Skip to content

Lesson: Real World

Table of Contents

My background with the film industry:

  • Odd jobs and a lot of unemployment.
  • Working in the industry: television and movies.
  • Moving to SaskFilm: the industry boom.
  • Masters and the major industry change.
  • Selling scripts and stories.

WOARO and you

Just like a story, you can apply the principles of story to your life (as I said, story is life):

  • What do you want?
  • What stands in your way?
  • What actions can you take?

Wants & Obstacles

  • Skill level. Your degree doesn't mean a lot to the industry—some do, but mainly for connections.
  • The industry is still restarting—stay or move—And where? Canada or States or elsewhere?
  • Working 12-14 hour work days—hard to think afterwards.
  • How do you find producers? Filmmakers? Funding?
  • 2021 WGC rates: Scripts: $61,163; first draft from existing treatment: $21,381; Script, based on a Story or Screen Story provided by a producer, $36,890.
  • Producers may not offer $ for your option or will tell you non-union shoots don't pay IPA dollars (= $0).
  • Producers will often try to undercut you.
  • A lot of people competing for your job.
  • Low demand: Execs, producers, agents, and filmmakers get 1-15 scripts on their desks every day (15 x 365=5475 a year). Of that 99% of all scripts are rejected. Then there are options, non-union, production hell, shelved projects, etc.....


First steps

  • Keep writing. Set goals. Improve skills.
  • Writing groups. If you can’t find one, start one.
  • Read other people’s work. Provide feedback. You’ll learn as well.
  • Take more classes.
  • Read more books.
  • Remember the graph of skill = time x work


Next Steps

  • Do you know where you are taking this?
  • What broadcasters, producers, and programs are available to you? What funding and grants can you use?
  • Time to research.

Paths to Getting Sold

  • Working in production—networking
  • Fellow students
  • Scriptwriting competitions
  • Pitchfests
  • Festivals—best when you are a writer/director or part of a team (i.e. writer, director, producer).
  • Cold Calls and Query Letters—Agents
  • Social Networking (blah, blah, blah)
  • Build your own career—filmmaking is different now.
  • (unexpected and often rare path to career)
  • Do good work and share it.

Big Steps

  • Work your butt off (write 10+ scripts) and get great.
  • Foot in the door—things can happen. Meet producers, filmmakers, funding agencies…
  • Network—be friendly, talk, and introduce yourself.
  • You don't need to work in the industry to find success.
  • Patience.
  • Some say sacrifice: sleep, money, time. I say always treat yourself well.
  • Pick yourself.
  • It's who you know and your attitude.


  • We are all in sales now. Learn to talk, pitch, and work with people.
  • Build pitches that are 2-3 minutes. 5 minutes max.
  • Your script is your calling card.
  • The more scripts you have in your arsenal, the more prepared you are.
  • Every path is different, but most depend on the connections you make.

Log Line

  1. A one or two-sentence summary of your story.
  2. Make it simple: What if (premise)? Or: What if X meets Y?
  3. Find the hook.
💫 (Title of script) is a (specific genre) in the vein of (similar film). It follows (main character) and (supporting character) as they (second act activity). Problems occur when (complication). Now they must (third act strategy)!

Talking Points

  • This movie is unlike any in its genre because of (its unique approach).
  • Audiences will respond to (theme).
  • And they’ll love scenes such as (memorable set pieces).
  • Why do you write?

The Pixar Pitch

Pixar story artist, Emma Coats, says that every Pixar film shares the same narrative DNA – a deep structure of storytelling that involves six sequential sentences:

  1. Once upon a time, there was… (Main Character)
  2. Every day…(Ordinary world), then one day… (Catalyst)
  3. Because of that… (End Act 1)
  4. Because of that… (End Act 2A)
  5. Because of that…(End Act 2B)
  6. Until finally… (Act 3)

The Pitch Document

Build a one-page document. Focus less on images and fancy fonts and focus more on conveying your story.

There are several formats, but a popular one is using a one-sentence logline, with a short paragraph that summarizes the story, and a further detailed description over several paragraphs.

You are trying to draw a producer’s interest in the story. The logline acts as a hook, compelling them to read further.

Working on Production

  • Sleep, eat healthy, and exercise as best you can when you are on production.
  • Production is like kindergarten—egos, expectations
  • If you thrive on stress/rest/stress/rest/“OMG there's a fire!!!”/rest, then you are perfect for production.
  • Learning to be a people person will really help you.
  • Don't be incompetent, lazy, or an asshole and you'll likely get hired again.
  • Have a day job, but do what you love. If you want to do something, then do it—every day.
  • Work hard and don't give up.
  • Don't let shitty people get you down.

Final Assignment

Write a 3-5 page script based on your outline from last week. This is an opportunity to demonstrate all that you’ve learned in class in a longer form. Remember: the script can grow, change, and evolve from your outline. Think of the outline as only the first draft of your final script.

Marking Criteria:

Here is a breakdown of the mark, which is out of 10%.


Things to consider:

  • Does the script demonstrate an understanding of WOARO? Is there a want and does the character end at an outcome (either good or bad).
  • Does it achieve the purpose of this final week’s assignment?
  • Proper screenplay format (including active, present tense; sluglines; character introductions), as well as spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
  • Are all the elements of the story there? Does the story feel complete?
  • The proper page count of the assignment.

Due: Sunday, December 4 at midnight ( Saskatchewan time). No late scripts will be allowed.