Journey of a Storyteller 4: How do I get my fantasy script made?

This ain’t no rant…but….

I have a feature screenplay that I would dearly like to see produced for the silver screen. The Irish silver screen, preferably, but the script, Pixer Knows, being a universally themed story of a boy’s quest to find his place in the world, and to express himself through imaginative storytelling, would surely appeal to all…

So what’s your problem? You might ask: a trillion and then some scribblers out there would also like their screenplays made. What makes your script any different from theirs?

Probably nothing…though it has won The Atlantis Award at the Moondance Film Festival, USA in 2011, and it did reach the finals of the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards, 2010, [top 1% of over 5,000 scripts!]

So what exactly is your problem,  you might ask again. Why don’t you just send it out to producers and wait for the phone to ring?

My problem, is this: My script is a big-budget, family fantasy feature, with a main character who is 11 years old, and from the Irish Travelling Community. And while I have had no problem in getting a Development Executive from a major Hollywood studio to read it…his response left me with a conundrum…the market, apparently, is looking for another Harry Potter…in other words, a character already known to the targeted audience, via the novels, the merchandise, the recognizable branding…my characters, most of them unique, but some from Irish Myth and Legend…are not globally recognizable…

I could argue with that last bit…Fionn McCumhaill makes an appearance. Is he not globally recognizable? Okay, maybe not…

Anyway, the script submission journey so far has not been an easy one. In Ireland, I have found it difficult to even get a response from certain Irish Producers, while others have gotten back to say that they are not reading unsolicited scripts. I sent it to one of the bigger, more prolific production companies we have in this country right now…a well-oiled machine, I would have thought…and I waited, and I am still waiting…FIVE months later!

The thing is, I KNOW that it would be difficult to fund this as a feature script…it is suitable for animation, which would obviously be very expensive to produce, though it would also work as part live-action, and part animation. Recently, the CEO of a wonderfully productive organisation…an Irish animation company doing great work on a global scale, whom I wrote to out of sheer frustration…responded promptly, suggesting a couple of companies to try…his company’s business is primarily TV and while they have an LA office, they have a very specific niche that they target, so therefore, don’t review spec feature scripts. He did suggest a couple of companies that I should try…but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that neither had even responded to my initial emails of inquiry.

So there it is…a script that has received the following praise…

“Pixer Knows” is a visually stunning, beautifully written screenplay. The symbolically charged journey taken by the three young friends will appeal to a very wide audience.

“Pixer Knows” is a beautifully written, utterly original screenplay which will attract younger and older audiences.

The non-stop action, visually stunning special effects and touching story of childhood friendship is a treasure which could be a very successful film. All Judging comments from the PAGE International Screenplay Awards 2010.

“This script offers a wonderfully original, fun and creative adventure story.” Judging comments from Bluecat Screenplay Competition 2010. Pixer Knows reached Semi-Finals

“What a wonderfully engaging and entertaining tale you’ve woven here! Your script has all the elements of a classic children’s fantasy: an unlikely hero, a cruel and heartless villain, a colorful cast of anthropomorphized animals, and a legendary warrior who has to be reminded of what’s worth fighting for. I think you’ve crafted a story that children will truly love, and I especially liked the hilariously whimsical name that Mikey chose for Pixer.” Judging comments from the Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition 2010. Pixer Knows reached the Quarter Finals.

And there it sits, in the dark…and while I may very well put the novel version into the queue of work that needs to be done…time is passing, but my frustration is not…so any advice is gratefully appreciated!

HELP!!!

8 thoughts on “Journey of a Storyteller 4: How do I get my fantasy script made?

  1. Eamonn says:

    Get every producers email address from IFTN and hound them, day in, day out. If still nothing take an aspect from it and do an animated short, attach that with the script so an agent or production company can see it’s potential or with it apply for completion funding from the film board.

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  2. Thanks for the suggestions, Eamonn. All options are under consideration!

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  3. Sarah says:

    I would say broaden your search to Europe in the hopes of setting the ball rolling for a co-production. It’s easier to access more funding when two or more countries are involved each with their own national funding/tax breaks and also pan-European funds like Eurimages. Look for companies that produce a lot of films and probably not so much animation companies as they seem mostly to be hired out to produce animation work rather than developing their own content. I’ve come up against that myself when sending spec scripts.It’s tough though eh? Keep on it though cos these things can just take a long time – you have to knock on a whole heap of doors before you find the right one 🙂 And obviously the script is great so you are at an advantage over most even if it might not feel like it. I hear ya though – so frustrating when they don’t even reply. Bah! Good luck!!

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  4. Thanks, Sarah. That is sound advice, and you are absolutely right about the production companies…seems such a shame though. In Ireland at the moment, animation companies are doing such amazing work, and creating a lot of employment and revenue…but not for writers, it seems.
    I will definitely keep on it though 🙂

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  5. Jason Butler says:

    Unfortunately big budget fantasy movies from writers without feature credits not based on a super successful book/tv/computer game are extremely rare if not non-existant. That’s not to say you can’t make it happen.

    I do think the traditional route of sending this spec to uninterested producers is the equivalent of punching yourself in the face. Worth a try though likely to only give you bruised knuckles and a bloody nose.

    Here’s what I think you should do. Not necessarily in order.
    1) Write something else (lower budget) and get that film made first.
    2) Find a hot director. The industry respects directors more than writers. Work with this director together on the project. Finding an enthusiastic director that’s hot, at the right stage of their career and right for the material and getting them on-board will not be easy.
    3) Maybe make a short film inspired by the feature script. This should be representative of the quality of the proposed feature film. That is, it has to look like a blockbuster.
    4) Have your short film and lower budget feature film(s) win lots of awards and/or make lots of money.
    5) Work out how to make the film for nothing as opposed to €20 million or €50 million.
    6) Don’t bother sending it to Irish producers if it’s medium or big budget. But ask them how they think you could get the film off the ground. They probably have much better industry knowledge and advice to give than me. Maybe some of them would agree to meet you? Or you could corner them at film fests.
    7) You know all about writing the novel version etc… But it’s something I may have to try for my own family adventure script. Or how about a play? Or an online drama in the same universe? Or a comic book? Any of these need to be successful too and so will not be as easy as just saying write a best selling book version.
    8) If it is big budget when the film is being made they will fire you as a writer immediately and replace you unless you’ve got credits on other (lower budget) films [point 1] or you’ve written the hit play/novel/video game [point 7]. Are you okay with this? (You will be well paid). If not either complete point 1 (& 4) or point 7 first. And/or point 5 (you won’t well paid.)
    9) The number crunchers / marketeers that decide if a studio invests in a big budget movie will think of your film as an “Irish film” no matter how many fantasy action movies it’s more directly related to. “Irish films” haven’t broken $100million in the box office so by their stupid calculations it’ll be a bad investment. This may or may not be true but you will hear this if not spoken exactly like this. Consider setting your story in the US with American kids. This is awful advice but coldly realistic. It will become a film as opposed to an “Irish film”.

    (Tangent: Back in the day I was working on a script set in Ireland. My ideal cast would have been led by the great Brendan Gleeson. I met with a handful of international production companies – they hadn’t heard of him! Even though at that point he’d appeared in Mission Impossible 2, Braveheart, The General, A.I., 28 Days Later etc…)

    10) Write something else (lower budget) and get that film made first.

    I repeated the first point because I think that is the best idea.

    Unless of course the short film version wins an Oscar. The best selling novel is a great idea but it’ll be as difficult a task to do and there’s plenty of best selling books that have never become movies (where is the Artemis Fowl movie?) Plus you’ll be working in the wrong industry.

    You can of course keep plugging away sending it out but it’ll be better to have an agent do that and at least target the right companies that can get a larger budget fantasy film off the ground. Also getting development funding or onto European development programmes or winning more script awards may help some…

    If it was easy or straightforward we’d all have done it already. Don’t give up. When you make it, it will give me hope that I can too.

    Lastly I’d love to read this script!

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  6. Jason, thanks for taking the time on this thoughtful response!
    Much appreciated!
    And I can see the logic in what you’re saying…there really is a lot more to it than just having a half-decent script…and no, it is not straightforward, and yes, as your suggestions prove, there are many paths to travel towards taking this screenplay forward. Deciding which one works for me has got to be the next step.
    I will not give up, and neither will you, by the sound of it! : )

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  7. Hi Caroline,

    The feedback you’ve gotten on this script is fantastic – and, in my opinion having read it, well-deserved.

    Here are my ten cents:

    I agree with pretty much everything Jason’s said. I would add:

    A graphic novel version would be far less work for you to produce than a novel and from what I’ve seen at festivals in the States, the U.S. industry LOVES them. Way less reading for them ;), and they can get an idea of the potential “look” of the film from the graphic novel.

    If you do a Google search, you’ll see that you can hire an artist to design images for you and you collaborate with them to produce the comic book – I would seriously consider that route.

    Also, if you’re going to go down the European route, I’d look towards a German producer. I lived in Holland for a year and German TV (which was widely watched) seemed to be full of fantasy kids and cartoon series. They really seem to have an appetite for fantasy material. Plus Michael Ende who wrote The Neverending Story was German (and that film was shot there too).

    Lastly, once you’ve done the graphic novel I would try the Americans, but be willing to consider having an American actor play one of your characters (not necessarily one of the kids – there aren’t any “child stars” who can open a movie, anyway).

    I hope this helps!

    Eilis

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  8. Thanks for the nice words on the script, Eilis!

    Some wise advice there too…I am blown away by the amount of feedback and suggestions I’ve gotten on this. And the graphic novel idea is one I will give serious thought to…very doable!! Thanks again 🙂

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