You just finished writing a script or a screenplay, so what do you do with it now? Whether it’s a screenplay for a movie, a pilot for a new TV series, or a spec script for an existing TV show, you need to prepare your script to be read and noticed by the right people.
The first thing you will want to do is prepare your script for presentation to studios and production companies. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) website has a wonderful formatting guide you can use to make sure that your script is properly formatted. Once it is formatted properly and you’ve checked for typos and spelling mistakes, make copies of your screenplay. You may also want to have your script read by a professional script consultant who can point out problems and suggest solutions. But before sending your script out to anyone, it’s a good idea to register it with the WGA script registration service (get instructions at wga.org).
The next step, getting your script noticed by the right people, can be a bit more challenging. If you have an agent, your agent will handle this for you; if not, you may want to start thinking about trying to find someone to represent you. Finding an agent is an important step because most studios and large production companies are prohibited from receiving unsolicited material from screenwriters. They will only take scripts from entertainment professionals; such as agents, lawyers and producers.
The best way to find a qualified agent who will represent you is through a personal referral from another writer. You can find an agent on your own by researching the Hollywood Directory and on the WGA website. You will probably have to make a lot of phone calls and send a lot of query letters to find an agent who will be willing to read your work. Most agents want to work with writers who have a portfolio that proves the writer is talented, creative, diverse, and productive.
If you’re like many first time writers and are unable to find a qualified agent that is willing to represent you, there are other ways to get your work noticed. You can make contacts at writers’ conferences and pitch festivals; or you can enter your script in competitions and fellowships. If you are among the finalist for one of the more respected competitions (eg, those organized by Sundance, Project Greenlight, and the Academy), you may attract the attention of an agent, or you may even get an invitation to meet directly with the studios or production companies.
If you are lucky enough to get an agent to read your script and take you on as a client, your agent will send your script out to the appropriate studios and production companies for their consideration. Then, a “reader” at these companies will read your script and determine if it is a “recommend” or “pass.” If the reader recommends that your script be given further consideration, it will be read by decision makers at the company, and if they like the script or your writing style, they may request a meeting. This meeting may be a chance to pitch your script idea, or it may be a meeting to get to know you. They may be looking for freelance writers to write scripts for an existing TV show or a freelance writer to work on another writer’s movie screenplay. If you are successful in either selling your script or being hired as a freelancer or writing staff member, you agent will negotiate the deal, set up the contract, and receive ten percent of either your writing fees and/or salary.
Even if you try all these things and and are still not able to generate interest in your new screenplay, you must understand that most screenwriters do not find success with their first screenplay. This doesn’t mean that the effort is a waste of time. With each attempt at writing a screenplay and trying to get it noticed by the right people, an aspiring screenwriter learns new techniques and skills that will make it more likely they will succeed in the future. Agents, studios, and production companies are all looking for writers who have a lot of great ideas and are passionate about their writing. The more you write and the more screenplays you produce, the better you’ll be able to demonstrate your talent and passion. The important thing is to keep learning, keep trying to get the attention your work deserves, and above all else, keep writing.
What to do With a Script
o Crafty TV Writing —by Alex Epstein
o The Script Selling Game—by Kathie Fong Yoneda