The Questions Up-and-Coming Screenwriters Need to Ask

The Questions Up-and-Coming Screenwriters Need to Ask

The Questions Up-and-Coming Screenwriters Need to Ask

Welcome to Stage 32, a community of creatives, the biggest of its kind on the globe. We are here to help you develop your career, regardless of the number of successes you’ve had or if you are totally new to this and think that screenwriting is where you want your future to be.

Many come to the site and ask, "How can I sell a script?" "How can I break into the industry?" Or "I'm a new writer; how can I find an agent to help me with following a career in screenwriting?"

We understand why these questions are asked, but let us (your co-authors, Geoff and Phil) suggest that there are a couple of other questions you should be asking yourself first...

From Phil:

When I began, I thought if I wrote one great screenplay, I would have a shot at securing a producer, one of my buddies knew. But now that I've written fifty scripts over the past eleven years, I understand that pitching a screenplay can be a daunting task. And those who are impatient may be in for frustration and disappointment.

From Geoff:

The film business works not just on talent but on who you know; the good news is that being part of the Stage 32 community puts you in the right place to develop your network and craft.

As much as we all crave to sell our work, it's not as simple as making a phone call or knowing a development exec's email address. Cold calling rarely works, and if you are an unknown, unproduced screenwriter, your target audience can't trust you to deliver.

And so, you'll need more than one script, as Execs love writers with a track record and rarely invest their time and money in a one-trick pony. But this is where you have hit pay dirt because there are lots of writers here on the Screenwriting Lounge to help you hone your craft.

We also offer Script Services to help you be a better writer and offer things like Career Development Calls to help move you in the right direction.

The best questions to ask are, "How do I become a better writer?" And "How can I develop a network to move my career in the right direction?"

From Phil:

Hello Fellow Screenwriters:

First, I agree with Geoff's statement about Industry people, particularly agents and managers. Though it may seem like a cliché, the reality of pitching your work is that most agents are not interested in repping new, unproven writers. Nevertheless, the last thing you want to tell industry types is that you're a new writer. Even if that's true, my advice is to embellish the truth.

Let me offer an example.

In 2013, I answered an ad from a producer looking for a screenplay about Michael Rockefeller, a person who vanished in 1961. I wrote a logline and two-page synopsis for how I envisioned the story. Within a few days, the producer requested that I email my script. I had two choices, tell him I had no screenplay and risk losing an opportunity or tell him I needed some time to edit my current script. I chose option two. Six days later, I sent my 86-page rough draft screenplay to the producer and signed my second option agreement.

So, am I advising writers to lie to prospective clients? No, I'm saying that bold action and risk-taking can often net positive results. However, you have to be willing to work under pressure and be capable of delivering the content. Furthermore, I was ready to take on an idea that wasn't mine. This can present a writer with the challenge of working out of their comfort zone.

I've signed 16 options and right-to-shop agreements over the past ten years. And who represented me in these agreements? My agent's name was Phillip Hardy. And every deal I've signed has been due to my relentless efforts to connect with filmmakers.


If you think you will conquer Hollywood with your first screenplay, you may want to change your mindset. We live in an instant-gratification world of easy access to people and screenwriting software that allows creatives to quickly dive into writing faster and easier. However, most newbies will not craft Lawrence of Arabia for the first effort. Even for a person with prior writing experience, learning how to properly format, edit and understand the economy of words takes time.

If you're serious about being a professional screenwriter, you must have a product to pitch. Currently, I have comedy, horror, thriller, action, biopics, sports, science fiction, and period pieces screenplays in my repertoire. Therefore I'm in a position to pitch material for most opportunities presented.

There’s another reason I’ve had success connecting with filmmakers. I've always been open to taking on concepts from others. This past year, I had the chance to adapt a treatment for a film director and two novels by a well-known author. Each of these opportunities turned into an option agreement. But each of them presented different challenges.

I understand not everyone desires to work in multiple genres. However, I recommend that newer writers crank out at least three scripts in their chosen genre to position themselves as more than what Geoff called a "one-trick pony."


If you're a newer writer that wants to sell their work, you may want to consider the following.

  • Develop a unique approach to your writing while learning the fundamentals of formatting and script structure. There are excellent "how-to” books available that can teach you what you need to get started. One of them is The Hollywood Standard by Christopher Riley.

  • Use professional screenwriting software to format and write your screenplays.

  • Read screenplays by people you admire and want to emulate. You will learn by analyzing scripts written by successful writers.

  • If you get stuck, you can find many online tutorials and people to help you learn. But do your homework and use reputable sources for consulting and learning the screenwriting craft.

  • Consider committing your goals to a written document, like a business plan for what you want to accomplish during the coming year. This might include how many scripts you want to write and developing marketing materials for pitching your work.

  • Don't send out material that hasn't been proofread for omitted words, poor sentence structure, grammatical errors, and incorrect formatting. Nothing turns off industry readers more quickly than sloppy work.

  • Learn how to develop the items needed to pitch your work. This includes A) Logline and synopsis, pitch deck, show bibles (for teleplays), character descriptions, and movie poster artwork.

  • Make your pitch deck stand out with colorful content, large font, and concise information. And offer your recipient a reason why they should want to read your material.

  • Learn how to not only sell your script but sell yourself. There are seminars available if you need help learning how to do a verbal pitch. For example, Stage 32 has free pitching practice sessions for members of The Writer's Room.

  • Look for channels to solicit your work. But if you pay for pitch sessions, research your target audience before sending them your pitch.

  • Consider entering film festivals and contests to road-test your work.

  • Copyright all your work, and learn how to read and navigate your way through legally binding documents such as NDAs, options, and right-to-shop agreements. And don't be afraid to redline things you dislike.

  • Look for opportunities to promote yourself. For example, I've done video and written interviews, blogs, and a podcast, and attended several film festivals. I also built my own website promoting my work.

  • Most importantly, be your own agent until someone else offers to take on that responsibility. And even then, never rely on someone else to make things happen for your career. Instead, take control of your future and remember that successful people are the ones that are driven and obsessive about accomplishing their goals.

I have two screenplays being made into films. One of them goes into production in three weeks. But as 2022 comes to a close, I'm not focused on the past. Instead, I'm concentrating on what new opportunities are ahead and what I can do to bring them to fruition. The reason is I've long since realized there are few overnight successes. To paraphrase the Betty Davis line from All About Eve, "Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy ride."

Geoff: And so, dear members of Stage32, we are here to help you as much as we are able. We don’t have all the answers nor any shortcuts to success, but together what we do have is an awful lot of knowledge to help our fellow writers along their chosen path.

As Phil has shown, you need a plan on how to develop yourself as well as your craft as a writer. When I first started, if things went wrong, there was only me to turn to. It was a lonely place to be, But I then found Stage 32, and it turns out that this is a place where you can celebrate your successes and also be open about your defeats and disappointments. And no one will scorn or chide you for them. So, let’s connect and start a conversation about what you need now that you know the right questions to ask!

This piece was co-authored by Geoff Hall and Phil Hardy.

Geoff Hall is a Director, Screenwriter, Author, Stage 32 Lounge Moderator based in Bristol, United Kingdom.

Phil Hardy is a Screenwriter and Musician based in Austin, TX.

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About the Author

Phillip E. Hardy, Prolifique

Phillip E. Hardy, Prolifique

Screenwriter, Musician

Phillip E. Hardy has been building his brand since 2012, and except for having one script repped by Depass, Jones Entertainment has managed to personally secure 20 options deals and get the upcoming feature Purgatory Station (which was recently in the top 50 scripts of a Roadmap Writers contest) pro...

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