After my first column, I got a lot of questions on how you can get your projects into development, and how you can get paid to write. I feel this is one of those first date conversations we have to get out of the way before we delve deeper into comedy writing and become so comfortable with each other we no longer have to hold in our farts. So I’ll give you my assessment on how to get paid to write, and then we’ll never talk about this again.
First off, keep writing and practicing your craft until you’ve forgotten how to talk to real people because you’re spending too much time with the ones you’ve been making up in your head. Once you’ve made yourself completely unfit to work in any other profession, you can follow these two simple steps to building a paid writing career:
1. Do good work.
Create amazing work that impresses your friends, colleagues and employers. Good work will get you recommended for jobs, introduced to producers and hopefully get you hired again and again. Now there will come a time where you will stare at the same scene day after day… and you will just want to finish the thing. You will be tempted to send off your script to your producer, executive, or whomever is willing to read your writing. Do not do this. Keep rewriting and give yourself a fighting chance by only showing your best work possible.
How do you know when you’ve done your best? Personally, I have an internal critic that sounds like Danny’s imaginary friend in The Shining. When my internal critic shuts up and stops warning me of impending doom, I know I’ve done my best and I can send my writing into the world. Let your internal critic be your guide, and hopefully your internal critic sounds like Morgan Freeman instead of that creepy child actor (what’s he doing these days anyway?)
2. Don’t be an a$$hole.
No one likes an a$$hole, no one wants to work with an a$$hole, and no one wants to hire an a$$hole. How do you not be an a$$hole?
Don’t be stingy with your resources. These are tough economic times, this is an extremely competitive field, but if you see an opportunity you can’t take advantage of, pass it along to someone that can. Anyone I’ve helped has always returned the favor and support.
Try to be a good friend. All of my paid writing jobs have come from friends and people I have met along the way. People tend to hire people they know and like, so you have nothing to lose by being likeable and generous. Play nice with others, but don’t be so nice you are a pushover. A pushover is an a$$hole. Be fair and stand up for your work.
Don’t be the a$$hole that brings cupcakes. I knew a writer that would bring cupcakes to all her pitch meetings. No one in those meetings ever said, “I wasn’t going to buy your script, but you brought cupcakes!” Always keep the focus on your work. Be friendly, be polite and be professional. A few thank you cards are all you need, and send them after the meeting.
Now you may have noted there are plenty of successful a$$holes working in Hollywood. Honestly, if you deliver amazing writing that generates a large profit, you can get away with being a raging a$$hole for a while. But the minute an a$$hole stops delivering success, everyone will turn on them. You ever watch a well-written film and wonder, “what ever happened to that writer?” Yup, probably an a$$hole.
We all have to forge our own career paths, but for all our sakes, please don’t be an a$$hole. We already have enough.
- Spit Takes: About Me and How to Talk Shit with Comedy Writers
- Balls of Steel: Your Character, Your Career
- Balls of Steel: Dear New Screenwriter
Tools to Help:
- Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing (And Not Getting Eaten)
- The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters
- Hollywood Drive: What It Takes to Break In, Hang in & Make It in the Entertainment Industry