How to Become The Screenwriter Hollywood Needs

If you want to be the screenwriter Hollywood needs, then you cannot be just a good screenwriter. You must be great!

So before you pay for another screenwriting class on character development or plot points… Change your perspective on what makes a screenwriter ‘great’ in the eyes of Hollywood.

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Become The Screenwriter Hollywood Needs

A Great Screenwriter Delivers

A great screenwriter delivers what the Hollywood system depends upon. Not by mindlessly guessing or chasing trends they’ve heard from friends (or friends of friends), but rather genuinely knowing that:

  1. Hollywood functions as an actual movie-making system by making and distributing films that earn more money than they cost to produce.
  2. When starting, focus on the part of Hollywood where your work, ideas, and talents are most desperately in need: Independent Hollywood (not the big studios).

Indie Hollywood isn’t on the hunt for more character dramas or indie coming-of-age gems. Hollywood is seeking screenplays with a reliable audience and a high probability of generating revenue.

Genres considered reliable and stable are the kinds of films you see on TV. These include:

  • Family films (with kid heroes, even better with an animal sidekick)
  • Action films (especially ones that offer the opportunity for an aging male actor to make a comeback role)
  • Female-driven thrillers (the kind you see on Lifetime).

If you want proof, go check out a Redbox machine. Aside from major studio titles and video games, you’ll notice that the genres mentioned above usually get placement (despite having no prominent A-list celebrity actors).

Comedies are more challenging to sell since their style and tone are subjective and difficult to play overseas. This is because humor doesn’t always translate to other cultures, and language dubbing is expensive!

Follow The (Hollywood) Money

When writing for independent Hollywood, rather than the big studios, you must be conscious of where the money comes from. Foreign sales are as important as U.S. and Canadian placement, so avoid overly heavy Americanisms like football or Thanksgiving.

While we are on the subject, avoid dramas (they are too dull). Make your lead protagonist female (women make the ‘movie viewing’ decisions more often than men), and keep your script budget-oriented despite what many screenwriting books suggest.

And if you have a laundry list of solid ideas, save them until later. As a serious screenwriter, you must first sell a few scripts in the indie zone to build a strong reputation before big-studio Hollywood will pay attention. 

For more examples, get on Netflix or Hulu and look for the movies you’ve never heard of (but happen to be placed next to a big Studio title. Those are the indie films you stand a solid chance of getting hired to write!)

A Great Screenwriter Follows Principles, Not Trends

There will always be a new ‘it’ genre or trend, which all the Studios follow. I’m sure you’ve noticed the zombie films and reboots. But trends come and go, some much quicker than others. But the principles stay the same.

Writing on Principle means focusing on genres that are consistently and reliably selling. In my book, Writing for the Green Light, I refer to these as Gold-Mine Genre Types. Is FOX hell-bent on Vampires this season?

Let them focus on that, and you stick to your reliable Family title or modestly budgeted Action film.

Is Paramount investing heavily into paranormal-themed content this summer? Let them. Don’t veer off course just because the studios make a new decision.

Stick true to your reliable genres (Family, Action, and Female-Driven thrillers), and give indie Hollywood what it needs to stay in business.

A Great Screenwriter Is Sales Oriented

There is nothing wrong with being passionate about content that sells! You are no less a serious screenwriter because you write Tween-Girl Romance movies or Family Safe Adventures rather than hard-hitting dramas.

By entering the entertainment industry with a ‘business’ mindset (focused on seeing your work produced and your efforts compensated for), the Decision-Makers running Hollywood will take you more seriously.

Once you’ve built a name for yourself as a reliable and steady deliverer of quality content, you will have already built that network of contacts who can take your screenwriting to the next level.

Popular Questions

Here are some popular questions and answers about screenwriting for Hollywood, especially in the context of independent film production.

How do I become a successful screenwriter in Hollywood?

To be successful, focus on writing scripts that are likely to sell. Understand what types of stories Hollywood needs and align your writing with those needs.

What genres are best for screenwriting in Hollywood?

Family films, action movies, and female-driven thrillers are usually good choices. These genres have a consistent audience and are more likely to be successful.

Should I Think about foreign markets when writing a script?

Yes. Write movie scripts with foreign markets in mind. Aim for universal appeal in your scripts by minimizing culturally specific references, especially American ones, to make them more accessible to global audiences.

Should screenwriters follow current trends?

No. It’s better to focus on genres that consistently do well instead of chasing trends, which can change quickly.

Why should screenwriters have a business mindset?

A business mindset helps you create scripts that are not only creative but also marketable and financially viable.

How can a new screenwriter break into the industry?

Start by selling scripts in the indie market to build a reputation. This experience can later help in attracting attention from larger studios.

What types of scripts are less likely to succeed in Hollywood?

Scripts heavily focused on niche American themes or hard-to-sell genres like drama are less likely to succeed.

How can screenwriters ensure their scripts appeal to a broad audience?

Focus on themes that are universally relatable and avoid overly specific cultural references.

Why Are comedy Scripts hard to sell?

Because humor is subjective and may not translate well across different cultures, selling a comedy screenplay in Hollywood may be challenging unless you are a known comedy writer.

What should screenwriters do with their script ideas?

Start by focusing on selling scripts in the indie market to establish credibility before presenting broader ideas to larger studios.

Do Screenwriters need to understand Hollywood’s financial model?

Knowing how the movie business works domestically and internationally helps you write scripts that align with what movie producers want, increasing the chances of your script being produced and successful.

Why are scripts with female protagonists important in Hollywood?

Scripts with female leads can appeal to a broader audience, as women often influence movie-viewing decisions.


Here’s a glossary of key terms with definitions from the article “How to Become The Screenwriter Hollywood Needs,”

Screenwriter: A writer who creates scripts for films, especially with an understanding of what Hollywood requires.

Independent Hollywood: A part of the film industry where new screenwriters can start, focusing on films with a high chance of revenue.

Family Films: A genre popular in Hollywood, often featuring child heroes and animal sidekicks.

Action Films: Films with exciting sequences are often preferred for their commercial appeal.

Female-Driven Thrillers: Thrillers with female protagonists are known for their broad audience reach.

Foreign Sales: The international market for films is crucial for a film’s financial success.

Americanisms: Cultural references specific to the United States might not translate globally.

Gold-Mine Genre Types: Genres that consistently sell well, like family films, action movies, and female-driven thrillers.

Sales Oriented: Focusing on writing content that will likely be produced and profitable.

Business Mindset: An approach where a screenwriter considers their scripts’ marketability and financial aspects.

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ARTICLE BY Scott Kirkpatrick

Scott Kirkpatrick is the Senior Vice President of Sales for the London-based distribution company DRG and is the author of the book Writing for the Green Light: How to Make Your Script the One Hollywood Notices.  Previously, he served as the Executive Director of Distribution for MarVista Entertainment.  He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.