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  • Writer's pictureDavid Hal Chester


The first time I heard this phrase, I couldn't understand what it meant. Colleen, my friend and former roommate, said it one day when we were struggling to get musician gigs in Tokyo. It took me years to appreciate that I could invest huge amounts of time and effort into getting jobs that didn't pay that well and were not the kind of jobs I wanted instead of just focusing on what I wanted from the start.

I have been steadily pursuing screenwriting work for the last twenty years (after putting in twenty very respectable years as a pianist). In the last four years, things started to turn around slightly in my favor. I have now written seven commissioned features; four have been produced, two are in post-production. These are not WGA jobs; they are low-budget features that look glossy, produced by companies that know their markets well. All of the scripts have been based on a logline, pitch paragraph or outline -- none of them mine. I'm fine with that, and I have enjoyed the challenge of doing these projects in a genre (thriller) that I never thought I could do.

But it has started to occur to me that if I put as much time and energy into my own original projects and shop them aggressively, I might in fact be able to sell an original feature or series. I might be able to elevate myself financially, join the WGA and actually be in a place where I am considered by managers and agents for jobs that pay more than just a living wage. And every time I think of doing that, I come back to that phrase: "Big money comes easy; small money comes hard." Think about it. You can put in three months or more writing someone else's project and get a chunk of change and a writing credit. Or you can take that same time and put it into your own project and have it ready for when the day comes. Yes, the day will come -- but you must be prepared. I have lived with doubt and fear for most of my adult life. I have questioned my talent, my ability, my intelligence, my value as a human being. I have fought hard with myself and allowed myself to believe that I could never have my shot at the brass ring. Well, I don't believe that anymore. I may fight with the other voice in my head that says I don't deserve it, but, yes, I do. As I'm sure you do, too.

When that day comes, the big money will come easily. A dream, perhaps? No, I think it can be a reality. But one's focus must be in the right place. Yes, we must survive; yes, some of us must take jobs we don't want to do. But I say: make that effort, carve out that hour of the day where you work on what's important to you. Make it happen.

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