Posted by Laurie Ashbourne

Most of you have no doubt heard one of the sayings along the lines of, 'an overnight success 10 years in the making,' or 'you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice before you are truly ready.' And even if you haven't, if you are in this business (or any creative endeavor) you certainly know the emotional roller coaster of waiting for your work to get noticed in some way, shape or form.

So what do you do to pass the time in between those 10 years or 10,000 hours?

There are two avenues and both must be traveled, but both lead to the same answer. It's not meant to sound like a riddle of the Sphinx, in fact, this is meant to serve as a bit of advice that offers clarity.


What To Do While You Wait For Your Big Break  Part 1


So first, a case study...

In what surely was another lifetime ago, I was at my desk at Disney Studios constructing a paper diorama of pyramids and palm trees as part of a pitch I was going to give to Katzenberg, Eisner and Roy Disney.

I had just come back to the Florida studio from a 6-month stint in Burbank on a production, I don't recall what title it was and it's not important other than to establish the time period. This was the mid-90s so let's just say it was THE LION KING.


What To Do While You Wait For Your Big Break  Part 1


Having just come out of that, I was officially in what we called downtime, so I was able to choose where I wanted to set up my desk until I was needed on another production, so I chose my best friend's department, which was layout. Because that was where the dart board, the drinks and hockey and other fun things were happening.

And it gave me a nice little corner to build my diorama, so I was getting into it, having fun focusing my pitch. And we got a visit from the then head of Creative Development for the animation studio; I had a love/hate relationship with this guy mostly because I never let them see me sweat. He liked to tour the departments when he came to town so when he came to layout, he saw what I was doing and was like "Oh!" I said, "Yeah it's for the gong show."


What To Do While You Wait For Your Big Break  Part 1


That's what we called our pitch sessions. He looked at me with all seriousness and said, "Disney will never make a movie about a slut." He didn't even know the pitch; he just saw the title on the artwork, which read CLEOPATRA.

Now, this was a cultured and educated man, and I was astounded he would jump to that conclusion without even hearing the take.

As my friend and I went out for a bucket of beer and to shoot pool, he said to me, "fuck 'em, don't give them your stories." I didn't end up pitching Cleopatra, instead I went with a pirate story - which ironically was also poo-pooed by animation but went on to make billions for them in live-action years later. Because the thing is, at Disney, when you pitch them an idea, they own it forever. So, it was a blessing that the suit immediately jumped to the conclusion that all stories about Cleopatra are about her dalliances with men because that meant that I still owned my pitch. And in fact, to this day I use his short sighted commentary as a part of my pitch.

Anyway, cut to a handful of years later, after I left Disney, my friend was still with them and was in Asheville, North Carolina where I was living while working on a documentary. We drank until the sun came up and in the process he pushed me as to whether I was shopping any of my work, to which I promised I would someday.

Cut to Stage 32 and I was asked if I had any animation properties. I said, yeah there's this one, I shelved it because at the time, I never recommended anyone try to write for animation outside of the studio system, I was encouraged to dust it off, which I did. I rewrote the script and it got a lot of attention - Yay!

About 2-months later, my friend who had been there at the beginning, died unexpectedly and of course it was devastating, but while at his memorial back in Burbank, I reunited with a lot of my old colleagues and we talked about how great it would be if we could all work on something again, outside of the Disney machine — we were all older and much wiser now. Even though the executive who thought I wanted to make a slut movie was long gone — the Disney mindset was and still is, very much intact, (cough, Lasseter), so there was no way I was going to try and pitch this project within those confines. We all said our goodbyes and vowed to keep in touch. Within 2-weeks news came across my desk about 2 platforms that were going into beta testing on animation pipelines in the cloud, my script won 1st place in a competition, and I was off to the races.

What To Do While You Wait For Your Big Break  Part 1

That started 2-years ago. Within those 2-years, I have come within inches of getting the funding for the full budget, a lot of people have been behind it, including a few scam artists, I've had everything from Syrian terrorists to people vowing to take it to investors if I'd pay them thousands of dollars for a pitch deck - which of course I declined. I have a director and artistic team and even some voice talent attached and by all accounts should be in full production by now. But this past August, the group I had settled on, spearheaded by a former Disney boss, fell apart. Not because of the project, but because of a ridiculous deal structure.

So now I've got a small crew waiting and damn it every one I speak to about the premise, thinks it's a story that has potential. So I was challenged, what do I do to get this project off the ground?....


Part 2 of What To Do While You Wait For Your Big Break - Part 1 will run Wednesday 12/13



What to do while you wait for your big break  Part 1

About Laurie Ashbourne

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
If Laurie had to sum up her vision and value it would be with this quote from Ben Franklin. She was schooled in the Ben Franklin way (literally and figuratively, you can see that detail if you read to the end).

Story is Laurie's life, the hunt and thrill of finding a good one to the transcendental high of creating her own. But even old Ben knew that our creativity had to cross over into enterprise and to that end her value is that she makes stories work.

Whether on page, screen, home or web, from the idea to the final produced piece - it's delivered effectively by being emotionally driven to the audience and financially rewarding to the distributor.

Laurie's expertise lies in getting to heart of the story, writing it, and then producing it across the most appropriate platform(s): Animation, Feature Film, Documentary, Entertainment, Media, Publishing, Synergy of Marketing and Traditional Advertising into Digital, Web and Interactive.

She has performed as and hired staff for every aspect of film and transmedia production.

Currently a sought after script supervisor and longstanding reading judge and coverage analyst for The Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition, one of our country's preeminent, and many other respected niche competitions that can launch your career. She also does this for many independent producers, writers and am consulting story analyst for Amazon Studios Feature Films

She also ghostwrites for feature films and television series.

Like this blog post? Please share it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email etc) by using social media buttons at the top of the blog. Or post to your personal blog and anywhere else you feel appropriate. Thank you.

As always, we welcome thoughts and remarks on ANY of the content above in the Comments section below...


Part 2 : What To Do While You Wait For Your Big Break
Cofee & Content - Steven Spielberg's 10 Rules for Success & Joe Eszterhas on Screenwriting
register for stage 32 Register / Log In