Three more tips to help you navigate your screenwriting journey…

February 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

megaphoneI hope you’ve made some noise with your screenplays and pushed yourself closer to establishing a career. As you know, you’ll need to create a solid body of work to standout in this very competitive marketplace. In addition to this blog, I also offer nuggets of advice on Twitter (@scriptcat) and my Youtube Channel . Dig in on this blog, as I’ve written over 200 articles with screenwriting advice. I also broadcast live on PERISCOPE.

Okay, here are three more tips…

TIP #1     ACT LIKE A PRO—ALWAYS!

MARK4Act like a professional even if you’re an aspirant writing your specs. As a screenwriter, you must consider writing a job and this helps you to think of yourself as a professional. As with any job, it comes with deadlines, requirements and expectations, so it’s good practice to follow professional disciplines as you prepare for the time when you do get paid to write. If you train yourself to work under a deadline, it’s not a shock when the producer requires you to complete a script by a certain date. It’s no longer the romanticized dream of spending endless time working on your spec to get it just right—it’s “go time” and you’re now playing in the big leagues—exactly where you belong. The producer or executive expects greatness from you and you generally have six to eight weeks to deliver the first draft and its excellence will decide if they keep you on to write a second draft, or fire you. This is not the time for a “vomit draft.” If you start meeting your own deadlines when writing your specs, it will be easier later when they pay you under contract to meet a deadline.

 

TIP #2           ENJOY THE LITTLE SUCCESSES ALONG THE WAY.

scan4Sometimes, the only nourishment we have in this barren wasteland of screenwriting is our faith and the anchor of the small achievement. No matter how small. Maybe you finished your script? That’s a major achievement. Maybe you finally got a producer to give it a read? That’s another successful achievement. The ingredients of a big success are usually a range of small successes all leading up to that sale or screenwriting job that jump starts a “career.” It’s the little successes that keep us going through the rough times. I know for me personally, what gets me through is seeing results from my forward movement and creating new material. Every screenplay opens up new opportunities. Always be moving forward, even if it’s a few steps at a time. Sure, you’ll stumble and experience failure during your journey, but avoid falling into the self-doubt pit where the darkness of fear overshadows your burning desire to make it as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

 

TIP #3           YOUR FIRST DRAFT IS DANGEROUSLY IMPORTANT.

fade inDo not fool yourself into thinking your first draft has to be shit. It’s just the opposite—your first draft is extremely important because the DNA of your story and characters lives in this precious first pass. I love this quote from six-time Academy Award nominee screenwriter Ernest Lehman (Sabrina, Sweet Smell of Success, North by Northwest, The Sound of Music, Who’s Afraid of Virgina Wolf?): “Good screenwriting is about carpentry. It’s a juggling of beginnings, middles and endings so they all inevitably seem to be moving correctly together. Your first draft is dangerously important. Don’t ever kid yourself into thinking, “It’s okay, it’s just the first draft.”  Beware of that thought, because it’s ten times more difficult to go in a certain direction once you’ve gone in another direction.”—Ernest Lehman. It’s true. I know from experience that it’s difficult to totally rewrite a first draft from page one into something new. Sadly, too many times it ends up becoming a jumbled mess as the foundation of the story is being altered underneath the story. My advice is to make your first draft your best possible work at the time. When writing it, act as if you’ll never get another chance to touch the screenplay. You should use your specs as training to turn out a superb first draft to prepare you for the day when you’re hired on assignment. This pays off in many ways, most importantly when you’re working for a producer and your solid first draft secures the interest of investors, a director, and actors. A solid first draft will also keep you on the assignment and not replaced by another screenwriter. Make sure your screenplay suffers the fewest amount of changes during the development process. Trust me, you don’t want your script to get bogged down in development hell. It’s hard to climb out of that pit and too many times projects die a tragic death from too many drafts over a long period of time.

Keep writing and filling your pages because if you stop you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success. Remember, this is a business with no guarantees even when you do sell a screenplay.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2017 by Mark Sanderson – originally published on his blog MY BLANK PAGE.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay or a new draft? Are you “written out” and need a professional opinion about your script?  Is it time for in-depth consultation before you unleash it upon Hollywood? Check out my consultation services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website.

Screenplay consultation services

Need help reaching your screenwriting goals? Check out my on-demand webinars for rental or download on $9.99 each. Click on the photo below for the link and a preview.

webinar promo

Now available my COFFEE RING CARTOONS merchandise for screenwriters at my online store. T-shirts, mugs, pint glasses, note cards, notebooks, drink coasters, and mouse pads. Click on the photo below for the link to my online store.

mug-real-photo

“This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

“Deliberate practice, by its nature, must be hard. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.”—Florida State University’s Anders Ericsson

If you’re worried about failing, you ought to get into a different business, because statistics will tell you that sixty or seventy percent of the time you’re going to fail.  By fail I mean that the movie won’t make money.  Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.“—Richard Brooks, director of Blackboard Jungle, Sweet Bird of Youth, In Cold Blood, Looking for Mr. Goodbar

“If there ever was one analogy for what a screenwriter must accomplish, it’s this: To create a source of life, to find the bedrock of a given idea, to prevent most of the work from evaporating.”—FX Feeney

 

Guest blog post: Screenwriting lessons learned in recent years…

December 28, 2016 § Leave a comment

guest blogger It’s time again for a guest blogger here on MY BLANK PAGE! Appearing for his second time with another superb guest blog contribution… let’s welcome back U.K. screenwriter Niraj Kapur.

 

SCREENWRITING LESSONS LEARNED IN RECENT YEARS

by Niraj Kapur

In the last few years I’ve made three trips to L.A. for pitching events and meetings with producers. I’ve attended classes. Had a script coach. Hired script editors. Sacrificed family holidays and social time with my friends. I even had a signed contract from Electric Pictures, producers of Olympus Has Fallen and Lovelace, only to have it cancelled weeks later.

Here’s what I’ve learned which I hope create some valuable takeaways for my fellow screenwriters worldwide.

big booksEDUCATE YOURSELF

Writing, like most good professions, requires enormous investment and education. Screenwriting books, watching new movies, attending pitching events, writer’s conferences, flights from England, Uber, hiring script editors, have taken their toll, especially when you have a family to support. As successful people will tell you, “You get what you invest in.”

WRITE BIG, THINK SMALL

I’ve made the error of writing big budget commercial projects. While this has been an incredible experience and helped me develop more screenwriting skills, when I recently got mentored with a studio executive and also a top manager, they both said the same thing: “You know how to write, however, it’s going to be almost impossible to get anyone to fund a $100m script from an unknown writer” — even though I’ve had several commissions under my belt. “Focus on a small personal project, let your voice shine through. That’s what more writers should be doing, especially outside L.A.”.

handshake cartoonNETWORK… WITH WRITERS

When I attend networking events, I’m surprised by the number of writers who speak to nobody, or else complain there are no agents to connect with. Having a writing group — or friends who are writers, is a blessing and they’ve been there for me more than any agent or producer ever has. A strong support system is vital in screenwriting when you’ve had yet another rejection or spent endless hours during the week working by yourself.

DEAL WITH THE BIG REJECTION

Getting rejected is part of the business. When you get replaced on a movie by another writer, have a contract cancelled through no fault or your own, or meet a production company that is associated with a big movie star, the pain is greater and it takes longer to recover. It’s natural to feel sorry for yourself, but don’t overindulge. Winners get back on their feet and keep fighting.

sullivans-travels-052KNOW WHEN TO TAKE A BREAK

After three years of relentless work, six days a week, it’s important to take time off to regenerate, read, grow, develop, watch movies and live life. Now I’m back into the swing of screenwriting and enjoying it more than ever.
Good luck to all writers in 2017.

 

Niraj casual photo

 

Niraj Kapur worked as a writer-for-hire on several kids shows on British TV with numerous screenplay commissions and options. His first movie Naachle London was released in 2012. Find him online: www.nirajkapur.com

Twitter: @Nirajwriter

 

Seeking that elusive screenwriting validation on your journey…

December 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

thAh, validation. All writers have a need for  recognition of their work in a positive manner. We all need a pat on the back or just a “job well done” comment every once in a while. Many times you won’t find the validation you seek on the outside, but inside yourself for walking the talk and completing a screenplay. In fact, many times the only validation will come from when they stamp your parking ticket after the meeting. I’m always suspicious of the production companies that don’t pay for a writer’s parking. You pull into the parking lot and read the rates are $2.50 (£1.63 / 2.24) every fifteen minutes—ten bucks ( 8.96 / £6.52 ) per hour! It could be foreshadowing of a terrible ending. Sure enough, after the meeting is over they pass on your project and it’s like rubbing lemon into your paper cut as you race down the stairwell because the quarter-hour is approaching and you don’t want to blow another $2.50 unless you have to do it.

pitchAfter you finish a new screenplay it’s a vulnerable period because you’re exposing your work to criticism and possibly rejection. You’re coming off a major creative high and you don’t want anyone to spoil your euphoria. And then you discover it’s difficult to find someone else who shares your level of excitement about your script. It’s a feeling of lonely disappointment as if you’re the only person who is championing your cause. Stay strong and trust in your daily disciplines to get you through.

Writing the screenplay is the first big hurdle, but waiting for the validation from feedback is another. It’s easy to take notes personally because your script is your baby and your writing exposes yourself and your talents to the world. If you can’t handle critical opinions, work on detaching from your work, as it will make the process easier for survival. Notes and changes are standard procedure with any screenplay at every level of the film business because the script is an ever-changing blueprint for a movie.

Once the producers, the director, and actors become involved there will be changes and you should welcome the creative input from your co-collaborators. These fellow artisans will bring the script to an entirely new level of creativity. The problem comes when so many changes drag down the process and you become frustrated and feel like throwing in the towel. Stay positive and focus on turning in a script that is closer to what everyone needs to produce the film. That’s your ultimate goal—production. Find the passion you had for the first draft and put that energy into shaping the new draft. You’ll please not only yourself, but also the producer and other talent your script needs to attract to get produced.

I remember when one of my films screened for the cast and crew. I attended, sat next to the stars of the film, and even shared their popcorn. The producer addressed the audience from the screen where he introduced the key players who made the film and thanked them. He mentioned the stars, director, various crew members, even the craft service guy who  “made fantastic sushi.” I assumed he would mention my name, but somehow, it slipped his memory. I was embarrassed, and the stars of the film gave me a supportive look. The lights dimmed and the movie started—a movie that I wrote. CUT TO: The production company’s offices and after screening party. It was a crowded affair with many industry types and crew members. The producer found me in a crowd, marched over, and apologized to me. He said that he didn’t know that I was at the screening. Talk about validation…

script oddsIf you’re going to play in the majors, you’re competing with the best and you must accept that sometimes you won’t find the validation you need. Many times you will be disappointed from your feedback and your high expectations may be squashed. Your ego’s bruised, beaten to a pulp and you to doubt your talent and chances for success. Don’t take it personally, because feedback is a rite of passage necessary for the growth of any aspiring screenwriter. If you want to survive over the long haul of a career, you’ll need to toughen up and build your courage to endure disappointment criticism and rejection. As you embrace this process, you’ll begin to look at constructive feedback as a positive experience that helps make your script better and teaches you collaboration as a team player.

You’re certain to experience many disappointments as you pursue a career, but do not perceive any of them as failures or setbacks. These experiences are part of a screenwriter’s journey and you’ll always succeed if you keep a positive outlook and never stop writing.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2016 by Mark Sanderson on blog My Blank Page.

Follow me on Twitter/Periscope: @scriptcat

Subscribe to my new YOUTUBE CHANNEL for my weekly screenwriting videos.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay and need in-depth consultation? Check out my professional services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website.  You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right…

Screenplay consultation services

Need help reaching your screenwriting goals? Maybe my on-demand webinars can help. Click on the icon below for the link to the webinars for rent or purchase.

checklist

“The reward of suffering is experience.”—Aeschylus, Ancient Greek Dramatist known as the founder of Greek Tragedy

“The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then.”—William Faulkner

“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”—
Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Act 1 Scene 4

“Don’t focus on where you’re not (famous or A-list writer)—focus on where you’re at—hopefully screenwriting. Regardless of success or experience, we’re all equals in front of that blank page channeling the muse.”—Scriptcat

“Seeking support from friends and family is like having your people gathered around at your deathbed.  It’s nice, but when the ship sails, all they can do is stand on the dock waving goodbye.  Any support we get from persons of flesh and blood is like Monopoly money; it’s not legal tender in that sphere where we have to do our work.  In fact, the more energy we spend stoking up on support from colleagues and loved ones, the weaker we become and the less capable of handling our business.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

Tips for survival while you await feedback on your screenplay…

December 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

pitchAfter we submit our script to someone for a read, we go through the “waiting game.” It’s that horrible period when the lack of any reply can fester inside a screenwriter’s head, and the fear of rejection and failure can fuel negative thoughts. We get enough rejection on our journey, so why create more anxiety for ourselves during the period when someone reads our script as we wait for them to get back to us, right? We have no control over when they will respond or even their response. Hopefully, we’ve done our best work in the script and what is on the page now it represents us without any excuses. It’s a process you will repeat over your entire career.

Many times, I’ve learned that no news is just that—no news. I’ve conjured us horrible scenarios only to be proven wrong when the good news comes. As creative people, we screenwriters can imagine all kinds of unknown situations in our head, writing, filming, and editing the outcome before it happens. That’s destructive thinking and wasted energy. The way to get through this period after you submit your script to an agent, manager, production company, executive, or contest is to stay busy. It’s vital to your mental state over the long haul. Even when you do forge a career, you will submit projects to your producers or executives so it never ends. It’s how you treat the waiting period that counts and staying in control is vital to your mental survival

script revisionIt helps to always stay busy with some form of writing. While your script is out and you await a response, you need to create other projects, new loglines, pitches, treatments, and work on a new screenplay. When you are busy, you won’t be obsessed with waiting for a response for those projects out in the marketplace. When the good or bad news trickles in, you won’t be destroyed by the comments or rejection because you will be too busy on your new screenplay. You open up new opportunities with every screenplay that you create. It’s vital to your creative soul to keep pressing forward and filling new blank pages.

hang onWhile you are experiencing the waiting game, it helps to remember that Hollywood works on its own timetable. It’s a time warp where nothing happens as fast as you’d like and sometimes it feels like even a few steps forward takes too long. Time can burn so quickly as you pursue your screenwriting career in Hollywood. You spend so much time and energy finishing your script, once you finish how can you temper your excitement? This is what we live for as screenwriters—the excitement of completing a new project. It’s playing the game, living as a wide-eyed dreamer with hope for another chance up to the plate. It’s empowering to work on your own schedule and steer your own ship seemingly in control of your destiny.

Remember, your script is the most important thing in the world to you—but you quickly discover it’s not to everyone else. This is when a time warp happens and your reality quickly shows down to Hollywood’s schedule. It’s a strange world of fear, unknowns, half-truths, promises, good intentions, and a very long slog. Again, it helps to stay busy and working on your next great screenplay.

handshake cartoonEven if you do land a screenplay assignment, the business side of negotiation takes time. On one assignment job, my contract for a script assignment went back and forth between my lawyer and the production company’s lawyer for a month. As negotiations continue on every deal point, the back and forth seemingly takes forever—and this is before you can start any work on the script. Unfortunately, a holiday comes up, so it means another four or five days until a reply and new draft of the contract. It seems like torture, feeling as if you’re in the starting blocks waiting for the starter gun to go off—but it never does until you and the producer sign the contract’s final draft.  This is when it helps to have patience my fellow screenwriters—learn patience.  It’s a big part of the life of a screenwriter and will help on your long haul journey.

The key to surviving the “waiting game” is to empower yourself by staying busy writing. As you create a new project, the energy comes from your mind as you drive your dreams forward with your passion for storytelling. Don’t give into fear during the waiting game because that’s what it wants you to do. If you don’t hear back within your artificially created deadline, fear might creep into your creative soul and you will easily believe that you are a horrible writer if you don’t receive feedback. Avoid this destructive habit by staying busy during this period. You’re onto your next project and too busy to worry about what happens with the last. That’s empowering and puts you back in control.

Keep the faith and keep writing because if you stop, you’re guaranteed to never have any shot at success. And trust me this is a business where there are no guarantees—even when you do sell a screenplay.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2016 by Mark Sanderson on My Blank Page.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay and need in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website.

Screenplay consultation services

Need a check list to help reach your screenwriting goals? Try my on-demand webinars. Click on the icon below for the link to buy or rent.

checklist

Check out my Coffee Ring Cartoons Merchandise for screenwriters. Click on the photo below for the link to my online store.

mugs

 

No, it’s not a very good story – its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside.” — Stephen King

“The single most important question, I think, that one must ask one’s self about a character is what are they really afraid of? What are they really afraid of?  And if you ask that question, it’s probably for me the single best way of getting into a character. That finally is where stories are told… with a character that’s real.”—Robert Towne

“The professional understands delayed gratification.  He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare… the professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work.  He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much.  He accepts that.  He recognizes it as reality. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul.  He sustains himself with the knowledge that if he can just keep the huskies mushing, sooner or later the sled will pull in to Nome.” — Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

poor screenwriter

A screenwriting journey is a marathon, so enjoy the little successes along the way…

November 5, 2016 § Leave a comment

megaphoneSometimes it takes years for the big successes to happen. During the in-between times, when you’re working hard toward your next goal, you might doubt your talent and even question if you’ll ever work again. The early failures may force you to ask, “What if my latest spec doesn’t sell?” Maybe the well has run dry for you? What if you don’t find a screenwriting job? What if you can’t find an agent or manager? What if you receive horrible feedback and they hate your screenplay? Oh, the myriad of questions that can fuel your insecurity and fear if you allow it. Sometimes, the only nourishment we have in this barren wasteland of screenwriting is our faith and the anchor of the small achievement. No matter how small. Maybe you finished your script? That’s a major achievement. Maybe you finally got a producer to give it a read? That’s another successful achievement. The ingredients of a big success are usually a range of small successes all leading up to that sale or screenwriting job that jump starts a “career.”

It’s the little successes that keep us going through the rough times. I know for me personally, what gets me through is seeing results from my forward movement—and creating new material. Every screenplay opens up new opportunities. Always be moving forward, even if it’s a few steps at a time. Sure, you’ll stumble and experience failure during your journey, but avoid falling into the self-doubt pit where the darkness of fear overshadows your burning desire to make it as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

thOn your journey, make sure to take rejection lightly. We all suffer disappointment, but when you can accept rejection as part of the process, you can better adjust your temperament and not take the criticism personally. There’s a myriad of reasons why a producer might reject your project, but they could still like your writing. Selling a project is great, but if it doesn’t sell your writing ability can also land you a job. Think positively and train yourself to avoid the negative thoughts about your self-worth and talent. The more you think negatively, the more it becomes an emotion — and then it’s hard to separate the two. You can actually start to believe a reality that isn’t true.

Many times, it’s not always about the sale or the immediate final result. A rejection can actually be an open door and maybe it’s a “pass” now, but they like your writing and want to see more. What seemed like a failure was really a success, because you started a new relationship with a producer or executive whose door is now open to you. This is why you should always be working on your next project. Building these relationships is the key to a successful career as a working screenwriter, so don’t get depressed when your script doesn’t sell the first time out. You’ll probably have to write ten screenplays before you sell your first one.

Back in the day before I was a working screenwriter, I entered my script in the prestigious Academy’s Nicholl Fellowship with the hopes of winning one of the year-long fellowships. My script was not one of the nine finalists, but was a semi-finalist script, placing in the top 1% of all entries, and it ended up in the top twenty scripts overall out of thousands entered worldwide. They picked the top nine writers for the fellowship that year. I could have looked upon my placement as a complete failure, but I used my script’s advanced placement as a successful step forward and was able to get producers to read it because of my achievement. I eventually found a producer who saw my script’s potential, his company bought my script, produced it into a motion picture that premiered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, premiered on cable TV in the US, and distributed worldwide. It was a dream come true.

You can spend years working on many projects and with the right timing and project, you could get paid to write a few and some will actually be produced. It’s not going to be easy on the long haul marathon that it will take to get anything produced. More often, many projects never get produced and they become writing samples that might get you work in the future. There’s a myriad of different scenarios where the result is out of your control. So, if you’re slogging away in the trenches anyway, fighting the good fight, why not celebrate the little successes along the way?

It won’t always be a slam-dunk, but if you’re in the game and working toward your goal, you’ll get through the rough times by cherishing the little successes. A career is built on the positive steps forward, not the pursuit of one big sale. It does happen for a select and lucky few, but the more realistic journey is one built from a long series of seemingly tiny successes.

On your road to being a working screenwriter, any forward position that you’re able to hold is a triumph. Never lose ground by falling into the pit of self-doubt with debilitating fear. Stay hungry, humble, and face the challenges straight on because there’s no way around them, only through them. Once you’ve overcome the next challenge, hold that new position and use it to regroup and push even farther down the road. It’s similar to a battle and you’ll stand a better chance at survival over the long haul if you take time to celebrate the hard-earned successes —no matter how small they seem. Also, don’t focus on where you’re NOT — (famous or A-list)— focus on where you’re AT—hopefully screenwriting. Regardless of experience or success, as screenwriters we’re all equals in front of a blank page channeling the muse.

Keep filling your blank pages and keep the faith because if you stop writing you’ll never have any shot at success.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2016 by Mark Sanderson on blog My Blank Page.

Check out my YOUTUBE CHANNEL with weekly video script tips from the trenches.

Did you just complete your new screenplay and need in-depth consultation? Check out my screenplay consultation services. Click on the icon below for the link to my website for more information.  You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay.

Screenplay consultation services

Do you need help with your screenwriting goals? Let my on-demand webinars help. Click on the icon below for the link to my website.

checklist

“Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”~ Albert Schweitzer

“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

“Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.”—Ray Bradbury

“Writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that. Not to write, for many of us, is to die. We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout.”—Ray Bradbury

fd

 

Five honest questions screenwriters must answer about their screenwriting…

October 24, 2016 § Leave a comment

script revision photo copyIf your passion drives you to embark on this crazy marathon of a screenwriting career, you’ll need to prepare for survival in Hollywood’s trenches. Talent is important, but so is your professional code and ability to endure criticism, rejection and failure over the long haul. The odds may be stacked against you, but the way to standout in this very competitive business is to create a solid body of work and build a reputation as a team player and collaborator. The rest is just luck—a prepared screenwriter who meets with an opportunity and delivers the goods.

Here are five honest questions about the craft of screenwriting that aspiring screenwriters must answer before they jump in and pursue a career… and here we go..

  • Have you mastered screenplay format?  I find many aspiring writers have a serious lack of knowledge or respect about screenplay format.  It’s what separates the professional from the amateur. Producers, directors, and executives will immediately recognize that if you didn’t have enough respect for your craft to know proper format, you’re not a professional. I’ve seen too many times screenwriters being rejected after writing a spec because it was rushed and not well-written. Some screenwriters will stubbornly believe that their screenplay will sell just off the idea alone and they don’t have to do the hard work. In reality, good ideas are a dime a dozen in Hollywood, it’s the execution of an effective screenplay that counts.

 

  •  Are you overwriting your screenplay?  I’ve read too many scripts that are micro managed and result in a bloated screenplay. Do you describe the wallpaper and give directions to the actors like: “He sighs, shrugs his shoulders, rolls his eyes, smiles and turns?” Many new screenwriters feel the need to micromanage every scene. Stop doing this. Producers and executives hate to read—funny in a business where the script is so important, but they like to see a lot of “white” on the page.  This means the fewer words the better and it’s the job of the screenwriter to stay the hell out-of-the-way of the story. You are here to service the story not the other way around.

 

  • Do you respect story and screenplay structure?  I find some beginning writers have a lack of respect for the treatment/step outline/beat sheet and how it related to the screenplay structure. This arrogance will get you into trouble when you end up in barren wasteland of Act 2, and you become lost on page sixty, or with a hundred and fifty-page script with no idea where to cut. Your screenplay dies from 1,000 little format, story and structure issues. It’s all about the attention to the little details. I can start reading a script and by the first page know it’s from an amateur. The producers and executives will notice too.

 

  • Have you accepted this fact:  Screenwriting is all about execution and rewriting? Hollywood is full of good ideas and the winning formula is: good idea + execution of good idea = amazing viable screenplay. It all comes down to being able to execute a good idea into an even better script. Many beginning writers believe their first draft is perfect and needs no rewrites.  Reality check ahead. After I read someone’s magnum opus and they tell me it took six months to write it without a treatment or even a step outline, I grimace and realize they just don’t understand the process. A reader or producer will stop reading and become frustrated after the first few pages. Detach from the material and it will be much easier to cut it to the bone. When they do give you suggestions and notes do not bristle and defend every word. You’ll be branded as “difficult” and you’ll find it hard to work if you can’t shake that reputation. Rewrites will be a huge part of your screenwriting journey.

 

  • Are you willing to give the time necessary to create a viable body of work? We all want overnight success with the least amount of effort, right? A screenwriting career is as easy as falling out of bed in the morning into a three picture deal. Wrong. It can take years and a half-dozen screenplays to achieve any level of success as a working screenwriter—or maybe never. You’ll need time to fail and write badly so you can get on to doing your best work. You need to think of your career as your life’s journey and continually learn, study, and work at becoming a better screenwriter. You want to become a master of your craft at the top of your game. This is the level of performance necessary to compete in a very crowded marketplace where no one really gives a shit about your precious screenplay. There are 30,000 – 50,000 scripts/ideas/pitches fighting to sell every year before yours does.

 

Format starts with your cover page. It’s the little details that will show if you know what you are doing or not. If any of these hard and fast rules are not followed, your script will likely have a much harder time getting through the pipeline and will end up as a doorstop, or in the recycling bin without a read. This will close doors, harm your reputation and your project. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to do your best work and don’t unleash the script before it’s ready.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2017 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE blog.

BEFORE YOU GO… CHECK OUT MY SERVICES BELOW…

Did you just finish your latest screenplay or draft? Is it time for in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the icon below for the link to my website.

Screenplay consultation services

My new screenwriting survival book is now available on AMAZON –

A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success: Tips, Tricks and Tactics to Survive as a Working Screenwriter in Hollywood.”

Click on the book cover below for the link to Amazon for purchase.

Master CoverR2-4-REV2

Need help focusing on your screenwriting goals? My on-demand webinars can help with a screenwriter’s checklist. Click on the icon below for the link to my website.

webinar promo

Now available – my COFFEE RING CARTOONS merchandise for screenwriters. Click on the photo below for the link to my online store to purchase T-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, pint glasses, note cards, notebooks, and drink coasters.

mug-real-photo

It’s a funny thing about life if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”—W. Somerset Maugham

“Do it for joy and you can do it forever” ―Stephen King

The professional respects his craft. He does not consider himself superior to it. He recognizes the contributions of those who have gone before him. He apprentices himself to them.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art” “.

.. The payoff of playing-the-game-for-money is not the money (which you may never see anyway, even after you turn pro). The payoff is that playing the game for money produces the proper professional attitude. It inculcates the lunch-pail mentality, the hard-core, hard-head, hard-hat state of mind that shows up for work despite rain or snow or dark of night and slugs it out day after day.” — Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

FADE OUT. THE END. What’s next?

October 22, 2016 § Leave a comment

Completing your screenplayThese are perhaps the most anticipated words a screenwriter can ever type: FADE OUT – THE END. If you’ve completed your latest screenplay or draft, my sincere congratulations! There is no better feeling when you finish months or years of hard work. You want to shout from the rooftops that you finished and hand the script out to everyone who ever said they would read it. Okay, take a deep breath, and pause a moment before you unleash it upon Hollywood. Never allow anyone to read the script before it’s ready.

If you have a producer wanting to read your script but it’s not ready—do not send it. It’s far better to wait until it’s your best work. If you distribute a screenplay riddled with problems, your open doors will close because you will have wasted your contact’s precious time with a substandard product. This will harm your reputation as a professional and may kill the project. If you consider approximately 30,000 to 40,000 scripts/treatments/pitches/loglines and registered with the Writers Guild yearly, and only 47 specs have sold as of September of this year, the competition has never been greater. It’s tough even for professional writers. The recent WGA annual report lists only 5,159 writers reporting income from TV, feature films, news, and interactive writing.

script revision photo copyAfter you finish a first draft, a new journey begins as you travel down the road of notes, criticism, and rewrites. Embrace the experience because it’s all part of the long haul screenwriting journey. Realize that good isn’t good enough—you have to be an excellent screenwriter to compete in a competitive marketplace. You may start with a fantastic premise, but if you haven’t executed a kick ass screenplay that lives up to its full potential—it will fail. Never forget that even with an amazing script, there are no guarantees. Hollywood doesn’t have to love it.

Many times, what you don’t know can hurt you—and your project. If your script is riddled with typos, format issues, and story problems, Hollywood professionals will immediately reject your screenplay.  Remember, you get one shot to dazzle them with your talent. Make sure your screenplay is ready to compete and is the your best work possible.

Keep screenwriting and following your dreams. If you stop writing, you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success.

Scriptcat out!

This article was written and published by Mark Sanderson on the My Blank Page blog.

BEFORE YOU GO… CHECK OUT MY SERVICES BELOW…

If it’s time for a second opinion on your latest screenplay, consider my screenplay consultation services with notes and a full edit. Click on the blue icon below for the link to my website and a free gift if you contact me.

(click on icon below)

Screenplay consultation services

Do you need help organizing your screenwriting goals? Let my on-demand webinars help with specific disciplines that could put your plans into action. $9.99 each. Click on the icon below for the link to the website for more information.

webinar promo

“When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten cent notebook and start the whole thing over again.” — Preston Sturges

“With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable. Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job. It’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There is plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes into my mind, only looking back to check the names of my characters and the relevant parts of their back stories, I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that’s always waiting to settle in.”—Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“Hunger is good discipline and you learn from it. And as long as they don not understand it you are ahead of them. Oh sure, I thought, I’m so far ahead of them now that I can’t afford to eat regularly. It would not be bad if they caught up a little.” —Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast, page 75.

“Then our writers when they have made some money increase their standard of living and they are caught. They have to write to keep up their establishments, their wives, and so on, and they write slop. It is slop not on purpose but because it is hurried. Because they write when there is nothing to say or no water in the well. Because they are ambitious. Then, once they have betrayed themselves, they justify it and you get more slop.”—Ernest Hemingway, Green Hills of Africa, page 23.

 

fd

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Uncategorized category at My Blank Page.

%d bloggers like this: