Step 1 | Step 2 | Step 3 | Step 4 | Step 5 | Step 6
Step 2: Selling the Script
To begin with, a few figures. Each year Hollywood is inundated with approximately 100,000 unproduced scripts. The chances of a first time writer being produced is approximately 140,000 to 1 (hey its better than the lottery!) Studios receive and review around 5,000 scripts a year, and of these a whopping 12 are sent on to become real live spectacles for the eyes and ears. Now to become one of those twelve there are a few paths. The first, and best chance for success (which in no means that its a good chance) is to get an agent. The Writers Guild Signatory Agent List provides a comprehensive listing of all agents who represent writers. So you start sending out inquiries and send you script on to positive replies. An agent is extremely valuable for two reasons. First, hey are known (or least better known that you most likely will be) and thus can get access to places you perhaps cannot, and second, they are familiar with the business and can help guide you through what could be an exremely difficult ordeal.
But maybe you donít want an agent. Well you can sell it yourself, but just to make sure you donít sell yourself short, the following is a list of the things you might want to know before going to battle for script.
- Know what kind script you have in terms of budget, big- versus low-. Low-budget, despite a somewhat negative ring is not of inferior quality. According to the Writers Guild, low budget is around a million or less, though to many a low budget is perhaps closer to five or six million or less. Anything that requires many exotic locations, a great deal of special effects or major start is bumped into big budget. So basically know what kind of companies have the budget and inclination to produce your kind of script and donít waste your time with the others.
- Make sure you send it to a name, not a title. Your script gains a little more weight if you can manage to send it to a person. Now this does not necessarily mean you send your script to Joe Schmotz who you happen to know works at Universal. Try and find out the name of the story editor or creative executive. Then simply put their name on the query letter and script. At the very least it makes it look like you know what youíre doing.
- Once you have the name, send a query letter stating that you have written a script you believe is consistent with the productions companies work, promises to be extremely profitable (money is always important), and that you would like to send it in for review. Send the letters off and respond with scripts to the positive replies.
- To make things easy for yourself, register your script. Who knows, maybe itíll become worth enough to be stolen. Its relatively easy to do this. Simply send a copy of the script and the fee to the WGAw office at:
7000 West Third St
Los Angeles, CA 90048-4329
Or call (213) 782-4540 to get information about script registration. The fee is minimal for non-members and it will safeguard your script from plagiarism. Just as a note though, donít put your WGAw registration number on you scripts when you send it to producers, it just looks like you donít trust them, and thatís not the way to off.
- So assuming that your script passes the reader, is handed off to the story editor, is then handed off to a producer, who in turn gets the okay to go ahead from the president and you script is picked up. What then? The studio may decide to option it, meaning they pay between $5,000 and $10,000 for the chance to mull over it for a year or two and decide whether they want to take it, while you promise not to try to sell it anywhere else. Then they may decide to pick it up. Or not. Either way, you are qualified to become a member of the Writerís Guild and get an agent, and you get a feather in your cap many of the other 100,000 scripts floating around do not have.
- So what if they want to buy? Even better. But it has its ups and its downs. First the downs. Your story is no longer yours. You might get lucky and get to stay on the project the whole time, but most likely youíll get paid to do the first re-write, ortheyíll send it to someone else. After that it can completely changed. Just an example, Armageddon first started as a story about a man who can predicts a huge asteroid coming to Earth. Obviously it got changed a little. But thatís the way it goes. As you get better and more well known, you get to have a little more control. Maybe. As for financial compensation, the Writerís Guild minimums as of June, 1998, were $36,000 for a low budget screenplay, $69,000 for a big budget screenplay. So it can be worth it.
- And then if you want to take the easy way, write the story as a book first, publish, wait for it to become a success, and then the studios will come to you. Just as a note, Ďeasyí was a joke.