When I used to coach my softball team there was one situation above all that would absolutely get under my skin. That would be when our team was losing by multiple runs and I had a hitter at the plate, with no one on base, and he was swinging from his heels like he was going to tie the game with one swing of the bat. Now, unless there is some obscure rule in baseball that I don't know about, I'm pretty sure that if you are down by five and hit a solo Home Run you're still losing. Instead of the Home Run, I preached the baby steps approach. Base hit after base hit after base hit. Keep inching your way towards victory. Put yourself in a position to win.
It's the same approach with trying to carve out a career in Hollywood. Dustin and I have been to multiple conferences, been on countless message boards and seen I don't know how many tweets where people are looking for the next big thing that will break their career. They have one script and they just know that they're going to sell it for a million dollars. They heard that someone won some contest and ended up selling the script for a lot of money, so they'll just enter that contest and sell their script as well. They heard that this guy did this or that gal did that. Whatever it was, they just know that id they do the same thing, they're in. They're doing exactly what those hitters swinging from their heels were doing. They're trying to hit a five run homer. They also end up meeting the same result as most of those hitters. They strike out.
As a screenwriter, or anyone trying to get into the film business, you cannot judge your forward progress by the amount of big moments you have, because those are few and far between. It's not how fast you are moving forward, it's just whether you are moving forward. Baby steps. I'll have people ask us about our win in the Industry Insider Contest and what that has brought us. They seem disappointed that it didn't land us a big time agent or film deal. We're not. Because you know what it has brought us? Cache and a whole lot of open doors from people who wouldn't have talked to us before. Baby step. We went to a pitch conference in October. We got a few script requests and a whole lot of flat out no's. We went to another conference last month and we got twice as many script requests. More importantly, the no's we did receive were incredibly polite, almost to point of being apologetic that the project didn't quite fit them, with more advice on who we could bring it to. Baby step. Two years ago we knew one person in the whole town. Last year we had cards to maybe five or six people. This year we have had dozens of meetings and our emails get returned as quickly as five minutes later (sometimes). Baby steps.
But it goes back farther than just our contest win. There was the first few contests we entered where we never even heard back from the judges. Then there was the first contest where we finally made it to the quarter finals and actually got to see our name in print. Next came the contest where we broke through to the semi-finals. That netted us our first ever call from a manager who wanted to meet with us. Then we entered the Industry Insider Contest... and didn't even make it to the next round. Then we waited for the next time the contest was offered and couldn't even come up with an idea. Then we waited for the next time... and that's the one that we won. From the first contest we entered to our win took about three years. Baby steps.
You can't always be out there looking for the bigger, better deal. You can't judge your success off of what you sold and what awards you won. Success comes in many forms. Sure, a contest win is really nice. I still remember the call when I heard "Randall Wallace chose you guys as the winners". It can also be just as gratifying when you send an email to a big time producer and he answers you back two minutes later. Baby steps. Because you can't hit a five run homer.