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Screenwriting_Your_Way_To_Hollywood

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					Screenwriting Your Way To Hollywood

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1124

Summary:
Throughout filmmaking history screenwriters have used many methods to
achieve success in Hollywood. Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, 1989)
easily gained access to Hollywood as the daughter of stage and
screenwriting team Henry and Phoebe Ephron. Charlie Kaufman (Being John
Malkovich, 1999) juggled many jobs and wrote for the T.V. series, “Get a
Life,” before catching the attention of producer Steve Golin. Alan Ball
(American Beauty 1999) chose a different path; he first wor...


Keywords:
screenwriting, writing, scriptwriting, film, production, entertainment


Article Body:
Throughout filmmaking history screenwriters have used many methods to
achieve success in Hollywood. Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, 1989)
easily gained access to Hollywood as the daughter of stage and
screenwriting team Henry and Phoebe Ephron. Charlie Kaufman (Being John
Malkovich, 1999) juggled many jobs and wrote for the T.V. series, “Get a
Life,” before catching the attention of producer Steve Golin. Alan Ball
(American Beauty 1999) chose a different path; he first worked as a
theater producer and writer. Producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner
invited him to Hollywood because they both saw the debut of Ball’s hit
play, “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress” at the Manhattan Class Company
Theater.

While Hollywood screenwriters have their own success stories, they also
share strong work ethics and know how to foster vital business
connections. This article examines how current Hollywood screenwriters
Dan Bucatinsky and Tim McCanlies learned from their predecessors’ habits
and how they jumpstarted their writing careers.

Dan Bucatinsky is a talented and disciplined writer who broke into the
Hollywood scene in 2001 with his romantic comedy, “All Over the Guy.” A
1987 graduate of Vassar College, Dan took advantage of his education and
worked diligently to learn his craft and develop a unique style. His time
spent writing countless papers, stories, and scripts in college
attributed to his screenwriting excellence. When he returned to Vassar in
2004 to advise aspiring screenwriters Dan emphasized the importance of
writing everyday.

“Even when I draw a blank, even when I don’t feel like working, even when
nothing I put down on paper is any good…I force myself to write for at
least a couple of hours everyday,” Dan revealed.

This discipline is a trademark of successful Hollywood screenwriters.
According to Dan, a writer’s willingness to push himself can prove more
significant than raw talent. There are many naturally gifted writers;
what distinguishes a great writer from a good one is the technique they
have gained through careful study and years of dedication.

Several helpful books exist for writers seeking guidance as they try to
develop their skills, including, “Crafty Screenwriting” by Alex Epstein,
“Adventures in the Screen Trade” by William Goldman, and “Secrets of Film
Writing” by Tom Lazarus. Dan Bucatinsky and countless other screenwriters
rely on these resources to craft innovative, creative screenplays. These
resources can be bought at any bookstore or online at www.StoryScribe.com
(http://www.storyscribe.com).

Like Dan Bucatinsky, Tim McCanlies (Iron Giant, Secondhand Lions, Dancer,
Texas Pop. 81) gained attention for his artful writing. He nurtured his
natural writing talent by practicing and revising scripts when he wasn’t
working at odd jobs to support himself.

In 1979 he published his first novel, “Harlem,” and enrolled in the
Sherwood Oaks Experimental College to further study writing techniques.
While in school Tim simultaneously excelled in his classes and completed
a screenplay based on his novel. His hard work paid off: college founder
Gary Shusett noted Tim’s diligence, read the screenplay for Harlem, and
helped to get the script optioned by Interscope.

In a recent interview Tim revealed that he still writes everyday and
added that “the key to good writing is to focus on developing strong,
interesting characters.” He stressed the importance of building up a
writing resume, encouraging aspiring writers to embrace all learning
opportunities including internships and jobs as assistant writers.

One of Tim’s early jobs was as an assistant writer for the 1987 film
North Shore. An array of writing jobs and internships can be found online
through websites like www.mandy.com, www.backstage.com,
www.hollywoodlitsales.com, www.FreelanceWriting.com, and
www.CyberScreenwriter.com.

Tim urges beginning writers not to lose hope, saying that it took him
more than six months to write and revise the screenplay for “Iron Giant”
even with his strong educational background and years of professional
writing experience.

As gifted, hard working writers, both Dan Bucatinsky and Tim McCanlies
recognize the significance of contacts in Hollywood. Hollywood studios
receive thousands of scripts each month. Of these thousands only a few
hundred may make it from the mail room, past the intern’s desk, and into
the executive’s office. In the rush to read and pass scripts through the
hierarchy, Hollywood studios push many screenplays to the back burner or,
worse yet, immediately discard screenplays without review. Some amazing
screenplays end in the trashcan while many mediocre scripts are approved
for production.

Why does this happen?
Because when a   script arrives with a cover letter of recommendation from
an executive’s   old professor, friend, co-worker, etc… it goes straight to
the top of the   studio’s “Read Me Now” list regardless of quality. This is
the reality of   the Hollywood system, however unfair it may seem to
newcomers.

The smart screenwriter will accept this reality and make the most of
his/her connections to ensure that their script lands in the “Read Me
Now” list. Although mixers through organizations like the American
Screenwriters Association and the Writers Guild of America are good
places to make contacts, the schmoozing element of the business often
requires some luck as well as hard work.

For example, Dan Bucatinsky was close friends with a woman named Lisa
Kudrow when he was studying to become a writer at Vassar College. When
Lisa became famous for her role in the popular television sitcom,
“Friends,” she helped Dan achieve his Hollywood dream. She ensured the
production of “All Over the Guy” by signing onto the film as an actress
and recommended Dan as a writer to many Hollywood producers and
directors. Dan and Lisa continue to collaborate on film projects, and he
writes parts for her into his screenplays. When Dan speaks to students,
he stresses making valuable friendships in college and urges students to
view writing as a business as well as an art.

Tim McCanlies also credits much of his success to luck and connections.
Without the support of Gary Shusett, an associate producer on the 1988
film “Moon Over Parador,” it is unlikely that Interscope would have read
Tim’s unsolicited screenplay “Harlem,” let alone optioned it. Once Gary
Shusett helped him get his foot in the door, Tim had the opportunity to
make films with rising Hollywood stars like Brad Bird (Iron Giant 1999,
The Incredibles 2004) who appreciated his work ethic and creativity.
Tim’s career as a Hollywood screenwriter thrives today because of the
connections he made and fostered as a young writer.

The key to breaking into Hollywood as a screenwriter is twofold: a
willingness to write, study, and practice with consistency; and a talent
to develop relationships with people in positions of power. There is not
one right way to be a screenwriter, but these elements are significant to
achieve success in Hollywood.

				
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