Useful Tips

23 steps to Hollywood


Article author: Ekaterina Afanasyeva

This question is most often asked by young scriptwriters along with another popular question: “I wrote the first paragraph of the first script in my life, tell me how to sell it, but rather give Spielberg’s phone and a mobile phone so I can call him directly.” Unfortunately, ambitions of this magnitude often do not justify themselves.

Everyone wants to write for Hollywood. And large production companies do not break through mainly for this reason - their mail is bombarded with millions of scripts. Therefore, in America they came up with a tricky barrier - scripting agencies, which are the link between screenwriters, producers and directors. You can’t come from the threshold and say: “Hello, I’m ready to become a screenwriter, buy me.” It's funny that “How to write in Hollywood” is most often asked precisely for “Vasya from the doorway”, who have not even written the first script yet, but have already outlined a path to the heights of the scenic Olympus. These are novice screenwriters who do not understand the complexity of their chosen profession. People who have already got around and are familiar with the scenario market understand how difficult it is to just sell the script, not to mention selling abroad, and look at life without pink glasses.

Nevertheless, if there is a fuse and strength in combination with a sober look at their capabilities, then it is worth a try. Scriptwriters who have ambitions about foreign production companies should ask themselves specific questions and give them the most honest answers. For example: if you do not know how commercially viable is the product that you offer, if you do not have a single successful project in Russia, why should something work in another country? US market conditions are more stringent. Americans are used to working for results. This is a country of perfectionists. It is necessary to be prepared for a creative race, which has more stringent conditions for its participants than in Russia.

First you need to set the goal correctly. Not "how to sell a screenplay in Hollywood," but "how to write a screenplay for Hollywood." In the first case, the wording of the question shows a person who is waiting for gifts of fate. In the second - one who is looking for a way to a new level of skill in his profession. Not looking for instant glory, but working to develop and move on.

Is the scriptwriter ready to work fully in English? If he received triplets in a foreign language at school, if he is not able to watch even youth comedy in English - what is it about? If the screenwriter is confident in the genius of the script by 130 percent, you can resort to the help of translators. But how then does he plan to communicate with the producers? To reinforce your confidence, first try selling the script to your native, Russian film company. Postal addresses are available to anyone on the Internet. If in response to the letter you understand that the film company is seriously interested in filming a movie according to your script and is ready to conclude an agreement with you, try transferring and selling this script to Hollywood. But will patriotism really not hurt in the soul in this case? After all, it’s much more pleasant to go after the Oscars as a representative of your country than as a foreign screenwriter of the wrong field or not — a migratory bird.

As for the translation, I strongly advise you to translate it yourself, or even better - immediately write in English. Only the screenwriter understands what he wants to say to the viewer. Start small - learn the language. At least in order to negotiate with an agent or with representatives of film companies. If you voice the bitter truth - you have not surrendered to anyone. There are a huge number of screenwriters from America and other countries who send packs worthy of scripting - and they are not taken. And they know English very well.

Language is the basis for professions that work with the word. A screenwriter, or writer, journalist, copywriter, poet - these are those for whom language is of primary importance. Vocabulary, literacy, syllable. Even if there are fewer requirements for a writer than for a writer, still the language plays a huge role. Start learning the language today to get your first Oscar in ten years. Read scripts, watch films in English. Disney cartoons are good for a start, they are easy to watch until the end, even if you don’t understand everything.

Next - find an organization or an exchange of scenarios where you can get the first order. Do not complete free orders. In America, everything has long been put on the rails, and if our director may not have the means to shoot a film, then there a talented person cannot be a beggar. In general, by the way, the myth of a hungry artist is long gone. Making money with creativity is real if you have a head on your shoulders and work hard. But back to the scripts. If a person offers to write a script for free - this is zero at zero. Agree at least to the minimum payment, even ten dollars. Remember your first salary? This is a sense of pride for the first money we carry throughout our lives. Even a dollar for your script will help a lot if you want to become a Hollywood screenwriter. This is important for motivation and for the portfolio as well.
If there is a portfolio in Russian, do not translate it into English - do not repeat my mistakes. Our Russian series are incomprehensible to the American producer. Even franchise shows correspond with the Russian mentality. Your wit, genius, delicious dialogue will fail in the eyes of the American. Re-create your portfolio in the English market. By the way, if you can’t find the first project in America at all, I give a hint - Indians are more loyal to the quality of the English language and to scriptwriters of other nationalities. The main thing is to write in English.

After completing your first order, do not relax. Each next should be larger. Find studios that aren’t as accessible to screenwriters as Paramount or Monolith. The main thing is that you get a full meter in English in your work. Go to the studio with three to four projects in the portfolio and synopsis. It’s not necessary to write “I’m ready about Little Red Riding Hood, and about the Wolf, and about Grandma, and about hunters, and about everything you want”. Such letters are sent to the trash. It is the scriptwriter's responsibility to come up with an idea. Nobody will tell you: "It's great that you wrote, we were just waiting for you." Immediately - with ideas and synopsies designed for the American audience. If the producers like synopsis, most likely you will sign a contract. You can address this issue to an international lawyer, but if your English is at the proper level, it is enough to just carefully read the clauses of the contract. All American contracts are not so difficult to understand, there is no heavy bureaucratic language that is found in Russian treaties. The issue of payment is decided on an individual basis.

Then, when you make several projects, when you understand that you are in demand in this market, that the American audience needs you, you can start saving money for a script agent and write a script that may be of interest to one of the American producers. A script agent promotes your finished script. A large agency can remove the trailer to show on pitching - presentation of the script to producers. The script agent needs to pay for the promotion of the script. By Russian standards - a large amount equal in some cities to the cost of an apartment. Once again, this proves that Americans are distinguished by a tough commercial approach, even in the field of creativity.

The most important thing is to believe in oneself, not to fool, not to act. Show what you can do. Without boasting, but also without diminishing their merits. Many believe that success depends on communication. This is not true. In the labor market, you are submitting your services, in this case a screenwriter. If the product is of poor quality, no one will look at the packaging and advertising. If you are a talent, you will be caught on a fishing rod of luck almost instantly. The lack of good screenwriters is incredible - all roads are open. Do not be afraid of obstacles. If you are talented, if you are worth something, you will achieve anything.

Dear Steve,

As we discussed, I am sending you 23 simple steps leading to the sale of your first full-length script. It will take you no more than a year or two to make them. Please note that some steps can be performed simultaneously:

1. Make sure, as far as possible, that similar ideas are not being developed in other studios. You can start by watching movie announcements in Variety. You can also ask the agent to periodically check the news - and let us know if something like this comes up.

2. Browse sites that list movies in production. You need to look for everything that looks like our project. I would not want to fight for the viewer with a similar film after a year of work.

3. Understand how well you write. Compare your work with worthy examples. I need to look at your last scenario and check how it meets purely formal criteria. (I will let you read the scripts of Godzilla, Zorro, Sinbad and Sandman so that you can evaluate our level!) I, after consulting with my permanent co-author Ted Elliott, will tell you what you should work on, I will point out specific mistakes you make. You can do the following yourself: buy some good scripts and compare yours with them. Perhaps if you do not have enough understanding of technology, you will need to write one or more “intermediate” scenarios to develop your “voice”, understanding the format, etc., and take your time with our idea.

You will be remembered for the first job. If the script is written together with the co-author, then you will receive the following orders for collaboration.

4. Master the basics. There are books that any screenwriter, editor, producer should read. Read them and you:
- “Adventures in the Screen Trade” by William Goldman (Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman)
- “Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell (Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell)
- “Script” by Sid Field (Screenplay by Syd Field)
- “The Art of Dramatic Writing” by Lajos Egri (The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri)
- “Making a Good Script Great” by Linda Seger (Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger)

In addition, there are other materials that I highly recommend reading:
- a series of video courses "From word to image",
- Alan Moore interview with Comics Journal,
- all my most important articles about how to write scripts (memorize them),
- John Truby's course on the structure of history.

There is so much more that you can make a separate list. Oh well - buy these books for now. Read it. Figure it out.

5. Decide whether you will work alone or with a partner. You will be remembered for the first job. If the script is written together with the co-author, then you will receive the following orders for collaboration.

6. Let's deal with the terms of our cooperation. I will give you this idea and help develop the script, I will become the producer of the project. In exchange, I want to get the following: we will discuss and make decisions together, but in those rare cases (Ha!), When we can’t agree, the last word remains with me. This applies to everything, including the name of the film, characters, plot, scene descriptions, dialogs, mailing strategy, etc. Why? Because I have experience. You get all the money from selling the script, your name is on it, you can use it as an example of your style. If we can’t sell the script within a year, it completely passes to you, as well as the right to the “last word” (that is, you can change everything you want if you are not satisfied with something, or maybe you have never been satisfied). This covers the case when you say: “If this script is an example of my style, then let the hell be written in my opinion,” or: “I am sure that we would sell it if only Terry changed it's a stupid name. I never liked it! ”As long as the script is alive, I will be considered its producer. And I can attract other producers. Fairy tale, not conditions!

Your goal is to write a script stuffed with cool, funny ideas and moments.

7. Explore films that are shot on similar topics and in a style similar to what we are trying to write. Even a bad movie is worth remembering to understand how to not do it. Be sure to review and good movies. Pay attention to style, rhythm, mood. The instructions are simple: choose the right movies. Buy them. Look them up. Repeat if necessary.

8. Explore more: we need to read as many books on this topic as possible. If we are lucky, then we will find a book that can be filmed. That is, a work close to what we planned to write, or even so good that it will change our view of the subject. You need to look in bookstores specializing in detective stories and science fiction, ask questions on the forums, ask friends who read a lot, talk to experts in genres, visit a couple of conventions for detective and science fiction lovers, etc.

9. Explore more: real events related to our idea. Surely, there have been many cases where the events we are writing about actually happened. We need to know them, and this material will undoubtedly tell us the situations for the script. (I’ll be happy to sponsor our library.)

10. Collect ideas, jokes, information, situations related to the topic. This is how they worked on Ghostbusters: Ramis, Aykroyd and Murray spent several months searching for jokes and interesting ideas on the topic of ghost hunting. They accumulated a lot of original material, which they used in the script. (It seems to me that your style is similar to the Aykroyd style - sit down, throw out ideas on paper in batches, let the film form right on the page, then polish it, bring it to mind.) Your goal is to write a script, STUFFED (like the first film “Back to The Future ”) with cool, funny ideas and moments.

11. Character development. Since, most likely, we will adhere to most of the rules of the genre, we will have to pay special attention to those aspects of the film that go beyond the scope, especially when developing characters. In films like ours, viewers are “offered”, firstly, unique ideas and situations, and secondly, unique characters and their relationships are not necessarily new plot twists. (In other words, we can perhaps use the traditional plot if we do it well enough or very funny.) Examples are films like “Masks” or “Dumb and Dumber.” The plotting is traditional, the ideas and characters are unique. Particularly important is the development of the stories of the main characters.

Define the theme of the script - it will help to catch the mood of the film, facilitate the choice between similar options for the development of the plot, will become a kind of cornerstone.

12. The plot. Of course, you can come up with a cool story for the characters. To do this, buy a cork board and attach leaflets with a description of the scenes to it. Maybe you should make a second board with some sketches of some frames. Start by exploring classic films, choose a classic script structure, play with it. For example, Sunset Boulevard begins with a corpse floating in the pool, and then tells the story of how he ended up there. Nobody forces us to use this structure, I just say that sometimes you need to know the genre, understand it and try to interestingly realize the classic turning points of the plot. Even if not a single classical idea gets into the last scenario, it is useful to know the past in order to understand what is unique and what is not.

13. Theme. Read the classics, aphorisms, poems. Clearly define the theme of the script - it will help to capture the mood of the film, facilitate the choice between similar options for the development of the plot, will become a kind of cornerstone. The theme can even help in creating the structure of the film.

14. Edit the structure. Pitch the structure, reorganize the structure, revise the structure, cast doubt on it, show the structure to others, find weaknesses in the structure, rethink it several times until you are completely and completely confident in it - otherwise, when you write, you will spend a lot of time in vain. This is the approach of Disney Studios for working on full-length cartoons, which Ted and I really like: it seems to us that careful development of the story on the cork board allows us to “save” one or two draft scripts. By the way, not everyone will agree with us.

A good film controls the emotions of the viewer. The goal of this step is to determine how our audience will feel.

15. Finally, it's time to WRITE A SCRIPT. This is your job. Write it at your convenience.

Careful development of the structure allows you to "save" one or two draft scripts.

16. Decide on the mailing strategy. In parallel with other stages, we will discuss a script distribution strategy, which is extremely important from a business point of view. In fact, we must answer the following question: who will receive our script for review and when. Когда будем привлекать режиссера, актеров на главные роли, продюсера? В этот момент мои цели как продюсера, возможно, разойдутся с твоими желаниями писателя. Грубо говоря, если сценарий великолепен, то лучше к нему никого не прикреплять заранее. (Иногда продюсеры отказываются бороться за сценарий, и, соответственно, повышать его стоимость, если за проектом уже закреплен другой продюсер.) Возможно, чтобы поскорее получить деньги за сценарий или заключить контракт на дальнейшую работу, ты будешь спешить разослать его повсюду.I will be more focused on a strategic approach - I can even refuse some producers, companies that will only ruin the film. Another question: when can the script be used to get an agent, which agent, whether to follow his advice, and when can the script be shown to potential employers. In general, we will have something to talk about!

17. Listen to an independent opinion. No one says that the script needs to be placed on all sites. This is a common mistake, and quite serious. You finished the job, you can’t wait to show it to everyone. But, placing the text on the forums, you deprive yourself of the only advantage that beginning screenwriters have over the experienced ones - time. Professional scriptwriters are usually given several weeks to prepare the next draft. A novice writer can grind the script for months. And it should. Only by carefully processing the script, spending time and effort on it, you can create something that stands out against the general background. But comments from third parties still need to get. We will show the script only to a few pros whose opinion we trust, and we will receive comments for corrections. (For example, I'm sure Ted will have a lot of interesting ideas.)

18. Rewrite the script. After the script is a little "recovered", we will return to it and make amendments. Many of them will be insignificant (choice of words, style, polishing of the dialogue), others may be large (deleting scenes, inventing new plot moves, etc.).

19. Rewrite the script again. We re-read the script from the point of view of each of the characters to make sure that the story of each of them is logical, each has its own “voice”. We will look for which fragment can be cut, which - to simplify, which scene in the script, simply because we once liked, but now it has become superfluous. Again, both small and large changes can occur. Each such revision can take as much time as the first draft was written.

We re-read the script from the point of view of each of the characters to make sure that the story of each of them is logical, each has its own “voice”.

20. Polish the script. It is necessary to check the script for typos, grammatical errors. Still polish the dialogs. (In my opinion, it is best to work with printouts at this stage. It's amazing how many new errors you can find by seeing the text on paper.) We will read the entire script out loud. This is also a great way to find a bunch of bugs.

21. Finally, we determine the mailing strategy. Ideally, at this point we will have an interested agent who launches word of mouth on the weekend, and a couple of “key” people we will send the script early (in search of a “leading deal”). Or, by that time, we will already have an interested producer.

22. Released the script. Just do what we came up with on the newsletter and hope for good luck. (If the murder is not solved on the first day, or on the first two days, or on the first week, then the further you go, the less likely it will be revealed. The same is true for the scripts.) Of course, there is always a “prize for second place”: the script not sold, but attracts the attention of editors, you are invited to meetings, and maybe to other projects. Or.

23. We sign a contract for 500 with a thousand dollars, and the same surcharge after the premiere. Welcome to Hollywood!