Screenwriting : How Do You Measure Success? by Christopher Moshier

Christopher Moshier

How Do You Measure Success?

I run an independent film site called Fan Film Follies. I am writing a book based on a Podcast I produce. One of my guests indicated and I quote, "I've been at the business a long time. I wanted to do this my whole life and to me I've already made it. I'm already successful because I'm able to make these movies on my own without studio interference just kind of on the side with my friends and that is true success." So my question to the Stage 32 screenwriters is how do you measure success in this industry?

William Martell

Metrics... inches are only used in the USA and a couple of other places.

Christopher Moshier

Not that kind of measurement you fool. 6' 4" as well I see. Do you have problems finding pants? I'm a 36 length and can never find pants.

Dan Guardino

I just like to work and not think about success.

D Marcus

I measure success in this industry by being able to earn my living doing what I love.

Stuart Wright

Not needing to ask what success is

John Garrett

Success is in the doing. After dreaming for years, the success is in the making. Taking the ideas that I have had for years or moments and making them into a story that is shared with others. Having my story become an actual visual/audio experience. But truth be told, that is not "in this industry." The term "industry" narrows the focus. I do not make my living by telling my stories; I make my life by telling my stories.

Joleene DesRosiers

I've been writing for years and I friggin' LOVE it. I dabbled with sitcom writing and playwrighting (and still will), but it wasn't until this year that I decided to base my success on simply following through with my pen. Yeah, sure, I dream about selling a script that wins a million Oscars, but I now realize it really is about the doing. (@John Garrett) I'm 43, and have FINALLY allowed myself to be a full-time writer and call myself a writer. (Which still sounds weird to me.) That is success to me. Frankly, I've never been happier. I spent 10 years as a television reporter and anchor. Wasn't happy. I spent the last six years building a coaching and speaking business. Wasn't happy. I spent the last 12 months saying yes to my pen. I'm VERY happy. I may not make what I did as a reporter or speaker/business coach, but I'll be damned...I don't care about that. What I care about is that I'm following through. I'm doing. And I've never felt more successful. :)

Joleene DesRosiers

Why thank you, Mr. CJ! I try. Until I have a crap day and THEN...I don't want to be a writer anymore. But that won't happen. I think. I'm only on fire this morning because I've been working diligently on my script. So I kinda feel like a superhero.

Terri Viani

Great question! Success for me is the fact that a few years ago I had a come to Jesus with myself about my writing career - a career I ran from after modest success early on - and realized I had to do it NOW. I realized that even if it didn't happen, even if I "failed," even if people thought I was crazy, none of that would be worse than being ninety in my rocker and thinking, "If only I'd been brave enough to try..." I committed, I went all in, I quit my reporter job with the paper, and now, few years down the road, I have a produced TV drama pilot, a comedy pilot to be shot in 2016, a short film a friend is producing/directing, and a feature script I'm just starting. I'm working full-time at this thing I love. I'm still scared every single day but I'm finally doing it. If the deals come, great. If the money comes, huzzah! Those are just icing though, because I've already had my cake. =)

David Levy

Joleene: I am 41 and in the same boat you are! I find it hard to call myself a writer even though I am. Spent most of my life in jobs/a career I was not happy in. Being creative is where I am most happy and in my comfort zone! I write whatever keeps my pen moving. I;ve written several one hour pilots and on my 2nd sitcom. I love every minute of this and to me, being able to take on this task is a success in itself. Best of luck moving forward in 2016!

Bill Costantini

The definition of success by CM's friend sure sounds great to me, and I'll second his belief. To me - how much better can it get than that? He's able to make movies...with his friends...and without any outside pressures or interference. That's a high level of success in any industry, and most entreprenuers would probably consider that the highest level of success. Even though CM didn't mention anything about his friend's financial security/profitability in the statement, I'm assuming that his friend is accomplishing that, too, or else he wouldn't be doing it, over and over again, and for a long period of time. If that high level of success is unattainable by me, though, the next best thing for me would be this: to be able to make a more-than-modest living at being a professional screenwriter who isn't involved in the filmmaking/producing process. One where the benefits far exceed the costs, and one that provides me enough professional stability and financial security for the rest of my life, and/or becomes the source for that long-term financial security through wise investing.

Stephen Barber

Chris, great post!!! Honestly, I've thought about that, many, many, many times... It's come to me recently, (like Christmas morning) sitting there, watching my boys open gifts, riffling through the paper and permanently poised to be more grateful as they cruise through each new surprise. As I held my 15 month daughter, and helped her find her smile while assisting her gift opening's, I'd say that if I can be present for moments like this, be able to work hard at the office, and after the market closes I can pull out my laptop and hack away at creation, if I'm able to do those things and return home every day to be mentally present with my family, and watch their smiles and play with them before bed, then, by all means... I have already found it! I'll continue to create features and pilots, because I have too! But the fact that I can do that NOW, AND EXPERIENCE MY FAMILY'S JOY WHILE DOING SO, I'd say there's nothing else more important to measure it by.

Jorge J Prieto

Success for me is to be able to continue. writing even when my body is telling me to stop and I refuse to give up on the stories, which are a gift from God I don't ever want to admit that I'm successful because that would probably stop my journey and I would just give up.

CJ Walley

Money isn't success if you ever feel underpaid or overworked. A career isn't a success if you don't enjoy your job. Control isn't success if you don't have a loyal team. Glory isn't success if it only feeds your ego. We must be very careful what we wish for.

William Martell

1) Daily: if I make my page quota. 2) Monthly: if I make my page quota. 3) If the scene turns out much better than imagined. 4) If the whole script comes together (not all of them do - some have great scenes that don't add up), 5) If I tell someone what the script is about and they demand that I let them read it. 6) If producers request the script. 7) If producers (or others in the biz) pass the script around to each other. 8) If producers (or people in the biz) are emotionally moved by the script. 9) If producers are so emotionally moved, that they buy it or hire me for an OWA. 10) If the danged thing makes it all the way to the screen (almost impossible). 11) If I'm travelling, go into some Best Buy or Target or Walmart... and there's my film! 12) If I earn enough to keep paying my bills so that I can keep writing my stories.

Sue Lange

Success is an incremental thing. If you've never written before, your first definition of success might be that you actually put your thoughts to keyboard. After you've written a while, success might be defined by being published. And then getting paid. And then getting an award. So I'm thinking everyone's personal definition of success probably changes over time.

Thomas J. Herring

I'm not sure what success is anymore. If I can get a story completed and feel happy about it then I'm good to go. At this point, I don't worry if it ever gets filmed or not as long as I enjoy coming up with new plots to get my characters in and finding a way out of it. Then again it might change 180º by tomorrow.

Sue Lange

That is the fun part of writing, Thomas. For me, after a while though it's hard to write in a vacuum. I want to see what people think. So success for me is if a reader gets it.

Mark Sanderson

Success is waking up in the morning and getting paid to do what you love for your job. BAM!

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

To me success is endeavoring to create art and occasionally accomplishing that purpose.

Sue Lange

Isn't it funny that both Mark and Philip are correct?

Phillip "The Gent" Hardy

@Sue: Occasionally, I'm correct. Happy New Year.

Kimberly Burks

Well said, Christopher. Good Luck to you.

Bart Baker

I agree with Mark Sanderson. For me, making my living doing my passion is success. Because success is simply happiness and writing makes me happy. That I have made my living as a screenwriter and novelist for 30 years, providing a home and a life for my family is a blessing.

Tao Ryan Moua

If you're talking in general in life - it's about finishing something you started. If you're talking about screenwriting, it's actually finishing your first draft, second, third, fourth or fifth, then actually getting it produced into a solid film. That's success. Success is not all about money. Happy writing 2016, everyone!

Dan Guardino

I agree for me it's not about the money as much as reaching goals that I set for myself.

Ben Trebilcook

"..my question to the Stage 32 screenwriters is how do you measure success in this industry?" For me, this question is being answered as two separate discussions: (1) . How do you measure success as a screenwriter? and (2) . How do you measure success as a screenwriter in this industry? Therefore, I'll break down my response into two parts. (1). As a screenwriter, alone, it's by moments. . To create a character that really satisfies me. . To create a plot that makes me want to see it as a film . To create i) quick-witted dialogue ii) intelligent-sounding dialogue iii) buffoonish dialogue iv) decent plot-driven dialogue, each pending on the type of character and story I am developing. . To create entertaining, unpredictable scenes for the reader . To complete a satisfying-to-me first draft feature-length screenplay. Each of those, to me, are mini successes as a writer. Together, they're a huge accomplishment. I've finished something. I was successful at something creative. I'm content. I'm happy. (2) As a screenwriter... in this industry: . Include the above (1) . The success in overcoming the many hurdles and the opposition one can encounter. . Having a script requested an read by a talent within the industry (studio, actor, director, producer, stunt-co-ordinator, cinematographer, agent, manager, private investor) . Having a script read AND LIKED by above talent - even - yes, a well-known movie website. . Having someone in the industry talk about you and / or your writing positively . Having a script OR PART of it actually being filmed. . Having a script produced... filmed... shown... SEEN by an audience. . Gaining that serious-inner belief that THIS script could actually be, what I call 'push-worthy'. A script I feel so passionate about, I'll go all out for - oops, that's bordering producer talk. ----- separated, because the following is not essential to screenwriter 'success', but once was considered the be-all and end-all. . Gaining a positive response to a representation query. . Gaining agent / management representation. . Having a script OR PART of it actually being filmed. . Sometimes getting past those near-misses and scrapes and the ones-that-could-have-been can be counted as a success. At the time, the rejections can hit hard, but are so often a blessing in disguise. The 'not meant to be'. I've worked on projects that had got so far / been passed on projects / even turned down projects that didn't seem right, despite the money being right and have wondered if it was the correct decision or felt "Damn them!" or "Argh! Ugh! You *&^$@!" Many ended up with me saying "Wow, that was a close shave. Glad I didn't work with them!" Elliot Grove, of Raindance, told me in 1993, "Ben, reject rejection." I loved and cherished that quote from then on. I've had screenwriting successes which have produced fruitful financially. I've had screenwriting successes which, although not gained me a single penny, have gained me the most wonderful friendships and the best of smiles. The best 'screenwriting successes' I've had are simply the experiences I have had. As usual, I've gone on enough... Success is what you define it to be, not what anyone - and I mean anyone - else does. So here's to you all....

Joleene DesRosiers

Awesome stuff, Ben. You've inspired me.

Michael Wearing

Some great answers there, but I don't measure success...... I just succeed.... And perhaps the best way to succeed is by being inspirational to others... William Martell is unlikely to remember me, but when I first started writing he was one of the people who regularly answered my queries on a screenwriting "newsgroup" and kept me on track, and then there's my good buddy Ben Trebilcook who has helped raise my profile.... and supported my work... So don't waste time trying to measure success, but just be successful like Will and Ben.

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In