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Aspiring Screenwriters Get Help in Hollywood


Many young people head to Hollywood to find success in the movie business. Some hope to find stardom on camera, while others look for different roles in the filmmaking process. Mike O'Sullivan reports that those who seek to make their mark as Hollywood screenwriters find plenty of help.

They gather in Hollywood coffee shops to read industry publications like Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, and they work on laptop computers. Erik Bauer, publisher of Creative Screenwriting magazine, is part of an industry that services the needs of this talent pool.

His magazine is for people who write, or want to write, movie scripts.

"Our readers are primarily professionals in other fields, doctors, lawyers, engineers, who have a creative side as well, and that expression is writing screenplays," he explained.

And they are not just in Hollywood. They are all over the country.

Mr. Bauer says every great movie starts with a great script.

"All the other elements contribute," he noted. "I mean, everything is important, from the editing to the casting and the direction, but it all starts with the script."

Many in Hollywood have taken a career turn. Mr. Bauer was a political science student at George Washington University in Washington DC, where he specialized in strategic Cold War issues. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as his field of study, he headed to Hollywood.

He is now the publisher of a successful magazine, which prints 25,000 copies each issue. A separate online edition has 80,000 subscribers. Some readers are active screenwriters. Others hope to be. He says the economics of Hollywood work against them.

"Every year, 40,000 scripts are registered with the Writers Guild registration service, and about 400 are produced in one way or another," he said. "Now, if you add in independent productions, that probably adds another one thousand scripts that are produced out there independently."

Mr. Bauer says there are opportunities for talented writers who have mastered their craft, but success in this business takes persistence.

"It is very much of a crap shoot," Mr. Bauer added. "The thing is though, about 95 percent of what people are writing out there is not really worthy of showing to people. So if you work your craft up, people are going to recognize that you've written a good screenplay."

He says breaking into the business takes time, and many young screenwriters work at a bookstore or coffee shop, then spend a few hours each day working on their screenplays. Others find entry-level jobs at the studios.

Ken Droz is an entertainment publicist whose true passion is screenwriting.

"I am finishing my third feature right now," said Mr. Droz. "It is in the rewriting stage. It is a decent first draft and I knew it needed some extra polishing and certain structural things, so I got it to a few friends and got some feedback."

Mr. Droz says that kind of interaction with screenwriting colleagues is important.

None of his scripts has sold yet, but he keeps writing.

"I do not write every day, but I flagellate myself when I do not and try to do it as much as I can," he added.

It is a tight market, says publisher Erik Bauer, but he says there are opportunities, especially when a writer teams up with an aspiring filmmaker. Using inexpensive digital cameras and a cast of out-of-work actors, a script can be turned into a movie, which often opens doors for both screenwriter and director.

For writers who want to hone their craft, there are magazines like Creative Screenwriting, endless courses and seminars, books, tapes, DVDs, and scriptwriting software.

Mr. Bauer's magazine also offers digital downloads of interviews with leading screenwriters, and holds screenwriting contests and expositions. He says many newcomers may never get the big break they are looking for, but others will, if they are talented, lucky and persistent.

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