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How to sell a good story ?
  • I got a good (great) story, but have no budget. Any advice on how and to whom you can sell the story ? Also how to reveal parts of the story in order to keep interest of investors ? How to protect copyrights on the story ? Can you sell just story or is it better with a complete script ? Any advice? I'm located in Sweden ...

  • 18 Replies sorted by
  • great blog for this kind of topic:

    http://nofilmschool.com/

    1. No-one will buy your story idea. Ever.
    2. Ideas are like a**holes - everyone has one and no-one thinks that their's stinks.
    3. You cannot copyright an idea. You can only copyright the manifestation of that idea e.g. a book, screenplay, painting, film etc. (See 2 above)
    4. People only buy completed scripts, and only then if they are really good, and usually only then via and agent or lawyer or publisher or someone they trust that they have done business with before.
    5. If your idea is good then write your own script and then make your own movie.
    6. If it was easy everyone would do it.
  • @swinefever , @Alex, Thank you. I like this part: "If your idea is good then write your own script and then make your own movie."

    I need some more advice, it is not just idea, it is a unique story (real life) if it becomes a scripted than you are the creator/author right ? Also I'm not that skilled on writing scripts any advice ?

  • @feha

    You can write short book, for example, and publish it :-).

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev , thank you, that is great advice. Book can easy become a movie :-)

  • It will also check if story is really good.

    I really don't know someone who wrote story or book and think that story is not great. Of course, 98% of them sucks. :-)

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev , sure everyone thinks it's own story is best :-) But will let you know if and when it's ready than you can judge :-)

  • @feha I suggest you first read as many good scripts as you can.

    Here's a site where you can download free scripts...

    http://www.simplyscripts.com

    If you want to be able to 'sell' your story then you need to understand the elements that make a story/screenplay work.

    Read scripts that have either won screenwriting awards or have been the basis of award winning movies.

    You will need to learn how to engage an audience and how to structure and format the story.

    Here's a good place to begin...

    http://www.thewritersjourney.com

    If you want to try some screenwriting yourself you can download a free scriptwriting program called Celtx...

    http://www.celtx.com

    'Final Draft' is another script writing program that is pretty much the standard and is used by most screenwriters however a free version of Celtx is available which is fine.

    The biggest problem for new writers is the tendency to become self absorbed in their own story and ignore a wider audience. Something that may be important to you may not be of much interest to a movie paying audience.

    Unless you are fully funding your own production and don't care whether anyone comes to see it then you have to find a way to make others care about your story and the characters in it.

    Think of a story as a journey. The trick is to get an audience to get on-board and come on that journey from the opening scene right through to the end without ever wanting to get off. That's the goal.

    If you find out how to do it then please let me know! ;)

  • @pundit , thank you very much, your advice, is very helpful. Yes, I'm a beginner and I have no experience on writing the scripts despite the good story (i think, but I'm sure if i succeed you will like it ...) I think this topic and advices will be helpful for other members too (as a beginner like me).

  • You said you have a great story but no budget, does that mean you intend to produce the film yourself? Or do you just want it developed into a proper screenplay and then connect with another producer who would take it to the next step. Is it just something you hope to make money with or is it really important to you to actually see it made?

    If you havent already written a few scripts I'd recommend you hire a writer to take your idea and write a screenplay. Find another movie that you connect with and might be similar in tone and look up who wrote it. Write them an email tell them you liked their work and are looking for a writer, if they are a hollywood A-Lister they are probably out of your price range but writers know tons of writers and he might suggest an younger up & coming writer who might find your story interesting. Read the finalists from screenplay competitions, they probably have some skills if they are finalists and could be great and cheaper talent to work on your story. Read scripts and find a writer that you connect with.

    You'll need a contract drafted up as you want to make sure once the script is finished you have complete rights to the finished product. When you have your writer lined up contact Paul Batista Entertainment Lawyer http://www.tvfilmentertainmentlawyer.com/?page_id=26. He worked with first time filmmakers and non hollywood productions all the time. He can help you sort out that writing contract. He's not going to cost mega bucks and will get directly to the point of what you need. I'm not big on involving lawyers in story development but this is the one area where you can't screw around is with the CHAIN OF TITLE for that script if you hope to sell it.

    Once you and the writer have a price settled and a contract in place you can move forward and turn that idea into a screenplay.

    Another completely different strategy might be to jump on a plane and head to http://www.hollywoodpitchfestival.com/ pitch your idea to some execs who are into developing those kinds of storys. See if anyone else but you and your friends thinks its a good idea. If you find that there is lots of interest or curiosity then you know its time to turn that into a screenplay.

  • @Imaginate , thank you for very good advices. I would like to produce the film my self but it is difficult and it will require some good amount of time, lot of artists etc ... This story is a drama and it can generate a lot of money but at same time it is an important message to society etc ... The best way would be if i tell the story and writer makes it screenplay (of course with contract, as i want to own the copyrights and in this case the writer is just a writer). I think if I present ready screenplay than many companies would be interested to make a movie ...

  • This story is a drama and it can generate a lot of money but at same time it is an important message to society etc ...

    Sounds really dangerous. I mean same thing as 90% people tell :-)

    I think if I present ready screenplay than many companies would be interested to make a movie ...

    I doubt it.

  • The second hardest thing in the world to do is write a great screenplay. The first hardest thing is come up with an original idea that excites people. Great ideas rule and can indeed be sold as is or as a "Pitch". It happens ALL THE TIME. But as V says, everyone thinks they have a great idea and almost no one does -- that's one reason (not the only reason) why Hollywood adapts existing properties.

    If you've never written a screenplay then it's probably unwise to attempt it now and burn up this idea. 99.9% of first timer screenplays are awful, regardless of the concept -- there is a high level of craftwork involved in writing screenplays. Screenplays have fairly rigid requirements for structure, pacing, dialog and even format. As V says, perhaps write the idea as a short story and copyright it. Then try and market it.

  • @brianluce , thank you for your advice. Great points ... I must think out what is the best way for me to go, with no budget and no experience in screenplay writing ... As you and VK suggest write it down as a short story, than to extract it more toward screenplay ...

  • Start with a basic concept/outline first and then fill in some detail. Don't be afraid to let people whose opinions you trust read it and give you some honest feedback. Listen to what they tell you because if they see some problems with it then the chances are others will too. Don't be discouraged by any criticism. Learn from it.

    Whatever you first write, and no matter how brilliant you think it is, a week later you will think it is total crap and start all over again... and again. If you don't you should probably give up writing then and there!

    If you get stuck take a break for a while and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes.

    The harsh reality is even if you think your story is 'great' that becomes irrelevant if the people with the $$$ don't agree with you. And that, as mentioned above, applies to about 99.9% of everything that was ever written.

  • If your goal is to produce the story yourself you dont need to sell it to someone else, just hire a writer to create the screenplay and move forward from there. Why not go for it if that is your dream? Once you have a screenplay... you can actually get some real feedback from other writers and producers, thats when you know if you have a story that can connect with people, but if you dont even try to take it to that level it wont go anywhere. Spend some money on a writer. Some people buy a motorcycle because that is their major goal in life... if your goal is to create a screenplay then hire a writer. Sure there are thousands of bad scripts and storys that get written but to prejudge it before its even written is crazy. Follow your heart. Go for it. Live life.

  • In the event you want to try writing your own script, here are some tips that have worked remarkably well for me:

    1 - Email yourself the story as you write it to keep a record of its progress, even if you're simply changing 1 word. This is the easiest and cheapest way (i.e. free) to put a time stamp on your work if ever you need to prove authorship.

    2- Start with an outline first. Working out ideas/structure once you've started the screenplay can quickly turn your script into a disorganized disaster. I learned this the hard way.

    3- Once you start writing the screenplay, DO NOT edit your work UNTIL you've finished (i.e. the last line left is THE END). Rewriting is a disease all writers are plagued with, sucking you into a vortex of endless tweaking. The danger here is spending months refining one page/scene/line, getting you nowhere fast.

    4- Minimize description in your script. Most amateur screenplays are plagued by tons of useless verbiage, i.e. 2 lines of dialogue, then 17 paragraphs of description. Want a lesson in minimal descriptive writing? Read Shakespeare.