Best Tips For Writing and Selling a Screenplay

Why Write a Screenplay?

There are many reasons a person might choose to write a screenplay. The idea of watching your words come to life on screen can be very exciting. Some writers are drawn to script writing because of a personal love for film. Some prefer the technical stage direction and dialogue to the flowery speech of a novel, or perhaps they are drawn to the perceived simplicity of writing a script. It is important to understand your reasoning before you take on a script. If you think it will be easy and something you can put little effort into and get a big check from Hollywood, you should probably stop before you get started. If, however, you know that you have an original story that needs to be told and only you can tell it, don’t hesitate. It doesn’t mean you will sell your script. It doesn’t mean that you will become a famous screenwriter, but if you have a story inside of you, there is no reason not to write it.

How to Sell a Screenplay.

After deciding to write a screenplay, the next logical question is “How do I sell a script?” Very few people write a screenplay without the intention of trying to get it produced. Furthermore, a little bit of research will likely not make you feel encouraged about your odds of success. Everyone is quick to tell you that you can’t get your idea to the big screen or the TV screen unless you have an agent, live in L.A, know the right people, and hustle for years trying to get your script in the right hands. Unfortunately, there is truth to this. It is very difficult to get your foot in the door and sell your script. Something to consider, though, the world of TV and movies has changed drastically. With all of the ever-growing streaming options and on-demand content providers there are more opportunities than ever. This is not to say that it’s easy. It isn’t, but it is not impossible either. What is important is asking yourself the right questions. Rather than asking how to sell a screenplay, you should be asking how to make your screenplay great. If you focus on quality, you may find success, but if you focus on trying to achieve success, your quality will suffer.

If you have completed your script and you are confident that it’s ready for Hollywood, The next step is to decide how and where to market it. The general rule is that you don’t send a pitch to studios because they won’t read them. The standard protocol is to find an agent who will promote you and your work to the studios. There are two things to consider. One: There is nothing stopping you from directly contacting a studio. Two: Finding an agent is actually pretty easy, but finding a good one is another story. If you are interested in finding avenues for submitting a pitch for your screenplay, I would recommend IMDB Pro. A Pro Account will give you access to production information for the entire library of film and TV on the IMDB site. What this means is that you can find and make contact with the people in the industry who you think would be a viable option for your script. Again, this does not guarantee that your query letter will be read or that the people you contact will ask to see your full script. This just means that there are more paths available to try than in the past.

Alternative Paths to Getting Your Script Produced

If you are serious about seeing your script come to life on screen, remember that we live in a very different and socially connected world now. Don’t limit yourself to old ways of thinking. The one word you need to remember is “faith.” A studio will not produce something that they don’t have faith will make them money. They don’t care how great you think your script is. They want to see a reason to believe it will find an audience and bring in a lot of revenue. This is why it’s difficult to get anywhere in the industry if you don’t have a name for yourself. Famous writers, directors, and actors are invited in because they have a built-in fan-base and a reason for the studio to have faith in them. You could write the best, emotionally gripping, powerful script out there, but if no one knows who you are, the odds are against you. Here’s the thing though, in today’s world, you don’t have to move to L.A and hustle to get recognition. Look at the influence of social media. If you have a script that will resonate with people, a story that people will connect to, a film that people will want to watch, build your audience first.

Think about it like this. Let’s say you have a genius horror/comedy script called Zombie Clowns From Hell and you pitch your idea to Netflix, they will see a lot of risk. If you have a popular website or blog: makezombieclownsfromhell.org with concept art, loglines, and an audience of people supporting the film, you have buzz which might make the studio take notice. If you have a YouTube account with teaser trailers and promotional videos for the film you want to make, you have a built-in audience. Take a look at the original trailer for Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses. The eventual theatrical release was far different from the teaser that was released years before the final film, what the teaser did, however, was generate interest in the project. It may sound backwards to try to promote a film and build an audience before making the film itself, but it actually makes a little more sense given the framework of entertainment today. It used to be that you would accomplish something to gain recognition. Now it is reversed, you gain recognition and leverage that to accomplish your goals. How many people have wee seen gain a large following on Instagram and Twitter and THEN get a record deal or a role in a summer blockbuster. Use social connection and worldwide communication to your advantage and use the buzz you generate to give the studio faith in what you are creating.

Things to Remember to Write and sell Your Screenplay

In Short, we could look at this system as following four steps. There are no guarantees in life, but if you keep these four things in mind, you might just make your dream a reality.

  • Tell your story, not the one you think Hollywood wants.
  • Focus on Sharing your story, not selling a script. Quality and passion will always show in your work.
  • Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Your work should not suffer from other people’s limitations.
  • Make your own rules and build your own success. Only by being the captain of your own ship, can you get where you want to be.

Thanks for reading!
Michael J. Snow
Blogger and Freelance Writer for hire

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