Screenwriting and the Factory

How many screenwriters currently working on a script are planning their next two or three screenplays?

Have you started promoting yourself and your work?

In some cases, agents want to see how a writer promotes themselves without his or her help. Have you entered any festivals, have you won any awards? The industry is big! Every year tens of thousands of screenwriters are working for the same opportunity you are. Unless you have agent representation, it will be more of a challenge to get your work in front of a producer. Breaking into Hollywood; agents won’t necessarily be looking for you until they need you. Realistically, those times will never come…

Unless you’re already a “buzz” screenwriter, chances are an agent will never know who you are.

The entertainment industry is an extremely tough market. You’ll want to get your name out front and into the mouths of agents to market your talent. Though difficult it’s not impossible. Literary agents want to know that a writer not only can produce hot material, they want to know that a writer can keep producing. This means, that you, as the screenwriter, must have staying power. In order to exercise your staying power, you must demonstrate this by providing a potential agent with several recently completed works. You will also want to convey and outline your future project plans including timelines and goals. Agents want to be assured that a good writer will keep writing.

How many screenplays have you completed and passed through a script consultant?

A second and third set of eyes are crucial, rewrites are inevitable, a script consultant is critical to your success. Your work is not complete until it has passed through a script consultant, maybe several times.

Are you currently experiencing writers block? Better get over it fast…

Think two or three feature-length screenplays a year. That’s the target you’ll want to achieve consistently. You’ll want to identify and overcome any struggles you may have in your writing process early on. This will help to keep you focused on writing and not get stuck in that death cliché of “writers block”. You already know structure, you’re a great storyteller and you have fantastic ideas, but if you cannot transfer your ideas into the written word efficiently and effectively, you’ll fall behind real quick.

Before you start sending off “query Letters” to literary agents, be certain you have performed some solid research. You will want to know which agents except unsolicited material from new writers and which agents do not. But then again, this does not always hold true.

In today’s market screenwriters want to think “saturation”. Though a particular literary agent may indicate they do not accept unsolicited material, it’s probably worth your time to submit a query letter or synopsis anyway. What are they really going to do? Will the big bad agent write a hateful letter back that’s going to scare you? Oh, my… As a new writer, all you have is time. Utilize all of your resources to the fullest extent.

While most literary agents will probably give you a good indication of their company’s stance on submission guidelines, it can only help your career to get your name out there. Sometimes it is recommended that screenwriters follow literary agent submission guidelines, but there are instances where agents that do accept unsolicited material will deny you anyway. You may hear stories from writers that sent material to agents that did accept unsolicited material only to receive a letter back indicating they don’t. You may have heard about writers that submitted to agents that said they don’t accept unsolicited material and have gotten them to read the material. So, what’s the point of following the guidelines? Some people follow, some people succeed.

Being submissive will not lead to an option. This is the year of the tiger! Bare your teeth and exercise your talent. Aside from being the writing machine you are, you’ll also want to ensure that you have all of your processes in place to keep the machine running smoothly. It’s okay to simultaneously submit to literary agents. In fact, you’ll want to simultaneously submit queries, or you’ll likely never get a break. Just make sure that you’re at the top of your game. Before you send your query out, be certain that your story sounds compelling, keep your synopsis short and concise, leave your reader wanting more.

When it comes time to visit with rejections and feedback, wanted or unwanted, you’ll likely find yourself revising your work and revising your query. This should be expected. Also, remember that feedback is a good thing. If any agent takes the time to write you back, take their word and make the necessary changes.

No matter where you are as a screenwriter, if you have representation or not, keep promoting yourself. Make sure that you’re leveraging all of your resources, keeping your name out there in the industry. It’s not going to get any better than right now. Strike while the iron is hot!

Above all else, keep creating, keep writing, and keep sharing. The key for any screenwriter in today’s market, factory on wheels! Churn and burn baby! Get your work out there and get it everywhere!

– David L. Spies

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4 Responses to Screenwriting and the Factory

  1. neil says:

    “A second and third set of eyes are crucial, rewrites are inevitable, a script consultant is critical to your success. Your work is not complete until it has passed through a script consultant, maybe several times.”

    Um. Yeah….right. David have you actually been reading the scripts that have sold in the past two years? Mostly all of them are utter trash. UTTER TRASH.

    The scripts in question violate ALL the supposedly inviolable rules of screenwriting, and in the end NOBODY CARES.

    I’ve found my most useful feedback has been from non-industry people who are not writers. I have nothing against script consultants, but I most certainly would not consider them a vital part of the process.

  2. Greg says:

    I love how you took two or three chapters from screenwriting books and condensed them down to one simple and straightforward post.

    I love it. I told myself when I decided I wanted to be a screenwriter that I wanted to have three behind me before searching out representation. Now, the problem is finding time for editing, rewrites, and more rewrites.

    Thanks for always being upbeat and positive in your tweets. Gives a simple guy confidence!

  3. Brendon Fogle says:

    David,

    Great advice. I was just thinking today about how to manage my projects, and writing one, re-writing another, and developing yet another gives me things to switch to when I start to feel like I’m grinding. I would agree with one of the posters regarding a consultant, only because I hate the idea of paying someone to read my script. I’d pay Paul Haggis, or Robert Towne, but not a random “reader.”

    Keep the thoughts coming.

  4. Adrian Royals says:

    All advise is good advise. I have written a few scripts already and I know one thing, editing is the key. You have to know your characters and know what each of your characters personalities and re-read for that and grammatical errors. After that, you are pretty much set to go. I do have to agree that some random reader might not be able to see eye to eye with YOUR characters. Unless it’s some random reader paid by the producer that optioned your script.

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