Pay or Play

After my last post in early September, my wife and I took a trip to Vegas for a week. Won a little money, saw two Cirque shows — a stranger handed me two free tickets to the “Mystere” show, after I had already bought prime seats for “O” at the Bellagio — and went on a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. It was a nice break from reality (speaking of which, we stayed at the Jockey Club timeshare resort next to the Cosmopolitan, where they shot the most recent Top Chef reality TV series). Every time I go to Las Vegas, I feel recharged from playing games of chance and going for the big jackpot even if I come back empty-handed. It’s the thrill of the hunt, I suppose, that keeps us coming back to the City of Lost Wages.

I’m a cautious gambler, which sounds like an oxymoron. We’ll play low stakes blackjack for $10 to $20 per hand, and try to cash out whenever we get up double what we started with — which isn’t as hard as it sounds if you abide by simple rules that experienced players call The Book. It’s just math and knowing the odds, then having the discipline to take profits before you start giving it all back to the House.

Then we’ll take our winnings and play the slots, which are higher risk/higher reward bets. But I’ve found fairly reliable ways of improving my odds of hitting jackpots in the $100 to $500 range, and had a few of those on the last trip. At one point, I got hot and hit for over $500 on three machines in a half hour span. So I felt it was time to take a crack at Megabucks, which requires playing three bucks a spin to win the top payout of millions of dollars. You can burn through a lot of money fast, unless you get lucky and hit some small pay-outs that allow you to keep playing…. and that’s what happened. My hot streak kept me going for about a half hour on Megabucks before the machine stopped paying out. No huge jackpot for me. Then my wife sat down, put in a twenty and about three spins later, hit for $300. Wisely, she cashed out instead of playing it all back into the machine as I did.

I view screenwriting in a similar vein. The odds are stacked against the writer, but there are things you can do to improve your chances. Strategy comes into play as well — go big for the Megabucks script, or shoot for smaller rewards with a low budget project that could be done outside the Hollywood system? In my case, I’ve tried both approaches and gotten nibbles. No jackpot yet though. As part of my strategy to increase my chances, I’ve recently employed paid script consultants.

Before I get to that though, one more quick story: when we got back from our Vegas trip, I had a Facebook message that totally caught me off guard. It was from a major Hollywood producer, who knew my former manager. Can’t get into the details of what transpired, other than he asked to read an old screenplay of mine — didn’t say how he got my name or heard about the script, but I think I know what the connection was. In any event, it was almost like hitting a jackpot when you least expect it — except I’m still waiting for the last slot reel to stop spinning to see if I won or not.

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In my next post, I’ll share my experiences with two highly-recommended script analysts, and which one I preferred!

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