How to market a screenplay
By BBC Maestro
You may be tackling the final page of your screenplay, or yet to fill your first - wherever you are on your screenwriting journey, it’s likely that once it’s finished, you’ll want to get it out there in the world.
In this article, we’ll share how to market a screenplay, either with the help of an agent or by yourself.
Step 1: Find an agent
The landscape for selling a screenplay is fast-paced and competitive. Getting your screenplay in front of the right eyes can be difficult to do alone. This is where having an agent can make a huge difference to your success. A good agent will know the market – which types of works are exciting producers, which ones are actually selling and who these producers are.
An agent’s vast network will mean they can get your script in front of the right people – whether that involves them sending your script to them directly, or arranging a meeting so you can pitch it to them yourself. It all depends on the agent you choose to work with. They can help negotiate deals and ultimately, launch and develop your career as a screenwriter.
Having an agent can make the whole process easier – as they will manage the admin and they can fight in your corner for your script.
If you have decided you want an agent, start researching possible literary agencies that may be able to help. Or if you have any agents across your network, keep a record of their names and details. It’s important to find the right agent for your story, but this isn’t always easy to find first-hand.
An obvious way to start your search is by finding a movie your screenplay may have similarities with. Perhaps it’s a rom-com, thriller or an action movie script? Identify some of the top movies of the genre and take note of the writer/s of the film. If you search their name on IMBD, you will often find the contact details of the writer’s agent.
A literary agency may also be able to help direct your search if you don’t know where to start. Depending on where you’re located in the world, there are some useful lists of literary agencies out there you can contact. Do some digging, and you should be able to compile your very own list of agencies.
The market is a little different than it used to be, where writers could once send query letters to agencies or agents. Today’s methods prioritise introductory query emails or making direct phone calls to agents or their assistants. Before you contact an agent, to have a final sample of your writing ready to go. So, make sure your script and covering letter are in good shape.
Reaching out can feel like a bit of a long shot as there’s a risk that you never hear back but it’s a great way to get your foot in the door.
At the same time, it’s important to note that you don’t need an agent to market your work. You can send your script directly to production companies, producers, directors, or agencies yourself. Many aspiring screenwriters will submit their writing this way.
Step 2: Do your research
Whether you choose to work with an agent or not, there are many ways to market your screenplay. Even if you hand this responsibility over to your agent, the tips below may help you understand what happens in the process and pointers to consider in your journey to marketing your screenplay.
If you’re opting to go at it alone, there is plenty of advice by credited screenwriters out there to help get you started. Many have written books, given talks, or shared resources on how to market your work in the best way. You can try exploring a few of the following books to get you started:
- Screenplay by Syd Field (1979)
- Writing Movies for Fun and Profit by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (2011)
- How to Manage Your Agent: A Writer's Guide to Hollywood Representation by Chad Gervich (2013)
- Screenplay: Writing the Picture by Rubin U.Russin and William Missouri Downs (2000)
There are also guides listing some of the places you can submit your script. They cover some of the different programmes or open calls by production companies and whether they are for film or TV scripts.
Step 3: Build an online presence
In today’s world, having a space for your work online is really important. A website and social media accounts can help you reach new audiences and can help agents, producers and fellow budding screenwriters find you. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are all great platforms for connecting with new people and getting your work seen.
Keeping these accounts up to date with your latest projects, competition submissions (or wins!), and even sharing previous projects, are all important to do to show your followers, prospective agents or producers, that you take your work seriously.
Many budding screenwriters will upload snippets of their work on platforms like Vimeo. If any of your former scripts have made it into short films or videos, why not do the same? You can share these across your social channels and website too.
Step 4: Enter competitions – big and small
Screenwriting contests have opened the doors for many of the screenwriters before you. Plenty of agents, producers and directors will be watching these closely to get an idea of some of the latest work emerging. But they’ll want to get their hands on fresh new talent too. If you’re a winner or runner-up, you never know what new opportunities may lie ahead.
There are a lot of competitions out there. It’s good to do some research on which ones are worth submitting your work to. Contests can be expensive to enter, so be tactful in which ones you choose. You can find competitions that are open to all types of screenwriting or others that focus per genre. To get you started, take a look at some of these top screenwriting competitions listed below:
Step 5: Network
Your agent may have film industry contacts in their network they can put you in touch with, or if you don't yet have an agent - get out there and make some contacts yourself! From film festivals, to writers' conferences, there are plenty of opportunities to get out there and meet agents and producers in person.
By attending film conferences or festivals, you'll keep your finger on the pulse of what's trending in the film industry and what kind of appetite there may be for your own screenplay. Remember, your background doesn't matter, as Edgar Wright points out "I'd assumed - wrongly - that all directors were born in Hollywood". Simply be yourself and keep the reasons that your script is both fascinating and unique at the forefront of your mind.
These are just some of the ways you can market your screenplay. For more indepth insights into the process of writing and marketing your screenplay, explore Edgar Wright's filmmaking course or Jed Mercurio's screenwriting course.