How To Get Your Screenwriting Noticed
We all know that screenwriting success starts with a great spec script. But a brilliant script, or even two or three, on its own isn’t enough if no-one in the film or television industry is reading them. So, how do you get your screenwriting noticed?
The goal is to be read by producers who will pay you; by commissioning you, hiring you or buying your spec script. Research producers and production companies making the kind of material you’re writing. You can find a list of UK production companies in the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook, of US production companies in the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory or on IMDb.
You may be able to submit your script directly, particularly to some smaller production companies. However, many will have a ‘no unsolicited submissions’ policy, meaning that they will only accept material (pitches, scripts) via a recognised literary agent.
If they have a no unsolicited submissions policy don’t email them your script anyway, they will just delete it. But you can still get read, you just have to solicit a request to read your work by querying them first.
Be open-minded about the kind of producer you’re looking to connect with. A big studio is unlikely to be open to an approach from an unknown, un-represented writer, whereas emerging producers are much more likely to be genuinely looking to develop relationships with emerging writers.
Producers are definitely more open to reading scripts that come to them from agents, particularly those they know and trust. So having an agent can help you reach producers that you might otherwise struggle to get read by. You can check-out my round up of all screenwriting agents in the UK here: http://scriptangel.com/blog/screenwriting-agents-uk/
Agents will be looking to sign writers whom they think have a good chance of a successful screenwriting career. They want writers who already have some traction so they’ll expect you to have at least a couple of very strong spec scripts under your belt and already be developing relationships within the film and television industry.
3) Contests and Development Labs
Placing in a well-respected screenwriting contest can help to bring you to the attention of the film and television industry. Contests can also be useful for giving you deadlines to get your spec script not just to first draft but polished. We round-up the best screenwriting contests in the UK and US every month here: http://scriptangel.com/blog/screenwriting-contests/
4) Taking Your Work Off The Page
Thinking outside the film/tv box can open up a wealth of learning, networking and visibility opportunities for emerging screenwriters. Consider getting your work off the page by writing for theatre, online web-series or short films.
5) Be Strategic
Look at the writers who are breaking-in right now and find out how they got to that position. Might the steps they’ve taken to make themselves visible work for you?
Whether you have an agent or not, you still need to think like one. Agents ask, how can I get my client work and get them more widely known? Ask yourself the same questions about your own writing and career development.
Keep a record of everyone you’ve submitted your work to so that you can follow-up. Some of our clients (http://scriptangel.com/client-success/ ) have spreadsheets that extend to hundreds of rows (submissions) for each of their spec scripts. They’re growing their network all the time and developing genuine creative relationships with people working in the industry.
However, just submitting in a scatter-gun approach to hundreds of contests or a thousand producers is unlikely to yield a high return on time invested. Have a career development strategy. At Script Angel we help our writers to develop a career development strategy (http://scriptangel.com/services/screenwriter-coaching/) alongside the script development work we do together. Be strategic about how you could develop your screenwriting career and make ‘getting your work out there’ part of your writing routine.
And don’t give up!
Hayley McKenzie is the Founder of Script Angel (www.scriptangel.com), a screenwriter training and development company. She is an experienced screenwriting coach with over ten years’ experience as a development and production script editor in the UK film and television industry.