If you just wrote a screenplay, congratulations. You just completed one of the hardest things to do in Hollywood. And if you’re like most first-time screenwriters, you’re wondering what to do next. Do you contact a producer? Get an agent? Enter a screenwriting contest? Or raise money and produce your film?
There are no easy answers to these questions. Any time a screenplay gets produced is a complete miracle. And any screenwriter who gets paid in the process is just plain lucky. But you can do things that will increase your odds of screenwriting success.
I Wrote A Screenplay Too
Years ago, when I was a fat, beer-drinking, cheeseburger-eating appliance store salesman in Pennsylvania, I had just finished my first screenplay. And like many first-time screenwriters, I had no idea what to do next. I remember thinking that just writing a script was enough to kickstart my Hollywood career. I was wrong.
Years later, when I worked for a film producer in New York City, I quickly realized some hard truths. It turns out that lots of people write screenplays. Every week, our office received dozens of script submissions. If any screenplay failed to engage within the first ten pages to keep up with the influx, it went in the trash.
So to help you avoid common pitfalls, here are some lessons I learned from reading screenplays for a producer. Look closely, as you may spot a trend:
- Many screenplays from agents sucked
- Many screenplays from friends sucked
- Many screenplays from “known” writers sucked
- Many screenplays from friends of friends sucked
- Many screenplays written in handwriting (not kidding) sucked
- Many screenplays had no plot and sucked
- Many screenplays had a plot and sucked
Most Screenplays Suck
Whenever we received an AWESOME script, I would jump out of my seat, run across the office, and hand-deliver it to the producer. (This never happened.) So your screenwriting success begins by simply taking the time to write and rewrite your words into a great screenplay.
To increase your odds of writing a great screenplay, you need to start with the script you just finished. Even if you think your screenplay is fantastic, the odds are good the story still requires some tweaking. So before you work any Hollywood connections, put your script in a drawer and focus on the following:
- Research popular screenplay contests
- Take some courses on film production and learn the basics
- Write another script… Seriously start right now
The last piece of advice about writing another script comes from experience. Many writers focus so much on their current screenplay that they fail to expand their body of work. Writing a stack of screenplays is like creating inventory for your store. The more products you have on the shelf, the more you can eventually sell.
Since agents, managers, and producers make their living by finding good material, it is in your best interest to have some good material. Please don’t send anything out unless it is fantastic. Then assuming you capture the interest of a Hollywood Heavyweight, you’ll be ready to take your career to the next level. And if you’re interested, here’s how NOT to get your screenplay read.