Just write, and keep writing,
called the key first step to getting a screenplay picked
By Jason Sanders
January 23, 2009 | Calling all aspiring screenwriters!
Are you still sitting around with that screenplay idea
in your head? Or do you have script in hand and now
you're wondering, "What's next?" The word at Sundance
is to stop thinking about it and start doing it.
On Tuesday the Queer Lounge, a popular Sundance hangout,
hosted The Road to Park City and Beyond: Launching Your
Film Career. On stage sat six screenwriters and/or producers
whose films are being screened at either Sundance or
Slamdance film festivals. The structured yet casual
format allowed each of the guest-panelists to take a
turn sharing success stories and to field questions
from the audience.
The artists' advice seemed to have an overriding theme:
if you want to succeed in the "biz," you had
better start working at it now. Cherien Dabis, writer
and director for Amreeka, stressed this when
she said, "Write. Even if it's shit, just write."
According to these screenwriters, practice equals experience
and experience will turn into success.
However, before tasting success a writer must endure
the creative process of drafting a screenplay. And the
creative process is as unique to the individual as the
films they create are.
Mississippi Damned screenwriter Tina Mabry
begins by solely focusing on her characters. Slowly
they come to life as she writes about even their most
intricate details. The characters actually help her
shape the story, rather trying to force characters in
She's also found that meeting with a writing group
helps in the creative process. She meets twice a month
with several screenwriters. As a group they bounce off
each other new ideas and writing samples, giving one
another honest and helpful feedback.
Dabis uses her own techniques as well. She drafts
her screenplay in no particular order. It's important
for her to constantly write so she can feel she is consistently
The panel suggested that once your screenplay is written
comes the hard part: funding. Several of the writers
noted the importance of signing on a talented producer
to help in the process.
To the left of Mabry sat Mississippi Damned producer
Morgan Stiff. Mabry said she was amazed at money Stiff
was able to bring in.
Stiff said she'd ask for funding believing she couldn't
be turned down. And while beaming on stage she admitted
that her smile helped.
The panel mentioned the advantage of living in Hollywood
or New York while fundraising. However, there are ways
to get your screenplay picked up if you live outside
of the heart of the industry. Mabry suggested contacting
filmmakers in your community and going from there. "Most
communities have some connection to film," she said.
The panel was a powerful example to any aspiring screenwriter
that it is possible to succeed. Now, just stop dreaming
and start living.