As if mastering the black art of screenplay writing wasn’t enough, the world of trying to get a script into production is even more mysterious and fraught with danger. There is basically one rule; nobody knows anything. It is an absolutely sound rule that applies to each one of us all the way up to the top players in Hollywood. Seriously, just read up on how some of the best movies ever made only did so after streams of rejection from decision makers. The popular writers out there haven’t succeeded because of the industry, but despite the industry – Keep that in mind whenever you get a pass or negative feedback. What matters more than anything is our personal integrity; are we presenting the scripts we want to write? I’ve seen too many writers get sucked into the get feedback and try to please everyone void and I’ve skated around the outside of it myself. It’s a sure way to become a writer who desperately churns out redrafted material like it’s high school coursework all while trying to hit some mystic marking criteria. We are not school kids, we are not worker bees, we are artists, so fucking act like one and have the guts to respect your gut, as convoluted, twisted, and full of shit it may be.
Look, here’s Quentin Tarantino’s opinion of Hollywood readers, based on his experience.
Enjoying Writing Now, Quit Stressing About The Future
There is a huge industry standing between us and the film production world. Some of it is good, most of it seems to be bad. It’s an industry that trades off the constant churn of amateur writers trying to monetise their hobby. If you have a script you want to sell then there’s a crowd of hungry hucksters fighting to dig into your pockets. It’s a marketplace that impoverishes and destroys screenwriters who fall foul of its tactics.
We have to think about our values, why did we get into writing? Was it to de-stress? Did it start as a career aspiration? The second trying to sell a script or get work takes over our lives we have to stop and take a step back. I’ve been there, it encourages a mania that abuses your work and your wallet. I got out before it turned something I love into something I hate – no amount of money or glory can compensate for that.
Supply & Demand
I know a professional screenwriter who believes Hollywood has access to maybe 100,000 professional level screenwriters at any time. These are individuals an industry member can call upon to put together a feature, many of whom are willing to work for very little (even nothing) and many of whom are willing to turn work around fast (even overnight). Compounding this issue is wave after wave of new writers throwing brand new material down every avenue they can to get noticed. The industry has every reason to impose cold harsh filtering and every excuse to miss the needles in the haystacks.
If You Desire Fame & Fortune Then Fuck You
Anyone who sees screenwriting as a route to seeing their name in lights, walking the red carpet, doing interviews, mingling with stars, receiving awards, or a way to make big money fast is an absolute self-entitled cretinous husk of a human being. Those of us who get to sit in a warm room on our own time expressing ourselves via the written word are incredibly privileged. Those of us who get to share a journey with like-minded creatives and maybe do something that makes the world a slightly better place have hit the jackpot in life.
The Mythical Bastard Reader God
While it’s well known that studios, production companies, and industry members employ the services of readers to filter through submissions, there is a lot of demonisation or reverence as to their profile. There are just as many bad readers out there as there are writers. I know of highly opinionated readers who judge a script by the cover page, freak out over formatting, and love dishing out tough love (i.e are sociopathic slush trolls in love with their own opinion) and I know of some incredible readers who are genuinely giving every script the benefit of the doubt and looking for the potential even the original writer may fail to see. They are humans, more often than not ex-writers. Some are complete arseholes, some are saints, most fall somewhere in the middle. Just keep in mind that a professionally employed reader will be expected to read submitted scripts from beginning to end. Stop listening to people who say scripts get thrown in the trash the second the reader spots a spelling mistake or isn’t kept as continually excited as a dog watching their owner put their walking shoes on.
The traditional route to submitting a script is to seek permission to send it – this is known as querying. We are basically alerting the contacts we have to a new property they may be interested in. Querying used to be done via sending out individual letters or making cold calls, that created a barrier to entry that only the more determined and speculative would invest time and money overcoming – then email was created and a shit storm ensued.
The thing is, querying is still free and still works even via email. I’ve gotten reads via querying and only really did a little bit of it for a very short period of time. Finding contacts is the hard bit and can quite often require the purchasing of a list, a list most likely to be out of date, inaccurate, and packed with contacts who don’t accept unsolicited material. But we have to start somewhere. List suppliers include DoneDealPro, The Hollywood Screenwriting Directory, and Script Pipeline. I’ve tried those three and the data was borderline garbage and not cheap. But what choice do we have? In defence of Done Deal Pro their forums are also a good source of contacts and completely free. One alternative is to start a 30 Day Trial of IMDB Pro and comb that for contacts. It’s all horrible, messy, and a bit spammy; three of the reasons I quit doing it myself.
Here is a query template you can adapt to suit you. Please don’t just copy and paste it. I don’t want to be responsible for a million spammy half-arsed emails swamping people’s inboxes.
Dear ***CONTACT NAME**** For your consideration I am offering my script ***SCRIPT TITLE*** “***LOGLINE***" Genre: ***INSERT GENRE*** ***A FEW APPEALING COMMENTS SUCH AS FEEDBACK HIGHLIGHTS OR COMPETITION PLACEMENTS*** If you are interested in reading the script, please contact me via ***YOUR EMAIL*** Kind regards, ***YOUR NAME***
Amazon Studios (WARNING!)
If the thought of proactive marketing all feels a little dirty, but you still want a shot with a big Hollywood Studio, Amazon Studios currently have an open door policy via online submission with no strings attached. They are cool at Amazon, they made the second script I ever wrote a Notable Project, I can’t thank them enough for the motivation that gave me to continue.
I am no longer recommending Amazon Studios as a safe place for screenwriters to build their careers. For more information, see my blog Amazon Studios; A Warning To Screenwriters.
I started a website myself recently called Script Revolution, this is a script hosting website offering many of the features of the top script directories for free. Screenwriters can add and manage as many script listings as they want for zero cost. Filmmakers can browse the script listings as much as they need without charge. Inspired by the efforts of SimplyScripts, which has helped so many writers and filmmakers find one-another, Script Revolution hopes to bring another avenue of opportunity.
Once signed up, members can upload short, tv, web series, or movie scripts and add a variety of tags which help describe the nature of the material – we’re not just talking genre here, we’re talking budget, story structure, lead role genders, writer style, and much more. Filmmakers can then search the database using those filters to find exactly the type of script they are looking for. That’s the thing you see, the ethos at Script Revolution is all about discovery rather than promotion. Listings are all random so there’s nobody paying their way to the top, soliciting votes, or using any tricks to get ahead of others. Readers don’t need to sign up to anything and don’t have to be part of an exclusive club to access scripts. They can also bookmark all the scripts they like the look of ready to come back and read at a later date. There’s no clique or elitism here – all scripts and all readers are considered equal.
Script detail pages also include the writer’s bio with links to their social media accounts and a contact form that sends messages direct to their email – very useful for those who only want to upload their loglines and handle read requests themselves. In addition to that, all the writer’s other scripts are also listed. If someone loves your writing, they are exposed to all your writing. This ultimately means writers can build up their own profile pages, with a link they can share, introducing themselves, providing their contact details, and listing their scripts ready to read.
Everyone is welcome to join the revolution – http://www.ScriptRevolution.com
How to get your (short) script filmed by Anthony Cawood
Anthony is not only a very talented writer, he has a remarkable ability to market, option, and sell his short scripts. Everything he’s kind enough to share in his articles below applies to any screenwriter marketing any length or type of script. I can absolutely vouch for his advice here as it has worked for me.
You’ve finished the damned script, now what?