Monday, September 14, 2009

What to do when Josh Olsen won't read your fucking script

Hiya! I'm guessing you're pretty upset because Josh Olsen won't read your fucking script. I'm sure that leaves you wondering, hey, what should I do next? I had all my hopes hanging on Josh Olsen reading my fucking script. I mean, he's like the fucking Pablo Picasso of screenwriting!

I'd like to offer some thoughts which might be helpful:

1. Take a deep breath. I know you're angry at Josh. Make friends with your anger and look for its source. Does it really have anything to do with Josh? I suspect you're frustrated at the lack of progress you're having with your screenwriting career. So breathe for a moment, and recognize that. Now stop, and think about why you chose screenwriting in the first place. If what's coming up for you is anger, you might want to consider what screenwriting represents to you. Is it about status and recognition? About money? Maybe you feel that selling a screenplay will validate you, will somehow make you "whole." Here's the thing that you've gotta get. Getting positive feedback on a screenplay will not make you happy. Selling a screenplay will not make you happy. Sure, you'll have a brief rush of endorphins, and you'll be super psyched when you drive off the lot in that Porsche. But believe me, it'll pass. And then you'll be grasping for that next fix. And maybe it'll be easier to have someone read your next fucking script, but you'll still be grasping and craving for that same status and recognition you were when Josh wouldn't read your fucking script.

2. Take another deep breath. Now, start thinking about how your work might impact others. Take the focus off yourself for a sec. While you're busy being upset that Josh Olsen won't read your fucking script, you're not making a difference for anyone on the planet. See what I said above, about why you started screenwriting in the first place? Think about how you were first inspired to become a writer, how you felt when you first saw the films that kicked your butt. What left you in tears? What made you jump out of your seat? What made you want to go home and hug your mom? What totally lit you up?

Think about the characters you were inspired by, and the possibilities that opened up in your mind when you saw these characters in action.

Now, imagine providing that for others. Imagine what could be possible if the work you do made a real and powerful impact on others' lives. Just try to imagine it: how you could inspire someone to look at their life differently, to feel understood, to feel not alone, to feel like a human being. What if you could inspire someone to make a difference for others in the world? To be a stand against human tragedy, or to simply go home and love their family. What would that be like? If your work is consistently coming from that place, a place of compassion, when people read it, they'll be moved and inspired, and they'll want to help you get your work out into the world.

3. Take another deep breath, and let go of the idea that something's wrong. So Josh Olsen won't read your fucking script and he thinks you're a dick for asking him to. I know you're making that mean all kinds of things. Maybe you're beating yourself up, thinking that Josh's rejection means you're never going to have the career you want, the recognition you want, the Oscar nomination you want. Maybe you're making it mean that the business sucks, that everyone in the business is a jerk, that the only way to get a toehold in the business is to be a suckup, or to sell out. Get this: if you believe that, then it's true. You made it so, just by believing it. So consider for a second that there is nothing wrong. Josh's unwillingness to read your fucking script doesn't mean anything about you, your life, your talent, or your future impact on the planet as a screenwriter or as a human being.

Now, you may, in fact, suck. But that's neither here nor there at this very moment. As long as you believe that something's wrong, that you suck, that you have no hope for a future, and you'll soon be living in a truck, infested with sores, and you'll have to eat your screenplay to survive, you have no power.

That's right. When you're convinced that something's wrong, and that Josh Olsen reading your screenplay has some importance in your life, you have no power to actually do anything. If you take a class, or send your fucking script to someone else for feedback, you'll just be looking for validation that you don't, in fact, suck.

And while you're worrying about that, no one's getting the privilege of being impacted by your work.

4. Do something. I'm not here to tell you all the ways you can get your screenwriting career off the ground. But if Josh Olsen won't read your fucking script, maybe someone else will, and maybe that someone will be generous enough to remember when they were first getting started, and how no one wanted to give them the time of day. And if someone gives you feedback, take it in. If it's bad, it doesn't mean you're bad. I haven't read Josh's work from when he was, say, a teenager, but I bet it wasn't as good as A History of Violence. We all have room to improve our work.

Get more feedback. Look for where that feedback is consistent. Like Josh says, take a class. Take another class. Watch movies. Look at why they work. Get out of the house once in a while. Do some yoga, meditate, go for a run. Breathe, and be aware that you're breathing. Talk to other people whose taste is similar to yours. And people whose taste isn't. When you feel your work is good, show it to people. And be open to what they have to say. I'm sure Josh did this once or twice, before he wrote that Oscar-nominated screenplay. There are plenty of smart, talented, successful people who care enough about others that they're willing to offer some advice here and there. Or maybe they won't read your fucking script, but they'll give you some other advice. Take it, and appreciate whatever it is they're giving you.

Because if you're honestly and truly interested in making a difference for others, if you want to inspire others, and open up possibilities to them, then clearly, you want to be the best writer you can be. And that takes hard work, and it takes other people being willing to help you. So keep writing, and learning, and breathing.

Just don't ask Josh Olsen to read your fucking script. *


  1. Two amazing pieces of writing, Josh's and yours.

  2. Either way, your fucking script better be good!!! Thanks, Jon.