Writing for the Screen
eBook - ePub

Writing for the Screen

Anna Weinstein, Anna Weinstein

  1. 254 pagine
  2. English
  3. ePUB (disponibile sull'app)
  4. Disponibile su iOS e Android
eBook - ePub

Writing for the Screen

Anna Weinstein, Anna Weinstein

Dettagli del libro
Anteprima del libro
Indice dei contenuti

Informazioni sul libro

Writing for the Screen is a collection of essays and interviews exploring the business of screenwriting. This highly accessible guide to working in film and television includes perspectives from industry insiders on topics such as breaking in; pitching; developing and nurturing business relationships; juggling multiple projects; and more. Writing for the Screen is an ideal companion to screenwriting and filmmaking classes, demystifying the industry and the role of the screenwriter with real-world narratives and little-known truths about the business. With insight from working professionals, you'll be armed with the information you need to pursue your career as a screenwriter.

  • Contains essays by and interviews with screenwriting consultants, television writers, feature writers, writer-directors of independent film, producers, and professors.

  • Offers expert opinions on how to get started, including preparing your elevator pitch, finding mentors, landing an internship, and moving from an internship to the next step in your career.

  • Reveals details about taking meetings, what development executives are looking for in a screenwriter, how and when to approach a producer, and how to pitch.

  • Explores strategies for doing creative work under pressure, finding your voice, choosing what to write, sticking with a project over the long haul, overcoming discrimination, and reinventing yourself as a writer.

  • Illuminates the business of screenwriting in the United States (New York and Los Angeles) as compared to other countries around the globe, including England, Ireland, Peru, France, Australia, and Belgium.

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Chapter 1
Getting Started

“You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing. You don’t have a job? Get one. Any job. Don’t sit at home waiting for the magical opportunity.”
Shonda Rhimes
Writers are used to the blank page—the Herculean task of putting fingers to the keyboard despite the glaring empty screen in front of them. But the task of taking the first steps toward building a career as a writer can often be even more overwhelming than the writing itself, particularly when it’s an industry and career track with nebulous rules, apparently involving a move to either Los Angeles or New York.
Where do you begin?
If you want to work as a doctor, you know exactly what you need to do to get started. You can’t become a physician without a license to practice medicine, and to get that license, there’s schooling involved, as well as passing a series of exams. These are facts. Rules.
But if you want to become a screenwriter, you don’t need licensing. There’s no formal exam to pass, and no rules you must follow to succeed.

Who Knew?

Did you know that Barry Morrow (Rain Man) was discovered after writing about his experiences befriending and becoming the guardian of a mentally impaired man twice his age? (And this was before he met the man who would inspire Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man.) Did you know that Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) quit his job as personal assistant to Matthew Broderick so he could pursue screenwriting full-time? And did you know that he wrote Little Miss Sunshine in three days and then proceeded to do more than 100 revisions on the script before it made it to the screen?1
Although there are no explicit rules for how to become a working screenwriter, there are guidelines, and you can begin to compile your own list of guidelines as you gather insight from the pros.
Here’s what you’ll find out about in this first chapter:
  • Breaking in as an intern, secretary, production assistant (PA), or writer’s assistant
  • Working with film development executives—what they’re looking for in a writer, as well as their expectations for the initial meeting or series of interactions
  • Etiquette for how and when to give your colleagues or supervisor your writing samples
  • Qualities you need to have to succeed in the early career support positions
  • Steps you can take so you’re prepared when an opportunity presents itself
  • What a television producer is looking for in a writer and why
  • What it takes to work your way up in television, from intern to showrunner
  • Strategies for career prep, beginning before you finish school
Let’s start there. You’re about to graduate from school … now what?

Exit Strategies

Preparing to Leave School and Begin Your Screenwriting Career
▶ By Gabrielle Kelly
To succeed in the competitive job market these days, you need not so much “strategy” singular as “strategies” plural. Think of these strategies as an ongoing process of building your skills, contacts, and experience. You’ll be making many “exits” over time in your work, so your strategy has to always be in play—and the better prepared you are, the more likely success will follow.
As a screenwriter, your work will be primarily freelancing. This isn’t specific to screenwriting, of course. Anyone who trains in arts and aspires to making a living in the arts realizes that they’re unlikely to find themselves working 9 to 5 in a cubicle with lunch breaks and benefits. And my guess is, most artists don’t want that.
It’s not easy to make a living as a screenwriter, which is why they say of the film and television business, “you can make a killing, but often can’t make a living.” It can be feast or famine, and it takes a constant balancing of art and business skills to stay in the game. This reality has certain implications. One such implication is that the marketing and management of your work become increasingly important, and this marketing and management often transcend talent. In other words, talent is great, but relationships get you hired.
So let’s assume you’re in the final stretch of school, and you’re preparing to embark on your career. You might not know whether you plan to move to Los Angeles or New York, or whether you’ll stay put and save money first. Or will you relocate abroad? Or will you buy some time by getting a writer’s residency somewhere in upstate New York or in a lakeside castle in Switzerland?
Not sure yet? First things first … let’s look at some strategies to bear in mind as you embark on your career.

Updating Your Résumé and Portfolio

Updating your résumé and portfolio is a constant process. Create what I call a “Me File.” This is where you keep the accolades, recommendations, photos, and thank-you emails that you’ve received from friends, professors, mentors, colleagues, or bosses. Anything that sells you goes in this file. Be sure to get letters while you’re still in school or in your internship, and ask for emails or recommendations that you can add to your website or on your LinkedIn page.
Compose a general résumé that you can fine-tune according to the specific needs of jobs and internships. Think of your résumé as your own personal press release. This isn’t a time to be modest. And if you’re worried that you don’t have the official screenwriting jobs and credentials to flesh out your résumé, don’t be. It’s difficult to get paid work writing a feature script, TV script, or Web series. For your first scripts, you’ll “hire yourself,” writing on spec for no money just to prove you can do it. On your résumé, list your internships, jobs, and experiences that show writing as part of what you did, and be sure to list the different types of writing in your skill set.
As you transition from college to work, you have to realize that your success is directly tied to what you can do for the people who hire you. Résumés that itemize what you hope to get from a job—as in “Seek a job where I will grow in my skills”—will fall flat. Your employer is hiring you to make the company succeed, not to oversee your up-skilling, except as it benefits them. Your professional development is up to you, and it’s your creativity and smarts that will propel you to other opportunities. Professors are paid to draw out from you what you know, don’t know, and are learning. It’s their job. But when you work, that’s your job. Quite simply, it’s the reverse of all you’ve experienced in college. So keep this in mind as you craft the language of your résumé.
Also in your Me File, create a portfolio of work samples. Your screenplay samples, certainly—but this should also include other forms of writing that you’ve created for yourself, for school projects, or for employers. As your portfolio grows, swap out samples you created for school so your work portfolio becomes entirely professional. You might label these samples “Sample Press Release,” “Sample Feature Story,” “Sample Social Media Marketing,” or “Sample Comedy Routine.”
Update your professional social media profile regularly, and keep copies of all cover letters in your Me File so you can find and repurpose them for other applications. Make sure they are typo free and grammar perfect!
And remember, digital platforms are more forgiving of online-speak, and texting is a language in and of itself, but none of that is appropriate for business interactions. Behind the scenes, show business is all business. Be showy and artistic in your art, but businesslike in your work.

Your Online Portfolio

Many schools today encourage students to build websites that demonstrate who they are and their range of experiences. This is a great way to provide prospective employers with a quick link to a beautifully designed site that houses your résumé, writing samples, and letters of recommendation. Don’t mistake this for your Me File, though. You want to keep the extras in a private file to which you control access and exposure.
There are many easy-to-use, free websites where you can build your online portfolio. Check out the latest, as they’re improving all the time. And make sure to reserve a custom URL (www.yourname.com) versus a generic URL for your website—this helps with your personal branding. Set up your social media profile handles, and ensure that you’re updating these pages regularly and interacting with relevant profiles.

Continuing Your Education

You’re graduating from school, and now your real-world education begins! No matter where you live, you can subscribe to every screenwriting podcast, blog, and newsletter. If you live in a metropolitan area, you can go to talks and seminars with working writers. Join a writer’s group, whether online (via Skype) or face-to-face. You’re looking to create a situation where you’ll get the kind of feedback and support that you have with your college writing workshops. By joining a group of committed screenwriters, not only will you get good notes, you’ll also get the encouragement to simply keep writing.
Do you need to move to Hollywood or New York to continue your education and set yourself up for working in the industry? It’s true there are many more opportunities there, but that’s a big and expensive commitment, so it’s important to have a plan before moving. The film and television industry isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not predictable, safe, or reliable. In fact, quite the opposite is true. So think it through before you make the move.
  • Are you committed to working in the industry?
  • Are you committed to the endless writing and rewriting necessary to succeed?
  • Are you willing to work in whatever job you initially land just to get in the door and get some exposure?
  • Are you willing and able to live frugally so you can “pay your dues”?
As you transition from school to work, the goal is to continue your education in whatever you’re doing. Quentin Tarantino got his film education working in a video rental store, and Lena Dunham pooled money with friends from babysitting and art-assistant gigs to write and make the Web series that first got her noticed.2
As someone who aims to be a screenwriter, you want to find work that relates to your goal. Very few go directly from college to working as a writer’s assistant, where you work with the writing staff on a TV show. Its equivalent in film would be a screenwriter’s assistant or researcher. Landing such a job is a privilege, and you’ll usually work your way into this position starting out as an intern, a secretary, or a production assistant.
Early in my career, I had the opportunity to work in several jobs as an assistant, and I savored every moment of researching scripts and stories, typing and retyping screenplays, transcribing tapes of dialogue, oral histories, and the like. One of the great benefits of these jobs was being forced to deliver writing under pressure—not waiting for the muse to find me, but instead scouring every corner for the muse just to keep my job!
The point being, even on the job, I was continuing my education. But the most common route to landing a job like that is to begin with an internship.

Getting an Internship

Internships related to screenwriting can help set you up for success in the industry. Be sure to talk to your internship coordinator or career advisor in your school program to find out what’s available to apply for and when. It’s much easier to get an internship while you’re in school, so make the most of this opportunity. Once you land your internship, your goal is to shine so people on the job will notice you.
Paid internships can be especially difficult to get, but don’t give up. Always try to turn an internship into a paid situation, even if the pay is low. This can boost your shot at a job once the internship is over.
The other benefit of an internship is that you’ll discover more about you. You’ll find out how you do and don’t like to spend your time, your strengths and weaknesses, your natural talents, and what skills are easily honed. You may not be writing screenplays in your internship, but you could find, for example, that you have a knack for writing marketing copy or for blogging. Or perhaps you’ll discover that you’re particularly good at sound, or that you enjoy working in the camera department or in an entirely unrelated job.
Still too, don’t write off a paid internship that allows you time to write your spec screenplays. It’s unlikely someone will pay you a lot to write starting out, but you need writing samples to get work. So get writing. Build your writing portfolio as you intern.

Just Luck?

It’s easy to dismiss someone’s success as merely good luck, especially when we’re certain that person lacks talent. First, remember this: You aren’t the final judge on talent. And neither is the person reading your screenplay at this very moment. Or is the next person. Or the next! Talent is subjective.
Here’s what we do know about luck: You create it. Luck is where opportunity meets good timing, so you should devote time to making your own luck. The strategy for your exit from school to work, from internship to job, and from one job to the next should be about envisioning and planning your next move while being ready to take unexpected opportunities that arise along the wa...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Copyright
  4. Dedication
  13. INDEX