Reputation is everything in film. Your, “Rep,” will proceed you in almost all transactions and while a good rep will move fast, a bad one will move even faster. It is, as I’m sure you already know, a lot easier to get a bad rep than a good one.
Research is a good way to avoid pitfalls. Reading about other people’s experiences or talking to other screenwriters can help you avoid making fatal career mistakes that can cost you work in the long run. I know the industry seems big but it really isn’t and word can really get around.
Which is why I’m constantly amazed at how newer writers will put a script out there that isn’t finished, even in a rough draft sense. Of course they usually don’t tell the person they’re shopping it to that the piece is only half or two thirds done and then it’s a mad panic to get the thing finished. Which of course always produces the finest work.
Of course, it doesn’t help that there’s a lot of, “Spin,” in the industry. Not outright lies per say but you’ll certainly bend the truth as hard as you can. Until a production company says, “No.” Your script is still, “In play.”
So even though I’m not as active in the industry these days, I still wouldn’t submit an unfinished script to my producer, no matter how much he begs for it. Unless he’s got the money in place and he needs to start casting… Oh, and I’ve been paid.
So here’s some things I feel are a bad idea and why.
- Showing part or all of an unfinished script. It might be a great idea. It might be flawlessly executed (doubtful) but it’s not done and the hardest part is that second to third act transition. Get it wrong and you’ve not just wrecked your story but you’ve hurt how you look to others.
- Even if you have finished, putting it out there before it’s as polished as it can be. This of course is more for the newer writers. It’s good to be eager but if a script is shoddy in its presentation and full of spelling errors in the first two pages, chances are the whole thing is shoddy and into the round file it goes.
- Knowing nothing about how the industry works. It really is inexcusable. There are tons of books out there that cover this. Not having a plan to get your script read and ultimately sold means simply, you won’t sell it.
- Not reading every produced script you can get your hands on. How else can you learn how to do it, if you’re not reading scripts that got made into films? Good and Bad.
- Not watching every film you can. How else can you talk about film, if you have no foundation to work from. It’s a visual medium, you should study the strong visuals that speak to you. Believe me, it’s a lot easier to describe an opening scene to a director as, “Like the beginning of Once upon a time in the West,” than faffing about trying to find more common ground. And if they’ve never seen that particular film, worry because they probably are going to suck.
I guess what I’m trying t say here is, craft is king. You should know your craft and the business you wish to enter. If you don’t, it’s going to be a rocky road ahead.