Some advice to Script Writers on marketing your script

First of all I have never written a script nor do I write fiction. So how can I give advice? Please read on to find out.

In the early 90s I was living in S California and I became close friends with a young man named Robert Woodfield. His father was William Woodfield who was a screen writing for the original Mission Impossible TV series, Startrek and others.

Now my friend Robert, as you can see had insider connections, plus Martin Landau and Leonard Nimoy were like his god fathers and he had known them ever since he was a child. And he also knew actors like Woody Harrelson.

So he had inside connections. But was he talented? Yes he was. When I visited him in LA in 2003 he read me several of his scripts and they were fantastic and would have made great movies.

But even though he had obvious talent and connections no one would read his scripts. He couldn’t get them past the gatekeepers.

As it would happen when I flew back from LA to ATL I was sitting beside a young man who had a pile of scripts that he was going through. I asked what he was and he told me his job was to vet scripts that a studio was considering.

I thought this was a great time to tell him about my friend Robert. After I told him the man said that such connections didn’t matter and unless he had some sort of agent then his scripts would never see the light of day and thus never have a chance to be noticed.

I told this to my friend Robert and he said getting such agents was very difficult because of the demand and almost impossible.

So I told him the same thing I have told all my clients who are scriptwriters. That if you do not have an inside connection or a good script agent then this is what you should do: Turn your script into a book, and get it published either but a name brand publisher or self publish (no longer a stigma). It will then have a much better chance of getting noticed by potential producers who are on the look out for a good story which readers already like. If they are interested then they not only buy the movie rights but you already have the script in hand for which you get paid extra. 8)

Anyway just some ideas for those who may have trouble marketing their scripts.

Sadly my friend Robert could not take advantage of my advice, as he died untimely at a young age from cancer. :cry:

WGA Screenwriter here. Been a pro for many years. I disagree with the above advice to convert your script into a book and get it published.

If you love writing books, write a book.

If you love writing scripts, or you want to make movies, write scripts.

In my experience, there are three key factors to having a writing career in Hollywood:

(1) You have to write at an extremely high level of quality;

(2) You have to know or get to know some people in the business;

(3) You have to show your work to people who can buy it or hire you.

The most important (and most difficult) of these is to write at an exceptionally high level. How can you tell if you write well enough? Show your script to anyone in the business. Even a junior assistant. If their response is to ask permission to give your script to someone they know – you’re writing is good enough. If they say anything else, but don’t ask to pass it on to someone else, you need to learn to write better.

Hollywood is an ecosystem based on relationships. In a business filled with backstabbing, trust in the taste of people you know is essential. There are too many people trying to get into the business. Too many scripts. Too many projects. In order to function in the business, buyers rely on trusted contacts to filter out the dross and recommend material that can actually lead to making a movie.

Because of this network of recommendations, people on the lower rungs of the business can increase their career capital by finding good scripts. So when the junior assistant asks to show your script to someone else, they are using your script to prove their value as a discerning filter. In all likelihood, the person they’re showing it to will do the same to their superior.

When your writing is good enough, your script will spread through the town like wildfire. Producers and agents will court you even before they read the script, because they hear other people talking about the script.

Learning to write at that level is the hard part. Most screenwriters don’t bother to get that good, and they spend years trying to break in. My advice is to commit to becoming a tremendously capable writer before you try to make a living.

Once you have the skills and have written top-notch screenplays, then get to L.A. and start meeting people. Meeting people is the easy part. On the buy-side, everyone is looking for a great script and a skilled writer.

Every professional screenwriter I know (me included) got started in the business by handing a script to someone they knew. Maybe they went to school with someone, maybe they got a job making coffee – they figured out a way to get to know someone in the business. To make that pay off, you have to build the skills of an exceptional writer first.

Only the really best books get turned into scripts, so Popcornflix’ advice is valid also for books: you need tolearn to write a really good book for it to become a bestseller that someone wants to turn into a script.

50 Shades of Gray.

Thus I refute you.

You don’t have to write a “good” script or book, you just have to write one they think will make them a pile of money. That is not always the same thing.

The core of my contention is that instead of trying to game the system, a screenwriter should work very hard at becoming a world-class writer. Once you’ve achieved that, it’s not that hard to get work.

Most aspiring screenwriters want the career before they are good enough to compete.

A “good” book, or film, is one that people want to read/watch. Is there any other objective way of measuring what is “good”?

To be honest, that’s not even objective. But you missed my point – the advice that you need to be ‘a great writer’ is bogus. Many books and shows that are popular or widely enjoyed are not by any stretch of the imagination written by great writers or are necessarily good writing. But they tell a story that people want to hear/see.

Well, isn’t that the criteria for being “good”? The opposite, a story no one likes to read/hear/see, is most likely a good definition for “bad”. :laughing:

You can tell a great story with bad writing.

You can tell a horrible story with great writing.

Writing != story telling.

… and it is the combined effect that people like or dislike.
A relative who is (was) a great writer said that she used to do a test when deciding to buy a book or not. She opened it anywhere in the middle and read a few pages. If she liked what she read she bought it. :slight_smile:

I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that, though, don’t you think? As you point out above, what makes something “good” is not objective. So any time anybody makes the argument that “the way” to succeed in writing (whether books or scripts) is to be a better writer, I’m gonna pushback, because that’s demonstrably not true. And for every example of “good writing” I can come up with, I can come up with a counterexample. And you can too.

Now, does this mean that you should stop writing or stop practicing writing? Heck, no.

What it means – and this is my issue with what the OP is saying – is that you write and learn how to be a better writer for yourself. You learn how to be a better writer – the best that you can be – so that you are putting out your best work, the work that engages you. You don’t learn how to be a better writer because it’s a sure shot to being commercially viable and fabulously rich. Nope, by and large the people who do that (both in script and in books) are the people who are good enough and fast enough to turn out work after work after work that sell enough.