The importance of finding a screenwriting mentor…
January 4, 2014 § 1 Comment
Every teacher had a teacher. Every mentor had a trusted advisor. It’s an ongoing process of learning and staying humble about the fact that what you don’t know can actually hurt you. If you’re lucky enough to work on film productions you can make the necessary contacts with professionals and learn from their experience. This is a vital element in your continual growth as a filmmaker and screenwriter. Find a filmmaking mentor and apprentice under them or at least have access to them as they are working. Study how they handle their business and ask questions about the craft. They’ve already survived many of the pitfalls that you have yet to experience and their knowledge will help you better travel on your journey to success.
I’ve been blessed in my career to have worked with Academy Award® winning producers, veteran directors, and Academy Award®, Emmy® and Golden Globe® nominated actors on the films that I’ve written. Because I was working with them on a professional level, I was able to study first-hand their disciplines, techniques and how they practiced their craft. After the productions, many became my friends and mentors and I continue to support their endeavors like they do mine, and I continue to seek their advice and help as I travel along with my screenwriting career.
I’ve become a better screenwriter because of my access to these veteran film professionals and it’s helped me to become a professional as well. Their vast experience and credits have been a priceless tool box to draw from and expand my knowledge while I gain my experience. I’ve learned the importance of writing a more effective screenplay and how to make it production ready. If you want to stay on the job during production you must become a production savvy writer.
Now, if you haven’t yet written a film that’s been produced or had access to the various talent, you can look for busy screenwriters who might need an assistant and are willing to pay an hourly wage for the job. It’s a great way for aspiring screenwriters to learn while getting paid to work. If you can’t find a paid position, offer your time to a working screenwriter in exchange for access to their process, their daily routines of pitches and meetings, or get them to take you to the movie set. Another way for access is volunteer to work for a film festival and you’ll get to see the movies for free, but more importantly meet the various talent associated with the films and possibly make new contacts for mentors.
A true professional is always willing to give back and share knowledge. When you’re able to observe these working professionals, ask questions, learn their personal story of success, and study how they conduct themselves. It’s the behind the scenes action that’s the most important. It’s your job as a screenwriter to continually learn your craft and that includes seeking out working professionals and learning from them. We should never stop learning as artists. Eventually when you become accomplished yourself, pay it forward and help others who are a few steps behind you on their journey. It will feel good and you’ll be keeping the proper old school mentorship alive in the screenwriting community.
Keep filling your blank pages and keep the faith!
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“…That’s why an artist must be a warrior and, like all warriors, artists over time acquire modesty and humility. They may, some of them, conduct themselves flamboyantly in public. But alone with the work they are chase and humble. They know they are not the source of the creations they being into being. They only facilitate. They carry. They are the willing and skilled instruments of the gods and goddesses they serve.“—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” — Joseph Campbell
“Take a person like Picasso, you know, who does double profiles and has gone through cubism and God knows what, but he knows every muscle in the human body. If you ask him to draw the figure of a man or a woman, there wouldn’t be a muscle out of place. You’ve got to know your craft in order to express the art.”—Alfred Hitchcock
“Believe me that in every big thing or achievement there are obstacles — big or small — and the reaction one shows to such an obstacle is what counts not the obstacle itself.”—Bruce Lee