- Pick the right genre. Seriously, it seems like at least half the scripts I see are period dramas. Looking back and counting, I realize it’s not even close to half, but stories that take place in the past are difficult to sell, because only a certain type of person is really interested in that story. The chances are low that your reader will be a fan of period dramas, so you could be hurting yourself a whole lot with that.
- Lose the stop signs at the beginning of the script. If the first two pages of your script are less than 50% dialogue, rewrite it. Scene description is much harder to follow, and it’s less interesting to the reader. While stylized silence may be great at the start of a movie, at the start of a screenplay, it’s just annoying.
- Pick a great title. It’s amazing how many titles give you no indication of what the film is about. But when I see a title like, for example, “Lucy Goes Ballistic” or “No One Gets Out of Here Alive,” I’m immediately intrigued. Definitely something to elevate.
- Put the logline on your title page. I actually don’t know if you’re even “allowed” to do this. I know a lot of contests have really strict rules about what goes on the title page. All I know is that when I’m fishing around for scripts to read, when I see one with the logline on the cover, I read the logline, and if it interests me, I pick it up, and if not, I don’t. Logically, the person who reads your script, therefore, is much more likely to already be interested in it when they start.
- The bookends are the most important part. The first 15 pages are the most important of your script. Make sure those are amazing. The last 30 pages are the second most important. Make sure those are amazing, too. That way, even if your second act is a little weaker, you’ll at least be setting a good tone to start, and finishing on a strong note.
I’ve been reading a lot about loglines recently. For those of you not in the biz, this is the one-sentence answer to the question “what is your story about?”
According to Terry Rossio on wordplayer.com, it’s the “strange attractor” – that unique and compelling aspect of your concept that will have the studio executive know immediately what your story is about and immediately makes them want to get it.
Blake Snyder, in Save the Cat! describes it in even better detail. There should be four elements: (1) it is ironic, (2) it offers a compelling mental picture, (3) it has a built-in sense of audience and cost, and (4) it works alongside an original, clear, effective, title.
As an example, from wordplayer.com: “A teenager is mistakenly sent into the past, where he must make sure his mother and father meet and fall in love; he then has to get back to the future.” Alongside the title, “Back to the Future,” we immediately see all four of those elements present.
I’m working on a screenplay right now. It’s a concept that I’d originally conceived as a comic book first, and then a movie, but as John Turman pointed out at AFF this weekend, the best comic book movies are the ones that aren’t based on comic books – Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Matrix – because they don’t have any source material holding them back.
The other factor is that I realized at Comic-Con earlier this summer that, as conceived, this piece is too ambitious for a first-time comic book project – the irony being that this one is ready now, but the other project I have in mind for comic book publication would require about a year’s worth of research before I could start writing it.
So I’m working on my high concept $5 million comic book movie. I won’t share the logline on the Internet, though I will start pitching it to random people on the street, in an attempt to see if I can keep the attention of people who are in a hurry to be somewhere else. Have a good night.