By Milli Thornton
One of my screenwriting idols is Diane Thomas.
Back in the early 80’s, Diane pioneered a new genre—the action-adventure/comedy-romance—with her script for Romancing the Stone. Diane was waitressing when she had the opportunity to pitch her script to customer Michael Douglas, who proceeded to buy, produce and star in the film with Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito.
I’m not currently waitressing, but a recent opportunity to get my screenplay in front of a successful producer has a similar theme. My scenario is modernized for 2010, with one of the many once-supernatural subjects that have made it into the mainstream. Mine could be called Writer Discovered While Giving Past Life Interview.
The thing is, you never know how an opportunity might come to you. You could spend your life reading books on how to write winning query letters to agents (or winning pitches for Michael Douglas) . . . at the other extreme, you could spend your time trying to win the lottery so you can retire and write full time. I like this approach better:
Luck is what happens when preparedness meets opportunity.
When my friend Andrew in the UK interviewed me as a happy customer of his past life regression audio, he remembered I’d been working on a screenplay. He offered to show it to his producer friend.
All I had at the beginning was a first name: David. Pretty hard to Google. There was no way of telling whether the mysterious David would even like a screenplay in my genre. But if someone is holding a door open for you, you don’t stand around doing research, right? You walk through the door and say Thank You for the courtesy.
Besides, what did I have to lose? At the very least, this producer might take the time to read a script recommended by a close friend, even if it’s not his cup of tea. Which might result in some precious expert advice about improvements to the script. Or even a referral to another producer who might be looking for stories in that genre.
Call me crazy, but I did not bug Andrew with questions about who his friend is. Instead, I went away and started feverishly writing more treatments. (A screenplay treatment is a description of the story.) I had read enough advice books to know that when you’re a newbie with one script, even if you’re insanely lucky enough to have your entire script read, the response is likely to be “What else have you got?”
Before submitting my treatment for Ghost Train via Andrew, I finished three more treatments. Not wanting to let the opportunity go stale, I used the impetus (plus a couple of 10K Days) to finish those treatments in record time. When I did submit, this paid off. I was encouraged to submit Ghost Train, as well as one of my new treatments. Thanks, Andrew!
When Andrew eventually did share the producer’s last name with me, I looked up his filmography and saw some well-known movies. Yowza! It might be better that I didn’t know this to begin with. I just got on with my job without feeling too intimidated.
Naturally, the issue of confidence plays in heavily. It has taken me years of confidence-building to get to the point where I didn’t run away screaming when I was offered a few minutes in the big league. That’s not to say I was bulletproof when this opportunity arrived. I still have my fears about various aspects of it. But plunging in and actually doing it is a much better way to outwit the fear than sitting around waiting for the day when I’ll supposedly feel “ready.”
Am I excited? You better believe it. Am I dreaming big? I’d have to be a complete zombie not to! But I’m also keeping my feet on the ground in the best way I know how: by writing more treatments and making progress on my second script.
If the producer’s reader (his wife) likes my stuff, I’ll know in good time.
P.S. The name of the first English teacher who ever encouraged me with my writing is also Diane Thomas. Thank you Miss Thomas of Orara High School, Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia circa 1972.
My interview with Andrew Parr (which I had a blast doing):
Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.