The delicate balance of writing and selling your screenplay…

October 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

blogger_guest_lgIt’s guest blog time again and this week we are blessed to have UK screenwriter Niraj Kapur.


script revision photo copySaturday and Sunday — the most exciting time for the creative screenwriter.

No meaningless 9-5 job to pay the bills. No spending hours stuck in traffic. No fighting exhaustion. No kids running riot since they’re almost grown up.

The joy and curiosity of the empty page.

Except good writing isn’t what initially gets the attention of an agent, producer or manager.

This year I wrote two screenplays. A comedy and a thriller.

The comedy is a better screenplay that had two professional Hollywood script editors and a well-known Hollywood writer congratulate me on — the problems is that it’s not commercial and comedies are not “in” at the moment, so nobody wanted to read it.

The thriller is commercial female thriller. Personally, I don’t think it’s as well written as the comedy, however, it’s getting requested from producers, agent and even Tri Star Studios.

script oddsUnless you enter a competition where you compete with anywhere from 5,000 up to 50,000 other writers, It’s how you sell yourself that first gets you in the door.

You have to practice your 5 minute pitch, create a one page synopsis, decide who you are going to pitch, research them, practice, practice, practice that pitch.

Then if an agent, manager or producer requests your work, you need to spending time politely follow-up again and again and again.

And let’s not forget about craft. Every job, creative or non-creative, requires you to be consistently learning.

So after spending Saturday morning re-reading notes from Michael Hauge’s seminal book Writing Screenplays That Sell, studying The Social Network screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, I then prepared a meeting with a major agency. They didn’t give me a time slot so I spent 8 hours by my computer.

quote of the dayAfter preparing all questions they could have asked, researching the agency and their writers, talking about future screenplays I planned to write, reading good luck emails from writing friends and “you’re going to be a millionaire” from non-writing friends who don’t have a clue what the writing business is like, the agency was a no show. No apology. No explanation. Welcome to Hollywood.

To quote Dorothy Parker, “Hollywood is the only place in the world you can die of encouragement”.

And not a single word was written.

Sunday morning — learning my craft with notes from Robert McKee and @scriptcat on Twitter, watched Mr. and Mrs. Smith — great movie and a terrific screenplay by Simon Kinberg.

Then I receive an email from Stage 32 Happy Writers about list of possible people to pitch online. Researched the companies, the people, booked a pitch with a producer for next week, researched them even further, practiced my pitch and what I wanted to say.

Now it’s 4pm and not a word is written… and family demands kick in.

Finally, at 10pm, I get an hour to write.

It’s not enough and I know I have to put in more work in my craft.

We have many great resources to learn from your craft as a screenwriter — my favourites are Five O’clock Blue Entertainment and Bang 2 Write.

BoulderFlatThe best way to get your work read in Hollywood is through recommendation — although that’s tough, especially if you live outside Los Angeles and 90% of screenwriters I have met live outside Los Angeles.

Pitching at events like Story Expo, Great American Pitchfest, Fade In, or online through Virtual Pitchfest and Stage 32 Happy Writers, is still the best way to get the attention of the people you want to do business with.

The first thing most producers, agents and managers will see if how to present yourself and sell yourself.

Just don’t forget about your craft in the process.


Niraj casual photoNiraj Kapur spent years working as a writer-for-hire at the BBC and Channel 5 in England on kids TV shows. After having several screenplays optioned, his first movie Naachle London, was released in cinemas in the U.K. in 2012. His female thriller Forsaken, is currently being shopped around town.

He can be found @Nirajwriter on Twitter and his website.


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