After twenty-five years of writing screenplays, always while working two jobs, an Ohio woman decides that she has had enough. Along the way, there have been nibbles here – producers who have taken a shine to a particular script, free options, partial financing - and bites there - mangers and agents who have promised the moon and the stars, but ultimately only demanded endless rewrites.
This is a woman of boundless energy, optimism oozing from her pores. But after twenty-five years, she convinces herself that maybe she’s overestimated her talent. And that’s that. No more writing.
Then, three years later, there’s a finger tap on her shoulder. An invitation. Reluctantly she accepts. She takes a chance. Puts her story, her struggles out there. To her surprise, she finds sympathy and support. She makes contacts. Through these contacts, she joins a writing group. Then one day, a producer with a number of credits asks to see one particular script – her first script, the one which she had first typed “FADE OUT” 28 years ago.
The producer loves the script, wants to discuss it further. Six months later, they’re in production on an eight million dollar film. The writer discovers her talent wasn’t the issue, it was her contacts, or lack thereof, that were the problem.
Let’s examine the story of the screenwriter from Louisiana. Her dream is to be a novelist. She pursues the mission with vigor. Her first published work is met with mild success. As she outlines her next opus, she realizes that the story is very cinematic. One problem, she’s never written a screenplay before.
So, she surrounds herself with people who have. She writes. Trades pages. Accepts notes. Finally, she approaches a producer. The producer likes the concept, requests the first ten pages. He likes them so much he requests the whole script. He likes that so much, he passes it to a manager… a manager with a number of spec script sales to his credit over the last few years. They meet. She signs. The script is scheduled to go out soon.
These are the stories of two people doing the exact same thing, finding a way to the promise land traveling very different paths. Yet, there is a commonality to their tales. All of their networking, the contacts they made which led to their success, happened on Stage 32 (www.stage32.com).
Along with being an actor and a producer, I’m a screenwriter. I love the process. Don’t mind the isolation. Actually find it somewhat cathartic. Like most screenwriters, however, it’s the aftermath, the procedure and ceremony of getting a completed work out into the world that is much more stressful. At least that’s the way I used to feel.
There’s a so-called screenwriting guru out there who loves to say, “Let your writing do the speaking for you.” That’s a wonderful thought, no? Our writing is so damn marvelous, our script will levitate from a stack of screenplays and come to rest in a top producer/manager/agent’s lap, an amber glow permeating from the edges, pipe organ music mystically filling the room.
The reality is our scripts – on the surface, before they’re cracked - do not have legs, faces, or personalities. But we do. You have to do the speaking for you. You have to start the conversation before the genius of your script can finish it.
To accomplish this, you have to put as much time into marketing and networking as you do creating. You need to treat yourself as a brand. You need to be fearless and even a little (stressing “a little”) reckless at times. You need to take chances.
We started Stage 32 to give all creatives a chance to market their brand, to network, 24/7/365 regardless of geography or level of accomplishment. But we also built it as a support system for creatives to share experiences, work, and advice. It was built from a place of understanding. It was built with the recognition that the number one reason most creatives fail isn’t because they lack talent, but because they quit. And the number one reason creatives quit is because they lack contacts, peers who can teach, assist, and support.
A year before we started Stage 32, I made the commitment to spend as much time as my schedule permitted setting up meetings, attending conferences, and simply going balls out in my efforts to find matches – either producers or literary representation – for my work. I traveled all over the country, and sometimes outside the country, for lunches, dinners, ten minute meet and greets, two minute office pitches, forty second elevator pitches. There was one trip where I had fifteen meetings on the schedule over two days, only to be cancelled down to three. Much like the screenwriter in the first story above, I had a nibble here, a bite there, but the follow through proved elusive.
Once Stage 32 launched, my networking opportunities multiplied. Further, I was able to conduct my networking during non-office hours, which proved to be a blessing. Soon, I had met a producer on the site who was willing to take a run at one of my scripts, Rocket’s Red Glare. With help with another producer, who, in fairness, I met while serving as an associate producer on Another Happy Day, we had about 1.5 million of a 3.5 million dollar budget in the kitty and feelers out to Rebecca Hall to play the lead. Ultimately, as things often do in this business, egos became bigger than the task at hand and the project fell apart. Still, this was more movement than I had seen in the previous year.
More recently, I met another producer on Stage 32 who took a liking to another of my screenplays, The End Game. With her help, we are not only in pre-production, but have already secured a distribution agreement with a company which has distributed numerous Golden Globe and Oscar nominated films. This all started with a simple conversation through the site.
Teachers and gurus will have you believe that this equation is law:
Talent + Ideas = Success.
But, I believe they’re missing a multiplier.
Talent + Ideas x Contacts = Success
As Billy Crystal’s Larry repeatedly says to Danny Devito’s Owen in Throw Momma From The Train, “A writer writes.” But a true writer also networks. An empty page is much less tragic than words on a written page never to be read.
Richard Botto, known to his friends as “RB”, is the co-founder, CEO, and President of Stage 32, the premier, free social network for film, television, and theater creatives boasting over 100,000 members from 185 countries. His screenplay, The End Game, was a finalist in the 2012 Creative World Awards and is currently in pre-production. Botto was an associate producer on Sam Levinson's first film, Another Happy Day starring Ellen Barkin, Demi Moore, Thomas Hayden Church, Kate Bosworth, and Ellen Burnstyn. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011, winning Best Screenplay. Prior to launching Stage 32, Botto was the founder, publisher and editor of RAZOR Magazine, a national men's lifestyle magazine which had a readership of 1.5 million at its peak. He was also a sports radio host on a variety of programs on ESPN and Fox affiliates and has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, and other news and entertainment outlets speaking on the film industry.
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