Screenwriting Workshops For Aspiring Screenwriters
By Jen B.
When you’re a young screenwriter, things like screenwriting workshops may not be among your priorities. You dream of making it big in Hollywood so you’re fixated on pouring yourself out in spec scripts for months and months. You scour screenwriting websites for advice writing your first script and how to come up with the best screenplay ideas for it. Directing all your energy towards writing makes sense but it’s not the key to developing yourself as a screenwriter. It might sound counterintuitive, but screenwriting is not the most important thing to create a better script – there are more effective exercises you can do to improve your approach to screenplays.
This is why attending screenwriting workshops, writing conferences, and film festivals are a crucial step in developing your skills as a screenwriter.
1. Screenwriting Workshops and Film Experiences
Screenwriters learn from the best: other screenwriters! You’re probably thinking of the greats like Coppola or Tarantino. You’ll soon find out that you can learn more from and relate to other young screenwriters who share your struggle in these screenwriting workshops. This is why attending screenwriting workshops, writing conferences, and film festivals are a crucial step in developing your skills as a screenwriter.
These events give you the chance to learn, network, and better yourself. Exposure to different styles and ideas can help you cultivate your background, enriching your outlook on screenwriting as a whole. When you interact with other screenwriters, also dreaming of their big break, you bond and make new connections. You also realize that it’s not just you who’s having a hard time finding ideas to write so there’s a sense of belonging which makes you feel more comfortable with your process.
In addition to screenwriting workshops, you can seek inspiration from films and television shows. Watching content keeps your mind open and active. By taking in produced content whether it’s Oscar-winning films or TV shows that never made it beyond the first season, you’re constantly observing what works and what doesn’t work. And if you look up to Tarantino, he said it himself: “I steal from every single movie ever made. I love it – if my work has anything it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together.”
You should also become a voracious reader of screenplays. In fact, consuming literature in any form, scripts or novels or short stories, can help you answer questions going through your mind like “do I write better scripts” – it’s simple: by engaging your brain to experience the written word and visualize it. When you read produced scripts, you get to understand elements of a screenplay that work and how to make them work. Spec or unproduced scripts can also be beneficial because they spark your imagination to visualize the worlds they build. Even if the scripts are bad, you learn what to avoid when you start writing your own screenplay. And soon enough, who knows you might just submit your next big script to a screenplay competition
2. A Nurturing Online Environment
Every writer needs a support system or a screenwriting workshop that they can attend to meet other writers with common goals. In this day and age, you can easily create one online. Social media is the perfect tool to surround yourself with helpful information from both professionals and amateurs. One of the most effective examples is to build a relevant Twitter feed. Following filmmakers, screenwriters, producers, film festival organizers, and industry people will boost your feed with screenplay advice, screenwriting workshop applications, and overall support for your work. You will stumble upon announcements for screenplay competitions and videos from professionals that guide you on how to write a screenplay for a movie. Not to mention, you’ll get the latest news and takes from within the film world. This wealth of data can all be yours if you build your feed properly and follow the right people.
You can take it a step further by starting your own blog. Blogging about and sharing your experience as a screenwriter can help others and gets you to keep writing. Feel free to follow other blogs or podcasts that teach you more about the craft, too.
3. An Active Creative Mind
Enduring the struggles of being an up and coming screenwriter can get the best of you. Instead of wasting time wondering how to write a screenplay for a movie, work towards that goal. Keep your creative juices flowing and engage yourself in activities like screenwriting workshops that open your mind, that sustain your creativity. Naturally, screenwriting is at the top of that list of activities. But if you tire yourself and need a different outlet, look for jobs that activate your creative mind. Search for openings in advertising agencies, for example. You’ll get to write copy for different products and services which will certainly stimulate your creativity.
Of course if you can manage to find a job within the film industry, even if it’s not related to screenwriting, take it! You could bring coffee and snacks to the cast on set or you could work in an office building. Whatever it is, it’s still a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with the film industry and its inner workings. Regardless of the position, target jobs that will keep your creativity alive.
4. A Screenwriting Partner
As a screenwriter, it’s very easy to get stuck in your own bubble and that’s not the ideal environment for screenplay ideas. Instead, try finding a screenwriting partner who can, not only support you throughout your process, but act as a one-man focus group. You can pitch them your ideas and see what they think. They can also offer a shoulder to lean on during tough times like when you go through a particularly difficult writer’s block or when your submission gets rejected at screenplay competitions. You two may even co-write a screenplay together if you click.
You might not have friends or family who are into writing, that’s okay. Thanks to the internet, you can reach out to millions of people anywhere in the world and make a new friend and a good screenwriting partner with just a few clicks.
5. New Experiences
The search for screenplay ideas is a tough one. Some recommend finding inspiration in films you love. Drawing inspiration from your all-time favorites works but nothing compares to creating your own experiences so your mind can gain new insights into the world. Travel, not necessarily overseas, to meet new people and cultures; it could be a road trip or weekend getaway to another city. Sign up for a hiking trip or tour your city’s museums and landmarks. As beneficial as they can be, screenwriting websites can’t give you a taste of the real world; you have to go out and do it yourself. Experiencing the world will give you a rich supply of ideas for your storylines and characters which can launch your script right into screenplay competitions. Surround yourself with possible opportunities and attend as many live screenwriting workshops in your city.