How Producers/ Production
Congratulations, you completed a screenplay! Whether it’s your hundredth, or your first, it’s an incredible achievement. There’s no denying that It took tons of hard work, lots of dedication and painfully restless nights.
You finished your billionth re-write, meticulously dotted every I and crossed every T, and made sure all the formatting was up to every industry standard you could possibly think of.
Now, the hardest part is still ahead. (Yes, it gets harder, if you can imagine that.) Now comes the tedious part of what you’re going to do with your marvelous script. While the printed pages might make a sturdy mousepad or a hefty coaster, you know you want more than that from this masterpiece. You want this unique one-of-a-kind story out into the world for everyone to experience.
So, a brilliant idea pops into your head…. you decide you should send it off to a Producer or Production Company. After all, they’re the ones making films and television, and they’ll be sure to want yours. Sounds easy enough, right?
While it’s true that there are endless amounts of companies you can send your script to, getting them to look at it is another task altogether. After all, there are way more screenplays floating in the universe then people who can make your dream a reality.
But let’s say you get your script in the door, what do you do next? Well, the answer to that question has more to do with how Producers are reading scripts in the first place.
Your goal as a screenwriter is to craft scripts that are page turners. So well-crafted and designed, that the Producer has no other choice but continue to turn each page until that final bittersweet FADE OUT.
That task is extremely hard to do, but it is possible. Most producers are juggling hundreds of things at once, so when they finally have time to sit down and read your script, make sure it’s in the best shape possible, that It’s been workshopped and examined thoroughly by trusted industry professionals.
Before you send your final polished draft off to the biggest studios in town, we suggest you review what we believe are some of the key elements that Producers and Production Company are looking for when reading scripts. Because unless you are a big-name screenwriter, you have to write better than your peers to get noticed. Many of those peers have years and years of writing experience and long IMDB pages.
You need to make your script a fast, crisp, easy read where the words float off the page like clouds. That means you need to follow some rules to start. (I know, rules suck!)
Write a Kick Ass opening
Make sure your first 10 pages grab our attention. It needs to be amazing from the first page, if you want a producer to continue reading. (For example, put your character in an active, tense situation to start, rather than a large expotionary scene or a situation that doesn’t offer much excitement.)
Write great Action lines
Many beginning writers think they need to be overly descriptive. But that won’t attract producers who have short attention spans and limited time. Learn to write action lines that are no longer than 3 lines. Short sentences. It should flutter off the page like a poem. Crisp, smooth, clean. Make your verbs expressive and active, keep them in the present tense. Write them as visually as possible. A good example is to look at the first few pages of Saving Private Ryan. It’s magical!
Brief is better
As a General rule of thumb, less words is more when it comes to a screenplay. If you’re shooting your own project on a credit card, it's less important, but if you’re looking to impress a producer, it needs to be at a level to rise above the slush pile. Craft matters the most, so keep it brief. As a good general rule, keep it at half the empty space and half the ink on the page. Break-up long monologues with action lines. The bigger the blocks of text the harder it is to read, so best to avoid that.
Write how people would actually talk. Too often scripts die with wooden or on the nose dialogue. Make your dialogue zing off the page. Be clever and give the characters a unique voice. The story can unravel over time with visuals and doesn’t need to have long expository dialogue. One common example is when the villain reveals in one large monologue at the end of the story, all of the reasons why he or she did the evil things they did. That is not the best approach and can come across as lazy writing. Characters can keep secrets or know things about each other that the audience will eventually understand. It doesn’t have to be all spoon-feed to us, if you did your job in the rest of the script. People have secrets and so should your characters.
Think about Marketability
Most importantly, a Producer or Production company makes their entire living making movies. They need to feel they can make their money back and then some extra. While there is a place for personal art house pieces, generally speaking, production companies are looking for more mainstream projects that have wider audiences. So, while a personal piece you wrote about your cat might be interesting, it most likely won’t be enough to get a producer interested. Elevated genres for instance, usually do well. (Horror, Sci-fi, Action, Etc.)
Write A Killer Logline
This is not about the script itself, but it’s still very important. Production companies and producers will read loglines and decide quickly if it’s worth them reading the whole script. Therefore, you should put in time and energy into writing this the best you can. It should be brief (one or two sentences), explain the protagonist and what they want, and include the antagonists attempt to block the protagonist from their goal.
The Extra Mile
This is not as important as all the above, but it will help you raise your script and gain attention from Producers. If you can find someone of note, and get them excited about your script before you pitch it, that can help. That could be a famous director, actor, etc. Producers always love when someone who is well-thought of in the industry is excited about a project. They usually don’t want to miss out on that opportunity themselves.
Just remember, a Producer wants to read the next best thing. Send them your script only when it’s a well-oiled machine that can rise above the rest. Make it unique, well-crafted and special. And as they say in the Hunger Games, “may the odds be ever in your favor”. Good luck out there!