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Marketing Your Script from Day One

By Kristina Michelle

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Every writer wants to believe their script is the next break-out hit. It just needs to get into the right hands, to the right reader, the right executive, and it will sell. But the truth is that the majority of screenplays are, and will remain, unproduced. Why? Usually, it's because they are not marketable enough for companies to feel secure in buying them. Somewhere out there, there is someone who will love your story as much as you do, but is that story worth financing?

Before you've even begun writing your screenplay, you need to first ask yourself what yours goals are. If your goal is to write fantastic, knock-out, original scripts that win contests, that's great, and they do in fact leave more room for creativity. Competitions, especially when associated with a festival, are excellent ways to get your name out there, gain recognition for your work, and above all, meet invaluable contacts within the industry. But the fact remains that most competitions will not lead to selling your screenplay.

As screenwriters, there are countless avenues for getting your work and name out there, and writing contest and spec screenplays are not only beneficial in honing your skills but can also act as a calling card for you and your work. Regardless of the road you choose, to make your script the most successful, you need to first know who you're writing for before you even sit down to write your script. This is especially true when you are writing with the goal of having your script make it to the screen, and while there is no set formula for what is considered marketable, there are things you should always take into account.

Find Your Niche

Most writers do indeed excel in writing one genre over others, but find what you do best within that genre. Horror and action may sell better than any other genre, but you still have to find what makes your writing stand above the rest within that genre. Can you blend horror and comedy together successfully? Can you write a high-impact action film with a strong female lead? What can you most contribute to, and what are you most passionate about writing? If you can find a balance between writing what is already selling and writing what you love, your end product will be more successful and satisfying.

Research, Research, Research

After you've figured this out, find out which companies are producing scripts within that category. See if there are similarities in these films and let that influence the direction you take your project. Although we'd all like to believe that originality will win out above all else, most producers are averse to taking risks on a concept they can't compare to those that have already proven to be successful. It will always be easier to know these things before you've begun writing, because making major changes to a script after it has already been completed can be a daunting, if not impossible, task.

Understand It's A Business

The next thing you need to consider in your writing is the budget.  Look at yourself from an executive's perspective. You have little to no produced writing credits and no track record. Why would they invest 100 million dollars into your sci-fi/fantasy epic? Writers need to understand how to write within a budget if they want their screenplay produced, because the lower the budget can be, the greater possibilities there are for it being produced. A $100,000 film can just as easily be made with $1 million, simply by hiring better-known cast and crew. A single-location story requiring only a handful of actors is highly desirable to producers at any level. So if you have an epic script that cannot be made on a small budget, chances are high that it will not sell. If you do have that script and are unsure what to do with it, your best bet is shelving it for now and writing something highly marketable that CAN be produced on a small-scale and establishing yourself as a successfully produced writer before you even attempt to have the higher-budget scripts made.

Marketing, Promotion & Networking

Once all of these factors have been taken into consideration and you have yourself a finished screenplay, you're ready to market your script. This is where most writers have the most difficulty, no matter how incredible their script is. Writing is a business. It can be a challenge for writers, who are often by nature introverted individuals, to be the salesperson they need to be in order to sell their screenplay. If a writer is not comfortable becoming a salesperson, they can't successfully pitch their script. If they can't successfully pitch their script, they can't sell their script. But aside from this, most lack the elements needed to drum up interest in their project. Not only do you need a solid script and one-sheet, but additional marketing materials as well. You need to hook these people, make them envision the finished project.

Two things that can be highly effective in making sure your script is actually read and hooking your readers are a poster and a concept trailer. People are much more likely to watch a 1-2 minute video before they consider sitting down to read a 90+ page script. A compelling poster can also make them want to read your script. You've already invested countless hours in developing, writing, and promoting your script, but investing a little more time and a little money into strong promotional materials can absolutely make a difference.

Presumably, if you have gone the competition/festival route with this script or others in the past, you've gained a lot of great filmmaker connections. Utilize those contacts. See who is interested in helping you out, and make a solid concept trailer or teaser to promote this script. This can be done for cheap - possibly even free - and it's an extra step that can be highly beneficial. If you haven't made the right contacts, reach out to student filmmakers in your area. They want projects for their reel, and you want someone flexible who can bring just a piece of your script to life.

Still can't sell your script? Get back on the competition circuit, promote your project, and meet more contacts. Partner with a producer/director that shares your vision, and helm the project together. You have more creative control over the final project, and there are countless indie filmmakers out there who have the resources and know-how, but just need their next great script. Those great promotional materials will also come in handy if you choose this route, as it puts you a step ahead when it comes to crowd-funding your film or find smaller investors. And since you've already ensured your script can be made at any budget, there's nothing stopping you.

About Kristina Michelle

Kristina Michelle is a film and television actress, writer, stuntwoman, host and producer. She is best known as the host of the indie film show "The Reel Show" and hosted horror show "Horror Hotel", as well as her work in films such as Lady Dragon, Dying 2 Meet U and Night of the Cannibals. In 2012, the UK's Awesome Online Magazine chose Kristina as one of five "Scream Queens, Version 2.0: The 'New Breed' of Women in US Horror Films". She is currently starring in the action/superhero feature film Lady Dragon, in the title role, and is the official promotional model for Ultimate Workout and Recovery.

In addition to acting, Kristina is a producer, host, stuntwoman, teacher and published writer. She is the producer of two film festivals, The International Indie Gathering Film Festival and The International Horror Hotel. She is also a film producer and the station producer and co-founder of The Reel TV Network, an online broadcasting site dedicated to the independent entertainment community. She has co-written several screenplays that are now in development, including "Lady Dragon", "Stuck" and "In the Shadow of Death", as well as her own screenplays she has solely written. She teaches film acting at Cleveland Academy of Film Acting, and she is also an instructor at Cleveland Academy of Self Defense, where she continues to train in the martial arts.

Screenwriting Article by Kristina Michelle

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