Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path – Jason Richman

A series of interviews with hard working writers – by another hard-working writer!

Jason Richman pic

by Kelly Jo Brick

Aspiring writers often wonder how the pros got where they are. The truth is, everyone’s story is different, but there are some common elements: dedication, persistence and hard work.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Jason Richman’s dedication to “just keep writing” has led him to a successful career in both film (Bad Company, Bangkok Dangerous) and television (Detroit 1-8-7, Lucky 7).

ON HOW HE FOUND HIS WAY TO FILM WRITING

I always loved movies and I was playing in a band at the time. The guys in my band took off to go back up some guy on tour, so I had time to kill and I just tried it. I decided I was going to write an idea for a film and I just wrote one.

And you know, the first one is always really easy. The first time you write a script, somehow it’s just seamless, it just kinda comes out. And I knew nothing, so I didn’t know how hard it was.

THE JOURNEY TO A WRITING CAREER

That script got me an agent and it almost got made. It was kind of an amazing roller coaster. I really didn’t know anything about the business, but the movie almost got made. And then it all, of course, fell apart.

And so I then went into the independent world for a couple years, and nearly got a film made there. It was the second thing that I wrote. It was a paying gig, that was cool. And that sort of sustained me for a little while. That whole time my agent’s sending me out, I’m taking meetings and trying to break in and get someone to say yes, which is like an impossible thing. You just hear, no, no, no, no everywhere you go for so long you embrace it. And then finally somebody said yes.

The yes was a job at Bruckheimer for a movie called, at the time, Black Sheep. It was a rewrite that I rewrote. I turned in my first draft and the movie got green-lit, which was astounding. Then I got an overall deal there and worked there.

The film turned into Bad Company, which was a Chris Rock, Anthony Hopkins movie. That was really boot camp for me because I think I went into that movie when I got hired and they told me it was green-lit and they said, “Now you’re going to get replaced.” I didn’t really understand what that meant. But there were a lot of writers that ended up coming onto that film, but it was a great experience. I learned a ton.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FROM GOING OUT WITH THAT FIRST SCRIPT TO GETTING YOUR FIRST REAL, REGULAR GIG?

Four years. Four years doesn’t seem that long looking back on it now, but it felt like a really long time. I was kind of a struggling musician for a good 8 years before that so it all seems like one creative struggling period.

The pathway doesn’t feel apparent. When you’re looking and saying how do I get to a certain place, it doesn’t feel like you could ever get there. Just somehow, you’re put in front of the right person at the right time. Luck passes your way at the right moment that you’re ready for and all of a sudden you’re there.

WHAT WAS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU GOT AS YOU WERE BREAKING IN?

Before I ever got into television, I had to take a meeting with a bunch of television agents and the thing that they told me was, “Make sure if you’re going to do a TV show that you love it.”

And that ended up being the best advice, because in my experience you end up surrendering so much of your life and your time. Time away from your family, time away from your kids and you’re so deep in it that you gotta love it. If you don’t love it, it would be really hard to do it every day. So that was the best advice I ever got. Now it helps in the selection if I’m developing pilots and stuff like that. I really consider that.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?

Be persistent, keep writing and keep going, because the breaking in thing is very strange. I thought I broke in and I really didn’t. I thought when you get an agent that you’re on the way; that you’re on the road.

But it took me four years to get hired for real on something in this town. That I think is short for a lot of people. A lot of people spend a lot more time than that. So I feel very fortunate. But I think the key is to just keep going. You can’t give up.