Not long ago in a post I titled ENTER THE GAUNTLET, I wrote about what it takes to get me – the grizzled veteran word merchant – to peruse another’s work. As expected, I’ve since garnered an uptick in requests from blog readers to eyeball their stuff. Some queries more creative than others. But none close to meeting the threshold that would make me risk the liability that comes with perusing unsolicited material.

And guess what? I’m just another damned writer. I’m about the least likely to help an unknown script-baby break down the doors of opportunity. The true and oh-so-real gauntlet to getting through the gilded door is manned by agents, managers, producers, executives, and all their militant minions.

Then I had lunch with a dear old friend who, for the sake of her own sweet superstitions, asked to remain anonymous. So for now, let’s call her Missy Irish. I recently sat across from my red-headed pal at a west side breakfast joint in utter, slack-jawed awe as she unwound for me her latest adventure. With her permission, I’m passing it on.

I’ve known Missy Irish since she worked as a producer’s more-than-able assistant. Between reading scripts and managing her boss’ day, she’d begun honing her own screenwriting skills. Missy eventually left her showbiz job for a public relations gig with famous sports franchise and has since moved on to jobs in advertising as a much sought-after copywriter.

Bully for her.

And then she recently became inspired by (aka obsessed with) a particular TV series. It was a big hit half-hour entering its third season.

“It made me want to write again,” Missy gushed. “I’ve seen every episode like five times, I love the writing and it would be a dream to write for them.”

Thus began Missy’s mission. While she contemplated her first move, she found herself picking up lunch at Culver City’s Tender Greens. While paying at the counter she noticed the restaurant was putting together a delivery order to the Hit Show’s writing room. She briefly considered grabbing a pen and scribbling something pithy and memorable she could sign and slip in with the order. But she thought the better of it, instead mentioning her karmic moment in an introductory note she penned to one of the Hit Show’s writer/producers. She targeted him instead of the creator/showrunner because she’d read in an interview that he was, like her, a dedicated baseball fan.

Now most wannabes would’ve sat back, checked their mailbox and voicemail at every half hour, and wallowed in the non-rejection rejection. But my Missy had a different plan of attack. She works in advertising and understands that moving people to action usually requires nothing less than a campaign of sorts. So her next project was to mock up an AdWeek front page, complete with a photo-shopped pic of the famed Hollywood sign with a bi-plane flying the name of one of the show’s production executives.

The pic’s message was simple: “HELL WOOD U READ MY SCRIPTS?” Above it was a fake AdWeek headline: “L.A. COPYWRITER SOUGHT FOR QUESTIONING IN HOLLYWOOD SIGN STUNT.” Missy went the extra mile to fake an entire article, highlighting her faux crime along with her actual credentials.

Would that be enough? Stop now? Hardly. Missy saw there was going to be a Hit Show panel at the Television Academy. So she attended, hoping to at last encounter with the creator/show runner. Unfortunately, the Ms. Show Runner was a no show. Undeterred, Missy approached one of the writer-producers, taking the opportunity to gush about her affection-slash-obsession with the Hit Show.

“Oh my God,” said writer-producer in a moment of sudden recognition. “You’re the Tender Greens girl.”

And bingo. A connection was made. Missy’s face and sparkling personality was front and center, pounding a punctuation mark on whatever impressions she’d only been able to lick on an envelope and post a stamp on. But did that get her a gig? Did it even get her read? Hell bloody no! It did, though, garner her a tip. Better than sending along a sample script, he encouraged her to put something on film, even if was just a two-minute clip.

So guess what Missy did? Yeah. You bet she did. After selecting comic bits from her spec pilot about a famed sports franchise front office, Missy dug into her pocket for some cash, called in every friend and favor she could manage, including a camera, some lights, cast… all she was missing was a suitable location. Who was going to loan Missy an office suite for an entire Saturday?

Because she’d only just switched to a creative position at another ad agency, she couldn’t exactly ask her new boss for permission to use the business locale to help her get a job writing for TV. Yet she did still possess the security code to the building where, only days earlier, she had just given notice at her former job. Dare she?

Indeed.

For an entire Saturday she moved in with her crew and equipment. They lit it, they shot it, they left without a single trace of trespassing.

In no time at all Missy had her edited clip ready to strike to a DVD and a clickable link to whomever at the Hit Show might want to view it.

This is the part where I expect you’re waiting to read that Ms. Show Runner personally phoned Missy and offered a staff job on her show. But no such luck. Or not yet, at least. This story is too fresh. And campaigns sometimes take time to cement.

Missy continues to work her advertising accounts while plotting her next big move.

She’s not giving up. If anything, she’s more excited than ever over her writing future and wants to keep the traction moving under her feet. Which is damned important considering the part of the story which I conveniently left out.

You see Missy is back on her feet after three years of fighting a side effect to a medication that literally laid her out, exhausted her savings, and left her unable to walk more than a few steps at a time.

My guess is if Missy Irish can beat that, she can sure as hell beat Hollywood or any other dragon she chooses to slay. And that, my friends, is what it takes.

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Doug Richardson
Doug Richardson
Author and screenwriter. Books: THE LUCKY DEY THRILLERS: BLOOD MONEY, 99 PERCENT KILL, AND REAPER, THE SAFETY EXPERT, AND THE SMOKING GUN. Movies: HOSTAGE, BAD BOYS, DIE HARD 2.
  • mohamed

    This is brilliant. That’s what it takes. That’s the mindset one needs to maintain: The idea that you will fail doesn’t even exist in the universe. Next : an ad with a link to the video and pilot script. You never know! Good luck.

    • Doug Richardson

      Agreed, Mohamed. Thanks for reading.

  • RB

    So I guess that means you won’t read my script. 🙂

    • Doug Richardson

      Only if you ply me with liquor and cook me Italian first.

  • Lisa Kothari

    Love it – love hearing her unique, persistent approach. There are no excuses – you’re completely right – find a way – better yet – make a way.

    • Doug Richardson

      Make your own rules, Lisa. Then break ’em.

  • Kittysneverwear

    ahh, my long comment disappeared.
    was just thanking you for your excellent points about the danger of reading unsolicited work and the fact that you, as a writer, aren’t in best position for opening doors- not to say that you are not doing a huge service to young (&old!) writers with your work here.
    I catch all the on-line requests for my author boss and bar-none, the top request is “please read my new script..” I endlessly (& graciously, i hope) explain that legally he shouldn’t and that also, as a fellow writer, he is off writer-ing, so he has very little time to read…it goes over like that well-referenced lead balloon.

    as for the redhead, bless her tender green heart.
    thanks for another great read, DR!
    Kitty

    • Doug Richardson

      You’re welcome Kitty. And now I shall go off sleeper-ing.

      • Doug Richardson

        Clive. I’ll be sure to pass your scholar’s knowledge onto my obviously less-than-able attorney. And I’m sure he’ll pass it along to the rest of the entertainment lawyer community because clearly they’ve been giving the wrong advice for years.

        But here’s one legal fact. Nearly every movie that makes the screen – big or small – is sued by some twit who thinks he or she was ripped off by the studio, production company or writer. Though 99 plus percent are without merit, there is still a cost to defend against frivolous suits. These costs are incurred by the studio and/or distributor, having been legally required to indemnify the writer. If said writer was ever caught reading or commenting on unsolicited material from someone who turned out to be a plaintiff? Well. I think the point makes itself.

        Thanks for the comment.

        • clive

          Cheers Doug
          Len Deighton wrote something called- james bond my long and eventfull search for his father.

          A brilliant read, a lot of it does concern a court case similar to the one you describe.In this case the twit won.

          After i read that i wondered about the die hard franchise and downloaded Thorp’s nothing lasts forever.Again as with bond the changes were interesting- wife instead of daughter etc.

          If you wrote any bloggs about this stuff (bond, reacher mclean etc) i’m sure would be very interesting.

          • clive

            Thinking about it perhaps you better keep the info in your reply under your hat. I mean if most of the writers out there knew, and knew 100% that no one was ever going to read their stuff because of the reasons you outline (the best explanation i’ve ever read by the way) then the only obvious answer would be -erik- and don’t tell him, or one of the many screenwriting competitions. Your reply was also the best screenwriting competition ad copy i’ve ever read, but then i don’t get out much.

        • paul

          Doug,

          Do pro writers need insurance? When someone sues on a film, does the studio protect the writer or how does that work? Just setting aside the unsolicited material aside, but in general, how does a writer protect himself once their script sells? Movies rip off ideas from movies and tv all the time…even a Friends episode ripped off a story line from Seinfeld. and alot of films seem to rip off old films or foreign films.

          • Doug Richardson

            The writer is not the deep pocket. So in case of suit, the studio is the target. I’m not an attorney so I can’t say that all pictures indemnify writers against liability. But that’s been my experience.

          • paul

            Thank God. Writers can’t afford that type of fight. Well, you’ve been around the biz a long time, so you certainly would know.

    • clive

      Look i think you’ll find this thing about authors not reading other peoples stuff is an urban myth. There was a documentary about jk rowling and they put a bit in about book signing where a lawyer snatched any notes away that people queueing for a signature might pass her- and since then every jumped up twerp who’s ever got a letter printed in the local rag won’t read other peoples bits and bobs. It’s just a snob thing, and has no legal status.It’s very much akin to, don’t clear your drive of snow because if anybody slips you’ll be legally liable.
      Quite a good blogg otherwise and you can see where it’s going, first the photoshop, then the film calling card, the producer will keep uping the ante and the ask untill she’s made a full episode just to see how far this can be pushed- next thing this show airs about this deperate screenwriter who will do anything to get read…..
      Just a thought, probably no connection, that girl who fainted and was caught by Pres OB, that wasn’t Missy with a script in her hand was it?

  • Jenna Avery

    Missy rocks! What a great story of determination and creativity. Campaigns are the key for sure. Thanks, Doug, for the inspiration!

    • Doug Richardson

      I will thank Missy for you.

  • Phyllis K Twombly

    Missy sounds amazing. I wish her success. And when I succeed I’ve already found my first intern. (Relax, Doug, it’s not you.) 😉

    The beginning tends to be further back than one might think. Missy already has success on several levels. The WOW stories are what everyone’s looking for. That’s why we read this blog. You’re a WOW story, Doug. Thanks for sharing.

    • Doug Richardson

      If I’m a WOW then Missy is a BANG-ZOOM! (I said that because she’s reading this right now.)

  • wonder

    Beautifully tenacious. Go Missy Irish!

    • Doug Richardson

      The two of you should meet. Thanks Wonder.

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