Career Excelerator for Screenwriters – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS THE CAREER EXCELERATOR FOR SCREENWRITERS AT MPii?
The Career Excelerator for Screenwriters is a new career development fellowship program which Motion Picture Industry Institute is launching in 2022. It is purpose-built to speed the career-launching and furthering process, as well as significantly improve the upward trajectory of the professional careers of emerging and mid-career writers of feature films and series.
This part-time, intensive and comprehensive, two-year, tuition-free, online program combines the best elements of :
- A career accelerator sharing access to high-impact career-building strategies and channels for faster, more effective navigation of the struggle years.
- Intensive, on-going workshops providing unique access to higher level collaborative creative process and story craft skills.
- A professional networking and on-going career-building support community.
Built on over three decades of MPii’s industry-leading research into career-strategies among working professionals, this new program is designed to reduce the stressful, confusing and often counter-productive aspects of “the struggle years” that the vast majority of future and even mid-career professional screenwriters experience as they attempt to launch and further their careers.
This new part-time, two-year program is for aspiring, emerging and mid-career screenwriters, as either:
- A supplement for those already enrolled in or who have completed a graduate screenwriting program, and want additional support in launching their careers.
- An alternative to a traditional graduate film school screenwriting program, as a faster track to a successful career launch.
- A booster rocket for those who have already started their career launch or may already be working as a professional screenwriter, who can benefit from extra, higher-level support in furthering their careers.
WHAT IS A CAREER EXCELERATOR VS. OTHER SCREENWRITING PROGRAMS?
As a career-development program the Career Excelerator for Screenwriters at MPii is quite different from traditional screenwriting programs, such as film school, or industry fellowship and diversity programs. For example, at most screenwriting programs the focus is on writing screenplays, with some degree of instruction, feedback and maybe mentorship from instructors/leaders, as well as some general feedback and some built-in networking building and community support from classmates.
The Career Excelerator for Screenwriters at MPii is, by design, uniquely laser-focused on the strategies, skills and preparations that most directly impact career-launch and career-building success, according to ongoing research conducted at MPii. These insights and skills are different, and over and above the basic screenwriting covered in film school and even industry fellowship programs, which may touch upon, but understandably are not able to fully delve into this more complex area of career-launching and building.
WHAT IS THE UNIQUE FOCUS OF THE CAREER EXCELERATOR PROGRAM?
As a high-level, high-impact career building program, the Career Excelerator for Screenwriters focuses intently on the 3 areas that most impact career success for professional screenwriters:
- Industry best practice Career Strategies for a successful career launch with a strong upward trajectory, including:
- Successfully obtaining top-quality agent and manager representation,
- A much healthier and more effective approach to networking,
- Many other high-impact career-launching and building insights, techniques and skills, especially all the OTHER elements of a career-launch beyond your writing samples/spec scripts, which have been curated over decades of research with the top agents, managers and other career-building experts in the industry.
- Power tools for navigating the challenging COLLABORATIVE creative process, known as Hollywood story development, and working successfully on writing staff and/or with producers and development execs, including:
- High-pact collaborative tactics and skills for avoiding ‘Development Hell’ while also building the all-important positive “we’ve worked together” professional relationships required for a sustainable career.
- Protocols and practices that are crucial to both doing better quality work and to becoming the story creative everyone wants on their team.
- The career-long process of continually building higher level story craft skills, including unique access to the most closely-guarded master-level tools and techniques for creating more powerful and better-crafted stories, the various forms of breaking story and especially pitching, which have been carefully collected by MPii over decades of research and on-the-job work with the top writers and story development people in the industry.
Unfortunately, these three most-important subject areas are also the most complex and least understood. In part, because they are some of the most closely-held secrets in Hollywood.
Therefore they are the least taught to future professionals at the top film schools and even within the industry itself, whether in industry fellowships or on the job training. As a result, not only do virtually all future and emerging professional screenwriters lack a sufficient understanding of these strategies, insights and skills, but so do even most mid-career working professional screenwriters, whose careers, while maybe active, are not achieving their full potential.
This is why the Career Excelerator for Screenwriters at MPii was created to directly address this industry problem by arming future and currently working professional screenwriters with a deep and comprehensive set of power tools to much more effectively prepare for and execute the launch and furthering of their careers to blast through the struggle years.
WHAT ARE “THE STRUGGLE YEARS”?
It is a well-known tradition in the motion picture industry (as with most art forms) that aspiring screenwriters must navigate a period of time commonly referred to as the “starving artist years” after film school, or whatever form of professional craft preparation they have undertaken, before they are successfully making a sustainable livelihood at the craft.
For those screenwriters who do make it up through from launch to a sustainable meaningful career, it takes approximately 7-10 years. Even those who seem to have earlier success, and quickly become paid working pros, they usually plateau or stumble due to lack of deeper preparation, which will then extend their struggle years to the 7-10 year range.
The Career Excelerator program at MPii is designed to fill the void of knowledge and training that stands between the struggle years and having a viable career. The program is designed to cut the struggle years in half in terms of time and perhaps even more so in terms of frustration.
Also, because the Career Excelerator is focused so intensively on those 3 most impactful areas, it not only reduces the years and the frustration, but the program arms its graduates with strategies and skills which will set them on a more powerfully upward trajectory to career success.
WHY DOES THIS PROGRAM CONTAIN SO MUCH MORE HIGHER-LEVEL INSIDER INTEL?
The higher-level curriculum of Career Excelerator for Screenwriters at MPii comes from a number of sources with unique access to the cutting edge issues that working professional screenwriters struggle with, as well as insider insights from decades of research with not just screenwriters, but also agents, managers, producers, execs, director, star actors and other industry professionals in MPii’s Roundtables and other confidential channels of communication about the most pressing issues challenging their careers and daily work.
Over the years, the information collected from hundreds of the industry’s top experts in a wide range of issues, from their actual real-world work challenges, has become the world’s richest resource of high-level, insider, confidential information about the inner workings of and the best practices for career success in our industry.
This combined with the intense research, exploration, vetting and testing of the extremely wide range of story development insights, tools and techniques from MPii’s long-running Story Sessions program, means that the Career Excelerator for Screenwriters program is, by design and its unique access, the one program with the most comprehensive and master-level knowledge base.
WHY IS MPii THE IDEAL SOURCE OF THE EXCELERATOR?
As the leading nonprofit research institute of best practices in the motion picture industry, the main mission of MPii is to strengthen and improve our industry by helping working professionals to build their skills and capabilities.
Based on decades of research, MPii arguably has not only the most, but also the best how-to information in the industry, especially when it comes to what works and what doesn’t work for building the careers of working professionals.
The high-level research MPii has conducted, and continues to conduct, make it the only place in the world with such a collection of up-to-the-minute current, high-level insider information most vital to career success in the motion picture industry, especially in the area of story creative work such as professional screenwriting.
WHAT IS MEANT BY “PROFESSIONAL SCREENWRITER?
For the purposes of better understanding who this program is designed for, at MPii, we use the expression “professional screenwriter” to refer to those story creatives who earn their living drafting script and other written story materials in the Hollywood and world-wide international motion picture industry, which includes scripted feature films and series.
This definition could include or exclude writer/director type filmmakers, depending on a number of factors, such as whether they are, or intended to work on assignment or not. There are certainly a lot of potential overlaps and gray areas between the various categories of writers in the wide range of approaches to filmmaking.
If, for example, your passion and career goal is to write extremely personal films for your own creative/artistic expression, where your focus is on yourself as a solo artist, this program may not be the best fit for you.
This program is designed to provide high-impact insights, tools and techniques for those writers who are interested in being part of a collaborative creative team that makes major motion pictures (features and/or series) for large world-wide audiences.
Therefore, the collaborative creative process is one of the three main focus areas of the program. Bearing in mind that the team sport of the collaborative creative process has within it different levels of leadership and participatory involvement.
This program trains participants how to survive and thrive in the various story development and production environments, at the various stages of your career.
For example, this program addresses how to rock being the more supportive team player in the early years, then as you build experience, credibility and successes, as well as the master-level power tools and techniques for creative team leadership, which become even more valuable as you move up the career ladder.
WHAT IS A FELLOWSHIP?
While the term “Fellowship” is used differently at different industry institutions and organizations, at MPii our fellowships are built around high-level career skills research and learning, with hands-on training and experience-building opportunities for emerging as well as mid-career working professionals.
The curriculum of each fellowship is designed in consultation with a mentor and includes specific areas of study and experience-building, as well as program milestones and measures of success, such as thesis projects.
Most fellowships at MPii are multi-year, intensive, part-time, online as well as in person programs. Generally, they are custom designed around the specific needs of the individual fellow or specific groups of fellows, such as the Career Excelerator programs which provide more structured support for cohorts of participants who gain benefits of community support by going through the program together.
Admissions prerequisites and qualifications commonly include successful completion of MPii internships or the application process of a Career Excelerator program, such as the Career Excelerator for Screenwriters (launching in 2022).
HOW DO I APPLY?
Applications are now open. The application process, like the program itself, is a bit intensive, with multiple steps designed to help you to more fully determine if the program is a good fit for you at this time. To apply and/or for more information contact: CESinfo@MPii.org or go to the APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS here.
Grades, SAT, GRE or other test scores, are not part of this application process. Applicants are evaluated much more on completion of the steps than on vague and subjective parameters, such as perceived ‘talent’.
We recommended that you budget approximately 2 – 5 hours for each of the 6 steps of the application process in order to complete your application.
NOTE: Our expectation, based on our research and experience, is that 80% or more of the applicants who complete the application process, will be admitted to the program. At the same time, we anticipate that as much as 80% or more of the applicants will not complete the application process, even though there is nothing inherently insurmountable in the steps of the application process itself.
The application deadline for early admission is April 30, 2022. Thereafter, applications are accepted on a rolling admission basis until August 18, 2022.
NOTE: the application process is designed to take several days to complete. If you have begun your application before the deadline, you will be given up to 14 days to complete the application process.
WHEN DO APPLICANTS FIND OUT IF THEY HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED?
Once you complete your application, you will be notified of your acceptance within a week.
If you are completing your application after the deadline (which requires you to start your application before the deadline), you will be notified a week or two after you complete your application.
If, for some reason you do not hear back from us within a week from when you complete the sixth step of the application process, please reach out to us at the email provided on the application form.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM A GOOD APPLICANT?
Career Excelerator for Screenwriters at MPii was created for those who are serious about launching and furthering successful careers as professional screenwriters in the highly competitive motion picture industry. For the program to be effective in only two years, it must operate at a rather intensive level.
And the way the program is designed, it’s really on you to get your work done and stay on top of things. This means you would need to demonstrate not only passion and motivation, and seriousness of intent and commitment, but also, the maturity and work ethic to be a self-starter and to reliably stay up with the program.
Many, but not most, undergraduates, graduate students, and recent college grads do possess the maturity and self-directed discipline required to successfully participate in this program, and some could even use the program as an alternative to graduate film school, as this program provides higher-level skills and career-launch strategies and opportunities than even the top graduate screenwriting programs.
Another consideration is that the course is presented in the English language so you must be capable of understanding and communicating effectively in the English language, written and verbal, even if you plan to work and screen write in another language for your career.
As the program is, by design, quite arduous, you should probably already possess or be ready to make major progress in the following attributes:
- Strong work ethic and rock solid reliability.
- Genuine willingness to learn and grow.
- Passionately curious about the human condition.
- An open mind toward exploring new ideas.
- A high degree of determination, grit and resilience.
- Love of cinematic story and its unique ability to impact and move people.
- Respect for the written word and a dedication to developing your wordsmithing skills.
- A deep commitment to putting your all into preparing yourself to be a contributing professional member of the creative team behind major motion picture projects (movies and series), that will potentially impact mass audiences around the world.
IS THE PROGRAM OPEN TO WORKING PROFESSIONAL SCREENWRITERS OR ONLY FUTURE PROFESSIONAL SCREENWRITERS?
The program is open to all screenwriters who are serious about significantly improving their career building strategies, their creative collaborative skills, and their story craft skills regardless of what stage their career may be. Many participants are likely to have completed some formal education in screenwriting or creative writing, at the undergraduate or graduate level of academic study. Others may be coming to screenwriting from other paths in life.
Since much of what is covered in the MPii Excelerator for Screenwriters is not available even in the top film schools and the leading industry fellowship programs, the program is open to working professional screenwriters who want to take their career to a higher level.
HOW DOES THE EXCELERATOR BENEFIT WORKING EMERGING AND MID-CAREER PROFESSIONAL SCREENWRITERS?
While it could be said that working screenwriters, by definition, are having ‘successful’ careers, the actual reality is that most are failing to reach their career potential because they aren’t well-enough versed in the three key areas detailed above for career-building success.
Because the bet career launching and career building strategies are so powerful, you can easily imagine that in a highly competitive environment like the movie business the best career strategies are naturally well-held secrets, known only to a very few of the top agents and talent managers (who often don’t even share them with their own assistants and proteges!).
Over the years, MPii has been quietly collecting, researching, testing and improving many of the most impactful career-launch and career building tools, techniques, insights and secrets. This includes creating a much more humane, sane, empowering and effective way to approach key challenges such as professional network building, attracting and retaining top-level talent management and agency representation, and how project selection can make or break your next career move.
And now, for the first time, those strategies, which can greatly benefit emerging as well as mid-career screenwriters, are being made available as part of this comprehensive intensive program.
Success at all stages of the professional screenwriter’s career is highly dependent on how well they navigate the complex and often treacherous collaborative creative process known as the Hollywood story development system. Unfortunately, diplomatic and other strategies working screenwriters attempt to use to make it through the battlezone, are not as helpful as they might think. And much of what is taught or “passed down” in the industry is counterproductive and will actually tend to harm career success. MPii has been especially researching the challenges of the collaborative creative process and the Career Excelerator for Screenwriters program is purpose-built to share those insights, tools and secrets with participants.
The program is also designed to provide access to master-level story craft skills. Through daily high-level lessons and drills you will be exposed to, practice and hone higher-level skills in the top story techniques from MPii’s industry-leading Secrets of the Script Doctors workshop.
The program is thereby designed to take those participants that engage with it fully to a much higher level of story craft skills, in the course of only two years, where even the top screenwriters typically take a decade or more to achieve that same level of story craft skills (if they ever get there).
The program will provide you not only with story and collaborative skills well beyond the industry standard, but will also equip you with strategies and processes to maintain and improve those skills over the years as your career continues to grow.
WHY DOES THE FILM INDUSTRY NEED THE EXCELERATOR?
Filmmaking is a collaborative art form, a team sport if you will. To make quality motion picture entertainment requires a team of collaborators. And in order to make quality productions, that team needs to be highly capable. Over the years as working professionals in this industry that we dearly love, we have found that the number one challenge is the lack of capable collaborators.
And that’s not for lack of numbers of people actively trying to break into this business.
It’s mainly due to the reality that the vast majority of future and emerging professionals in the motion picture industry are not ‘ready to work at the top professional level that’s required. And it’s not their fault. They are simply not properly or fully prepared, so they aren’t able to work at the professional level required by the team. And in many cases it’s simply because they have not had the opportunity to get the right orientation and training.
Therefore, they make mistakes and missteps– predominantly in those same three areas that are most impactful to career success: Career Strategies, Collaborative Processes, and Master-level Craft Skills.
For this reason, MPii is creating best in the industry training and career development programs to help emerging and future professionals to be more fully ready to perform at professional levels and thereby better serve the needs of the team, and at the same time, have greater career success. The Career Excelerator for Screenwriters is the flagship program at MPii in this regard.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS PROGRAM?
As part of MPii’s long-standing commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the entertainment industry, this program uses a unique TUITION FREE financial commitment, with only book and screening expenses, a deposit which is returned upon completion, and then later, a suggested annual donation from future earnings as a working story professional. Also, working scholarships and fellowships are available.
HOW MANY HOURS PER WEEK ARE REQUIRED TO SUCCESSFULLY PARTICIPATE IN THE PROGRAM?
While each individual participant will have their own pace, expect to dedicate at least 15-20 hours on a weekly basis to stay up with the daily drills and weekly assignments of the program. To successfully participate and complete the program, the participant must be highly personally responsible, with a strong work ethic. The workload will be challenging for some. Many participants will likely have other commitments, including full-time employment. In those cases, extra care must be taken to use nights and weekends effectively.
IS THERE A SET DAILY/WEEKLY SCHEDULE, OR IS IT MORE SELF-PACED STUDY?
A bit of both. There is a daily online training and workout session at 7 am to 8 am, which is also made available via recording to those who are unable to attend live. Then there are weekly small group practice sessions that are available at different times of the day, evenings or weekends. Also, there are weekly assignments, which are self-paced solo work you can do whenever works best for you during the week.
The training is provided in four types of sessions:
- Daily 1-hour training sessions, Mon-Sat, that include a mix of:
- shared master-level insights, tools and techniques,
- incremental skills building through active practice exercises.
These sessions are conducted every weekday morning, and can be attended live and/or completed later in the day via the recording.
- Weekly small group collaborative creative skills practice sessions, where participants come together to practice:
- Presenting pitches and other presentations.
- Participating in ‘writers room’ type collaborative creative work.
- Weekly ‘Deep Dive’ sessions, where top-level practitioners share and explore career-building, collaborative creative process and story craft skills, insights, tools and techniques.
- Weekly solo ‘homework’ type assignments, as well as longer-term assignments..
TO WHAT EXTENT IS SUPPORT FROM COMMUNITY PART OF THIS PROGRAM?
In addition to the daily and weekly solo training, there is also regular engagement and practice with other participants, as well as other opportunities as an MPii Fellows to participate in and contribute to the community of established as well as emerging professionals at MPii.
Some of the top benefits of participating in the community at MPii include:
- Your classmates in your cohort can become the core of your professional network.
- Opportunities to earn mentorship from program leaders who are working professionals in the story creative area of the industry as screenwriters, directors, creative producers, agents and managers, and story development executives.
- You grow better faster when you turn around and teach what you are learning.
- Encouragement and Accountability –
- when there are deadlines to meet and people who will notice.
- Opportunities to gain ‘this counts on your resume” experience as well as “we’ve worked together” type relationships with peers and mentors at MPii.
- General networking, as well as higher-impact ‘we’ve worked together’ professional relationships.
WHEN DOES THE PROGRAM START?
Applications are now being accepted for the cohort which begins on Sept 6, 2022.
There is optional “summer reading/viewing list” advance work which is highly recommended.
IS THIS PROGRAM OFFERED REMOTELY (online) OR IN PERSON?
This is an online program so that participants can be anywhere in the world where there’s reliable internet connection. There are a few optional in-person events, such as group networking opportunities, which out-of-town participants can travel to at their own expense (or as covered by relevant fellowship scholarships).
WILL PARTICIPANTS BE WORKING ON THEIR OWN SCREENPLAYS DURING THE PROGRAM?
This program is an extra-high-level career-building program for screenwriters. Virtually every other industry fellowship or film school program for screenwriters features “writing screenplays” as though that will help you prepare for and launch a realistic, meaningful career as a professional screenwriter.
Research at MPii strongly indicates that working on your own screenplays is actually one of the least helpful things you could do to actually prepare yourself and your skills for a credible career launch. There are many reasons for this. One is simply that one of the biggest impediments to truly learning and owning master level skills in most any endeavor is merely doing the activity in question–thinking that will take you to the top levels, rather than engaging in a robust process of intensive practice of the skills required to do that thing at the highest levels. In other words, you can’t become a world class athlete by merely playing a lot of sports games. First and foremost, you have to dedicate serious time and effort into drilling extensively on the craft skills.
Of course, launching your career as a professional screenwriter requires having several completed portfolio writing sample screenplay/teleplays that can demonstrate your story craft skills. So, sure, at some point you’ll need to get to the drafting of screenplays before starting your career launch. And, being a part-time program, by design, in terms of workload there’s time in your daily schedule for you to work on your portfolio spec scripts, or assignments if you are already a working screenwriter.
However, the vast majority of those attempting to get started as professional screenwriters have spent their time in film school and thereafter writing scripts that actually hurt their career launch, because they not haven’t learned the craft skills first. And their scripts demonstrate that lack of skill, and when those early scripts are shown they undermine that writer’s career prospects.
And the saddest part is that the writers themselves usually don’t know it, because in Hollywood, for a number of reasons, people are reluctant to share accurate critical critiques. And, in most cases, when writers read their own screenplays the “mind movie” that plays in their head goes pretty well. But that’s mostly because they already know what’s supposed to be going on, so they are imagining it all as well executed. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the same script will read for anyone else, who doesn’t already know what the writer is intending.
And there’s a whole set of advanced skills that working professional writers need in order to even tell the difference. And these skills are not well known, even among professional screenwriters, which is why this program dedicates a full training module to imparting these little known but vital skills.
HAVE OTHER QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, ANYTHING WE CAN CLARIFY?
We always appreciate hearing questions and comments, so we can improve the programs at MPii. Please feel free to contact us at: info@MPii.org.