I have read a lot of scripts lately that are well-written, show passion and thought, and yet ultimately I must get on the phone or write an email to its author or authors with not so pretty news.
Despite being very funny or dramatic or exciting, there is no overarching idea at play that can arouse attention or interest.
And the really sad part is, this is so easy to overcome BEFORE you write 110 pages of script.
It is the premise of STC! and the grounding of all my efforts out there teaching: please, please have a good pitch!
Because if you don’t, no matter how great the writing is, you will have a helluva time getting it set up.
Yes, this goes for Indies, too, and blockbusters, and everything in between. Because no matter how earnest you are about your work, it boils down to communicating an idea succinctly.
And as aspiring spec screenwriters this must be our Golden Rule.
Here are some hints that the idea you are working on is not the high concept sale you think it might be:
1. You haven’t told anybody the idea but have kept it to yourself. Why? Well, it’s so good someone might steal it!
2. When asked to tell about the movie you’re writing at the Fourth of July picnic, you tell it from the Fade In: and you go on, and on, and on about it, all the while waiting to get to the good part, which is in there, you swear!
3. The idea you’re working is based on certain “conditions,” the return of the popularity of ice hockey, or casting Jack Nicholson, or the ever-burgeoning spread in the knowledge of and interest in stamp collecting. These conditions are excuses. And shouldn’t be. Blaming not selling a script due to Jack not being attached or the reader not “getting it” is hubris. It’s either a great movie everyone gets — or it’s not.
If any of this sounds familiar, beware! Check your concept. Make sure it really satisfies the 4 elements of a successful logline as outlined in my book, and for God’s sake, pitch it. A lot. Trust me, no one is going to steal your idea. And the sad truth is, once you expose that idea to air, you may well watch its shimmer fade like fool’s gold.
But better to have that happen BEFORE you toil away on your 110+ pages than after.
Know the condition of your screenplay first by knowing and getting great reaction on its concept — It’s the law!
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