The Denial of Corey Mandell Launches a Hollywood Screenwriting Career

Screenwriter Corey Mandell

Screenwriter Corey Mandell

“This script will launch your career.”

Encouraging words from Corey Mandell’s writers group. Corey thought his script was ready to go.

“It’s one of the best scripts I have ever read after teaching twenty years at UCLA.”

Validating praise from a UCLA professor, to be sure. Corey was gliding and he KNEW his script was ready to go .

Corey let the manager he was interning for read his script, almost as an afterthought, as he was leaving to pick out his black 911 Carrera from the Porsche dealership down on Rodeo Drive. The manager read it and told him, “It’s not ready to go. It’s a dirty first draft at best.” 

The manager packaged deals all day long. He knew what was selling and he knew that Corey’s script wasn’t good enough.

The manager continued,“You certainly don’t want to show that to anyone in the industry. You’ve got some strengths and weaknesses, but you don’t know what they are. This script is going to take a lot of work. I’ll help you, but I have to know that you will really work hard on it because I don’t want to waste my time.”

It was at that moment that Corey’s pats on the head stopped and he got a kick in the ass instead. Up until that point he had won awards for his plays and impressed his peers and even some of his professors, but it wasn’t until he was brought back to reality by someone actually working in the movie business, that he knew the hard work was just beginning.  He told Corey to hire three working studio readers, pay them out of his own pocket, and get their coverage. They all came back with a pass. Not as in, “Hey, nice job, you passed the test!” But as in, “There is no way in hell I would stake my reputation on this script!”

Corey put in the hard work over the next year and more and finally got the script to the point where the studio readers all gave it their stamp of approval.

The story continues in the podcast, but (spoiler alert) it doesn’t get any easier. Meg Ryan is attached at one point and it looks like the project is ready to go, but then a change of direction. Corey sells a pitch to Ridley Scott. He works on the script with Ridley in London (on Ridley’s dime of course, or sixpence) and then a change of direction. But at this point Corey has been getting his REAL education. The type of education that teaches anyone who is paying attention and willing to learn, that life and careers are never as easy or perfect as we dream, but as challenging as they need to be until we succumb to truth.

It’s what it took for Corey Mandell to become a working screenwriter in Hollywood over the last decade and a half.

What Corey can teach you in his classroom about screenwriting is about an authentic writing process that utilizes specific professional tools to help you write material that will get noticed. What he can teach you about perseverance and the ability to embrace humility in the pursuit of excellence is his real lesson.

 

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In Corey’s words…


As someone who has been fortunate enough to be writing movies for the studios since graduating from film school, I want to do whatever I can to help my students have a better chance of realizing their dream of becoming professional screenwriters. We explore the essential elements of successful premises, flexible story structure, and deeper and more realistic characterizations. But more importantly, I strive to give students a clear-headed, precise, and often brutally honest assessment of what I believe their strengths and weaknesses are as writers, as well as exercises and tools that can be employed to help develop the areas where they might be falling short. This is not a course for the faint of heart—it challenges students to take risks outside their comfort zones in order to grow as writer. – UCLA Writers Extension Program

(Listen or subscribe on iTunes or on Stitcher)


Show Notes and Links from Curious About Filmmaking Episode 005

  • Spec scripts almost never get made, but they may help you get paid
  • The discussion with Ridley Scott that made Corey feel like part of his team
  • Variety launches Corey as the new “it” writer in Hollywood. Corey gets offered 49ers sideline tickets!
  • If you can’t write a great scene, you are not ready to write a screenplay
  • Many Hollywood gatekeepers admit to only liking a handful of screenplays out of the hundreds that come across their desk every year
  • Why writing for a script reader is different that writing for a director
  • Your writing needs to be so good that someone will be willing to stake their reputation on it
  • How understanding where your blind spots are is the first step to writing a better scene
  • How getting rejected after being told he had a great script helped take Corey to the next level
  • How a producer “threatened” Corey about writing a story with an “inciting incident on page 17″
  • The importance of “engines” for television series
  • Corey breaks down the premise of the Breaking Bad pilot
  • The lesson that Peter Guber  taught Corey in film school that saved his career
  • Why the story in a script should launch at page 53, or page 9, or page 22

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