August 8, 2012

Why Packaging Your Film Means Writing for Your Audience (and Why the First 10 Pages Matter So Much)

As many of us here consider ourselves DIY filmmakers, the thought of packaging our scripts with talent may not cross our minds frequently. Yet, even for the most independent project, we need an audience. As writers, we need to write for our audience. By this, I don't mean we should pander to the audience or write what the audience expects. Rather, as we craft our stories on the page, we need to keep our readers engaged. Those readers include producers, casting agents, and talent, as a recent WGAw educational panel reiterated for aspiring writers.

Here's a short highlights video from the WGAw panel, "Check Out My Package: Making Your Film Project Irresistible":

What I find remarkable about this video is how little the highlights really focus on the intricacies of packaging a film project, but instead come back to the fundamentals of good storytelling via the screenplay format. Inevitably, the panelists turn to the importance of the first ten pages of a screenplay, and how writers need to understand that producers and actors have stacks of scripts to consider. If the first ten pages (or five pages or even three pages) don't work, producers and talent move on to the next one, and packaging your script becomes much more difficult.

Screenwriter Billy Ray (The Hunger Games, State of Play) breaks down the importance of the first ten pages even further:

I think writers feel like, because the pressure is on them in the first ten pages that they have to barf out the entire story in the first ten pages. That’s not the purpose of them at all. The purpose of Page One is just to hook someone enough to read Page Two…. When you’re reading a script…you’re looking for a voice, you’re looking for someone who is painting a picture, a world, something about a character that just feels authentic. There’s some real, idiosyncratic human behavior that you can grasp on to that makes you feel like the writer has a voice. That’s all they are looking for in the first couple of pages.

What Ray and the other panelists are really saying is we as screenwriters need to write a compelling story for our audience, page by page (what we strive to do every day), if we want to attract talent to our projects. No tricks. No games. Just fundamentals.

Have you had experience packaging one of your screenplays? Share with us in the Comments.

Also, if you have an hour and forty minutes to kill, you can check out the complete WGAw panel discussion here:

[via Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) YouTube Channel]

Your Comment

2 Comments

Yeah I think since the vast majority of scripts that get made are going to live and die on Youtube/Vimeo, hooking and keeping the reader/viewer immediately and thereafter is the core criterion. In the theatre days you had a captive audience, you got their $10 before they took their seats and it was a total loss for them if they stand up and walk out. On the Internet, every 15 seconds you have to give them a reason to watch the next 15 seconds or they will click away thoughtlessly. It's a much more severe test of writing skill and the meritocracy that develops will be brutal. But so be it, we've all sat through enough mediocrity.

August 8, 2012 at 7:11PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Peter

Well said !

August 12, 2012 at 10:18PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

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Tang