Death or Blessings

By Leroy James King · April 1, 2010

The watering hole of work is still running dry. It makes me think that somehow I’ve fucked up, that I have a completely embarrassing reputation that I’m not privy to, that God has decided to rewrite the book of Job all over my forehead for all the world to see – and I don’t even have a mirror to take note of the new forehead scripture. The worst miracle ever!

Never in my life have I LUSTED to write a commercial treatment. I long to go into fine detail about how it’s important to set a tone that is accessible to all viewers, yet is specific to a particular demographic without beating them over the head, while engaging viewers on a really visceral level that doesn’t feel overwrought with convention, but still has a recognizable quality to it. Yes, this is ad agency speak. Generalizations. I want to generalize for you SO HARD. Pretty please.

The only real upside to “right now” is a script doctoring gig that I’ve booked. Here’s the thing with doctoring gigs: get paid UP FRONT. For the love of Christ, don’t delve into a doctoring gig without at least half of your rate paid immediately. Otherwise you’re basically guaranteed the following response upon your revision:
“This isn’t what I wanted, but I really appreciate all the time you put into this. Maybe next time it’ll work out. Oh, I can’t pay you for this since it isn’t what I wanted…”
This is what I call the Strategic Bitch Slap. At the end of the day, they got a free revision out of you, and you’re essentially screwed out of receiving any credit for the script, which they’ll definitely use because you’re not an idiot – you DID in fact give them what they wanted. How incredibly strategic, right? And a bitch slap.
So heed my advice, dear Farm Animals. Being the hypocrite I am (writers are designated social hypocrites by trade, by the way – embrace it), I of course didn’t demand half of my rate up front, nor did I specify what my rate was to begin with. That’s the other advice – if you’re meeting with a director and you’re pouring through scripts and making notes and a billion other things, make it a point to bring up the rate BEFORE your meeting starts. This does 2 things:
1) If he/she thinks your rate is absurd, you can leave without having done a painful conceptual meeting with them (and they are truly painful, especially when their only recurring note is “more tension…the sexual kind”)
2) You remind them that, yes, you are providing them with a service, not an epic favor
The other lovely detail about this gig is that I don’t have a Final Draft document to edit in, so I really am doing a true rewrite of the script, rather than a revision. Now, I’ll admit, I actually DID tell the person that I needed the Final Draft document, to which they said, “Oh yeeeeaaahhhh, suuuuurrrre, I can get that to you. No sweat!”
To punctuate this ditty, let me just say that in spite of the arid work climate, I still love what I do. At the end of the day, that’s what gets me through this, and dear piglets and chicklets, that’s what will get your through this too. Take pride in your misery – because you had the balls to stand on a precipice of sheer RISK and say, “Goddammit, I’m a WRITER!”
Misery is the precursor to one of two things: Death or Blessings. Death is inevitable, so I wouldn’t get too upset about that. But blessings…shit man, those are the reminders of our vitality; that this whirlwind of ebbs and flows always shift us back into the flow. We adapt, and we reap the benefits.
In short – idleness and indulging your frustrations will only kill you more quickly. When the ebb hits, create a flow, whether you’re getting paid or not.