If you’ve been reading our blog for some time now (we hope you have) then you know the importance of your script having a solid first 15 pages. But what does this mean exactly? In this article, we are breaking down how to get an executive to read past the first 15 pages of your screenplay.
HOW TO GET AN EXECUTIVE TO READ YOUR SCRIPT
When you submit your script to an executive, agent, manager, or producer your only hope is that they read the whole screenplay. Not to burst your bubble, but this is usually not the case. In Hollywood, you have about 15 pages to shoot your shot. This may sound like a lofty goal, but once you know what executives and decision makers are looking for, you can set yourself up for success.
Below are three story elements that your first 15 pages should include to ensure an executive keeps reading.
1. A clear inciting incident. By page 15, it is imperative that the inciting incident occurs. This is the moment that sets the protagonist on their journey. If by page 15 we are still setting up the world and the inciting incident hasn’t occurred, an executive might lose interest and stop reading. If you want to learn more about inciting incidents be sure to check out our article Analyzing the Inciting Incident with Black Panther.
Check out our Youtube page where you can learn more about how to craft an inciting incident and other story elements.
2. A likable and relatable protagonist. If we don’t feel invested in the character, then it will be that much harder to get us to invest in their journey. An executive wants to be able to easily identify and connect with the protagonist by 15 pages into the read. Want to learn more about crafting a strong protagonist? Then be sure to check out our article How To Write Characters We Fall in Love With.
Be sure to check out our video on the protagonist as well!
3. An active goal. Having the protagonist’s goals set up within 15 pages of the screenplay says to an executive “this is what this screenplay is about - it’s about a person (the protagonist) who wants ______ (the goal). Making clear choices and having an active goal encourages an executive to want to know more about the story. For more on how to craft an active goal in a screenplay be sure to check our All About Goals article.
Learn more about goals in under three minutes with our CEO and Head Consultant, Shannan E. Johnson.
THE FIRST 15 PAGES: JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH
Now, let’s take a look at a screenplay that hits all of the above story elements in the first 15 pages. On page four, we are introduced to our protagonist and the primary point of view we will be following, William O’neal, a small-time criminal. The inciting incident is revealed on pages 9-10 when O’neal is hemmed up by the police and given a choice to either work with the police or go to jail. Notice how the screenwriter uses nuance to present the goal of the screenplay. On pages 3-4, we learn through dialogue that the FBI sees the dual protagonist, Fred Hampton, as a threat. So when the inciting incident occurs on pages 9-10, and subsequently we see O’Neal infiltrating the Black Panthers on page 14, we know that his goal is to gather information on the Black Panthers, or risk going to jail.
To read this screenplay and analyze the first 15 pages of other produced screenplays, be sure to check out our Screenplay Vault.
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