Want to Break into Hollywood? It's All in the Script
It might go without saying (even though it doesn't make it any easier), but the best way to find yourself chumming it up with Hollywood big wigs is to write a great script. In these camera obsessed times (me included) it's easy to lose sight of the fact that the script is the most important piece of any film. The story and the characters are the foundation for the film, and without them, there's nothing for the pretty pictures to stand on. Pixar knows this, that's why they've been so successful. The reason you've seen so much of myself and E.M. on this site is because Koo is already living by this very idea (the script matters). So if you're looking to break into the industry, a great script could be your ticket.
I'm sure you are saying to yourself, well isn't that obvious? Maybe, but it's always better to hear from those in the know - actual industry professionals. We've got two posts talking about getting scripts into the right hands from Go Into The Story, a must-have resource for any aspiring screenwriters out there. Marc Maurino answers a simple (yet complicated) question about how one can land representation as a screenwriter. Here's a brief tidbit:
Lots of folks I know will send upwards of fifty, a hundred, a hundred and fifty query letters requesting a read from a management company–and get maybe a 10% read request rate. Those are loose numbers, but just a caveat that it’s a TON of papering the town, but it only takes one rep to love your stuff to push you forward.
FINALLY, please make sure your script is REALLY ready…have you had professionals read it? has someone other than you and your partner proofread it? Have you had a table read with actors to hear the words up on their feet? Have you had five or ten people who will not BS you give you their responses? If and when “yes” to all of these–GOOD LUCK!
His main advice, and something that's incredibly important to keep in mind, is that once your script is "perfect," only then should you send it out. To whom should you send your script? Managers are the first stop, and you can find them through the Hollywood Creative Directory and IMDb Pro, as well as other services. Some of these sites have trial memberships that you could certainly take advantage of if your script is already in good form.
The second post is about getting your script into the hands of big-time actors. An anonymous executive of an A-list actor's production company had this to say:
When you are a star, a true star that only needs one name like Brad or Leo or Will, you don’t find scripts as much as they find you. The economic model of today’s Hollywood is more about math than it is about creativity. Every studio or financier has an algorithm worthy of Billy Beane that they use to project the foreign and domestic value of their films. In that equation, there are very few names that guarantee success. If you happen to be one of those names, everyone in town chases you. Everyone. The only way to cut through all of that white noise is with an impeccably written script. And the good news is that when it comes to writers, Hollywood is incredibly democratic. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Oscar winner or that Oscar winner’s pool guy…if you have an exceptional voice that manifests itself in an exceptional script, people will take notice. But if you want to talk more specifically, let’s use some examples of the four scripts that my boss is currently circling – each of which has taken a different, circuitous road to where it is today.
There are an infinite number of ways that scripts can get into the hands of the right people, but the only way that can happen is by working at it. Perfecting a screenplay is difficult, but it's the only way that your script is going to be read. Every agency and production company reads thousands of screenplays a year, and most of them are first read by interns or assistants, and if they don't like it, you're out of luck. This practice has been going on practically forever, which is why at the very least, your script needs to be in the proper formatting and without grammatical errors (software can help). Without that it's likely that no one will read past the first few pages.
There are other ways that you can get your script in the right hands: contests and competitions. They can help you get past the intern gateway and actually get executives and agents to take a look at it. We've talked about a few of them in the past.
While we're on the topic of screenwriting, there's an interesting read from Genre Hacks about why Hollywood rewrites scripts after they buy them. The short answer: not because they aren't good. Regardless, it's important that your story is solid before you even begin to write, and then on top of that your script has to be perfect. Not easy, of course, but so far this year 16 spec scripts have been sold. Hollywood is eager to buy new ideas, and there's no reason why your script can't be one of them.
If any of our readers out there have sold a script, or know someone who has, please share your experiences below.