In Hollywood, an unsolicited screenplay by an unknown writer has almost no chance of getting into a producer’s hands, let alone making it to the big screen.
But on the Web, that same script can reach a wider audience than ever before, including some producers, agents and even studio executives.
These sites help screenwriters gain exposure, secure representation and sell their screenplays. Some review scripts and provide coaching, while others offer matchmaking services that line up writers with production companies.
“(The Internet) is opening up new avenues of access, especially for people outside of L.A.,” said Erik Bauer, managing editor of Creative Screenwriting. “Writers are interested in anything to market their own material.”
Internet marketing for screenplays will be among the topics discussed at the 2002 Screenwriting Expo, which will unite thousands of screenwriters with Hollywood’s top writers, faculty and production companies. The expo takes place November 16-17 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Print publications like The Insiders System have provided fee-based screenplay and manuscript analysis for screenwriters for many years. But in the past few years, the Internet has offered similar services to a much wider audience – and with some noteworthy results. Services like Script Pimp, Script Shark and Writers’ Script Network have all secured script sales in the mid six-figure range, Bauer said.
Earlier this year, Tom Firestone and Martin Meunier sold their idea for an animated feature called “Antonius” to Disney after the writers posted it on ScriptShark’s website.
Last year, William Jack Sibley optioned his script for Amor to director-producer Bryan Harston after posting it on Script Pimp.
“They all have decent-sized success stories,” Bauer said of the online script sites. “They are coming of age.”
Many of these sites provide detailed written analysis, known as coverage, of screenplays. If a screenplay is good enough, a script coach will help polish the script and submit it to production companies. The sites charge a coverage fee, usually ranging from $85 to $150 for a screenplay evaluation.
Other sites charge basic listing fees. For example, The Writers Network charges $40 to post a script for six months on its website.
Searchable databases of scripts save time and money for writers, producers and agents. Writers no longer have to pay postage and courier fees to mass-mail scripts to production companies. Agents can quickly find the right production company for their clients’ scripts.
“(Online script services) are good for all ends of the triangle,” Bauer said. “They perform a vetting function for producers.”
“The Internet can be an incredible tool for producers in finding scripts,” agreed Jerrol LeBaron, president of Writers’ Script Network. “Without a doubt, producers are becoming more receptive to finding scripts online.”
In addition to providing contact databases and script development, some sites also host online screenwriting contests.
“Contests are still the most viable channel for new writers to break in,” said Script Pimp’s founder Chadwick Clough.
Since launching Script Pimp’s 2003 writing competition a month ago, 85 companies have used the site to contact winners, Clough said. The site will assist the optioning or sale of all four grand-prize winners’ scripts.
Writers should look for online script sites that list sale successes, and avoid sites that charge finder’s fees, said Le Baron. “Most of (these sites) don’t get consistent results for writers. Anyone can list connections. The real question is are the writers getting exposure, are they getting results?”
The Writers’ Script Network consistently averages three script sales a week, Le Baron said. “We don’t attach ourselves to scripts,” he said. “We aren’t managers. We have no self-vested interest other than getting the writer exposure.”
Actor Kevin Spacey’s TriggerStreet.com launched earlier this week with an online forum for screenwriters to upload their work and have it reviewed by their peers.
But while virtual networking sites can open doors for new writers, the film industry “is still a very, very tough business to get a foothold into,” Bauer said.
These sites promise exposure, but don’t guarantee sales. New writers must foster their own relationships with producers, agents and other contacts, LeBaron agreed. “The Internet is not the only way for a writer to get exposure,” he said. “It’s an additional marketing tool. No writer should rely solely on the Internet.”