by John Bucher (@johnkbucher)
Corey Mandell is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who has written projects for Ridley Scott, Wolfgang Petersen, Harrison Ford, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, John Travolta, Warner Brothers, Universal, 20th Century Fox, Fox 2000, Fox Family, Working Title, Paramount, Live Planet, Beacon Films, Touchstone, Trilogy, Radiant, Kopelson Entertainment and Walt Disney Pictures. His course Script to Career, taught with Academy Award winner Tom Nunan, will be held October 8-9, 2016 in Haines Hall at UCLA. LA Screenwriter’s John Bucher caught up with Cory and asked him about breaking into screenwriting.
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John Bucher: What are some of the most common problems you see with writers trying to break into the business?
Corey Mandell: Too many writers waste valuable time and energy writing the wrong kind of scripts. Talk to agents and managers and you’ll quickly realize that writing to the paradigms/templates/rules taught in the popular books and seminars is pretty much a sure fire way to get ignored. Such approaches might have worked five years ago, but read the pilots that are selling today, or the scripts that are getting new writers representation, and you realize that the folks succeeding in the current marketplace are writing fiercely original scripts (with absolute pitch-perfect execution).
Because nobody really cares if you can successfully follow a formula. There are a ton of writers who can do that, many of whom have a proven track record on hit shows or movies. So when a staffing spot or feature assignment opens, such folks are always going to have an advantage over an unproven writer. The way to get your foot into the door is to write something unique and exceptional that can truly grab and hold people’s attention.
John Bucher: What’s the single biggest thing a writer can do to increase their chances of creating a successful career in Hollywood?
Corey Mandell: Relentlessly train yourself to be able to write remarkable pitch-perfect authentic scripts. I don’t know a single writer who can do that who isn’t working. Too many writers think the reason they don’t have a career is access. They can’t get the right people to read their scripts or listen to their pitches. But the truth is many of these folks can’t yet write the caliber of scripts required to launch and sustain a career. Access doesn’t matter until a writer can hold their own against the competition. And that often takes far more time and training than most people realize.
John Bucher: What TV shows or films should writers be watching right now, regardless of the genre they want to work in?
Corey Mandell: I’d suggest watching/reading whatever the industry is buzzing about, either produced content or spec scripts. That said, I also think there’s something to be said for disengaging from shows and scripts for a while to focus on your project. You don’t want your material to seem imitative of what’s currently hot. The scripts that will most stand out are the ones that you and only you could have written.
Win a Free Pass to Script to Career!
Script to Career is a unique weekend event bringing together two of the industry’s most respected and sought-after instructors. Tom Nunan is an Oscar-winning film and TV producer, who is also a former network president, studio president and buyer in all genres, across all platforms. Corey Mandell is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright who has written projects for Ridley Scott, Wolfgang Peterson, Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, as well as for all the major studios. Both Tom and Corey are gifted teachers known for their filled-to-capacity writing and producing classes at UCLA. Their groundbreaking approaches have helped launch thousands of highly successful careers in film and TV. Yours could be next.
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