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misc How do I make money from screenwriting? Is there a program or course I can take that tells me how to make “real money” without the fluff?

Hi Everyone,

I don’t want to move to LA , slave away as a waiter for years – hoping for some agents or some random producer to find me. But seems like this is the only advise I get from people either on YouTube or on google.

I always loved writing, wrote few books on Amazon a few years back and I own a video production company on the side. But unfortunately, I am stuck at a tech job which I literally hate , but have no option to leave because I don’t want to be in a financial pickle. But I am getting to a point where I’ve had enough. I have a copy of final draft and I know I can write a “unsucking” script in a week or 2 if I just knew there was a way to get it sold. I don’t even know where to sell this stuff- Is there like a craigslist for screenwriters? I am just wondering.

Can anyone recommend a good course or program on screenwriting where the focus is on making “real money” part rather than the “artistic or the long arduous journey” one has to take to get to before they make even a cent from screenwriting?
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
Developing an understanding of how spec scripts work is a good starting place. Overall, it's an oversaturated market, and networking connections are essential to any plan for success.
 
Developing an understanding of how spec scripts work is a good starting place. Overall, it's an oversaturated market, and networking connections are essential to any plan for success.
Hi Nate, thanks for your reply. When you say networking connections, who is the right person I should be networking with ? Is it a producer or director or someone else I forgot to mention ? I hope my question makes sense.
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
By "real money" I assume you mean a lot of money?
If I knew that...

But I DO make money from screenwriting. Not a fortune (yet?). But a decent amount and it continues to pick up. It's not the kind of thing that makes anyone famous, however, and doesn't include selling my own screenplays.

I wrote and produced quite a few no budget shorts. Then I wrote and produced two low budget indie features that have done reasonably well (both are available on multiple streaming platforms).

Now I do a lot of "writer for hire" screenwriting, usually un-credited. This includes everything from adapting books to screenplays, developing screenplays from story ideas, and re-writing screenplays for beginning writers.

Some of my clients are through personal contacts, recommendations from previous clients, and/or people I know via social media. Others are through hiring web site such as Upwork.

It's taken a long time but I enjoy doing it, so it's been worthwhile.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
The best way to make money as a screenwriter is to be a script dr for other people
But you have to have credentials for that.. like if you have an oscar for best screenplay you can charge tons of money for a week or two of your time.

The idea that youre just gonna bang out a screenplay in 2 weeks and then sell that for money? doesn't sound realistic to me.
sounds like playing the lottery.

Whats wrong with writing another book? how were your stories recieved on amazon?
 
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Hi Nate, thanks for your reply. When you say networking connections, who is the right person I should be networking with ? Is it a producer or director or someone else I forgot to mention ? I hope my question makes sense.
First off, let me say that Mara is far more knowledgeable about this specific topic than myself. I can however make some broad statements about networking.

There are indeed people that you want to network with, but you won't be able to, at least not early on. The mechanics work like this, the more a person can help you, the more people want to network with them. Their time and resources quickly become overtaxed, and as the value of a connection rises, so does the wall around it.

The practical solution is time consuming, difficult, unpredictable, and on some level expensive. If you lack resources like most artists starting out, it can be extremely difficult to work your way into social circles that provide effective advantages.

Basically, you need to start making friends that are adjacent to powerful friends. You need to make a good impression, do some favors for those people, get to the point where they invite you to social events that may include networking opportunities closer to the inner circle. It may be a bit counterintuitive, but your initial approach at all levels should be to get them interested in you, rather than your scripts. People don't read scripts from scripts they like, they read scripts from people that they like.

When trying to connect with powerful people, you will have the best luck when recommended to them by someone they already trust. Start at the outside of circle by just being a well liked person in a low power group, making as many positive impressions as you can and casting a wide net. When you start to develop promising inroads, you can narrow your focus.

At some point, you will be up against the issue of how to introduce your scriptwriting into the conversation with a person who can actually help you. The more indirect the better.

Good way: "So, Lisa tells me you work in film" - "I write scripts, mostly drama" - "Anything I might have seen?" - "Mostly ghostwriting to date, but I'm working on something that I think might have potential for a studio like Lionsgate"

Bad way: "I'm a scriptwriter, I heard you could get scripts made, here's a copy of my script, and another one for your wife"
 
By "real money" I assume you mean a lot of money?
If I knew that...

Hi Mara, thanks for your reply. By real money, I just mean atleast 10k this year on the side since I do have the video production business I am running. My goal was to start with the screenwriting by the end of last year, and I even took a course/ program on it. But they don't teach anything about the business side of "screenwriting". I just wish someone came out with a course just about that side of the industry.

I mean I know about sites like blacklist, but that seems like gambling almost. You write something, then it has to go through a ranking system and then it might/might not get picked up. Correct me if I wrong about their process. But everything is just too wishy washy type- it feels like.

When you say "through personal contacts" and "people I knew from social media", who are these people exactly? Are they producers or directors who are looking for a screenplay or just regular people who are just interested in movies. I think that's where I am lacking some clarity on.

Since I have a video production company, I can also start shooting low budget features this year. I mean I don't have a high end camera or anything, but I can shoot something decent with high quality audio and lighting with the setup I got. So that's also something I will look into. But the problem is the time it might take and no clear path on how to go about making money from it. I been broke before and I don't wanna go there anymore.
 
Basically, you need to start making friends that are adjacent to powerful friends. You need to make a good impression, do some favors for those people, get to the point where they invite you to social events that may include networking opportunities closer to the inner circle. It may be a bit counterintuitive, but your initial approach at all levels should be to get them interested in you, rather than your scripts. People don't read scripts from scripts they like, they read scripts from people that they like.

Thanks for your answer, Nate. I love doing favors for people. But that's where I blank out though- in the details of it. What kind of favors can I do and the place where I am in here in Iowa - I don't know how to go about finding people "who wants script writers or are looking for someone who can write a script". I know I can find online job boards that might be looking for scriptwriters, but how do I do this in the real world ?

I attended a meetup event few months ago, but couldn't find anyone that was looking for a script per se. So pin pointing on the digital space, where can I find likeminded people who could use favors from someone who can write for them? I thought ghost writing was someone only done in writing books. I didn't know they did that for script writing too. I will look more into that.
 
It can happen through social media or websites, but you'll likely get lost in the shuffle. There are a million people campaigning for 5000 jobs, and most of those jobs go to people that are known to decision makers in physical space. Something that rarely gets mentioned on the internet is the power of eye contact. You'll be surprised at how much more effective it can be to talk to someone in person, than it is to get in line on the internet. Eye contact, firm handshake, confident posture, these are things that no amount of typing can replace when attempting to make a human connection.
 
The best way to make money as a screenwriter is to be a script dr for other people
But you have to have credentials for that.. like if you have an oscar for best screenplay you can charge tons of money for a week or two of your time.

The idea that youre just gonna bang out a screenplay in 2 weeks and then sell that for money? doesn't sound realistic to me.
sounds like playing the lottery.

Whats wrong with writing another book? how were your stories recieved on amazon?

Well, the books were received good actually. I wrote about 5 or 6 of them at the time. I made some good money from royalties, but they were not stories. They were non-fiction materials. I focus on stories when it comes to my video production business. But you have given me a good idea. I will look into writing books again - maybe actual stories this time. When I say good money , around 150 bucks for a book a month and that was actually the highest grossing book. But then it died out because I didn't market them well enough.

10 years passed since that date. I gave it up because I received some staunch opposition from my family about "writing" and they "mocked" me for it. So it was kind of hurtful and I put it aside. Now that you brought it up again, I do think it was a good way to make passive income instead of slaving away at my corporate mind numbing tech job where I literally feel like a slave.
 

indietalk

IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Admin
Do some proofreading on Fiverr and you can make that 10K in a year.
 
Do some proofreading on Fiverr and you can make that 10K in a year.
Hey IndieTalk, thanks for your answer! English is not my native language, so when it comes to grammar, I am the last one you want proofreading because I am not good with all the complex rules and laws when it comes to the highly English language. I mean don't get me wrong- I did my schooling and college in north east in NY and Brooklyn, so I can write stories and I can convey emotions and transfer feeling through paper, but I wanna make sure I play in my box rather than get too distracted, if you know what I mean.

I myself type really fast and I can bangout few pages a day without no problem. But I wanna make that 10k in the sphere of scriptwriting itself. Is there a way? I been holding myself back for decades and I can't hold myself back any more because my life has been filled with too many stories and I can't keep it to myself anymore.
 
Thanks for your answer, Nate. I love doing favors for people. But that's where I blank out though- in the details of it. What kind of favors can I do and the place where I am in here in Iowa - I don't know how to go about finding people "who wants script writers or are looking for someone who can write a script". I know I can find online job boards that might be looking for scriptwriters, but how do I do this in the real world ?

I attended a meetup event few months ago, but couldn't find anyone that was looking for a script per se. So pin pointing on the digital space, where can I find likeminded people who could use favors from someone who can write for them? I thought ghost writing was someone only done in writing books. I didn't know they did that for script writing too. I will look more into that.

Scripts and music are both areas where artists, even very good ones, have fallen victim to supply and demand issues. Your very reasonable threshold for income does put you in a good place vs many competitors, and like Indie said, there are some options out there to make that kind of money.

The big issue with writing for television or film is hierarchical in nature. Let's say you want to make 50 grand for a script you spent a year on. To justify paying you that, it needs to become the basis for a movie that costs perhaps one million. So in order to give you 50k, they need to have 1.2 million dollars worth of confidence in your product, since the script affects every other aspect of the film, including casting, locations, marketing, etc. This commonly creates a situation where producers are looking for a track record of profitability, which becomes a vicious cycle lockout for many aspiring writers.

As far as doing the right favors for the right people, it's both easier and harder than you might think. Step one is to live in an area where interactions with your target group can be casual. Many aspiring artists move to LA, but as many will tell you, that is the beginning of your problems rather than the end. Once you can begin interacting with the group, the favors are the easy part. Designated Driver, cat sitter, small personal loan, keep a secret for them, etc. Once in the game, show your intelligence when organic opportunities arise. Don't force things, just wait for a chance to be the voice of reason, and you'll begin to win respect. Getting a person to see you as intelligent and trustworthy is the win. Now they will recommend you to their friends, and you can potentially start working your way up the ladder.
 

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
Are they producers or directors who are looking for a screenplay or just regular people who are just interested in movies.
Because I've been working in indie film for over a decade, I've met a lot of writers, directors, actors, and producers. Sometimes actors are looking to produce something themselves, and have an idea for a script. Sometimes a director needs another eye to revise a script. Most of the time (but not always) they're connected with filmmaking in some way.
 
Because I've been working in indie film for over a decade, I've met a lot of writers, directors, actors, and producers. Sometimes actors are looking to produce something themselves, and have an idea for a script. Sometimes a director needs another eye to revise a script. Most of the time (but not always) they're connected with filmmaking in some way.
Thank you
 
Scripts and music are both areas where artists, even very good ones, have fallen victim to supply and demand issues. Your very reasonable threshold for income does put you in a good place vs many competitors, and like Indie said, there are some options out there to make that kind of money.

The big issue with writing for television or film is hierarchical in nature. Let's say you want to make 50 grand for a script you spent a year on. To justify paying you that, it needs to become the basis for a movie that costs perhaps one million. So in order to give you 50k, they need to have 1.2 million dollars worth of confidence in your product, since the script affects every other aspect of the film, including casting, locations, marketing, etc. This commonly creates a situation where producers are looking for a track record of profitability, which becomes a vicious cycle lockout for many aspiring writers.

As far as doing the right favors for the right people, it's both easier and harder than you might think. Step one is to live in an area where interactions with your target group can be casual. Many aspiring artists move to LA, but as many will tell you, that is the beginning of your problems rather than the end. Once you can begin interacting with the group, the favors are the easy part. Designated Driver, cat sitter, small personal loan, keep a secret for them, etc. Once in the game, show your intelligence when organic opportunities arise. Don't force things, just wait for a chance to be the voice of reason, and you'll begin to win respect. Getting a person to see you as intelligent and trustworthy is the win. Now they will recommend you to their friends, and you can potentially start working your way up the ladder.
Thank you
 
Hi Everyone,

I don’t want to move to LA , slave away as a waiter for years – hoping for some agents or some random producer to find me. But seems like this is the only advise I get from people either on YouTube or on google.

I always loved writing, wrote few books on Amazon a few years back and I own a video production company on the side. But unfortunately, I am stuck at a tech job which I literally hate , but have no option to leave because I don’t want to be in a financial pickle. But I am getting to a point where I’ve had enough. I have a copy of final draft and I know I can write a “unsucking” script in a week or 2 if I just knew there was a way to get it sold. I don’t even know where to sell this stuff- Is there like a craigslist for screenwriters? I am just wondering.

Can anyone recommend a good course or program on screenwriting where the focus is on making “real money” part rather than the “artistic or the long arduous journey” one has to take to get to before they make even a cent from screenwriting?
There are PLENTY of courses out there... LOL. None however, that are going to show you HOW TO SELL A SCRIPT or MAKE MONEY. And? Most of the courses I've read about or have been told about by others who've taken them really only teach you the basics... Which of course, you can pretty much get out of any good screenwriting book.

I have pretty much read every book there is on screenwriting... Even the shitty ones and there are also PLENTY of those. If I had to recommend ONE all-inclusive book to help you hit the ground running though... It would be this one:

Screenwriting for Neurotics: A Beginner's Guide to Writing a Feature-Length Screenplay from Start to Finish

It's really the only book I've read on screenwriting that talks about MANY of the things you shouldn't do with your spec script. Worth reading but it is certainly not the golden ticket. That only comes by writing specs and getting them IN THE MARKET.

If you really think you can write an "unsucking" spec in a week or two? It shouldn't even take you more than a year to get 10 really good specs in the bag. IF they are in fact GOOD? You're going to get noticed.

Another huge piece of advice you might hear is to write what you're passionate about... I understand the logic of this recommendation i.e., hopefully one's PASSION will come through in the story and everyone's gonna fall all over it. However, in my humble experience in this industry? High Concept sells a hell of a lot better than passion.

Passion can easily work for competitions... And? Good competitions can get you meetings. But? As I've said on this forum more than a few times before... Passion specs that get you meetings are invariably followed up by the inevitable question, "What else ya got?"

Why?

Because if that passion spec ain't high concept? Why put it into production? Because it's as good as what's already been done? Uh no. You can write direct to video specs that are easier to get into production but you almost always have to have at least one "B" star and here's the rub... They don't really even care about the story that much... LOL. They care more about WHO'S gonna star.

For theatrical films? Your spec is gonna have to be HIGH CONCEPT 99.99999999% of the time in order to compete with screenplays adapted from books i.e., preexisting IP. On top of that? It's harder than ever to get anyone to even read any kind of spec these days unless you've got representation. It can be done of course without representation but that is always going to be the exception to the rule.

So if I were one to give advice? I'd say learn as much as you can about HIGH CONCEPT and what it really is. Then? Spend the next month or two creating your 10 but at least 3 high concepts and get to writing. If your high concepts are AMAZING? Almost any manager receiving an email from you with the logline is going to request the screenplay. If they like it? They'll also ask, "What else ya got?" Have at least two more more well-executed high concept specs to IMMEDIATELY show them. This supports the fact that you're not a one-shot wonder which Hollywood is completely LITTERED with.

I'd also say to try and keep your high concept specs from being period pieces or full of special effects... All anyone sees when they read the first few pages of specs like these are COST i.e., "This thing is gonna cost a $100 Million." Very few newbie screenwriters' specs are gonna get greenlit if what's on the page is that expensive to produce. Nobody wants to TAKE A CHANCE on a new spec screenwriter with a spec that's going to cost that much to make.

If you do have those kinds of high concepts? Great. Keep them to yourself until your foot's in the door of the industry and you can get your specs read as soon as you're finished with them.

I could go ON and ON and ON because this has been my job for a very long time and I still perform script-doctoring which, believe it or not? I don't even like doing. I love writing but working on someone else's material ain't really writing to me. It's like performing body work, sanding, and primer before painting a car. LOL.

Your mileage may vary though...

Good luck!
 
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