Getting rejected can be hard. Sometimes it’s obvious what we’ve done wrong, but more often it can seem completely random. After all, if your screenplay has placed in various schemes or competitions, then why the hell won’t an actual producer touch it with a ten foot barge pole??
If this sounds like you and your work then, check out these 5 steps in ensuring you DON’T get rejected next time … Enjoy!
1) Go back to your foundation. In other words, go back to your CONCEPT (aka premise, aka ‘seed of the story’). If you can’t pinpoint what your concept is exactly, then there’s a very good chance this is the problem. Producers and agents like to know WHAT storylines *are* at foundation level, especially in deciding whether they are marketable or not. You can find this out yourself by ‘road testing’ your concept, HERE.
2) Re-consider your market. If it’s a genre piece of yours that keeps getting rejected, consider: who is your audience? What produced content is *yours* like? Are you sending this script to the RIGHT people? Have you done your research properly? Can you re-align your story so it’s ‘more’ marketable? Or is there a way of bringing something NEW to the telling of yours?
In the cases of dramas, maybe you’re getting rejected all the time because some projects are passion projects. In other words, they have little commercial viability, but nevertheless the world doesn’t know it wants them yet. Behind many award-winning projects are producers and filmmakers who refused to take NO for an answer. So, instead of getting others to BUY their work, they did it themselves. So perhaps you should FORGET about getting rejected and JUST GET ON WITH IT!
3) Go back to your outline/plan. This is frequently where many writers come unstuck. They may come to me and complain they’re only getting radio silence about their screenplays, or that they’re getting read requests on their screenplays past the first ten pages, but little more.
So I’ll then ask to see their outlines so I can work out WHERE in the plot readers, producers and agents may be disconnecting. ‘Oh I didn’t write an outline,’ they’ll say. UH OH!
So how is someone like a script editor going to help?? Read the script they’ll entreat, but an OVERVIEW of some kind is needed. Otherwise all that happens is the writer and script editor ends up going over individual scenes and elements, rather than the WHOLE.
So, whilst it doesn’t matter HOW you outline, it’s always a good idea to have some kind of road map – think of it as a narrative Sat Nav, if you like. And yes, being tightly structured DOES mean less chance of your screenplay getting rejected! MORE: On Writing: Why Planning Beats Seat-Of-Your-Pants Every Time
4) Review your script’s structure. William Goldman said, ‘Screenplays ARE structure‘ and whilst he also said ‘Nobody knows anything’, I reckon he knows his stuff on this one. Your script needs to be tight and lean, giving a sense of ESCALATION to the story which in turn makes it feel dramatically satisfying.
Plot construction in screenwriting is particularly difficult. Whilst a novelist *can* get away with plotting unconsciously, a screenwriter does not usually have the same privilege. Not only does EVERY SCENE need to contribute INDIVIDUALLY to the narrative, it has to work as a WHOLE, too … Without breaking down into a ‘Bunch of Stuff Happening’.
But guess what! Hardly any specs screenplays really nail structure, so if you can, you’ll be STREETS AHEAD. BTW – no one cares how you do structure. Whatever works for you. But if you’re struggling on where to start with this, CHECK THIS OUT.
5) Double-Triple-Quadruple check the first 10% of your script. That’s right, not the first ten pages, the first TEN PER CENT. It’s a sad fact that more and more submissions in the pile means more and more are actually falling on the FIRST PAGE. So you simply MUST ensure you start as you mean to go on!!
Check your draft for basic errors. Okay, this might be obvious stuff to most of you, but are you committing BASIC ERRORS in terms of screenplay format? Remember, work experience kids are reading our work out there and screenplay format can be something they latch onto like Alabama ticks!
Good luck with your submissions!
- More articles by Lucy V. Hay
- Breaking & Entering: Dealing with Rejection
- Why Film Executives are Rejecting Your Screenplay