Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Test Your Screenwriting IQ (Part 2)

by Steve Kaire

Think you have a handle on how things work in the screenwriting biz? Let's find out. Pop quiz -- 20 questions. Ready? Go!

1) The average selling price of a spec screenplay is between $500,000 and $1,000,000.

That’s false. The average sale price is usually in the low six figures.

2) Formatting a screenplay correctly is less important than the material itself.

False. Incorrect formatting, spelling and punctuation will send your script to the recycling bin unread.

3) It is permissible to read your pitch to the listener.

False. Never, ever read your pitch. Make eye contact and establish rapport with your listener.

4) A treatment shouldn’t contain any dialogue and should be double-spaced.

That’s true.

5) Studio executives are the first people you should pitch your material to.

False. Don’t waste your time pitching to studio executives. Pitch to producers and production companies instead.

6) Always include your resume with your query letter.

False. Never include a resume with your query letter, which should be no longer than one page.

7) Managers cannot legally negotiate a deal for their clients.

True. Managers are not licensed and must use the services of an entertainment attorney or an agent to negotiate a deal.

8) William Morris/Endeavor, UTA, ICM and CAA are the first places writers should go to seek representation.

No way. They are way too big. You should try the smaller to medium sized agencies and management companies first. The chances of breaking into a big agency as a newbie are remote.

9) Writers trying to sell their scripts shouldn’t ask to produce, direct or star in their film.

True. Don’t make it easier for them to say no.

10) It’s safe to send your material to companies that are not listed in the Hollywood Creative Directory.

False. Many people pass themselves off as producers. If they are not listed in the Directory, don’t send them your material. Find the Directory at

11) Entertainment attorneys work only on an hourly basis.

False. You can negotiate with them to take 5% to 10% of the deal.

12) Writers who sue a studio or production company for theft of their material generally win their lawsuits.

False. It’s a costly uphill battle that writers almost always lose, and worse, it could be a career-killer, as no studio will want to work with someone deemed litigious or a pest.

13) It’s unethical for a production company or studio executive to ask a Writers Guild member to make changes to a script without payment.

True. That violates the Writers Guild Minimum Basic Agreement. But it happens all the time anyway.

14) The length of spec screenplays should be around 120 pages.

False. Spec screenplays are now generally 95 to 110 pages in length.

15) It’s unethical to send out your material to multiple production companies and agents at the same time.

False. Multiple submissions are necessary for writers to try and get their material read. If asked, you can mention that your material has been sent to a few places.

16) Scripts can only be sold to signatory companies of the Writers Guild in order to qualify for membership.

True. You cannot sell your screenplay to a friend to gain admittance into the Writers Guild.

17) If you register your script with the Writers Guild and claim theft of material,the Guild will represent you in court.

True. You’ll have to get an entertainment attorney to verify your claim and the Guild will then back you up in your case.

18) Your logline should be a summary of what happens in Acts One, Two and Three.

False. Your logline is the premise or the setup of your story, not happens in your three acts.

19) It’s harder to sell ideas now than it was ten years ago.

True. There is much less development money now than in the past. Producers and studios prefer screenplays to ideas and treatments.

20) A hook is a detail that’s added to a logline that makes an overpitched subject feel original.



How did you do? Check out my audio CD for more on this as well as insights into how to come up with those oh-so-elusive high-concept ideas. See you next month, and in the meantime, remember, your next concept could be the million-dollar one!


Steve Kaire is Hollywood's resident high-concept guru. Check out out review of Kaire's "High Concept" audio CD right here. Kaire has eight studio sales under his belt -- all of which he scored without representation -- and decades of experience in the biz. Check out his web site at

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