My Secret Formula for Breaking-In as a Screenwriter

CJ Walley
11 min readOct 9, 2019
Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

You see it every day on the forums, how do I break in? What’s the Goldilocks porridge of scripts that will guarantee success? What do I need to create that magic bullet? Who do I need to talk to to make it all happen? What is Hollywood looking for? DEAR GOD, PLEASE TELL ME WHAT THIS CRAZY TOWN IS LOOKING FOR!?!? I empathise with this dilemma and, in this article, I’m going to outline what I feel is a genuine strategy toward getting your foot in the door as a working screenwriter.

I’ve always professed that I don’t believe there’s a magic formula to breaking into screenwriting. There’s just never been enough data for me to see any pattern that suggests one route over another and I’ve done a ton of reading and research on the subject. Serendipity plays a huge part since the main factors that cause industry members and writers connect are either subjective (they like your voice) or logistical (they find you convenient). In the more recent years, I’ve suggested staying unwaveringly close to our true artistic voice and writing shoestring budget single location specs in the hope of aligning with an industry member with similar taste. After all, this was how I got my own first feature script option.

This was until I myself got swept up unexpectedly into the film world and whisked over to Los Angeles to see inside the sausage machine. As someone who was pretty much doing everything to not have a Hollywood career (I was writing very cultish material and not promoting myself) this was an unexpected but welcome and enlightening experience. I have learned so much in the past twelve months it’s been mind-blowing. I knew a lot about the history of film business before this happened but only now do I have any real insight on the state of the current market.

When reflecting on what I now know, the biggest issue that really stands out to me is that most amateur screenwriters are relying on a very outdated method to break-in. I’m talking about a method that was getting tired thirty years ago. This method revolves around endlessly producing studio budget spec scripts, usually in response to what’s currently in the box office, and querying as many industry members as possible in the hope of the sale. This method did once have a huge competitive advantage. Sitting down to write a completely speculative…

CJ Walley

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