By, Jacob Krueger
What’s The Number One Reason A Screenplay Gets Rejected?
Imagine you’re about to interview for the job of a lifetime. If you get the job, you’ll potentially make hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, doing what you most love in the world.
How would you dress for that interview?
Would you roll out of bed, show up half an hour late, and trust that your integrity and talent will win them over, despite your bad breath, half-prepared presentation, and that unfortunate hole in your pajamas?
More likely, you’d wake up early, change your clothes ten times searching for the perfect balance of business and personality, put that final touch on your powerpoint, and show up ready to knock their socks off from the moment you stepped through the door.
You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A First Impression, And Neither Does Your Script.
As anyone who has ever tried to get an agent or producer to pay attention to their script can tell you, getting through the door is the hardest part of any screenwriter’s career. It’s going to take everything you’ve got to pry that door open. So when it finally happens, you want to make sure both you and your script are ready to make a grand entrance.
Because if you don’t, it may be years before you get a second chance.
Don’t Rush Through The Door Before You Put On Your Pants
As impressive as your pitch or your concept might be, unless your screenplay delivers what you promise, you’re going to end up with a lot of doors slammed in your face.
It won’t always be this way. There will be a time, after you’ve made somebody a lot of money with your writing, when you can sell out like the other Hollywood writers do, sell scripts off half-baked ideas, and get paid for it.
But as a young writer, unless your best friend is Brad Pitt, that’s probably not going to happen for you. Producers hear 100 great ideas a day, from writers with much more extensive track records than you have.
What they very rarely get to see is a truly great script. And if you have that, you have the one thing that actors, writers, producers, agents, screenwriting contests and even coverage readers all want.
A truly great script is like finding a hidden spring in the middle of a vast desert. But industry executives are so used to seeing mirages, that unless you show them in the right way, they may not even recognize real water when they see it.
What Kind of Clothes Is Your Screenplay Wearing?
Just like a potential employer starts judging you the moment you walk into the room, producers, agents, development executives and coverage readers start judging a script before they even read the first page.
If your script is dressed in the wrong clothes: too long, improperly formatted, or even just too dense to read quickly, the chances are a producer is never going to look at it. And even a coverage reader, who doesn’t have a choice, is going to start skimming before they’ve finished the first page.
This is not because they’re bad people. It’s because they have to read hundreds of scripts, and most of them are terrible. Which means they have to spend their time on the ones that seem to show the most potential, and skim through the ones that don’t.
That’s bad news for a lot of writers. But it’s good news for you. Because if you learn the things that turn readers on, and the things that turn them off from the very first page, it means you can turn them to your advantage, and make it more likely that your script is one that captures their attention.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series, in which I’ll be discussing how can turn your script into producer candy, before a single word is ever read.
In the meantime, check out our upcoming all-day Formatting Boot Camp, and learn how mastering the concepts of screenplay format can not only help you dress your script to impress, but also revolutionize the way you think about your storytelling.