Monday, May 12, 2014

The Writer's Market

"In the 1940's a handful of writers would come to Hollywood every week to be famous. Today there's a hundred writers who come off the jetplane or their car to become famous writers."

                    -- Studio Executive

I'm not sure if some of you have never heard of Mandy or The Blacklist or a few other names that refer to screenwriters. These are the new places to be discovered or exploited for aspiring screenwriters. I use the term aspiring because until you sell a screenplay, you are still considered "aspiring". Live with it.

Most of the writers in WGA are probably over the age of 40, or maybe even 50. And they were the kind that wrote stories in high school or maybe college. The next generation, probably Gen X took advantage of the handful of universities to take actual screenwriting classes.

But now, everyone with Screenwriter or Final Draft or a free software is a screenwriter. And if you don't know how to write you can go to a website where you can find almost every kind of screenplay you can ever dream of.

I met a director recently who had never written anything but wanted to write his screenplay. So he found his favorite screenplay online and basically rewrote the script to suit the story he had in his mind.

But it takes more than rewriting a famous screenplay. And it takes more to become a writer than buying the software. When I taught extension classes at UCLA I had, over a period of 2 years, about 250 students and of them, about five maybe could become working writers. Not a great average, huh.A

So what happens to all these people who dream of making million dollar screenplay sales.

They end up on Mandy looking for jobs that offer a little money or promised money (once the screenplay is sold), which rarely happens. The ads are amazingly tough, and more than often it's someone who thinks their life will make a great movie and that the writer can write the screenplay for no money and maybe get something when the movie is a smash hit.

The odds of being hit by a snowball in Florida are higher than a screenplay getting made from Mandy. I know, I even tried it once.

And if you want "professional comments" you can go to The Black List which will allow your screenplay to be read or shown by "professionals". All it costs is something around $50 or $60 for a period of a few months. And you can even "hire" a professional reader for $50 to read your precious screenplay.

But beware that they might completely trash it.

And so you have a screenplay that you paid to put into the Black List but now it's been trashed by one of their readers and everyone can see it.

There's also InkTip, another money-making scam for both aspiring writers and real writers who haven't worked for years. There is around 10,000 screenwriters or so who are in WGA and at any time 15% of them are working.

15% of them working.

Which means 85% or 8,500 are out of work.

And that doesn't include the thousands (yes, thousands) of aspiring writers out there who are not in WGA and probably won't be.

And you have to ask yourself how many agents are there to handle so many people. Agencies have become smaller now than larger, mostly because some agencies were picked up by bigger ones.

So, is this a downer?

A year ago I edited a trailer for a documentary. I actually shot the interviews and then edited them, adding music I created as well as titles and everything else the trailer needed. A director friend was amazed and asked me how I could do all that. I didn't even think about it, I just learned how to do it.

Then he said something very significant.

"Do you realize you've taken away work from at least five other people?"

I laughed but then realized what he meant.

I was taking work away because I had the software. 

Now multiply that five times, then ten times and maybe even a hundred times or a thousand.

That's what you're facing if you want to work in movies, writing, directing shooting, editing, and a hundred other jobs. So you better be good. Real good.

But there's hope. 

I'll tell you about that Friday.


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