Hi. Today I’m going to talk more about my screenwriting journey, which was a highly unexpected direction for me to take. I really did not expect to go into screenwriting when I started out as a fiction author. I just figured I would write books, but I’ve always had an interest in screenwriting and I’ve always loved movies and television.
And so I want to start at the very beginning, which is when I took it on myself to write a TV pilot before anyone had ever thought to do that, unless they were in LA doing it. I mean, this is mid-2000s, I think. And I came up with this pilot and frankly it sucked, and I found out fast that it sucked by just listening to people read it. Boy, is that a lesson in humility. So I took a course in screenwriting after that. That was in 2009, and I ended up writing a feature film because that was the course.
The whole point of the course was to end up with a finished product (aka, script). And, of course, a screenplay is never actually finished until the movie is locked (i.e., ready to go to production). That’s something I’ve learned and something most people would kind of take for granted. But when you think about everything that goes on in between the time that you write that first draft and the time that it becomes a reality, there’s a lot going on. A whole lot. And so in 2011, I guess it was, I submitted my screenplay, the one that I had written as well as the pilot, revised, but no, I don’t think I’d revised it much at that point. Anyway, I submitted them both to the Austin Film Festival. No, not the Austin Film Festival, I’m sorry. It was the Scriptapalooza screenwriting contest and it made the quarterfinals. And I was astonished the feature film made the quarterfinals.
That was astonishing to me and very encouraging. And one blogger told me, Scott Clevenger is his name. He told me, you should feel very proud to have reached that point, and this could lead to who knows what. So I’m like, wow, that’s encouraging. So I started then and it took years for me to even get to that point, where I got to the point where I thought, maybe seriously I could do this. So despite the fact that screenwriting takes, and I’m just going to be brutally honest with you here, it takes a lot of time to learn how to be a good screenwriter. It takes effort, it takes persistence. It takes the ability to recognize an opportunity and to take advantage of the opportunity. It is a highly opportunistic field. It is one in which it is extremely important that you get to know people who do this, who do this and they do it seriously.
And screenwriting is not something you take up on a whim or just because you know, oh gosh, I think I’ll just write a screenplay. Well, that’s nice. I mean, if you want to do that, that’s fine. Really, that’s how I started. But you don’t get into it seriously without understanding a whole lot more. And one of the things that made me realize that was going to an indie film production class where I picked up this book Maureen Ryan’s Producer to Producer. (That’s a link to the latest edition, but both editions cover all the basics of producing.) I learned more about the business just from that one course than well, I just learned so much from it. I learned that it was a highly, there’s so much going on. There are so many people involved in the process that you can be involved in all sorts of ways in the business. In other words, you can be a writer, you could be a director, you could be a producer.
But when push comes to shove, it is a business. And there are certain things people look for in screenplays. There are certain questions that you will be asked when you pitch a project. Like, why are you the one to write this? Why is this important now? What’s the audience that you have in mind? If you’re writing a television series, how will you sustain the storyline of the television series over time? What is it that is driving the story throughout the series? Things of that nature. All of these questions will be coming at you at the same time that you’re learning how to do this. At least this is the way it’s been for me. It’s, it’s been like jumping into deep water and trying to tread water while learning to swim. That’s kind of the way it’s felt. So I just want to warn anybody who is interested in screenwriting, you don’t do this just for the money. You will. Money is important. Don’t get me wrong. Money is essential to this whole process, and you deserve to be paid for your efforts. What I’m saying is you can make a lot more money doing something else. You can probably make more money writing ebooks.
I mean, that’s a reality that must be faced if you’re going to be a screenwriter, and I didn’t mean to go on for so long, but I hope that some of this has given you a taste of what’s in store for you if you really want to be a screenwriter, because I would love to teach people more about screenwriting, about what I’ve learned as I’ve gone through the process and I’m trying to kind of organize my thoughts and get something together that will really explain to people just what it’s been like making the transition from novelist to self-published novelist to publisher, really, to screenwriter. That’s it then. I’ll just end it there and more to come. Thank you.
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