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Most screenwriters concentrate their efforts on selling to the studios. But what about checking out the indie market? Independent filmmakers need scripts, too, and it just might be an easier market to break into.
"The indie scene offers opportunities for stories that aren't mainline, happy ending, franchise constructed, star vehicles," says entertainment lawyer Judith Merians. "If you have such a story, focus on pitching to producers or production companies who have succeeded with independent films and who have access to money. Look up which companies have deals with the majors and can knock at the doors of their home studios and pitch your project. Also look to directors who like offbeat stories and actors who like stretching their range (Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Toni Collette, and the like). Do your homework. Sometimes talent has its own production shingle."
When you have a mainstream high concept that is strong enough to attract stars and carry the movie based on the idea alone, you may have some wiggle room in your writing. In the indie market, it's not the idea that rules, it's the execution. Your character-driven script lives or dies based on its quality. Be prepared to show a writing sample, and to work on spec and do rewrites. Deliver the script they want. Remember, you're looking for your big break, so keep your nose to the grindstone and your inner prima donna in check.
How to Find Independent Filmmakers:
• Look up housekeeping deals in The Hollywood Directory.
• The International Movie Database (http://www.imdb.com) is a great resource. Look up your favorite indie films. At the bottom of the cast list, click "more." Scroll down to "produced by," and you'll know exactly who produced the movie—and might be interested in your story.
• Check out http://hollywoodlitsales.com.
• Attend film festivals.
• Contact your local film association.