From 2010 through 2014, I participated as one of the founding members of a writers group that met every other Tuesday at restaurants around Hollywood to trade script notes and war stories. There were eight of us in total, all with representation, though none had yet experienced what they would’ve defined as their “big break.” We had genre screenwriters (including yours truly), drama and sitcom scribes, and even a comedic playwright, of different genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds. Everyone brought a distinct skill set and perspective to the table.
That was nothing if not an interesting time to be a screenwriter in Hollywood. The disastrous 2007–08 Writers Guild strike left the once-robust spec marketplace decimated, bringing about permanent systemic changes to the industry: Studios were no longer—with very rare exception—buying and developing original materials any longer, opting instead to aggressively franchise their vast libraries of branded IPs (hence the endless Star Wars and superhero movies retarding our culture at present), and since those jobs only go to screenwriting’s top one percent, the lion’s share of screenwriters out there could neither find work nor make sales.
But in 2010, the full impact of that paradigm shift hadn’t yet made itself undeniably evident, so everyone—screenwriters, agents, managers—were still operating, however futilely, under the old model, in which spec scripts were churned out by writers under the developmental “guidance” (read: marching orders) of their management, then shopped by agents lured out of hiding only by the dangling carrot of their 10% cut. “Spec’ing” is a demoralizing practice in the best of times, and those were hardly the best of times.
But our writers group was a tremendous source of comfort and counsel to me during that period. It was a regular opportunity to get out of the house for a night out, to socialize with folks who understood the particular anxieties, frustrations, and exhilarations of attempting to make it as a screenwriter in Hollywood. It made the town a far less lonely place. All of us, not just me, looked forward to those Tuesday evenings. But more on why they eventually reached their end shortly.