In Hollywood, rewards come big. Popular stars can make $20 million or more a picture, plus receive a brand new Hummer for a bonus. Even the swag-bag given free at events has become so valuable, it’s now taxed. Of course, most screenwriters are much further down the food chain than the walking-billboard stars who may be able to afford the whole store but still get their clothes for free.
But for the screenwriter who is just trying to break into the business the end of a job well done rarely means a paycheck, and the perks can be a humble as buying both peanut butter and jelly in the same week. Yet rewarding oneself can be an important motivation in facing the blank page. Of course, the best reward is finishing a script. But most writers find ways to frost that cake.
“When I finish a script, I pour myself a glass of fine, dark rum and stay away from the laptop for about two weeks,” says Toronto’s Andy Wong, who has penned two feature-length scripts and 12 shorts that he’s trying to market.
Wong, who maintains a day jobs as a barista and bartender might uncork something for his compatriots, as well, who are celebrating those big-deal moments.
“There is that one moment as a writer when you feel that it’s done. You might intuitively think you’ll fix-up this or clean that, but still it is done. Woo-hoo! I spend a lot of time laughing and talking and I always have at least one glass of wine.”
Paul Pastore of Southbury Ct. does not need to wait until a film script is finished to reward himself for a constructive day.
“I have always celebrated the completion of a good day of writing with some 12-year-old Macallan’s scotch,” a drink he discovered at the Austin Film Festival, when he attended screenwriting seminars there. “When I complete the whole script, I usually break out an 18- or 25-year-old bottle . There’s nothing better.”
Sometimes it’s the screenplay itself that gets uncorked: the “unveiling” or sharing the work can be the celebration. Alex Burke, of La Jolla, CA has written nine scripts, and says that when he finishes one, he caps the moment by asking his wife to read it.
“Then I duck when the pots and pans start flying,” he muses.
Dennis Allen Higgins, who ironically lives in Celebration, FL, does not celebrate any milestone.
“It’s art. Doing it is the celebration,” Higgins says, noting that when he completes a draft he’ll put it away for a while to let the stress dissipate. “Then I move on to a new story. And new stress.”