Screenwriting is a craft. And just like any other skill set, how to write a script requires education and preparation.
Whether you gain that learning through an institution like a film school or entirely on your own, it’s key that you understand what makes for a good script and the tools required to help it come to life.
How do you get started as a Screenwriter?
I’ve been doing it for a long time. I have thoughts on how I would have done it differently. One of the things I would do is make a short, and I would try and get that short into festivals. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. I have some friends who have made shorts for $5,000 that were really successful in festivals and it made all the difference. They got their Agents, their Managers, and they got attention.
If you do make a short and it does start getting attention, I’d say hire a PR person if you have the money to do that. That can get you even more attention.
Write and write some more. All the time. The more you write, the more the muscle is exercised. And read every screenplay that you can. They’re all online now, so I would say whatever genre takes your fancy, go online and find those scripts and read twenty of them. You’ll see the same sort of first, second, third act structure, generally speaking. That’s really helpful with getting it inside your bones, if you will, on where those acts should fit and where those moments should fit.
Listen to the Scriptnotes podcast. I think they’re fantastic and they have such great information. 3rd and Fairfax is another podcast that’s really helpful. I would take classes from smart, well-connected people. Like if they’re the Showrunner that’s doing a four-week class or something, I would go to that class. That’s a connection.
In this industry, it’s ultimately all about your connections. The minute that somebody brings you under their wing and they start caring about you, you can keep in touch with them and it makes it easier later on when you’re in need of something.
Get a Script Coordinator job or a Writers Assistant job. That will put you in the room with Staff Writers on a show and you will pick up quickly how they break down the season, the episode, and the story. Too, you’ll understand getting notes, and how the whole show moves from development into production, editing, and the press and airing of the show. Especially if you have a kind Showrunner, they can include you in much of their process.
Finally, if you do have a social media presence, that seems to be attractive. It helps you potentially. If you don’t, who cares. But if you do, tell anybody and everybody to let them know you do. If you have 150,000 people that are following you, your Manager or Agent wants to know that.
It’s just writing; writing and knowing people. Getting to find your tribe.
I think you start by watching as many movies as you can and reading as many scripts as you can. I remember diving into Preston Sturges’ scripts. The thing that’s great is so much is available now that wasn’t back when I was that age. It’s interesting to see many different styles. Before you set out on a career, you need to learn. You need to verse yourself in the skill. There’s a format. Read and see as much as you can.