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Submitting scripts to production companies

I have a true-life feature-length screenplay about a 17th Century heiress who inherits Mayfair, Pimlico and Belgravia and nearly loses it.
I have been trying to get the script to major production companies and writer’s agents but the door appears firmly closed for newcomers - pretty well all their websites say that unsolicited material will be deleted unread. So how does a writer get his work into the right hands?

  • Perhaps the best thing to do first is to try and start a dialogue with an agent. You are right in that most companies will not look at a script unless submitted via an agent. Obviously getting an agent isn't easy but trying to start a dialogue is the best way of going about it at first. As a newcomer you need people to vouch for your work.

    2 months ago
  • Cold sending scripts to people won't work, it expects too much from people's time and energy when they get so many. However the proposition you've just posted interested me, and it only took seconds of my time. Perhaps it might have a similar effect on an agent or producer. It's a way to start a conversation. Be prepared to forego much of the control and benefits if you're not yet established. Doesn't mean that there'd be no worthwhile benefits and consequential opportunities though.

    2 months ago
  • It’s the old catch-22 scenario. A production company (especially the big ones) won’t read your work unless you are represented by an agent, or you are recommended by either one of their clients or an established producer/director they have worked with before.

    The trouble is those people won’t look at your work either unless they’ve worked with you before and were impressed by your talent and the personal dealings they had with you during production.

    It very difficult to make any of the above without the other happening first…or at the same time lol!

    To get around this you could either win one of the few big competitions that get attention like Page or Austin or network like crazy. There are various workshops and festivals which ociurr across the nation that agents and producers attend. You get in those, mingle, network and have you pitching technique perfected, you could then be invited to send your work direct. Even then there’s no guarrentee but at least they look at your work.

    Another option is to keep an eye on all the agents and production companies you are interested. Occasionally they do a brief open submissions window.

    2 months ago
  • You'll have to make a name for yourself before any agent worth having or major production company will even consider you I'm afraid. You could try entering some of the big competitions like Mark suggested or think about making stuff off your own back that could win at a major festival.

    Unfortunately unless you happen to know or be related to someone of major influence it's as tough an industry to break into as there is for the main creative roles such as writer or director.

    2 months ago
  • Just to throw a spinner into the conversation. Whilst our observations above are true, they're not written on tablets of stone. Imagination, creativity and a keen eye for opportunity can, and often does, find unique pathways. Our industry is going through interesting times. The traditional gate guards no longer hold all of the keys.

    It's still about other people, though not necessarily the same 'other people'

    Magic, charm, quality, smoke and mirrors; can be enormously empowering.

    2 months ago
  • Yes I just happened to mention to an agent my project was under consideration by the Duke of Westminster which got an instant response!

    2 months ago
    • To which the only sensible question is, it's about a relative of his?

      2 months ago
  • Yes indeed, the screenplays about Mary Davies who founded the Grosvenor estate in London.

    2 months ago
  • If the Duke is a serious prospect for some of the finance, what you really need is a producer to work up a business case and cost it at various production levels.

    If the Duke then bites, that would be a package you take to the industry, (or, if the producer has serious chops for fund raising, just make and market).

    2 months ago
  • The business of the business can be as creative as the production.

    2 months ago
  • Horror does work but is still hard to get noticed rather than any other theme , ive found when reading alot of scripts this year they seem to write way too much dialogue and less story telling , we need more good storys wrote and for gods sake don't start with “alarm goes off he wakes !! “ we need to be more creative capture the reader as soon as they start reading the script , writers really work hard and long at there scripts but if its too long its not a good selling point , short snd sweet get the story down and keep the reader onboard as long as possible , hope my tip helps i made a £500 horror called the dark hunter and within one year and a few cinema screenings we sold it to Canadian distributor but dont tell em it cost £500 ! I wrote the script in 2 hours it was crap but the story was there so we went and filmed it and changed it as we went along , as you find when good actors read your lines sometimes it dosnt work so you have to change it onset and always get your actors input as it can really open up the story , hope this helps someone

    2 months ago
  • Your script sounds interesting but so are hundreds of others, that’s the hard truth. As others have said how does anyone know it has potential? Best to put it into script competition and win a prize. Or have you got any other produced works or won other prizes? This is the way to get producers to even consider opening your attachment.
    Next advice is to send a synopsis first with details about you and (your awards) finish by saying if this is of interest I will send the script. Few producers have time to read through scripts each week. Believe me I am a small Independent producer and I get a script a fortnight, so larger concerns will get hundreds.
    An agent will get you to more prestigious producers but once again will want proof of your saleability. This means awards, prizes or previously produced works.

    Now, reality if the producer thinks your script is worth optioning then he/she has to get the funds for it, the hardest thing to do in the film making world and you won’t likely to be paid til funds are in place. To do that the producer needs a presentation pack which among many things includes cast, director, poster, synopsis and even better a link to a teaser/ trailer. That can cost the earth and is possibly wasted money if funds are not found. So they have to be incredibly sure about your script.

    If you are any good at photoshop I suggest you make an imaginary poster, on photoshop or word make a fancy illustrated page for synopsis and one for locations, one for dream cast, one for imagined visual references etc. This gives any producer a visual idea, though of course it will all be changed, but helps sell your script. This is not necessary, just gives you a leg up. People have limited imaginations and film is visual. I am sure Phoebe Waller-Bridges does not do this but you have to get to her position first! And of course there is the 1 in a million chance you’ll meet a Lord or rich business person who will fund the lot,.....but that’s the stuff of daydreams. They’ll want a return on their money and a guaranteed one and you need the producer to show them all that paperwork.

    2 months ago
    • Thanks Jane for your very helpful response. Yes I am doing all the right things, submitting to BFI script competition. I have a poster, music selected etc and sending query letters to all and sundry. Trouble is this is a big budget project so looking for producers with deep pockets and as you say even more so they have to be convinced it will make them back their investment.
      I gather Netflix has a load of new money for suitable projects but again I gather it is very difficult indeed to get to pitch to them.

      2 months ago
  • Mary Davies poster is actually on my profile page, thanks.

    2 months ago
  • Well done Philip. Just visited again, you website. You make good efforts to further your aspirations in a challenging and diversifying business and social environment. You're no beginner, as might otherwise be presumed from your original question.

    For any sort of dramatic feature, let alone a bigger budget one, getting the money is usually the hardest part of it.

    Entirely whimsical fiction is the most uphill genre with which to get otherwise unconnected people's enthusiasm, let alone money, attached. Apart from the very very occasional maverick, whimsical dramatic features, that get general distribution and make any significant profit, are the province of big studios and their big money associates. Surely that's uncontrovertible? How and why such maverick projects manifest outside of those big business bubbles is always interesting, although rarely divulged with sufficient detail to be useful. The business of the business and all that.

    A to Z templates suggested by others, whether backed up by experience or not, purporting to teach how one might progress from independent fringe producer to movie mogul can be helpful. Talent, effort and good team work are great assets. Good judgement about audiences, timing and opportunity are usually behind that other great asset, luck. But luck isn't entirely a random factor. In the words of some mogul, whose name I forget, "The better I understand my audience and the better my collaborations are, the luckier I get"

    With the big studios and broadcasters monopolising the distribution of whimsical fiction, it's factual and dramaticed documentary relating to social interests that are more viable for independents. Historical drama, such as your Mary Davies story can segway nicely into that genre because it at least purports to be real. I'm thinking 'Gentleman Jack' as an example. I can imagine a few pathways to success for you.

    May magic, smoke and mirrors be with you Philip.

    2 months ago
  • Network

    2 months ago
  • I apologise you are a lot more experienced than your original post suggests. I have sent you a private message

    2 months ago