September 11

THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS

Mike from Raleigh, NC asks:

I am a writer living outside of L.A.– way outside– and would like some advice on how to get a script read.

Some ‘experts’ pooh-pooh the query letter calling them a waste of time. Others claim it is the ONLY way for a first-timer to get his/her work noticed.
Very confusing. Very disheartening.

What is a good/better/best strategy for getting a script read? Query agents? Query managers? Query producers? Win a contest? Buy a full page add in Variety?

In answer, I have a question for you. Why should someone here in Los Angeles read your script when there are thousands upon thousands of aspiring writers all of whom are committed enough to uproot their lives and move out here just so they can be where the people who read screenplays need them to be even though most of them have almost no shot in hell of actually becoming a working writer?

The answer better be, because your work offers something no one else’s work does or ever will: your own very compelling and unique voice. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to get anyone here to pay attention to another run-of-the-mill long distance wannabe. Harsh? Maybe, but this is a very competitive game and the players who actually work regularly are very, very good at it.

Okay. So let’s say your writing actually does reflect a special, unique voice. Now what? The answer is easy – try everything. I’ve said this before and I’m probably not the first to say it, but everyone in the world is only a few degrees of separation from an agent whether they know it or not. Quality writing gets noticed – but the writing really must shine, really must be something special. If it is, you’ll eventually get the attention of someone who can make a difference.

Here are some places to start:

1. Show your writing to people in your own community that can support you in your writing: teachers, retired screenwriters, actors, whoever. If they are excited by your writing, see who they might know that can help.

2. If you respect a screenwriter a great deal, write to him or her and ask him to serve as a long-distance mentor. If he or she agrees, be sure to actually listen to his or her advice and follow it. As a relationship builds, this working writer might just pass your work on to someone who can make a difference.

3. Travel to screenwriting events around the country and make friends with the speakers. It might take a long time before this bears fruit, but it’s another tool in your box.

4. Ask all your friends if they know anyone in Los Angeles. Strike up a relationship with as many people here as you can – even an email relationship. If one of these people reads and gets excited about your writing, or just likes you, they might refer you to an agent, manager, producer, actor or who knows who that can help.

5. Don’t forget about independent film. If your script is appropriate for a low budget quality picture, approach filmmakers in your own community or other communities outside of Los Angeles.

6. Brainstorm and come up with thirty more ideas on how to get your script read and execute on every single idea. It will take that much drive and determination to move forward.

While you’re doing all these things, don’t stop writing. You need a body of excellent work, not just one or two scripts. Finally, every writer gets through the door differently. Keep writing and holding yourself out as a writer until you make something happen.

Good luck.




Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.

Posted September 11, 2005 by TW in category "The Business

17 COMMENTS :

  1. By William on

    Good words of wisdom. I don’t think it’s harsh to say these things. I think it’s realistic. While you don’t want to discourage anyone to write or fulfill what they beliis their destiny you want them to be aware of the sheer competitive brutality that is the nature of this beast. You as a writer are vying for a company to invest thousands, sometimes millions into your screenplay not too mention years of their lives. Another option might mean producing the screenplay yourself if that is an option. If you feel that you do have such a unique voice, back it up. Produce or get the right person to see your unique vision to completion. If a writer can’t accept these words as guidance there is a good chance they might want to look towards other career avenues. The last time I was in L.A. I don’t remember anyone handing out three picture deals when I came off the plane and they’re not doing it here either.

  2. By alan on

    mike

    i used to live in nc. fayetteville and winston-salem. been to raleigh. summers are hot and muggy

    would only add this: if you’re not a fine writer, do not pursue this seriously (hobby, yes, but forget the wannabe thing – it’s just too sad). if you are a fine writer, move to la. why wait?

    sending out queries trying to get your bad scripts read is a very sad occupation (no matter where you live)

    on the flip side – good writers work (every one of them – unless they’re insane or a hermit). that is to say; a good writer, a really fine craftsperson/artist, will be able to start a career. it’s practically guaranteed. (hollywood cannot find a reason to pass on an excellent script, let alone an excellent writer)

    on the flip flip side – most writers are terrible. i’m talking more than 9 of 10

    the question, as always, is very personal and requires honest assessment

    ps – ncsa has a film program

  3. By Mike Scherer on

    Thanks, Jon, William, and Alan.

    Yes, Jon’s words are harsh, but harsh is good when it is the truth.

    Being married and raising a family does not bode well for pulling up stakes and moving to LA. However, because I am temporarily ‘stuck’ in Raleigh, I plan to take to heart item #2.

    Currently, I don’t know any screenwriters–retired or otherwise–but I will find one or two. I know I have talent, but not receiving ‘professional’ feedback on my scripts is the most frustrating aspect of long-distance-screenwriting.

    Thanks again to one and all.

    Best regards,
    Mike

  4. By alan on

    i see. family. well, try to work up a relationship with a prof at ncsa. it’s not that far a drive. i’m sure they have a forum where you could get feedback. go to:

    http://faculty.ncarts.edu/film/

    they have a message board. see what you can churn up

    see? you’re not so cut off

  5. By TW (Post author) on

    Mike:

    I wouldn’t stop at number 2. I’d definitely consider #5 and #6. #5 is a good avenue to a writing career. Many writers get their first significant breaks through independent film.

  6. By William on

    Mike,

    You said something that made all the difference in the world. “I know I have talent”. That goes a long way. Keep it going. These blogs alone are a great resource. You know the drill, John August, The Artful Writer etc. Get in the forum over there. Take a trip to L.A. every once in a while, the Creative Screenwriting Expo in November is a good start. Plant the seeds. Hook up with industry if you want to be a part of it.

  7. By Dave on

    G’day Mike,

    Drop by and say hello. You and I have a lot in common, except I am further away! 😉

    Sounds like good advice above. Old story for any career, head down, bum up and work your arse off.

    There are a few of us starting to talk about swapping scripts to give each other feedback etc. so it might be interesting for you as well. At least until you find the mentor.

    cheers
    Dave.

  8. By Guyot on

    TW,
    great post.

    Mike,
    Be careful regarding feedback. Just because someone is an aspiring writer doesn’t mean they know the first thing about writing. This is no reflection on Dave who mentioned it – Dave may very well be amazing – I am just saying that bad feedback can hurt you more than no feedback. And I’ve seen some work by a couple of screenwriting bloggers and they should not be giving feedback to others. No one around here. 😉

    Best of luck and feel free to contact me if you need anything.
    Paul

  9. By Dave on

    Absolutely Paul, and no offence taken.

    I was not referring to me so much, as some of the other guys that have been doing it much longer, and are keen to do something similar. Think of it more as an online writing group type thing, but without the beer, wine and pretzels 😉 Okay, so I’ve taken out all the good bits of a writing group, but ya gotta work with what ya got 😉

    One of the main things I want to find out through feedback such as this, is ,do other people find the ideas/stories I come up with interesting, hell, may I dare dream, even compelling reading (swoon). Okay, went too far there in the dreaming stakes. Or are they more akin to a video game adaptation by Uwe Bowell.

    cheers
    Dave.

  10. By Writergurl on

    Mike,
    If you aren’t paranoid about showing the world your work (make sure it’s registered first though) you can post it for peer review at Triggerstreet.com. Keep in mind these are your “peers”. Some more advanced than you in thier careers, others less so. In the end, unless the person you’re showing your work to has the power to greenlight it, it’s all opinion. Keep what makes sense to you (and your story) and ignore the rest.

    Best of luck to you!

  11. By Alan on

    Mike,

    As a Virginia resident, I’m faced with virtually the same challenge. But my outlook on the situation consists of the following factors:

    1. Nothing in life is worth obtaining if there isn’t some difficulty involved.
    2. If I simply view writing as a serious hobby, I won’t feel as if I’m wasting my time.
    3. At least it keeps me off the streets.

    Best of luck to you!

  12. Pingback: The Thinking Writer » Blog Archive » AGENTS, COPYRIGHTS AND MONEY

  13. By Andrea on

    These are very important advices.

    And they are also valid for an out-of-towner like me who lives in Rome, Italy…

    Also here relationships and friendship capability are of vital importance.

    Your name has to circulate as much as possible, ’cause – as one of my mentor says – nobody will knock at your door offering you a job or asking to read your script.

  14. By TW (Post author) on

    Rome, Italy has a pretty bitchin’ motion picture scene, itself….

  15. By Andrea on

    Well…

    The motion picture scene in Italy is recovered in the emergency room.

    There are a lot of problems, first of all producers without courage or without any will to risk something… Movie are financed by the government through statal financement but those movie have no results at the box-office: it is a system that is always in loss.

    Producers in Italy doesn’t love genre, doesn’t love high-concept movie… Nowadays we have only “authors” whose stories are often poor or bounded to the narrow fictional universe: family problems, love problems, money problems without any capability to carve their stories into a much more strong scripts.

    Only silly comedies in the Christmas period have success at the box-office.
    And the italian audience is forced to go and see american, english, and also french and spanish flicks to satisfy its “good-story starving”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*