There are three factors that writers are judged by: their material, their pitching skills and their knowledge of how the entertainment business works. It’s been my experience that writers know only a fraction of what they should about all three and especially about the latter.

Here are some things you must know to succeed in the business of screenwriting.

Script Options: Most scripts are optioned, not sold. Writers should never give a free option on their material and should ask for the most money on the front end for the shortest option period.

Deal Memos & Poison Pills: It is also necessary for writers to read and understand deal memos, which are abbreviated contracts. You have to check and see if there is a “poison pill” clause somewhere within it. A TV company was interested in one of my projects and the deal memo contained the following clause: “If any other companies, networks, or studios show interest, we can hold the property indefinitely without compensation to the writer.” That was the “poison pill” that caused me to reject their offer.

Deal Breakers: There are certain deal breakers that writers should avoid. One student of mine in a writing class told me he wanted to write, star in, produce, and direct his script. If he would have said that to a company that was interested in his material, he would have been shown the door.

Answering Questions: Writers also have to be knowledgeable when asked questions by interested parties. Let say someone asks a question like, “Would you be willing to make changes to your script?” A “no” answer ends the meeting because the writer lacks flexibility. Appearing confused or giving the wrong responses to questions convey a bad impression that may not be overcome.

Knowledge is power and you have to be well-armed when you enter the arena.

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Learn more about how the entertainment business works and what writers must know on Steve Kaire’s High Concept CD or Ebook.

Read Steve on Screenwriting by Steve Kaire the first Thursday of the month on Write On! Online. Kaire is a screenwriter/pitchman who’s sold eight projects to the major studios on spec without representation. For more from Steve Kaire, check out his CD: “High Concept-How to Create, Pitch & Sell to Hollywood” and website: High Concept Screenwriting.



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