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    Screenwriting is Much like Joining the Special Air Force

    The rewards for a successful screenplay in Britain are around 25,000. In the United States it's a lot more. Established writers can command fees of $50,000 per $1 million production budget. With such huge amounts to be made, its not surprising the becoming a successful screenwriter is much like joining the Special Air Service (SAS); many are called, few are chosen.

    It is unlikely however, that you will become a big-budget screenwriter. Highly trained professionals whose previous scripts have made money at the box office and who may have won awards write these. To have any kind of success you will need to concentrate on the low-budget film with a production budget of under 1 million. For a more detailed explanation of low-budget films visit Colin Brunton's 'Tip-sheet for Low-budget films' at http://www.communicator.com/scriptip.html or, http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/lgrantt/martell.htm where Lou Grant interviews William C. Martell. For a more up-to-date interview with Mr Martell by Kenna McHugh, visit http://screenwritersutopia.com/interviews/kenna09.html.

    Focus your efforts on the following types of script:

    • People films: examine the relationship between one or two people against their surroundings, society etc. Theses may attract big stars, particularly those wishing to direct as well as act.

    • Horror: this does include bloodbaths. To stand out from the crowd, come up with a gimmick; The Shinning and The Exorcist are two good examples more recently, The Dark Half and Scream.

    • Comedy: Airplane, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Naked Gun, Ace Ventura have all been successful and there's no reason why yours shouldn't either.

    • Mystery: especially crime, which always finds a good market. Take Unusual Suspect and Seven, not only were these films popular but they are naturals for TV release and re-runs.

    Before writing a script you should learn a few things about how a film is put together, financed and sold.

    The first script of a film is the 'show script' - your script - in the prescribed format, see 'Formatting Your Script Like a Pro' at http://www.fishnet.net/~rgb/formatlikepro.html. For an archive of over 600 scripts visit 'Drew's Scripts' at http://www.script-o-rama.com. However, scripts should be no more than 130 pages in length - each page representing 1 minute of film. The first script is designed to attract 'front money' usually 10 per cent of the total budget and used to contract the services of a director, a star or stars. Armed with a script, director and stars obtaining further funds from specialist organisations will be easier.

    The show script must be of sufficient quality to arm the producer with the tool he needs that propels the project forward. After which, the script is likely to undergo many changes before filming starts. The director who may involve you in the process will most probably write the 'final script'; this may depend on the type of contract you sign.

    Armed with this fundamental knowledge you are still not ready to write your script. Oh! I hear you say. Well, if there is one market that needs research, this is it. Many would-be screenwriters with ideas for scripts go ahead with them believing because their idea is truly unique and original, it will result in a sale if the completed script is up to standard. One week lurking at alt.writing.screeplays will quickly dispel any such dreams.

    To be salable, a script must have the following attributes:

    • Budget-conscious and workable. There is no market for a ten-hour historic epic costing more 20 million.

    • International sales potential: the US market accounts for more than 50 per cent of world gross. It should be a 'hot-subject', an idea with a good track record but do not imitate - one that the public will be interested in. Terrorism, Mystery and the Macabre for example.

    • You should research everything being shot in Britain and the USA to determine whether your script will be new in six months? Visit Fade In Magazine at http://www.fadeinmag.com and Creative Screenwriting Magazine at http://www.creativescreenwriting.com where you may glean titbits of information.

    • You should consider writing your screenplay as a made-for-TV film?

    • If a producer likes the idea of your screenplay, they will ask for a 'treatment'. A treatment will range from a basic outline to a synopsis of the story with a breakdown of key characters and scenes. The aim of the treatment is to convey the style and general flavor of the screenplay.

    The recommended approach for placing material is through a literary agent. See http://www.fictionhouse.com/cgi-bin/pod.cgi?dir=/Business/Industries/Publishing/Literary_Agents or http://www.writers.net/agents.html.

    For more information on screenwriting in America, visit http://screenwritersutopia.com and in the UK go to The London ScreenWriters' Workshop at http://www.lsw.org.uk.

    Copyright © Gary Crucefix

    Gary Crucefix is the founding editor of Fiction House, a guide to writing and getting published, designed to put you in touch with what's new and exciting in Fiction throughout the Internet. Every month we guarantee to supply you with more proven, practical and profitable leads than you'll know what to do with.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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