About a month ago, a student came into class, plopped down and said to me, “I don’t know how you write screenplays for a living, it’s so hard.”
First, yes, it is hard to make a living as a screenwriter and, to be completely forthright, to whatever degree I am making a living, I am making it by teaching screenwriting right now. Sure, every now and then, I get a gig but, for the past few years, I have been focused on Stomping Ground and teaching.
I had gotten to a point where I was looking for writing jobs less and less and work was coming to me more and more —- nothing fancy, nothing I was putting my kids through college on but I was, in fact, getting hired (and, usually, paid) to write screenplays.
Even though I have a couple projects due to some producer-friends, I am slowly getting back into the hunting for gigs routine.
Yesterday, I saw an ad:
Screenwriter needed ASAP for Diarrhea-Man Feature (Hollywood)
I own the rights to the original 1970's Diarrhea-Man character and need help writing the screenplay. Finances have been secured to produce the film starting this October, however I need to have a finished/polished shooting script to be approved by investors weeks from today. Looking for an experienced screenwriter capable of turning out a 1st draft ASAP as in the next week and a half. If you are a screenwriter capable of producing strong action oriented structure while managing a strict deadline, I'd love to talk to you. Also, massive points if you are at all familiar with the Diarrhea-Man universe.
I will be the first to admit that “massive points” were not in the cards for me as I am not at all “familiar with the Diarrhea-Man universe.”
So, maybe I should pass on this gig.
“Finances have been secured…” should suggest that there is some money to pay the screenwriter for the first draft that needs to be delivered in a week and a half. “Should” suggest. In my experience, “finances” frequently refers to what someone plans to pay the DP, cast, crew and craft services once you deliver the screenplay for free, the film gets produced, distributed, maybe makes some money and then they decide to throw you a bone for your trouble, if they remember.
A gig is a gig, right? I dipped into “the Diarrhea-Man universe” for a little while to check it out and decided, you know what, not for me, even if it does actually pay. However, I’m not exactly in the position to turn down a paying gig. I think I have done it once or twice. In one case, it was writing the sequel for the classic worst-film-ever-made candidate Birdemic, I backed off after being initially interested.
So, I went back and forth on whether or not to even apply for the job. Ultimately, I thought “Who am I to not apply for a screenwriting job?” I applied.
I’m pretty sure that these issues were not what my student was talking about when she said “Screenwriting is so hard.” If she only knew.
So is it? Maybe it is. I don’t know. Screenwriting is just what I do.