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Guest Post: Patience is a Virtue — and a Screenwriter’s Best Friend

Guest Post: Patience is a Virtue -- and a Screenwriter's Best Friend

It’s the spring of 2006. A book arrives by messenger, sent to me by my agent: Addicted by Zane, about “a woman’s sexual obsession.”

Compelling title. Provocative cover. I open to a page at random and start reading, just for fun.

Sexy doesn’t begin to cover it. Juicy. Graphic. Wait, am I
blushing?

Zane, as I will quickly discover, is a popular writer of
erotica who got her start in the 1990s, long before Fifty Shades of Grey found
its way into women’s hearts and other parts.

My agent gives me the details: “Lionsgate is looking for a
screenwriter to adapt the book.”

“How wide a net are they casting?” I ask.

“It’s an open writing assignment — they’ve gone out wide.”

So that means I’ll be competing against dozens of other
writers, at least. Landing an assignment is an amazing feat, but a rare and
difficult one, as well. It’s why I tend to generate my own original material. You work your butt off to develop the best possible pitch on
a project that the studio owns, and if they don’t pick you, well, sorry, sweetheart,
that’s Hollywood.

With the dearth of employed female screenwriters (according
to the Celluoid Ceiling, only 10% of the top 250 films of 2013 were written by
women), the odds aren’t in my favor. 

But this prospect really grabs me — an African American
female author, and a dramatic thriller about a relatable, successful career
woman, wife, and mother who struggles with a sex addiction.

While I have a background in sketch comedy, I have
gravitated toward writing thrillers. My reps have told me that not many
women write thrillers, so I’m well-positioned within this niche. Ah, branding! So I tell my agent: “Get me in the room. I WANT this.”

He submits an original script I had previously sold — Mind Games, a Cape Fear-style thriller with a femme twist: a disturbed and vengeful
young woman stalks her unwitting female shrink and her family. On the strength of that writing sample, I land my pitch
meeting.

So now I — “thriller girl” — walk into that room and present in 30 passionate minutes how I would turn this 325-page book into a taut,
gripping, sexy screenplay. This is followed by 20 minutes of lively questions from
the studio execs and from Zane, who isn’t in the room, but whose presence is
strongly felt and uniquely experienced via a speakerphone in the center of the
conference-room table.

Lionsgate brings me back in — twice.  

I get the job! 

For the next eighteen months, I work on and off, through
multiple drafts. We get a director and a final script that the studio loves.
We have a budget and a fall shooting schedule planned! And then —

The Writers’ Strike of 2007 hits.

We are delayed, but not derailed. We pick up the project again post-strike in the spring of
2008, and the studio remains enthusiastic.

But other logistical issues ultimately get in the way, and
the movie is set aside. I have to move past this crushing disappointment and on to
other writing work.

Fast forward to the fall of 2011. I am at the Lionsgate offices
on a separate matter, having recently sold an original pilot to Lifetime with
Lionsgate TV.

I am spotted in the lobby by then-studio exec Charisse
Nesbit — with whom I had stayed in touch over the last three years and who had
continued to champion this female-driven project from within. She approaches me and says the three sweetest words I could
have heard: “We’re reviving Addicted.”

The film goes into production in Atlanta the following year.

In this business, it can take years for something good to
suddenly happen overnight.

Christina Welsh is a screenwriter and a former journalist. She is best known for writing If Only, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Tom Wilkinson. The film Addicted, which she co-wrote, is an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Zane. It opens wide October 10.

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