Sunday, February 13, 2011
Mind Your Business!
There are two kinds of books about screenwriting. One kind tells you how to write a screenplay. Of these, there are probably about five that are worth anything (Start with Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” and Christopher Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey”). The rest may give you some of the basics of screenwriting, but nothing you can’t get in much better and clearer detail from these core books.
The other kind tells you how to sell your screenplay. There are some tips on how to write one as well, of course, since Rule One for selling a screenplay is: Have a great screenplay. Rule Two is: Have several more great screenplays. Writing one of these books seems easy, right? Just compile a bunch of these rules: Have a compelling story that comes from your heart. Have an interesting protagonist that we care about. Give the executives something familiar, but with an all-new twist. And yet, despite books full of these simple to understand rules, many writers, talented ones even, are unable to crack the Hollywood system. What’s the problem?
What’s great about Michele Wallerstein’s “Mind Your Business” is that she doesn’t just tell you what to do, she tells you what NOT to do, and that may be much more important. Michele has compiled twenty-five years as a literary agent watching the rise and fall of countless screenwriters, and she has given you, the budding screenwriter, the chance to not make the mistakes that those other screenwriters made, mistakes that ended careers, many before they even began.
I wish I had Michele’s book ten years ago, when I started on this journey to Hollywood screenwriting glory. I would have known to watch out for “fringe” players. I would have known that you need to scrutinize any potential agent to make sure they are right for you, and that once you get one, you have to work just as hard as they do (if not harder) to get your career going. I would have known the eleven rules to live by when writing spec scripts. And a lot more.
Fortunately, since I’m confident my career skyrocket is just around the corner, there’s still a lot of great information I’ll be able to use. Stuff like what to do in a meeting. Yes, it’s the common sense things that you would think of for any interview, like proper grooming and hygiene, but it’s also crucial information like who to address in the room and how long to stick around.
Most importantly, it’s clear this book is a labor of love. Rather than reading like a “get famous quick, I’ll show you how” scheme, you can tell that you are reading a work by someone who truly cares for all her clients, and for every gifted writer out there struggling to navigate the fierce winds of Hollywood. If you’re still trying to get a grip on the business side of this screenwriting game (and I know few writers who aren’t), I definitely recommend “Mind Your Business.”