https://youtu.be/AGLp8JTG8L4

I have the greatest screenplay ever. How do I go about selling this? I hear this all the time. Here’s what you need to understand about the business. It doesn’t really work that way. You can only sell what the buyer wants. So for example, let’s say I tell you, “I want to buy a new car,” and you say, “Ooh, I have just the car for you. I’m selling my Porsche. It’s got low miles. I put $100,000 into it. It’s got dragon wings. It flies. It goes underwater. I’ll give it to you for $5,000.” I’ll say, “Yeah, okay. But I don’t want a Porsche. I need a minivan because I got 11 kids because I can’t control myself. I need a ball hitch. I need a U-haul in the back for kids I might want to have in the future.” You go, “Are you nuts? $5,000 for this Porsche and you want a minivan?” Yeah, right. I’m a nut because that’s what I need. I need a minivan. 

Same thing with the studios and the networks. They decide what they want to buy and they have a target. They’re only going to buy what hits that target. Sorry. It doesn’t work any other way. So HBO is not going to buy a show that CBS might buy. They all have their very different brands and they do research. This is how they run their business to maximize profits while minimizing the risks. If you ran a studio, you’d probably do the same way. Right? Is it great for creativity? No, but this is just how it works. 

So when I go in, I don’t say, “Hey, I got the greatest idea ever,” I find out what the buyer wants to buy and when my partner and I come up with some ideas, hopefully, we’ll hit that target. They’ll buy it if it’s close enough. Sometimes they say, “Ooh, not really. We already have something like that,” or, “It’s not exactly what we want.” Then you don’t sell it. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you don’t. That’s how it goes. I’m not going to yell at them and say, “But it’s the best idea ever.” I’m not going to change their mind. 

So what can you do? What is your script for them? Well, your script is a calling card. It’s how you get these meetings. I mean, yeah, sometimes these things sell on spec. It’s very rare. Most of the time, your script is a calling card so that you can get these pitch meetings. So what does that mean? Your script has to be really well-written. You’re going to say, “But there’s so much garbage on TV and these movies are terrible. Blah, blah, blah.” Whatever. Your script has to be really well-written because they’re investing in you. They want to make sure you can take notes, you’re going to deliver a good draft, stuff like that. That’s how they minimize their risks. 

So what can you do? Well, you can take a screenwriting class. I offer one. I started one at the beginning of the pandemic when Hollywood shut down. I had nothing but time. That’s at michaeljamin.com/course. You can go check it out. Or not. You can continue to just follow me here on social media. I post daily tips every day, right, that’s what daily means, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, whatever, TikTok. Follow me @MichaelJaminWriter. Or not. It’s just helpful information that’ll help you get closer to your way. Because in the end, like I said, your script has to be well-written. That’s the only thing you have control over. You don’t have control over what the buyer wants to buy.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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