Finished Your Screenplay? 6 Things to Do Before You Send

Finally typed FADE OUT on the last page of your screenplay?  Nice work.

Now you’ll want to get it in front of people who you hope will be as excited about it as you are.  But no matter whether you’re sending it to a funding body, production company, competition or listing site – you want to give it the best possible shot, so consider doing these 6 things before you send it out into the world…

Thing 1: Road Test Your Title

Try the title out on 5 people who love you and 5 people who like you. Ask them what they think of this title and what type of story it suggests. If everyone thinks your title sounds like historical romance when it’s a zombie flick you might want to rethink it.  You can even give them a range of titles to rank.

Thing 2: Set Your Goal

Identify your goal for this project then create a Submission Calendar or Diary that serves that goal.

There are numerous writing competitions and initiatives out in the world, not to mention regular funding rounds locally – so find out which ones are relevant to your project, what the dates are and create your calendar for the year.  There are also annual events which offer pitching opportunities (E.g. the SPADA Conference and The Big Screen Symposium.)  Putting together a plan is just pragmatic and a smart use of your time. (You can also include planned submissions to production companies see Step: 4)

Thing 3: Hone, Hone, Hone

Make sure your project is the bestest, sharpest version it can be.

If that means getting feedback and doing another draft or employing a proof reader – do that. If it’s not in good, professional shape you are wasting your time by sending it into the professional arena. At a minimum you need to get the basics right. (Not sure about the basics?  My Beginner’s Guide to Screenwriting Workshop is designed for you.)

Thing 4: Research Potential Buyers

Create a list of potential buyers/collaboraters.  Who are the producers or production companies who make films or TV shows like yours?

There is zero point contacting a producer who only makes documentaries when you’re trying to sell a 90 min horror script. There’s also no point sending your query to an info email address – send it to the right person.  Some companies have full-time development execs – find out who they are and get their contact details.

Check out a couple of years’ worth of funding results from NZOA or NZFC to give you a good idea who makes what. You can also get into the industry loop about what is being produced, by whom, by subscribing to industry organisation databases and Facebook pages. (You’ll also find out about upcoming initiatives and calls for applications.) Google is your friend, so is IMDB, Facebook and Linked In.

Thing 5: Perfect your logline and 1-2 paragraph synopsis.

Your logline or synopsis is the hooks you will use to interest busy people in reading more of your project.  FYI If you can’t articulate your premise in a couple of punchy, hooky sentences – there’s probably something awry in your premise.

Thing 6: Write an Effective Introductory or Query Email

You want to get your screenplay in front of individuals and companies right?  So send a BRIEF, polite introduction email that will make people want to engage with you and read your work.  Keep in mind the people you’re contacting, like everybody else, are busy!  So keep the info succinct and pertinent.

What do you need to include?

  • Why you’re writing. Make the purpose of the email clear in the subject heading.
  • Who you are, credits if applicable, and a link to your site/ online profile IF it’s relevant to your writing career to date. (Don’t include full CV or work history – this isn’t a job application.)
  • A brief description of your project (i.e. the logline or short synopsis and genre) in the body of the email.
  • A clear invitation.  E.g. would you be interested in reading a one-page pitch document?  Would you be interested in reading my screenplay? Etc, etc, etc.

Best of luck folks!

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