By Pam Houghton
Several years ago, I went to an insanely useful Q&A session hosted by AWC Detroit, featuring three panelists active in Michigan’s movie-making industry. At the time, the state of Michigan was trying to plump its sagging economy by luring filmmakers to Michigan.
The panelists included screenwriter Harvey Ovshinsky, movie production manager Marguerite Parise, and talent agent Olga Denysenko, all creative folks from Michigan who had survived, and at times thrived, in the tough business of movie making.
I took notes (because I have a talent for note-taking) and even though the panelists’ observations were specific to the business of making movies, let me go out on a limb and say they also apply to the sad, lonely field of freelance writing.
Without further ado, here are eight things I learned from the movie-making biz (my own editorial comments in parentheses).
1. “Writing changes nothing; yet it changes everything.” It’s tough to break through the uber-competitive field of screenwriting (maybe that’s the nothing). But if you persevere, it has the power to influence and open minds (the everything).
2. If you want to be a successful screenwriter, satisfy an emotional need. People want to feel like what’s happening in the story is happening to them, which can influence decision-makers to invest in your work. (Make your readers feel something.)
3. When you don’t know what you don’t know, you’re free to make it up as you go along. (Or – how I transitioned from the corporate world to creative work as a freelance writer.)
4. How do you want to suffer? By doing the work? Or not doing the work? You can whine all you want about how unfair the business is, but that doesn’t get the job done and move you forward.
5. You can copyright your own work, but since there are only 13 stories in the universe, someone will steal it anyway. (So let’s not dither over things we can’t control.)
6. With movie production, you may have to work for free to build credits for a resume, which you need to break into the business. No one has to know you worked for free. (Unless you tell them. So don’t.)
7. No such thing as a steady paid job. (That’s why we always have to network.)
8. Success depends on relationships: who you know and how they feel about you. Develop solid relationships with people who can help you.