Screenplay Tips

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Most Important: Make sure that your script is copyrighted through the Library of Congress.

You Can’t Copyright Titles: This is the same for books, novels, plays and movies. Trade Marks are different but costly to acquire. There is a non-government system which uses a MPAA title registration that is specific and protects the theatrical industry. http://www.mpaa.org/

The Drill: You already know this drill if you have sent your book manuscript to traditional publishers.

Script Format: It is important to use screenplay software (Script Studio) or carefully format your manuscript using “Word” since Hollywood has strict rules for formatting.

Script Studio Link: http://www.scriptstudio.com/

Article on how to format a screenplay using “word”: https://www.awn.com/blog/how-turn-microsoft-word-terrific-screenwriting-program

Page Size: For those of us who write books in a 6×9 format, this will be a strange. Must be U.S. Letter because Hollywood does not do metric. Paper needs to be plain white 20 lbs stock (with no watermarks).

Font: Needs to be 12 Point.  Courier or Courier Old are good font choices.

Word Count: Your final draft should ideally be 18,000 – 22,000 words. The lower end of the scale for comedies and the upper for dramas or action.

Lines Per Page: 52 – 56 (including blank lines).  Do not exceed 56 lines per page!

Margins: Left side of your script-1 1/2″ margin, right side should have 1/2″ to 1″ of margin, top and bottom margins- 1″.

Headings: 1 1/2″ from the left side of the page.

Dialogue: 2 1/2″ from the left margin.

Character Names: 3.7″ from the left margin.

Terms: V.O. – Voice Over, O.S. – Off Screen,  P.O.V. – Point Of View, Insert or Cutaway,  Superimpose,  Inter-cut, Montage, Series Of Shots, and Reference To.

Camera Clues: Zoom, Tilt, Pan, Dolly In/Out, Angle On, Boom Up/Down.

Three Hole Punch: Your script needs to have 3 holes on the left-hand side.

1.1/4 Solid Brass Brads (not plated): Ideally you should fasten the top and bottom hole and leave the middle one black. You can’t skimp on this as it is a Hollywood standard. Put your screenplay together with solid brass brads. Here is a link to solid brass brads on Amazon that are affordable: https://www.amazon.com/Solid-Brass-Fasteners-Capacity-A7071505/dp/B00006IBK1/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1505830955&sr=8-5&keywords=brass+brads

Edit: Your work must be perfect, no grammatical or spelling errors. Consider a professional editor. Don’t waste your time or anyone’s time, if you are not serious about your work.

Read: Ask your friends and family to read your script in one sitting. By one sitting we mean less than 2 hours. Get their feedback, as it is valuable.

One Line (Log Line): Just like writing a tag line for your book, it is important to write the most captivating one-line description. Your success or failure might just hinge on this line. This is your pitch to the executive that picks up your screenplay to read from a stack a mile high on their desk.

Your Pitch Line: It is your job to describe your screenplay in a short pitch line or two. You can reference summaries to a modern film or TV show (must be something they can relate to). Have someone review it and tell you if it reminds them of a favorite movie, TV show or even character.

Synopsis: This will be longer (one page is best, no more than two). Only you can write a synopsis that will grab the executive’s attention. If you sell them on your synopsis, they will ask for your whole script. When they ask, you better be ready to roll.

Now You Can Write Your Query Letter: This will be short and to the point. You can use you one liner and your pitch line. This is your introduction. Warning: do not send your resume or even your synopsis unless they ask for it. You have it ready to go along with your script, so you are prepared.

Professional Query Letter: I will give you an example in a later post. You can always contact me to write one for you (if I have read your book and/or script).

When the Agent, Manager or Executive asks for your synopsis and or whole script, act quickly so they stay engaged. Follow their instructions to the letter and never send anything that they don’t request.

Your professionalism will give you an edge over a lot of your competition.

Breathe: All this takes time: Give them roughly 8 – 12 weeks to respond before you second out a second letter or email (depending on how they accept queries). Never call unless you already have a working relationship with them. A query is not a working relationship. Remember, these are professional people with a lot on their plates.

Thick skin my friend: You will need thick skin as rejection letters will arrive. You can write back and ask for feedback, but expect their assistant to respond. Be willing to rewrite before sending your script to another source. If you are so lucky they will offer to read a rewrite and ask you to contact them when the script is rewritten.

Not Your First Choice: When all else fails you can take your screenplay and publish it as a book on Amazon in hopes that someone will buy it and use it. I suggest that you ask the purchaser to contact you before putting the script to use, so you can help them set the stage.

Keep in mind that Hollywood is a universe unto itself.

We wish you the very best of luck. Please feel free to reach out to us.

Cold Coffee Press: http://www.coldcoffeepress.com

Copyright Date September 18, 2017

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