Ashley Scott Meyers is a screenplay writer, producer, and director. He’s also the creator of SellingYourScreenplay.com, where he teaches screenwriters how to sell their screenplay and get a great deal.
This was an interesting interview. We talked about how to sell your screenplay and the importance of building relationships in Hollywood.
Ashley grew up in Annapolis, Maryland. He didn’t know any writers or artists and had no connections in the entertainment industry. But he loved movies.
He started writing in college and wrote a few scripts. He wasn’t a particularly good student and didn’t have any job prospects coming out of college, but he kept thinking about working in film. After he graduated college, Ashley and a friend drove across the country and settled in Los Angeles to start making their way as filmmakers.
He tried everything he could think of to break in to Hollywood. He submitted to script writing contests and wrote a lot of scripts.
When Ashley arrived in Hollywood in the 1990s, small-budget movie producers would put ads into trade magazines looking for screenwriters. He wrote scripts and submitted to the producers who put out these ads.
Eventually, Ashley and his friend wrote a script called Dish Dogs about two guys who worked as dishwashers. That script was optioned and became Ashley’s first screen credit.
It took about two years for Ashley to see any tangible result as he pursued his dream of becoming a screenwriter. Dogged persistence is what paid off for him.
Dish Dogs was drastically rewritten after it was optioned and the movie didn’t turn out very good. In fact, Ashley found it harder to sell his second script than it was to sell his first, probably because that first screen credit seemed like it was for an iffy movie that wasn’t even the script he really wrote.
All the business that Ashley has done in Hollywood has come without having an agent or manager. The idea that you need an agent and manager to do business in Hollywood as a screenwriter is a huge misconception. You can find many producers willing to read scripts from new writers.
Producers of low-budget movies are especially happy to work with new writers who aren’t represented by agents because it removes a layer of complexity for low-budget productions.
Two Pathways to Becoming a Successful Screenwriter in Hollywood
In general, there are two pathways to success for a Hollywood screenwriter:
1. Write your first screenplay, submit it to contests, and get on the Hollywood radar that way. Winning one of these contests will help you gain industry attention.
A minority of screenwriters become studio screenwriters this way.
2. Write for low-budget independent genre production companies that produce low-budget genre films.
This is what Ashley is doing right now. It is comparatively easier to sell a low-budget genre script than it is to get the green light at a major movie studio.
There are many writers who started out writing these low-budget genre movies and worked their way up the Hollywood ranks to become major studio players.
James Gunn, who wrote the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, is one example; James Cameron is another. Christopher Nolan also got his start doing low-budget genre films.
Market Research in Hollywood: Why It’s Important and How to Do It
Market research is as important in Hollywood as any other place you’re trying to sell your story. It’s much easier to sell a story when you know what your audience wants—that way, you can give it to them.
Market research is about understanding what your customer wants. In this case, your customer is a Hollywood producer. When you’re just starting out in Hollywood, you’re most likely going to sell your script to a low-budget Hollywood producer of genre films.
The first step of your market research needs to involve finding these low-budget films and their scripts. Study them. See what the producers of the film want for stories. Then take the common elements and write your own script.
Making It in Hollywood Is All about Building Relationships
There will be many times in your career, especially in the beginning, when you query producers and they don’t buy your script.
Selling your script is only one outcome. More often than not, querying producers is not about selling: it’s about beginning to build relationships with the people who can turn your scripts into movies on the big screen.
There will be times when a producer that you’ve begun to build a relationship with will come back to you and ask you to write for them. Sometimes it will be a paid gig; sometimes they’ll ask you to do it for free.
Sometimes it’s worth doing the free gig to build the relationship and get experience.
It’s a truism in Hollywood that “becoming an overnight success takes 10 years.” Success in Hollywood is about taking the long-term view. Luck is not a business plan. You never know what relationships will bear fruit in the future.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview
http://www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide — Get Ashley’s free guide on how to sell your screenplay.
IMDB Pro — Use this site to begin your market research and find producers of low-budget genre films.
Buried — This one-location thriller film starred Ryan Reynolds. Because one-location movies are cheap and thrillers are popular, there are lots of producers looking for this kind of script.
Screenwriting Contests — A list of screenwriting contest on Ashley’s website.
https://www.stage32.com/— Facebook for screenwriters. A free networking service.
Start your market research with the IMDB pages of actors in low-budget films:
Script Submission Services
InkTip.com — This service has a lot of producers who produce low-budget genre films.
https://blcklst.com/ — Another marketplace for screenwriters to submit their scripts.