Meeting Lew Hunter, screenwriting guru and teacher, was so fantastic. I forgot my camera, as usual, so I didn’t get to take a picture with him or of him which is a bummer because I could have posted it. Oh well.
Anyhoo, there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know about Lew outside of him teaching in the MFA program at UCLA for a number of years and writing the book Screenwriting 434. I didn’t know that he worked directly with Walt Disney and was a studio executive at not only Disney but ABC and NBC from 1975-1986. Also, more than 20 of his former students have gone on to win Oscars. That’s phenomenal! He’s also a very nice and funny person. Very generous. He has a new edition for his book but I purchased the book like four years ago so I wanted to know if it was only a new cover or was there enough new information to justify paying $15. Yes, I asked this question. He has a new book coming out called Naked Screenwriting where he interviews all those Oscar winners. To my surprise, he told me that there was only about 10 pages of new material and to not buy it that he will email the updated pages if I would give him my information. Can you believe it? I’ve never had anyone offer to do that. So, of course, I gave him my business card and he gave me personal advice on breaking through. (See 1-5 below) Everyone wants to sell their book no matter what. He isn’t like that. I guess he’s made so much money he doesn’t need the book sales. He did mention that he wrote the book for people who aren’t able to take his classes or seminars, not to make a profit. He even stayed almost an hour after his talk to answer personal questions. I didn’t really learn anything new because I’ve been studying on my own, taking classes and seminars, reading every book out there for 5 years now. What I did get out of the two hour talk was the encouragement to keep on pressing on. People do make it but it’s not easy and only the persistent survive. I walked away with more determination than ever and belief that it is possible. I can make it and I can be an Oscar winner just like those 20 other people who were once unknown.
Lew’s private suggestions given to me:
Very simple and nothing I didn’t already know but coming from him was like confirmation that there is no other way. Success comes with persistence and hard work.
1. Be persistent, never give up.
2. Get the Hollywood creative directory and query agents and managers who have an asterisk by their names because those are the people open to accepting new clients.
3. Enter contests that are notable and have a good reputation to get exposure.
4. Be patient. If you stick with it, one day your time will come.
5. And always keep writing. Once you break in or get someone’s attention, they always ask, “What else do you have?”.
Oh, he was also not very fond of script consultants that charge hundreds of dollars to review your work especially if they don't have a well-established name in the industry. He also said to be careful of screenplay contests that charge an entrance fee of over $50 and only go with reputable ones since anyone can start a contest these days. That's actually a rule I incorporated for myself years ago. If a contest entry fee is over $40, I probably won't enter. Heck, the Nicholls contest is only like $20 for early bird entry and it's the most prestigious one out of them all since it's run by the Academy of Motion Pictures! Why would I want to pay $50 plus dollars on an unknown one that has no connections or prestige. However, to each his own and whatever works for you.
While waiting for the talk to start, I met some of the other people. One guy was looking for writers in the local area to work on a TV show. He has a pilot that has gotten some interest and his partner’s daughter is getting married to a studio executive in LA. So, I guess it is sort of who you know. Anyhoo, the guy’s going to pitch it to his daughter who will pitch it to her husband who will pitch it to his colleagues who hopefully will order the pilot and a few episodes. To make a long story short, he has the pilot and 12 episodes written but they need more writers to make up the writing staff incase it’s a go. He asked if I would be interested. Since I was there early…far too early…I read the Show Bible. It’s a comedy…kind of tongue-in-cheek. Don’t know if that’s my style. It was a cute idea but I didn’t get that “I gotta be a part of this feeling…if anything happens.” He went on to say something to the fact that the writers will be paid something like $4,000 weekly for the first season..blah blah blah. Money doesn’t move me especially if it’s "potential" money and not a check with my name in the “Pay to the order of” line. I was like, here’s my card, call me if something is a go but I told him that I am not overly enthusiastic about quitting my well paying job to jump on a television series that’s just starting who may get cancelled after 2 episodes. Not that I was being pessimistic but realistic. TV shows get cancelled before anyone every sees them. I know someone that happened to and I like my job especially because Friday is pay day and I know there’s a check coming with my name on it. So, since I’m not eager to just up and quit my stable job that pays well even if it’s not $4,000 a week…I would consider writing episodes as a freelancer. He understood. So we’ll see what and if anything happens. I’ll just go with my gut.
PSS (Okay this is getting too long so I’ll wrap it up)
I spoke by phone with the Producer of Focus Entertainment last week that I had met earlier that week. He requested to see both my drama, “Sisterhood of Secrets” and the adult comedy, “Dogged” that’s just come from under option and I’m not renewing with the same producer. He was okay about it and very professional since it’s my prerogative anyway. I sent the new interested party synopses for both scripts. He called me last night and offered to meet with me on Friday when I will bring hard copies of both scripts. Thank goodness I just bought more ink on Saturday!
Also, I meet with the entertainment attorney tonight.