You’ve finished polishing your screenplay. You’ve done your best to incorporate feedback from various sources. If you have an agent or a manager, you want to get their feedback, too. You’ll want to strategize with them about where your script should be sent.
Most unproduced writers, however, don’t have an agent or a manager. How do they get their script to the right people?
In many of these cases, it’s all about finding contact information for actors, producers and directors, assistant directors, production managers, and the rest. You can use Google, Hollywood Directories, and the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb). It’s worth it to subscribe to IMDb Pro (yearly about $150) which has probably the most comprehensive collection of contact information.
1.Getting your script directly to an actor, director or producer.
Believe it or not, some writers have managed to get their scripts directly into the hands of an actor who then got the movie made. Some writers have managed to get their script to directors and producers, too.
How do you do this? It’s about who you know, who you work with, or who’s your cousin. Very difficult for most first-time writers, but it can be done. You’ll need to have contacts that can get a script to a professional. How can you accomplish this?
It takes a lot of nerve. You might work on a studio lot, and have access to actors, directors or producers. You’ll have to move out of your comforts zone. Some people are lucky and can get a script to Robert Downey Jr or they know a guy who knows Pee Wee Herman.
2.Enter your screenplay into contests, workshops and labs.
The Nicholls fellowship is the best contest. It is sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Film festivals have contests. Some websites like the Blacklist or Inktip may also have contests. If you place in the top 10%, or better, win — you can add that to your query letter.
Sundance and Slamdance and other festivals have workshops, too. If your script makes the cut, they may have you come in to do their “lab,” reworking and shooting a scene.
Moviebytes lists hundreds of screenwriting contests. Before entering, make sure you get coverage from a reliable source, make sure the script gets a RECOMMEND evaluation. If it doesn’t, rewrite it until it does. Other sources of good coverage include The Blacklist and (my own website) HollywoodScriptwriting.Com.
3.Warner’s and Disney have internships for promising writers.
If accepted, they’ll work with you on polishing your script or writing a new script in a workshop setting. They‘re generally looking for “the next big thing,” which could be you. If you’ve written a TV spec script you should consider submitting to these internships.
Some of these are actually fellowships, which means the network or studio may pay you (even up to $30,000 a year) to nurture you as a writer.
Also, many networks and studios have internships for writers who qualify as “diverse.” This includes minorities, women, writers with disabilities, and writers over 55.
4.You can post your script on internet sites where producers, managers and agents can access them.
Inktip (at inktip.com), is one of the first websites to post written material for industry people to find. They have some success stories. There is a monthly fee, but it’s not a rip-off. They will also list your logline in a brochure that’s sent to 5,000 production companies.
The Blacklist (at blcklst.com) is one of the best newer services to offer this type of exposure. They charge $25 per month to post your material. They also offer evaluations of screenplays and TV scripts at reasonable prices. They also have contests and mentorship programs.
Some of the coverage services also offer to blast your finished script to hundreds of producers. Scriptshark, for example, provides this service. Of course you want to make sure the script you send out gets a “Recommend,” not a “Pass.”
Spend more time having people read your screenplay before sending it out. Ask writer friends; any people you know in studio Story Departments, or talent agencies to look at your script first. Keep improving it until you’ve collected a group of fans. Then, and only then, send it out.
Some resources you can use to reach producers once your script is in great shape include; Screenwriters Online, a website that will allow you to chat with a producer; and online pitch festivals like the one FadeIn Magazine (online) offers.
The International Screenwriting Association website advertises “Gigs.” Most of these jobs are non-WGA writing jobs, so take advantage of them while you’re working your way up and before you’re in the guild.
5.You can blog about your writing “adventures,” and create websites where you can show “sizzle reels” for their projects.
Allegedly, Diablo Cody got “discovered” based on her blog about being a
stripper-screenwriter. Some people set up Facebook “Like” pages for their projects. Some people create websites to promote their material.
Writers who are also directors have a better shot at breaking in to the film industry. They can write and make a short film that gets them noticed. For example, “Sling Blade,” (Billy Bob Thorton), “Frankenweenie” (Tim Burton), and “Bottle Rocket” (Wes Anderson) were all features made from shorts.
If you can direct as well as write, you might shoot your best scene, and put it on your website. Even better put together a “sizzle reel” featuring a 10-20 quick scenes (highlights) from the film, edited together to impress producers and agents out there.
Then use social media, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to make sure people see it.
6.If you’re trying to shoot your scripts as low-budget features, a social media presence is pretty important.
There are sites online like Kickstarter and Indiegogo for crowdfunding. They both take in the around a 5% platform fee, plus 3-5 % processing fees.
Pozible is an Australian crowdfunding site that has launched over 6,000 film projects. Fundrazr is a Canadian site that supports all kinds of projects, including film projects. Seed & Spark funds any film-related project. They are all available to international filmmakers.
There are many other ways to raise funds for your low budget film. There are groups on LinkedIn you can join and find out about funding. One such group is called Film Financing Group. The idea is to make friends on the site, then once you’ve created a relationship, ask for help raising funds
Facebook has The Indie Film Scene, and the Independent Film Society.
Meetup.Com has groups for writers and filmmakers. There’s one in Santa Monica Called the Film Funding Club.
Attaching talent is another way to improve your chances of funding an independent film. If you can find a director and some actors with some buzz, it’s a huge advantage in fundraising. There are financieers who provide what they call “matching funds,” if you can get your script to a star (who can carry a movie) and get them to sign a letter of intent.
7.When sending your script to an agent, a manager, or a production company, include a signed release form and a great “query letter.”
When sending material anybody without an agent, it helps if you write a query letter that sets you apart from the pack. Anything that adds heat to your project will increase your chances of getting read. A signed release form is a must is you’re not represented.
Winning or placing in contests, getting “RECOMMENDS” from Blacklist, or other respected story or screenplay consultants, coming through an industry internship or writing or directing lab; these are all “evidence” that your script is worth reading.
When you send a query letter to an agent, mention any of these measures of quality from respected sources; and toss in facts like “Quentin Tarentino said this was the best script he’s read in a long time.” Get their interest.
8.Send your script to talented, ambitious Hollywood “has-beens” or “up-and -comers.”
Find addresses, email, or phone numbers for up and coming commercial directors, music video directors, assistant directors, cinematographers, production managers, and even casting directors. These people don’t want to stay where they are. Everybody want to be a filmmaker. They are motivated to read your script. It may help them break through
“Older” award-winning actors, or former stars are still looking for great parts. They may still be bankable and generally have important contacts. They know producers, directors and other actors. If they love your script, they have lots of leverage.
These are just suggestions. You don’t have to try any or all of these. Look at your budget. Entering contests, workshops, labs, subscribing to IMDb Pro costs money. Getting a professional to give you feedback costs even more. Ask yourself what makes the most sense to you. Then ask yourself what you can afford.
A lot of screenwriters, especially first-time writers don’t feel like they can afford anything. A word of caution. In almost all careers, you spend money to succeed. Either you go to college, take courses, advertise, or network. Screenwriting is the same. You have to invest in yourself.