Secrets of Breaking into the Industry - Part 2

Written by: Dean Silvers
Published: Feb 16, 2015

In part 1, director/producer Dean Silvers, who has worked on films with David O. Russell, Harvey Weinstein and others, introduced a new model of breaking into the entertainment industry. Here, he discusses writing and rewriting a script and the importance of getting it read by actors for feedback. The following is an excerpt from Dean’s book Secrets of Breaking into the Film & TV Business.

Fail as often as you can.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of failure as a pathway to success. You see and hear this everywhere: You cannot possibly succeed without failing first and learning from your failures along the way. That thought should be self-evident, but as we exist in such a success-driven society, it can be hard to remember that failure is a key component of the creative process.

The first draft of your screenplay won’t always be great. That’s a failure. The first rough cut of your movie will be too long and uninteresting. Failure again. And your first completed short will also have flaws and failures. You can see the pattern. But those failures are necessary because they put you in position to rewrite, recut, and rethink how and why you failed. It also allows you to improve your skills and create something superior the next time around.

The story of The King’s Speech is ideally emblematic of this “failure” truth. King George VI learned that unless he put himself out there, kept trying and faltering and then picking himself up again, he would have nowhere to go. Failure is the cornerstone to success. More on this later.

Write with actors in mind. I am not saying that you have to have that actor when you shoot your film, but many of the writers that I have worked with tell me that if they visualize a particular actor or actors for particular roles, that helps enormously in their writing. When I was writing The Atlantis Conspiracy, I had a specific actress in mind for the lead. Although I did not end up using that actress, the visualization of her during my screenwriting process proved to be enormously helpful.

Rewrites: Get that muscle going. Everyone says “writing is rewriting” because it’s absolutely true. Most people’s first drafts are seriously flawed –even those of big Hollywood screenwriters. So how do you make them better? Rewriting. And rewriting . And rewriting. I lost count of how many rewrites were conducted by filmmakers I’ve worked with so far.

Table reads, table reads, table reads. Doing a “table read,” where people come together to read and constructively criticize your work as a group, is one of the most important, economical, and overlooked things you can do in maximizing the creative potential of your product. At first blush you may think we are getting way ahead of ourselves in doing table reads when you are in the beginnings of writing your script. But this is exactly when you should be doing table reads—when you are in the process of writing your screenplay.

Writing a table read is an ongoing, “non-precious” process, and a table read can and should be done early on, to make sure you are on the right track. This is your first step to introduce your work to the public at large. Then go from there. Many times in my career, when I felt lost while working on a screenplay, I had numerous table reads throughout the rewriting process (most without untrained actors), which turned out to be one of the most valuable exercises I did.

Note from InkTip: You can check out Dean's book here. See below to contact him.

Dean Silvers' films have made millions of dollars worldwide, starring such actors as Ben Stiller, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, and have played at the Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto Film Festivals. He has directed and produced films for David O. Russell, Harvey Weinstein and others. His book "Secrets of Breaking into the Film and TV Business" (based on his seminar) was recommended by the NY Times and is an Amazon Arts#1 Bestseller. He is currently in production on a T.V. Pilot and a Feature Film.

Want to get in touch? Contact Dean:
Also find him here: Twitter / Facebook