In its broadest terms, the producer’s key job is to shepherd a project into production. It’s not only about attracting investors, but also to help develop the script to attract key talent. Script Magazine writes that the development to production ratio is about 30 to 1. How do you get onto a producer’s development slate, let alone a project into production?
PITCH IN BROAD STROKES
This is usually a fifteen minute oral pitch describing the overall concept, genre, plot and market of your screenplay. If it’s adapted from a graphic novel or other highly visual source, it may be appropriate to bring in some artwork, but only of it will help convey the overall film to the producer. At this point, the producer may option the script and offer you a step deal, purchase the script outright, or hire you for a writing assignment.
Open writing assignments are offered to screenwriters to write one or more drafts of projects production companies have in development. I must warn you, newer screenwriters rarely get the choice assignments. They may or may not come with notes, based on the producer’s tastes or the changing marketplace. Some pet projects stay in developments for years, sometimes decades, but generally they lose momentum fairly quickly. Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” was in development for nearly 20 years until he figured out the final act. If a company decides it no longer wishes to pursue a project, they sell it to another studio during turnaround.
Established producers may prefer spec scripts with some attached elements such as a name director or actor. Newer ones may opt for “naked” scripts so they can attach talent to them and establish a name for themselves. It makes sense to approach production companies which specialize in a particular genre. This makes sense, since these producers are most familiar with the genre from a writer’s perspective. They understand the types of stories that work, rhythms, tones, audiences and ways to distribute and market the film.
I’ve heard utterings from some producers that they’re being contacted by financiers which is always an encouraging sign.