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How Long Does It Take To Sell A Screenplay?

Adam Scott

A good screenplay doesn’t go to waste.

That is a promise. At least in the world of screenwriting, where often it can take many years before the screenplay becomes a good project.

The instant gratification on the movie sales today is often missing for the coder to deliver a screenplay, a process that takes over half a year. I’ve worked as a professional screenwriter since 2000 and still I often work on a screenplay.

For us, it is very important to know how long it takes to sell a screenplay and that we are working in the right way.

The first question you should ask is: “How long do I need to finish writing a script for the marketplace to be interested?”

This question is sometimes more difficult to answer, as we know that there are certain formats that take more time to write and market than others, but most of the time we can make a rough estimate.

Looking at some of the scripts, we can see that the average screenplay took a month to write and three months to market the script. Looking at the data a little bit further we can see that the number of months varies from 6 months to 7.

I’ll discuss this more in a bit, but it’s something to keep in mind while looking at the statistics.

Time is preciousfilmmaker, youtuber, script

Screenwriters must develop a very thick skin. After writing a great screenplay it can take a lot of time to send it out.

Of course, it is always easier to send your screenplay directly to a top agent, but if you’re serious about writing, you should be writing material to send to film studios as well.

At first it might sound like a waste of time to write material, send it out, wait and then wait some more, but you will learn quickly what kind of material sells and what doesn’t sell. What matters is not what happens in the end, but what you learn.

That is the key!

In this post, I will focus on the factors that affect the time to market a screenplay. I will also explain how those factors have changed over the past few years, which is a good indicator of the current state of the screenwriting market.

The average screenplay takes a month to write and three months to market the script.

Three factors can have a huge influence on the time it takes to sell a screenplay. I have grouped them together and determined that they each have a unique impact on the time to market a screenplay.

The screenplay begins

The first stages of the screenplay selling process is where the screenplay is written. The initial stages can be very intense, as screenplays are often incredibly well-written, and therefore it takes a great deal of hard work to get them out there.

People often look at screenplays as being very easy to write, but not only is that not the case, but that isn’t what screenplays are about. Screenplays are about telling a story and are ultimately meant to get people to take the trip, even though it may be arduous.

The idea that “you can write a screenplay in a day” is incorrect, and rather comes across as a lazy approach to screenwriting. This is a big reason why so many people can’t write screenplays and are either disheartened, or simply give up, along with the sense that there is no easy way to get a screenplay out there.

When a script gets a lot of attention, as with this screenplay, it’s easy to think that you can “jump on it” and have it sold overnight, but that’s not the case. It takes time, a lot of time.

It’s one thing to have an amazing script, but it’s another thing to have the chance to sell it at a good price to the right person.

Screenplay needed to land Hollywood

The screenplay that had the most success in getting picked up is still The Accountant. It was submitted to many agents, and ultimately sold for only $600,000.

That’s the new normal for the entertainment industry, which is a lot less than it used to be, but that’s not always the case. There are other successful scripts that have sold for in the low millions, even up to $2 million, and this was not based on any one good factor.

Rather, this was because they had a unique story, and strong sales tactics, and they were also a great writer.

In conclusion, that is the most common route for a screenplay to get sold, and therefore it is extremely important to get that screenplay ready.

The script begins to sellscreenplay, film maker, filmmaking

I wouldn’t say this is what sells the script initially, but it’s something that needs to happen. And if it doesn’t, then what happens is there is a story that everyone is interested in, and everyone is trying to get their hands on it, even if they don’t necessarily want to make a movie out of it.

When a script is good enough to interest major production companies, then the process of selling it will begin, and you’ll probably want to get that screenplay into a writer’s room or similar setting. If it’s an action thriller, then the most likely scenario is it being shopped around to various studios.

As a writer, I’ve been able to pitch some pretty unique stories to executive producers that all have had a lot of success, but it’s not always that way. Sometimes, something is completely unique, and no one will be able to grasp it, which is a very frustrating experience.

For the rest of this article, I want to talk a bit about this process, and I’m going to show you what the typical approach is, and what you can do to up your chances of getting a really good script sold.

The process

If you want to be an executive producer on a film, you first need to get yourself to an executive producer’s level. This means you need to make connections in the industry.

Executives at big production companies have heard of producers and they want to know about them. This is what you need to get done.

Once you’ve done that, the next step is to submit your script to executives. You need to make sure it’s been through some sort of edit, and that it has all the right elements.

There are people who don’t check this out before sending their script. They send their screenplay to a production company, and it is then rejected because they feel it isn’t the right fit.

Get it ready

Once you’ve checked everything out, it’s time to make your script as perfect as you can. The more you polish your script, the more likely you are to get it read.

You’ll also want to work on it from different angles. Just having someone read it from the screenwriter’s perspective doesn’t mean they’re going to be as receptive to your ideas.

How to get your script read

A friend of mine did this recently and he spent months working on his script. The best producers won’t take his script right away, so he’s had to work hard to find someone who is prepared to take his script.

He took a long road to get to this point, but at this stage it feels worth it, as he’s found a producer who wants to make the movie.

Prepare your scriptbook, old, antique

This is something I’ve covered previously in another article, but the best way to prepare your script is to do your research. Find a reliable and reputable research company and set up a free account.

They will then send you a huge list of query letters.

These are sent to production companies, but they are so generic that they will usually work. At the very least, they will give you an idea of what sort of script to write.

If you’ve done the research, then now is the time to get writing. This is what you should aim to do in the last two weeks before submitting your script to an executive producer.

Ask for feedback

Executives don’t always want to take on a script with no notes. If you can make sure you have their names, their email addresses, and their phone numbers, then they will be more willing to read your script.

I always suggest that you send your script to some trusted friends. If someone else has read it, they will be more likely to spot any problems and offer up their feedback.

The difference between a producer and a co-producer

When executive producers are seeking a script, they’ll also want to know whether it is a co-production. For example, if it’s a big budget movie, then the producers of that project will want to be involved, as they will have a say in the production.

You should check whether or not you are a co-producer before pitching your script. You will often find out if you are through your personal contact, but it’s a good idea to check your company’s website for the right information.

Ready to submit your script?

Once you’ve submitted your script, then what happens next depends on how fast you are or how slow you are. The most important thing is that you don’t have to wait a long time before hearing back.


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