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Is it absolutely vital that you register your screenplay?

I got these questions from a screenwriter in the Netherlands:

“Is it absolutely vital that you register your script? Do industry insiders bother to read your script if it’s not registered?

Also, are you aware of any production companies that accept scripts by email? Is it something you can request if they ask you to send in a script? I live in the Netherlands, I’m a struggling writer and sending my scripts would cost lots of money, I’d rather do it via email.”

Most producers will assume you have registered your material so it’s not usually something that a producer cares about, and even if they do ask it’s not something they ever try and verify. Registering a script is really for the writer’s protection so it’s up to you if you feel comfortable sending out your material without registering it. Personally I would never ever send out my material before I had registered it with either the WGA or the Library of Congress. The WGA and the Library of Congress have an online service so I personally recommend that you use them before you send out your material, but again, it’s really how comfortable you feel.

In this day and age most producers will request a PDF version of the script which you can easily email to them. It’s hard to tell beforehand, however, what they’ll want. I would just start sending out query letters via email or fax and since you’re outside the US the only means of them getting back to you will be via email, and if they want the script you’ll be able to email them the PDF version. If they insist on a hard copy you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the cost or not. If you simply can’t afford it, and someone requests a hard copy you should just explain to them that you can’t afford to send them a hard copy and hope they’ll read a PDF version. But don’t mention that until they request a hard copy because again, in most cases they will request the PDF version and it will never be an issue.

One other thing that occurs to me about your situation is that you might want to start by contacting local film companies. While I have heard of some international screenwriters successfully querying Hollywood production companies, most of the foreign film makers who end up being succseful in Hollywood either started off with a career writing films for local production companies or they made the move to Hollywood and worked there way up once they arrived.

Check out my post How do you protect your work? Screenplay copyrights and WGA registration to learn about how to protect your work.