An Open Letter to Screenwriters Everywhere

Please, Think About What You Write

I understand that times are tough right now. You feel you have to write towards trends. What's hot. What's popular. Where the industry is headed. Believe me, I get it. But, please, I beg of you, for the love of all that is sacred, please do not write more quarantine dramas right now. No romances during a pandemic. No more "Love in the time of Corona" type stuff. Please, for the love of God. We are about to be inundated with this genre and it's infuriating. People want escapism right now - they do not want to watch what they've already been relegated to in their everyday lives. Everything is about to be contained. Pandemic thrillers, quarantine dramas, and contained horrors. I ask of you, please reconsider writing these types of films. Write the script you were meant to write - the one you've always wanted to write. But, be more imaginative than this. We know this is what you're going through. We are all going through it right now, too.

It's Not Original

If everyone is doing it, it's not original anymore, right? I'm telling you right now, writing "your take" on a romance against all biological odds, a quarantine drama where the couple is relegated to the confines of their home, or thriller about a pandemic infecting the world is simply unimaginative and lazy at this present moment, if you ask me. Tell the story you always wanted to write as a kid. Write the screenplay you feel you were put on this Earth to do. Please, I beg of you. I understand that we will all have writing assignments. There will be gigs that ask you to write stories of this kind. Believe me, there's no one who understands that more than I do. The goal is always to be a working writer. To be a paid writer. To be in a writer's room. To be the writer they call upon to write that hot script right now. I get it. These things will happen. But, I'm just telling you: if you want to be the one who writes "that one" script during your time in quarantine - the script that gives you your big break, then write that script that has always been on your mind. The one that has been escaping you for years. Re-write that one script that has been collecting dust on your shelf. Hell, write that big budget script you've always dreamed of writing, but were too worried about the budget to do in the first place! This is the time to do what you want. They say, "one for you, one for me," right? Well, write that one script you want, then write one for them!

Rewrite the Trend

Yes, the industry may start trending towards stories about a pandemic, or having the pandemic in the background. It's abundantly clear that superhero films have been a trend of late, or anything based on existing IP. But, the quarantine and films of a contained nature will start to become a subcategory that will trend, if it hasn't already. I understand the desire is there to write towards trends. Let's buck those trends! Now is the time to create a new trend. Write more original works. Get picked up by a streamer. Yes, a streamer. David Fincher just signed a four year deal with Netflix. He will create content for them, be it original features or maybe even Mindhunter Season 3. I understand this is David Fincher I'm talking about here, but we can dream. Streaming is the future. As much as it pains me to write this, I fully understand movie theaters could become a thing of the past. People have either lost interest or don't feel comfortable going to theaters anymore. Perhaps a bit of both. With the subtraction of movie theaters, streaming services may look towards more original material. Of course, we have to write a kick-ass script. That's a given. But, I'm saying we need to turn these genres on their heads. Start subverting the genres we've all come to familiarize ourselves with and make it our own! Take that unique and original idea that you have and put your stamp on it. Don't become dust in the wind. Become your own trend.

Be Yourself. Get Noticed. Profit.

I know it is difficult to motivate yourself during a time like this. We're all chasing our dreams while the world wants to end. Believe me when I tell you, I'm with you in this struggle. Every day we procrastinate, we don't write x number of pages in a given day, we don't work on the script we're supposed to, we feel like we're worthless. Our productivity does not make us or break us, but we do need to utilize this time that has been given to us. It is my hope that you have used the time we were given to the fullest, but I also understand if you didn't or couldn't. Burnout is a real thing - you don't want to force it day to day. Chances are, you force something, it'll be shit. But, since we do have this extra spare time on our hands (maybe you do, maybe you don't) let's use it to the fullest extent possible. I was lucky enough to be able to write a new feature while in quarantine last year, and rewrite all of my other scripts. I do realize that not everyone was as lucky as me. However, if you do find that you have additional spare time these days, use that to write whatever it is you need or want to be writing right now. And be yourself when writing this particular project! I don't care if it's a spec you want to write or a script you were conscripted to write, put yourself into that work. You need to figure out a way to have fun with it, otherwise you are going to be miserable when doing it. That personal touch is going to be the difference between an inspired piece of work, or a run-of-the-mill forgettable project that will have its time and go immediately from the public consciousness before you knew it hit you. Your hard work and dedication during this strange time will be rewarded, I promise you that. It may not be right away - it could be years down the road. But, it will happen for you.

Don't Add to the Already Saturated Market

Writing "the" script to get you into Hollywood is beautiful looking dream. I get it. We all strive towards it. It's something that we writers all fantasize about for years. But, ultimately, it's a pipe dream. It's for the 0.1% of writers. There are what, hundreds of thousands of us? Millions? The chance of all of us writing "that one" script to "make it" is astronomical. Can it happen? Yes, absolutely. But, realistically, we cannot bank on it. So, here's what we need to do. Do not add to the already saturated market of scripts which dominate the shelves of Hollywood. Let's make our own material and be noticed that way. Whether it be that deeply personal indie drama that's a festival darling, or that high concept contained thriller that's a low-key, cult streaming hit. We need to be proud of the small successes that build on each other until we reach the point we can be working writers. That is the goal. Of course, any one of us could strike gold and make that million dollar Project Power on Netflix. I understand that's a possibility in anyone's career, but it's not a probability. Since we screenwriters are either cynics or realists, we see the bigger picture. We know what's likely for us, and what's a longshot. So, my ask of you is this: let's all temper our expectations at the door and create in the best way we know how. Let's all write something that is close to the heart and that can resonate with readers and audiences alike. Write the script that is you, through and through. Let's not overwhelm readers and audiences with what they're all too familiar with - or what they'll likely roll their eyes at.


You know what I'm talking about. So, let's do it.


Are you with me?

Rob McNeil

My name is Rob McNeil. I was born and raised in Normal, Illinois and I am a 28 year-old award winning screenwriter. I am very passionate about film, so much that I watch far too many films on a daily basis. I have written fifteen feature screenplays, a spec pilot thriller series, and several short scripts. I aim to make filmmaking a career, but for now, I will write about it.

Rob McNeil

My name is Rob McNeil. I was born and raised in Normal, Illinois and I am a 28 year-old award winning screenwriter. I am very passionate about film, so much that I watch far too many films on a daily basis. I have written fifteen feature screenplays, a spec pilot thriller series, and several short scripts. I aim to make filmmaking a career, but for now, I will write about it.

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