Yes, You Can Sell a Spec Screenplay… or Four | Script Revolution

Yes, You Can Sell a Spec Screenplay… or Four

Introduction: 

Something I see a lot of on amateur screenwriting forums is writers telling one another that the spec script market is dead, nobody is buying them, and their collection of completed scripts are useful as a portfolio at best. While selling a spec to the IP obsessed big Hollywood studios might be a pipe dream, there is still a hungry section of the industry snapping them up to meet production demands. Don't believe me? Check out this blog post by Larry Postel which details the key elements he feels helped him sell not one, not two, but FOUR spec scripts over the past few years - CJ

I’m a longtime screenwriter (over four decades) with some very recent success: Since mid-2019, I’ve been fortunate to have had four original spec screenplays purchased and produced, including The Main Event, a Netflix Original; High Holiday, a Peacock Original; Flip Turn, an independent film currently out to distributors; and Sony’s upcoming 5000 Blankets (to be released this November). Mind you, I’m not in LA (I live in Dallas), nor did I have an agent or manager representing me on any of these projects. And this run started at the age of 63 following a battle with cancer.

How did I do it?

Other than tremendous tenacity and fortunate timing, I attribute my spec sales to three things:

1. Theme

Of course, it all starts with the screenplay itself – because you have to have the goods in order to sell them. And I’m a firm believer that a meaningful and universally relatable theme is the most important element in a successful screenplay/film. In fact, before I sit down to write any screenplay, I feel I must have something to say, which comes through in the protagonist’s arc. As one who was bullied early on in life, I tend to write underdog stories about finding self-acceptance along with a sense-of-purpose. To me, those are two of the most relatable themes, no matter what genre you’re writing. Once you have a screenplay and characters infused with heart, empathy and authenticity, you may very well have a spec that will attract attention.

2. The desire to inspire

Something else I’ve learned over the years is that achieving any dream or goal in life can happen if you do it for the right reason(s). Looking back BC (Before Cancer), I think it’s fair to say that one of my main goals as a screenwriter was to see a movie of mine on the silver screen. I thought it would be so cool to go to a theater and see my movie with my name in the credits. In other words, it was really all about me. But now – in my PC (Post Cancer) era – it’s all about inspiring others with both my own journey and in the stories I tell. My mantra: “Become a better person; become a better writer.”

3. Strong queries

As mentioned, I’ve managed to sell all four specs without the aid of a manager or agent (although I do have a great entertainment attorney who negotiates all the deals). In fact, unless you have an agent or manager pursuing you, I wouldn’t waste the time or energy pursuing them. With great tools like IMDbPro, you can do the research yourself to identify the producers you want to target – and with a strong query (backed up by a strong screenplay), you’ll do a lot better job marketing yourself. In terms of the query, I refer you back to the first two points above. Tell the producer in your query not merely what your concept is (via the logline), but let them know what inspired you to write it and why you believe the theme will connect with an audience. Just like you want to ultimately connect with your target audience with your screenplay/film, you need to convey the passion behind what you feel is a universally relatable story with characters and emotions that ring true (again, no matter the genre).

A final note

I wish you all success in your writing (hopefully sooner than I found mine). Most importantly, I  wish good health for you and your loved ones. And even when you do encounter pain and tragedy -- which is unfortunately inevitable for every one of us -- I hope you learn from it and then infuse your stories with heart, empathy and authenticity. Say something meaningful and inspiring in your stories. Producers will notice and the world needs it.

About The Author

Larry Postel's picture
Real name: 

Larry credits his early interest in writing to his dad, a wonderful wordsmith and storyteller who had an advertising company he aptly named Post 'n Tell. Larry went on to study and work in advertising himself. His love of movies led him to screenwriting, with a focus on family comedy and character-driven drama.

A battle with cancer (Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma) in 2012 made Larry more determined than ever to inspire others with his own story -- and in the stories he tells.

In 2019,...Read more

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Comments

Elizabeth Blandford's picture

Hello Larry, I'm glad for you that you beat the Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It's wonderful that you found success with your writings. I shall look for The Main Event on Netflix. Just seeing you credited as the writer will be inspiring.

The Best of Health,
Elizabeth

Larry Postel's picture

Thank you so much, Elizabeth. All the best to you!

Larry

George Putnam's picture

Dear Larry. Your essay on how to sell scripts is inspiring. Like you, I left the Industry (retired after my wife died), only to get drawn back in. The problem now is that, in the interim, all my contacts dried up. I will try the IMDBpro.com route. But I have one question: how do you get to certain producers when their management and legal reps often intercept the email to ascertain if the sender has any attachments in his query.

Thank you,

George Putnam

Larry Postel's picture

Hi George. First of all, I'm so sorry about your wife. Regarding your question, I wouldn't worry about those producers who may never see your query. Just keep querying via IMDBpro (use the filters to help target your search). Tenacity is the key! I wish you all the best!

Larry

Ville Nummenpää's picture

You rock, sir. This is exactly the kind of inspiring boost we all need,
so happy for you.

-Ville

Larry Postel's picture

Thank you, Ville. I wish you the best in all you do, most importantly good health for you and your loved ones!

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