Adam Levenberg @StarterScript is one of Hollywood's most in demand screenwriting consultants. As a reader for USA Films (BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, TRAFFIC), Adam recommended scripts such as HOLLYWOODLAND and SYLVIA, which were both produced by the studio. After working as a Creative Executive for Intuition Productions (THE STEPFORD WIVES, PASSENGERS), Adam moved on to One Race Films (XXX, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, THE PACIFIER, FIND ME GUILTY, FAST & FURIOUS) where he was promoted to be the company's Development Executive.
At One Race, Adam's responsibilities included interacting with every major literary agency in order to cover the spec market and meeting with the industry's top screenwriters to hear pitches and help fill writing assignments for the many original and sequel projects on the company's slate. After leaving One Race to open ENDZONE CONSULTING, Adam's clients now include one of Hollywood's biggest producers as well as a legendary two time Academy Award winning actor. Adam is a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts with a degree in Critical Studies.
Don't miss the chance to pick an exec's brain Sunday March 25th, 8pm BST, and check out Adam's site, Hire a Hollywood Exec. His new book The Starter Screenplay: How to Write a Screenplay Hollywood Wants to Read is now available on Kindle.
Here's an excerpt from Adam's book:
HOLLYWOOD DOESN’T PASS, THEY JUST DON’T CALL BACK
If you’re wondering why you have not heard back on a submission, it is likely the company reviewed the material and passed.
It takes less than one minute for a production company employee to pick up and put down over 90% of unrepresented material. Even if your script is technically proficient, your concept, characters and dialogue may not be strong enough to keep a reader engaged beyond ten pages.
The chances of breaking into the industry via query letter are few and far between. These submissions are not taken seriously by production companies—usually the person requesting is an assistant and they hand it over to interns to read.
Don’t be like an anxious teenager awaiting SAT results. Mark your calendar for a month and follow up then.
A PASS BY ANY OTHER NAME
Hollywood hates to pass. Usually if you do get a call or email, you’ll be told:
…It’s not for us at this time.
…We are developing a similar project already.
…Someone else is developing a similar project.
…This script is great! It’s just not right for our company.
…Our slate is full. (I’m not if sure anyone’s used this in the past decade.)
…I really like the writing but the script is not commercial.
…Come back with an actress/actor/director attached.
All of these statements are more or less ways of passing on your screenplay AND your writing.
“Not for us at this time” is meaningless. Unless you’re operating on the assumption that time travel devices are on the horizon.
“Our slate is full” is just bullshit—there’s no such thing as a production company with too many projects. The company hires more vice presidents when that happens.
The “similar project at our company” or “around town” claim is an easy out, as sometimes it’s true. But if the executive thinks there is ANY chance of your script selling, they’ll email it to agents and managers to gain favors. The exec may also discuss your other ideas or pitch you ideas to write for them on spec.
The comment about commerciality can be true. But if they think you’re the next Charlie Kaufman, they’ll refer your material to an agent or manager.
It’s a complete blow off when a company tells you to come back with a talent attachment. Does it need to be said that they’d reconsider if Tom Cruise wants to star in your project? This response may be honest if a studio executive calls an agent and lists specific actors or actresses they need to move the project forward. But when a producer says this to an unrepresented writer, it’s a surefire “PASS!”
WHAT SHOULD I BELIEVE?
Just because a company passes on your project doesn’t mean you lack talent or aren’t good enough to eventually become a professional screenwriter. You can gain insight into their responses by assessing the following criteria.
Consider how long the pass conversation runs. Are they off the phone in under a minute? Not a good sign. This means they don’t care what other scripts you have or what you’re writing next. Time to hire a consultant because you need to seriously up your game.
The conversation lasts longer if they really like your writing. Do they discuss the script at length and make suggestions? If so, ask if they would like to read a rewrite in a few months. Or help you develop the rewrite.
Does the executive ask what other scripts you have? Email the loglines and let them choose what to read next. Do they ask what you’re working on now? Sometimes an exec will make it clear their door is open to your material. Hang on to their contact info.
If your spec gets multiple “no thank you” passes, stop submitting for now and put that energy into learning how to write stronger material.
To read more, get it instantly on Kindle.
To read more, get it instantly on Kindle.