“You have to be a studio”
I was doing a free rewrite a few years ago on the lot at Paramount when a producer friend spotted me on the bungalow’s porch and plopped down in the chair beside me. She asked me what I was working on beside this freebie.
“That can’t happen,” she said at once.
“What do you mean?”
“You not being ready when someone asks that question. You have to have a slate.”
“Look around,” my friend said, indicating the soundstages and production offices that extended in every direction. “Every studio has a slate. Fox, Disney, Warners…they’ve all got a lineup of pictures they’re making and more in the pipeline. Every producer on this lot has a slate, and every producer and actor and director on every other lot has a slate. I have a slate. You have to have one too.”
My friend was a serious player. She had had hits at two different studios and was in production on another picture at a third.
“Think about who we’re competing against in this town. It’s not just other writers. We’re competing with studios. We have to have the same professional attitude they have—about finances, about contingencies, about material.
“You’re a writer. At all times you have to have at least three finished scripts and half a dozen in the works. In a meeting, when a producer says, ‘Steve, what else have you got?’ you have to be able to rattle off four, five, six projects—and be able to pitch ’em all with full professionalism.”
My friend was late for a meeting; she had to hurry off. But what she said as she left is still burned into my brain.
“Just because we’re ‘creative’ doesn’t mean we have permission to act like idiots. The reason writers are condescended to in this town and treated like children is because they act like children. Those days are over. We are entrepreneurs. We are in business. We’re competing against multi-billion-dollar enterprises, and we have to be just as professional as they are.”