By Lee Hamilton.
Pretty much no one walks off the street and immediately lands a job as a screenwriter. Being creative, imaginative, and mastering the craft of screenwriting is an absolute must, but crucially, you also need to be in the right place at the right time.
As with almost every other industry, most people inevitably have to start at the bottom and work their way up, but how do you get that all-important foot-in-the-door, and more crucially, where?
Finding entry-level positions at the very place you hope to eventually have your movie made by is a good place to start. Screenwriter Antwone Fisher was working as a security guard at Sony Studios when producer Todd Black heard his life story and was inspired to buy the rights and turn it into a movie, and it’s not unheard of for many successful screenwriters to have started off working as mailroom clerks, receptionists, or baristas somewhere in the studio system.
Most major studios are so vast that they have lots of non-film-related posts available and in multiple countries, so there’s a good chance that there’s something for everyone. They’re a great place to get daily access to industry professionals but thrusting your script into everyone’s face is a guaranteed way to get fired. Instead, be the best at the job they’re paying you to do, be friendly, approachable, and build some bridges before mentioning your writing or pitching that brilliant logline.
Internships aren’t just for students, but while some internships are paid, the majority aren’t. This is the payoff for getting some potentially invaluable hands-on experience in the industry, so you’ll need to juggle your ambition with the practicalities of having enough to live off here. The hours can be long, the work grueling, and you’ll be expected to already have a good knowledge and understanding of screenwriting.
You’ll be reading a lot of scripts, writing coverage, assist in development, research, and have administrative duties amongst other things. Entry is competitive, so you should already have excellent writing and communication skills, be proactive, and be hard-working. There are countless benefits from doing an internship, not just from the networking perspective, but by reading scripts, it’ll also help improve your writing too.