If you’re an unproduced writer, or a writer somewhere on the fringes, chances are you’re looking at an opportunity right now and have named it your BIG BREAK. This is it! This is the one which is going to catapult you into the big time, if this one goes wrong you’ve missed out, lost the ‘game of write’ and will never, ever be allowed into ‘the club’.
You know ‘the club’, the one everyone’s trying to break into? The one where you no longer have to write stuff no one appreciates, no longer have to network or pitch or claw, fight and maim to get a commission?
That’s right, the one which doesn’t exist.
Your BIG BREAK is probably a competition, or a trial script for a show, or a well-known director or producer who’s agreed to read your script, maybe it’s an open script call on a production company’s website? The point is, this is THE ONE! You’ve got a limited amount of time to get your script in order or the opportunity will be gone forever.
Fuck the family, fuck the day job, fuck sleep – if this script isn’t finished in time, your fledgling career is over!
Except, it’s not. Not really.
Just look at that list again:
- a competition
- a trial script for a show
- a well-known director or producer who’s agreed to read your script
- an open script call on a production company’s website
That’s four once-in-a-lifetime opportunities off the top of my head. You see, thing about once-in-a-lifetime opportunities is there’s tons of the buggers. They happen pretty much every day. Competitions are frequently annual … and there’s thousands of them, some shows will always take trial scripts and directors/producers/companies will always need new material.
If your script isn’t finished in time for this competition – don’t enter. If your script isn’t good enough yet, don’t give it to Mr Famous Director because you happened to sit next to him on the train.
Yes, there are tens of success stories from people who got their work produced on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; but there are thousands more who sent in a script they’d rushed to finish and didn’t get any further.
The successes may have failed a dozen once-in-a-lifetime opportunities before they found the one which made them.
Similarly, the failures will have many, many more opportunities in the future. Opportunity is always there – always. The worst thing you can do (barring breaking into someone’s house armed with electrodes and bad thoughts) is to send anyone a script you’ve completed in a sloppy rush.
“But Mr Famous Director wants to read it now! He’s leaving town in two days!”
Yeah? So what?
He’ll either come back or he won’t. Giving him a shitty, unfinished script isn’t going to help, is it? If he doesn’t come back, there are lots of famous directors – if the script’s good enough, one of them will take it.
Quality will out, shoving shit in an envelope in a blind panic won’t.
If you’re stressed and panicked, chances are you’re not doing your best work anyway – relax. Let this competition go, you can enter next year.
Prodco taking open submissions? They’re doing it once, they’ll do it again. If they don’t and your idea is good enough, email them in a year’s time (when it’s actually finished) and ask them nicely if they’ll read it. They probably will and you’ll have the added bonus of not being one more script in the massive open-submission slush pile.
There is no such thing as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you won’t know your BIG BREAK until after the fact. This is a race with no defined finish line and is purely against yourself – run it at your own pace, one you can sustain for years if need be. Singling one opportunity out as your ONLY CHANCE FOR SUCCESS is just silly – you’re putting too much pressure on yourself, relax.
I’m not saying don’t take every opportunity you can find, I’m just saying you need to get the egg/basket ratio right.
Don’t send anything out until it’s ready. Not ever. Your big break is out there somewhere, but it’ll choose you, not the other way around.