Script Coverage Chronicles – November 2017: Never Do This When Working With Producers

A producer wants to develop a new project with you.  It could be on spec.  It could be a paid assignment.  Either way, my advice remains the same.  There is one thing you should never ever do. 

It’s something I’ve learned the hard way.

And it’s something that will very likely end your business relationship with the producer in question.

You should never.



Send a producer a rough draft.

Never send a rough draft of a script.  Never send a rough draft of a pitch.  Never send a rough draft of anything.

Don’t sketch in the storyline so the producer can get a general sense of where you’re going. 

Don’t plan on filling in the funny parts later when you’ve had more time to think.

Don’t do anything half way in this business.

Don’t do this even if the producer says that’s how he or she likes to work.  It will still backfire on you. 

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but it will almost always be the case that when a producer reads an “assignment draft” of any kind, that producer expects to see greatness.  And rough drafts are by definition “not great”.

A very successful writer I had a chance to have a conversation with – a writer with multiple produced movies that you would know – once gave me this advice:  Polish your script as much as you can, work your butt off on it, and then tell the producer it’s a “very rough draft”. 

But what if the producer has read your prior work and is a big fan of your writing -- isn’t a rough draft okay in that case?

No.  Even in that case – which is pretty much always the case when a producer is working with you to develop a story –- don’t do it.  Don’t send a remotely “rough” draft of anything if you want to stay on the project. If you do so, you’ll hear things like “you may not be the right voice for this one.” 

When producers become fans of your work, they expect the world of your writing, and you have to deliver. 

And the way writers deliver the world is to spend the necessary time to dig in and write multiple drafts and polish those drafts and add to those drafts and wake up in the middle of the night and add more.

As a screenplay consultant, I read many rough drafts, and I can see the potential in so many of them – the extraordinary places these stories could go. Producers won’t give you that benefit of the doubt.  They want to see you somewhere near the finish line even in the first draft.

So before you send anything to that producer, take the extra time you need, write multiple drafts, get feedback and polish and polish and polish.

And then tell the producer you threw it together.