Friday, 13 June 2008

Getting 'It' Out There

In the comments section of Lucy’s post on MyVisualPitch here, Piers serves up a brilliantly cost effective and reliable method of promoting yourself and your screenplay to the world at large – which got me thinking (never a pleasant sight at the best of times). All the little baby steps I’ve made with my own scripts have mostly down to my own efforts – and by that I mean that I haven’t paid anyone or any website a single penny to promote my work. I tried Inktip last summer (see here for a summary) and got absolutely nowhere. I have no opinion as to why this was – perhaps my loglines didn’t inspire people to find out more, who knows? – and of course, you pays your money, you takes your choice (i.e., caveat emptor). But I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that if you - the writer - are in control, that’s got to be a good thing. And to be in control means doing it yourself.

Don’t get me wrong – I have absolutely nothing against sites like Inktip or MyVisualPitch (there’s no doubt that they work for some people). It’s just that – like Piers – I think there are far more cost effective ways of promoting your work and also retaining a degree of control regarding the process. Like most people I dislike cold calling, so I tend to lead with either a letter or an e-mail. If you come across as reasonably sane and intelligent, you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to who responds. You could do worse than start off with this list (on the bottom of the same post there’s also a link to a post on Danny Stack’s blog with similar information regarding different companies). Send ‘em an e-mail and see what happens! After all, it’s free. Add in a few script calls (the recent Sharps, for example) and the odd competition (if that’s your bag), and you should have enough to keep the promotions subsidiary of your screenwriting ‘business’ busy without bankrupting yourself. And if you really have a hankering to try and promote your work in the United States, try this website – it has more free information on it than you can shake an oversized stick at.

Absolutely 100% of all the opportunities I’ve gone for over the last couple of years have been pursued using purely traditional means: letters, e-mails (yeah, OK, ‘traditional’ in the sense that it’s still a letter per se) and phone calls. Judging from the very limited amount of marketing I’ve done, I’ve had many close calls, a few meetings and have been on a fair few shortlists – all for a minimum outlay. I’m working on a collaboration right now, which cost me absolutely nothing to establish. Besides, I don’t have the money to throw at things like Inktip, and what’s more, I’m a control freak. I want to know who might be interested in my work and who might want to read it.

In this regard, I find the internet a little disingenuous, as it seemingly offers up the prospect of instant success for a minimum investment of time. The problem here as I see it is twofold -cost: as the price of a lot of online services is often prohibitive, and lack of visibility: once your work is out there, you have very little idea how it’s doing, or how it compares to everything else in an already overcrowded market.

Piers’ idea of buying a copy of the Writers & Artists Yearbook is still a good one – go through it and make a list of everyone who accepts unsolicited submissions. Send them a letter, an e-mail, or even a script. It really is that simple.


rosamundtearooms said...

A good post, Chip, very useful.

Lucy said...

Did you really not get any hits on Ink Tip, no one asking to read your script?

I put two up there once and noticed my low budget drama wasn't so sought after, though it did get reads. My supernatural thriller however was downloaded LOADS of times. Perhaps it was a genre thing?

I suspect tho it's largely down to a good logline and synopsis. I've had several people come to me JUST for these two things in polishing them up - I am constantly suprised by how bad/dull your average pitch is, even for EXCELLENT scripts.

So letters, cold calls and whatnot are all well and good in my view, I do them myself as you know, but if you can't get past the most basic "screening" test of a decent logline and synopsis, why should a producer read your script? (I'm not saying you personally btw Chip, just people in general).

Chip Smith said...

Ms Tearooms - ta! Always a pleasure.

Luce - Inktip wise, I had over 400 views of my logline, but only a couple of reads. I thought my logline was pretty sound, but for whatever reason I didn't get any bites. Maybe my synopsis stinks, who knows; this is part of the problem I guess, not being able to get feedback from the whole Inktip thing. In comparison, I've used the same logline and synopsis in speculative letters and alway seem to get at least a read out of it, if not a meeting or three. So your guess is as good as mine!