In a recent podcast by Network ISA, John Zaozirny talks about his early experiences in the film industry–which began with writing and traveled to producing–and selling scripts.
He has accumulated some successes, getting scripts sold. The term “blacklist” keeps coming up in conversation, which I had to distinguish from the 1950s Hollywood Blacklist (communism accusations that led to complete alienation of filmmakers and celebrities) and what it means today, which is the top scripts that have been unmade in Hollywood.
One thing Zaozirny said about writing is “You have to be smart about it,” which has been an echoing piece of advice I have heard as a film student myself–particularly going into screenwriting. You have to be smart about the characters, the stories and even the ages of the characters; you must be realistic in your boundaries and what you can get done.
He also introduces what he calls “Circle of Trust,” taking one of his client’s scripts and sending it to six of his other clients to get their notes. And if more than a couple see an issue with one aspect, that information is relayed to the principal writer of the script.
I find that being able to have trustworthy writers to give feedback is a great thing, but rare. Even within my film classes, during workshops, the feedback received from most seem not invested, and in no way actually helpful to better myself as a writer; you get those few that “tells it like it is,” which is what I want, but just a few.
Zaozirny says that ruthlessness is necessary. Some readers see what the writer cannot and some can offer actual feedback that will better the script. As a writer, you must be able to accept those criticisms and try to do better. But as a reader, you should be just as willing to criticize for betterment.