Screenwriting Staffing was founded on February 13th, 2013. Since then, I've come to recognize a fundamental reality within the industry: among the countless writers, those who exhibit true professionalism—approaching their craft with unwavering dedication and a business-oriented mindset—tend to achieve success, whether it takes them 2 months or 20 years.
At the helm of Screenwriting Staffing, I've witnessed the shifting landscape of industry demands. Interestingly, holiday films and horror films consistently remain in demand due to their built-in audience – a topic for another discussion.
However, in this ever-evolving landscape, there's a persistent truth: those in the industry, from producers to studios, agents, and assistants, prefer not to read scripts. Why?
Because our business isn't centered around reading; yet, someone, somewhere, needs to read a script for it to get greenlit.
So, how does one navigate this challenge? Do you need to be WGA, have an agent or manager, rely on family connections, or depend on Screenwriting Staffing's leads?
As both a writer and a producer who has collaborated with Oscar winners, I've learned that success hinges on how effectively you pitch. Writers who treat screenwriting as a business tend to thrive, while those approaching it as a mere art or side project often face challenges.
Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, merely having a script is insufficient for selling it. Additional components are essential. This realization leads me to announce that next week, we will host a class led by Dallas King on crafting pitch decks to enhance the marketability of your feature script.
Dallas is a 13-year veteran indie filmmaker who has had many projects greenlit from his pitch decks alone. For the last 10 years, Dallas has shared his secrets of filmmaking as a professor for film schools at UCLA, Loyola Marymount University, and Anaheim University.
I'm eager to hear Dallas' thoughts on navigating this delicate balance between creativity and the pragmatic business of getting noticed in the industry.
So, before the class, I wanted pose the following questions, not only his your capacity as an instructor but also as a filmmaker who has achieved success by pitching projects with more than just a script:
Q & A
Jacob N. Stuart: From 2010-2019, I hosted panels all across the globe. In 2016, during a film panel, Dallas, in Los Angeles, our first encounter left a lasting impression. Your authenticity and genuine speaking style were captivating, making me think: For introvert writers like us, is the ability to connect with an audience something cultivated or inherent?
Dallas King: As an introvert, it’s something that was cultivated over many years. As writers, we can be so good at the written word, but then expressing those words is the challenge. What is inherent is that we are super visual. As writers, we have to be more visual than anyone else, because we have to literally imagine everything we write. We play the movie that we write over in our heads, over and over again. Rewind, stop, play, fast forward. We nurture our stories from their inception until they are grown enough to be shared out to the world, and our case, the industry.
Jacob N. Stuart: Frequently, people express curiosity about the origins of Screenwriting Staffing. There's a common assumption that I merely cold-called producers and agents, introducing them to this platform. However, my journey began long before that, with over six years of industry experience starting at 21 in Hollywood, where I navigated from fetching coffee on sets like Glee. Through this journey, I came to understand the paramount importance of establishing trust right from the start. In our field, where perceptions matter greatly, just how pivotal are those initial impressions?
Dallas King: Sure, I think in our industry, “TRUST” has a lot to do with “EXPERIENCE”. People want to know how much experience you have. As a writer, you will find that one year will soon become, “I’ve been a screenwriter for 5 years.” That has weight in our industry, and you need to use this as getting to the door to knock on it. But, times have also changed, and and this experience just isn't enough.
Holding a 100-page script is not enough of a calling card to get through the door. So for years, I’ve tried to break down that door any way I can. Or better yet, take our inherent visual imagination and paint the picture for the industry in the form of a pitch deck.
You have to now go above and beyond and show people that you’re the one to be trusted and have the experience on what your writing. The next level of this is when I started to make pitch decks to compliment my screenplays. I proved to the industry that I know my story so well, I can now even visually show it.
Jacob N. Stuart: Expanding on that, what prompts a producer immersed in a hectic schedule or an assistant earning $25k annually in Los Angeles to advocate for a script within their professional circles? Is it the brilliance of the concept alone, a compelling logline, or perhaps something more? Drawing from my own experience in those roles, presenting a script as more than just a great logline, incorporating elements like a pitch deck, often propelled it to the forefront. But the question remains: Why does that extra effort matter?
Dallas King: As a working veteran producer myself, I get pitched too nearly daily. And this is even without me in search of a script, and of the very small margin of scripts I even request to read further. It starts with a logline. Can a writer tell me their film in one sentence (logline)? If they can’t then they don’t really know their story, and I pass. But of the loglines that have stood out, what's next? Well, the fact that most writers don’t even have a 1-page synopsis of their script. I don’t have time to ready 100 pages. I have time to read a 1-page synopsis.
But what is so rare and will impress me even more… what will make any writer stand out against everyone else… A visual narrative to go with it.
I just received a tent pole epic sci-fi pitch deck that is so beyond imagination, that even a logline or a synopsis could not sell it. But after seeing the pitch deck, I have to really respect the writer and what he has. He’s the only one that can tell this story. I’m now in talks with his lawyer to see about their LOI’s with industry actors. If that’s authentic, then I may just take this super bombastic project on and take it to the next level. What got this writer to this stage? The pitch deck.
Jacob N. Stuart: I also learned that pitch decks aren't solely for producers; they benefit writers too. How does a well-crafted pitch deck serve both parties?
Dallas King: The fact is, when you develop and create a pitch deck you will know your story even deeper. And you will get a chance to further explore your script to the point that even I have gone back and rewrote sections because I was inspired by visual concepts I found in making the pitch deck. And last, I hope this will inspire you about the impact of a pitch deck because I have so many stories I want to write, but not enough time, that now I create just the outline, then the pitch deck, and shop it. If there’s serious interest in the story, then I will go back and write the screenplay.
Jacob N. Stuart: As a producer seeking the perfect script among countless submissions, if 15 out of 150 writers present a professional pitch deck along with their query letters, what makes them stand out in the queue? Or does it?
Dallas King: Hands down I will view those 15 submissions with pitch decks first. Period. And then comes to the gauging of a quality engaging pitch deck versus a bland PowerPoint. Those pitch decks that grab me with visuals that come off the page will lead me to want and ask for more, including the screenplay. How does a writer stand out from the pack, by going the extra mile and showing producers their story DESERVES a closer look.
Jacob N. Stuart: I often advise writers to adopt a producer's mindset for selling their scripts. How crucial is this perspective in the competitive landscape?
Dallas King: It’s 2024. The market is over-saturated with stories and writers. The way we make movies and distribute them has all changed.
We cannot live by old models of selling screenplays. You can either wait and hope someone has 2 hours to read your script, or you can be proactive and elevate your script, compliment it with a pairing pitch deck, so that it shows to everyone you have something visually amazing that will captivate an audience and actually sell. Because this is show-business.
It’s a business and there’s a bottom line for any producer, and we need a project that will actually make a return.
Jacob N. Stuart: When did you realize that a compelling pitch goes beyond just a strong logline? What additional elements became necessary?
Dallas King: When I was in film school, there was me versus 13 other students to see whose project would get approved, funded and made. Well, they required a “LOOK BOOK” but I went beyond this, and made a pitch deck, and added every detail I could possibly imagine. Because I went the extra mile and showed the approving board WHY my film should be made, at the end of the day, I gave them no excuse as to why my film should be approved. And I won. Since then I have always had a pitch deck with every single screenplay I have. That’s 18 pitch decks I have ready to share.
Jacob N. Stuart: Drawing inspiration from a friend at MGM, an executive privy to the decision-making room, I learned the power of visuals in selling a story. Why do visuals carry such weight in the industry?
Dallas King: Because we are naturally visual beings. Probably our biggest sense is SIGHT. And really, it’s even more obvious because we are in the business of visual narratives. We write stories to end up on the big screen, or someone’s screen. So then why not compliment our stories with a visual set piece such as a pitch deck.
I truly believe that pitch decks will eventually be a requirement for any studio or producer looking for a project. Now is a great time to start to practice and master this craft.
Jacob N. Stuart: Dallas, with our industry connections and a grounded approach, acknowledging the hustle is our constant companion. Considering your multifaceted role beyond director or producer, would you ever consider pitching a script if your pitch is limited to just the script itself?
Dallas King: Never. I would never pitch a script by itself. In fact, I don’t have a single script that doesn’t already have a pitch deck to pair with it. This is my norm, and it has gained me great success. Attaching actors, adding crew, gaining sponsors, finding funding, the list goes on and on to how and why my pitch decks have helped me break past the front door and into the living room of production.
ENROLL: February 16, 2024, from 6 to 9 PM PST or on February 17, 2024, from 6 to 9 PM PST.
Master the art of making your very own PITCH DECK for your screenplays. Today, studios and producers almost require pitch decks to help them decide if they want to buy or option your script. Now, with this class you can gain the edge and make a visual statement to help sell your script. Get started: https://www.screenwritingstaffing.com/deck (10% off with code: 10)