Writing a feature-length movie script is a major achievement. Getting that script made into an actual film, goddamn hard. Getting that script made into an actual film with A-listers cast in lead roles, hahahaha. But screenwriter Karen Croner is living, actual proof that yes, it is possible. Her new film, Admission, hits theaters tomorrow, and it stars A-lister Tina Fey as a Princeton admissions officer who may have rediscovered her long-lost son when she visits his alternative school, run by also A-lister Paul Rudd. Here, Croner, who previously wrote the Meryl Streep weeper, One True Thing, shares her seven essential pieces of advice for, as she puts it, achieving the impossible.
1. Everything in this business is impossible. Each time you set out to make a film, it is impossible. So, as long as it’s all impossible, THINK BIG. Go for your heart’s desire. After writing serious drama for a long time, I turned to my husband and blurted out, “I want to write a comedy for Tina Fey.” He chuckled. Now, two years later the movie is hitting the theaters. Since everything is impossible, do the impossible. Reach high in terms of your dream actors and ideas. Who is your favorite director on the planet that you want to direct your movie? Go for that person.
2. Never underestimate the importance of a kick-ass producer. My producer on Admission, Kerry Kohansky-Roberts is fearless, impatient, audacious and supportive. She does not wait. She takes charge. She gets it done. (and sorry, but she can’t accept unsolicited scripts) Find a producer action hero or heroine. They are out there. And essential.
3. Never underestimate the importance of an inspired agent. My WME agent, (who would kill me if I mentioned his name) brilliantly married elements from William Morris and Endeavor as they were becoming WME to package this movie.
4. Eliminate naysayers from your life. We are all passengers on a leaky lifeboat going down. That is the human condition. Who needs naysayers on your lifeboat? You need the people who will laugh with you along the way and support you, not the ones who will say I told you so. Or worse, push you overboard…And for that time when you become your own naysayer, here is an old writer’s trick: Before you start your script, write yourself a letter about why this script is a brilliant idea, how it will be profoundly moving, funny, suspenseful, dramatic, and will make a movie that absolutely must be seen. Then put the letter in an envelope and seal it. So when the moment comes, and it will, in the midst of writing when you think to yourself, this is the worst goddamn idea anyone ever had, I am a fool for even attempting this, you go open that envelope and it will remind you why you wanted to do this in the first place. It sounds silly. But it works. I promise.
5. Everything will fall apart. Many times. This is normal. Business as usual. This is not about you…When Tina Fey read my first draft and agreed to do the movie on her next hiatus, 3 months away, it was a dream come true. I actually bought first class plane tickets to Paris to celebrate. But then the director decided to direct another very personal movie of his instead. He told me not to worry. He was absolutely confident that A YEAR FROM THEN, on Tina’s next hiatus, she would still want to do our movie. For the next year I busted my ass writing new scripts while reading frequently about Tina signing on to fabulous project after fabulous project. Amazingly the confident director was absolutely right about Tina. Impossibly, a year later, Tina still did want to do our little movie on her hiatus. This time I celebrated by going out to dinner at a very cheap French restaurant down the street.
6. Be willing to let go. A director has to make the project his or her own. That is a fact. If you are not willing to let go and celebrate the end result, whatever the hell it is, no matter how far it may depart from what you originally set out to do, then you absolutely must direct what you write. Even if it means doing it on your Iphone.
7. Sitting is the new smoking. (according to Huffpo) You must spend hours and hours in that chair writing to get your script right. Every single day. But you also have to get out of that chair and get the hell up from your desk! Give back to the world. Travel. Talk to everyone. Live stories. Let stories find you. The more you do out of that chair the more you will have to write about. And you will live longer!