Wanted: Great Screenplays
‘There must be LOADS of great screenplays in the pile just waiting to be made!!!’
I hear this, constantly. It’s a lament from wannabe screenwriters that NEVER goes away, it seems.
But I can tell you, as a script reader & editor, IT’S NOT TRUE. Here’s why …
First off, define ‘great screenplay’
Do you mean WRITTEN WELL?
Hah, good luck. Finding well-written screenplays in the pile is harder than you think, especially when what constitutes ‘good writing’ means different things to different people.
‘Great screenplays’ #2
Do you mean a KILLER CONCEPT?
Yeah, this shit is like GOLD DUST. Sure, everyone *thinks* their concept is killer (why would you write it otherwise??) … but I can honestly count the number of killer concepts I’ve seen on two hands. (I’ve been in the trenches twenty YEARS).
But okay, let’s say you really DO have a great screenplay: it’s written well and has a killer concept.
You’re not out the woods yet! I’ve got yet more bad news for you I’m afraid … Somewhere between 98% – 99.5% of this teeny number of great screenplays are STILL NOT USEABLE.
The #1 reason?
These great screenplays that are well-written and have killer concepts are still TOO EXPENSIVE. Supersadface 🙁
Too often, screenwriters write scripts that would need MANY MILLIONS to make. Whilst it can be a good move to throw caution to the wind on a sample screenplay, if you want to sell it and get it produced? Then it’s a bad move to go big budget.
But screenwriters believe – erroneously – that if they ‘just’ write something ‘well enough’ this will unlock huge amounts of $$$£££. Let me tell you it will NOT.
So if you’re writing $180m scripts thinking mere talent will open the door to investment for your project? Erm NOPE!
Think about it …
There are creatives out there with AWESOME resumés. They kill it every time they put something out there. They ALWAYS deliver … yet even they can’t even get near the big bucks leagues, FFS.
And yet you, a complete nobody who knows no one & has NO track record can get YOUR megabucks script green-lit? Seriously??
But Okay …
… Let’s say you are that one a gazillion who actually gets your killer concept, well-written – and VERY expensive! – script picked up, even without a track record. Now all the other shit comes into play!
i) Star power is real
Have you got a part The Rock, Sandra Bullock, or Angelina would fight over to get?
Or do you have a part for a washed-up star to make a comeback, or one known for a different genre to be seen in a different light? Or multiple interesting secondary parts that faded stars can do a day’s work on to elevate your project?
Without bona fide stars – even if they’re not in the main roles – investors, networks and studios get jumpy. FACT.
ii) Where’s the $$$£££?
Where is the money coming from for all this, by the way?
I know you think Hollywood ‘shouldn’t be so risk averse’ because I’ve seen you say this on a loop in Facebook groups. So …
- How are you going to de-risk your project?
- Do you know what’s even possible for various budget levels?
- Do you know what’s available and what you can claim for (such as tax relief or SEIS funding or equivalent in your country)?
- What about opportunities that are available for co-productions or similar?
- In short, do you have ANY CLUE about the business of filmmaking whatsoever??
Because if the answer is ‘NO’ to any of these questions, then you likely won’t get very far. (Even on a LOW BUDGET picture, to be frank).
But let’s go back to the idea there must be ‘loads’ of great screenplays in the pile …
I have sat in so many meetings with starry-eyed producers & fellow script readers certain this is the case. Hell, back in the early noughties I was one of them!
There HAD to be great screenplays we were missing, right?
Again … nope!
Bigger asses than mine have endeavoured to prove the ‘LOADS of great screenplays in the pile’ idea true and STILL failed.
One of the most expensive was Amazon Studios’ open script call, … oh, would you look at that: yet ANOTHER EPIC FAIL.
Amazon’s script call was open for a whopping EIGHT YEARS. What became of the scripts??
NADA. That’s brutal but it is the reality. Not even Amazon could make this shit float.
Guess what: Most scripts in the pile ARE not great
Again, harsh but true. Here’s a round-up of the most common issues with the vast majority of spec screenplays:
- 1) too expensive
- 2) concept problems
- 3) no discernible target audience
- 4) badly written (esp structure)
- 5) stale/generic story (plot or characters or both)
- 6) genre issues
- 7) inauthentic
- 8) dull
Here’s 25 More Reasons Your Screenplay Is Going In The Trash.
This is the REALITY
VERY VERY FEW spec scripts are capable of being produced, even when they’re good. The fact so many are NOT good hinders this even more.
Look, the purpose of this post is NOT to depress you, but to enlighten you.
Obviously, stuff gets made, but frankly, people have to move heaven and earth to do so. A consistent career in film and TV is nothing short of miraculous in this industry and this financial climate. If more writers understood what it takes to make a film or TV series, they’d appreciate the mammoth task in front of them.
This is why I recommend Bangers get ahead by doing THREE things …
- Learn everything you can about the craft
- Learn everything you can about the industry
- Learn what audiences love and combine that with what YOU love to write
No, none of this means ‘selling out’. It’s called HUSTLE … aka what everyone does in order to make it happens for themselves. Because it is NEVER a case of just sending your script off and crossing your fingers.
Want EVEN MORE Script Reading Secrets?
B2W’s course with LondonSWF, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING is BACK. It’s on Zoom again, so accessible from anywhere in the world.
The workshop is in its EIGHTH year now. B2W’s proud to have had a hand in training so many new script readers.
But the workshop is not just for wannabe script readers … It’s also perfect for writers who want a ‘behind the scenes’ look at how their writing is judged on the page.
So if you want to ‘reader proof’ your screenplay, you’re welcome to join us too.
CLICK HERE for full details of the course (or on the pic on the right), including feedback from past delegates. We expect it to sell out again, so act now to avoid disappointment. See you there!!!