Screenplays and novels are very different, so we spoke to the woman who has written over 40 feature length screenplays (6 for Producers in LA) as well as 20 shorts, 4 comedy web series and a few TV pilots.
FN: How did you learn to write a screenplay?
We are lucky in this day and age to have access on the net to free scripts. Read as many as you can and get to know the 3 act structure, follow character arcs and see what page things happen on. There really is a formula and once you know it, it is like filling in the blanks. Easy peasy.
FN: So, you have written your screenplay, then what?
First of all, I register my scripts with the Writers Guild of America. In Australia it is Copyright as soon as it is typed, but I like to cover myself worldwide as well, just to be sure.
FN: Then how do you get people to see your script?
I am a member of InkTip.com and screenwritingstaffingutopia.com (which has a start up free newsletter that posts weekly unpaid writing jobs as well as a premium membership which posts jobs every few days….very good).
InkTip is a great resource for upcoming screenwriters as it is where real producers go to find their next script.
These guys/gals have the money to finance the film, not just fishing around to see what ideas are out there. I have written a few features for people on there and have also had one of my features optioned, which is fantastic!
FN: What is optioning?
Well, nowadays, producers don’t just buy a script. I know, we’ve all heard of the million dollar script right? Sure, it might still happen, but realistically, Producers option a script. That means they pay anything from $1 to $15,000 for the exclusive right to shop the script around (so you can’t show anyone else in that time) to get financing within usually 6 months or a year. If they get financing, at the end of the option period they then buy the script for the amount you both agreed on previously in the option agreement.
The other way I got my foot in the door was with my short scripts. I joined a local film group and basically tagged along to their filming. I was production assistant (lunch maker, errands girl, an extra etc) anything I could, to show that I was keen and wanted to learn. I have since then gone on to produce three of my own shorts as well as help out on four others, so my experience in seeing how it all comes together has also helped my writing.
I now know what producers and directors need in a script. I know how to make something work. I say, get out there, join a local filmmaking and or screenwriting group.
FN: Have you studied?
This is an industry where you’ll be judged on the quality of your creative work, and work history – more than qualifications. But, the skills you develop in the process of gaining the qualification can be priceless in building your quality of work.
I’m doing an Advanced Diploma in screenwriting at the Australian Film Radio and TV School (AFTRS) just so that I have the piece of paper to back up my passion. But whether they continuing reading beyond the first few pages has nothing to do with the qualification and everything to do with how much they like what they’re reading.
The script side of the Arts industry at any level is the same as any other in Hollywood: It is based on relationships.
You get to know producers, writers, actors etc….be nice, respectful, keen to learn. They will remember you and think of you perhaps for next time. Keep in touch without nagging, offer to help them on their next project and help them!
Do whatever it takes to get a good name for yourself.
FN: Any advice?
Happy writing! Get out there! Enjoy the process and love your ideas. Truly think that yours are the next big thing. It will come off when you talk to people and above all believe you will be successful, and guess what? You will be!