I read a piece of advice many years ago, so long that I forget the source, that has stuck with me ever since. That advice was this:
There is a door that opens into Hollywood everyday. It is your job to get yourself in front of the door when it opens.
The article then went into length describing how you get yourself in front of one of those doors with a combination of talent, hard work, timing, more hard work and a little bit of luck. It is the definition of that last piece, luck, that trips a lot of people up. I think many people think that luck has to be something like a man walking down the street that just barely avoided being crushed by a falling piano. They think of it as an immediately recognizable thing that you recognize right away. Even worse is that they then go chasing that elusive "lucky moment". In reality your "luck" is much more subtle.
To put it into perspective, let me tell you about all of the luck Dustin and I have had to get to this point in our careers. And there is no denying that we have had a lot of luck, we just didn't recognize it until many months, if not years later.
Our luck, in retrospect, began 4 years ago when I completely tore up my left shoulder in a training accident. I completely tore my shoulder from stem to stern in such a way that can never be fixed (a SLAP lesion for the more medically inclined). Not going to lie, it sucked but I forged ahead as an officer for three more years. I just had to take it to grit through our yearly ground fighting qualifications (that's not the real term, but it's what they always ended up being) and I could keep going. But then the agency decided that the term "yearly" must mean we have to do it every three months. I went to my Chief and told him that this was really bad news. My Doctor told me one more accident and I would be down one shoulder for the rest of my life. I felt like I was playing Russian Roulette with my shoulder. Was there something we could do? My Chief told me that we could fill out a waiver, but no one was sure how to do it. So I would have to participate or they would just take my gun. Wondering how this fits into Hollywood luck? Well, they failed to take everything into account with my life situation and they were shocked (I don't know why) when I said "Why don't you just keep the gun" and turned in my notice two days later.
That was last December. A few weeks after I left I found a directing class in LA that was going to be taught at the end of January. Had I still been at the government I would have never been able to get the time off to go. I called Dustin and told him that we were going to be going to that class. He reminded me of a small problem. We were supposed to have a film in the Taos Shorts Festival that weekend. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I would rather go to the class, but I knew we needed to be at the festival. So I put the application away. Then, two days later, the Festival changed their mind about length, and suddenly our film was too long and therefor out. I had us signed up for the class that night.
Flash forward to the weekend of the class. Dustin and I had been working with The Writer's Store for over a year and decided that we should stop and introduce ourselves while we were in town. It was a great meeting, but two things started in motion out of it. First, we had the hard sell put on us to enter the Industry Insider Contest. They told us we had to do it since Randall Wallace was such a huge influence on us. Secondly, it was the first time we heard about The Screenwriter's World Conference.
Based off that, we went home and completed our fifteen page entry into The Industry Insider Contest. Then, many months later, we found out we were finalists. From that experience we were able to produce our third script that has received a "Recommend" from The Writer's Store coverage service, and the script that we used as our "Show Pony" at last weeks' pitch sessions. the pitch sessions at the conference we wouldn't have been at if we hadn't been personally told about it last January.
So let's recap:
- Broken shoulder
- leads to exit out of my Federal Job.
- Allows me the time to go to LA for Director's Class.
- Director's Class conflicts with film festival.
- Film Festival suddenly changes their mind on time formats. We're out of festival and can now go to LA
- That leads to us hearing about conference and being pushed over the edge to enter contest.
- Make top ten in contest.
- Produces a third highly regarded script that we trot around conference that we wouldn't have been at if not for previous LA trip.
- Conference we wouldn't have been at produces five script requests and interest from five production houses and four managers.