A strategy is a no-brainer when it comes to making screenplay submissions. But surely, it’s all a bit “hit or miss” as standard and it’s impossible to predict how an industry as mad as ours will turn out?!
Nope! Fact is, a screenwriter – new, middling or veteran – CAN come up with a submission strategy that WORKS … Try these 6 steps to strategic submissions:
STEP ONE: Get your portfolio ready. This one’s obvious: make sure you have the best work you can do, signed off and ready.
LESSON # 1: Loads of screenwriters send out work they’re still tinkering with. Have the guts to finish and move on to the next project while you’re waiting the outcomes of your submissions. MORE: How To Maximise Your Portfolio
STEP TWO: Decide on your approach. Perhaps you’re a competition entrant? Or maybe you’re a querier? Or perhaps you want to find filmmakers to collaborate with? Try and streamline what you want, because if you say “everything” you won’t be able to focus. Whatever you decide, you need to have a GOAL for the year. Don’t just say to yourself, “I’ve got a bunch of scripts that I’m going to fire out in random bursts” – yeah sure, you might make some progress, but it’ll be by accident, rather than design.
LESSON # 2: If you have a specific goal, you can take measurable steps towards it, adjusting it where necessary and evaluating your progress. What’s not to like? MORE: 5 Career Strategies For Writers
STEP THREE: Find out when the bad and good times are. Check out the amazing infographic from WritersAndFilmmakers.com at the top of this article, which lists all the best screenplay competitions and initiatives for the year ahead. That’s right – THE YEAR. We can see immediately May is an absolute NIGHTMARE for submissions: this is a real peak time on the competition calendar, so try and ensure you enter good and early. In comparison, August seems pretty quiet, which *might* be good (and can be for contests) … EXCEPT IT ISN’T for queries!. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, writers because August is when a helluva lot of industry pros go on HOLIDAY. Ditto that with December, as I’ve written before in this very column!
LESSON # 3: Always enter competitions and initiatives EARLY and never query or send out scripts when people aren’t in the office, your stuff will simply vanish into a black hole. MORE: Submissions Dos And Don’ts
STEP FOUR: Follow up! You would not believe how many writers forget this step, or if they do it, they follow up TOO FAST. Now, competitions will usually not email every entrant; instead they will post lists on their websites and/or put the names in their newsletters – so make sure you’re signed up for these alerts! Those querying or trying to work with collaborators, take a note of the date of your submission, then flip forward in your diary a six to twelve weeks and make sure you write the words, FOLLOW UP.
LESSON # 4: NEVER follow up before six weeks with an individual or company, plus the BIGGER (read: more established/famous) the individual or company is? The longer you should wait, ie. Guy off Twitter with “filmmaker” in his bio? Wait 6 weeks. Filmmaker on IMDb who’s made a few films? 8 weeks. Filmmaker with lots of credits/awards? 12 weeks. Sames goes for agents. It’s not rocket science! MORE: When to Follow Up On Your Submission
STEP FIVE: Let it Go. These are the facts: a helluva lot of your submissions will go unacknowledged and unanswered. Those scripts and queries you bled sweat over will simply vanish. It’s not right but it will happen. Hassling assistants, filmmakers and competition organisers endlessly or slagging all and sundry off on Facebook and Twitter will not increase your chances in any way … In fact, it will decrease your chances.
LESSON # 5: If you have to chase? You can rest assured your script didn’t set anyone’s interest alight anyway, because if they like it, they will come to YOU. MORE: When is a rejection, a rejection if I don’t hear anything?
STEP SIX: Do it all again. Another no-brainer. You gotta rinse/repeat! You may like planning long term; you may like to do it six weeks blocks … whatever you prefer. Whatever you do, ensure you know the submissions landscape. That’s not to say you can’t be spontaneous and enter great little opportunities that crop up, but be honest with yourself on whether they’re ALL the best use of your time, versus your personalized strategy, towards YOUR specific goal.
LESSON # 6: Sometimes unexpected opportunities are great, but other times they’re simply a distraction and can take you away from a strategy that may prove more fruitful if you Just. Keep. Going. MORE: Feeling like a failure? Then make like Jennifer Lawrence.
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