How To Sell A Script To Hollywood – Producer’s Perspective

How to sell a Script to Hollywood

Let’s cut to the chase – as long as movies are made, producers will need fresh original stories.

You’ve got an idea for a movie. In this video I’m going to explain exactly what you need to do to sell it. Since we rarely ever see the screenwriter, or read the scripts of the movies we watch, there tends to be this unnecessary mystery surrounding that aspect of the film industry.

Where movie ideas come from, or how screenplays are chosen, or how to get your idea through the door and it’s led to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about what producers actually need and why amateurs and dreamers tend to think of it a little bit like a lottery.

If I could just get my idea into James Cameron’s hands, he’d love me and shower me with instant fame and fortune, but long-term, struggling writers tend to think of it a little bit the same way. If I could only master the story formula, or find that tip, or secret trick that’ll swing the doors open and land me an agent and ignite my magical screenwriting career.

Well, to turn that dream into a reality let’s pull back the curtain and see how this really works. Selling your movie idea ultimately involves two basic steps.

  • Number one – turn your idea into a production ready screenplay.
  • Number two – get that screenplay into the hands of its ideal producer.

Now, that may sound terribly obvious, but in truth it’s really not. Look closely at those words. It’s not just a screenplay, it’s a ‘production ready’ screenplay and it’s not just a producer it’s your project ‘ideal producer’.

See, our goal ultimately is to make a movie and movies aren’t just an idea. They’re a carefully crafted story, rich and complex, and compelling enough to engage an audience’s imagination for about two hours.

Since we can’t shoot an idea, someone has to turn that idea into a screenplay that costs time and money. Remember – the screenplay is not our ultimate goal. Screenplays only exist to be turned into a film.

Screenwriting CourseIt’s not just a story, it’s also the blueprint for the production process, a very pragmatic working document that will guide and be used by a whole bunch of creative people, the actors and the director and the crew.

Unfortunately, most people who teach screenwriting are only teaching from the writers perspective. They invent formulas and theories and techniques by deconstructing existing movies.

They literally take a film, pull it apart to see the mechanics of how it worked and then tell you to replicate those mechanics but there’s something everyone seems to be overlooking. Steps 1 and 2 are intertwined.

Screenplays will only sell if you connect them with the people who want to make the movie. If you write a flawless formulaic Hollywood epic, it’s unusable by an independent producer in Sydney or Paris or Louisiana, or a thousand other places where movies are now made.

By the same token, if you write a bold experimental risky, non-traditional story, no matter how brilliant it is, a producer in Hollywood who makes hundred million dollar event films cannot use it.

For any producer of any kind of film, if your spec script is not production ready it’s almost impossible to sell, because it comes with a huge script development expense. It’s not enough to just slap together a screenplay.

It’s not even enough to write a production ready screenplay. The key to the deal is to marry both steps. So if you’re serious about selling your movie idea, seeing it made into a film, not just writing it and letting it rot on the bookshelf, it’s essential to understand who you’re trying to connect with.

That person is the producer. The producer is basically the overseer of a film object, like the project manager at the highest level, and they’re ultimately responsible for everything.

Where to sell a screenplay in HollywoodThe producers job is to find or develop the story, assemble the team and the resources to make the film, gather the budget by getting investors, oversee the production to make sure we don’t run out of money halfway through, make sales and distribution deals to get the investors their money back, and see it all the way through until the money comes in.

We’re talking about hundreds of moving parts for every project, and because movies are such a big job that often takes years to complete, sometimes with no guarantee of sales at all, most producers will have multiple projects in various stages of this process at any given time, which means one simple thing.

I hope you’ll always remember, producers are always juggling and that’s good news for you. Producers are always on the lookout for new material, because they’re always meeting new actors or directors or investors or sales and distribution people, trying to figure out which people fit with which projects.

If they know a director and a name actor who’ve always wanted to work together, I’ll try to find a project that suits their creative sensibilities. If they meet an investor who wants to make a quick buck or win an award or shoot in a specific state or country, they’ll try to develop a project to satisfy those business ambitions.

It can happen the other way around. Maybe they’ll find a project and they’ll love it. They’ll get passionate about it, maybe a project like yours. They’ll option it so that they can exclusively go out and try to assemble all those elements and resources to make it happen, but here’s the problem.

To juggle effectively they have to be very protective of their time, since 99% of all projects will always be unusable to them. What tends to happen, even though they’re always on the lookout for material, they tend to put up a little bit of a wall around themselves, particularly with writers.

Where to sell my screenplay todaySo how do you break through that? How do you connect with your project’s ideal producer? The real answer, even though you’re not going to want to hear it, is that you should immediately distrust anyone who claims to have the answer, because the truth is it depends entirely on you, your project and the producer you’re trying to connect with.

There is no one single answer. There can’t be and here’s why. Just as every writer in the world is unique, every producer is unique – we come in all shapes, sizes, ages, genders and personalities. We have different creative sensibilities and different business ambitions, and different preferences in how we like to connect with people.

We also have different resources available to us at any given time. About the only thing that we all have in common is that we’re all constantly juggling. So the bottom line is this – to really sell your movie idea you can’t treat it like a lottery.

You don’t just want a producer or some famous producer that’s inaccessible to you. You want the producer that’s perfect for this project. While every situation is intrinsically unique, there are two steps that are required in every situation.

  • Number one – turn your idea into a production ready screenplay.
  • Number two – get it into the hands of its ideal producer.

Now if this all seems a little bit impossible or easier said than done, stick with me throughout this series. I’ve reverse engineered the entire process and we’re going to start at the end and work our way back to the beginning, so that you can see exactly how to achieve these two steps.

In the next video I’ll show you how to grab your ideal producer’s attention in just 15 seconds. Plus I’ll introduce a breakthrough strategy that leads directly to the deal, so subscribe to this channel, subscribe to our newsletter, like and share this video, if you can and we’ll see you next time on the Producers Perspective.

In this video I’m going to show you how to grab a producer’s attention in 15 seconds, plus I’ll introduce a breakthrough follow-up strategy that leads directly to the deal.

To truly reverse-engineer the complete screenwriting process we need to start at the end and your end goal is to connect your project with its ideal producer. But how?

Producers will always tell you they’re not looking for material, they can’t read your screenplay, even though the truth is, unless we’re busy for the next 5 years with a guaranteed production slate, we’re always looking.

The problem is a properly written feature-length screenplay takes about two hours to read and 99% of them are unusable by any given producer. The fact is producers need to put that little wall up around themselves. It’s part of the juggling act. Without it we would be overwhelmed by submissions and never get any other work done.

So the unspoken reality is that producers need writers to break through that wall. Fortunately, there is a way, a shortcut to help us filter through all the noise. It’s called the logline. Loglines evolved out of an old Hollywood cliché that goes ‘pitch me your movie in 25 words or less’.

Sell a script to hollywood infoIt’s a sentence or two, usually just one, that conveys the heart of the project. Now writers tend to hate the logline. They think I can’t possibly condense my complex story into a single sentence, or my story isn’t about the concept, it’s about the execution, or with only one sentence you’re judging the story or me too quickly.

But this resistance just demonstrates the gap, an awareness of what producers actually need. To understand why producers tend to love the logline, look at it from our side of the table. Log lines save us time. We know instantly when a project is not right for us.

They spark our imagination. Done well, we can see a whole movie from a single sentence. They demonstrate a marketing angle this helps us sell the project, one of the producers key responsibilities, and they reveal the writer’s skill level. We can spot talent instantly, all of which makes the logline an extraordinary opportunity for writers.

To help you understand what a logline is and how to create one effectively, let’s first look at what it’s not. A logline is not a tagline, the blurb on a movie poster ‘this time it’s personal’. Don’t try to sell us the film. We’re the ones who would be making the film with you!

Producers need to know what your story is about. If you submit a tagline, we pretty much know your project’s not ready. A logline is also not a teaser, a partial concept that’s missing the meat of the story – ‘two cops face ultimate corruption. Will they survive with their souls?’

Again, we need to know what the movies about and this tells us nothing, except that we can safely pass on this project. It’s also not about your whole story. Don’t try to cram your entire story into one giant run-on sentence. That just tells us that your screenplay is going to be bloated and unfocused too.

Instead, your logline is a single sentence that captures the essence of your story’s plot and ignites your readers imagination. The logline’s purpose is not to tell the story. The loglines purpose is to grab their attention, let them know there’s a compelling story here and encourage them to follow up and that’s all.

How to sell a script to hollywood tipsNow, as with all creativity, there’s no one formula that’s going to work for every idea but almost every logline should include an intriguing character in a compelling situation that implies a rich story.

Now, after reading and analyzing about 20,000 log lines, I’ve discovered that there’s a secret ingredient that makes the most effective log lines work and that is the compelling promise. As I explained in the Missing Ingredient, every word you write is a promise that sparks the reader’s imagination, as they try to anticipate where you’re going to go next.

There are two kinds of promises.

  • Direct promises, where you literally make a promise.
  • Implied promises, where the words you use create expectations within the other person.

If you create a log line that implies a compelling story, you engage their creativity. The compelling promise is a hook that taps into our natural human curiosity. They have to follow up to see if you’ve achieved or exceeded what they imagined.

Now think about this for a second. You can literally open any door in 15 seconds with the right logline and this is how you break through that wall. As I was building the marketing phase of fast screenplay, the very end of the screenwriting process, I discovered a breakthrough strategy that leads from this hook directly to the deal.

I call it the ‘promise progression’. We spend about five weeks on this in the system but here’s the gist of it. , your logline makes a compelling promise which hooks them and makes them need to know more. They ask to see your synopsis to find out what your story is about and see where you’ve taken the idea.

Your synopsis then not only pays off the expectations your logline put in their imagination, it also makes or implies its own compelling promise, that takes it to the next level, which your screenplay then pays off by building an effective promise progression.

Your screenplay becomes a must read and then if your screenplay exceeds their expectations and their imagination, you become a writer they must know, even if they can’t do anything with your project right now. The secret of breaking through that wall then is this – ignite their imagination and then deliver more than they imagined.

How to sell a movie script adviceNow, your full promise progression will include your title, your query letters, your pitches, all your marketing materials. It will be customized for individual agents and producers and production companies, whoever you’re trying to send it to, but the key to understand is that it all starts with the logline.

The best part is that there’s even a dead simple way to know when you’ve mastered your logline. When you test it out on people. all you need to hear are four simple words;

Wow! Tell me more!

That’s why the logline may be the most important sentence you’ll ever write. Before you start sending loglines out into the world, I want to give you three tips or warnings from the producers perspective:

Number one – take the time to craft an extraordinary logline. Most loglines destroy the writers chance of even getting a read. Your log line reveals your skill level, so we can instantly rule out a poorly written log line or a log line that doesn’t convey a story clearly or powerfully. If the log line is weak, there’s little chance that the much longer screenplay will be written at a pro level.

Number two – always create the logline after the screenplay is done. Most writers make the mistake of writing their log line first, but you need to know the compelling promise your screenplay actually delivers so you can design a log line that sparks a promise progression that will exceed their expectations.

Number three – never send out a logline without a screenplay ready. Remember, producers are always juggling, so if we spot a project that engages our imagination when you’re very excited and think ‘if this project is what I imagined it to be, I know exactly what to do with that’, we assume that it’s ready and we follow up.

Now if it turns up that project is not ready, we may miss an opportunity entirely. It can be very frustrating. We won’t consider the writer to be a professional, so for all these reasons, this is why I like to say you only get one sentence to make a first impression.

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In fact, you know what? Don’t send your log lines anywhere until you watch the next video in this series, because to really sell your projects you need to avoid the mistake almost every writer makes. They send their project to the wrong producers.

In the next video I’m going to explain the real secret to the deal, the one common denominator for every project that sells. Plus, I’ll introduce a skill I’ve never seen written or talked about anywhere before. In fact, I only discovered it once I started looking for screenplays and examining screenwriting from the producers perspective.

I’ll explain the skill and I’ll show you exactly how to achieve it, so subscribe to this channel, subscribe to our newsletter, please like and share this video, if you can and take action today to make your dreams a reality. Stick with me throughout the series and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next time.

Where To Sell A Screenplay

Where to sell a screenplay information

Hi, its screenwriter Philip Hardy and today I want to talk about websites that allow you to pitch your feature screenplays and your pilots, and I don’t mean the guys that fly air-planes. To relive, industry people, some of them allow you to do written pitches.

Others have more sophisticated means of doing those and you would think with all the people that are out there writing spec screenplays, un-produced and aspiring writers that are out, there trying to sell the that script and make the next tent pole picture, there would be more of these sites. Because it’s a very lucrative business – that is not the case.

There are really only four of these websites that are considered to be worth a damn and that’s because they have the perceived value of industry types that are being paid to hear your pitches or read your pitches, whatever the case may be.

I’m gonna review those four websites in no particular order. First let’s talk about the Blacklist. The Blacklist has been in business now I think four five or six years, maybe longer and what they do is, they have a web hosting site for screenplays. They charge $25 a month for you to upload your script and hopefully there are people that will read that script after it’s uploaded.

Where to sell your screenplay – How to sell a movie script

However the best way to get attention is to pay $75 a pop to get your screenplay read and reviewed by other screenwriters and I guess in some cases industry people, but I suspect it’s more frustrated writers that are trying to sell their specs replays that are reading your spec screenplays and reviewing them.

Sometimes those people can be rather nasty with what they say about your work. Other times I guess, in much less instances, they will gush over your work and they give you a score and if you get a score of a ten above and you get several of those reviews, suddenly you may be a hot property on the Blacklist.

Where to sell my screenplay infoAt the end of the year the Blacklist, they put together a list the top approximately 75 unproduced screenplays and that gets a pretty broad attention from folks out there in Hollywood land. There are several Blacklist writers that have gotten signed to agencies after having top-ten script, let’s say.

But I’m sure if you make the list there’s people that may request to read your screenplay again. Remember this though – a lot of these guys are very project centric. They may love one screenplay but if they can’t get anybody interested in it, they’re not necessarily looking for unproduced writers that they’re gonna work with for the long term. That’s just my opinion.

The next website is Virtual Pitch Fest and Virtual Pitch Fest allows you to do a written proposal or a pitch with a logline and synopsis. They give you a limited amount of space for the synopsis and you can select from their whole list of producers and industry folks.

Okay, here’s virtual pitch fest up on the screen and they have extensive lists and alphabetical order of people looking for animation action and comedy, all genres of films and man they got tons of people on here.

Production companies, literary agents, producers directors. Okay, for example … this guy, Aberration Films- he’s been involved in a couple projects. One called Brick and the other one the Punk’s Not Dead.

He’s supposedly looking for action, comedy, family, fantasy, romance, blue, block – pretty much every genre. So what you should do before you decide to lay down your hard-earned money, which is $10 per pitch, is I’d look these guys up on IMDB and see what else they’ve been involved with.

Anyway a $10 a pitch it’s fairly inexpensive to use Virtual Pitch Fest and they also run specials where they do 10 pitches for a hundred bucks, and then they’ll throw in two free pitches which is a $20 value. Personally I have not had much luck with Virtual Pitch Fest.

How to sell a movie script explainedI haven’t used them a lot but the ones I’ve gotten back, the feedback’s been rather generic and although I’ve got one or two nice notes back, I never got any action from using. However, take that with a grain of salt. They also will get back to you within a fairly short window. I think that technically speaking they’re supposed to answer you back on your pitch within 48 hours.

Correct me if I’m mistaken. Send me a nasty note if I’m wrong. anyway that’s Virtual Pitch Fest. They’ve been around for a while and I do know some people that have gotten script reads out of that and had some successes. The next website is Happy Writers.

Now happy writers has not only can you submit a two-page written pitch to their industry types, you can also do an 8 minute Skype session, which is the next best thing to being in an office with somebody. You know, you’re gonna do like that the quick pitch where you tell them why you have a sexy idea for a movie or you have a sexy script.

There are pluses and minuses to doing that way. I’ve done them both and I’ve had more success doing the written pitches, but that’s just me and not everybody’s as handsome as me. So when you go to a Skype meeting you may want to take that into consideration.

On their Happy Writers website, I think you can see they have pictures of the folks that are there, that are hearing pitches and a lot of these sessions that particularly the Skype sessions, say they’re sold out and they’re thirty five dollars of crack.

So let’s take this young lady here, Sarina films – Tatiana Kelly. Let’s view the details of this one. Tatyana Kelly specializes in biopics, dark comedies, romantic comedies, thrillers, sci-fi and projects based on books, so that’s what she’s looking for.

Then they give you her background and probably her most famous project that she’s been involved with is a movie called Wrist Cutters, a love story which I did see. That movie it’s, it’s a very good little indie film but that’s been a quite a stretch of time since that movie came out.

I don’t know what else she’s done in the meantime so, my warning to you is buyer beware when you’re submitting to one of these industry types. You may want to look to see when’s the last time they had a movie produced or what’s the most recent things they’ve been involved in.

How to sell a movie idea beginnersEarly on in uncle Phil’s career he worked with a guy that hadn’t made a movie in quite some time and although he had a extensive track record, it had been quite some time so he was a little gun-shy about pitching to his contacts.

So I spent a lot of time trying to develop that script but there wasn’t much pitching done at the end of the day. What I do now is I make sure that the people I work with have very fresh connections in the industry and that they’ve worked on films and major projects within the past at least two years.

That’s just my recommendation. Anyway Stage 32 costs 30 to 35 bucks a pop. I have had some success, probably more than most. I’ve had a half a dozen screenplays read. I’ve actually had one make it to the next base and I’m currently in talks with a producer who’s reading now a second one of my scripts.

Were talking about a possible collaboration on an upcoming project. So anyway, Stage 32 isfor real but if in my opinion it can be a very difficult nut to crack and you better have a very good pitch to even get your screenplay read.

That means a very well-crafted synopsis, or if you go in to do the Skype pitch, that you practice that you really have your shite together when you’re pitching it to the industry people. Finally, out of the for sites that allow you to do the stuff there is Ink Tip and that’s uncle Phil’s favorite.

I’ve had a fair amount of success with them and several options and right to shop agreements that I’ve gotten from using Ink Tip. In my opinion there’s also a good value because you can use their script hosting site for 65 bucks every four months, so that comes out to be a pretty good value.

I aggressively use their newsletter and I have not had very much success with the web hosting. Though I’ve had screenplays downloaded and read, I’ve had no further responses off of that. Now on the web hosting, the script hosting site, they allow you to upload your screenplay.

Where to sell your screenplay guideThey allow you to put in a lot of details about the genre and sub-genre, the budget for your film, the cast size, all the things to make your work as palatable as possible to their audience. They have a couple thousand people in their base that they’re working with. Most of them are looking for projects from let’s say $100,000 maybe on up typically four or five million dollars.

So they’re not working in in most cases with big temple companies or big six companies or, you know big-name guys, like you know Spielberg, or you know David or Russell, or whoever. Again, they’re working with more indie type producers so for that again do your homework on who you’re submitting to.

As far as the newsletter goes, that’s where I’ve had success and the reason I’ve had success is because I don’t try to compete with everybody on the things that are gonna be the most popular.

Where there’s 50 to 100 people that are gonna submit on those and that would be things like low-budget horror thriller zombie movies, vampire movies, anything where there’s a lot of material out in the ether, I look for things that are more obscure.

Case in point – I got an option deal in September because a guy was looking for two crime thrillers about a guy that went on a shooting rampage in 2013, and though I didn’t have a screenplay for that, I figured nobody else would.

I put together a idea for the story and I gave him a sexy log line, and that guy optioned the project and he’s currently shopping that material right now. I got another option for a screenplay that I’ll call a spec script but I actually wrote it for another producer that did nothing with it.

That had a right to shop and didn’t go anywhere and this guy was looking for a faith-based film about Jewish culture and I had what was really more of a war picture, but it has a lot of Jewish culture in it because it’s about the Six Day War.

He liked the screenplay, was a long shot but the guy liked the screenplay, and I knew there wouldn’t be a lot of people competing for that, so again I look for things where the competition’s gonna be thinner.

I probably am one of the fewer people that do that, because most people it’s like they go direct, they’re running with the football, rather than doing a fancier play. They’re hoping that they can sell one of their spec projects.

Where to sell a screenplay information

I can tell you it’s probably easier to sell somebody on something that they’re looking for and how you’re gonna fill that need. Why just last night there was, there’s a person that’s looking for a script about how Hattie McDaniel and you know they’re actually looking for somebody that’s got one of those laying around.

I just think, sorry folks, but there’s not a lot of people all that probably written about Hattie McDaniel, even though in some respects she’s a very important figure because she’s the first african-american actor to get an Academy Award for her role in the Gone with the Wind.

So in my opinion competition thin on that one, so I actually put together a pretty good pitch and I told the producer ‘hey pal, your chances you finding somebody with a Hattie McDaniel script are slim and none, so I wrote a sexy log line and I told the guy I’m the guy for the job.

This is why I’m the guy for the job because I’ve done the exact same thing several times before where I’ve produced material for people looking for an obscure subject matter. So anyway that’s what I did with InkTip. That’s how I’ve been effective and utilizing that service.

So that’s my take on the four major websites that are allowing you to do pitches to industry folks. I hope that’s helpful to you and I’m going to say goodbye.

Philip Hardy’s Youtube Channel