3 Things Beginning Screenwriters Don’t Realize

What are some things that beginning screenwriters need to realize early on in their screenwriting journey?

Welcome to our ongoing Learning from the Masters and Industry Insiders series where we seek out and feature excellent videos, interviews, and discussions of the art, craft, and business of screenwriting and pull the best words of wisdom, writing tips, and screenwriting advice.

Here we feature Film Courage‘s video interview with studio script analyst Daniel Calvisi and share some key information that beginning screenwriters can use.

1. Marketing Should Be Secondary to Writing a Great Script

“It’s more important to write a great script than it is to worry about what door you’re going to get it in… to worry about the commercial aspect, the marketing aspect. Focus on writing a great piece of material and that will open doors for you.”

The most common mistake that novice screenwriters make is putting so much focus on that first screenplay. You need to make the necessary mistakes that you will make — and then learn from them.

It’s much better to wait a year and get your writing to the point where you’ve written at least three outstanding scripts before you even attempt to market anything. And, chances are, that first script isn’t going to be among those. Keep writing.

“Your main job is writing a script that is going to blow away your reader.”

Watch: Writing 30-Minute “Dramadies,” with Daniel P. Calvisi

2. Don’t Chase Trends

Chasing trends is a typical mistake that beginning screenwriters make. They often read bad or ill-advised advice from representation that states how important it is to have a hot screenplay written under the wing of a hot trend.

The problem is, by the time you write your version of whatever trend is hot, and by the time you may or may not get it into the hands of industry insiders and decision-makers, it’s too late. Years have passed and already established screenwriters have been hired to write studio versions of those trends. It’s too late.

“It’s very possible that particular trends will be gone by the time you finally finish, get it into professional quality, to really blow away that reader and move up the ranks.”

3. Getting Representation Doesn’t Solve All of Your Problems

“You’re still writing, writing, writing. You’re only as good as your last script and you need to have a portfolio of [a few scripts] ready to go… you want to have different scripts in your portfolio so that they’re ready to submit at any moment.”

If anything, that’s where the real work begins. Agents and managers will only send out material from writers that have a collection of outstanding scripts. One script isn’t enough. And if that single script is strong enough to take out, things can fizzle quickly and you’re left with no other screenplays to push.

So it’s highly recommended that you take your time to write a bunch of screenplays and get to the point where you have three to five strong ones that can get you into the conversations between representation, producers, and development executives.

And forget about chasing trends because the time that passes between you writing it, fine-tuning it, marketing it, and agents or managers getting it — let alone them trying to market it themselves —  is too long.

Instead, take your time. Hone your writing. Even if your first one to two years entails you writing multiple scripts, it’s time well spent that can save you additional years of writing, marketing, rejection, writing, marketing, and rejection.

Watch the whole video for more tips!

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Michael Lee

Author Michael Lee

Michael Lee has worked in development as a script reader and story analyst for a major studio, Emmy Award-winning production company, and iconic movie director.

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