This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
So, you’ve finished your screenplay. You’ve read all the books, checked out all the advice online and drafted, redrafted, started from scratch, and drafted again. It’s been in a drawer for two months so you can look upon it with fresh eyes and been drafted yet again. You have slaved away for days, weeks, months, or even years on end and now, your opus, your crowning achievement, is finally finished. So, what do you do next?
Well, one option is to simply sit and wait for the world to discover your genius, all the while lamenting that these philistines and ingrates do not appreciate you in your own time. Another is to bury it in the garden as an isolated treasure of your genius for future generations to discover and claim that yes, these truly were the best of times. Or you could, you know, actually send it out and try to get it made.
This third option is by far the hardest, not only because it involves actually doing something, but because it opens you up both to the possibility of unparalleled success, and to the scrutiny of others who might not find your work as awe-inspiring as you do. Indeed, they may actively hate it and send it back to you covered in, possibly human, feces, as a sign of their utter disdain for your work, your effort and your very existence on this planet. Or, worse still, a form letter or, more likely, no response at all. Nothing stings quite as badly as complete indifference.
Of course, there are many places to send your work, where they will enter it into some competition, or provide notes “guaranteed” to make your screenplay sparkle for industry insiders and professionals (for an often hefty fee, of course). There is no shortage of people out there looking to charge you money (in some instances, hundreds of pounds) to make all your dreams come true and whilst some of them are actually legit (at least in terms of providing some useful advice), they are few and far between. So, to help you navigate this big bad world and get your work to the right people, here is a list of some of the more reputable places your screenplay might find a home.
Of course, none of these are guaranteed to buy your work, or even like it. But if you’ve got not just a good screenplay, but a really, really great one, then these just might help your work get noticed.
BBC Script Room
Accepts: TV & movie screenplaysCost: Free
This is the obvious one and arguably one of the best talent drives in the country. The BBC Script Room will take the work of pretty much anyone, as long as it conforms to their guidelines. These include such things as your work needs to be an original piece, not an adaption, or poetry or a novel, not too long/short and the writer currently resides in the UK.
Due to the high volume of submissions, the structure for submissions was changed in 2012. Whereas previously, you could send in any script in at any time of the year, they now offer windows (open for about a month), for you to send in a specific kind of work. There is, for instance, a comedy window and a drama window, both of which accept movies and TV scripts.
The dates for these are published closer to the time, but generally at the start of the year they will tell you a rough time for when they open, giving you plenty of notice to get the appropriate screenplay finished (the first window generally closes towards the end of March).
The best way to keep up to date with this information is through the BBC Writers Room, which not only informs of their windows, but of various other writing opportunities throughout the country.
If you have a Twitter account, it is also worth following them there (@bbcwritersroom), as they will post information about the windows. Plus, the Writer’s Room Twitter account always seems happy to answer any questions you may have in regards to submissions or other related questions.
Due to the overwhelming amount of submissions they receive (which is literally thousands per window), they are unable to provide individual feedback, so you shouldn’t take it too personally if they don’t get back to you. But they do promise to read the first ten pages of every script (and more if they like it), so at least you know someone has actually looked at your work, rather any worrying it is lost in some overworked and underpaid reader’s slush-pile.
Accepts: TV & movie screenplaysCost: $25 per month (optional $30-50 script-reading service)
Born from a survey in 2005 to list the best unproduced screenplays, this website is a little bit different. For a start, it charges. Now, hold on. I know I said earlier that there are plenty of people looking to make money from wannabe screenwriters, but some places actually are actually respectable. This is one of those. The website enables anyone to place a screenplay on their website, for $25 per month (currently around £16.50).
They also offer to have your script read and provide feedback for an additional $30-50 (depending on length), but this is an optional extra.
Now, what makes this site different? Firstly, it has a level of respectability most script-critiquing sites do not. This is partly due to the fact is seemingly works. Of the 970 scripts included on the website over the past decade or so, 270 of them have been produced, whilst other people found representation and got other jobs after their work was discovered on the site. This is for movie screenplays. They now also accept original episodic material, such as TV pilots, although the success rate for this seems to be far lower.
It is also worth noting that whilst this is primarily an American website, there are success stories of movies being made from over the pond, including Ireland and Sweden.
Now, whether you want to go this route depends on both your level of confidence in your screenplay and the level of disposable income you have. But if you have the confidence and the money, you can do a lot worse than put it on here for a month. Even if you don’t get the feedback you were expecting, at least you know it came from a reputable source.
Accepts: TV & movie screenplaysCost: Free
This is another free service. You sign up (or log-in if you already have an Amazon account) and upload your screenplay. Accepting both TV and feature-length, of any genre, this is a potentially ideal place to send your screenplay.
As Amazon gets more involved in actual production of TV and film to challenge Netflix, it has taken a more open approach, hoping that enough monkeys will eventually produce the works of Shakespeare, and then upload it to their website.
When you upload it, you can give people the opportunity to critique it, and optionally, to collaborate on it, or to keep it private. If you choose the latter option, only Amazon Studio staff will be able to look at it. Now, the precise process they use to do this is not very clear (it is unlikely they read the entire screenplay), but they do say they will try to get back to you within 45 days, saying whether or not they would like to option your script.
You may remember there was a lot of controversy when they first launched this initiative back in 2010, which had a lot of issues revolving around ownership and whether or not by uploading your screenplay you were actually giving Amazon an 18-month option on it, for free. However, it seems that following a great deal of negative backlash at this highly questionable policy, things have changed and the author retains sole ownership of the work until they accept an option from Amazon, should they choose to offer one.
Academy Nicholl Fellowship
Accepts: Movie screenplays onlyCost: $40-$70 (est)
This is a movie screenwriting competition run by the Academy (ie the people who hand out Oscars). Obviously this is a very prestigious competition, where up to five winners can receive a $35,000 fellowship.
What is particularly attractive about this competition, is not only the brand name recognition but that it is focused primarily on writers who have not yet made a significant amount of money from their writings. If your lifetime earnings for writing for film and television are more than $25,000 then you are ineligible to enter.
Despite the being a big name in the industry, there is an entry fee, which varies depending on when you enter. The 2015 award had three fee brackets; $40 before March 2nd, $55 before April 10th and $70 before May 1st. Whilst it might seem like a cheek for such a big player to charge a fee at all, the reality is that at least part of the reason is to minimise people sending in works that aren’t finished, just because it doesn’t cost anything to do so. Even with the fees, there were 7,511 entries in 2014 alone. That is a lot of scripts to read, particularly given each script is read at least twice.
Given there are so many entries and only a maximum of five (and potentially zero) winners, plus an entry fee, this is for your top, perfectly polished scripts, only.
Sir Peter Ustinov Television Scriptwriting Award
Accepts: TV screenplays onlyCost: Free
Run by the International Academy of Television, Arts & Sciences (ie, the International Emmys), this is obviously another prestigious award handed out by an organisation with brand recognition. Whereas the Nicholls was looking for feature length scripts, this competition is focused on finding people who want to write for TV (pieces have to be 30 to 60 minutes in length), but have no TV credits to their name.
There are two important criteria:
1. The applicant must be a non-US citizen2. The applicant must be under 30, as per the date specified
Whilst this sucks for any of us who have reached the big three-oh, it is actually a great competition and a great opportunity, not least of all because it is free to enter.
It is also worth noting that the organisation is not shy in handing out the award to winners from the same country several times in a row. So, if a fellow countryman is a winner, this doesn’t negatively impact your chances. For example, the UK had the winning script in 2011, 2012 and 2013, with a total of six of the previous eleven winners being from the UK (the rest were made up of Australia with four and Canada with one).
So, if you are a non-US citizen under the age of 30 and want to write for TV, then this is definitely something you should be seriously considering.
Though having recently ended for 2015, this is definitely one to mark in the diary for next year.
Aimed at those without TV or feature-length production credits, this competition is looking for both TV and feature-length scripts. The 12 winners attend a series of lectures with producers, writers and directors, whilst working on a script for a one-hour drama, with C4 having the option on the winning scripts for six months.
The winners will also be paid for participating in the course and for completing two drafts of a one-hour script. Whilst not as grand as a $35,000 prize, it does offer a real way into the industry with a number of winners going to to write for some hit Channel 4 shows.
These are not the only places where you can send a script, nor are they the only reputable ones. But if you’ve got a screenplay and are looking for somewhere to send it, this is a good place to start. Of course, it is always recommended that before submitting your work you look into this yourself to make sure you are comfortable (and eligible) with the terms and conditions and make sure it is the right place for you.
Good luck. Remember us when you’re famous…