Good, bad, or bloody awful, movies are undeniably part of the fabric of our collective social experience.
Hollywood's allure is intensely irresistible. Who hasn't imagined walking the Red Carpet at the Oscars? Who wouldn't want to be Vinnie Chase from "Entourage" -- or even Turtle? Who hasn't come out of a movie thinking, "I could do that"?
We all have. Most people leave it at that - imagination. Some of us, though, wonder about taking the plunge. Some of us have ideas for scripts that seem brilliant. They're fascinating, guaranteed blockbuster Oscar-winning masterpieces -- and some of us have actually written the scripts! Anyone with real intentions of breaking into Hollywood, however, should know some basic facts.
Unfortunately, the odds are against the aspiring screenwriter; the obstacles, tremendous. Sheer talent is rarely enough to get the writer or his script in front of someone who can get a movie made. Of course, luck plays a part and being in the right place at the right time is crucial, but before anyone quits their day job and dives face first into screenwriting, it's wise to consider the following:
1. THOUSANDS of screenplays get fed into the agent-producer-studio-celebrity machine every year. They come from all directions and frankly the majority are mediocre. That tiny minority of "go-ahead" people - key agents, producers, and studio executives, and to a certain degree the celebristocracy -- are eager to find the next greatest-script-ever; the problem is spotting it amid the clutter.
2. The Go-Ahead people don't like risk, and they don't like to experiment. They want to see new work from people with track records; they want to see existing shows, concepts, and brands re-created as scripts; they want to capitalize on past success. That's why studios churn out sequels, and it's why every show since the dawn of television has been at least considered for a movie remake: the brand, the audience awareness, is already in place, making the product that much easier to market and sell. Sorry to trot out a mossy old cliche - but movies are a business!
The same thinking applies to writers. Agents, studio execs, et. al. are much more interested in looking at a script if it's from the guy who wrote Successful Project X. These people are busy. Believe it or not, reading scripts is not their favorite thing to do. Many avoid it as much as they can. Convincing them to spend two hours on a script from Nobody Neverheardofhim is a daunting challenge, which brings me to obstacle #3:
3. Hollywood is an insider's industry. Once you're in, your chance of a successful career is much greater -- though hardly guaranteed. If you're on the outside looking in, however, getting your brilliant script read by anyone other than your friends is a daunting proposition.
Scripts and projects trickle inwards from the social and professional networks of the insider's clique. Agents and executives know a closed group of writers that they're wiling to read; sometimes their friends and relatives might push a script into the circle; sometimes genuinely talented outsiders generate so much success and buzz on their own -- by making breakout independent films, for example -- that the Go-Aheads can't help but notice.
For the true outsider, though, the outlook is bleak. You can send your script to the submissions department of agencies and studios, but once they arrive they flop onto an endlessly-growing pile, waiting their turn to be skimmed by bored, disillusioned coverage-writers already numb from reading too many bad scripts. Yours might possibly fight its way to out of that pile, but the chances are slim indeed.
Pretty grim, huh? Should we all just forget about breaking into Hollywood and go back to dental school?
No! Anyone who has genuine passion for writing, who truly loves movies, who's got the patience, grit, and determination to make it in Hollywood should certainly keep trying. People make it "inside" every day. If you can create undeniably great content, learn everything possible about the industry, dedicate a significant portion of your free time - or all of it - to networking and study and effort, you have a chance.
Nobody's going to make it happen for you -- but nobody's stopping you from trying, either.