Insecure writer and co-executive producer Amy Aniobi is on a comedy roll with an overall deal at HBO that will feature at least three projects over two years. As INSECURE heads into its fifth season (set to release in 2021), Aniobi will also write the limited series THE DOLLS with her INSECURE colleagues Issa Rae and Laura Kittrell as well as a new series she’s developing called ATTACHMENT.
It’s safe to say the Emmy-nominated writer learned a thing or two about the business. So here are five tips and techniques she has about how to become a screenwriter.
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Research the craft
“Literally google ‘how do you write a screenplay,’” she suggested. You can also read books like The TV Writer’s Workbook by Ellen Sandler or Writing the TV Drama Series by Pamela Douglas. Then start writing.
Screenwriters must write screenplays. Write often. Revise your work. Keep writing. Get better and keep improving. Not every script will earn you money — in fact, many won’t, especially when you first start out. Work on your craft. Build an exceptional portfolio.
Then connect with other people doing the same thing.
“It wasn’t enough to be in a closet, reading stuff online, and watching TV alone. Having a network of people around you is so valuable,” she shared.
It doesn’t mean you have to have an MFA. Follow Twitter threads like #PipelineWriters or #WritingCommunity, join Facebook groups for writers, connect with people who want to create a writers group, or find an accountability partner to swap pages with. These are the peers you will be developing your careers with!
Do the work to be represented
“[Getting representation] happens when it’s supposed to happen,” observed Aniobi. Agents and managers can be significant career changers — but they have to be the right fit and you have to be ready and marketable for them.
“An agent closes the deal for the job you want and a manager guides you to the relationships that get you the deal. A manager also manages your career,” she explained.
But you are still responsible for the work. Agents receive 10% of your paycheck because they do 10% of the work. You need to be doing the other 90%.
“Do the work. Do the work. Do the work. And then reps will start calling you,” she stated.
There are a few different types of meetings that are common for writers. A “general” meeting is very casual; it’s a meet-and-greet. It’s not a pitch. You’re not selling anything. You’re there to create a relationship.
“The number one question you’ll get is: tell me about yourself,” she warned with a laugh. You should rehearse the most interesting and on-brand things about yourself and get comfortable talking about them.
A “staffing” meeting is when you are being considered for a network. “Eventually you can write anything, but in the beginning, you need to pick a side: comedy or drama,” she said. Execs will want to know what box you fit into and which shows on their network they can hire you to write on (hint: research everyone you take a meeting with).
“Producer” and “Showrunner” meetings are when you will be considered for an actual show. Aniobi warns that you must watch the show and be ready to talk about it. But, perhaps more importantly, also be someone that other people will want to work with for ten hours a day.
“If not, maybe consider writing features,” she joked.
Pitch your script
“I like to get feedback from writers first,” Aniobi shares. When she has a new idea, she runs it by her writers group before pitching it to her reps. They may weigh in on whether other similar projects are already on the market or what certain buyers have expressed interest in.
Once her reps are on board, she writes up a one-page pitch document. From there, her reps send the one-page to networks. If they are interested, she gets to work on a cohesive pitch that will include details about the pilot, the first season, the characters, the themes, etc. It will become a 10-20 minute pitch she can try to sell.
“The most important phrase a writer can learn is let me take a look at that,” shared Aniobi. Receiving feedback can feel like a personal attack, but it isn’t. There is always a note behind the note. Pay attention to any feedback you receive and learn how to apply it to your project.
Final thoughts from Amy Aniobi’s video
There are many skills needed to become a professional screenwriter in addition to becoming an incredible screenwriter. You’ve got to learn the business as well. Forge a strong network of colleagues who will give you feedback and inspire you. Learn what will make you attractive to buyers (and therefore literary representation). And, of course, write, write, write.
If you want professional feedback on your script, check out one of our Script Coverage packages for industry-leading feedback, notes, and the insights you need to take your script to the next level. And for all the latest from WeScreenplay, be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Shannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and filmmaker in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. An Air Force veteran, her articles have been published in Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, and Military.com. She has written and produced hundreds of digital videos with millions of views. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!