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Ask the Screenplay Doctor: Behind a Studio's Closed Doors

Getting your script submitted to a film studio for consideration is both an exciting and nerve-wracking time, as screenwriters anxiously wait for a response. So what’s really going on behind those studio doors? E-mail screenwriter@newenglandfilm.com to have your question answered in an upcoming issue.

By Susan Kouguell

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Getting your script submitted to a film studio for consideration is both an exciting and nerve-wracking time, as screenwriters anxiously wait for a response. So what’s really going on behind those studio doors?

Film studios produce, acquire, and/or distribute films. Distribution is where studios really make their money (think about hearing on the radio, seeing on television and reading in most publications about the weekend box-office results). This is often the top news headline on Mondays. But what do those studio job titles really mean and when a script is submitted for consideration where does it go?

Hello Susan,

I have co-written three feature-length screenplays. We are currently represented and have a major studio reading one of our scripts. How long does this process last? I understand the script gets passed along but what is an average wait time to hear back after submitting your work? Thanks.

Cheers,
Kurt Supancic

Dear Kurt:

It is great news that a studio is reading your script. The person who is representing you and your script, (agent, manager or entertainment attorney) would be the one to follow up with the studio contact after about three to four weeks, which is the average time but certainly each case varies.

You are correct; scripts get passed along to different people, as film executives seek an unbiased view of each project and must be careful to justify their decisions when optioning a script. Each studio has its own process for determining a screenplay’s fate.

Here is just one example:

The First Stop -- Story Analysts.
Also known as readers, story analysis write coverage (also known as story reports). If a story analyst recommends a script, it goes to:

The Second Stop -- Story Editors.
Story editors supervise the story department and their responsibilities include analyzing all scripts submitted, processing scripts, and administration. When a story editor recommends a script it is then passed on to:

The Third Stop -- Creative Executives.
Creative executives’ duties can include reading scripts, writing coverage, seek writing and directing talent, and assisting vice presidents of production and supervising development and production. If the creative executive or executives recommend a script it then goes to:

The Fourth Stop -- Senior Vice President and Vice President of Production.
These executives oversee the development and production of films. Their roles can vary depending on the studio. They report to the head of production and executive vice president(s) of production. If a script gets a strong recommendation it goes to:

The Fifth Stop -- Executive Vice President of Production.
This second in command executive initiates deals and oversees projects. And finally, if the script receives a glowing report it will then go to:

The Final Destination -- Head of Production or President of Production.
This executive has the power to make the final decision to greenlight a film -- this means the film will go into production and your script will now be made into a movie!

If a script makes it all the way to the top in a New York studio, it can be sent over to Los Angeles where the process will repeat, often starting at the beginning with another story analyst.

It's a long process, but in the end some scripts do make it through all of those hurdles -- and then starts the lengthy process of bringing them to screen.

Susan Kouguell, author of The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out! is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker. Susan teaches screenwriting and film at Tufts University, and is chairperson of Su-City Pictures East, LLC, a motion picture consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with over 1,000 writers, filmmakers, and film executives worldwide. ( www.su-city-pictures.com; su-city-pictures.blogspot.com).

Susan Kouguell’s new book SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! A comprehensive guide to crafting winning characters with film analyses and screenwriting exercises is available for $1.00 off by clicking on www.createspace.com/3558862 and using DISCOUNT CODE: G22GAZPD. To read an excerpt from the book, go to: https://www.createspace.com/Preview/1089452.

Related Article: Doctor on Call: An Interview with Screenwriter and Author Susan Kouguell

Thanks!

I appreciate the helpful answer Susan! I'm ordering your book!

Kurt Supancic, Creative Director, Peakview Productions