When I’m Not Screenwriting or Directing…

December 22, 2009

For most screenwriters or directors, the work is irregular: unpredictable.  Someone recently asked me, what then am I doing for money in the downtimes between screenplay or directing endeavors?  The answer: related stuff usually. Such as:

WriteWorks Agency

WriteWorks is a writing, copyediting, and proofreading business I operate. Most of my clients are those who need wordsmiths for Web sites, marketing endeavors (banners, print ads, e-mail campaigns, sales letters, customer testimonial acquisitions, etc.), and corporate communications (press releases, internal memos, etc.).

Marketing copy may not be as fun as fiction, but it’s bread-n-butter, it’s creatively stimulating, and it’s a great way to keep the dust off the keyboard’s exclamation mark.  😉

Web Program Management/Consulting

I’ve got a deep background in Web program leadership and consulting, including project management, program management, Web strategy, usability design, information architecture, resource management, accessibility consultation, workflow/publication process design and management.

While Web management may not seem at a glance to be related to writing or directing, I have found that the skills it takes to succeed as a director are not that different. Whether leading a Web initiative or directing a movie, you’re crafting a vision that’s based on requisites (i.e., business requirements or a script), selling the vision to stakeholders, hiring people and companies with the right skills to bring life to that vision, communicating the vision to technicians and creative artisans, managing a team of talented individuals, managing to a budget, balancing the competing needs of investors and consumers, being resourceful and level-headed when things don’t go as planned, and staying objective enough to hold to the big picture while being sufficiently versed in all nitty gritty aspects of the process to orchestrate the right results through each step. Consequently, I find that every Web gig improves my directing readiness, and every directing gig boosts my success as a Web program manager.  

Yes, related but…

But there’s a difference. While I enjoy the business of Web leadership, and have the skills to do a bang-up job of it, it’s film directing that I do whether or not I’m getting paid to do it. It “tickles my fancy,” as my grandmother would say.  Likewise, while i enjoy just about any work that involves the manipulation of the written or spoken language, screenwriting is the one type of writing that I do whether or not I’m getting paid to do it.

Retired LA TV Weatherman George Fishbeck once said, “The secret of success is: Find a job you like so much you would do it for nothing. Then do it.” 

I’m doing it.  🙂

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Sleep? Highly overrated!

August 14, 2009

Okay, fine — I don’t actually believe that. But, yes, as you may have surmised, I’m not always getting as much sleep as I should.

The problem is passion — doing something that I enjoy so much that other important things (sleep, meals, friendships) sometimes take a backseat while I’m locked on passionately to something, such as when I’m working on a screenplay. But as passionate as I am about screenwriting in general, and this story in particular, I usually don’t dive right in to that thing of passion, whatever it is…

First, I percolate it

I may spend weeks or even months “circling the beast,” so to speak, before I finally start writing. With this current story, for instance, I orbited around the story concept for nearly four months, letting the idea take form upstairs. Only in the past few weeks have I begun to write.

When the mental picture of the story I want to tell is sufficiently formed, I begin the work of it. The project then consumes me for a time, capturing the bulk of my waking moments until I have it fully fleshed out.  At those times…

I often make poor company

…because, when my mind is zeroed in on creation, I can leave the computer physically, but I can’t easily leave the creation. Something I see or something you’ve just said or something that passes through my mind will suddenly spark an idea for the project, at which time I must either immediately go and do something with the idea, or else it won’t shake loose from my conscious thought.

So, if I appear to be looking right through you when you’re talking, that’s probably why.  Sorry.  But I think that when anyone is doing something they’re that passionate about…

It’s an endorphin free-for-all

Words cannot describe how exhilarating I find it, to plumb the depths of a good story idea, “whispering” it into something worth reading or producing into a movie.

In fact, I find that the process is quite the power trip. Think about it; where in our real lives do we have that kind of control? Being a fiction writer is like being the master puppeteer, or even like being God; you are, after all, creating a universe, deciding what it will look like, creating the souls who inhabit your story, deciding what those people are capable of doing or not doing, and even how they will do it…

See what I mean? A real power trip. 🙂

And all the better if you can make a living from it!

George Fishbeck said, “The secret of success is: Find a job you like so much you would do it for nothing. Then do it.”

Of course, getting paid for your work is the most commonly accepted measure of success, and it’s nice to have food on the table and the rent paid. On the other hand, it was Jules Renard who said, “Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.” But I like most what Malcolm Forbes said about this: “Success follows doing what you want to do. There is no other way to be successful.”

I’ll drink to that.