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Why Do So Many Chase the "Impossible" Screenwriting Dream?

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 8/10/2015 ScreenCraft

This Post originally appeared on the blog ScreenCraft. ScreenCraft is dedicated to helping screenwriters and filmmakers succeed through educational events, screenwriting competitions and the annual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship program, connecting screenwriters with agents, managers and Hollywood producers. Follow ScreenCraft on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. 2015-10-08-1444325720-4528127-screenwriter2.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2015-10-08-1444325720-4528127-screenwriter2.jpg

It’s common knowledge that screenwriting is a seemingly impossible career venture for a majority that attempt it, yet thousands upon thousands of people each year are writing screenplays in hopes of attaining that ultimate dream of becoming a professional screenwriter. The allure of Hollywood is inescapable to many. Others just want to tell stories within their favorite medium. Others fall under the spells of the many misconceptions of being a screenwriter in Hollywood.

But what is it about screenwriting that makes people want to attempt the impossible? Here’s a simple explanation…

Most of the civilized world as a whole is driven by entertainment. Two of the primary platforms of entertainment are television and film.

Film and television lovers love film and television for a variety of different reasons. Those with creative minds may look at television and film as a possible career platform because how great would it be to work at something that you already love?

Those individuals look to the films and shows that they love and they see talented producers, directors, and actors telling great and entertaining stories. In the credits, they see that these stories are written by writers. When they watch award shows, they see that writers are nominated for and winning awards for doing so. Or, since they are obviously film and television lovers, they read the entertainment magazines that have interviews with Hollywood talent.

So, like anyone interested in any career, they are drawn by the thought of taking that on.

Many then read screenwriting books that offer secrets, answers, and formulas for success. So those people begin to believe that they can make it happen.

Then reality occurs.

They find out that it’s not as easy as those books -- or seminars, workshops, and courses -- make it seem. They find out that having a “good idea” for a movie or television show isn’t enough.

Then they find out that there really are no secrets, answers, and formulas for a successful screenplay. There are only general guidelines and expectations (general format, general structure, general aesthetics, etc.) to start from, but those aren’t enough. They learn quickly that it takes more than all of that to get into this business.

And then they stop. Or they “put it off.” Or they find something better.

Then there are a minority of those that, despite the hardship of writing screenplays, actually stick with it and learn how to truly learn. They watch and study movies, they read produced scripts, and they continue to write, write, and write. They fail time and time again but learn from their mistakes.

And their writing evolves. They study the business. They study the trends. They find out who the power players are and why.

They continue to write and eventually begin writing scripts worthy of consideration. They may even win a contest or two or garner the attention of some powers that be, much like many screenwriters have experienced through ScreenCraft’s Genre Screenplay Contests. They continue to write and develop, chasing that dream.

And then they stop. Or they “put it off.” Or they find something better.

Because in the end being a good or great screenwriter isn’t enough. The constant rejection becomes overbearing. They begin to have families. Their priorities change. They discover that they either don’t love it enough or they love their family more and need to provide for them through more reachable goals and objectives.

But then there are those that continue on still. They discover that it’s not just about great writing. There’s so much more to making a screenwriting career happen. They learn that it takes networking. They learn that it often -- but not always -- means moving to Los Angeles. They learn that their beloved scripts are often calling cards to writing assignments and will likely never be produced. They learn that success in screenwriting often comes from the relationships that are made. They take security guard jobs to get onto studio lots. Or they work at a studio store, or the mail room, or concessions, or janitorial, or maintenance, etc. Or they drive cars and trucks. Or they work as assistants. They earn low wages to at least be on the playing field within reach of the powers that be and they wait for any and all opportunities to take advantage of.

And then they stop. Or they “put it off.” Or they find something better.

More often than not, they find different Hollywood jobs where they can make an honest and consistent living. Some stay in those aforementioned positions and move up through the ranks or they find something better. It’s a cliche in Hollywood that everyone in Los Angeles is a screenwriter. To much degree, this is true.

Then there are those that discover that all of the above still isn’t enough. They get lucky and see that luck, as far as being at the right place, at the right time, with the right script, is actually how screenwriters find success -- beyond having great concepts and great scripts, mind you.

They get some assignments, maybe they sell or option a script of their own (hard to come by these days), etc. But they’re damn blessed and happy to be in a position where thousands, no, tens of thousands, no, perhaps hundreds of thousands, would “kill” to be in. Yet the work is sporadic at best. Despite hope to break into the top one percent earners who DO make six figures and beyond, they all too often see a year, or two, or three, or more go by without another writing gig.

And all too often, yes, they stop, or they “put it off,”or they find something better. They may still luck out and get some more work here and there, but they have to make a living elsewhere.

And finally, there are those that do all of the above and have just a few more lucky moments than others. They find themselves at the right place, at the right time, with the right script(s). These are the screenwriters you’re often seeing in the credits for most major releases. Some are richer, more successful, and more revered than others, but they’re working in “the show.” They’re making a living. The interesting aspect of these writers is that if not for collected moments of chance -- and again, great scripts and writing -- they could just have easily stayed in the same spot as many, struggling to break through.


Those are the reasons why so many still try. Because it’s a dream. It’s a passion. For some it’s fate. For others it’s but a turn in an intersection of the long road of life.

Most just want to tell stories. And their most favorite mediums happen to be television or film. So it’s only natural that so many attempt a seemingly impossible journey. The great thing is, most that are attempting it aren’t failing at life, as many feel. They are doing what most people don’t do, for better to try than to regret not ever trying at all.

And it becomes a constant revolution of people seeing that yes, you can make a living as a screenwriter. Words like impossible don’t apply because all successful screenwriters at one time or another were told that it was impossible to make such a dream come true, yet here we see their names in those opening credits and in the trades each day, each week, each month, and each year. Some come and go. Some go the distance with long careers. Others appear from the bottom of the totem pole, as many of you feel like you are at today, and rise up to see that impossible dream come true.

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