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I've been giving some thought and prayer to pursuing a career as a screenwriter. Given my personal hurdles, I struggle with writing short stories and novels. It's not that I can't, nor am I bad at writing prose, but I find screenwriting more interesting and engaging.

 

The problem is, I know essentially nothing about how to become a published screenwriter. I do know there's a Writers Guild (West and East), but my research tells me there's not a lot they can do for me at present besides empty my wallet.

 

So where do I start? I'm going to continue writing, of course, but once I've got some work completed, how am I supposed to know where to ask about publications, submissions, etc. that won't cost me a leg and a flipper?

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Hmm, I don't know much about screenwriting. Hopefully someone can give you some guidance. I know @DrRita has experience in this area.

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While you're waiting to hear from DrRita...

Here's an article that lists a few books that might help.

Some suggestions in this article.

Thank you. Those articles confirm I'm on a good path. Lately I've been writing, reading screenplays, writing, looking for books on the craft, and writing. Networking will be difficult, just because I've no idea where to start.

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I've done research on this.

 

The bottom line is this: Connections get you places.

 

So many people write screenplays and teleplays every year that agents, etc. have to sort through Thousands of screenplays. In most cases, if you get the formatting wrote [Edit: meant to say 'wrong'] (such as using Times New Roman instead of Courier, for example), your work could be rejected immediately. And if your work is rejected - for Any reason - it goes into the 'rejected' pile. And people talk. Everyone knows who's in the reject pile. It's sort of like a blacklist because nobody wants to waste time looking at material from someone who was already rejected. And it's not specific to any one screenplay - because a writer can change the first per pages and the title and submit a screenplay again - it's specific to a screenwriter.

 

So if you want to submit your screenplay again after it's been rejected, you either have to talk to someone and get them willing to read it, or you may have to submit it under another name (such as John Smith instead of J. Smith) if they don't catch on that you're on the 'rejected' list.

 

The people who read through thousands of screenplays often look at the first five pages, or only the first page if they can make a decision by that time. If they Really like it, they might read it to the end. And if they like it at the end, there's a good chance it'll be looked at by someone else.

 

And that might get you a job. Perhaps your screenplay will be turned into a movie. Or maybe you'll be hired to write, or rewrite, another screenplay.

 

And if a director or a producer or a studio wants to use your screenplay, they may want to edit your story. They might want to use your story, but not as it currently is. Or they may want to gut 80% of your story and put the rest through a grinding mill until it's unrecognizable. That happens more often than you may think.

 

Hollywood is Liberal. And by Liberal I mean 'immorality on the screen.' In Hollywood, directors have power over a movie's direction and content. Most of the time, directors don't want the screenwriter anywhere near the movie and certainly not on location while filming.

 

Money controls production. Whoever has the money calls the shots.

 

Something you could do, if you don't want to let go of creative control over your film, is to produce it yourself.

 

You could ask a movie studio for money. Usually, if they think the project is good, they'll give $5~6 million to a low-budget production, about $12 million if it's an action movie, and let you have creative control.

 

Or you can get money from private investors. Kickstarter campaigns have proven to be effective for raising money.

 

If you want a cinema release across the U.S., it may cost you $30+ million to secure cinema times. A cinema has no problem, usually, bumping a small movie if a big studio wants that timeslot (because the big studios are cinemas' ongoing regular customers).

 

But if your movie is only available in one country, people may try to take a copy of your movie and distribute it to other countries (online, maybe with subtitles). They can do that easily by sneaking a cellphone into a cinema.

 

If you go the independent, low-budget route, you may want to consider online distribution options where anyone in the world can watch your movie. That also increases revenue potential. But you'd have to do your own marketing, or get someone else to do it for you.

 

If you want to use a Christian production studio, you'd be wise to find out which ones exist (you can probably do that by finding a list of Christian movies and looking at the production credits), contact them, find out what type of content they produce, and get general information about the state of the industry. You can interview them before you tell them that you're interested in writing for film.

 

PureFlix.com hosts Christian movie. If you look through the list of movies they offer, you can probably compile a list of production companies, producers, directors, and actors. You can probably look at which directors, producers and actors work with each other most often. Those are connections. Those are people who you can talk to and who might introduce you to other people. You can do some research on IMDB.com too.

 

The best way to connect to someone is to be genuinely interested in them as a person. And if you're going to work with these people, you're probably going to know them as more than a contact.

 

Gather information. Form relationships. I suggest doing that before you show your screenplay to anyone.

 

Oh, and you can register your screenplay at the copyright office and at the Writers' Guild. A WGA registration is valid for 5 years (I think). I suggest strongly that you register it at a Writers' Guild, and maybe a copyright office, before showing it to anyone.

 

And, so by the way, register at a good copyright office - one that takes a copy of your work as part of the registration process and links your name and a title to that work and a date of registration.

 

Here's a good YouTube channel to do research on:

 

Film Courage

https://www.youtube.com/user/filmcourage

 

And here's this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f98EKmMmw60

 

And this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gY5QpZl--M

 

And this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLB-HlNEhpw

 

And this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMGFCmMfFDw

 

And this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsvA84RaXPo

 

So by the way, there are full-length versions of these interviews too (hour-long interviews, give or take).

 

And this:

 

And this:

 

And this:

 

And this:

 

And this:

 

And this:

 

And this:

 

And this:

 

And so many more.

 

And then there's teleplay writers. The television industry is it's own thing.

 

Edited by SmartrykFoster
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Thank you. Those articles confirm I'm on a good path. Lately I've been writing, reading screenplays, writing, looking for books on the craft, and writing. Networking will be difficult, just because I've no idea where to start.

 

Sometimes, you can learn a lot from a broken movie.

 

I recommend that you read the screenplays of really good movies and very bad movies and compare them to the finished films.

 

You might be able to see how a movie director re-worked something that made the movie better, or worse. You can see the roles that actors, the cinematographer, the director, the composer, etc. play, how they portrayed what they read in the script, and how things worked together in the movie. And that's important, because you're writing for an audio-visual medium. A screenplay is not a finished product, it's a work-in-process.

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Thank you. I have been looking at scripts for good and bad movies, good scripts for bad movies, bad scripts for good movies, basically anything I can get my flippers on that falls remotely within my interests. I don't want to work exclusively with Christian production, because I personally see a lot of "preaching to the choir" there, and I'm opposed to evangelistic messages taking priority over a good story, which happens a lot in Christian fiction.

 

To clarify, if someone wanted to do something like Passion of the Christ, I'd really enjoy it, because it was told as "this is what happened." It's not a movie made to evangelize a crowd. Contrast that with God is Not Dead, where good storytelling died on the altar of evangelism, and it ticked off and alienated people. I've got no problem putting Christian messages in my fiction, so long as good storytelling takes precedence.

 

On the flip side, I wouldn't want to work on a movie with an agenda against Christianity, either. I would not, for example, write a movie that stereotypes all people in a given demographic as being single-minded. Not every white person was racist in the 1960s. Not every youth was against the Vietnam War. Not all men are misogynists. Not all police officers are out to shoot black people. Not all people who ascribe to a given political or social ideology are entirely wrong or evil, nor are they entirely right or good. I would not write a movie that pushes any agenda.

 

I want to write action movies, dramas, comedies, historical stories, romances, thrillers, even horror, all from a standpoint of, "Tell the truth with a good story first and foremost." You want zombies? Fantastic. I'll write zombies, and it'll be a good story, where the characters act like real people and reap what they sow in realistic ways. As in life, sometimes people get away with doing bad things, but I won't show good as bad or bad as good. Sin is sin, and what's not sin is not sin. A good story shows those things for what they are, regardless of what anyone thinks.

 

My plan is to watch a new movie every week, read screenplays, talk to people with an interest in movies, learn everything I can about the craft, and of course, write. My problem with the guilds is that they're expensive, but I'll continue to research and explore my options. Maybe I can find a mentor who can walk me through the guild process and teach me what I need to know.

 

I've got a pseudonym I'd like to write under, and that might change depending on the genre I'm working with. At least with novels, it's difficult to cross genres in the traditional publishing houses while using the same name. If that's not the case with screenplays, I'm happy to use the one pseudonym. Again, thank you for the advice, links, and videos.

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31 minutes ago, Penguin said:

I want to write action movies, dramas, comedies, historical stories, romances, thrillers, even horror, all from a standpoint of, "Tell the truth with a good story first and foremost." You want zombies? Fantastic. I'll write zombies, and it'll be a good story, where the characters act like real people and reap what they sow in realistic ways. As in life, sometimes people get away with doing bad things, but I won't show good as bad or bad as good. Sin is sin, and what's not sin is not sin. A good story shows those things for what they are, regardless of what anyone thinks.

 

My plan is to watch a new movie every week, read screenplays, talk to people with an interest in movies, learn everything I can about the craft, and of course, write. My problem with the guilds is that they're expensive, but I'll continue to research and explore my options. Maybe I can find a mentor who can walk me through the guild process and teach me what I need to know.

 

I've got a pseudonym I'd like to write under, and that might change depending on the genre I'm working with. At least with novels, it's difficult to cross genres in the traditional publishing houses while using the same name. If that's not the case with screenplays, I'm happy to use the one pseudonym. Again, thank you for the advice, links, and videos.

 

Then you may want to look at the type of movies that you write and look through the credits. See what else those production studios did, see what else those producers and directors did, etc. Then read up on them as people to see whether they're the type of person you want to work with. That can narrow down who you should talk to.

The guilds... I wouldn't worry about joining a guild just yet. It would be a good idea to find out how they work, what their roles are in the industry, and when a writer should join a guild (if a writer even needs to). The more important thing is to write well and to network. Ideally, you want to have work lined up, or good scripts that can showcase your talents, before you spend money on joining a guild.

You can register your screenplay with the WGA, but you don't need to be a member of the WGA to register your script.
https://www.wgawregistry.org/

With screenplays... it can be difficult to cross genres if you're known for writing in one genre and the genre that you want to move into is wildly different from the one you're known for (unless you have a great screenplay).

 

It would be good to become known as someone who writes great stories in any genre, but you may want to stick to one wheelhouse and branch out from there. Many movies are not in only 'one genre,' there is cross-over. And within genres, there are flavours of that genre. So if someone sees that you did 'this,' and it's kinda like the thing they want to do, they might give the job to you even though it's not in your 'usual' genre.

But the bottom line is: they want to see a great script. People have great ideas, but they want to see a great script that executes an idea in a great way.

And production companies like seeing a proven success. If you work on a small film and it's a huge success, producers and decision-makers look at that and say, 'What was so great about this film? And what was the ROI?' (How much money did they make as a percentage above cost?)  And if you can work with a great director, where the two of you work well together, that director might pull you up with him.  Directors have the power in films more than writers do. And directors seem to have more power than producers do sometimes because the director is directing one single 'episode' and it has to be a unified story. A production studio, like Warner Brothers, is usually full of people who graduated from business school. They usually don't know what is in a good screenplay or when a screenplay can be made into a movie that will make them a lot of money. They usually delegate that responsibility of decision-making and the vetting process to established producers and directors who have already made them money.

That's even moreso true in television, where the showrunner runs the show. It's difficult to become a showrunner because of the costs involved of production and how quickly money needs to be spent and the how fast the turnover rate is.

In television, Showrunners have the power.  In television, writers have more power than directors, because the directors can't do their own think and ignore the writers on a long-running series, but writers and directors get credited for doing individual episodes. The Showrunner(s) has/have far more power than any individual directors or writers.  The Showrunner is an executive producer that runs the direction of the show.

If you look at it from a money - a cost and turnover - perspective, it'll be easier to figure out how the industry works.

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As actor Jeff Bosley says, it's "show business," not "show friendship." Everyone has to start somewhere, and studios are going to go with the people they trust to pull in audiences. I don't expect to be an overnight success, but I do plan to finish my current script ideas and work on building a "portfolio" I can share with people who have connections. Hollywood is mostly about proving you have what it takes to draw in audiences.

 

Growing up, I didn't pay attention to movies beyond who the actors were. Then I shared an apartment with a film editor student, and he turned me on to directors, editors, writers, special effects people...it got to the point I recognized a few of the "Assistants to Mr./Mrs./Ms. ..." I can also usually spot certain effects styles, so I could tell you if the effects were done by ILM or another outfit.

 

What I've noticed is it doesn't take a huge budget to tell a good story. I've seen low-budget movies that take place in one room, and they're good. Unfortunately I also see the potential for a writer to get nailed to the wall because a good story was turned into a bad movie. Yet I'd like to think that even having a good script turned into a flop doesn't destroy a writer's chances at being picked up.

 

I doubt I'll run into Dean Devlin or David Mamet at my local theater, but you never know. I'm sure I'll meet somebody.

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18 minutes ago, Penguin said:

What I've noticed is it doesn't take a huge budget to tell a good story. I've seen low-budget movies that take place in one room, and they're good. Unfortunately I also see the potential for a writer to get nailed to the wall because a good story was turned into a bad movie. Yet I'd like to think that even having a good script turned into a flop doesn't destroy a writer's chances at being picked up.

 

A good script that was turned into a movie badly can destroy a writer's chances of getting picked up... but that's where connections come in.  It might be hard for a first-time writer to recover from a badly made movie, but it's possible.  A nail in the coffin is usually when a strong of bad movies are made from the writer's scripts; And then there's making your own movie.

 

What you can do, as a form of practice, is write stories that take place in a room with two people. You can record yourself acting and voicing the dialogue and you can record it with the camera in your phone (if you have a camera phone) or a normal photo camera if it has a video recording feature. Then you can edit the scenes together into a movie, using an app that came with your computer, possibly.

That will give you an idea of how your dialogue sounds on film, how an actor might act a part, how a director might shoot the scenes, and how it looks altogether when you finish editing it.

That might help you improve a script. It can also give you an idea of what an actor might be feeling when playing/living the part. That might inform your writing to make the character, and the story, more real.

 

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