Clawing to escape the belly of the beast here in Hollywood. To commiserate, email my name assistantatlas at yahoo.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dear Atlas, How Do I Be a Screenwriter?: 3.02

Today, I will pluck a pearl of wisdom from my email correspondence and share it with you.

I'm getting more and more email along these lines, so in attempt to head off duplicitous, er, um, duplicated emails, I thought I'd just share my thoughts on the matter with all of my lovely readers.

This email was from The Supreme Idiot over at OC Idiots. Otherwise known as Tom McCormack, C-List blogger.


How's it going? OK, so you've officially become my insider in the
wondeful world of Hollywood agents. You cool with that? I hope so. Been
reading your blog quite a bit lately, I like it. Except for when you mentioned
that you were more popular than me since you are on Blogebrity's b-list and
I am sadly a c-lister. Way to rub it in coolguy.

Anyway, I had a question for ya: If someone were to be thinking of
trying to get a literary agent, since he may or may not be writing a sitcom
script, what would you propose as his best method for doing so? I've been
working on a little idea, and it might suck, I don't know. But I figure it's
worth a shot.

Any suggestions for landing an agent, and or getting the script into
the right hands. I have a few contacts out there, but from what I can
gather, getting an agent is step number one.

How much work do I need to have on hand before I can even meet with an
agent. Any ideas you can help me with are greatly appreciated.

-The Supreme Idiot

Josh Schwartz rode the OC trend all the way to a third season.

What I write back. . .

Okay, here's the basics:
Yes, getting an agent, preferably a reasonably decent one, is the first step.

But you're probably not ready for a lit agent until you have one really good screenplay and hopefully several others [like 3-5]. If you want to be a tv writer, you have to have a good script for a show that's still in production. All scripts should demonstrate that you're a flawless, consummate professional.

If you're trying to write your own original sitcom idea, forget it right now. The odds of you landing an original series without any experience-- well, unless bloggers suddenly become uber-popular, I wouldn't count on it, let's just say that.

Tips on landing a lit agent:

Good combo of patience and persistence is necessary.

The more you can bring to the table, the more a good lit agent will have to sell.

Develop a hook for yourself as a writer. OC Idiots is a good start for you, Tom. It's more than most people have, anyway. Yes, this will perhaps give you a niche, a 'ghetto' sometimes, but it will help get you work.

Write F**KING PROFESSIONALLY. If you don't know the proper style, learn it now. Don't worry as much about the details but get it pretty friggin' close so it doesn't strike a reader as bizarro format-- which will cause the reader to go 'amateur' and send your script to the circular file.

Do your homework. Don't just listen to this anonymous blogger if you want to make it. There's material out there-- articles and such--that can take you step-by-step through many of the processes.

Enter Contests. If you think you're so good, why not compete? Don't underestimate the value of a win in a decent contest. For a rather small fee, it's something positive to put on a resume.

And also, it's so so hard to make it as a screenwriter. If you're not 80000% sure it's what you want, don't try. Even if you make it, it won't be worth your time and anguish.

Hope that helps, kids. And good luck out there. You'll need it.

Hugs and Air-Kisses,


Blogger Nick Douglas said...

Most excellent post. I've thought about writing a few spec scripts to show myself just how hard it is; I'm used to writing free-form short films, and I need to either break my spirit or start the journey of learning how to write for a real audience.

6:56 AM

Blogger justin said...

You forgot about kidnapping agents. That works. Sometimes.

10:17 AM

Anonymous Tiffany said...

I agree with your advice, but I don't think it's bad to have a sitcom pilot as one of your sample scripts. However, it's important to also have a script from an established show.

11:46 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all these people who think they've got "an idea" and "might" want to develop it: FEK OFF! You are nothing but obstructions in the way of people who do not "think they might" have "an idea" -- but who HAVE NO OTHER CHOICE BUT TO BE WRITERS. You lot go find your OWN damned callings/vocations: like parking cars and shit.

Walk into a goddam plumbing store and go up to that tradesman and tell him, "I think I might want to be a plumber -- so let me shadow you in your work every day and see if this is just a passing fancy or not."

"God! They all think they can write, don't they? Every little bleeder who can hold a ball-pen the right way up." -- Philip Marlow (as dramatized by Dennis Potter in "The Singing Detective" -- and if you don't know DP and all you know of TSD is that abominable movie, then you should HANG YOURSELF for thinking you should get in the way of those of us who are CONDEMNED to be writers.)

1:42 PM

Anonymous Random Lurker said...

Jeez, anonymous, aren't we bitter? Could it be that you're not making it as a writer even though you know who Dennis Potter (RIP) is?

Well, here's a tip for you: it helps to have some sympathy for other members of the human race.

7:42 PM

Anonymous Neil said...

Hey, that's not a bad idea for a screenplay -- "Condemned To Be A Writer." It's just an idea right now, but the title suggests heavy drama and I can see Morgan Freeman in it as the best friend/mentor.

6:34 AM

Anonymous Random Lurker said...

Yeah, I get it, only I think Morgan Freeman should be the judge, as in Bonfire of the Vanities.

"I sentence you to five years in writing camp."

Then there's the scenes in camp where if he doesn't write he gets bum-fucked by the hardened inmates, who include, say, Ernest Hemingway, Dashiell Hammett, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and, just because he has a good name for the part, Philip K Dick. They smash his hands with an old Remington and, just like poor old Dennis Potter with his arthritis, he has to write with a pencil sort of wedged in his claw, and he becomes known as Cool Hand Luke and has to entertain everybody by eating 63 hard-boiled eggs at a go. Oh, no, wait, I think that's been done already.

9:06 AM

Blogger Alex Epstein said...

I have some more detailed advice on my TV FAQ:


Alex Epstein

6:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

yo, oc idiots is the fucking best, why don't you chill out with your assistant bullshit? You're a wannabe anyway, you pasty white bastard. Fuck you, OC idiots rules!!!

9:31 PM

Blogger Assistant Atlas said...

I do have to say that having an original. cool sitcom pilot is a good thing for your repertoire. I just wouldn't count on anything happening to it. That is all. Oh-- and there is definitely enough room in the blogosphere for OC Idiots and I, I think. If you're really upset, just don't type or click anywhere near me and I won't be all up in your e-grill.

10:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All up in your e-grill".
INSTANT Classic, Atlas.
Just had to say that.

11:08 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

An agent won't take the call unless you have something either amazing on paper or amazing already on film OR you're pre-vouched by a common ally. Third way's the charm.

4:00 PM


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