Filmmaking is one of the biggest and most intensive collaboration processes out there. From a production assistant all the way to the director, you need more than a few good people in order to bring a film to life in a convincing way. This includes someone who is capable of stringing together a workable and decent script.
A scriptwriter is the cornerstone of the film - though often overlooked and underappreciated - as if a script is bad then so too will the film be (9 times out of 10). The
<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Raspberry_Awards">Golden Raspberry Awards</a>
are a great example of the bad script affliction. In 2016, the winner of this auspicious award was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Many of its stars and those involved in the production are respected members of the filmmaking community; Ben Affleck, who plays the titular Batman, has both Oscars and Golden Globes for both acting, writing and directing. And yet. The script sucked and so too did the overall movie.
Becoming a successful screenwriter is, therefore, a unique challenge. The first step of which is creating a kickass writing portfolio. More importantly, a kickass portfolio full of good writing. That last bit is the important part here.
With that in mind, a few of the vital things you need to do in order to create a kickass portfolio includes:
Become Sir Write-a-Lot
Good, bad, ugly. Bordering on the somewhat insane. It doesn’t matter. Just write it.
More material means more stuff to show for yourself and a better chance something you write will get noticed. Write eighty scripts and maybe two of them are actually usable, you will have learnt a lot of great lessons from writing those eighty scripts!
Of course, the writing process is different for every person. Someone will spend months crafting the perfect piece or years penning their magnum opus, then perhaps not write again for months, years or even ever again. To be a successful screenwriter you need to evolve from this mindset and write in abundance. More is often better in this case.
At the end of the day, a screenplay can land anywhere between 7,000 and 20,000 words. A novelist aims for 60,000 words at a minimum - and that’s for a short novel! So, in the span of writing a novel you could have between 3 and 9 scripts prepared.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
All of your spec scripts need to be, at the very least, your very best work. A speculative script - for those not in the know - is a script which you either hope to sell one day or you hope will get you hired for a job at some point. Your portfolio will be made up of these and may never end up actually on the screen. This is the hardest thing to accept about your portfolio; it is more of an indicator of your talent, rather than a catalogue you can sell from.
This is why choosing your spec scripts needs to be calculated. Crafted to showcase the very best of your writing talents, as well as not wasting a script you really believe in or want to see come to life one day. Everything in your portfolio should be checked by an editor, to ensure the high-quality of each piece. After all, you don’t want to miss out for the sake of one misspelt word!
As a creative worker, you will often not have the benefits that come with being a full-time employee. For this, you should consider covering yourself with some form of insurance. One such provider, Caunce O’Hara
, says this, “Make sure you are covered, so you can work worry-free and avoid the monetary stress that may come with copyright cases or worse.”
Network and Talk About Yourself
They say that it’s not always about what you know, but who you know. For this to be successful, you need to network to the next level and put yourself out there professionally. LinkedIn, Twitter and even Facebook can be great ways to do this online. From releasing quotes from your scripts, putting together articles describing your process (just like this one) or simply trying to reach out to other people in the industry who you admire.
Networking online is also a great space to start talking about yourself. Once you have the full portfolio together, then you need to talk, talk, talk all about it. If people don’t know about your portfolio, then it will never get you anywhere in life! Tell your family, tell your coworkers, let your social networks know and push the portfolio to anyone you think will listen. Just try not to be too pushy about it. A hard line to hit, I know, but a necessary one.
If the online world isn’t your bag of tea, then you can also try in-person networking events. Meetups, cons, groups and even clubs can be a great way to meet like-minded people and even make a few friends.
Not having anyone bite your scripts? Or are you losing the patience for someone to recognise your brilliance and make a move? Then, there’s always the option of making your script for yourself. This can be an expensive option, especially as you may or may not have the funds in place to do so. But, it is also possible to make a very budget production of your script and still be quite successful. Indie film festivals are full of these and they can be quite good depending on the hard work put into them (and if they have a good script to work from in the first place).
Of course, making a production from scratch isn’t for everyone. However, if you want to make a splash in your early career then it could make you stand out from the crowd for sure. At least it will make an interesting anecdote on your CV!
The thing about being a creative professional is the fact that even when you find the success you have to go through the same process over and over and over again. It’s a hard life, but once you have the formula down then you will find the success you are looking for lurking somewhere down the line.