Article by Clark Ransom

Making it as a Screenwriter:What it Takes to Get Started and Be Successful

You have a great idea for a story and you know it would make a great movie. But how do you get idea to paper to a producer in a manner that comes across as professional and experienced? You write a screenplay.

How do you get Hollywood to notice your script? Tens of thousands of what are known as SPEC scripts (scripts written on speculation) are emailed or snail-mailed to Hollywood Producers every year. Out of all those, maybe 50 will be optioned or bought. Of those, perhaps half will go into production. So how do you get your little gem in that winning stack of screenplays?

Screenwriting is not for the faint of heart or those who are easily discouraged. As a screenwriter you continually here the words, “No thanks,” “Not what we’re looking for,” “Didn’t grab us,” or the ubiquitous “We don’t accept unsolicited material.” It’s all very depressing and you have to cinch up your Kevlar skin and keep moving forward. I have yet to meet any successful, working screenwriter who has not been through the same process. Yet once you can crack that wall and get your first serious writing job, then it gets a bit easier… not much, but just enough to give you hope.

So what’s it take? You need to ask yourself this question: Can I motivate myself to sit down every day, even if only for an hour, and write or learn the craft of screenwriting? Can I learn the proper formatting techniques, three-act structure, how to create compelling characters, the right story beats to each genre, etc..?

Sound hard? You bet it is. But the reward of seeing your work on the big screen is highly motivating.

Professional working screenwriters are constantly learning new techniques that make for a better story or inventing their own style of writing that grabs a Producer’s attention. Too many amateur screenwriters dive right into the actual script writing without understanding the importance of technique, research, proper formatting, finding the core idea that will drive the entire story, and taking the time to outline your story.

If you have never taken any type of screenwriting course, seminar by a working pro or read a book on “how to,” then you need to start. There is an abundance of screenwriting books, fantastic seminars taught all over the country, and many on-line courses you can take in the comfort of your own home. With the advent and ease of on-line chat and VOIP, courses of instruction are very detailed and can be learned at your own speed. Your best bet is to enroll in one of the many on-line courses offered by a myriad of professionals. Some of those options might include: – this website is run by Hal Croasmun and is rated as one of the best sites to learn the craft of screenwriting. It’s well suited for both beginners as well as working writers who want to brush up on their skills. Hal offers a stellar course called the Pro Series that takes you from Fade In to marketing and selling your screenplay. Hal’s courses are not only the best available, but he also takes a personal interest in everyone who becomes part of the Pro Series Alumni and the Alumni group offers an expansive network of like-minded writers who are there to support you every step of the way. In my opinion, this is the best decision you can make for your long-term career. – this site offers a wealth of information on all aspects of screenwriting, mostly pertaining to formatting and the craft of “how” to write.

Regardless of how you begin… begin. Read, study, and then write, write and write. Before you know it, you will have three or four scripts in your body of work, and then you can begin the second most painful process of a working screenwriter: marketing your work.

In our next article, we’ll talk more about some of the tools and resources you can use to get started on learning how to write screenplays.

Clark is a working screenwriter with several optioned shorts and features, including a Supernatural Comedy in development with Parallel 33 Pictures in Hollywood.

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