This is the eternal question for aspiring screenwriters: how do I get my screenplay read? The reality is there is no one way to get your screenplay read. How a friend, a colleague, or a filmmaker that you admire got his or her screenplay read, in all honesty, probably won't be the way you get your screenplay read. Yet, somehow new talent is discovered and new screenwriting careers begin. So how does it happen? Thanks to ScreenCraft, we can watch and learn how producer and former William Morris Independent head Cassian Elwes, along with screenwriter Adam Simon, producer Sean Covel, and others, believe screenplays get read in the industry.
Back in March, ScreenCraft presented its panel discussion, "Trailbrazers in Independent Film: Screenwriting and Producing Outside the Studio System," featuring Cassian Elwes (Lee Daniels' The Butler, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, former head of William Morris Independent for 15 years), screenwriter Adam Simon (The Haunting in Connecticut, The American Nightmare) and producer Sean Covel (Napolean Dynamite). Inevitably, an audience member asked the age-old question about how to get a referral in the industry, i.e. how to get your screenplay read. Check out the video for their responses:
I think what is most important to take away from this clip is in order to get your screenplay read, you must write a really, really good screenplay. As Elwes believes, a great screenplay will find its way to the top. So, first and foremost, aspiring screenwriters need to write great screenplays to get someone to read them.
In addition to the hard work of writing a great screenplay comes the hard work of building relationships. As Elwes points out early in the clip, aspiring screenwriters have to "get out there" and "hustle around" to find people who have connections with industry executives, and convince those people to read their scripts. If the script is good enough, it will get passed around and eventually lead to a break.
Aspiring screenwriters should also make connections with like-minded people, as Covel notes when he talks about meeting filmmakers in line for screenings at Sundance. I would argue that your filmmaking peers are your biggest allies in moving your career forward, working together on each other's projects, learning along the way, and getting better at your craft until someone with connections takes notice.
Building on this idea of working with your filmmaking peers to get your career off the ground, Simon finishes the clip with a simple truth: stop thinking of your work as "independent film" and start thinking about it as "interdependent film" because as he says, you can't do it alone.
To recap, how exactly do aspiring screenwriters get their screenplays read?
- Put in the hard work and write a really great screenplay
- Get out there, find people who have connections with industry executives, and convince them to read your great screenplay
- Work with your filmmaking peers to improve your crafts together and put your work out into the world to get noticed
In other words, there is no one way to get your screenplay read. So make your own way.
How have you made connections to get your screenplays read? What has worked for you to get producers, agents, managers and other filmmakers to notice your screenwriting? Share your experiences with us in the Comments.