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5 Ways Script Coverage Can Help You Sell Your Screenplay
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Now that you've written your amazing, unique and sure-to-be an Oscar-winning screenplay, what's the next step? Call up all the movie studios to arouse interest? Send it to all the agents in the Hollywood Creative Directory? Accost all the A-list actors at your gym with the opener "This role is perfect for you!"? No, no and no. The first thing you must do is get professional script coverage on your screenplay in order to make it as polished as possible.
I'm a good writer. Why do I need script coverage?
For one simple reason: you're not objective enough about your own work. As writer Willa Cather said, "There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before." Your job as a successful writer is to make one of those stories seem completely fresh and new, as if it had never been told before.
But what happens to us is that we are so influenced by all the great films we've watched over the years that we tend to regurgitate them. I can't tell you how many times a screenwriter has trumpeted about his "awesome scene that depicts the disintegration of a relationship!" that is right out of Citizen Kane. To give just one example.
Or maybe you haven't recycled anything obvious, but your characters just aren't interesting enough, or your plot has gaps, or the dialogue is flat and without subtext. In any case, believe me when I say from experience that none of the best writers (in any medium) write in a vacuum. Even Francis Ford Coppola, P.T. Anderson and Nora Ephron sought another pair of eyes on their work.
So here are 5 ways script coverage can help you sell your screenplay:
1. Looks are everything in this town! And not just the fake boobs and spray-on tan. Your screenplay, no matter how great the story is, must be spotless. Studio script readers (who are going to read your screenplay before passing it on to the producer) get very cranky when reading script after script with spelling errors, typos, formatting problems, coffee stains and tear splotches.
2. Create your logline. A logline is a catchy, one-sentence description of your story. Examples:
Pretty Woman: A businessman falls in love with a prostitute he hires to be his date for the weekend.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: An archeologist is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do.
Titanic: A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love, must outwit her abusive fiance, and find a way to survive aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea.
The mistake many people make is trying to squeeze the entire 120-page script into this one line. Your logline needs to be interesting enough for an agent or producer to be dying to read the whole screenplay, and this is always an arduous task for writers. A Script Doctor can easily whittle your story down to one line, which you can also use for your elevator pitch!
3. Know the formula so you can break the formula. I know, I know, as writers we tend to cringe at the thought of sticking to a formula. But you have to know the formula so you can break it.
Why is formula so important? Because a certain way of storytelling is inherent in our DNA; it is universal and therefore we can identify with it. Dreams, mythology, fairy tales, oral storytelling, books and movies all follow a basic structure, often called The Hero's Journey. A Script Analyst can give you a new perspective on breaking an old formula.
4. Break it down. Hiring a professional Script Doctor will cost money, but it will be money well spent when someone who knows what she is doing goes over your screenplay with a fine-toothed comb and breaks down all the elements for you. A Screenplay Analyst will allow you to see your story through another person's eyes by providing you with a logline, a synopsis, and anywhere from 2-6 pages of comments, detailing theme, plot, structure, characters and dialogue.
5. Encouragement and support! This may feel like a cop-out tip, but believe me, once you get a couple of rejections under your belt, you will begin to believe that you are not, in fact, a talented writer and that the accounting job offer you just declined is beginning to look pretty sweet. Ray Bradbury received a thousand rejections over his 30-year career, J.K. Rowling was rejected by nine publishers before landing one, and the Dr. Seuss books were turned down by more than fifteen editors before being accepted. So when your mom/boyfriend/therapist suggests you give up your silly dream, you will need a hefty dose of encouragement-professional encouragement.
In short, to sell your screenplay, it must get past the Hollywood Reader and into the hands of someone who can actually take action with it. How do you do that? Not with a "good enough" screenplay; with a fantastic screenplay. And I can help make it so.
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