It’s Time to Grow the Audience for Screenplays

There appears to be an imbalance in the screenwriting market. The amount of spec screenplays written each year is disproportionate with the amount of films being produced. Based on WGA estimates, between 30,000-50,000 spec screenplays are registered each year. Not every screenplay is registered with WGA, so the actual number of screenplays written each year very well could be north of 100,000. Yet, only 200 or so films are produced each year.

Writers spend many hours and pour a ton of creativity into their screenplay. The discipline to write can be a struggle. Getting through the second act may feel like torture. Writing dialogue often is dreadful. And, after overcoming these challenges, the screenwriter find herself with a very limited audience: uninterested movie executives, screenplay competition judges, and producers querying on Blacklist.

Even if all 30,000 screenplays are read by a handful of people, at best, only 0.6% of them are going to find an audience — 99.4% of screenplays will never be read by anyone else. That doesn’t seem fair.

120pages was founded with the goal of supporting screenwriting as art. One critical component of this is making sure that art is seen. Simply put, this means building an audience for screenwriters to gain exposure and financial support for their craft.

But, is there an audience for screenwriters? Not yet.

This is partly because conventional wisdom says that screenplays are simply “blueprints” for films; they’re not meant to be read as stories. Instead, they are a guide to create the film to come. But, we know that they’re more than that. Movie magic starts with the screenplay. Yes, filmmaking is a highly collaborative medium, requiring the input and decisions of a small army. A screenplay doesn’t become a film without the actors, the director, set design, costume design, visual effects, scoring, and everything else that goes into production. But it is all sparked by the screenplay.

Screenplays are not purely functional. Yes, there are certain “rules” that screenwriters know and love, such as certain key turning points happening on a particular page number. But, rules can also make the creative process more interesting. In film school, I quickly learned that it can far more difficult to write a five minute film than a feature film because you have less time to tell a complete story. Limitations, sometimes, bring out the best in creativity.

Screenplays are stories, and many are good stories. We cannot overlook great stories and great writers just because of the medium. How many great stories go untold because they do not meet the production schedule of a movie studio? Or doesn’t target a key demographic? Or because a panelist in a screenwriting competition is personally uninterested? If the general public were to have access to the 99.4% of unseen screenplays

The old screenwriting paradigm is ripe for disruption. Instead of movie executives or contests judges singlehandedly determining a screenplay’s fate, it’s time we let readers everywhere experience, appreciate, and support great stories.

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