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03/05/2002 - BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PITCH FOR
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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PITCH FOR

Dear Friends,

Every working writer has pitched or written for projects they don't exactly love. It's a fact of life - as an inexperienced writer, it's nearly impossible to pitch for the shows you really want to write for - and to the companies you respect.

One friend of mine was writing soft porn a couple of years ago for, I believe it was $900 for a 15-page script. In my development exec days, I was directed to polish my fair share of awful scripts, including one about rats taking over New York City.

Yes, we do have to take projects we don't love - especially if they pay the rent. I don't know who said it first, but I heard NYPD producer David Chase say "A writer's first duty is not to starve." So I have lots of latitude in this department.

At the same time, you have to watch yourself. Don't let the money or the potential credit push you too far outside your boundaries. I've seen too many writers regret putting something out in the world that they'd rather take back. Or blindly do a rewrite according to someone else's vision, only to hate the finished project.

I'm not saying you shouldn't collaborate. Hell, the producer owns the material, and the producer is paying you to do a job. But part of doing that job is also being a pro, and having a strong enough vision that you can keep things on track. I know I've hit this theme again and again, but it's the simple truth - if you don't know the material better than anyone, then you're not doing your job as a writer.

I know as well as anyone how difficult it is to get a writing career started. But now that I've taken a step or two forward, you'll have to trust me when I say that you have to maintain your standards, and work as if you're already established. That means working on projects that you believe in, and protecting your material to the best of your ability by showing up with the most cohesive and compelling vision for the project - then fighting for it to get to the screen.

Don't starve, but don't write things you'll later dread looking back upon.

Not starving,

Grady

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