Screenwriting 101: Getting your script out there – The Spec Script

By Brock Cooper (doddleNEWS)

It can be hard to get noticed in Hollywood and it seems like everyone is competing for the same money. It doesn’t matter if it’s a major blockbuster or independent film. The main tool a screenwriter has in his arsenal is the spec script.

When you write a script on spec, it means you write without any promise from a film studio, producer, etc. that it will be made. It’s no different than a salesman creating a product without having a distribution vehicle for it. He has a product, and now he has to convince someone to get it to the people.

The keys to selling your spec script is a great pitch letter and a polished spec script. The first step is to write the first draft of your script and have a complete story. Once the idea is out, you need to go over it with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it follows the proper format and has a compelling storyline and characters.

When it comes down to it, the script is ultimately what sells your movie. If it’s incoherent and sloppy, then no matter how good your pitch letter is, odds are the studio or producer is going to pass. Once the spec script is finished, the pitch letter is the next step.

There are some people that say you don’t have to write the script to query a movie exec, and it’s true, but how can you adequately persuade someone to make your movie if you don’t know every piece of it.

A pitch letter is the equivalent of a cover letter for a job application. It’s what entices the employer to look at your resume. In the movie world, the pitch letter is what entices the studio or agent to look at your script.

This is assuming you live outside of a major film city, such as Los Angeles, Chicago or New York. If you live in these areas and know of specific companies or producers, then you can set up a pitch meeting and actually verbally pitch your movie to the producers and executives.

A pitch letter is formed similarly to a cover letter. It looks very formal and is addressed to a specific person. Your first paragraph is the grabber. It starts with the hook, a sentence that sums up the plot and gets the reader interested in reading the letter. Then you spend a few sentences describing the plot followed by a separate paragraph explaining your qualifications, if you have any.

You’re probably scared to death about the query letter, but don’t worry. I’ll go into an in-depth post specifically about the query letter in my next post. Stay Tuned. (How’s that for a hook to keep you interested?)