Screenwriting and script development are the two basic building blocks of the film industry, and unfortunately, the least considered. Things screenwriters need to know about the film industry range from the basics of film finance and money flow to stories and how they should be presented.
At a recent open forum at the BFI, the leading literary agent Julian Friedman stated publicly that, as far as he could tell, scripts, in general, have not been getting any better over the past 25 years that Raindance has been running.
Can this be true? That scriptwriting and script development are still the least funded in the industry? That script training is woefully inadequate?
Let me try and focus on some basic issues I have determined and see if there can be some sort of debate on this, with the intention of improving the quality of screenplays.
5 Things Screenwriters Need To Know About Filmmaking
1. It’s a collaborative artform
Orson Welles once said: ‘A poet needs a pen, a painter needs a brush, a filmmaker needs an army’.
Rightly so. Remember that your job is to inspire the entire team, from actors and director down to the lowly set dresser or wardrobe seamstress.
2. It’s not easy
The most glamorous route into the film industry is as a director. The quickest route into the industry is with a hot screenplay – a screenplay that everyone wants.
Nothing about the creative industry is easy. There are no shortcuts. Don’t fall into the trap that has snared so many by thinking you can dash of 10,000 – 12,000 words (the average length of a screenplay) and then quit your day job and call yourself a screenwriter.
Study and watch movie after movie. Read script after script (there is a really decent script library in the Premium Members area) and learn as much as you can about how movies are made.
3. Learn how to make your doorbell ring
Self-promotion is the name of the game and not just for screenwriters. Everyone working in the film industry needs to get good at it.
It really involves 3 different sides: learning how to network, and how to avoid the 3 faux-pas of networking; and creating a body of work that makes you look good, and lastly, learning how to market and sell your script.
4.The more you write, the better you get
This should go without saying – if you want to call yourself a screenwriter you have to write and write and write. They say in the film industry that Joggers jog, Wankers wank, but only Screenwriters write. To call yourself a screenwriter you have to do it every single day, or you will be considered a jogger or wanker (lord know the film industry is full of them).
Canadian philosopher Malcolm Gladwell talks about the ‘10,000 Hour Rule‘ in his contrarian book Outliers. Basically, if you want to get really really good at anything, you need to dedicate at least 10,000 hours to it. Spending 5 minutes reading this page would count!
Don’t get sucked into the myth that you need talent. Talent, Gladwell argues, comes from practice.
5. Knowledge is power
The age-old adage makes a whole lot of sense in the film industry – a production and marketing industry that is filled with loads of complicated technical stuff. It makes common sense that screenwriters should learn as much about how films are made and marketed as possible.
Can you imagine an architect designing a building without understanding engineering and construction principals? Of course not.
Should there be any doubt about the importance of this, remember that the ancient prophets when they wrote the Bible considered the plight of screenwriters by inserting advice to screenwriters in one of the secret Biblical codes? It is: ‘In the Beginning was The Word, and The Word was God.’ Translation: All movies start with words, with scripts.
Screenwriters have this Biblical ordination to write. I wish I had that too!
Now, get writing!