There is a question I get from nearly every writer I meet. When is my script ready? Before I dive in, though, I’d like to take a little breath and survey the surroundings that have settled thus far.
This year has been filled with ups and downs (to put it lightly) and then a few more ups with a bunch of downs and…well, you get the idea. I’m expecting the seas to calm and settle as we move in to the new year, but even if they don’t, let’s all remember to every now and then yell out, “Look Ma, no hands!” After all, loosening our grip around our intentions and pursuits does allow the flow of everyday life to at least feel a bit more comfortable.
With that reminder…When is your script ready? The reason this question is such a difficult one to answer is because of the word, “ready”. You have to decide on the parameters within which “ready” lives. What the hell does that mean, you ask? The word “ready” is completely relative to the various levels of submission throughout the business. Is your script ready to be submitted to an executive at Lions Gate? Is your script ready to be submitted to Podunk Town Special Screenplay Contest?
Those two levels of submission are extremely different for obvious reasons. The executive at Lions Gate doesn’t have time to read a script that hasn’t been read a hundred times by consultants, vetted by industry friends or trusted fellow writers, or rewritten at least four to five times (and by “rewritten”, I don’t mean edited to fix spelling mistakes or grammar). The key to answering your question of, “when is my script ready?” in relation to your intent to submit it to an industry executive or professional, is to ask another question, “Do you know, deep down within your heart of truest hearts, that you have considered every possible story and character decision for your project and have vetted such decisions in order to deliver the best version of your screenplay?”
That is a difficult question to ask yourself, because more often than not, you know that you haven’t done that work. It’s a bit of a wake-up call, because the answer tells us that we haven’t done enough work for the script to be the best version of itself. You hear this all the time, but the first draft of any project is rarely, if ever, the best version of your script. So why would you rely on that draft to be what sells it? And this can be applied to each individual scene. Rarely, if ever, is the first iteration of a scene the best version of that scene.
If you get to a point where you don’t have the energy or creative ability to apply anymore rewrites, and you’ve received a ton of notes from fellow writers and consultants (and hopefully you’ve received praise), then maybe the script is ready. Even then, though, the answer to the initial question that this email asked is a simple one, “You don’t know, and likely will never know, when your script is ready.” Yes, that’s a rather depressing answer, but look at the industry you’re working in. The entire industry is built upon other people’s opinions, and relying on those opinions to be what hopefully gets your project on screen. So you have to maintain a level of confidence in your own work and dedication, while simultaneously letting go and surrendering control.
We do not know our personal timeline of success. That may be a frustrating thought to consider, but it’s simply the truth. Some people hit it big right away. For others, it might take them a decade. For a few, it may never happen. This is just the reality of it all, but if we accept that reality, and if we accept that we’re OK with not knowing when our time will come, I promise that you will find it so much easier to create success in your life. You will find it easier to address your script’s rewrite needs. You find that, with much more confidence, you will be applying to the ISA’s Fast Track Fellowship, or the Sundance Labs, or Nicholl, or any other contest that could help you launch your career. In the end, though, the question of, “When is my script ready?” doesn’t matter. What matters is the question, “When am I ready?” If you respond with “I’m ready now”, then all you have to do is prove it by working your butt off. Soon enough, people will see that you’re ready too.
If you have questions about anything I mentioned above, or would like to inquire about working with me and The Story Farm, we have a few spots remaining on our 2020 roster, so don’t hesitate.
In the meantime, make a commitment to your writing and to deliver the very best version of your script. Don’t accept mediocrity. You have greatness in you. Put in the work and let that greatness shine.
After two years at the Holy Cross College at the University of Notre Dame, swimming through a Liberal Arts major and watching football, Max discovered the art of filmmaking and transferred to Columbia College Chicago. He majored in screenwriting and producing at Columbia, and eventually found himself dizzy within the entertainment capital, Los Angeles. After multiple assistant positions at film distribution and advertising companies, Max stumbled upon Writers Boot Camp (WBC) in Santa Monica, CA. Graduating from its Professional Membership in 2007, Max was asked to stay with WBC as a...