Breaking into Nollywood is not easy. Breaking into the industry as a screenwriter is even less easy. You might think there are more than enough screenwriters. The funny truth is there aren’t. Filmmakers are constantly looking for talented screenwriters. And there are so few of them.
It hurts when you pour your heart into your screenplay, expecting the best reception only to be disappointed. We’ve all been there. Sometimes, you make excuses to justify why you want to quit. But you have to consider that perhaps, there are certain things you’re not doing right. And they tend to put a filmmaker off.
#1. You’re not following the trending genre.
Screenwriters are often inclined to follow their hearts regardless of the trends. Sometimes it works. Most times, it doesn’t. Nollywood is big on trends. Filmmakers always play safe. No filmmaker wants to make a movie that might not sell. Most of them have ‘follow the crowd’ mentality. It is difficult to find someone who is willing to gamble on a new trend especially if you’re new no matter how talented you may be. You must follow the trend.
#2. You’re pitching to the wrong filmmaker.
You’ll likely waste your time pitching your action screenplay to Emem Isong who is widely known for making rom coms. Just as you don’t pitch a rom com to Mike Bamiloye of the Mount Zion Ministries. Each filmmaker in Nigeria is usually known for one prominent genre. Find out who suits your screenplay and pitch to the person.
#3. Your script is implausible.
I don’t need to tell you that Nigerians are savage critics. A filmmaker’s biggest fear is negative reviews at the box office. Sometimes, you might be carried away with your story. And you don’t consider what the reader or audience feel. Do not let your imagination run away with you. Write something a filmmaker will believe can work on the screen.
#4. Poor draft.
This should even be the number one. Think of reading a badly written essay by a student. The headache alone will tick you off. The same applies to a poorly written screenplay. A filmmaker is most definitely not going to want your screenplay when the structure is not correct, plot and characters are not defined, and there are so many typographical errors. In fact, the whole thing is a mess. Nobody wants to develop a migraine from a terrible script. Before you write, learn how to write a screenplay.
#5. Your script is boring.
Like a poor draft, a boring script will send a filmmaker to the opposite direction. Filmmakers are generally impatient people. They don’t have time to wait for the most interesting part of your story. Don’t put the main action at the end. A filmmaker should be able to tell where your story is going from the first ten pages. It doesn’t mean you should tell the whole story in the first ten pages. But give a hint. Establish the plot. Make the filmmaker curious to know what happens at the end.
#6. Production budget of your script is too high.
We’ve emphasized this in a previous post (read here). Nollywood filmmakers tend to avoid high budget movies. They aren’t willing to spend extra funds when it can be avoided. Consider the budget as you draft your screenplay. The lower the budget, the higher chances that it will sell.
#7. You don’t know how to pitch your screenplay.
Being a talented screenwriter is genius. Getting a filmmaker to want your screenplay is a better genius. Your script isn’t going to do much good if you leave it on the shelve to gather dust. Go out there and pitch your script. A synopsis is one of the most effective ways of pitching a screenplay. Most filmmakers don’t read scripts anyway. They rather request for a synopsis and if it’s interesting, they go ahead and request for the script. Learn how to write a captivating synopsis.
#8. You’re very difficult to negotiate with.
You’ve met a filmmaker who is interested in your screenplay and wants to buy it. That’s where another problem comes. The price is not enough. And you refuse to compromise. Yeah, you should have a standard. But sometimes, a little compromise might go a long way. I’m not saying you should sell your wonderfully drafted screenplay for peanuts. But your main concern shouldn’t be the money. It should be a long profitable relationship with the filmmaker. You might be surprised at the kind of connections you will get from a filmmaker alone. Again, pricing isn’t the only on the negotiating table. Most screenwriters don’t want their scripts rewritten. The truth is virtually all screenplays are rewritten. Yours won’t be an exception. Don’t insist that your spec script should be produced directly. You’ll only show the filmmaker you’re a very difficult person to work with.
Phew… screenwriting is stressful, right? Don’t worry. It’s not as daunting as it looks. Just consider these reasons and correct them where applicable and you just might find yourself a hot cake in Nollywood.
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