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Job Title: Screenwriter, Writer

Job Overview

The screenwriter creates the characters, devises the plot, invents the dialogue, and writes the screenplay.

Special Skills

Screenwriter Beth Szymkowski discovered that her experience as a journalist not only enhanced her writing and editing skills, but also introduced her to diverse people, stories, and voices. It taught her to accept criticism without being discouraged or offended, and to use it as a tool to improve her writing.

Advice for Someone Seeking This Job

Sometimes Szymkowski wishes she had realized that she wanted to be a screenwriter when she was still in high school, so she could have gone on to film school, but doubts that she would be the writer she is today if she had not taken a circuitous path. That pathway provides the depth of life experience that her writing draws upon.

Professional Profile: Beth Szymkowski, Screenwriter

When Beth Szymkowski discovered screenwriting, she found her passion. A Philadelphia native, she initially studied computer science at Duke University before switching majors and earning a bachelor's degree in English. She went on to get a masters degree in teaching in 1992, but then discovered she did not want to teach. For a time she worked in retail, and then took an internship at a weekly newspaper in Durham, North Carolina. “I always knew I wanted to be a writer, ever since I was little. I liked writing short stories … When I got out of college it seemed too much of a stretch. I was too scared, basically. I wanted to get a job where I had security.”

What do you like least about your job?

“What I like least is the uncertainty of it all; the feeling that I'm working hard, but that it might not come to anything. It's not like going to school to be a nurse and you become one. You could write and still not get the big payoff at the end.”Beth Szymkowski

What do you love most about your job?

“I like the writing process. I like being able to make up storiesthat's what I love the most about it. I can sit down, blink, and ten hours have passed because I get so involved with the characters and what I'm writing.”Beth Szymkowski

The internship led to a job with The Sanford Herald, a small daily newspaper in Sanford, North Carolina. Newly married to up-and-coming cinematographer Clark Mathis, the couple decided to relocate to Southern California in 1994, so that her husband could further pursue film work. There, Szymkoski found work as a reporter for The San Bernardino Sun. “I liked reporting, but it wasn't entirely satisfying to me.” She sometimes found herself frustrated that the people in the stories she reported on were not giving her the quotes she envisioned. Seeing an ad for a screenwriting class, she enrolled and from the first day discovered that she loved it. She wrote her first screenplay while continuing to work at the newspaper.


* “There is a really good web site: www.moviebytes.com, that has a link to contests.”Beth Szymkowski

*“Always be improving.”Beth Szymkowski

When her husband's career began to take off, the couple decided to move closer to Los Angeles, and Szymkowski quit her job to devote her energy to screenwriting. Initially she thought she would pursue television sitcom writing, and even performed standup comedy in clubs, trying to network and improve her skills. At the same time, she finished a second screenplay and entered it in most of the major screenwriting contests. Although she did not win, she was a finalist for the Walt Disney Writing Fellowship and the Chesterfield Writer's Film Project, and a quarter finalist in the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition.

Szymkowski won the Carl Sautter Memorial Screenwriting Competition, which got her screenplay into the hands of a producer and led to a meeting at Imagine Entertainment. She is currently working on an idea for them that potentially will be presented to Universal for funding. Although she did not win the Set in Philadelphia Screenwriting Contest, one of the judges, screenwriter Stephen J. Rivele, felt she should have. He referred her to an agent and is interested in turning her screenplay into a sitcom.

Since devoting herself to screenwriting, Szymkowski has completed several writing classes at American Film Institute (AFI), UCLA, and other extension courses. She also participates in a screenwriting group.

“I am very happy I've come upon [screenwriting] as what I want to do with my life. Now, I'm at the point where if this doesn't work out, I don't know what I would do. I can't imagine doing something else.”

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Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in Film and TelevisionWRITERS - Job Title: Writer/producer, Job Titles: Writer; Executive Story Editor, Job Title: Screenwriter, Writer