Actor, comedian, and writer Steve Martin had a suggestion when someone asked him how to break into show business. He said, “Be so good that they can’t ignore you.” Ultimately, your talent is the only thing completely under your control.
When people talk about breaking into show business, there’s usually the hope that someone else will do it for them. They hope that a talent scout will “discover” them on the streets. They hope that if they only had the right agent, that agent will open the right doors for them. Far too many people hope and far fewer people actually do something to increase the odds that they’ll actually succeed.
The problem with hope and relying on others is that it’s totally out of your control. Someone like Pamela Anderson got lucky when she was spotted at a football game and given a modeling contract to advertise beer. Most of us probably won’t be as lucky so we have to rely on something that Pamela Anderson doesn’t have, which is our own talent.
Although you can be the best screenwriter in the world, nobody will know who you are if they never see any of your screenplays. So as futile as it may sound, keep writing. Not only should you write as often as possible, but you must also keep learning as much as possible. The more you learn, the more you’ll improve until eventually someone will find one of your screenplays and think, “What else does this guy have that might be worth reading?”
I’ve met many aspiring screenwriters who incessantly focus on their one screenplay. While it may be a good screenplay, it’s only a single script. Like buying a lottery ticket, if all you’ve ever written is a single script, your chances of success diminishes rapidly.
On the other hand, suppose that person wrote ten scripts. Now he’s just improved his chances of success by ten, assuming all scripts are worth reading in the first place. Further more, each script that you write teaches you something more about screenwriting, and each script becomes a stepping stone getting you closer to success.
Although Sylvester Stallone says he wrote the script for “Rocky” in three days, he also wrote seven other screenplays before he wrote “Rocky.” He didn’t just get lucky with “Rocky.” He made his own luck.
Chances are good that his previous seven screenplays were awful, but he kept learning and kept trying. There’s no reason you can’t do that as well. Keep learning from each script that you write. Keep polishing your scripts to make them the best they can possibly be. And keep writing and pumping out more scripts.
Having someone open doors for you may be helpful, but it’s still up to you to walk through that door and close the sale. If all you’ve ever done is write one script, chances are good you’ll be able to walk through that one door, but you won’t be able to close a sale. If you’ve written ten scripts, chances are good you’ll be able to walk through that same door with a much greater skill set and confidence, and you’ll probably close the sale.
All you can really control is your own talent, so nurture it while promoting yourself at the same time. It may not be easy or fun, but it’s necessary. You don’t want to be the best screenwriter never discovered. You want to be discovered as soon as possible, but that can only happen if you write as much as possible. There is no shortcut. You either write or you don’t.