I Need a Screenplay to Produce!
June 6, 2012 12:06 PM   Subscribe

How do I find narratively sound scripts to produce in the Triangle area of North Carolina? (Writers need not be local).

I am an independent film director/producer in the Triangle, NC (Chapel Hill/Durham) area and am looking for scripts to produce.

Right now I am not well-connected to writing communities. Does anyone have any ideas about where to look for scripts that writers are trying to see turned into films, or about how to go about searching for competent screenwriters?

I'm serious about producing high-quality work, and am trying to connect with serious writers. I am sensitive to screenplay/idea theft and always take steps to legally protect all involved parties.

I am especially interested in DIVERSITY. Scripts that involve roles for women (of all ages, looks etc.), minorities, LGBT populations, etc. are all welcomed -- or any group not equally represented in most media.

There are lots of aspiring writers/screenwriters but I have to have a script that has a tenable story. Alas, most scripts do not work because the writer does not properly understand story structure.

Hence the difficulty: How do I go about identifying writers who want their scripts produced, who understand how to write a screenplay that works, and has actionable dramatic content that involves something besides ZOMBIES?!

Any advice, suggestions, reality checks, etc. are welcome.

Thank you in advance for any comments.
posted by spladoodlekeint to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Talk to agents. This is what they're for.
posted by zjacreman at 12:17 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

You say you're an "independent". People use that term differently. Do you mean to say you are not a member of the DGA/PDA? Do you intend to have your productions be a signatory or use WGA writers? If yes, then at least part of your problem is solved: the odds increase dramatically that you'll find "[...]writers who want their scripts produced, who understand how to write a screenplay that works, and has actionable dramatic content[...]".

But regardless of the guild/union issues, you are touching upon the most fundamental reality of film production: the need for development. Why do you think directors and producers have development people working for them? Not because they like to spend money on useless personnel, I assure you.

The reason is because that's the entire job of development is to find and develop properties. Find - that's obvious. The person responsible for that, usually the person who runs your production company has extensive contacts in the industry, s/he knows writers, agents and managers. More crucially, they know him/her. If you are a nobody, you will not have agents call you with a hot script, or offer it to you ahead of others, or return your calls unless you put money on the line immediately. He/she has their ear to the ground and hears through their contacts about who is writing what. These people have extensive contacts in the industry, are active working currently and are on the scene. So they then have a few scripts that they finally submit to you - and you pick what you like. But that's only the beginning, because assuming you buy or option the property, you must now develop it - it's extremely rare that a script needs no work - and now you enter into a frequently lengthy process of working with the writer.

But assuming you have none of this. You are an indie out in isolation land. You do what such people have always done: you are left to chance. Maybe you know somebody - make contacts. Maybe your friend is a writer or knows a writer. You can scour screenplay competitions for the winners. You can monitor writer boards and contact writers that way. You read a ton of books and articles, always with a mind to option and adapt. If you are a writer-director, you write. You do what indie producers and directors have always done - there are no shortcuts, you have to make your own road.
posted by VikingSword at 12:31 PM on June 6, 2012

I would try universities, particularly art schools with film and screenwriting programs. It sounds to me like you, yourself, are just starting out and you need to build a network of people who are similarly professionally situated.

You could also start going to the theater, becoming familiar with local playwrights and actors, and start shopping yourself around to them. Lots of people would enjoy getting together on a weekend and improvising a film around a sketched-out idea, or might be interested in your having a look at their screenplay. I'd also suggest a slight adjustment to your thinking - you are selling yourself to writers and other artists as much as you are looking to "buy" their work. You have to pass muster as an artist, too.

As for contacting agencies, you have to bring something to the table. You're unlikely to find represented talent who's going to take you seriously and entrust their screenplay to you unless you have some sort of resume. You do have a resume and a reel yourself, right?

Also, don't discount zombies. Lots of people would be as interested in seeing a short film about a zombie hair salon as they would 20 minutes of people talking about social issues, particularly if you're just starting out as a director.

PS - working actor, NYC based, have representation, work regularly, over twenty years professional experience.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 12:31 PM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Well, goodness. You certainly have a few decent local universities to choose from; do they have film or theater departments, or even extension courses, who could give you some tips on people? (I know you said it didn't have to be local.)

I agree on the agent.
posted by Madamina at 12:32 PM on June 6, 2012

I came here to nth Universities. You've got a butt-load there my friend.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:53 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone so far, but here's a link to the unproduced scripts section of Simply Scripts. You can read scripts and contact the writers. I also think that if you really dig into the internet you'll find better resources than this. I like this one because I can read every script.

I was also going to suggest making a Stephen King "Dollar Baby" but I looked it up.

Good luck and I'd love to hear if you have any progress.
posted by snsranch at 4:36 PM on June 6, 2012

There are lots of aspiring writers/screenwriters but I have to have a script that has a tenable story. Alas, most scripts do not work because the writer does not properly understand story structure.

You have two choices here, the indie route or the traditional production company route.

Indie route: write your own damn script if you think you know so much about story structure/you don't see anything "out there" you think is worth producing.

Production Company route: solicit stacks of scripts through a number of channels; read piles and piles of them knowing that most of them are going to be shit. Big time production companies hire professional script readers to do this so that people like you don't have to waste time with all that. Smaller production companies bundle that into the job descriptions of assistants and interns. If your "production company" is basically just you, you have to decide how valuable your time is. Is it better to save money and read shitty scripts yourself until you find something good, or is it better to pay someone $100 here or there to find the needles in the slush stack?

Two more selfish but less on-point ideas:

I will gladly read any shite script you want to email my way. MeMail me if this sounds appealing and we can talk rates.

I'm currently in the outline phase of something that could potentially be up your alley. MeMail me and we can talk more about this.
posted by Sara C. at 4:58 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

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