How Producers and Production Companies Should Conduct Screenplay Searches

Updated: Aug 15, 2018


I have posted in the past on proper etiquette, procedure and protocol when screenwriters are wanting to submit to screenplay searches and job leads. There is also plenty of literature -- both in print and digital -- that also explain the do’s and don’ts. But there is very little information on the web that details and explains the way in which a producer or company should submit a search -- be it for a script or writer. In this blog we are going to talk specifically about posting SCREENPLAY SEARCHES. FOR SCREENWRITER SEARCHES, CLICK HERE.


Screenwriting Staffing has facilitated over 200+ success stories, over 50 of them have been produced to screen. After 5 years of vetting industry pros who want to post on our site, I have found that the producers and companies that find the right script and/or candidate post a specific way. Looking for your next script? We can help!


While there is no right or wrong way to post a screenwriting advert, there are some tips and tricks an industry pro should consider in order to get the most out of their posting.


THE BASICS. While obvious, a producer should start off by stating what format/medium they are looking for. Feature, Short, TV Pilot, Telemovie, Web-Series, or Commercial. Unfortunately, some writers don’t follow instructions. Those are also the ones that have found little to no success. But by stating something so obvious, like seeking ONLY FEATURE-LENGTH SCRIPTS, you have already narrowed down your search and eliminated unnecessary submissions.


Next should be GENRE. However, in order to get the specific genre you are looking for, just saying DRAMA or HORROR is not enough. For example, are you looking for a CHARACTER-DRIVEN DRAMA? Is the horror film supposed to be contained? What if you are looking for a FAMILY film? In order to get the right submissions, you may want to be more specific. Just saying “family” leaves open too much room for interpretation. Should it be a script geared to KIDS? Is it a FAITH-BASED family film? Other words producers should consider using when posting an advert are GROUNDED, SMART, HIGH CONCEPT, PLOT-DRIVEN, ADULT, BLACK COMEDY, NOIR, LOW OR HIGH BROW, DARK, SLASHER and SLAPSTICK. These are just a few. But if you are looking for let’s say an ADVENTURE screenplay, do you want YOUNG ADULT FICTION or FRANCHISE? While it may seem petty and overly specific, it keeps you from being bombarded with material that doesn’t match your exact needs. Often pros want a ROMANCE script. Do you want ROMCOM, LGBT, or maybe something that takes place in a college setting (with silly humor) like LEGALLY BLONDE?


BUDGET. This is very important. Sometimes you may not know the exact budget you are going for. A lot of this depends on the backing and investments that you lock -- and this always changes. But if you are in a position to conduct an intense script search, by now you should have a pretty good understanding with what you are working with and capable of. A good starting point is 1MM. Under or over? If under, how much under? Are you talking ULTRA LOW BUDGET, say under 200K? If so, be up front about it. This will save you time, trust me. If this is the case, be sure to use words like LIMITED LOCATION, LIMITED CAST, CONTAINED, ULTRA INDIE. What if your budget is over 1MM? Fantastic! But be more specific. Will you accept project up to 10MM? Even higher? This goes back to genre, but if your budget is high, you may want to use words (depending on your search) such as EPIC, HIGH CONCEPT, PERIOD, VISUAL, PLOT-DRIVEN, HEAVY VFX, FRANCHISE, STAR POWER, or BLOCKBUSTER.


It’s no secret that Hollywood has shifted its focus to films that star MINORITY characters and FEMALE leads. Hopefully, by now, screenwriters have picked up on this growing trend and are writing main characters that fit this demographic. If you are open to any race, age, or gender, then it’s fine to say OPEN. This lets screenwriters know that if they meet the other requirements, it doesn’t matter who the main character is. But if you want a FEMALE LEAD, be sure to say FEMALE-DRIVEN. If you want her to be HISPANIC (maybe you have an actress already attached), then say it. There is nothing wrong with being specific. As a producer, you know what sells and works. So be blunt.


This is where things get tricky. You’ve read the query letter -- you love it. You request the script and it was pure gold. Now it’s time to negotiate PAYMENT. Then you find out the writer is a part of the WGA, represented by a top agency, and this whole time you were looking to avoid both. That’s why it’s imperative to say UNION or NON UNION. If it’s both, then say OPEN. This also goes with produced and unproduced writers. Some producers only want to read material from proven and produced writers -- and that’s fair. But it will save you the frustration and headache down the road if you make this painfully clear up front.


Anytime a producer or company posts, they typically have a couple MOVIES IN MIND they would like to mirror. While you may not be looking for the exact same storyline, you would like to read material in the same ballpark. So if you are looking for an American indie science fiction film that tackles time travel (or something similar), you may want to say: “something in the similar vein as PRIMER”. If you are looking for a WW2 film that can attract A-list talent, you may want to say: “something in the similar vein as SAVING PRIVATE RYAN”. Many times screenwriters pitch their projects by starting off what films are similar in tone and theme. So this device can, again, narrow down your search and save you loads of time.


Just like your time is valuable, so is the screenwriter taking the time to carefully read your advert. It’s imperative to say up front what the PAYMENT STRUCTURE will be like. No, you don’t have to get down to specifics. But are you looking for a screenwriter to partner with? Is this more of a COLLABORATION ordeal? Say it. This may work for some writers, but there are surely those who are not looking to go down this route. Typically, a producer OPTIONS a script. In this case, you may not know the purchase price yet. But you do know how long you want to option the script. 6-months, a year… more? Legally, you have to pay $1 to option a script -- but many of the larger companies offer a nice amount of compensation to option a script, so be sure to be frank and candid. If you are looking to do an outright BUYOUT, then great -- writers love that! Of course, it’s not always that simple. But if you already have the funds in place, you may just want to buy the script. So piggybacking on what I said above, it’s important to say UNION or NON UNION; this helps the writer gauge if this is something they want to pursue or are even qualified for.


SUBMISSION POLICY. By posting an advert, you are already agreeing to allow writers to pitch to you freely; well, to an extent. Be sure to tell writers what you expect to receive. At Screenwriting Staffing, especially our PREMIUM MEMBERS, writers are instructed to submit a standard query letter -- this includes a quick intro, a short logline, a synopsis, and a short bio. Then, of course, their contact information. But maybe you just want to start with a logline. Or -- maybe you want more, like a treatment, beat sheet, or outline. Maybe you don’t want emails, but you want them to submit directly on your site. Whatever it is you want, tell the writer. If the writer doesn't follow instructions, you can be sure that this laziness is also reflected in their script. We also encourage industry pros to state how many submissions they want. Should a writer only submit one pitch? Or, will you read multiple?


AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST. Writers are typically given the short end of the stick -- please remember that. They are constantly asked to submit their material blindly, often times not knowing the identity of the person searching. At Screenwriting Staffing we do require transparency. But whether you submit with us or someone else, always state your full name, your past work/credits, and links where writers can vet you; this can be IMDb, a company page, or even Twitter. Screenwriters very much appreciate this. If the search is legit, then there shouldn't be any reason to hide.


While there is always that one screenwriter (if you even want to call them that) who doesn’t follow instructions (probably copies and pastes their pitch to every producer), the majority of screenwriters do read adverts carefully and all the way through. They also value your time and needs. By following these SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS, you will get the most out of your search.


My next blog will be about conducting a SCREENWRITER SEARCH for your next project.


Screenwriting Staffing is always looking for capable and talented industry professionals to post on our site. Professionals who are legitimate and are actively searching are always allowed to post for FREE. We don’t require a signup or participation on a 3rd party form. All submissions are sent directly to your email.


QUICK, CONVENIENT, & EASY.


To post a SCREENPLAY REQUEST, use this form: www.screenwritingstaffing.com/search-for-screenplay


You can also browse through our many LOGLINES on our RATING BOARD.


Don’t need a screenplay but rather a screenwriter? Fantastic. Post your SCREENWRITER REQUEST here: www.screenwritingstaffing.com/search-for-screenwriter


Screenwriting Staffing is an online community that connects screenwriters with industry professionals. If you have any questions you can reach us at info@screenwritingstaffing.com.


On top of following us on social media, we always encourage producers do interact with our writers on our popular facebook and linkedin groups:


This article was written by Screenwriting Staffing’s Founder, Jacob N. Stuart. Jacob is an award-winning screenwriter with over 20 scripts either optioned or produced to screen, airing in over 15 different countries. He is a graduate of The Los Angeles Film School with a degree in FILM/ENTERTAINMENT. Outside of judging and spear-heading multiple film festivals across the country, he is a regular contributor for FINAL DRAFT and CREATIVE SCREENWRITING MAGAZINE. You can follow him on TWITTER.

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