Even if you haven’t been following entertainment industry trends lately you’ve probably noticed more original content being offered by Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and a bevy of “cable channels.”
And considering studios are producing fewer films, the more opportunities for screenwriters in television, the better, producer Paul Green said during a recent visit to Seattle.
“It’s where writers have the most creative control,” he said.
Green, a long-time producer with Anonymous Content, was the featured guest at an October 20 event cosponsored by the Northwest Screenwriters Guild and Seattle University. The discussion, hosted by NwSG President Geof Miller, covered a broad range of industry topics, including:
- What to include in a TV pitch.
- What Green looks for in a writer.
With now the well-established reality of short-season orders — the likes of The Walking Dead, Stranger Things, Jessica Jones — comes opportunity on multiple platforms. Also, the 30-minute and 60-minute framework of traditional television now is more elastic, because the platforms don’t have the programming constraints of network television. “Stories can be as long or short as they need to be,” Green said.
The new platforms also make it easier for producers to market content, Green said, because it’s easier to match content to the audience — a key consideration when producers are considering which screenplays to greenlight.
What makes for a strong television pitch
When hearing a pitch for television, Green expects:
- A pilot script.
- Succinct summaries of each episode for the first season.
- A one-page summary of each ensuing season.
- Something visual, like a look book, that reveals the style or tone of the story.
It’s about understanding if the story can last five years. Where do the characters end up? Green said.
What Green looks for in a writer
In an industry with offices filled with stacks of screenplays, how does Green decide which scripts are worth his time?
If it’s not something recommended by coverage, he considers:
- Familiarity with the writer(s).
- Familiarity with the agents/managers who submitted the material.
- Script page count, particularly if for a feature film.
Regarding the final point, Green said producers and distributors typically shy away from lengthy films, because it limits the number of showings, thereby undermining its opportunity for profitability. There obviously are exceptions, like certain superhero tent poles, but those films have full backing from big-funded studios. Indie producers, on the other, are making the lower-budget films studios don’t make, or focus on short-form projects for the streaming platforms.
A writer’s voice is also important, Green said. “Is there something unique about the way the writer is telling the story?” And, he added, is it written with precision. He must know what the story is about within the first 5- to 7 pages.
“At the end of the day, it has to be a collaborative process,” Green said. “Our goals are the same. I want to see your script get produced.”
As part of the NwSG’s mission to connect screenwriters with producers, Green also took pitches from NwSG Compendium members the following day.
- Learn more about the Compendium membership
- Meet our Compendium members and read about their projects