Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

How to Prepare for Your Big Screenwriting Break

When we meet screenwriters who have turned their passion into a career, we always like to ask them how they did it, because, well, that is the big mystery, right? We recently posed the question to veteran TV writer, producer, and comedian Monica Piper. She’s made it big with shows such as “Roseanne,” “Rugrats,” “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters,” and even an off-Broadway production. Her business advice for screenwriters? Be ready. You never know when you’ll get that extra bit of luck you need, and you cannot waste it.

“Have all the tools you need, so that when something happens that is lucky, you’re totally ready,” Piper said. “So, it’s not completely luck.”

Yes, people stumble upon lucky interactions, job opportunities, and other random incidents that seem to mean that a screenwriting career was simply written in the stars for them, “but it’s opportunity meets preparation.”

There is no secret and no well-worn path. Every successful screenwriter we’ve interviewed has worked – and still works – incredibly hard. Because you see, “breaking in” isn’t a one-time task in the film industry. You’ll have to keep performing if you want to rise to and stay at the top.

“I got into the sitcom business because I had been on the road, and there was this opening act called “Roseanne.” She called me and said, “We need a strong female voice on the show. I want you to write on the show.” Fortunately, I had written some spec scripts,” Piper told us.

We never know when opportunity will strike, so you’ll want to start preparing now.

Here are some things you should know or have if you’re to be ready for your big screenwriting break:

  1. Scripts!

    It seems obvious, but so many screenwriters write one script and try to sell it. You need multiple screenplays in multiple genres to show your range and skill so that if someone decides to partner with you, they know they’re not just getting a one-trick pony. Write scripts that are outside of your comfort zone, including TV pilots, features, shorts, and plays.

  2. Business Acumen

    You need to know about the business your entering, including how scripts are sold, a screenwriter’s role after selling a script, how to work with agents and managers, how you’ll get paid, how distribution works, how to pitch your screenplay, how to behave in a general meeting, and more. Don’t be caught flat-footed when there is money and opportunity on the table. Get our quick start screenwriting business guide here.

  3. A Resume

    Yes, even screenwriters should have one. They’re great to have on hand to refer to if someone inquires about your experience, so you don’t have to recall it all from memory. It also acts as quick snapshot of your experience if you don’t have the chance to meet someone in person. And you’ll need a resume to apply to fellowships, labs, and the like. Read this blog post about what to include on your screenwriting resume.

  4. Accolades

    While not necessary, third-party validation on your screenwriting abilities is always going to be helpful. Contests can help you get the recognition you’ll need, or you can pay for script coverage or screenplay ranking on sites like WeScreenplay or The Black List.

“Just be ready,” Piper concluded.

In the words of author Joe Poyer, thorough preparation makes its own luck,

You may also be interested in...

Veteran TV Writer Ross Brown Gives Screenwriters This Free Business Advice

Veteran TV Writer Ross Brown Gives Screenwriters This Free Business Advice

Take it from someone who’s written some of the most successful television shows of all time: there are a few surefire ways to succeed and infinitely many more ways to fail in show business. Luckily for you, veteran TV writer Ross Brown is more than willing to share his secrets to the business of screenwriting. In fact, he does it almost every day for his students at Antioch University Santa Barbara, where he’s the program director of the MFA program for writing and contemporary media. You may recognize Ross’s name from the writing and producing credits on TV hits, including “The Cosby Show,” “The ...

6 Unique Screenwriting Job Ideas for Aspiring Writers

6 Unique Screenwriting Job Ideas for Aspiring Writers

When you first get started screenwriting, you’re likely going to need another job to make ends meet. It’s ideal if you can find a job that’s either within the industry or utilizes your skills as a storyteller. Here are some unique and beneficial jobs for the screenwriter who’s still developing their career. Screenwriting Job Idea 1: Teacher. I’m a screenwriter, but I’m not currently based in LA, so finding jobs within the industry is a challenge for me. I work as a freelance teacher, teaching video production to kids in my area. I’ve done this by working with schools and a local theatre company. Teaching is a lot of fun, and I ...

“Don’t be precious,” and More Advice from Screenwriter Adam G. Simon

From Hollywood to Pakistan, screenwriters from around the globe tuned in to our Instagram Story to ask screenwriter Adam G. Simon questions about how to get their screenwriting careers off the ground. “I love contributing because no one really helped me,” he told the writing community. “I want more people to succeed. I want more people in. I want more people creating ideas. Before I broke in, I had negative 150 dollars in my bank account and a bag of scripts. It put me in a Screenwriter Adam G. Simon position where I had to do or die. It would have been nice to get some advice.”...

Comments