Monday, 3 June 2019

The Worst Times to Submit Screenplays

It's the single most obvious thing in screenwriting: if you want to have a career, you've got to show someone your script.

You have to do research to find the right fit for your project: no point in selling a gorefest to a company that makes kids shows. 

You have to navigate through barriers like emails and 'no unsolicited scripts' to get to the right person. Maybe you do a quick chat or have a brief meeting and start building a relationship there. A sense of trust. Maybe keep in touch every few months.

You have to do a  good and succinct pitch to convince them it's worth reading. Always pitch before sending.

Finally, with all that in place, you fire the script off to your chosen someone.

And then you wait, 

And wait, 

And wait.

But what if there was yet another factor to consider? What if when you submit also has an effect on if your stuff gets read? Well, it's true: like any business engagement, you have to be mindful of when they are and aren't open. Everywhere has open and closing times, as well as holidays and other events.

So, what's the worst times to submit? Well, some are immediately apparent: December, January and even February to a degree really suck for jobbing writers, since they involve a lot of major holidays (Christmas, New Year's and then all the catch-up that development people have to do on the leftover workload. Plus, of course, the big awards.) The summer, too, sucks hard: July, August and the front two-thirds of September. Even if they're not parents and have to find somewhere to park the kids for six weeks, the summer season means people are flying off to holiday, or simply going down to the seaside, and as a result, are likely not going to be engaging much in work save for the big shoots.

No really, you are not 'beating the crowd' or being clever if you send a script out during this time: chances are many others have had the same bad idea and yours will just get lost on a big pile, physical or electronic, and end up buried, junked or forgotten about. And this includes any manner of national holiday or major event of any description: celebrations, bank holidays, half-term, Easter.

Alright, that's fair enough. When else is bad? Well, not just the date but also the time: out of office hours (pre and post closing time) are bad for the same reasons as above: buried under the upcoming or next day's business. And even then, not all business hours are created equal: the first and last hour of the work day are also not great, since people have just arrived/are about to go and really don't want anything slowing them down.

And if your kneejerk response is 'wow, development people sure are entitled!' kindly remember that, for all the glamour that the film and TV business confers on itself, it's still a job with all the same issues of grind as any other profession, including whatever your current one is: you wouldn't like it, having someone burst in and muck up your schedule, so don't inflict it on others. A little courtesy can go a long way, sunshine.

Naturally, none of this guarantees 110% your script will get read: the same old combination of timing, persistance and then just regular old good luck (or broken legs) plays as big a role as ever. Sometimes, people drag it out for months and months (through no deliberate malice usually, just they understandably have bigger projects and clients) or just never get back at all.

It sucks, especially if they're someone you really admire or had a good rapport with, but as I discussed in my Patience blog, you just have to keep at it. If you let worry eat you, your writing life will go from mildly frustrating to heart attack generator quickly.

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