Are you looking to sell a screenplay?
Whether you’re converting your own concept to screen, or have purchased the rights to someone else’s work, you’re going to need a screenplay.
Why do you need a screenplay? Well – no matter how good your imagination is, it’s sure hard to share that vision with another (especially an investor). A good screenplay is as close as your idea can get to being a film without a camera.
Before you start: Is it hard to sell a screenplay?
Short answer? Yes. Selling a screenplay, especially your first, is going to be fairly difficult. Script Mag reports
“When I ask agents, managers and writers for their guesses, their answers range from five to 20 percent.”
Have you considered producing your own film? Especially in the earlier stages of your career, this is a great way to gain experience, connections, and build up your portfolio. If you’re interested in getting funding for your film, check out our contests (no screenplay required!)
Below are a few tips that will help you successfully market your screenplay to studios, producers, or executives in the industry.
1. Learn How to Write a Screenplay
The most important part of writing a screenplay is being able to format a proper screenplay. Education at a film school or even a screenwriting workshop will greatly improve your chances of assembling a properly formatted screenplay.
If you’re looking to listen to some firsthand accounts, check out some of these podcasts for filmmakers.
2. Hone Your skill
Is this the first screenplay you’ve ever written?
The film industry is like the sea – she’s large, mysterious, and dangerous. No matter your skill, experience, or pedigree, overconfidence is poorly tolerated. Why the lame metaphor?
If you go in to this process expecting your first ever screenplay to be funded, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Are you familiar with the first Deadpool (box office 783 million)?
Ryan Reynolds, a well known and connected actor, waited 11 years before he could get it on film. And you’re not Ryan Reynolds.
You should dedicate the first year or two to developing your writing and screenplay quality before you even consider marketing your screenplay to buyers. If you try to sell your screenplay without honing your skills, you won’t just fail, you’ll set yourself back – you don’t want to ruin your reputation by turning in rough drafts.
If you only get one chance before sell your screenplay, you want to do it right, right?
3. Create your Portfolio
You will need examples of your writing and your style of writing before you can market your screenplay.
It will help to have a variety of examples such as films, short films, or even tv episodes in your portfolio when you begin marketing your screenplay to buyers. Having a consistent, recognizable talent, represented across multiple platforms is essential to showing your worth.
Remember, to them, you’re an investment. Show off your worth.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could ride on talent and spirit, alone? You could sell your screenplay in an instant.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the world works.
The best way to get noticed in the industry is by ‘knowing a guy’. Being able to leverage your connections in the industry, get your foot in the door, is huge. Check out this industry guide to networking, if you want to learn more.
5. Let an agent sell your screenplay
Who wants an agent, right? I know I sure don’t want to give out a cut.
Well, true… but isn’t a small cut better than never making your film?
A good agent can give you a leg up in your search: Seek representation with an agent or manager. They can help distribute your screenplays to networks and production companies and assist you with networking and getting in front of the right people in the industry.
American Film Market has a great overview about agents, definitely give it a read if you’re considering that route.
6. Create Marketing Material to Sell your Screenplay
What is the purpose of movie trailers? (I’ll give you a hint – it’s not because they’re fun or easy to make.)
Trailers are a marketing tool, designed to drum up hype for an upcoming film. They’re super important for raising awareness of an upcoming film.
While you can’t offer a trailer for your script, you can still build up hype – with a query letter.
A query letter is a short description of your film, the concept, tone, and what sets it a part. Think of it like the preview on the back of a book – it lets the reader know what’s inside.
When you’re doing outreach, a well written query letter is often the tipping point that gets your screenplay read.
Getting to know and work with other writers, directors, editors, and others and trying to break into the industry can be beneficial in advancing your career.
Not only can you pool ideas, you can also learn about the processes of filmmaking and what is expected along the way. Building up friends and favors in the industry never hurts, either.
8. Script Synopsis
A short script synopsis will be necessary in addition to a logline and query letter. It will be a brief three-paragraph summarizing your screenplay.
It will be necessary for follow-up correspondences that inquire more about your screenplay during a pitch or follow-up email.
9. Research your audience: Who are you trying to sell your screenplay to?
Do your homework before trying to market your first script. You will save yourself time and effort by being able to direct your efforts to the right company and people – if you’re selling an animated horror film, why would you speak with Hallmark?
10. Stay Organized
Get everything you need to submit your screenplay in place before contacting anyone. As you network, if someone’s interested, you need to have everything ready to go.
Keep a log of who you contacted and when to follow up, keep track of what you have submitted and who you submitted it to.
11. Have a Pitch Ready
You will need to be able to pitch your project to directors, producers, distributors, and studio executives. Preparing by pitching to friends and family will be good practice in getting your pitch together and honed before meeting with anyone in the industry.
Do you have a background in sales?
If you haven’t done a pitch before, do you really want your first one ever to be the one that counts? Practice. Practice alone, practice in a group.
12. Keep Writing
This is a marathon, not a sprint. While you are trying to sell your screenplay, don’t get stagnant. Don’t let it discourage you from your goals – the ones who bail early are never the ones with films.
As long as you keep writing, improving, learning, growing, helping, and connecting with others, you’ll find satisfaction in your goals.
As you can see, the path from idea to sold screenplay is not a short one.
If you’re looking to fund your film efforts, make sure to check out our film funding competitions.