New Script-Submission Software Aims to Manage Slush Pile

Packet Box Image-Script Hop Publicity H-2020-1597774001
courtesy of ScriptHop

A new tool aims to get screenplays to the top of the pile at agencies and studios, and not tossed back onto the unwanted stack of unsolicited submissions.

Before a studio exec reading your film or TV script will ring your agent to demand a meeting, it has to be judged a hidden gem and not tossed back onto the slush pile, or what Hollywood unkindly calls a stack of unsolicited screenplays.

So the creators of ScriptHop, a software platform for managing libraries of screenplays, are about to roll out The Packet, a interactive online tool for script-submissions they believe will change the way scripts travel in Hollywood -- while also streamlining the job of a reader so they can focus on critiquing a screenplay.

"What we've created is a way to bundle everything you need to market your script into one simple link," Portland, Ore.-based techie Brian Austin tells The Hollywood Reporter. Austin and UTA veteran Scott Foster launched ScriptHop in 2016, before deciding to pivot more towards the needs of screenwriters.

"We wanted to step away from the AI, because a lot of industry people were expecting AI to actually read scripts and then pull off character breakdowns," Austin recalled, and algorithms are still a long ways from accomplishing that.

So ScriptHop, still wanting to satisfy the industry's need to know what the scripts in their slush pile were all about, set about finding a way to make the script reading and breakdown process easier to navigate for studio execs.

And Austin wanted to give the writer more creative control. "You lose total control once you hit that send button," Austin said of submitting a script as a giant PDF file in an email.

Foster, who left UTA in 2013 when he teamed with Austin, helped design the original ScriptHop AI and now The Packet by collaborating with top screenwriters and industry professionals, including a board of directors with A-list writers like Shane Black and David Hayter, partners like screenwriting software maker Final Draft, and industry players like Film Independent.

Their screen-submitting software solution acts like an online package agency and studio execs receive and which contains a script and accompanying documents, including the latest revisions. Clicking on an online link will produce a browser that initially explains what the script project is about, allows you to download and view the script and other information like the logline, synopsis and character breakdown.

But crucially, the screenwriter has control over what information a studio exec receives, and can manage how it will be viewed. That's because an agency or studio that receives a script usually passes it off to a reader, who may be an assistant or intern, and who then writes up coverage of the screenplay -- basically a synopsis of the story and character breakdowns.

"Now that coverage document is the marketing of the script at that entire agency. They'll just go off of what the reader wrote up," Austin says of execs not wanting to read through an entire script on their own. The Packet allows the screenwriter to circumvent the reader by having their own version of required information like a logline, synopsis and character breakdown be built into the documentation accompanying a screenplay.

The Packet software also allows the reader to fold a writer's source materials into their coverage. The result, says Austin, is readers can focus on the script and respect the writer's vision without having to waste time producing their own logline, synopsis and other materials.

"Now when the reader wants information, they are seeing the writer's words that goes along with this package," Austin adds. In addition, the information provided is interactive. So if the reader wants to know more about the writer, they simply click on a name and open up a biography, or links to other projects.

And to know more about a character, you can click on a sidebar that offers complete character descriptions. Austin argues The Packet preserves the writer's vision and materials as a script is passed within a studio or agency, or to other Hollywood players.

And The Packet aims to bring structure to a complicated and times helter-skelter process of script-submission and reading in Hollywood. "We're just stepping in and trying to bring order to chaos," Austin says.