“how do I sell my script?”
“how can I find an agent/manager?”
how do I get a screenwriting job?”
They’re likely to get short and simple answers like:
“put it on the Black List“
The truth is, there is no “one” way or “best” way. There are hundreds of different things you can try — most of which will fail.
To maximize your opportunities, you need to do some homework to learn about those hundreds of ways. Then you need to invest significant time, effort and (sometimes) money in pursuing them.
It’s about Relationships
The single most effective path to a writing career is finding someone who likes you and/or your work and can get your script to someone who can help you.
This is why writers are always being told to move to Hollywood and get crappy industry (or industry-adjacent) jobs.
There are a million jokes about slipping a script to your brother’s pool boy’s sister’s hairdresser’s dry cleaner, who slips it to Brad Pitt. That’s not a relationship.
Stalking a pro writer at a screenwriting conference (or DM’ing them on Twitter) and asking if they can read your script — or give it to their agent — isn’t the path to a relationship. It’s just rude, an imposition, and cringe-worthy.
So how do you build real relationships?
You can “meet” people (in person and virtually):
- on the job — including volunteering at film festivals like Sundance
- in writing classes (check out UCLA Extension and your local community college)
- at screenwriting events, like the Austin Film Festival Writer’s Conference
- at screenwriting labs, like those run by the Black List
- in a writing group, where you trade feedback
- online on reddit, Twitter, etc.
Focus on Your Peers
Don’t worry about getting your script to Brad Pitt. Focus on building relationships with writers who are around your own level. Hopefully, you can all help each other rise.
Don’t expect someone you’ve just met to champion you or do you a favor. When they recommend your work, they’re also recommending YOU, so they want to make sure you’re sane and nice.
Give More than You Ask For
Be helpful, not needy. Offer to give someone notes on a script. Tell someone about a gig or a fellowship they might be interested in. Crew on a friend’s short film.
Don’t Be an Asshole
Don’t insult others or publicly trash their work, in person or on social media. You can mention your own contest wins or whatever, but don’t boast about your own brilliance. Celebrate others’ wins.
Books about how to sell a script and “break in”
- Breakfast with Sharks by Michael Lent
- Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds by Michael Hauge
- The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters by Karl Iglesias
- Getting it Write and Breaking In by Lee Jessup
- The New Screenwriter’s Survival Guide by Max Adams
Books about the screenwriting life (including breaking-in stories)
What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting (a great read!)
Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting
Just the Funny Parts: … And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys’ Club
The First Time I Got Paid For It: Writers’ Tales From The Hollywood Trenches
HOW TO GET A SCREENWRITING AGENT AND MANAGER IN 10 STEPS
A Screenwriter’s Guide to Getting (and Keeping) an Agent
You Finished Your Screenplay — Now What?
How to get a “finished” script in front of people
WGA Writer Explains How To Become A Pro Screenwriter
Dominic Morgan (aka “Scriptfella”) has a series of entertaining and helpful YouTube videos.
Just google “screenplay marketing” or “how do I get a screenwriting agent” or “how do I sell my screenplay” or similar to get tens of thousands of more links like this one.
Most screenwriters think about marketing LONG before they have anything worth selling.
How do you know if you’re ready?
You may be ready when:
- you have at least two very good features or pilots,
- people who know what they’re talking about (not your buddies, not your mom) say they’re good,
- you start placing in contests like the Nicholl and Austin,
- you get into programs like the ones listed here, and/or
- you get 8s and up on The Black List.
Being “ready” doesn’t mean that you’re likely to sell a script or get a writing gig, however. The odds of that happening are incredibly low.
But waiting until your work is ready, and doing your homework (see resources above) before hitting the market can save you from wasting time and effort and potentially burning bridges you may later want to cross.