Seven Tips on Preparing to Market Your Script
By Elliot Grove
There are two things that writers hate – writers hate writing and writers really hate selling.
Unless you master the art of selling, you will never be a professional screenwriter – no one will pay you for your work. And selling your work need not be a painful and dreaded experience. In fact, it can be a lot of fun, if you have a plan of attack.
Let’s assume that you have finished your script and are asking, “Now what?”
1. Let it rest: Put your screenplay aside for at least two weeks. I like to let mine rest for a month. You want to leave it long enough so you forget it – so it seems fresh when you see it again.
Time is your distance. When you return to your script, pick it up and read it for pleasure. You will find some gaping holes in your script that are huge and obvious that you won’t believe you didn’t notice them before. Fix them!
2. Character rewrite: Go through the script with a fine tooth comb and set aside anything that does not directly pertain to the goal of the main character.
3. Table reading –the dialogue rewrite: A table reading with actors (from a local theatre group, or acting school) is a great way for your piece to come to life. Actors would not normally expect to be paid, although it is polite to offer some refreshments, or help with transportation costs.
Tape-record the performance. Actors are trained to read dialogue. There may be phrases that just are hard for an actor to say, or others which do not make sense. Often the actors will make suggestions about the phrasing, or question the purpose of a particular line.
4. Your first reader: Make ten copies of your script and give it to nine acquaintances. Tell them to read the script and to scribble down any comments, observations, and even flattery, in the margins. Tell them you want their honest reaction. I always give the tenth script to my mother, because I know she won’t lie.
Your first observation should be in noting how long it takes each person to read and return your screenplay. If they call you back the very next morning and say what a terrific screenplay you have – that is good. They have taken it home that evening, and opened the first page, started to read it and became so absorbed that they couldn’t put it down. And they couldn’t wait to tell you about it.
5. Professional reader’s report: Certain individuals and organizations provide a script reading service. The quality of the reports vary, but at least you know that the person who has read your script has read quite a few, and their comments will be measured against other scripts currently in circulation.
6. Join a writer’s group: Marketing a screenplay can be a lonely business. Joining a writers’ group can help.
Writers’ groups are places where you can network, and get valuable feedback on your script. Look at the local library or call the nearest film organization to see if they can give you name of the nearest writers’ group. If you cannot find a writers’ group near you, why not start one yourself?
7. Pedigree: This is the most important part of your marketing preparation: building pedigree for your script. A screenplay can command a very high price.
A film production company, regardless of the size, considers the purchase of a script to be a significant investment. Before a company buys a screenplay, it has to be certain of its pedigree.
Usually, established writers sell their screenplays through literary agents, established producers or entertainment attorneys. Each of these people represents a filter that is trusted by a film production company, thereby enhancing the pedigree of the script. In your own life, you probably act in the same way. If a trusted friend calls you and says ‘I have just heard a fantastic song by this new artist. You must get their CD.’ The next time you are in a music store, you will probably search out this CD, perhaps even buy it.
However, it is very difficult for a new writer to attract the services of an agent, producer or entertainment attorney. So the Catch-22 is how to market your screenplay to a production company on your own.
Excerpted from Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay Second Edition by Elliot Grove, © 2009, Elliot Grove. Published by Elsevier. Ltd All rights reserved.