Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Gimmick Submissions

Here's how the system works:

- You send a script to exec/producer/prod co.
- It's received and logged.
- A reader gives it a once-over.
- The reader writes a script report.
- Exec/producer reads the report.
- A rejection is sent in the post, with thanks.

This is the routine. This is the norm. It gets a bit samey for all involved. Exec/producers start to yearn for some sparkle in their lives, and hold out for the one submission that will lift their day and make their life worthwhile. To help facilitate this, unrepped writers often get the idea to put a bit of colour in their submissions. Y'know, add various gimmicks or incongruous items to their script to make it stand out from the crowd.

They might send a clown to deliver their hot new comedy spec. Hey, it will put the exec in a good mood and get the script to the top of the pile, right?

Or they could send a bar of chocolate to sweeten the deal, and get the script read and approved.

Or they might attach a teabag and biscuit to the script as that will be just the thing the reader/exec will need to settle down to enjoy the 140 page epic.

Gimmick submissions, in my experience (the above are real examples), rarely work (here's a tip, chocolate *melts*). At worst, they're ingratiating and amateur. At best, they're amusing and endearing but they don't give the submission any guarantee of favourable consideration.

In Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat”, he admits to once packaging a script about ‘nuclear’ superheroes into a faux-radioactive unit. This particular gimmick worked for him, and helped to get the script sold (but I'm sure the actual quality of the script had something to do with it). However, his particular gimmick was integral to the marketing appeal of the overall project, so it had some validity (although it still would have been laughed out of certain offices).

Opinion may well be divided on gimmick submissions. Certain execs and readers might like your cheeky approach. You might have caught them at the right time, just when they needed a giggle or some kind of lift to their day. But it's a lottery. You simply can't gauge their mood or predict what will happen.

People are busy. The system works for a reason. The only gimmick you need is a good script. The best trimmings around a good script are a recommendation or referral from an established writer, producer, director or actor, rather than tying your script with a slice of carrot cake.

** UPDATE **

In a twist of sad news, Blake Snyder died suddenly today from cardiac arrest. More info here.


drettworlb said...

It's always nice to have confirmed that a great story well told is the most important thing. Thanks Danny

Paul McIntyre said...

At the production company I work for, we once received a CV in the post, and in the envelope was a plastic foot from a baby doll - with a note attached saying: "just trying to get a foot in the industry".

This scared the production manager no end, and the CV ended up in the bin.

davidmelkevik said...

At the recent Writersroom tour, Paul Ashton said they once received a script wrapped up in a hose despite the script having nothing to do with gardens, water or rubber piping. Paul didn't mention if the script was written in bodily fluids but I think it's probably a safe bet.

Danny Stack said...

As a temp in C4, my very first day I think, I opened up a lab tube that had the pitch documents inside. It was actually relevant. I thought it was great! The commissioning editor just sighed, read the proposal on its own merits, and sent the rejection the same week.

Lucy V said...

I'm nearly always ambivalent about gimmick submissions, though I HATE CDs of music "to go with the script", just don't see the point at all. Once I got a script pitch that was also a jigsaw. I HATE JIGSAWS. Was the only one I've ever seen though, to be fair. Once I got a small teddy with a tiny tee shirt on with the author's name on it. That was weird. Oh: also got a script about a quilt - with a piece of said fictional quilt. ODD. Once I got a whole packet of coffee. Very stinky script. The coffee was from Somerfield.

Sweets seem to be *the thing*. I get sent sweets sometimes even now, though often they've gone through someone else first and the packet is EMPTY, Egad!! I don't actually like sweets much at all (I'm a choc gal), but my kids do - STEALING CANDY FROM MY BABIES, lol.

I went to a seminar with the Screenwriting God TJ years ago and he said he sends sweets (though he's never sent any to me, *sigh*). Now he has his own prodco, I wonder if he likes this approach?

Charlie Burrows said...

Tony Jordan tells us the he got started by sending sweets in with his work. I once asked him if that still stands. He said yes, send them to me. I'll hold you to it.