After a great concept with a strong hook and a definable genre, there’s ONE thing every spec screenwriter needs when it comes to submissions and pitching.
That’s right, just ONE thing ... but it’s NOT:
1) A great personality & body. Dudes, this is the media. We all (allegedly) have issues, that’s why we work in this industry. A's for a great body – hey if you got it, flaunt it I say! But you don’t have to make like Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson in INDECENT PROPOSAL, unless of course you want to ... Whilst all of us in the industry (allegedly) have issues, some of us might welcome this tactic. MORE:Connecting With Writers, Filmmakers & Agents Online (Without Being Weird)
2) Lots of money. Sure, you can spend it (and certainly, stuff like paid for screenwriting contests; screenplay listing sites; screenwriting reading and mentoring services; or events like London Screenwriters’ Festival can provide useful avenues “in”) but it is NOT a prerequisite to success.
3) An XY chromosome. It’s true screenwriting and filmmaking is male-dominated. So what, my fellow females, are we gonna DO about that?? This might have been a man’s world too long, but it would be nothing without us women. But let’s not get distracted by stuff like what constitutes diversity and what “deserves” inclusion; let’s just keep telling our stories in whatever way we want and add to a wonderful variety of storytelling. MORE:How To Celebrate The Progress of Female Characters, Writers & Makers
4) White Skin. It’s true white people have told their stories at the expense of everybody else’s too long; it’s also true non-white stories have been limited to what white society has deemed appropriate. So now’s the time to take the power back and tell great stories, with diverse BAME characters in ALL kinds of storyworlds, genres and settings – again, now’s the time for that wonderful variety to shine through. MORE:How Casting Can Help Or Hinder Diversity
5) An able body; an untroubled mind; or heterosexual/cisgender status. The joy of writing is its democracy. What’s more, those who are disabled or mentally ill can find real solace in creativity, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense we have so few disabled writers and filmmakers, or characters on screen. In the same way, it also makes very little sense gay characters are so frequently relegated to secondary character role functions in very specific genres and that trans characters are seen very infrequently at all. Frequently disability or sexuality is quoted as “having to form part of the story” – but why? Most writers would agree gender doesn’t; and that race doesn’t have to, either. Instead, we could talk about how these elements form a character’s motivation – a subtle, but crucial change that takes the emphasis off the notion that white male characters are “real” and everybody else is “different.” We need to break beyond the pigeonholes. MORE:4 Disabled Characters Writers Can Learn From
6) Youth / Experience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the lament, “I’m too old." So what if you’re over forty. Or fifty. Or sixty. Or more!! My oldest Bang2writer (that I know of) is eighty three. She’s just started writing screenplays (someone got her Syd Field’s book for her eighty second birthday). As she always says, “More fun than watching daytime TV and waiting for my pension.” As for experience: about three or four times a year I get a request for notes from a young person. And I mean, super-young. My youngest Bang2writer so far has been eleven years old. He worried no one would take him seriously. He’s sixteen now and yes, his peers take him very seriously indeed; so much so he’s planning a feature in 2015. MORE:Build It And They Will Come
So, it’s NONE of the above you **have to have** to achieve writing success. It’s true, some of them make life markedly easier – and if you have all of them somehow, you STILL haven’t hit the jackpot yet, even if you have that all-important killer concept.
So what IS that mega-important number 7?
7) A submissions strategy. That’s right, you have to work out WHAT you want; WHEN by and HOW you’re going to do it. Don't just throw spaghetti at the wall and hope for the best; taking your writing destiny into your OWN hands. Set those goals -- You don’t have to stick to them rigidly, either; if you find the strategy doesn’t work as well as you hoped, or you don’t want whatever those goals are as much as you thought you did, re-evaluate your strategy and change it! NEWSFLASH: if you want it, you gotta go get it. As produced writers the world over of varying backgrounds and ability have proved, there is NO other way forward out of that spec pile. MORE:5 Career Strategies For Writers, plus Following Up On your Submission
But even then, we've all heard of the lucky so-and-sos who bypass the above SOMEHOW cos they're so damn talented (damn it), so as a BONUS at number 8 -- what is the **real** TOP of the submissions pile????
8) A “Can Do” Attitude. I hear stuff like this all the time: “This is my last chance” or “If I don’t get this one produced, I give up.” But get this: creativity is the triumph of hope OVER experience. Yes, you will get rejected; even if you get produced, you will have flops too and what's more, this will NEVER change. Even if you became the most celebrated writer on the planet, there will still be people who HATE your work. You cannot please everyone. If you want to do that, you might as well give up. Right now. Go grow some pretty flowers in a garden somewhere and do some meditation. You’ll be happier. I’m not being facetious, I’m BEING SERIOUS.
Whatever you do, however you decide to do it, just keep going. What’s the alternative? Giving up. If you want to write and get produced? NEVER GIVE UP.
Happy New Year!
- More articles by Lucy V. Hay
- Script Angel: Developing Screenwriting Habits for Career Success
- Balls of Steel: Positive Attitude
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