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.
Writer/Screenwriter Rex Pickett, whose unpublished novel became the basis for the screenplay Sideways (and then the novel got published) is out with the sequel novel, Vertical. Pickett is thrilled with Alexander Payne, but not thrilled with the book’s original publisher. To get hopelessly depressed about both the movie industry and the publishing industry, read about his travails in the Yamhill Valley News Register. (Yamhill Valley is Oregon wine country and apparently part of the new novel.)
What would asking that question lead you to write? Here’s a pretty good interview with screenwriter Chris Sparling, who answered that question by writing the new movie “Buried”.