Here is a brilliant list of ‘Submission Don’ts’ from a development head and freelance script reader.
“You’ve got a spec and you’ve found somewhere you want to submit it – a Producer, an agency, production company, or competition! You think – no, you’re sure – that you’re ready to go.”
Your SCRIPT will go through a script reader. Chances are this reader has already spent their day/week/month wading through a pile of specs taller than they are.
Here is truth. Script readers are nice people. They want the next script they open to be the best thing they’ve ever read. And there are some simple things NOT to do, that will help when your submission lands on a spec pile.
- Don’t send the wrong script. Ensure that you send the right script. Don’t throw a spec at something and hope it sticks. It won’t. Research the producer/company/agent to whom you’re sending your script. Is your screenplay really what they’re after? What have the readers, been told to look for?
That’s not to say you should indulge in tick the box screenwriting. Not at all. If you submit to a Producer that specialises in gangster thrillers, your relationship family drama won’t even be considered. Remember to keep a company’s development slate in mind.
True.Sometimes a submission is just so good that it doesn’t matter. This is the exception for readers. Definitely not the rule. I know I’ve touched on this in other ON LOACTION episodes.
It can’t be over stressed. Even with contests, where the scope is wider, see what’s been winning in the past.
- Never send your first draft.Ernest Hemingway said: “All first drafts are shit”. A first draft is just that – a draft. If you want to make the best impression on a reader, don’t send something with all the plot threads hanging out or up-and-down characterisations common in the first draft. They can tell. They read for a living. They are professionals.
Do at least 4 to 5 drafts and a polish.
- Don’t send something full of errors.PROOF READ YOUR SCRIPT or hire someone. A reader wont “PASS” on a script for a dropped comma or a your/you’re – but a screenplay full of spelling and grammatical mistakes is harder for a reader to get through. It’s not just spelling, punctuation and grammar you’re looking for in a proof read. I heard about a spec pilot for a sitcom which had the SAME JOKE TWICE.
- Don’t mess up your formatting.No Times New Roman or left indented dialogue. ‘Free’ screenwriting software is not Final Draft or Scriptwriter. Correct formatting makes it easier for the reader.
- Don’t forget your supporting documents. What are the documents this contest/agency/production company are asking for? Include them all.
- Don’t be impatient.Patience is a virtue. Once you’ve submitted, make sure that you know what the company’s procedure is and follow it.
Avoid sending hundreds of emails checking up on your submission. Readers work for and with many different people – so if you’re demanding/rude that legacy will follow you around!
Never be insulting, inappropriate, snarky or appear to be desperate. Hollywood Producers have told me if a ‘spec’ writer appears desperate, they run away.
- Don’t worry.The reader considered/recommended your submission? Good! The reader PASSED? Still, GOOD. Use the experience (and any feedback you get) as a learning curve so that next time, it’s your spec in the YES pile.
And something else – write an amazing script. A badly formatted, convoluted screenplay that’s submitted without the right documentation and followed up with constant rude emails will get you nowhere – but if you do have a brilliantly written submission, whatever the genre, a reader will notice.
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