How To Sell A Screenplay in Hollywood

It may have been tweaked a thousand times. Labored over for several years. And had heart and soul poured into it.

Every screenplay writer’s dream is to have his or her screenplay sold and end up on the silver screen. Getting Hollywood to bite and then knowing how to legally protect one’s creation are two important considerations.

Protecting the Intellectual Property

It is important to copyright the finished screenplay. While it is unlikely an agent or studio would steal from a script and risk litigation, the possibility does exist. A little bit of extra effort can prevent this unfortunate event from occurring.

There are two popular methods for copyrighting screenplays. One is to go through the Library of Congress. Legally, it is necessary to register a work in order to be successful in court.

The other option is to go through the Writers Guild. The Writers Guild is a writer’s union, though it is not necessary to be a member to have a script copyrighted. It is worth noting that this route can be relatively useless if the party ever winds up in litigation. Only a federally registered copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office will gain admission into federal court.

Selling The Script

Sometimes screenwriters use agents to sell or option their scripts, and sometimes they do not. Either way, here are the two kinds of common deals.

Sales: This is when a script is purchased outright by the producer. Sometimes there is a flat-fee provided upfront and other times an additional amount of money is offered if and when the film is actually completed. There are even some experienced screenwriters who can negotiate for residuals from such revenues as those generated from DVD sales.

Option: This is when the script is essentially rented for a certain time period. The producer retains the exclusive rights to the story and can then either relinquish the rights to the script or purchase it outright.


The compensation received for optioning or selling a script can vary greatly, depending on how well-known the script writer is, the quality of the story and how good of a negotiator the writer’s team is.

If an agent is used, there may be an entertainment attorney who can look over the legal issues in the contract. If no agent is used, it is best to hire an entertainment lawyer who can make sure one’s best interests are being looked after in the deal.

While selling a script can be a thrilling experience, it is important to make sure that one receives the most beneficial terms possible.

Anthony Spotora is a Los Angeles entertainment lawyer and Los Angeles business attorney. To learn more, visit

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