#59: Writing Scripts for Hollywood with Ubah Mohamed

Ubah Mohamed, Staff Writer with credits including ABC's "The Whispers", shares everything she knows about writing scripts for TV and features. 

A great way to keep honing your craft as a scriptwriter is by making it a habit to practice writing scripts and have people read them and give you notes. Also by reading other people’s scripts and studying scripts to figure out what is your own personal style, how you develop your characters etc.

Apply to programs and contests for scriptwriters. It is a good way to help you get connected and working on a set with writers. Here are some Ubah mentioned:

 Slamdance Screenplay Competition: https://filmfreeway.com/festival/SlamdanceScreenplayCompetition

Academy Nicholl Fellowships: https://nicholl.oscars.org/

Austin Film Festival: https://austinfilmfestival.com/submit/film-submissions/

ABC Writers Program: http://abctalentdevelopment.com/writing_program.html

CBS Writers Program: http://www.cbscorporation.com/diversity/diversity-institute/writers-fellowship/

If you have the budget, you can also do script readings. Shows like “The Blacklist” offer them as well as WeScreenPlay: https://www.wescreenplay.com/

Another helpful tip, is make sure you re-write your scripts and are open to feedback from other people who have read your script before you put it in the hands of a producer because that is usually your one shot with them, so make sure it is your best.

In TV, scripts go through multiple revisions so get in the habit of notes and re-writes. Scripts can be in development for a very long time sometimes. TV and Feature scripts can vary depending. Having someone else read your script can help you catch what you missed or might not have been as clear to you when you wrote it.

Find a writers group to help you connect and be in the space of being a writer with other writers.

Networks can get involved with changing your story but remember at the end of the day it is a business and they are the client. There are costs associated with scenes and they have to call what will make the most sense for their budget. Pick your battles, voice your opinion but still respect your client. They bought the script so they own it and at the end of their day, you can still be replaceable. Build a rapport with the people who invested in your vision.

There are several ways to get into the industry and their is a hierarchy. Starting with jobs such as production jobs as a Production Assistant, Production Coordinator, Script Coordinator, Staff Writer, Diversity Slots, Story Editor before you advance to the higher level positions of Show Runner, Co-Producer, Consulting Producer, Supervisor Producer, Co-Executive Producer and Executive Producer. To find out what each of these are and get an idea of how much they make check out the free book: The WGA Schedule of Minimums.

Another good way is also as a playwright, so people already know who you are and you are already coming in with your own material or even as an established author.

 

Tips:

Show you can do more

Be eager to do what is asked of you

Show effort and energy

Build relationships (cold calling production companies etc)

Have a positive attitude. Your perspective is everything

Learn to budget for the months when you are not working

Apply for the different programs/fellowships

Read and write, study scripts and get feedback from others.