Michael Chase Walker: An Open Letter to Aspiring Screenwriters

The-Shining-Top-Ten-Thrillers_thumb Congratulations ! With screenwriting you’ve quite possibly chosen one of the most difficult, challenging and frustrating crafts in the world today. No doubt that challenge will take you from bleeding through your forehead, to handling your own psychology and flaws, testing your cultural wherewithal and ultimately mastering its complicated and demanding structure and artistic demands– a quest that Robert McKee warns will take, at least, ten years or ten screenplays, or, what Malcolm Gladwell describes as an arduous 10,000 hours of perfect practice. In the end you should have a body of excellent work, or, if not , you will have learned more and become more than you can possibly anticipate. Any art form is more about your process and determination than it is about selling or finding an agent, producer, or financial reward. In essence, what you choose to write and how you go about mastering it, is writing you, every bit as much as what you choose to write about. Accordingly, the first quality any producer or agent wants is excellence, professionalism and expertise. They do not want to waste their time with amateurs, wanna be’s or immature talent no matter how promising. They are not looking for ideas either, because that’s what they perceive themselves to have in abundance, Ideas. As one high-powered producer recently said, “Ideas are a dime a dozen. I’m looking for someone who can solve problems on paper and not merely point them out.” In essence, don’t tell me what the problems are — FIX THEM! Anyone with even a modicum of experience in the motion picture industry has seen even the best and highest most commercial concepts fail, because the screenwriter failed to solve the problems. And every screenwriter of merit has failed many many times for many reasons– creatively, personality-wise, or through the rigors of development hell. Some of the best screenwriters of our time even refuse to write original screenplays because the likelihood of getting them produced has never been more impossible. Financially, they avail themselves for Adaptations of a published book or play, with a major director and star attached. Agents and studio executives aren’t really looking for the next best thing in screenwriting either unless they come out of the very best Ivy league University programs, or Off Broadway with an award-winning produced play, book, and other major credits. That being said, it should not stop or dissuade you from your goal, but merely point out what you’re up against. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me personally. Best, MCW

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