Is it possible to sell a "story," "treatment," or "outline" instead of the full script? I see separate story & screenplay credits on films all the time. I’ve got some great ideas, but have no screenwriting skills and I believe they would make great films. What can I do?

–Edward Brock

The "story" and "screenplay" credits you see on movies are actually determined by the Writers Guild after the movie is finished, and don’t necessarily mean that one person wrote a treatment and someone else wrote the script. Often a person getting story credit did write a script, but a later writer changed so much that only the essence of the story remained, thus reducing the credit. (For the record, "Written by" means the writer receives both "story" and "screenplay" credit. The rules are so complicated and contentious I recommend you don’t even think about it unless you’re lucky enough to get a studio movie produced.)

In Hollywood, a person with a great idea and no writing talent is called a producer. Or a studio executive. Or a bag boy at Ralphs.

I’m being glib, but it’s true. Treatments or pitches from non-writers rarely go anywhere. What can and does happen is that a person with a great idea pairs up with a real writer and either (a) decides to work on it together, or (b) somehow convinces a third party to pay the writer to write it. This is how studios develop movies "in-house," and how a lot of producers function.

My advice? Find a writer. If there’s a known writer who’s perfect for it, hunt her down through her agent. Or find someone who’s written a really good script, maybe out of a screenwriting program, and convince them to do it. It won’t be easy, but that’s how to do it.