Submitting Scripts to Production Companies Part 1

Most of the advice in this ‘Submitting Scripts’ post is just common sense but after receiving a lot of unsolicited scripts with many of the problems below I thought this was worth sharing.

1. Don’t send the same script to several people in the same email. There’s nothing worse than seeing that the email you’ve received addressed to Dear Sir/Madam was also sent to info@elementpictures.ie and 50 others.  Generic emailing will most likely lead to your mail being deleted unread along with the attached script.

2. Send your script as an attachment, DO NOT copy and paste it into the body of an email. Sounds like a mad thing to do, but I’ve seen it done.

3. Sending a synopsis before the full script is usually advisable.A short, polite email telling the company you have a project that might suit them along with a 3 line synopsis and an enquiry whether they’d like to see more is likely to get a quicker response. Having said that some companies do prefer to get the full script first. The best way to be sure is to call them before sending anything and ask what they’d prefer.

4. Producers nearly always have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Don’t make it easy for them to dismiss your script within a couple of pages by committing the following sins: poor formatting, spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, excessive profanity, way too much dialogue etc. Make sure that your script is in standard industry format and have someone proof read it for you before you send it anywhere.

5.  Don’t send a script with warnings all over it like ‘COPYRIGHT OF JOE SMITH. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO COPY.’ Again sounds silly, but it’s happened. Again, don’t demand that a producer signs a non-disclosure release before they get to read your script. It will signal to them that you as a writer are loads of drama and will be too difficult to work with.

6. Also, don’t send more than one script at a time. I’ve been sent five or six feature scripts in a week by the same person. Did any of them get read? I picked one to read, didn’t like it and put it down after twenty pages. I did not read the others. For the very simple reason that I did not have time. I don’t read scripts at work. I read them in my down time, evenings, weekends etc. Therefore they have to be enjoyable and interesting to read. If you read one script from a writer that you really don’t like, it’s unlikely you’ll go back for a second. Only send one script and concentrate on making sure it’s as good as it can possibly be.

7. Don’t hound people for a response. I’ve seen great scripts get binned because the company didn’t want to deal with the writer. A week is a very short time and producers are busy. I don’t know many Irish companies who have the manpower to hire dedicated script readers. Therefore it’s most likely that your script will be read by someone doing another job whenever they can squeeze it in.

Irish production companies are small. If you start making phone calls to different people in the same company to find out if your script has been read, you will quickly get a reputation for being a pest! Wait a month. If you’ve heard nothing back by then, a polite phone call to see if anyone has read or will be reading your script is acceptable. If they don’t seem interested in reading it, don’t push, they may have too many projects on their slate this year.

8. Writers should have an awareness of the budgetary constraints that are on producers. Don’t send a high budget period drama to a small production company. They will never get the funding to make it, even if they love it.

9. Research. Take a look at the back catalogue of the production company. Find out who has made something similar before. This means that they will already have relationships with the funders/broadcasters concerned and will be more likely to be able to get the film made.

Hope this helps. Most production companies are on the lookout for new scripts and ideas but may only take unsolicited MSS at certain times of the year. If in doubt, call and check.

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About lisamcnamee

Filmmaker and Writer. I spend most of my time sorting out the vast paperwork involved in the filmmaking process. I thought that a guide, specific to the Irish situation, might be helpful for those staring into the abyss that is funding and production paperwork. Here I will post tips for getting your film funded, sold, and details of any new sources of finance I come upon. Obligatory disclaimer: I'm a producer, not a lawyer so use common sense and check anything you take from this with your own representation before using.
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