What is the ultimate place in the whole world for screenwriters to write their scripts?
Forget the endless top ten lists of coffee shops and bookstores. Forget the libraries or hip hangouts. Forget your cozy office space or dark corner of the house.
The best place in the world to write your script is the Writers Guild Foundation Library — namely the Billy Wilder Reading Room. Original funding began back in 2004 by Wilder’s widow with a $500,000 donation towards a $1.9 million capitol campaign. Billy Wilder was a founding board member of the Writers Guild Foundation when it was initially incorporated in 1966.
“Throughout his career Billy always thought himself first and foremost as a writer,” Audrey Wilder said. “That is why it is an honor to pay tribute in this way to Billy, as well as to his two longtime writing partners.”
Writer-director Garry Marshall also contributed $250,000 to the campaign early on.
“No matter what they say, filling blank paper is the most difficult job in the entertainment industry,” Marshall said. “Thus, I love to see my scripts available in the Writers Guild library for three reasons; it makes me proud, new writers can use them as a reference and because, in this town, you never know when they might do a remake.”
Many others have made contributions since.
What Is It?
The Writers Guild Foundation Library is the only library on the planet focused entirely on writing for the screen.
Their mission is to preserve and promote the craft, history, and voices of screen storytelling. They collect scripts, related materials, and make them available to everyone who comes to visit, providing wireless internet and a quiet place for writers to work.
They have everything from produced film scripts to television, radio, and even video game scripts. As a bonus, they’ve collected writers’ papers, books, periodicals, and many other materials on the history, biography, art, craft, and business of writing for entertainment media.
Writers have full access to:
- 21,000 produced television scripts
- 4,500 produced film scripts
- 900 radio scripts
- 100 new media and video game scripts
- 2,900 books on writing, writers, and the entertainment industry
- 5,600 taped programs, events, seminars, and interviews
The library provides reference help on topics such as:
- Writers’ credits and biographies
- History of writers in Hollywood
- Major industry writing awards
- WGA history
- Books and magazines on film and television writing
- Locating scripts in other collections
- Research strategies, copyright basics, and matters related to creative and business aspects of writing
And the beautiful thing is that you don’t have to be a Guild member to take part in this. So many screenwriters in the Los Angeles area have had that misconception. This unique resource haven is open to anyone and everyone wanting to take advantage.
Where Is It?
The Writers Guild Foundation Shavelson-Webb Library is located in Los Angeles at:
7000 W. Third St., (Corner of Fairfax Ave. and Third St.)
Los Angeles, CA 90048
11am – 6pm Tuesday – Saturday
11am – 8pm Thursday
Closed Sundays and Mondays
For Tuesdays through Fridays, if space permits, validated parking may be available underneath the building which you can access on Blackburn Ave., one block south of Third St. On Saturdays, parking is available in the WGA garage from 10:30am – 5:30pm.
When there is no room underneath the building, the other option is parking at The Grove or Farmers Market, which is located right across the street. If you’re looking for long-term parking throughout the whole day, expect to pay the maximum of $24 for The Grove structure. But it’s well worth the cost.
How to Take Advantage of It
When you enter the building, head to the right of the security desk. This hallway will lead you through a brief exhibit of screenwriting history, including videos that you can watch and listen to, as well as visual displays of historical industry documents.
You’ll enter the Billy Wilder Reading Room glass doors and check in with the employee desk to the right. Here they will ask you to sign in, and you will give them some form of identification in exchange for a locker key where you can store your bags, etc. — no bags, food, or drinks are allowed within the library, but they are easily accessible whenever you need them by heading down the hall to the locker room. You’re welcome to bring your computers, chargers, and devices with you of course.
There is a main table with outlets to take advantage of, as well as various study tables that you can also utilize for any video archives that you wish to explore. The Wi-Fi is fast and simple to sign onto as well.
You will also find a more open room with casual seating and views of the city around the building.
Thousands of screenplays from many, many decades of film and television are at your disposal. You can search their extensive catalog HERE (click Search the Catalog). Throughout your stay, you just go to the employee desk and request whatever script you’d like. They are a very informative bunch that love film and television, so if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, they’ll be there to help you in any way, shape, or form.
The scripts are bound in elegant covers, making the reading experience even more prestigious.
The library is not a lending service, so understand that you’ll have to soak up those fantastic stories and characters during your stay.
The amazing aspect of the availability of these scripts is that the best examples of screenwriting surround you. If you need a reference to a certain tone of a film or series, you have the scripts right there. If you need a reference to how to write certain scenes or sequences, you have the scripts right there. If you just want to ingest everything that you can, hoping for some inspiration, you have the scripts right there.
The best education that you as a screenwriter can receive comes from reading scripts. Thus, the Writers Guild Foundation Library is the best possible place you can be to do so.
The endless film and television industry books offer yet another valuable form of research and inspiration — anything from screenwriting books to biographies and beyond. The library also has general resources like dictionaries, thesauruses, quotation books, religious bibles, etc.
If you’re a student and looking to research a paper based on anything related to film and television, chances are that the library will have what you need then and there. If you’re a screenwriter, you can study the history of the trade. You can read biographies of some of the most famous writers.
The library also has books and documents regarding agents, managers, copyright, formatting, pitching, treatments, show bibles, screenwriting magazines, etc.
Overall it’s a seemingly endless array of knowledge, history, and information at your fingertips.
Beyond the many resources, there’s a true spiritual feeling being surrounded by the greats as you write your own script. Everywhere you look, there are screenplays to behold. The history of them genuinely does seem to speak to you somehow as you develop, research, and write.
The overall atmosphere is a typical library setting, offering you a politely quiet — but not authoritatively so — place to write and research. During the weekday hours, there is plenty of room. The library is never too crowded. On Saturdays, traffic within the library does pick up for obvious reasons, but there is still plenty of space for most.
Everyone is there for pretty much the same reason, so you don’t have to worry about sitting next to an overly loud and over-caffeinated crowd that you often find at coffee shops and other such venues. You won’t have to listen to the hustle and bustle of baristas screaming names aloud. You won’t have to bear the various music playing on their speakers. You also won’t have to worry about access to outlets to charge your computers, phones, or other such devices — there are plenty, and no one will be watching over you with distaste, insisting in their judgmental eyes that you’re hogging the only ones.
Instead, there’s an element of brotherhood and sisterhood in the air. You’re all in it together and making it happen your own way while taking advantage of the same space and materials.
Overall, the Writers Guild Foundation Library, for all of the reasons mentioned above and more, is the best place for screenwriters to write. Period. You may love access to your favorite coffee and snacks. You may enjoy the energy of people watching. But if you’re really ready to sit down and go to work, look no further than here.
That’s what writers need. Focus. And the environment of this unique library helps you to do that.
And for those living outside of Los Angeles, it’s well worth a day trip if you come to visit. You can often accomplish so much more in a single day at this screenwriting library than you ever could elsewhere. And there indeed is something to be said about having these resources at your fingertips in physical form.
Sure, there is that thing called the internet. Sure, there are many scripts at your beck and call in PDF form. However, nothing compares to being surrounded by them and holding them in your hand upon request. And the library surely has more than you’ll ever find online, accessible by a knowledgeable and passionate group of employees ready and willing to help you find what you need when you need it.
So what are you waiting for? Even if it’s just you visiting now and then, it will be well worth the time.
The Foundation depends on your support to carry out its important work, including education, youth programs, the library, historical preservation, and community outreach. Click below to make any donations or forward to those that you think would be interested.
Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.
He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies