Wednesday, May 23, 2012

John August asks, "Is Screenwriting Dead?"

Interesting post/podcast by John August: Is Screenwriting Dead?

It is indeed harder and harder for feature screenwriters to find work and make a living in traditional ways.

What I tell my students at USC (and what I tell myself when I face the uncertain future) is that screenwriters need to be entrepreneurs, and create their own projects and opportunities.

They also have to be willing to write for "anything with a screen." This means writing and pitching for TV, but it could also mean creating webisodes, interactive media or writing for video games, or transmedia. I've even encouraged screenwriters to write short stories, graphic novels, and even full length novels, when appropriate, instead of spec scripts, because the writer then owns the IP. There's a lot of hunger for content out there. Be proactive and connect with the people who are making it.

What's clear is the old model of taking out feature specs and pitching for feature writing assignments isn't enough to sustain even established writers. "There's just no business in it." I hear many say. So rather than be passive, we have to look at the changing media environment as opportunity.

You CAN eek together a living, you just have to be...well... CREATIVE.


Jessica said...

It sounds like good advice. The media landscape is changing and we need to find new ways to get by and be open to what happens.

On the other hand... I watched Page One yesterday, the documentary about the struggling NY Times and it really depressed me as an ex journalist with some vague intention on maybe returning to writing for a living one day. The landscape has changed drastically the last 20 years and I don't know if my services still are wanted. If they are: I would need to transform. A lot. Finding the new doors that opened when the ones I knew about closed.

Ed Gray said...

Good advice, Sean.

Actually, a screenwriter owns the IP to a spec script, too. That's what the writer sells. What the writer does with it prior to that happy day is entirely up to the writer, which is where the entrepreneur kicks in.

And that's where Aisle Seat Books kicks in, too, as another arrow in the promotional quiver you suggest.

Christopher Zara said...

This is a very sound and sobering account of the future of screenwriting.

Interestingly, it wasn't that long ago that creative types were calling the Great American Screenplay the modern-day equivalent of the Great American Novel. But that was way back in the 1990s -- a bygone era as far as media consumption is concerned.

It's impossible to look at the vast majority of today's studio releases, or even indie releases, and not see the lack of opportunity for fresh voices to break through. The market is just not there anymore.