Monday, October 10, 2011

Putting your scripts online?

Joseph writes: I've recently finished two pilots and am working on a spec right now. I'm planning on moving to LA next summer and would like to be as prepared as I can when I get there, so I set up a portfolio website to introduce myself and display my work. I've read online that these can be a good way to get your name out there, but haven't been able to find much info on the subject and I was wondering what you thought about them and if you had any suggestions on what to include. Do you think it's a good idea to show my actual scripts on the website as long as they are registered with the WGA? or should I just have a summary of the pilots and have people email me if they would like to read them? Any other tips you might have would be greatly appreciated.

Hmm. My gut instinct is to tell you not to put your scripts online, but I can't come up with a lot of reasons why. There's no reason to be overly precious or protective of your work...it's not as though people are begging new writers to read stuff (usually we have to do the begging)! Also, I don't think anyone is going to steal your ideas, and like you said, you can protect yourself by registering the scripts with the WGA. Still, if you meet people (managers, agents, producers, etc.), you'll want to establish email contact at some point - and you'd be able simply to email your scripts to them. I feel like if you tell people "just go to this website," they might never do it. If people who stumble across your site are impressed by other material you post online (like blog posts), they might want to download your scripts - but they could also just email you if you post an email address online.

My friend Josh and his writing partner Juliana, who were chosen for NBC's Writers on the Verge, have posted their scripts online (on Josh's blog) for a while...so I asked Josh if he thought posting scripts online had helped them. Here's his response:

I have no idea whether it's helped us or not. We've certainly not had any producers or agents contacting us based on that. Where it may have helped us, though, is in getting freelance work. I can't say for sure that this is why, but over the past year or so we've been doing more ghostwriting working -- books, pilots, features -- and a few of the people have mentioned our work. Not necessarily that they found it on the site, but I'm not sure where else they would have seen it. I just figure it doesn't hurt anything to put it out there, and there's always the chance that someone who matters will see it, whereas if you don't do it, there's no chance.

Anyone else get bites from posting your scripts online? Please comment!

10 comments:

Jane said...

If there's nothing to lose by posting your scripts online (and I don't think there is) then I say go for it.

There's little chance of making a connection or getting a gig that way - but little chance is not the same as no chance, so why not take it?

Dan Williams said...

If you post a couple of spec scripts on your website, my feeling is that would be good, since it could lead to a meeting with an agent, manager or other VIP down the road. Specs, you want to get out there.

Spec Pilots, you don't. They are original material. The ideas and the take are something you would best present in a meeting you got because of your Spec scripts.

I think if you posted, let's say 10 spec scripts, you would really stand out and somebody in LA would notice. But that's just a guess. But why not showcase your talent and enterprise and energy?

The Bitter Script Reader said...

I'd worry that if you posted ten unsold scripts, the first thought someone in Hollywood would have is "If this guy's so good, why hasn't he gotten anywhere with ONE of these ten scripts?"

Honestly, I'm of the opinion that it's a bad idea to put your stuff out there so openly. I'm with Amanda in thinking that you'd probably have just as much luck putting your email address out there. If they're interested enough to download a script, then they'd be just as likely to send an email saying, "Show me what you got."

I covered this topic a while back on my site.

Dan Williams said...

Bitter, I don't see the logic as working the same as you do. My take is a bit different.

If a writer posts ten scripts on a website, I wouldn't think, "Why hasn't he or she sold them already?" I'd think, "Wow, this person has the writing thing down, is serious, and I wonder if they have representation?" But I would read at least one script to see what the writer's got.

However, posting stuff is not for everybody. So the person needs to figure themselves out on the issue. But I think if some scripts were posted, and then the writer sent a fax to an agency inviting them to read one or two, that might be a better way in for some than trying to get an agent to read a spec some other way. Posting scripts has a place.

Sasha said...

My instinct is that posting your work on a website isn't a good idea.

Don't you want to tailor your image and pitches to the particular person you're talking to?

Also, throwing your scripts out in public for anyone to see without even asking or paying anything (not even in terms of taking the time for a meeting with or personal email to you) seems as though it would devalue your work. Don't you want all your connections to feel "special," like they're getting something from you that nobody else is? Why would you let them know that they're getting exactly the same pitch and reading exactly the same stuff as joe schmo internet surfer has access to?

I don't think anyone should be precious with their work, but I do think that cultivating a special-feeling relationship and a certain image with contacts is important, if you want them to feel any sort of connection to or (best of all possible worlds) obligation toward you.

I think pitching in person and emailing scripts are the best-case ways of cultivating a connection or getting someone to read your work, because it's the most "person-to-person" way of making the sale. I don't think making the pitching or selling process *less* personal is the way to go.

Dan Williams said...

Sasha, what you are saying, I believe, is that posting scripts is not for YOU. You like to establish a personal connection or raport and tailor your pitch to the person. Which is great, that's what works for you.

On the other hand, how would a writer in a small town in Kansas go about pursuing the same kind of rapport when the agent and the agency is in L.A.?

Also, not ALL writer's will feel as you do that posting scripts somehow devalues and depersonalizes them. Once the agent reads the script and makes contact, there will be plenty of time to establish a warm human relationship.

But it's not for everybody. Why not try it yourself with one of your spec scripts and see what happens?

Sasha said...

Dan, of course I was giving my personal opinion and the reasons behind it. Isn't everybody?

"On the other hand, how would a writer in a small town in Kansas go about pursuing the same kind of rapport when the agent and the agency is in L.A.?"

If you are working from a small town in Kansas, the personal touch is even more important, in my opinion. If you're part of a social circle where you're going to see a manager or agent or whoever your contact is intermittently anyway, then maybe you can afford to be less formal and personal and just direct a possible connection/friend to a site that's set up for everyone instead of actually giving them your scripts yourself and throwing in a pitch besides. But if you're a total outsider, then you've got to do more to convince people that you 1. know what you're doing 2. aren't totally ignorant of the industry and how it works (which would make you an albatross in terms of the agent's/manager's time) 3. would be able to network for yourself (which is also good for the agent/manager). If you're just putting your scripts on a site, it's going to be a lot tougher to convince them they shouldn't be concerned that you'd be ignorant or difficult in a business relationship, just because you don't get any one-on-one time with them and you're not showing any real commitment to working with them yourself.

If you're working from a small town in Kansas, I personally feel that the smart thing to do is to build on *personal* connections you have -- professors, alumni from your college or high school, friends of friends, etc -- people who already know they can trust you. You've got to win a person's trust before you start a business relationship with them. If you've got a lot of credentials or past success, that can win trust, but if you don't, you've got to rely on them trusting you as a person. So getting someone to vouch for you or proving you're a trustworthy person through face-time/good salesmanship becomes very important. Like I said, when you're already some untested, faceless person from a thousand miles away, I don't think the smart thing to do is to depersonalize the process further.

In terms of your work being devalued by being accessible to all, the issue I have isn't that *the writer* would feel like the work is worth less, it's that free work is likely to attract "connections" that will then not want the price to rise too much too fast -- and when you start out pricing the work as "free" that could be an issue in terms of earning any money or actually making connections that will be worthwhile.

To me, putting samples online doesn't answer the concerns about pricing or about industry/business knowledge that people who want to connect with you in order to pay their mortgages and car leases really need to know, and that's why it's ultimately not the strategy I'd go with.

Eltram said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eltram said...

I'm taking a tv writing class and something like this came up. As far as spec scripts go, it's cheaper for the studio to pay you bare minimum, rather than take it and say one of their other writers wrote it and pay them more than they'd pay you. Plus, they might have to fight you in a legal battle. So for spec scripts you'd be good. I'd just be worried about other writers stealing them.

However, as for original ideas like pilots, it's much more likely the studio would steal those. Make sure they are copyrighted. And even then they subtlety can change the idea and still not have to pay you.

---Ben
https://mackjackandjill.wordpress.com/

Dan Williams said...

Sasha, I've been thinking over the points you made and I think I was wrong on one of them: putting too many on a site, and putting ones you want to sell on a site.

Spec scripts that a writer does not want to sell are okay to go on a site as examples of the writer's talent, skill and knowledge. And they can be referred to in a letter or a fax to an agency, inviting them to have a look, and maybe then make an appointment to meet with the writer.

Spec scripts and pilots that a writer wants to sell should, as you point out, be given with a pitch during face time with the agent. The writer would be trying to build up trust, show that he or she can network on their own, and show that he or she knows how the business works.

So using the web to showcase scripts comes at the beginning of the relationship, the introduction. Pitching and showing scripts for sale comes later.

A writer in Kansas can both network locally and showcase a not-for-sale script on the web, or not, as a way into the business.

That seems to cover it!