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Friday, May 16, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – Hollywood (P.J. McNeill) - post author P. J. McNeill



“I don’t write Hollywood films.”

I hear struggling writers say this all the time. And when they say it, they usually emphasize the word “Hollywood” with a healthy amount of bitterness; as if they’re above it. And I’m here to say, on behalf of someone who doesn’t write Hollywood (or mainstream, or whatever you want to call it) films: Stop it. Please. You’re making us look bad. You’re making it so I can’t say “I don’t write Hollywood films”, without making it look like I’m complaining that I haven’t “made it” because Hollywood doesn’t “get me”.

But I’m not complaining. Hollywood doesn‘t get me. And I’m fine with that. I’m not bitter. And you shouldn’t be either if Hollywood doesn’t get you. You should take pride in it, because odds are you’re doing something different and unique. And you’re now tasked with the slightly more difficult job of finding someone who sees your particular vision. Becoming a screenwriter is already hard enough, but being someone who doesn’t write “Hollywood” films is a bit trickier, in my humble opinion. If you write the next blockbuster and get it out there, odds are a lot more heads will turn in your direction. But when you write something that’s good but requires taking a chance, you’re left with finding that 1-in-100 person who can help you.

Remember the dark comedic farce I optioned? (The one I was told COULDN’T be optioned?) When it was all said and done, I did the math. I sent it to 3,000+ companies, agents, producers, etc. I had 63 requests to read it. Of those 63, only 35 got back to me to reject me after reading it. I was told things like “I like it, but I can’t make this.” and “I can’t see the market for this.” But in the end, all it took was one person willing to take a chance. It’s frustrating, but if you’re writing something that’s a little “out there”, you’ll need patience; even if it’s really good.

Now we get to the reason I’m writing this entry:



Don’t make “I don’t write Hollywood films” an excuse. It’s an explanation, not an excuse. If something isn’t working in your script, it’s not because you don’t write Hollywood films, it’s because it doesn’t work. I applaud you for soldiering on with your artistic vision, but don’t do it at the expense of quality. If multiple people are telling you something doesn’t work, don’t hide behind the fact that you don’t write “Hollywood films”. But on the flip-side, if you have something you’re damn proud of that a lot of people get behind you on (but doesn’t fit the traditional Hollywood mold), good for you; keep at it! Find that 1-in-100 to make it. And when people ask you why it hasn’t sold, proudly tell them: “It’s different. I don’t write Hollywood films, so it might take a bit longer to find someone. But I’m confident it will, because people really like it.”

And please stop with the bitterness. We all know Hollywood is turning into an assembly line of adaptations, reboots, sequels, prequels and franchises. When you rail against Hollywood, you’re not saying anything new, so just don’t say it. Use that energy to write. Because you know that if Harvey Weinstein called you up tomorrow and asked you to write Peeps: The Movie, you’d be all over that. I know I would.

About the writer: A talented writer and 10 year veteran of the industry, “P.J. McNeill” has seen it all (and he’s ready to kiss and tell.) Got a question, a comment or just general bile /praise you want to spew?  Email PJ at New to P.J. readership?  Click here for more articles!

2 Comments so far


James Breckridge
May 16th, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I thank you for this article.
“Endeavor to persevere”


May 16th, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Thank you

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