Thursday, May 25, 2006

How to Sell A Script

Yeah, like I know.

But maybe I can help. I used to send my screenplays to just about any and every contest that came down the pike. What a waste of cash.

Are contests meaningless? Well, mostly. If you're going to enter some, pick the reputable ones, like Nicholl, BlueCat, Austin, Scriptapalooza. The Sundance Lab. They all at least have a track record and some in the industry do pay attention to who wins them (notably Nicholl).

But how many pay attention really? Here's the thing. I ALMOST won the Austin Film Festival's comedy competition in 2003 with my feature script, Cricket Hill. It came in 2nd place out of 3000 scripts. Not bad. And off of that, I didn't sell it. (had some meetings though, also my suck-ass manager at the time didn't help me situation). But the guy who won? Did he ever sell it? Not that I've heard.

One thing I do notice on some of these contests is the winners. Some of these winners have won multiple contests, I've seen quite a few winner's lists with the same names/scripts popping up on many of them. Awesome for them, I bet their script must rock.

But they haven't sold it yet. Contest cash is nice to get, but what's the point if no one is buying your shit?

I'm not against contests, hell, just a few months back I listed all the ones I had coming up and entered, etc. But I look back and see just how futile it is. You might have the best script EVER, and let's pretend it's a family drama. Well, the reader of whatever contest has just read 2 family dramas in a row and is sick to fucking death of them, so he skims it, and tosses it. And you're done. You should have wiped your ass with that $50 instead.

Not all are like this I'm sure. But I have RARELY seen even multiple winners of contests sell/option their work ever after taking top prizes, really with the exception of Nicholl and I believe Scriptapalooza had some options. But I doubt it was based soley on contest wins.

Market the shit of yourself. List them at places like & Do those work? Still a crapshoot, but it worked for me - Cricket Hill, that script that almost won Austin 2.5 years ago? Well, right now I'm adapting it into a TV series after some awesome kick-ass producers grabbed it off of, as some of you guys know from my previous posts. And I had a close call just a few months back with another script called The Money Shot when some producers saw it on Inktip. These sites work, simple as that.

And go pitch, there are a few pitchfests each year, go and get your asses out there and pitch your shit, man! (That's how I got Manager #1 in 1998). I'm now on my 3rd (and best) manager.

Afraid somebody might steal it if you pitch it to them or list it on these websites? Well, then don't pitch it, I'm sure it'll do you a lot of good stuck on your hard drive.

So, contests are ok, but NOT THE ANSWER. If you can place in one or two, fine, but don't sit on your ass, you've gotta do more work and get your damn self out there. Also, one of the best things I can suggest is to have two scripts ready. Because if you get in the producer's office, they might like the script but not love it, and the next thing out of their mouth will be: "Well, what else do you have?"


Mark said...

I recently started entering contests. I was wondering what you think of Creative Screenwriting and Script Magazine's contests?

I made the first cut of Script Mag's, but I agree with you, if someone has read three of the same type of scripts in a row, you're dead meat.

thanks for the blog.


Steve Peterson said...

I'm surprised by that too. Winning a contest doesn't seem to improve your odds much over merely posting your screenplay on one of these other sites.

It does look like the big ones will often get you some kind of representation, though.

L.R. Williams said...

Before I comment on this, I will say that I am just getting started in screenwriting, so I am no expert on what you've been through. If anything, you would think the contests that would have the writers who finish in the top 3 or 4 would receive a better opportunity of someone buying their screenplay because of the added notoriety (especially the contests you listed as the most reputable). I agree that you have to sell youself & pitch your script as the competition to win a producer over has to be fierce.

From reading 'The Main Ingredient', you seem to be pretty good at this. If I may, I would like to read some of your work sometime. Catch me at 'The Shooter's Advocate'.

aaron said...

you know, sometimes you make it very difficult to read your blog at work...

Anonymous said...

Pat, thanks man... very inspiring for me to get off my duff and do more self promoting and marketing. BTW, I sent my synopsis off to those two places in a "Go For It" inspiration... also, a sidenote, I love me some Halle

Eddie said...

I think most of us use contests to see how we measure up. Duh, I know, but what I mean is that by taking second at AFF, it probably cleared up any doubt you may have had about having your shit straight.

And not getting a sniff from the contest can be a kick in the ass too, make you work harder or give up.

ScriptWeaver said...

Eddie's right. It's definitely validation. It wasn't until my success in Nicholl's last year when I thought that just maybe I was on the right track.

And Hollywood is still about making money. That's why most contest winning scripts don't get made since most of them are original good story indie-type scripts. But if you write something that can make money, then it won't get far in a contest because the readers have already read something like it (or seen it). It's a fat ass Catch 22. But what you can hope for is winning a contest, securing representation, and then being hired to write something else.

Chris Soth said...

I had SOMETHING to say about contests...but...


Tavis said...

So, are you getting paid to do all the re-writing you're doing on Cricket Hill? If so, congratulations. If not, are you at all the least bit worried?

William said...


Any experience with Slamdance? The deadline is June 1st and I'm thinking about it. I got my screenplay into the Nicholl deadline. The only other one I'm looking at that's coming up is Zoetrope.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

How much is botox and lyposuction?