How to Become a Screenwriter and Not Get Taken For a Fool
There are a lot of people who want to know how to become a screenwriter. The general rule on that is that if you have talent and start writing screenplays then it will all happen for you. For some it is that easy. They move to Hollywood, write screenplays and beg people to read them until they sell one. For others it is not that easy. There are a lot of things you can do to put yourself in the right spot at the right time in order to sell your awesome screenplays and make a living as a screenwriter. If you want to take a class to learn to write screenplays, there are a few screenwriting classes on this very website.
You’ve heard it before and now you are going to hear it again. “Those who cannot do, teach.” If someone is not successful in their career then sometimes they have no other option but to take a job teaching their craft. This is so true with the movie industry. You will see so many out of work actors teaching acting, writers that had one job writing or sold one screenplay and now they are teaching and people who never successfully did anything in the movie industry are teaching. Before you sink a lot of money into classes, check the person’s credentials. Find out if they have any writing credits before you give them money to learn what they know. Additionally, are the movie credits that they have the sort of things you want to write? If this instructor wrote and sold one zombie movie and you want to write the world’s greatest blockbuster then you will learn nothing that you can use from the zombie guy. You need to find a teacher that teaches what you need to know.
Sure, an inexpensive class is something that you’re probably going to learn some things in. And the money you put out usually is not that much. So, online classes can be quite beneficial. So can books about screenwriting. From each class you will pick up some valuable information. Just be aware that the author or instructor might not know what they are talking about. So, take it all with a grain of salt. If what they are teaching does not make sense then do some research on what they said. Find out if you can find a legitimate director or working actor that can confirm what they are teaching.
If the instructor sold their last screenplay in 1982, what do they have to offer you in today’s market? Television and movies evolve over time and so do the scripts. If you write a screenplay in a format that was used in 1980 and present it in the way they presented screenplays in 1980, then you are probably not going to get very far. A 20-something producer will toss out your screenplay and not even read it because they will see it as amateurish, having never seen something like that before. On the other hand, the instructor that used to sell his screenplays obviously knew how to tell a story on paper and how to pitch an idea, so there is something valuable to learn from them.
So, when class shopping do some research on the person that is teaching the class and see if they actually have anything to offer you before you plunk down a load of cash. Generally, the inexpensive online courses are only a couple of hundred dollars or less and will probably give you some basic groundwork. If the instructor has credits, it is probably worth it. If the instructor has never sold a screenplay, save your hard earned money for a different class. You can check a writer’s credits by putting their name in the search box at the Internet Movie Database.
How to Get Read
It seems almost traditional to accost a director in an elevator or at an outdoor café. You are walking by an outdoor restaurant and just happen to have a copy of your screenplay in your back pocket. You spot one of your favorite directors sitting right there, having his morning coffee and reading the newspaper. You know you will never forgive yourself if you don’t completely embarrass yourself by introducing yourself and shoving your screenplay in his face. You hear about a lot of people doing just that. How many people do you hear about that sold their screenplay this way? Not so much.
You need to get your screenplay read by someone who works in the movie business. First, you need to have it read by a working director, producer or actor or all three to see if you are writing something that has value. If you have no talent for writing then give up and chase a different dream, one you have a chance to be successful at. Of course, don’t take just one person’s word for it. Have many people read your screenplay and be very open to hear what they have to say about it, the good and the bad. Take their suggestions. If you keep hearing the same thing from everyone who reads it, then take what they are saying to heart.
The other reason you need people to read your screenplay is to sell it. By asking people in the business to read your screenplay and to give you suggestions on improvements is also getting your screenplay into the right hands. Possibly they will buy it or they will mention it to a producer or agent. Your screenplay has to be read by people in order to be exposed to more people.
What Agents Do
A writer’s agent doesn’t do much for a writer really. The writer has to find the person who is interested in buying the screenplay. The agent is the salesperson you call in to get the best possible deal you can get for your screenplay. If you think the agent is going to go door to door trying to sell your screenplay and drum up deals for you, you would be mistaken. They have screenplays written by people who have won awards who are in demand and those writers take up most of the agent’s time. If you have a deal on the table and need someone to represent you to get the most money or the best deal possible then the agent suddenly has time for you. It is the way it is.
If you want to learn more about optioning screenplays and selling them then take an online class to learn more about all the different ways to make money with screenplays.
How to Find a Director, Actor or Producer
There are a whole lot of people who say they are things that they are not. It is Hollywood. Phonies abound. When someone tells you they are an actor then ask them what you might have seen them in. Certainly look them up on the Internet to see if they really are who they say they are. Just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean they are lying! You haven’t heard of everyone, so give them the benefit of the doubt and do some research before getting too involved with them.
The best way to find an actor, producer, director or agent in the business is to be around the business. If you want to be a screenwriter then you must be a writer. Take a job in entertainment reporting. This job puts you front and center in the back end of the entertainment business. You talk to publicists on a daily basis and sometimes agents. You will be interviewing all sorts of entertainers, directors and producers for your job. If you do this job for a couple of years then you are going to start making friends in the business.
Plenty of people got their start in Hollywood or New York by just being on the scene. This is why they move to Los Angeles or New York and take any work they can find while they try to break into the business. The same is true for screenwriters. The reason is, it is always who you know that is going to get you somewhere. It is people in your network that respect your work that will help you break into show business as a writer.
How to Start as a Screenwriter
The very first thing you have to do to become a screenwriter is to actually write a screenplay. It sounds nuts, but most people want to be a screenwriter but forget to write a screenplay first! To learn how to turn your movie idea into a screenplay then you can take some screenwriting classes to learn how to actually put it down on paper in the proper format. Writing a screenplay has its rules that are nothing like the rules of writing a short story or a book. You need to get a little bit of an education on what goes down on paper and what never goes down on paper in a screenplay.
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