Sunday, July 18, 2004

Hollywood Filters & The Screenwriter's Wingman

The quest of any beginning screenwriter is to prove they are legitmate.

Last time I checked, the Writers Guild registers about 40,000 scripts a year. Hollywood, on the other hand, last time I checked, only produces about two hundred movies a year.

Keep in mind as well that not all scripts are registered, and that along with those 40,000 new scripts there are also all the scripts still available from the previous years.

Doing the math, it's safe to figure that at any point in time literally hundreds of thousands of screenplays are floating around Hollywood looking to be sold.

Numbers like this are often thrown at newcomers to scare them off.

The numbers usually not included are that out of those hundreds of thousands of scripts floating around at least 85% of them are complete trash. We're talking material that is completely inviable for producing into a major motion picture.

That's a lot of garbage.

13% of the material on the other hand could be made viable with a bit of work.

This leaves us with, at most, 2%... two scripts out of a hundred that are really worthy of being made into a movie.

The good news, of course, is that if you honestly have talent and a GOOD script, you're already in a very small, elite group.

This is where the newcomer's quest to prove themself legitmate begins. It is the quest to prove that they are in that top fifteen if not two percent.

Because of the overwhelming amount of trash floating around, agencies, production companies, and anyone else searching for good material, has to set up filters to sift through the hundreds of scripts they receive each week.

The goal of these filters is to let the legitmate and talented writers through, while keeping the talentless wannabes out. Do the filters work? Well, nothing's full-proof, but they try.

Filters can include:
Are you a member of the Writer's Guild?
Do you have an agent?
Has any of your other work been produced?

Answering no to any question like one of these will likely get you a swift kick out the door.

You might also notice that these filters are designed to form catch-22's.

With little exception, agents won't talk to you unless you're produced. But you can't be produced without an agent.

And with little exception, you can't get be produced unless you've been produced before. So how can you be produced that very first time?

The solution? You have to be part of that "little exeption". You have to be that guy or girl who managed to break the rules.

Yeah it's a pain, and it's supposed to be. The whole system was designed to scare off the vast majority of wannabes who would be just as happy, if not better off doing something else. It separates the men from the boys, the talented from the untalented, the hacks from the real-deal.

If you're talented and want it bad enough, you'll make it. Otherwise, figure it's for the better on your trip back home.

To be continued...


Blogger Legolas said...

Nice blog cocles...

Sun Jul 18, 09:43:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Nicholas said...

When I was in college, I had a writing professor who tore my work apart. Absolutely shredded it, said I had no talent, and that I was wasting my time (and his) in his class. I basically decided he was a bitter, talentless hack, teaching because he couldn't make a living off his writing. I told myself he didn't know what he was talking about, turned around, became a professional, and now make a very good living off MY writing. Last week I found out that the "bitter, talentless hack" is also a former winner of the Pulitzer Prize. (Really.)

I'm glad I didn't know that back then.

At the time I consoled myself with the story about the old violin master who's confronted on the street by a man who asks, "When I was a child, my parents brought me to play violin for you, and you said I didn't have 'the fire,' and should go into something else. I did, and I'm very happy. But I wondered: how did you know?" The old man looks at him and says, "Honestly, I wasn't even listening. I tell everyone they don't have the fire. If they listen to me and give up, then they really don't have it. If they do have the fire, nothing I say will stop them."

Looks like Hollywood's got that filtering technique down pat.

Sun Jul 18, 09:09:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Cocles said...


Nice story. I've heard it before and I think it more than fits this subject.

Good call. ;)

Tue Jul 20, 08:20:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Scotty Two-Shots said...

I rather enjoy how the second post hoped the blog wouldn't be about screenwriting... and it only took you what, three days to come around?

Wed Jul 21, 02:22:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Cocles said...

Hey, I said, I hoped it wouldn't be "only" about screenwriting. ...I knew I should have been a lawyer. ;)

Wed Jul 21, 02:25:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the very interesting and informative read.

- Techo

Sun Aug 01, 06:54:00 PM PDT  
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