5 Tips for Screenwriters Who Don’t Live in L.A.

Not everyone has the means to make it in La La Land.

Although the industry doesn’t play nice with remote screenwriters, it’s still possible to get your big break if you don’t live in L.A.

Tip #1 – Take Extra Courses

YouTube tutorials can only get you so far. If you haven’t graduated from a film or writing program at an accredited institution, taking extra courses will help improve your work.

It can even get you attention from agents. Aline Brosh McKenna, who wrote the screenplay for The Devil Wears Prada, did just that.

After having a rough go in New York’s cutthroat editorial world, McKenna enrolled in a short screenwriting course at NYU. Around 2011, she sold a pitch to Disney for a reported seven-figure deal.

The New York Film Academy offers fantastic online courses as well as short, 15-week workshops.

Tip #2 – Intern

These days, it takes more than a degree to land a job or earn recognition. You have to intern like David O. Russell did.

Before the screenplay accolades for work such as Silver Linings Playbook – and before the sexual misconduct –  Russell was no more than a literature and poly-sci major from Amherst College.

He wrote and shot documentary footage of poor working conditions which landed him an internship with PBS. Afterward, he wrote a short, Bingo Inferno, which was accepted into Sundance in 1987.

If you’re looking for a good starting point for entertainment-related internships, check out EntertainmentCareers.net.

Tip #3 – Blog

Social media is the world’s hub. If you know how to attract an audience, you’ll be an overnight sensation. Diablo Cody took the internet by storm when she quit her day job to become a stripper – and blogged about it.

Even with the millions of blogs on the internet, she garnered a big enough following to attract an agent. Cody went on to write and publish a memoir before creating the indie mega-hit, Juno.

WordPress is a great way to build a blog. Learn how to use it, and you could add WordPress Skills to your resume.

Tip #4 – Pay the Bills & Send Out Queries

Let’s face it: a new writer pumping out screenplays is not going to keep a roof over their head. In this case, it’s time to get a job.

Karen McCullah Lutz started her journey living in Denver as a marketer. She dealt with bad agents and constant query letters. Eventually, one of her queries caught the eye of Kirsten Smith.

The duo went on to co-write 10 Things I Hate About You.

Any job will do, but Indeed and EntertainmentCareers are two starting points.

Also, Screencraft has an excellent article on writing query letters.

Tip #5 – Network

This is the most important tip to any writer whether they do or don’t live in L.A. As an unknown, chances are, no one is going to read your script. You may get lucky if your grammar and story-telling skills are the best in the universe, but otherwise, no.

Imagine a scenario in which you meet a girl at a bar. You start talking and she tells you about this remote gig she’s had for a while. She reads scripts and provides coverage for a fairly large company in L.A.

What if you tell her that you’re a writer and you’ve been sending out scripts. If this girl likes you, she might just inform you to submit to her company. She’ll be looking for your name and ensure it gets attention from her superiors.

If you’re unsure how to start networking, try Meetup. It’s a wonderful resource to help you locate or create meetups for people in your field – or those with similar interests.

If You Don’t Live in L.A., Share Your Experience

Are you a screenwriter who’s had success outside of L.A.? If so, please share your story.

Remember, there is no guaranteed success in the entertainment industry. What works for some may not work for others. The only way you’re going to make it is to actually get out there and do something.

Author: Christopher Fain

Author, blogger, content writer, and screenwriter based in Orlando, Florida. He is earning a B.F.A. in Creative Writing at Full Sail University. Twitter: @chrisjf93

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