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How do I become a screenwriter?

I am a junior in High school and trying to seriously narrow down possible career paths. I am planning on graduating with an AA degree and have multiple extra-circulars and leadership positions. Is a career in film a sustainable option? I love movies, and writing and want to find a creative job in the future. At the same time I want a job that I know can support me. I am willing to work long hours and I won't give up easily, but if the effort isn't worth the results then maybe I should look at other fields. What other jobs would allow me to be a creative writer without having to write full novels or news articles? I've looked online but with all the paths for writers it can be a little overwhelming.

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Brent’s Answer

Begin by acquiring a high-quality book on screenwriting, such as "Save The Cat" or any work by Syd Field.

Brent recommends the following next steps:

Join a writing group (Match.com has plenty of free ones in various areas). Probably the first dozen consider practice.
Something you might not get from writing groups is professional feedback. That can be pricey, but worth it (wescreenplay.com is a good site, used by pros. And has cheaper options.)
Always start from the ground up with your work. Plot your script (outline or treatment.)
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Nat’s Answer

How do you define “creative”? - I mean most things are creative.
In movies…. Writing, directing, acting, set design, cinematography, sound design, special effects, editing, etc etc. - all creative.

The movie business is definitely a risky business. There are not guarantees on the creative side.
Re other jobs and creativity - Creativity is not limited to writing. It can be incorporated in many other fields.
Sounds like you may want more of a guarantee - know that life itself doesn’t offer any. But the movie business - no guarantees. In movies you do something that people would want to watch or hear. It does take a lot of time invested.
If and only if you absolutely love the movie business then the guarantees should not deter you. But having a steady job in other areas is something that is very attractive as well. Hopefully You’ll make up your mind as you go along.
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Tom’s Answer

First of all, get ready for hard work, more so than you've prepared for. But next, get ready for the rewarding feeling of being able to turn in something that you believe in. Screenwriting is tough, demanding, and nerve-wracking work, but if you love creative writing, then it's one of the best courses to take.
Second, find a few books on screenwriting, preferably books that show you the actual screenplays and how they were formatted. The Godfather is a great example, so is Shawshank Redemption. Read, and I do mean read, every line and pay attention to every part of the script, then read the updated versions of how to write a screenplay.
Sounds fun so far, yeah? Haha, it does get better, and it does get easier as you do it more and more often. As far as gaining the attention you want, you might need to film a few of your screenplays on your own, or find a friend or family member who's willing to help. This is the basic, ground-level stuff. There will be a harder road ahead if someone does notice your work, since once they see what you can do, they'll want it again and again, and they'll want you to evolve every so often to show that you're not a one-trick pony.
Whether the effort is worth it is up to you and what you want. No one is going to give you all the right answers, you've got to find your own path and hope that it will lead somewhere useful. If a door gets shut in your face, find the next one, or slip in through the window, metaphorically speaking...
The point of all this is that if you do the work, adapt, evolve, and continue to love what you do, it will always be worth it. On that note, I'll end my advice with my usual epithet...
Just write.
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Michelle’s Answer

Hello, Ava !

I am happy that some professional writers are contributing here because you need to view your career choice in the best way that will lead you to many opportunities. No one ever knows how sustainable/viable/dependable any career will go. That is the first thing that you must realize. A person either has a drive and passion for something or they don't. Picking it apart and over analyzing it leads to barriers and doubt. So reassess your identity as a writer and start to think about it as a process career. Any of the creative professions are a process. No one can say how anyone's career will be.

You have mentioned that you are a writer. The best writers are able to write everything, whether it is a magazine article, web content, film, stage plays, etc. If you are meant to be a writer, thoughts of future money will not be a barrier. If you want to do something, focus on producing work and sharpening your awareness and skill. A career in writing is something that requires versatility and the strength of the interest far surpasses any worries about money. You will always be able to have an income by getting a job and writing.

There is only one path for writers - writing. You just have to do it if that is your calling. However, there are many markets for writers. If you are looking for guaranteed high income and a very narrow market, perhaps being a professional writer is not for you and you should think about your other interests. Learn the markets. Learn what Journalism is and the book publishing business. Learn how a screenplay is written and learn what technical writing is. It's not a "path" but different markets and writers need to be ready to work on anything that comes their way. Subscribe to writer magazines and websites. Write on Writing website via the link I left below. You will find out who is looking for writers or scripts, plays, articles, etc. The more research you do, the more clear your aspirations will be to you and than you can move on if you feel it's not for you. You should be fully informed before making a decision, not base it on assumptions, and you should base it on how you want to spend your life not on future possible income because you'll never know how much money you will gain. Writers write and go after their own opportunities whether it is self-publishing or knowing where to submit their work. You also need to start networking, too and make some viable contacts.

Best wishes to you in your decision !

Michelle recommends the following next steps:

THE WRITER MAGAZINE https://www.writermag.com/
WRITING .COM -WHERE THE WRITERS GO www.writing.com
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Ariana’s Answer

Figuring out if you want to work as a writer is a tough one. I've struggling with this as well. I'd say that the only way to figure this one out is to put yourself in that environment. I always thought I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, working on set or in a writers room but when I put myself in that environment I realized it wasn't for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm still interested in being a writer but not in a room. I value my sleep, and mental health more than anything so working long hours isn't for me.

The way I tested this out was by doing some background acting. I did that for a while and came to the conclusion that I don't like being on set. You can also try being a production assistant. Now, I know writers don't go on set, but the showrunners do so I guess it depends what kind of writer you want to be. Do you just want to sell them or produce them as well?

There is this program called the "Writers Access Support Staff Traning Program," with the writers guild foundation that allows you to train as a writers assistant or support staff. Once the program is over they get you jobs in a writers room. That's a way to find out if you want to be a writer.

Other ways to be a writer is to be a freelancer. You can also become a writer for youtubers, or podcasts. There are companies like Crunchyroll, or Webtoon that look for writers to adapt their novels into screenplays.

I'd say the best way to keep on track is to focus on writing. Continue honing your craft and know that this can't be rushed. Keep practicing!! Get as much experience (even if it's volunteering) to make sure you don't fall behind. Join writing groups(write inthehead.org is one I enjoy). Oh, and connect with other writers on linkedin. Try and find your people. Find a mentor!

Oh, that reminds me. There is this free mentorship for women of color. It's called, "Unlock Her Potential." It's only for women in Puerto Rico, and the US 18+. The applications aren't open yet but you should sign up for their news letter. That's a good program to find a mentor!
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Louise’s Answer

To add to the great suggestions above, you might consider copywriting as a career, where you write the words that go into advertisements, including scripts for TV and radio commercials. I got a Bachelors of Journalism with a major in Advertising. Other common degrees for this field are Marketing and Communications.
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Steve’s Answer

Ponder on this - Do you find joy in the art of writing? If the answer is yes, then immerse yourself in it. Alongside, broaden your horizons by delving into a multitude of books, both fictional and factual. Familiarize yourself with various writing styles and identify the one that resonates with you.

As others have pointed out, this journey is not a walk in the park. However, remember that the most rewarding things in life seldom come easy.

If the thought of earning a stable income through writing troubles you, it's a valid concern to address. You can explore other roles within the industry while attempting to sell your scripts. This might necessitate undertaking a comprehensive course on film production and scriptwriting.

Think about venturing into marketing or advertising, while continuing to pen scripts in your spare time. This route is equally challenging, but if you're confident in your skills and believe in your potential, don't hesitate to take the leap.

Bear in mind that there's a sea of individuals with similar ambitions. And with the advent of AI, the future of this field is unpredictable.

Regardless of the path you choose, it promises to be an exciting journey.

Wishing you all the best!
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Emeka’s Answer

Hey Ava

You will have to read a lot of Hollywood screenplays to be able to learn the format of writing scripts. Practice looking at scripts and actually retyping them. You can do 10 pages at a time. There are tons of free screenplays online. This will get you into the feeling of writing a screenplay. You can get a screenplay formatting app like Final Draft. That’s the one that I use. There are some free ones out there that you can check out. I believe Celtics is free. Dedicate everyday to reading scripts and rewriting them. Then try to write your own scripts. Keep writing and writing until you have something you feel is worth producing. Keep it short. Produce a 3 to 5 page script. Put it out into the world and see what the people have to say about it.

Hope that helps.
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