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.
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.
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:
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Start practicing this now! Make a writing schedule and stick to it. Practice writing in a panic. Be ready to work under pressure. Here are some tips to develop the discipline that will pay dividends for your future self.
In the words of author Joe Poyer, thorough preparation makes its own luck,