Why Your Screenplay Didn’t Sell


You scratch your head at yet another rejection of your brilliantly written screenplay. What went wrong? There are a host of reasons why good screenplays don’t clench a sale, many unrelated to the quality of writing.

It wasn’t commercial enough or cater to a specific niche market.

The content was too depressing, outlandish and lacked entertainment value. Having said that, dramas are making a comeback in spec script sales.

There wasn’t a clearly-defined audience demographic. The key cinema ticket buying demographic is still 14-24 year old males. With the fracturing of audiences who no longer rely on cinemas to consume their entertainment, this holy grail is changing rapidly.

There wasn’t enough appeal to the four quadrant audience model; male, female (25-64 year olds) and boy, girl (14-24 year olds). Who knows where grandparents fit in?

Your script has prohibitive production costs.

The lead character not strong enough, wrong age group, not relatable enough.

The ending was too tragic, not happy enough or even bittersweet to engage audiences.

It was too similar to films currently in development or production.

It was too similar to recent films that flopped.

It is difficult to pitch; ie low concept whose success is execution-dependent.

It was a hybrid of too many genres.

It was a hybrid of too many concepts.

The content/ themes were taboo, illegal, immoral and distasteful.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Sandy Daley says:

    The only advice I would give is write with passion and make what you’re writing INTERESTING. Forget the ‘niche’ maket or whats popular because that always changes.

    1. JG Sarantinos says:

      Passionate and interesting aspects of the human condition are niche stories. You’re right in terms of trying to chase trends. They are only as old as last week’s box office.

  2. Your script may not sell but if it’s good enough to get a couple of meeting with pros, you’ve hit a home run.

    1. JG Sarantinos says:

      A read request, producer interest and options all count as successes too. Michelle has nailed it. A sale is only the home run.

  3. Carl Llabres says:

    Are films such as Bridesmaids considered a new trend? Or a niche audience? Female bonding comedies which are not directly aimed at the young male demographic but to a mostly female demographic (perphaps with a wider age range) are also becoming popular. I am curious if a script that would be a better fit for that potential group would have to face more potential rejection going through the ladder. Thank you for your posts, they are very helpful.

    1. JG Sarantinos says:

      Bridesmaids are considered broad studio style female driven comedies rather than niche. Studios are certainly looking to service this demographic now in addition to the 16-24 year old male group. Glad you enjoy the posts.

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