As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Derek Rydall, a screenwriter, script consultant and author of two books: I Could've Written a Better Movie Than That!, a screenwriting book and guide on how to master script analysis (and even make a living at it), and There's No Business Like Soul Business: a Spiritual Path to Enlightened Screenwriting, Filmmaking, and Performing Arts. He is also the founder of ScriptwriterCentral.com and EnlightendedEntertainer.com.
As a professional screenwriter, he has sold or been hired to develop over 20 feature film screenplays and a dozen hours of TV (with studios such as Fox, Universal, Sony, MPCA, UA, Disney, Miramax, and indy producers). As an actor, Derek has starred in several films and TV shows.
HBAD: So, tell us, how did you get your start?
DR: I started out as an actor, starred in a handful of films, TV, etc. then moved into script consulting, which turned into script doctoring, and led to a screenwriting career. The pain of watching script deals fall apart over and over again led me to start writing books, so I would at least have something to show for my time after all was said and done!
HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?
DR: There are a lot of them, but one of the most difficult challenges is writing something -- a script -- which isn't a finished product in itself. If it doesn't become a movie, you can't self-publish it and experience a sense of completion. It's like being an architect and having nothing but blueprints to show for it. Even when you sell, option, or get hired to write scripts -- which I have done many times -- if they're not produced it's a painful thing to go through. Luckily I've had some stuff produced, but there are a lot of scripts sitting on my shelf. It can also be a lonely line of work, unless you have a writing partner, because you spend a lot of time in your cave. I think Starbucks has saved a lot of writers from going insane, because it gives them an excuse to get out of their t-shirt and underwear at get out in public.
HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to become a screenwriter?
DR: Read lots of scripts, watch lots of movies, read screenwriting books, take screenwriting classes, get together with other aspiring writers and analyze what you're reading and watching -- then write, rewrite, and write some more. A writer writes. If all you want to do is talk about movies, become a critic! Also, save your money and build up a nest egg so that you can work less and write more. I would also encourage you to get lots of feedback on your scripts -- from friends, family, colleagues, and professional consultants. Working with consultants is what took my writing to a level where it finally started selling. I still use them. I figure if the most successful professionals in almost every field turn to consultants to give them feedback and help them succeed, then there must be something to it!