Tavis from Portland has a lot to say about a number of challenges to breaking in. He says:

Everyone knows of the main catch-22 concerning screenwriting and agents. You can’t get one until you sell a spec, but to sell a spec you need an agent.

Not true, Tavis. You need a good screenplay and a referral to get an agent. You do not need a spec sale. Many screenwriters have entire careers without ever having a spec sale.

There is an initial quandary though, and that is finding the time to write a really great spec script while working a full-time job. I often find myself frustrated, thinking that if I could only spend 40-hours a week focused on writing I could really put something of quality together. But as it is I only have several free hours each day and they are after a mind-numbing full day at work.

This is a real challenge. Ron Bass, who is arguably the most prolific working screenwriter in Hollywood (and at one point was the highest paid writer), used to get up at 3:00AM to do his writing before he started his day job as an attorney. It took him 17 years to get his break. It’s hard, but it’s part of making it. You might consider doing your writing before your day job, too, so the writing is sharp.

So, basically this question is about funding and grants. Is it possible if you have a story which requires a good amount of research and is rooted in some sort of historical/factual/scientific background that a grant would be available to assist a writer in developing a project?

There are many grants and fellowships designed specifically to help emerging writers who show some promise focus on their writing. Alex Epstein at Complications Ensue recently ran this list.

I never hear anyone talking about these issues and just wonder are all the writers out there independently wealthy and can just spend their time writing whenever they want, or do they have spouses supporting them or what?

Of the working screenwriters I personally know, most of them were bartenders or production assistants (another low paying Hollywood job) before getting their breaks. None of them were wealthy.


  1. These are topics that absolutely every writer can identify with. We all have our way of pursuing our goals of writing great screenplays or maybe just sellable ones. I found for myself if you want to write you will find a way to the point of obsession. I drove for a car service for 12 years, some people bartend. I think what you need is low impact, structure in your day, uninterrupted time to think. You can’t have a high pressure, demanding, 80 hour a week job and expect to have any energy or concentration to write. In the case of Ron Bass, more power to him. There needs to be downtime to wrap your head around your work in order to create anything of quality. You need a schedule. The less demanding job the better. Learn your craft, have confidence and make a commitment to that level of dedication. Of course you aren’t going to make any money during this period but I thought you wanted to write screenplays?

  2. i can add one objective comment. writing very early in the morning yeilds great results (well, for me at least). i’m simply a much more clear thinker from 3-7am. not kidding, much much better – a whole level higher. it’s worth consideration

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