Don't forget, Doug will be answering any and all questions about writing, the business, or anything else that may be on your mind throughout the weekend in the Comments section below.
After years of screenwriting success, plus the countless meetings, pitches, business meals, and studio drive-on passes scotch-taped to my car window, not-to-mention a mile high stack of legal pads choked with handwritten notes, multi-act outlines, and character research, I was struck by this simple epiphany:
As a writer, who is my audience? My readers? The consumers of my sometimes carefully chosen words?
Not merely the manager who is rifling through scripts in hopes to find the next mega-million dollar payday for their numero uno client.
Or the agent who's hoping my tight, hundred and eight page script is the magic elixir that uncorks the development chest of that unusually tight-fisted studio.
It's not only the director who's trolling for something completely unlike his last movie that blew the doors off the box office and finally proved to all the high-school doubters that he was a somebody after all.
The same goes for the studio executive, scared shitless to be moved or love something in such a way that it might hamper his or her ability to quantify a script's box office potential.
Yes. As a screenwriter, this is my audience. My core readership. My ultimate fan base. And maybe that's what it should be. Because I've just described the gatekeepers for whom most screenwriters knock themselves silly in order to get that millimeter closer to the ultimate reward: production and a theatrical release. Talk about a tough room. To win over these folks takes heavy lifting most professional body builders wouldn't so much as contemplate in a stimulant-induced dream state.
Not that making movies isn't worth it. I wish for all scribblers, pro and otherwise, to experience the sensation of having made a hit movie. It's a pop unlike any other. Like the first hit off a crack pipe, it's an absolutely unforgettable rush. But when the high fades and reality returns, the professional screenwriter is back to the battle. Alone and with fingers poised on the keyboard, belting out his or her stories for the most fickle audience on the planet.
Worth it? For some, yes. For you, maybe. But know that it can be a soul-sucking climb and can take a certain creative toll.
Most screenwriters hope to, one day, channel their success into directing. I was on that very track, ready to leap at the right opportunity. That was until my wife and I began making plans for a family. For me, the idea of stepping away from my parenting duties for a year or so to direct a picture wasn't an option.
Thusly, I found myself penning my first novel. An experience best described as both terrifying and liberating. Not unlike the actor clich'e when they relate to some interviewer with an embarrassed giggle about the moment they decided the time was right to drop their clothes and get naked for the camera. By scrawling out a book I'd be assuring myself no rehearsals or a closed set. It would be just me, myself, and my naked words on the hook.
The risk paid off.
Then about the time my debut tome was set to hit bookstores, the publisher offered to send one hundred hardcovers to whomever I chose. I furnished them with the names and addresses of my hard-to-please audience.
I recall a particular phone call I received from producer Big Daddy:
"You sonofabitch!" shouted Big Daddy. "You wrote a fuckin' book! I didn't even know you could write!"
Yeah. He said that. And guess who else called. My studio pal-slash-gym-rat, Milton.
"Loved the book, man," said Milton. "Really good stuff."
"Wow," I said. "Surprised you were able to get all the way through it on the StairMaster."
"Haha," he said. "I don't read books on the StairMaster. That's just for movie scripts."
Yes. Haha indeed.
I recall when Lawrence Kasdan he asked me about my radical choice to write that first novel in lieu of hawking one of my unproduced screenplays to the town with myself attached to direct. As I attempted to describe how my directing mojo had been strangely quenched, Larry listened intently as if soaking in every poorly worded sentence, applying his own highly-evolved cinematic spin, then regurgitated it all out in succinct, memorable perfection.
"Of course you're satisfied," he said. "You not only directed your book, you starred in it, played every part, designed it, scored it, and drew and painted in all the scenery."
"Can pretty much say I got final cut," I added.
"Exactly," said Larry. "Books must feel like you're in total control. Good for you."
Good for me, yes. And in so very many ways. And it's not just about the control. It's about that direct relationship with the reader. From my brain to the page to a reader's eyeballs and processed through his or her imagination. Simple. Complete.
Then came my blog (posted weekly at dougrichardson.com). What began as an experiment to build a different kind of readership has taken on a life of it's own. Sure, it's a bit of a management quagmire. But since fatherhood I've morphed into a far more efficient multi-tasker. Often, when I run out of story and notice a few extra clicks left on the clock, I turn to the blog.
So as I continue the marathon run which is writing one of my thrillers while carrying on with the stumping my various film and TV projects, the weekly missive to my web constituency has proven to be another positive link between this writer and my new audience. It's quick. It's unfiltered. And the response is immediate, measured in both clicks and some lively commentary. It's become its own uniquely satisfying experience and, like publishing fiction, salves the wounding that sometimes occurs when trying to get movies and television shows made.
I have just published my fourth novel, Blood Money, and am working on my fifth, titled 99 Percent Kill. If you're reading me for the first time, I hope you join my audience as it continues to grow and evolve.
Doug was born in Arcadia, California. The son of a career politician, he used to talk his way into then Governor Ronald Reagan's office just to get a handful of jellybeans.
His passion for movies began after discovering his father's collection of Ian Flemming paperbacks. He became hooked on the Bond pictures and never looked back. After attending USC's film school - with an eye on directing - he signed a weekly writer deal at Warner Brothers.
In 1989, Doug garnered national attention when his spec screenplay was the first in Hollywood to be optioned for one million dollars. He was soon offered the assignment of writing DIE HARD 2, the sequel to the Bruce Willis blockbuster. Since then Doug has written and produced many feature films, including the box office smash Bad Boys and most recently, Hostage.
Doug is available for remarks and questions in the Comments section below.
|Sh*t Or Get Off The Pot|
|Part I: Is This My Audience?|