Tony Bill’s Advice to Aspiring Screenwriters

1. Move to Los Angeles. That’s where you need to live to get your work read and known. No one is looking for you. You need to introduce yourself and your work in person somehow. It will undoubtedly happen by accident. Los Angeles is where the accidents happen.

2. People are not looking for a writer to “bring their ideas to fruition.” It’s your ideas that they will be interested in, combined with your unusually talented screenwriting ability (if that’s what it is). "Good" will not be good enough.

3. By definition, “freelance” means that you are on your own, without a steady salary or ongoing employment. If you can’t survive financially in that manner, it’s unlikely that you should pursue screenwriting. It’s the most difficult and competitive form of writing there is. That’s why really excellent screenwriters are in demand and handsomely paid in the movie business…and the rest are not.

4. You better start thinking less about movie screenplays and more about writing for television. The cost of making films, and the diminishing audience for them, has almost outlawed the original screenplay. Series TV — weekly or limited — is the place to be if you’re looking for employment. That’s also where the original, fresh, iconoclastic action is.

5. Just remember: Ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s all about execution. West Wing without Aaron Sorkin is a political show. Deadwood without David Milch is a Western. Homicide without David Simon is a cop show. Gray’s Anatomy without Shonda Rhimes is a hospital show. And none of them would ever have seen the light of day without the genius of those writers. And, by the way…you have to be able to put it out there 26 times a year for at least 5 years, or it might not be worth doing in the first place.

6. Whatever you do…don’t read any “How-to-write-a-screenplay” books. Just read a bunch of great scripts and let it go at that. (And if you have to ask what a great one is, you’re in trouble already.)