I have just completed an exciting, albeit a grueling, two-month book tour. I covered 10,000 miles (6,000 by car), 19 cities, 4 workshops and hundreds of book signings. I am humbled by my reception, having the book sell out in all but one city.
As I travelled from city to city one question consistently came up. It appears to be the primary concern among writers who are not living in the L.A. area. They want to know if they can make it as a screenwriter while remaining in their hometown. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by this question, but the number of times it came up did shock me.
There was a time when it was nearly impossible to make it in the industry without living in L.A., and there is no argument that it is still much easier to make it as a screenwriter where you are in the midst of the action and surrounded by like-minded individuals.
But things have changed. With the advent of the internet and electronic communication access, the industry has become much more accessible no matter where you live.
It is my opinion that if you write a truly marketable, financial viable screenplay that captures the enthusiasm of those who read it, and if you are willing to put in the necessary time and effort to market and package it, the odds are in your favor no matter where you live.
On the other hand if you don’t have the skills to be an excellent screenwriter then there is very little anyone can do to help you, and anyone who says otherwise is just blowing smoke up your ass (can I say that? I guess we’ll find out soon enough).
The Writers Store’s Hollywood Screenwriters Directory will give you contact information for over 1,500 engagers as well as letting you know who to contact, how they want to be approached and what kind of projects they are looking for.
My book, The Visual Mindscape of the Screenplay, has several chapters devoted to marketing, packaging and establishing industry access.
The most difficult obstacle that you will have to be addressed is the issue of engagers not accepting non-solicited material. There are a couple of ways to deal with this. Neither is a sure-proof answer, but they may give you a leg up.
The first is to have an entertainment lawyer submit your script for you. Most production companies will accept submissions from entertainment lawyers, but this does not mean that a lawyer can get your script into every production company. The lawyer must feel that your project is viable as they too have reputations they need to maintain.
The other route is more complicated and must have the full support and commitment of fellow screenwriters with an emphasis on the quality of their screenplays.
Back in the late 70s, two agencies formed in Toronto - they were actually co-operatives run and operated by the actors themselves. 'The Principals’ had each member devote a certain amount of time running the office. In the case of the other, ‘Great North,’ the actors hired the business manager of one of the theatres to represent them. Why these two agencies were successful was the quality of the actors involved. In fact ‘Great North’ arguably became one of the most successful talent agencies in the country and still is.
The first thing is to find a group of five or so excellent writers who are committed to working together. Once you have your ‘roster’ you can do one of two things.
You might approach an existing agency in your city (this will not work in L.A. or New York) that presently has no writing department. You might establish an arrangement with the agency that allows you to work under their umbrella. They will expect you to absorb all of your own expenses and turn over a percentage of any earned income.
Your other option is to establish your own co-operative agency. The process of doing so is not that complicated but it does involve a significant amount of work in setting it up.
I am very familiar with this as I ran my own agency in Canada for many years and can offer more details on how to set it up.
If this is something you want me to go into more detail on how to do this, let me know through your comment feedback.
- More Visual Mindscape articles by Bill Boyle
- Balls of Steel: Being an Outsider
- Balls of Steel: Checklist for Pitchfests and Conferences
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