SHANE BLACK was one of the industry heavyweights honored by the Burbank International Film Festival (BIFF) at its gala Awards Show and Dinner last Sunday night at the Castaways. Among his recent successes is the blockbuster Iron Man 3, which he had written, directed and produced. Early in his career, Shane had made his mark as the groundbreaking screenwriter for Lethal Weapon, a film that exhibits his signature story elements of action, thriller, noir and (black) comedy.
In his remarks to the packed BIFF audience, Shane noted that the failure rate for would-be screenwriters is daunting: 93% if not more. “But,” he noted, “If you’ve got talent, you move past the herd. The bad news,” he tells his eager audiences of budding screenwriters, “is that most of you don’t have talent.” Blunt words, but sometimes you have “to be cruel to be kind” to those who would attempt success in one of the world’s most competitive venues.
After the show, myBurbank.com caught up with Shane and asked him a follow up question.
myBurbank.com: How can a person tell as early as possible if they have what it takes to be a successful screenwriter?
SHANE: Two things. One: Sit down and do it. Write the screenplay. Not the treatment, and not the list of ideas for a screenplay. Two: Don’t do it alone. Get support. Joint a writer’s group, trade pages. That’s what I did.
So there you have it. If you have trouble getting past FADE IN, read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressman. Take his words to heart: “There’s a secret to real writing that real writers know and wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”
Joining a writers’ group that enforces accountability is one way to keep Resistance at bay as well as to give and receive support and encouragement. Isolation can be a dream killer. But so can the unwillingness to work and play well with others. As producer R.J. Johnson reminds us, “It’s not who you know, it who you know who likes you.”
A final quote from Pressman on behalf of those who have learned to overcome Resistance: “Contempt for failure is our cardinal virtue.”