How to get into screenwriting
Author: Donald L. Vasicek
Getting into screenwriting requires a variety of steps. Step one is to learn how to write scripts. There are a number of books in book stores that show you how to write scripts. Most bookstores sell some of the more popular books that teach you how to write scripts. They include “How To Write A Movie In 21 Days” by Viki King, “Screenplay” and “The Screenwriter’s Workbook” by Syd Field, “Writing Screenplays That Sell” by Michael Hague, “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by David Trottier”, “Screenwriting 434” by Lew Hunter, etc.
Many local colleges and universities have scriptwriting classes that teach how to write scripts. Major colleges and universities like New York University, UCLA, the University of Southern California and the University of Colorado have curriculums which give the prospective screenwriter classes on screenwriting. Scriptwriting groups, associations and organizations exist in many cities that can help you learn the basics of screenwriting. Check with your state and/or local film commission to find a list of these gatherings.
Step number two is to write the script. Study movies that interest you because it is likely those are the kinds of movies that you are going to be writing and if you want to sell your scripts and get them produced. Rent movies. Outline each scene. Learn the genre format of movies that have been produced. Incorporate this format into your scripts. If you have problems doing this, it is possible that your movie idea would better written as a short story or a novel.
Plan on rewriting your scripts until they fit the passion you have for what you are writing. In other words, look inside of yourself and find out why you are interested in writing the script you want to write. Answer the questions, what brought this idea to your mind, who was involved, where were you at the time, when was it and how did you come up with the idea? You must honestly answer these questions so that you can get your characters, the story and your passion for the character and story down right in the script. Once you have convinced yourself that you have rewritten your script to the best of your ability, then go to step three.
Step number three is to hire a script consultant. You can find script consultants online as well as in the library in film directories and publications. Be sure and hire a professional script consultant, one who has had experience being produced as a screenwriter. If you are writing a screenplay (movie scripts are usually referred to as screenplays) make sure the script consultant you hire has a background in feature movie screenplays. If you are writing a teleplay (television scripts are usually referred to as teleplays), be certain the script consultant you have has a background in television. Script consultants can cost $150 and up.
Step number four is that once you have your script as fine-tuned as possible based on your work with the script consultant, then register your script with the Writer’s Guild of America and/or have it copyrighted with the Library of Congress. You can find information on how to contact these organizations in your library or online.
Step number five is to market your script. Get a copy of “The Hollywood Creative Directory for Agents” and “The Hollywood Creative Directory for Producers.” You can find these publications in your library, online and in film publications. Call the agencies, ask them if you can pitch your script to an agent, or if you can send them a query letter. If they ask you to send them a query letter, make sure you get someone’s name you can address it to. Call producers simulatenously as you call agents. Ask them if you can pitch your screenplay to them. They will tell you what to do from that point forward. Should agencies and/or producers ask to see your script, send it to them. Give them one month to respond to you. If they don’t respond in one month, call them and ask them if they received your script and for an update on it if they did receive it.
Step number six is to network. Check film production companies and producers locally, in Los Angeles (Los Angeles is the heart of the film business in the world), and in New York to see if you can get a job in the mail room (working in a film production mail room creates the opportunity to meet people who can be helpful to your scriptwriting career)or another entry level job. You can also work as an intern for most film companies which is an excellent way of meeting people in the film business. The film business is a people business, so networking is vital. You can also find scriptwriting seminars, workshops, conferences, etc. listed in references in your library that you can attend to learn about scriptwriting as well as meeting people who work in the film industry.
As you can see, there are a variety of methods you can employ to get into screenwriting. The fine point of getting into screenwriting, however, is you need to be creative, ambitious, possess a willingness to work hard, be professional and have a hard shell as a protective covering for the emotional peaks and valleys that you will experience. That is the nature of the film business.
About the Author
Award-winning writer/filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek studied producing, directing and line producing at the Hollywood Film Institute under the renowed Dov Simens and at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. He studied screenwriting at The Complete Screenplay, Inc., with Sally Merlin, daughter of the famed Hollywood Merlin family of screenwriters and writers, as his mentor. He has taught, mentored, and is a script consultant for over 300 writers, directors, producers, and production companies. He has also acted in NBC’s Mystery of Flight 1501, ABC’s Father Dowling starring Thomas Bosley, and Red-Handed Productions’ Summer Reunion. These activities have resulted in his involvement in over 100 movies during the past 23 years, from major studios to independent films including MGM’s $56 million Warriors of Virtue, Paramount Classic’s Racing Lucifer, American Picture’s The Lost Heart and Born To Kill starring the Charles Bronson of Korea, Bobby Kim, and his internationally-known brother, Richard, who directed, Incline Productions, Inc.’s Born To Win starring, directed, and produced by Connie Martin, 20th Century Fox’s Die Hard II starring Bruce Willis with Rennie Harlan as director, and Joel Silver as producer, Olympus Films+, LLC and Griffen Films Production’s Haunted World with Emmy-nominated PBS Producer Alison Hill, and Olympus Films+, LLC’s Faces, Oh, The Places You Can Go and award-winning The Sand Creek Massacre documentary short.
Don also has written and published over 500 books, short stories and articles. His books include How To Write, Sell, And Get Your Screenplays Produced and The Write Focus. He has been a guest screenwriting and filmmaking columnist for Hollywood Lit. Sales, Moondance International Film Festival’s e-zine, Screenwriter’s Forum, Screenplace, Screenplayers.Net, Screenwriters.Net, Screenwriters Utopia, and Spraka & Kinsla (Swedish) and Ink On the Brain. Writing recognition includes Houston’s WolrdFest International Film Festival, Chesterfield’s Writer’s Film Project, Writer’s Digest, The Sundance Institute, The Writer’s Network, and the Rocky Mountain Writer’s Guild, Inc.
Don is presently writing, directing and producing The Sand Creek Massacre, a documentary film project that includes the completed and award-winning documentary short, a book, a classroom video, Interactive Media, a study guide, and a lesson plan. His short,The Sand Creek Massacre, was awarded Best Short Film of 2004 by the Philip S. Miller Library’s Bull Theatre Film Project. The same film has also been screened in Los Angeles at the Paxico Projection Series 05, in New York at Staten Island’s Muddy Cup, Tribeca’s Monday Night Shorts, Stars in the Desert Film Festival, Denver’s Bug Theatre, Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, The Happening Film Festival, the Colorado Filmmaker’s Showcase and won best documentary short at The Indie Gathering Film Festival and the American Indian Film Festival.
Don is on the board of directors of the American Indian Genocide Museum in Houston. He also is the founder and owner of Olympus Films+, LLC, a global writing and filmmaking company. He is also a screenwriting volunteer on AllExperts.com.
Robin Kaver, Robert Freedman Dramatic Agency, Inc., 1501 Broadway, Suite 2301, New York, NY 10036, 212-840-5751