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Is Your Script Ready?

By C.J. Perry  |  25-Aug-2010

As you're thinking about getting ready to try and sell your script, you should be asking yourself, is it really ready? The business of screenwriting is hard enough without jumping into the market unprepared. Besides the actual writing, which is a sometimes torturous process in itself, there is everything else that goes into getting your finished work into the hands of a script reader, then possibly an agent or producer.

You've read the books. Sitting on the shelf in your home office is "How to Write a Screenplay in 21 Days" and "Screenwriting for Idiots." You've taken screenwriting classes, or possibly you've gone it on your own. Being a screenwriter is different than being a filmmaker. While you can be both, obviously, if you're strictly a screenwriter, you've always had to be prepared for the eventuality of completing a script. And trickier than that is letting it go and getting it made by somebody else.

If you've finished your script, you should know the difference between a spec script and a shooting script. The spec script is just that - written on speculation that you are trying to sell it. The shooting script comes later, after the producers have bought the rights and it goes into pre-production.

Many writers have the habit of including music cues, camera directions, and the thoughts and feelings of their characters. Most scripts online or in books are shooting scripts, so these are the examples they see and try to mimic. They have envisioned every aspect of their script as a finished movie, and this is simply not how the business works. Script readers and producers need a clean, concise script (no more than 120 pages), because more than likely in the end it won't resemble the work that you've sold them. Let your story sell the script.

Don't include any superfluous information, no matter how helpful you think it is. This includes proposed budgets, artwork, storyboards, suggested casting notes or character background information and locations (unless asked to do so).

It cannot be stated enough that script readers are looking for any excuse to toss yours on the slush pile. They receive hundreds of scripts per year, and only a handful will make it into production.

Read the rest of this article at Film Slate Magazine.

After graduating from the University of Toledo, C.J. Perry began his career in television, eventually becoming a director. After a brief foray into public relations, he returned to television as an editor. His articles have appeared in several regional and national publications.

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