GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – THE ART OF SUBMISSION – PART 1

Welcome to the 173rd edition of Going Bionic.  Today’s article is brought to you by the number 23. No, it’s not an homage to the unquestionably great athletic phenomenon known to us mortals as Michael Jordan, nor is it a compliment to the fiercely underrated Jim Carrey film, The Number 23 (2007).  Today, August 20, 2013, marks 23 years of living in California. I wanted to trade in Kansas for California, ever since I found a UCLA snowcap during recess in kindergarten. So, every August 20th, I celebrate another year of living in Los Angeles.  Thus, while you’re reading this, I’m probably enjoying an ice cold Dr. Pepper and a king size pack of Peanut M&M’s.

As for today’s entry, we’re starting a two-part series on “The Art of Submission.”  Since submitting material is a broad topic, this article will focus on submitting screenplays. Don’t worry, filmmakers; we’ll cover several strategies involved with submitting your feature or TV series next week.
So, without further ado, let’s explore five insights regarding you submitting your material to major entities.

Choose The Right “Horse” To Ride
Choosing who is going to represent your project in the submission process is the single most important decision of the submission process. This is because a) every major studio and successful production company prohibit writers from submitting their own material and b) the cache of your representation directly affects the level of companies, and the level of executives at those companies, your script is submitted to. Thus, if your screenplay is for a high concept, $250 million dollar budgeted summer blockbuster, you’d be smart to wrangle an agent, producer or manager who already thrives in the quarter of a billion dollar budget world. That means you shouldn’t hire your indie producer buddy to submit your script. If you do hire someone who handles indie film budgets smaller than a studio film’s weekly catering budget, then you’ll either get blocked from even submitting your project, or worse, you’ll get the submission, but it will start its development path so low on the totem pole that Hell itself will charge your script rent.

Of course, if you’re writing an indie gem, you should find film pros that work in that world. The one thing you shouldn’t do is mix and match your script’s needs with the wrong “horse.”

There Are Good Days and There Are Bad Days
You should refrain from attempting to submit your screenplay to a major studio or production company on Monday. This is because, like The Boomtown Rats’ 1979 song, “I Don’t Like Mondays,” studios and major production companies don’t like getting bothered by hearing new ideas from new writers (assuming you’re not a major studio writer) on the first day of the workweek.  The powers that be spend Mondays recapping their weekend reads and strategizing their goals for the week. Thus, the ideal days to make “first contact” regarding your submission are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. As you can imagine, Fridays are as bad as Mondays as far as submissions are concerned. This is because most executives prefer not to consider a new project right before the weekend.

Studio and Agency Tracking Software
Every major motion picture studio, talent agency and management firm utilizes “tracking software,” which tracks every script that’s ever submitted to them. That means once you’ve called them, your phone number gets registered in a database, along with the title of your script, and whom at the studio, agency or management firm spoke to you about it.

Thus, don’t think you can submit your script, get rejected, and then simply call the company back a few days later and ask to speak to a different executive. Just remember, studio tracking software tracks “every move you make.”

Submission Protocol
Once you get a green light to submit, you should just sit back, try to relax, and wait for your representation to give you updates. Under no circumstances should you contact the place(s) your project was submitted to directly. Such a move will trigger your representation to dump you rather quickly.

Secondly, you should know the person submitting your material won’t follow up with the place they submitted it to, for about two weeks. Thus, don’t expect feedback in 24 hours!

Reading Between The Lines Of Getting Feedback
Feedback from your submission will range from, “yes,” to “we liked the material, but it’s not right for us at this time.” That’s right; most major entities are allergic to the word, ”no.” However, that doesn’t mean they don’t dislike your script. So, best way to find out where you really stand with the “powers that be,” is to have your rep ask them for any OWA’s (open writing assignments) you may be right for. If the submission places truly like your writing, they will either, a) consider you for open writing assignments or b) keep their door open to you for future submissions. Remember, the LAST thing you want to do is get angry with the companies that passed on your work. Trust me, there aren’t too many major companies in the film industry to start, so by burning bridges, even one bridge for that matter, you’re just burning your own career.

That’s the conclusion of today’s edition. I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday!

I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.




Posted on August 20, 2013 in Features, Going Bionic by
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