Here are the key factors Lenore Wright believes you should consider:
1) WHO IS THE MOVIE ABOUT?
This is the first question film professionals will ask. There is only one right answer; the movie had better be about the star’s character. Movies usually focus on one character – a hero who must overcome difficult (sometimes impossible) obstacles to pursue what he wants. The audience must be very involved with this hero and his (or her) challenge. If you don’t know which of your characters is the star of your movie; then your script is not ready for the Hollywood marketplace.
Who is your target audience for this movie? That is the second who question moviemakers will ask as they read your script. Know your target audience. Many movies cross-over to several audience markets, but your script must be able to attract at least one defined movie market.
What are movie markets? Date movies. Chick flicks. Male appeal (action-adventure, disaster). Slackers. Urban audiences. Art house audiences. Family audiences.
2) WHAT IS THE GENRE?
Movie writing is genre story telling. Know the genre of your movie. The major ones are: comedy, drama, action, adventure, crime, fantasy, horror, thriller, suspense, war story, mystery, sci-fi, teen comedy, and family movies. Your movie might combine two genres (a romantic-thriller); but if you need three or more genres to describe your script, you need to rethink your story.
Find out what other movies have been made in your genre – the successful ones and the failures. This kind of thinking will help you capitalize on the genre of your movie more successfully. Imagine a poster for your movie. In your mind, put together a trailer to advertise your movie. If you can’t do this, ask yourself – why not.
3) WHERE IS YOUR UNIQUE WORLD?
A successful movie script should give the reader a distinct (and unique) sense of place – the world of the movie. Art directors, scenic designers, movie directors and cinematographers contribute immensely to the look of a movie. Well-written scripts put their characters in a specific and unique place created by the screenwriters with words.
4) WHEN DOES IT TAKE PLACE?
Is the time period (era) of your story established upfront? Cameron Crowe’s award winning script for Almost Famous sets up the 1969-America-era quickly and succinctly in a few touching pages. Does the time period of your movie remain consistent throughout the story? Does it enhance or illuminate your story?
Is the time frame of your story clear? If you’ve written a sweeping epic that covers the Russian Revolution, you must clue us in. If your story depicts one day in the life of a pizza joint in Harlem, don’t build an expectation that we’re going to explore beyond the borders of your story.
5) HOW DOES THE MAIN CHARACTER ACHIEVE THEIR GOAL?
Movies create their own story-telling rhythm through action, camera techniques, use of music and sound effects, the dialogue and the juxtaposition of scenes. The agents, producers, directors and film executives reading your script – if they are experienced professionals – will have at least a rudimentary ability to sense the rhythm of your movie.
Does the length of your scenes and their positioning support the rhythm of your story? Do your action scenes punctuate or at least illuminate the decisions of your star. Do your descriptions propel us deeper into the story or distract us? Have you used all available tools (not just talk) to let us get close to your hero – action, dialogue, description, sounds, images, humor, gesture.
6) THE WHY QUESTION – TWO PARTS
Why do we care about the main characters in this movie? Why would a director or star spend a year of their lives preparing and making this movie? Why would a movie studio commit tens of millions of dollars to make and promote this movie? And the most important question of all – Why would someone pay to see this movie?
In selling a screenplay, answering the why question is perhaps the most important consideration, though probably the most ephemeral. Why will someone buy your screenplay? Because your script SMELLS like a movie. If you can answer this checklist of questions satisfactorily then your script is ready to go to market.