So you’ve got a great screenplay, its well written (or so you tell yourself), you know about formatting and not driving the script on loads of dialogue that go on for pages and yet nothing happens in the background (always visualize!) – and using the right words to explain scenes thus flowing the story on at a good pace.
You’ve even made sure you covered your own back and sent yourself a copy, registered it with the WGA West or East, copyrighted it or some equivalent. You perhaps even read this piece we did last week.
What next then? Well, get it out there… but in most cases you will probably want to tread lightly and have mentioned it to friends, colleagues and/or family. And they’ll be happy for you and perhaps even want a copy of it, which you are happy to send them. Go ahead. And here’s what you should expect from this. NOTHING. Unless all your friends are screenwriters too.
So yes, expect nothing. And I mean that in the nicest way possible, take whatever you get as a bonus. This is not a knock or assumption on your friends, family, etc, this is just the truth. Why?
– They are likely not all screenwriters (which is probably a good thing).
– As much as they’d love to read your idea, the screenplay will require them to devote a fair bit of time that they likely do not have. So even if they have some screenwriting knowledge, you’d also better make sure that they have time too.
– They are biased (because they care) and likely not to give you the critique you want to get. And if they have critique they may be reluctant to give it you. The exceptions are if that “someone you know” is (A) in the industry, (B) aspiring to do similar things and is on your level, or probably a bit of (C) an asshole.
– (B) is a bit of work because often, what you write is very close and personal to you. I used to review work for other people back in the days. They were strangers, but often you had to really explain things in detail to combat their initial feeling of being offended (I’ll get to the reviewing thing in Chapter 3). Long story short, you have to let it get out there and people are going to have their opinions.
– If not A or B: the critique may be of no use and have nothing to do with the story, because they are not screenwriters, and likely have no idea how things like formatting and plot lines are supposed to work.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t send it to people you know? No. Send it, definitely. Just don’t expect this to be the magical trick to get your idea sold. You have a long way to go.
I sent it to some friends, a couple of them have connections or are in the industry. Perhaps they’ll pass it on. If they do, awesome, if not, you can’t really push them on it (other than a casual couple reminders perhaps). A couple of them are those who’s opinions I value greatly and I know that they have some knowledge about how things work with scripts and movies, etc. Are they professionals, no… but they are amateurs like us at this point, who have done a bit of work before, even if at a hobbyist level.
And so this is stage two. Just get it out there to people you know and trust first. If something comes out of it, consider yourself lucky. At the least maybe you can start a chain or two and get a contact or two. And this leads onto the next part, meeting strangers and putting out for strangers (the script that is…). Which is a lot easier now, than say 15 years ago.