3 Steps to Getting Repped
While no one will ever accuse me of being short for words (verbally or in writing, for good or bad) the truth is that I am always looking for more efficient, effective ways to communicate important concepts and ideas. And when I find something that someone else was able to state clearly, delivering insight and knowledge with succinct simplicity? I tend to repeat them. Share them. With everybody.
Which is exactly what happened when my good friend, Bellevue manager Zack Zucker, said a thing. And got me parroting him at every possible opportunity. What can I say? I see great value in precise simplicity.
What Zack shared in a Tweet is this:
Contests, queries, hosting services, etc. get you EXPOSURE.
Logline gets you READ.
Execution gets you SIGNED.
And even though the order of completion, from the writer’s perspective, may be inverted and reversed, the plan that he is outlining is entirely and completely correct. Therefore, I wanted to break this down, step by step, from the writer’s perspective, using a real-life case study from my client Elad Ziv. Elad is a Bellevue client, repped by the one and only John Zaozirny. His screenplay COURT 17 – I’m very proud to report – landed him in the #2 spot on the very prestigious The Black List, the list of the most liked unproduced screenplays in the industry in a given year, voted on by industry executives, at the end of 2022.
So let’s get started! And what better place is there to start then right in the middle?
As Zack called out, your logline is what will get you read. But it’s not just a well-put-together one-sentence summary, an effective, concise sentence that presents your idea well; it’s your screenplay’s concept, and whether or not said concept is unique, stand-out and intriguing, or instead feels derivative, the sort of idea that feels overly familiar, lacking an exciting concept that manages to intrigue the reader.
A strong logline is born of a strong idea; it’s difficult to arrive at a stand-out logline when the concept itself is… lacking, or hard to define. There is no argument that there are plenty of soft-concept scripts out there that went on to do great things for their writers, but I will argue that the majority of those came from writers who’ve already had some sort of pre-existing track record in the industry, which allowed them to expect reads and exposure based on previous reputation, built on well-established execution, and not wholly dependent on the concept powering their script. When we’re talking about getting read for the first time, getting interest from someone who doesn’t know you from Adam, a unique, stand-out idea that powers an intriguing logline is key.
Which is where I would like to turn to our case study, Elad Ziv. Elad’s screenplay, COURT 17, opened many doors for him. It all started with the big idea. And the logline for COURT 17, went like this:
An over-the-hill tennis pro, trying to salvage her career, finds herself stuck playing the first round of the US Open over and over again against one of the top players in the world. The only way to stop the loop is to win the match, a seemingly impossible task due to how overmatched she is.
Or put more simply: A Groundhog Day-meets-U.S. Open saga of a tennis star forced to play the same match over and over.
Now, the logline for Elad’s script, which is described as a Sports/Sci-Fi/Time-Loop script, may not be your jam (the script is great, take my word for it!), but it definitely stands out!
Execution is all about craft. It’s about the work on the page, and there’s just no faking it. Once you’ve piqued a potential rep’s curiosity with a unique, interesting, stand-out logline, the hope is that you will hook them with wordsmithing, the way you develop and weave story, character, dialogue, plot, themes and world on the page. If your logline is the conversation starter, execution is what gives your conversation merit. It’s the classes you’ve taken. It’s the notes you’ve gotten. It’s the groups you’ve participated in. It’s the movies you’ve watched, the TV shows you’ve studied, it’s the screenplays and pilots you’ve read. It’s the learning scripts you wrote, worked so hard on and set aside because you couldn’t quite get them there. All of that, in one way or another, shows up on the page.
While some writers arrive at the page for the first time with an innate story sense or feel for the craft, the reality is that, for everyone, craft is developed over time, and even for the most talented scribes is practiced and learned. Some writers perfect it in classes and workshops. Others turn to books, to breaking down their favorite pilots and screenplays. But make no mistake about it: Craft requires learning and work.
Stellar execution takes a promising logline and delivers on it. It’s what keeps the reader, be they a manager, a producer or an executive reading, rather than setting your screenplay aside in favor of something else that’s vying for their time and attention. It’s what gets a manager to pick up the phone. To drop you an email. To want to meet the person behind the great thing they just read. And if it’s really, really good? It’s what ultimately gets you signed, just like Zack said.
But no matter how intriguing your logline or how brilliant your execution, they’re not going to get you anywhere without the exposure they deserve. Which is why EXPOSURE is at the very top of Zack’s 3-step plan. Exposure is what gets you noticed. It’s where that logline and writing stands out. It’s where the cream rises to the top. Where writing careers begin.
Remember that reverse engineering I might have mentioned at the start of this whole thing? While a screenplay’s or a pilot’s journey begins with an idea that becomes a logline that, in time, and through treatments and outlines and drafts and notes becomes a fully realized piece of work, the start of the career is in the exposure of that work. It’s in the recognition that there’s something worth paying attention to there. It’s in writing something that deserves to be noticed.
Let’s get back to our case study, Elad. He developed COURT 17 like every writer does: Drafts. Notes. More drafts. More feedback. More drafts. And when it was ready, the time came for the exposure he felt that screenplay deserved. For Elad, it was a number of screenwriting competitions, Script Pipeline’s First Look Project among them. The carefully crafted screenplay stood out, and went on to win the whole thing. Even before finding out about his win, Elad researched the managers who had clients on 2020’s The Black List, and sent queries to five manager whose clients work aligned with his own. 4 out of 5 managers that Elad reached out to responded to his query and, based on his logline and research, requested the script. One of those managers was John Zaozirny. Once Elad won The First Look Project, the good people at Script Pipeline made a point to introduce the script’s logline with a slew of reps, many of whom asked for the script. Once again, John Zaozirny asked for the script, having now received information about it from two different sources: The writer, and the competition.
So let’s break this down, and get really specific:
Elad Ziv’s COURT 17 got EXPOSURE by entering and winning a big screenwriting competition. Other methods of exposure could have been listing the screenplay on hosting services such as The Black List. Using services like Virtual Pitch Fest. Participating in the pitch competitions that take place at such events as the ATX Festival (if it had been a pilot) or Austin Film Festival, or pitching via platforms such as Roadmap Writers or Stage 32 just to name a few. Entering labs and fellowships. As mentioned above, Elad did send out his own queries. He could have also submitted to more competitions. The opportunities are endless.
The logline for his competition-winning screenplay, which I included above, got Elad’s script COURT 17 READ. As they are always great supporters of their winners, Script Pipeline’s contest operators worked hard to get Elad’s logline out there, as did Elad himself. They got back a ton of script request. The script got READ.
And it was the EXECUTION of COURT 17, the work on the page, that got John Zaozirny, one of the industry’s biggest managers in the spec space, to sign Elad Ziv (just to give you perspective, Bellevue Productions, which John heads, had 11 scripts on The Black List in 2022, the most of any management company. The management companies right behind them in the count were Grandview and Writ Large, with 6 scripts each on the list). Shortly after signing Elad, and doing a couple of rounds of notes on the screenplay, John took the spec out to the professional space. In October of 2022, a name producer became attached and, from what I hear, the material is now being packaged. And the cherry on top of this particular screenwriting Sunday? As noted above, in December 2022, COURT 17 was named to 2022’s The Black List. Not only was it named, it came in tied for 2nd place. Even Forbes wrote about it.
So get your screenplay or pilot EXPOSED, however you choose to vie for reps and producer’s attention.
Put together a fantastic logline that speaks to your screenplay’s or pilot’s unique, intriguing, stand-0ut idea, which will in turn get your screenplay or pilot READ.
And at every turn, continue to work on your craft, develop your work so that it will convert fans, get people excited about you, and ultimately get you SIGNED some day.
Or, put another way:
Come up with a great idea/concept for your screenplay or pilot.
Write the hell out of it. Get notes. Rewrite again and again.
Once it’s done, get it the exposure it deserves.
Because, as it’s been proven time and again, the formula works.
Thanks for this great post, Lee. Appreciate the tips