From formatting to choosing the right production company, here’s everything you need to know about sending out your screenplay.
Let’s assume you’ve finished writing a new screenplay and you’re thinking about sending it out. Here’s a quick checklist to help you determine whether it’s ready.
Revise your work. A script is only as good as its content. Ask friends in the industry that you trust to offer constructive feedback, do a table read to hear your dialogue out loud, and engage in rigorous script analysis to ensure that your final product is up to snuff.
Consider the format. Just as actors should invest in high-quality headshots, writers need to pay attention to the look of their product. Using the industry-standard font, Courier, will highly increase the chances of your work getting read, since it appears much more professional at first glance. It’s a good idea to invest in a program like Final Draft to ensure your script is formatted correctly.
Think about presentation. Make sure you have an airtight log line that sums up your premise and hooks the reader in one to two sentences. Draw comparisons (aka comps) to previously produced projects. For example, if you wrote a time-travel rom-com, say it’s “Back to the Future” meets “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” (Make sure your comps are successful films!)
Next, write a brief bio, noting any prior industry experience. Also, include info about significant placements you’ve received in reputable screenplay contests like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Nicholl Fellowship, the Austin Film Festival’s Screenplay and Teleplay Competition, or Final Draft’s Big Break Screenwriting Contest.
Draft a query letter. This document, which you’ll send to production companies, agents, and managers with open submission policies, is a request to read your script. It should introduce you and your work in a concise but enticing manner, and should follow the same basic outline as your movie pitch: title, genre, log line, comps to previously produced projects, a synopsis, and brief info about yourself.
Bear in mind that producers and reps are extremely busy people, so it’s best to keep your query letter short and to the point. Do not attach your script; if the producer or rep is interested based on the information you sent, they’ll reach out to request it.
Another rule of thumb: Personalize your query as much as possible. Look up other writers on a given manager’s roster, or mention how much you enjoy the films a company has produced in the past. Nobody likes to receive a stock form letter. And if you’re reaching out on the recommendation of someone you know in the industry, now’s the time to mention it.
1. Look for people who might be interested in your work. Start by searching for producers and managers on IMDbPro to find people who seem like a good match for your script’s overall vibe. If there are pitch fests or similar events coming up, they can be a great way to get your script seen by a lot of eyes.
You can also peruse the list of production companies on our Resources page to see a range of options both big and small. Some only produce film and television, while others work in digital media as well. It’s a good idea to search for companies located in your geographical area to accommodate any future meetings and networking opportunities.
2. Find the right fit for your project. Read through the categories a given company lists to see what type of work it typically produces. If you’re submitting a feature script, for instance, you won’t want to send it to 495 Productions, since they mostly produce reality TV.
Let’s say that one of the companies on your list is Thunder Road Pictures. In its list of credits, you’ll see that the company primarily produces action-packed crime dramas like “John Wick,” “The Town,” and “Brooklyn’s Finest.” If the film you’re pitching is a romantic comedy about a librarian, this company might not be for you.
Keep looking until you find one where your script feels at home. This is where comps come in handy. If you wrote a horror comedy with a similar tone to “M3GAN,” for example, research the producers behind that film and go from there.
The same advice goes for representation. For example, if you’re submitting a pilot script that readers compare to “Bridgerton,” look up the writing staff of the series and see who their managers are.
3. Pay attention to submission policies.
- Is the company looking for full scripts or treatments?
- Does it prefer digital submissions or hard copies?
- Does it accept unsolicited scripts?
- Does it only accept submissions from agents?
- Does it allow you to drop off your submission in person?
Make sure you follow the company’s policies to the letter, as submitting your script in the wrong format may result in it never getting read. Double-check that you’re sending your submission to the correct email address, since some companies list more than one.
4. Browse the producer’s website and social media pages. Research the history of the company. Find out how long they’ve been in business and how often they produce, and visit their social media pages. You never know what you might find that could give you an edge when you’re sitting down for your first meeting.
5. Study the company’s list of personnel. Look at the staff names to familiarize yourself with the people you’ll be dealing with. That way, if you get the chance to speak with anyone, you’ll have advance knowledge. It can also help to follow up on social media so reps see that you’re a part of the screenwriting community.
6. Submit. Because of the high volume of scripts production companies receive, many only accept submissions through agents and/or managers. If you don’t yet have one of your own, check out our rundown of agents who represent playwrights and/or screenwriters. You can also refer to our full list of literary and talent agencies to find a rep who fits your needs.
Even if you don’t have an agent, there are also a number of companies with open submission policies, meaning that you can send them your script without representation or solicitation.
It can help to send your submission to an assistant; if they like your script, they may move it to the top of the stack on the vice president’s desk. Only send your work to executives as a last resort; while there’s a small chance something might catch their eye, you want to make sure that your hard work is being read by someone rather than getting lost in the shuffle.
7. Send thank-you emails. Drop a note to anyone you’ve met along the way to thank them for taking the time to consider your project and to ask if there’s anything else they’d like you to send along.