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  • The #1 Reason NOT to Be a Screenwriter

    June 25th, 2013

    By Danny Manus

    There are a million reasons to want to try your hand at screenwriting; as therapy, as a creative outlet, because it’s been a dream of yours since childhood, because you just love telling stories in a visual way, because you want to leave your stamp on pop culture or create your legacy, etc.  Or maybe you just want to be famous and get your picture taken in US Weekly standing next to Kristen Stewart looking like she just ate a sour candy.

    But there is one reason that should NEVER come into play – Money.

    It’s time for some tough love, No Bull style. Lately, I’ve had a few clients who told me they NEED to sell their script and quick because they are having financial issues. They’re broke, they are getting evicted, they lost their jobs, they can’t find a new job, they need to pay their mortgage, their children are going to college, etc.

    Let me say this as clearly as humanly possible: If you need to sell a script in order to pay your mortgage…you’re going to be homeless very soon!

    Money is the LAST reason to go into screenwriting because chances are it’s going to take you YEARS to make any. And even if you do (by some miracle) sell or option your first script, it’s not going to be for much money, if any. We’re talking a few thousand dollars – certainly not enough to quit your day job or send a kid to school. Even if you got super-duper lucky and get paid WGA minimum for your script, it’s still less than you’d make as a first year school teacher in a bad neighborhood.

    And getting the movie made is a whole other process that can take anywhere from 2-10 years, so I hope you aren’t counting on those residual checks to pay your rent.

    If you are having financial difficulties, please – do ANYTHING else! You might as well get a job at Starbucks because you will make more money, get full benefits, and if you’re working at a Starbucks in Los Angeles – you’ll probably get to meet more celebrities than you will as a screenwriter anyway.

    Screenwriting is something you want to do as a career because you’re so passionate about it, you just can’t picture yourself doing anything else day after day, year after year and because you LOVE writing – not because you’ve tried everything else and writing is the only thing left and you think anyone can do it.

    Being a professional screenwriter isn’t about writing 100 pages. Anyone can do that. It’s about immersing yourself in the craft of writing and the BUSINESS of film and TV. You have to know what you’re getting into.  Being a professional screenwriter means you don’t just have ONE story to tell that you’d like to see get made one day. It’s about having so many ideas and inspirations and stories that your brain can’t hold them all, so they need to flow out onto paper.

    And if you’ve got tons of ideas but you don’t want to write them – then you’re not a screenwriter – you’re a producer! Ha!

    It’s fine to change careers in life and want to try something new, but screenwriting at a professional level is something that takes YEARS to become proficient at – much like I’m sure whatever your current profession required.

    No one leaves their job as a social worker and says, ‘Ya know what, I need to make more money – so I’m going to be a doctor from now on.’ And then immediately starts working on patients and gets paid a million dollars. So why do you think screenwriting would be any different?

    It takes MANY scripts, many rewrites, many classes, education, etc. Ask any professional screenwriter how many scripts or years it took for them to break in and finally feel like they were good enough, and I GUARANTEE you that none of them will say a number less than THREE.

    To make real money as a screenwriter – and by that, I mean quit your day job money – you need to perfect not just your writing, but your rewriting, your pitching, your selling, your polishing, and your networking skills. And if you think you can do that by reading Save the Cat and downloading Celtx – you’ve got another thought coming.

    It’s incredibly easy to write a script. It’s insanely difficult to write a great script at a professional level. And it’s ten times harder than that to sell it. And ten times harder still to get it produced, released and be successful.

    The competition even between amateur (non-professional) screenwriters increases with every year. Just five years ago, the total number of submissions for the top 4 screenwriting contests was about 15,000. Now it’s over 30,000. The number of consultants out there offering to help has increased from about 50 to over 300. And for a buck, many are ready and willing to pat you on the head and tell you you’re wonderful and talented and are gonna be rich and famous.

    But they’re wrong.

    I’m not saying this to dissuade you from screenwriting – it is a wonderful profession that can be incredibly satisfying, creatively fulfilling and fun. I’m saying this to make sure screenwriting is something you are so passionate about that it’s not your answer to being broke – it’s the thing WORTH being broke for.

  • Stop Querying the Wrong Way

    December 19th, 2011

    I don’t like to bad mouth other companies or services too much – at least not in a public forum – but there is a not-so-new type of service out there that has grown in popularity and I’d like to stop all of your from being duped into wasting your money on it.

    It’s the automated query letter services that promise to help you “BREAK IN” by sending your query letter to THOUSANDS of execs, agents and managers and getting your script read. They want to open up their Hollywood rolodex to YOU… 

    What a load of complete and utter bullshit!!  These services – who are usually anonymous and do not tell you who even RUNS the company – are complete RIPOFFS! All they have done is re-typed the Hollywood Creative Directory or IMDB Pro into an email database full of email addresses that look like INFO@RANDOMCOMPANY.COM and they charge you anywhere from $50-$300 to “fix” your query letter and blanket the town with it.

    And even for those companies who have their own more specific list of email addresses of real execs, I promise you – those companies and execs and agents are not waiting by the fax machine for the newest random query letter from these companies. You know why – because no one uses a fucking fax machine anymore. 

    The letters they send are not personalized (to your project or to the specific company), they are not referrals, they are not recommendations, and they generally DO NOT GET READ! They are a constant annoyance to executives who go through hundreds of REAL query letters sent by referrals, reputable companies and writers every month.

    These companies – and there are plenty out there including Scriptblaster, Sellingyourscreenplay.com, Equerydirect, Screenplay Writers Connection, etc – are based solely on the fact that you’re a lazy fucking idiot and incredibly desperate.

    They are betting on the fact that you’re too clueless and stupid to figure out how to get in contact with anyone in Hollywood and they have convinced you that they have connections. They don’t. And if they did, they no longer do because those contacts are pissed that they have to deal with a constant onslaught of UNSOLICITED queries from these companies. That’s right, the letters they send out – are UNSOLICITED.

    I was talking about this with my friend Zac Sanford from Suntaur Entertainment (and Scriptchat) the other day and he told me he had “unsubscribed” from at least two of these services, yet he keeps getting these query letters – which go right in the trash! That’s $50 you’re literally throwing out.

    There are so many problems with using these services, the biggest of which may be that there is no quality control. They will send ANYONE’S letter out no matter how stupid, shitty, poorly written or just plain retarded your idea, story, writing, or letter is. Which means even if your query letter and project is FANTASTIC, the execs won’t read it because they’ve gotten SO much shit from that e-blast company already that they know the odds of it being good are slim to none. 

    These services are NOT referrals. They are just leaches trying to take your desperate-writer money and making a promise to you that is impossible to keep. Now, is it possible that out of the 500 companies they send your query letter to, that 1 or 2 will actually request the script? Sure. Perhaps an intern got bored or an assistant was in a good mood that day. But the other 498 companies now think you’re a stupid, desperate amateur.

    Now, there are sites that are different than these query letter blast sites that actually can be worthwhile. Sites like InkTip and Virtual Pitchfest for example are not query letter BLAST sites. These are sites that execs have actually signed up for and have agreed to read your query letter on (or synopsis on InkTip). They are not unsolicited or random query emails or faxes.

    Through my No Bull Hollywood Connection Program, any script that gets a “recommend” from me has its logline and query letter sent out to over 40 companies (not 4,000) that have AGREED to read them. And it’s a personalized email from ME to one of my actual contacts that I know personally. And, I can count on two hands how many recommends I’ve given, so execs are not being bombarded every week with dozens of emails. Oh right – and it’s FREE!!

    There are other consultants and companies out there that do similar services, some charge and some don’t, but at least they are making personalized direct contact with someone they actually know. Someone that might actually do something with your script. These query blast sites – are not.

    You know what using these bullshit query letter services tell executives – that you’re lazy and you don’t know anything about Hollywood. It says you’re so far removed from Hollywood, that you don’t even know when you’re getting screwed by Hollywood. 

    Breaking in and getting read isn’t easy and it’s not free either. But there’s no shortcut to getting read by 1,000 companies. These e-blast script marketing companies are just taking advantage of you, your project, and your wallet. Don’t be fooled by any company that says they can market your screenplay and get it in the hands of 500 companies at once. They can’t. They can only get their emails deleted by 500 companies at once – and then cash your check.

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