I’ve read that the best time for a screenwriter (and actors) is in the spring. The holidays are over, it’s a new year, and the television industry is in pilot season and finding new writers to add to their staff. So it’s best to be prepared ahead of time. I already feel that this is going to be a two-parter. As a “new” screenwriter, there are quite a few steps to getting your career off the ground. You can’t, in all honesty, have only one script ready. It is due in part to one major follow-up question that will inevitably be asked, “What else do you have?” According to screenwriting career coach, Lee Jessup, you should have a well rounded portfolio that includes: 2-3 well crafted scripts all in a similar genre, 1 tv pilot or web series, at least 5 more ideas in your genre, and 2 more strong ideas outside your brand*. *Brand, for a screenwriter means that we (our image), along with our work, are a product, and when you initially make your mark on the industry, it is how you will be recognized. I currently write (mostly romantic) stories with fantastical elements, so my brand is the fantasy genre and I plan on wearing a lot of pink. At first it might seem like a pigeonhole, but from what I’ve read, it’s an asset — you could be the one the big-wigs come to for help when a screenplay needs a rewrite in a similar vein as your own style. Many screenwriters fill their time and make additional income by being script doctors, reliable rewriters (look up Carrie Fisher). Tip #1 – Keep writing! Tip #2 – Start developing your portfolio!
So you have your portfolio, somewhat in order. Then you have to write a query letter and find an agent. If your networking has been successful, you may already have a lead on an agent. You’ll quickly learn it’s much easier to get through the gatekeepers (assistants) if you have an “in”. I have a friend who has referred me to his agent, and as soon as all my little ducks are in a row, that phone call will be more effective. If you don’t have any contacts, the next best thing is a well written query letter. There are numerous sites with useful information available, here’s one from Script. Then there’s the research into finding an agent taking on new clients. The Writer’s Store offers a directory, updated a few times year, with just this information for a small fee. Finding an agent will have to be a whole other post or three. Tip #3 – Craft a query letter! Tip #4 – Generate an agent/producer/manager list!
And then here are a few more things to be aware of:
5. Your image
6. Become an expert (It’s the ace up your sleeve – be it dialogue, genre, character development, a time period, what have you…)
7. Read the trades (be aware of what’s happening in the industry – Variety & The Hollywood Reporter)
8. Create a list of writers you like, their work, and writing tricks/storytelling techniques they use
9. Find networking opportunities
Okay, that should get you all started. *Wink.
Have a great weekend!