My average UCLA student whos been successful wrote at least six complete, polished screenplays before finally selling one.~William Froug (Twilight Zone, tv show)
I wrote maybe 10 screenplays before I was able to sell one.~Nicolas Kazan (At Close Range)
We wrote six scripts before anything was produced.~Jack Epps, Jr. (Top Gun)
“Before I got adept at it, I had to write about ten scripts.~Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential)
Can you do it faster? I believe there are some shortcuts.
Shortcut # 1. The big shortcut is to listen to criticism from veteran writers. Your learning curve speeds up when you do this. If you dont know any veteran writers, take a class. Or hire somebody like Eric Bork a script analyst with real credits. The money you spend will be worth it.
Shortcut # 2. Another important tip –you have to learn how to boost your odds. For example, the market for big budget tentpole movie written by newbies has frozen up. The studios used to buy them, but now it takes a miracle. It does happen, occasionally, but why not increase your odds of a sale?
In today’s market, I suggest you write low-budget screenplays that independent producers and directors can shoot on lower budgets (1 to 4 million). That means three to six sets, ten or twelve characters, no crowd scenes, no special effects, no driving scenes, no scenes on a train. Keep it simple.Sell to the low budget producers, and then work your way up.
Shortcut #3. If you’re going to write big budget, write high concept. That means, create a plot based on a pitch that sells itself. “Alien.’ “Jaws in space.” “Big.” Tom Hanks wakes up a kid in a man’s body. “Saving Private Ryan.” A soldier’s brothers have all died in World War II. Tom Hanks is sent to bring back that last living brother. “Splash.” Tom Hanks falls in love with a mermaid. It’s also possible to write low budget high-concept.
Shortcut #4. The other shortcut is writing for TV. My partner and I wrote only two spec scripts, a Barney Miller and a TAXI. Took less than a year. We were then hired on the basis of those scripts to write a bunch of Normal Lear shows in the 80s. It happened that fast.
Shirtcut #5. It’s true that I’d been a high school cartoonist, wrote short stories, made short films in high school, and attempted a few screenplays after college . After I met my writing partner, it went very fast. Together, we doubled out contacts, and our networking. We were there to keep each other accountable. So consider writing with a partner another shortcut.
At 28 I was making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, doing what I loved doing writing comedy. I had a regular 9 to 5 Story Editor job, writing for the highest rated tv shows. I think I wrote nine scripts that year. And they were all produced.
And thats a great way to learn how to write better. When youre on a show, you learn to write at a very high level, very fast. Its sink or swim. You have to learn fast or get fired.You can succeed at this if you listen to the best advice. Good luck.