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The Screenwriters Coach: Making Your Script a Thing That Exists in the World

May 10, 2019

Who would you rather hire to write the biopic of your life—a screenwriter with a great sample, or a screenwriter with a great sample who believed in it so much, they went out and made it? Or a trailer for it! Or a short of it! Or a dedicated Instagram account showcasing the world and characters! Or even a fiction podcast that only requires a decent mic and the desire to make it happen.

Making a thing has multiple benefits. The biggest one is the mindset shift it creates––you are no longer “selling” your project, because it is already a thing. It exists in a form others can see and hear. Now you’re looking for the right partner to help take your existing project to the next level. If you’re concerned that making a thing will limit your project’s “newness,” I would point you to the fact that existing IP is a bonus across the board, not a deterrent.

Here are five ways to make your script a thing and the associated costs:

1. INSTAGRAM

Visually build the world and characters of your movie or show—then add to it every day. I’ve been talking about my new show THE BABY PACT since my partner and I started outlining last August. My Instagram feed has images of us meeting to talk story, screenshots of the script, me talking about writing and rewriting, actors involved, articles about fertility and frozen embryos, celebrity quotes, memes, etc… Anything that is part of THE BABY PACT’s world goes on that feed. What I love is that when I meet with someone and they ask what I’m working on, I can show them in two seconds. They can immediately become part of the process. Plus, I’m simultaneously building an audience for my story by also hashtagging every post with the 30 allowable hashtags that relate.

2. LIVE READINGS

These are a huge part of the theater world, but seem to be underused in film and TV. Use them! It’s hugely beneficial to hear your words and what’s working/what isn’t and to get feedback. But beyond that, you are inviting people to become invested in your project from the beginning. You are employing actors, booking a space, providing refreshments—all things that say, “I believe in this and it’s real.” And those readings pull double-duty by creating content for social media. You’ll have pictures to share, lines that worked best, moments that happened. One live reading can give you social content for a month! I am a firm believer in paying people for their services and in creating a professional event, so for this one you’re looking at: $100 - $150 for the space, $100 for refreshments, and an honorarium “thank you” per actor for their time and skill.

3. FICTION PODCAST

It’s no secret that podcasts are getting optioned for TV and film left and right. Why? Because they have audiences! And they’re existing IP. You can create a podcast for your feature or show that is complimentary, and brings the world and characters to life, like “Welcome To Nightvale.” Or, you can literally tell the story with audio only, like “Homecoming.” If that live reading goes well, maybe the next step is a recording studio? I haven’t made a podcast yet, but this is my next move. You can get as fancy as you want with sound effects and editing, but the minimum required is: an excellent microphone(s), plus money for actors and decent sound editing. Then: promote it like crazy on social (See: Instagram above!).

4. CONTESTS AND FELLOWSHIPS

You’re probably already doing this, but I want you to get strategic about it. In addition to entering to the Top 10 Screenwriting contests like Final Draft’s Big Break, look at niche contests and awards specific to you and your script: genre festivals, Women Over 40 opportunities, grants for artists from your region, 24-hour film festivals. These are new communities for you to become a part of, and new opportunities for your work to be read and seen. The entry fees can add up, so set a limit that works for you at the start, a $300 festival fund or whatever you can invest. And again—you’re sharing all this on social! Celebrate completing your script. Celebrate entering. Celebrate being in the top whatever even if you don’t get into the festival or final in the contest. It all creates audience and makes your script a thing that exists in the world.

5. ACTUALLY MAKE IT

If you’re a writer and director, actor, producer, and you want to be paid as a multi, you have to show that you can do all those jobs. For multis, actually making a thing is required. For straight-up writers, actually making a thing also has benefits—you get people involved and invested in your project. Hiring people and putting money into your work are the two quickest ways I know to legitimize and endorse the value of your story. Because to do those things, you have to 100% believe in your project’s inevitable success. And that’s a sexy pitch, to use Hollywood speak. You say, “YES,” to yourself, and then you look for partners. You don’t need anybody’s permission or buy-in to do this, except yours. You need money, but budgets vary widely. You can make a vlog using your cell phone and a good mic for very little. Or, you can raise money and make a feature. The range is wide. All options have value.

Some involve money. Some don’t. All require time, attention and a consistent message that supports your story. I can promise you that the energy you put into making a thing and doing the work to have it seen will come back to you. That’s not my personal opinion, that’s physics.

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