I got this question recently:
“I let industry pros read my work. They always say I’m a good writer and that they enjoy reading my work, but they never offer to option. Am I doing something wrong? If the work is good, why not? Or is that a nice way of saying your work sucks?”
Without knowing who you submitted to and what you’re relationship to them is, it’s hard to know exactly what the response really means.
In general I would say that most of the time when a producer says they think you’re a good writer and enjoy your writing you should take them at their word and assume they mean what they say – in most cases they will.
When sending out cold query letters, in my experience the producers who thought I was a hack usually offered no response at all. If a producer takes the time to respond to a cold submission and says they liked the writing it usually means they liked the writing.
When I make a submission to a producer who I have at least a little bit of a relationship with (or my agent / manager does) and a non-response isn’t going to work for them I’ve found that the response is not always as straight forward or easy to read. Sometimes they will say they liked the writing even when they didn’t just to be polite.
If you’re wondering why they don’t want to option the script I would recommend simply asking them. You’ll probably learn something quite valuable. If your follow up question is ignored don’t worry about it and move on. But in many cases if the producer really does think your material has merit they probably will offer some valid reasons why they don’t want to option it.
If a producer gives you a positive response but doesn’t want to option the script make sure you add them to your list of industry contacts. Whenever you finish a new script they should be the first people you approach since you already have a relationship with them and they’ve been positive about your writing. If they show no interest in any of your future projects then it’s a safe bet that they were just being polite.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of good scripts out there that may not be marketable or may not be in the producer’s wheelhouse of what he/she can actually get produced. If a producer has made nothing but low budget action movies it really doesn’t matter how good your broad comedy script is, they simply can’t use it.