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Old 02-24-2011, 07:21 PM   #1
MadSam
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Default The truth about getting work read...

I was talking to a working Hollywood screenwriter of 15 years who's made several movies and gets paid between 200-500K per project. I asked him for some advice and the first thing he said was "Getting people to read scripts gets harder all the time..." He went on to say "The bottom fell out of the spec script market about five years ago, I don't do it anymore..."

Not greatly encouraging I thought, but this is a guy that knows. From spending time on these boards and talking to other people, it seems like most are writing on spec and trying to get read without representation and some people I've spoken to seem to be achieving it. People have also been saying talent will win out, if you've got talent you'll be discovered. Without trying to be too cynical, is that not a bit naive or idealistic? Without all the talent contests there are now, there'd be a lot of talented vocal artists that would go undiscovered, and history is full of artists that were never appreciated in their lifetime. Sorry if I'm coming down a bit negative but just hoping that you're talent gets discovered is not really taking any direct action. Having talent is the first half of the challenge, making connections, making all the right moves to get under the eyes of the right people is the second. What's the truth here?
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Old 02-24-2011, 07:36 PM   #2
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Default Re: The truth about getting work read...

You pretty much answered your own question...

Writing something "Great" -- not "good" is only half the work. Then you must find one of the many ways discussed at length throughout this board to get it to people...

This could be a fun thread to discuss how those with pro careers or even at least with reps came to that situation.

I'm sure queries will make up a lot -- but there's many more ways.

Personally, I was a script coordinator on a TV show -- worked hard and the executive producers agreed to read a sample, then let me pitch.

That's a fairly common TV route.

Note... I started out as an office PA, fetching sodas and lunch, then worked my way up to the script coordinator spot. It took a couple years of being walked all over and working 60 plus hour weeks.

But I actually thought it was awesome. I paid my bills and learned a sh*t load about how things work in the TV world.

It will be repeated over and over -- make contacts -- and the best way to do that is get a job in the business... Even if that entails fetching dry-cleaning and lunch for a producer... Have the right attitude and you'll meet the right people and it will pay off.

Doesn't matter how much talent you have -- it can't be "discovered" if it's sitting in your sock drawer with three brads in it
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Old 02-24-2011, 10:10 PM   #3
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Default Re: The truth about getting work read...

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Originally Posted by JJBones View Post
Doesn't matter how much talent you have -- it can't be "discovered" if it's sitting in your sock drawer with three brads in it
My point exactly, I guess I did answer my own question, but this thread was in aid of the fact that I've just been hearing too many people lately saying talent is all you need and they'll come running. You've got to get their attention and that's at least half the challenge - possibly more.

Good story, I'd like others to chime in with theirs and hopefully this can turn into an interesting thread.
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Old 02-24-2011, 10:15 PM   #4
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Default Re: The truth about getting work read...

The shrinking spec market doesn't really matter - they are still making films and hiring writers to adapt SLINKY! THE MOTION PICTURE! - so there are jobs.

Getting them has never been easy. And that dude who stopped writing specs is making a huge career mistake, because the way you get that SLINKY! gig is to have a script go out, get read, fit the profile of the kind of writer they think would do a good job adapting a spring toy into a movie, then pitch the take that knocks their socks off ("It's like Frankenheimer's GRAND PRIX, but with slinky races! The green slinky is James Garner, who gets into a wreck and injures the blue slinky, then...") and you're working.

Getting people to read your script - both easier and more difficult. In some other thread, someone mentioned the good news/bad news about e-queries: you can send a bunch for free and usually find e-mail addresses, but you have a sentence or two (maybe even just the subject line) to interest them.

Bones also has some good advice on working your way up. Other things you can do (outside LA) are go to film festivals, maybe do some work for a film commission location scouting, send fan letters to your favorite writers or directors or some other job that is *not* movie star, join film making groups, basically find some different way to get your scripts read.

I *do* believe that there are talented people who never get discovered, but I also believe that if you work at getting your work out there you have a really good chance of getting read. I also believe "C" - that the closer your story is to being something someone wants to buy, the easier it will be to get reads. If your script is EIGHT WIDOWS WATCH WHILE LENTILS BOIL (thank you John Hill) about 8 widows who discuss the meaning of life while they wait for their soup to cook, that's not going to be an easy e-query. You'll have to work harder... or consider making it yourself.

But there are still probably the same number of screenwriting jobs, they are still not easy to get, so you have to figure out some way under, over, around, or through the wall. Also, said before, you think there are walls, really - they want a good new cheap writer. If you have the same talent that I have (or more) they are going to save money by hiring you.

- Bill (it's WAGES OF FEAR... but with slinkys!)
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Old 02-24-2011, 11:57 PM   #5
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Default Re: The truth about getting work read...

The quality of your script is the one thing that you and only you have direct control over, so it has to come first.

Social skills are important but you can't control whether people are going to read your script or pass it on to a friend or a boss or a rep.

That's why putting the writing first, second, and third is what lays a foundation for success and for the people who can do that effectively, it's amazing how the rest starts to take care of itself.

Know what makes you good in a room? The total confidence that comes from knowing how much your work kicks ass. And why does it kick ass? Because you've put in the time and the effort to master your craft.

Coming up with a great logline may get you read, but if the script isn't great, it's just lipstick on a pig. Developing the skill to get your work through the barriers is part of the process, but when the core of those skills is rooted in your talent for writing rather than a talent for opening doors, that's when you're really onto something.
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Old 02-25-2011, 07:18 AM   #6
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Default Re: The truth about getting work read...

Some good tips here, but I'll throw out one for the mindset side of things.

No matter how frustrating it gets, if you love to write then just "write". When/if things break, you'll have a portfolio.

Don't we all, upon our first sale, anticipate that most magnificent of questions: "So it's great to work with you... by the way, what else have you got?!"

I'm awaiting my first sale, sure, but I've just completed my 11th story. And every once in a while I go back and refresh my earlier scripts to bring them up-to-par. That's a portfolio.

Meanwhile, I've faced all the usual passes and negativity. The only thing that really gets me down in this business is how SLOW things happen. But that's mostly beyond my control. The rest, the PRODUCT, isn't.

And BE PERSISTENT. If they say "no", try again later, or even try again (nicely) in the "thank you, anyways" follow-up note, by suggesting another story.

As to that advice to shut down your querying at certain times of the year, or the advice to send out only 25 queries and then stop and wait, that's advice I completely ignore. What if the one producer/manager/agent who might just be interested in what I have to offer is on the "postpone list"?!

So, try all the well-documented tricks to get your stuff read. There're plenty talked about on this board.
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Old 02-25-2011, 08:38 AM   #7
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Default Re: The truth about getting work read...

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimjimgrande View Post
The quality of your script is the one thing that you and only you have direct control over, so it has to come first.

Social skills are important but you can't control whether people are going to read your script or pass it on to a friend or a boss or a rep.

That's why putting the writing first, second, and third is what lays a foundation for success and for the people who can do that effectively, it's amazing how the rest starts to take care of itself.

Know what makes you good in a room? The total confidence that comes from knowing how much your work kicks ass. And why does it kick ass? Because you've put in the time and the effort to master your craft.

Coming up with a great logline may get you read, but if the script isn't great, it's just lipstick on a pig. Developing the skill to get your work through the barriers is part of the process, but when the core of those skills is rooted in your talent for writing rather than a talent for opening doors, that's when you're really onto something.
Soooo. True. After ending the spec run-around thingy, with a rep who was on board with the commercial concept/adequate execution thing, I had a Q/A with myself:

Q: Sc111 -- is your work on par with those pro screenplays that have absolutely blown you away?

A: No. Not Yet. But I feel I can get there. In time.

Q: So what's the most logical thing to do?

A: Stop querying entirely until I get there.

A loooong time ago, TaoTropics (Will Wheeler) posted on DD that we should rewrite the hell out of our scripts to a point we can confidently slap that puppy on a desk with the attitude: You should be honored I'm letting you read this script.

I think it's the only way in today's environment. Until we get to that point, I'd say don't query.
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Old 02-25-2011, 06:20 PM   #8
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Default Re: The truth about getting work read...

Quote:
Originally Posted by JJBones View Post
Doesn't matter how much talent you have -- it can't be "discovered" if it's sitting in your sock drawer with three brads in it
This is true. I'll take that middle brad out and put it back.

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Old 02-25-2011, 07:51 PM   #9
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Default Re: The truth about getting work read...

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Originally Posted by mlongton View Post
I'll take that middle brad out...
Leave Pitt and Cooper in, take out Whitford.

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Old 02-26-2011, 04:27 PM   #10
Laura Reyna
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Default Re: The truth about getting work read...

RE: getting read

I have limited experience with getting read. I entered the trackingB contest last yr & placed & got a lot of requests from that (& a couple of phone calls). My script was a sci-if/horror. It was the 1st script that I'd put out there.

There are a few DD regulars here who've gotten entry into the biz--in the form of managers & sold scripts-- in the last 2-3 yrs. I've read a few scripts from these writers & I've noticed that they all have something in common: 1. they are all genre scripts-- comedies, thrillers, actioners, etc...and 2. they all have interesting hooks-- NOT high concept-- just very appealing concepts that make you take notice.

So, judging from the recent success of DDers, what I take away is, if you want to increase your chances of getting read, 1. write in a popular genre 2. make sure you have a hooky concept that catches people's attention...

Then once you get read, you knock them out with your great writing, b/c the scripts i read from those DDers were also very good!
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