Monday, February 28, 2011

Column: Screenwriting: Getting Evaluated and Exposure


By Karen Albright Lin

Now that a good draft of your screenplay is completed and protected, it’s time to get it some exposure. There are many ways to do this.

One four-pronged approach includes contests, conferences, script consulting and coverage.

Network through conferences and writers organizations. I met talented writer/director Jan C.J. Jones (co-producer of Walt Disney Treasures – 50th Anniversary ) at a conference and have considered her friendship, advice, and encouragement invaluable in my journey. Join local groups devoted to film-making. Colorado has a thriving community, CASA, Colorado Actors and Screenwrites Assembly. I’ve made several valuable connections through this group. You can find them on line. Broader groups, such as Boulder Media Women, are terrific sources for networking.

Contests vary in their value. Some, like the Nicholl Fellowships, Sundance, Slamdance, AAA, and Reel Women are prestigious—often quarter finalists are approached by producers and directors. BlueCat Screenwriting Competition offers an evaluation every bit as helpful as industry coverage. Entry fees vary from early entry fees of $30 up to late entries of $75 or more. Format requirements vary, Word/Final Draft/ RTF/PDF. Regardless of cost and feedback, you’ll want to be sure the finalists are read by industry insiders with the power to buy and produce your screenplay.

Contests are often associated with screenwriting conferences and film festivals. Workshops and screenings alongside schmoozing and pitching are great vehicles for exposure. A pitch to an agent at a film festival where I volunteered my time landed me a Hollywood agent. Good screenwriting conferences/film festivals include Sundance, Toronto, and Santa Fe.

Consider paying to have a script consultant evaluate and make suggestions for changes. Think of them as script doctors. One of the pioneers in this business is Linda Seger. She has written several helpful books that offer a head start on evaluating your script. I recommend her Making a Good Script Great.

Another useful evaluation tool is coverage. On the surface, getting help from a script consultant sounds similar to getting coverage but they are different services serving different purposes. Coverage is not a tool for the writer so much as a market evaluation for the purchaser. Usually a page or two long, coverage includes the evaluator’s take on the script, a log line, short synopsis, weakpoints and strengths, and an honest, industry-savvy opinion about the script’s demographics, timeliness and overall marketability.

Unlike script consulting, it doesn’t involve any tutoring through changes. It is simply an evaluation and a marketing tool. The purchaser of coverage owns it and is not obligated to show the author. Authors can buy coverage, however. My last agent got coverage for all my feature length scripts. I was lucky she shared the one-page evaluations with me. With both consulting and coverage, their strength and usefulness vary (as can book doctors’ feedback) so get recommendations and always remember coverage is one person’s opinion - though an educated one, ideally.

Next time I’ll discuss represention: producers, agents, managers, and entertainment attorneys. Meanwhile, keep your dialogue snappy and your directions brief. Don’t step on the director. Avoid dusk and dawn.

Karen is an editor, ghost writer, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll) each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at

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