questionmarkWhen trying to sell a screenplay, does it have to be accompanied by a logline and/or a synopsis? Or will just handing someone a script suffice?

And I would also like to know the general work hours of movie studios. I want to maybe personally hand my work to someone at a studio since I am uncertain of whether or not they read unsolicited work; however, I have a very unflexible work schedule, and I usually get off late. Are studios open on Saturdays?

— Evelyn
New York City

These are the kinds of questions that reflect almost no understanding of the film industry — which is fine. You’re brand new to all of this, obviously. I would ask similarly uninformed questions about lawn bowling, textile manufacture or warp drives: using the lingo without really understanding what it meant.

So I want to answer your questions while simultaneously explaining why they’re awkwardly wrong questions to ask.

Written loglines and synopses aren’t included with a script, unless you’re submitting it for some competition that requires it. A screenwriter needs to be able to distill the premise and story of her script mostly so she can pitch it: “It’s a road-trip comedy about a transgendered rabbit and a zombie turtle.”

“Just handing someone a script” is doom. No one wants to read your script. No one. If you doubt me, reverse the roles. A stranger comes up to you and thrusts a 120-page document in your hands, along with a promise-slash-threat that they will call and ask you what you thought. Unless you had reason to believe that the script or the writer was genuinely worth your time — or that saying no would have a significant social cost — you’d find a way to get out of it.

When screenwriters move to Los Angeles, the first year is spent finding people willing to read their scripts, generally for an even exchange: I’ll read yours if you’ll read mine.

The Saturday issue

Movie studios aren’t what you think they are. They don’t have a front desk where scripts come in. They have fairly typical Monday-Friday schedules, but that’s irrelevant.

Producers, managers, agents and filmmakers bring projects to specific executives at the studio. Paula Producer may have good relationships with three executives at Imaginary Pictures, but for this nautical action drama, she picks the guy who sails.

Getting a movie made, and getting a script set up, relies on knowing the people involved. That’s why just landing your script somewhere physically within the halls of a studio isn’t worth much. Studios have readers — I used to be one — but they’re largely there to help executives by writing coverage and reading the least-promising material that comes in.

There’s far too much mythology about “what studio readers are looking for.” Generally, they’re looking for an exit. They have very little influence on which scripts get purchased or made.

Evelyn, your goal as an aspiring writer should be to convince producers, managers, agents and filmmakers that you’re a great writer with great material. You do this by getting read; you get read by making relationships in the industry. That’s also where you’ll pick up a better understanding of How It All Works.