Despite what most writers think, most scripts fail to sell not because they are too different, but because they are not different enough.
Many writers, including advanced writers, believe that their cinema or TV script is not selling because it’s too different, doesn’t fit the norm. Some will criticise producers and agents for not appreciating their ideas and wanting stories that are just like all the rest.
In fact, producers and agents usually read far more scripts than the average writer and have a far more extensive knowledge of what’s being made, and what has been made in the past.
They know what different is – and most scripts aren’t it.
If you want to sell your script:
1. Read voraciously. Become expert in all the films and TV programmes in the same genre as yours. The greatest writers and film-makers aren’t average. Their knowledge of film and TV is encyclopaedic.
Seek out websites where you can read produced scripts and unproduced scripts. Read the trades and other industry websites with up-to-date industry news.
2. Amplify your differences. Make sure you know what’s different about your project and that the differences show clearly.
Go back over your script – how is it special, what’s different about the story, characters, story world or approach and how can you make more of these differences both in the script and (essentially) in your one-line pitch?
3. Add something special. Now look again. Can you find new ways to differentiate your story and make it even more special? Many great scripts are at heart familiar stories with a new twist – unusual lovers, unusual detectives, unusual settings.
Examine every aspect. Is the structure predictable? Are the characters exactly as you’d expect? Would a different location lift the story to a new level? Take nothing for granted.
Being different is just one of the five key tests that any script must pass before it can jump the very first hurdles.
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