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07/02/2001 - THE JOYS OF WORKING FOR FREE
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THE JOYS OF WORKING FOR FREE

My Fellow Writers,

Well, I'm done. Season's over. Just finished the series I was working on and am now back in good old U.S. of A.

Of course, some work has followed me down here - as is often the case. I'm writing a treatment for a series. The company that did the series I worked on is going to take this treatment to the network in the middle of the month. If it goes, I've got myself a job. If not, I'll move on to the next one.

Of course, although I'd love to get a year's worth of groceries just by telling a good yarn down at the store, I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon, even here in the Land of a Million Producers. Perhaps my landlord will accept a series format for a buddy cop show instead of charging me the full extent of my lease.

There's a lot of free work in Hollywood - where producers and executives want you to rewrite things without paying you for them. Of course, you're usually happy to do it, because if they want you to rewrite, it means that they're somewhat interested, right? Well, perhaps. Or perhaps they just haven't figured out how to say "no" yet. Other times, they just haven't figured out how to sell it.

A veteran once told me that, if a company doesn't buy something from him right in the room, he'd much rather have them give an outright "no" than any positive response. Because when someone says "yes," but doesn't buy it, then you're up for interminable development Hell. If you're a big name, you get paid for Hell, but it's still Hell. Especially if the project isn't getting any better, but is just moving horizontally.

I've heard new writers complain about doing free work, but I've got to tell you, it's a fact of life. You have to learn to love it and use the opportunity to deliver something great, whether or not the company ever buys it. Because it all adds to your library of projects, and your hard work and high standards will eventually pay off. Every time you write a treatment for a bona fide producer or executive, you're stepping up to the plate and making yourself an opportunity to move forward in your career. Raise your standards to levels you didn't think were possible. Because you're not just competing with the others in your writing class, or even all the other rookie writers out there - you're competing with all those veterans out there. Oh, and me, too.

Speaking of that, I'd better get back to this treatment. Make yours shine!

Working freely,

Grady

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