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Grant Murray
04-09-2013, 06:13 PM
Hello,

I'm new to this forum and have enjoyed reading many posts over the last few days.

A little backstory first. I come to screenwriting from a writing background. I've had a few books published over the years, recently under the pseudonym W.H. Mumfrey (parodies). I've been playing around with a few story ideas for a couple of years now, as limited time allows. I construct stories and write for my own entertainment and for the sheer joy of writing.

With books I have typically written one or two chapters or even just an outline for my agent or publishers, before being given the go-ahead to write the whole thing. This is immeasurably beneficial to me, as a writer, as I can gauge the level of interest on an idea prior to spending the time and effort writing the whole thing.

It would appear from my perusal of posts that unless you are an established screenwriter with a track record in the industry and contacts, that completed scripts are the norm for peer and industry assessment.

My question is, is there an avenue in this industry to have mere loglines/synopses/treatments assessed for their viability prior to spending months on a project only to discover there is no interest.

Cheers,

Grant

SoCalScribe
04-09-2013, 06:39 PM
Hello,

I'm new to this forum and have enjoyed reading many posts over the last few days.

A little backstory first. I come to screenwriting from a writing background. I've had a few books published over the years, recently under the pseudonym W.H. Mumfrey (parodies). I've been playing around with a few story ideas for a couple of years now, as limited time allows. I construct stories and write for my own entertainment and for the sheer joy of writing.

With books I have typically written one or two chapters or even just an outline for my agent or publishers, before being given the go-ahead to write the whole thing. This is immeasurably beneficial to me, as a writer, as I can gauge the level of interest on an idea prior to spending the time and effort writing the whole thing.

It would appear from my perusal of posts that unless you are an established screenwriter with a track record in the industry and contacts, that completed scripts are the norm for peer and industry assessment.

My question is, is there an avenue in this industry to have mere loglines/synopses/treatments assessed for their viability prior to spending months on a project only to discover there is no interest.

Cheers,

Grant

Are you asking about having people assess your ideas just to say if they're interested in reading the script when it's finished? Or are you asking about having people assess your ideas and then pay you to write/finish the script? Those are two drastically different situations. For the former, it's always possible that you can find someone who will give you their opinion of an idea before you start writing it... the best people for that kind of thing are usually managers whose job it is to help shape and direct your career. If you can land a manager, they can help you bounce ideas around and find the right thing for you to write. To get a manager, though, you usually need to have a finished script to catch their attention and prove your talents.

Which segues into the second part... getting someone to pay you to turn your idea into a fully-realized script. That is immeasurably harder than just finding someone to tell you whether or not they like your idea and would be interested in reading the script. It's harder because people are extremely reluctant to part with their money, especially on unproven talent. Until you've actually written a screenplay and shown that you know how to craft a high quality screenplay, there's just too much uncertainty for most people to take a chance and invest in your prospective writing. Most of the time, they will at least want to see something else you've written to give them some assurance that you have a mastery over story, character, dialogue, and the other creative elements of a screenplay.

There are certainly people out there (especially reps, creative execs, etc.) who will work with you and guide your material. But those people don't usually just take a chance on someone sight unseen. There's usually a mechanism through which they evaluate writers and then they'll choose someone promising to work with and guide. And that mechanism is usually previous work that you can use as a sample.

Question for you... how did you get your agent and publishers for your books? Did you land them with prospective work, or did you, at some point previously, have to provide a fully completed work for them to evaluate and upon which they based their decision to work with you?

UpandComing
04-09-2013, 08:03 PM
My question is, is there an avenue in this industry to have mere loglines/synopses/treatments assessed for their viability prior to spending months on a project only to discover there is no interest.

Cheers,

Grant

Great question. It does seem unfair that you can come up with an idea you like, spend months writing the script for it, and prepare to market it, only to find that there is little to no interest in it. I'm not aware of any formal services/avenues that allow you to test the commercial viability/level of industry interest in your idea. You can always try throwing it out to the pros in one of the DDP forums to gauge their interest, though with that method you do take the risk that someone who is reading the forum will steal your idea.

I think it's best to take a two-pronged approach to this. The first part would involve regularly monitoring spec sales on sites like Go Into the Story, The Scoggins Report, and of course DDP to see what kinds of ideas are selling. At the very least, they can give you an idea of what genres are most popular right now (you'll probably notice they are Crime Dramas/Thrillers, Contained Thrillers, R-Rated/Dark Comedies, Action Movies, Sci-Fi Movies, Biopics, Zombie Flicks). If you can think of an idea that falls within one of these genres and has an interesting hook, you're already off to a great start.

The second part would just be thinking about what you are most passionate about writing about. This will give you a much higher likelihood of completing the script and of others liking it (in both cases, because you enjoyed writing it, which should come across).

Compare the list of ideas of what you are passionate about to what's selling right now, and hopefully you will be able to find some common ground.

JoJo
04-10-2013, 08:42 AM
As my former agent used to tell me: That's a great idea, but it's all in the exectution.

Which reflects a phrase I learned early on in the dark ages when I first started as a screenwriter: Good idea, poorly executed.

Yes, concept is king, but if you want to make a living as a writer, as opposed to being a person who gets paid for just having ideas, then it's got to be all about the execution.

There are all sorts of examples noted here on DD of writers who hashed out ideas with their reps only to have the script grt a less than enthusiastic response from the same rep who was keen on the idea.

Grant Murray
04-10-2013, 05:32 PM
Are you asking about having people assess your ideas just to say if they're interested in reading the script when it's finished? Or are you asking about having people assess your ideas and then pay you to write/finish the script? Those are two drastically different situations. For the former, it's always possible that you can find someone who will give you their opinion of an idea before you start writing it... the best people for that kind of thing are usually managers whose job it is to help shape and direct your career. If you can land a manager, they can help you bounce ideas around and find the right thing for you to write. To get a manager, though, you usually need to have a finished script to catch their attention and prove your talents.

Which segues into the second part... getting someone to pay you to turn your idea into a fully-realized script. That is immeasurably harder than just finding someone to tell you whether or not they like your idea and would be interested in reading the script. It's harder because people are extremely reluctant to part with their money, especially on unproven talent. Until you've actually written a screenplay and shown that you know how to craft a high quality screenplay, there's just too much uncertainty for most people to take a chance and invest in your prospective writing. Most of the time, they will at least want to see something else you've written to give them some assurance that you have a mastery over story, character, dialogue, and the other creative elements of a screenplay.

There are certainly people out there (especially reps, creative execs, etc.) who will work with you and guide your material. But those people don't usually just take a chance on someone sight unseen. There's usually a mechanism through which they evaluate writers and then they'll choose someone promising to work with and guide. And that mechanism is usually previous work that you can use as a sample.

Question for you... how did you get your agent and publishers for your books? Did you land them with prospective work, or did you, at some point previously, have to provide a fully completed work for them to evaluate and upon which they based their decision to work with you?
Thanks for your insights.

Ideas for movies are not a difficult thing to come up with (I have about one a day). One can awaken in the middle of the night to half remembered dreams and think you have the next cinematic masterpiece on your hands. Reason, however, often slaps us in the face the next morning when we realize our midnight musing were absolute rubbish.

In terms of assessment of ideas I was only wondering if there was a safe way (without posting them for all to see) of gauging their viablity before proceeding with writing the whole thing. As an example, I first approached literary agents with an idea I had (maybe one or two pages) for a book. After a dozen or so knock-backs I found one enthusiastic for the project. I then wrote the first chapter and a book proposal (a 20 page document outlining not only the rest of the book, but target audience, marketing, etc). My agent shopped it around and found a publisher. I signed the contract, got paid and wrote the rest of the book.

With the success of that book, the publisher then approached me directly and asked if I would be interested in doing another one, this time providing me with the topic. I told them to give me 24 hours and wrote up a outline (maybe two pages), emailed it in and they said yes (I wrote that one over the summer holidays). Of course, it was easier having previously worked with that publisher; they knew my work. It was a pretty easy process.

Never-the-less, I didn't have to go to the trouble of writing the whole thing prior to having it deemed publication worth by the industry. I've had other ideas which haven't hit the spot with my agent and therefore I haven't written them.

I can see the benefit of finding a manager and having a sample screenplay to shop around.

Grant Murray
04-10-2013, 05:50 PM
As my former agent used to tell me: That's a great idea, but it's all in the exectution.

Which reflects a phrase I learned early on in the dark ages when I first started as a screenwriter: Good idea, poorly executed.

Yes, concept is king, but if you want to make a living as a writer, as opposed to being a person who gets paid for just having ideas, then it's got to be all about the execution.

There are all sorts of examples noted here on DD of writers who hashed out ideas with their reps only to have the script grt a less than enthusiastic response from the same rep who was keen on the idea.
It is very true to say that the art is in the execution of the idea. I embarked on a work once which I thought was a good idea at the time (and still do), but was appalled to discover I hated what I was doing to it half way through. I stopped.

I was interested to note that you said that there were 'who gets paid for just having ideas.' Where do I sign? :)

Grant Murray
04-10-2013, 05:52 PM
Great question. It does seem unfair that you can come up with an idea you like, spend months writing the script for it, and prepare to market it, only to find that there is little to no interest in it. I'm not aware of any formal services/avenues that allow you to test the commercial viability/level of industry interest in your idea. You can always try throwing it out to the pros in one of the DDP forums to gauge their interest, though with that method you do take the risk that someone who is reading the forum will steal your idea.

I think it's best to take a two-pronged approach to this. The first part would involve regularly monitoring spec sales on sites like Go Into the Story, The Scoggins Report, and of course DDP to see what kinds of ideas are selling. At the very least, they can give you an idea of what genres are most popular right now (you'll probably notice they are Crime Dramas/Thrillers, Contained Thrillers, R-Rated/Dark Comedies, Action Movies, Sci-Fi Movies, Biopics, Zombie Flicks). If you can think of an idea that falls within one of these genres and has an interesting hook, you're already off to a great start.

The second part would just be thinking about what you are most passionate about writing about. This will give you a much higher likelihood of completing the script and of others liking it (in both cases, because you enjoyed writing it, which should come across).

Compare the list of ideas of what you are passionate about to what's selling right now, and hopefully you will be able to find some common ground.
Thanks for that. Good advice.

SoCalScribe
04-10-2013, 08:58 PM
Ideas for movies are not a difficult thing to come up with (I have about one a day). One can awaken in the middle of the night to half remembered dreams and think you have the next cinematic masterpiece on your hands. Reason, however, often slaps us in the face the next morning when we realize our midnight musing were absolute rubbish.

This is exactly why most people in the entertainment industry want to see finished screenplays. Ideas are easy... but executing them is another thing entirely. Especially since good screenwriting requires more than just putting eloquent words on a page (it also requires an understanding of how production works, how much things cost to shoot, how actors will deliver the lines on camera, etc.), most people want to know that a writer can deliver in all those areas, particularly since someone can be a perfectly good writer, but a terrible screenwriter if they don't understand everything that goes into not just writing the words on the page, but translating those pages onto the screen.

In terms of assessment of ideas I was only wondering if there was a safe way (without posting them for all to see) of gauging their viablity before proceeding with writing the whole thing.

It might also be worthwhile to try and find other screenwriters to talk about your ideas with. If you meet people here and read their scripts and think they're talented and capable writers, it could be well worth the effort to get to know them a little and even bounce ideas off each other. A lot of writers I know gain just as much insight from batting ideas around with writer friends as they do with their reps or other business associates.

Best of luck with the screenwriting efforts!

LauriD
04-11-2013, 02:01 AM
One possible approach is to assume that your first script will never get sold but can open doors. So find a subject that you're passionate about and can do really well. Write and rewrite the hell out of it. Use that great sample to win contests, gets a 10 on the BL, etc. And then use that validation to query reps.

And then once you have a rep s/he will tell you what to write that will actually sell. :) And the rep may or may not be right about that, as others have noted.

You should know that most specs that go out via reps do NOT sell -- I think it's less than 10% that do, but maybe one of the reps here can confirm that.

(And of course you may have to work at it for 10 years before you even get that first rep....)

About 10 previously unsold writers per year will sell a spec -- out of 6000+ serious unsold writers who have written specs.

So assume you're going to be doing a whole lot of writing you don't get paid for. Also assume you will never get paid.

You can also try to come up with a topic that you love AND will sell. But if you're not as tuned into the market as a rep is, that may be hard to do.

Looking at sales on DD can be misleading, as many of these sales are assignments, existing properties, established writers, etc. If you limit your search to specs, you'll have a better sense of what specs, specifically, are selling.

nativeson
04-11-2013, 09:22 AM
Thanks for your insights.

Ideas for movies are not a difficult thing to come up with (I have about one a day). One can awaken in the middle of the night to half remembered dreams and think you have the next cinematic masterpiece on your hands. Reason, however, often slaps us in the face the next morning when we realize our midnight musing were absolute rubbish.

In terms of assessment of ideas I was only wondering if there was a safe way (without posting them for all to see) of gauging their viablity before proceeding with writing the whole thing. As an example, I first approached literary agents with an idea I had (maybe one or two pages) for a book. After a dozen or so knock-backs I found one enthusiastic for the project. I then wrote the first chapter and a book proposal (a 20 page document outlining not only the rest of the book, but target audience, marketing, etc). My agent shopped it around and found a publisher. I signed the contract, got paid and wrote the rest of the book.

With the success of that book, the publisher then approached me directly and asked if I would be interested in doing another one, this time providing me with the topic. I told them to give me 24 hours and wrote up a outline (maybe two pages), emailed it in and they said yes (I wrote that one over the summer holidays). Of course, it was easier having previously worked with that publisher; they knew my work. It was a pretty easy process.

Never-the-less, I didn't have to go to the trouble of writing the whole thing prior to having it deemed publication worth by the industry. I've had other ideas which haven't hit the spot with my agent and therefore I haven't written them.

I can see the benefit of finding a manager and having a sample screenplay to shop around.

Seeing things through 'midnight lenses' is probabably a universal experience ;) Check this out. It may help: http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp02.Strange.Attractor.html

davidjohnhall
04-11-2013, 09:58 AM
I come at it from this perspective -- if I don't want to finish it -- or if I need someone else to tell me to finish it -- then I don't think anyone will want to read it. But that's just me.

I like to pick ideas that I have to finish. No matter what. Because they're that AWESOME. Even if it's only to me. :-)

Now if you have a ton of ideas you love and you don't know which ideas are the best of the best, do this -- go to www.surveymonkey.com -- create a new survey -- list your top 5-10 ideas -- then tell your friends to go read your loglines and vote on which ones (top 2 or 3) they like best.

They vote anonymously -- which usually means honestly.

I just did this and everyone picked the same one. It was a killer exercise on what works and what doesn't.

Good luck!

mikejc
04-12-2013, 08:43 PM
Another thing to note is that the screenwriting business is different from the book writing (fiction) in one big way. Something like 90% of total screenwriter income comes from assignments. You writing some else's idea or adaptation.

You may not want to do that.

If you do, then your initial scripts main function is showing you've got it, whatever "it" is. Passionate interest might be most important to you.