Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Why did they pass on my brilliant screenplay?!?

We’ve all been there. You’ve spent 3 to 6 months or more working on your screenplay. You’ve put your best foot forward and then some and you were psyched because someone actually wanted to read it. You give it a once over then nervously attach it to an email and send it off then wait...and wait...and wait what seems like forever and either after endless waiting you finally hear back and it’s a, “No, not what we’re looking for.” or worst...you never hear back from them ever again and contacting them makes you feel like a psycho stalker. Rarely do we get an explanation as to why they really passed on our work. I found the below except on Linda Bergman’s blog and thought I would share it here. Knowing how those in the industry feel will better help you polish your gem of a screenplay the next time it goes out...or better yet, will help you write a better script from the start.

Except from Linda Bergman’s blog...www.lindabergman.com

1. Your story is probably not as original as you think. If it rings of anything familiar, it will get passed on. Also, if it is too contrived, it will get a big fat “No.” If the story is not a good one and executed perfectly, it will get a pass. If it is a terrific story and executed poorly, it might have a chance at getting optioned and new writers assigned. Don’t do a rehash of something you saw. Make your idea (which has probably already been done somewhere by someone) different enough to be called original. Find a way to make it fresh and compelling. You do that by having something NEW to say about the idea or a different point of view.

2. Your characters are weak, flat, and unimaginative. Murky characters don’t have a goal. They aren’t driven to overcome any obstacles. They don’t come to life on the page and we don’t care about them. I always ask my students if they have written a ten page bio for each of their characters. You don’t have to put everything in the script that they did their whole life, but a good bio will inform your writing of the character. You are the only person that can bring him/her to life for the reader. And the reader is the first step in the process of selling.

3. Your descriptions are too long, too wordy. Just pick the best words to economically describe a scene then let the reader’s imagination take over.

4. Your dialogue is clunky, over-written, unnatural, too on-the-nose, or you are using dialogue as exposition. Don’t tell the reader what is going on through dialogue, show the reader what is going on with action. Also, make sure your characters don’t all sound the same. Good dialogue has rhythm and meter. Each character should have their own.

5. You don’t have a conventional three act structure and your tone is not obvious up front. Write like a pro and you’ll have a better chance of selling like a pro. No exec will read past page thirty (some will only read to page ten) if you don’t have a structure in place.

6. Your script doesn’t make the reader FEEL. If a reader laughs or cries or gets scared, this is a good thing. Even if a script is well written, it can still be boring. Ask yourself if you are moved by your material, if you didn’t laugh or cry, no one else will.

7. Your script cannot be marketed. There are a lot of well-executed scripts with material that cannot be sold. Maybe it’s too similar to one the studio or production company already has in development. Or maybe your rom com is just too cookie cutter or your thriller is not that particular execs cup of tea. These are things you cannot control and please try not to take them personally.

8. You did not let enough people who know what they are doing read the script before you submitted it. A script must be in the best possible shape before you send it to a buyer. Find an editor or professional that can help you and ask all the tough questions of your piece before it goes out.

Most importantly, don’t stop writing!

Linda has some good advice and freely shares her industry experience.  Be sure to check it out.  Oh and her book, "So You Think Your Life's a Movie", isn't too shabby either.

For industry insight into getting them to say Yes instead of No and getting that much sought after sell, check out The #1 Secret to Sell Your Screenplay to Hollywood, without an agent and even when you don't live in LA.

Good luck and happy writing and getting those Yes's!

Write right and write on!

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