Should You Go to College for Scriptwriting?

“Screenplay” by olilynch on Pixabay

I started scriptwriting during high school thanks to journal writing, early fanfiction, online roleplaying, and countless required literature class readings.

None of my theatre classes at the time weren’t strictly concentrated on scriptwritng. I took every script-related assignment I could get including a production of a small class play I’ve written as a final exam.

In college, I graduated with a theater degree. I wished there was a playwriting one, but I still managed to take all the opportunities available. I’ve taken everything from basic playwriting to stage adaptation. I even took a valuable apprenticeship at a local theatre in downtown Atlanta.

After college, I wondered, “What’s next? Where are the real scriptwriting gigs?” There were none I could find right off the bat. I guess grad school it is.

I landed the triple jackpot with a MFA in Dramatic Writing. This degree included disciplines in screenwriting, playwriting, and writing for television. The two years as grad student were pure bliss. However, I’m still not where I’ve imagined I’d be post-grad.

I’m not in Los Angeles typing away the next movie blockbuster on my stylish studio balcony watching the sunset. I’m not disappointed; there’s more work need to be done.

My degrees aren’t the golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s Scriptwriting Career Factory.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Geoffrey Chandler on Flickr

What I learned after my previous years as a scriptwriter:

·It takes persistence. Tons of it!

· Keep writing!

· Watch movies. Watch plays. Watch TV. Study them.

· Keep learning!

The major question: should you go to college for scriptwriting? It’s a path, but it’s not the only one.

“woman wearing white jacket using laptop computer” by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Here are some alternate ways you can move forward to your scriptwriting goals:

1. Find a local scriptwriters’ group online or irl.

I recommend your local library (if they have one) and Meetup.

2. Read scripts.

Watching the big and little screen isn’t enough.

  1. BBC Writers
  2. Emmy’s
  3. Indie Film Hustle
  4. ProPlay
  5. Simply Scripts
  6. The Screenplay Database

Dear playwrights, pardon the lack of free theatre scripts. I’d recommend checking out your local library first before purchasing them. Universities with major theatre departments are loaded!

3. Use scriptwriting software (some you can install for free)

  1. Celtx
  2. Fade IN
  3. Final Draft
  4. Movie Magic Screenwriter
  5. Scrivener
  6. Writer Duet

4. Read scripwriting books

  1. The Hollywood Standard by Christopher Riley
  2. Playwriting for Dummies by Angelo Parra
  3. Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
  4. Screenwriting for Dummies by Laura Schellhardt
  5. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher A. Volger
  6. Your Screenplay Sucks! by William M. Aker

5. Enter competitions!

You can’t keep your writing hidden in the closest. Nobody’s going to find it there.

Screenwriting competitions

  1. American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest
  2. Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Competition
  3. Austin Film Festival Screenplay and Teleplay Competition
  4. BlueCat Screenplay Competition
  5. Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest
  6. Page International Screenwriting Award
  7. ScreenCraft
  8. Script Pipeline Writing Competition
  9. Scriptapalooza
  10. Slamdance

Playwriting Competitions

  1. The American Playwriting Foundation: The Relentless Reward
  2. Austin Film Festival Playwriting Competition
  3. Charles M. Getchell New Play Contest (Part of the Southeastern Theatre Conference)
  4. Essential Theatre Playwriting Competition (Georgia residents only)
  5. Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival One Act Play Contest
  6. The Yale Drama Series

6. Post your scripts online for people to see

  1. The Black List
  2. Ink Tip
  3. Script Revolution

7. Step closer into the industry (and keep writing) as a:

  1. Intern
  2. Movie extra
  3. Movie studio mail clerk (I know it’s weird, but it happens)
  4. Movie studio security guard (this happens too!)
  5. Production assistant
  6. Script consultant
  7. Script reader

8. Join the Fellowship (Not of the Ring)

  1. HBO Access Writing Fellowship
  2. McKnight Artist Fellowship for Writers
  3. Academy Nicholl Fellowship
  4. ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship
  5. Shakespeare’s Sister Playwriting Fellowship

9. Enter these writing programs

  1. ABC/Disney Writing Program
  2. CBS Writer Mentoring Program
  3. FOX Writers Lab
  4. NBC Writers on the Verge
  5. Warner Brothers Writer Workshop
“empty pathway to castle” by JJ Jordan on Unsplash

Still, want to take the ol’ college route?

Here are eight I’ve thought about attending and one I actually did:

  1. Emory University
  2. Florida State University
  3. Hollins University
  4. New York University
  5. Savannah College of Art & Design (Savannah) *my alma mater*
  6. UCLA
  7. University of Southern California
  8. University of Texas at Austin

Whether you go to college or not, keep writing and knocking doors. You can’t win the scriptwriter’s game not playing or quitting altogether. Good luck, writers!

Now, I better get back to my own writing.

“person typing something using red typewriter” by rawpixel on Unsplash

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