Views from the Middle with Josh Parkinson

Part nine in a series where I lazily ask the same five questions of professionals in the fields of comics, film, music, and more in order to get an idea of what success looks like (or doesn’t look like) in creative industries.

Josh Parkinson is a screenwriter and all-around amazing dude living in Los Angeles.  His screenplay Free Country made the Black List (of best unproduced screenplays) in 2010 and led to jobs at Warner Brothers, Paramount, Mandate and Media Rights Capital.  He most recently wrote on the third season of HBO’s Eastbound & Down.  I will be forever grateful to Josh for his kindess and for turning me on to Korean BBQ.

At what point did you consider yourself a success?

Depends on what you mean by success.  If you mean paying off 90% of my debt and not feeling guilty about eating out more than once a week, then I’d say maybe two years ago.

If you mean being rich and famous and showered with gimme-work, you’re talking to the wrong guy.

How long did it take you to get there?

See above.  I know a few dudes I’d call established but for the most part it’s a freelance hustle which means never really feeling like you’re “there.”  It’s more like lots of competition in a jittery, screwy market that’s often–if not always–impossible to read.  The dudes I know who are established would probably even tell you they’re not, and they’ve been doing it over a decade.

Who do you look at in the film industry as someone you respect, that is “doing it right?”

Dave KajganichJeff NicholsCraig ZobelDavid GreenJody HillRobert Rodriguez.

What’s the biggest surprise for how you expected life to be at your level vs. how it actually is?

There’s not nearly as many hookers as I expected.  Just kiddin.

I don’t know really.  I wrote fiction for years before screenplays and that’ll breed in you a pretty good habit of never forming expectations of any kind, especially around recognition or compensation for your work.  I guess the fact that there’s an industry in America that does compensate appropriately (or at all) for creative work is still the biggest life surprise for me before and after my change in focus.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to break in to screenwriting?

This’ll sound like a broken record to people who know me but my biggest piece of advice is always to have something ready.  You can’t control when an opportunity is gonna come up but you sure as shit can control having a piece of product ready when one does.

Josh has a minimal (non-existent) internet presence, but you can keep up with his work via imdb.

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