Thursday, January 20, 2011

3Questions: Scott Myers - Screenwriter

As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Scott Myers, writer of K-9, starring Jim Belushi; Alaska, starring Vincent Kartheisher and Thora Birch; and Trojan War, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.

As he tells us, " I've been a professional screenwriter since 1987, a screenwriting teacher since 2002, and a screenwriting blogger since 2008.

"As a screenwriter, in addition to the projects listed above, I have written nearly 30 projects for every major movie studio and broadcast TV network.

"As a teacher, I along with fellow screenwriter Tom Benedek, who wrote the movie Cocoon, founded, a unique online educational resource for writers involving lecture-based content courses and writing workshops. In 2005, I won the Outstanding Instructor of the Year Award through UCLA Extension's Writers' Program. I also teach screenwriting at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

"As a blogger, my screenwriting site was named Best Blog for Aspiring Screenwriters and had over 1.2 million unique visits in 2010."

HBAD: So, tell us, how did you get your start?

SM: I got my start in the movie business when I co-wrote and sold the spec script "K-9" to Universal Pictures for $750,000 back in 1987. Since that time, I have tracked the spec script market constantly and so have a thorough understanding of Hollywood's lit acquisition and development process, knowledge I share on my blog and in the screenwriting courses I teach.

HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?

SM: Breaking into the screenwriting trade is difficult. Sustaining a career is even harder. There is enormous competition on all fronts: spec scripts, pitching, OWA's (Open Writing Assignments). Perhaps the biggest single challenge is to find a way to follow the movie market so you stay informed about trends, yet keep a unique voice when it comes to your creative efforts. Living and working in L.A., it's easy to devolve into formulaic writing. One way to keep your career going is by consistently writing stories with distinctive high concepts, compelling characters, and interesting plots with lots of twists.

HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to get into the position you're in?

SM: If you're serious about becoming a screenwriter, there are certain things you should do to learn the craft. Here are three of them: Read scripts. Watch movies. Write pages. That should be one of your mantras because in order to become a screenwriter, you need to immerse yourself in the world of movies.

Also unlike when I was first starting out, there are tons of people promoting various screenwriting theories and story structure paradigms. There are essential screenwriting principles you can learn, but be sure you study with the right people, preferably someone who is or has been a screenwriter and thus knows the ins-and-outs of the craft and the business, an educator so that they know how to communicate their ideas effectively, and a mentor so they can help steer you through the writing and rewriting process. That's precisely why Tom and I founded

My final piece of advice: Make sure you start with a story concept that is worthy of being made into a movie. I've read perhaps thousands of screenplays, many of them written quite well, but they have no chance of selling because the story is based on an average or sub-par concept. The best way to come up with a great story concept? Generate a lot of story concepts.

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