Do you have the chops to be a working screenwriter? If you practice your craft and be persistent, it is possible to have a successful screenwriting career.
Despite the transitional period we are in, the screenwriting landscape is changing rapidly. The studios have morphed into increasingly corporate beasts rather than develop movies in-house. This is not the case for TV writers which have achieved demigod status in the studio system.
How can you establish yourself as a screenwriter?
Get exposure. It is easier to play in the major league if you are a produced screenwriter. Write what you want to be known for because the industry will typecast you.
The key buzzwords for screenwriters right now are EXPOSURE versus IMPACT.
Your impact can either be positive, negative or neutral. Most scriptwriters fall into the last category. Meh! That’s worse than a negative impact. Get people to care about you through persistence and quality writing.
Consider branded entertainment to launch your career. Whether it be a web series, viral videos, comics & graphic novels, interactive media or online articles. Producers are looking at multi-platform releases and the widest number of avenues to exploit your work.
Producing audio-visual material acts as a proof of concept for your feature project. Producers would rather watch a five minute video or trailer than read an entire script.
How do you want your screenwriting career to progress?
Do you want to write character-based procedurals or high-octane action? If you are looking to write for TV, write a spec for a prototypical episode of an existing TV show. Also write a TV pilot for your original concept.
Learn about structure. A spec TV script should highlight both what the episode is about as well the nature of the TV series. Create your own story world. Start your script where the main character has ended up, when things go awry, not at the beginning.
TV spec scripts are back in vogue, so make sure there is an original script in your writing arsenal. Attracting producers is not only about your concept, but how it has been executed.
Practice honing both your own original voice and emulating the voice of existing TV shows. Writing for existing TV shows is mainly repetition of recurring characters with a small serialized component.
When looking for guidance, align yourself where the activity is. Find out about long and short term plans of the industry so you can plan your attack. There is little point in writing something similar to a recent hit, because the playing field will have changed by the time you will have written your next screenplay.
Prime yourself for your journey. It will be a long, lonely road, paved with rejection. Join a writers group, take a stand-up comedy or acting improvisation class. Be visual. Paint a picture. Use social media both for your well-being and to network. Protect your solitude and writing time religiously. Turn your phone off and focus.
Consistently reinvent yourself. Be your own screenwriter brand and create a promise and expectation to consistently deliver to your audience.
Prepare yourself for the pack mentality of the marketplace. Currently, both spec script and open writing assignment activity are at an all time low. However, this is cyclical. Buyers make offers when there is competition from other buyers, when there are elements attached, or there is a corporate mandate for a particular literary property.
The food chain of obtaining new material has changed. Previously, producers would approach agents who would in turn approach managers to scout for new material. Although these traditional paths still exist, producers are increasingly turning to competitions, and resources such as pitchfests (live and virtual) and various screenplay matching services.
The financial size of the business pie has pulled back, however the number of slices it’s been cut into has increased exponentially.
Strap yourself in and enjoy the screenwriting ride.
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