Lessons Learned from a Hollywood Screenwriter - Over the years we come across a variety of different people, friends, family, acquaintances, classmates and more. Some come and go and some just seem to keep circling back around.
We can learn (hopefully) from every interaction and from every single thing we do. I try to keep an
open mind and learn from these experiences and interactions that happen in our day to day life. Some are obviously more educational than others, but they all count.
Recently a few "old" high school classmates gathered to reconnect and among those classmates was one in particular that I have stayed in touch with. We were by no means great friends in high school, but we played football together and one of his best friends was also one of my best friends. I am not going to be giving names here, just out of professionalism, but this classmate actually made it very big in Hollywood. He has written dozens of movies, screenplays and television shows over his career and as we were catching up, I mentioned that my sons girlfriend is studying film and communication and my son is studying music with a business degree.
He told me that they should get together to see how he can help. I love this about most successful people, they are very giving and willing to share their expertise (lesson #1, be a giver). Now my son and his girlfriend are both seniors and will be graduating in two weeks and the college they attend is not exactly convenient for them to come to Denver to grab coffee for a couple hours and head back to class, but in this case, they made an exception.
We met my old classmate at his office, and he was more than generous with his advice to someone seeking to get into the film and music industry, so many stories and connections that he has made over his career, it was as if we were listening to an incredible storyteller (which he is), we were sitting on the edge of our seats as he shared projects, failures and successes, and a 25 year career as a writer in Hollywood.
He told us a couple stories that really resonated with anything you do in life, especially as someone that needs to sell for a living (almost all of us have to sell something, whether it is ourselves for an interview or for a first date, or for our potential clients) He mentioned early on in his career having the good fortune to meet other great writers, in fact his original goal was not to write movies and plays, but to write novels, so he read the 100 greatest novels ever written, to see what other writers, especially the greatest writers (lesson #2, follow the advice of someone you want to emulate) have done and how they craft their product.
He told us after reading his 20th novel, it clicked with him, he was understanding the style that each author had developed to become great, so as he continued to read, he started writing. What he learned first was that you need to capture your audience within the first few pages (lesson #3 - be captivating). or in a movie within the first few minutes of the film (or in our world within the first few seconds of our meeting). Early on in a movie or a novel you must present a question, an intriguing question that keeps the audience wanting more, and builds through-out to keep the audience engaged so they will stay to find the answer.
You also have to realize that you can't possibly win over everyone (Lesson #4 - know your audience) you must know your audience and be able to communicate to them (Lesson #5 - Communicate your message)
I asked him why he felt he was able to stand out from the countless millions of others that have tried to do what he had done, he said it was never about the money, it was just that he wanted more than anything else to be a writer and nothing was going to stop him from doing what he believed was his reason for being! (Lesson #6 & #7 It's not about the money, but about being passionate about what you do) He said, the funny thing is that if you do what you love, and believe in what you are doing then you will find ways to make things work out, you will be able to get through those difficult times when nothing seems to be working and the majority of others will quit. and when you get through those tough times, you are much stronger for it and the financial rewards start to come in.
I honestly could have sat and listened to his stories for days, and so could my son and his girlfriend. He told us over and over again, how blessed he was and how thankful he was for all of the opportunity he was given (Lesson #8 - be thankful for what you have) He truly loves what he does and his work and life blend together as one (Lesson #9 - Love what you are doing, Do What you love) He feels that he has not worked a day in 25 years and would not have life any other way.
At the end of our meeting he offered both my son and his girlfriend an opportunity to come to work for him after they graduate. They will definitely take him up on his offer. I honestly was not expecting them to both get job offers, but the film industry is always looking for talent and music is a big part of the industry, and why not start out working for someone that has so much to give! (Lesson #10 - Make Someones Day Today) - (sorry that is my personal motto)