This list was compiled by a screenwriter who actually sold a script online, so it’s not the usual yada yada.
By Margaret Ann Stewart
It seems an easy enough formula for a screenwriter to follow, but once the script is done, where do you actually turn to find someone to produce it, or someone that will even read it for that matter? While the Internet is the logical choice for most screenwriters, it is also full of scams and people, or companies that will make big promises and deliver nothing but heartache and frustration to you. Many of them will even charge you reading fees, or submission fees without any sort of benefit to you. Nevertheless, there are legitimate Internet sites that do offer an opportunity for screenwriters to have their work read, as well as to contact producers that may be interested in purchasing your work. With that in mind, here are some suggestions to aid the screenwriter in connecting with people that may make a huge difference in a screenwriting career – especially if you are just starting out.
The Zoetrope Virtual Studio, online at: http://www.zoetrope.com, is a virtual film studio that is part of American Zoetrope, the production company owned by Francis Ford Coppola. Anyone with an e-mail address can join Coppola’s site for free. The Zoetrope Virtual Studio has numerous offices, such as directing, acting, short stories and screenwriting. There are also private offices that are run by members and that you can join by request or invitation. The private offices can focus on any topic and the host determines the discussion in them. However, in the main screenwriting office members have the opportunity to not only post their work for review, but review the screenplays of other members as well. This is a valuable asset to screenwriters because through communication with others you have the ability to learn about formatting, get thoughts on your storyline or characters and be part of a community in which everyone is focused on mutual success. In addition, many of the members on Zoetrope not only write for film, but they work as independent producers to create their own films. Consequently, members often collaborate on film ideas, and in some cases, independent producers will contact writers directly if they read a story that they would like to produce.
Mandy.com at http://www.mandy.com/ is a film and television production directory. Moreover, it is also a site that provides postings for screenwriting and other film related jobs, as well as for script requests. It is a free site that allows you to register and respond to ads with your resume and a cover letter, as needed. A word of warning, however. You must read the listings carefully on the site because you want to know who may be requesting your work and you need to know whether the screenwriting gigs pay or not. Many of the independent producers today want scripts that they pay nothing for, or they may tell you that they will pay you on the “back end”, which means after the movie is made and in theatres – and if the movie turns a profit. Additionally, film students with no budgets and no ability to pay writers post some of the ads, but they may offer you credit for the writing, though not always. Furthermore, some of the producers looking for writers are not looking for scripts at all, but for qualified writers to write a new script, or tweak an old one. Again, be sure that you read the ads completely and that you understand what the producer is looking for. If you do not understand the ad, then send the individual a note and ask whatever questions you may have. If the person does not respond to you then it is probably not someone you want to deal with anyway.
For more ads check out the International Screenwriter’s Association at http://www.networkisa.org/. The ads on the site are dated, but they are also international, so be sure you know where the ad is from, as well as who is posting it before you send any material to them.
IMDB is the Internet Movie Database at http://www.imdb.com/. The database offers users information on movies, actors, producers, directors, writers and crew for free. However, that information is limited if you use the service for free. In other words, you can gather names, but not contact information. Contact information is significant because, in many cases, you cannot locate producers online by just searching for their names. Usually what you will end up with is a fan address, but not a real producer that may consider your work. Nevertheless, if you become a member of IMDP Pro, ($15.95 per month, or $124.95 per year) you can look up producers, actors, writers, directors, etc., by name and their contact information. You can also find out what type of movies they have done, what movies they have in production now and determine if your script would be something they would potentially be interested in. Knowing what producers like in the way of film saves you, the screenwriter, valuable time, as well as cuts down on the number of submission received by producers. Many screenwriters use IMDP Pro because it provides them with instant information that they might otherwise search for over the course of months and possibly never find.
An additional note about IMDB: Because the Internet if full of scam artists you should be aware that they also exist in relation to film – especially in relation to producers looking for scripts. Many scam artists will tell you in an ad or through some form of communication with you that they have IMDB credits, which means that they have legitimately participated in some way in the film industry. Whether you register for IMDB Pro or use the free service, you should always check a producer’s listing on IMDB to make sure that he or she is legitimate if that individual tells you that they have IMDB credits. If they tell you they do and they are not listed, run, quickly and as far away from them as possible. Keep in mind at the same time that a college student producing his first film, or an independent just getting started will not normally be listed on IMDB, so you will want to simply do an Internet search for their name, or the company they are connected to to make sure that they are legitimate before you send off any of your material. Doing an Internet search will also let you see if there are any complaints from others about a particular producer, which should cause you to be very cautious about sending off your material.
Movie Bytes at http://www.moviebytes.com/WritersWanted.cfm?&browsercheck=complete provides ads directed at screenwriters and related to producers looking for writers, producers looking for scripts, or agencies seeking screenwriting clients. Like any other site that provides ads for screenwriters, be sure that you read the listing thoroughly and run an Internet search on the producer or company placing the ad before you send out your material.
Movie Bytes also provides screenwriters the opportunity to post a logline, (a one sentence pitch) about your screenplay and keep track of the people that you contact through the site. Movie Bytes is similar to Hollywood Lit Sales at http://www.hollywoodlitsales.com/guestbooks/2/board2.shtml. Hollywood Lit Sales allows producers to post want ads on the site, but warns writers that not all of the listings may be legitimate – again do your research. And like Movie Bytes, you can post a logline on the site. Before your logline is posted on the site, however, it will be reviewed by Escape Artists Films, a Sony company, to see if the organization has any interest in your pitch. This review may take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on how many loglines are submitted. Nevertheless, Hollywood Lit Sales will contact you via e-mail to let you know if Escape Artists has any interest in your work, or whether the logline will simply be posted on the site. Once it is posted, however, it cannot be removed, so be sure that you have a good logline. If a producer has any interest in your work then he or she will contact you through the site, which happens quite a bit for some screenwriters.
A Word of Caution
Before you send out any material to a producer be sure that you register it with the U.S. Copyright Office, (the online fee is $30), or with either Writers Guild of America West, or Writers Guild of America East. If you are not a member of Writers Guild you can still register your work for $20 and have a record that you are the original author of the work. Despite all of the precautions you may take and all of the research that you may conduct, you still may manage to send your screenplay to someone who has no intention of purchasing your work, but plans to instead to steal it. While all work is copyrighted from the moment you press the computer keys, registering it means that there is an official record of the copyright that can be traced if need be.
Getting a film made takes a team of collaborators and getting into the film business means that you have to network so that people in the industry know who you are and, subsequently, know your work. While Internet sites can assist you in getting your work out there, the most effective method of contacting producers is through the networks that you establish in your communications with others in the film industry. This can be difficult because for every person that tells you that you have talent and that you can make it, there are twenty others that will do nothing but tell you that your dreams are a lost cause. So you must pick the people in your network carefully and communicate only with those that you feel have your best interests at heart. Screenwriters naturally suffer multitudes of rejection, but your core network should provide you with the learning opportunities and support that will keep you persevering through it all. And as your network grows, so will the contacts that you will make, including the producers that actually have a budget and that want to share some of it with you in exchange for your fabulous script.