ADRIAN MEAD ON HOW TO GET INTO SCREEN-WRITING
Screenwriting is a huge subject, so I'm going to narrow it down and focus on some practical strategies and resources that can help you to decide if it is an area you wish to pursue.
Basically, it's adapt or die time. If you hope to have a career as a professional writer you are going to have to diversify. Top of your list should be getting work as a screenwriter. Why? Well, for starters it pays considerably better than all other forms of writing. Don't believe me? Take a look at the rates listed here -
Oh, by the way, those are the basic rates before negotiations - you would expect to get a lot more once you have some level of experience.
Later I'll give you some links where you can download free screenplays and look at the formatting. The first thing you will notice is masses of white space on the page and a maximum length of 120 pages. You get paid a lot more per word than you do for writing a novel and in far less time! You would also expect to be writing a number of scripts at the same time. Do the sums.
With the huge growth of internet channels, the need for multi platform content and the likes of Sky and Channel 4 expanding their homegrown drama and comedy output the opportunities for screenwriters are multiplying - if you know where to look. However, when you get your break you must be able to hit the ground running and work like a professional from day one.
I regularly get asked to mentor novelists and playwrights who wish to break into screenwriting. Many have now gained work in the TV and film industry. In every case the ones that succeeded had talent, but more importantly they also recognized the need to think of themselves as a one person business. They became pro active, set goals and worked on their self belief. Perhaps most importantly they made sure they were passionate about their writing, this meant they became 100% committed to their goal of becoming a professional screenwriter.
How committed are you? If you wish to be able write as an enjoyable hobby and maybe earn a little from it, screenwriting is definitely not for you. It pays well because you have to work to tight deadlines and the only feasible excuse for delivering late is your sudden and unexpected death.
However, if you love films and TV and are passionate about your work, then come join me in this fascinating and all consuming area of the writing world. It still thrills me to watch the opening credits in a darkened cinema or with a room full of friends and family as your name comes up on screen and people bring your words to life. Of course it's egotistical! But you've earned it and in some cases your work reaches millions of people on the same night.
But how do you get to indulge in your Premier moment? Well, there are literally thousands of books, internet sites, videos on you tube and writers groups dedicated to the craft of screenwriting. I will attempt to boil it all down for you to four sources.
BOOK - Teach Yourself Screenwriting - Raymond G. Frensham
Yes, it is part of that "Teach Yourself..." series. However, I've spent hundreds of pounds on screenwriting books and this skinny little volume is the best and still gets great reviews on Amazon. I have no idea who Mister Frensham is but every professional screenwriter I know agrees with me.
Don't be put off by the "rules' or diagrams. My advice would be to have a go at writing a script, then consult this book. It is like a manual for fixing your car.
CAREER GUIDE - e book Making It As A Screenwriter - Adrian Mead
Oh yes! Why do I think I know best? I don't, but masses of industry professionals think this is exactly what you should read. (see testimonials on my website www.meadkerr.com) ; It is on the reading list of numerous Screenwriting MA and Creative Writing courses and best of all your money goes to Childline. Download it and get everything you need to plan your career strategy.
Download from www.meadkerr.com
Millions of these out there but there's an awful lot of variation in quality. The following have lots of great material.
Should be a first call for you. You download scripts from here and there is masses of useful information. They accept and read work from new writers.
You need to pay to join this site but it gives you access to lots of info and thousands of other filmmakers looking to find scripts, collaborate and make films.
PODCASTS - Making It As A Screenwriter - Adrian Mead
Is there no end to this man's ego? Well, actually the reason I've included this one is three fold. Folk have found this free series of 6x3 min videos very useful and hopefully so will you.
They are on the Scottish Book Trust website, which is a veritable treasure chest of information. Here you will also find information about their mentoring scheme and their Screen Lab project. Both schemes offer opportunities for writers wishing to cross disciplines into screenwriting or other areas of writing. It's only open to Scottish base writers and the envy of lots of other organizations - if you are not based in Scotland see if your local organization could put together something similar.
Of course the most important step you can take to build your career is to WRITE SOMETHING! Perhaps you have a short story or a poem that would work well as a short film? Write the script, you only need to come up with 1-30 pages, lots of white space, go on give it a go. There are lots of great examples of short films to inspire you at www.bbc.co.uk/filmnetwork
So to sum up, you need -
* Sample scripts.
* Practical, bang up to date advice from people working in the industry right now.
* An understanding of the key people you will work with and their roles.
* Knowledge of how to build and maintain those relationships, so they recommend you or hire you again.
* Insider information about forthcoming opportunities for new writers.
* A clear, simple and dynamic career building strategy.
Of course the best way to learn is to talk with people who are already working in the business and benefit from their experience. But where do you get to meet them?
Luckily for you we have put together a course to provide you with all this and much more.
If you would like to learn from successful Writers, Script Editors and Producers about how they got their break and what happens when you get hired to work in film and TV you need to grab your place now. This will be a fun, friendly and info packed day and will benefit writers of all levels who are interested in exploring a career as a screenwriter or script editor.
VENUE: St Columba's-by-the-castle
14 Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh EH1 2PW
FEE: £85.00 (includes lunch and refreshments)
DATE: Saturday Oct 2nd 2010, 10am - 5.30pm
Book your place now at http://rewrite.eventbrite.com and get the insider knowledge you need to build your career.
Thanks, Adrian - crystal clear and very, very interesting.
Any questions, anyone? (I'm away, but Catherine Hughes is keeping an eye on things for me.)