Thursday, August 03, 2006

How To Make $130,000 A Year As A 'Screenplay Coach'

Lloyd “Skip” Press Story

As a screenwriter, Lloyd Press has known only modest success. He has written scripts for children's TV shows and instructional videos since the late 1980s. His biggest claim to fame is a matter-of-fact 1987 video called A Woman's Guide to Firearms.

Nonetheless, he has had better luck in his second act as a guide to the masses who yearn for stardom. Some 4,000 students have taken his $129 online screenwriting course, offered through 1,040 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Europe. Bookstores have sold 40,000 copies of his Complete Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting. Aspiring writers pay him to edit their scripts and offer tips for selling them. A basic read-through costs $250, but an extensive rewrite goes for about $5,000. If a project seems promising - like the recent television pilot by a former Senate staffer about life on Capitol Hill - Press will cut a deal: a lower fee for a piece of the action.

But even if his clients never get their films produced, they can still make a living - or at least supplement one - when their scripts get optioned, sometimes over and over, every 18 months, for as much as $2,000. Clay Heery, a former comedy-club owner in Philadelphia, at Press's urging retooled a script he had been working on for years. Since then, Heery says, several producers have optioned it.

For Press, 55, coaching is a lucrative niche. In 2005, he says, he pulled in about $130,000, triple what he was making in the 1990s when he wrote children's books and magazine articles for Boy's Life and Disney Adventures. Then, in 2001, his Complete Idiot's Guide was published in the U.S., then in Russia. The book listed his personal e-mail address: Weeks after the book hit store shelves, pleading messages started pouring in and his career as a coach took off.

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Otherwise, read

The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out!