Now that we are in the film awards season, many screenwriters are even more inspired to get their work produced and onto the big or small screen. So, bring it on, 2017! This might just be your year to make the resolution to polish your screenplay and send it out into the world.
Writing a screenplay comes with both its own joy and challenges. But knowing if your screenplay is truly ready to submit to competitions, potential producers, and agents and managers, can be for many writers, daunting. Let’s start this year by making the process less overwhelming by becoming proactive.
Make yourself a promise: Be patient.
Is your screenplay really ready to be seen by film industry folks? Be honest now. Are you about to submit your screenplay because you are bored working on it and believe that it’s “good enough” despite knowing in your heart that another rewrite (or more…) is needed? This is the time for a gut check. If this is what you’re feeling, then do not submit your script. If you are tired of your screenplay—so will the agent, manager, producer, director, talent, script competition reader, and film executive to whom you are submitting your project.
Before you submit your screenplay, get feedback from people (preferably in the film industry or knowledgeable about film) who will tell you the truth. And nothing but the truth. Giving it to people who might sugarcoat their responses, such as close relatives, might not be the best choice, unless you are eager to risk family estrangement.
For a quarter of a century – yes, that many years – I have worked with over 1,000 writers and filmmakers, as The Screenplay Doctor, consulting on both independent and studio projects. At this point, I believe I’ve heard it all – from writers who believe that a company will “just buy their idea and fix it” or say, “the movie I just saw stunk so why do I have to waste my time and rewrite my script?” – to studio executives who are dismayed that their time is being wasted reading amateurish, unimaginative and/or sloppy work that ends up on their desks.
My question to you is this: Why would you submit your screenplay that isn’t absolutely the best it can be?
Take your time writing and rewriting, and rewriting again if needed. Once your script has been rejected by industry folks, it is just about impossible to resubmit it to the same person or company for reconsideration.
The film industry is a business. Hence the word “industry.” This business requires a tough skin, determination, tenacity, and diligence. In order to break into the business and/or stay in the business, obviously you must write great scripts, but writing a stand-out work also demands being open to constructive critiques. If you are receiving similar feedback on the same script issues, chances are you should take these remarks into consideration and make revisions.
Do your research and find out what companies, representatives and competitions are looking for. Submit your work to the company, agent, manager, and script competition that is a match for your project. Some might be seeking only a certain genre while others might be accepting work for specific platforms. Follow their submissions guidelines. If they are requesting comedies and a one-page synopsis, that’s what you send them. Don’t submit a drama and your feature-length script. Sending a script without it being requested is unacceptable film etiquette and a sure guarantee that it will be tossed into the circular file.
Getting your work noticed means getting your work out there. Read trade publications to learn what companies are looking for. Attending pitch festivals, screenplay conferences, film festivals, taking classes, and so on, are all positive steps to meet others to share ideas, and even getting your screenplay on its way to the silver screen.
Your screenplay is your calling card to the film industry. It is a reflection of your writing talent, the knowledge of your craft, and your distinct vision and voice. Make a resolution this year to be patient and persevere, and submit only your best work.