This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 004: How To Get Your First Few Screenwriting Credits. Click here to listen or watch the original Podcast.


Welcome to the selling your screen play podcast. I’m Scott Myers,
screenwriting and blogger over at In this
episode’s main segment I’m going to talk about how to get your first few
credits and launch her career. It’s never been easier to get something
produced an even a low budget small film can help get your career headed in
right direction. If you find this episode valuable please help me out by
giving me a review in iTunes or if you’re watching this and you to please
give it a like or leave a comment. I want to improve this podcast with some
honest constructive feedback is very much appreciated. On iTunes I had a
bunch of nice comments so I just want to give a shout out to those people
jdls.shawn and Elise Moor’s mom. I had a few comments on YouTube too so
thank you Max K, Adam Strange, Tracy Neal, James Torch and Shawn Speak.
They all left nice comments in the YouTube video.

This won’t mean a lot if you’re just listening to the audio portion of the
podcast, but Max commented on my entire, which so far has been nothing more
than a white T-shirt and every episode, he asked jokingly said that I hope
that’s not an indication of how much screenwriters can afford. I actually
own this several T-shirts but today I did decide to mix it up a little bit
and for my Star Wars T-shirt just to show my film geek credit. So thanks
Max for writing in. As silly as some of these comments are it’s nice to get
comments like this so I know what people are noticing. I really would have
no idea what people are thinking about the podcast if they don’t leave
comments. So once again if you have a comment, question or suggestion
please do leave it in iTunes or YouTube. I look at all of the comments and
I’ll answer where appropriate and I really do find them helpful so thank
you to everybody who’s left comments. A couple of quick notes any websites
or links that I mentioned in the podcast can be found in my blog in the
show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d
rather read the show will look at something later on. You can find all of
podcast show notes at

Also if you want my free guide “How To Sell Your Screenplay in 5 Weeks” you
can pick that up by going to It’s
completely free, you just putting your e-mail address and I’ll send you a
new lesson once per week for five weeks along with a bunch of bonus
lessons. I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that
guide. How to write a professional blog the query letter, how to find and
agent’s managing producers were looking for material. It really is
everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to to pick that up. A couple weeks ago I had a
meeting at a pretty decent company and I was meeting with one of the junior
executives there. He basically had a stockpile of very loose ideas and he
was calling his writers to see if any of the ideas resonated with some.
There were a couple of things that gave the real calls for concern. Number
one, these were unpaid writing assignments meaning as the writer only got
paid if the company was able to sell the script. Now I’m not above anything
so I’ll entertain virtually any offer or potential deal. I’m not opposed to
writing on spec for company. I mean in fact most of what I and the writing
is on spec and when I’m finished I just blasted out. So having a company
develop a project with me at least gives me a leg up when I’m done because
presumably they’ll take it out to their context.

So there is some upside for this and if it’s a good company, which this
company was a good company, that could be a significant help. Even these
non-paid deals require a contract. What I usually do is just make sure that
if the production company isn’t able to sell the script and a certain
amount of time roughly a year, sometimes they’ll balk at that and want two
years. But I basically set up in the contract so that if they don’t get it
produced in a year or two years, whatever the time frame is, I get all of
the rights back to the script. I don’t know if this company would’ve gone
for that or not. We never really got that far, but we probably could’ve
worked something out. Another big issue was that none of these ideas were
really in my wheelhouse in terms just of what I’ve kind of done and most
importantly what I’ve sold, I basically think I could probably write about
anything so even though I haven’t written anything that is that similar to
these ideas, I do think I could’ve done a decent job writing them. But
really it was in terms of the actual selling of the script. I haven’t sold
anything like these and I just don’t really know how I would be able to
sell the script even if I got it back and that’s a potential huge problem.
I mean I know the producers that I kind of deal with and I know what kind
of material they’re looking for and none of these ideas really fit into
that. So if I did write it and they were not able to get it sold and I got
it back, I wasn’t sure what I could do with it. But the main thing that
gave me great cause for concern about this was that I asked them at one
point during our meeting how many other’s similar projects he was working
on. And he quite probably told me that he had 30 other similar projects and
that the company had another 35 projects. So there were roughly 65 projects
that were floating around this company is in various stages of development.
The guy seemed like a real hustler so I genuinely believe that he was
actually working on that may projects, but I just thought to myself. So I’m
basically that’s project number is 66 out of these dozens of projects. So
what are the odds that my projects will actually get made or even really
get any serious attention that this company? I didn’t think that there was
really much chance, they just had too many other projects going. But
another big thing was that he was a junior executive so it wasn’t really
clear to me how involved the main executives at this company were with
these projects.

My hunch is that they were not really involved at all and basically they
were telling him sure go out and develop some material and if we like it
may be we’ll do something with it. So I felt like on some level this was
really just an exercise for this executive to learn how to develop material
and learn how to work with writers. He’s apparently found 30 other writers
to agree to this so good on him. The one thing I’ll say though is he really
did seem like a hustler and a hard worker so I have no doubt that
eventually he is might find success in this business and that’s always kind
of the trouble with these sorts of situations. I always feel like that
maybe it’s a mistake turning this down because this guy can go places and
this guy was. He was smart and he seemed really, really hard working so I
think there’s a good chance he’s going to succeed. I mean it’s just that
old fishing metaphor when it’s time to go home the just the like hey if I
could just throw this line in one more time maybe I’ll catch that fish. And
you just never want to pull it in that last time because you just think
maybe it’s just one more time and that’s kind of the way these projects
are. Maybe this would be the one that would just had about my career to the
next level, but overall I just felt there were just too many negatives as I
just mentioned so I did not pursue this particular project. So now let’s
get into the main segment.

Today I’m going to go through some simple yet effective steps you can take
to get your first few credits. It’s quite common that I get all sorts of
questions like if you were starting out today and had no contacts in the
industry will with you do to jumpstart your career? Or what would you
recommend to someone who wants to break into the film business but lives
outside of Los Angeles? Or how to get an agent or do you know any producers
looking for a sci-fi screenplay? All of these questions are basically the
same. The person feels like they are on the outside looking in and they
want to know how to get in the inside. And the answers to these questions
is simple, you just start getting out there and doing stuff and meeting
people and networking.

You just start getting to the scenes and all of these questions will answer
themselves. I’m a big believer of really looking at the big picture and the
big picture is that this journey to become a screenwriter might take five
or 10 or even 20 years. So what I suggest as a first step, get your career
going is that you write a bunch of short scripts and in fact even if you’ve
written a few features you buy want to take a step back and really consider
this as an option. There is a lot of opportunity and not a lot of downside.
It’s not too hard to write shorts so that it doesn’t take a lot of time and
getting them produce is fairly easy too. Last year I actually wrote a short
with some friends and it ended up getting into some film festivals. It was
a really fun experience and for the little bit of time I spent writing the
scripts it was certainly worth the effort.

So the first thing to kind of establishes why should you do a short. I want
to temper expectations a bit first. There is no money and short films. It’s
very rare that you’re going to find a producer who has a real budget for
short and is willing to pay money and this just makes sense because there’s
no real market for short films. The producers once they have a short
there’s not really a way for them to make money off of these shorts does
not really a way for them to pay the actors and the screenwriters and
that’s totally okay. I mean you’re basically doing this just for the
experience, you’re not doing it to make money. The second thing is a lot of
people who do shorts there’s sort of this feeling that if it doesn’t go
viral it’s not a success and this is just not the case. There are tons of
things you’re going to get out of this experience even if the short film
doesn’t go viral so the key here is doing a bunch of shorts. I’m not
talking about just doing one, but doing a bunch of shorts, writing a bunch
of shorts, getting a bunch of shorts produced and together they’ll start to
add up and that experience will start to add up. So let’s talk about some
of the benefits that you’re going to get out of writing and hopefully
getting your short produced. One of the huge benefits is that you can get
IMDB credits for shorts. Just having some real verifiable IMDB credits puts
you way ahead of probably 99% of the other wannabes screenwriters out
there. You can list this IMDB link in your career letters and again it’s
just another nice touch that makes you look more professional.

If you’re lucky the short will be good and you’ll get into some film
festivals. Film festivals are great ways to network, hopefully you’ll even
when some awards that these festivals and again getting an award it’s more
fodder for your career letters and all of a sudden you’re not just a
producer screenwriter but you’re an award winning screenwriter. A lot of
the people you meet at festivals are filmmakers so you might be able to
meet some people who are looking for feature film scripts and you’re just
going to network and meet people that you can collaborate with. If you get
into a film festival you’ll most likely get free passes to a lot of the
events. The opening night event, the closing night event, you’ll also get
some free passes to the screenings of the different films. So it’s just a
great opportunity especially if you submit your short to film festivals
that are within driving distance to where you live. It’s a great
opportunity to just get out there and get into the scene, see what other
people are doing and just meet people’s.

Film festivals are really just a lot of fun. As I said you just get out
there and all of a sudden you’re in the scene, you’re not just someone to
be in which it shows up to a film festival and now you’re actually a
filmmaker at a film festival and it’s just a big difference. Another huge
benefits of writing something and having it shocks even as a low-budget
shorts is that you’re going to see a lot of the practical considerations to
filmmaking scene. Actually seeing your written words get turned into a
film, no matter how low-budget, there will be an eye-opening experience.
The whole process will be demystified, they’ll be certain practical changes
that you made to your script and understanding why these changes were made
and will make you a better writer.

Once you’ve done a few shorts, all you basically have to do is scale it up
and you’ve got a full-length feature film. I mean if you do a five-minute
short, 10 minute short, once you get to a 10 minute short all you got to do
is make nine of those and you literally have a featured film. By doing
these shorts also you’re networking, filling a Rolodex of contacts, your
meeting actors and directors and producers and some of these people will
continue to progress in their careers and you can help each other out as
you both move forward. And then when and if you ever decide to shoot one of
your own scripts, you’ll have this enormous sort of Rolodex of people
you’ve worked for, you know who the good people are, you know the people
that you get along with and you just know who to call. So you’re just
building a nice base of people that you can call upon to hopefully produce
a feature down the road. Another benefit is that you’re starting to build a
fan base for your work slowly as you do shorts, hopefully they will be good
and hopefully people will remember them. If you’re really cagey you’ll
start a YouTube channel and set up a Facebook page and people can’t
subscribe. You can start to build some assets of people who like your work.
Down the road these assets can be really valuable. Again if you have like a
featured film or as you produce more shorts, if you have a YouTube channel
or a Facebook page that already has some fans, these things can snowball.
Hopefully you didn’t get into screenwriting just for the money. So seeing
your script turn into an actual movie even when there’s no pay and it’s on
an extremely low budget would just be an incredible sense of
accomplishment. There’s just as an artist you’re actually seeing your
script get made and it just counts for a lot and it’s a fun and rewarding
experience and hopefully you’ll feel the same way. The other big thing
about just doing these shorts is all of a sudden you’re just in the scene,
your meeting other people, you’re working with other people and you’re
actually doing. You’re not just talking about doing.

So these first few steps no matter how modest they need scene they really
are the beginning of a career. So now I want to talk about marketing a
short film script. Hopefully you can find local filmmakers were looking to
make some short films. You might consider taking some film classes at a
local university. A lot of schools have some programs, even community
colleges will sometimes have film programs and these community college
classes are usually cheap and the idea is that you take these classes and
your meeting other people that are interested in film making and one of
them I mean and after all one of them might be a director and hey, I’m a
writer. So hey maybe we can get together and make a short film. There’s
also a lot of local film clubs and film societies. Just Google the name of
your city with film club or film society and you’ll be surprised at what
might exist even in your small town. is another place where some
people might create a film interested in film group in your local area so
checkout that. My running partner and friend Nathan Ives is actually only
tour with his feature film and he’s doing a lot of screening for some local
film societies and we’ve just been amazed. He’s found these film societies
to very, very small towns and they’re usually it’s all of these people that
are just interested in film and they’re usually very perceptive. He’s got a
real independent film and they’re usually very receptive for that. So even
if you think your talent is very small you’ll be surprised.

There might be some other people that are adjusted in film. You know
meeting the local filmmakers too is a real good situation because then you
can really be involved in the actual production. Part of the fun with the
shorts is that you can go to the sets, you can get involved, you can help
do rewrites on the set, you can just see the whole process. But I do just
want to say if you can’t find any local opportunities, all is not lost.
There definitely some opportunities and some of the big cities and you
don’t necessarily have to live there to take advantage of these but it does
definitely help if you can find these local opportunities. Because as I
said you just be able to get more involved with the production and it’ll
just be more education for you. But one thing that I’ve noticed is in the
New York City section, in the LA section of craigslist there’s a writing
gig section. On the Los Angeles and one in New York City page of craigslist
there’s a writing gig section and I bet 3 to 5 times a week you will see a
lot of film students. But even just people that are out of college and just
looking to make some short films, they will post an ad and anybody can
respond to these. And all you’ve got to do is just go to as I said the LA
section or the New York section of craigslist, look towards the bottom of
the front page, though we are writing gigs section, click on that writing
the section and then just do a search in the search box and there will be a
bunch of results and the be all kinds of writing gigs. But you just do a
search for short film and you’ll be amazed by how much pops up and in fact
taking a step back, do that for the local area. Go to the writing gig
section of your local area and look for short films and you’ll be
surprised. You might even find some people locally.

Certainly in the big cities Chicago, Dallas, you almost certainly will.
But if you can’t find anything locally go to the LA section of craigslist,
the New York City section of craigslist and you will definitely find some
people advertising and looking for some short film scripts. As I’ve said I
bet I see 3 to 5 of these per week. Now notice what I’m doing in this
podcast as I’m talking about the marketing first and this is an important
point. One key is go and look at these craigslist ad even if you can find
local opportunities and local filmmakers, go look at these craigslist ads
where people are advertising that they need short film scripts and do that
for a couple weeks and get a feel for what people are looking for so that
you can write something that is what people are looking for. I mean for
instance I see, one of the things that I noticed a lot is people are
looking for very, very short scripts. So not talking about writing a short
script is 25 pages, talking to write a short script that’s like 1 to 3
pages or 1 to 5 pages and you’re going to get a feel for what people are
looking for by actually looking at the ads. So take a couple of weeks and
do that as you start to brainstorm ideas for short films really look at
these ads and start to see precisely what they’re looking for. As I said
these things are low budget and so another big consideration is having very
limited cast, two actors, three actors, having one huge remote location.
All of these things make it very easy to shoot and if it’s only three pages
if you could literally shoot that in half a day if you get two actors, one
location, it’s only for three pages. You’ve got something great.

The production of these things is very, very quick and that’s what a lot of
these people are looking for. They just want to do a lot of shorts. It’s an
exercise and it’s practicing the technical aspects of film making is,
practicing directing, practicing all of these things. So you really want to
look at the ads and start to figure out precisely what they’re looking for.
I mean I’m just giving you a quick overview, but really gone look at the
past and you’ll start to understand what you should be writing. So now I
just want to go through and give you a few quick tips on how to write a
good short film. There are lots of shorts out there that are just kind of
very moody, visual pieces with a sort of lack a cohesive story. Well as a
short film these can work. If you’re looking to be featured film writer I
think you should write your shorts like a featured film only shorter. So
that’s my biggest tip. Everything you’ve learned about writing featured
films she could and should be applied to writing a short film. It’s just
such a shorter.

So again, make sure there’s a solid concept and this is something I preach
a lot when writing a featured film is make sure your featured film has a
solid concept. Make sure that your short film has a solid concept. And what
that means is that you can write a log line, you’re still going to have to
pitch your script. You’re still going to have to write a query letter and
you’re going to need a clear concise log line that you can pitch. So make
sure that when you’re thinking about when you’re brainstorming ideas for
short film scripts you’ve considered this. What’s the concept? Can I pitch
this concept in a sense? Is it a concept that really will excite people?
Make sure that you have a clear beginning, middle and end where the story
progresses is exactly like a featured film. Clear structure. I mean if
you’re talking about a five-minute short or a three-minute short, a five-
minute short. A 1-minute first act, a three-minute second act and a 1-
minute third act. If it’s a three-minute short just divide the time up into
three acts. Even a small scene which is basically all a three-minute short
will be should have a clear beginning, middle and end. This is going to
make your scripts seem more concise, it’s going to give it forward
momentum. I mentioned this a little bit earlier, but these are going to be
low budget shorts. So write these screenplays so that it’s easy to shoot.

Try and limit the number of different locations you use, try and limit the
number of actors, try and choose locations that are easy to guess. So not
just the locations but to think about easy locations as. Shooting something
inside a baseball stadium that’s fully loaded with people is not easy to
get. Shooting something inside a modest apartment most of these filmmakers
that you’re going to be dealing with live in modest apartments so that’s
going to be a very easy location to get. You’re just going to shoot in
someone’s locations, you’re not going to have to pay for and you’re not
going to have to worry about permits and anything like that. So again,
really think of some of the practical considerations when you’re writing
this thing. I would say also make sure your script clearly fits into a
specific genre and what I mean by that is that a lot of these people
looking for shorts they’re looking. You know if they’re a director looking
for a shorts as they may consider themselves a comedy director or a drama
director or a thriller director and that’s what they’re going to be looking
for. So really the concise on what genre.

This isn’t just a random story. Be concise and right with some of those is
sort of genre tropes in your script whatever those might be. I would say 2
if you’re diverse enough as you’re brainstorming ideas try and write
scripts, short scripts in a variety of different genres so that you have a
wide range of scripts to send out and can submit to nearly every ad. As I
said when I looked at these ads it’s a lot of times very clear with the
director or producer’s want. They want a short comedy film. If you’ve
written twelfths shorts and you have one that’s a three-minute drama, a
five-minute drama, a three-minute Connie, a five-minute comedy if you can
cover as many bases as possible you be able to submit to more of these ads
and that’s important because in some ways it’s just going to be a numbers
game. You’ve got to have a lot of scripts and you’ve got to be able to
submit them. And in a lot of cases this is in things is the person is going
to go off and shoot the script so you’re going to need to replenish your
stockpile of short film scripts so try and be as diverse as possible. If
you’re only writing and one genre or only have all 10 minute scripts,
you’re really limiting what you can submit to.

He may only be able to find one at a month that you can actually submit to
whereas if you had diversified what you have written you’ll be able to
submit to a lot more ads and what that’s going to mean is you a lot more of
these scripts actually getting produced. The next thing that I would say is
a big tip for shorts is if possible trying to have a twist ending. The
Sixth Sense is obviously the greatest example of this was standing where
you go through the whole movie and then at the end there’s this twist and
it just totally changes your perception of the rest of the movie. The
shorts that I’ve seen that work especially well usually have some sort of a
twist, a button, some sort of a punch line to them. So I would say trying
keep that sort of in the back of your mind as well as whatever may be, the
comedy, drama, thrillers, whatever you’re writing to and think about that
as best you can and try and come up with sort of a button or a twist or a
punch line for your short. There’s a great short film it’s very famous,
it’s called The Lunch Date. I will link to that into the show notes and you
can find it on YouTube. Just go to YouTube and type in The Lunch Date and
it’s a really well done short. It’s about 10 minutes and again just like
what I was saying is that has a kind of a real twist. It’s nothing flashy.

I mean, the acting is solid, the directing is solid, but there’s nothing
flashy about it but it has something. And the twist is not as brilliant as
the Sixth Sense let’s say, but it’s a nice solid twist and it really gives
some real meat. Without this twist the short it really would be okay, but
this little twist and I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, what
this little twist it just really gives it some real punch. So try and think
about that on your own as you’re writing shorts and really just go to
Google and type in great short films or short films and I mean nowadays in
go to YouTube and type in award-winning short films and you’ll find a ton
of phone. So that’s another thing that you may want to do is to start
really going in and just looking at some other short films and that will
certainly educate you as far as writing these. One thing I want to be clear
on, I mentioned this earlier but I’m not talking about just doing one
shorts and moving on and feeling like hey that’s it, that’s all I got a do.
Perhaps you should spend a year writing shorts. I mean if you write one
solid short a month after the year you’ll have 12 solid shorts and in the
meantime you can start submitting the ones that you’ve finished, but think
about how that’s going to snowball over the course of the next year if you
consistently write. It doesn’t seem as that unrealistic to write one shorts
a month for year, you’ll have 12 solid shorts.

Again, their stuff I these things will snowball. And as I’ve said in the
meantime the few that you’ve already completed you’ll see you’re sending
out as you’re writing more. I mean if you’re a halfway decent writer and
this is really the whole goal of this thing, if you’re halfway decent
writer and you’ve been consistent with your marketing and you’re going to
craigslist, you’re submitting stuff, you’re trying to network locally. If
you’re halfway decent writer your consistent with your marketing. I can
almost guarantee that at the end of this year you’ll have a few credits and
that’s really just so important. You have a few credits that actually means
something, though be in IMDB and you will have separated yourself from 99%
of the other one of the screenwriters out there. I just want to take a
quick moment and talk about some of the other services I offer at I just started a scripts consult current
service. If you’re looking to have a professional writer or producer read
your screenplay and give you detailed notes on how to improve it, check it
out. You can learn more about what I’m working on, you can learn more about
one working with us on this at I list
a short while for each person as well is a link to their IMDB page. These
are not so-called script gurus or script teachers but never actually done
anything in the industry, these are all real working professionals with
real verifiable credits.

Also, I just wanted to take a moment and tell you about my selling your
screenplay. You can learn about all of the features I’m offering through it
by going to the I run a monthly online
class which you can participate in by joining. I also do a monthly
conference call where you can ask any screenwriting related questions and
everybody that joins sellingyourscreenplayselect can come to these
conference calls and really the usually last about an hour and you can just
about ask any simple question, complex question, anything under the sun.
And it’s a really kind of a good way to just get some if you have any
nagging questions about this or that or anything really, you can just come
in and asked him and I will try and answer them. All of these conference
calls and monthly classes are recorded and available to members to watch or
listen to at a later time. So again if you want to learn more about this
just go to In the next episode of the
podcast I’m going to be interviewing Paul Murray. He’s a writer and an
actor and he’s actually going to be teaching one of these selling your
screenplay select classes in November.

As a writer and actor, he’s going to be teaching about how to write great
roles that actors will want to do. Attracting top talent to your script is
really essential to getting your script made and it all starts with the
written word. Anyway, he’ll be my guest on the next show so keep an eye out
for that. He’s been any industry for years, you’ve got a lot of produced
credits as I’ve said as a writer and actually as a director too. So he’s
got a ton of really great information to share. So in this episode as
writing words segment I want to take a step back and hopefully expand on
what I’ve talked about in the main segment. I’ve outlined the point that
I’m going to try to make in this segment and I know it’s going to be a bit
rambling, but please bear with me. Hopefully I can tie it all together.
Back in the late 90’s, early 2000 there was this sentiment in Hollywood
that we would start seeing talented filmmakers come from all corners of the
globe. In the late 90’s the technology really made it possible for anyone
anywhere in the world to make a movie. The quality of digital cameras was
going up while the price was going down and for the first time you can
easily edit a film on your home computer.

It’s hard to imagine as we sit here now in 2013 how much things have
changed and how easy it is now at least technically speaking to make a
movie. In fact don’t quote me on this, but I think I even remember reading
an interview where Steven Spielberg was basically saying this. So there was
some chain when the excitement over the possibility that new filmmakers
will be discovered from all over the place, but now nearly 15 years later I
would say this largely hasn’t happened and I don’t really think it’s ever
going to happen especially in screenwriting. I think most people
drastically underestimate the skill that it takes to write a good
screenplay. People see musicians like Mark Wahlberg or at least like
Shaquille O’Neal jump in to acting in a suit that fits anyone can act
perhaps anyone can write a screenplay too. I think what most people don’t
realize is that there is a long apprenticeship stage to becoming a
screenwriter. I’ve said this many times before, but for my informal polling
I would say that the single biggest way to break in as a screenwriter is to
get a low-level job in the industry and it’s not just all about networking
and knowing the right people, it’s about writing a good script. By being in
the industry even at a lower level you’re coming in contact with a lot of
writers and screenplays and you’re doing sort of an apprenticeship whether
you know it or not. You’re reading screenplays, your hearing people talk at
a professional level about movies and films and screenplays.

These things add up and that’s what being an apprentice is. It’s being
around people who know more than you yourself and learning from them. I
recently read a book called Mastery by Robert Green. I’ll link to it in the
show notes. One of the main premises of the book is that humans have
evolved to have this enormous capacity to get really good at something to
master it and to become masters, but and it’s a huge riff. It requires a
long apprenticeship phase and one of the points he makes in the book is
that in today’s society this apprenticeship phase is largely ignored and
it’s a big problem. There’s so much emphasis on these spectacular events.
This athlete got $100 million contract, this actor just got $20 million for
doing such and such a movie. The long slow process, this apprenticeship
phase is largely ignored. You don’t hear, hear about the athlete who made
$100 million but you don’t hear about that same guy as he went through the
Little League, as he went through the high school and college and really
that’s going through this apprenticeship phase.

In the book he actually has several examples of this. If you think about
the real standout in human history you almost certainly find a long
apprenticeship phase. One of the examples he uses is Charles Darwin.
Everybody kind of thinks Charles Darwin’s was just this brilliant genius,
but he was not just some fresh-faced kid who stumbled into the Galapagos
island. He had been observing and cataloging plants and animals for years.
So by the time he sailed up to the Galapagos island he are ready had the
skills necessary to make the intellectual leap and come up with the theory
of evolution. Mozart is another example he uses. When people think about
child prodigy’s Mozart is the quintessential example, use literally playing
all around Europe at the age of five. But here’s the thing, he produced
most of his great music from age 25 to 35 and he died at 35 so there was no
more music after that. So think about that, here’s a guy born with enormous
aptitude just an enormous amount of God-given talent and it still took him
20 years before he reached the pinnacle of his career and started producing
his best work. Age 5 through 25, a 20 year period, he spent playing music
and meeting other top musicians and composers throughout Europe.

That was his apprenticeship phase so here’s a guy more talent in his given
field than probably anybody or certainly he’s in the top stratosphere of
that handful of people and yet he still had to go through this enormous
apprenticeship stage to really, really cement his place in history. I
believe this is why we we’re not seeing the fuller formed which were
screenwriters and filmmakers coming out of left field. Film making is such
a collaborative medium that it would be virtually impossible to get to the
highest levels while living in a vacuum. An ongoing ticket e-mails from
people saying what about this person or that person, they never had the
apprenticeship phase. I’m not saying that it never happens or certainly
some examples of screenwriters who didn’t work within the system and seemed
to come out of nowhere, but it’s rare. That code the writer of Juno is a
name that always gets thrown around in this context. Go and read her
Wikipedia page. She was a journalist for years before she sold the
screenplay. Journalists are professional writers writing words on a regular

The interview people, they write dialogue, they learn how to write within a
specific structure for their stories, these are all great skills were
screenwriters to have. And I would argue that was her apprenticeship phase.
One thing I can tell you is that while my e-mail and fax service works so
far I’ve never seen it work for someone who has no experience. People have
found representation is from the blast, people are optioning screenplays,
people are finding paid writing jobs but the thing is in every case that I
know of the successes have come to people who have some experience in the
industry. I’m not talking about tons of experience, but they do have some
experience. For instance I just had a guy a couple of weeks ago option in a
script through a blast and his option to a real good producer. Up until
then I don’t think he had any professional writing credits, however he had
been a theater actor for years so he has some real apical experiences in
the industry. He’s been around the scene, he’s reading plays, he’s been
reading screenplays for years. Obviously been inactive for years is a great
way to learn how to screen write so hopefully he’s seeing where I’m going
with this.

The question becomes simply, how do I get the apprenticeship experience.
Ideal you’ve moved to Hollywood and get a low-level job. I really believe
that’s most people’s best bet, but I also understand that there’s
circumstances which make this impossible for some people. Some people can’t
pick up and move to LA and some people even if they can move to LA can’t
afford to take a low-lever job. I get that. So what are they supposed to
do? How can they get the apprenticeship experience that I think is so
important? I think writing shorts and getting your shorts produced is one
way. When I said that all of the people who have found some success from a
blast has some experience I count shorts as experience. There had been
people who asked been successful with my glass when their only experience
is short films and none of these people had shorts that went to viral or
anything like that, but they had a few writing credits for shorts. In many
cases they produced the shorts themselves so we’re not talking about super
high-end extensive shorts, we’re talking about very modest films here. And
that’s the point. The shorts don’t have to be fantastic to give value from

So again, I really believe you need to go through this apprenticeship stage
and one way to do that is by getting out there and getting your shorts
scripts produced. I wouldn’t mind taking yet another step back just to put
this whole thing and the context. I’ve used this baseball metaphor before,
so humor me if you’ve heard it. Imagine if someone spent a few months
throwing fastballs at their local park and then showed up at the Yankees
spring training and wanted to try out. Would he think would happen? I mean
they probably get laughed that and the fact they wouldn’t even get laughed
that, they’ve probably get flat-out ignored. If you want to be a
professional baseball player you start in Little League, you play in high
school, sometimes you go to college and then you go to the minor leagues
and then if you have talent you work really hard, get a little bit lucky
you might make it to major leagues. I would say for baseball players Little
League, high school and college will be there apprenticeship phase. There
isn’t any place for players that I know of that skipped this apprenticeship
stage. Some have skipped the minor leagues stage, but I’ve never heard of
anyone skipping the apprenticeship. Here’s the thing. I’m not saying it’s
impossible to skip the apprenticeship stage, anything is possible.

Suppose someone did show up at spring training and somehow talk their way
in to a tryout and blow him to hold they were born with a massive amounts
of God-given talents, he’s got a cannon for an arm, they can throw the 100
mile an hour fastball and they ended up making the team. Just take a step
back and think about what would happen if actually did occur. It would be
the sports news story of the year and everyone in the world was started
thinking that that’s the correct way to become a professional baseball
player when it’s not and it never was and it never will be. Years ago I
actually did hear about a guy who went from being a high school baseball
coach to getting a tryout and making it into the majors, but I started to
dig into his story he became clear that this guy had done the
apprenticeship stage. He had played in Little League and in high school and
I think even played in college, but he’s gotten injured so he got
sidetracked. None of the news was talking about that, all they were talking
about was that this guy had gone from less obscurity into the major
leagues. And that’s the big thing about screenwriters, really anyone in the
entertainment industry is that a lot of the times you hear about how they
sold the script for a million dollars but you don’t realize how much time
was spent actually getting to that point.

The other things and I mentioned this earlier about the entertainment
industry is that in a lot of cases people do skip the apprenticeship stage
and acting. So makes people think that it’s possible to skip it and other
disciplines. What am trying to do here is with my blog and now with the
podcast is really break down each step of this long process of becoming a
screenwriter and I’m trying to just break each step down so it’s a
manageable piece. So if you’re just starting out look at the big picture
instead of worrying about how to get an agent or how to sell your script to
universal, worry about how you’re going to get yourself through the
apprenticeship stage. Or even if you’ve written a few screenplays and you
feel like you’re already past this stage, if you haven’t had any for
success with him maybe you haven’t really made it through the
apprenticeship stage and you need to take a step back and refocus your
efforts. I don’t want to make it seem like I think shorts is the only way
to make it, certainly it’s not. But the bottom line is you’ve got to do
something to get some experience under your belt. I think a lot of the
tools that are out there like my e-mail, fax, blast, the blacklists they
have a new listing service, Ink Tip.

I think these tools can work, but I think you’ve got to be through that
apprenticeship stage before you truly have a chance with him. Now with that
said I think these tools can be a part of your overall process and a part
of the apprenticeship stage, but you’ve got to realize that you’re doing
them to learn and grow as a writer more than doing them because you feel
like you’re going to actually sell scripts with him. Just so that you can
see that I follow my own advice and I’m not just spouting out a bunch of
nonsense that I myself don’t follow. Let me give you a quick overview of
the events that led up to me selling my first screenplay. When I first got
to LA more than 15 years ago I enrolled in a mastery program in the film
with a screenwriting emphasis at Sea Sun. I did all of the things that I
recommend, wrote daily, I read a ton of screenplays, I read screenplays for
an agent which was unpaid, I read screenplays for production company which
again was unpaid, I did some very low-level production assistant work on
several independent films. These jobs were literally paid like $50 a day
and you would work like 10 or 12 hours. One of my first credits on IMDB is
a film called Reunion. It’s a low budget featured film that I shot with a
few of my friends, I essentially did exactly what I’m recommending in this
podcast. I produced something that I wrote on a very low budget.

We actually shot it in the late 90’s, but it took us a while to get it
through post production which is why it appears after Dish Dogs on IMDB. My
first script sale was a film called Dish Dogs and I think it was the A
screen, but I had written so but the time I sold my first screenplay and
actually got paid for a script I wasn’t a rank amateur. I had done a lot of
the work and gone through the apprenticeship stage. Back to the baseball
metaphor for a second. What I didn’t realize after I sold Dish Dogs was
that I hadn’t yet made it to the major leagues. I should have been included
in on this when the producers of Dish Dogs showed me their most recent
films and it was starring Frank Stallone, so Sylvester Stallone’s not so
famous brother, and frankly most of the other projects I was working on
were also pretty minor league.

At the time, I just assumed that it would be neat to the promised land,
unfortunately it didn’t. And I would say to this day I continued to play in
a minor leagues of screenwriting. I have some decent credits and then make
a significant portion of my income from screenwriting, but I’m still trying
to make it to the majors and get to that studio level. What I’ve laid out
here in this episode is one way you might be able to get through the
apprenticeship is stage. If you’re really lucky you might be able to skip
the minor leagues which is where I find myself. In future episodes I’ll
talk more about my current strategy which is about going from the minor
leagues to the majors. So anyway, I’ve been rambling on for a lot longer
than I have planned. Hopefully you’ve found this episode is useful and
it’ll inspire you to take some real action. If you do end up getting a
short film produced, please let me know. I’m happy to help promote it on my
blog. Just drop me an e-mail. Anyway, that’s it for this week’s episode.
Thanks for listening and goodbye.