Monday, August 21, 2017

Advice to an Aspiring Screenwriter

Dear Aspiring Screenwriter:

So you want to be a screenwriter. 

First, here's the basis from which I give this advice. I do not work physically in Hollywood very much. Although I have given workshops there, attended the parties (which is how you meet the players), been taken to lunch by studio executives, I've been on the "lots," have pitched stories to a dozen studios, and I have been hired to work on over a dozen major motion pictures as a story consultant. I've also advised dozens of professional screenwriters and novelists on their various projects. While I've written a dozen screenplays, none have been produced into a major motion picture. But I have written and produced hundreds of projects in every conceivable media for corporations, non-profits, cable, Internet and broadcast television, and I continue to do that. The latest is a webisode series in support of a feature that you can read about at So, that's my experience (as of September 2017.)

Second, here's my advice for what it's worth.

Your goal should not be to write a screenplay. Everybody does that, including the gondola driver in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and every waiter and taxi cab driver in Los Angeles.  Having a screenplay that you've written doesn't mean much. Hollywood is buried in screenplays, and many of them good. Your goal should be to get what you write produced, anything, and regularly. Why? Because, you’re not really a screenwriter until what you’ve written is produced. It’s like the old philosophical adage that a tree that falls in a forest doesn’t make any sound unless someone is there to hear it. You need people to pay attention to your output. How to do that? To become a full time respected screenwriter the common career paths are one of the following. 

1. Write REALLY good stuff that your target audience likes. It's gotta be good. See my blog on stories (below).

2. Write a novel that sells over 1,000,000 copies. This will put your story expertise in demand, and the novel can be sold to a producer with money and you can negotiate to write the screenplay. Or, just write the screenplay after the novel is successful and producers will want to talk to you. I've worked with more than one novelist that this has happened to. 

3. Write short, inexpensive screenplays and produce them.  Yes, YOU produce them. Create your projects with close friends you already know and who have an interest in making motion picture projects. It does not matter if what you create is for the Internet, disc, VOD, television, cable, or even if you rent a motion picture theater to show it...and you can do that easily. But make stuff, at first cheap, and as you gain acceptance raise the bar and do better stuff.

4. Move to Los Angeles or New York and make friends with aspiring filmmakers at your interest and experience level. Grow with them. Work with them. Support their work, and they’ll support your work…if its any good. 

5. If you can’t move to LA or NY then find a content niche where you live, and try to find committed friends or associates who will collaborate with you in getting things made. That could be through a university, cable access program, or church group. BUT THE KEY is that those you work with have to be as committed as you are to making projects. If they are not, or can’t, then find someone else. Don’t burn any bridges because those friends who want to work with you but can’t, may help you funds projects in the future. 

6. Get a regular job working for a corporation or non-profit that needs videos made for promotion, training, and public relations. They will pay you a salary and pay for your projects. Of course, you need experience before they’re hire you. So, write and produce anything on a regular basis and learn as you go (No. 1, 2 and 5). Many of these organizations will need lower experience people to help and you can learn on the job. That’s how I did it years ago. In college I majored in Physics so I had a technical background but my hobby was producing radio programs for the college radio station. Then I took up photography and developed a good portfolio over a few years. My media work, although it wasn’t television or film landed me a job as an assistant in the film production department at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Michigan (USA), and that’s where I learned to be a writer, producer, director and editor over the next 7 years before I left and started my own company.

In between all this you can self teach yourself a great deal with all the resources that are available for free on the Internet. If you haven’t found it yet, check out my story blog:
and my online training series which is the heart of my consulting and workshops I’ve given over the years at:
It’s not free, but it’s good.

May Providence shine on you.

Stan Williams


Anu Deshpande said...

This is great.. This is very useful and motivating., actually one best practical advice which is not just philosophical and offering feel good factor but very convenient and simple tips which we writers can put to practice immediately.

Thanks a lot Mr. Williams. You are superb!

Sepeda said...

Thank you for the information