Best Online Resources for Screenwriters
- January 23, 2019
- Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Good screenwriting doesn’t come easy. If you think it does, you’re probably not reading enough. It demands an understanding of universal truths and possessing a well-anchored self-awareness. This translates to numerous drafts, collaborations, and a proven toolkit of resources.
Ultimately, it’s about doing what works for you. Every aspiring screenwriter should eventually bring their own background and experiences to their work, rather than miming the direction of others. The key is finding your own process. What works for you? Hopefully, after writing a series of specs, you’ll define what you absolutely need in your toolkit. And when the dust settles from the endless How-Tos, you can take a step back and look at that process you’ve developed. And hopefully it’s entirely your own.
From online libraries of screenplays to legal advice for screenwriters, the internet is full of resources to elevate your process. We’re going to take a closer look into a few of the top online resources for screenwriters and figure out if they’re worth adding into your toolkit.
One of my favorite resources for screenwriters is The Script Lab. These educational articles consist of fascinating series like 5 Plot Point Breakdowns and First Ten Pages.
5 Plot Point Breakdowns breaks down famous films into five significant aspects. The Inciting Incident, Lock In (End of Act 1), First Culmination (End of Act 2), and the Third Act Twist. I really like this series because it takes a magnifying glass and identifies the elementary particles of any screenplay.
The First Ten Pages is exactly what it sounds like. It breaks down the first ten pages of popular screenplays. This is a fun, simple way to learn how to approach a screenplay. These resources are great for beginners, but it’s also important to further your education.
This is also a great resource for finding the latest screenwriting news, events, and competitions. On top of that, TSL also offers a script coverage service. With this service, you can choose to either have your first 20 pages, first draft, or final draft covered by professional readers. It’s important to your growth as a writer to constantly challenge yourself. If you don’t live in an area with writing workshops, or you don’t have the time or resources to join one, this is your next best bet!
The Black List is one of the most popular online resources for screenwriters. It’s wildly successful results are quick to show just why. More than 400 scripts that have appeared on the website have been produced, and they’ve grossed over $26 billion in the box office worldwide!
Not only does The Black List have the financial numbers to back up their credibility, but also the accolades. A lot of them. Movies from screenplays that appeared on the site have won 53 Academy Awards from 262 nominations. That includes 4 of the last 10 Best Picture Oscars as well as 10 of the last 22 Best Screenplay Oscars. I’m sold.
I’ve hosted a few of my screenplays on the website and used its service for evaluations from its selected source of readers. The hosting is $25 a month per screenplay. It can add up, especially if you’re hosting multiple screenplays, but it’s also increasing your chance of being noticed.
TBL uses a grading system 1-10 — 1 being the worst, 10 the best. TBL’s readership consists of industry professionals. This ranges from agency assistants to studio and network presidents to A-list actors and directors. There are alot of different backgrounds, and it’s obvious some or better than others. Like anything else in this industry, it’s a gamble.
This isn’t the only evaluation/coverage service I use but I find it mostly helpful. The feedback provided is usually pretty good. And I emphasize “usually.” I think it may be a luck of the draw kind of thing. There was a time I used the evaluation service for feedback on a script for separate drafts, and it put their whole service into perspective for me.
I received my first evaluation back after a few days had passed from my submission. It accompanied reasonable feedback explaining the score, offering suggestions, and overall thoughts. Great. But a month later, after putting together another draft, I used the evaluation service again. This time, I received the evaluation just after an hour of my submission. Notes were scant. The score didn’t reflect even remotely near the previous version. And evidence pointed in all directions of the reader not actually reading it.
So, as I said, it’s luck of the draw. When it’s good, it’s great; and when it’s bad, it’s plain awful. Luckily, that same script eventually found a pair of producers who have made it their mission to sell. So, things work out.
Even if you’re not in the WGA this is a resource every screenwriter should be aware of. From contracts to writers room podcasts and top news and events, this is a resource I like to visit often.
The WGA is serious about protecting screenwriters of all ranges. One of the resources that most writers visit the website for are its legal contracts. This is especially useful for those who still work at an indie or micro level where legal advice is only sought from a keyboard, rather than face to face with a professional. Contracts cover Theatrical, TV, Digital/New Media, Video Games, and the website even houses a contract for Writer Collaborations. Very useful for most writers.
For me, I use the WGA website to register every draft of every screenplay. It’s important to be cautious and protect your work. So, use common sense and copyright your work, folks! Even when I’m not listing my copyright on my title page, I’m still registering every screenplay with the WGA. It costs $20 for non-members and $10 if you are a member. I know there’s a ton of other things you would rather do with the money, but you’re gambling on enough as it is. No need to take an unnecessary chance.
There’s also information on the website detailing your rights as a writer. This is another thing every screenwriter should be familiar with. It’s important to know the details lest ye be taken advantage of. Also, it’s a fun, interactive platform with plenty of other useful information. So, my advice, peruse the WGA website from time to time!
As a writer you should always be reading. Whether you’re clearing one script a week or a handful, it’s important to always keep reading. No matter if you’re new to screenwriting or a seasoned professional, part of writing effectively will always come from reading.
It’s important to see what other writers are doing. Absorb how they write and what they write. Whether you’re reading good or bad scripts, they’re both important. You want to know the difference between good and bad writing, and easily identify what makes a good script good, and bad script, well, bad.
IMSDb is the perfect resource for finding most of the screenplays you would ever want to read. You want Dog Day Afternoon? You got it! You’re looking for something newer. More current? Okay. Get Out. Bam! Stay golden, Ponyboy.
You can say I saved the best for last, because out of all your resources as a screenwriter, the most important is always going to be other scripts. Nothing is going to make you a better writer than reading. End of story. Stephen King said it. And I’m sure Shakespeare would have said it if he had his own Master Class.
There are a few other online resources I’d also like to highlight. You might not utilize the following with every project moving forward, but these resources work great for finding competitions, general knowledge of screenwriting, workshops and more.
Even though Indie Film Hustle doesn’t make our main list, it has a lot to offer! From getting notes on your screenplay from Bulletproof Script Coverage to the Bulletproof Screenplay Podcast, this is an online resource I still like to visit from time to time. Created by Alex Ferrari, he offers years of industry experience, resources, and advice. This is a perfect online resource for beginners.
Every writer needs readers. The better the readers, the better feedback you’ll get. If you do have readers, but they’re family and friends, you’re likely to receive minimal notes or, more accurately, empty compliments. To grow as a writer you need real coverage.
It will cost you, but the script coverage service is worth it. It breaks down the type of screenplay you’ve written along with its scope (Studio film, Indie film, Micro budget film) and even gives you the background of the readers giving you notes. No one likes critical feedback, but it can be the difference between a good and great screenplay.
Don’t let this website’s appearance fool you. Even though it looks like it hasn’t been updated since the early 2000s, it holds a wealth of vital information. From legal FAQs and copyright registration to screenwriting tips, screenwriting glossary, and a comprehensive list of articles, you can’t go wrong.
This isn’t a website I visit often, but if I’m struggling for a piece of general information or want to take a look at an article about, say, the nuances of writing unlikeable characters, and why empathy is better than likeability, this is where I turn.
Now, this is just my comprehensive list of writing resources that have found a way into my toolkit. Some of these resources may work for some of you, but only you can decide what resources make it into your kit. Did I miss something? Is there an online resource you think I should check out? Please let me know in the comment section below!