I believe that getting ahead is a combination of talent + connecting with collaborators (commissioners, producers, development execs) + determination. The talent is your script and it's up to you to make it make a great impression – it doesn't have to be perfect but it does need to be well-presented. Create the halo effect with your work. There are things you can put right to avoid being written off before being fully read. This is a crude but effective checklist and you'll see within five pages if the script needs more work.
Rocliffe Notes Writing Checklist
The title page are the very first words people will read of your work. Nothing raises my eyebrow more than to see "story by XYZ & written by XYZ & created by" all the same writer's name. Simply put the script title by the screenwriter's name. Modesty becomes the writer. That's all that is requited unless someone else wrote it with you or it is based on an original story by someone else. I hate endless credits on films for the same person, especially on shorts by an unknown filmmaker. It just spells EGO to me.
Poor presentation and punctuation with spelling mistakes and incorrect formatting. A script with typos is annoying. There are so many resources out there – both free (Celtx) and paid (Final Draft, Screenwriter). Software that will correct it for you and the blessed spellcheck – seemly much underused but never underrated. There is no excuse. Company Pictures Head of Development Serena Bowman commented: "not proofreading scripts and sending them in with mistakes and grammatical error shows you really don’t care. If you don’t take the time to proof it then I won’t take the time to read it."
You really only have one chance to make a good impression - many of our panellists feel that whilst the ideas are brilliant – the writers aren’t pushing themselves enough. Be bold and brave and quality check your work.
All quotes are excerpts from Rocliffe Notes: A Professional Approach for Screenwriters and Writer-Directors.
"I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit," Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. "I try to put the shit in the wastebasket."Keep writing!