Screenwriting Advice From The Past: Marketing the Script

June 24th, 2012 by

If you are a screenwriter, you should know about Anita Loos. Loos was one of the most influential writers in the early stages of American cinema, associated with 136 film projects per IMDB.

Married to writer John Emerson, the pair wrote one of the first books on screenwriting in 1920: “How to Write Photoplays”. I have been running a weekly series based on the book. You can access those posts here. Today we look at “Marketing The Story” [P. 49-52].

Current prices for a story range from $100 to $100,000 depending on the length of the plot reputation of the author and the company which buys. Four years ago a good five reel picture seldom brought $300. Today it will bring almost any price depending on its value to a producer [emphasis added].

First of all, you think a $1M spec script is a big deal nowadays? Can you imagine what $100K was worth back in 1920? Second note that observation: depending on its value to a producer. That is the same today as it was back then: If you write a great script that buyers want, it will be worth more money, all dependent on the value they ascribe to it.

Loos & Emerson go on to talk about what “aids” a writer will need to sell a story:

1. Trade magazines containing market reports and calls for stories by various firms.

2. Large flat mailing envelopes and a stock of self addressed and stamped return envelopes.

3. A written record of your transactions with the scenario editors.

4. A studio directory which can be ordered through your local book store.

The same principles exist today, but instead of mailing something to a potential manager or agent, you simply email them. For addresses, one of the best investments you can make is to subscribe to DoneDealPro. For $24.95 per year, you can get access to hundreds of email addresses to literary representatives.

In terms of trade magazines tracking screenplay trends? There’s this blog called Go Into The Story…

Lastly remember that all things come to him who waits providing he isn’t entirely asleep when the opportunity arrives. Don’t let one or a dozen rejection slips discourage you. Make a collection of them to show your friends when you become famous.

Persistence, persistence, persistence. Some things never change!

Next week, more screenwriting advice from 90 years ago.

If you live in the U.S., you can read “How to Write Photoplays” via Google books online here.

Leave a Reply