So You Want To Be a Screenwriter

picture from Hubble
NGC 602 and Beyond, Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team

What could be more glamorous than being a screenwriter. Just think about it; you get to hang out in Hollywood, get to meet all sorts of interesting people, get paid lots of money, attend Oscar ceremonies and maybe even you are really good (and lucky) pick up an award every now and then. Does this scenario sound a little too good true? I hope it does, because though all these things are possible, it just might be the case that screenwriting is the most difficult of  writing professions to break into.

And what is really also surprising is that screenwriting is the most regimented of all the writing professions. In fact it is so regimented that there are available software programs that create for you the basic outline of a 120 page screenplay. Remember this is the standard length for screenplays, because two hours is a good length of time for a feature film. Anything longer and your screenplay gets bounced out of the stack (at least that’s what I’ve read), but you can go a little bit shorter than the standard 120 pages and still be in the ballgame.

View from the Hubble Spacecraft
The Fairy of Eagle Nebula, Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team, (STScI/AURA), ESA, NASA

But alas all is not loss for there are successful screenwriters in this world. For an interesting inside look at the profession, check out these two guys here who made the grade. There names are Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio and you can find there fascinating blog here. And be sure to read their fascinating column called Throwin’ In the Towel. They really lay it on the line about what it takes to be a screenwriter. Their writing style is lively and upbeat, and their story is fascinating, for these two guys started out writing a while back. They set a goal of if nothing sold within five years, then they would “throw in the towel” and try something else. But believe it or not they slowly became successful adding such credits to their name as “Shrek”, Aladdin, Little Monsters, The Mask of Zorro and much more. Check out there blog for a fascinating look inside the screenwriter’s world from two successful writers.

Not everyone succeeds and just to get an idea of how rocky the road can get you need check out the story of a screenwriter, who almost made it. Her name is Lorelei Armstrong and you can follow her fascinating story at this site. It seems that Lorelei was a graduate from the UCLA film school who won over 10,000 dollars in various screenwriting contests, but who still could not break into the film industry as a writer. Instead she has gone the route of being a novelist and that whole adventure is discussed at another site of hers. You can also read excerpts from her novel or order the book online. The book is called “In The Face” and it is about Hollywood.

So there you are. My take on the ups and downs of Hollywood. It’s a very unique place indeed.


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