Aspiring Screenwriter’s Guide to Surviving the Industry

July 27, 2016 Strategy

We’re hustlers. We know what we want, and we’re ready to tackle it head on. But when you start out you’re not thinking about how much time, energy, and patience it takes to tackle something with persistence while facing a slew of rejection. And it’s okay! It’s normal on both accounts. This is how you’re going to get better. In learning how to survive as a screenwriter, the growing pains come on strong, so you need to be even stronger.

For every success story, hundreds of talented writers struggle, even the pros. Whether you’re an aspiring writer or you’ve sold four scripts, a writing career is a constant game of chess. You need a solid foundation to create healthy habits, keep up with the momentum you build, and stay hydrated during the droughts.

Surviving the entertainment industry:

Write, Write, Write

You become a better writer by writing. If you haven’t written a script, how are you going to sell it? Sometimes you can’t even sell the first, second, or third thing you’ve written because it’s… not that good. You might not even know it’s not good! Get a few scripts under your belt, and then look back on your old drafts. See how far you’ve come.

Persistence is part of progress. The more you write, the more you grow, the more material you have to show people, and the more you build good habits. I’m not telling you to pump out quantity over quality. I am telling you not to hedge your bets on one screenplay, especially if you don’t have anything to follow it up with when someone asks, “So what else do you have?”

Resilience- so important. So hard to come by. Doesn’t get easier, so you need to accept it! -Lucinda Coxon Click To Tweet

Build Your Network

Who hasn’t heard, “It’s all about who you know.” There’s amazing truth to that. The thing with networking is that it doesn’t work on a superficial level of “what can you do for me?” It takes time and genuine interaction.

Think about if multiple people every week, that you barely knew, asked you to read their script. A: How are you going to fit it in between your job and other responsibilities? B: You can’t accommodate everyone. C. They’re being kind of rude, considering they don’t know you and don’t understand the weight of what they are asking. Even if you’re the nicest person alive and say yes, eventually it’s going to wear you down, and you’ll resent them. D: Now flip this situation and understand that you do not want to be that person.

Asking people to read your script needs to come organically. In most cases, you want them to ask you to read, which happens over time if they are interested in you as a person.

You’re laying a foundation, not trying to build a skyscraper in a day. -Angela Bourassa #screenwriting Click To Tweet

Find Your Support System

Friends. You need friends to get through the good times and the bad. People you can hang out with when you need a break, people you can converse with about the trials and tribulations of the industry, and people who know and care about you – that you care about too.

#Screenwriting is a terrible way to make a living. - Amy Holden Jones Click To Tweet

Engage with People Who Challenge You

One of the best sources of motivation is surrounding yourself with people who are inspiring. They’re inspiring because they challenge you to be better. They are ambitious, network, write a lot – they do what you do, and do it better than you do it.

“With colleagues, it’s okay to feel some jealousy. Even small twinges of schadenfreude. Particularly at the beginning of my career, I was constantly comparing my success to their success, and it made me work that much harder. Yes, we helped each other out when we could, but the biggest help by far was by continually raising the bar, not just in the quality of our writing, but what we were able to achieve career-wise.” – John August

CHOOSE KINDNESS

Be kind to every person you meet. Treat them with respect. The waitress at the restaurant. The annoying kid at the networking event. The person who works in a field you’re not interested in. It’s a really small town. Word gets around if you’re a jerk. Also, it’s hard enough out here without being a wet rag slapping everyone you meet in the face.

There’s a saying that goes something like integrity is how you treat those who can do nothing for you. Everyone is a person with their own aspirations. You’re not “better” than anyone.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to like everyone you meet or accommodate them. Just be pleasant.

Passion, patience, perseverance. – Robert Wise #filmmaking Click To Tweet

You might be googling how to sell a screenplay or screenwriting jobs or how to be a screenwriter. Understand that there are so many steps in between. I urge you to focus on building a foundation that will support you for the length of your screenwriting career.

What can you do this week to work on your foundation?