SWS Question 7: Screenwriter Diablo Cody is with your agency and a great inspiration behind this blog because she went to college in Iowa. I love that she broke into the industry writing a spec script in Minneapolis that went on to win an Oscar. And while “Juno” was her first screenplay, by her own admission she had been writing short stories, essays, and poetry on a regular basis for 15 years. In the writers that you’ve seen breakthrough over the years is there usually a long paper trail behind their overnight success?
CHRISTOPHER LOCKHART*: Yes, I think, for the most part, writers pay their dues. (And so do sound mixers and assistant directors and costume designers and so on.) Some writers might hit it out of the park their very first try – selling the very first script they write. One of my former students, Josh Schwartz, a wunderkind before he ever wrote a script, sold the first spec he wrote and went on to become the youngest showrunner in TV history (having created hits like THE O.C, GOSSIP GIRL and CHUCK) . But, it’s probably safe to say, that most have to work out the kinks in their craft. And achieve that perfect confluence of concept and craft. Nothing drives the wannabe writer to the grave faster than impatience. I’ve met many writers over the years who have said to me in a panic, “I can’t pay my rent this week and I’m going to get kicked out if I don’t sell my script right away.” While he might end up the most successful screenwriter in Hollywood history, it seems certain he’ll be sleeping at the curb by the end of the week.
A sample of the posts you’ll find a Christopher’s blog archives is My First Time (scroll down to November 06, 2006) and written by screenwriter James V. Simpson after his first script sale. That script, Armored, got produced and was released in 2009. Simpson, who’s originally from Canada, writes, ”It is my opinion that anyone can sell a script from anywhere, but to accomplish that and build a career you need a team in L.A. that will be working every day on your behalf.”