think if you live somewhere in the
world outside of LA you can educate yourself you can grow your talent you
can form communities but have to work harder at it it might not be quite as
enriching as if you were in LA but you can certainly do all that and let’s not
forget LA is a high cost of living place to live you know for people sometimes I
live in LA they have families they have careers they have businesses there’s a
lot of costs involved to move to LA so you when you’re developing your
abilities getting to the point where you can write the kind of script that can
launch your career you don’t have to be in LA and there’s an advantage of not
being in LA because the biggest mistake writers make when they’re in LA is to
keep meeting people in the industry and networking and they show scripts to
people before they’re ready before the scripts are good enough and they blow
their first impressions and they can get blacklisted so there’s an advantage to
being outside of LA while you develop your abilities now let’s say a writer
has gone through the developmental stage and they have scripts at least two that
are good enough to get representation and to be shown and start to take
meetings so then let’s call this the launching of the career phase this is
where it’s very advantageous to be in LA it’s not a require you don’t absolutely
have to but it’s very advantageous so if you’re not in LA what’s gonna at a
minimum you’re gonna have to go to come to LA
for two or three weeks a two or three-week block multiple times a year
because what’s gonna happen is your representation is going to take your
script out to various you know producers networks cable companies streaming
companies also they might be showing to show runners and there’s gonna be a
round of meetings 20 meetings 25 meetings some of these meetings are
generals where they’re like loved your scrap we can’t buy it but we want to
meet you they want to see who you are I want to make sure that you’re someone
they want to work with they want to have a relationship with you they want to
read your next script some of these meetings are you’re gonna be pitching a
project we loved your script I wish we could buy it can’t but we want to be in
business with you what ideas do you have it’s easier to
sell a pitch than a spec in the TV industry most projects are sold via
pitch so you’re going on pitch meetings and you know you pitch at a company and
then they’ll bring you back to meet someone else then someone shows up
there’s a series that I met three people that’s got free before I met with Ridley
and pitch to Ridley or you might be meeting with showrunners who might be
interested in possibly staff in you on a show so there’s a round of meetings and
at the end of that round maybe someone’s bought the script or your pitch or
staffed you and maybe not and if not you write your next script and you go on
another round of meetings and as my agent said if you go through three or
four rounds of these meetings and no one is hired you then you’re the biggest a
hole in the room like there’s something just wrong with you that nobody wants to
be working with you but assuming you’re not that person three or four rounds of
meetings you’re gonna get your shot so at a minimum you’d have to let your
representation know I can be in LA like for this two or three week window and
then they’re gonna try to schedule all those meetings in those two or three
weeks here’s a challenge there might be some great meetings you’re gonna miss
because they can’t fit it into those two or three weeks the other thing is very
common the night before a meeting or the day of the meeting they reschedule and
that’s actually often a good thing because as you work your way up you’re
starting to meet with more senior people at the
company you could actually have the authority to hire you or by a pitch or
the script but they are overseen productions they have a very chaotic
life and they don’t have complete control over their schedule so they’re
not being rude but a lot of meetings get bumped and rescheduled so if you’re only
here for two or three weeks that meaning may never get rescheduled or it’ll get
rescheduled but you may not be able to do it or what happened to me as I
pitched to some people that scot-free and they said really is out of the
country for a month well schedule when he comes back because he has to hear the
pitch and then I got a call like three days later from my agent saying Ridley’s
in town today he has a window can you be there in an hour
because he wants to hear the pitch now if I was back in New York or Toronto or
Topeka Kansas that meeting doesn’t happen does that mean I never would have
sold metropolis the pitch – really I don’t know maybe maybe not but the
advantage of being in LA is you can do a last-minute meeting and when meetings
get reshuffled you can always attend so it’s not ideal to come out so what I
would say is in the writer development phase it doesn’t really matter where you
live in the launching if you can come here for six months or a year it’s going
to be helpful it’s going to increase your chances
I know agents and managers that won’t sign someone who doesn’t live in LA
because it’s gonna be harder I know more agents and managers who would sign
someone who doesn’t live in LA but if they’re trying to sign two people to
sign and they feel pretty equal about both of them and this person lives in LA
and this person doesn’t they’re gonna go with this person and not this person but
if this person is so exceptional they’ll sign them all so you know you can always
do meetings over Skype but it’s not the same you want to be in the room if you
can I have worked with writers in South Africa in Australia in Alaska who have
launched careers that did not live in LA they were able to come to LA you know
for three weeks or four weeks twice a year they knew there was some meetings
that they would probably miss out on but it was really important
for them to stay where they were at until they had a career so it can be
done it is it is I would say it’s gonna be it’s gonna diminish your chance of
somewhat I’m sorry significantly but it’s good to miss your chance of
somewhat it’s gonna make things a little more harder maybe take longer but then
again the trade-off for a lot of people is I have a life here my kids go to
school I own a home I have a business and I don’t want to uproot everything so
it’s it’s a trade-off that people have to make I would say if you can come to
LA I would I’d come here for the development phase but I’d definitely
come here for the career launch phase now once you’ve launched your career if
it’s feature film writing you live anywhere you know I did that for ten
years I could live anywhere in the world I see a lot of writers who don’t want to
be staffed on shows they just want to sell original material and they’ll sell
two or three scripts or pitches a year and that’s a very nice income and then
down the road if you do that enough times one of those might get made and
that could be a very nice income so if that’s the case you have to come here
for pitching season maybe two months out of the year I know people that are here
for two months out of the year you know they rent an apartment for two months
and then they go back to New York where they go back to Toronto they go back to
South Africa obviously if you want to be staffed on the show you’re gonna if you
get staffed on a show you need to live where the room is you know and that’s
usually in LA or sometimes New York but usually LA so I would just say you don’t
have to live in LA it is helpful it might expedite the process it might make
it a little more likely might make it easier so if you can if you’re on the
fence I would absolutely come to LA but if you have very strong reasons why you
want to stay put as long as you can be here twice a year for three to four
weeks then you can do that and if someone’s here taking meetings and then
they have additional time yeah what are some things they should be doing not
just I’m not not sightseeing wise but like in terms of getting to know the
industry feeling the temperament yeah whatever
so it’s a great question and the answer might might surprise some
people or not let me let me share a big mistake that writers make I know I would
have made this I was just lucky so I didn’t have the opportunity to make it
so you write a script and let’s say you’ve really written an amazing
exceptional script and you’ll you’ll know because people will want to meet
with you there’s a big difference between an agent or manager trying to
get someone to meet with you as opposed to people calling the agent man you’re
insane everyone’s buzzing about this script I finally looked at it I want to
meet them and the manager is like well they’re they’re booked for the next
three weeks they’re like I will I will cancel a dinner I will cancel lunch like
they are moving their schedule to meet you you’ll feel it when you go in a room
it’s really exciting and what’s gonna happen is like someone’s gonna buy that
script and and but then there’s a there’s a whole process for all the
deals to come through or someone’s buying the pitch and it’s like it’s it’s
a done deal and then three months later it isn’t
it’ll this happens all the time and Ikes you know it’ll go all the way the finish
line is a very last second for something you can never before see your anticipate
done happen and it’s now been three to four months since that buzz from the
script and you were sure this was landing a career and it suddenly doesn’t
which is very common and that’s when your agent or manager says well where’s
your next script and the problem is a lot of writers they are not writing
another script because they are taking all these meetings which is it’s a
full-time thing because you know pitches have take a lot of preparation and get
notes on the pitches people are reading your script they’re asking about the
first year they have some issue you’re doing a lot of creative work in
preparation for these meetings it’s really time-consuming and especially
let’s say you live in LA you know you’re working your day job trying to support
yourself like it’s exhausting and no one really has time to do this and be
writing another script and they know they’re gonna launch it career but then
it doesn’t happen and then the agent manages where’s your next script and you
don’t have one and it was really problematic for a lot
of reasons for most people when you know you’re gonna get a deal and it falls
through emotionally that’s not always the best time to be starting a new
project you know is not always our most confident place secondly you’ve got to
get a script really quick or the industry’s gonna say you wrote this one
script it was amazing but you’re slow I mean and they’re gonna forget about you
like that like that buzzes you got has a shelf life and it’s less than you
thought so ideally if everything falls apart you have another script like in
three weeks and I don’t mean to say three weeks is the magic nut but you
want another amazing script soon and keep this in mind most people don’t get
hired on their first round of meetings they get hired on their second or third
round of meetings because now they’ve proven they’re consistent they’re not a
one-trick pony and they can do this repeatedly because there are some people
who can write one great script but they can’t write multiple great scripts and I
have seen writers who go through this round of meetings their project is
getting made if there’s just not this person attached and this attached and
it’s a done deal and then it’s not and there’s four months later and they’re
demoralized and they can’t bring themselves to write because they feel
like that was the best script I could write and it wasn’t good enough and then
their agent her managers like where’s your next script and like I don’t have
one and they’re like when can you get me one and it’s like I don’t know and then
you don’t have an agent or manager so when you’re going out on those meetings
especially when it looks great especially when like this is leading to
a career and nothing can derail it I don’t think you should be doing the site
scene I don’t think you should be trying to take the temperature of the industry
I think you should be taking meetings and writing hope for the best prepare
for the worst and so if it doesn’t happen in this round of meetings you
have another great script soon thereafter and if you repeat this
process you’re going to get a career and if you don’t repeat this process then
you better be really lucky on that first round of meetings the very first place I
went we’re scot-free and they bought my pitch so
that can happen the very first place you walk in the second place the third place
gets a deal it can happen it happened for me if it didn’t happen for me and I
went through that round of meetings I didn’t have another script now would
have been demoralized and it would’ve been really hard to write another script
and I don’t know what would have happened and I might have lost my agent
and I might have lost all that momentum that doesn’t mean you can’t start over
again but you actually start over with a strike against you cuz they’re like oh
yeah you’re a slow writer oh yeah you had an agent but you lost an agent these
don’t look good these are not good things on your you know your industry
resume so when you’re taking these round of meetings it’s so important that you
write and I would say forgive little for people who live in LA if possible and I
know this isn’t possible for everyone if possible when you’re going on that round
of meetings and you have a partner and say you’re married or in a serious
relationship see if you can’t pre negotiate that during that time you
don’t have to work and they work and support you and them or you’ve save
enough money because if possible and I know for some people this is impossible
but if possible when you’re going on those round of meetings and be really
great if you didn’t have to work and make a living that you have two jobs
those meetings and your next script you recall the meeting you had with
Ridley Scott like it was yesterday and I will answer that but I’m gonna be
annoying and answer some I want to talk about the mean I had before because I
think there’s a teaching moment in here so I had an idea for a movie and I
pitched it to my agent and she goes out I think this is great let’s take it out
to the marketplace and then she said let’s make a list of our dream places
that we want to sell it so she goes if you could sell to anyone who would it be
and it was so heavy I thought like oh yeah who would I sell it to and I said
Ridley Scott you can’t laugh like okay yeah we’ll take it there and then when
they come well-well go down let’s then we’ll go to places that actually could
so I go into really Scott and I pitched with soo Williams who is a development
executive smart nicest woman and you know this is really important when
you’re pitching is you’re trying to get as much information so I was pitching
her this project and at some point I saw her body language shift and I go it was
it’s something off about that and she goes really doesn’t like these kind of
things I don’t think I think this is really exciting for him but not if it’s
going down that road and like what kind of things is really like and so she
started sharing things was so helpful so we could kind of retool the pitch
together and so she was instrumental so when you go someone you’re pitching you
know you’re trying to get as much information from that person and it’s a
real sometimes writers have ego and they’re like yeah I’m going in this
place and I’m pitching the little lowest person on the totem pole oh that’s great
because you get information about the decision-maker
okay so sue Williams help me reformulate the pitch in a way that would be a
better fit for Ridley so that was amazing and that was I will forever be
grateful for her then I got brought in to pitch to Mimi who was at the time
relays producing partner and this is a long pitch this is a almost an hour
pitch it’s like a 50-minute pitch this is not a short pitch I always hate when
people say your pictures have to be this amount of time there’s no rules like
first of all when someone says you have you have to do your pitch in ten minutes
people think that people will listen to you for ten minutes they’ll listen to
you as long as they’re interested and if they’re not interested thirty seconds
they tune you out and most pitches that sell are longer
pitches because people want to have the confidence that this has been worked out
and what they’re buying is legit anyway it says a long pitch so I’m pitching the
Mimi and it can’t be going worse she’s sitting back like this she’s not making
an eye contact she looks in pain she looks like this pitch is so bad that it
is making her go crazy and the only reason I have a career is at the time I
wanted to be doing stand-up or improv so I was pursuing that and an improv I was
learning that one of my problems my weaknesses is when I thought things were
going well I was alive and animated but when I thought things weren’t going
about any thought Ian was into it my fear of rejection run this through this
I would sort of back off and sort of tune out of the scene I kind of let you
guys take it I would just sort of drop out of the scene which is you don’t do
that as an improviser so what I was being taught is when you think things
are going terrible walk to the center of the stage take focus and say something
and just stay in there stay alive don’t worry about people’s judgments follow
your process so I’m pitching in after about seven minutes I’m like she hates
me she hates this pitch she’s never gonna buy it she’s in pain and that
voice says just do the short version and get out of here this is painful for her
it’s painful for you Ridley was never gonna buy this pitch just get out of
here just wrap it up and go which I would do is a stand-up terrible habit
but another voice said okay look you’re never going to be a writer as evidenced
by the pain you’re causing this woman maybe you could be a performer so use
this as a way of practicing your improv skills stay engaged stay engaged that
that voice went through my head so I stay engaged and I I just did the pitch
with gusto and focus and try not to look too much at me and see how much pain she
was in and I finished and then there was just silence I mean for silence and then
she stands up and she goes hmm I don’t get it
and then sue Williams said well what don’t you get she goes all of it then
she looked at me and she was like something like maybe we’ll be in touch
or just something and walked out and sue didn’t know what to say I don’t know
to say and then I left and I drove home and I called my agent and I’m like well
you were right Ridley’s not gonna buy this then sue calls me and I pick up the
phone you know and she’s like hey when you pitch with me you were really good
but when you pitched for me me and I know where this was going she said you
were on fire I mean even loved it now there’s a
lesson in this which is don’t try to read the room because I’ve pitched to
people I’ve pitched the heads of studios that laughed and loved it because they
when someone’s hearing a pitch they’re trying to decide am I gonna buy this am
I gonna take this to my boss that’s could be stressful and I pitched her
studio once where he knew right away he wasn’t gonna buy it because they had a
similar idea and development so he just relaxed and had fun with me we had a
great time but he already knew he wasn’t gonna buy it
I found out Mimi like only takes one or two pitches to Ridley a year and when
she was hearing this pitch she was like internally going oh my god this is
something really would really love and I can’t speak for her but I’m guessing
that maybe she was nervous because maybe she was thinking do I really want to put
my career on the line with this guy like I was a nobody I was in film school I
hadn’t I was was like 23 and green as they came and I think that she probably
hearing the pitch was having an internal debate you know again I can’t speak for
her but that’s my guess so Seuss she was like yeah I probably should have told
you she could be a little like that’s sort of her way she listens so don’t
read people’s like I’ve been in rooms where people seem like they hated it and
sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t stay committed have integrity do
the pitch okay so to your question sorry for the long window so I was told that
really wouldn’t be back in town for a month Mimi did have one big concern that
she wanted changed it was a hard creative thing to figure out but I’m
like I have a month to figure it out few days later I told you I got a phone call
here’s what I didn’t tell you I don’t drink much alcohol I’m just a
lightweight I’m the cheapest date ever and the night before I was at some party
and I drank more than I’d ever drink in my
life and it doesn’t take much to get me drunk I think that morning might have
been my first ever hangover or was the worst ever hangover so when the phone
rang I hadn’t showered it was I hadn’t shaven I was hungover it was my agent
and she said Ridley’s in town and he would like to hear the pitch he has an
hour here’s a slot in an hour can you hear the pitch and it takes 45 minutes
to get there to Beverly Hills from where I was and so I said and it’s not a good
idea but I said oh that’s exciting can we bump it up till 2:00 and there
was this long pause and I know my agent was thinking why did I sign this guy and
she said so Cory Ridley’s in town he has a slot he’d like to hear your pitch in
an hour and at least then I was like of course I
will be there in an hour this kind of works out to my favor so I
quickly shave and shower and on the drive drink coffee on the drive over I’m
just figuring out a solve that create a problem what happened is I got there
with a second to spare and they dripped me into the room with him I never had
the chance to get nervous I never had a chance to psych myself out I was just on
pure adrenaline and Ridley was the sweetest person ever he came in the room
you know and I started to like you know it’s an honor and it was like Blade
Runner and alien like I it was a literal honor to be in a room with him let alone
the fact that he was gonna listen to me he pitched a project and he just
immediately said like I you know were just two creative people I want to hear
your idea you don’t have to be great at performing my staff loves it I just want
to hear like he went out of his way to make me feel comfortable and that I
belong there because I did not feel like I belonged in a room pitching to really
Scott and I was just on adrenaline with no prep time the prep you know psyched
myself out and so I just started talking and he was just he listened any and he
nodded and he was so receptive and he was so loving and gentle I’ll I’ll never
forget that and he was just amazing and then at the
end he asked the question he always wanted here which is he said so who else
has heard this pitch and I said nobody you’re the first pitch your first play
well who else is going to hear this pitch and I gave some of the places that
we had meeting set up and he looked at his staff and then he turned to me and
he said who’s your agent and I told him Dan Karan’s I see him
and he called my agent and he said I want to take this off the market so that
was just like I I really thought I was dreaming
and then I remember I was driving home in my like cruddy little car and I will
Flynn the dogs car club it because you had to use your feet to stop it
thumbskull no money car and I was driving on the 405 and I started shaking
I just was shaking I had a pullover and the thought that went through my head
wasn’t that I just launched my career it wasn’t that I just sold the thought that
went through my head was I just met Ridley Scott so nerdy I was just and not
only that once the deal was consummated they said we want you on the next plane
to London so that Ridley and his team will develop the structure with you and
they meant the literal next plane to London so my wife and I my girlfriend at
the time now wife Rebecca we were like she’s like I’ll help you pack because I
don’t know how to pack and I’m like great and she’s getting all my clothes
where’s your suitcase I’m like what I don’t have oh you know so we ran to like
Target and bought a suitcase and everything and then they flew me
first-class and I didn’t know first-class exists I didn’t know what
first-class was I did grew up with no money so they kept bringing me like food
and wine and I was like no no no like I was thinking I can’t afford this you
know like I can’t afford I don’t want to pay for all this when I land and then in
some point in London someone said no in first-class it’s all included on the way
back I was like more food but yes rid leave just I mean he treated me
throughout the entire process and he called me when they weren’t gonna make
it and he explained why which he didn’t have to do
throughout the entire process he treated me like a like a writer who belonged to
be there and someone that he wanted he wanted to hear my opinions he didn’t
want me just to defer to him I mean it was amazing I forever be grateful for
that he spoiled me because at some point I was like well I thought everyone now
that’s how the we I’d worked for some of the best people in the business I saw
they treat writers and I’ve worked with people who don’t treat writers that way
so when you pulled over on the 405 do you remember was there a song playing on
the radio or I don’t I just write think I remember I was gonna crash that’s a
good gosh I don’t remember I just kept thinking I saw I came home and my
girlfriend was like so and I’m like I meant really Scott and she’s like I know
you meant Ridley Scott though oh yeah he bought he bought it I was just I was
just a little film scold nerd who was excited to me Ridley Scott we took a break for a moment an
off-camera you said something about character and dialogue and how you help
your students and how in some ways a lot of the they’re the same thing in some
ways yeah so and I talked about this sort of more globally in the creative
integration video that people can go back that I did it for you guys a couple
years ago I’ll I’ll I’ll give a little more specific so there’s a little more
specifics on the intuitive training and and there’ll be a practical test that
people can take at the end to see where they’re at service so when I work with
someone especially someone who needs to improve on their characters and dialogue
and I’m going to short stroke this a little bit because you can go back to
the creative integration video for a full explanation of the conceptual me
intuitive but often that the conceptual brain is very focused on what other
people think fear of rejection want it to be good and it’s controlling and that
can be helpful and and there’s certainly when we’re doing story designing we
wanted design stories don’t even really engaging other people we want to be
aware of how people are seeing our scripts so the conceptual brain is a
really important part in this but the intuitive brain is where our
authenticity comes from our emotional authenticity and the intuitive brain
doesn’t have a past present or a future just hasn’t now and so the first part of
what I’m working with someone to get them better at characters and or
dialogue the first thing is to train them through practic ated practice to
build to turn off the conceptual brain and just work from a pure intuitive
space and the metaphor I would give them is imagine it sounds crazy but you ride
your horse to work so that’s how you get to work and you have to get to work in
half an hour and your horse likes to wander and wants to go grazing and look
at waterfalls but you have to control the horse because you got to get to work
and you make sure that your horse gets you to work in half an hour and this
metaphor you the writer or the conceptual brain
and the horse is the intuitive part of us and so the first thing is to release
and surrender control to the horse and let the horse go wherever the horse
wants to go and don’t control it and don’t even judge it it’s almost like you
just get off the horse and this you know for this day the horse can do whatever
it wants and so training people and this this is the hardest part of the training
and it can take weeks it can take a month or two but it’s literally learning
how to just get a prompt and just immediately start writing without any
ideas of story without any control without any editing it’s just letting
that intuitive instinct take over and just go wherever it goes and it’s like
it’s like a dream in that it doesn’t have to be logical it doesn’t have to be
interesting it just has to be authentic and real and really stressed
non-performance writing no one’s gonna read this so to warm up
by people do journaling they’ll journal for 15 or 20 minutes because when we’re
journaling especially if no one reads our journals what do we navigate toward
we’re not trying to be a good writer or an interesting writer we’re just trying
to navigate towards the truth you know trying to find our truth or exploring a
topic or just trying to maybe just writing about how we feel and that’s
non-performance writing you know as opposed to when we fire up final draft
or whatever software we use it’s like I’m gonna write something and people are
gonna read it and they’re gonna judge it and they’re by by default they’re gonna
judge me or certainly feels that way so this first level of training is
learning how to turn off the conceptual brain and literally it’s like
trance-like writing you you eventually get to the place where you could do this
for 20 minutes 30 minutes 45 minutes and when you’re done you don’t even remember
what you wrote it’s just completely authentic intuitive lead writing so
that’s the first step I mean that’s not getting you to great characters in
dialog but that’s the first step on the journey would to use another metaphor I
would say it’s like if I was teaching someone yoga
but they couldn’t they were so non limber they couldn’t even get down to
the floor this first phase is just getting down to the floor it’s not
actual yoga but it’s getting some ones they can get down to the floor so that’s
the first phase and it’s the hardest phase for most writers so when they can
get to a point where they can write no judging no editing completely intuitive
surrender control of the horse and just trance-like writing then we go to the
second phase and the second phase is I’m going to teach them how to write from a
really really provocative emotional feeling an autobiographical event like
the best most one you know when their child was born or when their father died
I mean we’re talking like primal moments and I’m gonna train them how to write in
a way where they let the feeling that they’re feeling this emotion leave the
writing and they’re gonna do it to the point and keep practicing until myself
or someone else when they read these pages they can feel what the writer felt
so they can they can it’s a now and energy transference and emotional
transference to be able to really engage us with characters and dialogue you’re
gonna have to be able to do this now there are people listening to this who
don’t need any training to do this they are very deep intuitive’s they they
absolutely can do this right now without any training but there are people that
need structured training to get to this point where they can let go of their
control ego-mind work from a pure intuitive space and write in a way where
people can feel what they feel then we go to phase three and in phase three
there’s techniques to start to discover actual characters and you interview
these characters you spend time with these characters and there’s a bunch of
play exercises till the character will take over and will happen is you can
start writing and you put the character in some situation and they just do what
they would do and they just say what they would say and they are driving it
you’re not you have no agenda now maybe what the character is doing or saying is
particularly interesting might not make for a great story but the character is
doing what they do in saying what they would say then the next phase is
learning how to write where what the character is feeling the reader can feel
so now we can emotionally bond and connect with the character we can feel
what they’re feeling that’s really powerful and again some writers
naturally do this and some writers naturally don’t do anything close this
but through this training they can get there then the next phase is we will
find another character that they spend time do this training with so they’ll
eventually have two characters that they always know what that character would do
they always know what that character would say and they have they have
surrender control to the characters we’ll put the characters in a certain
situation a certain basic conflict and they very slowly will go back and forth
writing it from inside each character so this character would do that well with
this character do whoa a dis character’s response and now the characters are
creating what happens now again maybe what’s happening is really compelling
and riveting maybe it’s not maybe it’s really boring it doesn’t matter it’s the
characters doing what the characters would do in interaction with each other
and so ultimately and here’s something that someone can do right now if they
want to test their ability this is where I would say someone comes out the other
end earning their intuitive merit badge so
to speak which is so ultimately where we want to get to is organic story
structure which is a it’s a term that’s used a lot but not often really
understood so the way I would define it is organic means everything the
characters do it feels like they would really do it everything the character
says feels like they would really say it there’s never a moment where you see the
hand of the writer there’s never a moment where fills in organics there’s
never a moment where a character is doing a preordained plot point or a
character’s doing something or saying something because the writer wanted them
to do they’re saying this to drive the story forward a certain way that’s or
Organic story structure means everything that’s happening is the most compelling
choice from a story point of view and the story keeps getting more and more
interesting it’s really hard for writers to do both to do organic story structure
because in the best scripts the the scripts that can change your writers
life you read the script and you never see a hand never see the hand the writer
it never feels inorganic it just feels like these characters these are real
people they all have a unique voice they’re all saying what they would say
they’re all doing what they would do and it’s never boring it is just captivating
ly interesting it gets more and more interesting that’s the Holy Grail when a
writer can do that they are the needle in the haystack that the industry is
looking for everyone want to meet that writer and work with that writer so the
first step I would tell people and this is what we’re talking about this
question is the organic so let’s take story structure off the table excuse me
so with organic what I would tell someone is this is how we know you’ve
successfully come you successfully come through the end of this training or
sometimes writers will come to me and I’m like you seem like you have really
strong intuitive skill sets maybe you don’t need to do this training let’s
test where you’re at so this is what I would have them do I would have them
take two or three characters that they know they love these characters these
characters have unique voices they know exactly what these characters would do
or say and we’re going to put them into a conflict a situation and they’re gonna
write it doesn’t it’s not going to be a full scripts not going to be a whole
pilot or a feature we don’t need to do that let’s say 25 pages and what I task
the writer with doing is just let the characters do whatever they would do and
say whatever they would say don’t worry if it’s interesting don’t worry about
you know context and it being funny or dramatic it could be boring it just has
to be completely organic and when you’re done we’re gonna take these 25 pages and
we’re gonna give it to five or six people that you trust and you’re gonna
give each of them a red marker and you’re going to explain
you did and you’re gonna say I know this sounds crazy but I don’t care if what
you’re reading is interesting I don’t care if it’s boring I don’t care if it’s
illogical all I care about is it 100% organic do all the characters speak with
the unique voice do the characters it all the time feel like they’re doing
what they would really do saying what they would really say if there’s ever a
moment where you’re like I’m not sure I believe the character would have said
that I don’t know if the character was motivated to say that or felt little
force that they did that or felt like you were controlling or any of that
market circle with red put a red mark on it it’s okay again if it’s completely
boring we’re going for organic and if you get the seven drops back without any
red lines you have your intuitive merit badge which means you are capable of
organic now you’re not going to take those 25 pages and go out to the
marketplace with it but you can do organic then and this is this would be a
longer conversation for another day then you have to train yourself on story
structure and then it’s a matter of putting the two together to have organic
story structure but in terms of character and dialogue going through
those stages and coming out where you can be fully organic is a huge move
forward because now when someone reads your script they’re gonna feel like
these are real people and the dialogue is gonna feel real and these characters
are going to have emotional in our lives and we’re going to believe each of the
characters that’s the first part then when you can do that integrated with
story design with story structure then you get to those magical scripts where
everything is organic and authentic and it is the story is absolutely grabs our
attention holds our attention and delivers us somewhere that exceeds our
expectations and I have seen the challenge that a lot of people make is
they try to learn to do all of that at once and it’s really difficult it’s like
you know trying to Bowl when you have that ten four split the two pins are as
far apart and if you tried it with one ball knocked both pins down usually
so what I trained people to do is just focus on organic just be able to nail
that then sort of the peak in how I train writers and the workshops will
also train people to just do story structure with like puppets it can be
inorganic where you know how to design the most compelling story even if it’s
completely inorganic and feels like you’re controlling the characters that’s
okay we’re not going to take that and show it to anyone in the industry this
is all training but then when you can do story structure and then you can do
organic or you can do organic and then you can do story structure then I can
teach you how to put the two together where they integrate so I always teach
these separately three proven techniques for overcoming procrastination to get
the work done yeah I mean obviously it’s about realizing that everyone starts out
with inherent strengths weaknesses and blind spots and it’s about turning blind
spots and weaknesses and then relentlessly attacking weaknesses turn
them into strands to grow or Talent but all the town in the role without
dedication probably won’t be enough so no matter how talented a writer is it’s
so important that they consistently work and they put the time and energy and a
lot of writers deal procrastination and I I get writers sent to me who deal with
procrastination now you know if I was working as a writer I would really want
to try to find out why they’re procrastinating what it is they’re
avoiding what their fear what their triggers are so it is a very
personalized conversation but I can share three techniques that work for a
lot of people maybe and so hopefully your viewers at least one of these
things might be helpful for them and I’d suggest trying all three if none of them
work for you try to find some other things but there’s a good chance that
any at least one of the things might help so here’s the first thing that I
suggest trying now and I call it breaking the glass and so there’s a tale
of a know of a Zen master and he has his disciples and he has the most beautiful
delicate wineglass ever I mean it makes people cry it’s so beautiful but like
any wind it witch and he’s passing it around to people to
be in the moment with this amazing glass and this one disciple doesn’t want to
touch it because he’s so afraid right that he would break it and any and the
disciple turns to the Zen master and he goes aren’t you afraid that you’re gonna
accidentally break this thing of beauty and the Zen master says in my mind it’s
already broken and so how this applies is so when a writer procrastinates
almost always they’re trying to avoid doing something because there’s a fear
or something they’re afraid of that’s generally why we procrastinate
and so what I will do with a writer is ask them so let’s say they’re per
casting finishing the script or starting the script or Oh what are you afraid of
let’s say you finish the scrub and and you can say rational fears and
irrational fears but what are you afraid of you know it’s different for different
writers it might be you know the really Scott deal when I wrote metropolis that
was my first ever script and so if it went in and they didn’t think it was
very good I probably would never get another job offer because anyone who’s
gonna hire me is gonna call Ridley and say how was metropolis and if they’re
like yeah that’s it so I had a real fear that this script wasn’t good enough I
would never get another job my agent would drop me I was literally afraid
that my golfin would leave me and I would become homeless and live on the
streets eating garbage had all these fears now some of those are rational and
some are irrational my girlfriend loved me you know she married me she was never
gonna leave me because I wrote a bad script and I wasn’t gonna all my friends
weren’t gonna abandon me but there were rational fears it could have ended my
career and my agent could have dropped me those are absolutely rational fears
so first thing is like write down everything you’re afraid of and have fun
with the irrational fears because when you write them all down the irrational
fear is usually lose their power and you can say this isn’t going to happen
this is just some crazy thing in my head this isn’t gonna happen this could
happen even if I thought it was unlikely my agent
drop me it’s still possible so that is a what I would say a rational fear so pick
the worst rational fear let’s say for argument’s sake the worst rational fear
is my agent would draw me so what we often do is humans is we want to avoid
pain we want to avoid our fear and so we want to run away from it
and that is what often causes procrastination so the breaking of the
glass is instead of being afraid that you’re gonna break the glass run to it
in your mind say the glass was already broken so let’s say the worst thing for
me is my agents going to drop me so what the exercise is I sit down and I
I really use my imagination to pretend that I’ve written the script Ridley
hates it and my agent is dropping me I would literally write out the phone
conversation of what I think she would say and what I would say try to be very
realistic how I think this would happen and what I’m looking to do is to fully
experience it happening I mean you should feel terrible you should feel
like you should really believe your agent has just dropped you or whatever
it is that your worst fear is you should experience it and then you feel terrible
take a couple deep breaths and then write what would I do in that situation
what would really happen and I realized in that situation I would learn from my
mistakes I would write another script I would try
to get better I would try to get another agent there’s no guarantees that I would
but I wouldn’t when wouldn’t be the end of me and I still would be in this
wonderful relationship have all my friends if I had to those other things I
could do to make a living and I realized like it’s not as bad as I was imagining
in and it takes the power away from that fear and also what I see a lot in
writers is when they do that they’re like you know what if I do write this
script and it ultimately fails I want to go down swinging I want to write the
script that I would write I want to follow mine things I remember an agent
told me that ones which is the worst feeling is when you don’t listen to your
instincts and you fail if you listen to your instincts
and it ends up failing you can sleep at night and you can learn from that so the
breaking of the glasses imagine your career is over or somebody’s like the
greatest thing is I’d write the script and it wouldn’t succeed and I would I
would quit writing okay so imagine that imagine you wrote the script and it
failed would you really quit right and if you did what would happen and or
would you not quit would you write no and experience the worst thing come
through the other end and realize it’s not as bad as I thought and I’m gonna be
okay and then you’re not as afraid of that anymore and it diminishes the fear
even a little bit and if you could diminish the fear a little bit that
might be all you need to get back on track and right now I’ve
worked with writers with with chronic procrastination issues and they
literally every day as part of their practice they’ll do this exercise for 20
minutes every day before they start writing that’s pretty hardcore most the
people they’ll do it two or three days and then they get going on the script
and then they’ll just use this exercise when they need to when they’re really
stuck and fearful they’ll use this exercise so that’s one thing that
writers can try and it doesn’t work for everybody but it it has worked for far
more writers than it hasn’t and sometimes it just helps a little bit and
that’s all you need but sometimes it helps it profoundly helps the writer so
takes 20 minutes to try it see what happens so that’s one one thing that
someone can do here’s a second thing that someone can do who suffers a lot
with procrastination and this one has worked for almost everybody this has a
very high batting average so one of the things in addition to why are you
procrastinating I’m always interested when I talk to a writer what do you do
when you are procrastinating what do you do besides writing and you get and very
interesting bizarre range of answers you know from watching TV to playing video
games to things I don’t want to talk about in this interview and you know
lots of different cleaning obsessively cleaning the house
whatever okay so what I the exercise how I’ll train this rider is okay so I want
you to like list out different things that you could be writing not scripts
nothing with stakes that would be really really fun I’m really engaging you know
some people they like write really angry letters to people in their lives that
they’re not going to send or I had someone who’s like I’ve always wanted to
be a stand-up I don’t think I’m funny but I would love to write jokes I had
someone she was in France and she was I’ve always wanted to write an opera
just for like the hell of it I’ve had I had someone say I’ve always wanted to
write a porno film I just think that would be so much fun why not write so
you make a list of things that and and these are obviously going to be things
probably that you would never think you’re gonna make a living doing well
you know writing angry letters to your parents or people that wronged you
you’re probably not gonna make a living doing that so then what happens is you
have your script and you’re supposed to be writing your script you have time set
aside this two-hour block your writing my script and you’re not writing then
what you’re going to do when you procrastinate is one of these things so
you’re gonna be writing your opera you’re gonna be writing your porno film
you’re right angry letters or forgiving letters or whatever it is because here’s
the thing when someone’s at the keyboard writing it’s so much easier to slip back
into the script so what I’m training people to do is use writing as their per
cap as their procrastination tool from writing so instead of writing so you’re
not writing so instead of watching video games or cleaning or whatever it is
you’re doing you’re not writing so instead you’re writing and what happens
is it’s so much easier for them to just slip back into writing so that can be a
really effective tool and I found that that works for a large number of people
so take that out for a spin and see what happens maybe that can be helpful so a
third and final tool and I say this is one I need to get to there’s
a little bit of breaking the glass in case of an emergency so if it’s a really
really hard hard case to solve that the breaking the glass of running
applet you’re afraid of as opposed to running away and experiencing and coming
out the other end and or using writing as a procrastination tool they’re not
working so this is like okay we got to do something hardcore for you then I use
the exercise of breaking the routine and so what I do is I say I want you to set
up a space where you write you maybe already have one ideally a separate room
not everyone can do that but if you have a room where you work and you can
literally have a room with the door like an office or a spare bedroom or some
part of the house it could even be a closet I would people like clean out a
closet and use a closet because they’re in an apartment but you you don’t have
to have the door but it’s great if you have a door and when you go in this
physical space and shut the door that’s your writing space and the rule is that
when you’re in your writing space you have to be writing you you finger is
happy moving across the keyboard and at the moment that stops happening you must
get up and leave that room because that is a writing room it is not an on
writing room it is not a procrastination room now when you leave the room you are
going to leave for five minutes and only five minutes and I’ll say why in a
moment and I want you to do something in those five minutes that can help try to
get you back into a writing space so maybe it is maybe you do go write
something but not in that room somewhere else or some people play the guitar some
people journal some people just do a fast walk around the place
some people might meditate Yoga experiment with things that help get you
out of your fear the help center you back into a calm centered space five
minutes on a timer you can’t take more than five minutes because the part of
you that is trying to there’s a part of you that doesn’t want you to write you
have to understand that there’s a you know we have this like lizard brain
structure and we have a part of us that tries to prevent
from suffering like if you put your hand on a hot stove you pull it away and that
part of us doesn’t distinguish between physical pain and emotional pain so I
remember when I was in high school hair fighter girls and I remember being at
the dance I’m like I’m gonna ask that girl to dance with me and I’m walking
over there and my lizard brains like don’t do it don’t do it don’t do it
everyone’s watching you not true and she’s going to say no maybe and it’s
gonna everyone’s gonna ridicule you and your whole life you’re gonna be known as
the guy that got turned down by Jenny don’t ask her and it was all that like
my heart beat the drum the fight-or-flight mechanism was going off
and it was terrifying that’s why there’s so much alcohol with the mating ritual
because the alcohol can calm that down so there’s a part of us that doesn’t
want us to right because if we right we can fail and we can be rejected and that
really hurts and that can feel really bad and our survival mechanism might
want to stop us from that so the reason we only go do something for five minutes
is if it’s longer than the part of us that doesn’t want us the right goes oh I
procrastinate you leave the writing room for a long period of time I have power
over you know five minutes and then you go back and you write now let’s say you
go back and you you get up you leave that room and you something for five
minutes could be the same thing and you go back in the rule is you’re never not
writing in that space that’s the writing space you’re just like they say
insomniac so if you’re having trouble sleeping you should get out of bed and
you shouldn’t stay in bed you don’t want a muscle memory train yourself that you
can stay in bed and not sleep you’re not going to you’re you only write in that
room and when you go in that room I mean literally feed off to just force your
fingers to go across the keyboard it and do nonsense because at least that is the
motion of writing and then just try to write and if you only write for like 20
seconds and then you like freeze up and you procrastinate you get up for five
minutes and I have this is really hardcore cases but I’ll have people that
for weeks on end they’re in that room for 20 seconds a minute two minutes and
then they keep doing the five minutes and if you were to watch them they’re
constantly leaving the room for five minutes playing their guitar
going back in that room at some point they get so fed up with leaving that
room and here’s the other thing in real life if you have someone who keeps
coming into your workplace when you’re writing and saying you shouldn’t be
writing this isn’t any good you’re no good yeah this could fail this isn’t
safe and they have power over you if every time they show up you leave and
you don’t listen to them you just walk out over time they’re gonna stop showing
up so that’s breaking the routine you just always leave that room and do
something for five minutes that can help calm you and Center you then you go back
in that room and some people don’t do that for a week and then they’re able to
write for five or ten minutes and then they start to procrastinate and then
they it becomes a muscle and then at some point they can’t remember that it
was over procrastination was ever a problem for
them I was i really suggest doing the break the glass exercise and the making
writing your procrastination tool before you do this because those are quicker
and in the majority of cases they will do the trick
but if they don’t this is a more hardcore tool that you can try and so
far I’ve never worked with anyone that some combination of this didn’t didn’t
work it’s not to say that someone listening to this will try all three and
it won’t work but I think most people who are listening to this if they
struggle with procrastination it’s I hope I hope that at least one of these
or some combination will do the trick because I used to procrastinate and I
hated it it’s like in the day I feel so exhausted from not like the energy of
not working and and resisting something oh it’s just it’s so life draining it’s
terrible and I know people that get into the habit of that and that’s just it
becomes habitual exercise for them so these are ways that you can get out of
that habit so hopefully anyone is suffering that way one of these will

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. *First 35 minutes Outlined* (I may or may not do more over the next numerous days or this could be my last post)….
    5:20—5:56 Components of a Good Pilot Script
    7:31 Unknown Writers & Concept / Brand
    8:20 Nail the Concept by Page 10 of Pilot Script
    8:49—9:05 Proof of Concept
    11:08—12:25 Proof of Concept Cont'd
    13:22—13:51 Recommendations for writing a good pilot script.
    16:08—21:43 Know the business before writing a pilot script.
    23:14—23:49 Try working backwards (i.e. figure out the first season then write the pilot script).
    24:27—26:33 Script Testing
    28:57—35:09 Script Testing Cont'd & Essential Context

  2. What incredible information in this interview. Just listening to the first 30 minutes already has me writing important details to a concept I’ve been working on the past few months. I don’t know what I would have done without this channel!

  3. This is the most engaging, value drenched interview I've listened to in a year of tracking the subject (& your channel!). Many Thanks, Corey Mandell. Food for Life. 🎗💛🎗

  4. I have read many books on screenwriting, and Corey is the only one who has addressed a number of topics which have been right on the money. One in particular, and this I felt for a long time though couldn't expound upon it like Corey has, is the fallacy of "if you want to get better at writing, you need to write more". Its a half-truth. I look forward to one day taking classes from him online.

    And as an added bonus, he seems like a genuinely good guy to boot!

  5. Just started this. It's a long interview which I love. I hope he sees that he has the time to break down the engine. Thank you for your educational content. You are a large part of my film school!

  6. On script reading – I'm UK based and determined to find some sort of script reading internship. I don't have connections so I've girded my loins for cold calls. When preparing sample coverage, should it be on an already-made/known spec or something obscure (say a friend who's given permission)?

  7. Film Courage has the best informative screenwriting content in the whole internet. And I'm subbed to many many others.

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