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Why Film Executives are Rejecting Your Screenplay

Susan Kouguell sheds light on why industry executives are rejecting your screenplay.

Susan Kouguell sheds light on why industry executives are rejecting your screenplay.

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Why did my script get rejected again?

It’s true. Many of you are probably modest about your screenwriting brilliance. And perhaps you are truly a brilliant writer but your screenplays continue to be rejected. Why oh why is this happening?! Why are industry folks rejecting my screenplay?

The obvious answer to these questions is that your script just isn’t that brilliant. Or the less obvious answers include the fact that your screenplay is just not a fit for the company in terms of genre or budget, or it’s not a match for what the producer or director is seeking today. Sometimes it’s just a matter of good fortune AKA luck. But sometimes, well very often, if not most of the time, it comes down to this: screenwriters are not taking the necessary time and effort to fine-tune their scripts and they are submitting their screenplays before they are truly ready to be considered for production or as a writing sample.

Here are ten universal tips from film industry executives and story analysts, with whom I have interviewed for various screenwriting and film publications, and for my book The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out! This list is in no particular order but these points do share equal importance, and one in which I whole-heartedly endorse as a screenplay consultant.

Top Ten Tips to Avoid Rejection

  1. FORMATTING: Incorrect industry screenplay formatting loudly demonstrates to the reader that the screenwriter is an amateur, and doesn’t have respect for his or her work -- or for the reader’s time.
  2. SLOPPINESS: Typos, grammatical errors, missing and blank pages indicate you are careless and not someone who takes pride in his or her work.
  3. CAMERA ANGLES:Directors do not want to be told how to shoot their movie.
  4. DEVICES: Overuse and/or unnecessary usage of voiceovers, dream sequences, and flashbacks often demonstrate to industry folks that the writer does not know how to craft a screenplay.
  5. ACTION PARAGRAPHS: Dense action paragraphs that read like a novel and/or telegraphs what is about to be revealed in dialogue or through visual storytelling, underscores a poorly crafted screenplay.
  6. GENRE/GENRES: Inconsistent or too many genres in one screenplay underscores that the screenwriter doesn’t understand genre conventions or doesn’t know what the genre really is.
  7. CHARACTERS: Film industry folks must care about your characters -- whether it’s love or hate, they must feel something for them. And, characters who don’t have distinct personalities and are (unintentionally) interchangeable or don’t serve a purpose in the plot are equally frustrating for readers.
  8. DIALOGUE: Heavy-handed exposition and/or over-explaining information about the back-story shows the reader the screenwriter’s lack of understanding in solid film storytelling.
  9. SUBPLOTS: Too many subplots that overshadow the main plot highlights the fact that the screenwriter doesn’t understand what the narrative is really about.
  10. SCENES: Rambling and unnecessary scenes that are not advancing the plot, indicate a lack of understanding in crafting a solid structure.

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