Ask the Screenplay Doctor: How to Break Into Hollywood
Written by Susan Kouguell | Posted by: Michele Meek
In this new column, aspiring and professional writers can send in their questions to be answered by screenwriting consultant and author of The Savvy Screenwriter Susan Kouguell. In this first installment, she tackles on of the most common questions of new writers. For next month, email us or write in your questions (with a comment at the bottom) and ask anything from screenplay formatting questions to why isn’t my script selling?
Question: How can I break into Hollywood as a scriptwriter/director?
Answer: Breaking into the Hollywood industry is challenging, and perseverance, a tough skin, and of course stellar work, are vital. You must have at least one completed spec screenplay to submit to film industry executives — this is your “calling card.” Your script (or scripts) must stand out in the competition; your screenplays must demonstrate that you have what it takes as a writer. In terms of directing, a completed short film is a must. A producer or company will not take a chance on funding an aspiring director without seeing his or her film (or films) first. Remember, Hollywood is a business, and particularly in this tough economy, money is extremely tight. There is a lot of competition from other aspiring screenwriters and directors, to break into the film business, so your screenplay and/or film must be the best it absolutely can be.
Another important element to break into the business is networking. You must get your foot in the door in order to get your screenplays and films noticed. Even if you must work in a job that is unrelated to the film industry to pay the bills, be open to volunteering or interning at companies, film festivals, and/or screenplay conferences. Doing grunt work may be annoying or you might believe this is beneath you, but keep your eye on your goal: you will learn more about the business and get the opportunity to meet executives.
Interning at a production company for an agent or manager, for example, or working as a production assistant on student and independent films, are good ways to network. Interning as story analyst not only will improve your writing skills, but it will demonstrate to executives that you have a keen understanding about the craft of screenwriting.
It takes just one film executive to champion your screenplays and films, but it’s up to you to demonstrate that your screenplays and films are exemplary, and that you are willing to learn, and put in the hard work and commitment it takes, to work in Hollywood.
Send your questions to be considered for a future column to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow my Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell Twitter page to receive more Savvy Tips about how to write, structure, and sell your screenplay.