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Monday, March 22, 2010

10 Things Before Submitting A Screenplay courtesy of Ted Hope

Came across this excellent post by producer Ted Hope. He makes some great points.

1) Cut at least another 10% of the script. Even when you think you are finished, there’s always another 10% that can come out.
VERY True. Brevity is the soul of wit. Can you get your point across clearly and quickly. That's the thing I'm always noticing on my rewrites, any excess word-adge. Any fat that can be trimmed.

2) Clarify what you feel the themes are and how they evolve during the course of the narrative.
Your screenplay is never just about what it's about. Even if you're writing an idiot action thriller you're still working some kind of a theme, even if it's something as simple as "good triumphs over evil in the end." Embrace it. Own it. Use the hell out of it.

3) Figure out some of the ways that the story can be expanded onto other platforms.
Okay I admit I'm not 100% clear on what he means but I'm 90% certain he means think beyond your screenplay and movie. Can you see this thing as a novel (easiest translation) or something else. George Lucas when he filmed the first Star Wars movie, he wasn't sure the movie would be a hit but he was positive they could make budget back on the toy tie ins. Obviously you can't think that way for ALL projects at least not beyond the novel presentation but if your genre and subject matter trends into those areas (sci-fi, fantasy, action) then once again embrace, own, use.

4) Know what the historical precedents are for your story and how you differ from them in how you have chosen to tell it.
Which is a fancy way of saying "This is X meets Y" Hard truth, operating completely outside all known film history is probably going to get you a bunch of blank stares. The execs speak one language, recent hit movies. It's like Esperanto for producers.

5) Review the script from each characters’ point of view and make sure that their dialogue and actions remain emotionally true for each of them in their different situations.
You should have done this BEFORE writing really. This should have been part of your outlining/planning stage. This is the only way you can be certain that your characters really come across as unique and don't all sound alike. Also make sure that they're just doing things for convenience sake (DR EVIL: No, I'm just going to leave the room and assume they're dead.)

6) Recognize what some of the mysteries contained within both the characters and story are that you are committed to protecting — as not everything should be explained.
Maybe not, but you'd better HAVE an explanation in your bag of tricks in case someone important asks or, if upon further review, it turns out you DO need to answer that particular mystery. Anyway how are you going to maintain the emotional integrity of the scene if you don't know, deep down what that emotion is or should be.

7) Understand why you are truly prepared to tell this story at this time – or not.
Again this is more something you should ask before you start writing not before you're ready to pitch, but better late than never. You have to feel it. It has to be alive inside of you. If it's not alive and kicking it's going to die on the page and die in the pitch.

8) Make the world that the characters inhabit truly authentic; don’t just give them jobs or apartments or hip music to listen to.
Research, research, research. Don't be making stuff up all the time. Know it. Even if its the daily routine of a bike messenger. Authenticity sells. Authority sells. 90% of first novels are "insiders view into FILL IN BLANK"

9) Make it somehow provocative, intriguing, audacious, or thought provoking — something that will make it stand out.
Like I've always said, you have to make sure it stands out in a pile of 20 to 100. And it has to stand out in all forms, as a logline, as a 1 page synopsis, as a pitch, as a quick 10 10 10 read, and as a full read.

10) Make sure it is more than just a good story told well. Be truly ambitious. Take us somewhere new, or take us there in a new way.
This is what separates the A's from the A+'s. This is what separates the contest winners from the finalists and semi finalists. This is what separates the "I'll stick my neck out and recommend your script to my boss," from "Great but not really for us, try us with something else."


  1. good stuff man, very good stuff for newbie folk to take a gander at.

  2. Great tips Mike. Always handy to know what producers and readers are looking for. Cheers! - Karen

  3. I think number 4 is especially good advice:

    4) Know what the historical precedents are for your story and how you differ from them in how you have chosen to tell it.

    A lot of people work from a formalist/structuralist method and their criteria for what supposedly makes a story good is how well it conforms to their prescribed theory. Comparing your screenplay to other real screenplays (or movies, novels, etc.) and deciding why you have chosen to do specific things similarly and specific things differently in your own is something I also recommend.

  4. Thank you for your educational hints at screenplay writing and more. As an Educator/Writer/Actor, I'm at the crossroads of my life becuase I've almost completed a screenplay for my movie and I can't seem to find someone who's honest enough to share information with me.
    I also do a lot of charitable work and while I'm not soliciting anything, I would appreciate reliable contact info. of anyone with whom I could discuss my screenplay and prospective movie. As an alternative to not getting any advice, I've also decided to do the movie on my own. I'm NOT wealthy,just very ambitious. My motto: "Where there is a will, there is a way." Thank you for your time.
    Yours respectfully,
    John J. Singh.
    Email contact: Telephone contact: 347-515-9876.


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