So, You’ve Written A Screenplay
‘I’ve written a screenplay, now what?’ is one of the top Google searches that leads writers to this blog. Plus Bang2writers write to me, asking me for ideas on what to do / where to send scripts they’ve written, so I thought it was time I put my thoughts on this in one place, once and for all … Enjoy!
1) Get Some Screenplay Feedback
i) Getting it – do peer review
You don’t have to pay for this, though you can if you want to. Alternatively, you can do peer review aka a screenplay swap with another writer. Finding other writers online is relatively easy, though finding trustworthy ones can be difficult. There are dedicated screenplay swap forums and sites, but I’ve found they can be a bit of a crapshoot on the quality of feedback and the number of flamers, so beware.
In my experience, I’ve found the best beta readers and feedback-givers on Twitter and Facebook. Put a shout out on Twitter using the #writingcommunity or #amwriting hashtag. Also check out the plethora of writers’ Facebook groups out there where you can post loglines, pages and peer review requests. HERE IS A LIST OF GROUPS WORTH JOINING.
ii) Dealing with feedback.
We all know we should NEVER send out first drafts …. But don’t get complacent and think you *know* about things like character and structure either. In theory, we all *know* about these things, but in reality, on the page, it can work out very differently to what we intend! This includes professionals as well as aspiring writers. Keep your mind open to others’ feedback. Without an open mind, what have you got?
Similarly, don’t try and please EVERY bit of feedback you get. Sometimes you will get great feedback, but you have to disregard it. Remember, it’s not about being “right” or cramming everything in. MORE: 5 Ways To Deal With Feedback Effectively
2) Decide On A Goal And Strategy
You literally cannot do without one. Don’t throw spaghetti at a wall and merely hope something sticks; MAKE IT stick! You need to decide what you want, how to you’re going to do it *and* when by. MORE: How To Set Meaningful Goals And Stick To Them
3) Unsolicited Material Welcome
Here’s some links to help you …
Ashley Scott Meyer’s excellent site on selling your screenplay.
i) Write a feature screenplay!
I’m serious. There’s not enough of them around and spec TV pilots are flying about all over the place. If you want to differentiate to get attention for your writing AND grab your best shot at making a sale/ getting produced?? Write a feature instead. MORE: 5 Simple Tips To Help You Break In As A Screenwriter
ii) Short Films.
There is always going to be demand for well-written short films. If nothing else, hundreds, if not thousands of film students EVERY YEAR need short film scripts to film for their final projects.
A lot of writers look down their noses at this as an opportunity, but it IS a good one. The student filmmaker has just spent months, if not years, of their life investing in their degree! Odds are they will go out of their way to try and make a good film and get a good mark … Thus give YOU an excellent starter for your CV.
Yes, chances are you will earn no money from short films. But a film made is better than a short stuck on your desktop, surely? MORE: How To Maximise Your Portfolio
iii) All about agents.
Literary agents are tough nuts to crack and it seems now is one of the hardest times EVER to get taken on. Personally, in times like these, I think a writer’s efforts are better spent NOT agent-chasing, but networking, collaborating & DIY filmmaking.
This way, a referral, award or option and/or commission down the line is far more likely to see you picked. But as with everything, it’s up to the writer. More on how to get an agent, HERE.
4) Networking & Pitching
Writers write. But that’s NOT all they do! You simply must get YOURSELF out there as well … And believe it or not, it doesn’t matter how you do this either. Writers don’t need to live in London; nor do they need to be the most confident or popular person in the world either! Hell, you don’t even need to show your face (though it is advisable you do if you can, more of that in a minute).
i) Blogging/ Social Media
If you’ve got a day job, a family, live in the North Pole – or whatever! – you should still be networking like mad. But how?
Well, durr – on the INTERNET. Blogging helps, but avoid venting your spleen every five minutes. If you’re the type of person whom blogging does not appeal to, fine: get a Twitter account.
Can’t think of anything witty or hilarious to say every five seconds? No matter; get a Facebook, instagram or LinkedIn account. Hell, why not get all of them? Lots of people have all these internet connections covered (including myself – I’ll add you) and they’re FREE.
Get your name about online, be funny, interesting or offer answers to people’s questions. Whatever works for you. But don’t lurk in the background while all the other kids chat – be brave, get talking!
ii) Screenplay Listing/ Pitching Sites
The Black List is popular amongst my Bang2writers; as is InkTip. There are loads of other sites you can either list your or pitch your screenplay on, however. Make sure you check them out and ask your peers of their experiences and for their recommendations.
iii) Screenwriting Events
London Screenwriters Festival and other screenwriting and filmmaking events can be a major investment of both time and money for screenwriters. But events can offer a lot to screenwriters … IF you work with a strategy as mentioned in point 2 on this list. So, do you want to go in order to level up your craft? Or meet people and/or pitch your projects? Both? There’s lots of ways to make serious inroads in your career, but you have to PLAN and be ahead of the game.
iv) BBC Writersroom & Writers Guild events
Check out the BBC Writersroom … They often have roadshows in major towns and cities like Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff etc as well as London. Even if you’re not sure you’re *that* interested in what they’re talking about, go anyway; the tickets are FREE. It’s getting out and about that counts!
The Writers Guild of Great Britain often has talks too – free for members or a nominal charge for non-members (sometimes as little as £5).
5) All About Getting Paid For Writing
It’s really very simple: exploitation = BAD. Collaboration = GOOD.
You have to weight up various elements to decide whether a job is worth doing or not, dependant on the money and/or time involved in doing it. I decide by asking myself these 3 questions:
i) What will it do for me, personally?
Monetary gain; experience at a particular type of writing; contacts?
ii) Will it go against me?
eg. Sometimes working with someone who is very unpopular in a particular circle *can* be bad in a “guilt by association” fashion.
Other times, working with someone who is extremely difficult is simply not worth it, even for a lot of money … I walked from a well-paid gig once because the person in question had no understanding of social propriety. He would phone me at 1am; call in the middle of dinner; demand I’d come up to London for an hour’s meeting; even cancel the moment I got there!?! I thinketh not!
iii) Am I safe?
For example, working without a contract can be a BAD idea, if you know your colleagues well. Every party needs to know exactly where they stand in relation to the material as far as I’m concerned, otherwise what’s the point?
Lots of writers are afraid of asking about contracts and payment even on a deferred basis, as they think it makes them seem pushy. Trust me, it’s not. It’s only fair. You’re WORKING. Ok sure, it’s for no money on a collaborative basis, but what happens if the producer can’t get your treatment or script optioned/made/funded? When do the rights come back to you? Ever? You need to know.
One last thing here:
If you’re asked to a meeting, think about what your daily rate is. Do some research into what is reasonable! There’s plenty online about this, particularly on the WGGB. They also offer a “contract checking” service, too. Check out the website again, HERE.
6) Know Yourself & Your Own Industry
i) Get talking to directors & producers BUT be realistic.
If you’re someone starting out, chances are the bigwig prodcos aren’t going to be knocking your door down. But that’s cool; that’ll come with time. Instead, find people the same “level” as you.
Find directors and producers who want (and/or have done) the same type of things as you and want a way in. Collaborate with them, set yourself goals, get stuff made together. You need each other.
It won’t be plain sailing. Stuff will probably go wrong. You’ll end up with scripts massacred and films that look and/or sound like crap. Again: chill. You’re all learning and you’re doing it together.
You can find directors and producers everywhere online, at film festivals, courses, events. Just don’t be WEIRD or DEMANDING.
ii) Rule nothing out.
Apply for any script/writer-for-hire calls you see. But again: be realistic! If a script call asks for a writer who has won an award or placed in a script contest and you haven’t, you may have only a slim chance at getting through to the next stage. That said, you have to be in it to win it. Blagging is okay within reason, but NEVER lie.
Read all the websites associated with the types of writing and genres you do, or want to crack. Know who is who; who is doing what; what’s a good idea, what’s not a good idea. This is NON-NEGOTIABLE. Optional is reading books about writing craft or processes – if it helps you? Great! Go for it. Here are my books for interested parties.
iv) Know what skills you still need.
You don’t know everything and you will have weaknesses, so work on them. If you really can’t get the hang of it, then find someone who CAN do it. Cut a deal somehow, collaborating with them or paying them, whatever it takes. Don’t forge blindly ahead and think others won’t notice ‘cos they WILL.
v) Do freelance / corporate writing work if you can get it.
So it’s not what you *want* to be doing … But it’s money in your pocket and it’s potential ways of meeting people in the media. What’s not to like? If you have no idea where to start on getting freelance writing work, check out this post HERE.
vi) Know how pitching works … And always follow up!
Lots of writers believe they have a “no go” if they pitch something and no one replies, so don’t bother again. Noooo! Always pitch projects A LOT!!!!
You wouldn’t believe how quickly the situation changes. I had a project I thought was dead in the water … Seriously, I must have pitched it to twenty-five producers, all to be met with “meh.”
I left it to one side for six months and whammo … I ended up with two companies interested in it at the same time. How mad is that? Recycle everything!!!
vii) Road Test Your Screenplay Concepts.
This is what PROFESSIONAL WRITERS do … So, if you want to make serious advances and progress with your CAREER? Then road test your concepts and make sure they work at grass roots level before you attempt a draft.
viii) Be philosophical.
This is the thing: we’re all learning, all the time. None of us are or ever will be, experts. We make one step backwards, three steps back and that’s just the nature of the industry. And it’s SLOW, HARD work as standard. No one is plucked from obscurity – we wish!
Like This Post?
Then check out my screenwriting books, available in eBook and paperback from Amazon and all good book stores. Click the pics or to look inside Writing & Selling Drama Screenplays, CLICK HERE.
CLICK HERE to read an excerpt from Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays about the iconic character of Driver in the movie DRIVE, courtesy of B2W friends Film Doctor. Click on the pic or HERE, to look inside.