For about 4 years in this time slot (Thursday, 10AM Eastern), I have posted weekly items about the business side of the craft. This began, like so many of the features on the site, as a response to the requests of readers wanting to know more about the nitty gritty of life as a working screenwriter. I wrote a few items, people liked them, so I continued it as the Business of Screenwriting.
Today will mark the last column in the series, at least for the time being. Why?
First, I’ve covered a lot of territory. You need only go here to see how much. Is there more I could discuss? Probably. But for now, I feel satisfied that as part of the education this site offers to aspiring screenwriters, all those posts provide you a pretty good foundation for understanding the business side of things.
Second, at the urging of many readers, I’ve decided to compile this content, plus additional material, into a book. I’ll most likely self-publish it as a reflection of my commitment to The Spirit of the Spec, so you can look for that sometimes in early 2014.
Finally, there is a whole other aspect of the craft I want to explore in a more systematic fashion: creativity. That interest has been present on this site since Day 1. In fact, if you look up at the very top of the home page, you will see this: Go Into The Story | The Craft of Screenwriting, Movies, Hollywood and the Creative Life.
Creativity fascinates me. How do writers come up with ideas? What is their writing process like? How to engender our creativity? All of that just terribly interesting.
So starting next Thursday in this time slot, a new weekly series: Writing and the Creative Life. It will also be a nice bit of synergy because my wife Rebecca McMillan (@bf4tbrainy) is Senior Editor of The Creativity Post, founder of The Brain Cafe, and doing considerable research on the nexus of the human brain, psychology, creativity and education.
In terms of the business of screenwriting, let me leave you with this final piece of advice: Learn the craft.
What is the craft?
It’s not just writing a screenplay. Obviously that is central, but there is so much more.
It’s knowing how to develop, plot, write and rewrite a script with the pressure of a due date.
It’s knowing how to read and assess a piece of material, determine what doesn’t work, come up with a take on how to make it work, then be able to present your case persuasively to producers, studio execs, and talent.
It’s knowing what a manager and agent’s responsibilities are, and what your responsibilities are in the writer-rep relationship.
It’s knowing how to track business trends.
It’s knowing how to pitch.
It’s knowing how to stack projects.
It’s knowing how to research stories in an efficient manner.
It’s knowing how to manage your time.
It’s knowing how to take script notes and deliver revisions that improve the story and satisfy the buyer.
It’s knowing how to survive successes… and failures.
It’s knowing how to relate to Hollywood types whose life experience may be far different than yours.
It’s knowing that you should always be nice to assistants.
It’s knowing the basics of a deal.
It’s knowing at least some of the basics of movie production.
It’s knowing about writing credits.
It’s knowing to get a damn good lawyer.
And much more.
Some screenwriters may carve out a life whereby they insulate themselves from much of this stuff, indeed, that is the only way they can maintain a home life and protect their creativity.
If you can pull that off, great.
But in my estimation, most screenwriters need to learn many, if not most of the above aspects of the craft.
You can read about it which should be helpful, but much of it you can only learn by trial and error once you’ve broken into the business.
Just be sure to bring the understanding that you need to know a lot more than how to write a script to sustain a career as a writer in Hollywood. You need to know the business of screenwriting, too.
I hope you have enjoyed this series and benefited from it.
Next week: Writing and the Creative Life.
The Business of Screenwriting has been a weekly series of GITS posts based upon my experiences as a complete Hollywood outsider who sold a spec script for a lot of money, parlayed that into a screenwriting career during which time I’ve made some good choices, some okay decisions, and some really stupid ones. Hopefully you’ll be the wiser for what you learn here.