How to become a screenwriter

How to become a screenwriter

This alternative job fits the bill for:

  • Part time jobs for 13 year olds, 16 year olds and teens (in the sense that, like all would-be screenwriter adults, you won’t get a screenwriting gig, ever, even if you sprinkle optimistic unicorn dust in your eyes, and you won’t get paid)
  • Most exciting jobs in the world
  • Jobs that allow piercings
  • Unusual jobs

You’re minding your own business, trying to get on with your life, when suddenly an over-bearing parent/teacher/irritatingly mature friend asks you what you’re planning to do with your future. And you have no idea. If you want a creative job where no two days are alike, and you can flaunt your talents without seeing your values shrivel and die, why not consider a career in one of the most exciting and innovative industries in the world: screenwriting?

1. Work your own way. You want to sleep in until lunch, write 2,000 words then party all night? You can. As long as you meet deadlines, no one cares what hours you work. It’s the ultimate flexi-time.

2. Rock your work in online supplements… Yep, TV’s evolving. We all remember lonelygirl15, and all the gossip she generated last year, but as well as exclusive online shows, many studios are now using online clips to add to the shows on TV. Dr Who has a 90 second short every week before the episode airs, but the award for capitalising on the online buzz is E4 with Skins. Unseen Skins has “mini-episodes created exclusively for the web” which give more writers the chance to showcase their skills. (As an added bonus, there’s also an interview on there with Daniel Kaluuya, one of the writers, who discusses what it’s like to write a TV show.)

3. Take it a step further and evolve. In July 2008 the future of TV was changed thanks to sci-fi god Joss Whedon. His three-part online show Dr Horrible’s Singalong Blog was written during the writers’ strike to prove that he didn’t need studio participation to make kick-ass stuff, and it was so popular it crashed the server the first day it was posted. It’s about a shoddy supervillian (played by a grown-up Doogie Howser) who battles his arch-nemesis Captain Hammer in an attempt to win the girl of his dreams. And to make it even better, he sings!

4. Having the write stuff means a share of the profits. Dr Horrible wasn’t the only great thing to come out of the Writer’s Strike. Since then, conditions for writers have improved no end. From now on, when your work is downloaded or sold on DVD, you’ll get a nice share of the profits. Score!

5. As a screenwriter, you will get respect due. Again, this is partly due to the strike. In the last couple of years, writers have stopped being the traditional unsung heroes. Ask anyone to name a movie director or producer and they can probably reel a few off (George Lucas, Ben Affleck, Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg spring to mind) but writers? Nothing. Thanks to the work of Joss Whedon in the US, and Russell T Davies in the UK, people are starting to appreciate writers more. They’re on chat shows, they’re being recognised in the street, they’re getting a say in how the shows work run. Both Joss and Russell are executive producers on their shows, so have plenty of delicious power! This is even crossing over into the film industry, the best example being Pirates of the Caribbean. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, the men who gave us Johnny Depp in eyeliner, were on set every day of filming in case they were needed, proving how much respect writers have now. Yay!

6. You’ve got to be in it to win it. There’s never been a better time to get involved than now, especially with so many competitions for new talent cropping up. Ever fancied creating the next great sitcom – ‘How I Met Your Mother’, ‘Extras’ or ‘Gavin and Stacey’? Sci-fi classic – ‘Star Trek’, ‘Dr Who’ or ‘Buffy’? Crime drama – ‘Spooks’, ‘CSI’ or ‘Law and Order’? Well, here’s your chance. Red Planet Pictures run one of the best script-writing competitions around, with the chance to get your script commissioned, so visit them right this minute.

7. Even if Red Planet Pictures don’t like your script, try the BBC Writer’s Room. They accept submissions for scripts and have commissioned loads of great shows from there. Also, check out their opportunities page: It has links to all the major competitions and submission agencies.

8. Okay, so this isn’t really a reason to get involved (hopefully I’ve convinced you already) but more a few tips:

  • Make the first ten pages gold. Most places only read the first ten pages as a test, then ask for the rest if they like what they see. It’s your job to make sure they do.
  • Be prepared for rejection. Not everyone will want your work, but somewhere, someone will. Just keep trying.
  • Don’t do it for a quick buck and show-biz lifestyle, it’s unlikely to happen. You’ll probably spend a lot of your life dirt poor, but hell, if you genuinely love what you do, does that really matter?

Finally, best of luck. And, if you do get the Oscar for best original screenplay, don’t forget it was me who helped you get started!