How to launch your career as a screenwriter
Have you ever wondered why some scripts are snapped up by the filmmaking industry and why some screenplays are ignored by production houses despite their authors best efforts? Kirstie Macdonald – Head of Development at World Productions, the company behind such ground-breaking TV dramas as Ballykissangel, Line of Duty, The Bletchley Circle and The Fear, offers her tips on what makes some scripts succeed and others fail.
She was interviewed when she visited Met Film School to provide a masterclass for our MA Producing students.
- The story is key! Typically Kirstie says when she spots a good script, it has a clear sense of place and the characters have layers of complexity. Character depth is key. Ultimately a strong story needs to run throughout the script that leaves you wanting to know what happens next. If you have these elements present you’re already halfway there in terms of selling your script.
- Get a Spec Script together. You need to have your “spec script” that will act as your calling card. This is a speculative script that you plan to distribute to key industry decision-makers. Don’t assume that your first draft script is sufficient for distribution. Spend time to get your spec script right. Fine-tune your script by using reading services that can give you pointers on how you can improve your script. Script Factory is one of the UK’s oldest reading services providers. Story HQ is another leading company providing screenwriting services. Met Film School can also help you develop your spec script. The School offers a range of Short Part-Time Screenwriting courses that can help budding writers tailor their scripts for market distribution.
- Don’t go direct to production companies. Kirstie says it’s best not to go direct to production companies if you want to get your script commissioned. Generally they won’t look at your script and your script will collect dust rather than getting in front of a key commissioning decision-maker
- Get an agent! Production companies tend to work with agencies, who generally have a sense of what scripts a particular production company might be interested in. Therefore a key way to take your idea from script to screen is to secure the interest and representation of an agent. Agents should not charge you anything by and large until they sell your script. View list of UK screenwriting agents.
- Enter screenwriting competitions. Finally, another alternative way of raising your profile when you start out as an unknown screenwriter is entering scriptwriting competitions. Not all competitions are well recognized though and you should bear this in mind. A high profile one worth entering is “Screenwriting Goldmine”.
Kirstie McDonald is based at World Productions and leads their script development initiatives as Head of Development.