In this video from Film Courage, writer Karl Iglesias explains the three things that every new screenwriter should do with their finished script.
Congratulations! You've got a finished script. What a huge achievement. Now, don't let it become a paperweight. Karl Iglesias, who's been a screenwriter, script-doctor, consultant, and, recently, author of 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, has a lot to say to you in this video from Film Courage. Although Iglesias argues that "a screenplay is never finished," we've put three of his top tips below for what you should be doing with your newly finished masterpiece. (And here are a few recent posts about screenwriting you might find helpful.)
1. Make connections
Iglesias advises screenwriters to show your work around (informally, at first) as much as possible, collecting as much feedback as you can. But, once you're "only getting positive feedback," it's time to take that script into the real world. As far as making connections goes, Iglesias advises against query letters, being of the opinion that "word of mouth is far more important." He advises writers to get out and circulate, "because it's all about recommendations. An agent will read your script if it's recommended by someone they trust." And a key part of making connections is getting feedback that these connections bring. But, unfortunately, "a lot of writers are too sensitive to feedback," and this is a sure-fire recipe for failure.
2. Contests, contests, contests
If you are a more introverted writer, or ones who is just "not the type" to self-promote (what a cruel paradox, that writers are often the least likely to self-promote, when it's arguably the most vital skill set they can possess), Iglesias advises you to enter as many contests as you can. But not just any contests. The competitions that get attention from reputable connections are likely to be the mainstays, i.e. The Academy Nicholl Fellowship and The Sundance Writer's Lab; still, though, if the script isn't any good, it's not going to help. "When I was in development," he says, "we used to read certain winners" from mainstream contests. But the script had to be good, and he is a firm believer that "the cream rises to the top," and a good script will be impossible to ignore.
"Word of mouth is more important than query letters."
3. Have faith that the cream rises
For all the rigamarole and advice associated with filmmaking, it seems like William Goldman's dictum still holds true: "Nobody knows anything...Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess, and, if you're lucky, an educated one." Citing the example of Alan Ball, Iglesias notes that sometimes, near first-drafts (like Ball's breakthrough, American Beauty) can make it onto the screen and into the history books. In the end, the important thing is to try, and fail, and try again. "Put yourself out there. There's reading services. Classes, consultants..."
But, and perhaps his biggest rule: Never show your work to your family. Why? "You will get good feedback," and that's not what you need. "Don't show the script to your mother. Of course she'll tell you it's the greatest thing." Now, these may seem like simple lessons, but often it's the most basic points that writers need to hear, and hearing them from a successful scribe like Iglesias might be the shot in the arm you need to get out there and promote your screenplay in the right way (or even just get out there at all.) Every step counts on the way to the silver screen, so it stands to reason that you want to take as few missteps as possible.