Are you a talented storyteller with a passion for television? Do you dream of seeing your ideas come to life on the small screen? Submitting a TV script can be an exhilarating journey filled with opportunities and possibilities.
However, it’s important to approach this process with the right mindset, preparation, and knowledge to increase your chances of success.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the essential steps of how to submit a TV script effectively.
From understanding the target network to leveraging networking opportunities, we’ll cover it all, providing you with expert insights to navigate the intricacies of the TV industry.
Writing a TV script is a creative endeavor that requires passion, skill, and a deep understanding of the television industry.
Once you have crafted a compelling TV script, the next crucial step is submitting it to relevant networks or production companies.
This guide walks you through the process of submitting a TV script, from formatting and finding the right contacts to navigating the submission process effectively.
How to Submit a TV Script: Step-by-Step Guide
Understand the Target Network
One of the fundamental aspects of submitting a TV script is understanding the target network or production company you wish to work with.
Each network has its own unique style, genre preferences, and target audience.
Before you start writing, immerse yourself in the content produced by the network you’re targeting. Watch their shows, analyze their storytelling techniques, and gain a deep understanding of their brand.
By doing so, you’ll be able to tailor your script to align with their sensibilities, increasing the likelihood of it resonating with the decision-makers.
Format Your Script Properly
The importance of properly formatting your TV script cannot be overstated.
A professionally formatted script not only makes it easier for industry professionals to read but also demonstrates your commitment and professionalism as a writer.
Use screenwriting software that automatically formats your script to industry standards, or familiarize yourself with the specific guidelines outlined in “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by David Trottier.
Pay attention to details such as font size, margins, dialogue layout, and scene headings. A well-formatted script reflects your dedication to your craft and enhances the chances of your work being taken seriously.
Write a Compelling Logline
In the fast-paced world of TV script submissions, first impressions matter. Crafting a compelling logline is a crucial step in the process of submitting a TV script.
It’s your script’s calling card—a concise and powerful summary that captures the essence of your story and entices readers to delve deeper into your script.
A well-crafted logline can be the difference between your script being considered or overlooked. Here’s how to write a logline that grabs attention and leaves a lasting impression:
Keep it Concise and Clear
A logline should be brief and to the point, usually consisting of one or two sentences. Avoid unnecessary details or subplots—focus on the central premise and main conflict.
The goal is to communicate the heart of your story in a way that is easily digestible and compelling.
Example: In a world where magic has faded, a young wizard-in-training must embark on a perilous journey to restore the lost spell that can save their kingdom.
Introduce the Protagonist and Their Goal
Include the name of your main character (if relevant) and what they aim to achieve. The protagonist’s goal drives the narrative, and it’s essential to establish this early on in the logline.
Example: A determined archaeologist sets out to find a legendary artifact that can rewrite history and change the course of civilization.
Highlight the Central Conflict
The logline should present the main obstacle or challenge the protagonist faces. This conflict creates tension and drama, making readers eager to find out how the character will overcome it.
Example: A brilliant detective must race against time to catch a cunning serial killer before they strike again, putting everyone they care about in danger.
Showcase Uniqueness and Originality
Make your logline stand out by emphasizing what makes your story unique. Is there a fresh twist on a familiar genre? A fascinating setting? A surprising character trait? Highlighting these elements can make your logline memorable and intriguing.
Example: In a future where emotions are regulated, a rebel with the ability to feel others’ emotions becomes the last hope for freedom and genuine connection.
Convey Tone and Genre
Give readers a sense of the story’s tone and genre. Is it a thrilling mystery, a heartwarming comedy, or an epic fantasy? This helps the reader envision the world and atmosphere of your script.
Example: A heartwarming family drama follows a group of misfits who come together to save their beloved community center from being shut down.
While you want to generate curiosity, be careful not to reveal major plot twists or the ending. A logline should tease and intrigue, not spoil the surprises in your script.
Example (incorrect): An ordinary woman discovers she’s the long-lost princess and must claim her rightful throne while battling her evil twin sister.
Edit and Refine
Crafting the perfect logline often requires multiple drafts. Write several versions and seek feedback from fellow writers or industry professionals. Refine and polish until you have a logline that captures the essence of your script concisely and compellingly.
Example (revised): A young woman, unaware of her royal lineage, must embrace her destiny and reclaim her kingdom from her malevolent twin sister in this thrilling fantasy adventure.
Create an Engaging Synopsis
After hooking the reader with a compelling logline, the next step in submitting a TV script is to provide an engaging synopsis.
Unlike the logline, which is a brief teaser, the synopsis offers a more detailed overview of your story, giving the reader a clearer understanding of the characters, plot, and central conflict.
Crafting an engaging synopsis is essential as it serves as the gateway to your full script. Here’s how to create a synopsis that captivates the reader and leaves them eager to explore your TV script further:
Start with the Essentials
Begin your synopsis by introducing the main characters and the world they inhabit. Set the stage and provide context for the story.
Clearly establish the setting, time period, and any relevant background information that the reader needs to know to follow the narrative.
Example: In the bustling metropolis of New York City, a struggling artist named Alex finds themselves caught in the monotony of daily life, yearning for a chance to make their mark on the art world.
Focus on the Core Plot Points
Outline the major plot points of your TV script, focusing on the key events that drive the story forward.
Emphasize the central conflict and the challenges the protagonist faces as they pursue their goals. Be concise yet descriptive, allowing the reader to visualize crucial scenes and turning points.
Example: When Alex stumbles upon a mysterious art gallery hidden in the heart of the city, they are transported to a fantastical realm where art comes to life. In this wondrous world, they meet Anika, a talented artist trapped within her own creations.
Introduce Compelling Characters
Paint a vivid picture of your main characters, providing insight into their personalities, motivations, and arcs.
Showcase their strengths, weaknesses, and how they evolve throughout the story. Readers should be able to connect emotionally with the characters and become invested in their journeys.
Example: Anika, once a vibrant artist, has lost her ability to create and is desperate to escape the realm. As Alex helps Anika rediscover her passion for art, they form a deep bond that will forever change both of their lives.
Weave in Themes and Emotions
Highlight the underlying themes and emotions woven into your script. Whether it’s a story of love, redemption, or self-discovery, the synopsis should convey the emotional depth and resonance of your TV script. Show the reader what makes your story meaningful and relatable.
Example: Together, Alex and Anika embark on a quest to find the mythical “Canvas of Imagination,” which holds the power to free Anika and restore creativity to the world. Along the way, they encounter trials that challenge their beliefs and force them to confront their own fears and insecurities.
Maintain Suspense and Avoid Spoilers
Keep the synopsis suspenseful by revealing enough to entice readers without giving away crucial plot twists or the ending. Tease the reader with hints of what’s to come, making them eager to discover how the story unfolds.
Example (incorrect): As Alex and Anika overcome various obstacles, they eventually find the Canvas of Imagination and use its magic to return to the real world, where Alex’s art gains international recognition, and Anika opens her own successful gallery.
End on a Strong Note
Conclude the synopsis with a powerful and intriguing note that leaves the reader wanting more. A compelling ending can leave a lasting impression and inspire the reader to request the full script.
Example (revised): In a final confrontation with the sinister Art Magician, Alex must make a heart-wrenching sacrifice to save Anika and preserve the balance between the worlds of reality and imagination. The tale concludes with the enduring message that art has the power to transform lives and bridge the gap between the ordinary and the extraordinary.
Edit and Polish
As with the logline, crafting an engaging synopsis may require several iterations. Edit your synopsis meticulously, focusing on clarity, coherence, and maintaining the reader’s interest. Seek feedback from trusted peers or writing groups to refine your synopsis to perfection.
Protect Your Work
As a dedicated writer, protecting your intellectual property is of utmost importance when submitting a TV script.
Taking the necessary steps to safeguard your work from potential theft or unauthorized use not only provides you with peace of mind but also demonstrates professionalism and respect for your creative endeavors. Here’s how you can protect your TV script effectively:
Register with the Writers Guild of America (WGA)
One of the most common and recognized methods of protecting your TV script is by registering it with the Writers Guild of America (WGA).
The WGA is a reputable organization that offers script registration services for both WGA West (Los Angeles) and WGA East (New York). Registering your script with the WGA establishes a legally recognized date of creation and ownership.
In the event of any disputes or claims of plagiarism, having an official registration with the WGA can serve as strong evidence of your authorship.
Copyright Your Script
In addition to WGA registration, you can also consider copyrighting your TV script with the U.S. Copyright Office.
While copyright protection is automatically granted to original works at the moment of creation, formally registering your script with the Copyright Office provides you with additional legal advantages.
A registered copyright enables you to pursue legal action against anyone who infringes on your rights, potentially resulting in monetary damages and legal fees.
Use Watermarks and Disclaimers
When sharing your script with potential collaborators or industry professionals, consider adding watermarks to each page.
Watermarks can be customized to display your name or the script’s title, discouraging unauthorized distribution.
Additionally, include a disclaimer on the cover page of your script, stating that the material is copyrighted and confidential, and should not be reproduced without permission.
Be Cautious with Digital Sharing
In the digital age, sharing scripts electronically is common practice, but it also carries some risks.
When sending your script via email or file-sharing platforms, be cautious and limit access to trusted individuals or parties genuinely interested in your work.
Avoid posting the entire script on public forums or social media, as this may compromise your ability to claim exclusive rights to the material.
Consider Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)
If you are engaging in meetings or discussions with potential producers, agents, or collaborators, consider using Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).
An NDA is a legally binding contract that prevents the parties involved from disclosing or using confidential information without your permission.
While not always necessary, NDAs can offer an added layer of protection when sharing sensitive information about your script.
Document Your Creative Process
Keeping thorough records of your creative process can be valuable if any disputes arise concerning the originality of your work.
Maintain dated drafts, notes, and any correspondence related to your script’s development. This documentation can serve as evidence of your creative journey and ownership.
Seek Representation (Optional)
While not mandatory, having representation from a reputable agent or manager can be advantageous in the competitive world of television writing.
Established representatives have industry connections and insights, which can help your script reach the right hands.
Research agents or managers who specialize in your genre and have a track record of success. If you decide to seek representation, prepare a strong query letter to introduce yourself and your work.
Research Submission Guidelines
Before submitting your TV script, thoroughly research the submission guidelines for each target network or production company.
Different entities have specific requirements for script submissions, which may include preferred formats, requested materials, and contact information.
Adhering to these guidelines demonstrates your professionalism and respect for their submission process.
Prepare a Persuasive Cover Letter
A well-crafted cover letter serves as your introduction to the reader and offers insight into your passion and dedication as a writer.
Use the cover letter to briefly introduce yourself, explain your inspiration behind the script, and highlight any relevant experience or accomplishments.
Keep the tone professional yet engaging, making the reader eager to explore your script.
Be Patient and Persistent
Submitting a TV script can be a waiting game, and rejection is a possibility. It’s crucial to remain patient and persistent throughout the process.
Understand that the TV industry operates on its timeline, and response times may vary widely. Use any feedback you receive to improve your writing skills and enhance your future submissions.
Remember, persistence and determination are often key to success in the entertainment world.
Leverage Networking Opportunities
In the dynamic and interconnected world of entertainment, networking can be a valuable asset.
Attend industry events, film festivals, and screenwriting conferences to connect with fellow writers, producers, and executives.
Building relationships within the industry can lead to valuable contacts and open doors to opportunities that may not be advertised publicly.
Stay engaged and proactive in expanding your network, as it can play a pivotal role in your writing journey.
Submitting a TV script is an exciting and challenging journey, requiring a combination of talent, preparation, and perseverance.
By understanding the target network, formatting your script professionally, and protecting your work, you set yourself up for success.
Crafting a compelling logline and synopsis, and seeking representation if possible, can further enhance your chances.
Always research submission guidelines, prepare an engaging cover letter, and remember to be patient and persistent.
Leverage networking opportunities to enhance your industry presence and increase your chances of transforming your television dreams into reality.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I submit my TV script to multiple networks simultaneously?
Yes, you can submit your script to multiple networks at the same time. However, be mindful of each network’s specific guidelines and exclusivity requirements.
Should I send my full script with the initial submission?
In most cases, networks prefer a logline and synopsis with the initial submission. Only send the full script if requested or if the submission guidelines explicitly state so.
How long does it typically take to hear back from a network?
Response times vary widely and can range from a few weeks to several months. It’s essential to be patient and focus on other projects during the waiting period.
Do I need prior writing experience to submit a TV script?
While prior writing experience can be beneficial, it’s not a strict requirement. If your script is compelling and well-written, it stands a chance of being considered, regardless of your background.
Can I submit a spec script for an existing TV show?
Yes, submitting a spec script (a sample episode of an existing show) can be a way to showcase your writing skills. However, ensure the show you choose is currently relevant and not past its prime.
Should I follow trends when developing my TV script?
While it’s essential to be aware of industry trends, don’t feel compelled to follow them blindly. Focus on telling a unique and authentic story that resonates with you, as originality often stands out in the crowded market.