Dream of seeing your story come to life on the big screen? Wish you could sell your short film script and launch your writing career?
It’s tough for unknown screenwriters to get their work produced, especially shorts But with determination and a strategic approach, it is possible.
This comprehensive guide reveals insider tips and steps to help you successfully sell your short script and turn your cinematic dreams into reality. Follow this process to go from aspiring writer to produced screenwriter.
Polish Your Short Script to Perfection
The first crucial step is making sure your short film script is as strong as possible before sending it out. Here are some key ways to prep your script:
Do Multiple Draft Revisions
Expect to write at least 10-20 drafts before your script is ready. Don’t rush the revision process. Take the time needed to finesse your story, characters, dialog, and descriptions.
Refine the plot points and story structure. Develop the arcs for your main characters. Punch up the dialog so it crackles. Paint vivid imagery with your scene descriptions.
With each draft, your script will get tighter and stronger. Use feedback from trusted sources to identify weaknesses and problem areas to address in rewrites.
Get Feedback from Readers
Don’t rely solely on your own judgment. It’s vital to get objective feedback from experienced readers to identify issues and opportunities for improving your script.
Some options for getting quality feedback:
- Screenwriting friends and mentors
- Coverage services like ScriptReaderPro
- Peer feedback sites like Coverfly
- Screenwriting contests and workshops
Use the feedback to guide your rewrites until the script is as strong as you can make it.
Perfect Your Logline, Synopsis & Treatment
To sell your script, you need condensed documents that quickly summarize and pitch your story and characters.
A logline is a 1-2 sentence hook that markets your story’s concept and genre. For example:
When a high school loner falls into a forbidden romance with her teacher, they hatch a plan to start a new life together – no matter the cost.
A synopsis summarizes the full story, characters, and key events in 1 page.
A treatment is a “narrative blueprint” that outlines your story in detail, typically 5-10 pages long.
Writing these documents forces you to evaluate the clarity and intrigue of your story idea. It also provides materials to include with your script when pitching and querying.
Use Proper Screenplay Format
Format your script according to industry standards – 12-point Courier font, proper handling of sluglines, scenes, dialog, and descriptions. Avoid amateur mistakes.
Use screenwriting software like Celtx, which formats properly as you write. When your script looks professional, it shows you know your stuff.
With a rock-solid screenplay and accompanying documents in hand, you’re ready to start pursuing sales avenues.
Research the Market for Short Films
The next step is researching short film markets and opportunities to target your script appropriately.
Identify Production Companies Accepting Shorts
Many production companies accept short film submissions in certain genres or categories. Search websites and resource lists like The Ultimate List of Short Film Production Companies to find options accepting shorts.
Narrow your list to companies producing short films in genres that match your script. Thrillers, sci-fi, comedy – whatever niche your story fits into.
When possible, address your pitch to specific decision-makers at companies – development executives, producers, directors of acquisitions.
Find Relevant Contests and Festivals
Entering your script in screenwriting contests and film festivals offers great exposure. The major contests like the Austin Film Festival and Screencraft Shorts specifically have categories for shorts.
Do your research to find the right contests for your script based on their past selections and winners. Make a schedule to enter the contests over a period of time.
If you win or place, it can get your script directly into the hands of industry members. At a minimum, contest successes will help boost your credibility as a writer when pitching.
Join Screenwriting Networking Platforms
Online communities like Stage 32 and the ISA Network connect aspiring writers with producers, directors, and executives.
Set up a detailed profile for yourself as a writer. Follow relevant members in your genre niche. Share script excerpts and samples of your work. Comment on other’s posts to build connections.
Use the messaging features to reach out to promising contacts one-on-one. Over time, build relationships that could lead to interest in your script.
Create a Compelling Pitch Package
To maximize interest when querying production companies or potential buyers, you need an eye-catching pitch package. Here’s what to include:
Write an Intriguing Query Letter
Your query letter is often the first impression a script reader will have of your writing. Craft a compelling letter that quickly sells your story and writing skills.
Stick to a 1-page letter in 3 paragraphs:
Paragraph 1 – Introduce yourself and any relevant credits or experience.
Paragraph 2 – Summarize your script with a dynamic hook and logline.
Paragraph 3 – Express enthusiasm to send your full script for consideration. Include any relevant contest wins or placements to boost credibility.
Make a Sample Short Film
A sample scene or trailer from your short script can greatly boost interest when combined with your pitch package. With digital technology, it’s possible to create an effective short teaser without huge expense.
Enlist help from filmmaker friends or use DIY production techniques. Post the teaser on Vimeo or YouTube to include the link with your pitch materials.
Build an Eye-catching Look Book
Use concept art, storyboards, and mood boards to showcase your cinematic vision for the script. This gives readers a feel for costumes, shooting locations, and visual style.
Free online tools like Canva make it easy to design slick, professional lookbooks even with limited graphics experience.
Include the Director’s Vision if Applicable
If you have a director already attached to your script, include materials that present their vision like a director’s statement. Their passion and preparedness is reassuring for potential buyers.
With your script polished and a compelling pitch package ready, it’s time to start pitching directly to potential buyers.
Perfect Your Verbal Pitch
When opportunities arise to verbally pitch your short – whether at a festival or directly to an executive – you need to deliver your story and passion flawlessly.
Refine Your Core Pitch Points
Identify the 3-5 core elements that make your script and story unique. Emphasize what makes your premise fresh and enticing for audiences. Have this tight pitch down cold.
Memorize Your Logline
Your 1-2 sentence logline should summarize the genre, themes, and unique angle of your story. Recite it until you can pitch it smoothly in your sleep.
Prepare to Answer Common Questions
Expect questions about why this story inspired you, similar films, ideal casting, or projected budget range. Think through and rehearse answers to likely questions.
Time Your Pitch
Verbally pitching a short film should take 2-3 minutes max. Time yourself practicing to hit the sweet spot of intriguing listeners without rambling.
With practice, you’ll be able to passionately pitch your vision to excite any listener in a quick, focused way.
Pitch Your Script through Festivals and Events
Pitch events where you can directly interact with industry members are invaluable opportunities. Here are some options to target:
Attend Screenwriting Festivals and Pitch Events
Major screenwriting festivals like Austin Film Festival and ScreenCraft Film Fund host in-person pitch events where writers can verbally present their scripts to producers, agents, and executives.
Read the event guidelines closely to prepare the right length verbal pitch and any other required materials like one-sheets. Rehearse extensively before the event. Approach each pitch conversation as a potential opportunity to get your script requested for review.
Look for Pitch Sessions at Film Festivals
While more oriented to completed films, many major film festivals like Sundance and Tribeca also offer pitch sessions for aspiring filmmakers seeking financing for projects in development. Short scripts are sometimes considered.
Do your research to find festivals hosting pitch forums that will consider short scripts in your genre. These sessions get your script directly pitched to industry financiers and buyers actively looking for new projects.
Pitch to Production Companies and Directors
Don’t wait for formal pitch events. Reach out to production companies and directors accepting shorts directly to inquire about pitching your script.
Email a brief, enthusiastic pitch letter with your logline and synopsis. Offer to send the full script if they are interested. With persistence, you may get invitations to set up verbal pitch meetings over the phone or in person.
Leverage Your Networking Contacts
Remember all those fellow writers, directors, and producers you connected with through networking? Reach out to relevant contacts who could have leads for pitching your script.
Your contacts might be able to refer you to industry players looking for short scripts, or even be interested in optioning or buying your work themselves.
By consistently putting your pitch and script in front of the right people, you increase your odds of catching the interest of someone who can help launch your writing career.
Market Yourself as a Screenwriter
Beyond just pitching your specific short script, it’s critical to market yourself as a skilled screenwriter ready for hire. Promote your brand as a writer through:
Build an Online Portfolio Website
A website where industry players can view and read writing samples is extremely helpful. WordPress offers many free portfolio templates to choose from.
Include your bio, headshot, credits, script excerpts, and contact info where producers can reach you regarding scripts.
Promote Yourself on Social Media
Build a following on Twitter (now X), Instagram, and Facebook to get your name and writing in front of more eyeballs. Post news of script placements and wins. Share pictures from writer events you attend.
Engage with other writers as well as producers, bloggers, and film fans. Participate actively using relevant hashtags like #Screenwriting #Shortfilms #Indiefilm
Network and Make Industry Connections
Attend local writing events and film gatherings to expand your professional network. The more writers, directors, executives, and crew members who know you and your work, the more word-of-mouth promotion you can benefit from.
Online screenwriting communities like Stage 32 also provide great networking opportunities.
Consider Paid Script Listing Services
Sites like InkTip and The Black List offer paid monthly subscriptions where you can host your scripts and connect directly with industry members seeking new material.
Getting your work on reputable industry databases expands visibility and script access. Weigh the benefits versus monthly fees to determine if worthwhile.
Patience and persistence are required, but by actively promoting yourself and your writing skills in all of these ways, you increase the likelihood of attracting interest in your current and future scripts.
You Can Sell Your Short Film Script!
Is the process of selling a short script straightforward? Unfortunately, no – there are many steps required to catch that lucky break.
But with this comprehensive guide, you now have an inside track on the strategies and best practices to set your short screenplay up for success.
The key is to patiently pursue every avenue possible – polish your script until it’s airtight, create an irresistible pitch package, actively pitch at events and to companies, and relentlessly promote yourself as a skilled writer worth hiring.
By incorporating each facet of this process, you have an exponentially greater chance of selling your short film script and achieving that lifelong dream of becoming a produced screenwriter.
Stay motivated. Keep writing. And don’t give up on getting your story made – it can happen if you stick to an intelligent, multi-pronged approach. The film world is waiting for your unique voice!
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does a short film script sell for?
Prices for short film scripts can vary greatly but typically range from $500-$5,000 depending on the script’s quality, writer’s reputation, production demands, and more. Established writers with credits may sell shorts for $10K or higher. Budgets your buyer has access to also impact price.
How much should I charge for a short script?
When first starting out, consider pricing your short script in the range of $500-$1500. As you build credits and relationships, you can charge higher rates. Take into account length, genre, and production scale. Be open to negotiating if the producer has a maximum budget in mind.
Who buys short film scripts?
Production companies, indie producers, film studios with short film divisions, aspiring directors, crowdfunding campaigns – many outlets exist for selling short scripts. Research specific companies and players accepting shorts in your genre. Pitch to contests, festivals, and your film network connections.
Can I sell my movie script to Netflix?
As an unknown writer, selling directly to major platforms like Netflix is extremely difficult. However, you can use contests, film festivals, writing samples, and networking to get connected with producers who have existing relationships with Netflix and other streamers to potentially sell them your scripts.
How can I get my short film funded?
Some options to fund a short film from your script include: apply for arts grants, run a crowdfunding campaign, enter contests with production prizes, submit to studios with short film funds, pitch to individual investors, finance personally with cost-effective production techniques.