Top 10 Tips for Aspiring Screenwriters

10. Get a Job. Any Job. Whether you have a trust fund or are lucky enough not to have a cent to your name, you need to learn the business. The best way to cruise around and see what’s what is temping. A day here, a week there. No commitment. You’ll float around. You’ll meet people. And you’ll learn. You might work at William Morris for a few days filling in for someone who’s sick and, in the meantime, getting a look at the thousands of spec scripts lying around. A painful reality check, yes, but you need to know what you’re up against. You need to know how to talk to agents on the phone. You need some experience in the business.

9. Seek Advice and Listen To It. People in Hollywood are more than happy to tell you how they got started in the business. They want you to succeed, and they want to give you advice. Listen to them. Don’t hound them but keep in touch with them. Let them know how their advice helped. One day, you’ll look back on the struggles you’ve overcome and see the world from a different perspective. Gone are the days of having to call yourself an ‘aspiring screenwriter’/waiter/[insert your current job]. When that day comes, you’ll want to thank those who helped you along the way.

Some day, you’ll be the one telling tales about the days when you used to pick up the boss’s dry cleaning then got his ear and his respect when you showed you had good taste and a tremendous work ethic. Don’t be afraid to be someone’s assistant. Don’t resent doing their personal bidding. Once you’ve picked up someone’s dry cleaning for them and been nice to their kids on the phone, chances are they’ll read your script and give you a leg up. 

8. Keep writing. Don’t get stuck on one screenplay because you think it’s fabulous and you can’t believe that no one else gets it. Write the next one and the next one. When you get one made finally (and believe me, you can never tell which one it’s going to be; no one can), you’ll have an inventory of scripts that everyone in town will be dying to read. And option. And produce.

Write every day. Every single day, try to write three pages—no more, no less. No matter what. If it takes two hours, great. If it takes 12 hours, so be it. Do the math. If, in your life you know you’re going to write three pages a day, that’s a lot of screenplays. And if you don’t write one day, don’t sweat it. Tomorrow is a new day to start a new streak of prolific production. Tell yourself what celebrity trainer, Tony Horton, tells his clients: “do your best and forget the rest.”

 

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