John Buchanan of Script Magazine has written an article about opportunities often overlooked by novice screenwriters: writing assignments. Buchanan quotes Jeff Morris saying, ““The total amount of money paid out for assignment work versus specs is much bigger… That’s where the work is. It dwarfs spec sales by about 1,000 to one, probably.”
When most aspiring screenwriters imagine their successful against-all-odds assault on Hollywood, they think in terms of a big spec sale that changes their lives overnight. But there is also a less glamorous, more realistic way to break into the industry—and that’s a first writing assignment that sets them on a path to becoming a genuine working writer.
“It’s certainly quite difficult,” says veteran screenwriter Daniel Petrie Jr. (Beverly Hills Cop I, II, III, The Big Easy,Turner & Hooch), a two-time former president of the Writers Guild of America, West. “But it does happen. It happened to me—I got a writing assignment in 1981, before I qualified to join WGA, because I was cheap.”
And today, with studio and production company development budgets severely challenged, that tried-and-true strategy for making a name for yourself as a newbie is as viable as ever.