This is a tough one. Not many people like to read unsolicited screenplays. That’s always been the thing you have to overcome. But my Manager does read them sometimes, based on the note and letter that is attached to it. So, if you can, write a rooted, smart, very short note explaining what it is and why you think it’s valuable and something they should read.
This is one other piece of advice I would give: write something commercial. By that, I mean something someone would write a check for, buy a ticket for, or spend money on. That gets read faster than your story about growing up in South Carolina or your summer there, right? It may be beautiful and great, but it will be harder to find its way to people. But if you wrote a movie that says–I’ll give you one of mine–“this guy has to go sixteen blocks in ninety minutes,” people understand that it’s a thriller. That’s the poster. People react to things that sound like they could be good and sellable.
I remember reading Thelma & Louise by Callie Khouri. That was her first screenplay, and it was hardly in screenplay format. It was obviously someone who hadn’t written a screenplay before, but it was very compelling and it found its way to Ridley Scott. I was working with him, and I read it, and I was compelled by it. So, movies or screenplays that are smaller can still be successful.
The first screenplay that I wrote was based on a poster that a famous Producer showed me and said, “I need a movie to go with this poster.” That was Roger Corman, and he’s famous for one-liner kinds of things that can sell. This was called Vamp, and he just said, “If you could write a movie with strippers, college kids, and vampires in it, you can direct it.”
And that was it: that was the conceit of the movie. It was a horror movie. I decided to make it take place in less than twenty-four hours, so it was all compressed. I came up with a couple of things and then I wrote it. But it was a very commercial sort of approach. It had humor in it, it had scares in it, and it had a title that they could market. So I was actually given that.
If I was just starting out, I would look around at the landscape. I would look at movies that are getting made and that are being received, and I’d start to think about what my story is that could fall into that. It’s a much faster way to get a movie to someone like my Agent who will read something and go, “You know what? I’m gonna give it to my Assistant to read.” Usually, they send them back, but when they see something that has potential: “Wow. That’s really smart. That could be really good. That shows talent and ability. Why don’t you read that and let me know how that is?”
And then what happens is they read it and go, “It’s really good. Maybe we should call that person. We should have a conversation.” It goes from there. It’s a networking business. Somebody knows somebody who knows somebody, and if your screenplay is good, it will eventually get to the right person.