Three W's Of Getting Your Script Read
Having been and still being at
times on the “other end” of the script submission,
working with producers, assisting them in finding the
“perfect script” (which, by the way, doesn’t
exist), I have had to move quickly through titles,
loglines, and, often synopses, and eventually – yes, I
must say – even quickly through scripts.
(I’m not saying I’ve ever rushed through one,
but there is a kind of “readers’ pace” that is
necessary if one is “looking for a needle in a
haystack” (or a script in a pile of screenplays).
Because time is the essence often,
a producer or her or her readers have developed an eye
for good material. It isn’t always easy to get a script read and the best way
to reach that level is to know how to present it.
I’m sure every reader or
producer’s eye is different, but, in general, when I
need to move rapidly (but smoothly and keeping in mind
what I learned in school about reader’s comprehension
– which I had no idea I would be so glad I did well in
because I’d be needing that very skill so many years
later), I look at how the screenwriter is presenting his
there’s a query letter, do I react well to it?
Or do I already feel that there’s something
about the personality of the screenwriter that might not
be the best “match,” as they say.
(If you can’t get along with a letter, chances
are it’s going to be uphill all along the way with the
Much can be discerned by a query
letter (and not a “queery letter.” Although, those
kind of letters can also reveal much about the writer,
he can’t spell very well.) Just state a little about
yourself, if you’d like (not so much your favorite
color; more like your experiences in your screenwriting
career) and, if at all possible, don’t try to enlist
the producer in your personal fan club.
If you praise yourself too much, there won’t be
any need to receive any from anybody else, including the
one who could be integral in you receiving not only
praise, but also pay.
Many writers make the mistake of
sending in general loglines that do not tell me what the
story is really about. Here’s a made-up example:
Teresa sets the world on fire, but the world isn't ready
for what she's going to have to go through to make it to
My first reactions are:
Who is Teresa?
Why is she a pyro?
What world isn’t ready for her? What is she going
to have to go through? and, What top?
A logline like that doesn’t exactly
compel me to want to read the synopsis, fearing that
I’ll be caught up in worlds and fire and tops... with
You want a logline that as briefly as
possible tells what the story is about.
Who is the hero and what is she or he up against?
That’s pretty much it.
And if you can throw in some well-placed words to
stir the emotions and thoughts of the logline reader, so
much the better. But
words can be impacting, but they need to be specific.
"A specific guy
has an encounter with an extremely specific nemesis who is
trying to stop him at all costs from doing a very specific
.... is not what I mean.
The synopsis needs to economically
tell what happens in the script.
(I don’t mean “financially tell.” I mean
“efficiently tell.” Although, if it was a story about
a financial empire, actually it could be told financially,
I guess. I’ll
get off that subject now, speaking of being specific.) It
doesn’t have to be dry as toast (without butter or jelly
on the toast) and can embody the screenwriter’s voice
and style, but be careful that you don’t editorialize in
your synopsis. Usually avoid words like “hilarious”
“quirky,” “edgy” and the like.
Allow your reader or producer to decide how he or
she sees your storyline.
And try to hold yourself back from saying that
“this is the next Rocky” and things of that nature.
(Unless it is the next “Rocky.”
Wouldn’t that make it “Rocky 27”?)
Think “bare bones with just a
little flesh” (which could work very well when you
submit a horror). Mostly
show the skeleton of your work while presenting it in your
inimitable way. After
reading so many synopses, I can usually get an idea of how
good the screenplay is going to be by not only what the
synopsis offers, but by HOW it is written.
So, let’s review, shall we? (I
don’t mean to sound as if we’re in a classroom.
Although, many screenwriters could benefit from a short
HOW TO PRESENT YOUR
SCREENPLAY WITHOUT PISSING OFF THE PRODUCER
A little crude, but it gets the
logline of it across.
Here’s that review, I mentioned:
1) Write a succinct, humble and
2) Write a clear, entertaining, but
not self-aggrandizing synopsis, presenting your style and
you’re all set. Oh.
One more thing.
3) Write a script.
The third one will especially help in
case a producer wants to read it.