What Does It Take To Be A Screenwriter?

by Kevin Burton

    Writer Lily Cooper, on the Grand Canyon University website, lists seven traits one needs to be a screenwriter.

   Just about any kind of writing is interesting to me, so when my church offered a screenwriting class I jumped at the chance. I shared some of the details last Saturday (“My Newest Venture, Screenwriting Class,” Jan. 14).

   Chances are I won’t walk all the way down this road and become a screenwriter, but you never know. Either way, much of Cooper’s advice applies, no matter what kind of writing I attempt.

   “Don’t worry if you haven’t mastered some of these skills on the list,” Cooper writes, offering much needed encouragement. “While they are very important for every screenwriter to have, it takes time and energy to accumulate it all. Every person has the capability to improve their skills and perfect their craft.”

   With no further ado, Cooper’s list:

1. Passion

   “Having a passion for what you do is important for any occupation, but especially true for future screenwriters. Do you love watching movies and shows and have a history of making movie or TV show references? Screenwriting involves a lot more than just writing a script. It involves studying the art and having an appreciation for it.”

2. Persistence

   ‘It can be difficult to write a great screenplay. Writers will stumble across many obstacles such as writer’s block, discouragement from others and the always-changing popularity in certain genres and concepts. Through it all, a screenwriter needs to keep jumping over those blocks and continue to follow their dream. It only takes one yes in an ocean of rejections to propel you.”

3. Flexibility

   “Being a screenwriter means you have to be flexible in all areas. The writing process, the critique, solving problems and more. Sometimes there will be budget concerns, a switch in directors and a change in studio management, which will all lead to script issues arising. However, the goal is always the same: to produce quality content. As long as you push through, take the criticism, use your vision and practice patience, you will rise above. Having the flexibility to deal with all of that is extremely important.”

4. Knowledge

   “What is your goal as a screenwriter? To write a great screenplay! A huge part of writing a good one is to read them. By reading scripts, you learn the language of the writings and the different aspects and forms of each one.”

   “Try to immerse yourself into the world of screenwriting as much as possible. Go to screenwriting workshops, seminars, read books, listen to podcasts and watch videos. Every little bit of information is valuable and you never know what you may need to use in the future.”

5. Consistency

   “Consistency is the utmost importance when in the show-business. As a writer, you will have deadlines. Sometimes you can have a lot of time, while others will give you a short amount. Either way, it’s vital to turn things in on time. There are many tricks and tools for organization and getting past writer’s block that you can utilize when a deadline is approaching. The last thing you want is a reputation of being inconsistent, so practice getting ahead of deadlines.

6. Always be Writing

   “You know the drill. You have a great idea, start writing it and then hit a roadblock. You don’t know what to do and walk away from the project. This is something that many writers struggle with and while it’s a valid excuse, it doesn’t mean you should stop.

   “No writer writes a perfect first draft. They are always reconstructing stories and rewriting. Some tips to get past this roadblock are:

  • Avoid rewriting the same scene over and over. You won’t ever finish if you stay stuck; move onto the next scene and come back to the other one later.
  • Set page goals, such as finishing five pages every day.
  • Take breaks in-between writing to give yourself a mental break.

   “So next time you are stuck while writing, don’t quit. Just remember that most of the time, that great screenplay you read started out as a horrible first draft.

7. Networking

   “Networking is so important, especially for screenwriters. It’s the best way to get a script to an agent, studio executive or producer. Many cities offer networking events where screenwriters are able to meet like-minded artists and people who could turn your screenplay into a movie.”

   “Your script won’t sell itself so it’s important to get out there and market yourself and your product. Don’t be shy, and be confident in your skills and script and you might just stumble across a person who wants to make a movie or show with you!”

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