Monday, September 17, 2012

What is a "writing sample?"

Frank asked via Twitter: I was told in coverage of a script (from an online coverage service) that it was a "great sample script" and got a "Recommend" under "Writer." What does that mean? What is next? Should I be excited?

Definitely be excited that a professional reader liked your script! We're a tough group to impress.

A "sample script" refers to a script that a writer (and his/her reps) will use to introduce the writer to the film community. If people like your sample, you'll get to meet producers, executives, etc. in general meetings and you'll be considered for open writing assignments (rewrites, adaptations, etc). Though we all write scripts in the hopes that they'll become movies someday, it's more likely that our scripts will function as writing samples. Even if a script never sells, it can be an invaluable tool that opens doors and leads to paid jobs.

In terms of what's "next" - unless the coverage service promises to send highly-rated scripts out to people in Hollywood (some of them do this), there's not really much you can do with this news. If the coverage was for an actual production company and not for a coverage service, a "Recommend" on writing would mean that you'd be kept in mind for future open writing assignments - but since this came from a coverage service, I don't think there are going to be any immediate results from your "Recommend." Still, you can feel confident about sending the script to more people. Ideally, someone will read your script and A) buy it, B) offer to represent you or C) send it to someone who can do one of those things. (Note: I don't think that writing about your "Recommend" in a query letter to an agency would be well-received.)

You might also want to evaluate whether your concept is clear, compelling and commercial. If you got a "Pass" on concept but "Recommend" on writing, the reader felt that your execution was impressive (characters, dialogue, etc.), but didn't think that people would want to buy the script. Can you rewrite the script to inspire a "Consider" or "Recommend" on concept? If it's time to move on from the script, be sure to develop a marketable concept for your next script.

2 comments:

Unknown said...

Is one strong sample enough to go out with? Or should you be prepared to show additional examples of scripted writing? What if you also have an interest in TV--would an original feature help you out there?

Amanda said...

Usually when people say "go out with," they mean "try to sell" - so that would refer to just one script.

Some agents and managers might want to see more than one script before signing you - but it's definitely possible to get signed off one script if that script is great. It's not that you need to have written a bunch scripts to get noticed; it's more that you probably aren't going to be at a professional level until you've written a bunch of scripts.

TV people hate reading features since they're so long, but it's not uncommon for someone to sell a pitch or spec pilot after gaining some heat in the feature world (like being on the Black List).