So you want to be a Screenwriter. You want to visualize imaginary worlds and whisk people away to fantastic or terrifying places. You want to conceptualize characters that people will talk about for years to come. You want other people to produce your movies. And you want to get paid to do it. Awesome.
Screenwriter Reality Check
Screenwriting is one of the most difficult Above the Line positions to obtain. Why? Well think about it. As I outlined in the other pages, being a producer or director in the digital age is a matter of taking action. If you are willing to work hard, you can get a group of people together, cast and crew, and start shooting a movie.
Screenwriting is different. On the one hand, it’s easier than Producing or Directing because all you need is a computer, some software, and your imagination.
On the other hand, it’s a thousand times more difficult. Because once your script is complete, what happens to it?
You are at the mercy of other people. You need someone else to like your script enough to either Buy It, Option It, or Produce it.
And that’s tough. Though not impossible.
Consider Producing as Well as Writing
40,000 spec scripts are written every year. If you have the talent and the drive, it is definitely possible that your script will be optioned or sold.
However, you increase your chances greatly if you are proactive and put on a Producing mindset. At least entertain the possibility of Producing your own Script.
You might not know a thing about producing, but that’s okay, most people don’t. The point is that, if you are serious about realizing your vision and you really want to see your story on screen, you may have to help get it made yourself.
There’s a difference between writing a screenplay to be sold or optioned and writing a script that you are going to shoot or produce yourself.
Reality Check and Writing Courses
Alright, I didn’t mean to burst your bubble, but I want to be real. The screenplay market is extremely competitive. Everyone and their mother has a script idea, and Hollywood Studios and Agencies are literally flooded with spec scripts and query letters every day.
However, here’s the bright side. The reason why the marketplace is so flooded is because, as mentioned above, there are so many bad writers and bad scripts out there.
If you put the time and effort in to hone your craft and learn how to write a good screenplay, the virtue of your script can make it stand out from the rest.
Getting Your Script Past the First Reader
As a young filmmaker, it was my job to do “coverage” on scripts. Basically, studios and production companies hire people to read all the dozens and dozens of scripts they receive in the mail.
Coverage is a regimented procedure. Scripts are broken down into categorize and analyzed and judged on particular qualities most new screenwriters are clueless about.
If your script violates any of these criteria, the coverage reader instantly throws it into the garbage pile. Every Reader in the world is kind of like Simon Cowell: relentlessly piercingly and piercingly judgmental.
Unfortunately, most screenwriting books are not geared to help you get your script sold, optioned, produced, or getting an agent. They don’t teach you to write from the perspective of getting your script past the first line of readers into the hands of someone who might actually have the power to make something happen.
Recommended Course: Screenwriting Goldmine
Like this site, I looked for a resource that would provide some no BS guidance to aspiring screenwriters. I found it in a course called “Screenwriting Goldmine”.
The course is part of a website run by Phil Gladwin. I like Phil, because he’s a working screenwriter, and his course is practical and no BS. My favorite line on his site is when he reveals why nobody is getting back to you on your script. This is from his site:
What’s the secret?
Is there a secret?
Well, no, actually, there isn’t a secret.
When people don’t get back to you it’s not because they’re fools.
- It’s not because they’ve missed the point of your amazing writing.
- It’s not because they only hire their friends.
- It’s not because all movie and tv execs are lazy, corrupt, or illiterate.
- It’s not because there is some insider Black List and your name just doesn’t fit.
- It’s not because you’re a woman and everyone knows it’s only men who get hired.
- It’s not because you’re black, or disabled, or too old, or too young…
The reason they don’t get back to you about your script is because:
Your. Script. Isn’t. Good. Enough.
And then he explains what to do about it. And that’s great. Because if there’s one rule to being successful as as screenwriter, it’s to be relentless with your rewrites. Phil also has a contest and a community on his site; it’s a good place to start because then you aren’t just alone on your computer, you feel like you’ve actually got a mentor helping you write your script.
There are a couple of great blogs and websites for aspiring screenwriters. I mentioned them in the “Recommended Resources” section but wanted to touch on them here as well.
Scriptshadow – Somehow, this guy gets his hands on new scripts, often movies that haven’t even been released. One thing you must do if you actually want to be a dedicated screenwriter is read a ton of scripts. And this site is a great, free resource.
Triggerstreet – A branch of Kevin Spacey’s Trigger Street production, this is a social media site for screenwriters. It’s a place where you can get your work read and critiqued, and read other aspiring screenwriter’s critiques.
As with anything, there are good and bad writers on the site. But if you want feedback, it’s a place to start without paying for professional coverage.
Click here to check out Triggerstreet.