Advice on Selling Screenplays - Writer's Digest

Advice on Selling Screenplays

Author:
Publish date:

Most of the scripts that Hollywood buys are commissioned—meaning executives and producers contact proven screenwriters (who already have agents) and pay them for requested scripts, drafts and revisions. Screenplays that are written by aspiring screenwriters and not commissioned by Hollywood are called "spec scripts," because they're written "on speculation." If you've written a screenplay or want to write on, it's "on spec."

Selling a spec screenplay is extremely difficult. Hollywood pays boatloads of money each year for writers to work on projects in development. Spending even more money to buy brand new scripts from unknown screenwriters is usually not their priority. With that in mind, it's important that your spec script be fantastic so it rises above the others and gets the attention of producers and executives.

Absolute Write, a great Web site for writers, recently interviewed Sheila Hanahan Taylor, a Hollywood insider who works at Practical Pictures. As Sheila is someone who reviews spec scripts often and has worked with plenty of writers, her advice for wannabe screenwriters is invaluable. Check out this snippet of her interview with Absolute Write and click on the links below to see the two full parts of her lengthy and great interview.

"...These are my top six rookie errors: 

1. Thinking your script is ready to show people, when it isn't. Remember, most Hollywood
execs, agents, and producers read a person's script exactly once. 

2. Not reading enough professional screenplays. Ideally, an aspiring writer 
reads an early draft and a later draft, or compares it to the finished film. There's a ton to be learned from the rewriting process, and usually rookies underestimate what constitutes a rewrite. 

3. Treating screenwriting like a hobby instead of a career
. The art of screenwriting is a craft that takes years to master. 

4. Writing the script as if you were going to direct the material. If a script can't convey the mood on the page without naming specific music
cues or describing camera angles to enhance the story, then the writing isn't strong enough to begin with. 

5. Rookies often think they're special, or their script idea is special... when they aren't. If you weigh the volume of material we receive against the number of half-decent scripts out there, we've seen it all. 


6. Not knowing enough about how Hollywood really works. Get to know who matters and who doesn't. Learn how contracts and guilds work. Understand who makes decisions and who can make your life easier."

Sheila Hanahan Taylor Screenwriting Interview Part 1
Sheila Hanahan Taylor Screenwriting Interview Part 2

Want more on this subject?

  • See a profile of script agent Garrett Hicks of Will Entertainment.
  • See an interview with script manager Ken Sherman of Ken Sherman Associates.

  • Is there a difference between literary agents and script managers?
  • Want a great database of script agents/managers, script contests, conferences and theaters? Buy the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents today!
  • Check out an interview with script manager Marc Manus.
  • Confused about formatting? Check out Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript.
  • Read about What Agents Hate: Chapter 1 Pet Peeves.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: The 3 Prime Rules of Horror Writing, Contest Deadlines, and More!

Welcome to the first installment of a new series! There's always so much happening in the Writer's Digest universe that even staff members have trouble keeping up. So we're going to start collecting what's on the horizon to make it easier for everyone to know what's happening and when.

Bell_10:25

Lenora Bell: When Fairy Tales Meet Reality TV

Bestselling historical romance author Lenora Bell discusses researching, avoiding info-dumps while still charming readers, and how her latest book was inspired by her life.

Major_10:24

Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

Take Two: Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

No one wants to break the bank to learn how to write a screenplay. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares practical tips on saving money on the pursuit of a screenwriting career.

richard_adams_watership_down_quotes_a_rabbit_has_two_ears_a_rabbit_has_two_eyes_two_nostrils_they_ought_to_be_together_not_fighting

10 Epic Quotes From Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Here are 10 epic quotes from Watership Down, by Richard Adams. The story of a group of rabbits who escape an impending danger to find a new home, Watership Down is filled with moments of survival, faith, friendship, fear, and hope.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Quintilla Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the quintilla.

plot_twist_story_prompts_fight_or_flight_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Fight or Flight

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's fighting time.

Garfield

Vintage WD: 10 Rules for Suspense Fiction

John Grisham once admitted that this article from 1973 helped him write his thrillers. In it, author Brian Garfield shares his go-to advice for creating great suspense fiction.

Pennington_10:21

The Chaotically Seductive Path to Persuasive Copy

In this article, author, writing coach, and copywriter David Pennington teaches you the simple secrets of excellent copywriting.