As a screenwriter, I much like you find myself in that strange predicament of shopping my script around. Over the last few years, there are services that have made it increasingly easier to do this. If you pay a fee, you get to have your script read, pitch your project or even go so far as to be mentored by an executive.
These services have bridged the gap between the coveted pitch meeting and the uninitiated writer. While there are many benefits to these services, screenwriters must be savvy when deciding WHOM to pitch to. This is especially true if you are submitting a written pitch and are not going to be speaking to or skyping with the executive.
A recent example of this happened to me when I received an email from some such service inviting me to pitch to a “Sci-Fi Producer, who worked on such prestigious projects as…(will not mention here)” I was so excited I stupidly paid and submitted my screenplay without giving it another thought.
Two weeks later I received my written feedback. Now I am one who loves constructive criticism. And when I say I love it I mean when it is CONSTRUCTIVE. This person clearly didn’t get the script, which is fine, we don’t all love everything we read However when this same script was given to REAL executives it received wildly different feedback albeit their own suggestions for improvement. This prompted me to look this alleged “producer” up, something I should’ve done BEFORE I’d wasted 200 dollars on her opinion.
A secretary. This lovely woman who had spent her vacation reading my script was someone’s secretary. This was a very disappointing revelation. Not because I have anything personal against a secretary but because I PAID to have a PRODUCER read the script. Now some could argue and have, that the secretaries read or vet scripts for the executives all the time and so, therefore, her opinion could be valuable. Okay, I’ll bite however, I’ll reiterate that I PAID FOR A PRODUCER to read the script NOT A SECRETARY. If she was the one reading the script then say that and I will make the decision as to whether or not I am going to drop 200 dollars for her feedback. Do not deceive me into thinking I am having a producer, a decision-making, power-wielding producer reading my script when in fact it is their secretary. Do you see the distinction? That is deception, not to mention false advertising and a borderline scam. What’s even worse is that this woman was not advertised as a secretary she was advertised as a producer.
There are many scams like this floating about on the internet. Companies that promise you can pitch execs or get feedback from them or consults or whatever else you might imagine.
The idea in and of itself is brilliant. It really does give an opportunity to those who are looking for help. And there are some out there that truly help writers get to the next level. Roadmap Writers, for example, is a great company that has had 72 writers signed in the two years they’ve been operating. While there is no guarantee that this will happen for you, the odds are more in your favor as the execs and managers are clearly there to help. As a matter of fact, I’ve had GREAT experiences with their programs leading to solid feedback, and the beginning of positive relationships. In addition, the Blacklist and the Nicholls Fellowship are two of the more prestigious outlets for screenwriters looking to get noticed so it’s worth checking them out.
So how do we avoid scams as there are more and more posers out there claiming to be experts? DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Research all the people you might want to pitch or consult with. Check out their IMDB page and how long they have been working in the industry. Research their track record and if they are managers check out their client list. Make sure the people you are sending your story to are legit. This is the most important thing. Being proactive is not just about making sure those you are working with are legit, but also that they are a vibrational and creative match to you.
We all know its a dog eat dog world out there and it can be very frustrating to waste your hard earned money on a bunch of garbage, but take heart. If you do your research and you put yourself out there, you never know what might happen. You may not love what they say, you may not get a production deal, you may not get signed, and you may have to do a ton of rewriting before anything miraculous happens but at the end, when you get the right opinions from the right people, it will have all been worth it.