Gonna write a screenplay? Don’t. Hire a pro writer.
(Or, “The care & feeding of your unicorn”).
By- Daniel Scherrer
The unicorn in captivity
So, you’ve got the next great movie idea. It’s unique, yet feels familiar. It’s a new twist on an established genre. It’s commercial yet profound. It is an outlier compared to most of the formulaic films coming out of Hollywood these days. You’ve caught yourself a unicorn. And you can’t wait to sit down and write the screenplay. You’ve got some writing chops. Your ninth grade essay on the use of anthropomorphism in Orwell’s Animal Farm earned you rave reviews. And your blog now has literally tens of followers. Never mind that you haven’t actually, you know, ever written a feature length script.
You don’t have to abandon your dream, but you may need to reset your expectations. There is a well-worn path that leads to success, but you must understand the screenwriting process and the intricacies of selling to Hollywood first. Once you have this knowledge, you can make professional decisions that determine your likelihood of making it, and how long you will wait to realize that success.
One of these decisions includes hiring an established screenwriter to write your script. Working with the right professional screenwriter can dramatically increase your odds and get you there faster.
The dreamer and the dream
It’s one of the quintessential American dreams. The unknown, unheralded screenwriter toiling away between shifts at Starbucks or on the train to some cubicle-lined purgatory. All the while feeding, and grooming, and fiercely protecting his or her unicorn. That is, until they stroll into a producer’s office and unveil their screenplay and are met with instant acclaim, gala invitations and large bags of cash with dollar signs stenciled on them.
While this is a clichéd oversimplification, there’s enough truth in it to give birth to countless dreams. Every now and then you hear about the amateur writer that strikes gold. And it begs the question: Why not me?
Before you put your hands on home row, it’s probably wise to count the cost.…
The journey of trials
It turns out that the journey from concept to completed screenplay is a long, frustrating, and arduous one. Screenwriters can spend up to a year or more developing their first draft. And rewrites can take anywhere from months to years before the script is even professional quality.
Hundreds, maybe thousands of hours spent hunched over your laptop. False starts. Frustration. Reworking your outline. Doing another beat sheet. Rewriting the same scene for the fourth time. Or the eighth time.
Because you aren’t just trying to tell your story. You are using strategies to hook the reader within the first few pages. To appeal to a variety of audiences, from script readers to producers to studio executives to filmgoers. You are also navigating industry standards for formatting, white space, and structure. You are incorporating established industry best practices for scene length and pacing and character development, as established by masters such as Robert McKee, Syd Field, or Lew Hunter. And you are working in the context of the entire history of Hollywood film, so you have to have an encyclopedic understanding of genre and subgenre, and know the difference between homage and plagiarism.
Screenwriting is not for the faint of heart. Even for experienced screenwriters, the process is relentlessly discouraging. For the novice, it’s virtually impossible to succeed without first failing. Repeatedly, Agonizingly. If you finish a draft at all. Most people who begin never even complete their screenplay.
But wait, your idea is unique! It’s more unique than a snowflake, with all of its unique uniqueness! It needs to be up on the big screen, changing lives at 24 frames per second. This is a million dollar idea!
The truth is, unicorns do not exist. Your idea is likely not that unique. It is said that there are only seven plots, and that every story is just a variation on one of the seven. From Cecil B. DeMille to Steven Spielberg, there have been hundreds of thousands of feature-length films, and many more screenplays that have been optioned, purchased or produced. Odds are that your unicorn of an idea is actually a variation on an existing film plot, or plots. But, I’m guessing it is, or can be developed into a marketable (sellable) idea. So, nice work!
And even if it is a one in a million, completely unique idea, without a professionally-rendered script, it may as well not exist in the eyes of Hollywood. You can’t copyright an idea, even a marketable one. And eventually one (or several) of your thousands of competitors will have the same idea and will write a great script about it. So if you have a marketable idea, you have to get to market quickly and efficiently.
The ticking clock
While new film releases seem to appear out of thin air, they are the result of years of preparation, planning and execution. So, while your idea seems fresh now, your window to take advantage of that April freshness is closing rapidly. Because, the odds are very good that another screenwriter has also had a very similar idea. It’s likely that that writer has more experience than you do. It’s even quite possible that idea is already in development. It’s not uncommon for a writer to spend months on a script, only to discover that a like project is being developed by a major studio. When that is the case, it doesn’t matter how many connections you have or how good your script is. It will be very difficult to get anyone to read it.
So, yes, you want to get your work out as quickly as possible. But, not too quickly. You also don’t want to rush out a half-baked, unprofessional script that clearly needs several more rounds of rework. You only get so many chances to make an impression on a major studio player. Many first time writers waste their opportunity by pushing out a less-than-amazing script. Subsequent drafts are met with indifference.
So, the trick is, to come up with a familiar-feeling, yet completely different idea, write it using a century of accumulated tricks of the trade while maintaining a unique voice, and do it all quickly, but not too quickly so you can pitch it to a receptive market?
The truth is that experienced writers have, through trial and error, through failure and success, cracked the Hollywood code. They have earned advantages over the less-seasoned writers and generally succeed where others fail. They know how to create a spine that supports the story structure over 90+ pages. They know how to build and relieve tension in satisfying ways. They know how to deliver, in the words of screenwriting guru Blake Snyder, the promise of the premise.
There’s more than one way to crack the Hollywood code
Difficult challenges often require creative thinking. What if you engaged an established, professional screenwriter to take your germ of an idea and develop it into a Hollywood-quality screenplay? Leveraging the experience of someone who has been there and done that can result in not only getting your script to market more quickly and efficiently, but also in making an impact on decision-makers when it does.
Your idea could become a film that changes the world. It cannot change the world if it never becomes a script. It also cannot change the world if it becomes a terrible, amateurish script. It can only live and breathe and inspire if it gets the care and expertise and craftsmanship it deserves.
Lower your stress level. Avoid the headaches and frustration. Let Ghostwriters Central write your movie or TV script. We have the background, the expertise, film scripts written here have been produced and won awards.
You can find the pricing info for screenwriting services on our ghostwriting rates page.