Sunday, March 07, 2010

Where Can I Send My Screenplay Part 2 Electric Boogaloo

A long time ago I posted an entry on Where Can I Send My Screenplay, and I still get hits on it pretty regularly. Periodically I'll even get a comment from someone telling me how wrong I am.

My advice is simple, and echoes the advice of many other writers before me: DO NOT send out your first screenplay.

To me, that's just common sense. My first short story sucked. My first poem sucked. I was learning the craft. Why would I think my first screenplay was any different?

You have got to learn the craft, people. You have got to know what you're doing if you want to become a professional screenwriter. Imagine the incredible ego you have to have to think you can do something one time and suddenly be an expert at it, but with screenwriting that happens all the time.

I don't know how many screenplays I've written because I didn't count and I didn't do more than a first draft on several, but it's at least 8. Then finally, after several experiments with what works and what doesn't, I wrote something worth reading. Then I wrote a second script worth reading. Now I think I know what I'm doing enough not to suck. But it takes practice.

The reason I give this advice is not to sabotage people - quite the opposite. I'm a teacher and I give advice for a living. I hate seeing people waste their time or their opportunities. I'm not the only one who has a story about a manager or agent or producer getting a copy of one of my early scripts, completely ready to give me a chance to prove myself, only to realize later that what I gave them was total crap. Years later I tried to give one of my contacts a second script, a good one that has gotten good reviews, but the guy wasn't interested. He saw what I could do years ago and it was terrible. Why would he want to read anything else I wrote?

I get why people are resistant to this advice. Screenplays take a lot of work and a lot of time we could be doing things like hiking or staring at things, and to think that was nothing more than practice is tough to take, but there it is. This is not a business for the faint of heart.

Think about it - there are probably thousands of people trying to break into the industry, plus all the people who've already broken in, and you're competing with all of them for a spot. Why would you think you have a snowball's chance in hell if you just threw your first effort at them when all of these other people have been at this for years, working to improve? It makes no sense.

But sure, send it out if you want to. Waste your time writing queries when you could be writing your second script. It's no skin off my back if you want to learn the hard way.

Here is part 3 of this discussion.

1 comment:

  1. I think you suggestion to send your script to the Nicholl first is a good one. If you can't beat out the competition there, good luck with the rest of the industry. A few years ago I submitted my first script to the Nicholl and didn't make it past the first round. I'm hoping to get my current script - my fifth script, btw - through its next round of rewrites soon enough to get it to the Nicholl this year. I'll be thrilled if it gets to the second round.

    I went through the screenwriting program at U of Michigan, and I think one of the most practical, humbling aspects of it was that it made me realize just how good pro scripts are. Analyzing movies in class was so great, learning good writing from movies like Signs and Jerry McGuire - even with their faults they're better scripts than what I'm working on now, and more so than my first script.

    I almost blew a great contact by giving him my first script, but I was in the middle of rewriting it. I'm really grateful, because he did offer to read a script, and now I can save that read for my seventh script or my tenth script or whatever future script, which will no doubt be better than script number one.


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