Script Commissioning report

Within the media industry film makers need scripts and any body could potentially write a script. However while anyone can write a script they need to know how to get their work noticed, here is a few tips on how to go about getting your scripts solicited/commissioned.

You need to make friends with the following people (not literally):

  • Agent: It is the job of the Agent is to ‘sell’ both the script and script writer to an interested party, they don’t eat if your script and talents are not sold because they take a percentage of the money that you make from your script work.
  • Script Reader: This person’s job is quite self-explanatory, it is also a script readers job to analyses the strengths and weaknesses then provide a detailed report to the development executive. Their opinion is highly valued by the development executive.
  • Script Editor: It is the job of the editor to provide a critical perspective on a script as it is written and re-written. The editor will analyze the script and provide feedback to writer on what works, doesn’t work, and could be altered or change.
  • Development Executive: This person’s job is to work with researchers to figure what is popular with the audiences and give ideas for programing to take advantage of the changing formats and trends. The executives will analyse scripts and determine whether the script writer (that means YOU) is worth hiring or not.
Many screenwriters begin by creating their own scripts ‘on spec’ (Freelance) and sending them out to agents and producers which may purchase them for a set payment and offer employment for the duration of the project. More experienced scriptwriters can merely pitch to an executive producer through their agent and they will decide whether or not to buy the rights to the idea, sometimes they will even hire the screenwriter to finish the script. Screen writing has a very variable rate of pay especially if they are producing ‘on spec’ scripts which can be hotly contested for and sell for insane amounts of money. Recently the film Safe House caused a bidding frenzy in Hollywood. The script was won by Universal Pictures producer Scott Stuber with a mid-six-figure offer. Here is a link to the article:

There are 2 ways for your script to get picked up by an interested party and potentially turned into a film, they are:

  1. Write an unsolicited script (ie/ no-one asked you to write and no-ones paying to write it.)
  2. Get commissioned by a producer/production company to write the script.

The unsolicited script is a completed final draft of a script that you get someone who works in literacy/ a script agency to read. You need to be approached by an agent who will offer to represent your script, the agent will then sell your script to potential buyers. The problems you may encounter include the fact that you are responsible for all your finances and you are not going to get paid until a script is sold, assuming one ever gets past the script reader. You need to have some financial preparations like a job you can work while trying to get your script solicited. Another way to get noticed is to enter various competitions that are available at film festivals and websites such as the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/send-a-script/) however you must be on guard because you will have to pay to have your films submitted and you could potentially get scammed out of your hard work. An example of a very well known commissioning body is the Nicholl fellowships which was set up by the Academy of motion picture arts and sciences (those guys who run the Oscars) who hold competitions to aid young screenwriters break into the film business.

The other route you could take is to get your script commissioned by getting hired by a producer but you need have been ‘discovered’. In order to get noticed you need to engage in the practice of networking which is getting to know the right peoples in the right circles, this is made easier by todays social technology like Facebook. However you would face the same problems that unsolicited script writers would in regards to your personal finances at least until you are discovered. When you are discovered and you begin to get commissioned for scripts you will receive an advance payment with the rest being paid when the first day of the film production using your script begins. Another negative with commissioning is that you are told what the story is going to be about by your producer and your task is to work around their premise and you have less creative freedom.

When you have a script that has found its way into the hands of a potential buyer the first challenge comes to light and that is getting past the reading of the first 10-pages. Before a script reaches its final destination it must first get past a script reader who will decide whether the script is worth looking at by reading the first 10-pages. If your work succeeds in impressing the reader it will move to the next stage, if not it’s game over for that script. You will need to establish a lot of things in your script within the first ten pages such as characters, settings and themes. The script will need to be proof read before submission to check for grammar and spelling errors otherwise the reader will not bother with your script if it is full of spelling errors and poor grammar. You would to establish a hook to pull the potential reader in like a plot twist or some backstory of characters, their motivations, their actions and/or settings.

If the script is successfully submitted a new set of hurdles in the form of a script reader who will read the entire script and they will write a detailed report of your scripts strengths and weaknesses. After this is completed it is sent to the boss man/woman, the Development Executive (Producer). The Development Executive is tasked with knowing the audience and what they want whether its mainstream blockbusters or indie hits. If your script meets the approval of the Development Executive he/she will want to get in contact with you or your agent in order to meet you and discuss your ideas and how they could make them work in TV/film and how money you’d like for your work. Afterwards the script is sent to a team of writers and editors who will re-write your script for the Producers and potential Director. Afterwards when the first day of filming begins (assuming your script was commissioned) you receive a paycheck.

Some producers work independently and actively seek out scripts and pitch them to interested studios who are willing to fund the project. An example of this would be Matthew Vaughn who is a director and producer famous for such films as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Snatch”, “Kick Ass” and “Stardust”. After being rejected by every studio they approached, Matthew Vaughn raised the budget at a dinner party and made the movie independently. Vaughn ultimately sold the movie to Universal for more than he had originally asked them for (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1250777/trivia). 

Sometimes during filming the producer will call upon the aid or additional screen writers to re-write any scenes that they are unsatisfied with. case and point “World war Z” producers have hired “Prometheus” screenwriter Damon Lindelof to re-write sections of the upcoming zombie epic which has now been delayed until June 2013 (http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/movies/news/a386273/world-war-z-reshoots-ordered-damon-lindelof-hired-for-rewrites.html). However during the filming process the script (or at least parts of it) can become subject to what is called page lock-down this mans that they cannot be re-shot or re-written (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_a_page_lock_down_for_script_writers).

When scripts are submitted either as unsolicited or as commissioned you must be prepared to have your ideas changed by the producer and editors. Did you you know that Robert Towne who is a famous script writer became so frustrated with the production “Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes” that he had his dog’s name credited as the script writer (ironically the Dog was nominated for an Oscar). This is a taste of the frustration a screenwriter can look forward to when their work is warped beyond recognition into something completely different. You must be prepared to accept changes to your script otherwise you could risk never working in the industry again.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s