Since I was contacted within the past couple of weeks about two new Internet screenwriting communities launching, I thought I would weigh in. So, what is the deal with online screenwriting communities?
The online screenwriting community is sort of like a FaceBook for aspiring screenwriters. It’s an online virtual community where screenwriters can post their screenplays, get their material read by peers, read and critique other people’s scripts, and network with other writers.
Beyond these more practical points, some even offer access to agents, producers and other entertainment professionals. To that I would say, “All that glitters is not gold.” There are a lot of people on the Internet promising a lot of things.
Is it worth your time and energy?
For someone like myself who grew up in Los Angeles, a city choc full of aspiring creatives, who has years of professional experience in various facets of the entertainment world as well as having gone to film school, virtual networking isn’t nearly as appealing as actual physical networking. I have a writers group as well as a number of amazing peer writers with whom I already trade work. I have a few professional mentors who also help me with my writing. Am I interested in spending a lot of time online reading other random people’s scripts for free? Not really.
If you’re not based in LA or New York and don’t have access to a group of other writers whom you trust and admire for feedback on your material, the virtual community could become an invaluable tool. In addition, I suppose it would be very helpful to the abroad screenwriter looking to break into the American market.
Or, if you are in a major urban market and are looking to network with other writers, then locating them via one of these communities and building relationships, or starting a writers group that meets in person, might be a good idea.
Another wonderful plus of a screenwriting community is for the writer who doesn’t have access to reading other writers’ screenplays, this is a fantastic way to get a sense for the type of material floating around out there. You can get a real sense what writers are writing about, their voice, etc. You will get some experience reading and critiquing other writers’ scripts. This is important.
Again, if I were seriously interested in improving the quality of my writing and didn’t already have a very strong support network, I would definitely get involved with one or more of these communities.
In my opinion, every new screenwriter should be more focused on improving the quality of their writing than on getting an agent or selling their material. There will always be that one in five-hundred million guy who goes out and writes a first script and actually sells it. But, more often than not, good writers have been honing their craft over time. To that end, if these communities can offer resources to downloading/reading properly formatted, produced screenplays, continuing education, story doctors, that’s a positive. That is something that will actually help writers.
Will posting your script to an online screenwriting community help you sell it? Hmm. Let’s be practical.
I volunteered at the Santa Fe Screenwriting Conference last year, and an audience member at the Producers Panel asked them if any of them actually search such peer networking sites for material. I thought this was a great question, because we’re getting to the point of whether or not anyone working in entertainment actually looks at any of these sites. None of them did, and none knew anyone who actually did. I myself don’t know any writer who uses these services, nor do I personally know of any producer or agency that seeks out talent in this manner. In terms of practical access to proper working Hollywood professionals, they get enough material delivered through the proper channels – they don’t have time to be on these kind of sites.
That said, the cream does rise to the top. There is an urban myth that one of the top scripts from one of these sites actually got produced. Many of these sites claim that they have gotten writers’ work optioned and produced. If your script rises to be the most popular script on any of these sites, perhaps that could be a calling card for you, similar to placing as a finalist in a screenwriting competition. It might be enough to get someone to either request your script or be open to reading it.
Links to several online screenwriting communities:
And here’s another interesting take from Erica Hughes at www.screenwritersdaily.com.