How To's | Screenplay Doctor | Screenwriting

Ask the Screenplay Doctor: Why Hollywood Isn’t Calling

31 Aug , 2011  

Written by Susan Kouguell | Posted by:

There's so much more to successful screenwriting than writing a screenplay, and this month screenplay expert Susan Kouguell discusses what else screenwriters need to do to get from page to screen. E-mail screenwriter@newenglandfilm.com to have your question answered in an upcoming issue. Interested in being successful in the industry? Start by practicing your good first impressions -- and proofread the e-mails you send us!

If you don’t have an agent, manager, or entertainment attorney who knows the ins and outs of the film industry and can get your screenplay into the right hands, writing a fabulous screenplay is just half the proverbial uphill battle. Unless incredible luck intervenes and an aspiring screenwriter happens to meet the right connection who can actually turn that script into a movie, the aspiring screenwriters out in the world must — in addition to mastering the screenwriting craft — put on a producer’s cap and gain an understanding of the film industry by reading books and articles on the topic, learn how to write great query letters and synopses, and know how to pitch his or her screenplay.

For those interested in the chapter I wrote that is referred to in the following reader’s question, the publication is NOW WRITE! Screenwriting: Exercises by Today’s Best Screenwriters, Teachers and Consultants (2011, Tarcher/Penguin).

Hi Susan,

I just wanted to know how I can break into Hollywood Screenwriting living here in New England. I’ve written two scripts that take place here, the second one really takes place more in England and the British Isles. I know they are good stories that should really reach people. I just don’t know who to send them to get read. I’m an out of work SPED teacher with a Master’s in Counseling. I also taught regular ed children. I wrote a children’s book that didn’t get out there to help children of alcoholics feel okay about their parents. It’s positive and uplifting. My two screenplays are dramas with a lot of humor in them. They do cover today’s real issues of concern. I’m working on a third one and keep getting stalled because my mind’s on whether or not the other two are okay. I re-wrote them both about 20 times before I sent them to LA. I haven’t heard back and was told they were being read. I really wanted someone on this coast because this is where they take place for the most part. A woman at the MA Film Office told me they can make anyplace look like the place you want — like my castle in Scotland. She said it can be filmed around here and the right setting can be found. Please help me out. I read an article by you in the screenplay book called Now Write! I’d like to get help here and don’t know where to begin. PLEASE HELP ME OUT. Thank you sooooo much!!!!

Maureen

Dear Maureen,

Breaking into Hollywood is indeed very challenging and the person with whom you spoke at the MA (Massachusetts) Film Office was correct by informing you that the setting of your script does not necessarily require it to be filmed in New England.

You write that you would like someone on this coast (I’m assuming you mean an agent) to represent you but frankly, as long as the agent is signatory to the Writers Guild of America ( www.wga.org), is reputable, has legitimate industry connections and has a successful track record, it doesn’t matter which coast the agent is located.

You also write that you are “getting stalled” because you are wondering if your first two scripts are okay. It’s important to get feedback on your screenplays before submitting them for consideration by film executives, agents, and so on. (Keep in mind that you should absolutely not submit your scripts unless they have been requested.) Get feedback from those you trust, and who will tell you the truth about your work.

Here are some of the most common reasons why you might not have received a response about your scripts:

  1. Perhaps you have not written an attention-grabbing query letter. To help guide you through the script submission process, how to find an agent, how to write a successful query letter, and more, read my previous Ask the Screenplay columns, which address these topics. My book, The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out! — also covers these topics in more detail.
  2. Your project must be the right fit for the agent, production company, and so on, that you are querying. My July column gives tips on where to find agent and company listings.
  3. Your query, synopsis, and/or script must follow the industry-standard formatting rules. Typos and grammar mistakes will be viewed as amateurish; and will greatly increase the chances of your work getting rejected.

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)

You can follow my Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell Twitter page to receive more Savvy Tips about how to write, structure, and sell your screenplay.


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) You can follow my Su-City Pictures, LLC Facebook fan page and SKouguell Twitter page to receive more Savvy Tips about how to write, structure, and sell your screenplay.