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Want to Become a Famous Actor? Learn to Become a Screenwriter First

Establishing an acting or screenwriting career can take an awful lot of work and time, and of course, luck. Like the old adage goes however, the more time you spend at it, the more luck you’re likely to have. While for the former, you can increase your chances of becoming a Broadway theatrical and/o

Establishing an acting or screenwriting career can take an awful lot of work and time, and of course, luck. Like the old adage goes however, the more time you spend at it, the more luck you’re likely to have. While for the former, you can increase your chances of becoming a Broadway theatrical and/or Hollywood onscreen success by attending a certified acting school or taking acting lessons from some of the most successful actors in the business, screenwriting is a different animal altogether. It is a craft that can take years to perfect. The point however, is that people who know how to write good screenplays can increase their chances of becoming a successful actor also.

Some of the most renown actors in the world have actually started out as screenwriters. Just a handful of these include the late theater writer, Sam Shepard, plus the likes of Matt Damon, Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, Charlie Chaplin, George Clooney, Orson Welles, and so many more. Even two-time Pulitzer Prize winning, New York City-based novelist, Norman Mailer, wrote and acted in his own movies and off-Broadway plays. That said, could becoming a successful screenwriter be the catalyst for greater things in the Hollywood or New York City, like acting in your own hit movie, TV series, or long running plays?

According to, becoming a successful scriptwriter depends on two factors: persistence and pure luck. Since you, as a wannabe writer have total control on how much dedication you devote to learning your craft, you can only hope that luck will be on your side.

According to the experts, you can increase your chances of getting lucky in the screenwriting business, and potentially the acting business, by following a set of general guidelines. Here’s just a few.

10,000 Hours

Says, sociologist Malcolm Gladwell came up with the 10,000 hours rule which states, for an individual to become a master at anything, “he or she must devote a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice, study and application to the discipline in question.” That’s the equivalent of working for about a full year and a half, non-stop, without taking even a moment to sleep or eat.

But to break it down into simple terms, writers must always be writing, every day. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must write for 10,000 hours before you sell your script, and perhaps even get a role acting in it. That’s where a little luck comes into play. In all likelihood, however, your first few screenplays will be horrible. That said, you’re going to have to learn from your mistakes and continue to spend a lot of time at your writing desk before you get lucky.

Go West Young Man or Woman

If you want to increase you luck in the screenwriting, and potentially the movie acting business, you should consider a move west to Hollywood (if you wish to become a famous playwright and Broadway Theater actor, go east to New York City). Hollywood is where all the action is. While it’s not absolutely necessary to move to Hollywood in the digital age, being distanced from other, more famous screenwriters, actors, and film executives can hurt your chances for success. Taken a step further, according to, making the move to Los Angeles is one of the best things you can do to help your screenwriting and acting career.

Dissect as Many Movies and Successful Screenplays as you Can

It only makes sense that if your dream is to get into film, you should watch as many films as you can. You should also watch them multiple times and in turn, analyze and dissect how the screenwriter put them together. The same goes for reading screenplays that have been produced. You should read and study them over and over again, line for line. After all, a screenplay isn’t like a fluid novel, it is more like an owner’s manual for actors and production crews. In short, it’s your job as a writer to set the scene, create the dialogue, and make the shift from one place to another in as few words as possible. One of the unwritten rules of a good screenplay is that it contains more white space than writing.

Get an Agent

When it comes to getting professional representation, the old conundrum applies: You can’t get an agent unless you’ve had one of your screenplay’s (or published novels) produced by a reputable producer. But then, you can’t get your script made into a film by a reputable producer unless you have an agent.

So then, how can you go about getting an agent to represent your work? In the old days you could write a “query letter” to a prospective agent telling them you’re the next Matt Damon, and how talented you are as a writer and actor, and how they must represent you immediately or lose out on a lot of potential cash.

These days however, it’s better to network with likeminded screenwriters and actors who’ve enjoyed enough success (and yes, luck), to have earned themselves solid agent representation. If they see value in your work, it’s good bet they’ll write a letter on your behalf to their agent. In the end, that agent may very well take you on as a client. If that happens, you are officially on your way to not only becoming a successful screenwriter, but also a famous actor.

Multiple Income Streams

One of the most financially responsible reasons for learning the screenwriting craft prior to becoming an actor, is that if one career doesn’t pan out, it’s quite possible the other one will. Or, if you are able to become a success at both, but your acting career fades for a while, it’s a good bet your screenwriting efforts will pay the bills, and visa versa.