Above: Reddit/screenwriting. Very dangerous. You go first.
THE BLACK LIST WEBSITE
Having spent way too much money at the Black List website, and even gotten the coveted “8” once, I would caution against using it.
The readers tend to elevate material with a high amount of noble social value (causes). And they tend not to understand subversive content.
While the Black List does start careers and launch projects, the most likely outcome is that you’ll spend $130, get a “6,” and that’s the end of it.
Even the stuff they rate an “8” and kick out in their tweets and mailing list, most of it goes nowhere.
The site is both too expensive, and way too inconsistent, to be the kind of reliable gatekeeper that people think it is. (And certainly that it thinks it is.)
I never cared for contests. The biggest downside for me was that it took my script “off the market” for months—when I should have been rewriting it.
The truth is: if you have a great script with a killer logline, you don’t need to win a contest.
And if you win a contest without a killer logline, it won’t do much for you anyway.
Definitely beware of newer and obscure competitions. Remember, who made the real money during the Gold Rush? Not the golddiggers. It was the folks selling the shovels!
Twitter/Reddit/Discord/Facebook can be fun, but also full of, uh, not helpful personalities. Most of the discussion always struck me as pretty frivolous.
But it’s a great way to meet fellow writers trying to do the same thing as you, and exchange reads and tips. And you can start to build the all-important relationships with professionals.
Be interesting—and be NICE.
I’ll tell you the secret to networking. It’s easy.
The best way to make friends is to offer to help them. Be kind and generous.
For example, if somebody wrote me and asked for a script read—it’s like, ugh.
But if somebody said, “Hey, your blog is cool, but not a lot of people are reading it. Could I help you promote it?”—I’d be so grateful that I’d be delighted to read their script.
PITCH DECKS, PROOF-OF-CONCEPT SHORT FILMS, POSTERS
You can make these if you want—but usually, all they will do is allow somebody to pass just from the pitch deck, without reading the script!
The only thing that really matters is the concept—the logline.
I understand people’s need and passion to make sales tools and see their work at least partially realized. And if you want to be a director, you pretty much have to finance your proof-of-concept yourself to demonstrate your talent. (That’s what I did.)
But almost always, people try to make finished work from an unfinished script.
You’d be better off improving the script…and that would cost a lot less!
If nobody wants your script, so you make it yourself—well, chances are you’ll lose money.
Because, almost certainly, nobody wanted the script because it wasn’t good enough.
It can actually be riskier to make a microbudget film ($100K) than a low-budget one (up to $1M).
That’s because the distributors only care about cast—as in, not just having somebody who was on a TV show once upon a time, but an actual star. So you’re better off spending money on “names.”
However, getting names who actually mean something financially is hell on earth: the agents only want financed projects, while the financiers only want the cast.
It’s a pretty effective barrier to entry that only gets bypassed when the writer and/or the script are known enough (i.e. good) within the industry to attract a legitimate manager, producer or manager to start building “the package” (script + director + cast).
Or if you’re lucky enough to have a personal relationship that you can leverage—but be careful. You will have only one shot with that contact! Make sure it’s the right project at the right time.
If you can’t attract these elements and want to make the movie anyway—well, go ahead. Some people really are geniuses and are discovered by festivals and become famous.
More than likely—because, again, the script wasn’t good enough—you’ll make an “okay” film. But because it didn’t have names, you’ll have to go with a distributor who just puts it up on some platforms, with no advertising. And you have to market it yourself. It’s brutal.
This is a whole other topic, but again—write a better script!
A USEFUL BLOG
I like to read Scriptshadow. I don’t always agree with the author’s taste, but he has good insights.
Outside of that, the Internet is full of listicles and videos and articles—like this one. Take what works for you.
This piece didn’t exactly follow the three-act structure, did it?
That’s because there’s no ending here—it up to you to write your own. Literally.
But suffice it to say, most people are still stuck somewhere in the first act.
Because there are thousands of people trying to break in—who lack the talent and drive to succeed—a “hope industry” has evolved to service them.
Those companies are typically owned and staffed by people who didn’t have the talent or drive to succeed, either.
Is it the blind leading the blind? Well, sort of.
But it’s also a bunch of human beings striving to be creative and master a very difficult art and craft. We’re all striving for self-expression and advancement.
However, it continues to amaze me that in all the Internet discussions about screenwriting—so little of it is actually about the actual art and craft of screenwriting.
Most of it instead seems to be about the lifestyle of trying to write; about hopes and dreams and frustrations.
It’s about, well, trying to feel better.
I never cared about feeling better. I cared about writing better!
If I make it, that will probably be a big part of the reason.
Given that so much of what I discovered didn’t come from others—and in many cases, came against their advice—I wanted to share what I had learned.
No doubt your experience will be different. I hope it’s better. If it is, please share it!