ProTip: Invest in Your Success

There is something so alluring about the movies, yeah? People who love movies, LOVE movies. And if you’re reading this, then chances are you’re one of us! Then there is the subsection of people who don’t just love movies but feel compelled to MAKE them. They feel the story in their head absolutely NEEDS to be seen. Great! Love this enthusiasm. You have a story you want to tell, the medium by which it needs to be seen… now what?

Ya gotta write it.

Okay, so let’s skip the ‘How Do Even Begin To Write A Screenplay’ part (Click HERE for that blog post). And assume you’re doing it. You’re a lone wolf. Ready for anything, you’ve got this, and the story is cracking! But let’s face it. Passion and drive will only take you so far. Eventually, you will need help.

And that help isn’t always free. So now what?

If you want to be a successful screenwriter, you must invest in your career.

Nobody is born a Pro Screenwriter. Understanding proper screenplay structure, correct formatting, and nuance takes time. And while there are a ton of free resources and lessons out there, eventually you’re going to have to pay. Kicking the tires will only get you so far.

So many people who claim to want to be professional screenwriters balk at the idea of paying for anything. They feel that the time they invest in writing a screenplay is all the currency they need. And then they complain and blame when no one reads their improperly formatted script.

Or worse, they bitch and moan about professionals or services who charge for their time and tutelage. The audacity, right? I mean, everything is on YouTube. Why should we have to pay for anything? 

Uh… because it’s your career! 

As I mentioned, you can get very far with the freebies. And countless free resources will help you. But help is as far as it goes. If you’re serious about this and want to pursue it as a career, you’ll need to go further and invest in yourself. And that means spending some money.

Below is a list of six investments every screenwriter should make.

Remember: Do your research first. 

1. Professional Screenwriting Software

If you want to be taken seriously in this industry, your screenplay must be formatted correctly. It doesn’t matter what software you use whether you use Final Draft, Celtx, Studio Binder, or Writer Duet. But you but skip the free shit.

And for god sake, stop using Microsoft Word and Google Docs. It’s not just about formatting (which is ESSENTIAL). It’s about streamlining the work for other writers, producers, and directors, SERIOUS people who work in the industry. If you want to work in the industry, you must be serious too.

2. IMDb Pro

Do you want a manager? An Agent? Need to contact a studio or production company? Then pay about $200/year and gain access to Hollywood’s Yellow Pages (for those old enough to know what Yellow Pages are.

IMDbPro is Hollywood's Yellow Pages

All professional managers, agents, and production companies are required to include some form of contact information. Yes, the email may just be info@ (INSERT COMPANY NAME HERE), but it’s an email and a phone number you didn’t have when you just Googled Kick Ass Manager. IMDb Pro is an incredible resource. Not just to find representation but to connect with anyone in the film industry.

J.Zaozirny Lit Manager

NOTE: Be sure to check if the manager or agent you’re interested in contacting accepts unsolicited materials or cold calls. Respect the company boundaries and personal space (even if that personal space is an INBOX).

3. Industry Professionals Who Offer Service

My advice is always free. I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years; I’ve been blessed to have an incredible career, and giving back is the least I can do. I am happy to give my opinion based on my experience and expertise. I want nothing more than for you to succeed, and I am always serious when saying, “I will help you in any way I can.” That’s why I created the Fast Draft YouTube Channel and a private Facebook Group for screenwriters where I do a live stream/AMA once a month on Thursdays.

While my advice and Pro Tips are always free, my time is limited. So please stop being offended when I or some other screenwriting professional gives you a rate sheet after you ask us to read your screenplay and give you notes. We’re not scamming you or pulling the wool over your eyes. This is our JOB and we’re working! 

Many screenwriting professionals offer coaching (myself included) and would be more than happy to help you get your screenplay to the next level. Don’t be afraid to pay for a coaching session or join a paid mentorship program. Screenwriters are unique, and therefore a one-size-fits-all approach may not work. There is nothing more invaluable than being able to talk one-on-one with a professional screenwriter and get specific feedback and advice. It’s like having all the benefits of a professional screenwriting partner without the hassle of sharing that onscreen credit!

4. Online Courses

Similar to #3, although much broader, is to make investments in an online course, webinars, and coaching programs. They are a great way to jumpstart your knowledge base, and webinars and online courses are so much cheaper than film school and require a much smaller time commitment. The best part is you can find an online course in any niche. If you want just to write horror films, there is an online screenwriting course/webinar just for that niche.

If you’re apprehensive about paying some “screenwriting guru” who has an online course or webinar, simply do some research. Remember, IMDb is your friend. Look them up and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are they legit?
  2. Have they sold any screenplays or have screenwriting credits?
  3. Do you connect with them personally? Do they inspire you?

Remember, just because someone has a Master’s degree in screenwriting doesn’t mean they’re a successful screenwriter. If they haven’t sold a screenplay or have been hired to write, then their knowledge, while completely deserving of your attention, is theoretical and academic. You can easily learn what they’ve learned; it’s not that hard. Just read the books they read. But until they’ve sold a script or pitched to a studio, it’s still ‘textbook.’ Find someone who has been in the trenches, who has battled on set, who has pitched and won or lost. These screenwriters offer much more than knowledge, we offer wisdom.

And speaking of academic…

5. Read A Book

Pssst. Lean in; I want to tell you a secret. Here’s the thing that most screenwriting ‘gurus’ and teachers won’t tell you… Ready?

We are all saying the exact same thing. Yup. John Truby (Anatomy Of A Story) is saying the exact same thing as Robert McKee (Story), who is saying the exact same thing as Blake Snyder (Save The Cat), who is saying the exact same thing as me (The Fast Draft Method). We’re all teaching you and telling you to learn these two things:

  1. Story Structure
  2. Screenplay Formatting

The good news is you can find this information in a number of screenwriting books. Do some reading and research, and find which method works for you. While the information in all of these books is essentially the same, the delivery system differs. Find which one speaks to you and dive in.

And remember you can always ‘take the best and leave the rest!

6. Screenplay Coverage Services

If you want to be successful in this industry, you gotta learn to take a note. And while script notes from your fellow scribes are great, if you want to take your screenplay to the next level, you have to get professional screenplay coverage.

What is Screenplay Coverage? Well, simply put, it is a service you pay for to have a professional story editor read your script and give you notes on how to improve your screenplay and more importantly, give your script a score.

What is a screenplay ‘score’ and why is it important?

Good question. Studios and production companies demand a certain level of quality in the screenplays they buy. I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve seen a ton of shitty movies from big studios; this is subjective and arbitrary.” Well, it’s not. All movies, both great and not-so-great follow the exact same structure. Believe it or not, The Shawshank Redemption is structurally the same as Sharknado. And while sometimes there is no accounting for taste, this screenplay structure is nonnegotiable, when it comes to selling your script.

A good coverage service knows this structure intimately and will score your screenplay accordingly. A low score means you need to go back and do some work and a higher score means your screenplay checked all the boxes: Plot, Structure, Formatting, Character, Pace and Dialogue, and your screenplay should be considered by production companies. Remember, you only get one shot at pitching your screenplay, Think of coverage as the last line of defense before you walk in that room and pitch!

Screenplay Coverage WeScreenplay

There are many excellent and not-so-great coverage services out there. And each of them have their own scoring template. I always get professional screenwriting coverage before I submit any of my screenplays to my manager, lawyer, or producers. If only to clean up those pesky typos 😉

Here is a list of some of the professional Screenplay Coverage services I have used and recommend:

  1. WeScreenplay
  2. Coverfly
  3. Shore Scripts
  4. Industrial Scripts
  5. Script Reader Pro

But, as always, do your research beforehand.

As you stand at the threshold of Hollywood, remember that your passion, while the spark, isn’t enough to kindle the fire that will illuminate your path to success. Screenwriting isn’t just an art; it’s a craft that demands refinement and resources. These six small investments are the tools and materials you will need to go to that next level.

Professional screenwriting software, IMDb Pro, expert advice, educational courses, insightful books, and screenplay coverage services aren’t expenses—they’re investments. So invest in your story, in your future, and in yourself.

Happy Writing, Friends.

Matthew Currie Holmes
Matthew Currie Holmes

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