Becoming a professional screenwriter is one of the most rewarding careers, but it’s not without its challenges, namely finding a way in. Breaking into the film industry can be daunting, especially for those new to the scene. Networking and building relationships often requires access that many don’t have, which is why many aspiring screenwriters turn to screenwriting competitions like Launch Pad that offer introductions to the very people that can take their careers to the next level.
This is what happened for Ivy Johnson.
After receiving the Top Comedy prize at the 8th Annual Launch Pad Pilot Screenwriting Competition, Launch Pad set up meetings for Ivy with MGM Television as part of our Winners Event, which helped her sign with Cartel, as well as land a development deal with MGM Television and Apatow Productions.
We were able to catch up with Ivy to ask her about her path to success, what helped her get to where she is, and how other screenwriters can learn from her experience.
Take Advantage of the Low Points
The path to becoming a professional writer is rarely easy, and for Ivy, things became even harder once the pandemic hit.
“Pretty much all of my career prospects evaporated all of a sudden. My agent dropped me. It was really brutal. It was a real low. But, in a way, it was also kind of an interesting moment, too. I realized that even if there was no hope of ever becoming a professional TV writer, I really still wanted to write all the time. Even when I’m feeling very pessimistic about, like, whether I’ll ever make money from it, I still love to do it.”
So, what did Ivy do? She got to work.
“I started reading a lot of books. I started taking some courses. I started learning some good stuff about TV… developing an online community with a bunch of people from all over the world, including a lot of people in LA. I was starting to think differently about what my next steps might be. That’s basically where I was when I entered Launchpad.”
Persistence is the name of the game in this industry. It’s easy to feel dejected and start doubting yourself when things don’t go your way professionally, but don’t let rejection or bad circumstances stop you. Be tenacious about finding ways to improve your craft, build your network, and find new opportunities to get your work out there.
Find a Way to Get Noticed
Talent is definitely an important factor to breaking in, but all the talent in the world won’t do you much good unless you can get someone’s attention with it. Ivy was determined to get her work out there, so she went the screenwriting competition route.
“I had done some research and I had seen that [Launch Pad] was one of the best competitions for credibility and…something that would, hopefully, get me noticed. Competitions in general. I planned to enter, I think, five and I think I entered a couple. But that was one of my tactics — working on a lot of different things, trying to break in in a variety of different ways.
I sort of felt that I’ve been working as a writer for a while. I had experience. And I’d been really honing my skills for a while. I felt like, okay, I think that I am talented. I’m going to go under the assumption that I’m talented. So, what I needed to find was a way to get noticed. And I thought that [Launch Pad] would be really useful for that. And it was.”
The Benefits of Entering Screenwriting Competitions
There are many roads that lead to professional success in screenwriting, but one that isn’t often considered or taken as seriously as it should is entering screenwriting competitions. Ivy explained a few different benefits of entering the Launch Pad TV Pilot Screenwriting Competition.
You Get on People’s Radar
Again, screenwriting competitions can really help put you in front of the right people. Ivy explains what her experience was like.
“Winning a big contest like that… allowed me…to get noticed by a lot of people that I really don’t think I would have had a chance with otherwise. A lot of big companies do read contest winners and contest finalists. Directly, both my development deal with Apatow and with MGM were a result. With MGM, it was a connection you guys made for me — you set up a meeting for me. And with Apatow, they read the script because of its contest placement.”
Praise is Fine. Results Are Better.
Sure, it’s nice to have people heap praise on your writing skills, but at the end of the day, praise doesn’t pay the bills or open doors. If you’re looking for the right competition for you, that’s something you’ll definitely want to consider. Are they there just to make you feel good or are they there to maybe tell you some hard truths about your writing in hopes of getting you to the next level?
“I’ve entered other contests before. I’ve placed and won other contests before, but I remember at the time thinking, you know, it feels good to win anything, right? Like, I’m a millennial — I love positive reinforcement. But, I was not looking for someone to tell me that I was a good writer, I was looking for someone who could help my career. So, I only wanted to enter contests where I thought that might happen if I won.”
How to Nail a Pitch
Ivy has done her fair share of pitches in her life and she shared some of her best pitching advice during our interview.
Do Your Research
“I know you’re supposed to research a lot. I do that so I’m not surprised. I researched the company — what sorts of things they’re looking for. But… you get surprised anyway
Be Curious and Friendly
“I like to approach it like a conversation, and in a conversation, you shouldn’t just talk about yourself. You should ask questions. I tend to try to be interested and curious — really having a genuine connection, which I have found to be not hard. We always have a lot in common because we love television.”
Write Everything From Your Meeting Down
“Immediately after every meeting, I write down everything I can remember, which is really helpful for me because I don’t have a super great memory. I’m not gonna remember the name of the movie that was recommended, or I’ll get mixed up, like, this person said they had twin daughters and this person said something else. So, it’s nice to know, because generally, you want to be able to follow up with something more than like, ‘Hi, how are you? Did you read my script?’ Or, ‘Hi, how are you? Can I have a job?’ You’re trying to make a human connection.”
“If I’m pitching something, I overprepare. I sort of know what to expect, so sometimes I’ll write answers to the questions that I think they’re gonna ask me. I have to write down — what are my favorite shows, because sometimes someone’s like, ‘So, what shows do you like,” and you’re like, ‘Oh… I can’t think of anything.”
Read More: I Just Wrote My TV Pilot. Now What?
Thanks, Ivy! Congrats on all of your success.