Here’s the good new (and the bad news). 90% of agents know whether they’re going to sign you or not by the end of page one. And 99% know by the end of page 10. So you’ve got to really blow them away right away. Here are six things that you have to include on page one of your script to catch an agent’s attention (and hopefully get signed!).
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One element they’ve never seen before
Again, you really need to hook agents as soon as possible, and one of the best ways to do that is with a unique story element right off the bat. And it can be just about anything — a vivid character description, a unique joke, a witty line of dialogue, a crazy setting, a weird structural thing. Don’t rehash the same tired introduction and establishing elements. Want to know something that doesn’t work? Morning routine montages, unrelated horror movie cheap scares, tons of action, boring voiceovers, and other clichéd openings. Make the agent or manager reading your script sit up and pay attention.
If you can make them raise an eyebrow by the end of the first page, there’s a good chance they’ll keep reading. Honestly, what happens on the first ten pages of your script is more important than how it ends — at least until it sells. Spend the time it takes to find your one unique thing because that one element can catapult your entire screenwriting career.
A dense first page means a dense script means a lot of work and getting home to the family late. Make sure you format your script correctly with plenty of blank space. Blank space also makes the first page easy to sight-read (aka “skim”). Agents are people too, and if you bog them down with a weighty opening page they might feel less inclined to keep reading, no matter how well-written your script is.
A clear genre
Sure, it’s fun and tempting to write in multiple different genres, but you know who goes and sees genre-blended films? Only other writers, and there’s not enough of us to keep theaters afloat. Show the agent you know how to write in a genre right off the top because that shows that you’re a professional.
Proper formatting, grammar, and spelling
Want to make a typo? Fine, just don’t do it on page 1. Make sure your formatting is conventional. Enough said.
Do your research
Nothing kills a script faster than something that feels un-researched. Writing an action movie? Know your guns. Writing a corporate thriller? Research the industry. Writing a cop movie? Look up the radio codes. If the research isn’t put into the story, it will immediately show in a big way.
Your page count
Technically this is on the last page not the first, but whoever is reading your script is going to scroll to the bottom. Try to keep it between 95-110. Never go over 120 unless your name is Quentin Tarantino or Aaron Sorkin.
If you hit all six of these things, we can’t promise you’ll get signed, but at least you’ll make it past the first page. A good first impression is the most important thing you can do with your script. And remember: write always.
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