Congrats, kiddo! You’ve sweated and strained and actually finished your dream script. Battle over. You’ve won.
Oops, not quite. Because having the script really isn’t enough, is it? Now you’ve – OMG! – got to get others – important others – to read it. Here are some thoughts about what to do next:
by the Staff of Scriptshark
Q: If you’ve written your calling card script, what’s next? What do you do with it?
Analyst: This question assumes that the calling card script is ready to go. But for many writers, the process of vetting their calling card script is what leads to the next step (what do you do with it). How does a writer know that their script is strong enough to be competitive within this hyper-competitive field? It all depends on the situation of the individual writer. If you are living somewhere with no strong film industry, and have zero connections to Hollywood or even anyone connected through a third party to Hollywood, that’s when contests or coverage services can be a really useful tool. If your script truly is a “calling card”, it should get a good reception from one of the more prominent screenwriting contests (Austin, Nicholl, Final Draft, etc.) or from a coverage service. Once that happens, you can use the contest placement or good coverage to sell yourself through queries to smaller production companies open to working with new writers. Scriptshark has a scouting service that connects good material to producers looking for content.
If you’re already in Los Angeles, or somewhere else with a major film industry, and you’re confident the script is ready to be shown, it’s all about networking. Go to networking mixers. Intern at a production company, management company or agency. Volunteer as a PA on independent film shoots. Join a writer’s group. Whatever you can do so that you continue to make personal connections to people one step higher up the career ladder than yourself. Eventually, once you have a genuine connection, ask them to read your script. If it’s truly good, it will be noticed as such. And even someone relatively low on the ladder (a second assistant at a small production company) will be able to go to their office and tell the first assistant, “Hey, this is good” and it will get passed up the chain. Good material is in such short supply that it has a habit of getting sent on a conveyor belt like path.
Q: How do you break in? It seems like there must be some secret strategy.
Analyst: The truth is there’s not, though it can often feel that way. If you’re a writer, being good on the page is just the first step of the process. That’s probably the part that is the closest to a “secret strategy” that there is. Unless you are impossibly brilliant, even if you have a good script, the doors won’t just open up. Hustle is just as much or maybe even slightly more important than the script being of a strong quality.
Ideally, you want to maximize your talent as writer first. That comes from a lot of reading and writing. Read a thousand scripts. Not ten, not twenty. A thousand. Don’t write one script and just keep polishing it, write five. You’ll want to burn the first one by the time you type “FADE OUT” on the fifth one. Get a lot of feedback on anything you write from as many people as you can, but ideally those with some sort of credentials to validate why you should trust their feedback.