Screenwriters: Stop Aspiring and Other Rules to Live By

1.  Don’t call yourself an aspiring screenwriter.

What does “aspiring screenwriter” even mean? You are hoping to write a screenplay? You’ve thought about writing a script? I’m an aspiring fairy princess, but I don’t state that in my professional bio or description. Why? Because it’s ridiculous. It’s a fantasy. BE A SCREENWRITER. All you have to do is write, write and write more. And more…

2.  Don’t pontificate about the industry without credentials and facts to back up your claims.

There’s TONS of misinformation about screenwriting. Please don’t add fuel to the fire. Before I went down the writing path, I worked in development at a major studio, and I can say from experience that buying mandates and industry standards change quickly and constantly. Unless your information comes directly from someone working at a studio/production company, or from someone with a direct pipeline to these resources (i.e. reputable news sources, managers, agents or producers) – you have no clue what people want to buy or how things work. Honestly, I could write an entire post about bad advice, but as a screenwriter, it is your duty to explore, research and verify everything you are told. This isn’t hard to do. Paranoia and the need to extensively research should come naturally to any writer.

3.  Always remember YOU are the one that should get paid for YOUR work.

There are many instances where you will have to work for free, or work for a very low option payment. I wrote about this in a Script Magazine article. And yes, we all have to suck it up and do some freebies. However, an entire industry has risen around screenwriters paying other people for script coverage, script consulting, script coaching, script marketing and everything else. I’ve never used any of these services. I have no idea what is good or bad, helpful or exploitive (see rule #2). But I do believe screenwriters need to always keep one thing in mind – you are the one that should ultimately get paid for your writing.

4.  Don’t put down movies or television shows on your twitter feed, your blog or any other social media outlet. You may need a job from the people making this stuff.

A fan gets the luxury of bashing other’s work in public, screenwriters don’t get this luxury. You do not want to meet with a producer after they’ve Google’d your name and seen all the trash you’ve been talking about their projects (I know screenwriters this happened to). Whether it’s indie movies, studio movies, web series, TV series, good or bad – be supportive of your colleagues and your business. It takes guts to make this stuff. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

5. Don’t tweet, Facebook, etc., all your writing issues.

Don’t tell everyone the problems you are having with your third draft, your tenth rewrite, your outline, your character beats… Seriously, the hiring and buying process in Hollywood isn’t that different from other professions. Buyers research and Google potential employees and projects, and if your litany of writing issues come up, they will have no confidence in your ability to execute. If you want to be taken seriously, people need to have confidence in your abilities. Keep your writing issues out of the public domain.

As the industry morphs and changes, we all need to work together to maintain the value of the written word. Please, for all of screenwriting’s sake, treat this career path with respect. Have fun, but take this shit seriously. Screenwriting is a real job. Treat it that way.

Be professional. Be courteous. Be an inspiring screenwriter!

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