Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Last week, I went to a panel at The Writers Guild called "$#!@ I wish I had known," featuring four very successful screenwriters.  It was informative, interesting... and depressing as all hell.  

This isn't entirely due to the panel - Some of the panelists were pragmatic if not optimistic (having a lot of money in the bank and jobs lined up helps that) but one or two of the panelists couldn't stop talking how the industry is going to hell in a hand basket, etc etc.

"Back in my day, if you had a great script, you could drop it on the 405 and it would sell!"

Spot the script. 
Look, I don't know what it is, but there's just something about getting a bunch of neurotic screenwriters in a room together that leads to a lot of vitriol, executive bashing, and general malaise.   Regardless, I came out of the panel better informed, with a little fire in my gut to get through the two drafts that I'm in the middle of, and with this blog idea...


1.  It doesn't take one script to make you a screenwriter.  It takes seven.
- When I was 23, I was so focused on the one big idea that I had, sure that it would get me my shot at directing and then I would never have to write again! (A girl can dream).  Two dozen scripts later... I realize that you have to focus on the work - not the end result, not the escape route, just the work and the end result (fame, fortune, etc.) will come.  Just look at how famous and rich I AM! (insert winking emoticon and/or LOL here.)

2.  You won't get an agent until you get a job and once you get a job you probably don't really need an agent.

3. It's up to you to keep up your connections, to reach out to executives and establish a working relationship so that they want to work with you again.

4.  On pitching.  Prepare.  Prepare. Prepare.  Don't underestimate the tall order that is telling a 20 minute oral story to two or more high powered executives who have the power to get you health coverage and pay your rent for the year.  Prepare.

5.  You will be re-written.  And you will re-write someone else.  It's not personal.  It's work.  It's money. And it's a step closer to getting the movie made, which is what we all want.   Thank the Executives for everything and offer to help in any way you can as the project moves forward.  You never know, maybe some director or star will come on that likes your old draft better and then you'll be back on the project!

6. When someone offers you a million dollars to make your movie, you say YES!
-  I was in a fancy hotel at a fancy restaurant eating a fancy dinner on this investor's fancy dime - and when the money came up, I balked at the low option price (indie budgets don't have much if any room to pay writer/directors - did you know that?  I didn't know that).  I worried aloud about how I would support myself for the year that it would take to make the movie.  Valid problem, inopportune time to worry.  Silly artist, trying to support yourself!

7. Don't talk politics in a meeting unless you're sure the exec dislikes George Bush as much as you do.

8.  When you get paid, it can feel like you've won the lottery.  Don't act that way.  Unless you're a TV writer and you're guaranteed another script that season and you're getting a weekly paycheck, don't spend that money like it's coming again next week.  Budget.  Or splurge and get a car (I still have the car I bought when we optioned COUGARS, which, man (checks watch), needs to be replaced, STAT.)  
- by the way - that option expired and was just RE-UPPED by Screen Gems so a movie that I thought would never be made is alive again!  And I get a little money out of nowhere, which is like two lottery wins!  I'll let you know how that moves forward...

9.  Know who you're meeting with, working with, pitching to.  Do your research before meeting a producer and definitely before getting into bed with a producer.  Ask around or at the very least google them.   And trust your instincts.
10. When you go to any premiere, dress business casual.  Do not wear a formal dress unless you are the star of the movie.
-  I, one time, due to a dirty clothes dilemma, ended up in something a little too fabulous at an indie premiere at the ArcLight and a certain producer who will remain unnamed just couldn't stop commenting on how fabulous I looked.  We had met before but she was sure that I didn't look "so nice" last time.   The more she kept on it, the more I felt like I'd driven in from Kansas to "go to the big premiere."  It haunts me just like the time in seventh grade that I wore that entirely too-neon yellow outfit and one of the eight graders asked if I could "Flick the switch to off."  

So that's it!  Now go take over Hollywood.  

PS:  While we're talking advice and fashion:  Never wear mauve to a ball.  Or pink.  Or open your mouth.  (whoever gets this reference, gets a cookie.)


  1. Great points, Tara. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    And...Into the Woods.

  2. Thanks Matt! And yay! Winner!!!!! we'll have to grab coffee sometime so I can buy you that cookie.