The following is a guest post from 2020 ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship winner Tevin Knight. After winning the ScreenCraft Fellowship Tevin signed with a literary manager and agents, and he sold his TV pilot screenplay to a major studio (details to be announced soon)!
Imagine me back in January. A completely unknown writer, my name indistinguishable to anyone in this industry and wondering why I exhausted eight gnawing years of my life pursuing this goal of using my imagination for a living. In an industry filled with hurdles, I’ve found that the tallest one is simply breaking in and joining it.
I had the ideas and the passion. I just needed the introductions. That’s where ScreenCraft came in. And it’s why everyone looking for their start should apply to programs like the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship.
What I learned from the ScreenCraft Fellowship
During this past “ScreenCraft Fellowship Week” of general meetings, I met with a dozen different individuals. From fellow writers to producers, studio execs, and more. Two giant takeaways come to mind reminiscing of my time with this pantheon of talent:
- The screenwriting industry is smaller than you think
- You need collaboration to succeed
The screenwriting industry is small
It’s easy to think of Hollywood as a vast ocean, but upon closer inspection, it’s actually more like a lake. Everyone has met or worked with nearly everyone else. That alone allowed me to see the value of networking in its purest form and really makes my job as a young writer clear.
While navigating through this industry you should consider every encounter, small or big, a job interview
The shaking of just one hand potentially put me in contact with everyone else this person had met. It was now my job to convince them that I was worthy of being a part of their web.
I found that with a strong visible passion, memorable conversation and personality, and of course the right ideas, these people would be more than eager to introduce me to whoever it was they believed could elevate me to where I wanted to go. While navigating through this industry you should consider every encounter, small or big, a job interview. Because they are paying attention.
You need other people to become a successful screenwriter
The second takeaway from this week of meetings was how important collaboration really is. Though I understood that multiple people would have input on my stories I was worried about when I needed to listen to some and ignore others.
- Which notes matter more?
- Can I make everyone happy?
After my meeting with a fellow writer and producer of Rick and Morty, I was made aware that the answer to those questions was a simultaneous “yes” and “no.”
Of course, no soul in the world understands your story better than you, but to be worried that the wrong note might change your story can also make you ignorant to the fact that it can also enhance it. Listening, from the source, about how an episode of Rick and Morty gets made from the ground up helped me understand how to approach my work in a contrasting light.
I believe you need to look at notes like making a sandwich. If your original idea is the meat and bread, notes are the condiments that will complement it. You don’t shove every ingredient into a specific sandwich. The same is true for your story. Not everything (or every note) should go in a story. It’s your job to decipher what would be delicious or not. And then trust that an audience will find it satisfying.
The real value of a screenwriting fellowship
The lessons I learned this week seem endless. Each screenwriting fellowship experience will be different for every individual, but beneficial to anyone. What was really important for me during the fellowship process was how much clarity about my job as a screenwriter I left with.
I actually lost this and other competitions many times before finally winning. I know how exhausting it is to fail repeatedly, and I know how futile it may seem to repeat yourself. But I guarantee you, all that previous failure was worth my current success. I implore you to keep losing — until you finally don’t. It’s worth it. Try not to stress.
The next ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship is currently open and accepting applications. Click here to learn more and take the next big step in your screenwriting career.
Born and raised in NJ, Tevin inspired to create by watching the great works of Pixar and Hanna-Barbera. Fresh off winning two prestigious screenwriting contests, Tevin Knight is on a mission to build a catalog of television shows and characters that rival his idols in volume.
Tevin is managed by Kaplan/Perrone and repped by Gersh.