One way into a writing career is to make a splashy spec sale. However, it is rare and not the only way. Another way is to get a movie made, even a small movie with independent distribution. Every major agency in town (that would be L.A.) has a department to help you do this. They call it “packaging”. Packaging means taking a great script, finding a director, talent, money and distribution, and bringing them all together. Yes, that is what a producer is supposed to do, but the agencies realized some time ago that they have ready access to all the elements and can charge huge fees for doing the same thing as long as they don’t call themselves producers.
The rub is, there is tremendous competition for the attention of packaging agents just as there is for all other agents. However, unlike in ordinary spec sales, elements you bring to the table besides the script itself can help in packaging. For example, if you have interest from a bankable director, if you have raised part of the budget, or if you have interest from a bankable actor, you have a good chance of at least getting the project reviewed by a packaging agent. And remember, what is bankable to the indie market is much broader than what is bankable to the studios.
Packaging is particularly suited to quality scripts that can be made on a budget. Quality genre scripts are very popular for packaging. There is also a fairly strong market for schlock genre scripts, but because there are so many of these mediocre scripts out there, you really need to bring some other strong element to the table to get your mediocre script noticed.
The money for packaged scripts is typically not nearly as good as for studio projects, but you are launching a career. It pays to consider packaging as another avenue into the biz.
For those of you who follow screenwriting blogs on a regular basis, you have a pretty good sense of what each blogger brings to the table. On this blog, I don’t do much gossip. I don’t give out names of producers or agents. I don’t have a magic answer for how to make it in the industry. I don’t have a strong enough career to justify the sorts of high-level insights found at Artful Writer or Josh Friedman’s blog.
On the other hand, I do have extensive experience with agents, managers, production executives, producers and working writers. And, I’ve written a lot. All of my scripts, whether they have sold or not, have been championed by strong agents and producers and, on occassion, A-level talent. I do have extensive training in the craft of writing. I do know, more or less, how the industry as a whole functions and how that affects the emerging writer. I do have the experience that comes with regularly submitting scripts and pitches to the mainstream Hollywood motion picture industry. I do have the background of having worked on the producing side of the business, both as a producer and in legal affairs for a studio.
I do love the craft of writing and enjoy its highs and lows: the awful feeling of putting everything I have into a draft and realizing it lies their, flat on the page, no movement, no character, nothing (what the hell was I struggling for?) followed by the incredible high of seeing that awful draft turn into something incredible through deep, hard work. It is the kind of high that is earned and, therefore, lasts. I love the feeling of reading an old script I haven’ looked at in a couple years and saying, “Wow, I did that?”
And, while nobody really knows what the hell they’re doing, I like to write about whatever orts of insight I’ve gleened over the years. In the future, I plan to continue my main focus here, namely posts that assist emerging writers in understanding what is expected of them in the industry and how to deliver it.
With all of that in mind, I throw it out to you. What would you like to see more of on this blog? What would you like to see different? This is your opportunity for feedback.
Don’t be cruel….
Calee of Los Angeles writes:
I wrote a screenplay 3 years ago that won a fellowship but was never sold. It was based on an obscure historical figure using research from the public domain. Recently, a book came out about the same guy with the same name as my screenplay. The agent is sending the book around town but it’s boring and brushes over the main dramatic point of my screenplay. Is there anything I should do to revive interest in my script or to make it known that if someone is interested in the book, there’s already an award-winning screenplay out there, even if it was written before the book? Also- do I have any legal rights to the title?
There is always a way to revive interest in your screenplay. Seek a director or actor for a lead role, search for a qualified and devoted producer to work with you, or find a bunch of money for production. Any of these things will revive interest. In fact, writing another good script can revive interest in a previous script.
As far as submitting your script to people interested in the book, if you can find them, why not? However, don’t be discouraged if they are not interested. It is very unlikely any of them will want to review your script if they are considering the book. It only creates potential legal issues for them if they do.
As far as the title being the same, it happens all the time. Titles are generally exempt from copyright protection. Sometimes trademark or other tradename protection is available, but even this usually does not apply to spec screenplay titles. You likely have no real protection. On the other hand, if you believe the author used your script in the creation of his or her book, you do have some rights. Proof is always an issue, but if you have some evidence that this is the case, you should definitely consult an intellectual property attorney.
Good luck with your script and, most importantly, keep writing.