Sketch of International Actor ‘Irrfan Khan’ by Glanson Dsouza
Let’s cut to the chase. As long as movies are made, producers will NEED fresh, original stories. You’ve got an idea for a movie… In this article, I’m going to explain exactly what you need to do to sell it.
Since we rarely ever see the screenwriter or read the scripts of the movies we watch, there tends to be this unnecessary mystery surrounding that aspect of the film industry — where movie ideas come from, or how screenplays are chosen, or how to get your idea through the door. And it’s led to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about what producers actually need, and why.
Amateurs and dreamers tend to think of it’s little bit like a lottery — “If I could just get my idea into a famous actors hands, he’d love me, and shower me with instant fame and fortune.” But long-term struggling writers tend to think of it in much the same way — “If I could only master the story formula… or find that tip, or secret trick… that’ll swing the doors open, and land me an agent, and ignite my magical screenwriting career.”
Well, to turn that dream into a reality, let’s pull back the curtain and see how this really works. Selling your movie idea ultimately involves two basic steps:
#1: Turn your idea into a production-ready screenplay, and #2: Get that screenplay into the hands of its ideal producer.
Now that may sound terribly obvious, but in truth… it’s really not: Look closely at those words. See, our goal, ultimately, is to make a movie, and movie’s aren’t just “an idea”. They’re a carefully crafted story — rich and complex and compelling enough to engage an audience’s imagination for about 2 hours.
Since we can’t shoot an idea, someone has to turn that idea into a screenplay… and that costs time and money. But remember: The screenplay is not our ultimate goal. Screenplays only exist to be turned into films. So it’s not just a story… It’s also the blueprint for the production process —a very pragmatic working document that will guide and be used by a whole bunch of creative people, the actors, and the director, and the crew.
Unfortunately, most people who teach screenwriting are only teaching from the writer’s perspective. They invent formulas and theories and techniques by deconstructing existing movies. They literally take a film, pull it apart to see the mechanics of how it worked and then tell you to replicate those mechanics. But there’s something everyone seems to be overlooking: Steps 1 and 2 are intertwined.
Screenplays will only sell if you connect them with the people who want to make the movie. If you write a flawless, formulaic Hollywood epic, it’s unusable by an independent producer in Sydney or Paris or Louisiana… or a thousand other places where movies are now made. By the same token, if you write a bold, experimental, risky non-traditional story, no matter how brilliant it is, a producer in Hollywood who makes $100million “event” films can not use it.
And for ANY producer of any kind of film, if your spec script is not “production-ready” it’s almost impossible to sell, because it comes with a huge script development cost. So it’s not enough to just slap together a screenplay. It’s not even enough to write a “production-ready” screenplay. The key to the deal is to marry both steps.
So if you’re serious about SELLING your movie idea — seeing it made into a film (not just writing it and letting it rot on the bookshelf) — it’s essential to understand what you’re trying to connect with. And that person is the producer. The producer is basically the overseer of a film project like the project manager, at the highest level and they’re ultimately responsible for everything.
The producer’s job is to find or develop the story… Assemble the team and the resources to make the film… Gather the budget, by getting investors… Oversee the production, to make sure we don’t run out of money halfway through… Make sales and distribution deals, to get the investors their money back… And see it all the way through,until the money comes in.
We’re talking about hundreds of moving parts for every project. And because movies are such a big job that often take years to complete — sometimes with no guarantee of sales at all — most producers will have multiple projects in various stages of this process at any given time. Which means one simple thing I hope you’ll always remember: Producers are always juggling. And that’s good news for you.
Producers are always on the lookout for new material because they’re always meeting new actors, or directors, or investors, or sales and distribution people, and trying to figure out which peoplefit with which projects. If they know a director and a name actor have always wanted to work together, they’ll try to find a project that suits their creative sensibilities.
If they meet an investor who wants to make a quick buck, or win an award, or shoot in a specific state or country, they’ll try to develop a project to satisfy those business ambitions. Or it can happen the other way around. Maybe they’ll find a project and love it,and get passionate about it — maybe a project like yours — they’ll “option” it, so they can exclusively go out and try to assemble all those elements and resources, to make it happen. But here’s the problem.
To juggle effectively, they have to be very protective of their time. Since 99% of all projects will always be unusable to them, what tends to happen, even though they’re always on the lookout for material, is they tend to put up a little bit of a wall around themselves — particularly with writers. So how do you break through that wall? How do you connect with your project’s ideal producer? The real answer, even though you’re not going to want to hear it, is that you should immediately distrust anyone who claims to have the answer.
Because the truth is, it depends entirely on you, your project, and the producer you’re trying to connect with. There is no one, single answer. There CAN’T be, and here’s why: Just as every writer in the world is unique, every producer is unique, too. We come in all shapes, sizes, ages,genders and personalities. We have different creative sensibilities and different business ambitions, and different preferences in how we like to connect with people. And we also have different resources available to us at any given time.
About the only thing we all have in common is that we’re all constantly juggling. So the bottom line is this: To really sell your movie idea,you can’t treat it like a lottery. You don’t just want a producer, orsome famous producer that’s inaccessible to you. You want the producer that’s perfect for THIS project. So while every situation is intrinsically unique, There are two steps that are required in EVERY situation.
#1: Turn your idea into a production-ready screenplay, and #2: Get it into the hands of its ideal producer. Now, if this all seems a little bit impossible, or”Yeah, easier said than done”, stick with me throughout this series. I’ve reverse-engineered the entire process,and we’re going to start at the end and work our way back to the beginning,so you can see exactly how to achieve these two steps. In this next video, I’ll show you how to grab your ideal producer’s attention in just 15 seconds, plus, I’ll introduce a breakthrough strategy that leads directly to the deal.
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