As many of you know, Bob Saenz is a good friend of mine, a sometimes writing partner, and one heck of a good screenwriter. He has over a dozen writing credits on IMDb, including Extracurricular Activities (based on his spec Orphans) which is still one of my all-time favorite scripts.

He recently published a book about screenwriting. Here’s why you should check it out (just as soon as you finish streaming Extracurricular Activities on Amazon Prime, of course)!

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That’s Not How It Works is a no-nonsense guide to the craft and business of screenwriting. That’s literally the subtitle of his book, and it’s spot on. Bob doesn’t mince words to try to paint over things with a glossy veneer. He tells you the unvarnished truth, often with the conversational tone of a friend talking to you over a cup of coffee.

During and since film school, I’ve read a whole lot of screenwriting books. This is easily one of the best (and not just because I pop up in a handful of anecdotes!). It’s insightful and practical, and comes from someone who’s actually walked the walk in this industry. He’s had his writing produced, and seen his name on screen preceded by the words “Written by.”

Best of all, he dispenses with a lot of the nonexistent “rules” and systems that other books try to convince you are real, and tackles both the creative and business side of things. It’s a great all-around primer for anyone looking for insight on screenwriting and working in Hollywood.

I asked Bob for a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his new book:

Why did you write this book, and why now?
I’m online in screenwriting rooms and Twitter and watch as the same questions and concerns are voiced. And watch as people quote book after book and I see all the convoluted and misleading information given. Not that it’s intentionally wrong, it just leaves the impression that screenwriting is easy if you just do it this way. We both know that’s as far from the truth as anything. Plus, I’ve been speaking and teaching at writers conferences around the country for the last few years and everyone has a book to sell… except me. So, my wife said, “Write one.” I did, but while I was writing it I realized I had a chance to be brutally honest about what screenwriting is and what it takes to get there, based on my experience. To say, “It’s NOT easy.”
What makes it different from other screenwriting books out there?
I think I just answered that, but…. I had yet to see one this complete that was based on real life experience with producers, in production meetings, with directors… in the trenches. I made a ton of mistakes getting to where I am today (which is still nowhere near where I’d like to be still), but the last 10 years have been amazing and my learning curve has been steep. I get to share it. I can honestly say I don’t there’s another screenwriting book like mine out there.
What are you hoping to accomplish by publishing this book?
I had so much help in the infancy on my career from pros who didn’t have to help me. It’s called giving back. I want to see everyone succeed.
What about the process of writing the book surprised you?
How much fun it was. How much it just flowed out. How every time I thought I was done, I thought of something else to write about. 378 pages worth. It was a joy to write.
What’s next? Is another book in your future?
Back to scripts. I just finished (today) a writing assignment for a production company and have a LOT of irons in fires out there for the new year. Plus, two films in post that come out in 2020. It’s WAY too early to think about another book… but, never say never.
That’s Not The Way It Works is now available at Amazon, Apple Books, and other retailers. If you’re interested in the craft and/or business of screenwriting, this book in particular is worth the read.

 

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