5 Great Things About Screenwriting

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Complaining and writing seem to go hand-in-hand. So, after spending a lot of time dwelling on the woes of screenwriting (of which there are many), we thought it was time to focus on a few of the positive things about the wonderful art of writing for the screen.

There are so many things to love about this amazing, wild, ridiculously-complicated world of Hollywood and writing scripts, that we thought listing a few might be a good idea. So, let’s get back to basics and see why we do this, and love it a little bit, too.

No. 1 — Writing the words “FADE IN”

Yeah, it’s great. I’m not going to lie. It’s one of my favorite moments. Writing the words “fade in” means you’ve started. That means all the thinking and the plotting and outlining (if you do that) that came before this moment has finally paid off and you’re ready to write. I tried to find a proverb that states this better than me and there are a few. “Begun is two-thirds done.” (Gaelic)  “A happy beginning is half the work.” (French) “Well begun is half done.” (used in France, Italy, Germany, England, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Holland, America). You get the point. Get started and it’s better than not starting at all.

No. 2 — Naming characters

This sounds like a hoot and most of the time it is. I’d love to hear how you choose your characters’ names. For me, once I found this method, I use it every time. I start by going back to my old high school yearbook — or you can look up those Facebook reunion pages where you can see everyone’s names. For some reason, the people we know in high school seem to have the most epic first and last names. And you can see that in one of my favorite comedies,  Just Friends where Ryan Reynolds’s character is obsessed with “Jamie Palamino.” He just keeps saying her name over and over as if there’s more meaning to it than should be. And in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. First off, Ferris Bueller is an awesome name. But what about Sloane Peterson. How cool is that? And what about Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles? Can you see where I’m going with this 80s high school naming convention? For me, naming characters is fun because I get to walk down memory lane and I assign that epic power to one of my characters.

Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf, and Rachel Ramras in Nobodies, the show about trying to make it in Hollywood (2017). Photo courtesy: TV Land

No. 3 — Working in Hollywood

I know, I know. Everyone hates Hollywood. But when you think about it, it’s not like any other business. There are no rules, and there are no formulas. You can pretty much do whatever you want (not without consequences of course when it comes to making friendships). But, if you’re a generally pleasant person with a strong desire to make a movie, you can probably succeed at it with little experience or know-how. That means, anyone can come in and do it. You don’t have to part of the secret society. So, don’t believe what people tell you, that you have to have an agent, or you have to sell something first. If you want it, you can make it happen. You can’t say the same for other industries, working on Wall Street, being in foreign bank transactions, or playing for the NBA. These all come with certain conditions that Hollywood just doesn’t have. So, instead of thinking of it as a slog, think of it as a creative business that you can run your own way.

I say yes to binge watching Mad Men, again. Photo courtesy: AMC

No. 4 – The homework is easy, and fun!

It’s watching movies, yo! That’s all you have to do to get better at this craft, and also reading and writing a lot. But think about it, every time there’s a movie in your genre that comes out in the theater, you have an excuse to get a bunch of friends together and go see it. Or rent it. Or Tivo it. Or whatever you need to do, watching movies and TV is part of the job, and now you have an excuse to do it. I mean, how cool is that?

Violet, get me a little Skinny-and-Sweet. Uh… no thanks. Photo courtesy: 20th Century Fox

No. 5 — There are no bosses

Sure, if you’re writing a studio movie, you’ll have more than a few bosses to deal with. But if you’re in your office just plugging away at a scene, there’s no one standing over you saying you need to do more overtime or you can’t do this or that. The page is simply there for you to create whatever you want to do with the story. So, go for it! Because writing screenplays is better than any day job and so much more personally rewarding, too!

We’d love to hear what you love about screenwriting! Please put some thoughts below.

author-avatar

Jenna Milly is Editor-in-chief of ScreenwritingU Magazine, an inside source for the latest scoop from the screenwriter's POV on upcoming movies. She interviews some of the top writers in Hollywood for such movies as The Revenant, The MartianMission: Impossible and many others. She co-created the TBS microseries Gillian in Georgia. She earned her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Georgia and a M.F.A. in Screenwriting from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. She has written for CNN.com, The Los Angeles Times, Script Magazine, TwelvePoint, and a variety of magazines. You can follow her on Twitter: @jennamilly

24 Replies to "5 Great Things About Screenwriting"

  • comment-avatar
    Anton S.Jayaraj September 13, 2017 (3:24 am)

    Thank you for a highly encouraging article. Yes, it is true.

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 18, 2017 (9:08 am)

      Thank you for your comment!

  • comment-avatar
    D September 13, 2017 (7:53 am)

    It’s a HIGH no drugs could begin to offer!

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 18, 2017 (9:08 am)

      Right!!

  • comment-avatar
    richard herzog September 13, 2017 (8:55 am)

    So many new writers have been rejected over and over again, and received little or no encouragement from da people who claim to know (have the money to make the movie). Through perservence or whatever, the new writer finally gets his or her movie made, and it’s a success. Suddenly, da people who claim to know now claim, unabashedly, they always knew the writer was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 18, 2017 (9:08 am)

      Thanks!

  • comment-avatar
    John Connell September 13, 2017 (9:37 am)

    Jenna:
    For me it’s re-reading a script left aside for a while. It’s a rush to meet these characters again — like old friends — and feel they really exist (presuming I wrote them well enough).

  • comment-avatar
    Lilia F September 13, 2017 (12:31 pm)

    I would use my high school peeps but how to keep them from knowing once it’s a huge hit?

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 13, 2017 (5:39 pm)

      Good point! Maybe just take the spirit of the name and try to come up with an ALT that is similar, so you’re not taking someone’s actual name.

  • comment-avatar
    David M. Stamps September 13, 2017 (2:29 pm)

    I was at a low point today. This article lifted my spirits. So, thanks.

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 18, 2017 (9:08 am)

      Your comment is much appreciated!

  • comment-avatar
    Peter Plemons September 13, 2017 (4:45 pm)

    Great article, especially #3- a creative business you run your own way. bluereignfilm.com

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 18, 2017 (9:08 am)

      Thanks!

  • comment-avatar
    Shanee September 13, 2017 (10:36 pm)

    If I’m writing comedy, I go to Petfinder.com and look up the names of the dogs up for adoption – they are always hilarious!

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 14, 2017 (8:59 am)

      This is genius! I love it so much!

  • comment-avatar
    Bob Meseke September 14, 2017 (7:26 am)

    You’re on to something. I started a couple years ago and it’s been a pleasure. I used to make up stories when my kids where growing up and now with a little extra time on my hands I’m doing it again in script format.
    My TV Series “River Runners”and the movie “Revolver13” I just finished have been a blast.

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 18, 2017 (9:08 am)

      Thanks and good luck with your projects!

  • comment-avatar
    Charlie September 15, 2017 (4:37 am)

    Jake Ryan is the male love interest in Sixteen Candles. The love interest in Pretty in Pink is Blane Donnelly.

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 15, 2017 (6:41 am)

      Oh my! You are right. Thank you so much for sending that!! Much appreciated.

  • comment-avatar
    Dan Stark September 15, 2017 (12:32 pm)

    I like the challenge that screenwriting gives me as well and the satisfaction that comes along when I finish a screenplay and start another. It’s also a lot of fun!

    Great article!

    Keep up the good work!

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 18, 2017 (9:07 am)

      Great! You too! 🙂

  • comment-avatar
    Lyle K. Weiss September 18, 2017 (6:06 am)

    Jenna, this is a great article and, as a new writer, very encouraging. Even though I have not yet sold anything, I love screenwriting. It is hard to imagine a better career than working with the freedom to tell a story that is meaningful to you and hope will be meaningful to others. I am truly grateful for your article and the reminder of why screenwriting is so great. Thanks! By the way, book authors often have great names so I often mash together the first name of one author with the last name of another. Sometimes you can get some real cool names. Thanks again!

    • comment-avatar
      Jenna Milly September 18, 2017 (9:07 am)

      Thank you!

  • comment-avatar
    Jason Dolan September 22, 2017 (7:43 pm)

    What I love about screenwriting?

    1. I love finishing that first draft. To your point, how you like Fade In? I like Fade Out. Even if it’s Smash Cut to Black. LOL

    2. Naming characters IS the best. I like to combine random street names sometimes. Like naming a character Houston Ludlow. Just the coolest sounding names!

    3. Working in Hollywood is MOST fun when you find people with the same mindset as you.

    4. For me, the homework is fun, but it’s not always easy. Watching movies is only 50%… then it’s the event or world you have to research, but for me, it’s finding those technical experts and hearing their stories. I love to hear peoples’ stories. Like talking to an actual doctor when you’re writing a doctor character. Right now, I’m trying to make friends with a real police detective because I want to write a cop thriller. But you need those REAL stories. That’s what makes a film great IMO.

    5. It’s less about bosses and more about coaches. And teammates. A great TEAM is what makes a great movie. And finding the right coach, OR producer if you will, is the most exciting then and then you can just see my answer to #3!

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