Beyond The Page: What You Need to Know to Make It as a Screenwriter

Lee Jessup of Script Magazine recently wrote an article for writers that are on the verge of “making it.” Lee insists that knowing your craft isn’t enough. If you want to be taken seriously in the film world, you need to also know what’s selling, who the top agents are, what the top films are, who the major producers are… every nitty-gritty detail.

I think Lee has a point, and his advice is worth reading, but I would take it with a grain of salt. For every successful writer who has told me to read Variety and Deadline, another has told me never to look at the damn things. Crafting your script around what you think executives are buying makes sense, to an extent — you need to be concerned with whether your script has market appeal — but at the same time, you need to allow yourself the creative freedom to find your own voice, your own story. Trying to piece together an idea based on what’s hot right now will most likely leave you with a script that is out of date as soon as it’s complete, and probably not any good.

Take a look at what Lee has to say, and think about which parts might be helpful to you.

There are a slew of things, facts, figures, that every screenwriter should know, should have studied, should understand when they are trying to break in. Some of them will come up in conversations, other will show up in your work. Some of these things will be seen as givens to many. For others, they may be new bits of information, but no less critical. But there are, without a doubt, things you HAVE TO KNOW, HAVE TO DO, if you want to be taken seriously in the industry.

YOU HAVE TO READ INDUSTRY NEWS
On a regular basis. I don’t care if you get it for free from Deadline.com, or if you pay for The Hollywood Reporter, start understanding this industry and marketplace. This world that you’re trying to penetrate has been ebbing and flowing, changing and changing again. While you don’t have to be able to track every shift, every change, or know every studio or network head by name, you should know, in general, what’s happening out there. Ask yourself: What did we learn from the summer of 2013? And how are broadcast networks doing this fall season, vs. the one that came before? Why is Breaking Bad being called the TV show that changed TV forever? Whichever your sector, it’s up to you to gather the information about what’s trending there.

Read the rest at Script Magazine, then take a glance at our Screenwriter Profiles to start learning about the top writers in this business.

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