Marketing Your Screenplays
Travis DeStein (Level 5) ~ 7/6/2012 11:27 AM
I went to the American Film Market in LA with a friend to help him try and sell his script. No success, though.
Matias Caruso (Level 5) ~ 7/6/2012 2:08 PM
Here's an interview with a few US managers. They talk about how they find new clients, how they market their material, etc.
Dan Delgado (Level 5) ~ 7/6/2012 7:13 PM
Part 1: Written by Neal Marshall Stevens (How he broke in without an agent)
Go for the Hollywood Creative Directory Producer's Guide.
Identify the companies that make movies similar to the kind of movie that your screenplay is. That means, if you're making small dramatic film, look for companies that make small dramatic films. If it's a goofy comedy, look for companies that make those kinds of movies. It *doesn't* mean that if you've written a movie about a killer snake that you want to send it to a producer that's just released a movie about a killer snake. They might actually be ill-disposed to make a second one just like the one they just made.
Identify the name of the person you want to talk to. Generally this will be the Director of Development or a "Creative Executive."
You always want to keep careful records as you move forward. Who you have made contact with, when, what the result was, what the follow-up is, when that follow-up is scheduled.
While you may achieve a certain success rate by querying through snail mail or e-mail, using essentially the same format as I discussed above, by far the best success rate you will achieve will come by way of the telephone.
Why is this? There's a fairly pragmatic reason. It has to do with lines of least resistance. Production executives generally have far more to read than they know what to do with anyway. These are usually things that they *have* to read. They don't have any choice. So if they have a choice, they will usually choose not to do any more reading. So if they get an e-mail asking them, in essence -- how will you like to add yet another script to the stack -- what's the line of least resistance? It's around five inches -- from where their finger is on the keyboard to the delete key. And that extra reading is gone.
They get a letter suggesting that, maybe, they do some extra reading, what is the line of least resistance? Generally it's from the top of the desk to the paper-filled circular file directly under the desk.
On the other hand, once you've taken a call from somebody -- especially if the person you're talking to is reasonably nice and engaging -- where is the line of least resistance then?
Unless the script that you're talking about gives them some immediate out like, "I'm sorry, it sounds great but we simply don't do space epics," -- which is something that will only happen if *you* have failed to do your homework, the line of least resistance is always going to be, "It sounds great, why don't you send it?"
That ends the call. That makes the person on the other end happy. It makes the Exec seem like a nice guy. To do otherwise means potentially getting into an argument, having to explain why potentially you don't want to read the script. It makes the Exec come across like a bad guy.
And people who will happily throw your query letter in the garbage don't want to come across as nasty people face to face (even face to face over the phone).
Now, of course, if your script actually is lousy -- you're out of luck.
But if your script is lousy -- you're always going to be out of luck, no matter how clever your strategies may be to get them read.
But if the script is great -- it will get read and it will get noticed.
Dan Delgado (Level 5) ~ 7/6/2012 7:15 PM
The Big Trick:
Now when you call, you will find yourself confronted by an apparently impenetrable barrier. But it is actually no such thing. Don't worry about it. Because I will give you an easy and effective way to penetrate it.
When you call a production company, you will speak first either to a Receptionist who will ask who you want to talk to and when you tell them, will then ask who you are and what your business is -- or else, when you tell them who you want to talk to, will then put you through to the Assistant of whoever you want to talk to and *they* ask who you are and what your business is.
You will answer something along the lines of, "I'm So-and-So. I'm a screenwriter and I want to talk to him about a screenplay I just finished."
Now, comes the critical question. They will ask you, "Do you have an agent?"
If you say, "No," and then pause -- you are doomed.
That's because the next thing you will hear is this:
"Oh, I'm sorry. We only take agented submissions. See you around, chucklehead. Click."
What you need to say when you hear this question is the following -- with no pauses.
"No, but I usually submit my material by way of my attorney, if that would be all right."
Far more often than not, you will that it will be all right. Even if you don't have an agent, most companies -- even those companies who, five seconds before would have happily blown you off and told you that wouldn't accept anything that didn't come by way of an agent -- will accept submissions by way of an attorney.
But only if you get the line out before you hear that blow-off line. Once you hear those fatal words -- it's too late.
That's because the purpose of that "agents-only" restriction has nothing, really, to do with any legal concerns -- although there are some.
It is really a way to keep out people like you. That is, rank amateurs.
As it stands, most of the screenplays that development companies read are lousy and will end up being rejected. And those are professional screenplays written by professional writers.
If only one if fifty of those are worth buying, what (from their perspective) are the odds of finding a buyable script from the slush pile of amateur material written by people who've never even demonstrated any professional ability at all? One in five hundred? One in a thousand?
Development companies only have so many readers -- and they have to pay those readers for every script that they read. They need some way to keep out the junk.
That little phrase, "Do you have an agent?" -- however unfair it may seem to the outsider, is an extremely effective method of keeping out huge amounts of unreadable, unsaleable, unprofessional crap.
That's why they do it.
Dan Delgado (Level 5) ~ 7/6/2012 7:16 PM
By referring to submitting by way of an attorney, you demonstrate that you have some understanding of how things are done in the business -- that you are not a rank amateur. And thus, just maybe, you are not a complete waste of their time.
And since you are, potentially, not a complete waste of their time, they will put you through to the Executive that you asked to talk to.
Now, you're on.
Be nice. Sound sane. Be engaging. Don't lie. (All of these things, by the way, are true when you are talking to the receptionist and the Assistant, whose name you should make a point of remembering -- because last month's assistant is next month's Exec -- and they remember who was nice, and even more so, who wasn't). When you get down to business, just as in the query, describe your project in no more than a few sentences. Try not to stumble - even if it means rehearsing it ahead of time -- but don't read it, because when you do, it always sounds as if you're reading it.
Be ready to answer questions, but probably there won't be many questions.
If they say no, don't argue. Thank them for their time. If the conversation has been pleasant, you may take the opportunity to ask them if they have any thoughts as to where you might take the project -- and you will be surprised at how often they will be happy to give you suggestions.
Remember -- it's hard to say no. Don't make it harder - because then, they won't like you. And there's going to be another script -- and potentially, a few months down the road, another call. Far better that they remember a pleasant call -- even one that ended with a "no" -- than an unpleasant one.
And that's how the call -- one that ends with a "no" -- should always end. "Well, I'm working on another screenplay. If you're open to it, maybe you'd like to take a look at that one when I'm done."
If you've played your cards right -- especially since, having said "no" to this one, they'll look for a kind of little consolation prize to offer you, they'll say, "sure."
So now you have an open invitation to call back when you finish your next script. Of course they may say "no" to that one too -- but that's life.
Well, obviously - since, you said that you were going to submit by way of your attorney -- you need an attorney.
Now, let's be very clear about this. *For purposes of submitting a script only* -- any attorney with an office and some letterhead will do. A family attorney, a friend that's an attorney. Pretty much any attorney will do. Whoever did the will for your family, or handled the sale of your house. Your cousin who's a lawyer.
It doesn't really matter -- so long as they have an office and some letterhead.
Depending on how close a relationship you have with this lawyer, you may have to pay him something to do this work -- but let's face it -- they're not doing very much.
All the letter will really say is:
As per your conversation with my client, "so and so"
on such and such a date, I'm submitting the enclosed
screenplay "XYX" on his behalf.
Yours truly, John Jones, Esq.
And then they mail off the screenplay.
Some companies may ask, even if you're submitting through an attorney (or sometimes instead of submitting through an attorney) to fill out a release form. If so, they'll usually send one to you. Or they may simply ask you to send them a standard release form. If so, you can simply do a web search for "standard release form" -- they can be found on-line at various places. Just download one and sign it and enclose it.
If you are submitting the script directly, you want to enclose a cover letter. Again, keep it short and sweet. Reference the phone conversation. It was nice talking to you. As per your request, here's the script. I hope you like it.
Scott Merrow (Level 5) ~ 7/6/2012 10:03 PM
That's a keeper, Dan. All three parts. Some great nuggets in there. Even though I'm not really interested in marketing screenplays I enjoyed reading it just because I love when someone figures out the common sense way to thwart the bureaucratic machine.
MJ Hermanny (Level 5) ~ 7/7/2012 8:23 AM
This is great, guys, thank you so much.
Dan Delgado (Level 5) ~ 7/7/2012 5:56 PM
I just paid a little more attention to your original post. Why don't you email Bill Martell and see if he'd do an interview? I wrote on the same newsgroup with him for years, and even met him in person. There is no off switch with this guy. He is really excited about talking about writing scripts.
He was working in a warehouse in Indiana (I think) and sent a script to a company in LA. Never heard back and kind of gave up on it. The script got handed around and a year or so later he got a call from an LA studio. He thought it was a friend playing a trick on him and hung up on the guy. Afterwards, when he paid attention to the caller ID he got thinking "How did his friend fake an LA area code?". So he called back, apologized and sold the script. (He tells the story a lot better.)
He's had something like 33 movies produced and has never had an agent or a manager.
He has a website www.scriptsecrets.net that should have his email address. If not, let me know and I'll send it to you.
MJ Hermanny (Level 5) ~ 7/9/2012 1:17 PM
Dan, what a brilliant idea - thank you very much!
Margaret Ricke (Level 5) ~ 7/10/2012 6:21 PM
Great site, too, Dan!