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At one point or another, just about everyone has had an idea for a movie. If everyone knew how to get paid for their movie ideas, however, then we'd all be driving around in foreign sports cars. But getting paid for your movie ideas isn't simple. While not everyone acts on their movie ideas, there are thousands of people that do. The competition can get intense, and the same ideas tend to get thrown around a lot, so make sure you have something that the others don't.
Write a Story Synopsis
The first thing you should do with your movie idea is to get it into written form. Write a short synopsis like the kind you see describing movies on the back of DVDs, except make it one to two pages long. Include little to no dialogue, focusing instead on integral plot points. The synopsis will serve as your guide, and may even be asked for before a first pitch. Afterwards, write a more detailed synopsis that becomes your treatment for the script. The treatment is the foundation for the script, and serves as a template for the writer when he works on the script. This more detailed synopsis will include all of the scenes of the film, with dialogue important to the story.
Write a Script
Write, or hire someone to write, the script. The script is the selling-point of your movie idea, and is what will get your foot in the door. Having a script puts you above the thousands of others with movie ideas and nothing to show for it except what's in their heads. The script should be 90 to 120 pages long, and should feature in detail every scene of your film idea.
Set The Budget
Identify the budget of your screenplay. If you don't have budgeting or financial experience, hire a line producer or unit production manager with experience in the same genre and estimated production values of your script. A line producer will require from $200 to $500 just to read through a script, according to the Film Funding Club, and $2,000 to $5,000 to create a budget and shooting schedule. The line producer can also help you find your director, cinematographer, production designer, art director, editors and casting director. Rewrite the script to fit the budget and schedule quoted to you.
Hire an Agent and Lawyer
Find an agent that is willing to represent you. You're script appears more professional in the hands of an agent, and they know the right methods to close a deal that gets you paid for your movie idea. Agents have connections in the film industry and make it easier to get your script in the hands of the right people who will pay you for it, submitting your script to producers and production companies. Your lawyer will be there when you negotiate contracts with production firms and studios, and, like your agent, gets a percentage of what you make. If you sell a screenplay on spec (meaning it is non-commissioned and only has the potential to be made) for $100,000, for example, your agent and/or manager will get ten percent each ($10,000), and your lawyer gets five percent ($5,000). If you had a co-writer, that equates to $85,000 for the two of you to split, before you take into account the taxes you have to pay
Johnny Kilhefner is a writer with a focus on technology, design and marketing. Writing for more than five years, he has contributed to Writer's Weekly, PopMatters, Bridged Design and APMP, among many other outlets.