I just finished two Saturdays of presentations for the APEX writers group. This is a great group of mostly science fiction and fantasy writers who are trying to learn to be better at what we do. I’ve met a lot of new friends in SFF who are, like me, interested in getting better at their creative writing.
My presentations were on Writing for Film and TV. The first one was about the field in general, answering a lot of questions about ‘who’s who’ and what ‘pitching’ is. The second presentation was on how to turn a short story into a script.
For those interested in being part of APEX, you find them at https://www.apex-writers.com/. Originated by David Farland, an award-winning writer of fantasy and science fiction, the group continues on after his passing, providing encouragement, motivation and learning opportunities for members.
Anyone interested in film and TV should work in it even for a short time – in any capacity! Look for ways to get onto a film union list, starting as a PA maybe even? There are many jobs, too, not all of them on shoots. This includes the behind-the-scenes stuff or animation, distribution, etcetera. That way you really get a feel for your field & make contacts. I’m not a hugely successful TV writer, but I’ve sold over 15 scripts and all of them due to personal contacts – not the 2 agents (!).
2. Sell what scripts you have in the best way possible. I often use a real estate metaphor, because it is the same, believe it or not. As I learned the hard way, a local agent here like Integral or Characters won’t ‘sell’ your big script or new TV series idea. They’ll offer the ‘houses’ they have at their level – think Surrey. If you have a Shaughnessy mansion of a script, go to an LA agent. Many of them will look at new stuff from young writers. I will say that even a Vancouver agent would be good to start your talks with any producer though.
In this light, check out the Writers Guild of Canada. You can’t join until you have a credit, but they sometimes have open events and checking the website for good materials and references is good. WGC is the Canadian version of the WGA, in fact we have sharing $$ agreements with them.
It’s usually possible to meet with Canadian agents if you have a project. I’m currently not agented, due to the fact that I had to turn down the last 3 offers in a row (for bad reality shows that pay poorly).
All my work’s sold solely due to industry contacts but having an agent may have gotten me ‘in the door’. I have had 2 agents, both Canadian and neither earned me a cent I didn’t find myself. However, if you have a fantastic script, ready to go, for a movie, for example, you should try to get an agent to help you sell it.
I usually write TV episodes, so my work’s differently focused. If it’s a huge script – the Hollywood style ones have to be agented in the USA – our agents just don’t have the contacts to sell huge scripts. Check out the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory for ‘who to send it to’. https://www.writersstore.com/hollywood-screenwriting-directory It costs $29 US but is worth it.
Vancouver: ACFC is the easiest to get into. They don’t have ‘all’ the productions but they usually have something and are more willing to train. See http://www.acfcwest.com/become.html
ACFC also has a list of great links for beginners in film: http://www.acfcwest.com/industry.html They have a Production Office area and it’s good if he wants to get some local experience. Pay rates are lower than IATSE and hours sometimes longer but it’s a way in. Most ACFC members eventually join IATSE.
IATSE: This I’d recommend only if he’s going the ‘office’ route first. https://www.iatse.com/ Local 891 is Vancouver. It’s more or less a route to get into an office and see production and work from there.
DGC: This is where locations starts, also directors. But I never have seen Locations lead to writing gigs, they’re too far from the office and the writers. If directing is your interest, though, it’s good. They have offices in Vancouver and TO.
The TV and film world can look like a jungle, but I’ve had some great experiences and earned a lot out there at times!
p.s. Below is from http://thecollectortv.com/36.html and is the listing for 1 of my Collector tv series episodes. Producers: Larry Sugar, Showrunners: Jon Cooksey and Ali Marie Matheson. The Collector is a wonderful show – a dark fantasy & I thoroughly enjoyed writing two episodes for it!
I’m starting the preparation for the big day – Christmas Day when I cook like I’m expecting a whole army but get only a small platoon.
What’s the ‘writer’ career up to during holidays? Especially vaca time away from busy corporate writing job?
So far, I’ve worked on changing a short story into a movie idea. It’s for a contest looking for dark SF, fantasy or horror shows. I normally don’t / can’t enter contests as they’re for people who haven’t sold yet or aren’t members of the WGC or WGA. But this one is a good excuse to adapt a story I have.
Also, I cook and see friends. No one does any real business this time of year in tv. Or film.
I’m also reading. I love books on writing. My newest acquisitions are kobo versions of Save The Cat by Blake Snyder and Max Adams updated version of one of my favorites The New Screenwriter’s Survival Guide.
Max Adams’ book is mostly for full-time movie writers but there are great tips for all of us.
I wish I’d re-read her chapters on agents before continuing with an agent who absolutely couldn’t sell me as a writer. Nice guy but not for me. I was too involved in trying to make a living and developing my day-job career as a tech writer to think about it.
To be fair, too I also didn’t generate the number of scripts needed per year to become a movie writer. The third time I turned down a gig from him, he dropped me which was expected, too. But the gigs weren’t totally ‘writing’ and not good enough to replace the day job.
Now I think I’ll be working on the prose and tv/film and only look for a new tv agent when I have a good portfolio built up.