Healing the Hollywood Heart
By Viki King
There are hundreds of ways your heart can break in Hollywood. The good news is that there are hundreds of ways you can heal it as well. Here are a few to utilize when you're just starting out.
Have you seen the bumper sticker that reads 'Just Say No To Hollywood'? If you can do that, hallelujah. However, if you have a dream you want to come true, if you long to create a larger life for yourself, if you have a burning Hollywood desire, you can get from aspiring to acquiring.
Pennies From Heaven
This might be your first question: 'How Do I Sell My Script?' Here is the single, most effective way to sell your script -- WRITE IT. You'd be amazed how many writers overlook that step. No wonder selling feels like a daunting task. If you have nothing to sell, how can you sell it?
The reason that the selling question comes up before you have anything to sell is that you are at the juncture of deciding whether or not you want to commit to writing at all. You want to know if there will be an outlet for your work. You want to see some avenue down the road. You're asking yourself commitment questions such as 'If it's impossible, do I really want to do it? Do I feel a pull? Do I want to get a message out?' Find your level of intensity now. Do you feel 'I must do it, I have no choice,' or maybe 'I just want to amuse myself on a Saturday.' The more you are conscious of why you want what you want, the more likely you are to have it just your way.
If you decide to commit to writing your script, then...write your script. Focus all your selling energy on materializing your product. Once you have done that, selling issues and answers will find you.
Run Silent, Run Deep
The beauty of writing a spec script is that nobody asked you to write it, and chances are nobody cares how long you take to finish. This is a luxury. You can do what you want when you want and take all the time you need to get it right. Here are some tips to get it right:
Screenwriting is not about characters you've invented. It's about you, which is perfect -- because why would you want to go to all the trouble to figure out an ending for a fictitious character? Your script may be set in outer space, or the character might be a different age, race or gender than you, but the character's experiences, the fears and lessons and breakthroughs are all immediately and exactly what you are experiencing as you write it. Here's an example: I just received a call from a writer who is having a lot of trouble with Hollywood. You might say he's a man just trying to make sense of an insane world and still do his job. And surprise, surprise, that's exactly what his character is doing in his script. The clarity of that is when a feeling, obstacle, decision, area of challenge and growth come up as you are writing, get it down on the page -- because that is your truth.
Many writers call me wanting to separate themselves from their feelings so that they can get on with writing. The art of writing is getting down on paper what comes up in your life. You can actually make a list of the roller coaster of emotions you're going through and create scenes showing each one of those feelings, thoughts and actions for your character.
Since this story is coming from you rather than as an assignment, it's your vision of the world. It's what you want to contribute. When you think you're done, ask yourself, 'Have I said what I wanted to say? What did I want to say?' If you can answer those questions, then you can put it out to people to see what you communicate to them. Do not ask them for their opinion; they will give it to you. Instead, ask them what they think it's about. Ask them what they learned. See if what you intended to communicate was communicated. Here's another tip: You will be writing your script to explore an overriding question for yourself, such as 'Can I be a better man than my father?' or 'Can I triumph over all odds?' When you have answered your overriding question for yourself and your character, you are done with the script.
Hopefully, you've gotten it as great as you absolutely can. Hopefully, you're very, very pleased with it. The better the script, the easier the steps of selling it. I love a quote from Tony Bill that's still true: 'You can throw a good script out on the Hollywood Freeway, and it'll glow in the dark.' Once you've written the best you possibly can, know you're good. Then know this from Chuck Norris: 'It's not how good you are, it's how bad you want it.' This moves you out of presenting yourself for others to judge you. Go after what you want. How good you are will come to you from others naturally when you're not longing for it.
Some Like It Hot
Once you have finished writing, you have two things you didn't have before: a) You have a script. The nature of that script can help you to know how to go about marketing it, and b) The person you are now, having written the script, is different than the person you were before writing it. There's that confidence and experience that the action-adventure of you completing it creates. The person you are when you finish your script is now a person more likely to be able to sell it because now you know something about your own powers.
Do as much as you can in your own power to move your movie toward the screen. If you can't seem to get an agent, then create all the casting and packaging of your movie yourself. Who would you love to see play the parts? What movie did you love the look of lately? Who directed it? Is there a production company that seems to personify your world-view? Cast it and package it with the stars, the director, the producer, the locations you feel are best. Envision as many creative avenues as you can imagine. This gives you a concrete call list to begin to bring it into production. In fact, stars are waiting right now, hoping for their next great part. They want to love your script. You're not the only one with a dream.
From Here To Eternity
After 'How can I sell my script,' the next most asked question is, 'Can I sell my script to Hollywood if I don't live there?' Yes. Here's why: Hollywood is a pretty insular place. If the best writing comes from writers who are writing what they know, many of the Hollywood writers know about trying to make success in Hollywood. You may be living your life far from here. That is what is valuable: your fresh viewpoint from far away.
Here's an example: I worked with men who formed a writers club while they served time in a federal penitentiary. I put an announcement in the (Writers) Guild newsletter that said 'Do you want to go to jail?' inviting Hollywood writers, directors and stars to come and meet the prisoners. I was deluged with hundreds of calls. Prisoners were in jail with sentences of up to 400 years with no access to phones or finance, and yet Hollywood came to them. I'm not proposing you go to prison, but surely you have a story in you that draws directly from your personal experience that we would all want to see. Invariably, the very thing you might feel is a liability, like being in prison, can become your greatest offering. Regard it and use it in your favor. The whole point of healing your Hollywood heart is to work in harmony with your best assets, and all of your ingredients are your assets. It's what makes you unique and your story original.
Singin' In The Rain
This is by no means all there is to why-you-want-what-you-want-and-how-you're-going-to-go-about-having-it. But maybe it will get you started. You and your heart's desire are a vast, deep, endlessly interesting subject. Whatever you are feeling -- exhilaration, frustration, faith, hope and dismay -- are all a part of it. Your particular obstacles in the labyrinth of Hollywood are not unique to you; they are actually trackable. So you need not feel alone. Let's talk.
Meanwhile, know this: You're only alive when you're living your dream; all the rest is make-believe.
Meet the Author: Viki King
Viki King is a writer, script consultant, and lecturer. Since 1968 she has written for such prime-time TV shows as Three's Company and Hart to Hart. As a script consultant she has wide clientele of screenwriters. She lectures at the University of California at Los Angeles on the Inner Movie Method and conducts seminars nationally, from New York University and the University of California at Santa Barbara, from Mensa to Lompoc Federal Penitentiary, to the Writer's Guild of America. Ms. King lives in Los Angeles.