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Screenplay Submissions 101: How To Submit A Screenplay Like a Pro

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November 2, 2015 11 comments
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So you’ve written a great script. Now what

To many aspiring screenwriters, figuring out what to do with a screenplay once its finished is even more difficult than writing the damn thing in the first place.

Maybe you’ve just finished a screenplay but have never tried submitting it to a manager or producer?

Or maybe you’ve already tried submitting your script, but haven’t had the response you were hoping for?

In the post below, I distill my screenplay submission strategy into a handy checklist, including the best insider tips on how to submit a screenplay to the right places at the right time once your script is finished.

So let’s get into Screenplay Submissions 101!

Step 1: Make Sure Your Script Is 100% Ready

Before you start your script submissions make sure it’s been thoroughly vetted by people in the industry who know what they’re talking about.

If you have a circle of trusted friends, who either write themselves, or work as readers/assistants/producers etc. give it to them for feedback.

The trick here is to make sure you let them know you want their honest opinion, and don’t just say nice things because they’re you’re friends.

If you don’t have friends in the industry yet, or you want independent advice, you should consider hiring a professional script consultant to give you notes on it.

If you then get a “strong consider” or “recommend” on your script from one of these script consultancies, you’ll know you’re onto something.

Anything less, i.e. a “pass,” and your screenplay will need tightening up before it’s ready to send out.

A third way you know your script’s ready to submit, is if it wins or places highly in a major screenwriting contest or two.

Overall, if you don’t get stellar feedback on the screenplay from a script consultancy or from a contest — if any page is less than breathtaking — you need to rewrite it.

However, once you are 100% sure you have something wonderful on your hands, then you’re good to go to Step Two of the script submissions process.

Step 2: Build a Screenplay Submissions Contact List

When I was first looking for a manager, I compiled a list of about five hundred managers using online tools like the few Hollywood Directories available, IMDb Pro, Stage 32, etc.

Basically, you make an extensive list of people or entities you feel your script would be perfect for and want to target.

Do your research first. Find out the names of producers and managers on IMDb Pro who work with similar material to your own as they’re the people who’re most likely to dig your script.

You can also attend pitch fests, festival and events where real producers, agents and managers are in attendance.

Script Fest (formerly The Great American Pitchfest) and the Austin Film Festival are two events you should definitely put in your calendar for next year.

Get friendly with these people, (but not in an obviously “schmoozy” way) and you’ll soon start adding people to your screenplay submissions contact list.

Step 3: Start An Email Campaign

When I have a script ready to send out, I don’t want to hit all five hundred people in my contact list at once, so I send about twenty queries every few days and change up the email query here and there if I was getting nothing back.

But first you need to write a query letter/email that gets attention.

With this you want to be as creative as possible in order to make people take notice.

Think of the email as an elevator pitch on paper — you’ve got a matter of seconds to impress and that’s it.

The most important thing to do is make sure your query letter/email is written in the voice and tone of your screenplay.

This will make sure your query stands out over the thousands of script submissions the producer or manager already has coming in beside yours.

Phone calls can work too if you have that certain electric type of personality that’s going to leave a great impression.

Making a quick call to ask who you should attention a query to — and a connection with that first point of contact in the office — is never a bad thing.

Your timing of script submissions is also important.

Screeplay submissions are best avoided on Mondays, for example, when people are overloaded with a weekend’s worth of emails.

Friday afternoons are also a no-go, when people are already done for the week.

And by the time they get to second hand stuff on Tuesday it will be so far down their list they might not even see it.

Time it right: midweek.

If it’s a great enough query it may have them request the script for that weekend’s reading.

Holidays are also not a good time to query either. Hollywood shuts down on holidays, so that means most of July and December. And January is also a slow crawl.

Getting the timing right is a major part of learning how to submit a screenplay.

Step 4: Be Patient

This is the most important step to remember if you have had a script request.

Write a very respectful reply and thank them for their time and say you look forward to hearing back from them. And then forget about it.

If over a month has gone by, and I actually recommend waiting two months, then feel free to check in with a friendly, respectful, and professional email.

But, in the meantime, you keep writing and pitching and concentrate on what I call the 3P Principal.

  • PROCESS – respect the process of submissions and the time of those reading your work.
  • PATIENCE – be patient with these people, and with the gigantic, epic, humungous piles they have to go through on a daily basis.
  • PERSONAL – leave your personal feelings at the door and don’t get offended by non-replies or evasive behavior.

If you can keep these three things in mind, you will have a much easier time as you work your way through the script submission process.

Conclusion

As I’m sure you’ve heard before, the screenwriters who succeed in this business are the ones who HUSTLE.

They’re the ones who’ve sent a ton of emails, worked connections, met people face-to-face, and generally put themselves out there.

Living in LA is a huge bonus as you can actually be around people who can make things happen for you on a daily basis.

If you want to start your career from outside of Los Angeles it’s going to be harder to meet people in the industry face-to-face at the beginning of your career.

Nevertheless, you can still use online research, social media and email queries to communicate and network with agents, managers and producers and hopefully get your screenplay sold.

Make It Happen

Our mission at Script Reader Pro is to help writers like you to start a successful screenwriting career.

Contact us or check out our script coverage services to get hands-on guidance on how to write a script no agent or production company can ignore.

About the Author

Scott was a senior analyst at ScriptPipeline for five years before switching to Script Reader Pro.

screenplay submissions

His first foray into screenwriting came in the seventh grade when he crafted a horribly inappropriate Police Academy screenplay for an English class assignment.

Since then Scott has optioned five screenplays in recent years — one of which “Incision” won the 2013 PAGE contest, and is currently in pre-production with Loesch Productions.

11 Comments
  1. Sarah Gabrielle Baron says:

    Gee, I thought I could just float around in the nebula of obscurity and wait for the Universe to bring producers to me…. No, I’m still on Step 1 of the process. When will my babies be ready!?! Ah well. It’s not as painful as childbirth, just takes longer, and is easier to ignore when they don’t do what you want.

    1. Keep at it Sarah! They’ll be ready soon enough 🙂

  2. Dave S says:

    Enjoyable read. Great insights. Glad you mentioned Stage 32. I met a manager on there and he was kind enough to read my work and give me notes. The relationship built from there and now he’s my manager. I’m also working with a producer I met there on a short I wrote.

    1. Thanks Dave. Yep, Stage32 can be really useful for making connections — sounds like you’re onto a winner 🙂

  3. Jack Brewer says:

    Great post thanks for this Script reader pro.

  4. Amir says:

    Hi
    I’m a writer from Middle East and I want to pitch my screenplay to Holy wood producers but my only way is online submitting sites. could you help me and give me a list of free submitting sites? (dollar is very expencive in my country and I can’t afford monthly payments of the sites)
    thanks (:

  5. Charles Frankhauser says:

    Thanks – good advice. I appreciate the complexities so went a different route. Adapted Amazon novel, Atlantic City Nazi, to feature-length treatment & script and published it on Amazon under title, RC and RUBY Screenplay. People enjoy reading script, I own rights, and that’s enough for me. Best regards, Charles

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the comment Charles, and best of luck with your script.

  6. Billy Fourie says:

    Thanks for the information. It certianly makes so much sense. Had 3 requestes for my script and ………. well its been a while so PATIENCE is key I realise from your post. I’m not the screenplay writer, but its my life story so I have to do all the work to get it read and produced. This is something I enjoy doing though, once again thanks for the information.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the comment, Billy, and good luck with the script.

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