This article will discuss how to get your screenplay noticed by the best screenwriters, agents, and producers in the biz.
A quick note about managers
This article will also help you understand the difference between a manager, a producer, an agent, and a manager.
A manager is someone who helps you with the business side of things, but doesn’t help you write or produce the movie. Agents are people who help you with the movie, but don’t help you with the business side of things.
Finally, managers are people who help you with both. This is important to understand, because most screenwriters either get their managers or agents to do both.
There are a lot of ways that you can take your screenplay to the next level. Some of them work, some of them don’t. But in my experience, in order to get your screenplay read, one of the following things is important to follow:
Research the person you are sending it to.
Send it to the correct person.
Get a sample of their feedback.
Break up the steps as much as possible, by including each on a separate page.
Don’t skimp on the research.
After you do the research, put it all together and send it out.
Follow the instructions in the brief we designed to help you.
Do not skimp on the research
If you are an experienced screenwriter, and know the right people to send it to, then go for it. But even if you are new to screenwriting, you should take your time to do the research. If you want to get your screenplay read, you need to be able to prove that you have written a good story. If you can prove that your script has at least one scene that is compelling, then people might read it.
Getting heard (and seen!)
A few weeks ago, I received a Facebook friend request from a writer who I had read many screenplays of before.
In fact, most of the screenplays that I had read were screenplays by this particular writer. After reading her writing for several minutes, I realized that she was not one of the writers I had read before.
I discovered that she was a “rookie” writer. A rookie. I put “rookie” in quotes because she had more credits to her name than most of the agents and managers I know.
This is a situation that most writers with larger names than hers encounter on a daily basis.
How did this happen? Who do you think it is? And how do you go about getting your script read?
This article will cover these questions.
I have my answers, and they are all based on some information I have gathered from the real “makers” in the business, while getting to know some of them as friends.
Want to get noticed? Understand “The Biz”
First, however, we must talk a little bit about what these guys do. I’m going to try to be as honest as I can about what these guys do and what you can expect from them.
Imagine that you have written a good screenplay and spent a lot of time on it.
You’ve even edited it yourself, except you’ve now got a few people who are providing you some feedback on it. They tell you that your story works, but that your execution of it needs some work.
What do you do? You’re in the “creative-writing” camp and you’ve got a first-draft screenplay.
You’re going to have to write a very rough draft to get to the first revision stage.
A good rule: never share a first draft
This is a universal rule for screenwriters. A first-draft screenplay is not a finished screenplay. Nor is it intended to be. Nor should it be. In my experience, a first-draft is too crude. A first-draft is not even close to being “good enough” to be shown to anyone.
It’s very important to never show your script to anyone until you are in the middle of the next revision. That means no close friends, no family, no business associates, no prospects, and no strangers. Do you understand?
You can’t share a rough draft screenplay with any of these people until you’ve made the revisions.
Most of the people you’ll meet in the business who want to be involved in your movie will want to read the finished screenplay first.
If you show them your rough draft, you are exposing their names to everyone in the industry who has ever seen your script. So why would you do that?
Why would you expose your friends, your family, your business associates, or your colleagues to the repercussions of reading your first draft?
You can tell this is a very real concern for writers of all backgrounds. In fact, it is the most common concern I’ve heard from writers.
I understand this. I didn’t become a screenwriter until my fifth draft and I was eager to share my first draft of the screenplay with my close friends, family, and business associates. I was nervous.
And it took a lot of time to convince myself that I should not share my rough draft of my screenplay.
But I did it. And it was worth it.
It was very enlightening and there were things that I discovered about my script that I wouldn’t have discovered by having a few of my friends read it. (By the way, I have come to realize that I am not the best person to ask about this. Because I’m afraid of sharing what I’m working on.)
So how do you avoid the problem of sharing your rough draft screenplay with your friends, family, business associates, or colleagues? It’s not easy, but it is doable. Here is how:
If you do plan on sharing a first draft…
Before you allow your close friends or family to read your rough draft, make sure they know what the script is about. You don’t want them to think that they can steal the idea for their own screenplay.
Not all of your ideas are gold. Take the time to really understand the draft you have
Have a plan to market your screenplay
This is the most common mistake that most screenwriters make. They just think that they will go to Hollywood and show the movie to people. They think that they will show it to producers, actors, directors, and distributors. Then, they will make the movie.
There are two problems with this idea.
First, you do not have to go to Hollywood to make a movie. Hollywood is not the end goal. You can make a movie in your basement or your garage.
Hollywood is a means to an end, but that is only the case if you want to make your movie.
The second problem is that Hollywood is too big and too busy to go to and bother making your movie. All the studios are focused on making movies for the big screen.
They are not trying to make independent movies. They are not trying to put out independent movies. They are doing it for the big screen.
That doesn’t mean if you have a lower-budget screenplay that you can’t get your movie made. Just understand that there will be a specific set of people and companies you need to talk to, and they likely won’t be the big Hollywood names everyone knows.
Sending screenplay samples
I have seen too many people try to rush through the first three stages of the process. And before you send it out, don’t skimp on the sample. Don’t send the first draft or a scene from the script.
Send a few pages or a script excerpt.
A sample that allows the reader to understand the structure. A sample that they will be able to use as a guideline to how you have written your script.
And make it a good sample. Sample scripts need to be well written and avoid annoying cliches, or overuse of certain words or phrases. Your sample needs to be easy to read. Your sample needs to leave a good impression.
Look for all the small things that you can learn.
Don’t simply send the script in a pdf. Make it interactive. Be sure to include any contact information that they might need. Be sure to send the sample at the beginning of the form letter you use to ask for feedback. Send a sample that feels honest.
Screenwriting is a competitive field. You need to present your work in a way that is more than just your resume. Show off your talent.
For most screenwriters, a good film is their favorite thing in the world. And you have the potential to do that for other people, or prove to them that you are capable of doing it yourself. So don’t skimp on your sample.
Determine who you are and who you can trust
In this day and age, there are a lot of people in the business who have had Hollywood connections, who can introduce you to people.
So before you allow your close friends or family to read your rough draft, make sure they know that they are not the people you can be trusted with your first draft screenplay.
Your close friends may have been working on other projects and maybe they can read your rough draft for free. But not them. They can’t understand what you’re going through.
They don’t know what you’ve been working on.
This isn’t the same as keeping their business confidential. This is giving your business partner, friend, or colleague an opportunity to share a few ideas about your script with you. This is an actual contribution to your script. And that is invaluable.
I often hear screenwriters say that they are worried they don’t have a strong enough story, or that they just can’t get the feedback they need from their friends. But you don’t need a big set piece.
You don’t need to be able to tell a story with the strength of a John Wick movie. All you need is something that is interesting.
That is the key. You just have to present something interesting. You have to capture someone’s attention.
If you’re a screenwriter, your stories are your greatest asset. So make sure they are as strong as you can make them.