I get a fair few emails from young script writers asking for advice. I had one yesterday from a young man and I’ve decided to put up my answer as a blogpost for those seeking advice.
Here it is…
Thanks for getting in touch.
I remember meeting Jimmy McGovern when I was 21 and asking similar advice. I didn’t want to hear what he said which was… “You’re far too young; you won’t have enough life experience to be a really good script writer until you’re in your 40s.”
He was partly right (but I was writing Emmerdale at 27) but I only really cracked writing original material when I hit 40. So be prepared for a long haul.
I’d recommend reading every script writing book you can get hold of, but pay special attention to The Art and Science of Screenwriting by Phil Parker. Watch a lot of films (old, new, foreign, every type of genre), try to read as many screenplays as you can, and in this day and age make films yourself for YouTube – this can now become a career in itself.
And of course write a lot; write screenplays, scripts, blogposts, tweets, novels – anything. And learn to study people. Characters are the MOST important thing in screenplays.
Buy David Thomson’s ‘Have You Seen?’ And watch all of the 1000 films he writes about. If you’re going to film school or Uni that’s the best place to make contacts, you never know where some of your class mates will end up – some of mine ended up working at LucasFilm. So stay in touch with people.
Above all, don’t give up, as I say it’s a long haul but worth it, when you’re ready to give up on it, you should carry on a bit further, and always stick to writing the stuff that you think is good, even if nobody else does – sometimes, if you hang around long enough the world comes around to your way of thinking.
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on firstname.lastname@example.org or hire him on Peopleperhour