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Business of Screenwriting: Writing Isn't for Sissies

Whenever Michele Wallerstein teaches a class or present a seminar, she is besieged by questions from the audience as to how to get “in.” Becoming a better writer is the answer to all of the questions you have.

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Last night I dreamed that I discovered a fabulous new comedy writer. When I awoke I found the dream rather interesting since I haven’t been an agent for 10 years and yet I was still so excited. I guess it never goes away. Anyone who has ever spent time in the world of Hollywood will always want to find another new talent, another shining star, another dream client. If you are out there, we want you.

As a screenplay and novel consultant I continuously hope to find that rare and precious new writer who I can help mold into a big success in the movie business. I’m looking for that elusive quality that defines a great discovery. When I was an agent, I was lucky enough to find a few of those talented people and to help make them stars. It was like being on a ride in a carnival. What a rush of excitement I felt. I remember each one of them and how terrific it was.

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I watched over them like a mama lion. I tried to protect them and to nurture their talent, much the way I do now. Guiding a raw recruit is hard work, but it is filled with so much reward. I watched them see their scripts become movies. I set up their meetings with wonderful, creative producers and studio executives. I watched penniless new writers buy their first new cars and condos and homes.

Whenever I teach a class or present a seminar I am besieged by questions from the audience as to how to get “in.” They ask; “How do I get an agent?” or “How can I sell my script?” It amazes me that so few ask; “How can I become a better writer?” Becoming a better writer is the answer to all of the questions you have.

When I was an agent people often marveled at my success. When asked how I did it, I usually replied that I managed to make more “right” decisions than “wrong” ones. Let’s face it, everyone makes mistakes. You choose the wrong partner, spend too much time writing the wrong script, refuse to take criticism, only write one project, act difficult in important meetings, arrive unprepared or late. S**t happens. The beautiful part of Hollywood and movie making is that you have more than one chance. If you broke it... perhaps you can fix it. You can send a thank you note or an apology. You can try harder the next time. You can listen better to people who are advising you.

If you have the talent, if you hone your writing skills, if you choose good advisors then you will probably be a success. There is a dearth of new and exciting writers in Hollywood and the filmmaking business at large. You can help fill that void. Many successful writers burn themselves out. They become spoiled by all the trappings of the movie industry and they burn a lot of important bridges. Believe me, there is a never ending need for the next writing super star. That’s why you see so many executives at film festivals and pitchfests. That’s why serious agents and exec’s speak at groups. They are looking for you! These highly professional people show up in droves to find that one elusive great writer.

Here’s a question for you, my dear writers: Are you your own best friend or are you your own worst enemy? There are only a couple of things you need to do to be your own best friend. You need to improve your writing skills and you need to show up at a few major writers events. Doesn’t sound like much, does it?

So I will continue to dream about finding that wonderful new writer who will work with me and who will be willing to learn and grow in their craft. As a consultant I will always continue to search for that innate talent inside someone who can write scintillating dialogue in simple yet compelling screenplays. I will continue to try and find those writers who have a positive attitude and help them become the best writers they can be.

Bet on yourselves, my friends and keep writing.

Michele Wallerstein’s book: “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide to Your Writing Success” may be purchased via The Writers Store, E-Bay, (in paperback and on Kindle), and local book stores.

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