It’s what the voice in a screenwriter’s head asks at least three hundred times a day —“Why won’t anyone read my script!?” Sometimes it’s a whisper. Sometimes it’s a casual murmur that flies through your consciousness in passing. Sometimes it’s a blood curdling scream on a bad day.
Sometimes it’s rhetorical. Sometimes it’s hyperbole. Sometimes a rant. Sometimes a rage. Sometimes it’s spoken between sobs of sadness or between chuckles of disbelief and frustration.
It’s an endless question that seems to live throughout your whole body. You can feel the anxiety of it running through your blood. You can sense the stress of it in the balls and heels of your feet, extending into your toes, and then reverberating back up through your legs, into your chest, and out to your arms, hands, and fingers.
It’s a cloud that hangs over your head, raining down upon you.
It’s a clasp of your heart with a grip that just won’t stop applying pressure.
It’s a vacuum, sucking the spirit out of your body ever so slowly.
“Why won’t anyone read my script!?”
Such is the life of a screenwriter. While the chosen trade or passion can offer the highest of peaks as you create stories, worlds, and characters, the reality of that voice whispering, murmuring, or screaming that question never seems to go away.
But why? Why is it that no one ever seems to want to read your screenplay?
You’ve done your research. You’ve sent out queries with outstanding loglines accompanied by short, but sweet, messages.
And still, nothing.
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You’ve traveled to film festivals and screenwriting conferences. You’ve paid prime prices to get through those doors. You’ve conjured the courage to attend the VIP dinners and networking mixers. You even managed to talk to a few Hollywood insiders — laughing at their jokes, acting interested in their anecdotes, and stroking their ego just enough to make them feel good but not too much to cause them to feel awkward.
You’ve managed to get their number or email address and the casual permission — in the form of a lackluster “Yeah sure” — to send them your script that you managed to elevator-pitch them while every fiber and cell in your body was exploding in nervousness and excitement.
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But when you email them, nothing. Or maybe they offer an excited reply and ask you to send it right away. And then you wait and wait, and wait. Until, nothing.
What you can’t accept, choose to dismiss, or refuse to consider are the ever-so-simple answers to that question which rings in your ears endlessly, like a high-pitched hum after a loud concert.
- They have lives to live, families to attend to, and careers in motion.
- They have “stacks” of scripts from their bosses, their underlings, and that high school “friend” they haven’t seen in twenty years.
- They have even more “stacks” of scripts they sought out and scripts that their close friends gave them.
- They have articles and manuscripts, ripe for cinematic adaptation.
- If they’re a screenwriter, they have their own projects to attend to.
- If they’re a manager, they have their own clients to develop.
- If they’re an agent, they have dozens of scripts and drafts in motion.
- If they’re a producer, they have dozens of scripts in active development — and some in production and post-production.
- If they’re a director, well, they just don’t have the time and never will.
- If they’re an actor, they have managers and agents as their own personal filtration systems.
- Sometimes what you’re selling is not within their budget range.
- Sometimes what you’re selling is not within their comfort zones.
- Sometimes what you’re selling is not what they’re into.
- Sometimes what you’re selling has already been done before, ten times over.
- Maybe they’ve been burned and don’t want to take a legality risk.
- Maybe it’s not you, it’s them.
- And maybe, just maybe, they’re burnt out because they’ve already tried helping other novice screenwriters, only to receive push back on their notes or only to realize that it’s just too much work to help others on a journey that they clearly need to figure out on their own.
A difficult question with many, many difficult answers.
Maybe the universe is doing you a favor. Maybe the fates are hard at work.
Maybe the script wasn’t ready and the constant rejection gave you ample time for your subconscious to finally break through those protective walls you’ve built to prevent the truth from entering — finally showing that the first draft you rushed to them amidst the excitement of an opportunity just wasn’t ready. Maybe their reasoning for not reading it saved you the embarrassment of making a poor first impression — one that they could have shared with their inner circle.
Maybe the rejection gave you even more ample time to move on to other projects, allowing your work to evolve into something even better.
Maybe that time also allowed you to branch out with new experiences, new goals, and new connections within the industry.
Maybe the rejection forced you to look inward. Maybe what you then saw was full of flaws or newfound promise. Maybe that self-reflection makes you a better writer.
There is no one single story of success that screenwriters can hop on to. There is no single journey that endless screenwriters can venture on — like a ride at an amusement park, endlessly churning and delivering occupants to the same location through the same path over and over and over.
The only single truth in the journey of a screenwriter is that it takes time, luck, fate, and above all else, effort.
You will have a difficult time finding any successful screenwriter that sold their first spec script — or second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. You will have an even more difficult time finding any successful screenwriter that hasn’t experienced a hundred times more rejection than success.
But without effort, without developing and writing more and more amazing scripts, there are no paths opened for others to be led to you and your writing.
Without effort, your writing can’t grow into something better that will surely one day make someone laugh when they need to laugh, cry when they need to cry, or cheer when they need to cheer.
When the moment is right, when you’ve put forth the effort, and when you’ve honed your craft long enough to be ready for success, that special someone will read your script and see your worth. Or they’ll see enough to want to help. Or they’ll give you the hard truth that you need to hear.
“Why won’t anyone read my script!?”
They will. You just have to believe, be patient, and be ready.
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Ken Miyamoto has worked in the film industry for nearly two decades, most notably as a studio liaison for Sony Studios and then as a script reader and story analyst for Sony Pictures.
He has many studio meetings under his belt as a produced screenwriter, meeting with the likes of Sony, Dreamworks, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, as well as many production and management companies. He has had a previous development deal with Lionsgate, as well as multiple writing assignments, including the produced miniseries Blackout, starring Anne Heche, Sean Patrick Flanery, Billy Zane, James Brolin, Haylie Duff, Brian Bloom, Eric La Salle, and Bruce Boxleitner. Follow Ken on Twitter @KenMovies