A while back, my friend Ashley from our writers’ group wrote a post on his site (SellingYourScreenplay.com) called I’ll do what ever it takes to sell my sell my screenplay.*
It’s a great piece, and I hope you read if you haven’t already. It addresses is an issue I encounter time and time again with aspiring screenwriters. That is, the Myth of the Hollywood Gatekeeper. (MotHG)
MotHG: In order to sell your screenplay, all you need to do is to hand it to the right person. But darn it, that’s difficult!!
And so, aspiring screenwriters devote hours upon hours pursuing connections instead of working on their craft.
I completely understand this line of thinking. If your screenplay just sits on your shelf, it will NEVER get sold. It has to be read by people who are in the market for scripts, or by the people that know those people.
But the challenge of getting your script read is way, way overblown. If you could count everything read by assistants, readers, agents, managers, producers, executives, etc., it would probably amount to thousands of horrible screenplays every day.** Most of those scripts literally end up in the trash (or if the reader is responsible – the recycle bin.).
Compared with writing a good screenplay (crafting in intriguing story with engaging characters), getting your screenplay in the hands of Hollywood folks is not all that difficult. Here’s a quick primer so we can all move on and concentrate on writing:
Getting Your Script Read in Hollywood
Beyond Ashley’s method for selling screenplays which he has great success with, you can get someone in Hollywood to read your screenplay in three easy steps:
1. Ask them nicely
2. Ask them nicely again
3. Ask them nicely again
Repeat steps 1-3 as necessary.
Be professional, not pushy. But don’t be shy; agents, producers, and managers are accustomed to people asking them to read their scripts. It’s part of their job.
Eventually, they will give you your shot. It may take six months or a year, but if you are persistent, polite, and especially if you can spin a little humor in your request, it will get read.
Of course, if you know someone who works in the Industry, it will probably be read sooner.
So when you get in the right hands, then what? These people have read thousands upon thousands of scripts. How will yours stand out? How will you make sure does not end up in the trash after the first 10-20 pages?
That’s the point. If you’re spending more time trying to sell your screenplay then write it, you’re on the wrong path. After helping screenwriters with their scripts now for over a decade, I’ve come up with a formula for success that feels about right:
Screenwriting Success Formula
95% screenwriting, 5% selling
You should be spending 95% of your time and dedication trying to master the challenging craft of screenwriting. Have you done everything in your power to make your script better? Have you rewritten and rewritten to make it as tight as possible? Have you gotten notes on your script from people who know what they are talking about and implemented those changes? All those things should come before you even think about selling your script.
Of course don’t IGNORE that 5%. Get on Twitter. Converse with other screenwriters. Join a writers’ group.
But remember, it’s 5%. The writing is the hard part.
Let’s redirect our energy. We all want our scripts sold. But instead of spending so much time pursuing people to help CONNECT to Hollywood, let’s use most of that time making our scripts so good that when we DO show it to people, they’ll be the ones who will want to get it read by others.
Because in the end, the real challenge isn’t getting your script read, it’s writing a screenplay good enough that it isn’t chopped up and used for the pulp of the next printing of the Twilight books.
* Record number of plugs in one sentence achieved.
** A few of these bad scripts do get sold – and made – but this is the exception to the rule. In an industry where it’s tough enough to make it within the realm of ordinary occurrences, do you really want to try and be the exception? Probably not. Nor do you want to be known as the person who wrote that bad screenplay…