William Goldman famously said about Hollywood “Nobody knows anything” and I think online screenwriting forums are good evidence of this. I have always tried to avoid them, convinced that they are, well, a waste of time. If I am going to be a screenwriter, I better spend more time writing for the screen than writing for other screenwriters. The best thing I have done for my screenwriting career is to start this blog and seek out other bloggers. Instead of spending time in the local pub—the “forums,” I have my own castle “the blog,” where I can express myself free of charge and without threat of flamers or dullards. It’s nice here, huh?
But is this the right move? Are there screenwriting forums I have missed? I decided to check out three to make sure I’m not missing out. I was a bit surprised by what I found—I even enjoyed some of them!
In the comments, let me know other screenwriting forums I should be checking out.
The Artful Forum
This one may be the first I was directed to as a young screenwriter all of five months ago. Connected to Craig Mazin and Ted Elliot’s blog, it features lively, moderated discussion, mostly about the craft of screenwriting. The “Ask a Pro” section of the forum seems like the coolest part of the site. I sifted through a thread with Ted Elliot and he did provide some decent replies to questions from members, who mostly asked about Pirates of the Caribbean. As much as he may have preferred to talk about something else, he did answer those questions.
The worst part are the judgmental, mean people who if you have a question, will look down on you and sort of make fun of you. For example, The Alameda Writers Group announced an event the other day on the blog. Instead of taking the poster seriously, the forum spent two days debating the grammar of the entry. Perhaps the Group posted in the wrong part of the forum, perhaps no one wants to go to the event, but still, not OK to be mean.
Opinion: I would look through this for information but think twice before posting. It’s not worth the effort to just be dissed or called a noob.
The Wordplay Forums are run by the prolific Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio. Unlike the Artful Forum, there are no categories for posts so it is one long line of topics. That written, the conversations I read this morning seem rather focused and helpful. I checked out one on contests that gave some good feedback on which to apply to; this is needful information for me as I just finished my first feature-length last month. It’s much less snarky than other screenwriting forums and may be worth checking out.
The downside: the threads are difficult to follow and not being powered by vBulletin like the Artful (or Celtx) Forums, they are simply a collection of links that take a bit of time to load. Before I subscribe to this one, I would like an improvement in readability. There are helpful links/advice on this board, you just have to search for it.
This is a hidden gem for me. Maybe it’s because I like Celtx so much, I just think that the people who use this free screenwriting software program must be pretty agreeable people. At its best, the Celtx Forums are a big party; threads include titles such as “The Original Skype Conference Call Thread (now UPDATED!)” and “How many people will jump in Celtx IRC chat?” It’s as if the members can’t get enough of each other on the board and need more outlets to talk and chill.
I am interested but a little afraid of the “Script Reviews & Collaboration” section. While seemingly very Web 2.0, I am not ready to put my script out there for strangers to read. This is strange, because ultimately I would like thousands of people to see it. Yet I do not think I can get the best sort of criticism online; I would have to know someone and trust that person before I could simply write him or her with my script. I have been burned too many times before. I like that this option exists and I have seen this on other forums, but I just don’t know. I’m not ready.
OK, time to share your experiences in the comments. Thanks for reading.
You know, I’m always afraid to commit too much time to forums (or even too many blogs – thank GOD for Google Reader) because they can totally suck you in. But then you do want to be educated, don’t you? And networked? So where/how do you draw the line?
I don’t have the answer yet, lol, but I do know that I’m supposed to be writing right now…
I stopped wasting my time in any sort of forum. Some people confuse forums with real life and take it as a mission to “protect” their threads or seriously hose somebody they don’t really know. When certain people start to spread their “personal problems” concerning real friends and family, it seems like they got the need to tell the whole world because they’re the center of it. That’s kinda odd. My sis hangs out in forums at the time and she knows one person who has truly made it her lifeblood… crazy!
I tried Triggerstreet for about a couple a months, and regretted it. It’s a waste of suck-up and pandering. It’s seems more about garnering points for getting people to just read your stuff than about legit feedback. It’s brutal, but for no beneficial reason.
@ Kristan–Yes, sometimes there is some powerful information online, but most of the time it’s just randomness.
Yet going on a messageboard never helped anyone write a script, right? It’s all just a waste of time in that regard I guess.
@ Sarah–I agree, cyberbullying is huge on forums. Generally I would rather be socializing with people in real life, but it is very easy to log in to a board and have instantly one hundred friends. So I understand why people do it.
@ Kevin–yes, Triggerstreet sounds like a waste of time. “Brutal but for no particular reason” sounds like half of screenwriting anyway, why expose yourself to that unnecessarily?
I like artfulwriter’s site, and am familiar with Ted Elliot, so I will have to check that out.
Wordplayer and Rossio have been my staples, love the columns, have peeked in on the msg board but some of it seemed brutal, I was surprised.
I’m becoming a regular at Bill Martell’s “Script Secrets” site. It doesn’t get snotty and I’ve gotten some fantastic advice from Bill and a guy who is a volunteered moderator, James Paul Joyce, from Canada.
Instead of spending hours on the web searching for answers, or staring at my script, these guys offered useful info in a very tactful way.
Great link, thanks for the site. I like how positive the discussion seems. It is easy to get snarky on a forum!
I started more than a decade ago on dedicated e:mail lists, one in particular run out of the Film School at UT in Texas, a very positive experience that endured for three years.
Since those days I’ve spent some time on every screenwriting website there is or ever was, including Larry Brody’s TV writing site.
I settled on Rossio’s Wordplayer and Martel’s site a few years back and have been a happy camper since. I hate Wordplayer’s software but manage to live with it. Bill Martel is a regular there, always with good advice and a keen sense of humor, and Terry frequently chimes in.
The tone is quite cordial; flame wars are rare to zero.
Terry’s columes are worth their weight in gold too, BTW.
Getting reads on the web is not a good idea. You need to retain the services of a competent script consultant and you need to do this before you submit your script to anyone for any reason.
There’s nothing like an objective critique from a competent practitioner of the craft.
Lastly, if you started in screenwriting five months ago, you have three, four or five years and four to six scripts to go before you can claim professional level competence. Mark my words. 🙂
I mean, the screenwriting MFA program at UCLA Film School isn’t five years long for fun.
There’s a lot more to learn than meets the common eye.
My best to you nevertheless!