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Archive for the Category "Industry Terms"

The 4 Things You Need To Sell Your Script Jun 11

“Let’s Sell Your Script!” – Panel Discussion

As discussed in my quick review of The Great American PitchFest 2012, I attended four free screenwriting classes.

Sell Your Script

The first one was a panel discussion with Ken Rotcop, Melody Jackson, Kathie Fong Yoneda and PJ Smith. I thought one of the highlights of the discussion was when Ken Rotcop mentioned there were four things you need to sell your script:

  1. A damn good script
  2. Contacts
  3. Timing
  4. Luck

Let’s take a look at each of those things.

1. A damn good script

It all starts with a damn good script. At the amateur level, you can pitch the hell out of a story, but if you don’t have a great script to back it up, you’re dead in the water. Having a great script is the most important thing to concern yourself with. But it’s not the only thing…

2. Contacts

So you’ve got a damn good script. Now what? Who do you send it to? Who will read it? Part of the business of screenwriting is developing contacts who will be able to push your script into the right hands. If you have no contacts, winning (or making the finals of) an established screenwriting contest may get you some, as will attending events like The Great American PitchFest (GAPF).

3. Timing

They say timing is everything. Well, it may not be everything, but it’s certainly an important part of selling your script. For example, a few years ago Bob Schultz (one of the organizers of GAPF) had an idea for a vampire movie based in Alaska, where there are months of darkness. The title of his script: Frostbite.

Numerous producers were excited about the idea… and then 30 Days of Night was announced. Poof — the interest in his script disappeared like hot breath in the cold Alaskan air. If he had completed his script a year earlier, who knows what would have happened?

4. Luck

I remember hearing a story about a screenwriter who had nearly given up his dream and was working as a pool cleaner. At one house he noticed that the homeowner was reading a script. Soon the two struck up a conversation. It turns out the homeowner was a Hollywood producer. When the pool cleaner told the guy he was a screenwriter, the producer asked him what scripts he had. Fast forward a few months, and that screenwriter ends up selling his script! Talk about luck! (I’ve forgotten which famous movie or screenwriter this story belongs to, so if anyone out there knows, please post in the comments.)

This story may be an extreme example, but every script sale needs a little bit of luck. How do you cultivate luck? To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson — the harder you work, the luckier you’ll be.

Is this the year you sell your first script?

Category: Industry Terms  | 5 Comments
The Difference Between “Tentpole” and “High-Concept” Jan 05

Reader Questions: Tentpole vs. High Concept

Mission Impossible 4


I received some good questions from Lauren the other day:

What is the difference between a ten-pole [sic] movie and a high concept movie? Or do they always work together? Is there a minimum budget or max budget?

A “tentpole” movie is one that a studio hopes will do extremely well at the box office. Just like a pole holds up a tent, such a movie will provide the necessary financial support to the studio.

The term: “high-concept” is a little trickier to define. Essentially it’s an innovative movie idea that immediately captures viewers’ imaginations in a few words and is believed to have mass-market appeal.

As Steve Kaire writes in this insightful article, a high-concept movie can be sold on its pitch. It’s not execution dependent.

Movies like Jurassic Park (cloned dinosaurs running amuck in a theme park) or The Sixth Sense (a pscyhiatrist trying to help a boy who sees dead people) are high concept.

Movies like Star Wars, or Black Swan are execution dependent, and therefore not high-concept. It’s hard to describe them in a few words in a way that does them justice and excites the viewer.

An original script may get made because it’s high-concept. If it does well, then its sequel may be set up as a tentpole for the studio.

In fact, most tentpole movies these days are sequels or based on franchises with built-in audiences. Usually that means they are big budget productions, where the studios put lots of money into them, expecting a lot more money to come back.

But there are no hard and fast rules on budgeting. It depends what type of movie it is. Twilight only had a $37 million dollar budget, but was expected to be a hit (though, it went on to shatter expectations worldwide).


Is it important to always add humor to high concept scripts, for the studios and agents sake?

Limitless Poster


No, not at all. It depends entirely on the genre of the script you’re writing. But most movies have at least a moment or two of humor — if only to provide a brief respite for the audience. That’s why they call it “comic relief.”

Regardless of the genre though, the goal is to make your script as enjoyable to read as possible. Humor might be a part of it, but ultimately it’s about writing an engaging script. Make the reader want to turn the page to see what happens next.

So if you’re writing a dark horror movie, don’t feel that you need to add humor to the scene descriptions just to make the read more enjoyable. It would probably have the opposite effect.

However, if you’re writing an action-adventure, where part of the goal is to make the audience laugh, then have at it. If you’re writing a pure comedy, it’s probably a necessity.

Spiderman Reboot

Would you say the movie “Spiderman-Reboot” is high concept?

I would say that whether the Spider-Man reboot is high-concept or not is irrelevant. It’s a franchise movie, and a tentpole. We know it’s going to be a hit.

“High-concept” is usually applied to stories that haven’t been seen before on the silver screen. Spider-Man has been around for a while now. Everyone’s going to go see it, not because of an innovative story concept, but rather because we already know what a Spider-Man movie entails.

The original Spider-Man story (young man gets bitten by radioactive spider and develops spider-like superpowers)? Yes, very high concept.

Do you have any questions you’d like me to answer? Send ’em in!

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