As if mastering the black art of screenplay writing wasn’t enough, the world of trying to get a script into production is even more mysterious and fraught with danger. There is basically one rule; nobody knows anything. It is an absolutely sound rule that applies to each one of us all the way up to the top players in Hollywood. Seriously, just read up on how some of the best movies ever made only did so after streams of rejection from decision makers. The popular writers out there haven’t succeeded because of the industry, but despite the industry. Keep that in mind whenever you get a pass or negative feedback. What matters more than anything is our personal integrity; are we presenting the scripts we want to write? I’ve seen too many writers get sucked into the get feedback and try to please everyone void and I’ve skated around the outside of it myself. It’s a sure way to become a writer who desperately churns out redrafted material like it’s high school coursework all while trying to hit some mystic marking criteria. We are not school kids, we are not worker bees, we are artists, so act like one and have the guts to respect your gut, as convoluted, twisted, and full of crap it may be.
Look, here’s Quentin Tarantino’s opinion of Hollywood readers, based on his experience.
Enjoying Writing Now and Quit Stressing About the Future
There is a huge industry standing between us and the film production world. Some of it is good, most of it seems to be bad. It’s an industry that trades off the constant churn of amateur writers trying to monetise their hobby. If you have a script you want to sell then there’s a crowd of hungry hucksters fighting to dig into your pockets. It’s a marketplace that impoverishes and destroys screenwriters who fall foul of its tactics.
We have to think about our values, why did we get into writing? Was it to de-stress? Did it start as a career aspiration? The second trying to sell a script or get work takes over our lives we have to stop and take a step back. I’ve been there, it encourages a mania that abuses your work and your wallet. I got out before it turned something I love into something I hate. No amount of money or glory can compensate for that.
Supply & Demand
I know a professional screenwriter who believes Hollywood has access to maybe 100,000 professional level screenwriters at any time. These are individuals an industry member can call upon to put together a feature, many of whom are willing to work for very little (even nothing) and many of whom are willing to turn work around fast (even overnight). Compounding this issue is wave after wave of new writers throwing brand new material down every avenue they can to get noticed. The industry has every reason to impose cold harsh filtering and every excuse to miss the needles in the haystacks.
If You Desire Fame & Fortune Then Good Luck
Anyone who sees screenwriting as a route to seeing their name in lights, walking the red carpet, doing interviews, mingling with stars, receiving awards, or a way to make big money fast is an absolute self-entitled cretinous husk of a human being. Those of us who get to sit in a warm room on our own time expressing ourselves via the written word are incredibly privileged. Those of us who get to share a journey with like-minded creatives and maybe do something that makes the world a slightly better place have hit the jackpot in life.
The Mythical Bastard Reader God
While it’s well known that studios, production companies, and industry members employ the services of readers to filter through submissions, there is a lot of demonisation or reverence as to their profile. There are just as many bad readers out there as there are writers. I know of highly opinionated readers who judge a script by the cover page, freak out over formatting, and love dishing out tough love (i.e are sociopathic slush trolls in love with their own opinion) and I know of some incredible readers who are genuinely giving every script the benefit of the doubt and looking for the potential even the original writer may fail to see. They are humans and, more often than, not ex-writers. Some are complete arseholes, some are saints, most fall somewhere in the middle. Just keep in mind that a professionally employed reader will be expected to read submitted scripts from beginning to end so stop listening to people who say scripts get thrown in the trash the second the reader spots a spelling mistake or isn’t kept as continually excited as a dog watching their owner put their walking shoes on.
Networking is Everything
Look, I’m going to level with you. Building a career in screenwriting is all about networking. We can talk about competitions, pitching, querying, evaluations, and ranking services until we’re blue in the face but almost every working screenwriter will tell you that they owe their career to meeting the right person.
Learning to network effectively is daunting but, if you approach it with the right mindset, can be highly enjoyable. My top tips are;
- Be yourself first and foremost.
- Be upfront and honest about your values.
- Listen to what people have to say.
- Help others solve their problems.
- Put friendship before all else.
You can networking online and in-person with the former being easier but the latter being more powerful. Websites like LinkedIn and Stage 32 are good and events like meetups at film festivals or screenings are good too.
Script Revolution is my best attempt at creating a digital platform that makes networking between writers and filmmakers as easy as possible but it’s there to be an extension of our overall networking effort, not to replace it, and it will only work best for those who treat it professionally.
What isn’t going to work is sheltering yourself away in a dark corner of the internet, spewing out a monologue of social media status updates, or trying a hard sell over casual drinks – three things I see all the time.