I am constantly getting this question in my inbox. I wish I had an answer that I could quickly give, like: “Hello, just do this super-duper magic trick, and you’re in!”
I don’t know how many times my work has been rejected. Every professional screenwriter has felt like roadkill once in a while, as industry executives rushed over our scripts. Tinseltown is your home.
Although it may sound daunting, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t overcome obstacles. They are only important to be understood.
Oh, wow! I just realized: I know that super-duper, special magic trick. Ready? You are ready?
Your fortitude is tested when you become a professional screenwriter. The experience of giving birth to a child after 86 hours is nothing compared to the one that I had with my firstborn. (Yes, that was my firstborn. I survived by pretending to be a wild monkey. But that’s another matter. Although labor is over when the baby is born and there is an end to it, there are no guarantees that the screenwriting career will continue. None. It doesn’t matter if your script is a success or not. You have to keep working hard. It’s always important to keep up with the latest trends, new voices and even the economic state. In 2017, only 62% of spec scripts were left. This is a drop of over 40,000.
You have to be unique in order to stand out from the crowd
- Learn your craft.
- Love constructive criticism and rewriting.
- Learn how to produce one or more scripts per year from high-concept, solid ideas.
- Learn how to screenwrite from the business perspective.
- Be patient.
I have found that most writers can master Steps 1 through 2. highly successful authors master Steps 4, and 5. They cold-call producers and create scripts after scripts until they hear “pass” hundreds upon times. They open all doors when doors close. They then refocus and begin resume writing after every heart-breaking rejection. They do not use the phrase “Can’t”. Their screenwriting passion is their obsession.
But doesn’t great writing get me noticed enough?
I wish. It would be easy to whip out scripts after scripts, a few novels and articles, then magically make money. However, being able to write remarkable prose is not enough.
A script sale is dependent on convincing the studio that people will spend $15 for it in theaters. If you can’t pitch the concept in a concise, compelling sentence that gets eyes popping and eyebrows raising, then your writing isn’t high concept. Although many writers think they are able to pitch a high-concept idea , this is not true. My writing partner put it this way: “A high concept doesn’t have to be so stupid that everybody gets it. It’s so universal that everybody gets it.” Read “Cracking the High Concept Code” at ScriptMag.com.
Let’s just assume that your idea appeals to the masses. Now, appeal to the executives. That’s right. Your personality will make or break your chances for success. Your personality is what people will want to work alongside. Your script serves as a guideline for artists who want to create their own work. A combative or insecure personality, even if you hold the next Der Hard could ruin the deal.
When it comes to querying, there are many other unexpected hazards. Production companies keep a confidential database of submissions called “coverage,” which means that the script and writer are graded simultaneously by the studio readers. A Scarlet Letter of Shame could follow your name once it appears in their spreadsheets. You are only as good as your first impression, so make sure you shine!
The unsolicited submission is another hurdle. Prepare to read “I’m sorry,” which is the standard response. Translation: An agent or manager must be vetted.
But don’t panic. It’s possible to get a solicitation by writing a logline so compelling that it makes the executive swoon. High concept does not necessarily mean high quality.
You don’t need to query agents. An agent is necessary to verify your work. But, an agent won’t sign you unless an interested party has already signed you. Crazy, right? Reverse traditional publishing. Instead, contact managers. Their jobs are most similar to literary.
Here are some other tips to get your screenplay seen by decision-makers.
IMDbPRO. Subscribe to Internet Movie Database. Search for movies in your genre and tone. This site includes contact information as well as a listing of producers.
Don’t give up on that email just yet. Speak to them–within reason. You can read interviews and follow them on Twitter. Find the Six Decades of Kevin Bacon. If you aren’t sure if there is one, send a query letter. You must remember that they must like . Not just your logline.
Actors: An actor attached to your film can get it greenlit. If you ask an agent for information about an actor, they will ask how much money you have in mind to offer them. That’s true. Instead, look for actors with production companies. These actors will love the complex and award-winning roles.
Pitching Events: While it may be difficult to sell a screenplay in a pitchfest setting, it is possible to grow your network. Face-to–face meetings allow for you to express your wonderful personality.
CONTESTS. Trusted contests such Pipeline (Script Pipeline ), PAGE Awards Tracking Board LaunchPad or the Nicholl Fellowship help screenwriters discover and connect with managers, agents, and other professionals.
But, Hollywood has the potential to win despite all the hard work and passion. It costs millions of dollars to get a story from the script to the screen. That’s why there are endless obstacles. However, you still have choices!
Most often, execs will pass on your manuscript and you won’t hear anything from them. Believe me. If they love your work, their phone will ring. If you are sent an email rejection, you should politely ask them if you could be referred to an agent, producer, or manager. At the minimum, you should ask if it is possible to submit a second script.
Newsflash – You don’t need to market your script. Take control and connect with your local independent-filmmaking community. Crowdfund, create the film, and submit it at film festivals. It is not easy to see your words come into being, but it is worth the effort.
Convert your screenplay to. Hollywood values intellectual property. Book Pipeline offers contests that connect writers with producers. Also, Jack can turn from a boring boy to a happy camper by selling his script and the rights for your book.
The last piece of advice is to move to L.A. if screenwriting is your passion. You can get an entry level job in the industry. You can meet influential people by being there. However, you may not be able afford to do so until then, keep writing.