How to Become a Screenwriter: 6 Starting Points

August 11, 2016 Strategy

The number one way to become a screenwriter is by writing. Anyone will tell you that. But what if you are writing? What do you do with the scripts you’ve written? How do you get noticed? Are there ways to network that you haven’t done yet? Becoming a screenwriter is a process. Some people get their break right away, and with others, it takes years. That’s out of your control. What can you do right now to put yourself and your work out there? Here are 6 starting points on how to become a screenwriter.

Competition Recognition

Winning a competition is a surefire way to get agents, managers and executives to look at your work. This is becoming one of the most popular methods of getting a script read. Many screenwriting competitions are accessible to everyone, no matter where you live or what you do. And yes, the odds can be a bit dodgy, but it’s worth a shot. With some of the major competitions, placing in that contest can be enough to get people to reach out and read your work.

Check out these:

Nepotism

Who do you know? Yep, I said it. Reach out to any and all connections you have. Network yourself into a circle of people who can read your work – how very “Hollywood” of you. You don’t have to be slimy to get it done. Networking shouldn’t sound like a negative word. If you have a leg up, use it.

  1. Alumni associations
  2. Family friends
  3. An estranged uncle
  4. Your childhood best friend’s college roommate

And in case you know no one, do not panic! There are so many other ways to create opportunities for yourself.

A Traditional Assistant Position

There are a couple of different assistant routes and worlds.

The TV assistant path is probably the most direct way to becoming a television writer – at least it’s pretty clear. You can go from writers’ PA to writers’ assistant to staff writer; however, getting that entry-level job in the first place can be more than tricky.

The Hollywood assistant path on a more general scope entails getting any position in the industry in order to network and learn. It puts you inside the inner circle, something you wouldn’t necessarily have access to otherwise.

Making Your Work

Say goodbye to the studio system. Do it yourself! Making your own work offers creative freedom, but it does cost $$. If you have the time and the means, try it out. This is the day and age to do it in. Seriously. If people are shooting movies on iPhones, what excuse do you have?

  • Web Series – I always think of how the Broad City ladies went from nada to Comedy Central.
  • Short Film – Go to Vimeo and check out their recommendations. You’ll see some killer stuff.
  • Indie Feature – A feature requires more capital than other avenues, but the one way to ensure your script gets made… is by making it yourself.
  • Animation – Check out this interview with Stephen Leonard, a self-taught artist now making cartoons for DreamWorks TV.

Partnering with another writer

The power of team work compels you! Double your efforts by being a writing duo. This will keep you on target with your writing goals, increase your network, and can come in handy if you are up for staffing on a TV show.

There are actually several ways to pair up with someone.

  • Writing partners: working with one other writer on a shared script
  • Writing groups: meeting weekly with the same group of people to read scenes and talk shop
  • Workshop groups: meeting for a short period of time to workshop full projects
  • Accountability partners: someone you check in with once a week to stay on track

Living in L.A.

Write while living in Los Angeles. Are you a walking cliché? Who cares? You’re making it happen by putting yourself in the center of the entertainment industry. Concentrate on your writing and be in a place where you can network. Build a community.

Do you have to live in L.A.?

No.

Does it help?

Yes. 

There isn’t one singular way to become a screenwriter. You have options! You can even mix and match. Choose how you want to break into the industry and give your writing 110%. Make it happen! You got this. 

This is the first post in a 4 week series on how to break into the industry. Check out the next post here:

This Is What You Need To Know To Pick Your Next Project

How are you making your big break into the industry?