Selling Screenplays From Outside L.A.


Here is a story from Hal Croasum’s blog that will be of interest to writers outside LA.

For the last 50 years, a screenwriter had to live in Los Angeles in order to be part of this industry. It is just the way things are…

…but there is change in the air.

We recently finished up an event where I interviewed 16 producers and 2 agents in Los Angeles for a group of our writers. One of the questions that came up over and over was…

“Is it possible to create a screenwriting career from outside L.A.?”

In the audience, we had writers from all over the world. Only a few lived around L.A., so this one question was pretty important to the group.

WHAT WAS THE SCORE?

I’ve done interviews with producers for twelve years. Up until recently, the typical answer to the “selling from outside L.A.” question was “The odds are against you.” But this year, there was a change.

QUESTION:  Can writers sell scripts from outside L.A.?

15 producers said YES.

1 producer and both agents said NO.

QUESTION:  Have you optioned or bought a script from outside L.A.?

8 producers said YES.

3 producers had already made movies with writers from outside the U.S.

It’s not a perfect score, but it means that it is possible for a writer to succeed from anywhere in the World.

FIRST, THE BAD NEWS…

…which isn’t really bad.   Let’s get the “nos” out of the way.

The producer who said no was from a big production company on the lot of Universal. He likes to see writers face-to-face.  He does a lot of meetings. For his way of doing business, you would have to live in town.

For the two agents, their whole success depends upon you being active in the Hollywood community. They want you meeting producers, going in for assignment jobs, and generally, making money – for you and the agent. That doesn’t mean you can’t get an agent or manager from outside of town;  you can. Just don’t go for the big agencies.

Those three represented the “standard Hollywood model” of working with writers  It is how things have traditionally been done and it will continue to be the standard for a while to come, but…

NOW, THE GOOD NEWS

Fifteen producers said YES.  Half of them have optioned scripts from writers out of town. They have found that working with writers can be done on the phone or on the net. In fact, some of them have become quite proficient at it.

When I asked what had attracted them to work with a writer on the net, they gave answers that remain a constant in this industry.

–          Intriguing concept.

–          Great characters.

–          Quality of writing.

–          Interesting voice.

They are looking for writers who bring in professional quality scripts. And that makes sense because the producer is looking to make great movies.

WHAT’S YOUR PART IN THIS?

You need to do everything you can to make it easy for producers to work with you. If your producer is new to the net, walk him through the process and MAKE SURE IT WORKS. He will always remember you for liberating him from the old model.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND PRODUCERS?

In the last few years, many of the mid-level producers in Los Angeles have joined Social Networks. They’re on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others.   You can also subscribe to online databases like inktip, imdb Pro and Script Pipeline. Many producers listed are actively looking for scripts.  Some are just exploring the territory. The Hollywood Creative Directory contains email addresses of agents and producers and the sorts of scripts they are looking for. Set up your own contacts database.

But if you strike up a relationship, you never know what might happen. The odds are more and more in your favor every day. Many screenwriting competitions accept applications globally. Entering will at least get your script read.

Writers I have spoken to from interstate send all their query letters via email. They don’t mention that they living outside LA and treat their location as a non-issue. All industry magazines are available online and scripts can be emailed. If a meeting is called, they can telephone, skype, IM, chat, or say they can be there in a day or two for a face to face chat. The world really is getting smaller. However, make sure your agent/ manager is in LA so they can follow the buzz.

Try to  visit an LA maybe once or twice a year such as the Screenwriting Expo. Nothing beats the personal touch. After all, would you propose via email?

Also visit screenwriting forums (actually it’s fora) and chat with other screenwriters. There will always be someone on them from LA. Don’t feel isolated. Be part of our community!

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. “Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell . . .”

  2. Nice article. It helped to open some insight on selling outside Los Angeles. Sometimes I wish I had not moved from L.A., but job wise it was a better decision. This article was very informative. Thanks

    1. JG Sarantinos says:

      The world is becoming a smaller place. Moving from LA was the best thing for you to do, so stick with the decision. Just keep writing and come visit every now and then.

  3. I can’t stand producers, so I do hope they are not as important for screenwriters as is suggested here. It seems to me that for a first rate script, it shouldn’t matter where the screenwriter lives or if he socializes in a community. Inktip is pretentious crap. Script Pimp and The Hollywood Directory want money. Red flag! Two of my 3 screenplays require budgets of over $50,000,000, so the internet is no place to flog (pitch) them. As for SELLING, none of my art is for sale. I retain the copyright to all my art, but make deals, and hate the Hollywood screenwriting racket. I’ll have to become a huge success with my songwriting before I can call the shots in Hollywood.

    1. JG Sarantinos says:

      Whoa! The fiery passion of the artist is alive and well. Great to see. Like all levels of the entertainment world, there are sharks out to make a buck, producers included.
      I agree that an accomplished script should come from anywhere in the world. However the reality of the situation is that it’s easier to establish and maintain relationships with people who can help make your film if you meet them face to face. That’s human nature.
      Inktip and script pimp (now PIPELINE), represent a range of producers ranging from the novice to the moderately successful. They also have discovered writers, who have in turn, scored writing gigs, representation and even had their scripts produced. Pipeline recently invested in a film called “The Living Wake” budgeted at around $500k, so their subscribers’ money doesn’t pay for their lavish lifestyles. I’ve met them and the are genuinely interested in discovering new talent. No, I didn’t get paid to say that. In terms of wanting money, they have overheads like all of us.
      You have a point, in terms of various outfits (mainly contests) who are in it simply to improve their cashflow. Many don’t have clear connections to steer the winners’ scripts to the next level. As you put it, red flag! If a contest can’t prove it has industry links, run. The same goes for cash-strapped managers/ agents charging reading fees.
      In terms of your budget range over over $50 million, you’re dead right. It is unlikely that such projects with low studio budgets will get picked up over the the internet. This is mainly for ultra-low budget movies (around $100k). In terms of selling, producers require the underlying rights to your work to get investors on board. Even licensing agreements hold limited appeal because they expire. The only way around it is if you self-produce and distribute your film or at the very least remain as a producer so you retain at least partial copyright. Even countries with welfare-funded government film programs screw the artist even more. Many want disproportionately high equity in your project and unreasonable investment recoupment terms, despite being little more than over-paid civil servants with film degrees. I can assure you, most producers in Hollywood earn their keep.
      Keep writing music to stoke your muse. That way you don’t have to pay exorbitant license fees for your soundtrack. Be realistic in your expectations. It is unlikely anyone’s going to give you $50 mil to make your movie without something in it for them.
      Keep reading, but most importantly, keep writing.
      Gideon

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