Follow A Screenplay’s Journey Through The Movie Studio System

Once you’ve managed get a movie script to a studio executive, have you wondered what happens to it? Much like a rehab program, there are multiple steps. A film script journey can be truncated at each step of the way it takes years; 5-10 years is common. 2 years is considered “fast track”.

It’s a time when screenwriters’ patience is tested. Such is the screenwriting life.


The entire process starts with you, the SCREENWRITER. Writers do not submit directly to studios. Their screenplays are submitted via representation or producers with studio deals. Never approach a studio head directly. Apart from the fact you probably won’t receive a response, it screams “I’m A Screenwriting Amateur.”


After  an AGENT, FILM PRODUCER or MANAGER has vetted your screenplay and deems it worthy, they pitch your project to a CREATIVE EXECUTIVE at a studio. This is normally the DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, VP, PRESIDENT or the HEAD OF STORY DEPARTMENT. Film producers often have “first look deals” with studios. This means that in exchange for paying a producer’s overheads, a studio has the right of first refusal on a project.


When someone from this second layer has agreed to read your script, it is sent to the STORY DEPARTMENT for COVERAGE. Studio style coverage is slightly different to normal coverage in that it often contains 1-2 pages of notes along with a grading on story, character, dialogue, concept and various other parameters. Coverage either RECOMMENDS or PASSES on both the script and the writer. Even if your script isn’t what the studio is looking for, you may be added to their stable of writers for open writing assignments. Your coverage is filed for future reference.


After your film script has passed this step, the story editors send your movie script to STORY ANALYSTS. They write more extensive notes along with a synopsis, loglines and extended coverage which could be 6-8 pages long. This information is added to the story files. After all, a studio’s interest in your screenplay doesn’t necessarily mean it will immediately be developed and added to a production slate.


At this point, your script is generating real heat in the studio. The executive refers it to a CREATIVE GROUP who read it over the weekend to discuss on Monday morning. If agreed, it is then put into development.

If your movie script withstands this rigorous process it may by greenlit for production or put in turnaround or inactivity.

TURNAROUND occurs when a studio decides it no longer wishes to pursue a film project and sells it to a buyer after recouping the development funds already invested, along with interest.

As you may imagine, the term development hell is aptly deserved and the chances of a screenplay making it through to production and ultimate release are slim. Some say they prefer passing kidney stones. However, studios are always looking for movies to feed their pipeline.

Don’t let this deter you because the satisfaction derived from writing your film script in the first place can never be taken away from you.

scriptfirm final logo colourFor in depth Film & TV script analysis visit Script Firm.


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