Heywell Film Scripts Blog

Comedy. Drama. Horror. Suspense. My life AND my scripts.

Screenwriter’s Starter List

Posted by bobheske on December 18, 2006

Late Bloomer Cartoon
“I was a late bloomer -. I didn’t inherit my money until my 50s.”

After a 5-year hiatus from screenwriting, I re-visited my dream in 2001 somewhere between the time I turned 40 (May) and the Twin Towers toppled in New York (I don’t need to remind you of the date).

I consider myself a late bloomer; I tried screenwriting after failing at vending machines and tiring of financial services. I’ve spent several years, thousands of hours, and tens of thousands of dollars trying to get it right. I’ve made countless mistakes (read prior posts) and have learned a few things along the way.

Here are seven things to consider when starting out:

  • Go to conferences and film festivals – Nothing gets the juices flowing more than mingling with other creative people. Nantucket has a good screenwriter’s festival in June (although the hotel room will cost you and arm and a leg). There are conferences galore – although ASA and Screenwriting Expo are two worth the trip in movieland (Los Angeles).

  • Get a screenwriting certificate – If you can afford it (or better yet, get work to pay for it), getting a screenwriting certificate from a decent school is a great way to jumpstart your career. I went to Emerson College and, although I had to foot the bill myself, the perspective and insights I gained were invaluable. No longer do I feel that I am writing in a vacuum. Plus, I’ve got a bonafide certificate hanging on the wall (not to mention, some Fine Arts credits).

  • Volunteer to be a script reader – To get better a screenwriting, you need to read a lot of scripts. What better way than volunteer to be a script reader at a production house or for a screenwriting contest? You’ll not only feel better about yourself as a writer (after reading all those horrible scripts), you’ll also be exposed to a few nuggets of gold and learn how to write better from the experience.

  • Enter contests – It’ll cost you some bucks, but once you complete that script (after several edits and polishes, natch) you’ll want some positive reinforcement. Rather than funnel your money into a consultant, put it into a few reputable contests. If you place high enough (winner, finalist, semi-finalist, sometimes even quarter-finalist), you’ll get some Web exposure and perhaps some other nifty prizes. Go to Moviebytes or WithoutABox for a list of contests.

  • Build a Website – Once you get some experience, complete a few scripts, and win/place in a few contests, it’s time to get a website to generate some traffic. You don’t have to have a hell of a lot – but if you want producers to come back, you should have some decent properties and interesting content. List you bio (screenwriter’s CVJ), loglines, and contest wins. Add a blog if you have the energy. And try to build a creative community by linking to like-minded/talented indie folks who you can promote and who, in turn, can generate traffic to your site.

  • Write Shorts to Get Some Options – It’s the ol’ “egg and chicken” story. How do you get an agent or manager if you haven’t sold a script? One way is to get shorts produced. You not only get an excuse to attend film festivals (see bullet #1 on this list), but you also get IMDB credits to put on your screenwriter’s CV. It’s no the quickest path to success, but for those in screenwriting for the long haul, it is a viable avenue. Some sites where you can post your shorts for free are Inktip and NEFilm.

  • Keep Writing! – Painfully obvious, isn’t it? But I’ve found that 99 out of 100 times I will be disappointed in any potential ‘leads” that want to option/purchase my work. Either someone wants you to pay them to read your work and “make it better” or they want a “free option” to take your idea to other producers. Can’t a writer get paid? Yes, if you keep honing your craft and are committed to doing the work. So, keep as many irons in the fire as possible – write as much as you can (making sure your words are quality, not just quantity). Once you get that first option, they’ll always counter with “What else ya got?”

  • “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” (Satchel Paige)

    One final chestnut: You’re never to old to start. Grandma Moses picked up a paintbrush in her seventies. Satchel Paige didn’t make it to the Majors until his forties and pitched to the ripe age of 59. And the 40-year-old Virgin didn’t get laid until … well, you get the picture.


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