The Producer’s Guide to Saying Yes: Why A Producer Will Make Your Film
The most important thing any writer should know is how to get a producer to fall in love with their script. There is no magic or absolute answer to that question, but there are plenty of practical guidelines to be gleaned from producers. Here at ScriptArsenal, we know a good deal of producers, and have learned a thing or two about what it takes for them to commit to a screenplay.
Give them a reason to give a damn. This is the most important guideline. Producing movies is a huge pain in the neck. It takes a long time. By agreeing to try and produce your script, what a producer is really saying is, “I care about this so much that I’m going to listen to people tell me ‘no’ for literally years to get this movie made.” Whatever genre you are writing in, invest your story with emotional urgency. Why do you care enough to write this script? Emphasize that in your screenplay again and again. It’s infinitely more important than plot. Is the story personal to you? Do you believe in the message of your script? Is it something you are absolutely dying to see onscreen? If the answer to any of these questions is no, it might be time to reassess your project.
Give them a way to get a movie star. Even in 2019, in the age of the streaming wars, movie stars still matter. There are a finite number of movie stars. Those movie stars have plenty of offers, coming in every single day. Why should they agree to star in your script, vs. anyone else’s? Consider that the single factor most likely to make or break most scripts being produced or not is the ability to attach a meaningful star. Is your protagonist complex and contradictory? Do they have a huge character arc? Do they have a strongly defined point-of-view about the world? Do they challenge the audience to keep up with them? Do they scare the audience? Should the audience fall in love with them?
Do not be weird for weirdness sake. Originality is hugely important in screenwriting. There’s a difference between originality and shooting yourself in the foot. Screenplays with no one dominant genre, no clear protagonist, no clear antagonist, a vague, undefined structure, or bizarre shifts in tone might be unique, but they’re also very easy for a producer to pass on.
Grab them from the first page. The descriptor “slow burn” is applicable to many stellar films. But in screenwriting, it can sometimes be a nice way to say, “boring.” If a script does not demand a producer’s attention on the first page, and particularly the first 15 pages, it’s almost certainly already dead in the water. Take your best shot upfront. Saving the strongest, highest conflict material for the back third of a screenplay is a great way to lose a producer’s interest.
Correspond your budget to reality. The world still needs 200-million-dollar tentpole pictures. But in 2019, those are 99.99% based on well-known intellectual property. A great thriller, horror or sci-fi script that can be made for 5, 10, or 20 million dollars has infinitely more potential financiers than any script that must be made for north of 50 million dollars.
How do you design to your scripts to make producers say yes? Let us know in the comments below.