Advice for Just Starting
Let's get to writing is a career just starting out um the way I started his I was writing plays first and then I went to u c l a as a graduate student where I was in a program that combined playwriting in screenwriting so I was able to start getting into screenwriting while continuing writing plays and I uh you know, hung out with some friends who some of them started being successful and that's actually how I got my first agent was uh a friend of mine gave him scripts of mine and then I suddenly had an agent and I was starting teo make my forays into trying to break in to screen ready but that actually wasn't how the first job happened I one of my playwriting teachers actually um I had mentioned just because I was interested in making money any way possible is a writer I knew this person had a background in daytime drama it's called uh euphemistically we call them soap operas but in any case I was casting about for well, you know I'd even try that so I uh he arranged for me to write a...
sample script which is something's actually official it's paid some amount according to the guild even though you're not a guild member a minor amount a fraction of what you'd be paid to write a regular soap opera script but is a sample and for that show I didn't get on that show, but through a series of other things that happened as a result with set in motion I actually got on staff of soap opera um and that was my first paying gig, so in the meantime, while, well, I know I'm not in the meantime, there was no time while I was doing that actually let me say that that was an invaluable experience in learning discipline the way it worked was the writing was way ahead of the shooting, which is what it tends to be in television. Um and each right staff writer had one week monday through friday to write their script for that a script a week, those of the script, by the way, there they're shot every day monday through friday every day one is shot, but we were, you know, far ahead of the curve and you had a week to write your script, so I learned to get up and start writing right away in the morning and write and put in a full day of working. And the next day I get up and do it again because what you really turned in what you were supposed to be turning into something that was shoot a ball on friday, today you always needed some kind of adjustments head writers had to do it over the, you know, before the day that was shot so obviously they wanted it toe need his little of their time in revision is possible. Um it was a good good a boot camp for discipline. No doubt about it I did it for about six months. The head writers who hired me were replaced and the new one brought in a whole new staff. But after that I always got up in the morning and started writing and I have never I mean, I have days off I take days off, but I have always kept to that um some people in night riders I'm not but, um the discipline is the most important thing I ernest hemingway said there's nothing to writing and you sit down in front of a typewriter he said, of course and you start typing well, that's true that's it um and then eventually I wrote a script that sold and I was hired to rewrite it and it didn't get made, but then I was started getting some jobs where I was hired to write something like adaptations and stuff like that um and I basically got in tow that way but everybody's stories different, everything happens differently. So what is the advice for just story? One of the things I want to talk about is your writers write, write and write write a lot I had said earlier about that process of revision and rewriting. I said, write a script all the way through to the end without stopping to go back and revise anything. And I said you needed time away from your script. When I really advise is that you write your rough draft of your script all the way through, as I said, but the time away from your script, some of it could be not writing let's, take a break, but then write a different script, right? We'll call it the second script all the way through without stopping to revise all the way through. Now, um, I also think you should keep a journal of ideas. Journal of ideas is basically anything lines of dialogue, bits, pieces of scenes, possible plots, possible parts of plots, characters, um, it's important to do it? This is part of that not only writing outside this script, like when you do a character interview or you do scenes that don't happen. This is about you sort of creating, ah, huge palette of your own material as a writer that can be used in any number of future scripts. Uh, that you haven't even thought of yet, but you should. You are writers, you need to keep a journal with all kinds of ideas, any kind of, um there's a screenwriter I can't quite remember his name he wrote very, very in the seventies realistic stuff he would put a tape recorder in his pockets and were hidden and actually get into it with people in the streets I'm out I mean like you have provoking number maybe not necessarily provoking him but he would have it running the whole time and we'd go home and transcribe it and have all this great street talk that he could use in screenplays but when I say keep a journal it's it's kind of like that it's like writing down, you know, all kinds of ideas shots um anything, so write a lot right with discipline get up right every day except for your days off. Um read read as many scrips as possible read scripts of movies you've seen read scripts of movies you haven't seen I read once that you know we're good read bad ones because you learn from both what's good and what's bad um when you know a film, read the script and then go back and watch the film again and then read the script again just keep comparing them to each other get a feel for the difference between it isn't just left brain analysis that's exactly what you do need that you also get a feel of that's what it looks and sounds like this is what it reads like very important saturate yourself with this stuff rotate between if not three than two scripts that's what I was saying before but I also think that you could rotate between three scripts right? A rafter after one right a rough draft of a second one right rough draft the third one whether it's two or three the point is you always go back to the one before the first one with you're not the same writer you're not the same person you have insight that you didn't have before you learn things on the second script you didn't learn on the first one you've been keeping a journal you've been reading screenplays that's all been going on so you bring to bear mohr power skill and kind of just knowledge and ability when you go back to that first screenplay and rewrite it um also because if you want to get an agent the agent you don't want to given agent one screenplay um you want the agent to have to and if they requested three one of the reasons for that is if it has one screenplay and they say yeah, I think this is good what they're going to do is they're going to hip pocket you that means they have a few strategic ideas about where this script could go it might sell or get set up in a development deal or something I'm going to see if it does that script something doesn't happen with it that agent vanishes from your life. Um, if you give him one script, you're pretty much guaranteed that's all they're gonna do if they have more than one script. Um, then, and they like them. Any ideas you're a writer to be represented? Yes, this script or this script, something could happen specifically with him, baby, but they can also be read as samples, and I'm going to represent this writer to possibly get hired to write a project. Now you're being represented by the agent in the agency. So two or three scripts, two or three scripts, not one.
Screenwriting classes often either lean too heavily on theory or simply study the technical approach to writing without a greater context for its use, as if the act of screenwriting exists in a vacuum – it does not. In The Screenwriters Toolkit with Jim Uhls, you’ll learn both the nuts and bolts of the craft, as well as its relationship to getting your work read and ultimately produced.
Jim’s sceenwriting credits include the modern classic “Fight Club” the feature-film "Jumper" the NBC television film "Semper Fi" and the SyFy miniseries "Spin" In this class, he’ll share lessons from his extensive experience writing for Hollywood and the small screen. He’ll teach you how to develop better scripts, get traction for your projects, and navigate the complex professional landscape of script development.
You’ll learn about screenwriting form and content, including:
- Vocabulary and formats
- Dialogue vs silence
- Adapting existing works for the screen
Jim will also share essential insights on developing a career in screenwriting.
- The differences between writing for television and features
- Who to work with: agents vs managers vs lawyers
- How to obtain and manage projects of various sizes and contexts
The Screenwriters Toolkit is a comprehensive examination of screenwriting form, content, craft, and traffic. You’ll learn how to adapt your content to the size, genre, and desired professional result of the script while also learning about the best on-ramps for aspiring writers.