HOW TO GET YOUR SCRIPT READ IN HOLLYWOOD
- DO NOT put a picture on your cover page.
- Nothing screams, “I’m an amateur writer and this script is not worth your time” to an agent/producer/studio executive than a picture on the title page.
- DO check your formatting.
- Short of a picture, nothing screams, “I’m an amateur writer and this script is not worth your time” more than incorrect margins, typos, and improper formats.
- DO NOT imagine that the person reading the script is as fascinated with your script as you are.
- Make sure the first ten pages are so riveting that the reader can’t put your script down no matter how much they want to move on to the next script in their growing stack.
- DO make sure that your script has a clear concept; what does your protagonist want and what’s standing in his/her way?
- It doesn’t have to be overly simplistic but it must be clear. If the reader can’t figure that out by page thirty at the latest, you’ll never get them to read the whole script. The goal can change, it can be accomplished in an unexpected way but if we don’t know what they want, we can’t get involved in their story.
- DO make sure that every scene of your script has a purpose; each scene needs to drive the story (or a side story) forward.
- It can’t be there solely for amusement or entertainment. It’s critical, even in small, intimate stories, that the pace and tension of the script continues to build, not remain consistent. The stakes have to keep growing even in comedies.
- DO NOT fill the pages of your script with too much exposition.
- Look at your script page – is there more writing than open space? It’s enough to say it’s winter in Siberia, do not describe the color of the character’s parka and the way the wind blows through the fur in their hood. If you want to write every little detail describing a scene, write a book.
- DO NOT try to direct the movie.
- Stay away from phrases like “Smash Cut To,” “ Pan Left,” or “CU of...” Also, unless it’s critical, refrain from parentheticals like “sadly,” “sarcastically,” or “quietly.” Let the actors act, the director direct; your job is to give them a story and characters worth spending a year or more of their lives with.
- DO NOT have dialog that is more than five or six sentences.
- It’s called dialog, not monolog, for a reason. Unless you’re adapting Shakespeare, you want to have characters conversing naturally, not making speeches to one another.
- DO NOT go over 120 pages. 105 is even better.
- If you haven’t told your story in that time span, then you haven’t done your job. Unless you happen to be Peter Jackson, no one is going to look at a script that’s over two hours long and jump at the chance to make it. Other than items #1 and #2, nothing screams, “I’m an amateur who is too difficult to work with” than handing a producer/agent/studio executive a script that’s over two hours long and expecting them to revel in your genius.
- DO give the audience a clearly identifiable main character that we can relate to.
- Stars sell movies and characters sell the script to stars. You have to write a character so gripping that whoever is reading the script can appreciate all their nuances and different levels of conflict going on in the story. Even simple action pieces (take “Batman” for instance) are suddenly elevated to a quality that attracts top-level talent when you give your character some complexity.
- DO have a plan on how to pitch your script.
- Unless you’re writing for the fun of it and don’t care if it ever gets made, write a solid, intriguing pitch letter including a logline (a one-sentence summary). Start networking now to make the connections that will help you get your script read. At the end of the day, no one cares if your script gets made more than you so it’s up to you to make it happen.