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.

From Script

A Fond Farewell to Netflix’s Lucifer, Writing Video Games, and Do Experts Stand in the Way of Your Writing Goals?: From Script

In this week’s round up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, exclusive interviews with Lucifer TV writer Chris Rafferty and video game writer Ian Ryan. Plus, learn about screenwriting trailblazer France Goodrich Hacket, who co-wrote It’s a Wonderful Life, and advice on when and when not to approach a writing expert to reach your writing goals.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Misusing Dialogue Tags

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Misusing Dialogue Tags

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is misusing dialogue tags.

Poetic Forms

Boketto: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, Walter J. Wojtanik shares his relatively new form, the boketto.

Paul Neilan: On Implementing Dark Humor

Paul Neilan: On Implementing Dark Humor

In this article, author Paul Neilan explains how he came up with the idea for his mystery and dark comedy novel The Hollywood Spiral.

WD-Poetry-2020-WinnerGraphic

Deborah Hall, 2020 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Winner

The winner of the 2020 Writer’s Digest Poetry Awards discusses the inspiration behind her first-place poem, “The Loneliest Whale."

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Split Up

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Split Up

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have your characters split up.

Kerry Winfrey: On Writing a Romance that's Cozy and Comforting

Kerry Winfrey: On Writing a Romance that's Cozy and Comforting

Author Kerry Winfrey wrote her latest romance, Very Sincerely Yours, during the 2020 pandemic to comfort herself. Here, she's explaining why that tone is important for readers.

WD-Poetry-2020-WinnerGraphic

The 2020 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 WD Poetry Awards!

GettyImages-163437242

Your Story #113

Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.