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Pre-Launch Planning.

No, not lunch. Launch. Sure, "lunch" may be one of the writer's essential tools-of-the-trade in this town, but this column is about launching our writing careers in 2001. Don't worry; I'm sure some future column will cover the ancient art of the Hollywood power lunch (which dates back to biblical times if you count Charlton Heston and Cecil B. DeMille's meals together just before they made The Ten Commandments.)

But I digress.

Any good launch starts with a lot of Pre-Flight Planning. Just ask NASA. So what kind of pre-launch planning do we need for 2001? The year of the writer. That is, the year we go from "writer, paying their dues" to "writer, who is paid" or from "writer (with a day job)" to "writer (period.)"

My Pre-Flight prep actually began in 2000. Well, and part of 1999. I did say; any good launch starts with a lot of planning. Look, NASA will confirm this. This 99-2000 Pre-flight prep, involved lots of writing (and re-writing) of course but it also involved my first serious attempts at networking. I joined writer's organizations. I networked with other writer's like myself (the "with day job" type) and even got one writer (the "period" type) to read and evaluate my work. I solicited (more like, annoyed) some agencies. This led to pitching my work and even submitting it to various production companies. And what did I gain from all this?

Nothing. Everything.

You see, during that time, I thought my rocket ship had blasted off. I thought I was cruising at flight speed. But really, I was in Pre-Pre-Flight prep. I had gained nothing because I was still where I had started in 1999 - "writer (with day job.)" BUT, I had gained everything because the more I networked - the more I networked. If it had not been for that, I would have never received an e-mail about a certain seminar. And that's where the PRE-Flight planning began.

In December of 2000 I attended the "Launching The Future: 2001!" weekend presented by the Flash Forward Institute (www.flashforwardinstitute.com). Heidi Wall, who co-founded the Flash Forward Institute with Suzanne Lyons, led the program. Wall is also CEO of Dream City Films and has produced 17 movies and mini-series. Lyons is also a producer and partner in Snowfall Films. Flash Forward centers on a month-long industry workshop "designed to produce breakthrough career results for people at all levels of the entertainment industry." Lyons adds: "With a lot of concentration on marketing. We set up the tools on how you can get out there and market yourself." I have not attended that workshop (although, I may, in February - I'll keep you posted). Instead, I started with the weekend workshop. Usually people start with the month long program. I of course, started backwards - which so far, has worked out well.

I went to the "Launching The Future: 2001!" weekend with a bit of skepticism and uneasiness. My fear was a 48-hour pep talk complete with cheerleaders shouting:
"Go-o-o-o writers! Go-o-o-o industry people!" Well my fears were unjustified. But worse - I had homework to complete before the workshop. I had to evaluate my past year, day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month. This was a lot of work but very enlightening.

Okay, this is the part where I realize; I've been in Pre-Pre Flight mode. I hadn't launched at all. No one had said: "light this candle!" I hadn't even reached: "find a match!" status. I was really just at the "rub two sticks together, boy scout!" level.

That would all change. After that weekend, I went from a guy, who thought he was organized - but was really a mess, to a guy, who thought he was organized - and was. John Vourlis, a writer and Flash Forward alumni realized this: "Organization is not enough. You need a plan, a strategy for which you can use your organizational skills." I had planned my one-year campaign for 2001: Launching My Career As A Writer. This campaign involves four Results for myself; 1) Sell my kids show pilot, 2) Get work from my feature script, 3) Get an agent and 4) complete two more TV spec samples for my portfolio. It's important to note here that my overall objective is Launching the career, which may achieve other results. Those results will become clear as the year plays out.

That's a lot to attempt in one year. Through the weekend workshop I partnered with other participants in exercises that help formulate goals for the coming year. This also provides great networking opportunities. Wall points out: "Setting a goal creates a framework. Creates a game for you to play. But in spite of that, our industry is a relationship business. It's completely about making friends. Getting in relationships with people who you want to work with and who like you and then doing business together out of that relationship." You meet a lot of people over the weekend and they meet you. Together, everyone breaks down their goals into achievable steps and milestones. For example, all I have to do in January is this; 1) Finish half of my screenplay rewrite, 2) write the first two acts of my TV series spec sample, 3) Finish half of my kids show budget, and 4) send 4 queries to agencies. That can be done. No problem. February will bring new goals and new steps moving ever forward to those four end Results and a career launch.

That's what I am doing. How about you? Are you ready for step one?

STEP 1: Plan your year, your goals. Break down your goals into achievable steps (by month and/or by week) and include in your plan, relationship-building activities.



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