Beware Screenwriting Quicksand

CJ Walley
19 min readMay 20, 2020

Something I see every day that really pains me are screenwriters walking into the equivalent of career quicksand. I see this happening on various stages of writer’s journeys and sometimes they aren’t so much aimlessly wandering into trouble as gleefully diving right in to thunderous applause. Sometimes they are pushed. Here’s what I think screenwriters looking to build careers need to look out for while treading very carefully.

Before I get into this, I want to state that I’m not naming any names. I’ve come to learn over the years, while working my way up the system, that corruption runs thick throughout the amateur screenwriting community and it gets worse day-by-day. Sadly, it’s just not worth facing legal battles or the hordes of cultists that defend these companies and individuals. There is a lot of money at stake and people don’t want to lose it. So anyway…

Paid Exposure Services

The early steps on your screenwriting journey are most likely going to lead you to some form of paid exposure service. These suck you in by preying on three key things all new screenwriters suffer from; the need to be validated, an urgency to be discovered, and having zero industry contacts to approach.

The process is usually a case of “rating and ranking” but the ratings are done by unknown individuals and the ranking has ambiguous value. In many cases, myself included, people know individuals employed to rank material and are sorely disappointed by their credentials. There’s a general rule at play here; people who can identify great scripts don’t work for minimum wage. They become producers or executives earning significant money. There also tends to be a lot of mystery surrounding the industry members they claim value their ranking. Mystery to the point they won’t even tell you who’s reading your material. The genuine effectiveness of these services tends to be clearly demonstrated in their poor success rate which shows they do, in no way, justify their high costs.

What’ll trap you and suck you in deeper is the human propensity to gamble when costs and odds are low. This is exasperated with subjective material because the gambler can often believe they just need the right eyes on their script so the next roll of the dice will be the number they are looking for. That works…

CJ Walley

Screenwriter | Film Producer | Founder of Script Revolution & Rebelle Rouser | Author of Turn & Burn