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I don't have formal training in screenwriting. I'm an Accountant by trade. I sort of stumbled upon this. I have a flicker of talent, I'm just not sure how bankable it is. Anyway, should I invest the time and money into attending screenwriting classes or do any of you think a great deal can be learned from reading scripts, books, seminars, etc. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
First of all, do you have the passion and patience for writing? On any given day it can be grueling at best so you need to decide if this is something that you want to persue full on or just as a hobby type thing. I've been writing since the second grade. I read all the right books, read scripts... finally one day I just decided that I needed to pour everything that I had into it so I signed up at UCLA extension - the best money I've ever spent. I had a great teacher and great group. I remember when we all first met, the instuctor asked everyone WHY do you write? My answer was, because I can't NOT write.
If it's something you feel passionate about Kim, then go for it all the way. The only regret is not trying.
What a great topic to kick off the new year.
I would agree that, certainly, "a great deal can be learned from reading scripts, books, seminars, etc." The problem is that learning a great deal has a nasty habit of getting writers within spitting distance of a sale -- so close, and yet, so far away.
The question I think you're really asking is, can you hope to write well enough to SELL a script without any formal training.
Of course, you have to have talent to start with, but I think it's safe to say you've got that, or you wouldn't have gotten this far without formal training. At the level you've reached -- and considering what your time is worth -- it's only logical that you would be thinking about the whole process in terms of an investment, and the possibility of a future pay-off.
Doreen raises an important question. Why do you write? And your answer may well be the same as hers: because you can't NOT write.
But must you write screenplays? I realize I'm talking to an accountant, here, someone who can look, dispassionately, at the cold hard facts. Writing a screenplay takes an enormous investment of time, and the possibility that you will ever be reimbursed for your work is a long shot.
So that's the first thing you've got to decide. How badly do you need to get the screenplay that's inside of you out there on paper, so that it has a slim chance of coming to life on the screen?
If the desire won't be denied, then you might as well give it a damn good chance of being fulfilled. Make some definite plans. Read Terry Rossio's "Throw in the Towel." You know where to find it.
But, for what it's worth, my best advice is this: find someone knowledgeable to give your work a thorough analysis. It may be painful, but what you learn will be GOLD. That's something you can't get from books, or reading tips on message boards, or other people's scripts, or even placing well in a contest.
You don't have to go to a screenwriting class, although I certainly would if I could afford it. I think any course where you'd get to struggle with the problems of your own scripts would be the best.
And attending a class would give you the opportunity to network with other students and your instructor.
I wish you all the best, and continued success,
For what it's worth, I'd suggest starting with Robert McKee's book STORY. I also recommend Linda Seger's CREATING UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS and anything by Lew Hunter. Check out any two or three day workshops available in your general area. I live in Hawaii and we even have them here occasionally. Read as many GOOD scripsts as you can. Oh yeah, and be prepared for the long haul. It's a bloody tough business but if you're really meant to be a screenwriter, nothing will ever stop you. A great writer was once asked what he'd do if he found out he only had a very short time to live. He replied, write faster.
Doreen and Michele, thank you so much for your thoughts on this matter. I can’t say that it’s really solved my problem, but it does have me thinking.
I’ve always wanted to work in the entertainment industry. I’m not sure if I’ve known in what capacity, but deep down I’ve always known it’s what I’ve wanted to do. Unfortunately back in my college days I took the easier route rather than following my heart. I hate what I do for a living and yet it’s not easy to give up because it affords me with many luxuries I’ve grown accustomed to. At 37 years of age it’s not easy to throw your hands in the air and say, “what the hell!”
I also must admit that I can’t say that writing is my passion. I enjoy it, but I’m very insecure about it. I was never praised for it during my school years and thus I’ve never known if in fact I had talent. Admittedly I’m scared. I’m rather athletic and subsequently competitive. Either I do well in a sport or I don’t. The ones I do well in I stick with and the ones I don’t…well, I drop quicker than – you know what I mean. I’m afraid I’ll treat screenwriting in the same fashion. I’ve done better than I ever imagined I would in various contests (I’ve subsequently learned about entering contests) and know I’ve gotta have something to make it to the semi-finals with my first script. And yet I still keep wondering…was it luck? Thus, I’m afraid to move on to new projects.
My nature is to nail it every time, and yet I know that’s impossible. I hate making rookie mistakes. I hate not knowing what those rookie mistakes are, but quitting my six figure job just doesn’t seem practical.
Maybe the problem is…I’ve experienced too much and I’m not willing to take risks. Whatever it is, it keeps me awake at night.
Thanks Eric for your comments. I've bought many of those books recently and plan on reading them. The problem is, I think I'm spending a great deal of time "studying" rather than "doing." It seems I keep coming up with excuses why I can't right and I think it boils down to being afraid of failure. Deep down I know getting a gig is a long shot, but like everyone else I've fantasized about it. I'm not sure if any of that makes sense
First, I admire you for asking the right questions. You clearly have done your homework and know the stakes.
Some of the below might be redundant to you, I have no idea whether you've already tipped to these sources:
1) Read scripts. Good ones. Movies you love. SOme of the best are "Miller's Crossing," "Unforgiven," and "Fargo." In my warped opinion of course. You can find a ton of screenplays online, at Drew's Script-O-Rama, and other sites.
2) Get some impartial feedback. Try the Zoetrope site. Post a screenplay, and though some of your reviews will be worthless, many will give you at least an indication whether you're hitting the mark you're aiming for. DoneDeal also has a forum to post 5-6 pages for feedback.
3) Keep coming back. This site, along with WordPlayer, and a handful of others, can be a great source of info and hands-on tools.
4) Did I mention read scripts?
5) Write every day. Tattoo this on your arm. Put a Post-it on your forhead. Do it. No excuses.
Best of luck to you and keep writing.
vicki king's "how to write a screenplay in 21 days."
follow her advice: write everyday, but don't beat yourself up over it.
hey, i wrote two screenplays in two weeks. write what you KNOW for the first one. then dally with the unknown for the second. just think 90 pages. buy MOVIE MAGIC SCREENWRITER software..can get in at Project Greenlight site. for one. that writes it for you. if you already have an idea, put some spontaneous events in there, are your characters outlined on paper so you begin to mesh with them and let them grow on each page.
Surely, you have had some life experiences or know of other's experiences and see a story or two in there. you can jig it up (fictionalize it) to make it even more interesting, although many times the facts are funnier (or sadder or weirder)than fiction.
yeah, write on your days off because you probably will be too tired otherwise. I know I am. I took a bunch of PTO days off and completed mine that way. I was rested and ready. Juices flowing. If you find you love it, then great. if you find you don't, well you tried. We all have at least one good story in us. Yeah, the contests are ok. But if you get one completed and believe it is good, do Script Express and So You Wanna Sell Your Script email queries..you'll get people in the industry requesting your script if it is what they need. You can get representation that way. I believe be as original as you can. Be YOU. Good Luck! Pam
OK Kim, one last bit of encouragement.
First, I can see why at 37 you wouldn't want to give up that lavish salary and you shouldn't have to unless of course that means working 172 (or whatever) hours a week at a job that you HATE.
Second, I understand about your competitve nature and sticking with something that you're good at and dropping something that you don't excel at, however, if you love something or have a desire for something, do you still throw in the towel or do you figure out how to improve the situation?
Third, it seems to me (from your postings) that the major element holding you back is FEAR. Did fear get you that 6 figure a year job? Everyone has fears and doubts about their talents. Hell, who in their right mind would run down the street naked yelling look at me? It can be that scarey because no matter what you write, it comes from a part of you that is fragile and unexplored.
Hi Kim. Just some random thoughts--
I think you should perservere at your job, or at least in the same field, and always only write on the side.
The ugly fact is that there is really very little money to be made in writing of any type--other that copywriting and ad copy.
Even if you found the Holy Grail and sold a script for a half million, that really only nets at best 200 grand after taxes, attorney fees, agent fees, and possible literary agent fees. A good chunk of money but probably not enough to dramatically change a life--or even quit a good job for. And that amount is only available to maybe one half of one percent of us pursuing this.
My writing reminds me of my long career as an amateur boxer. It covered parts of three decades and I retired with a record of 49 and 0. (I always felt that maybe one more fight I could have won one..but, it wasn't to be.;)
Anyway, I gained a lot of satisfaction from doing it. I wasn't especially good, but I was as good as I could be under the curcumstances, doing something very hard, that most people would be afraid of doing.
I want to be good at writing but I'm reconciled that satisfaction will still come to me for doing this hard thing others would be afraid of doing. After all, if something is worth doing, it should be worth doing even badly. (IMHO)
Just thinking out loud here, but if there is no real money in writing, then why do so many want to do it? Film schools, extension courses, "boot camps" are filled with aspiring film writers. Why? It's easy to see what the lure of pursuing an acting career is. If you indeed "make it", you have wealth and glamour and fame. But nobody who sees a movie even remembers who the writer is. So, no money (to speak of) and no fame...then why?
This is MY RECOMMENDATION:
BE AFRAID! BE VERY AFRAID! AND RUN LIKE HELL!!!!
If you've gone loco and you decide to stick around, then Write whenever you can. WRITE something EVERY DAY!!!! Even if it's just a paragraph. And READ EVERY DAY!!!! Even if it's just a paragraph from a Dean Koontz novel. I've NEVER had Writer's Block. Unfortunately, every time I see a movie, every time I read a news story, I get a new idea. And there's just not enough time in one's life to write screenplays for every fantastic idea I get. Which makes me feel like a failure!
If you'd rather not use a regular Word Processing Program, i.e., WordPerfect, Word, (Shane Black still uses the same manual typewriter he used to write LETHAL WEAPON), and you've got money to waste and you really, really want to buy Screenwriting Software, then buy the best from the best Screenwriting Guru in town--John Truby's BLOCKBUSTER!
Good luck--'cuz you're gonna need it, Babe!
Oh, and Kim? Every Writer is just like every Actor. INSECURE!
Thanks everyone for all you thoughts. It really has given me a lot to think about and as everyone said, I plan on sticking to a writing schedule and writing something....anything.
The problem's I've encountered is when I was a member of an online screenwriting group and I was concerned with some of the rookie mistakes I seemed to have been making. Although, I must also point out these were other writers, who knows how successful they really are. I don't have money to burn, but I do live rather comfortable and flying out to L.A. isn't an issue for me. Now if I'd only get that phone call requesting that I fly out there.
Too many regrets though...wish I would have gone out to L.A. when I had graduated from college and tried my hand at acting, writing or working behind the scenes and then if it hadn't worked, come back home and I still would had my whole life ahead of me. Guess I can't concern myself about that anymore. What's done is done.
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