You love movies, right? And you have been isolated in your tower of creativity tapping away until you hear the two most dreaded words a wannabe screenwriter ever hears: “Honey! Dinner”. And you have to take the painful walk down the spiral staircase and join the rest of the human race. And sell your screenplay.

Hello, and welcome to Raindance. My name is Elliot Grove and I started Raindance way back in the early 1990’s when the only way you could get your movie made was to find a producer who could find a million quid, bucks or clams. Then your script would become a movie.

Times have changed over the years, for better or worse. Here are the 9 Golden Rules To Get Your Script Made Into A Movie.                                                                            

1. You need to get the right person to sell to

Focus on finding a producer. Pure and simple. A producer is the only person in the world that buys scripts.

To sell to a producer you need to understand the producer’s role. He or she is the person responsible for the entire project, from inception through to finished sale of the film. A good analogy is to compare a producer to a real estate developer who finds a vacant lot and hires an architect to draw the plans (write the script). The developer then raises the money to cover the production costs. Sometimes they pre-sell units in the building (pre-sell territories) to help raise the construction cash. When the building is finished, the producer sells each unit (territory) and with that income pays off the investors, the banks and pockets the difference, if any.

There are two types of producers, as there are two types of developers: one is the producer who is mainly concerned with the finance. Many property developers also fall into this category, where every move is dictated by the financial return. Then there are the creative producers who work with the writer and director to develop a commercially sound project married to commercial reality. Two producers that spring to mind in this category are Andy Paterson (the Girl with the Golden Earring and The Railway Man) and Ate de Jong, the director/producer behind cult classics such as Drop Dead Fred.

Toronto has a terrific creative property developer in Alfredo Romano – who combines a scholarly knowledge of philosophy with a passionate love of the arts (and architecture and commerce). He is the driving force behind Toronto’s Pinewood Studios. See him here interviewing the late, great Syd Field.

Like any of life’s relationships consider all the different stages from first ‘kiss’ to marriage and divorce.

2. You need to get the producer to ask you for your script

There is an important adage in the film industry:

You’ll never get anyone to read your script unless they ask you for it.

The trick is to figure out how to get them to ask you for it. If I had a dollar for every person who’s told me they have researched the names of production companies and mailed in their scripts I could buy you a season ticket to all the great film-making courses at Raindance at each of our international film hubs!

So, let me tell you how not to do it, and relate to you a story told to me a dozen years ago by then-sales-agent Elisar Cabrera, now director of Raindance Web Fest and our wonderful in-house producer. He told me the story of screenwriter Nic Chartier who wanted a job in the film industry. He moved to Paris, but the closest he could get to a job in the film industry was cleaning toilets at Euro Disney. That year, right before Cannes film Festival, Nic made 40 copies of a script, stuck each one in a brown envelope, and went to Cannes and bribed the hotel doormen to slip each of the envelopes under the 40 most likely producers or agents at Cannes that year.

Three days later, Cassian Elwes, then the super honcho at William Morris Agency stumbled home late at night just as a French garbageman was throwing a big bin bag into a garbage truck. The bag split and the script landed on Cassian’s feet. Cassian viewed this as a sign from God, took it back, and sold the script the next day for $100,000.

The moral of the story is: if you want to sell your screenplay at Cannes, get a job cleaning toilets at Euro Disney.

I always found this an amazing feat for a totally unknown screenwriter. I then discovered that Nic Chartier moved to LA, worked for sales outfit Myriad, and then set up a company called Voltage. And guess what? Nic funded Dallas Buyers Club because years later, Cassian Elwes needed to call in that first favour from Cannes. You can read Cassian Elwes’ version of the above, and find out how Dallas Buys Club was financed in three days.

The moral of this story is that the film industry is a people industry. It’s not what, but whom, you know.

3. You need to get really good at pitching

We live in a very fast-paced world. The people interested in buying your scripts are very time-deficient. They are also multitasking and processing a great number of ideas at the same time. The reality is that once you have caught their attention you have quite literally two minutes at most to hook them in with your idea and get them to ask you for more.

Here is a really good article on how to structure your verbal pitch. Raindance holds regular Live Ammunition! pitching competitions where you can pitch your script to a panel of industry experts. Why not subscribe to our free weekly newsletter so you can be the first to sign up for your chance to sell your screenplay?

A good verbal pitch is brief and entertaining. Be the best story at the pub.

4. You need to know how to write a log-line

Being good at a verbal pitch is just half the challenge. The other half is learning how to write a good solid log-line. This will have many different applications, from the blurb on the film’s homepage, to the back of the DVD cover (or the TV Guide listings).

A good log-line will entice the reader to want more.

5. You need to know how to market yourself

How to get known as the next great thing when you are a nobody? Creating your own social media is an important first step. When people first hear about you they will Google you to see what other credits you have and will make a judgement call based on the personality you show in your tweets and Facebook messages. They will also check you out on IMDB.com to see what projects you may have been involved in. It is on IMDB that your work with student filmmakers and their shorts will assist you in building your social media profile.

If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

6. You need to know how to network

Screenwriters, in general, are introverted and uncomfortable with meeting fellow members of the human race. If you are introverted — fear not. There are many advantages that introverts have over extroverts. As for the networking meeting when you feel awkward, lonely and shy, here are some great tips on how to succeed at a networking event.

The key to great networking is to become a good listener. Ask others about themselves and be prepared to listen intently. People will assume immediately that you are worth remembering.

7. You need to know about film gatherings

There are a few key events where filmmakers gather looking for new scripts and ideas for features, shorts, documentaries and web series.

To find out about them, read the trades. The important ones are indiewire.com, Screendaily.com, Hollywood Reporter and Variety. These important publications are where I find out about important trade and industry events.

A short list is Talent Campus — a 9-day gathering of creatives during February in Berlin, Cannes in May, Story Expo in LA during September, and  Raindance in London during September and early October.

8. You need to know about micro-budget film-making

Have you ever thought about making the movie yourself? When I first met Christopher Nolan he was working in a really dumb job, saving his pennies, and he shot his first feature ‘The Following’ for about £6,000 ($10,000). Or how about making movies for the web? Perhaps your idea would better suit a web series – and these can be made with your laptop and a cheap camera for literally nothing.

Knowledge is power. If you are feeling a little low on knowledge, check out some of the great film-making courses at Raindance (look at the right-hand column. —->

9. You need to write a really good script

I am known for doing all these 15-minute tutorials. Anyone can book – just email me. This afternoon I got a call from Uwen Nyong in Lagos. He’s an established filmmaker in Nigeria with three completed films. His question to me was “How can I make a Nollywood film that people in Europe and America want to see?”

My answer was to study the scripts and movies of the past masters and see how their stories unfold. Learn from watching a dozen films of the kind you would have liked to have made. And then write your script.

Remember too, the script we are looking for has to be bold, fresh, innovative and entertaining. You know you have talent. Now, just do it.

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About 

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over hundreds of short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

He has produced over 700 shorts and 6 features including the new action film AMBER.

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.