“I don’t know what that dream is that you have. I don’t care how disappointing it might have been as you’ve been working toward that dream. But that dream that you’ve been holding in your mind… it’s possible.”
You need to know that no matter what failures, disappointments, and rejections you’ve faced, this dream is possible. It’s difficult when you see that thousands of others are trying to do the same thing. It’s difficult to see them fail and to see that you’re failing right there with them.
And then you see the credits of those that have accomplished the dream. You see them being interviewed, speaking at conferences, and you see them attached to film after film.
You need to know that those very people were in the same situation as you are in now. They have faced more rejection than they’ve ever experienced success. They are normal people like you, working in extraordinary positions.
This dream you’re dreaming — it’s possible.
“The rough times are going to come, but they have not come to stay, they have come to pass.”
It’s not easy. It never has been and it never will be. There are multiple levels of struggle as you scrape your way up the totem pole. You’ll have trouble breaking the barrier through each of those levels because the bar has been set so high to the point that only a small percentage are allowed up. But always remember that it could be you.
Each struggle that you overcome makes you stronger, more resilient, and teaches you how to persevere.
“Greatness is not this wonderful, esoteric, illusive, god-like feature that only the special among us will ever taste. It’s something that truly exists in all of us.”
Those that have succeeded are not handed down from the heavens. They come from all around the world in many walks of life.
This notion should give all screenwriters the inspiration to carry on despite the struggle because anyone can make this dream happen. The working screenwriters of today are no different than the working screenwriters of tomorrow. They have just survived the rite of passage.
Greatness truly exists in all of us.
4. “It’s very important for you to believe that you are the one.“
You have to believe in yourself. You have to believe that you are the one that Hollywood needs. You have to believe that you are the one that has been overlooked. You have to believe that you are the writer that should be hired for the assignment.
It’s not about ego. It’s not about delusions of grandeur. It’s about believing in yourself.
You do need to hone your craft and make the efforts, yes. Nothing will be given to you. But you have to go in with the attitude that you’re the one that will defy the odds.
5. “A lot of people like to complain but they don’t want to do anything about their situation.”
This is one of the most common attitudes with screenwriters. They resort to complaining and putting all of the blame on the industry. They’ll blame contest or fellowship judges for not selecting their script. They’ll blame Hollywood for not being engaged by their loglines. They’ll blame agents and managers for not taking a chance on them.
It’s not productive. You won’t get anywhere with that mentality. It’s nothing more than a poor display of bad self-esteem and insecurity.
Instead, be proactive. Ask yourself why your scripts aren’t being selected as contest and fellowship winners. Ask yourself why your loglines aren’t enticing Hollywood to bite. And know that even the greatest films and screenplays were rejected by producers and studios before they ever came to be what we know them as now.
6. “You know other people more than you know yourself. You studied them, you know about them, you want to hang out like them, you want to be just like them. You’ve invested so much time in them, you don’t know who you are.”
Reading all of the guru and secret formula books doesn’t make you a great screenwriter. Knowing the classic movies doesn’t make you a great screenwriter. Being able to quote the great screenplays and the writers doesn’t make you a great screenwriter.
Too many people obsess about the study of others that have succeeded before them. They force hindsight theories about why this screenplay or that screenplay was a success.
While it’s great to learn from others and to study the greats, you have discover who you are as a screenwriter. You have to get to the point where you look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Okay, I’ve studied up on everything and everyone else — now it’s time to discover to myself.” Leave the books behind. Stop trying to emulate other people’s work and process. Find your way.
7. “It’s necessary to get the losers out of your life if you want to live your dream.”
If you have peers from writing groups that have a cynical attitude about anything regarding your writing or your pursuits — those that go to the writing groups and do virtually nothing beyond complaining about Hollywood and tearing down other people’s scripts — these are the losers in your life. Get rid of them.
8. “As long as you follow other people. As long as you are being a copy-cat, you will never ever by the best copy-cat in the world, but you will be the best you can be… define your value.”
Don’t try to emulate the styles of other writers. Don’t try to be the next Quentin Tarantino, P.T. Anderson, Joel and Ethan Coen, or Aaron Sorkin. It will never happen. Be the best that you can be and define what new value you are going to bring to Hollywood. That’s what will make you stand out.
9. “You’re an uncommon breed.”
Most people in this world don’t pursue a dream. They earn a living, raise a family, and they they die, perhaps dealing with the regret later in life or on their death bed, asking themselves, “What if I would have pursued that dream.”
You are not that person. You’re an uncommon breed because of the mere fact that you’re trying. That means something. In fact, that means a whole lot because you’re doing what most of the population doesn’t and never will. You’re pursuing a dream despite all of the odds against you.
10. “The people that are living their dreams are finding winners to attach themselves to.”
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It takes a village to raise an amazing screenwriter and filmmaker. It really does.
You have to network. You have to find people that you can attach yourself to. You have to find those that are hungry for success and willing to do all that they can — for you and for them.
Find a worthy mentor. Find worthy peers. Find winners that can help you get where you want to be. It’s not enough to just pursue people working in the business. You need to find the winners, whether they’re established or up-and-coming. And you do that by networking, introducing yourself, going to film festivals, going to conferences, and putting yourself and your writing out there.
11. “The people that are living their dreams are the people that know that if it’s going to happen, it’s up to them.”
Attaching yourself to winners gives you an edge, but in the end, it’s up to you. You can’t rely on anyone else but yourself. You have to create your own process to succeed. You have to conjure amazing concepts that people have not yet seen. You have to write scripts that engage readers like no other. That’s the attitude that you have to have.
If you sit by the phone waiting for someone to call after sending out query emails, you’re done before you even got started. You need to keep pushing yourself and your writing.
You need to take the responsibility of honing your craft and learning from your mistakes. It’s up to you to make this dream come true.
12. “Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.”
Studios passed on American Graffiti, E.T., Back to the Future, Pulp Fiction, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Home Alone, The Exorcist, Dumb and Dumber, and so many other hit films.
Can you imagine if the screenwriters and filmmakers behind some of those movies quit after the constant rejection? What greatness would we have missed out on?
Everyone has an opinion. Film is a subjective medium. One producer will love your script while another will hate it. It’s the nature of the business.
That said, you can’t dismiss the rejections you get. You do have to learn from them. But you can’t let them define you in the end. Don’t allow a negative reaction to your script force you to toss it aside because it may just be one of those gems in search of the right place, the right time, and the right person.
13. “Even if no one else sees it for me, I must see it for myself.”
Being a screenwriter can be a lonely existence at times. You try and try to get noticed, only to see yourself rejected over and over again. You’ll be told that you’re not ready. You’ll feel like maybe you’ve missed your window of opportunity. If you live outside of Los Angeles, you’ll feel a million miles away from where you need to be. You’ll hear friends and family question your choices — or more often than not, you won’t hear it from them, but you’ll feel it.
Despite all of this, you must see it for yourself. You have to believe. It’s the only thing that will get you through those rough times.
14. “This is what I believe, and I’m willing to die for it. Period.”
If you believe that this screenwriting dream is for you, then you have to be willing to go all the way no matter what obstacles you face. Period. You don’t have to die for it, but you do have to find that drive. If you don’t go all out, it will never happen.
15. “No matter how bad it is or how bad it gets, I’m going to make it!”
Tell yourself this over and over. When things are at their worst, and you’ve failed more than you think you can take, repeat this statement over and over and over.
16. “I want to represent an idea. I want to represent possibilities.”
What type of screenwriter are you aspiring to be? How are you going to change the system? Who are you going to prove wrong? If you need more of a purpose in this screenwriting journey to get you through the day, figure out how you plan on shaking things up.
Do you want to be the first woman to make high seven figures on a script sale? Do you want to be the first African-American to be the most in-demand screenwriter in Hollywood? Do you want to be the youngest screenwriter to win an Oscar? Do you want to be the oldest screenwriter to take home the gold? Do you want to prove Hollywood wrong about the notion that you have to live in Los Angeles to be a successful screenwriter?
What idea are you going to represent? Whatever it is, let it drive you.
17. “I dare you to invest time! I dare you to be alone! I dare you to spend an hour to get to know yourself!”
Stop talking, hoping, and dreaming about writing those scripts and go do it! Get to know yourself. Get to know your own strengths and weaknesses — embrace them both and grow.
18. “When you become an individual, what you do is you take yourself and start separating yourself from other people.”
Don’t just write another action movie. Don’t just write another horror movie. Don’t just write another comedy, drama, thriller, or science fiction flick.
Find your own individual voice and see how you can take yourself and start separating yourself from other screenwriters. Be obsessive about being different and standing out from the crowd.
19. “If you’re still talking about your dream, if you’re still talking about your goals, but you have not done anything yet — JUST TAKE THE FIRST STEP!”
Talk is cheap. Get out of the writer groups, forums, Reddit channels, and go do it. Write the script you’ve been dreaming up. Finish it in record time. With each step you take you’re closer to your dream so what are you waiting for?
20. “You can make your parents proud, you can make your school proud, you can touch millions of people’s lives and the world will never be the same again, because you came this way!”
Screenwriters and filmmakers can make a difference. The big names out there today were once like you. Spielberg had to sneak onto the Universal lot and pretend to work there to get noticed. Tarantino worked in a video store for years before he became an Oscar-winner. Despite what you may be telling yourself in those moments of despair, you can accomplish amazing things.
21. “After we face a rejection or a no or we have a meeting and no one shows up! Or somebody said, ‘You can count on me’ and they don’t come through! What if we had that kind of attitude where the car is repossessed, nobody believes in you, you’ve lost again, and again, and again — the lights are cut off, but you’re still looking at your dream, reviewing it every day and saying to yourself, ‘It’s not over until I win!’”
Inspiration is what screenwriters need most to succeed in all aspects of the craft and business of screenwriting. If you’re not inspired by that video and by these words, maybe this dream isn’t for you.
You can live your dream. It won’t always come to you as you’d hope. And in this business, for many, it never will. Maybe you’ll learn it’s not for you or you’ll find something even better in life. Regardless, you pursued a dream. You’re an uncommon breed. Well done.