Guidelines for a New Year

I’ve spent the last year learning hard lessons and getting my creative house in order. 2021 was a slow and painful but hopeful process of taking steps to honor myself and my work, to exit negative situations, and to learn to recognize hurtful patterns before I get stuck in them again. To that end, I’ve made a list of guidelines for myself. In trying my best to follow them, glimmers have begun to show up in my career and I hope to be able to share good things here in 2022. Meanwhile, I share my guidelines in case they are helpful to you:

DOs:

Work on projects that bring you joy, expand your tool kit, or allow you to explore subjects that interest you. Life is too short

Be willing to walk away. No project is worth compromised health no matter how much you’ve invested in it

Listen when loved ones tell you a person or situation is doing you more harm than good

Speak up when someone pushes choices you know don’t serve the project. Do not let fear of their anger decide for you or the project

Clarify what is being asked of you and what you are asking for. Don’t assume credits, pay, partnership position, or acknowledgements of your work will be allotted fairly after the fact

Stand for your writing. Avoid “co-writes” with non writers. If they contribute ideas or edits a (shared) “story by” or producer credit is fine.

Get it in writing: Keep detailed project notes. Follow up after meetings. Register your creative output with the WGA/US Copyright Office

Hire a good lawyer

DON’Ts:

Do not cut your rate or work for someone who won’t pay what you’re worth (except for old friends or projects that bring you joy)

Do not put up with abuse or work with narcissists. “Genius” is not worth the pain

Here’s to new paths and new joy in 2022.

About heidihornbacher

A graduate of UCLA’s screenwriting program, Heidi has written numerous features, treatments, and TV pilots for various independent producers. She’s judged for the Slamdance Film Festival screenwriting contest and co-founded the Slamdance Script Clinic. She and her husband founded PageCraft Writing in 2008 offering script coaching and writing retreats in LA and Italy. Her clients have gone on to find representation, win contests, and become working writers. Heidi has written, directed, and produced numerous commercials, music videos, and electronic press kits for various artists. She’s currently making a documentary film about British artist Paul Whitehead.
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