We filmmakers are some of the most persistent people out there. We hustle hard for projects we’re passionate about and we’ll stop at nothing to see them come to fruition.
Although I feed off of that excitement and tenacity, there are a few basics that every aspiring screenwriter or filmmaker should know if you want to get your project in front of people who you want to produce it.
Don’t: Send your script or pitch deck without prior consent and/or a release form.
For those screenwriters and filmmakers just starting out, it’s crucial to abide by this standard. Making sure you’ve received some type of written consent from the producer or production company AND sending a completed release form if they require one ensures that your script has a chance at actually being read. Otherwise, your email and script will be deleted upon receipt. Or worse, they’ll be wary whenever your name pops up again in their inbox.
What most aspiring filmmakers don’t understand is that if you’re on the receiving end of a script you didn’t ask for or don’t have a release form for (especially when it’s a complete stranger sending it to you) you, as a producer, are now vulnerable to a lawsuit. You may have just sent the next Oscar-worthy screenplay, but not many people would be willing to take the risk of even opening your email.
Do: Pay attention to no solicitations and follow submission guidelines.
Don’t: Write a message to the effect of “I need a producer. Give me money so I can go make my project. ”
I just had an anxiety attack writing that because my inbox gets flooded with emails and DMs just like it. It’s great to be passionate about your project, and we all know trying to find financing can be mystifying, but here’s what’s messed up about messages like that.
There are many different types of producers. In the indie world, I like to use the analogy of being the mom or parent of a project. We see a project from inception until it’s out in the world. That means being a part of a project from the very beginning, and setting it up for success. We like to build the saleable aspects of the project, including the script, packaging, the production team, post, and distribution.
If you come in guns blazing with a full team assembled and major roles already filled, there’s a chance we might pass. You’ve unintentionally (or intentionally) cut us out of a major part of the equation and it’s also taken a lot of the process that brings us joy. Producers genuinely want to help see great projects get made. Don’t think of them just as your personal piggy banks.
Do: Approach a producer or production company at script level, with minimal attachments.
Don’t: Take things personally or stalk someone after they turn down your project.
Filmmaking is an incredibly personal process but please know that more often than not, turning down a script or project is more than likely not about you, but rather the circumstances around it. Maybe the slate is full. Maybe it’s too big of a budget. Maybe there are too many attachments.
If your work is solid but not a good fit, a decent person will tell you why it’s not a good fit. There’s no need to harass someone for notes after you’ve been told no.
Do: Focus on building relationships without expectation.