Saturday, December 4, 2010

We're Out of Excuses by Justin W. Hedges

Bio:  Justin W. Hedges is a husband, father, grandfather, blogger, and screenwriter from Queen Creek, Arizona with every excuse in the book for not being successful:  no time to write, doesn’t live in LA, knew absolutely no one in the film community when he got started, wasn’t a 20-something up-and-comer, etc.  Despite these circumstances, Justin has two options under his belt, a large network of film community contacts, and even more on the horizon in 2011.
“If you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.” – Yiddish Proverb
I am the king of Excuses, Procrastination, and Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda.  Let’s call them the Three Kingdoms of Failure.
That pretty much sums up the first thirty-six years of my life or so.  I’d done just fine up until that point (good job, good wife, good kids, etc.) in a general sense, but accomplished very little in regards to the one career dream that had stuck with me for all that time:  to write.  Hopefully, I can help you break out of the same funk that I was in and realize that WE’RE OUT OF EXCUSES.
I can nip two of the Three Kingdoms in the bud in this one paragraph.  Procrastination?  Don’t.  It’s as simple as that.  Don’t.  Today’s working writers have one thing in common:  they make time to write everyday.  Make the time.  Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda?  Don’t.  Focusing on what you should, could, or would have done in the past serves no purpose.  Time machines don’t exist.  Deciding now, today, what you’re going to do now and in the future to achieve your writing dreams, THAT is going to accomplish something.
Excuses?  We all have them, in abundance.  Here are just a few of mine.
I’m about to turn thirty-nine years old, and “Hollywood is a young person’s game,” or so they say.  DEBUNKED:  I’ve optioned two screenplays in the past year, with excellent prospects for continued success in 2011.  Sam Rami tapped a seventy-year-old unproduced screenwriter to write his uber-successful Spider Man franchise.
Husband, father, grandfather, day job, when am I supposed to find time to write?  DEBUNKED:  I accomplish all the above AND I write every day, whether it’s getting up at 3 a.m. (as I do most days) or even if it’s just fifteen minutes in my car before work.  It’s something.  If your dream is a true passion, you’ll find the time.
I don’t know where to start.  DEBUNKED:  You start with Page One and move forward from there.  Not sure how to do that?  There are literally hundreds of books on writing everything from freelance magazine articles to novels to TV, film, and stage plays.  THEN start at Page One.
Finally, I didn’t know anyone in the filmmaking business, Hollywood, or live in LA.  DEBUNKED:  say it with me… ‘Social Media.’  The optioning of my two screenplays were opportunities created using technology and social media, without stepping one foot in LA.
I use Twitter and Facebook to network online, and what I’ve found is that the filmmaking community online is fun, friendly, and most importantly HELPFUL.
Joining the online social network at the Independent Feature Project – Phoenix led me to Inktip, a site that facilitates connections between screenwriters and producers anywhere in the world.  This led me to a Tom Malloy of Trickcandle Productions, who optioned my first screenplay, The Brickhouse.
Two key notes on this first success.  One, I have yet to meet Tom Malloy face-to-face.  Social media, not living in LA, led me to this connection.  All documents we exchanged, from the various versions of the script we went through right down to the option agreement, was via email and online fax.
The Takeaway from this:  technology and social media leveled the playing field.  I could have lived in Australia or Timbuktu, and it wouldn’t have mattered, not with the way it happened and how we made it work.
I don’t want it to sound too easy, though.  Like any success, you’re going to have to work at it.  My second option is the TRUE lesson in social media for writing success.  This is how it happened (condensed version):
I joined the Business of Show Institute’s Mentoring Program.  This is an awesome and powerful program for inexperienced screenwriters to learn the business side of screenwriting, by the way.  I asked Marvin Acuna, BOSI’s top dog, who I should be networking with on Twitter as far as other program members.  He suggested three names, including Karen Quah.
Following Karen and her blog, Modern Day Storyteller, led me to-
Julie Keck and Jessica King, the awesome screenwriting duo behind Tilt, a small budget thriller they were writing for Phil Holbrook to direct (and THAT connection was also made through social media BTW).  I donated to their Tilt crowd-funding campaign and earned myself a fake bio in Tilt the Town, an awesome little fake Brainerd, MN Google map with fake bios and locations from the movie AND from those backers who donated at the writer level, including myself and-
Tilt the Town ‘mayor’ Paul Barrett, a film producer from the east coast.  Let’s connect the dots here:  Marvin Acuna in LA to Karen Quah in I-Don’t-Know-Where to Julie and Jessica in Chicago, IL to Phil Holbrook in Brainerd, MN to me in Queen Creek, AZ and finally Paul Barrett in North Carolina.  All connected via social media.
Paul Barrett and I took the fun aspect of Tilt the Town and ran with it, igniting a ‘war’ between us over GARDEN GNOMES of all things and whether they should be ‘allowed’ in town.  This little fake war of words led to a friendship and Paul requesting to read some of my work.  He loved the script I sent, Brutal Planet, and decided he wanted to option it and market it to his contacts in the film community who produce these kinds of high-budget movies.
The Takeaway:  uh, duh, Social Media not only levels the playing field, it shrinks the entire damn planet down to the size of your computer screen.  The connections that led to my second option LITERALLY span the continental US from coast to coast, and I didn’t have to leave the house to do it.
I’ve had other social media successes, too, like building relationships with Joke and Biagio, the producing team behind VH1’s Scream Queens and the coming Dying To Do Letterman documentary, and filmmaker Angelo Bell, writer/director/producer of Resurrection of Serious Rogers.  These relationships have led to mutually expressed desires to work together and active pursuits of projects to accomplish that.
Bottom line, we’re out of excuses.  Too old, no time, don’t know how, don’t live in the right place, they’re ALL gone.  No more excuses, people.  It’s the 21st century and the sky is the limit.


  1. This is an excellent account of how powerful social media can be. Go get 'em!

  2. We love Justin. He's done such a fantastic job using social media to the fullest. Thanks for helping him Julie and Jessica!

  3. Thing I love about JW is that he understands how to write to get sold! You go boi!

  4. I think your point that you don't have to be in LA to be a screenwriter anymore, the diffusion of focus due to social media does allow everyone and anyone to network. You're right, there are no excuses anymore. Excellent debunking of the 'have to be in LA' myth!

  5. Thanks, everyone, I appreciate the kind words!

  6. Pure inspiration to a 47 year-old who has no more excuses. Direct and right to-the-point, I shall reread this one often! Thanks, Justin!