First Draft: Think Outside the Box With These Five Resourceful Screenwriting Career Moves

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In partnership with Creative Screenwriting and ScreenCraft, “First Draft” is a series on everything to do with screenwriting.


What if we told you that there are more ways for screenwriters to get noticed than through normal submission processes via email, through representation, and from high placements in screenwriting contests, competitions, and fellowships?

While those are solid portals into the industry, there are many other ways that screenwriters continue to break through—leading to big breaks and successful careers. In order to find those creative ways, you have to push your thinking up to and beyond its limit. You have to truly think out of the box.

Here are five ways to enhance your out-of-the-box thinking as it applies to your hopes and dreams of a successful screenwriting career.

1. Use Your Screenplay as a Book Proposal

Hollywood and the publishing industry have been more intertwined than they ever have been. Publishing houses look for projects that will also bring in Hollywood adaptation money and book publicity. Hollywood goes to the literary best seller lists and beyond to find their next big movies to produce.

Screenwriters need to start thinking outside of the box when it comes to the platforms they can use to get noticed. Because Hollywood is still so risk averse, screenwriters have fewer and fewer opportunities to break through by going the normal submission route—submitting directly to agencies, managers, and studios, entering contests and fellowships, etc. While those routes are still viable ways in, you need to also go extra mile.

What if you could use your screenplay as part of a book proposal to submit to publishing firms?

While writing a book is much different than having written a screenplay, you, again, need to think in a more broad fashion to increase your odds of being at the right place, at the right time, with the right story.

Book proposals generally consist of an introduction, book outline, and sample chapter. The book outline breaks down the chapters within a proposed book. If you’re considering trying to tell your cinematic stories in literary form, you can use your screenplays in place or along with such outlines, offering publishers a clear beginning, middle, and end to the story that you want to tell.

Dances with Wolves was a screenplay first, as was Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. If Hollywood isn’t responding to your story, and you truly believe that it is a story that should be told, look elsewhere. Think beyond standard practices. And remember that in the end, publishers and studios are all in the same boat now.

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