How I Sold the First Feature Screenplay I Ever Wrote
In short, my script was discovered by an up-and-coming Director of Photography who was looking to make a name for himself by directing a low-budget feature film. My film was a one room thriller with a catchy hook, so they were highly intrigued...and they weren’t the only ones.
The script received buzz on the platforms I’ll mention toward the end of this article.
I signed a little contract optioning the film for free, and I allowed him to build a team for the film and find funding. I expected it to go nowhere and I didn't care at the time because I'd written other scripts that became my new groove.
Many years later (after I basically forgot about my first script), the DP who optioned it, went on to work on big budget films, earning a reputation as a quality DP. Thus, he made connections with film financing companies.
He found financing for our movie, so I signed another contract, selling the film outright to him to make, for a 3 figure sum and a large percentage return of the film’s profits. I was told never to do this, and I knew not to -- but I decided to take on a producer role as well which could ensure more control of the film and learn from the process.
So I signed a couple more contracts, then found myself signing and creating a whole bunch of other legal documents as a producer. But quickly the financiers started requested script changes, like a totally new story lines and unnecessary nudity scenes, then budget changes. When it got to be too much and we said "No" to their changes, they dropped their funding. So we were back to zero.
Many years later, after finalizing a budget, finding new investors, scheduling a star, locations, crew, everything, and being delayed due to floods and COVID, the film was eventually scrapped and dropped for being too similar to another film that released 6 years AFTER I wrote the original script.
But here’s what websites I used to get noticed…
This is the best site if you’re a screenwriter looking to pitch indie film producers. This site allows you to post your scripts to be found and for producers to post what they’re looking for, and for screenwriters to pitch them when objectives are aligned.
I want to make note that I was first discovered through my short scripts on the site. These are free and available for anyone to read, at least they were at the time. Because of this, people would see the title, and I had a catch title.
The producers then liked my writing, and on the site they can reach out to screenwriters, so they’d reach out to me about interest in directing the short. However, almost every time, they’d also ask if I had an feature film scripts, and I’d send them my screenplay. Once again, because I had a pretty good hook, most people would be even more intrigued and would ask to read my features.
This is another hub like inktip, but it’s mostly other screenwriters on the site, and a lot less producers. Nonetheless, I’ve made a lot of connections through the site and it’s allowed producers to easily see what scripts I have for sale.
This is very similar to Inktip in that it allows producers to post what they’re looking for, and screenwriters to pitch them screenplays. It’s for a monthly cost of course.
The other key things relating to story and content…
You have to realize who you’re selling to. You’re not really selling to the studios, you’re selling to low level producers like me or directly to distributors and platforms and they’re not making million dollar movies. They’re making movies for $10-50k or for about $100k if they have stars. And they know what sells. What sells are niche high concept films that catch people’s eyes on the screen. Other than that, they’re making films that have a societal or political impact.
Make the story in a VERY CLEAR genre, with an extreme HIGH CONCEPT. I’m talking super obvious. Something like a HIGH-SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL SPORTS DRAMA, or GIANT SHARK HORROR.
Write a story with few characters and few locations, but not TOO extreme. Instead of a one-room thriller with two characters, expand it to more like 3-5 locations with 5 characters.
Hope this all was helpful!
Thanks, Lord Max