The odds of becoming a produced screenwriter are about the same as winning your State’s Lottery. Have you ever purchased a lottery ticket when the jackpot was really big? Your mind starts thinking about all the impossibilities as if they’re possible. There are many different avenues for a screenwriter to get involved with a studio or film project. The most traditional way is to write a full script on spec. This means you write the script first and then shop it around to agents or producers who might hire you or purchase your script for later development.
Every once in a while a success story involving an unknown screenwriter materializes. They are the stories that give you hope that the impossible CAN be achieved.
If you’re a screenwriter, you probably look for similar stories that give you that much needed inspiration. That intangible sense of vicarious accomplishment that keeps you writing rather than imploding on yourself, inspiration is what we all need to keep us on the right track.
For many years, I was an avid skier around the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I also honed my skills as a ski photographer, shooting hundreds of rolls of film. Some years I got in 40+ days of skiing. On several occasions, my buddies and I would come across a film crew on the slopes or around the lodge at various resorts. During this time in my life I started thinking about all the work that went into making movies. My buddies and I would kick around ideas of what each of us would want to do if we were to make a movie. It was then that I decided that I wanted to write. After all, I would be able to showcase my creativity and also be laying the foundation for the movies themselves. I didn’t take myself seriously until many years later, but I did always read about those success stories whenever they made the news. You’d be surprised to find out that everyday life plays a part in many chance encounters involving an unknown screenwriter.
Ever hear the one about Frank Beddor?
Frank Beddor climbed the ranks to become a professional skier (as a two-time freestyle world champion). Somewhere along the way, his career path changed. Lucky for the movie goers that like extreme comedy…
Frank Beddor tried his hand at acting for several years. He appeared as John Cusack’s skiing stunt double in “Better Off Dead” (1985). He later moved to Los Angeles and performed in several theater productions. He also studied with acting coach Stella Adler.
Somewhere down the road, Frank realized that part of being an actor is waiting for the right screenplay to turn up. Frank wasn’t the kind of person that liked waiting. He started working on his own screenplay and eventually finished an entire script that centered on skiing. He pitched his script and got the attention of Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. They signed and took on the project but the film was never made. This was Frank’s first attempt at being a produced screenwriter, but not his last.
While Frank was attending UCLA he met Ed Decter and John J Strauss, the original writers of “There’s Something About Mary.” When Frank first started producing, he inquired about the script and eventually bought it out of turnaround.
Around this time, the Farrelly Brothers had finished a script called “The Loser”. For whatever reason, Frank Beddor and the Farrelly Brothers thought it was a great idea of combining some elements of ‘The Loser with Mary’ and it was a success. As the story goes… Frank went to Sundance to pitch their script. Being a two-time freestyle world champion, he knew exactly how he was going to pitch their script. Many people liked to ski with him, including executives from various backgrounds. Frank knew which executives he wanted to ski with… Frank got on a chairlift with an executive from Fox, and when they got off, he heard the words, ‘Send me the script; I’m going to make this happen.’ That was Frank’s first and only pitch for the movie. Six months later Frank and crew were shooting in South Beach, and three months after ‘Something about Mary’ was in theaters!
Keep writing. One day your chance encounter could be your ticket to realizing your dream.
In the meantime, your winning numbers are…
– David L. Spies