Focus on Film: Advice and strategies for meeting producers who are making the kind of thing you’re writing. By Script Angel’s Jay Harley
If you love film, you should love watching films, so going to festivals, the cinema, seeing what’s being made and by whom should be the most enjoyable part of your job.
That said, there is a point at which the research element is over and it’s time to write, get yourself out there and stop comparing your project to what’s on the market – and yourself to other people. Don’t think of yourself as the next so-and-so and really don’t pitch your idea as ‘this blockbuster meets such-and-such quirky indie’. You’re forging your own identity.
However, doing your research, knowing your market and approaching people who are open to what you’re selling will always help you. The trick is working out whether; this producer just made a low-budget horror, so they are open to making low-budget horror or whether that means they are looking to make a different genre/higher-budget project. One obvious answer is to ask – if the project is not for them, they will tell you and no one’s time will be wasted. On the chance that yours is the kind of project they’re looking for, you have nothing to lose.
Be realistic. If you’ve had a couple of shorts made and you’re aiming for your first feature, think of approaching producers who have made several, bigger budget shorts and might be looking to step up and produce a low-budget feature. Some producers will have repeated success with the film agencies (e.g. Ffilm Cymru, Creative Scotland, Creative England), so your project could be in very safe hands if you target these producers. They tend to pop up wherever their films are screening.
Other fantastic stalking-grounds for finding producers in the wild, where they might be amenable to a drink, an introduction and taking a business card, are all those professional events; from film festival talent labs to BAFTA Guru. Entering competitions where the winning writers are put in front of producers and agents is also a strong step – from the C21 script competition to BAFTA Rocliffe. And if they have open events at the end, whether you win or not, you should attend, with a few business cards in hand.
One last thing to consider, is how to get producer-ready. While you’ve researched the market and found the kinds of producers you wish to approach, it’s worth taking a look at yourself and your project as a package. Are you ready to shake hands with a producer and tell them concisely about your project in a way that will grab their attention?
Presuming you’ve made the script the best it can be, have you also worked on a treatment, a logline, an elevator pitch? And are you producer-fit yourself? Before a producer will agree to read your script, do you have a convincing pitch about your previous work and experience? Have you got a reel, a website, a card with links to your work? And can you walk into a room, ready to sell yourself?
Practicing with your agent, a friend, your Screenwriter Coach or someone else you can trust, is the best way to refine your pitch and hone your skills. Working on the supplementary materials will help build your confidence and your readiness to forge these relationships. This doesn’t mean filling pitch packets with glitter or spending money and time on branding – which your eventual producer may or may not want to keep. It means focussing on what’s really important:
● What’s unique about your idea – what drew you to it in the first place?
● What’s unique about you – what experience has brought you to this moment?
● What’s you about your idea – why are you the person to tell this precise story? How does it reflect your voice as a writer?
Your script is, of course, the most important piece in the puzzle to attracting a great producer. But unless you’re ‘good in a room’ it might be hard to get the script under their nose – which would be a massive wasted opportunity.
What’s going to improve those skills is practicing those skills. If you know you’re going to need help taking that step, there are articles that can help you. At Script Angel, a big part of the coaching process is not just script editing, but helping you as a writer, find those skills and hone them. Ultimately there’s no better practice than diving in and doing, so as soon as you’re ready, book a ticket to the next industry event and give it a go.
For advice more specific to the US movie system, see our blog Selling Screenplays When You Don’t Live in LA.
For a guide to networking events, see the events listings on our blog Screenwriting Events Calendar.