Wednesday, February 20, 2008  

25 Steps to Becoming a Screenwriter

Screenwriter Richard Showstack provides his "25 Steps to Becoming a Screenwriter"—some tongue-in-cheek humor on making it in Hollywood.

There are about 10,000,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area. Of those, approximately 10 people have the power to decide what movies get made.

All the rest want to be screenwriters.

Why does anybody want to become a screenwriter? Is it because they love movies? Is it because they love the creative process? Or is it something deeper, something more sacred, such as the desire for the fame and fortune that go along with it? (Don’t forget the babes! They love screenwriters because they think screenwriters can introduce them to people who are really famous and make the really big bucks.)

As an “aspiring” writer of screenplays (translation: I’ve never actually sold one), I have learned a thing or two about how to “make it in Hollywood.” So, without further ado, here is my list of “25 Steps to Becoming a Screenwriter.”

1) Ask yourself: a) Is there anything else I can do? and b) Can I live with myself if I do not become a screenwriter? If the answer to either is “yes,” get a real job. If the answer to both is “no,” proceed to step #2.

2) Find a psychiatrist and get your head examined. (If he diagnoses you as an obsessive-compulsive with masochistic tendencies, that’s a good sign.)

3) Read as many books on screenwriting as you can. Then forget 99 percent of what you have read.

4) Pick any three subjects and, under the tutelage of someone who knows how to write screenplays, write scripts about them.

5) Throw the scripts away—they’re terrible. (But at least now you know the format and structure of screenplays.)

6) Check in with your psychiatrist and get a prescription for anti-depressants.

7) Write three scripts about the three things that are most important to you.

8) Whew! Good thing you got that out of your system! Now throw those scripts out, too—they are also terrible.

9) Write another script, this time focusing not on what you want to say but on what will entertain, emotionally move and transport an audience to a new virtual world, in the process helping them to learn (or relearn) something important about the human experience.

10) Send out 50 letters of inquiry to production companies. You will never hear from 40 of the production companies. Five production companies will return your letter unread, saying that for legal reasons they do not accept unsolicited inquiries. Three will write back and thank you for your inquiry but say they are not looking for any scripts at the moment. Two will ask you to send your script.

11) Send your script to the two companies and spend the time waiting for a response rehearsing your acceptance speech for the Academy Award® for Best Screenplay.

12) One of the companies will write back and tell you your script has great potential and that they will be happy to rewrite it for you for $5,000. You will never hear from the other company, but at least NOW YOU ARE IN SHOW BUSINESS!

13) Try to limit the amount of time you spend sitting alone in the bathroom banging your head against the wall to three days.

14) Try some interesting new combinations of drugs and alcohol to see if that helps you become more creative.

15) It doesn’t.

16) Find someone with an interesting story to tell, and write a screenplay based upon his/her story.

17) See steps 10 through 13.

18) Go to a writers conference and meet lots of other screenwriters (your competition). Discover that they are not only younger and more talented than you are but they all seem to know each other. In addition, they all have optioned scripts already.

19) Ask everyone you know if they know anyone who knows anyone in Hollywood. Find out that your mother’s dental hygienist has a patient who knows a "Big Hollywood Star."

20) Write a letter to the Big Hollywood Star, mentioning your mother’s dental hygienist’s patient. Introduce yourself to the BHS and suggest that the two of you get together to discuss script ideas.

21) Receive a head shot of the Big Hollywood Star in the mail with a photocopied note thanking you for being a fan.

22) Call a suicide hotline but have trouble talking because you suddenly get an idea for a script about a person who works at a suicide hotline.

23) Go see a lot of movies to remind yourself why you wanted to become a screenwriter in the first place. Only now you can’t enjoy any of them because you spend the whole time thinking about how the screenplay for the film would look on paper, and, after the film is over, you realize you could never write anything as good as that. (Alternately, the movie was terrible, and you can’t figure out why anyone bought that piece of crap when you can’t even get your phone calls returned.)

24) With the money you have saved from your “day” job (you weren’t crazy enough to give that up, were you?) start seeing a therapist.
The therapist will try to convince you that it is/you are crazy to keep pursuing a career in screenwriting. If you agree with the therapist, give up on your dream. If, however, you think the therapist is a boring sludge who is just jealous that you are doing what you really want to do and is secretly being paid by your parents to crush your dream and is probably writing a screenplay himself anyway, and that, no matter what anybody says, you are not going to give up that dream, then you are ready to become a screenwriter.

25) Tear open your heart and write the script you find there!
(Of course, you won’t sell it, but …)

Richard Showstack is a full-time writer/editor/screenwriter. He has had two scripts optioned. Two books of his “fables with moral lessons for teenagers” will be published by BeachHouse Books, an imprint of Science and Humanities Press. GiftoftheMagic.Com


At 1:15 PM,Anonymous Anonymous said...

fuck you :-))
for being so
brutally honest

At 10:48 PM,Anonymous Anonymous said...

No doubt, but at least it's original.

At 2:03 PM,Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with everything you said, except for one thing. drugs and drinks usually open your mind beyond the grey borders that your parents put you in. Then again, I know nothing.

At 2:29 AM,Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hilarious! I hadn't laughed this hard in years. It's so funny, I am weeping:)

At 8:48 AM,Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are not funny. I could of predicted all your lame attend at being funny. I hope your writing id better than this.

no stars.

At 12:27 AM,Blogger Kary said...

loved it

At 7:49 PM,Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was so damn unhelpful and hilarious that I myself loving every single word. Kudos to you, you're awesome.

At 8:30 AM,Blogger X_88 said...

This was so honest, but the most hilarious thing I have read in years!!...also it gave me an idea for a of course it won't be sold...guess what? I'm writing it anyway...haha

At 6:53 PM,Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was definitely terrible and not funny at all. Nice try though. Better luck next time.

At 5:34 AM,Blogger dakwas said...

wow dats damn sincere. well i have 2 great stories that're goin to revolutionize the film industry. i have the story but still need a creative mind from an experienced fiklm maker, and a contact to make me meet great realisators like james cameron. its gonna beat twilight if ever produced.

At 12:11 AM,Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll get there someday Dick.

At 3:57 AM,Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was so fricking funny. Thanks for the heads up. Back to my midlife crisis... wondering how many of them am I going to have.

At 9:56 AM,Anonymous PatrickW said...

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