By Jeanne Veillette Bowerman
Every interview I conduct, I save my favorite question for last:
"What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?"
We decided to pose this question each month to a different, established screenwriter in the industry, hoping some of their wisdom on life and career would inspire and help us all understand the mystery that is a writer's mind.
This month, I asked the screenwriter and producer of HBO's Band of Brothers, Erik Bork, to offer his 18-year-old self advice. Erik is a man I have great respect for. Not only did he write one of my absolute favorite mini-series (and the only TV show I own on DVD), but he also pays it forward by consulting with writers, helping them be the best they can be at their craft.
Erik put his younger self on the therapy couch and offered his advice.
Keep writing, be patient, and understand it’s not going to happen overnight. You just need to keep learning and studying and getting feedback, and in the meantime, find some way to earn a living that works for you. Don’t be so obsessed with how to move your career forward that that’s all it’s about. Enjoy the journey, and understand that you have to have something to give that others want – and the more you focus on doing that, the more success you’ll have.
So live your life and seek to explore what’s meaningful to you, and what you’re passionate about – while also understanding what makes millions of people respond to a piece of writing, a movie, or a TV show. It’s important to find a way to succeed on both of those levels. Just writing for yourself won’t work (commercially), but only writing for seeming commercial success won’t, either. What the world needs is for you to be boldly and uniquely you, not a copy of someone else (even someone you greatly admire). Finding out who you are and what you have to give might take time, and will definitely take commitment and study.
But it will be so worth it.
What are the screenwriting resources Erik couldn't live without?
- The Save the Cat! books
- Movie Magic Screenwriter
- Screenwriting classes given by people who have done it professionally
- One-on-one mentoring, feedback and guidance from professionals
Erik has a fantastic website where he offers advice and guidance on your screenwriting career, called Flying Wrestler. On his site, you'll also find his free Ten Key Principles Successful Writers Understand.
Stay tuned to see who we bring you next month on Do-Over: Advice to My 18-Year-Old Self. (Hint: There's a side of fava beans...)