The Sure Fire Way to Sell Your Screenplay!
Alas - there is no sure fire way to sell a screenplay. Anybody who tells you there is, is probably trying to sell you something...and it's a safe bet it won't get you into the movie industry any quicker.
The movie industry in general, and screenwriting in particular, is a tough way to make a living. Breaking in is hard - unless your parents are studio execs or producers...and even then they'll pass on your product if it isn't good.
If your product is good, however, then you're in luck. Talent trumps connections. If it didn't, then you'd never see a new face in the industry. If your script is commercial and well-written, and you do the legwork, it will most likely find its way into the right hands.
So what's the legwork? Utilize anyone and everyone you know who might be in a position to advance your career. After all, it's not only good for you, it's good for them - everybody wants to be the one to bring in a hot new project. Hollywood works mainly on reputation and referrals, and you get the reputation by getting the referrals...and you get the referrals by networking like crazy until you get something started.
If you don't have an agent (they're tough to get, and very selective) then try and get a manager interested. Managers are more approachable than agents - there are a lot more of them, and they're hungrier. If you gain representation from a manager, they will help you get an agent. If you can't get a manager interested, try and get a producer interested directly. The producer interest will give you an “in” with agents and managers.
Say you don't live in Los Angeles...you don't even live in California. You can't very well schmooze and pop-in on your movie acquaintances then, can you? The good news is that Hollywood is no longer the center of the movie industry. Opportunities abound in cities, states and countries all over the world. And the Internet covers them all!
Here are the four main approaches you can take, anywhere in the world, to generate interest in your work. The more of them you apply, the better your chances.
The Direct Approach - You can send a one-page query letter to agents, managers (most managers also try and attach themselves as producers to a project), and producers. There are many books and online resources which can help you write an effective query letter. You can also read about query letters on our site with this link: <http://www.storypros.com/QueryLetters.html>. Query letters, however, are not always effective. If you get requests for your script on a 100 to 1 ratio you are doing better than most. You really have to write a compelling query letter that is short and sparks interest in your idea for it to be effective. You can find contacts in the Hollywood Creative Directory, and Fade In Magazine’s "Writers Guide to Hollywood Producers", plus their "Annual Agency Guide." Or you can use online email query services like www.scriptblaster.com, www.equeryonline.com, www.filmconnections.biz, and Script Express from www.soyouwannasellascript.com.
Contests - You can get attention for your script by winning or placing well in screenplay contests. Contests will also help you gauge how well your script is written in comparison to other writers. Pick your contests carefully and look for ones that have the best reputations, offer the largest prizes, and hopefully promote your win and/or gain you representation. Many of our past contest winners have been contacted by Hollywood executives and had their material read. You can find almost every contest listed at www.moviebytes.com -- and, they have a rating system to help you decide which are the best contests. Winning or placing well in a contest will also be a great credit to include in your query letters.
Film Festivals and Conferences - Go to local film festivals and screenwriting panels. You can meet people in your local area at the festival or after a speaker has finished giving a seminar, etc. Use events like these to network and make connections. You never know where the smallest connection will lead!
Pitchfests - Pitching your script, either in person or online, is a very popular way to get your work out there. A pitchfest event is a one- or two-day event where you give short pitches directly to industry representatives. If they are interested in your pitch, they will ask you for a synopsis or your full script. Where can you find pitchfests? The Great American Pitchfest has two events across the country, Fade In Magazine has three pitching events in Los Angeles each year, and Final Draft runs several "Take A Meeting" events. There are also online pitch sites like www.inktip.com <http://www.inktip.com>, www.virtualpitchfest.com <http://www.virtualpitchfest.com>, www.pitchq.com <http://www.pitchq.com>, and many others. Note that nothing beats live, in-person pitching and networking opportunities.
If you live in Southern California, there are many other opportunities and events available like this which you can use to make connections. You may also be able to find local groups in your town or in a nearby city - or come to LA for a vacation, and take in some events while you're here!
You may not like paying for contests, pitching events, etc. - who does, right? But these are about the only expenses for prospective screenwriters, other than a computer, screenwriting software, ink/paper and postage. Consider these extra expenses as an investment in your career. You may even be able to write these expenses off on your taxes as a side business.
So there's a good overview of the ways to market and sell your script. And, we may have lied a little - there really is a sure fire way to sell a screenplay. Aren't you glad you read down this far? Ready? Here it is:
Write a great script that no one can ignore.
That is the one thing in this business that is completely within your control.
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