5 Critical Methods To Market Your Screenplay

Geno ScalaIn the perfect world, a great screenplay would enjoy widespread recognition based solely on its merit. Unfortunately, that simply is not the world in which we live. Hollywood leadership is almost certainly not going to start a bidding war for the rights to your script simply because you know in your heart that it is Oscar-worthy material. A great script is obviously an essential first step, but you will need so much more to achieve massive success.

The Logline

The logline is a thirty word (or shorter!) summary of the story, emphasizing the hook and most important story elements. this includes the protagonist, the antagonist, the conflict, the stakes, the general tone or genre of your work. Well-written loglines are absolutely necessary. An effective logline is able to capture the producer’s attention, leading him to request to read your script. That is the dream of every spec screenwriter.

The Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch can be slightly longer than a logline, so include some additional details. Conceptualize it as how you would describe your script in a way that does it justice, but within the timeframe of an average non-stop elevator ride. That usually means three to five lines offering necessary plot information and perhaps even touching upon potential backstories.


A Pitch-on-Paper (POP) extends the minimization of your story to one page. As such, it should include a significant increase in the amount of detail and nuance you can convey, on top of an illustrative synopsis of the plot. As with both the logline and the elevator pitch, always keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to craft a document that can sufficiently intrigue a producer into reading your script.


A full synopsis usually spans about three pages. A treatment can run as long as ten pages. These both provide ample opportunity to substantially expand upon story details, elaborating on both small and large conflicts, as well as things like character interrelationships or perhaps even sample dialogue. Remember that these forms do include the ending! Do not try to intrigue a producer into reading your script to find out what happens – it will only read as unprofessional and a nuisance.

A Query Letter

When contacting your producer, manager, or agent, use a query letter to entice them into requesting the script. It will include the title, the genre, and a very particular inquiry format that as formulated off the polling results of thousands of film industry professionals regarding what they prefer to see. It will definitely include as many as three strong story “hooks” and your professional biography.

What to Do to Achieve a Winning Writer’s Bio

Image of Writing PenOf the many things that define an excellent query letter, one of the most helpful is often one of the most under-utilized – the “writer’s bio.” A writer’s bio is typically only about two or three lines long and the conclusion of the letter, and it provides you a chance to close on a strong, positive note. Essentially, you get a few short lines to brag about yourself and leave the reader with a final impression of your qualifications.

One of the first things to remember about the writer’s bio is brevity. No reader in the industry will want to read your entire life’s story. The danger is to over-share unnecessary information instead of leveraging the writer’s bio for its actual value, which is as a space to name one or two of your very best accomplishments or qualifications. These bios can even be what actually determines who does and does not end up receiving attention for a script. If all other things are held constant, a query letter with a great writer’s bio is much more likely to get a script read than a letter that lacks one. It can be very positive to learn something impressive about the person submitting the script, so share what your strengths. Good tips for an excellent writer’s bio include doing the following:

  • Touch on (preferably major) contests in which you have placed or won. This is especially true if the script that fared well is the same one your are submitting.
  • If you have already been rather successful writing within your genre, share that. If you are dramatically crossing genres, do not make the mistake of assuming just because you know how to write one style means we need to hear about it now that you are writing in a totally different space.
  • If you have been optioned, check the legality of sharing which screenplay and who optioned it. Refrain from embellishing though because this info is sure to be verified.
  • If professional success is light, then focus on your education.
  • If you lack both professional experience and formal education in writing, then use the writer’s bio as a chance to share why you wrote what you have submitted. For example, maybe you wrote a script about modern warfare because you have a military service background. That is the kind of thing that indicates very directly why your perspective and script are worth considering.

Keep these tips in mind and make sure to take time to craft an honest, positive, and impactful writer’s bio for a much more striking query letter and better success.

Perfect Your Pitch

Geno ScalaAn excellent opportunity arose last year to make a telephonic pitch to a team of producers and go over some potential plans for my work, which had already been gathering awards and clout, in the future. We scheduled a meeting and planned to host it over Skype. However, as the day drew nearer, the other party began a pattern of rescheduling our engagement. Something always seemed to come up, from sick pets to power outages to sudden deaths of relatives.

As the cycle of scheduling and then postponing our meeting continued to churn, I revisited my notes on the art of pitching. At the time, I was not at all nervous. I knew the story front and back – I had written it myself. The call was to span several countries on two different continents, so I would be plugging in from home. However, I still made sure to imbibe plenty of caffeine and dress appropriately for a professional meeting. When the time finally did come, and we all finally connected, I was 100% confident in my ability to put my best foot forward.

Forty minutes later, I was devastated by how wrong I had been.

One of the most difficult gaps for a writer to negotiate is between being passionate about the work and being able to sell it. My enthusiasm for the writing had clouded my mind and created a false sense of security in terms of my ability to actually articulate the critical information that is otherwise not immediately obvious to anyone else. The pitch itself can run as briefly as five minutes, but a lack of clarity regarding exactly what you should (and, more importantly, need) to say can make that time feel like an eternity.

I violated many of my own pitching rules that day. I was so eager to convey my raw conviction behind the quality of the work that, even though I had everything I needed written down and sitting in front of me, I ignored my prepared materials and allowed myself to be swallowed up by ultimately meaningless details. Once that happened and I began to run long, I attempted to compensate by jumping around the content and, before I knew it, I lost track of my messaging and lost my audience’s interest.

The Script Will Not Sell Itself

It can be an enormous challenge for passionate writers to reject the notion that the script will sell itself. That faith in the product is always misguided. You pour yourself so wholly into a project and, against all odds, you are not only pleased with the result, but someone else likes it enough to take a meeting with you. It can be easy to feel like once you have a foot in the door, the hardest part is over. That simply is not true.

Your script may be a lot of wonderful things, but it is not a piece of sales literature. You need to be the salesperson. After all the cancellations for my meeting, my singular focus on delivering the pitch was dulled by weeks of postponing and made worse when the producers devoted 20 minutes (just about four times as long as entire pitch meetings usually run) to personal conversation. In retrospect, the pleasantries were meant to communicate respect for my time after so many rescheduled meetings, but that was also enough for me to, however briefly, take too much of my focus off the bullet points I had in front of me. In those moments, I fell too far into the trap of trying to do the impossible and communicate why I believe in the work we were reviewing. As a result, I deviated much too far away from what mattered – fully communicating, as directly as possible, exactly why they should believe it.

Fortunately, there are some excellent practices you can adopt to prevent that kind of misstep from occurring. The proper mastery of these techniques can transform your ability to pitch your work effectively.

  1. Prepare a very short bio about yourself. It should be long enough to be relevant, but short enough to allow maximum time for talking about your work.
  2. Prepare a bulleted list of topics and key phrases you need to discuss in your pitch, but do not read it verbatim. Think of the list as a map of what things you need to visit in your pitch, not as a script itself.
  3. Begin with the title, logline, genre, and time setting of your work. You should also mention theme.
  4. Describe the main characters, set up the story from Act One, touch upon the “impossible challenge” from the end of Act Two, and share the ending.
  5. At the end, mention the title, genre, and theme once more.
  6. Tell the story with confidence. Your pitch should be to confirm they were right to be interested in your concept.
  7. Concentrate on “trailer” scenes and similar defining moments.
  8. Definitely do not get lost in sharing unnecessary or small details.
  9. Definitely do not mention “dream casting” or make movie comparisons unless asked.
  10. Be positive.

This all demands a significant amount of practice. That can include doing all of the above and pitching to friends, family, and even yourself in the mirror or via webcam. The first step to getting the industry to take you seriously is to take yourself seriously. Make practicing a priority.

How to Know Your Script is Ready to Be Marketed

geno scalaOne of the most rampant misconceptions about screenwriting is the very scale of the process. Of course, talent, creativity, and commitment to the craft are all immensely important components of any successful screenwriter’s career. Being able to craft a phenomenal screenplay will (and should) always be your number one goal. However, it should also only ever be the first goal, of many, if you are serious about seeing your words brought to life on screen.

The fact of the matter is that, whether you like it or not, your writing is only one step in the process of achieving excellence as a screenwriter. What you are able to accomplish after you’re done writing is just as important. “A great story always finds its way to the screen!” is one of the most destructive myths in the writing community. Once you think you have finished your story, the marketing process begins. It’s only at this point that writers even have a shot at realizing their potential.

The Difficult Truth You Need to Know

The moment you complete your final scene and press the “save” button, it is absolutely critical that you immediately re-enter reality. And here, in the real world, you need to understand that everyone only ever gets one chance to make a first impression. That’s all you and your work are going to ever get as well. In my experience, one of the most difficult barriers to entry in screenwriting is that the vast majority of writers ruin their first (and usually only) shot by rushing their work. You simply cannot afford to show anything less than the best possible iteration of your work to the industry movers and shakers.

This leaves painfully little room for self-delusion. You need to be sure you have exhausted every possible resource at your disposal before you even think about shopping your work around. Ask yourself if you have done the following:

  1. Does your personal network sincerely enjoy your work? When you show it to your friends and family, is the feedback as good as it could possibly be? What do these individuals, your cheerleaders (or “CHEERS” for short) have to contribute to improve your work?
  2. Has your work received adequate recommendations and praise from your PEERS? Do the writers you respect and admire have additional input that you can use to make your piece even better?
  3. Did you earn at least one (but preferably more) recommendations from a highly respected script coverage service, script doctor, consultant, or mentor? These ROCKETEERS can be critical in launching you towards success.
  4. Have you entered and won (or at least placed well) in multiple, well-regarded screenwriting contests? Competition can help you better understand where your work stands in comparison to your peers, as well as give your work some real clout and prestige that can make a big difference in the eyes of future decisionmakers.

Writers are, by their very nature, almost always intensely passionate about their work. As a result, it can be hard to objectively understand when it is (or is not) truly finished. When you can satisfactorily answer all these questions with an enthusiastic “YES!”, you will finally know that your work is finally ready to be marketed.