“There’s two kinds of people…”
by Bill True – Writer and Dept. Chair & Head of Dramatic Writing at the Scottsdale School of Film+Theatre


By now, you’ve likely seen this article, which sent shockwaves through Hollywood a couple weeks ago.

If you haven’t read it yet, you should. But for the purpose of this post, here’s the upshot: per a quote from Julie Plec (Vampire Diaries creator) from the article, “We’re at the center of the tornado right now, and it seems like it’s whipping all around us, and I don’t think anybody really understands how to make it stop.”

Between this doomsday scenario, the struggling feature film market, and the uproar about AI in our industry, it’s understandable that someone trying to break into Hollywood might feel anxious or discouraged about their prospects.

And yet…

There’s a running joke industry veterans chuckle over when they commiserate on the state of the industry. “Eh…it’s always the worst it’s ever been.” Then they shrug…and then they get back to work.

The truth is a Hollywood career has always been the longest of shots. Case in point: I’ve heard there are fewer working TV writers than players in any major league sport. That means it’s harder to break in as a new TV writer than it is to win a spot on an NFL or MLB team!

So what does all this mean for you, Screenwriter? First, you need to remember that the public’s appetite for new stories that delight and inspire is greater than ever. And while conventional avenues to get your work out there, get recognized, and get paid may be closed off, new avenues will emerge.

Why do I know this? At the Scottsdale School of Film+Theatre, I teach a class called Career Pathways in the Media. At the start of each semester, I talk about how the one constant across the history of the media has been new technologies disrupting and supplanting older ones. Yet, when photography emerged in the mid-1800s, for example, people didn’t stop painting. They pivoted…and it birthed the Impressionist movement. It was a hard slog for those upstart Impressionists at first, but the movement eventually fared pretty well in the art world, I hear.

Okay…that’s all well and good. But how does that translate into action? I can’t speak for other writers, but I can give you a taste of what I’m doing right now.

I’m still writing spec scripts — Is it harder to sell scripts these days? Absolutely. But if you view your script solely as a commodity, you’re thinking about it wrong. Your script is more about selling you…your voice and your ability. It’s a tool to open up opportunities: meetings, relationships, fellowships, collaborations, and potential OWAs. Even with the tectonic shifts in our industry, great writing samples are still great writing samples. For my part, I plan on emerging from the writers strike with my newly minted feature spec and a new TV pilot.

I’m exploring ways to get my work out there through other media technologies — Is there a way to adapt one of your scripts to some other media format? Can it be a novel or an audio drama or a stage play? Each of these formats are less expensive to actualize, yet they bring your work to life and begin to build an audience for you. Heck, you might even be able to monetize it. For my part, I’m working on adapting one of my favorite TV pilots into an episodic audio drama. I am exploring places to sell it, but I’m also contemplating crowdfunding and subscription opportunities, as well.

I’m putting my eggs in multiple creative baskets — Why not write and produce a play? Or write and self-publish a novel? Or start a blog? Or a podcast? Andy Weir’s The Martian started as a self-published blog that got noticed by a book editor. I’m writing a stage play this summer to produce through the college I teach at next year. I also launched a new podcast earlier this year with my pal, Karl, called Get Your Story Straight. It’s been really fun, and it’s already gotten us some buzz with notable industry types. It doesn’t matter if it’s not a film or TV script. If folks see you doing cool things in other formats, they’re going to want to talk to you, and they’re going to be delighted that you have a slew of awesome spec scripts in your drawer for them to peruse.

It’s a reality in our industry that barriers for new writers to scale are higher than they’ve ever been. Opportunities are fewer, and, to paraphrase the legendary William Goldman, “no one knows anything” in Hollywood more than they’ve ever not known anything.

And yet…

To riff off the popular meme, “There’s two kinds of people…” Either you get discouraged and paralyzed (or even worse…quit), or you keep going. You keep creating, keep writing, and keep looking for new ways to get your work out there for the world to see.

Only one of these kinds of people has a shot at succeeding in our industry.

I don’t know about you, but even in the face of manifest uncertainty in our tempestuous industry, I’ll choose the second one. Every day.

Bill’s debut feature, Runaway, was hailed by critics as “Brilliant” and “Hitchcockian” as it premiered to universal accolades at top festivals, including Tribeca and Toronto. Bill also took top prize at the Austin Film Festival for his work on Runaway, which was subsequently released by eOne Films.

Since then, Bill has developed feature and television projects with The Film Collective, NBA Entertainment, Warner Horizon Television, Veritas Entertainment, Echo Lake Entertainment, eOne Television, and more. He was honored as a Bush Artists Fellowship for writing grant recipient and, most recently, was selected to participate in the acclaimed Yale Writers Workshop.

Bill has also been a featured panelist and jurist at the Austin Film Festival and the ScreenCraft Writers Summit. He’s been a featured speaker for industry organizations including the Independent Feature Project, Women in Film, the Phoenix Screenwriters Association, and the Northwest Screenwriters Guild.

Earlier this year, he launched a new podcast called Get Your Story Straight with fellow screenwriter and screenwriting professor Karl Williams. In the vein of NPR’s Car Talk, Bill and Karl chat with feature and TV writers, and help them fix vexing story problems with their works in progress.

In addition to his work in Hollywood, Bill is Faculty-in-Residence for Dramatic Writing and Department Chair at the esteemed Scottsdale School of Film+Theatre, which was recently named by Variety as one of the “Top Film Schools in North America.”

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