Getting into Paid Screenwriting Jobs

Screenwriting is a complex art, comprising character development, plot structure, story theme and more. But getting commissioned to write for TV or film, involves other skills other than talent. The following advice will optimize the writer’s chances of getting paid to write for TV.

Finding a Screenwriting Career

Screenwriting as a career path is tough but not impossible. There are always producers out there looking for new talent and new storylines, as well as providing screenwriting competitions. But getting onto the regular screenwriting payroll requires more than writing a good screenplay. It also requires writing for the needs of the film producer, knowing what sells. And most importantly, maintaining a professional approach. Let’s look at each in more detail.

How Not to Write a Screenplay

Passion for a particular film genre or format is essential for the screenwriter. Never write what is perceived to be a popular storyline or format. A habitual watcher of Eastenders or Doctor Who is more likely to instinctively know the ideal storyline to work for this format, and therefore to write an episode that might catch the interest of a producer. Incidentally, the BBC are always interested in reading new scriptwriting talent, and a good way in is through writing a soap episode. But don’t write such an episode if not interested in this genre. Write only what matters to you, and not what is perceived to be the rage or what makes money.

Writing Stories for TV Drama

But writing for any TV format requires intricate knowledge of how the story should fit the schedules. This means placing a suitable scene to cut to the break. Each story should also fit into the time allocated for the format, whether it is a soap, sitcom or full-length TV drama.

Always keep the audience in mind when writing the story. Is the drama to be episodic or a single drama? Should the story fill sixty minutes, or half-an-hour? Are there to be breaks within? Is the story to be shown before or after the watershed? Is the story suitable for children, teens, couples or a more mature audience? What are the sex/violent content? What other sensitive issues are to be included in the story and how will this impact upon the time schedule? Make each item as specific as possible. This will make things easier for the script reader.
 
Learning from Screenwriting Workshops
 
Certain film studios offer leisure screenwriting workshops that help beginners gain an inside view of how the industry works and avoid beginner’s mistakes. Screenwriting courses are also a good way in, but nothing beats getting commissions, even if unpaid. A CV that includes work experience in writing scripts, even in the local theatre or a similar contribution, can be a good starting point. This means gleaning the Artist’s & Illustrators Year Book for addresses of film agents and theatres. Always conduct some research into the sort of work accepted and submission guidelines for screenplays. Follow the guidelines to the letter.
 

 

What Film Producers Look For
 
A beginner in screenwriting can easily overlook the technicalities of a story, the audience it is aimed at and the how the story will fill a particular slot. This is because such matters inhabit the logical side of the writer’s mind. The creative side comprises the story conception, instinct, originality and writing about what matters to you. A fine balance between these two modes of writing is the key to a great overall scriptwriter. Incidentally, this site, offers screenwriting tips on these creative aspects, including:

Screenwriters’ Mistakes to Avoid

The remote control is sufficiently convenient to switch channels. Keep this in mind when writing the opening scene of your story. This is the most crucial aspect of your screenplay. Take the place of a jaded TV viewer or cynical script reader. Keep your audience hooked from the very first line of your script. The hook of your story is discussed in more detail on another article here, but involves ensuring your audience cares about your characters, whether likeable or not. Another tack is to introduce an inciting moment, whether a mystery or an odd occurrence. This will make your audience want to know more.

Tips for Writing Screenplays

But don’t let up after an interesting opening scene. Keep your audience hooked. Introduce conflicts, contrasts and climaxes throughout the story. Cut out scenes and characters that do nothing to keep the story moving forward. Don’t give your characters an easy time of it. Pile it on and don’t let the problems resolve themselves too soon. Always remember that screenwriting is a visual medium. No inner thoughts of back-story should creep in.

The Professional Scriptwriter

Reputation spreads and sticks, so always maintain a professional approach, regardless of how unfair the TV industry can seem. Not everyone will appreciate your ‘baby’ in the same way. Avoid being a diva. Adopt a thick skin and maintain courtesy throughout. The producer will inevitably cut and make changes to your screenplay. Differences of opinion are fine, so long as bridges aren’t burned in the process. Keep adding work to your portfolio and others will get the message that this scriptwriter means business.

Getting Paid to Write a TV Script

Screenwriting for TV or film requires more skill than the creative side. Keeping in mind the needs of the producer, audience, cultural climate and the format will tell everyone that this screenwriter is aware of how he/she fits into the TV/film industry. This means not only writing a great screenplay, but also writing for a certain audience, format and broadcasting slot. Getting work experience via a workshop or local work is a good start. Maintaining courtesy cannot be underestimated. A Talented diva is not always going to succeed. But an industrious, culturally-aware, polite and persistent writer just might.
 
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