Straight Talk from Film Connection mentor Ron Osborn
Film Connection mentor, producer and writer Ron Osborn, has a career that spans three decades. He’s written for Mork & Mindy, Moonlighting, the 90s cult-classic Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man and the films, Radioland Murders and Meet Joe Black, starring Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt. We recently caught up with Ron to see what he had to say about “knowing when you’ve made it” and to get see what advice he had for aspiring filmmakers and writers for the screen. It ended up being a long, a most interesting interview. Here are a few segments. Read more in this issue of our newsletter.
We started off asking about Ron’s experiences working on Moonlighting, the 80s hit TV show that made Bruce Willis a star. Ron humorously calls it “the most dysfunctionally run show in the history of the cathode ray tube.” Nevertheless, Ron seems thankful for his experience on the rollercoaster of a show since making it to season three was a triumph of sorts, approbation from the often fickle television industry that told him yes he was officially “in the biz.” Prior to that, Ron had written for Mork & Mindy, Too Close for Comfort, and Night Court. Long story short, it took him a full six years to be comfortable with considering himself “a pro.”
So what does Ron have to say to today’s newcomers who come laden with smartphones, social media savvy, and the mentality that everything, including their careers, will happen with a click? Two things: One—No one wants to read your script and Two—Take time to think and imagine.
Ron goes onto explain what he means in greater detail that his phrase “No one wants to read your script” is shorthand for this hard to swallow truth. “No one wants to read your script. You’ve got to make them. Just because you finished 120 pages and are proud of it, doesn’t mean that anyone other than someone who is sleeping with you has to read it. And that’s true of me. I’ve got credits, and if I don’t wow the reader in the first 10 or so pages, why should he or she keep reading?”
But what about talent? If you’ve got talent you’re destined to make it, right?
Ron sheds a little light on the subject of that ever-elusive gift we all think we’ve got:
“Talent doesn’t mean a tinker’s damn if you don’t have the discipline and perseverance to apply it. The discipline to write at every opportunity you get, and the perseverance to stick with it because 99% of what you’re hearing is ‘No.’ That’s called being in the business.”
For Ron, Einstein’s quote “Imagination is more important than knowledge” is the creed by which he writes and works. “Everything knowledge-wise can be researched. You have assistants, Wikipedia, and everything else. Storytelling comes down to imagination. So in teaching, you’re trying to teach imagination, imaginatively.”
When it comes to mentoring Film Connection students on writing screenplays Ron’s engaged, dedicated and brings his imagination and all of his professionalism to the feat.
“If there’s a problem that a student can’t solve, and I can’t solve it, I obsess over it. I’ll be thinking about it on my drive time. I might be working on a show, but I’m so anxious and determined to solve that problem in an imaginative way.”
Film Connection student and published author, Suzanne Nichols, has been working on what she calls “a very personal story” and has this to share about Ron as a mentor:
“I cannot sing Ron’s praises highly enough. I have found him to be not only a master of his trade but that rare person who can strike a balance between being direct, honest as a taskmaster, as a teacher, but also for me, deeply encouraging, making a great effort, I think, to understand where I’m coming from and, as he would put it, exhorting me to make him feel and make him see what I feel and what I see, because that’s what the script has got to do.”
Aha! No one wants to read your script, you’ve got to make them, make them feel it, make them see it, make them not be able to put it down!
So what, if anything, does a very busy pro like Ron Osborn get out of mentorship?
He says, “It keeps me sharp… That’s the reason I do it. If it didn’t, I’d quit.”
Spoken like a true pro.