Let’s be honest, shall we? Trying to break in as a professional screenwriter is a non-stop, up at dawn, pride swallowing siege, that we will never fully tell our friends and family about (thank you Cameron Crowe). Only other writers can truly know what it’s like to be a writer, which makes it all the more perplexing to me why so much of the information directed at us is so negative. We’re constantly bombarded with stats about how spec sales are down, how studios are trimming back, lists of reasons why you might not be cut out to be a writer, discussions about how few actually WGA writers are employed at any one time, and detailed lists on how many different ways your slaved over spec can turn off a reader and get thrown into the trash by the end of the first page.
This isn’t to say that this kind of information isn’t important; it’s vital to know exactly what kind of challenge you’re up against when you decide to become a screenwriter. The road is tough, but that doesn’t mean it’s all sturm und drang. There are plenty of things we can be thankful for, and seeing as it’s Thanksgiving next week and all, I thought this might be a good time to remind everyone of…
5 Things Screenwriters Can Be Thankful For
Twitter: What can I say; I love that little blue bird and the social network he helped launch. One of the things we have that screenwriters in years past didn’t is access to an immense amount of information and, for my money, Twitter is the best place to find it. Whether you’re looking to pick the brains of professional screenwriters, discuss technique and craft on the weekly #scriptchat, find PDF files of produced scripts to download and read, or just find likeminded individuals who are as passionate about telling stories as you are, Twitter has what you’re looking for.
Pitchfests: There’s some debate out there about the value of pitchfests but, having attended several personally, I can say that it’s well worth the trip if you can make it to one. Whether it’s Screenwriter’s World Conference (East or West), Great American Pitchfest, or any number of other legitimate pitchfests (do your research before paying, but these two are legit and are the crème of the crop), you gain unfettered access to development execs who are in attendance because they WANT to find new material. Add in the opportunity to network with those same execs or the other writers in attendance, and the (often free) seminars/classes available to attendees, and it’s a can’t lose proposition.
The Blacklist: Not that long ago, it would have been considered a fantasy that there would be a place you could post your script that was actively patrolled by Hollywood pros (agents/managers/development execs/ etc.) who were hungry for the next big thing. But that’s exactly what Franklin Leonard has done with The Blacklist. Other hosting services have crept up since then, but there’s no substitute for the original. When your material is pro-level and ready to go, now you have a place to take it where you know it will be seen.
Crowdfunding: Have you written something that might not be right for a mainstream Hollywood film? Maybe you just don’t want to give up creative control on your script. Either way, crowdfunding has changed the game for indie filmmakers looking to bring their story to life. Whether you prefer Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or new upstarts like Seed & Spark, there’s now a platform that the public is actively scouring, just looking for something to support.
Each Other: Finally, there’s the one thing we always have; each other. If you’re reading these words, then you’re part of a family. You’re a member of a group of likeminded storytellers who love the world of film, and (mostly) go out of their way to selflessly help each other grow, mature, and succeed as screenwriters. It’s a beautiful thing, and the community I get to be part of is one of my favorite parts of being a screenwriter.
It’s a rough road you’re on, but it’s one on which I’m honored to walk alongside all of you. Always remember that you’ve got access to all of the tools you need to succeed and, until next time, pass the gravy, enjoy your friends and family during the holiday next week, and keep writing.
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Tools to Help: