5 Screenwriting Lessons From ScreenCraft Fellowship Winner Brock Newell

by V Renée on January 21, 2021

2018 ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship winner Brock Newell's story sounds a lot like many of yours.

As a kid, he loved music and Star Wars so much that he wanted to write music for films when he grew up. He started a metal band in high school but and ended up studying something completely unrelated and practical once he went off to college.

However, upon his Fellowship win, Brock has met with several agents, producers and literary managers in Hollywood, and was invited to Coverfly‘s Rep Week program which introduced him to a manager who promptly signed him.

This screenwriter is off to the races.

In a recent episode of The Act Two Podcast with hosts and fellow screenwriters Tasha Huo and Josh Hallman, Brock highlights the steps he took to break into the industry. Let's take a listen and see what we can learn!

Read All the Scripts...Even the Bad Ones

"It was fascinating to read all three of those because you got to see the prestigious stuff, see some of the stuff that was 'the talk of the town'...and the third thing, with this awful was great to see what didn't work...I was reading so many screenplays, [learning] what works, what doesn't work, what's good, what's getting hot...learning how to analyze screenplays...that was incredibly helpful."

If you want to be the best, you've got to learn from the best, right? Right...kind of.

Reading screenplays written by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Greta Gerwig, and Jordan Peele is certainly helpful if you want to see examples of good screenwriting. However, picking up a copy of a not-so-good script can be equally as helpful.

Brock's experience as an intern at Management 360 helped him realize this. He recalls receiving three scripts on his first day: The Fighter, The Hangover, and a third script that...wasn't the greatest.

College is a Good Place to Make Contacts

"You can make good contacts. When you go to one of the prestigious ones, it's more about building a network."

Do you need college to become a screenwriter? No. Not at all. But it can be a great place (depending on where you attend, I guess) to forge important connections and build your network of contacts.

Though Brock started out as a business major, he eventually dove into creative writing with dreams of one day making his way into the film industry.

Find a Mentor

"I'm fortunate to be friends with this fantastic writer...For all the writers out there, if you can get a friend who's a vet and have some kind of mentorship relationship in addition to your friendship, I think that's an important thing."

There's nothing better than having a seasoned pro give you career advice, especially when that seasoned pro is also a friend. They can not only give you the sometimes painful truth about working in this industry but they can also encourage and guide you as you navigate your career.

Start Small to Build Credibility

"You gotta get something to your name - some kind of credit to your name, that's smaller. It might not be the dream thing that you want, but you gotta have something makeable."

Do you aspire to write the next big tentpole? The next superhero masterpiece? The next action adventure IMAX event? Well, if you haven't made a name for yourself in the industry yet, you might want to set your sights on something smaller or, as Brock puts it, "makeable." A low-budget feature script will probably appeal to more people than your ambitious $100M blow-em-up, so it might be a good idea to start from there and work your way up.

When Should You Submit to a Screenwriting Competition?

"There's a couple of different [places] where nervousness could come from. Do you actually believe in your material? Do you believe it's good. Are your nerves coming from 'maybe this isn't my best?' In which case I would say submit it when you're happy with the material. Submit it when you're confident in the material. Submit it when you're confident in yourself. And if you don't think you're ready, ask yourself why."

Brock believes confidence is supremely important for every screenwriter to have - even if you're scared, even if you're a nervous wreck. Believing in your work is the fuel that will propel you to wherever you're trying to go in your career. If your first step is applying to a screenwriting competition, do it with full confidence that your script is not necessarily the best, but your best.

Don't miss the opportunity to submit your feature screenplay or TV pilot to the 8th Annual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship. The regular deadline is January 31st and the final deadline is on February 28th.

Happy writing!

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