This is what I believe in:
1. Script coverage and reviews and consultants, several of them, from different sources. Somebody is bound to have a better concept or ideas which you can use. Some will be useless. Just have to take the good and throw out the bad.
2. A perfectly, or as near as perfectly as possible, properly formatted screenplay.
3. A very interesting story nobody could resist and some really good trailers.
4. A competent, aggressive, well known, connected, liked and studio- respected agent to rep you if you are an unknown spec screenwriter. Oh, they will likely want references btw.
5. Making your own, if possible, short indie movie short or tv concept. Winning at Sundance.
The things which I either do not believe in or are seriously over-hyped:
1. Pitching sessions, treatments, logline contests, etc. If your story, script, formatting and agent are superior, you don't need to "pitch" to anyone. They are, imo, for the most part are just rabbit holes designed to get hopes up and dreams dashed. Think about it... if these pitching folks were so good and effective, why are they doing it at all? To get your lousy $75 bucks or whatever the fee is? Now, if the Cohen Bros. or if ACTIVE, WORKING and WELL-RESPECTED top/senior Warner Bros..(or equivalent studio) executives offer pitching sessions directly to them, I would change my mind on that.
Or if who you are pitching too is a mega-star or major studio rep or sleeping or related with one. If your story is that good, then it will pitch itself thru an outstanding agent or in other, more creative ways or just plain luck or being in the right place at the right time (which can include pitching sessions).
2. Screenwriting contests.
See #1 - 4 above.under what I believe in, and #1 and #2 under what I do not believe in. Just scams to cheat the unknown spec screenwriter out of a few dollars.
Ok, I am ready to take some real heat on this one. I am not saying I am right, in fact, I am problably dead wrong. If so, feel free to "throw shade" on me and don't be concerned about me "clapping back".(gawd I hate these hip new terms coming out). It takes a big man to admit he is wrong... I am not a big man.
Or, think about my comment like this... I am the devil's advocate. Tell me and the others where I am completely off base or wrong. Don't assume that I am completely serious. Maybe I already know I am wrong and just waiting for you to tell me and the others to say just how wrong. No need for hostility... Just some good constructive advice or whatever and be sure to give examples of how wrong I am if you have any, I am sure a few of you certainly have such examples. Cite what scripts were either optioned or bought as a result. Give the folks something to go on hoping or dream and writing about.
In any case, I sincerely hope ALL of you will make it, one way or another. I am not the bad guy here... I just play one on tv.