Submitting a Script...

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by DeathStar1, Apr 27, 2004.

  1. DeathStar1

    DeathStar1 Producer

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    Question..

    Anyone know the proper steps it takes to get a script submitted to a show? I don't even know if this show would look at it, but it's too good an opportunity to miss up if there is a slim chance they even like the idea, let alone the script..

    Thanks [​IMG]
     
  2. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Step number 1:

    Get an agent.

    Step 2 won’t work until step 1 is complete.
     
  3. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    And if you only have an idea, not a script, Step 0.5 is to write a script. Ideas for new shows are only taken seriously from those who are already established

    ·You need a treatment
    ·A script
    ·Another script

    Now you can go about finding an agent.
     
  4. DeathStar1

    DeathStar1 Producer

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    Forgot to mention, script is being worked on at this moment. I'm doing it on and off, only up to page 4 now, but I've got the whole show planned out..
     
  5. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    As I recall, producers do not like to get scripts for shows that they produce. Too much possibility of unintentional copywrite infringement. (If they were working on a similar project, your submission could force them to scrap it)

    Instead they like to see sample scripts from other shows. IF they like the work they may call you.
     
  6. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    You can submit a script without an agent. You need to obtain a sign a standard waiver from the studio or the production company.

    Yes, most shows do not want to see scripts for their own series. They want to see sample scripts for other, similar shows. (One hour dramas or half hour sitcoms, not necessarily shows thematically similar.)

    For information on this topic, go to the source: The Writers' Guild of America (West), the TV and movie writer's union.

    There are also any number of books about script writing that will give you further details available at bookstores everywhere or through your local library. I recommend The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski, creator, executive producer and head writer of Babylon 5. (He wrote every single episode from the late 2nd season through the mid 5th season - which had only one non-JMS scripts. Put another way, of the 66 scripts that made up the 3rd, 4th and 5th seasons of the show, he wrote 65, including all of S3 and S4.)

    Straczynski's book covers not only movie and television scripts, but radio/audio drama (making a comeback thanks to the internet), stage plays, industrial promo films, CD-ROM and just about every other medium that might need a dramatic story told in script form. The book is also highly entertaining, which a lot of books by successful screenwriters (surprisingly) aren't. It is also stronger on the business side of what is, after all, a business than some other books on the topic that I've read.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  7. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    You can indeed Joseph. When I reread my posts I realized that one might infer that an agent was necessary for script submission. It is not.

    But any writer’s chances of being taken seriously are vastly improved with an agent.

    A problem that writers have is getting someone to actually consider the script (something more than a cursory skim by a very junior person). An agent is an indication that at least the writer is considered by someone in the business to have possibilities—even to be a professional.

    I am not saying that it is not possible to get a script considered without an agent—just very, very difficult.

    Conversely, having an agent is no guarantee of success.
     
  8. Jason_Els

    Jason_Els Screenwriter

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    I probably shouldn't be surprised to see others in this forum interested in scriptwriting but I'm glad to see a thread on it.

    I have two script ideas, one is much more developed than the other and I too have begun to hit the screenwriting books. Thank the gods there is software to do this, formatting in Word is a pain in the ass.

    There are a lot of good books on how to develop a script but not so many on how to get it read. They'll tell you how to package yourself, your treatment, your script, and your pitch, but rarely do they give you any ideas on how to get it reead. Universally they declare that it's best you know somebody who knows somebody ala Kevin Bacon. Failing that, I'm not sure there's a better way than getting an agent. I have no idea how to do that either :b.
     
  9. DeathStar1

    DeathStar1 Producer

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    Well, I do know someone at the official website of such franchise, who in turn knows the producer of said show, but I don't know if that would help any [​IMG].
     
  10. Joe Szott

    Joe Szott Screenwriter

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    Neil,

    Lew is correct, there is a protocol to observe here. You need a treatment before you even have a chance, then a script to back it up isn't a bad idea. If you just want to sell the idea to a producer and not be the writer, then a script isn't neccessary. But you HAVE to have a proper treatment written up before you even submit it to a producer.

    Think of a treatment as a resume for a show. Producers wants to hire shows that make them money, but like a job applicant the resume is all you have to get you in the door. A great resume can get you in for an interview, a poor one or one not conforming to the standard protocol will never get even a first read. Treaments typically need some baseline info to be legit: Premise statement, goal, format, tone/style, and budget. All about two pages long, but no longer than two pages (one page double sided.)

    There are books on treatments or people you can hire to help. My wife and I run http://www.onlinefreelanceeditor.com, we (she mostly) edit treaments, proposals, novels, and such all the time. Actually have a pitch we are making right now to producers, might actually make it to a show. Feel free to contact Heather at the website above if you want help writing a quick treatment.

    Best of luck...

    PS - We did get our pitch in the producers lap by a business associate. Just like job hunting, who you know can really help (but it's not everything.)
     
  11. Bill Williams

    Bill Williams Screenwriter

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    One thing to do is check on the series that can accept scripts from outside their established block of writers. Request a copy of the series' submission guidelines and a release form, as you will need that release form to send in with your script.

    I tried my hand at a couple of scripts to Star Trek, one for TNG and one for DS9. At that time, Star Trek was the only show in Hollywood that would accept scripts from complete outsiders. Every other series in production was either "closed" (written in-house only by the series' writing staff) or "open" (accepting scripts from outside the series by established writers who'd worked on other series). Star Trek was in a unique position to receive scripts from complete outsiders, and at one point they'd received on average over 3,000 scripts per year. (IIRC, they may not be, anymore.) With an average production rate of 26 episodes per season, that's less than one percent chance an outsider's script would make it to the production slate, if that much. The fifth season TNG episode "Silicon Avatar" was based on a spec script, for example.

    Once you send your script to that prospective series, send a copy to be registered with the Writers Guild of America. They will send you information back with a registry number of your script for their files.

    I'd written one for TNG similar to "The Hunt for Red October", which they turned down. Eric Stillwell, the production associate at the time in charge of receiving freelance scripts, sent back a form letter to me saying that my TNG script was rejected. Fair enough, back to the drawing board.

    The other one I'd written for DS9 which I sent them in the summer of 1993, and all I had to go on was material in print magazines and a copy of the series' bible (writer's guide). The DS9 episode "Invasive Procedures", about the removal of the Dax symbiont, had a lot of elements that were suspiciously close to what I had written. What made it even more suspicious was that the response letter was written by Paramount's attorney and sent about ten days after the episode had aired on television, along with the end tag "as we have an episode of similar content currently in production". The script was even stamped with "Star Trek: NG" on the front cover, instead of "Star Trek: DS9", which was what the script was for. Two different series altogether, not one.

    Now you'd think that it should have been sent prior to the airing of the episode, meaning that it was still in production. If that were the case, I'd have been fine with it. But it was sent after the episode had aired, and that had me suspicious from the get-go. I contacted my lawyer, and we sat down and compared my script with the aired episode and found a good third of what was shown had been used from my script. We contacted Paramount's lawyers, and they were adamant that my script was inferior to what they had written and produced. At that point I decided to drop the matter, as it would have been too financially costly to pursue. But it gave me an education into the legal system and into the corporate mentality of TV/film production studios.

    I share all this because it's important to have yourself established in the scriptwriting business prior to taking on an established series. Build your writing credentials, and get an agent to represent you in the negotiation process. That spec script won't necessarily guarantee it'll be made into the final episode, but it will at least get your foot in the door so you can pitch other ideas to that particular series.
     
  12. DeathStar1

    DeathStar1 Producer

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    A similair story, although this may seem more like paranoia to some people [​IMG].

    During the final season of Sliders, I was reading an episode description of the final show. I then posted on a message board what I think should happen in the final episode..."Wouldn't it be cool if they went to a world where their adventures where turned into a TV show?"

    About 2 weeks later, the final episode description changeed, and that's exactly what the final episode was about...

    There's a VERY slim chance that some production assistant saw that, pitched the idea, and it won over their other idea. But it always got me wondering..
     

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