Learn to draft a 'production & reader friendly' screenplay which ensures a smooth read and is ready to go into production stage.
Complete at least a couple of drafts of a screenplay and have at least 3-4 screenplays in different categories in your kitty before you start knocking on producer's doors.
Practice narration often so you are prepared to pitch. Narrate to your friends, family and confidants and re-work on their suggestions.
Become a member of FWA as soon as you have something to get registered.
Whatever you write, synopsis/ treatment/story/screenplay or even a step-outline, including the various rewrites and drafts; get all of them registered.
ALWAYS register your work BEFORE sharing it. Unless it’s registered with them, FWA will not be able to intervene in case of a dispute.
Besides page numbers, insert footer at the bottom of every page that states your copyright, registration details, email ID and contact number.
Better mail soft-copies (preferably PDFs) of your synopsis/ treatment/story/screenplay to Producers/Production houses unless they insist on a hard copy.
There's also an option of mailing your work to yourself by registered post. The date of the registry and the receipt is a proof of your copyright on that particular date.
Learn to negotiate with producers and demand for your price and rights.
Mail soft-copies (preferably PDFs) to Producer/Production houses before or right after you've narrated to them in person. Its an evidence of the exchange and is useful in case of a dispute. It will also help you keep a record.
If submitting a hard copy is necessary, give Producer/Production houses a xerox of your registered synopsis/ treatment/story/screenplay to evaluate.
Insist on a ‘Non-Discloser Agreement (NDA)’ with whosoever you are narrating and/or presenting your synopsis/ treatment/story/screenplay. This will be your guarantee against any copyright violations later.
If the above doesn't work out, insist on an acknowledgement of any other kind, even if it’s a letter that they have received/read/listened to your work.
Also, maintain a diary of your narrations to Producer/Production houses/Actors/TV channels and record the date & time of the narration. In case of a dispute it'll be helpful.
ALWAYS sign a contract before commencing a project.
Insist on a model writer-producer contract approved by the Film Writers Association. The model contract is not yet approved by the producers’ bodies but hopefully should soon be.
If provided by the producer/production houses, read your contract carefully. Don't sign before you get a legal advice on it. Show your contract to the lawyers of FWA or to any lawyer who understands copyright law before you sign the contract. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Insist upon inserting a clause in your contract whereby is clearly stated that in case of any dispute/s they will take up the matter to their association’s forum. Do not sign contracts which insist that you cannot revert to your Association for disputes or ask you to sign away your rights.
Do not wait for references or contacts to reach out to a Producer or a Director. You can waste valuable time in doing so. Contact details can be obtained by purchasing a Film Directory. Just start knocking on doors.
TV is truly a medium of writers so it not only offers regular income and security to survive in Mumbai, but an opportunity to whet your craft under pressure. Later you may decide to switch to film writing if you get a chance, or can choose to continue writing for TV if you enjoy writing for TV and can take the pressure.
Don't be in a hurry to sell the first draft of your screenplay. Give it time and rework on more drafts, fine-tuning your craft.
Don't share unregistered work on a professional level.
DON'T WRITE WITHOUT A CONTRACT. The practice is unprofessional and gives you no protection - legal, monetary or otherwise.
Don't be afraid to name your price and to say 'NO' to Producer/Production houses if something doesn't suit you in the contract.
Don't wait for your scheduled payments. When the producer starts delaying payments be firm. Take the help of the FWA.
Don't encourage or work for ‘inspired’ remakes of films unless proper rights to do the same have been procured by the Producer.
Look out if there's a clause in your agreement/contract that prohibits you from approaching FWA in case of a dispute. If so, DON'T sign it.
Don't depend on writing for your livelihood. Have a paying day/night job/business to support yourself till you make it big enough to solely depend on your writing. Assignments in the film industry are few and far in between and payment not so regular to pay your bills on time.