Script Coverage Chronicles – August 2018: Why New Writers Actually Have A Huge Advantage

New writers often think the industry is biased against them.  

In some ways that’s true.  Film executives are risk averse and love the comfort of banking on a scribe who already has a hit at the box office.

But new writers have one big advantage that pros often find unavailable: 


Writers on assignment don’t get nearly as much time to write.

But You Get At Least Fourteen Weeks To Write A Screenplay On Assignment, Right?

Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t.  

On several low-budget assignments for Lionsgate, I was asked to turn around an entire feature film script in less than a month.  I’m not talking about the first draft.  I’m talking about done – “heading into production” done.  That’s barely time to come up with one viable storyline and execute as quickly as possible.

It’s not even close to the ideal way to write a screenplay.  

Ideally, you take a month or more just to brainstorm ideas, and then you carefully construct a treatment, and then you get feedback on that treatment and revise, and then you take your time crafting a first draft, and then you get feedback on that draft, and you revise, and you rinse and repeat and repeat, until you have a finely polished feedback-vetted gem.

This process takes months and months, so when you see a movie written on assignment and think “that could have been better” spend a moment wondering if the credited writer was given even close to enough time.  

A few years back, I was working with a very successful and influential producer and was asked to rewrite the outline for half a feature film in one night and then walk into a studio the next day to pitch it.  It was nuts, but I wasn’t about to say no to that request.  There’s no saying no.

And That’s The Great News For New Screenwriters

You’ve got all the time in the world to write your spec.  

You can go through every step of the creative process.  

You can get feedback on your story so you know what’s working and what isn’t.  

You can take the time to remove a story element that just isn’t playing to readers.  

You can revise again and again until every moment is perfect.  

Revision Isn’t Easy

It takes a ton of time.  But if you’re willing to put in the effort, you can put together a compelling script, and that achievement will be your key to the industry.  

All it takes is one writing sample that really works.

And you can get representation.  

And you can actually make your way in.

And Once You Make It:

You’re going to have to write a lot faster, but that’s a great problem to have.