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Sondra's right. Once your five years is up, you can renew your WGA registration for five more years. Of course, it costs more money! But you have to renew before the five years is officially up, otherwise, your script gets tossed. This doesn't happen with a U. S. Copyright.
Warren Zide is definitely legit, Kris. He sold a script that a friend of mine wrote to producer Wendy Finerman (sorry, don't know if the spelling is right) of =Forrest Gump= fame at Paramount several years ago. He's =definitely= legit! If he wants to see something of yours, don't pass up this opportunity.
Never heard of Trauma. Troma, however, has been doing slasher/horror for years.
Not really. Most release forms have similar language.
I should clarify. Most releases state that the screenwriter acknowledges that the company =may= already have material in its possession that is similar to what the screenwriter is submitting. Therefore, if a company makes a film with a similar theme, storyline, etc., the screenwriter, if he or she has accepted the terms of the release, cannot sue the company.
Yeah, this seems like an invitation to be ripped off, but that's the Catch-22. Companies will not read scripts (usually) unless the unrepresented writer signs a release form. A signed release form frees the company from possible future litigation.
If you have representation, then you don't have to sign a release (usually) because your agent is submitting it. But without an agent or manager, sometimes the only way to get your work read (actually, almost always the =only= way to get your work considered) is to sign a release.
It's a bummer but...Welcome to Hollywood!
Agent submissions don't need a release. Management companies =might= insist because very often managers become producers on their clients' projects. Prodcos and studios almost always insist on a release if the script is not currently represented.
First of all--congrats on your win!
Secondly, in regard to your process now--no pain, no gain! The reason your script probably won is directly related to the fact that you spend more time with your material now, and so write better stories.
Never heard of them, but that doesn't mean anything bad. What =does= concern me is this "check out the copyright" comment. What the heck does he mean by that?! If you have copyrighted your script, what else does he need to know? If you haven't copyrighted your script, do so immediately!
I agree, Louisa. If the agent isn't in L. A. or New York, and he or she doesn't have a track record you recognize, I would pretty much forget about pursuing him or her. You need representation where the action is!
Break out the violins. I'm so moved.
Anyone who is in the agent biz and insists that his or her "clients" pay for his or her airfare to L. A. (and all sorts of other hidden expenses) in order to shop a script, or who claims that he or she is "co-owner" of YOUR COPYRIGHTED SCRIPT, is scamming you.
I've been a story analyst and script consultant for ten years. The percentage of good scripts to bad is one, maybe two, out of a hundred--not one in a thousand.
Well, maybe in Louisiana it's one in a thousand. But not in Hollywood.
Hmmm...where do I start?
straight-shoter (straight-shooter?) Soderberg (Soderbergh?) self-procalimed (self-proclaimed?) prfessionalism (professionalism?) conure (conjure?) atlking (stalking? talking? balking?)
And =you= talk about professionalism, Jeanne? Well, INCA-dinka-do!
As for your following comments:
>No, I don't think you are a good story analyst myself<
Yes, and you base that on seeing my work, don't you? Oh, I forgot--you've =never= seen my work!
>...for you are missing a great eccentricity here...<
Huh?! Oh, it's eccentric, that's for sure!
>...that provides the only new twist to this plot--and it's character-driven, all the way to the Big Time.<
Hey, babe, that's a wrap! My people will be in touch with your people! Let's do lunch! We're on the same page!
I, as a professional, REALLY HATE IT with a passion when I see new writers getting suckered and taken for a ride. NO REAL AGENT MAKES HIS OR HER CLIENT PAY FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES TO L. A.! NO REAL AGENT EVER CLAIMS CO-OWNERSHIP OF A CLIENT'S COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL!
My vitriol being spent, I have nothing more to add except this: after reading the posts here, writers should certainly be able to come to some sort of conclusion concerning these matters.
Most everything you say is true. I've been a story analyst and script consultant for a decade. But if a writer is given scintillating analysis that is dead-on accurate, it will only help him or her =if= he or she knows how to digest the notes and rewrite well. And many times, screenwriters simply don't know how to do this!
This is the problem most screenwriters don't seem to grasp: no analyst or consultant or reader can make them better writers. We can point out the problems in their screenplays, suggest how to correct them, give lots of fresh ideas--but only the screenwriter can implement them. And if that writer isn't very good to begin with...well, there's nothing else we can do.
No one can =make= another writer better than he or she is. It's impossible. In my experience, a writer either has it, or s/he doesn't. The mechanics of screenwriting is one thing--magic is quite another. You can't learn storytelling magic in a book, a seminar, a writers' group or a classroom. You either have it...or you don't.
A very good thing!
If possible (if you haven't deleted it from your machine or voicemail), make a copy of the phone message, and if you can, indicate the date on which it was received. Also, keep a paper trail of all correspondence (a copy of your cover letter that goes out with your script, and any other subsequent correspondence. Make sure all correspondence is also dated and signed.) You may also want to get a return receipt on your script package when you mail it. Or you might put a self-addressed, stamped postcard in the package that they send back to you acknowledging that they received your script entitled "Whatever". When the card comes back to you, it will have a posted date on it, as well as the name of the script. Also, somewhere on the postcard put the name of the company to which you sent the script, so they can't say "It wasn't us!"
This is simply to cover your backside, if there ever develops a need for, shall we say, legal matters.
Dale, I know this is difficult, but wait two more weeks. Give him a week beyond his farthest target date (3 weeks) before you contact him. Waiting is tough, I know, but it's better than putting off the producer with what he might perceive as "pestering" phone calls. And who knows? He might just call you before you call him--a much better situation to be in.
If the book exists before the screenplay, then the author retains publishing rights (whether published or unpublished). You might have to have proof of copyright, but maybe not. However, if, as I think you are asking, the screenplay exists first and a novelization is written after the sale of said screenplay (usually not be the writer of the script), the rights to the book belong to whoever =owns= the script. This is usually a studio or a production company, because they have the money to buy the script. They retain virtually all possible merchandising angles that can be associated with a film. So unless you manage to negotiate holding on to the book rights in your contract (not impossible, but don't hold your breath), you won't own those rights after you sell your script.
Uh, that should say "...not by the writer...."
That will take you there.
That was quite an effusive and energetic response, D.G.!
>What I envisioned was a list that encompasses the scum that waste our time or those financially prurient sleezeballs who prey on all of us "screenwriters." ...
What I didn't see over there was any of the names that have been exposed by the ever vigilant writers & readers who frequent this board. (ie Chadwick & Gross, etc.)
I wonder if Fred has an easy way to compile a list from the archives? At least the most recent revelations about "so called producers and agents" would be of enormous help to those that come here in the future, as well as those who don't have the capability to dig back. ******
That would be nice, wouldn't it? A cross-referenced database that was easy to use. But I'm sure Frederick has more than enough things to do concerning this board, and it sounds like a lot of work to compile something along the lines of what you propose. You could always send him an e-mail and ask, though.
Ideas, as they say, are a dime a dozen, and they aren't copyrightable UNLESS you write them down. The quickest way to protect your story, if you are ready to pitch but don't have the completed screenplay, is to write a treatment. A treatment is a prose telling of your tale, which hits all of the main plot points, deals with your protagonist, your supporting characters and your special/big scenes. It's like writing a short story.
Don't write a thirty or forty page treatment, though. Don't waste your time. Set down your basic story in four to ten pages or so. To save money when you copyright, write up a number of treatments (3 or 4 or however many you want), and copyright them all at the same time, under a title like: "The Collected Treatments of (Your Name Here), Vol. 1". You can always copyright a "Vol. 2", etc., when you come up with more treatments.
Once you have them finished, go here:
and print out the appropriate forms. You want the "PA" form (Performing Arts). You must print the form as a double-sided document. Fill it out completely, include a copy of your "collected treatments" (or just the one, if that's all you want to do at the moment), and don't forget your check (I think the price just went up--look it up at the website).
You'll likely want to also register the same material with the Writers Guild. But you don't have to do so before you start pitching, as long as you've sent off your stuff to the U. S. Copyright Office. By the way, it takes months to get back your receipt, but don't sweat it. You are legally covered.
Now, after all that, feel free to pitch away! But don't forget to get around to writing the full length script at some point. And then copyright it, and register it... ;)
Oh, yes. After you pitch, leave a copy of your treatment with the producer/production company. Then they can't say they never saw or heard of the idea before, if they try to steal it from you later. (Some agents don't agree with leaving a treatment with the executives. Others do. It's six of one and half a dozen of the other, in my opinion. But I think it's always a good idea to leave a paper trail!)
Paul Lucey's "Story Sense". (But I'm biased--he was my fav screenwriting instructor at USC.) It's a terrific book.
ScriptThing. I love it. I'm sorry I don't recall their website off-hand. I think they have a downloadable demo.
As a program, ScriptThing is excellent. And I can download software updates directly from the website. It's a great way to stay up-to-date!
Coverage for $100 is expensive. But $100 for script analysis (story notes) and consulting is very cheap. Just make sure you know what you are getting. =Big= difference between coverage and analysis/consulting!
>since I just heard Acco was a no-no.
Oh, brother! Now I've heard it all! "Acco a no-no?" Since when? Are the styles of brads becoming as trendy as goatees and tattoos? This is utter nonsense. If that's what a consultant is worrying about, =I'd= seriously worry about his or her ability to judge a script.
I've read and reviewed hundreds of scripts--most of which have used Acco brads. I also personally use Acco brads--the 1 1/4 inch (#5) and the 1 1/2 inch (#6), solid brass. They are FINE--sturdy and dependable.
And any consultant who has cut his or her fingers on brads is probably just clumsy. I've never cut my fingers on a brad--not once!--in ten years of story analysis and script consulting.
My only caveat about brads is: Don't use ones that are too flimsy. This is simply for practical purposes--your script might fall apart, and pages could be lost. Use solid brass.
"Acco a no-no"! I can't get over it--what a joke! Understand that I am not ragging on the poster--I'm ragging on the so-called consultants who, somewhere in their dementia, think Acco brads are bad, and are spreading that claptrap.
We all have =much= bigger things to worry about besides =styles= of brads. For instance, does the opening of my script drag? Are my characters believable? Is the dialogue appropriate to character? Does my dialogue move the story forward, or is it just chit-chat? Is my description cinematic without being overwritten? Do the sub-plots tie into the "A" storyline in convincing, seamless ways? Does my second act lie there like a squashed squirrel on the highway, or does it truly sustain? Is my protagonist active enough, or is s/he fading into the background while my secondary characters hijack the story for some unknown reason? Am I throwing in a car chase/shoot-out because I can't think of what to do next? Have I introduced important characters too late in my script? Has the tone of the second and third acts radically shifted from what was established in the first act? Does the structure of my story make sense, or is my screenplay a bloody mess of stray plot points that amount to a whole lot of nothing?
If anyone has dropped by Daniel's website, he or she will notice that Daniel is a teenager. We should cut him some slack for his youthful enthusiasm. But your advice, Terry, was right on target concerning how the query letter represents the writer to agents and managers. I hope Daniel takes it to heart.
Way to go, Leonard! I hope this is the start of something =really= big (a career of three or four dozen produced screenplays, for instance.) Good luck and congratulations!
I agree with Eric. His method for indicating the name of the language spoken in the parenthetical (or "wryly", if you prefer) is exactly how I would do it, and how I've seen over the years. As Eric says, at the spec script stage, that's all you need to do.
For the time being, Tom, just stay in screenplay format. You aren't specifically writing a sitcom (although there are sketch elements in your pilot). Screenplay format is a lot easier to read. And since this is a spec script (it is a spec, isn't it?), your mission now is to get someone who can produce it to read it and buy it. So make it as easy to read at this early stage as possible. If someone picks up your proposed show, then you and the producer(s) and the writing staff can figure out how you'd like the sketch elements to look on paper.
I use ScriptThing and love it. Make sure you check it out when you are test driving screenplay formatting programs. I think you'll like it.
Go to one of those giant office supply stores and order Acco brads--the 1 1/4 inch (#5) and/or the 1 1/2 inch (#6)--in SOLID BRASS. Invariably, in most parts of the country, you are going to have to special order them (although in L.A. you can find solid brass brads more easily. There are places that actually stock them!) These brads are about $10-$12 bucks for a box of 100. Forget brass plated brads--they are awful, and your script will likely fall apart if you use them.
>Why do agencies ask you not to send your material during the time they review it?
Because if they think you are a genius (when they finally get around to reading your work), they don't want anyone else (i.e., other agents or managers) to snap you up before they get their hands on you. But more importantly, if they actually =do= like the script and want to sign you, but you have sent the script to a bunch of places ahead of their representation of you, this diminishes the amount of places where they can (attempt to) sell your work (especially if you've already gotten a lot of "passes" on the script).
Unfortunately, this =is= a common practice in LaLaLand. But, in my opinion, you must do what =you= think is best for your work. Otherwise, you'll spend years on that endless merry-go-round called: "waiting to hear back from so-and-so".
I'm with Tracey and Ashley on this one.
If over ten years of story analysis and script consulting have taught me anything, it's this: excusing rampant spelling, grammar and format errors because the premise of a story is good is unacceptable. The truth is, good ideas (good premises) for films are a dime a dozen. Good execution of those ideas, however...ah, what a rare talent that is!
Do you know what a screenplay with only a "soul" (i.e. a good idea) to recommend it, but nothing else, means to a production company/studio? It means starting over with a page-one re-write. "Development" is =very= expensive, and can take years if all the writer has to offer is a good idea.
Granted, the good idea alone is sometimes enough for a company/studio to bite on a project (but this usually happens in a pitch). But if it is =your= good idea buried within a wretchedly executed script (and if some poor reader actually waded through the whole mess and strenuously campaigned for the "good idea", and if, by chance, this sold his/her boss on that idea), don't delude yourself into thinking that =you= will be the one to do the re-write!
Every screenwriter makes the occasional spelling/grammar error, no matter how fine the proofreading has been. That is easily forgiven. But I've seen scripts that were virtually unreadable because of a storm of mistakes. Who cares what the "soul" is if the reader can't make heads or tails of the story?! The fact is, that sort of so-called "writer" invariably can't write.
If you wish to be considered a professional writer, then act the part. And if you want me to get past page 10 or 15, you'd better put up or shut up. A professional is a master of his/her craft. Your script should not leave your hands/apartment/house until it is the best it can be. If you don't know what the "best" is (in screenplay terms), then enroll in some screenwriting classes, or get another hobby.
Grrr...I know this is harsh, but it makes me crazy to see poor writing by so-called writers excused because the "idea" was a good one. I've given a "good" or "excellent" rating to the premise of a number of scripts that failed miserably in every other category (characterization, story line, dialogue, setting/production value, etc.). And not ONCE has any producer I've known ever pursued those scripts. Not once.
Steven, you wrote:
>"Telling writers they "suck" even though it might be accurate is, in my opinion, insulting."
I agree. I can't imagine ever saying that to a writer's face. But as a reader or analyst or consultant, you are =required= to tell the person who is paying you for your opinion whether or not you thought the =script= (not the writer) sucked (or was brilliant, or was pretty good but needs work, or was only so-so, or needs too much work to be worth pursuing, etc.)
If a script is really bad, but has a good idea, the writer of that script will never be asked to re-write it (for money, at least) because the first submitted draft of the bad script made it clear that he or she wasn't capable of producing a usable re-write.
My annoyance comes from writers who insist they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, yet their writing proves them otherwise. When I read a script from someone claiming to be a pro, I expect pro level. I =don't= expect pro level from a student or a beginner. That said, I also haven't read any brilliant scripts by students or beginners. They are still learning the craft.
I'm talking about writers who have agents, or managers (or both!) Some of these agents are as aggressive as their clients. That go-getter attitude is what any writer wants in representation...but it can't, in and of itself, make the writing any better than it is. It's too bad that many of these representatives can't discern the fact that some of their clients aren't any good, or are only marginally talented.
>"I agree that a poorly written script is more difficult to read than a correctly written one. But to slam the writers because it makes your (the reader's) job more difficult is unimportant. The REAL issue is that the script will not be accepted if it is technically flawed."
In my experience, an over-abundance of technical flaws usually goes hand-in-hand with a screenplay that is not well thought out in regard to story, dialogue, etc., and not well executed in any area (with the =possible= exception of the premise.) A rash of technical flaws, especially early on in a script, is a serious red flag to the reader that things aren't going to get any better on page 80 than they are on page 8.
>The screenwriter needs to improve his/her skills, not to please the reader but to grow in his/her abilities and to sell the script.
That's what the learning process of screenwriting is all about. But if you aren't proficient in your craft, and you venture out, seeking a professional opinion of your not-quite-ready work, you've got to be prepared for what the response might be. Readers/analysts/consultants aren't a support group (that's what your family, friends, and local screenwriting group are for.) They are employed by people who want to know if they should consider risking =millions= of dollars on the contents of one hundred twenty pages of words. Those words better be pretty darn good if the analyst recommends the script with a "Consider". It's a serious responsibility, and your reputation is on the line every time you pick up a script to review.
>"Let's get our priorities straight. Help one another grow, not slam each other. By the way. Merry Christmas."
It depends on whose priorites you are talking about. Yeah, the priorities of a screenwriting class or a screenwriters' group (or an appropriate internet forums) =are= to help each other out. But a professional analyst's primary job is to find good material that is as close to a shooting script as possible. It is not to be a screenwriting teacher.
Okay, everyone have a very Merry Christmas. Keep writing into 2000 and beyond...
How about "The Aughts"? I like that. It is suitably antiquated and obscure, which pleases me (since I am also suitably antiquated and obscure).
Oh, BTW, the 21st century does not actually begin until Jan. 1, 2001. So we have yet another year in which to anticipate the start of the new millenium.
Oh, joy. More hysteria. ;)
Ditto on the congrats. What an accomplishment!
I'd be even more blunt. Let them know that good ideas (premises) are a dime a dozen. The =real= work of a screenwriter is the actual execution: developing the outline, writing the treatment, creating believable, three-dimensional characters, constructing the subplots, then fighting your way through draft after draft after draft before your "first" draft is ready to show to anyone! If your non-writer friends aren't willing to do 50% of the work--in a skilled, learned fashion, no less--then they certainly aren't entitled to half the credit or half the money.
If they actually have a really good idea, and you are genuinely interested, then offer to buy the premise for some low amount. This gives you control over the story. If they balk at that suggestion, it's no skin off your nose. Thank them kindly and tell them you have storylines of your own to work on. I'm sure you have many good ideas of your own. You don't need to slave away with your hard-won writing skills to give away half the money and half the credit to someone who merely dreamed up a premise on the spur of the moment!
Or, you can do as I do, and simply tell them "I'm sorry. I don't collaborate." I've never learned to write with another person, and I don't want to--it's too hard. When I'm writing, I want the story to unfold the way =I= want it to unfold. The spec writing stage is the =only= phase of filmmaking that goes the way the writer wants. There are plenty of writers who like the partner thing, but it's not my cup of tea.
Oh, man...here we go again!
>It is also my understanding from talking with authors, that it isn't unusual for a new writer to be charged for postage and handling, the same as they ask for a SASE with a query. Logic dictates that incurred costs, times however many clients an agent has, can get expensive. The money has to come from somewhere, if not the writer who hasn't sold yet, or one who doesn't pay attention to the ledger. _____
In the world of successful agents, paying for things like postage to send a script to various production companies and studios is called THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS.
Postage is part of the cost an agent covers to get a client's script to a potential buyer--just as the cost of doing business for an aspiring screenwriter is paying for research materials, for countless copies of his/her script, for tons of postage and mailing supplies, for an SASE to each agent who requests the script (in case the writer wants the script returned), and for the phone calls to agents/studios/production companies.
Each person in the mix has his or her own cost of doing business. Each one also has a responsibility to shoulder that cost.
Beware of agents who charge the screenwriter expenses which are the cost of an =agent= doing business!
>In the publishing industry, celebrities are routinely paid huge advances, which are rarely recovered by sales ______
"Rarely"? Then how on earth do they stay solvent? Why would they ever solicit books from celebrities if all the publisher ever gets out of the deal is red ink?
>so where does the money come from? Answer: From the writer who is trying his or her best to make a living writing, not showing his or her ass in public and pretending to be THE expert on whatever. ______
That's pretty contemptuous. If writers are so horrible, why is Ms. Piazza looking for them in this forum?
Dear regulars of MovieBytes: Take all of what you've just heard about screenwriters paying the agent's expenses with a ten pound block of salt (let alone a grain)!
How are you? Long time no talk!
=If= I recall correctly, I've always sent three-hole punched copies to the copyright office. However, you can't send the script with covers or brads, just the script itself. Maybe that's what you heard/read.
>I thought I once looked at the copyright rules and saw that you can't send a screenplay on paper with holes punched. I looked again and didn't notice that. Has anybody seen such a restriction?
Yes, there =is= more after FADE OUT: -- the words THE END, centered on the page, about 5 to 6 blank line spaces below FADE OUT:
Wouldn't you just know it? This year, the WorldFest website lists all of the script winners in every category, with their names and phone numbers to make it easy for producers, managers, agents etc. to contact the writers. Last year there was NOTHING like that. I won Gold in 1999 in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category for my comedy adventure =Thor's Hammer=. But virtually no one knows it! The same screenplay was also a Finalist in the America's Best Competition, a Quarterfinalist in Scriptapalooza, and a Top Ten Finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association contest. PNWA usually lists their winners and finalists on their web page. But in 1999, for some unknown reason, they didn't do it. Of course, this year, they are.
That's just my luck. A day late and a dollar short, always! Grrrrrr!
That's a good idea, Colleen. Thanks!
>>>When an entertainment attorney submits a screenplay on your behalf to a production company, do they usually charge the writer a fee for each script submitted, and if so, how much? If the script sells, do they also get a percentage? If so, how much?
Thank you for your feedback
Gary, in general, I don't think that most ent. attys., if they have agreed to in effect represent you, usually charge a fee for submitting (but I'll bet some of them might.) However, if they do the legal paperwork on any deal you make, it's USUALLY 5%. They may take more if they are the only one repping you. (Make sure you have that mutually agreed percentage in writing from an ent. atty. before you make any deals!) But if you have an agent and/or a manager, and decide you also want an entertainment lawyer thrown into the mix, then count on 5% for the lawyer.
Anyone else with any other personal experiences?
Thanks, Ron. I'm thinking too much about a friend of mine who has an ent. atty. who submits for him. But now I remember that he's a friend of my friend--and that's why he gives him a break.
Thanks for clarifying that.
I find it curious that a couple of contests listed on moviebytes.com (no, their names don't spring to mind at the moment, but I've seen it in their contest rules) want the title of the screenplay to appear on the COVER STOCK, not on the title page--or they want it on both. Maybe it's a contest quirk, because you would certainly never see the title on the cover stock of a pro screenplay. A title on cover stock in the "real world" pretty much guarantees that the writer is an amateur. So I'm just a little puzzled by some contests wanting the title on the cover stock, in lieu of (or in addition to) the title page. Strange.
From my experience, this is how O. S. and V. O. are used:
When Character A is on the phone with Character B, and we don't see Character B, but only hear his or her voice through the speaker, then it's written like this:
CHARACTER B (O. S./FILTERED) No, Character A, I can't make it to your wedding. I have to wash my hair.
"Filtered" indicates that the voice is coming through an electronic speaker of some sort: either a phone, a radio, a television set, a public address system--those sorts of things. Technically, that character is in the scene, and that's the reason for the O. S. "Off Screen" is also used when a character who is in the scene, but not yet on camera, is speaking.
On the other hand, if you had, for instance, an adult character commenting on a scene, and say that on screen you see a child playing with a dog as you hear the adult's comments, you might have something like this:
ADULT CHARACTER (V. O.) When I was six, my mom bought me a dog. Well, "bought" isn't the right word. We got him at the pound. I called him Spanky. He was the best darned friend I ever had.
This is Voice Over because a character is NARRATING over a scene. He or she is technically not in it.
There are other variations, of course, but these should help you out in most instances.
I'd recommend Paul Lucey's "Story Sense" instead. But then I'm biased, since Paul was my favorite screenwriting professor at USC. His book is terrific.
I agree that it's rude for producers not to reply, but I also agree that this happens more with smaller prodcos than big companies. In either case, I'd give them a quick call. It can't hurt, since all you are doing is inquiring about the status of your script.
At the very least, with so many writers hooked up to e-mail these days, one would think that a "thank you but no thank you" e-mail would be in order from the prodcos. It's only polite to send one to the writer, if you ask me.
Well, I hope you were either working on the set of a film production, or meeting feverishly with prodcos/studios/agents/managers. Or that you were busily finishing a new script, or you were off to a film festival to accept an award (preferrable with a cash prize attached...)
I still advocate a call, if you've been waiting for months. The worst they can do is say "We passed on it" or "It's not for us" or some such variation. You should be able to survive that.
When I was still a student at USC, I got an intern job as a script reader at a company called Spring Creek Productions (which was independent at the time, but is now part of Warner Bros. At least I think it's still part of WB.) Anyway, my first day there I noticed a very large shelving unit absolutely filled with screenplays, many of which were from big agencies--CAA, ICM, William Morris--but not all. A sizeable chunk was from smaller agencies, and there were even some that were "unsolicited" and yet still there on the shelf. The writers somehow had sweet talked their way into a read without a manager or an agent.
Well, that's what we interns had to tackle--that whole darn thing full of scripts. And new screenplays (not to mention books and stage plays) were coming in every day. My estimate, with the five or six student readers they had, was that Spring Creek was four to six months behind schedule in their coverage. And it got worse every day.
The point is, companies usually have stacks and stacks of scripts just hanging around, waiting to be read. Producers only occasionally read them on their own--a first read, that is. Script readers get them first, and if they rave enough about a screenplay in their coverage and in person to the producer, then maybe the producer will read it.
Even then, it's about a one to two percent shot that the producer will want to pursue it further. The odds are, I hate to say it, very low. But then again, from experience, I can say that only one, or perhaps two scripts in a hundred is worth a damn, anyway.
Really, you can't believe the unspeakable dreck that comes in--often under the cover of a highfalutin' agency! How some of these people can call themselves "professional writers" with a straight face, let alone get an agent to represent them, I'll never know. So two percent of two percent is what you have to overcome as a screenwriter.
Getting a movie made from your script is next to impossible--but not completely impossible. Hollywood is a very strange, exclusive (in a bad way) place. I often describe it as "incestuous" and "hermetically sealed." Yet sometimes a writer can get lucky. But after getting lucky, he or she had better be good, too, because the competition is flat-out fierce. And the sharks and the charlatans, who are legion...you must always be on guard against them. Watch your back!
>>Well, you may get flamed for saying that, but I certainly believe you. I may get flamed for agreeing with you, but who cares? :-)
No flames from me, Jerry. And I don't care if I'm flamed because I'm speaking the truth, and if some people don't want to hear it, well, they'll find out the hard way. I have friends who used to think I was exaggerating the percentages--until THEY started doing script reading. I received a lot of apologies after that.
When I read scripts, I don't have it in for them. I WANT them to be wonderful. I want that because I have to finish them, no matter what, and, more importantly, because I love good writing. And it always feels great to be able to recommend the script to a producer, or recommend the writer, if he or she is up for an assignment and I'm evaluating a writing sample.
Even after having left L. A., the work has followed me (not at the same volume, of course), so whenever I get a script, I want it to be good. I'm getting paid to finish it. If it's horrible, I still have to wade through it and give insightful, constructive notes (I almost never do regular coverage now. I'm an analyst and consultant, so I write story notes. That translates into: This is what's wrong with the story. This is how you fix it.)
>>Writing isn't as competitive as it's made out to be. It's just very crowded.
Bill couldn't be more accurate if he tried.
>>The business would be so much smoother without that 98DRECK Factor. As it is, however, every piece that comes in from an unknown writer is (understandably) weighted with the assumption that it's purest garbage.
You know, I have NEVER made that assumption. I assume a screenplay is good until the writer proves otherwise. I've done this job for so long, though, that I can tell if a screenwriter knows how to write by the end of page 1 or 2 of the screenplay. In all of the years I've done this, only TWO screenplays got significantly better after a rocky start. I recommended both of them, but indicated that the beginnings of the scripts needed work to match the strength of the rest of the story.
>>I've been looking at the work of novelist wannabes for years, and you may rest assured your percentages hold true on that side. I read an interview with an editor at THE NEW YORKER (I think that's right) who said over 90% of all submissions he gets are not only not publishable--they're not even readable.
I believe you, I believe you! I once saw a script that was about 160 pages long, with huge, dense paragraph descriptions, printed in a Gothic font (!) on a dot matrix printer. I had never heard that a dot matrix printer could print such a font. In any case, the story was impenetrable--absolutely unreadable. That's when the fine art of skimming comes in to play. You pick up whatever you can of the main storyline (if you can follow it), finish the darn thing, write up your notes or coverage, and label it with one big honkin' PASS!
>>I've since learned to be far more objective about my work, and I try hard not to submit anything of less-than-pro caliber. I think that's a responsibility that should be taken seriously by anyone who aspires to be a professional writer.
Absolutely. The hardest thing one has to learn as a writer is SELF EDITING. The job of story analyst and script consultant makes you so much more critical (in a good way) about writing, that it forces you to ask the toughest questions about your own work. When I write, I produce whatever pages I can in a day. At night, however, I break out the red pen and savage what I've just written. I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. This forces me to throw out the garbage and cut each scene down to its essentials.
>>(Climbing down from soapbox and putting on flameproof suit.)
Thank you for climbing down so I could step up onto it!
I have a flameproof suit, too. It's called a thick skin. If you spend enough time in Hollywood, you'll grow one pretty darn quick.
>>And, let's face it, the guy really didn't know what he was doing when it came to Directing. He didn't do his homework!
That's probably why PGL now has a directing competition that will choose the director of the winning screenplay.
And that's why I would never submit a script to PGL (and I also don't write horror, so there you go.) If, for this particular competition, I could not direct what I had written, I wouldn't want anything to do with it.
Why? Because, as a "reality show," it seems to me that the DIRECTOR will get the lion's share of the real benefits out of this year's series if the movie turns out well. And the more extravagant his or her antics for the "documentary" cameras (read: "the show's cameras"), the better. The show's producers will likely instigate (blatantly or surreptitiously) some on-set stresses and conflicts to make the individual episodes "play" better. God forbid they have a set that runs smoothly--their show would be boring! In the end, it will be all about the director, and the writer will get lip service. Just my (very harsh and cynical) personal opinion. And besides, I hate they way they've picked scripts. They need pros from Day One.
Michele, my deepest condolences to you and your family. I am glad to hear you are able to write at this time--if not fiction/screenwriting, then in your journal. I wonder, too, with no little fear, what people who do not write do with their grief. I am glad you are able to do so. I have already said a prayer for your dad, for you, and for your family. I will continue to keep you all in my prayers.
>>Michele needs to get out of the house. Michele needs interact with live human beings. Michele needs to stop talking about herself in the third person.
LOL! But what you say is so true. Getting out there will do you good.
I'm a writer who, like most, works all shut up in my apartment (or in the library) and who does not collaborate on screenplays. I like the solitude of writing alone. I crave it. But, like you, I need to be around other people sometimes.
Writers groups help, and when I lived in Glendale, CA, I had a fun, hard working group to go to every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Burbank. Since I left Southern California, however, I'm back to "writer's loneliness." It CAN get to you at times.
I find that too much solitude makes me brood in an unhealthy manner, too, if I'm not careful to stay very, very focused. Being around others pretty much forces you to get out of your brooding, at least for a little while. It really does help.
I hear you about how discovering how much about screenwriting (and filmmaking) there is to learn. It took me nearly five years to be able to say with confidence that I was a good screenwriter--and to know it was true. My job evaluating other people's screenwriting forced me to become seriously brutal when evaluating my own work. It took nearly five years to get it right. And I'm still learning.
Our thoughts are with you, Michele, and with everyone here who has recently lost a parent.
Ellum, are you saying that I'm lying about continuing to evaluate scripts after having left L. A.?
An interesting combination with Barry Levinson. Too bad it didn't work out. I wonder if Mary Ann Braubach is still with Spring Creek? She was my immediate boss when I was there. A very nice lady.
Well, thanks for clearing that up, Ellum. I really do continue to write story notes and consult, here in the far flung hinterlands of suburban Detroit.
Terri, I would certainly like Mary Ann's contact info. Please see my e-mail. It would be so nice to catch up with her. She hired me for my first industry job!
Well, Terri, it sure sounds like it. Oh, man! This is so strange! I was very touched to be given such a nice send off from the group. It was hard to leave. I still keep in touch with Laurel, and have her give my best to Monica and Sondra when she sees them. And Myron and Bob--they were great.
Yes, that was a fun group of writers. I hope I can find where I put the pictures you took. When I moved back to Michigan, everything like that (as well as copies of scripts, a lot of my books, old Thomas guides, etc.) went into file boxes--and they are still there. I need to pop open a few and see if I can find the pictures.
Thanks for reminding me! LOL!
Michele, you are a lady and a scholar!
(Yeah, I know that the phrase is "a gentleman and a scholar," but I wouldn't want anyone to think you're using an alias, and aren't what you seem!)
From my experience, it doesn't really matter whether or not you do a lot of capping. Just make sure you are capping the right things.
I will agree that rampant capitalization has become less common these days. I used to capitalize a lot. Now, however, I'm pretty much only doing that with the introduction of character names when we see them for the first time. Or I'll use it to call attention to something that is critical to a scene.
For the general reader, I also agree that reading a lot of capitalized words will probably slow him/her down. For script readers and analysts, that sort of thing doesn't affect them very much. They'll still read at whatever speed they usually read, because they are so used to seeing it.
As for the use of CUT TO: -- I only use it when there is a radical change in time or place. So maybe it will show up a couple of times in a script, at most. I think only William Goldman can get away with eight to ten CUT TOs per page!
I have no problem when a writer uses DISSOLVE TO:, since that ALMOST ALWAYS indicates a passage of time, and is something the writer may specifically wants to convey. I use it and have no intention of giving it up.
When it comes down to it, they're not going to reject your script over a DISSOLVE TO:. There are many other things--bigger things like plot, characterization, pacing, dialogue--that, if done wrong, will get a script tossed against a wall in complete disgust (I have actually done that to two or three scripts I'd been given to read. They were so bad that only hurling them as far away as possible would suffice.) So I wouldn't sweat the DISSOLVE TOs. Just don't overuse them.
You'd be surprised, probably, to hear that (in my estimation) most screenplays have at least what I would call a workable, even interesting/promising, premise. It's the EXECUTION of that premise that goes so very, very wrong the bulk of the time. Bad writing produces the 120-page equivalent of Chinese water torture, and no premise, no matter how interesting, can make a screenplay appealing if the writing is just plain awful.
When I was writing coverage, a script with a good premise but terrible execution would get from me a "CONSIDER CONCEPT ONLY." It pretty much means "You're looking at a page 1 rewrite." Very few producers are willing to risk any money on a "CONSIDER CONCEPT ONLY" script.
In my opinion, the second act is the biggest stumbling block to screenwriters. It's the hardest part of any script to sustain. But some writers are simply dreadful from page 1. That's when you really want to pull out your hair, because you know you're stuck with another 119 pages (give or take a few) of sheer torture. And there's nothing an analyst can do to escape it, because he or she is being paid to finish it.
Throwing a particularly noxious script against a wall provides momentary satisfaction, but you've still got to pick it up again, and keep reading.
Carolyn, here’s my take on your first page (Don't freak out over the length. I really am this picky and detailed when I write story notes, because that’s my job. Well, used to be my job. I still do it occasionally.)
“Credits Begin” and “Credits End”
Don’t write into your script anything about the credits. Just start your story. How the credits roll will be figured out much later, and it will be out of your hands, anyway.
Start with FADE IN: and then put in your first slugline. Sophia is probably not out in a field somewhere. You might want to write it in this fashion: INT. ATTIC -- DAY (if that’s where she is.) You do not have to get any more detailed than that in your slugline at this point unless you want to, or unless the specific location is critical to other parts of your story, or unless the story’s not set in the present and you need your reader to know the exact year.
Make that first sentence more active: SOPHIA, 37, sorts through a box of old family photos.
Whenever you can, get rid of the word “is” in your screenplay. The use of “is” (i.e., “is sorting”) makes a verb less active and it saps energy from the writing. That affects your reader in subtle ways, and it puts a sense of “drag” on your story’s forward motion. That’s the last thing you want. The writing must remain lively throughout, regardless of subject matter.
It’s not possible, of course, to get rid of every “is,” but do it whenever you can. Using the most active form of your verbs gives vitality to your storytelling. And remember, sometimes you can hide an “is” in a contraction, such as writing “It’s” for “It is” or “She’s” for “She is.”
You may also want to give us a short physical description of Sophia here. Don’t overdo it. Just give us something succinct, some little visual shorthand that helps create the mental picture of her in your readers’ heads. For example: “SOPHIA, pretty and redheaded, but a little too tired looking for her 37 years, sorts through a box of old family photos.”
It can be anything, of course--any way you as her creator want to describe her. But keep it short, unless the physical description of the character is critical to the plot (That sometimes happens. Think of “Man Without A Face.”)
I would put your DISSOLVE TO: in a different place. I’d write (and please assume the formatting is correct. I know what I post here won’t be properly formatted):
As she rubs her thumb over the tractor:
EXT. RED DIRT FIELD--1976--DAY
We see in color a close up of the red dirt that the plow in the picture was turning.
The SMALL HAND OF A YOUNG GIRL reaches into the dirt, picks up a handful of clay, and puts it into a little box. The hand clutches the box tightly against the girl’s little chest.
See what I mean? You absolutely do not need a dissolve there with the hand, because there’s no change in time. You’ve already dissolved from the photo to the “real time” of the red dirt field.
Starting the information about the hand on another line SUGGESTS THE LOOK OF THE SHOT. If you are clever, you can make the reader (and the director) see what’s really in your head re: the “screen pictures,” and you can do it all the way through your screenplay. You just have to be crafty and clever, that’s all.
Your use of “FADE TO:” here would work, but only if we (the audience) definitely knew that the previous shot was in 1976. But from what you have written here, I do not think that’s clear. In fact, I am uncertain as to whether or not, when we first see the adult Sophia, the time is the present, and if you intended 1976 and 1962 to be TWO distinct jumps back in time, or if your story actually starts in 1976. Clarify from the beginning what year it is for the reader. That means that somehow the information must be up there on the screen, either in dialogue, in objects onscreen that would indicate the date or the era (such as a late model car in the driveway), or in a superimposed subtitle of the date.
This is important, because with the going back in time element you’ve introduce, we have to be grounded in the “start” time before we make any leaps back. It could be as simple as slightly modifying your opening slugline to read:
INT. ATTIC -- THE PRESENT -- DAY
This serves to clue the reader into the fact that THE PAST is going to come into play, but not yet. In the film the current time will be reinforced as “the present” by the costuming of contemporary clothes for the actress.
A screenplay’s “time” is always presupposed to be “the present,” UNLESS OTHERWISE INDICATED. If you had started your screenplay in 1962, for example, that date would be in your very first slugline. If you were writing a far future sci fi script, your first slugline might look something like:
EXT. MOONBASE ZEBULON -- 2209 A.D. -- NIGHT
I know this sounds picky, but if the reader isn’t clear right from the start on the time and place of your story, she’ll be confused about a lot of things throughout the screenplay, because the time initially had not been made clear. You are the writer, but we (the audience) only know what you tell us, and what you tell us has to be crystal clear, and on the screen in the action or in the dialogue. As my favorite screenwriting professor often said: “The audience is not sitting there with your screenplay in their laps. They only know what you tell them ON SCREEN.”
*** Carolyn, I very much like the atmospheric nature of this first page, and I like the sense of character that comes through in the voice over. Pay attention to the technical things I mentioned. Those seem like nit-picking, I know, but it’s your job to get them right. When they are correct, they will draw no attention to themselves. When they aren’t, they’ll be noticed. You want those sort of technical details to be, as they say, transparent, so that all the reader sees is a beautifully crafted story unfolding page by page.
(I wrote this before I saw your last post, so I'm just going to post it without comment on your last entry.)
Carolyn, here’s what I suggest (and don’t be upset that I’m indicating in the slugline that the little girl is at a gravesite. I’ll explain in a minute. Once again, please assume that this is properly formatted, because it won’t be on this board.)
As she rubs her thumb over the tractor, we see the black and white dirt in the photo
We see only red dirt, no headstone.
The SMALL HAND OF A YOUNG GIRL reaches into the dirt, picks up a handful of clay, and puts it into a little box. The hand clutches the box tightly against the girl’s little chest.
You’ve indicated that you don’t want it known that we’re at a gravesite or in a churchyard or in a cemetery here (those three locations are NOT necessarily the same thing. I’m just giving you options.) What you are really saying is that you don’t want the AUDIENCE to know that’s where we are. And that’s the only group that needs to be ignorant of the location at this point. They won’t know where we are, if you write the description like I did above, because all they’re seeing on screen is red dirt, a child’s hand, and a box hugged to a young girl’s chest.
But it’s important that the script reader knows, the director knows, the producer knows, and other film-type people know what the location is, for many reasons (some aesthetic, some practical and technical.) You indicated that we are going to cut back to this scene further into the script. When we do cut back to it, the audience finally will recognize the location IN CONTEXT, because we’ve already seen that girl’s hand, and the dirt, and the box, and her dress (or her play clothes.)
When you are writing a screenplay, there is a difference between keeping important plot points from your audience to be revealed later, and keeping things from the people who will be shooting your script. You don’t want to do the latter! Budgeters and costumers and lighting and make-up people need to know, because otherwise they can’t do their jobs. And before those afore-mentioned professionals ever get their hands on your script, the producer and the director have to know EVERYTHING. Otherwise, how can they plan the film? Besides, a producer has to say “go” before a single directing candidate takes a look at the screenplay.
So I’ve taken a very long time to say that even if you reveal the location in your slugline, you’ve only given your VIEWING AUDIENCE a hand, the dirt, a box, and young arms clutching the box. You haven’t spilled the beans about the location at all TO THE AUDIENCE. Since this mystery is important to your story until the end, that “visual secret” will have been successfully kept until the right moment.
*** After that, your next slugline would be:
EXT. COUNTRY ROAD -- EARLY FALL, 1962 -- MORNING
A school bus wheezes down the gravel road (or something to that effect--you decide.)
...and you continue on from there.
By sticking the fact that it’s FALL into the slugline, the reader will, in his or her head, considers the landscape in a particular way. He or she will see the colors, smell the scents, and understand the quality of the sunlight at that time of year--and all you had to do was put EARLY FALL into the slugline to get that response. Well, at least it works that way for me, but I have a vivid imagination!
A question for you: Do you use a screenwriting formatting program? Because of the nature of posting text on this board, I cannot tell if you do or not. You may very well have one. But if not, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you get one. There are some relatively inexpensive screenwriting programs out there, too. I use Movie Magic Screenwriter (that’s not one of the inexpensive ones, I’m afraid, but it’s well worth the $$$), and I just love it.
Remember to break up your description on the page. At the very most, descriptions should run no more than four lines before you put in a line space and continue on with the next visual descriptive element. In my own writing, I try to keep descriptions down to two lines, or at the most three, before I hit return/enter to add in a line space. Occasionally I’ll go to four lines, but that’s rare.
The reason for this is that you are making distinct visual or plot points with each description. That’s why you want to keep them short. There is nothing more tiresome to a script reader than to read thick, chunky paragraphs in a screenplay. Your script needs to contain a lot of “air” around the individual elements of dialogue and description. Otherwise, large passages start to read like a novel, not a screenplay, and that really slows down the reader. Besides, that’s simply not how description is written by screenwriting pros. You want your script to be as professional looking and sounding as it possibly can be.
*** Another observation: You indicate that the adult Sophia is only seen on screen at the beginning of the story, and at the end, with voice-over narration in between. Do you have a reason for this? If her “adulthood” is not critical on screen (i.e., there’s no pivotal reason why we, the audience, have to see her as an adult), then you can run the necessary V. O. narration, but never show her.
Think of “A River Runs Through It.” Robert Redford’s voice speaks as the “adult” version of one of the characters (even though the timbre of their voices--Redford’s and the actor’s playing “him” as a young man--didn’t match at all! I found that quite distracting.) We never see Robert Redford on screen, we only hear him. But the use of the voice-over was important to that story, since it was memoir-like. So it ended up being, if not sterling, then at least acceptable.
I’m sure you’ve heard: In screenwriting, avoid voice-over like the plague. In most cases, yes, that’s true. But a memoir-type piece may call for it, and that may be the case in your screenplay. But if it is, and yet it’s not critical to your plot that the adult Sophia appear on screen, then you may want to consider reducing her role to only a narrative voice. Yes, that would change how you open your screenplay, but probably not so radically that it would damage the story you want to tell.
That decision is yours. Again, I’m just throwing some options out there for you. This is your story, and you can tell it any way you see fit.
Okay, here’s the last thing I wanted to cover: Getting rid of “ing” is easy! All you have to do is re-cast your sentences. For instance, you’ll notice I changed the line “A school bus is travelling slowly on a gravel country road” to “A school bus wheezes down the gravel road.” My description of how the bus moves (“wheezes”) suggests the condition of the bus. If this is a poor area, then that might be appropriate. But I could easily have said “A school bus travels slowly down the gravel road.” Voila! The “is” and the “ing” are gone!
Since I previously changed the slugline to read COUNTRY ROAD instead of ROAD, I didn’t have to repeat “country.” I only needed to indicate that it was gravel.
You see, there are many little ways you can punch up the visual details in your screenwriting. I love to read vivid description (but don’t overdo it!) It creates in my head the screen pictures, and I can “see” the movie as I read.
I also love the proper use and execution of atmosphere and tone. At least you are aware of it! I’m so glad you mentioned it. I cannot, CANNOT tell you how many scripts that I’ve read that RADICALLY changed tone in the middle or at end of the story! I’m not talking about infusing a little dearly needed comic relief into a heavy drama. I’m talking jarring, big-time changes. For instance, a script switching from a drama into a satire in mid-stream! Ugh! Or a broad comedy suddenly going all dramatic on you out of nowhere--without having established that the story was comedy-drama from the beginning. That sort of thing drives me crazy.
A lack of mastery of tone absolutely ruined the reading of more screenplays than I care to recount. So I’m glad you are paying attention to it. Tone is one of the most elusive things in a screenplay, because it’s often so hard for the screenwriter to identify what tone he or she desires, and also so difficult to sustain and to execute well.
Okay, gotta go! I hope this helps.
Oh, you're welcome, you guys.
And no, I don't do this for free! In fact, I'm kind of expensive, so I wouldn't recommend anyone here hiring my analyst services. You can get good, solid, intelligently reasoned, and less expensive story notes from other analysts, some of whom Frederick lists on this website. I just did this bit here on the board to be helpful (we're supposed to be helping each other, right?) and I got carried away. It was just one page of Carolyn's script, after all, not the entire screenplay. I thought I'd be nice and make a few comments, and then it turned into several hours' worth of insight. I don't generally get that swept away.
Carolyn, I'm glad you have the use of Final Draft. Copying from a different document really does screw up when pasted onto this board. So I understand now why the text was squished together.
I'm glad to hear you keep your descriptive lines short, too. That's the way to go!
>>>Hey! Wait a second! I've been told the exact opposite by readers who supposedly know something about the subject. I even re-edited an entire script to reflect the advice! Can others please weigh in on this?!
Dennis, whoever those readers were, they told you wrong! Use the most active form of your verbs, always.
It's not necessarily too much, Jerry.
Here's how I'd write it:
An international bounty hunter faces his past when he is hired to rescue the family of a shipping magnate, taken hostage in the South China Sea.
I've cleaned up the original to streamline it, but I've left some things in on purpose.
In this form, it is understood that the shipping magnate did the hiring, which saves on some excess wording.
"International" tells a prospective producer or director that the story has scope. This is not a little indie flick, and the author wants them to know that right off the bat. "South China Sea" is an exotic locale--a producer or director with vision would be intrigued by this.
In my experience, adding spice to a logline sets it apart from others that are too generic.
Call me Ishmael.
Okay, enough snarkiness.
When material (a novel, a short story, an article, a play, a poem, etc.) is published by another entity, Hollywood automatically gives it more credence than an original script. After all, someone ELSE already deemed the work worthy of publication. Bingo--instant credibility. The studio greenlighter can point to the piece's publishing history and say "Look! It has a track record."
But don't talk to aspiring novelists about how "easy" it is to get a novel published compared to getting an original screenplay filmed. They will tell you it's not true.
I went to a writer's conference a few years ago, and the literary agents in attendance were very negative about the chances of writers breaking in as new novelists. Write "How To" and "Self Help" books, we were told. Those had a huge market and continue to be big sellers. If you weren't already established as a novelist, they said, you'd have a very tough row to hoe as a newby trying to break in.
So I guess it's the same everywhere. It's just darn tough to make a living as a fiction writer, be it novel or screenplay.
When I wrote coverage, there were occasions when I would cite other movies (usually in terms of "been there, seen that") in my comments on a script. I NEVER did it in the loglines I wrote.
I think citing other films is better left to the end of a face-to-face (or telephone) pitch. Remember, with some very young studio or creative execs, you run the risk of them not having seen the film(s) you are citing! Don't laugh. No one wants to appear stupid or uninformed in Hollywood. Egos being the way they are, a greenhorn 23-year old "creative exec" would rather pass on your script than appear dumb to his peers.
I never meant to imply that writing a novel is easy, or that getting it published would be easier than screenwriting.
I didn't take it that way at all, John. No worries!
>>Just trying to open up a window where the door seems to be temporarily closed.
And I think you are right when you say we should also pursue other avenues. I was just relating an experience I had at that conference.
>>What kind of writer's conference did you attend? Was it strictly for screenwriting or did it encompass all types of writing?
No, it wasn't about screenwriting at all. It was about books--all sorts of books--but nothing regarding screenplays or stageplays. I will say that the lit agents were surprisingly negative. They did try hard to offer some tiny sliver of hope, but in my opinion they weren't very successful!
I think the lit agents wanted to impress on us that we needed to be realistic. Let's face it--the percentage of bad books that writers are trying to sell is probably on par with the percentage of bad screenplays that screenwriters are trying to sell.
And let's also be realistic about how some bad books actually do get published sometimes, the way some bad screenplays get made into awful movies. But being in print doesn't automatically make a book good, just like having a film made doesn't mean the final product is any good (take "Timeline," for example. *shudder* Eighty million bucks to make that crap. It bombed.)
I agree--we need to try other avenues. Whatever it takes to get the work published. I don't know about self-publishing, though. In any case, I know I don't have the money for that sort of endeavor! But a lot of people do, and for some writers, their self-published books have been picked up by legit publishing companies. Things like that do happen on occasion.
When a producer calls you up (or otherwise contacts you) and tells you how much he just loves your script, and how he would definitely consider it, if ONLY you would make some changes first (for no pay, of course), and he believes you're the best writer since blah blah blah, ask him the names of the last three movies he produced. See what he says.
I wouldn't trust any "producer," especially one demanding changes for no pay, who didn't have any verifiable credits. Credits are easy enough to check out. Start with www.imdb.com. Call me super jaded, but I wouldn't work for no money. If you don't value yourself and your hard work enough to ask for compensation for your writing, why should producers respect you? Can I go to a dentist and ask her to cap my teeth, but say I will only pay her if I like the way the work turns out? That's absurd. I'd get thrown out of her office, and rightly so. No pay, no work.
One of my old screenwriting instructors used to say: "If they are serious about your script, they will pay you money to option it and to re-write it." If they are serious, immediately start talking option money and time length of option. If they balk, or hem and haw at all, move on. They aren't worth your time or effort. If they don't want to risk money, they aren't serious.
If they DO option one of your scripts, and you make changes to it according to their suggestions, but they still end up doing nothing with the script, make sure, when the option runs out, that it's in your contract that you can keep any changes made. You might like those revisions and wish to retain them once they give up on your script. So make sure you are legally covered to do so.
I know some will disagree with me about the money issue. When you get burned enough, maybe you'll see my point of view.
That's great, Jerry! Congrats!
Couldn't they have e-mailed the news to you or something? Well, at least a fellow writer on the board was looking out for you.
Congrats again, and may you sail into the Semifinals with flying colors.
>>>The days of an LA monopoly are over!!!
From your lips to God's ear, Wayne!
>>How do you feel about it professional? Amateur? What ever gets the ppoint across?
Example. Beat. Beat. Beat. Beat. Beat. (to denote a long pause)
Oh, dear God, I would think someone was playing the bongo drums if I saw that written out in a screenplay! I do not believe in all of my years of analysis and consulting that I've EVER seen that. If I had, I would have made a not-so-nice mention of it in my notes. It looks downright silly.
>>or should I write "long pause" or "long beat" thoughts please
If it really is a very long pause for a big, dramatic reason, you might want to take it out of a parenthetical and put it into a line of description:
"Jim agonizes, unable as yet to tell Lucy the truth."
THEN give Jim's line of dialogue.
Or something along those lines. But if you really don't want to move out of dialogue mode, then either "long beat" (which I would probably use myself) or "long pause" will suffice.
Nice work if you can get it...but most prodcos and studios will only purchase pitches from writers with a track record. And then there you are, in the old Catch-22 again.
But there probably ARE some companies out there that will buy ideas only for a (relatively) low sum. If you are an idea machine, this could work out very well for you.
If Bob is the one holding the gun:
Bob presses the muzzle against his temple.
He closes his eyes.
If the gun is held by someone else:
Mobster Joe jams the gun against Bob's temple.
Bob closes his eyes.
In the first instance I use "muzzle" because it fits, and because I like its "sound." It's also more accurately descriptive of what's going on, because it's the end from which the bullet emerges.
In the second instance, I just want that critical moment to sound brutal.
I use "temple" in both instances, because it's one of the vital places to shoot if you want to kill someone.
And that's just one writer's over-analyzed opinion. Feel free to disagree.
Oh, yes...and what Gil said.
>>>The question is, when do the fads become established? The same consultant has informed me it is no longer standard to use (CONT'D.) after the character's name when that character continues dialog after a narrative break. It's becoming a bloody distraction.
What s/he's telling you is just pure, unadulterated crap. Virtually ALL screenwriting programs put in (CONT'D) automatically! It's bunk.
Besides, why would that be a distraction? Have readers and analysts suddenly forgotten how to read proper formatting? The answer is NO.
It is NOT a distraction. If they have forgotten how to read a script, my advice to them is: Get out of the business.
When I read a screenplay, the (CONT'D) is nearly subliminal. When it's NOT there is when I notice it! When it's not there, it means that the writer probably is not using a screenwriting program but a regular word processing program, and has either forgotten to put (CONT'D) into the proper place from the beginning, or he or she has cut or rewritten some material and has forgotten to add it in after the cut/rewrite.
Technical stuff is important, yes, yes--but not as important as solid structure, good storytelling ability, great characterization and dialogue. If you're in the ballpark with the technical stuff, I might mention a formatting error here or there just for the sake of good housekeeping. But that won't get you a pass or a consider from me. The writing will.
>>>When is it truely used correctly? If a man was knocking on the door, and the next scene is in the foyer but you dont want the camera to follow him in should continuous still be used? Or is it simply on when you want the camera to follow from old scene to new with no implied cut?
Benjamin, why are you worried about the camera? That's not your concern, UNLESS you are planning to direct your own screenplay. If that's the case, then okay, you have a valid argument. But somehow, I don't think that's the case.
I don't know what you mean by an 'implied cut.' How a director "covers" a scene, which is going to have all sorts of cuts anyway because he may move from a master shot, to two-shots, to over-the-shoulders, to singles, and back again, is, once again, nothing with which you need to concern yourself. Write master scenes whenever you can. Worry about the story, not the camera.
I have noticed that your questions tend to be about things that are very, very basic to screenwriting. So I highly recommend--before you write any more of your script and get stuck trying to figure out all of these things as you go--that you buy and read some good books on screenwriting. I also recommend, if you can afford it, that you attend screenwriting seminars, or take screenwriting classes. That will provide plenty of information for you. But I think you really need to start with the basics.
You can find the following on Amazon.com. The URLs are below.
Paul Lucey's book is fantastic. I think it's the best there is, but then I'm biased--he was my favorite screenwriting instructor at USC, and his book is a distillation of what he taught in the classroom.
Linda Seger's book is a standard. And David Trottier's has been around for a while. I include his book because he talks about formatting. He also has a book called "Dr. Format" (or something like that), which you might find useful.
Just copy and paste the URLs into your browser, or go to Amazon and search these guys by name.
Another favorite book of mine is not specifically about screenwriting, but that doesn't matter. It's called "The Art of Dramatic Writing," by Lajos Egri. I highly recommend it. It is excellent.
Paul Lucey’s “Story Sense”
Linda Seger’s “Making a Good Script Great”
David Trottier’s “The Screenwriter’s Bible”
Lajos Egri's "The Art of Dramatic Writing"
About a year ago a friend of mine asked me about the use of CONTINUOUS. I finally found the e-mail I'd sent to her regarding it:
"CONTINUOUS" in a slugline has a particular purpose. For instance, say that characters are moving through a building into different rooms, exchanging dialogue. When there is no break in time while they are moving through these rooms, the action is said to be continuous. The scene remains the exact same scene, even though they are walking and talking and changing location. So your sluglines will change from, for example:
INT. KITCHEN -- MORNING
Characters do and say stuff, and then walk into:
INT. LIVING ROOM -- CONTINUOUS
They keep talking and doing stuff in what is essentially the same scene, just a different location, and then they go to:
INT. DINING ROOM -- CONTINUOUS
They've made their way into the dining room now, still talking and doing stuff. But if they agree, for instance, to meet in the basement in a few minutes, your next slugline might look like this:
INT. BASEMENT -- A LITTLE LATER
And then the action picks up again in this new scene. But time has passed between the end of the long previous scene to now. So the "time of day" has changed, albeit incrementally. This is no longer continuous action. So you're now seeing something like A LITTLE LATER. It could also say LATER, or MOMENTS LATER, or MINUTES LATER, or even NOON, or AFTERNOON, or whatever you need to indicated the proper passage of time.
CONTINUOUS is not limited to just interior scenes. It applies to exterior scenes, as well. _____
>>>Come on, guys! What's the harm in giving out a little info here???? Isn't that what we're here for? To help each other?
I have no problem with that, and that is what we're here to do. But it seems to me that Benjamin is a beginner, and because of that I recommend learning the basics of the craft the right way--by taking classes, reading books on the subject, and reading as many screenplays as he can get his hands on--instead of trying to make sense out of a complicated craft by picking up the information piecemeal. I don't know about anyone else, but I can't teach him to be a screenwriter via a bulletin board. A good screenwriting class would be my strongest recommendation to him, and I think he would not only enjoy it, but would also absorb tons of information from it. THEN when more esoteric (not basic) questions come up regarding the craft, this is a good place to come to discuss them.
I know some might disagree with me on the above, but that's how I feel about it.
>>And, btw, I notice in her example of "Tootsie" that a "Cut To" is used, denoting the passage of time. Of course, that's apparently a no-no now.
I wouldn't fret about occasional CUT TOs, unless you use them before each and every slugline, which IS an unprofessional no-no. I think only William Goldman can get away with that these days. But to indicate a jump in time and/or place that has particular significance to the story? Sure. No problem. Use it.
Would I ever refuse to recommend a script because it had a "CUT TO:" or a "DISSOLVE TO:" in it to denote a passage of time? No. Heck, I use (sparingly) CUT TO: and DISSOLVE TO: in my own screenplays, and I don't feel the least bit guilty, and I have no intention of stopping.
Do you know what the available transitions are in Movie Magic Screenwriter? There are three--CUT TO:, DISSOLVE TO:, and FADE OUT. My MMS version is one hundred percent up-to-date (I download updates from the web.) These transitions have not been removed from the program. They are still in use. If you find a script reader obsessing over them, then he's got his priorities in the wrong place.
If we sat around worrying about formatting "fads" that come and go faster than you can say Jack Robinson, we'd make ourselves crazy. Only EGREGIOUS and MULTIPLE errors in formatting are worth commenting on in any screenplay. And if the formatting is that wretched, I can assure you that the rest of it (i.e., the actual story) is, too.
Heh, heh, heh...Sue! LOL!
Would I sling against a wall a script that had one or two "We sees" in it? Hell no! If the writer was clearly a master storyteller, and I was utterly absorbed in the story and couldn't wait to turn each page because I just had to know what happened next, I'd say "Who cares?" A "we see" would not keep me from recommending the screenplay.
It's all about the story, that story, that brilliant story. WE SEE the reader so blown away by it that she can't recommend it highly enough!
Maybe a dozen times in fifteen years, Jerry.
Billy, go here: http://www.ifctv.com/ifc/index
Click on "About IFC," then click on "IFC Productions," which will show you info on InDigEnt. Then, on the left side of the page, click on the "Contact Us" link. While the InDigEnt site's contact page is currently under construction, this site at least gives you someone to contact at the parent company.
I hope this helps.
I agree with David E. about proofing your script again. Some formatting problems can occur during an import. It can happen with importing files into Movie Magic Screenwriter, too, not just Final Draft. I've had to clean up a couple of scripts that were originally written using a self-created screenplay style sheet in Microsoft Word, because they did not import perfectly into MMS.
It's usually not that big of a deal, though. I don't think it took more than an hour or so to proof and fix what needed fixing.
Do you know that there are some producers who only read DIALOGUE when they read a script? Yeah, that's all some read, and they read down the page very, very quickly. If you don't use "CONT'D" to indicate that a character is still speaking, it can confuse them if all they are reading is the dialogue.
So that's why I will continue to use it (one of a number of reasons.) And I urge others to use it, too.
And, for what it's worth, you couldn't pay me enough money to work for a producer who ridiculed me for using "CONT'D"--or who ridiculed me for any other reason, for that matter. If that had happened to me, I would have walked out of the meeting, taking my script with me. Does that asshole producer want to make a movie? Fine. Hand him 120 blank pages and see what kind of movie he makes.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, sang Aretha, and I demand no less from anyone else in the filmmaking process, BECAUSE NO ONE IN HOLLYWOOD--ABSOLUTELY NO ONE--HAS A JOB IF THE SCREENWRITER DOESN'T DO HIS JOB FIRST.
Think about that for a few minutes.
My rant for the day.
(I'm not mad at any posters. I'm just mad at how they allow themselves to be treated sometimes.)
Rich, I know you are getting conflicting signals from industry people, and it just goes to prove what William Goldman has long said: “In Hollywood, nobody knows anything.” I'm not annoyed with you, or with anyone who insists that the (CONT'D) is passé. In the industry, one person will tell you one thing, and the next person will say the complete opposite. My comments are based on my experience and my opinion. So here’s my reason (which was the reason FOR DECADES in screenwriting, not something I invented!) for using (CONT'D):
When one is reading quickly (when you are doing this for a living, you definitely can't linger), your mind has to keep up--you want nothing to stop the flow. For example, you’re reading a scene, and there are two characters speaking, and there are descriptive breaks between some of the dialogue. The way the reader’s mind works is to assume the second character is speaking after a descriptive break, UNLESS there is an indication (the CONT’D) that the previous character is still speaking. The natural tendency in the reader is to AUTOMATICALLY SWITCH TO THE OTHER CHARACTER whenever there is a break, unless otherwise indicated.
The (CONT’D) stays at the corner of your consciousness, so to speak. When you see it, it keeps you grounded as to who is saying what. I don’t consciously read a character’s name each and every time I read dialogue. If I know only two people are in the scene, once I’ve established the order of speaking, I use the (CONT’D), NOT the character’s name, to keep me oriented. I’m moving briskly through the story. If I have to stop and sort out who’s saying what, because the lack of a proper (CONT’D) throws it into doubt, it slows me down.
It’s bad enough in a scene where only two characters are delivering dialogue. When there are three or more characters, plus descriptive breaks, the (CONT’D) becomes critical. I need it there to keep things sorted out. Yes, it’s just on the periphery of my vision, but I do in fact see it, and I want it there. More importantly, I need it there to help me do my job quickly and efficiently.
The use of (CONT’D) shouldn’t bother anyone in the industry worth his or her salt. It only bothers the people whose lips move when they’re reading a script. But that’s just my opinion, snarky as it may sound.
So, if you choose to leave it out, you can do it, if it seems to bother your readers. As for me, I will continue to (CONT’D), for the reasons mentioned above.
Rich, you wrote:
>>>I mean no disrespect and have enjoyed this debate.
Don't worry, I never felt you were being disrespectful. Not in the least! And I think it's important for everyone to see what's going on out there re: screenwriting questions.
>>>I have been toiling at this for more than 12 years, and in that time have experienced pretty much every scenario imaginable – self-financing my own movies,
Very brave. I wish I could have done what you did. But after paying for film school, there was nothing left (USC is outrageously expensive. Two weeks after I graduated, they had the nerve to call me, looking for a donation to the school. I told them "You have all of my money.") I envy you the chance to self-finance a film, no matter what the results.
>>>options, representation offers, pitches, and meetings with producers where I left feeling giddy that a sale was imminent… I’ve tried every strategy I could think of and have gotten close enough to taste it, only to have it fall through.
I understand, because I've been there, done that, too. It's awful, isn't it? You think "This time...this time it's for real, it's my big break. It's my turn!" And then it's not. I empathize.
>>>But there is one thing that I am absolutely certain about: To have any chance of succeeding, you have to find someone who is absolutely in LOVE with your script – not just someone who just likes it or thinks it’s worth considering, rather someone who feels so passionate about it that she wants to scream from the rooftops and work their ass off to see it made.
THAT is so true. If they are only "sort of" interested, cut your losses and move on.
>>>Now as a reader, I’m sure you can tell me about how busy a job it is and how your plate is so full that you can’t ever afford to give any single script that kind of attention. But I don’t believe that.
And well you shouldn't. Yes, when you are freelancing, you'd better produce, or you don't get paid, and then the landlord gets very cranky. But you still have to do a good job, because if you slip up, you aren't going to get hired any more. You have to have speed and smarts. And if it's a great script? Well, greatness announces itself fairly early in a top-notch screenplay. You're so caught up in it, you're just dying to know what happens next.
>>>I believe that if you opened the right script, you wouldn’t look for an easy way to identify specific characters’ dialogue because your interest and passion would demand that you know.
Good script or bad script, what I described to you re: identifying speakers has become second nature to me. I don't know how to read any other way. I always know who is speaking, unless the writer has screwed up. That's why I'm looking for the CONT'Ds--so that there is no question as to who the speaker is. Like I said, there is a peripheral vision that takes over, and a seasoned reader operates on both a conscious and nearly subconscious level. It's hard to describe unless you've done it for a long time.
So I guess we'll just agree to disgree on this topic. There will be writers who drop the (CONT'D)s, and others who will keep them in. As a writer, I intend to keep them in, and as a reader I can wish that ALL screenwriters would keep them in. But I know now it won't happen, because there's this trend currently going around Hollywood...
>>>Sure it may be ONE script in a year of submissions, but at this point, that’s my only goal.
Whenever I open a script, I want it to be brilliant. Every time. I don't want to read junk. I don't harbor any jealousy toward excellent screenwriters. I WANT to read great writing! I'm thirsting for great writing! Reading bad writing 98-99% of the time is disheartening. I'll even settle for a decent script with a few problems that can be remedied with a rewrite. But I'd prefer brilliant.
So be brilliant. Please! Someone out there will love you for it (and, with luck, that someone will have a giant pile o' film financing, just waiting for you.)
>>>Anyway, that’s the last I’ll say about it. Good luck and nice chatting with you.
Thanks for a lively discussion! I appreciate very much your honest answers and observations.
Going for volume definitely improves your chances.
For productions companies, call them up and get the name of their development executive, so you can direct your written request to the right person from the get-go (or ask for their e-mail address.) When you call, ask them to spell that person's name for you, so you'll have that correct for your letter or e-mail. And if it's a gender non-specific name, like "Chris," or some really bizarro first name that is impossible to figure out, gender-wise, then ask if that person is a he or a she. Might as well start off on the right foot, if they agree to read one of your scripts.
Thanks, Jerry. I know the sniping was aimed at me. But I stand by my advice. One learns more about screenwriting by reading a book than by not reading one. One absorbs a lot more about the craft reading other writers' screenplays than not reading them. A writer learns more from a weekend seminar than from just reading scripts and books and message boards. And he or she learns even more from a formal class that lasts one or more semesters, rather than from just a weekend seminar. In my opinion, (those are the operative words here!) a new (or relatively new) screenwriter makes bigger--and quicker--strides in formal classes than he or she otherwise would trying to do this on his or her own.
It seems to me that discussions of this sort (formatting, query letters, screenwriting competitions, movies, agents, managers, loglines, etc.) are going to dominate boards for one reason: Without everyone being required to read everyone else's scripts (and who has time for that sort of reading volume?), that's about all you can discuss.
Getting to the heart of the matter in a writers'-group way requires reading and evaluating the scripts of other people, and having them read yours. If you can't invest the time, then consider paying a consultant to evaluate your script. There are lots of consultants and analysts out there on the net. They aren't hard to find.
That's what it's all about--your actual story on 120 pages of paper. If your screenplays can't be read and evaluated, then the discussions on a message board will remain restricted to the above-mentioned topics. How can anyone talk in detail about something s/he's never read?
The whole process of reading and evaluating a single screenplay (and doing it well) can easily eat up three to six hours or more of your time, depending on how involved you get in writing up the evaluation/story notes. That big of an investment of time simply doesn't fit into most writers' schedules.
Now imagine that someone hands you a stack of twenty screenplays and asks you to read and evaluate them all in two weeks, plus you're working a full time job, plus you're trying to squeeze in time for your own writing, and it's easy to see my point. Even if you had a whole workday at your disposal, you'd only be able to comfortably--and adequately--read and evaluate two screenplays a day, unless you wanted to subject yourself to severe eye strain. (On a number of occasions, out of necessity, I've read three scripts and written up three full sets of notes in a single day. It was no fun. I get a headache just thinking about it.)
That's why there are so many on-line consultants and analysts these days--because these guys know you are going to have a hard enough time convincing friends and family, let alone other writers, to give up their free time to give you in-depth comments on your screenplay. And you're not going to have the time to do it for other writers, either, except on an occasional basis.
And that's my opinion as to why screenwriting message board discussions cover the same topics over and over.
>>>It may be several hundred pages long and covers the back story, the character bios, the plot and each scene in detail.
OhmyGod! Several HUNDRED pages long? It's easier to write a 100-130 page screenplay than a treatment of several hundred pages. Might as well write a book, if you are going to go that far.
It's better to simply write the screenplay if you fear your treatment is going to run beyond TWENTY pages, let alone a couple of hundred. Even twenty pages is a little long.
The longest treatment I've ever written was thirteen pages, double spaced, and it shouldn't have been that long. I wrote it for myself to see how my story would unfold. An instructor of mine used to insist that treatments should be two to four pages (he called them "story drafts.") That seems a little brief to me, but a lot of execs, with their short attentions spans, don't want to read anything longer.
If a treatment runs any longer than twenty pages, it's my opinion that the screenwriter has put too much effort into the wrong form. It's better to just write the screenplay--the actual thing you can sell to a company or enter into competition--than to expend all of that creative energy on a long treatment.
An excellent sunrise/sunset table calculator is here:
Plug in the year, the state, and the city, and this will give you exactly the times you need.
Caleb Deschanel was the cinematographer. He's one of the best.
>>This place was established and had a big on-line presence and I did my homework and asked all the questions but wound up getting an office assistant who didn't read the whole script.
H. J., you definitely got a raw deal. The dude wasn't qualified to read your script and write coverage. He certainly wasn't what was promised--a professional consultant. And on top of it, he didn't read your whole script! But they happily took your $125, didn't they? Sounds like false advertising to me. You might seriously want to consider calling the Better Business Bureau.
It's up in the air, I guess. Their website indicates they still haven't settled on a date.
Michelle, in one of my advanced screenwriting classes, if you did not use proper formatting--especially FADE IN: and FADE OUT: THE END-- in your script, you flunked the class. No joke.
I think all of the "this is in, this is out" stuff is getting ridiculous. Hollywood seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Pretty soon we're going to hear "You don't need sluglines. They're so passe!"
I'm only half kidding.
>>Anyone else just plain sick and tired of Michael Moore and his look-at-me-i'm-a-complete-ass antics?
Oh, YES. Count me as one who thinks Moore is a complete ass.
>>A spastic clown becomes trapped in a music studio.
>>Mechanical singers meet and become friends in the big city.
John Stevens and Jon Peter Lewis join forces in L. A. on American Idol.
>>A novelist and five cautious stock traders are attacked by aliens.
Gorezilla versus the Wall Street Hacks.
>>A prince and a botanist learn CPR.
The Prince and The PeaMan to the rescue.
In my opinion, it's merely a polite way of saying "Thanks, but no thanks."
If they were really excited about the screenplay, but it simply wasn't the type of genre or story they were looking for (many companies only make certain kinds of stories, as you all know), then they'd probably say something along the lines of "We'd like to read more of your work. What else do you have?"
If you get that "We enjoyed the read" response, at least they've indicated that they've read the script.
Of course, that might not be entirely true. They may have only read 10-15 pages. It may have been read by a very low-level assistant who knows next-to-nothing about storytelling, let alone screenwriting. There's no way of knowing what happened once the script reached their offices. My advice is to shrug it off and move on to the next producer/production company/studio.
>>And if they add, " Please feel free to send us on any other material you have. " or " If you have any other material, that you feel might be of interest to us, please feel free to contact us. "
>>IE: They are not requesting more material, but leaving the door open.
>>Is this more pass politeness, or an indication of a positive response to the script.
Ron, it depends on the company. In my opinion, though, if they put it that way, then you should feel free to query again with loglines of other screenplays, and see if they'll read those scripts.
>>Also, It has been my impression, when a prodco CEO, Founder, or someone high on the food chain, personally requests material, the script enjoys a much better chance.
Definitely! And if they don't read the script themselves, they'll almost always give it to a _trusted_ reader to have comprehensive coverage done on it. At the very least, they'll read the coverage.
>>WE CAN REPRESENT YOU. But please, see information bellow.
Hmmm. I've never seen (or heard) information bellow. It might complain a little, but always in a genteel voice.
What Alyssa said, multiplied by a thousand.
Moore is a far, far left extremist propagandist making "fakeumentaries." With those credentials, he'd make a great (or should I say "typical"?) university professor. His flicks have the "look" of documentary, but they are nothing more than nasty political invective. Of course, in a non-socialist, non-communist America, he is free to express his bias in this manner. Isn't non-socialist, non-communist FREEDOM great?!
If one likes biased screeds, by all means, see the film. Aren't we lucky we live in a free society with a capitalist economy where we can do that--choose to see a film and spend our money? Or choose NOT to spend our money on any particular film?
In this case, count me in on the latter.
>>she is probably the only hope any of you people have for ever finding someone to buy your third rate screenplays. Good luck to all of you without Terri on your side. If I were her I'd use my connections to get you all blacklisted in Hollywood.
You heard it here first: Each and every one of you with an agent and/or a manager, FIRE THEM RIGHT NOW! You have NO HOPE!
Alicia, maybe you should let Terri speak for herself on this matter. You don't have to ride to her rescue with such side-splitting hyperbole. She's perfectly capable of explaining all of this script search stuff herself. I can't imagine she actually believes she is the Be All, End All, Great Guru of Hollywood, like you seem to think.
P. S. Even Michael Ovitz lost his power to blacklist people. How the mighty have fallen!
That will help you out, Randy. Moore gets exposed, big time, on that site.
And you are right--nothing we screenwriters here on this board say to one another is likely to change any minds. (I would say "C'est la vie," but I'm boycotting France.)
One thing about writers--they know what they believe. I don't think I've ever met an "undecided" writer! As Martha Stewart, in her lovely prison jumpsuit, would say: "It's a good thing."
This happens ALL of the time, I'm sorry to say. During the 1990s, I read five (yes, FIVE) King Arthur scripts within the span of two months. Go figure. The only one that got made at that time was "First Knight" (which was awful.) The others were no better.
And remember when Kevin Costner's "Robin Hood" came out? There were three Robin Hood scripts all furiously being pushed through the studios at that time. One was Costner's, and it got made. One got the booby prize and was made for TV (with Uma Thurman in it as Maid Marian, and it was dreadful), and one never got off the ground.
When "The Abyss" came out, I read no less than three undersea-heroes-battle-giant-squid-like-thingies scripts in quick succession, all of them low budget and trying to capitalize on "The Abyss"'s admittedly short coat-tails. The same year, the abysmal "DeepStar Six" was released. And that wasn't even one of the other three scripts I'd read!
I know that it may seem like some other screenwriters are secretly reading your mind and stealing your ideas, but the truth is, if your idea is high-concept enough, there is always a decent chance that someone else has thought of a variant of it, and is writing his/her own script, even as you are writing yours. It's frustrating, but it happens.
The word "defend" is not in my post, Eric. I don't know where you came up with that. And I was addressing Alicia, NOT Terri.
When a script reader covers a script (full coverage, not short coverage), he or she usually writes a synopsis that is anywhere from 2 to 4 or 5 pages long. This is done so that the executive or producer or director knows what's really going on in the screenplay. The length depends on the intricacies of the story, especially the (often maddening) complexities in the second act subplotting. Oh, and when writing coverage, you absolutely tell the reader how the story ends.
But that's what's typical for coverage purposes. What this guy wants is anyone's guess. I suppose you could make it a page or less and get away with telling just enough story to intrigue the reader. If he specifically wants a "dust jacket-type blurb" of a synopsis, I don't think you necessarily have to give away the ending.
I've never heard of bolding scene headings. I think that's just an (ill considered) attention-getter. I strenuously advise against doing it.
As for emphasizing words in dialogue and description, it's best to underline them, which is how italics are also indicated in book manuscript form. Use italics sparingly, though--only when you really need to punch home your point. If you overuse them, it defeats the purpose. If you'd like to be subtle, however, you could use regular italics. Some readers totally miss that in Courier font, though. I have to admit that I don't mind seeing italics that way, instead of indicated by underlining. But underlining is the accepted way to do it.
>>Don't underline or italicize anything, especially not dialogue; to do so is considered 'directing' the performer. Write. Leave everything else to the other collaborators.
And that's why screenwriters are treated like dogs--because they let the "collaborators" walk all over them.
In my experience, Ellum, I have seen plenty of pros use italics when they were making a point. I've had first-hand experience with their screenplays. They use italics. Not all of the time, and not in profusion, but they use them.
I think the other collaborators should respect the fact that the first person to know anything about any story is that particular writer--you know, the person who actually CREATED the story. Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts, et. al., have never created characters. They've interpreted them, sure, but they didn't create them. And a director doesn't take 120 blank pages to the set and "create" a movie. Doesn't happen. So imagine that, then: The writer--the creator--actually knowing how his own characters' dialogue sounds!
Benjamin, since the movie making process usually results in the out-and-out rape of the writer's work by the collaborators, as far as I'm concerned, at this first stage of the storytelling process, go ahead and use italics if you feel strongly about it. It's your story. If the italics (and/or parentheticals) are eventually removed in the shooting script, well, then they are removed. But right now, you, as storyteller, are master and commander, and you can do anything story-wise that you damn well please, provided the story ultimately works, and that you follow proper screenplay formatting. (Italics do not constitute an element of formatting. They're a stylistic choice, not a formatting one.)
Still, as I advised before, use italics sparingly--use only when they are meant to punch a critical point. Then they'll have the impact you desire.
That's my editorial for the evening. Good night.
The coverage would be posted on their website--giving away your entire plotline for all to see...and steal. Not wise, if you ask me. It's not the same as posting a logline, which is just the basic premise. And even that, if it's high concept enough, could be stolen. If the site allows access to the coverage only through membership and a password, you are a little better off--but just a little.
Plus, if they are going to post it on their website, do you think they're going to write HONEST coverage? Coverage that doesn't pander? They hint they will be honest, but really! They're trying to make money. If your script is bad, they aren't going to let on. After all, you're paying a hefty fee for them to post it.
They're going to stroke your script and tell everyone how wonderful it is, whether the script deserves it or not. If it was unflattering, even scathing coverage, would you want that posted for Hollywood types to see? I wouldn't (especially if the scathing coverage is true!)
If these guys intend to be fair in their coverage, and post it, warts and all, then are they going to protect your name? Or is that posted right along with your coverage? What about the title of your script? If that's posted with bad coverage, even if they leave off your name, your title is out there--attached to a brutal review. What do you do now, if you want to send out your script with that title? You have no idea who is reading that site. Some titles are so distinctive that they really stick in the mind. If yours is distinctive, but you have harsh coverage, you might get fewer and fewer chances to send in your script, if many executives read that posting. Even if your name is not attached to the coverage, you'll have to give at least a logline in your letter/communications to the execs about your story. If that premise, plus your title, rings a not-so-positive bell, you may be rejected outright. Or your script could end up in the circular file as soon as it arrives.
If that doesn't deter you, let me say that $250 is pretty expensive for garden variety coverage. (By the way--I couldn't find that $$$ info on the website. They only have one page posted, at least at the moment I write this, with a COMING SOON at the bottom. Have they deleted anything in the last few days? Where did that dollar amount come from? I'm just using that number here, presuming you are correct about the information.) What your $250 is paying for, in this case, in my opinion, is having the coverage posted online.
And this free offer at the moment? Sounds good on the surface, but I agree that they are only doing it so that they can have something to show online--and entice other writers to give up their hard earned money. Even free, with the potential damage to the aspirations you have for your screenplay, in my opinion, it's not worth it.
If they were offering for-your-eyes-only STORY NOTES for $250 dollars, on the other hand, which would not be posted anywhere (it's no one else's business, anyway), then $250 is a bargain. But that's assuming they are good at writing story notes--a big assumption. Who knows? They may very well be. That's not what's being offered, though.
I've never submitted to the Disney Fellowships because I've always been concerned about this: If you are selected as a fellow, everything (!) you've ever written that has not been sold or is not currently under option becomes Disney's for the taking, if they want it (of course, I know they have to pay you.)
Can they FORCE you to sell to them something you may not want to sell? The very idea of surrendering everything to them gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Can anyone clarify if I'm right about this, or if, instead, I have misinterpreted their rules?
This is what appears under their Guidelines & FAQs:
Q: Who owns the rights to the materials that I submit for entrance to the Fellowship Program and/or materials that I previously created?
A: You will retain ownership in such material. However, if you are selected as a Fellow, any material written by you prior to the term of the Fellowship Program and currently controlled and/or owned by you must be disclosed in writing and Disney and ABC will have an "Exclusive First Look" at such material whereby Disney and ABC shall have the option to purchase such material from you in accordance with the policies and terms outlined in the Fellowship Program contract.
...I certainly don't like the sound of that! Does anyone else agree that it says what I think it says?
>>Who wouldn't accept the chance to show their work to Disney and have the chance to sell it? What exactly are you afraid of?
My favorite of all of my screenplays is one that I wrote for myself to direct. From the words FADE IN: onward, that was my intent. Before you laugh it up, I have an MFA in filmmaking from USC. After surviving that killer program, let's just say I know a little something about filmmaking. So the idea of me directing my own feature screenplay is not exactly preposterous.
I'm not selling that particular script unless I direct it. If it never sells for that reason, well, then it never sells. THAT I can live with. But what I wouldn't be able to live with is having that screenplay swept away from me, because of some legal language, to which I would be bound, in the Disney Fellowship agreement. And if by some wild, remote chance I happened to be selected for the program, that script would be left unprotected. I'm sorry, but Disney is the WRONG company for it. And do you honestly think they would let me direct it? This is Disney we're talking about. I'd never be nuts enough to think they would.
Sure, winning a Disney Fellowship is a very, very, VERY long shot. I'm aware of that. I don't kid myself that the odds would fall in my favor. But even with those long odds, I don't want to risk it. My other screenplays? Hell. Sure. Make an offer. But that one? Not unless I direct it.
You may think that makes me crazy or delusional. Too bad. That's the way I feel. Besides, there are plenty of other contests out there to enter.
Does that answer your question?
If Barb Doyon only charges $50, and if she is, as all accounts indicate, terrific at her job, then you ARE getting a bargain. I'd jump at the chance for pro coverage in a minute at that rate. What a deal!
Both of these posts have such good info in them! There's a lot to think about here. I'll get to it tomorrow.
But seriously, these are great ideas. Sue sounds very organized, and I like her suggestion about slashing TV time, shopping time, and other things that just fritter away minutes and hours, if we let them.
And Gil, you are right about getting that one page done per day. More often than not, if you're doing that, then you'll likely end up writing more than one. And even if you don't, guess what? In four months, you have a screenplay. Of course, the writing is the fun part. It's all of the researching, which is usually essential to the kinds of stories I write, that gets me bogged down, and makes the actual writing seem such a long way off.
"Bringing Up Baby" (okay it's screwball comedy, but it's also RomCom), "The Quiet Man" (romantic comedy-drama), "Sabrina" (the original and the remake.)
In my opinion, if you write the screenplay well the first time, you only need one version. Besides, it becomes way too hard to track--which version did I send to whom? You'll go crazy. I personally would never do it.
Michele, you said:
"As an example: I'm very careful when I write dialogue for my characters, to keep it "above the nose." People have commented favorably on my dialogue -- that it's subtle and that my Characters don't all sound alike."
You are WAY ahead of the game, then, if you are always conscious that your characters must not all sound alike. I can't tell you how important that is. It's the blending together of many characters with the same voice that can make a screenplay utterly [i]forgettable.[/i]
>However, I've noticed that occasionally readers miss what's been said by one of my characters and understood by another! And I'm puzzled -- I think that if I made it any clearer it would be way too "on the nose."
As someone who has read awful on-the-nose dialogue in a gazillion scripts, I say "Bless you, my child". You know what? If a reader doesn't get the subtlety in your screenplay, it's my opinion that he or she should NOT be entrusted with being "the gatekeeper" (as readers are sometimes called.) You can't be clueless re: subtlety if you are going to be a good reader. Then again, it's also possible for a screenwriter to write something that is so darn oblique and obscure that no one gets it. Try not to do that.
You also said:
"When you're watching a movie, you have the benefit of hearing the words spoken with inflection, seeing the actors' expressions, and of course you see their movements and their surroundings. When all of that is in place, the same line could sound ridiculously obvious."
When I read a well-written screenplay, I am seeing it and hearing it. No actors needed at that stage. I'm seeing characters come to life. I play the movie in my head as I read (but I was also trained as a director, so that helps a lot.) When it's all working, the characters are completely natural and empathetic. They're "reel real." The words coming out of their mouths sound minty fresh. The settings and scenery (not the same thing) are vivid, and the plot has me by the throat, even if it's just a "little" story. That's the spell the writer needs to cast, and if it's successfully pulled off, then any reader who still doesn't get it should definitely consider another line of work.
"I've talked with others who've been told by their reps that they need to worry less about subtle dialogue and get the point across clearly -- the opposite of what we're working so hard to accomplish. "
Write to please YOU, to tell your story with depth and subtlety. If the readers have a clue, and your script is great, they won't miss a thing--neither in your characterizations nor in your careful plotting. Of course, if you are writing a mindless action piece, your story on the page will more than likely be loud and obnoxious and pretty obvious at every turn. But it still has to be compelling. It still has to work as a screen story.
One last comment re: the above. Sometimes you have to be subtle, and sometimes you have to hit your audience over the head. The real trick (and mastery) is knowing when to use which approach.
"I can see the benefit of writing one way for a reader who would be considering your script -- based on the story line, and another way for a director -- who will be looking at the script with an eye toward how it would film. But you generally have to get past the reader to get to the director!"
Write one version. If it's wonderful, a good reader will see it immediately, and pass it along the chain of command. If it gets into a prospective director's hands, they will be shaking with delight and desire. He (or she) will "see" it, all right. He won't be able to put the script down, and then he can't wait to get it on to the screen.
No "special edition" of your script is necessary. Just be brilliant, that's all. (Brilliant...and then lucky!)
I see my sad attempt to italicize "forgettable" failed miserably. So how come that works on some boards and not on this one? she asked in html desperation.
>>>Do exactly what you did, except you want to use < and > for brackets instead of [ and ].
Or should I say Thanks, Jerry!
I submitted two scripts. Got one letter today saying that one of my scripts did not make the final 323 out of a record 6,073 entries. However, Greg Beal cryptically wrote at the bottom of my letter "Better news to follow." Should I be cautiously optimistic? I'm waiting with bated breath (or baited breath--for you fish lovers.)
>>Great news, Paula! Hope your script goes all the way to the top.
From your lips to God's ear, Sue. Until I hear something concrete, though, I'm just going to keep crossing my fingers until I know for sure...
Okay, Z. Core. I'll take your word for it.
>>Watch out for being incouraged to death.
Ron, as someone once said to me when I was still living in LaLaLand: "Hollywood kills you with hope."
That's the screenwriter-in-Hollywood experience in a nutshell.
The Vikings is one of my favorite historical adventure films. Glad to see someone here also appreciates it. Gotta love those fjords.
"Odin! Odin! Send a wind and turn the tide! Odin!"
Doesn't it make you crazy that a script that did well in previous competitions sails past the contest people the next time around? It really is all about the readers you get, and if they can appreciate your style and the script's genre, or whether they are in a good (or bad) mood that day, or if they are worried about picking up the kids from school, and not your story, etc. Luck, dammit, luck. That's what Hollywood is all about in terms of breaking in.
I finally got back from my trip today, and the Nicholl letter saying that I've advanced to the quarterfinal round was waiting for me. So it's official. I'm very pleased.
Have a great time, Randy, and good luck. There's nothing like going into production and watching your words come to life.
Thanks, you guys. I appreciate it very much.
Elizabeth, let's streamline it: They are offering you no money whatsoever for your pilot script, and they intend to cut you out of any further involvement in a show you have created--once they get you to sign on the dotted line.
My advice: If you don't like being screwed over, run away from this "offer" as fast as your feet can carry you.
I live by one of my favorite screenwriting instructors' advice: If they like it enough, they'll pay you for it.
And if they offer to pay you for it, get everything in writing, and use an entertainment lawyer to make sure all monies, involvement, and conditions are spelled out. And don't settle for a dollar option, or a hundred dollars. That's not enough. And don't settle for an open-ended option, because otherwise you will lose control over your material. Make them state it's for a year. Since they are such jerks at this point, I wouldn't offer an option for over a year. If they want to renew the option, keep the renewal to a year, too. And demand more money for the second option. If they aren't willing to do this, they are unworthy of your trust.
Don't become yet another victim of unscrupulous "producers" bent on fleecing you of your creative and intellectual property. Protect yourself and your work.
Oh, and the acting thing? Forget it. They are paying you lip service. They'll say anything at this point, because they want what you have, and they want to get it for free, if possible. Don't fall for it. If they want the project, they'll pay for it. And if they're worth anything, they'll be willing to pay, and they'll put everything in writing.
Keep copies of all of your correspondence with them in a very safe place. If they back away from your pilot because they don't want to pay you, your "idea" may appear in a show they "create" at a later date. You'll need all of your documentation for a lawsuit, if this happens.
This is my opinion. Others may have a different take on it.
>>Okay big question? Would you rather have come home to Ed McMahon with that big PCH check or your Nichol notice of Quarters?
If it was the $10 Million prize (as opposed to their smaller prizes), I'd take the money. Why? Because I know how to make movies, and I would love to make one right now. I just lack the financing to do it.
In lieu of that, I'll stick with the Quarterfinals...
Hmmm. Rather catchy. I like it!
As for this competition inspiring confidence? I don't know. I had tons of confidence and experience when I lived in Southern California for nearly eleven years, and it got me exactly nowhere. So it's hard to get charged up at this point. If it turns into something tangible somewhere down the line (if it miraculously moves on in the competition, for example), then I'll do handsprings. But if not, it's not the end of the world. I'll just keep writing.
Thanks for your good wishes!
Yes. I'll work on a different part of the screenplay. While I'm doing that, I'm still doing "brain work" on the difficult scene. At least I'm writing while I'm trying to get that other scene to fall into place.
I don't completely write in sequence, so I've gotten used to working on other parts of a story (I always have an outline, of course) when I'm stuck somewhere else.
There's nothing new on their website as of two minutes ago, which I'm guessing you already checked out.
Seeing as how that wasn't supposed to be posted until tomorrow, I thank you for the head's up on this.
I made the cut. Woo!
Isn't that cool, Michele? Carolyn must be very proud--as well she should be.
I think it might be because comedy, to some people (possibly script reviewers), seems so much "easier" to write than drama. Of course, the opposite is true, IMO. It's much harder to make an audience laugh than it is to make them cry, because virtually all people find the same sorts of things sad, while the sense of humor is much more elusive, and varies wildly from one person to the next.
Here's a comedy contest for you to consider:
It's new this year.
In defense of comedies, it is my opinion that they are a much easier sell when one is looking for a distributor, especially if it's a low budget indie. Think the 250K "Swingers."
If I had 200-400K to make a feature, I'd make a comedy. No doubt about it.
>>How much does an entry level screenwriting job, like being a script reader, pay? Has anyone gone this route in LA or NYC and endorses it? And what other entry level jobs are there?
Well, a reader isn't really an extension of a screenwriting job. But it does teach you tons about the craft. I recommend that any screenwriter do it, at least for a little while, and if the opportunity arises.
As a reader, one usually starts as an unpaid intern (that's how I started), and if you're lucky and good, you'll get to freelance the job after you prove yourself.
When I started out doing paid coverage way back when, I'd get $40 per script. It gradually went up to $45, then $50, and on up. You can reasonably read and write coverage for two scripts a day. I've done three sometimes, but end up with the worst eye strain. I don't recommend three a day.
I got completely sick of writing coverage after a few years, though, and have only written story notes since--which are much more in-depth and time consuming, but at least I don't have to write synopses any more!
Story notes are worth a lot more, and I worked my way up to a decent price per script. And then I got sick of that, too, although I still do it occasionally.
But if your desire is to be a full-time filmmaker, you'll eventually get sick of either of those jobs. I did. I just do analysis and consulting now to make extra money.
Other entry level jobs, of course, are as production assistants (P.A.s). The pay is crap, but you learn a lot. But you can get stuck in that job, like any other job that's not your heart's desire, so be aware of that. If you work as a P.A., make sure you don't do it too long, or you'll never escape. And you'll never be able to pay your bills.
Yeah, that's me, Curt, although I've known about it since July 1st. The ten of us are just waiting on the final outcome now, and we should hear something pretty soon.
>>Would you say script reading or story notes something you can do while working a "real" or paying job?
Yes, as long as you can find someone who will give you work, and be okay with you e-mailing your coverage to them instead of you having to deliver hard copies during the middle of the week--when you're at your other job. The latter part shouldn't be a problem. Attach a Word file to an e-mail--that’s easy. That should be perfectly acceptable to the head of development at any company, if you ask me. You can also snail mail coverage, but if they need it right away, e-mail's a much better choice. But the real trick is finding someone who will give work to you.
If you are anywhere near a city that has feature film production companies (not necessarily just L. A. or New York), query them about doing coverage. If you are desperately determined to break in, tell them you'll start as an unpaid intern in exchange for them giving you scripts to read and cover. Then tell them that if they like your work, you'd want to freelance after, say, three or four months of proving yourself as an intern, and see if they'll bite. If they say "we don't need anyone at this time," bug them every month or so. They won't be able to forget you that way, and if a position opens up, you'll be available.
If you are working full time, don't expect to comfortably read more than two or three scripts a week for them, at night and on weekends. You could, of course, read more, but then you will have no life at all. But then again, you might want to impress them (to start, anyway) by reading more. It matters how you feel about it, and what their expectations are.
>>And by the way, congrats on the contest! I see your name on the boards all the time and it is nice to see a familiar face (or name) succeed. :)
Thank you very much--although "winning" and "succeeding" are two different things. Winning (or just placing or showing or even semi-finaling) in a contest feels great. But to me, success is making a living off of the thing you love, and I'm not making a living as a screenwriter/filmmaker yet. And who knows if I ever will? I hope so, but I'm trying to be realistic. If you count from the time I first said to myself "I think I want to go to film school" to now, it's been over 18 1/2 years. That's a long time to try to hold on to one dream without seeing real results. Sometimes I wonder if I should keep at it. It all depends on how long I want to torture myself, I suppose!
Thank you again for your good wishes.
Anyone else having trouble trying to connect to the American Zoetrope site? I haven't been able to log on at all today.
Thanks, ladies. It must be a server thing.
I queried by e-mail because of the same thing, and received a reply that it was, in fact, a mistake. The list that's up there now is correct. Unfortunately, my screenplay did not advance. Oh, well. That's show biz.
Good luck to you, Betsy, on the rest of the competition!
10202 W. Washington Blvd, Astaire 2410
Culver City, CA 90232
Her prodco deal is with Sony.
You're welcome, Doreen. I found that info on a website, so I hope it's current. You might want to give them a quick call to confirm.
I've done both this year, and am surprised at how relatively easy it was to apply (and pay) online.
But I still like the process of getting all of my materials ready, sliding them into a big manila envelope, and heading off to the post office. It's a very satisfying ritual, like I'm accomplishing something concrete. I don't know why it feels that way. All I'm doing is mailing a script. But if feels good to mail it the old fashioned way.
I expect to see more competitions offering online submissions in the future. What makes me curious about the process is whether the contest organizers print out the screenplays and distribute them to readers, or if they just forward the .pdf files to them.
>>But if feels good...
But IT feels good... Sheesh.
Carolyn, you caught it from me. LOL!
I don't have a laptop, so I just hate sitting at my desktop computer and reading scripts. I like reading them the old-fashioned way: holding the script in my hand (and NOT double sided scripts, either.)
If I had a laptop, and could lounge on the couch or sit in a comfortable chair while I read, that would be fine. But this big old honkin' Dell Dimension with its 60 pound 19" monitor will not fit on my lap!
Someone on the Done Deal board got a congrats letter today (making it to the semifinals), and someone at American Zoetrope reported a dink.
I have not received anything as yet re: semifinals. Has anyone else gotten anything?
Today packed a double whammy, as I received my Nicholl letter (did not advance to semis) and my Austin letter (second rounder--did not advance to semis). Got a very nice personal note in the Austin letter, though, which read "You have a true talent. It was a pleasure reading this script." It was signed by the director of the competition, so thank you, Dawn W., for the pick-me-up.
Now I suppose it's back to work on the next 120 page lump of paper...
I did get some decent resume enhancement out of the experience, so it's not a total loss. I'm more than happy to put those particular results on the old CV.
I have, in fact, entered another half dozen or so contests this year, so we'll see if I can do a little better elsewhere. If not, I guess what I've got thus far wasn't all that bad.
Thank you, Peter and Sue (and everyone else.)
I'm pretty much over it, a day later. The older I get the easier it is. I'm working on another project, anyway, so that's got my attention, and it prevents me from brooding.
Woo, Jill! I'm assuming you mean you advanced this year, not in a previous year, so congratulations!
I got my packet about the discount today, a day after I got my dink. So, in my case, there was no mistaking what it meant.
Jill and April:
Donna, I used Word for years, wrote a style sheet for screenplay formatting, and it worked fine, EXCEPT...it could not automatically repaginate (with proper breaks in dialogue over different pages) when I edited and re-wrote my script. I had to do that by hand, and it could be tedious after a while.
I had to put up with it, though, because at the time I could not afford screenwriting software. Then one year, while attending Showbiz Expo in L.A., I saw that Screenplay Systems (now called Write Brothers, Inc.) was offering their formatter, ScriptThing, for $160. That was a huge bargain at the time, so I bought it.
I've used it ever since, although now it is better known as Movie Magic Screenwriter.
I love Movie Magic. I find it quite flexible, and easy to use. It is also easy to keep up-to-date over the web with downloads.
And I particularly love the ability to turn a screenplay into a .pdf file with the click of a button.
So that's my recommendation. You can check it out at www.screenplay.com.
The following link brings you to the page that compares Movie Magic with Final Draft. It's on the Movie Magic website, so keep that in mind. They are, of course, promoting their own product.
I have friends that have used Final Draft for many years and love it. I know it's also a very good program, and you wouldn't go wrong picking that one, either. But I'm just so happy with Movie Magic that I'm going to stay with it.
Oh, there is also a formatter called Sophocles (http://www.sophocles.net/), which a lot of people like. Check it out.
In a movie, teasing the audience is one thing. Teasing the script reader who may or may not pass your screenplay up the food chain is another matter. I agree with Jill and Paula. Put in the dates.
Jill, someone on the Done Deal board was curious about this very topic. Was that you? I only glanced at the post and wasn't paying close attention to the poster's name.
My guess is that you'll get your letter...tomorrow! Snail mail cannot match the speed of postings on the web. I think the cyber news outstripped Mr. Mailman in this case.
Well, if he wasn't paying me money to do a rewrite based on his notes (whether they were useful notes or non-sensical ones), I'd be saying "Good-bye, mister."
But that's just me.
>>terms of commercial potential, I don't think it's got a snowball's chance.
April, first of all, congrats!
Secondly (re: paragraph above), I'll only say--you never know.
Rosemary Clooney's biggest hit ("Come On-A My House") was a song she considered just a throw-away--something to help fill an album. She didn't think anything about it at all! And she never had a bigger hit.
Entertainment (including Hollywood) is full of stories like that. You just never know!
Ron, I once received (from a smart-alecky friend) a birthday card that had a flower child (love beads, peace sign, the works) on the front, and it said "Remember 'groovy'?"
...and on the inside it said...
Randy, don't fret about your script being over 120 pages. I've covered plenty of screenplays over that length. If (a big if) the stories were compelling, it didn't matter to me in the least. If you've written a killer screenplay, Hollywood (or independent investors) won't care, either.
I agree that it's better to start with either a finished treatment or outline. You do need to know how your story ends, after all. But if your ending comes to you eventually, and it works well, then you don't really have a problem!
Check out SellAScript.com and Scriptshark.com
Steve, the subject matter does not interest me, but I imagine if you talked money--at least indicated in your post that there is payment involved--then there'd likely be someone here willing to discuss a rewrite with you.
Payment for a writer's services is expected. Think in the thousands. That's what it's going to take to entice a good writer to do this rewrite for you. If you are offering a job, be sure to indicate that monetary compensation will accompany it.
I guarantee you, if you are paying money, some screenwriter will step up to the plate!
Randy, that was very kind of you. What a nice surprise to see it this morning!
Thank you very much!
Dang! My computer's in the shop for three days, and I miss all of the excitement. This is great news!
Worldfest Houston accepts adaptations in Drama and Comedy.
>>If it's in public domain does it count as an adaptation? Because it's not like rights are involved.
Yes, that's true, but it's still not an original work, so I don't know if you can get away with it. If I did a straightforward adaptation of "Hamlet," I think someone would notice I wasn't the original author!
>>Not to poo on your parade, Paula, but WorldFest Houston is such a gyp in my mind.
>>It costs 85.00 and you don't get any money out of it if you win!
Oh, I know, Barbara. Their prices just keep going up, too. But it's the only contest I can think of that accepts adaptations. Yes, it's way too expensive for essentially nothing in return, if you win.
>>I won gold and didn't get a single request. No comments. Nothing.
Yeah, back when "gold" was the top prize (now they've got "platinum" as the top prize in each category), I won my category (science fiction/fantasy) with a fantasy comedy. I actually did get some minor feedback by phone. The woman I talked to said that everyone who'd read my script was just cracking up. She'd read it, too. They thought it was hilarious. So at least some people (other than myself) thought it was funny!
But you're right. Not much came of it. I got three requests, but they didn't go anywhere, because the companies that contacted me were small, and my script was written for a big studio budget.
I think, at the very least, Worldfest Houston could give back your entry fee if you win. That would be a little something.
Still, a win's a win, even if only for resume purposes. I put my Worldfest win on my resume. Can't hurt.
Anyone else know of any other competitions that accept adaptations?
Casey, here are the ten finalists. I copied and pasted this from the moviebytes home page:
This year's finalists are (listed alphabetically by script title):
“Cray Fenwick,” David Page, Baltimore, Maryland
“Escher,” Jonathan Goldman, Santa Monica, California
“Fenian’s Trace,” Sean Mahoney, Nicasio, California
“For One or For All,” Karyn Taylor, Marina Del Rey, California
“The Gaza Golem,” Daniel Lawrence, Los Angeles
“Letter Quest,” Doug Davidson, Baldwin, New York
“Pompeii,” Justin Jones and Nick Garey, Los Angeles
“The Secret Boy,” Whit Rummel, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
“Split Infinity,” John Sinclair and Nova Jacobs, Los Angeles
“Yonkheer,” Wendy Henson, Tualatin, Oregon
Casie, my apologies for misspelling your name.
Hey, Jill--congrats! That must be a helluva screenplay!
That one's too easy, you guys.
But I won't give it away if you are really trying to stump people.
That script must be killer. I've seen so many wins by this particular screenplay posted on the web in the last year. I can't believe a prodco or studio hasn't bought it--or at least optioned it.
Congrats to Danny Howell! Now, some company be smart and buy that script.
...or is it just me? I haven't been able to connect for two days.
>>My experience as a script reader for major studios has proven to me that many of the best ideas make for really awful scripts.
Jeremy, I've been doing analysis/consulting for nearly sixteen years, and I couldn't agree with you more. A well-written logline guarantees nothing! You've got to read a script in order to recommend it and/or the writer, or to pass on it. The only thing that guarantees whether or not a screenwriter can write is his or her screenplay(s). The proof is in the pudding.
Thanks, PJ. With luck the site will be up Monday morning.
Yeah, now it's 2:35 p.m. EDT, and nothing. I have no idea what's going on.
Just picked up a phone message (I was gone all day) saying I advanced, too. That was quite nice to hear!
Dang! Well, I guess we'll throw in the towel now, Michael. (Just ribbing ya, Danny!)
Hey, Michael--at least they spelled your name right. They didn't capitalize the "S" in my last name... (it happens all of the time.)
More problems at Zoe? I tried loading pages last night and today, and while they begin to load, they don't finish, and I can't do anything on the board.
Anyone else having this problem?
>>we would like to offer you the opportunity to move your project into development with us through the fee-based consulting services we provide to writers that we feel have promising material
This is a kick-back scam. Run away! Run away!
Randy, thank you.
Barb, great post!
>>“Does this script have a wide enough audience that’ll make them a return on their investment?”
That's the crux of it. As someone I know always said: "It's not called 'Show Art.' It's called 'Show Business.'"
Production companies and studios want to know precisely that: Is there enough of an audience for a project to justify the dollars poured into it?
>>The three-Act structure has been around since the days of the caveman. ... When you’re starting out in this business the chances of selling something that deviates from the “norm” is almost impossible.
Exactly. As a screenwriter, you have to prove convincingly that you know three-act structure before you explode structure (and expect someone to buy it.)
Hey, way to go, Aaron! Congrats!
I couldn't agree more with Rock. If they're charging you money, run away! They're just taking you for a ride.
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah (a couple of weeks late, I know, but nevertheless...), and Happy New Year!
Free? I've never heard of any. If you want to workshop your script and get peer reviews, though, you can post your script on American Zoetrope's site: www.zoetrope.com. Or you might consider joining a new site called The Writers Building (www.thewritersbuilding.org.) It costs $25 a year (it's a registered non-profit group), and it, like Zoetrope, offers peer review of screenplays.
I sent an e-mail to TWB administration's address and copied you on it, using the e-mail address in your Moviebytes bio. If you don't get my e-mail, though, contact TWB at: firstname.lastname@example.org. They should be able to help you figure out what the registration problems are.
Gil, if you are still having problems registering, Mike Murphy of TWB gave me this e-mail address so that you may contact him:
Let him know what the problems are, and he'll walk you through (and around) any registration issues or quirks that may arise.
I agree, Z (may I call you "Z"?)
Congrats to Danny and to all who advanced in TFI...!
Screenwriting is an art and a craft. I've said this on another board, but I'll repeat it here:
Craft makes it filmable.
Art makes it memorable.
Congrats to Carolyn Haywood, Vicky Neal, Barb Doyon, and my old pal from my Hollywood days Laurel DiGangi (Way to go, Laurel!) on their first round wins in the 20/20 screenwriting competition! Wooooo!
Sorry if I missed anyone else from Moviebytes. Feel free to add your congrats to anyone you know on the list.
You'll have to talk about your educational background for starters, because you don't really have credits. Then write about the kind of projects you've written in school, and those that you currently have in the works. And write down other interests, skills, and abilities. It will show that you are a well-rounded person. A broad background can be attractive to an employer, because one of your skills may be just what someone is looking for. Or, in the case of writing, a certain skill or interest that you have may be the knowledge that the producer needs for the project.
Depending on where you live, volunteer for any productions you can, even if it is just as an unpaid production assistant. Then you can add those to your resume, and you'll be learning more as you go, too.
I'm a Christian and already well trained as a screenwriter, but that didn't help me break in. Hollywood is actively anti-Christian. I know--I've been there, seen that, felt the hostility. I'm afraid if Act One wants to see spiritual films, they (and other Christians with big bucks) will have to make those films themselves.
Does Act One (or its parent company) have any plans to produce films in the future? That, it seems to me, is the best way to go.
>>Where you might really make out if someone sees the short film and wants to expand it into a feature length film. Then it's time to negotiate some deal,
Kim and Randy,
It's my opinion that you must make sure you have it in writing UP FRONT that any feature made from this short will be written by YOU (and that the filmmakers of the short have no right to make an expanded version without your participation), and that you'll get to negotiate appropriate fees for the feature screenplay.
Don't wait to negotiate this after the short has been filmed and sent around town (or around the country)! If you give away the rights up front to the short, with no other agreement in place, you could get burned. You don't want to be cut out of your own story.
>>You don't need to worry about the short film making money and getting a share of that.
I agree. But on the off chance it does make money (I don't know where that would or could occur, but stranger things have been known to happen), make sure there is some provision for deferred payment for the short film script, just in case it does happen.
>>They want to adapt my screenplay into a feature. Apparently they’ve had an idea and when they read my script it filled in some areas for them.
Well, how nice for them. You did story work for them, and you didn't even know it. And now they want your story for "free" so they can improve their feature screenplay! Your answer should be "no." They aren't offering you a dime.
>>They’ve offered for me to write on spec
What a generous offer...not! Have they said who will own the finished script, if you do write on spec? If it's on spec, YOU should own it. Obviously, they were not capable of doing it themselves.
This is always my contention when people are looking for a feature screenplay: If they could do it themselves, they would. So if they can't, then they must be ready to pay someone who can.
>>I’m not all that interested in writing for some small producer with only a glimmer of hope in receiving payment.
That is wise of you. Don't fall for their song and dance. And let them know in uncertain terms that if your ideas end up in their feature film--sans any pay and rights ownership agreement with you--then they'll be talking to your lawyer very, very soon...
That should say "NO uncertain terms."
Richard peers through the microfiche viewer to see newspaper headlines, reading “Horrible Terrible Things,” “Awful, Awful, Awful,” and “This Is Despicable!” As page after page flips by, the headlines become more lurid.
Richard, stunned, looks away from the viewer.
That’s one way to do it. You could also do something like:
Richard peers through the microfiche viewer.
INSERT: A series of newspaper headlines. “HORRIBLE TERRIBLE THINGS,” “AWFUL, AWFUL, AWFUL,” and “THIS IS DESPICABLE!”
As page after page flips by, the headlines become more lurid.
Richard, stunned, looks away from the viewer.
I don't see anything wrong with it. You are going there to learn the basics of filmmaking. It doesn't automatically mean you'll turn into a Bollywood filmmaker. Your style is your own.
It's usually done with a number of treatments, so you save some money.
But you also can do a "The Collected Screenplays of So-and-So" thing, if you want. If a production company wants a separate copyright, change a word or two in the script in question and copyright it as a revised version. It will then have a separate copyright.
I believe you can still use the PA form, but e-mail the copyright office and query them about it.
Try posting on www.myentertainmentworld.com and mandy.com. These both have listings for many parts of the world. In the case of mandy.com, all over the world. That could get you started on locating a crew for your project.
I know! I just saw it. Way to go!
Congrats to my friend Laurel DiGangi on her finalist status in the Find the Funny competition for her screenplay "I'm With Cupid."
Way to go, Laurel! I hope you win!
Thank you, Steve. And a happy and blessed Easter to you, too!
Congrats to Bob!
Go here: http://www.mpaa.org/movieratings/
and here: http://www.tvguidelines.org/ratings.asp
>>I'm wrapping up a script that I set asside to do a writing assignment last year (that I still never got paid for... grrr).
John, for future reference: If someone is hiring you for an assignment, they must pay you half the money up front and half when you turn in the screenplay. This needs to be in writing, signed by both parties.
If it is a more lucrative assignment, the payout is usually in thirds: 1/3 when you start, 1/3 halfway through the script, and 1/3 on delivery.
Don't take future assignments without a deal in writing! This will ensure that you get paid when you're supposed to get paid, and will ensure the amount upon which the two parties have agreed.
Laurel, you're a gem. Thank you! And I am so proud of your accomplishments! I'll call you as soon as this mega-cold lets me sound like a human being again when I speak (maybe later tonight...)
Oh, man, John--that had to be a very trying experience! It would have made me pull out my hair. Clearly it was a more complicated scenario--and one that became more and more difficult as it progressed. I'm glad you escaped (relatively) unscathed!
Has anyone else entered this contest? I did, but a month or so ago, on the Zoetrope website, a poster said he had gotten his entry fee returned, and the contest was off (not enough scripts entered.)
So I have repeatedly tried to e-mail the contest to find out whether or not it has been cancelled, and if it has, when I can expect my money back.
Nothing. Zip. No answer. A completely full mailbox. My e-mails constantly returned as undeliverable.
If anyone has any information on Northern Lights, I'd love to hear what you've heard.
Jeremy, how did they send your money back? Was it via something like PayPal, or did they send you a check?
Thanks, Cynthia. At least you got your money back!
When did they send it to you? Was it recently? I want to know if I should still hold out any hope that I'll get my money back.
The Nicholl Fellowships.
James, that is an inspiring story. Congratulations! I hope the film does so well that it opens the doors wide for your next project (and the next, and the next!)
>>Why would they repay some and not others?
Maybe because they had already used some of the money for administrative purposes, like paying script readers to get started on reading. So when they finally realized they did not have enough entrants or cash to continue, they paid back some of the writers, but not everyone, because they ran out of money. That's my guess.
(Thank you for getting back to me on this, by the way!)
I think I have to write off this contest as a complete loss. My e-mails to their various contact addresses keep getting bounced back to me.
In the forum at Moviebytes, we're pretty much all screenwriters in the same boat. The best place (and the most effective, if you are looking for work) for your ad is probably in the classifieds section.
Beth, I just e-mailed them. I hope I get the same quick results you did!
Beth, thank you so much for your helpful information. I received my PayPal refund this morning.
Congratulations, Deb! I hope this is the start of many good things!
Congrats to all, but especially to Laurel, Carolyn, and Barb!
Oh, count me in, Dinah. I've been sick of the "ing" titles for years!
Orlanda is correct, Sean. "Co-writing" means 50/50. If your friend resists this, and you agree to his "counting" words after you finish the screenplay, then you may end up not being friends in the end.
I've collaborated before, but not on feature screenplays. I won't ever do it. It's too hard to co-write features, in my opinion, although many writers love it. It's just not for me. When I know exactly what I want to write, I don't want another writer telling me no.
Good luck, Marc. I hope this is a great new venture for you.
I'm going to be generous in my letter grade for the film and give it a "C." I guess that would be simply to acknowledge the end of an era, otherwise I'd be harsher. This film was better than the last two films, but that's not saying much.
So many missed character development opportunities, I can't even begin to count them.
And I cannot get over how wooden the acting was. Have you ever seen Samuel L. Jackson so bad in a film (not counting his other Star Wars appearances)? And I won't even start on Hayden C. Ugh. Ewan McGregor tried, and I enjoyed him, but the dialogue was pretty bad, so he could only do so much with it.
Too much battle and not enough character work! I got tired of lightsabers swordfights. I never thought I'd say that, but this was overkill.
>>Will someone ever tell you, "You suck, don't quit your day job"?
If they tell you that after your first screenplay, shame on them. Everyone has to start somewhere, and first (and second) scripts usually aren't very good. You're simply learning at that point. Don't beat yourself up. Just keep writing and reading other screenplays, and you'll improve.
However, if several of your readers tell you "You suck, don't quit your day job" after your twelfth script, then they may be on to something... ;-)
Have you checked out this guy? If you've checked out his credits on the web (particularly www.imdb.com), and he's there, and you're satisfied he is legitimate, by all means, send him your new script!
Having read many scripts where someone had turned back the prongs of the brads...let me assure you that they still catch on things and can cut you very easily. I think it's even worse than just pushing back the prongs the normal way.
On my own scripts, I pound the brads with a rubber-headed mallet. It makes the brad prongs in the back nice and flat and tight to the script. No cuts, and no snagged or ruined clothes!
I'm with you, David. Twenty-four hours? No way. I wouldn't even try.
I went to the website out of curiosity, and apparently the challenge is for a short screenplay, not a full length one. That makes it a little bit better.
Congratulations to Carolyn Haywood for being one of three winners in the most recent 20/20 contest!
I'm with you, Terri. A big option--we're talkin' significant money that indicates they're serious about making the film--then sure. No problem. But the dollar option? No way. I wouldn't care how famous the producer was. I simply wouldn't do it. If they want it badly enough, they'll buy it.
But if writers do option for relatively low cash ($1,000-$5,000), the shorter the option, the better. Most people will want to lock in a year, and that's understandable. If the option money was closer to $5,000, I'd definitely let them have it for a year.
I would allow a project to be optioned once--maybe twice. But after that, it would have to be a sale, or nothing (unless further option money was significant enough that you could live on it for a year!)
That is absolutely the default, Jamie, so don't fret about it. Also, the top page number and margin are also a default. They may look like a cheat, but they aren't. Don't sweat it.
George, in my experience, there has to be something to like about the protagonist, or the script is unlikely to sell.
I do not think "likeable" is the same as "interesting" and/or "relateable." And those characteristics are not necessarily relagated only to the protagonist. The antagonist also can be interesting and relatable--even likeable to some extent. But he's still the bad guy, and in the end, he's going down! Somehow, he will be thwarted by the protagonist.
A good example is the character of Roy Batty, the antagonist in "Blade Runner."
Thank you for saying it all, George. I hated this movie. Hated everything about it. Awful!
Well, her price is not out of line in the least, if that's what concerns you. It's very similar to mine. But unlike her, I don't suggest I'll take you on as a client if I like your script. That's not what I do. All I do is write comprehensive story notes for the serious screenwriter. After that, getting your improved screenplay sold or represented is your job.
So exactly what you're seeking out of a consultant is up to you. If she sounds like a good fit for what you need, then go for it!
I paid him to say that.
What I forgot to say, two seconds ago, was "Thanks, Randy!"
>>Actually, Paula, I believe it was me who paid you.
Oh, yeah--that's how it works!
>>Have you spent it already?
Yep, because my bills just keep on comin'!
>>You also have to remember, not every Screenwriter can/could afford to go to USC Film School and have an "automatic in" before or after graduation.
Oh, if only that 'automatic in' thing were true! I'm sorry, but it's not. It may help some, but it is by no means a guarantee of anything.
I've seen this post all over the usual websites. The company does not identify itself, at least not in the postings I've run across.
Actually, Richard, there were fewer scripts this year (by about two hundred) than last year. Greg Beal posted on Done Deal that this year's total was 5879. To me, that's still an amazing number.
I recommend a laser printer, not an inkjet printer. Check out Hewlett-Packard. If you don't need any color capabilities, then you can find one of their printers in your price range.
If I were you, I would only comment on (and pursue) screenplays I liked or loved. Life is too short to put up with the ranting of some of those whose screenplays you've had to turn down. If you feel you still need to send a personal message when you turn down a script, a simple "It's not for us" is really all you need say.
In my opinion, it's the writers' responsibility to figure out what's going wrong in their screenplays. If they can't see it themselves, then they either have to workshop their material among peers (and there are some great sites where they can do that), or hire a professional. That's why people like me (I'm a story analyst/script consultant) have jobs--to show screenwriters what's not working in their story, and to suggest credible and practical ways to fix the problems.
Writing a response back to writers is really a nice gesture. But if you are getting a lot of abuse from some people who can't believe you said no to their screenplays, well...it doesn't seem worth it to me.
>>if the script showed some potential -- I'd probably send the notes (since you already have them)
Studio coverage doesn't work that way. It is never meant for the eyes of the writer, but for the producer, director, studio exec.
No, if your script's been raked over the coals in coverage, I guarantee you, you don't want to see it!
It's finally listed on the main page...
Congratulations to Carolyn Haywood for winning the 20/20 competition!
>>He was outraged when he discovered that they didn't read the scripts.)
What did they read? Just the first ten pages? The first twenty?
(I'm curious, because I was a second rounder last year.)
Eric, I went to a writer's conference, and the participants (many from publishing companies) stressed how hard it is for a first-time novelist to get published these days...
...and that was six years ago. I don't think it has gotten any better for book writers. It's still very difficult to get published.
For me, the new Zorro movie.
>>And, as far as the controversy surrounding the making of "Davinci code", just imagine if someone made up a story about you that you found offensive. And, the story, however entertaining, was fiction, but, was passed on as fact. And, not only did they tell your friends they told everybody the story. And, profited greatly by it. The persons who stand in opposition of the "Davinci code", and are creating the controversy, are no different then the friends who would defend your honor.
Bravo, Tito. Exactly.
Besides, Brown's book is based on a completely bogus notion: The figure in question in the painting "The Last Supper" was unequivocally identified by DaVinci in his notebooks as St. John the Apostle, NOT Mary Magdalene. It's not only bad fiction, it is absolutely FALSE art history!
The only screenplays with titles on the cover card stock that I saw while working in Hollywood were from...amateurs. Never from pros.
Title on title page only, please.
I don't bother up front with WGA anymore. I just get the U.S. copyright.
If you are in negotiations with someone to sell your script, you've got plenty of time to register with the WGA. But if you don't sell your script for six years, you'll have to register with them twice. Bad deal, if you ask me.
Register it once, when you're negotiating an option or sale. Your U.S. copyright, however--get it as soon as you have a draft that you're sure is close to "ready."
It looks really cool, Frederick. Thanks!
>>I know it's theor vison on the screen,
A director (or anyone else in filmmaking) has no job whatsoever until a writer has done his or hers first. So the idea that it's the "director's vision" on the screen, and his/hers alone is extremely far fetched.
Dave, you need no permission for fairy tales and fables, because there is no identifiable originator living in this century. Just write your story and don't worry about it.
>>My reason for this post, is this, I do not do scriptwriting. You scriptwriters are a breed all your own, and I respect that. I am looking for someone who would like to collaborate to do the scripwriting on both these novels.
Ernest, you aren't actually looking for a collaborator on the screenplay. By your own admission, you are a novelist, not a script writer. What you are looking for is an adapter who will turn your novel into a screenplay. This would not be a collaboration. The title page would read:
TITLE OF THE SCREENPLAY
a screenplay by The Screenwriter
adapted from the novel by Ernest Johnson
Unless you are actively screenwriting and adapting with the screenwriter, you are not a collaborator on the work. You are the author of the original source material. A screenplay adaptation is legally considered a separate literary work from the novel.
Secondly, what are you offering the screenwriter? There are a lot of people in your position on the web who offer only a "screen credit" (something they cannot guarantee) and "splitting the profits when the script is sold" (better to say "if," not "when")--but no actual pay up front. If you don't believe me, check out craigslist.com, mandy.com, and myentertainmentworld.com. Unfortunately, if that's all you're offering, your chances of finding a qualified screenwriter to bite on your project are pretty slim.
I'll probably be slammed in this forum for sounding "uncharitable," but screenwriting is part of the entertainment business. You wouldn't tell your plumber "I'll pay you at some time in the future" after he's just unclogged your drain. Your plumber expects to be paid for the job he does at that time, as does your dentist, your mechanic, your lawyer. The same goes for screenwriters.
If you want a good screenwriter to adapt your novel, offer to pay him or her a fee for writing services. On the low end, start at $5,000 to $6,000 (yes, that is low for a feature length screenplay!) You'll get barraged by screenwriters when you offer pay. Then you can ask for their credentials and screenwriting samples. After you assess their respective talents, you can have your pick from among them. You'll get a much better screen adaptation of your novel that way.
>>What I was hoping to propose, to anyone serious about this endeavor was 33% from the gross sale, where I do have a co-author who would receive a third and myself the final third.
>>I would secure this with a valid contract signed and agreed to by all three parties involved. I may be wasting my time, seeing as screenwriters have the same problem us novelists have, trying to make it in a very competitive profession. I surely would not ask any screenwriter to do it for the glory of seeing their name under "screen credits". That is not my style. What I'll get, they will get the same. If that is not acceptible, then all I've wasted is my time.
Ernie, the way a script sale works that has other source material involved (i.e., an adaptation, not an original screenplay) is this: If a screenplay is based on other published material, a studio/production company pays for the screenplay and for the film rights of that source material, such as a novel. This happens when a screenwriter has optioned with his or her own money other source material, and has adapted the story on his/her own, and is shopping the screenplay around Hollywood.
But this also occurs when studios and production companies themselves acquire the rights of previously published material. They'll buy the film rights from the author(s), and then hire a screenwriter to adapt the material into a screenplay.
When an independent screenwriter (a “spec” screenwriter) has optioned published material, and he or she has turned it into a screenplay, then if he/she sells the screenplay, the purchasing company also has to pay the previously agreed-upon sale price of the film rights of the printed material. That agreement is worked out beforehand between the screenwriter and the author(s) of the original source material, and those figures are included in the contract/agreement that they have signed between them.
If a production company or a studio thinks the dollar amount for the film rights, which the screenwriter has promised to the author(s) in the event of a sale, is too high, then the screenplay is likely to never sell, because the studio/production company won’t want to part with that much money. Again, studios/production companies have to pay two parties before they can roll the cameras.
I hope that helps you understand more about the way adapted screenplay sales work.
Let’s return to what you are proposing. You and your writing partner are looking for a screenwriter who is willing to take a risk with no pay up front. But you are only offering a third of the cash of the sale price for the person who's going to be doing all the work. Again, you have stated you are not a screenwriter and cannot do this work yourself. Why would a screenwriter take only a third of what he/she is entitled to earn after doing all of the work? And it is work. I know that from experience. I’ve done a novel adaptation before on spec, having first secured an option--a very expensive option of eighteen months’ duration, which had to be paid to the author up front as per a very detailed contract.
Adaptations are, in my experience, harder to write than original screenplays, because invariably, with a novel, there is too much story, and not enough screen time in which to tell it. So the cutting begins. But it is so much more than cutting. It’s the brow-dripping toil of making the story coherent and workable as a screen story, by applying screenwriting craft and art, after large chunks of the book story have been removed perforce.
I’ll reiterate: A screenwriter gets the money from the purchase of the screenplay. You and your writing partner get the money from the purchase of the film rights of the novel. So unless you commission a screenwriter to turn your novel into a screenplay (i.e., unless you pay him or her an agreed-upon amount of money for the job you are asking him/her to do--in essence, buying the screenplay outright), then don’t be surprised if you don’t get any takers on your offer. Also, don’t be surprised if those few who might express interest in creating the screenplay have little or no experience in screenwriting, and are just trying to get their foot in the door. That won’t help you one bit.
What I’m saying is that in reality, you aren’t offering anything substantial. There are thousands of people in your position who say “You will get paid when we make the sale.” Chances of a feature screenplay sale in Hollywood by an outsider are extraordinarily slim. It’s like buying a lotto ticket. You hope you’ll win, but the odds are astronomically long. Sure, that doesn’t stop screenwriters from trying, to the tune of around 40,000 to 50,000 registered screenplays every year. And true--a scant few do make it. But since Hollywood only produces about 400 movies a year out of those 40,000+ screenplays, and since the lion’s share of the screenwriting duties of those produced films goes to established screenwriters, that may leave no more than about twenty to thirty (or fewer) movies written by newcomers in any given year.
Those are really terrible odds. But I illustrate them to show that you are not exactly offering a genuine opportunity when you offer a third of a sale that will probably never happen. Hey, pay a good screenwriter enough money, and s/he’ll turn any book--including the phone book--into a screenplay. But don’t pay anything, and ask him/her to turn the phone book into a screenplay? That’s just not a good situation for the screenwriter, no matter how you slice it. If the screenwriter is worth his or her salt, the answer is always going to be “no.”
I’m not trying to get on your case, and I certainly don’t blame you at all for attempting to get your novel turned into a screenplay, and eventually into a film. That is the dream of many a novelist. If I were a novelist, I’d want precisely the same thing. I just wanted to give you a bit of a Hollywood reality check. This is a very, very tough business.
Sorry, didn't mean to italicize the whole ending. Italics should have ended with "...probably never happen."
Egad! Now all of my postings seem to be in italics!
Thank you for taking it in the spirit it was intended, Ernie, which was simply to be informative. I wish Hollywood wasn't as difficult as it is. I wish it didn't use and abuse screenwriters. But it does and I can't change it. Someone in L.A. once told me: "Hollywood kills you with hope." That's sadly too true.
The discussion you introduced is not so much a hornets' nest as it is a frustration that screenwriters face every day.
>>If, as you stated, the screenwriter gets paid by the movie production company, and I don't doubt your word, and they ended up also getting a third of what we get, as authors of the project, then the screenwriter would be getting paid twice. As a screenwriter, yourself, would you object to two paychecks for one project?
If you have found someone to work with you on your project with the deal you are offering, then good for you. I hope it is a fruitful experience. It's just not a situation I would personally get myself into for the reasons I've already enumerated.
>>You can't blame a guy for trying.
You're absolutely right. I can't. If I were a novelist, as I said in my previous post, I'd want the same thing you want--to see my work on the screen. So I do not blame you for trying. I wish you sincere and good luck on your project.
The rest of the freakin' thread is now in italic. Dang! Is anyone else seeing it that way on his/her screen, or is it just me, the guilty party who made it that way?
Maybe if I do an html tag to close it like this:...
Did that work?
It didn't work. Rats.
>>I am not asking for a guarantee of representation, I’d just like a chance to be read by agents and mangers.
Welcome to the club!
>>Hopefully, someone will notice she “passes” on everything and boot her out! Unfortunately, a new intern will be along to take her place. In my opinion, if the production companies want to cut costs they should find other ways to do it because the cost of having inexperienced readers far outweighs the benefits of saving a few bucks.
This is one of the most frustrating things about Hollywood. Crappy--and I mean really crappy--script readers who are completely clueless are the worst enemies of screenwriters in the film industry.
I have run across these types of readers before, and I know one thing: The extent of their cluelessness regarding good stories is inversely proportional to the size of their egos and arrogrance.
Wouldn't it be sad if this person one day became the head of a studio? Don't laugh. It could happen.
>>I just don't think any unknown writer is going to be given the rights to a novel, obscure or not.
If no one else is biting, then why not? You don't have to buy the rights. Get an option for eighteen months (yes, it will cost you money, so get used to the idea), with an option for a second eighteen. An option is cheaper than buying the rights, and it gives you three years to work with. I know. I did it. But making the sale of the screenplay is a whole other ball of wax, of course. Still, three years should be enough time to get things rolling, if it's going to happen.
I visited a day or two ago, and it was still there. But you're right--it's nowhere's-ville today.
I have both (I won the Final Draft in a screenwriting contest), but I much prefer Movie Magic Screenwriter. You can definitely save into a .pdf in Movie Magic, just as in FD. What you do is actually "print" to a .pdf, and it creates the file. You pick that option from a drop down box.
For me, Movie Magic has the kind of intuitive set-up that I crave. I've owned a version of it for almost a decade (back when it was still called ScriptThing), have upgraded as new versions were released, and I see no reason to change to something else. I just love it.
>>beginning Writers--put too much emphasis on the "program" rather than the writing application itself.
I think it's out of relief that they don't have to puzzle through formatting on their own any more.
>>Yes, it's nice to have a "perfect" format, etc., but it's more important to concentrate on a good story, character development, great dialogue, etc.
Naturally. But if a beginning screenwriter has lousy formatting in his or her script, a professional reader will take one look, and probably shut it. They figure if you don't know, at the very least, what proper formatting is, you aren't ready to be a screenwriter. And nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, the reader would be right.
If you want to be treated like a pro screenwriter, then you have to act like one, and that includes formatting that is, at the very least, in the ballpark. Don't send in a 180 page screenplay printed on a dot matrix in a Gothic font!
That, by the way, actually happened when I was reading at Spring Creek. A monster (unsolicited) screenplay arrived. In Gothic font. Bizarrely formatted. Printed in fading purplish-gray on a dot matrix printer.
>>There are some who honestly believe that's all they need--some fancy Screenwriting Program.
I'm sure that some really do believe this. They are going to be in for a big surprise, unfortunately.
Way to go! Congrats to Lorelei!
>>describes himself as being "in Catholic recovery," and is interested in Buddhist teachings about reincarnation and isn't sure exactly how he defines God and/or Jesus. "I don't necessarily know that all the myth surrounding him (Jesus) is true," he said.
Ah, yes. Another so-called "Christian" show by an ex-Christian (better yet--an ex-Catholic, so he'll be extra vicious)! Guess if he produced a show about Buddha, he'd have to sell it overseas, because few people here in the U.S. would watch it, in a country that self-identifies as 85% Christian.
When this dude refers to the "myth" surrounding Jesus, he's already lost most of the audience.
The character, from what I've read, is an Anglican priest (or, more correctly, since he's in the U.S., an Episcopal priest), not a Catholic one.
>>When it comes to religion, I think William Goldman's line says it best, "Nobody knows anything."
Sorry, Terri, I cannot agree with you there. Christians who believe and have faith that what Jesus proclaimed about himself ("I and the Father are one") is true do not have this doubt.
Goldman, as I know you know, was talking about Hollywood in that quote. Now, if you'd said "When it comes to religion, Hollywood knows nothing", that would have been way more accurate!
Don't make the mistake of thinking I'm an evangelical, because I'm not. I'm a Catholic. And it irks me to no end when ex-Catholics, like the show's creator (they almost always use that cute little phrase "recovering Catholic." It's so asinine), presume to tell Catholics who actually follow their faith what's "wrong" with it.
So, he's an ex-Catholic, has a big old honkin' ax to grind, and on top of it, doesn't believe the "myths" of Jesus, so that makes him an ex-Christian all across the board. He probably thinks that Jesus was just "a good man" or "a philosopher." Okay, Mr. Ex-Christian. You're free to think exactly what you like.
But as an ex-Christian, now he presumes to tell Christians what Christianity is all about--sort of like your dermatologist diagnosing your heart disease, n'est-ce pas? He's going to tell us all how "wrong" we Christians all are. We could not possibly know what we need to know about Christianity if we only get our information about our faith from...clergy who actually believe it, study it, and teach it! We need an ex-Christian to instruct us all about Christianity!
>>All it will take to remove it from the line-up is a boycott of the show's advertisers by the Christian right.
It will take bad ratings, and if that's what it gets, it will get the hook.
>>I would like Christians to remember that they do not own Jesus, just because they "belong" to him. There is no external proof of the story of Jesus.
Where is the exernal proof of the story of Mohammed? Or of George Washington, for that matter? What, because other people claimed they saw these guys, and wrote down stuff saying what they did and said? Why should I believe that? All of that stuff in history books--are you sure it's true? What about Alexander? Cleopatra? Did they really exist? Well, I suppose if their followers wrote it down, it must make their existence true.
Also, if one is not a Christian, what use would anyone who didn't believe in Christ have for Jesus, anyway? Are you saying He exists? You just said there's no proof of His existence.
>>All there is is Josephus,
I thought you said their was no external proof?
>>and his supposed claim that Jesus was the Messiah is not found in the earliest of his manuscripts. It was clearly added at a later time to bolster the Christian viewpoint.
If you don't believe it, you're probably never going to believe it. There's that little "faith" thing, you know?
>>Why should non-Christians subscribe to something they believe is myth?
They don't have to subscribe to it. They can believe what they want. But then why should non-Christians continually insist that they must tell Christians what Christianity is "really" about? They don't believe in it, and they don't know a damn thing about it.
>>There are many people who would call themselves "Christian" who don't necessarily believe every word in the bible.
Okay, here are the basics that every Christian must believe: God is Triune (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), Jesus Christ is the Son of the Father, He Himself is God, that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world by His suffering and death, He was born of the Virgin Mary, He was crucified, died, rose on the third day, and ascended to heaven, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. If you do not believe these things you are not a Christian. This isn't an accusation--it's just an identifier of those who believe.
Those things are the most basic tenets of Christianity. If someone does not believe them, and just thinks Jesus was a good man or a philospher, he or she is not a Christian. And if that's the case, anything else in the New Testament isn't going to amount to a hill of beans to them, no matter how it's interpreted.
>>I agree with Terri, here. It shouldn't bother Christians if someone interprets Him in a way that they wouldn't.
If they are "interpreting" in a way that is in direct conflict with the basic tenets of Christianity, you're damn right it's going to bother Christians! Because we're being told by non-Christians what Christianity is supposed to be--by non-believers! And we won't stand for that.
>>But you should be able to understand if others don't come to exactly the same conclusions, in the absence of facts.
Yes, they're called non-Christians who do not believe in Jesus. They're certainly free to not believe. They can be Buddhists or Hindus or Hollywood executives or anything else they want to be. But do NOT present those opinions as Christianity, because they're not.
>>If you're interested, check out "Here I Stand," by John Shelby Spong.
Spong?! That apostate? No, thank you. He's a "bishop" of the Episcopal Church, and yet he doesn't believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ! He doesn't believe in the virgin birth, doesn't believe God is a Being, and thinks that the idea of the saving work of the cross is a barbarian notion and so must be dismissed. Definitely NOT a Christian. Not even close.
Got my letter yesterday. I'm in, which was a nice surprise.
This is the same script I quartered with three years ago--and the same script that subsequently made top 10% or 15% (can't remember which) the following year, and then the year after that didn't do anything at all! Now I'm a quarterfinalist again with the exact same script. Didn't change a word of it, either. Guess I was fortunate in the readers I got this year.
>>Hi, Paula. Congratulations! Persistance pays :)
Thank you very much, Laqueta.
>>Congrats, Paula! :)
I spoke today with a producer who is looking for a script ASAP. Here are the parameters:
1. It must be a holiday script--either Halloween or Christmas (possibly Thanksgiving, too. That won't be discounted, but the other two are preferred.)
2. It must be a comedy for family consumption.
3. The protagonist must be in his or her 20s.
4. It needs to be a screenplay that is virtually ready to go, without need of a ton of development.
If you know of any screenplay like this, or if you have anything that fits these parameters, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
You're welcome, Jean. I was a little concerned about finding something when the parameters were so specific, but I've already gotten about 10 queries, which is good--actually more than I expected.
I made it. The letter came today. I was rather surprised because I was bracing myself for a dink.
Thanks, you guys. The next round is probably the toughest, and so I'm not holding my breath. But it would be nice!
What I found interesting (and ridiculous) is that the producer said "it will allow _us_ to make alterations". Not YOU. Them.
Well, that's crap! You are the writer, and if they option it (with real money!), it is still YOURS until they buy it. That means YOU do the re-writes as per their direction. Then it is STILL within your rights to say "and I keep any changes made, should the option expire without you purchasing the screenplay." Tell them to put THAT in their pipe and smoke it!
In any case, I wouldn't touch this producer with a ten foot pole. It's a bad deal he's offering. Hell, it's NO deal. He's not going to give you money, so...no deal!
In my opinion.
I'm in. Yessssssss!
Congrats to all! Hope you go all the way in your respective categories--to the cash prizes!
I made it to the quarters this time in Page, but didn't make the semis. But it sure is nice to see so many MBers on the list!
My letter was also dated 07/28/08, and I received it Thursday the 31st.
Older writers are better writers, in my professional opinion. It's called life experience, maturation of talent, and a willingness/ability to properly research subjects.
I'll add twoadverbs.com and triggerstreet.com.
The quality of all of the abovementioned sites in the thread varies greatly. Of course, that's my opinion. Different sites appeal to different writers.
Just found out that I made it! Wooooo!
This is how far I got last year, so I hope I can go two more steps....
>>Can I ask, what's the title and genre of your Semi-Final script?
_The Road Rise Up_
Historical romantic drama
(LOL! How's that for a sub-genre!)
The next step is a really tough one, though--from 114 scripts down to 10. So I'm not holding my breath. But I do have my fingers crossed!
Patrick, e-mail me (click on my name for address).
Woo! Congrats on advancing!
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