Thanks, ZDW, for your kind words. When I was attending the recent London Screenwriters Festival, someone asked me why I do so much in the way of providing learning resources for writers, especially the blog which is entirely free. And it got me thinking. I’ve been doing this type of thing for so long, apart from enjoying working with other writers and my passion for movies and stories, I had to reach back in time to remember what precipitated this choices in the first place… then I remembered.
When I sold the spec script K-9 and broke into the business, I was a complete outsider. No film school. Not even hardly any informal training in the craft. One connection to Hollywood (my writing partner). That’s it. During the next 5 years or so of completely immersing myself in learning the craft — watching every movie, reading every script I could find, attending lectures and panels by pro screenwriters, devouring the trades on a daily basis, and writing, writing, writing — I made it a point to not only be open to those who were like me when I first started out as a screenwriter, but also support them however I could.
I guess that stems in part from an instinct I’ve always had: A fan of the underdog. For example, I moved around a lot (Air Force brat), so I could choose any baseball team to root for. I chose the New York Mets. In 1964. A completely feeble squad who averaged almost 100 losses per season their first three years. Why? Because they were so awful, the most underdog of underdogs.
Well, what’s a bigger underdog when it comes to creativity but screenwriters?
So I’ve always had an instinct and desire to help those outside the Hollywood system try to find a way into it. Honestly, apart from selling a spec or a pitch, or getting a movie made myself, I take enormous pleasure and satisfaction from someone emailing me to say they did it, they sold their first project. Or when some of my students go on to co-create a TV series like ‘Westworld’ or work their way up to being a producer of a TV series like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, that makes me really happy.
Frankly there are times I receive emails like one I got last year from a woman who had participated in the Zero Draft Thirty Challenge who told me she had tried to write a particular story for over a decade, started and stopped a bunch of times. Because the the Challenge and the support it provided, she finally finished that story. She wanted to thank me for supporting her in fulfilling that ambition.
There’s a special joy in reading something like that which I’m not sure can be replicated in exactly the same way.
Again thanks for your kind words. Caused me to reflect on who I am and why I do what I do, something I rarely do because I’m so busy DOING it. I guess you could say I find a sense of purpose in my teaching. And if a person can find a purpose in life, something that enlivens them, something they’re good at…
That’s pretty much following one’s bliss, I’d say.