You Need Screenwriting Basics

Someone has sent you here because, apparently, you don't know shit about screenwriting.

Why don't you get started with...

Listen to this shit:

  • Scriptnotes by John August and Craig Mazin (who really know their shit)

  • Children of Tendu by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Jose Molina (listen to the oldest episodes first)

Did you already read some screenplays? You want books now?

Read this shit first:

Here is a Medium blog you should follow: Go Into The Story. Scott Myers knows his shit.

Also, read what John August has to say about loglines.

Read those? Now go write some shit.

Wrote some shit? Messed around with it? Now read more screenplays.

Eventually, later, read this shit:

More than any book, if you want to be writing movies and television, you should be reading screenplays (good and bad).

Learn some shit slowly while spending way too much money:

The primary advantage of these programs is their alumni networks.

You don't need to go to film school to learn how to make movies.

If you want to learn to write movies and television, you should be reading and practicing writing. You really don't need to be in school for this. Save your money.

If you want to be a producer, go to business school and intern with entertainment companies.

Places to get your shit seen and reviewed and hopefully make some money:

  • InkTip - a hangout for low budget and indie producers

  • ISA - another hangout for low budget and indie producers

  • The Black List - a bit expensive, but if you're really good you might get lucky

  • Coverfly X - free peer-to-peer writing notes exchange

  • Roadmap Writers - online workshops

Start networking:

The Advanced Shit:

  • IMDB Pro - access contact information for agents and reps (DO NOT use this to contact producers and talent directly, you need representation first)

  • Writer's Guild of America West - they'll call you when you're ready

Expect that learning to write screenplays is a long process. Don't try to contact agents and managers five minutes after you finished the first draft of your first short.

Editing and revision are a big part of the process. Connect with other emerging screenwriters and swap scripts to give each other notes. Don't be afraid to get a second opinion if something doesn't sound right in a note.

Generally, you want to have at least two or three finished peer-reviewed screenplays before you approach anyone to seek representation. Five is better.

You do not need to win a screenwriting competition to get into the industry, but it may help.

Here are some of the few screenwriting competitions that are possibly not a complete waste of time and money:

Placing high or even winning a screenwriting competition is not going to be a golden ticket for breaking into the film industry, but may offer you an opportunity to contact agents and managers with more than your own "I think I'm good" behind you.

The vast majority of managers and producers are NOT following the screenwriting competitions. Some do, but most likely even if you win you’ll still need to reach out and tell people your script won something.

Sometimes your script may be read by the wrong readers for your material, these things are VERY subjective. A script that doesn't place at all one year might win the next season.

Contests may also provide a brief opportunity to network with judges, sponsors, and other writers. Take advantage of it, but try to be open, not needy. This is a long road.

It’s highly unlikely you’ll be just contacted out of nowhere by the perfect manager or really anyone reputable simply because you won a contest, even a big one. You’ll still have a lot of work to do to connect with the representatives who are right for you, and you need to have more than just one solid script to show when you talk to them. See Access for more info.

"Thank your readers and the critics who praise you, and then ignore them. Write for the most intelligent, wittiest, wisest audience in the universe: Write to please yourself." - Harlan Ellison

Just fucking pick one:

If you join UCLA's WP Now program, you can get discounts on certain screenwriting software.

Don't be asking everyone what to use, it's a personal preference. Seriously, just fucking pick one.

This is the most important thing:

Read Fucking Screenplays

There is no shortcut for this shit. You won't learn how to write screenplays if you haven't read any. Aim for 50 and then read more. All will be revealed.

You can learn a lot of shit from channeling YouTube:

Watch this shit:

"You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant." - Harlan Ellison

We really don't need to hear from you unless the website is broken, or we really missed something important.

Seriously, resist the urge to contact us. We put this website up so we wouldn't have to deal with shit.

"I hate being wrong, but I love it when I'm set straight." - Harlan Ellison

Critical response:

Ziggy on Discord says, "this is the most chill screenwriting guide ever. It's like being taught by a weed dealer."
Bob Saenz says, "Yup."

Key Tips

Figure out how the parts work.

  • Learn how to tell small complete stories within the bounds of the format. Learn the format by reading screenplays.

  • You don't have to start out by writing a whole feature. You can try writing just scenes first, then work up to a short film.

  • Scenes tend to exist to show that something important happened. If you don't know what at least one key thing is that your scene is supposed to be presenting, you may be doing it wrong.

  • Big films are usually made up of lots of little films. If you figure out how the little movies work, the big ones are easier.

"It is perfectly okay to write garbage as long as you edit brilliantly." - C. J. Cherryh

  • Editing is the work. You cannot get out of it. This is why people in the business say ideas aren't worth anything. The job of the writer is to hammer them out for everyone else. If you haven't done that part, you haven't done shit.

  • Just get it all down, then go back and fix it. And fix it. And make it better. And fix it. Go work on something else for a while. Come back, make it even better. Writing 10 to 20 drafts is not uncommon.

  • The more you write, the faster you'll probably get, and the less necessary rewriting should become, but everybody's different. If you're still outlining in detail at 150 scripts in, who cares? You do what works for you, as long as it sells. But, yes, it should get easier.

You can plan and outline all you want, but your characters should ultimately drive the story.

  • If something in the outline isn't true to who the character has become as you've fleshed them out and given them words, don't force it. Don't be afraid to go offroad, ignore the outline when it hinders the truth and voices of interesting characters. Follow the characters, that's the key to a great story.

  • You start with some contrivance, and you put in your characters, but if you're doing your job right they'll take on a life of their own.

  • You create these wonderful and interesting and complex characters who start to feel like real people with real feelings, and then you start throwing stuff like unexpected pregnancies, divorces, trees, bullets, machetes, werewolf bites, inlaws, and anvils at them, and really that's the whole job. Invent interesting people who have strong goals, then torture them with obstacles while a story unfolds. Then just write that shit down so it makes sense.

Thanks for helping out with all this shit!

That didn't work.

Because no one asked for this...

ScreenwritingShit.com t-shirts now available in a variety of colors via Cotton Bureau.

it's a t-shirt