Monday, July 16, 2012

Sell, sell, sell! Why your script deserves to be on screen...

Scripts that don't get sold or optioned ultimately get filed in the waste paper basket. That's a cold, hard fact. Terry Rossio calls these sad bundles of paper Shelf Puppes: like puppies at the pound that don't get adopted, they are doomed to end up on the scrap heap.

And no one wants to see their script meet this awful fate - so how do you ensure that they get sold and go on to happy lives in the movie theatre, or even in the DVD store bargain bin?

Now, I have to admit that selling scripts (or approaching) reps is not something I've done enough of so far. This is due to three (pretty daft) reasons:

1. I'm a perfectionist and it's rare that I've had a script that I've been willing to send to a company or to an agent/manager as a sample piece. I'm just never sure they're quite good enough.

That's not to say I haven't done this, but it's mainly been through query websites such as Inktip (I've optioned a script through this site), and in response to a request for scripts. For example, I've never put a script in for a First Draft Loan from the Film Board, unlike almost every other Irish writer I know, because I've never had an Irish-based feature script that I was remotely happy with.

2. Reason Two - I'm much better at selling in person in an informal way than over the phone or using a query letter.

3. I guess the third reason can be categorised as "where the hell do I start?!" There's no roadmap out there telling us where to go to sell scripts. It's kind of a case of figuring things out for yourself, and this lack of clarity on my part has led to inertia and fear setting in.

Well, I now realise that it's time to get over myself and beat this fear of selling. First of all, I now have two scripts that I'm pretty happy with and another that I'm working on which I reckon has potential. So it's time to get them out there and see what people think.

Secondly, I'm going to bloody L.A., which means it's time to drop the Irish reserve and work on selling scripts and getting representation!

I'm going to deal with reps in the next post, but for now, based on a load of articles I've read recently, here is what I'm gleaned about selling scripts to production companies:

Ask EVERYONE you know if they know any producers who will read your script. If they do, contact the producer and ask them if you can send over a one-pager or short synopsis.

Then, make a list of all the recent and not-so-recent movies that are like yours. For example, I have a script called The Heartstoppers, which is sort of a cross between Ghostbusters and Hocus Pocus. So movies like it would include those two, as well as The Haunting, Night at the Museum, Enchanted, the Harry Potter movies, Monster Squad, Inkheart, The Spiderwick Chronicles and Sleepy Hollow. Plus many more.

Go to IMDBPro and make a list of the producers names/companies who worked on all these other movies. Go through the Hollywood Directory (I still have my big paper version) and get yet more names (sometimes they list movies producers have worked on in there). Note down their addresses, phone number and email addresses. Keep going until you've got a list of about 100-150 names and their contact details. I know some people just say to blanket bomb any producers in the Directory you can find, but my opinion is surely a little targeting can't hurt?

Then, do up a decent query letter - Ashley Scott Meyers has a few articles on this on his website, and start bunging it out. Ashley SM suggests doing this in batches to gauge the success of the letter - if you're not getting at least some positive responses, tweak it before sending it out to more.

Like I say, I've never done any of this. So I'll be trying this out over the next month and seeing how it goes - and no doubt making a lot of mistakes along the way! To be honest, this is my least favourite part of the screenwriting process. But I love my scripts too much to let them sit on a shelf...

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