You Can’t Always Be Afraid of “No.” Sometimes, You Have To Go After It (Screenwriting)

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If you are a fan of the television series Nashville, then you may know who these beautiful women are. You certainly know the one on the right.  She is Connie Britton, who stars on the show as “Rayna Jaymes,” but is also the co-executive producer. The woman on the left is Callie Khouri, who is the creator and executive producer.  Her very first successful screenplay, you may have heard of once or twice.  It was Thelma and Louise.

So, aside from being fans of theirs, what do these ladies mean to me, and what do they have to do with my title?  I am an aspiring screenwriter.  I have completed a few movie screenplays, but during my constant research, I’ve also discovered that it is good idea to do what’s called spec scripts of shows currently on the air.  The original ideas are always great, but in writing my own “episode” of a show still on the air allows me to demonstrate my writing ability and also will let potential agents and managers know how well I can execute an idea within the parameters of a show that is still running.  Spec scripts are good to have in my portfolio.

I chose to do Nashville as my very first television script this past September.  As of right now, Nashville is a few months away from beginning its fourth season.  I wrote what I envisioned as a “season premiere” for the third season and I finished about two weeks before the first episode of the season aired.  I recently watched the finale of Season 3, so I’m going to do the same thing again for my own “Season 4 premiere.”

Writing the script was so much fun.  I seriously get giddy just talking to people about it.  The looks on their faces, especially the ones who hate to write, are priceless.  But I had a blast doing it.  For one, it’s as if I get to sort of “take over” the show for a while and take it in the direction I’d like it to go, even though I mostly try and keep it in line with what has been taking place.  Two, this is a little easier to do than an original script because a lot is already in place.  The characters and the story lines are already there.  It’s mostly just a matter of picking things back up.  I want to say I finished the script I did last year in a little less than two weeks.

I sent the script to various contests and received mixed feedback from them.  In some cases, it seemed they were on opposite ends of the spectrum.  One judge told me that it was a “mediocre script for a mediocre show.”  For him to say “mediocre show” told me that he was NOT a fan of “Nashville,” so he wouldn’t have been pleased with anything I sent him.  Then there was another contest in which I was one of the four finalists aside from the top three who won prizes.  I believe there were 172 scripts they chose from in that contest.  So it was difficult to REALLY know just what to think on whether I did an amazing job, a mediocre job, or the script was just plain garbage.

I have already started my spec script for my own “Season 4 premiere,” and I’m anxious to get that finished as well.

Here is where Callie and Connie come in.  I’ve written to them both to ask if they would be willing to look at my scripts to give me their honest opinions.  Callie is the screenwriter (among many other titles), so it would make sense that I would attempt to contact her.  Connie, however, is an actress, so as far as I know, she may not really deal with the ins and outs of a screenplay in the same manner as Callie would.  I’m not really sure.

It’s hard to tell, because Connie has been working as an actress for many years, so Lord only knows how many scripts she has seen by now.  She has done many movies and other television shows also.  The earliest show most people remember her from is Spin City, which debuted in 1996 and she was on there for four seasons as “Nikki Faber.” Some years later, she starred in Friday Night Lights as “Tami Taylor” from 2006-2011. (Sadly, I didn’t watch either of these shows when they came out)

As one of the stars of Nashville and its co-executive producer, I would assume that Connie does actually deal with the scripts of the show to some degree (aside from just reading them for herself; I think she has a good amount of input as to what goes in them overall) so that’s the reason I decided to reach out to her as well, because her opinion would certainly be extremely valuable, especially since she has read so many scripts in her career.  That’s the perspective that will help me a great deal.  Along with the good scripts she has read, there’s likely an insane number of BAD ones she’s read as well, so she knows something good (and bad) when she sees it.

That’s not to say that Callie wouldn’t know herself, because of course she would. I would get the screenwriter’s perspective from her, which I would say is what I should be after more so than anything else, at least for right now.  I could honestly learn a LOT from Callie, as I’ve watched every episode of the three season Nashville has been on the air and I recently began watching and taking notes on how scenes are done, such as how long each scene lasts, which characters say what at whichever times, and so on.

However, I regret to say that I have yet to see Thelma and Louise.  That will certainly change VERY soon.

Now for the ever-so-epic spoiler alert: Neither one has responded to me yet.

I’m being very optimistic to say “yet,” because quite frankly, I don’t believe they ever will.  However, I don’t expect them to, nor do I blame them.  Here’s why.

I have to respect who they are.  Now a person’s mind could go anywhere upon hearing that, but it’s the honest truth.  People have likely approached them both numerous times with show ideas and scripts.  Like I’m sure most people would do, I would assume that the first few times, they each went on and took a chance on reading these scripts only to want to claw their eyes out and regret ever looking at some of them.  And these are likely from people they know.

To them right now, I am a nobody.  I AM A NOBODY.  Not as a person in general, but in the world of screenwriting.  At this very moment, I have to accept that.  Now if I had a little magic lamp and was able to get any wish I wanted, without hesitation, I would wish to work as a writer on Nashville.  I am VERY serious about that.  Even more than winning the lottery.  No joke.  I would not only love to meet, work with and learn from Callie Khouri, but I would love to meet Connie Britton in person.  I have said that to my wife more times than she’s probably cared to hear it, but she gets her revenge whenever we watch Criminal Minds (she is a big Shemar Moore fan.  Gag me with a spoon.)

Anyway, as far as respecting who they are; these two women are not just sitting around with nothing better to do.  They are not exactly washed-up has-beens who have been out of work for ten years.  Their show is still on the air.  If Callie is not on vacation, she is likely already putting together next season’s shows.  I believe Connie is working on movies during the summer.  Then, on top of all that, Connie is a single mother.  So it shouldn’t be a shock to me or anyone else that they don’t take a chance on me.  With their workload and not knowing very much about me, I wouldn’t take a chance on me, either.

Then, I have to look at what I’m asking.  I am asking them to take an hour or so out of their busy schedules to read a script solely to give me their opinions on it.  This isn’t a script that’s going to become a new show or movie or even a script coming from an agent or a manager.  No, this is one that will likely go nowhere and I’m simply asking them be in a good enough mood to want to do this and for who?  Just little old me.  A fan, yes, but a fan of MANY.  I’m sure they get all kinds of requests from their fans.  What’s so special about this one?

Don’t misunderstand my tone.  I am not looking for sympathy or trying to paint these two in a bad light in ANY way.  These are simply the facts I have to live with for now.  I simply CANNOT take this personally.  Their lack of a response may have nothing to do with me at all.  I can’t take it as a personal shot against me in some way.

So, you may be wondering, if I knew they would not respond, why in the world would I waste my time writing to them?

It’s very simple, and finally, we get to my title.  With becoming a screenwriter, I will hear a lot more “nos” than I will hear “yes.”  Unless I catch lightning in a bottle, the “nos” WILL happen.  There’s no getting around that.

The “nos” can sting pretty good many times, or even flat-out HURT.  But this is what I am trying to do, and I simply cannot try and avoid being told no, or even avoid sending something to someone in fear of not receiving a response.  I really have to prepare myself for those.  Again, for them not to respond may have nothing to do with me at all, so I absolutely cannot take it personally.  For some people, I get why that’s hard to accomplish, but it is the truth.  Sometimes, it’s just easier and more convenient for them to not respond.  They certainly won’t be the only two I will encounter who will do this.

Not if I’m working as hard as I possibly can.

This is honestly how it is with many things in life.  The “nos” will come more often than “yes,” so if we want to get to that “yes,” then we have to not only NOT avoid the potential “nos,” but we have to buckle down and dive head first into them.  In many cases, those are the only ways we will get to hear “YES.”

I haven’t the slightest bit of ill will toward either Callie or Connie, because I truly do respect who they are and I will always be big fans of theirs. However, my responsibility now is to keep writing and grinding it out.  After all, if lightning does strike and I even have the remote chance of meeting either of these two or both, the absolutely LAST thing I would want is to not have ample work prepared for them to review.  Yeah, I could be sitting in front of Connie, she smiles at me once and I forget my name, but at least I’ll have a good script to hide behind, at least until my name comes back to me.

After all, if all this somehow reaches them, I certainly would rather they at least felt a little wrong for not giving me a chance rather than being glad that they didn’t.  Until then, I have to open my mind AND my arms, reach out and bring in the “nos.” I have to embrace them.  If I want ANY chance of meeting these ladies or getting anywhere else in the screenwriting world, then I’m simply going to have to.  I really have no other choice.

Thanks for reading.

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