This business of Hollywood screenwriting was built by people who really, really loved movies and had a genuine, burning desire to entertain people. And even though it has changed a lot over the years, and there a lot of executives now who couldn’t tell the difference between a movie treatment from a spa one if their lives depended on it, there are still people, people at the top, who are still carrying on that grand tradition of being in love with cinema. If you are really, really passionate about being in this business and selling a script, then you need to learn its history – watch old movies (black and white won’t bite, I promise).
Taste is a huge thing in this business, and if you can prove that you have some that goes beyond just the newest Chuck Lorre show on CBS, you’re more likely to be taken seriously in the industry by the people who know it — the people who actually count when it comes to selling a script. Also, there are a lot of really funny stories from within classic Hollywood, so you will always have something to talk about at a party if you’re in need of some sort of icebreaker. If you really care about something, you take the time to learn about it, history and all, and screenwriting as well as the larger part of the Hollywood machine in terms of selling a script should be no different.
For better or for worse, this is a business that is largely built on perception, and Hollywood, though there may not be nearly as much filming of movies out there as there used to be (television is still shot there, however), it is still the main hub of this industry in terms of selling a script. And because that is the case, you need to have more than just a touristy, passing familiarity with it – otherwise, you risk losing out on potentially selling a script because you didn’t know the history of your own industry.
A big part of selling a screenplay is to understand that while screenwriting is certainly an art form, it is also a business. People, film companies, and producers who you are trying to sell your screenplay to will want to make money when they produce your story. As a result, you need also to consider its marketability and profit potential.