10 Ways to Pitch Your Script or Film More Successfully: Part I: Scripts
Given the thousands of scripts and films pitched to producers, agents, and distributors each year, it is hard to stand out among the crowd. Unless you have a family member, relative, or close friend on the inside, it is truly difficult to get through. Even so, if you are trying to get in, here are some tips on how to do it. No guarantees, but you’ll increase your chances.
This first article focuses on scripts for films and TV shows. Part II will focus on finding a distributor or co-producer for your film.
Aside from starting with a good script, copyright it with the U.S. Copyright Office. You might also register it with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in L.A., though the copyright registration is more important. If you are asked to sign an NDA, sign it, since no one will look at your script if you don’t, and don’t expect industry professionals to sign your NDA. Normally, they won’t, since the big fear is being sued for looking at anything that is remotely like something they are already developing in house or considering from another writer.
Now here are the tips for pitching your script.
1) Use the three step logline to paragraph to short treatment approach, which is based on the principle of letting them ask for more. Often screenplay writers send a query letter in which they go into detail about their script, their background, how this is their first script, how they took a course with a writing professional, or got great reviews in their local writing group. Wrong! You want to come across as a seasoned pro. So start that way. In this approach, you just send a brief logline. Then, if the producer, agent, or manager wants to see more, you send your logline with a paragraph or two describing the story and a key selling point. You can later follow up with a short 4–5 page treatment where you describe your script like a dramatic story. Finally, you send the script. Or if it’s for a series, send a Show Bible.
Alternatively, send a query letter with a logline and paragraph or two about your script or series, and offer to send a synopsis, the first 10 pages, the full script, or a Show Bible for a series.
Importantly, focus on one film or series at a time. You can mention you have other film ideas or series, but that’s all. You don’t want to overwhelm industry professionals with too much information, since they like short to-the-point pitches.
2) Both in a query letter pitching your script and on the title page of your script, include your credits for other produced features and awards. But only include such credits if they have industry recognition, such as from well-known script competitions and film festivals. If you list local or no name events, this can seem amateurish.
3) Create a movie poster for your imagined future film and put a picture of that in your query letter or on your script’s title page. Alternatively, put a photo from a trailer shoot or one that represents the essence of your film in your query letter or on your title page.
4) Create a 1–2 minute trailer for your script — either using photos or get a videographer and local actors to create this trailer with a short script featuring the highlights of your film.
Alternatively, create a 4–10 minute short with an episode from the script.
Another way to create a short video is to put on a staged dramatic reading of the beginning or some selected episodes of your script and film that.
5) Enter your script in well-known film competitions and include any awards in your query letter, title page, trailer, short, or other promotion for the script.
6) Create a website or Facebook page, and include introductory information about the script, such as the logline and poster. But only give out more detailed information to industry professionals wanting to know more. Keep a copy of these emails so you have a trail of anyone you show the script to.
7) Build up a social media following on one or two of the social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Seek to get at least 10,000 followers; 50,000 or more is even better. A good way to build a following is to hire a virtual assistant to create a social media campaign and do the posts for you.
Additionally, contact the local media to do a story on you; then send information about that story to other media. Post any stories about you and your script in your social media accounts.
8) Write a novel based on your film, since it is easier to sell a novel to publishers or self-publish it and promote the published book to build sales. Then, if you have a track record for your novel, you can more easily sell the film rights or a script based on it than a script by itself.
9) Go to LA if you are not already there. Once in L.A., go to events with producers, directors, and distributors. Look for events sponsored by industry professionals, such as the Directors Guild of America (DGA). Another big event to attend is the AFM, the American Film Market, held in November in Santa Monica. There are over 300 exhibitors, primarily distributors and production companies doing their own distribution, from around the world. Attendees include many producers seeking to sell their films, as well as buyers for films. To get in to see exhibitors, you need at least a one-day pass for about $250. But you can also hang out in the lobby and bars in the area. Bring plenty of business cards and collect cards from others to follow up later. Generally, just look to get leads and contact those leads later to start a conversation about your script.
Other possibilities include going to conferences attended by producers and agents, where you may have opportunities to do one-on-one pitches. Often these pitches are to readers or lower level employees at the company, such as assistant producers or assistants to agents. But at least this is a way to get noticed if the person you meet with likes your pitch and invites you to send in your script for consideration.
10) Do a mailing to producers, agents, and managers where you offer to not only send more information on the script (ie: the synopsis, first 10 pages, treatment, or full script), but you offer to meet with them before, during, or after a big event, like the AFM. Or you can suggest another time when you or they are in L.A. You can obtain these leads from industry directories and contact selected producers, agents, and managers individually. Or to save time, you can use the Publishers Agents Films (www.publishersagentsfilms.com) query service that has been sending out queries to over 1000 producers, agents, and managers for over 15 years.
You may have still other ideas about how to make you and your script stand out. Write them down as you think of them. Then, start implementing the approaches that work best for you. And if you need help with any of this, that’s what we do at Changemakers Productions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., J.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar leader, specializing in business and work relationships, professional and personal development, social trends, and popular culture. She has published 50 books with major publishers. She has worked with dozens of clients on memoirs, self-help, popular business books, and film scripts. Writing samples are at www.changemakerspublishingandwriting.com.
She is the founder of Changemakers Publishing, featuring books on work, business, psychology, social trends, and self-help. The company has published over 150 print, e-books, and audiobooks. She has licensed several dozen books for foreign sales, including the UK, Russia, Korea, Spain, and Japan.
She has received national media exposure for her books, including appearances on Good Morning America, Oprah, and CNN. She has been the producer and host of a talk show series, Changemakers, featuring interviews on social trends.
Scott is active in a number of community and business groups, including the Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, and Walnut Creek Chambers of Commerce. She is a graduate of the prestigious Leadership Contra Costa program. She does workshops and seminars on the topics of her books.
She is also the writer and executive producer of 10 films in distribution, release, or production. Her most recent films that have been released include Driver, The New Age of Aging, and Infidelity.
She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and her J.D. from the University of San Francisco Law School. She has received five MAs at Cal State University, East Bay, most recently in Communication.