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Ive Got a Great Idea
for a Film
This guide was compiled by the Australian Film Commission (AFC).
Updates to this information will be undertaken progressively, after 1 July 2008,
to reect the merger of the AFC, Film Finance Corporation and Film Australia into
the Federal Governments new lm support agency, Screen Australia.
Info Guide
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Copyright Australian Film Commission 2006
Australian Film Commission Info Guide
Ive got a great idea... . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . 2
Write the script yourself . . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . 2
Find a writer to write the script for you .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . 6
Form your own writing team .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . 7
Script layout . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . 9
Screenplay development funding . . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . 9
Getting feedback on your rst draft .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. 12
Pitching your screenplay . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. 12
Selling your screenplay .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. 14
I need a little legal advice . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. 15
Australian contacts . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. 19
Thanks to Australian Film Commission staff, the Australian Copyright Council, the Arts Law Centre of Australia, the Australian Screen
Directors Association, Australian Writers Guild and the Screen Producers Association of Australia for their assistance in the preparation
of this guide.
Photocopying this guide:
This guide is regularly updated. Please check with AFC Research and Information prior to copying to ensure you have the most
up-to-date version.
AFC Research and Information welcomes amendments/additions to this guide. Please phone (02) 9321 6444 or toll free 1800 226 615,
fax (02) 9357 3714 or email
Last updated August 2006.
Note: The information included is of a general nature only. It has been drawn from a variety of sources and is not intended as legal,
accounting or any other form of professional advice. The AFC makes no representations that this information is a substitute for
external professional advice obtained from a third party. Nor should the inclusion of any organisation be seen as an endorsement or
recommendation of that organisation. No representation is made regarding the appropriateness of any organisation to your project.
The AFC has undertaken all reasonable measures to ensure the accuracy of information included. It specically disclaims any liability,
for loss or risk, personal or otherwise, which may be incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application of any
of the contents of this information sheet.
The information contained in this publication is current at the time of writing. Please consult the websites of cited organisations for the
latest information.
Copyright Australian Film Commission 2006
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Translating your idea into a screenplay is often the lengthiest part of the lmmaking process. This guide
provides an overview of how to proceed in turning your idea into a screenplay, whether you are writing
the screenplay yourself or looking for a professional writer, and what to do once you have completed a rst
Generally, there are three ways you can get an idea written:
write the script yourself;
nd a screenwriter who is willing to write a script based on your idea (and a producer and director
who are interested in pursuing it);
form your own writing team (this generally includes a producer, director and script editor).
Screenwriting courses
Undertaking a course in screenwriting is a way to ensure the successful translation of your idea into a lm.
There are many courses offered at universities, lm schools, private colleges and screen organisations, as
well as TAFE and WEA colleges. As courses change from semester to semester it is worth doing an internet
search to get the most current advice on whats on offer. You can use a dedicated educational institution
search engine, a media search engine and a general search engine. To make sure your net search is
thorough we recommend using various combinations of the following search words: course, school, lm,
video, media, writing, screenwriting, your city, for example Melbourne, and your state, for example Victoria.
For further information on courses and careers in the lm, television and interactive digital media industries,
please refer to the AFC publication Info Guide: Getting Started in Film, TV and Interactive Digital Media,
available online:
Useful websites and search engines
Australian Qualications Framework (AQF):
Helps all learners to participate and navigate the qualications system by providing information on
certicates, diplomas, degrees and master qualications in schools, vocational education and training.
Commonwealth Government Educational Portal:
The entry point to information on all aspects of education in Australia.
Culture and Recreation Training Course Finder:
An online database of Australian education and training programs in the cultural sector.
A general search engine. Enter search words (e.g. film + course + Perth) to nd the information you need.
A clustering engine that organises your search results on the web.
Film schools
In Australia there are two production-based lm schools that offer full-time courses in screenwriting:
The Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS):
The Victorian College of the Arts, School of Film and Television (VCA):
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Universities and colleges
As well as AFTRS and the VCA, there are university courses in lmmaking, screenwriting and creative writing
offered in each state. For a comprehensive directory of university courses offered in Australia go to Education
Network Australia (EdNA):
The Australian College of Journalism (ACJ):
Runs professional media courses including a scriptwriting course that can be undertaken by correspondence.
This NSW-based company runs workshops in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, with an emphasis on a
production-based background. Its workshops include: The Essential Screenwriting Workshop an intensive
weekend workshop; The First Draft Genre Workshop a hands-on eight-week workshop of genre lm
(action, thriller, horror, sci ); The First Draft Comedy Workshop; and The Focus Workshop series of single-
evening workshops.
TAFE colleges
TAFE colleges have campuses throughout Australia, and offer correspondence courses to regional and rural
Canberra Institute of Technology:
TAFE NT: (See TAFE Division)
TAFE Queensland:
TAFE South Australia:
TAFE Tasmania:
TAFE Western Australia:
TAFE Victoria:
The Workers Educational Association (WEA)
WEA offers creative writing classes, which can help strengthen story, character, dialogue and general writing
WEA Sydney:
WEA South Australia:
WEA Hunter:
WEA Illawarra:
Screen culture, development and resource organisations
The national network of screen resource organisations, Screen Development Australia (SDA), plays a key
role in providing early- to mid-career lmmakers with affordable access to production equipment, subsidy
programs, professional development and accredited training, including seminars and workshops on
screenwriting. Below is a list of the screen resource organisations:
Film and Television Institute, Perth:
Metro Screen, Sydney:
Media Resource Centre, Adelaide:
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OPEN Channel, Melbourne:
QPIX, Brisbane:
A comprehensive list of screen culture organisations can be found in the Industry Links section of the AFC
Writers centres and residencies
Writers centres run courses and workshops, and list details of upcoming seminars, events and competitions
in their newsletters. To access links to regional writers groups visit the websites of the state centres listed
ACT Writers Centre:
NSW Writers Centre:
NT Writers Centre:
Queensland Writers Centre:
SA Writers Centre:
Tasmanian Writers Centre:
Victorian Writers Centre:
WA State Literature Centre:

Writers residencies are conducted by:
Queensland Writers Centre:
Tasmanian Writers Centre:
Varuna (NSW):
Northern Rivers Writers Centre (NSW):
Screenwriting publications
There are many books, journals and websites on the craft of screenwriting, and examples of screenplays
can be obtained from media libraries and websites. To nd out which titles are on offer you can search
catalogues in libraries, bookshops and on the internet. For example, run a search at or and enter a combination of the following search words: screenwriting, scriptwriting,
books, film.
If you wish to nd a comprehensive list of publications on screenwriting, use the searchable online database
of a media library, then arrange to borrow from your local library through an interlibrary loan.
Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS):
Their library has an excellent bibliography of scriptwriting books. On their website click on library > research
tools > pathways to information > screenwriting bibliography (which downloads as a PDF).
RMITS AFI Research Collection:
Holds listings of reputable screenwriting publications in its online catalogues. Also includes a collection of
lm scripts.
Victorian College of the Arts (VCA):
Holds listings of reputable screenwriting publications in its online catalogues.
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Australian Libraries Gateway (ALG):
To nd all the Australian libraries with performing arts collections, select Search collections by subject >
Performing arts > Motion pictures, radio and television, to access a set of links to libraries whose online
catalogues can be searched by entering key words such as film + script + writing. This process will provide
you with titles and the locations where they are kept. You can now ask your local library to order the title
through an interlibrary loan at:
For more libraries and information resources, consult the Industry Links section on the AFC website:
and the AFCs Info Guide, Australian Film and Television, Information for Filmmakers:
Screenwriting websites
To nd screenwriting websites go to or and enter screenwriting in
the search engine. Some screenwriting websites publish free advice, writing tips and examples of correctly
formatted screenplays; others want you to buy their books and enrol in their classes, and some require
subscription fees. The Australian Writers Guild (AWG): urges its members to exercise
caution with regard to fee-based services. To get an idea of what is a fair fee to pay for advice, subscription
and management of script sales, you can seek appropriate legal advice from an industry lawyer at; the AWG (members-only) free legal service; or Arts Law Below is a short list of websites on screenwriting.
The Cinemarket:
An online script store. Also offers professional script supplies, books and screenwriting software.
This website offers a comprehensive directory of lm links worldwide. Navigate from the Categories section,
click on Production > Screenwriting.
Sells Screenwriting for Dummies, and includes free access to screenwriting articles including: Developing an
Artistic Sensibility for Screenwriting, Creating the Backstory for Your Screenplay, Crafting Your Characters
Dialogue in Your Screenplay, and Writing Act I of Your Screenplay.
Plateau Press:
This prose-based Queensland website publishes a set of screen and theatre writing links, including: Craft of
Dramatic Writing, Online Screenwriting Book, Paperwork Glossary, Professional Screenwriters links, Screen
Writing: the Nine-Act Structure, Screenwriters Homepage, Screenwriters Network, Screenwriters Online,
Screenwriting contests and deadlines, Script-o-Rama, and Zoetrope Screen Writing.
UK-based website promoting independent lmmaking. They provide a script registration service and script
analysis. They also provide links to scriptwriting websites.
Script Crawler:
Searchable online script database.
ScreenPlay (Melbourne):
ScreenPlay is a non-prot collective of professional writers, actors and directors, presenting unproduced lm
scripts as live readings. ScreenPlay readings enable writers to hear their work, often for the very rst time,
and identify the strengths and weaknesses of their scripts via audience input.
Scripts Australia:
This NSW-based online script service provides producers, agents and other industry professionals controlled
and secure online access to new Australian scripts. There are opportunities to lodge and/or update scripts,
synopses or script summaries for producers or agents to view. Also provides networking opportunities for

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Script Central:
Script Central is a group of Australias leading scriptwriters, script editors and script consultants, who provide
a range of expert script services to writers (of all levels), producers, directors and those interested in taking
their screenplays to a higher level of development.
The Script Factory:
This UK-based organisation works to support screenwriters by nding and developing new screenwriting
talent. It also supports people who work with screenwriters, and it conducts international training courses
and workshops.
So You Wanna Sell A Script?:
This US-based website offers advice on writing a screenplay from scratch completing the rst
draft, analysis and advice on polishing the screenplay through to selling it in the marketplace. This
comprehensive website offers many free services to writers.
(and a producer and director who are interested in pursuing it)
To nd out the names of screenwriters you admire you can use an online database, where you enter the
title of the production to nd out the name of the writer. You can then enter the writers name in the search
engine to nd all the credits associated with that particular writer.
AFC searchable online databases Includes Australian and co-produced features, television drama and documentaries
from 1990 and shorts from 1998. Search the collection of the National Film and Sound Archive, which spans 100
years of Australias audiovisual heritage, from silent feature lms such as The Sentimental Bloke to modern
classics like Strictly Ballroom, Shine and Lantana.
Internet Movie Database (
A US-based search engine and database that includes a listing of most Australian and international titles of
lms, documentaries, telemovies and television series.
After using an online database (above) to nd out the name of a writer, you will need an industry directory
to nd out how to contact them. A comprehensive list of industry directories is published in the Industry
Links section of the AFC website.
For Australian Directories see
and for International Directories see
The primary Australian lm industry directories are The Production Book (
and The Encore Directory ( Both directories are subscription-based and
available online and in hard copy.
Once you have the name of the directory, ask your local library to order it through an interlibrary loan (see
Libraries page 4). If you are located in a rural area of Australia, you can ask your state reference library to
copy and post you the relevant pages enter reference in the search engine at
libraries for a list of all the Australian state reference libraries.
If you wish to browse a copy, visit a library with a performing arts collection by searching the Australian
Libraries Gateway (ALG):
State Government agencies (page 10 and and Screen
culture, development and resource organisations (page 3 and
screenorg/screen_dev.aspx) also generally hold copies of the Australian industry directories. Please phone
ahead and make sure they are available.
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Selected Industry Directories
The Australian Writers Guild (AWG):
Offers a free online Writers Directory that lists contacts and credits of full members who have indicated
they wish to be listed.
A subscription-based US entertainment industry resource for lm and television information, featuring over
1.5 million database records on projects tracked from development to release, cast and crew credits, box
ofce grosses, celebrity biographies, talent contact information, company directories and industry news.
The Black Book:
The portal to Indigenous arts and media in Australia. Has 2,700 descriptive listings of Indigenous
organisations and individuals working across 95 professions in the arts, media and cultural industries. Plus
listings of 2,000 creative works by Indigenous people publications, music, lm and television productions
from the late 1890s until now, including details of the artist, publisher, release date, distributor contacts
and synopsis.
Encore Directory:
Lists Australian lm industry contacts and credits. Both hard copy and online (subscription based).
Internet Movie Database Pro (IMDbPro):
An international, subscription-based directory for industry professionals that lists contact details. Credits can
be obtained from free of charge.
Kemps Film and Television Production Services Handbook:
UK-based international online directory. Over 41,000 production services companies from 115 countries
The Production Book:
Lists Australian contacts and credits, offers online access for a small subscription fee, as well as hard copy.
Production Hub:
US-based production search engine.
Because of the highly competitive nature of the lm industry, it is not generally possible for a rst-time
screenwriter to attract on spec a well-known producer, director or script editor to a project. Successful
producers have a stable of projects that are in development, production and release, and generally advise
they have no room to consider a script or idea from a newcomer. Film projects are the result of collaboration
with directors and writers over many years, and this is the reason that so many new writers nd it difcult
to have an unsolicited script read by a producer (see To send or not to send unsolicited scripts page 16).
By attending conferences such as SPAA Fringe ( you will hear experienced producers
speaking about how they formed their circle of writers and directors.

Teams can be formed when:

students do a course together (see Screenwriting courses page 2);
members of guilds, organisations and associations meet at seminars, networking events, conferences and
forums (see Screen agencies, guilds and associations below);
like-minded people link up through net-based lmmaking groups (see Bulletin boards and newsletters
page 8).

The AFC is often asked by writers and directors for names of producers to join their project. To assist
lmmakers the AFC has compiled a list of people interested in offering their services as producers. See:
Producer Contact List:

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Screen agencies, guilds and associations
The Australian Writers Guild (AWG), the Australian Screen Directors Association (ASDA) and the Screen
Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) run events, conferences and seminars where industry members
meet and share ideas about their projects.
Australian Writers Guild (AWG):
The AWG is the professional association for performance writers. Their services to members include
expert legal, contractual and industrial advice, negotiation of standard agreements with producers, online
publication of standard contracts, agreements and minimum rates, lobbying for the protection of copyright,
Australian content and funding, workshops, seminars, conferences and other events that promote and
support writers. Also provide online advice, a script registration service and a script assessment service.
Australian Screen Directors Association (ASDA):
ASDA is an industry association that represents the interests of over 750 directors and producers of feature
lms, TV programs, documentaries and animation. The ASDA conference is held annually in September.
Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA):
SPAA represents the interests of producers on issues affecting the business and creative aspects of screen
production and promotes a thriving independent screen production industry in Australia. The annual SPAA
Fringe conference is recommended as the premier event for screenwriters seeking producers.
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA):
The MEAA is the union that covers media, entertainment, sports and arts industry employees.
The Australian Society of Authors (ASA):
ASA promotes and protects the interests of professional prose writers and illustrators in Australia.
See also Screen culture, development and resource organisations (page 3), Writers centres and
residencies (page 4) and AFC Industry Links:
Bulletin boards and newsletters
An extensive network of people in the industry who want to work with others is accessible via online
bulletin boards, newsletters and websites with lm chat rooms. For a set of links visit the Journals and
other resources section of AFC Industry Links: and click
on Bulletin boards. State Government agencies (page 10), Screen culture, development and resource
organisations (page 3) and Screen agencies, guilds and associations (above) all publish newsletters.
Below is a select list of bulletin boards, magazines and newsletters:
AFC News:
A free monthly email newsletter offering feature stories and providing information on major events in the
lm industry, AFC news, production reports, upcoming festivals, seminars and conferences, recent funding
approvals etc. Subscribe:
Encore Magazine:
Contains in-depth features on industry sectors, analysis of whats happening in the news, people and
company proles, on location reports and funding approvals.
Publishes a message board, direct link: The subject headings
include forums, events, trading, courses, jobs, directory of lm & TV services and misc.
Inside Film (IF) Magazine:
Charges a subscription fee for its print and online publication, however lmmakers can register online for
the free email newsletter.
Charges a subscription fee, which gives you access to its weekly jobs list, as well as its industry newsletter.
The Filmmakers Message Board offers TropClub members access to an online production directory of people
wanting to become involved in short lm production and provide their services for Sony Tropfest lms.
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Asian, European, American and Australian script layouts all vary slightly, so you need to use a script
layout specic to the region in which you intend to sell your script. Features, television series and serials,
telemovies, documentaries, TVCs and television format shows such as game shows, all have different types
of script layout. Use the following websites, library databases and search engines to access examples:
Australian Film Commission (AFC):
Offers a downloadable Suggested Script Layout as well as What is a Synopsis? An Outline? A Treatment?
Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) library database:
Offers a number of publication titles that contain script layouts. Find them by entering screenplay format in
the search engine.
Offers a comprehensive set of links to sites and resources devoted to screenwriting. Navigate to them from
the Categories section by clicking on Production > Screenwriting.
Film Victoria:
Offers a detailed Drama Script Format Guidelines as well as a Sample Script Layout.
Final Draft:
A US scriptwriting software package that can be adjusted to Australian script layout. Final Draft courses in
Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney are offered via the Australian Writers Guild
The Australian distributor of Final Draft software is Like Magic Software
The Raindance website:
Offers a downloadable guide for script layout of English features.
The Australian distributor of a variety of professional screenwriting software packages.
Publishes a comprehensive set of links to screenwriting software packages.
TV Formats:
Offers information and advice, as well as a television format show layout.
For additional examples use or and enter various combinations of
the words screenwriting or screenplay or script + layout + format + country (e.g. Australia).
To nd out the latest news on screenplay funding initiatives use or
and enter film + funding + Australia into the search engine; subscribe to newsletters published by Screen
culture, development and resource organisations (page 3) or visit Industry Links on the AFC website:
Subscribe to newsletters published by the Federal and State Government agencies (see below). See the
AFCs Info Guide: Information for Filmmakers for details on other funding initiatives:
Federal Government agencies
For a comprehensive list of Australian Federal Government agencies please visit Industry Links on the AFC
Australian Film Commission (AFC):
The Australian Governments agency for supporting the development of lm, television and interactive
digital media projects and the people who make them. The AFC offers various types of funding. Guidelines
and application forms can be downloaded from the website: or contact the
AFC for hard copies:
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Phone: (02) 9321 6444
Toll free: 1800 226 615
Read all guidelines and any additional material carefully so that you have a clear idea of what funding is
available for your project, and which grants you are eligible to apply for. Before you submit your script for
funding, see Getting feedback on your rst draft (page 12).
State Government agencies
Please note: the following information was current at time of writing. For up-to-date details, consult each
organisations website.
Film Victoria:
The Victorian State Government agency that promotes and supports excellence in screen-based content
creation in Victoria. Film Victoria runs New Features Writers and Feature Film Script Development programs.
New South Wales Film and Television Office (FTO):
Provides nancial and other assistance to the lm and television industrys activities in New South
Wales, including the provision of nancial and other assistance for lm and television script and project
development. Programs include the New Feature Writers Scheme and Aurora Script Workshop.
Northern Territory Film Office (NTFO):
Aims to advance the development of the lm, television and new media industries in the Territory, and
provides advice to the Northern Territory Government on all matters relating to them. The ofce has
a limited funding capability targeted at the professional development of the Territorys independent
lmmakers, via script development, production and industry culture programs.
Pacific Film and Television Commission (PFTC):
The PFTC offers a range of funding programs including those targeting the development of lm and
television projects, such as the Premiere script development scheme.
ScreenACT supports the professional development of local industry practitioners including the provision of
script development grants.
Western Australias lm funding and development agency is dedicated to the growth and promotion of lm
and television activity in this state. In the past, ScreenWest has offered a New Screen Writers scheme, to
provide development assistance to less established writers who display the potential to develop long-form
Screen Tasmania:
The Tasmanian State Government agency responsible for fostering, developing and supporting screen-based
industries within Tasmania, which provides script development funding.
South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC):
The SAFCs Script and Project Development program supports the development of outstanding, original and
creative Australian lm and television projects suitable for nancing and with a demonstrable economic
benet to South Australia.
Scholarships, grants and mentorships
There are many scriptwriting scholarships and grants on offer. To nd out about new initiatives and to make
sure you have current information, do regular online searches using,
and Mentorships are offered from time to time by the State Government agencies
(above), Screen culture, development and resource organisations (page 3), and Writers centres and
residencies (page 4). Check their websites and subscribe to their newsletters for details.

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The Culture and Recreation Portal:
An excellent resource that provides access to all known Australian cultural grant programs and relevant
Philanthropy Australia:
The national membership body for the philanthropic sector publishes The Australian Directory of
Philanthropy and A Guide to Scholarships.
Screenwriting competitions offer winners cash prizes and the opportunity to get their scripts produced.
There are many screenwriting competitions. To get an idea of how many enter screenwriting competitions
into the search engines of or Research any competitions youre
considering entering, and be aware that an entry fee should represent an amount that seems reasonable to
cover the administrative costs of processing your application plus script readers fees.
Australian competitions
For news of Australian competitions check key industry journals such as Encore and IFInside Film (see
Bulletin boards and newsletters page 8), Writers centres and residencies (page 4) and newsletters
published by Screen culture, development and resource organisations (page 3). Writers centres run
courses and workshops and list details of upcoming seminars, events and competitions.
Australian Writers Guild AWGIE Awards:
Includes a competition for unproduced scripts called the Monte Miller Award. Although there is no prize for
this competition, it is a prestigious award and winners traditionally get their scripts produced. The AWGIE
Awards are the only peer-judged screenwriting awards in Australia.
Inside Film Awards:
The IF Awards run the ZTudio What IF? Competition for Best Unproduced Screenplay. Winners receive an
overseas trip to pitch their script to agents and producers of their choice. (See Pitching your screenplay,
page 12).
Project Greenlight Australia:
Project Greenlight is a contest and documentary series focusing on independent, low-budget lmmaking,
founded by Matt Damon, Ben Afeck and Chris Moore, with Miramax. In 2005 they franchised the contest
to the Movie Network in partnership with Screentime Australia. Australian lmmakers are eligible to enter
the contest to have their feature lm script produced with a budget of A$1,000,000. The 2005 winner, Solo,
directed by Morgan ONeill, was released in cinemas by Dendy Films in 2006.
International competitions
There are many screenwriting competitions but its the Grand Slam trio that writers drool over: the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship; The Chestereld Writers Film Project; and
The Walt Disney Studios Fellowship. Although submission requirements differ a bit for each, they all run
neck and neck when it comes to stature and deadlines. All struggling screenwriters who have dipped their
toes in the shark-infested submission waters will tell you how hard it is to get past the gatekeepers. This
includes lmmakers in bunkers as well as snarling agents and overworked assistants. As a result, many
fatigued writers mail their scripts to competitions with a prayer that they be awarded a golden key. And the
Grand Slammers hold an impressive key ring. (Women in Film, USA, viewed February 2003,
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship:
Binger Filmlab:
Intensive script development program held in Amsterdam.
Walt Disney Studios Fellowship:
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Script assessments
After completing a rst draft of a screenplay, most new writers will feel their script is ready to be shown to
producers, actors and funding bodies. The Australian Writers Guild (AWG) advises new
writers that an independent and condential assessment of their work before its offered to funding bodies
will provide a realistic industry opinion of the feasibility of the project. Written by experienced professional
screenwriters, AWG script assessments are similar to a script edit, and provide you with criticism and
feedback to guide you through the next draft. The turnaround on the Assessment Service is up to six weeks,
and you should allow yourself a further six weeks (at least!) to implement the assessors suggestions,
before the next draft is submitted to producers, actors and funding bodies.
Metro Screen (Screen culture, development and resource organisations, page 3) offers its members
appointments with script editors at a discounted rate:
Script edits
You can engage a professional script editor to assess your script. Editors are often screenwriters who also
work as editors; some are dedicated script editors. The AWG Script Editors Minimum Rate is A$1,000 per
week, which is generally how long it takes to read and assess a 90-page screenplay. If you can afford to
pay for a professional editor, contact an agent that represents screenwriters (see Directories, page 6) and
ask their advice on who would be the best script editor to suit your project. You can also approach editors
directly (see Directories, page 6).
Script readings
Script readings are rehearsed readings by professional actors to a live audience. You can expect the actors to
be seated, and the director to read the non-dialogue or big print sections of the script. The actors, director
and audience will engage in a discussion at the end of the reading. Submitting your screenplay to a script
reading provides invaluable audience and industry feedback.
Script Alive!:
Bi-monthly public readings of unproduced screenplays in Melbourne. The scripts are read by professional
actors who have rehearsed with the writer and director. They are designed to involve audiences and the
industry in experiencing scripts in the raw.
Parnassus Den:
Holds weekly readings of new Australian theatre, lm and television scripts in Sydney. Parnassus Den is an
ensemble of professional actors, and will arrange access to a professional director if desired.
For other opportunities check with State Government agencies (page 10) and Screen culture, development
and resource organisations (page 3).
Pitching is the art of communicating (verbally or in writing) the essence of your screenplay or project,
usually to an agent, a studio executive, or a producer. (Kathie Fong Yoneda, The Script-Selling Game, 2002,
Pitches can range in length from fteen seconds (the Elevator Pitch) to twenty minutes (the Big Pitch); on
paper they can range from a one-page to a six-page pitch. If youre not sure what pitching is, or want to
learn more about it, you can nd sections on pitching in Screenwriting publications (page 4), Screenwriting
websites (page 5), and attend Screenwriting courses (page 2).
Please also read To send or not to send unsolicited scripts (page 16) and Query letters (page 17).
Ive Got a Great Idea for a Film Updated August 2006 Page 13
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Denitions of pitching
Following are examples of free pitching advice sourced from the web:
When someone asks you what your screenplay is about, and you tell them, you are verbally pitching
your script to them. If they ask you for a written summation a treatment you are submitting a written
pitch. The word pitching is really a misnomer as it conjures up visions of snake-oil salesmen peddling
questionable wares to an unsuspecting public. Yet if you took pitching out of the lm business, the entire
industry would collapse. Every movie ever made was made as a result of pitching. And the lm industry is
a people business, which means that your communication skills are very important. (Grove, E. Raindance
Writers Lab, Pitching Pt. 1, viewed February 2006 at:
Pitching a script is an art form, and although it can be stressful, its something every writer has to perfect
before approaching executives or agents. So what is pitching exactly? A pitch is an animated summation of
a script with emphasis on the main characters, the conict, and the genre. When pitching a script, you use
this summation to persuade industry professionals to option the work. (Preparing to Pitch Your Screenplay
to a Studio, adapted from: Screenwriting For Dummies, viewed February 2006 at:
When you pitch, youve got to remember that youre pitching story, and while character and action may be
the glue that holds everything together, it all starts within the context of story. (Field S., viewed May 2006
To be able to communicate your projects creative and nancial merits is vital. If you dont know what the
project is about, then its impossible to sell it to the people with the chequebooks. You try to attain a clear
vision through your discussions with the writer and/or director and then to carry this vision all the way to a
meeting somewhere on the other side of the world. (Watts, L. Producer of AFI Award-winning lm Walking
on Water. Screenrights Newsletter February 2003, listed as March 2003, viewed March 2006 at:
Publications and websites on pitching
The AFTRS library publishes a Pitching Quicklist. On the homepage at click on
Research Tools > Pathways to Information: Bibliographies, to download the Screenwriting Bibliography,
which is a comprehensive list of screenwriting publications, and includes a list of pitching publications. Once
you have selected the title you can arrange for an interlibrary loan. See Libraries (page 4).
To nd websites that offer advice on pitching, go to or and enter
combinations of pitching, pitching to studios, film, movie and screenwriting in the search engine.
Pitching competitions
Pitching competitions are occasionally run by Screen culture, development and resource organisations
(page 3) and Writers centres and residencies (page 4), so check with your local organisations. Below are
some of the regular pitching competitions.
The Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA):
SPAA holds the annual SPAA Fringe Conference of which the Film City Inc Pitching Competition is a highlight.
A judging panel of industry executives chooses the best ve proposals to publicly pitch in front of a panel of
industry executives/producers and an audience of peers. This provides real benets for both the delegates
who pitch and those in the audience who are able to learn from the pitching process and from the judges.
The Short & Sharp Pitching Competition is open to OPENChannel members. Entrants submit a one-page
treatment for a short lm, and nalists are selected to pitch to a panel of industry professionals. The pitches
are judged on the quality, clarity and realisability of the project. This free event is open to the public and
entry level lmmakers are encouraged to be part of the audience, as observing others pitch their ideas
teaches invaluable lessons about what makes a successful pitch.
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ScreenWest has established the Bill Warnock Award. This annual award is selected by a panel of industry
people, and offers a Western Australian writer the opportunity to meet with, and pitch to, Hollywood
scriptwriters, agents and producers at the Hollywood Film Festival. To enter, write a two-page synopsis of
your feature lm idea, and a one-paragraph pitch on why you should be selected.
ZTudio 3 Minute Opportunity:
The ZTudio 3 Minute Opportunity is the chance to pitch your feature lm idea to the agency Stacey Testro
International. If successful, ZTudio will develop, nance, produce and market a 1020 minute short lm with
a view to producing the feature.
Website and publications on selling screenplays
There are many websites that act as screenplay brokers. Find them (as well as publications on this topic)
by searching or and entering selling + film or movie + scripts
or screenplays into the search engine. See also AFC Industry Links Scriptwriting section:
au/industrylinks/prodres/script_write.aspx. See also Libraries (page 4) and Screenwriting publications
(page 4).
These websites are devoted to selling screenplays:
Ink Tip:
Screenwriters Web:
So You Wanna Sell a Script?:

The Australian Writers Guild (AWG) urges its members to exercise caution with regard to websites that
charge brokers fees. To get an idea of what is a fair fee to pay for advice, subscription and management of
script sales, the AFC advises you seek appropriate legal advice (see Legal links, page 15).
If you feel your script is ready to go into the marketplace (see Getting feedback on your rst draft,
page 12), you may want to consider seeking representation by an agent. Stephanie Palmer, Director of
Creative Affairs for MGM Pictures, advises that MGM will only read scripts that are submitted via agent
I do believe that the gems out there nd their way to good representation and ultimately nd their
way into the studio system The main way [agents] get clients is through referrals from their current
clients or other people they trust in the business. This is a relationship business if they have seen some
of the writers work, either at a reading, or if theyve won a contest, or some other way of distinguishing
themselves, it can spark an agents interest. Any way writers can make themselves stand above the rest
of their peers, or get noticed, is a great way to start. (How MGM Chooses A Script: An Interview With
Stephanie Palmer Director of Creative Affairs for MGM Pictures, viewed March 2006 at: www.scriptologist.
Lists of Australian literary and creative agents can be found in industry Directories (page 6). The Writers
Guild of America East (WGAE) offers free downloads of US literary agencies lists, as
well as guides on How to approach an agent and How to work with an agent. WGAE suggests that the
individual rst write or telephone the agency, detail your professional and/or academic credentials and
briey describe the nature of the material you desire to submit. The agency will then advise the individual
whether it is interested in receiving the material with a view toward representing it. (viewed March 2006
See also: To send or not to send unsolicited scripts (page 16), Getting feedback on your rst draft
(page 12) and I need a little legal advice (below).
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Legal links
Bruce Pulsford, the Australian Writers Guild Legal Ofcer, advises all screenwriters that before signing an
agreement or contract they should have it examined by an industry lawyer. He also advises that no legal
contract or agreement will ensure a successful working relationship unless there is goodwill between the
signatories. Below is a list of links to industry lawyers and legal services:
The Australian Copyright Council:
An independent non-prot organisation that provides information on copyright protection. It has an online
information centre that offers information sheets, publications, seminars and training, research projects,
articles, papers and advice about copyright law in Australia. Their extensive collection of information sheets
includes subjects such as How to identify who owns copyright, How long copyright lasts and Whether
copyright permission is needed for a particular item or material.
The Arts Law Centre of Australia:
Arts Law is the national community legal centre for the arts which gives preliminary advice and
information to artists and arts organisations across all artforms on a wide range of arts-related legal and
business matters including contracts, copyright, business names and structures, defamation, insurance
and employment. Arts Laws legal ofcers provide limited legal advice by telephone. Where appropriate,
arrangements can be made for subscribers to have a face-to-face or telephone consultation with a volunteer
lawyer from private practice. Face to-face consultations are held in Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne,
Perth and Sydney. A telephone consultation can be arranged for subscribers outside these centres. Arts
Law publishes information sheets, guides, checklists, sample contracts with explanatory notes and seminar
papers and booklets, as well as newsletters and bulletins.
Findlaw Australia:
A searchable online database of Australian lawyers with links to Entertainment, Intellectual Property and
Communications law specialists throughout Australia.
Comprehensive lists of entertainment lawyers can be found in the Encore Directory and The Production
Book, see Directories (page 6).
Free legal advice is offered by The Australian Writers Guild, the Australian Screen
Directors Association, and the Screen Producers Association of Australia to their members. See Screen agencies, guilds and associations (page 8).
Protecting your work
There is no system of registration for copyright protection in Australia. Copyright protection does not
depend upon publication, a copyright notice, or any other procedure the protection is free and automatic.
Protection starts automatically from the moment the work is written down or recorded in some way. While
copyright protection is automatic, it is generally recommended that you put a copyright notice on your script
or treatment. For example:
Your name or company name, date of creation or rst publication of work.
A Strictly Condential Presentation.
All Rights Reserved.
See Script registration (page 17), and Script layout (page 9) for samples of how the front page of your
script should look.
Copyright searches
If you are adapting a novel, short story or play, you must rst clear this usage with the relevant copyright
owner. To do this you must do a copyright search to nd out who owns the rights, then negotiate with
Ive Got a Great Idea for a Film Updated August 2006 Page 16
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them to use the work. Finding out who owns the rights can be a complex and frustrating process, and to
help, you may need to employ an entertainment lawyer or access one of the free arts-based legal advice
organisations, see Legal Links (page 15).
The US Copyright Office:
Offers information sheets, links and includes two searchable online databases, including the Copyright
Catalog of Documents and the Copyright Catalog of books, music,
etc, which may reveal whether a particular work has fallen
into the public domain. The US Copyright Ofce will conduct a search of their records by the title of a work,
an authors name, or a claimants name for a fee, or free if you are in the US and can conduct the search
The AustraliaUS Free Trade Agreement has brought changes to copyright law in Australia, especially in
relation to the releasing of works into the public domain, so please refer to the Australian Copyright Council
to read the most recent advice at:
Title searches
A lms title is not protected by copyright, but liability under other areas of law may arise if the title of your
script is not unique:
The legal test both in Australia and internationally is whether your title would confuse anyone in the
marketplace. (Lyndon Sayer-Jones, 1992, Law brief, the Australian lm and television industry in the
nineties: a lm lawyers guide for non-lawyers).
If you want to do your own research, you can start by using an online database to check if your title has
been used before.
The AFC searchable film databases: Includes Australian and co-produced features, television drama and documentaries
from 1990, and shorts from 1998. The National Film and Sound Archive maintains a collection spanning over 100 years
of Australias audiovisual heritage.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDb):
A comprehensive international lm database that includes Australian titles.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification:
Maintains a comprehensive classication database for public access.
The US Copyright Office:
Offers searchable online databases.
To send or not to send unsolicited scripts
An unsolicited script is one the recipient has not asked to see. In Australia most producers have a slate
of their own projects. Many will not be interested in reading unsolicited scripts; those that are will have
limited time to read them. The best approach is to rst send producers a query letter (see page 17).
Sending query letters to several producers simultaneously is ne. Allow 4 weeks for a response, after which
a follow-up note or phone call is acceptable. If you do not receive any response after that, its best not to
purse this producer any further. If asked to send your script in, allow the time specied by the producer
before following up. One follow-up note or call is all that is recommended.
US studios do not accept unsolicited scripts in order to avoid any accusation that they have misappropriated
a script:
We have an absolutely strict policy not to accept any unsolicited scripts because every major studio has
been sued for stealing ideas in the past. Unfortunately, because of that, its not worth the nancial risk of
all those lawsuits to be able to nd those diamonds out there. Once scripts are represented and submitted,
there is a level of protection for the writer and the studio. (How MGM Chooses A Script: An Interview With
Ive Got a Great Idea for a Film Updated August 2006 Page 17
Copyright Australian Film Commission 2006
Stephanie Palmer, Director of Creative Affairs for MGM Pictures, viewed May 2006 at:
Before sending your script into the marketplace consider a script assessment and remember to keep a copy
of your script for your own records. See Getting feedback on your rst draft (page 12), Script registration
(below), and read Protecting your work (page 15). You should also read Form your own writing team
(page 7).
Query letters
Query letters are based on the Elevator Pitch (see Pitching your screenplay page 12) and may be sent
unsolicited to agents, producers and studios. Pamela Wallace and Kathie Fong Yoneda advise that a query
letter needs to be succinct, engaging and entice the reader to want to know more. It should be no longer
than one page and comprise of:
one sentence on you and relevant lm credits;
a three-sentence pitch starting with a log-line (a one-sentence description of your story), going on
to the basics of genre, time period and place, and end with the challenge that the main character will
one sentence on other information, such as attached personnel.
Make sure you have practised your pitch thoroughly, and remember, this will be the only time you can pitch
to the selected producer make sure it is a polished product.
Script registration
The Australian Writers Guild (AWG):
Provides its members with a Script Registration Service to establish the completion date and identity of
the literary property. The aim of the registration is to prove priority of ownership; and that priority cannot
necessarily be proved if the material is sent to a reader or producer before it is registered. Registration does
not confer any further protection that is not already available to the author at law. However, it does provide
evidence of the authors prior claim to authorship of the material and of the date of its completion. AWG
will accept synopses, outlines and treatments as well as scripts for registration.
Writers Copyright Association UK:
The Writers Copyright Association is a worldwide organisation that offers script/screenplay registration.
Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE):
WGAE has an Online Script Registration Service that protects members and non-members of the Guild by
establishing the completion date and the identity of their literary property. The goal of the Registration
Service is to protect a claim of priority of ownership, and the Guild recommends registration of material
before showing it to a producer or agent, many of whom wont look at a script unless it has been
registered. The Registration Service will protect a script, screenplay, or simply a great idea, for 10 years.
The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAw) Registry:
Available to members and non-members alike. Writers are invited to submit material to be archived by the
Writers Guild to document their work. Materials may be submitted for registration in person, by mail, or
Writers Guild of Great Britain:
The Writers Guild of Great Britain is the trade union representing writers in TV, radio, theatre, books, poetry,
lm and video games. In TV, lm, radio and theatre, the Guild is the recognised body for negotiating
minimum terms and practice agreements for writers.
Ive Got a Great Idea for a Film Updated August 2006 Page 18
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Sample agreements and contracts
Arts Law:
Offers downloadable agreements and contracts for a small fee.
AWG Legal Service:
Offers a comprehensive range of downloadable agreements and contracts that are free to members.
Raindance Film Festival:
Offers an excellent publication called Raindance Producers Lab lo-to-no budget lmmaking. This includes a
CD of les with sample cast, director, option, producer and writer agreements.
So You Wanna Sell A Script?:
Offers free downloads of sample agreements and letters. The site warns writers that these downloads are
a sample of typical agreements and that professional legal advice needs to be sought when entering into a
formal agreement.
The Writers Guild of Canada:
Offers an extensive range of free downloads of sample agreements, letters and contracts.
Ive Got a Great Idea for a Film Updated August 2006 Page 19
Copyright Australian Film Commission 2006
ACT Writers Centre
Ph: (02) 6262 9191
Fax: (02) 6262 9191

Arts Law Centre of Australia
Ph: (02) 9356 2566
Toll Free: 1800 221 457
Fax: (02) 9358 6475

Australian College of Journalism
Tel: (02) 9433 3655
Toll Free: 1300 853 033
Fax: (02) 9433 3666

Australian Copyright Council (ACC)
Ph: (02) 9318 1788
Fax: (02) 9698 3536

Australian Film Commission (AFC)

Ph: (02) 9321 6444
Toll Free: 1800 226 615
Fax: (02) 9357 3737

Ph: (07) 3620 3600
Fax: (07) 3620 3610

Ph: (03) 8646 4300
Fax: (03) 9696 1476
Toll Free: 1800 338 430

National Film and Sound Archive Headquarters
Phone: (02) 6248 2000
Toll free: 1800 067 274
Fax: (02) 6248 2222

Australian Film Institute (AFI) Research Collection
Ph: (03) 9925 2829
Fax: (03) 9925 9730

Australian Film Television and Radio School
Ph: (02) 9805 6611
Fax: (02) 9887 1030
Toll Free: 1300 131 461

Australian Screen Directors Association (ASDA)
Ph: (02) 9555 7045
Fax: (02) 9555 7086

Australian Society of Authors (ASA)
Ph: (02) 9318 0877
Fax: (02) 9318 0530

Australian Writers Guild (AWG)
Ph: (02) 9281 1554
Fax: (02) 9281 4321

Ph: 02 9356 8647
Fax: 02 9388 2838

Encore Directory and Encore Magazine
Ph: (02) 9422 2666 / 1300 360 126
Fax: (02) 9422 2844

Film and Television Institute (FTI)
Ph: (08) 9431 6700
Fax: (08) 9335 1283

Film Victoria
Ph: (03) 9660 3200
Fax: (03) 9660 3201
Ive Got a Great Idea for a Film Updated August 2006 Page 20
Copyright Australian Film Commission 2006
IF Inside Film Magazine
Ph: 02 9318 4400
Fax: 02 9318 4499

Lyndon SayerJones and Associates
Ph: (02) 9283 1211
Fax: (02) 9283 1227

Media Resource Centre (MRC)
Ph: (08) 8410 0979
Fax: (08) 8410 1787

Metro Screen
Ph: (02) 9361 5318
Fax: (02) 9361 5320

New South Wales Film and Television Office (FTO)
Ph: (02) 9264 6400
Toll Free: 1300 556 386 (outside Sydney only)
Fax: (02) 9264 4388

NT Film Office
Phone: (08) 8951 1162
Fax: (08) 8951 1165

NT Writers Centre
Ph: (08) 8941 2651
Fax: (08) 8941 2115

NSW Writers Centre
Ph: (02) 9555 9757
Fax: (02) 9818 1327

Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC)
Ph: (02) 9289 7100
Fax: (02) 9289 7101

Open Channel
Ph: (03) 8610 9300
Fax: (03) 9614 1780

Pacific Film and Television Commission (PFTC)
Ph: (07) 3224 4114
Fax: (07) 3224 6717

Philanthropy Australia
Ph: (03) 9620 0200
Fax: (03) 9620 0199

The Production Book
c/- The Intermedia Group
Ph: (02) 9571 1100
Fax: (02) 9660 0885

Parnassus Den
Ph: 1400 250 566

Ph: (07) 3392 2633
Fax: (07) 3392 2314

Queensland Writers Centre
Ph: (07) 3839 1243
Fax: (07) 3839 1245

Screen Tasmania
Ph: (03) 6233 6995
Fax: (03) 6233 5610

Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA)
Ph: (02) 9360 8988
Fax: (02) 9360 8977

Ive Got a Great Idea for a Film Updated August 2006 Page 21
Copyright Australian Film Commission 2006
Ph: (02) 6205 1855
Fax: (02) 6205 0609

Ph: (08) 9224 7340
Fax: (08) 9224 7341

Script Central
Ph: 02 9527 9450
Fax: 02 9527 2329

South Australian Film Corporation (SAFC)
Ph: (08) 8348 9300
Fax: (08) 8347 0385

South Australian Writers Centre
Ph: (08) 8223 7662
Fax: (08) 8232 3994

Tasmanian Writers Centre
Ph: (03) 6224 0029
Fax: (03) 6224 0029

Ph: (02) 9368 0434
Fax: (02) 9360 1594

Varuna The Writers House
Ph: (02) 4782 5674
Fax: (02) 4782 6220

Victorian College of the Arts, School of Film and
Television (VCA)
Ph: (03) 9685 9000
Fax: (03) 9685 9001

Victorian Writers Centre
Ph: (03) 9654 9068
Fax: (03) 9654 4751

Ph: (02) 4925 4200
Fax: (02) 4929 6845

Ph: (02) 4226 1622
Fax: (02) 4226 1156

South Australia
Ph: (08) 8223 1979
Fax: (08) 8232 3690

Ph: (02) 9264 2781
Fax: (02) 9267 6988

Writing WA
Ph: (08) 9228 9908
Fax: (08) 9228 9907