I met writer Paul Dini in Los Angeles on Batman Day -- September 17, 2016. His list of works includes "Batman: The Animated Series," "Batman Beyond," "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm," "Gotham," and many more (IMDb). His characters and stories ignited my imagination as a kid and continue to inspire me today.
Dini attended a discussion and signing of his new graphic novel -- "Dark Night: A True Batman Story" -- at the Barnes & Noble in The Grove. I’m an aspiring screenwriter and anticipated the opportunity to meet Mr. Dini and ask him for career advice. In a dream scenario, I’d love to have his job.
During his discussion, Mr. Dini explained the story and inspiration for "Dark Night" -- a memoir and retelling of a life-changing event he experienced 23 years ago. After he finished speaking, the book signing’s overseers allowed five questions. I managed to snag one of the five.
An attendant handed me the microphone while my heart pounded in my chest as all eyes turned toward me. I cleared my throat and asked the question pressing on my mind:
“Do you have any advice for aspiring writers or anyone who wants to do what you do someday?”
I hadn’t stated my question as coherent or clear as I’d hoped. Paul Dini didn’t seem to mind.
“Finish your work. Finish whatever it is you’re working on,” said Dini. “If you’ve got something completed, get it to the people who publish it, who animate it, who are looking for things -- because -- quite frequently they are. But if you’re looking for an in for comics or animation…gage what their needs are and go one step beyond that. So if you’re looking at DC comics, I would recommend write something in comics. Get it published however you can, whether it's online or in a small publication and use that as your calling card -- because -- all publishers and studios will respond to an entity rather than a pitch. I would just say: complete something on your own, make it your best shot, and send it to the people who want to work with it.”
Dini’s words hold great wisdom for aspiring writers.
1. Finish your product. Write something original and make it your best work.
2. Get it to the people who will publish it.
3. Publishers often pay more attention to a portfolio of published works rather than an unpublished pitch. In other words, publishers want to know if you can deliver and complete projects worthy of publication.
I had the chance to meet Paul Dini. As he signed my copy of "Dark Night," I told him how much his characters and stories meant to me and thanked him for his time. I mentioned I’m an aspiring screenwriter working in Los Angeles. He showed interest, asked me a few questions, and wished me luck.
I walked away from the signing table filled with a renewed energy to chase my dreams. If I want to have a job like Paul Dini’s someday, I need to follow his advice by finishing my work, submitting it to publishers, and building my portfolio.