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January 19 at 2:04pm

Ten Things To Do Before You Submit A Script

By Ted Hope

There’s a whole lot more than ten things I could say on this subject. And this list is NOT a top ten. But people always wonder why certain scripts get acquired or developed, and others with similar content never touched; I would say the former’s filmmakers do most of the things on this list. You really only get one chance. “Getting feedback” will kill your script for the immediate period — at least with the company you are submitting it too. Spend the time now to get it right and understand why you need to be the one to tell this story at this point in time.

1) Cut at least another 10% of the script. Even when you think you are finished, there’s always another 10% that can come out.
2) Clarify what you feel the themes are and how they evolve during the course of the narrative.
3) Figure out some of the ways that the story can be expanded onto other platforms.
4) Know what the historical precedents are for your story and how you differ from them in how you have chosen to tell it.
5) Review the script from each characters’ point of view and make sure that their dialogue and actions remain emotionally true for each of them in their different situations.
6) Recognize what some of the mysteries contained within both the characters and story are that you are committed to protecting — as not everything should be explained.
7) Understand why you are truly prepared to tell this story at this time – or not.
8) Make the world that the characters inhabit truly authentic; don’t just give them jobs or apartments or hip music to listen to.
9) Make it somehow provocative, intriguing, audacious, or thought provoking — something that will make it stand out.
10) Make sure it is more than just a good story told well. Be truly ambitious. Take us somewhere new, or take us there in a new way.

The key thing with this list or any list is still to put yourself in the shoes of whom you are submitting the project to. Everyone has too much work as it is. Our company is only five people and we get 3000 submissions a year. You do the math (8.2 scripts/day to read, every day = 1.6/d per employee, every day of the year). And no one pays us to read your script. If reading it is a waste of time — because you did not pay us the courtesy of proof reading and writing something really GOOD, then we never want to see something from you ever again.
Most of our submissions come from agents, as we use them as sort of a filter — but to tell you the truth, I have never found something that did not come from a friend, a partner, or directly from a filmmaker that I had already wanted to work with. But please, think of the work load you are asking someone to take on when they read your script; you are just one out of 3000. The scripts pile up. Each one is a minimum two hour commitment and a selection not to spend limited time in a different direction. Please be courteous to whomever you submit your project to — even if it takes them longer than you ever dreamed to read it.

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