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So You Want to Produce Your Own Script?

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

Are you a writer looking to take the next steps in your screenwriting journey?


If you've got a short film or pilot script you're happy with and want to get it made, there are plenty of options for you taking your next steps. From workshopping to actually shooting your screenplay.


Becoming a Producer

I know you think you're 'just' a writer but it's time to put your producer hat on. Don't worry, you can always take it off if you decide it doesn't suit you. Being your own producer in the early days will put hairs on your chest and we wholeheartedly recommend it. If this is the first project you’ve ever produced be sure to keep it small and keep it simple. Maybe start with filming a scene as a test or organising a table read. See how the dialogue is working, get other people's feedback. Get a massive shock when the actors want to change the lines of your precious masterpiece. Even if it’s just for you, this process will be such a learning curve and will help you to become a better writer.


If you're planning on shooting something, you can help yourself by writing something that's not immediately going to cost a fortune to shoot. Setting something in one location is a great tip to keep budgets low. You can even film it in your flat and save a fortune on location fees. Obviously take that with a pinch of salt. If you're an FX wizz and know you can make something look incredible using green screen on no budget, then go for it. Use your skills AND limitations to your advantage. This will save you a lot of tears on the day and in the edit.


Table Read/Workshops

The clue is in the title with this one.

Get a bunch of actors around a table to read the script aloud. This is a professional standard before shooting (once the cast are attached) but you don't have to be a professional yet to use the format.

The goal of this is to hear the material read out loud. The writers, producers and directors will make notes and change what they need to. It fixes a lot of problems before any shooting has begun. Of course in a professional setting it's also for the actors and team to meet each other before the shoot starts, but we're focusing on the writers right now. Table reads are vital to development for all parties.


So how does one go about this? You can hire out rehearsal spaces or meeting rooms if you'd like but there's plenty of room to get creative too, especially if you're on a tight budget. Do you work anywhere that could lend you the space for a few hours? A cafe or pub before/after opening hours? An office at the weekend? Don't be shy. You'll be surprised at what favours you can start pulling if you only ask. The freebie/favour option is going to save you a load of money. You can put it towards buying everyone tea/coffee and cake to say thank you instead.


A lot of writers simply ask their friends to come and read for them but if you know your friends are super shy or will give wooden performances, it might be better not to ask them. You're not going to be able to tell if your dialogue is any good if it's being read terribly. If this is the case, you might want to bite the bullet and pay some actors to be involved. You should be able to find students and actors starting out that are looking to build up their CV's. Casting Call Pro is a good place to start if you don't personally know any actors but shop around. If you have a budget it's always courteous to pay actors. But at the very least you should cover their travel costs and food/snacks. All of this should be disclosed up front - don't let them believe they're walking into something they're not.


If that all sounds like a bit of a faff for now, don't be afraid to keep it small. Invite your friends over to yours and 'pay' them with pizza and beer. The main objective is to hear your script read out loud. Then discuss what's working and what needs to be clearer. Writing is re-writing - it's much better to fix your problems first before shooting. If you don't do this you will find yourself in the edit going 'OMG, that doesn't make sense' with no way of going back to fix it.


DO: Invite friends and trusted people to yours.

DON'T: Invite strangers (even if they're from Casting Call Pro et al) to yours! Stay safe out there.


Test Scenes

You don't need all the bells and whistles to shoot a test scene. You can even test your scenes out your phone and edit them on iMovie or Canva. If you feel intimated by the idea of editing then why not edit it on social media with IG reels or TikTok. You don't have to post them. It can be for your eyes only. Although saying that, social media can be great platform for you to put your scenes/sketches on if you're happy with them.


Point is, don't let NOT having all the equipment stop you from moving forward. There have been feature films shot on iPhones that have gone on to get critical acclaim - sometimes utilising your limitations can actually help you.


Crew Up







Hunt and gather a team. Typically this will be a team of a similar level to you. If you're lucky; they'll be more experienced than you. Never the less, you're looking for an enthusiastic team who want to make your short film/pilot. Reliable folk that will show up for you. You will be able to find these people on film sites like Shooting People, Mandy, Filmd (other sites are available). It's not going to be easy but working and learning how to crew up, location scout, fundraise etc will teach you so much. There are options available to you. You might even want to scout for a producer first. Someone to take the lead if you don't feel up for it by yourself. Just be aware that you're still going to need to do some heavy lifting. But if you can find a collaborator to help you crew up and get your work made, you're in with a good chance of making it happen. Accountability is a great proven strategy for success.


Schemes & Competitions


Get funding. 'Oh sure, why didn't I think of that?' We hear you say. We get it, it sounds easy when put like that and it's obviously not easy in the slightest. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't be entering and trying to gain funding, grants, or prizes. This is something you should get in the habit of doing anyway, despite how many times you get rejected. Even successful writers often have to be a part of this process when working in filmmaking, so it will help you to get used to the process. You'll learn to refine the art of application writing and don't take that for granted as it's a completely different skill from screenwriting.


Not only can funding give you money to make your project but a lot of the time it comes with industry help like mentorship and film equipment. Which is such a flex.


It's good to enter, it's good to practice so definitely apply but don't rely on getting the money. Chances are you'll be entering a lot of applications over the years without much luck. Accept this and go for it anyway - someone's going to be picked to win and with a few years of experience under your belt it might end up being you.


If this concept is completely new to you and you've no idea where to start with this check out 2023 Script Competitions and Funding Opportunities for UK Screenwriters.


Outsource

Now this isn't as 'guaranteed' as you'd think BUT if you're little ol' money bags, then why not get professionals in to help? If you have a short film script you’re happy with and want to level up, you can always outsource/hire. If you want your work produced to a more professional standard with the intention of entering it into festivals etc then having a budget will be vital for this.


There are plenty of semi-professional companies who will do this for you if you have a budget. We only say 'semi' by industry standards because no top Film/TV company is likely to do this but plenty of really talented media/videography companies or indie filmmakers will, if it's a paid gig. Just be careful you don’t find a company or director that’s going to rip you off. Shop around, meet different companies, research their work, don’t just take their word for it. We know you’re eager but don’t be naive. Also, put a contract in place so that you're protected. Make sure they're contractually obliged to finish the film. Make sure you know what's going on. Are they covering post production too? Work out all the t&c's prior to your first day of principal photography. Don't assume anything - you need written proof.


Another caveat to be aware of: don’t be lulled into a false sense of security just because you have a budget. Throwing money at a project doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. We once watched an abominable short film at a festival and in the Q&A the writer/director revealed that had spent his inheritance of £70k making it. Big mistake. Big. Huge! There were audible gasps and groans from the audience. Even the silent shocked eyes seemed loud. It was so awkward.


Money isn’t everything, it just helps. A bigger budget generally means a better lunch for the cast and crew as opposed to a superior film. Make sure the story is king and you're not placing style over content. Help to ensure this by getting professional script coverage on your script before you go into any kind of production. Find a reliable sounding board (not family/friends that just want to stroke your ego). You can get a good script report done from £60+ it will obviously depend on what companies you like and what you have in the pot but use a trusted company and listen to their insights.


Private Investors/Crowd Funding

Now, we don't overly recommend this for very first projects or newbies but it is an option and we'd be remiss not to mention it ... So do with that what you will.


Overall, private investors are normally more interested in bigger projects like feature films or production companies. Why? Because it's a tax break and a cool thing to say they've invested in. Private investors will either be Uncle Bobby who loves you lots and has a load of spare cash, or a friend of friend with a high paying income who is willing to take a chance on you (in exchange for a tax break).


If you're scouting for investors you'll need to do your homework as to why they'll want to invest and what they'll get in return ie tax break and return on investment = credits as an exec and all that jazz. Oh yeah, and you'll need an amazing script with a great target audience. Remember that investors look to invest their money in order to make a profit back. It's really unlikely that your project will give them a return on investment. But that's not to say it's impossible. Some people just want the kudos of being able to say they're an exec producer investing in up and coming talent.


Crowd Funding is much more open to anybody but typically only successful when it's backed by some kind of scheme or production company already. That's not to say that you can't be successful with Crowd Funding. Plenty of people have been over the years. If you have a large social network and generous friends/family then by all means give it a go. But just know that the general public will only be interested in a project if it's going to be an opportunity for them in some way. ie your project has their favourite actor in and they get to meet them etc. It's incredibly rare that random people are going to want to invest in your project without them having some kind of perk. So you'll need to come up with GREAT perks for your contributors. All of this is extra work for you. If you think it sounds easy, you're mistaken. Setting it up is a doddle but getting strangers to part with their money...? Not so much.


If you're willing to give it a shot, the main contenders are Indiegogo and KickStarter. Other companies are available. But remember that everything is strategy - you can't go in blind and just hope for the best. Most successful campaigns already know that they've got x amount promised from a funder in order to complete their project. They've got Uncle Bobby waiting in the wings to help them reach their goals as the deadline approaches. A lot of Crowd Funding is smoke and mirrors, be aware of it and do your research.


Penny Pinchers

For the rest of you with no money, (don’t worry, that's most writers). You can totally make short films on a shoe string budget. You will spend some money, you can’t not (think travel, parking, costume, coffees, lunch) but you’d be amazed at the favours you can pull. You just need to find others like you. They do exist, we promise. You are not alone. There are so many filmmakers out there not knowing where to start — just like you. You’re in your bedroom wondering how to get your script made and there are aspiring directors and producers sitting in their rooms wishing they had a great script to shoot. If only there was some way for you to connect, like the internet.


 

To recap: Get online and find your new crew. Sign up to Shooting People and other filmmaking networking sites. Go to film nights and festivals. Enter short film challenges. Enter Script Competitions and Funding Schemes. There are lots of opportunities and there will be loads of other newbies looking to enter. Team up. Lots of people have their own equipment too and are willing to use it on a project they believe in. You will learn so much from doing this. You just need to put yourself out there. If your film ends up being pants, you will learn. If it’s good then you can enter it into festivals and put it out into the world.




There is no failure here. The only failure on your part will be inaction. At the very least, you’ll make some new friends who share your interests — You need these people in your life. You’re going to need moral support going forward as a screenwriter. It’s a hard slog, you need others who ‘get it’. The long and the short of it is that you need to be meeting others like you and making your work happen. It's how you cut your teeth. It's how you progress.


Now go and produce your script already!




EXTRA TIP: No matter what you're working on. If you're pulling favours from cast and crew - ALWAYS FEED YOUR TEAM!


People are often happy to help, especially if they like you. But working hard for free, even if just for a few hours is definitely something you should be incredibly grateful for. So reward them with snacks. It will boost their morale, it will help with energy levels and they'll really appreciate it.


If it's long days of shooting or rehearsing, feeding them is non-negotiable as far as etiquette goes. Give them at least one hot meal and refreshments throughout the day.


So what step do you think you'll start with? Let us know your next move in the comments.

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