Friday, December 26, 2008

Cover Your Ass: WGA Registration vs. Copyright


Covering Your Ass: Copyright vs. WGA Registration

By Jim Cirile

Writers often ask me how to protect themselves against plagiarism. And for years, I’ve always said the same thing: plagiarism in Hollywood for the most part doesn’t exist, at least not in the way people think. By that I mean, it’s highly unlikely that some producer is going to simply rip off your script and make it into a movie without paying you. Frankly, to do so would be moronic, because they’re opening themselves up to lawsuits and hassles, when instead they could likely option your script for a few bucks up front and then purchase it outright if and when the production money comes in. So why steal? Further, lots of times when we think someone ‘stole our idea,’ it may just be because with 100,000 screenwriters in LA, there’s bound to be some similar concepts floating around out there at any given time. I learned this the hard way a decade ago when sending out REBIRTH, my spec thriller about cloning Jesus from blood stains on the Shroud of Turin--only to discover there were no less than six others already out there with the exact same @^$*@!!&#^! idea.

But I’m quick to follow this up with explaining the REAL way plagiarism often happens. It’s like this: your script goes out to producers or the studios in some significant way--either from an agent sending it around as a spec or maybe a producer slipping it into his VP connex at the studios. This is where things get a bit tricky. If you get some meet n’ greet meetings, you’ll likely wind up telling the exec all about the projects you’re working on. The exec will generally have an assistant right there beside him taking shorthand. Fast forward six months, and that exec is meeting a different writer, and said writer pitches an idea the exec sparks to. So the exec says, “Hey, that’s pretty cool, but how about if the robot porcupine actually has the personality of a scared little boy because his creator was trying to emulate natural emotional growth in the robot -- before the asteroid hit the starbase and killed everyone?” And so that writer takes the note and incorporates this idea into the movie. Except that it was YOUR idea. The exec forgot where he heard it in the first place and innocently suggests it as a story beat in a different movie. The movie gets made; the other writer gets all the credit; no soup for YOU.

This scenario just happened to me. Back in ’04 my partner and I wrote a spec comedy. A producer friend jumped on board and sent it to several studios he had a relationship with. Unfortunately, everyone passed. Oh, well. Another day in LA. But late 2008, I take my daughter to a matinee, and my jaw hits the nasty, Wrigley’s-and-artificial-butter topping-shellacked floor as I watched MY main character from MY spec utilized as a second fiddle character in this hit movie. Oh, this was a rip-off folks, flat-out. The whole characterization, backstory, every single thing about this character was a Direct Steal. No possible way this could be coincidence. There is even *a 2-minute sequence in the movie that is shot-for-shot exactly what we wrote.*

Gasp.

Obviously my first call was to my producer friend, who told me that he had indeed submitted our script to a VP at that studio in 2004--the same year another writer set up the pitch that eventually became the 2008 hit movie for the studio. (The studio had said our project was “too similar to something they already had in development” when they passed.) Next call was to my attorney, the amazing Mark Temple. Temple set us up on a conference call with a copyright lawyer associate to discuss how best to proceed. And here is where I learned a hard lesson.

You see, we stupidly had never copyrighted our spec script. Oh, I had registered it with the WGA and had the certificate in hand, thinking that’s good enough. BZZZ. See, according to the attorneys, you are only entitled to statutory damages and attorney’s fees in a proceeding if you have copyright. Without that, most attorneys cannot be bothered to take your case, because the upside is not there for them (statutory damages could net you from $150K to $750K or more.) WGA registration gives you NO LEGAL STANDING. I then got a lecture from both attorneys about how useless WGA registration is and imploring me to ALWAYS COPYRIGHT EVERYTHING.

So where does that leave us? To his credit, Temple was willing to explore other options, but to do so we would need a copy of the other project’s script from 2004. If we can prove the character in question did not exist in that script in 2004, we have a case and could possibly go after the studio for a small settlement (“Get lost” money.) Of course, since that other project sold as a pitch, there *was* no script. Dead again. We still have a few more options… but it may be that we simply have to do what all writers in Hollywood have to learn to do--take that paddle to the ass, smile and say, “Thank you, sir. May I have another?” But learn well from my mistake. Copyright your material.

Note: this from the WGA Script Registration page: “The Writers Guild of America, West Registry has been the industry standard in the creation of legal evidence for the protection of writers and their work. When you register your script prior to submitting it to agents, managers, or producers, you document your authorship on a given date should there be unauthorized usage.” Hmm...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

ARC! UNGH! What is it Good For?

Seriously, do we really need character arc?

I used to rail against arc as an artificial construct, a silly cliche. In real life, people seldom change. So why should they in movies? Snake Plissken does not arc. Indiana Jones does not arc. Ash in "Army of Darkness"--you kidding? No fricking arc! Clearly, arc, like theme, is an artifice unnecessary to the telling of a good story.

And yet, crikey, there's something about it. We're human, and thus the possibility of someone overcoming a challenging personal issue, changing themselves (yes, absolutely, MUST be for the better) in a movie gives us hope, makes us feel good about ourselves and brings us emotionally closer to the character.

If done right it should be incremental, an evolution. In fact, formula dictates that that protagonist be oblivious to his character flaw in Act 1 (although *everyone else* is aware of it), finally becomes self-aware at page 60 -- but is still unable to actually do anything about it yet, and then when the evolution has taken place, finally in Act 3 the protagonist can rectify the situation.

Just try to do this to in real life. Chances are your dysfunctional brother-in-law or manic depressive girlfriend or whomever will not appreciate your attempts to "improve" them.

Certain genres, of course, are arc-resistant. Action/adventure and horror, your protagonists don't need arcs (although it doesn't hurt to have them.) Why was 'Star Trek II" the best of the Star Trek movies? Certainly it had the best pacing and script, but it was the also the movie in which Captain Kirk arced. And in those moments where he came to accept his aging and get his mojo back, we really felt for this suddenly humanized iconic character.

But let's be clear--arc IS important, and despite the fact that we all know it's there, like mythic formula we've seen a million times, it still works, and you should use it. Because if you don't, it's just giving the reader another reason to PASS ;)

--Jim Cirile

Friday, November 28, 2008

TrackingB.com Contest Deadline Approaching 12/1

Why are we plugging someone else's contest? Because it's trackingB.com. This is not a big money & prizes contest like Writers on the Storm. Trackin B's contest offers NO prizes--beyond access. TrackingB.com is a real, live industry tracking board that many in the development community subscribe to. Their contest winners get serious industry exposure. Full stop. And seriously, what more does anyone really want out of a contest?

Quick anecdote to prove a point. A few weeks ago I asked a manager friend if he knew of any projects out there similar to the spec idea I was outlining. He promptly e-mailed me back with a list of projects with similar concepts. I was stunned. I told him I didn't see any of these on filmtracker. And he replied no, he pulled them off trackingb.com. And I was like, duh! Why the hell didn't I check there? So I did, and sure enough, I found a post about a very similar project that was out as a spec that very week! Two points here: number one, a very powerful industry manager friend uses trackingb.com as a resource; and two, my project was effectively DOA, and without trackingb.com I would have wasted 6 months on it.

Check out trackingB.com and enter their contest right HERE. Hurry--deadline is Monday 12/1!

--Jim Cirile

Monday, November 24, 2008

WOTS WINNERS 2008


After plowing through an amazing amount of good scripts, ten rose to the top. The past 3 weeks several trusted confidants and I read these scripts and then I tallied the input. For the winner--it was a rout. All of us agreed that one script far and away was The One--an enthralling story, well-told. For the #2 and 3 slot, things were not quite as clear-cut. Both were fantastic, although completely different animals. Ultimately it came down to which one grabbed us, shook us senseless and made us beg for more the most.

A round of applause, please, for the WINNERS OF WRITERS ON THE STORM 2008:

GRAND PRIZE WINNER

***The Moonbeam Fisherman*** by John Dummer

Family movie about a boy who discovers an interplanetary secret being kept by an old hermit. Engrossing, uplifting, wonderful.

RUNNER UP

***Deathless*** (AKA “Link”) by Jerry White


A truly chilling new take on the haunted house movie that creates a brilliant new franchiseable bad guy. The town will flock. Spectacular.

SECOND RUNNER UP

***Belfast Boys*** by Heather Upton


A young man gets sucked into violent world of the I.R.A. in 1980s Ireland. Crackles with action and verisimilitude.

Once again, let’s hear it for the rest of our top ten:

Black Damp by Carla Robinson
Cage by Philip Landa
Canaries by Craig Cambria
Colossus by Jason Kent
Fausta by Dalisia Mendoza
In the Middle of Greatness by C.J. Liao
Upon This Rock by Tim Mangan


Congratulations to you all. And now it’s prizes time. We’ll be contacting all of you directly about getting your hands on the shwag!

On behalf of Portia Jefferson and the Coverage, Ink and Writers on the Storm teams, thanks to everyone who participated. Writers on the Storm 4 starts up again in April! Keep honing, whittling, editing and polishing, and we’ll see you guys in 2009!

Jim Cirile

P.S. News flash: WOTS 2006 Runners up John and Patricia Zussman have been hired to write the political drama "The Trial of Osama bin Laden" by producer Erik Bauer as a direct result of WOTS! Way to go, guys!

Write Like You Mean It: The CS Open 2008


By Pete Thermopulous

60 writers under the gun. Precious seconds ticking away. Would they concoct a knockout scene before the clock ran out? Before they knew it, time was up… and the next group of hapless writers filed in to test their mettle.

The CS Open live writing tournament was, as always, a Screenwriting Expo highlight. For the seventh year straight, Coverage, Ink’s Jim Cirile and his cutthroat team of industry readers coordinated. “Most of us can compose a good scene in a week or three,” says Cirile. “But can you do it under the gun? In pencil?”

Writers were given scene parameters and 90 minutes to write it. A sample prompt: Your PROTAGONIST has just discovered that his or her LOVE INTEREST has double-crossed him (or her.) All signs indicate that the love interest has been leading on the protagonist from the start merely to accomplish a goal. Feeling betrayed and angry, your protagonist confronts the love interest. ”You have to write your own interpretation of the parameters while still nailing it,” says Cirile. “Originality counts for 25% of your total score. Our top thirteen this year got very creative.”

Those who scored in the top 10% progressed to round two… to write yet another brand-new scene. Participants also were able to pick up their graded scenes. “Even though it’s just a short scene, we try to give everybody constructive feedback,” says Cirile. “You can definitely improve your craft quickly in the Open.” The top 13 from round two then advanced to the finals Sunday morning.

“The whole team read each of the finalists’ scenes, and we averaged the scores,” says Cirile. “It was pretty clear-cut. There were only three scenes in the 90s.” And then the fun part—the top three scenes were performed live at the Expo’s closing ceremonies by Pasha McKenley’s team of actors. When the audience finished laughing (all the scenes were comedies,) they voted, and Jan Pfeiffer’s scene “Sucker Punch” nabbed the $3,000 grand prize. “What Knot to Do” by Matthew Scott took second place, and Robert Dixon’s “Houston, We Have a Problem” grabbed third. And for those who strived but were eliminated, Cirile offers this advice: “Self-editing is crucial. We had too many scenes of 12 pages or more. Practice up and come back next year ready to kick ass.”

“It was a great experience,” concludes winner Jan Pfeiffer. “There's nothing like a deadline to kick your butt in gear. I think I wrote more in the three rounds than I have in the past three months. It's hard to keep writing when you wonder if your work will ever find the light of day, and it was an amazing boost to see and hear my ideas performed in front of a live audience.”

*** Coverage, Ink congratulates the 2008 CS Open top thirteen: Vivian Lee Moore, Elizabeth Bigelow, Bob Garland, Michael Azzopardi, CJ Conklin, David Gatlin, Eric Rodriguez, Magaly Colimon, Stephen Smith, Scott Noack and Robert Dixon (third place), Matthew Scott (second place), and Jan Pfeiffer (winner.)***

Friday, November 21, 2008

Writers on the Storm 2008 Winners Chosen...

To be announced MONDAY!

We know who the winners are, and we are very very happy with them this year. Our top 3 are damn, damn good scripts. The winner has an uncanny voice and lyrical writing that explodes off the page. More soon!

Also coming soon, we'll be blogging about the CS Open and the Screenwriting Expo. We've been slammed dealing with the contest and looming deadlines on several projects all at the same time, but next week we'll bring you some pix from the Expo and tell you all about the CS Open, which this year yielded the finest new crop of talent I've seen in some time. The winning scene was written by Jan Pfeiffer, and it was a gas! For the first time in seven years of doing this, it was a landslide victory for his scene. In short, Pfeiffer dominated!


Jim with CS Open Writing Tournament 2008 Finalists--13 damn good writers--Vivien Lee Moore, Elizabeth Bigelow, Bob Garland, Michael Azzopardi, CJ Conklin, David Gatlin, Eric Rodriguez, Magaly Colimon, Stephen Smith, Scott Noack and Robert Dixon (third place), Matthew Scott (second place), and Jan Pfeiffer (winner.)

This plus the latest Coverage, Ink newsletter coming next week which includes our best-ever SALE exclusive to newsletter subscribers (if you're not getting our free newsletter, just e-mail us at info@coverageink.com and we'll get you on the list. No, we will never sell your name to any lists or spam you or send you crapmail. The only thing we will ever send you is our monthly newsletter.)

As we roll into 2009 with a crashing economy but at long last a hope for sane government, I encourage everyone to hang in there and keep honing your craft. Remember, overnight success in Hollywood takes ten years! (Seriously.) And as always, my door is always open. Hit me with any questions at info@coverageink.com.

Peace!

Jim Cirile
founder
Coverage, Ink
Writers on the Storm

Thursday, November 13, 2008

CS OPEN 2008!

Egads! It's that time again! Time for the CI team (well, a handful of us anyway) to roll on over to the LA Convention Center and once again see what you guys can do with 90 minutes and a pencil. For the 7th year straight Coverage Ink will be presenting and judging the CS Open live writing tournament. If you're attending the Expo, do consider trying your hand at this one-of-a-kind competition. You'll be amazed at how our little tournament gets the create juices going. With thousands of dollars in cash and prizes and feedback on every scene, the CS Open is an absurdly fun little exercise.

In a nutshell: We give you 90 minutes and a scene prompt. You then write your best interpretation of that scene. We then score it, and you can pick up your scene later to see how you did. Top 10% advance to round two and top 10 to round 3. Winners are voted on by the audience at the closing ceremonies, after the top 3 scenes are acted out for the audience by actors! This is always a hoot, especially when you consider those scenes were written and performed the same day!

So pick up a ticket to the Open and stop by and see us at room 409 AB! And feel free to introduce yourself, ask questions or advice, etc. As always, CI is here to help.

Jim C.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Screenwriting Expo boosts CS Open Prizes

Hi guys, this just in from Creative Screenwriting--they've kicked up the prizes on the CS Open! Now all top ten finalists finish in the money. Nice! as always, CI will be there coordinating and judging the tournament. So sharpen those pencils, bring that creativity and lay it on us!

The CS Open


A Unique Round-Robin Writing Competition
Managed and Judged By Coverage, Ink.

(GO BACK TO THE REGISTRATION PAGE)

The 2008 Creative Screenwriting Open allows you to match your screenwriting skills over two days with other screenwriters from across the U.S. The CS Open is a two-day writing competition with big prizes.

The Biggest Prize: The Publicity And Exposure of Your Talents

If you are a finalist, your scene, written under deadline pressure, will be acted out in a live reading in front of hundreds of screenwriters, producers, agents, and others in the audience at the closing ceremony of the 2008 Screenwriting Expo. By making it to the finals, you will have proved, in the only competition of its kind, that you can write creatively under major deadline pressure -- a rare and valuable ability in Hollywood.

And this year, National Public Radio has expressed interest in covering the CS Open. We don't know what that coverage might be, but this is potentially national publicity for the winners.

So we have decided to increase the prizes for this event:

Total Grand Prize Value: $4,057.82
The Grand Prize was $3,000 and a free copy of Movie Magic Screenwriter. It is now:

* Still $3,000 cash, plus
* Movie Magic Screenwriter ($159.95 value), plus
* Free Expo Admission: we will refund winner's Expo registration fee up to the cost of a Basic Pass ($94.95 if winner paid for early Basic Registration, $144.95 if winner bought a Gold Pass or regular Basic Pass); plus
* Refund of the winner's CS Open entry fee ($10); plus
* A free subscription to Creative Screenwriting Magazine or one-year extension ($24.95 US); plus
* A free full set of our Screenwriting DVDs ($717.97 value at the sale price)

Second Prize More Than Doubled In Value: $1,004.95

Second Prize was formerly $500 cash. It is now:

* $750 cash, plus
* Free Expo Admission, same as for Grand Prize above, up to $144.95, plus
* Refund Of second prize winner's CS Open entry fee ($10); plus
* $100 coupon to buy any of our other products (DVDs, Creative Screenwriting subscription, next year's Expo, etc.)

Third Prize More Than Doubled In Value: $604.95
Third Prize was formerly $300. It is now:

* $500 cash
* Free Expo Admission (same as Grand Prize, up to $144.95); plus
* Refund of third prize winner's CS Open entry fee ($10); plus
* $50 coupon for any of our other products.

Prizes For Finalists 7 Through 10 Increased In Value: $60 Each

The previously listed prizes for semifinalists 7 through 10 were "goods and services." Now, each of the remaining Top Ten semifinalists will receive:

* $50 coupon for any of our other products; plus
* Refund of CS Open admission ($10)

How the CS Open Works

Registration — You register only for Round One of the CS Open (held in 8 different sections at different times on Friday, (Nov. 14) and Saturday, (Nov. 15). This will require you to purchase a ticket for that section, for a fee of $10.

You must first register for the Screenwriting Expo first to participate.
If you already have your Basic Pass or Gold Pass to the Expo.

Round One — At your section on Friday or Saturday, you will be given 90 minutes to write a two- to three-page scene based on specific guidelines.

Round One Judging — Scenes will be scored by a distinguished panel of industry readers based on: Structure, Dialogue, Style, and Originality. The top 10% of the writers in round one will advance to Round Two. If you do not advance, you can pick up your scene and see exactly how it was graded. Also, the winning scenes for each section will be posted.

Round Two — Saturday evening (Nov.15) at 7 PM, the top 10% of the writers who advance from Round One will meet in one section (Round Two) and write a second two- to three-page scene, based on specific parameters.

Round Two Judging — These second round scenes will also be judged by a distinguished panel of industry readers. The top ten writers will advance to the final round (Round Three).

Final Round — The ten writers in the final round (Round Three) will meet Sunday morning at 10 AM to pen a final four- to five-page scene which includes at least one lengthy monologue. The judges will select the best three scenes from those ten.

The Playoff — These three finalist scenes will be performed by actors at the closing ceremony (Sunday, 4 PM) for the Expo, and the third-place, second-place, and grand-prize winners will be selected right there by the audience.

Management/Judging
The 2008 Screenwriting Expo CS Open is managed and judged by Coverage, Ink. Specializing in studio and agency-style coverage from real industry pros, Coverage, Ink. is now accessible to all writers at a reasonable price. Coverage, Ink. offers top quality script analysis at a fraction of the cost of an analyst. Is your script a Pass, Consider, or Recommend? Find out before you send it around. Visit http://www.coverageink.com/ for more details.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Two Writers on the Storm Finalists also Slamdance Finalists

Well, I guess the process works, because two of our top ten were just announced today as Slamdance top scripts also! Slamdance selected MOONBEAM FISHERMAN by John Dummer, about a teenage boy and an old fisherman learn to deal with loss in 1969, as a top ten finalist. And honorable mention went to FAUSTA by Dalisia Mendoza, about a female Army captain who suffers from recurring dreams after an IED detonates beside her vehicle in Iraq -- and discovers a life lived a hundred and fifty years in the past.

Nice work, guys!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Writers on the Storm Announces Top Ten 2008


The best of the best! Congratulations to the ten writers below who have slogged their way through the trenches, survived withering competition and emerged from the battlefield victorious! These ten scripts we have judged to be the cream of a crop of over 1,400 submissions. We bask in their awesomeness.

Contest winners will be announced 11/24.

The 2008 Writers on the Storm top ten scripts are:

Belfast Boys by Heather Upton
Black Damp by Carla Robinson
Cage by Philip Landa
Canaries by Craig Cambria
Colossus by Jason Kent
Fausta by Dalisia Mendoza
In the Middle of Greatness by C.J. Liao
Link by Jerry White
The Moonbeam Fisherman by John Dummer
Upon This Rock by Tim Mangan

Nice work, all of you. Great things are surely to come in all of your careers.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Scripped.com on Video


Check out this 5-minute interview with Scripped.com CEO Sunil Rajaraman with dogandpony.com on bnet right HERE. With over 8,000 users and partnerships with industry leaders like Movie Magic Screenwriter and Coverage, Ink (hey, that’s us!) Scripped is quickly taking the world by storm. If you’re still writing scripts in MS Word... dude! Check out Scripped.com. Online screenwriting software, and it’s free!

From "Taco!" to Mexico


CS Open Winner Becomes Produced Feature Writer
by Jim Cirile

The Screenwriting Expo is rolling back into the LA Convention Center next month, and I know I’ll see plenty of you guys there. As always Coverage, Ink will be coordinating the CS Open live writing tournament. Can you write a killer original scene, on the spot based on parameters we give you? You have 90 minutes and a pencil. Go! If you’ve never tried your hand at the CS Open, I urge you to do so. Thousands of dollars in prizes plus fun and learning await. And every scene is critiqued and graded by the Coverage, Ink team. Check it out HERE. And check out the interview with CS Open winner Bob DeRosa to see what he’s been up to!

In 2003, Bob DeRosa’s hilarious scene “Taco!”, about a inept investigation at a mob holiday dinner, easily won the CS Open Writing Tournament. Four years later, “The Air I Breathe”, cowritten by DeRosa and Jieho Lee, is now available on Amazon.com after a theatrical release earlier this year -- with a cast that includes Kevin Bacon, Julie Delpy, Brendan Fraser, Andy Garcia, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Forest Whitaker.

“I moved to L.A. summer of 2001,” DeRosa recalls. “I wrote a spec called ‘The Hatchet Club,’ a horror/action movie that got me an agent--but no one bought it. I got over 40 meetings out of it though, and wrote (unproduced) movies for Revolution and New Regency.”

DeRosa’s career got a little bump after “Taco!” DeRosa loved the scene so much he reworked it into a short. “My good friend Kevin Ward directed ‘Taco!’ with Charles Robinson (Mac from ‘Night Court’) starring. “Taco!” is currently on the festival circuit and won an award at the SoCal Independent Film Festival. But it wasn’t until DeRosa began a collaboration with “The Air I Breathe” director and creator Jieho Lee that things kicked into high gear.

“I met Jieho when I was a programming assistant at the Florida Film Festival
in 2000,” DeRosa says. “We programmed Jieho’s short ‘A Nursery Tale.’Then after I (moved to L.A.,) my friends put on an evening of my one-act plays called ‘Brutally Yours.’ Jieho came, really enjoyed my dialogue, and asked me to collaborate on the script that would become his feature directorial debut.”

“The Air I Breathe” was shot entirely in Mexico and features four vignettes, each involving a character named after a specific emotion. “The storylines eventually intertwine, with a transcendent payoff,” says DeRosa. “(It’s) ‘Crash’ meets ‘Pulp Fiction’--a spiritual and romantic crime drama.” With his aptitude for shorts, DeRosa embraced Lee’s ensemble piece. “You have such a limited time with each character, it forces you to make every scene as rich and meaningful as possible.”

Once they had a script, Lee and DeRosa set about packaging. “There were times when it felt like we were the hottest project in town,” DeRosa recalls, “and then all of a sudden, our momentum would disappear. It was two years of pure craziness and unpredictability.” But once investor Nala Films came aboard and a start date was set, DeRosa found actors drawn to Lee’s vision. “Every actor that said yes increased our momentum.”

DeRosa is hoping “The Air I Breathe” will open doors for studio assignments. “I’d love nothing more than to collaborate with Jieho on a cool comic book adaptation.” And DeRosa has words of advice for other CS Open participants who might enjoy sipping tequila in Mexico with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Julie Delpy: “Tell stories that matter to you. You want whoever reads it to FEEL about it the way you feel about it. And make sure that every character in your script has their own unique voice and moments of silence as well. We must’ve done something right, considering our amazing cast.”

Check out THE AIR I BREATHE on Amazon.com.

I Could’ve Written A Better Movie Than That! Book Review


I Could’ve Written A Better Movie Than That!
2005, Michael Wiese Productions, $26.95

From the get-go, I was a bit skeptical.

Derek Rydall’s I Could’ve Written a Better Movie Than That! claims to show you “how to make six figures as a script consultant even if you’re not a screenwriter.” The book aims to train you to analyze screenplays like a pro, so that you can hang up a shingle and become the next Linda Seger or perhaps open your own coverage company.

Okay, disclosure time. First of all, like Mr. Rydall, I own a script analysis company. So let’s be frank: do I necessarily want a book telling others how to do it? Hmm. Secondly, six figures? Okay, maybe there are a dozen people who make six figures as professional script consultants. Even union studio readers don’t make that kind of money.

But credit where it’s due: Mr. Rydall won me over. His book is in fact very well-done. Even if you never actually use it to learn the script analysts’ trade, reading it should teach you to become more analytical about your own writing. And that in and of itself is worth the price of admission.

Rydall’s approach is thorough, his writing style breezy. He lays out step-by-step how he himself got into the field, the different types of analysis, then—and this is where the rubber hits the road—he lays out all the things a script analyst should be aware of, from myth, plot and dialogue to the look and format of the script. While none of this is earth-shatteringly original (or a real substitute for thorough screenwriting education or experience working as a reader at a prodco,) it’s a smart and thorough overview that should get you up to speed on what analysts look for in a script. Best of all, Rydall drives his points home with commentary from established analysts like Michael Hauge, Linda Seger and Jeff Kitchen.

The second half of the book deals with the business aspect of becoming an analyst, and Rydall is again complete in his roadmap. He covers everything from opening a P.O. box to finding an established script consultant to mentor with to handling clients with both flexibility and firmness. Again, Rydall’s approach is solid. He knows whereof he speaks.

My only real quibble with ICWABMTT is that it may be setting readers up with unrealistic expectations. Rydall contends that script analysis is a burgeoning field, but in my opinion, we’re glutted with coverage companies and script analysts already. Breaking in right now--and making six figures--would be a real trick. On the other hand, is this book’s approach really any different from a book that promises to teach you to write a million-dollar spec? Both set the bar high and show you how to get there. The fact that most folks never will is of less importance than the journey and the knowledge gained along the way. To use coverage parlance, I’m giving this book a STRONG CONSIDER.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Writers on the Storm feedback

Hi Stormies! Just a quick note to let y'all know that the feedback started going out this week, and it's going out in clumps. So we're getting a lot of e-mails from folks wondering why they only got one set of feedback but they submitted two scripts, etc. So just sit tight as there are a lot of forms to get out and the process takes a while.

We should be done by mid next week (10/15 or so) so if any of y'all are missing feedback still at that time, e- me at writerstorm@gmail.com. Thanks again everybody for participating and let's root on those top 50!

Portia Jefferson
Writers on the Storm contest coordinator

UPDATE: It's 10/14 and we're still sending out feedback. It's a big job and will likely take till the end of the week, so please bear with us!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Writers on the Storm 2008 Semifinalists!


HUGE CONGRATS to our top 50! One of the folks below is going to have 10 grand in his or her pocket before long and gobs of cool prizes and shwag! This list represents what we judged to be the top 50 scripts submitted to the contest through both Coverage, Ink and directly to Writers on the Storm in 2008.

Feedback forms should start going out shortly, so if you do not get yours by 10/10 please contact us at writerstorm@gmail.com. TOP TEN to be announced 10/27.

And now without further ado...

2008 WRITERS ON THE STORM SEMIFINALISTS

A Poem for Silvertown by James Schannep
Adversity by Andrew Sessions
Avalon Bound by Brandon Rosin
Back from the Dead by Art Blum
Belfast Boys by Heather Upton
Beyond the Horizon by George Ferris
Black Damp by Carla Robinson
Blood Money by Michael Eging
Blowback by Jeff Travers
Blue Bloods by Lucy Cruell
Bury Me in Fire by Odin Shafer
Cage by Philip Landa
Canaries by Craig Cambria
Center of Fortitude by Mark Eaton & Stacy Dymalski
Colossus by Jason Kent
Cross of the Savage by Joe Crouch
Edgewater by Patrick Nicholas
Eurabia by Joe Flood
Every Dog Has His Day by Dov Engelberg
Evicting the Wyatts by Josh Lane
Fausta by Dalisia Mendoza
First Dog by Bryan Stoller
Free Skate by Caitlin McCarthy
Global Swarming by Diana Ohlbaum
Hart Crane by David Kaneen
Honor Among Rats by Adam Perin
In the Middle of Greatness by C.J. Liao
Ironman by George Gier
Lifer by Inon Shampanier
Link by Jerry White
Louis by Alexander Valhouli
Martyr by Brian J. Martin
Mistress of the Sea by Rebecca Howland
My Hero by David Norwood
Perfect Form by Randy Moore
Savage by Barry Levy
Sea Fever by Richard Guimond
Silver River by Marnie Collins
The Baby Whisperer by Scott Clevenger
The Expired Man by Kevin McAllister
The Fraternity by Jeff Wiegand
The Knuckleballer by Michael Murphy
The Lost Kids and the Unwritten Language by Felipe Cagno
The Moonbeam Fisherman by John Dummer
The Pirate Queen of Connemara by Suzanne C. Doherty
The Shanghailanders by Craig Rosenthal
Trauma Junkie by Tom Hobbs
Upon This Rock by Tim Mangan
Variance by Stevie Bloom
Women In Pants by Stan Himes

Monday, September 15, 2008

WOTS 2008 QUARTERFINALISTS


Congratulations to our Quarterfinalists! With over thirteen hundred scripts to go through, our readers had a lot of tough choices to make in narrowing down to the top 10%, and I'm pleased to say competition was fierce. Our next round is so full of drama, romance, adventure, and tragedy that we could keep a troupe of actors busy for a decade!

We hope to announce the Semifinalists (Top 50) on October 3rd and also start sending out the feedback forms on that same date.

If your script did not advance this time around, don't despair - keep in mind that we had to pass on 90% of our entries. In a couple of weeks, you'll receive your scores and feedback, which will give you a better idea of what our readers liked about your work, and where they thought you could use some help with your next rewrite. As always, remember that writing is a craft, and you'll only improve with time. Best of luck!

Portia Jefferson,
Writers on the Storm Contest Coordinator

WRITERS ON THE STORM 2008 QUARTERFINALISTS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Poem for Silvertown by James Schannep
Adjourned by Joe Romeo
Adversity by Andrew Sessions
Amaze Your Friends! by Paul Taegel
Apparition by Scott Fickas
Avalon Bound by Brandon Rosin
Back from the Dead by Art Blum
Belfast Boys by Heather Upton
Between by Cynthia Troyer
Beyond the Horizon by George Ferris
Black Damp by Carla Robinson
Blacklights by Chris Jopling
Blood and Bulls by Kelly Murry
Blood Money by Michael Eging
Blowback by Jeff Travers
Blue Ballers by Andrew Zeoli & Christian Wagner
Blue Bloods by Lucy Cruell
Bothered Minds by Simon Nagel
Breaking Through by Ken White, Stephen Larsen, & Robin Larsen
Brisker by Michael Brody & Jeff Kingery
BRO (Bull Riders Only) by Melinda May
Brush With Fame, Suzanne Darling
Bull Comb Blues by David Warnock
Bury Me in Fire by Odin Shafer
Cage by Philip Landa
Canaries by Craig Cambria
Catch 21 by Gary Eichelberger
Center of Fortitude by Mark Eaton & Stacy Dymalski
Character Sheet by Harry Bauer
Chicken Mountain by Maurice Poplar
Chosen One by William Sikorski, Jr. & William Sikorski III
Clay Dorfman: Playground Attorney by Andy Silverman
Clone by Michael Coleman Jr.
Colossus by Jason Kent
Controlled by Craig Cambria
Cross of the Savage by Joe Crouch
Darkness Knows the Night by Michelle Muldoon
Datsun Saves by Robert Arnett
David's Ashes by Jake Barsha
DEAD Line by Jim Corona
Dead Whisper by Jennifer Butell-Kersey
Death Valley Dig by CA Bennett
Eden Lost by Alan Sproles & Lizanne Southgate
Edgewater by Patrick Nicholas
Enlighten Up by Attila Nagy, Garen Inboden & Gilbert Inboden
Eurabia by Joe Flood
Every Dog Has His Day by Dov Engelberg
Evicting the Wyatts by Josh Lane
Expunged by Jocelyn Osier
False ID by Stephen Aisenberg & Russ LaValle
Family and Fish by Stuart Rogers
Fatal Ambition by Sam Neil Kesler
Fausta by Dalisia Mendoza
Firebrand by Simon Nagel
First Dog by Bryan Stoller
Five Dreams by Robert Rivenbark & Kathleen Rivenbark
Folk City by Gordon Rayfield
Fool Moon by Gail L. Jenner
Forest Fire! by Dan Williams
Forever in Blue Jeans by Alex Drummond
Franco: The Movie by Edward Windus
Free Skate by Caitlin McCarthy
Frozen Fire by Paul Pawlowski
Global Swarming by Diana Ohlbaum
Good Intentions by Alexis Coyle & Rudy Coyle
Grief from Madame Butterfly by Barry Leach
Hair Today ... by Dennis Douda
Hart Crane by David Kaneen
Hell, Incorporated by Chris Copeland
Honor Among Rats by Adam Perin
Imitating Art by Rogelio Lobato
In the Middle of Greatness by C.J. Liao
Invisible Ladies by Hope Vinitsky
Ironman by George Gier
Jetpack by Adam Nur
Joltin' Joe by Michael Notarile
Katrina by Vane Verdant
La Bandera by Tina Juarez
La Matadora by Kelly Murry
Laced Up by David R. Larson
Lawnmower Mafia by Dennis Douda
Lifer by Inon Shampanier
Link by Jerry White
Louis by Alexander Valhouli
Lullaby by Gabrielle Galanter & Luis Camara
Man At War by I-fan Quirk & Jim Zachar
Martyr by Brian J. Martin
Mechanicsville by Jason Thornton & Chris Thornton
Mistress of the Sea by Rebecca Howland
My Alien Boss by Tim McSmythurs
My Hero by David Norwood
Newton’s Cradle by Jarran Davis
No Trespassing by Kevin Sheridan
Occurence at Latigo by Jack R. Stanley
Orcadia by Steven Zawacki
Organic Svengali by Russ Meyer
Out of Time by Genevieve Pearson
Perfect Form by Randy Moore
Pitch Out by Michelle Muldoon
Pound for Pound by Dennis Bailey
Poser by Susan & Wayne Boyer
Rainy Dayz by Mark Swiecicki
Rasta Pasta by AC Yacobian
Release Me by Doug Pitman
Remote Stryker by Lisa Cordova
Rodeo Rose by Lisa Henry
Savage by Barry Levy
Sea Fever by Richard Guimond
Shanghai Blood by Mark Niu
Sick Love by Gavin Carlton
Silver River by Marnie Collins
Sisters in Arms by Barry Leach
Sliding Into Home by RIch Sheehy
Small Town Stars by Niall Madden
Still by Clea Frost
Target 26 by Christopher Littler
The Baby Whisperer by Scott Clevenger
The Bardo Realm by CV Herst
The Big Blue Room by Samuel Dulmage
The Blues Detective by Alasdair McMullin
The Center of Fortitude by Stacy Dymalski
The Copper Scroll by Eyal Lavi
The Count by Craig Schwartz
The Expired Man by Kevin McAllister
The Fisherman's Wife by Nathan G. Brown & Lisa Super
The Fraternity by Jeff Wiegand
The Friendliest Evil Clown Around by Michael Pauly
The Knuckleballer by Michael Murphy
The Last Adventure of Martin Finch by Aaron Marshall
The Last American Guido by Vito LaBruno
The Line by Ben Krapf
The Lost Kids and the Unwritten Language by Felipe Cagno
The Man Who Stops Time by Paul Sargia
The Missing Pilots by Stephen Kelly
The Moonbeam Fisherman by John Dummer
The OM Factor by Jean Buschmann
The Pirate Queen of Connemara by Suzanne C. Doherty
The Ra Complex by Ryan Kent
The River of Sin by Richard Guimond & Linda Cordero
The School by Jason Sawrey
The Shanghailanders by Craig Rosenthal
The Source by Nisso Cohen
The Terminals by Matt Umbarger
Trauma Junkie by Tom Hobbs
Upon This Rock by Tim Mangan
Variance by Stevie Bloom
Virgin Marie by Krista Zumbrink
Women In Pants by Stan Himes

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Big Money (part 1)

AGENTS’ HOT SHEET

reprinted courtesy of "Creative Screenwriting"

By Jim Cirile

“Writing about big money--it’s kind of like writing about diets in a health magazine. There is no easy way. Sure, I would love to take a pill and be thin. I would love to write one spec and be a millionaire. (But) the writers who are making the most money in the business have the goods. The people who are losing the weight are exercising and eating right.”
—Nicole Clemens, ICM

Let’s face it—for every one of us who pursues screenwriting out of passion, there are 42 who are in it for the cashola. In this special 2-part column, our panelists give you the 411 on putting some cha-ching in ya--when to bluff, when to just shut up and take a lowball offer, and when to go for the BIG MONEY.

ADVISORY BOARD

Richard Arlook
The Gersh Agency

Marty Bowen
United Talent Agency

Nicole Clemens
International Creative Management

Emile Gladstone
ICM

Graham Kaye
Creative Management Group

DOUGH. You want it. I want it. Enticed by countless spec sales of the ‘90s, every dope with a dot matrix printer cranked out a “It’s Die Hard—only in a building!” action spec and attempted to get a piece of the action. But suddenly, it’s 2004. Lots of crap is still being hurled against the wall, but less and less of it is sticking. Joe First-Time is finding himself increasingly S.O.L. The first and most important thing you need to know: Hollywood is no longer the ATM machine it used to be.

UTA’s Marty Bowen, recently profiled in Premiere magazine, has sold plenty of big-money scripts, yet even he acknowledges that things ain’t what they used to be: “There is definitely a contraction in the marketplace for spec scripts and for writing assignments. Back in ’96, everything would sell, and everybody was working. That’s just not the way business is done these days.” Gersh’s Abram Nalibotsky seconds that. “I feel like the studios are definitely buying less. They will buy. From known writers, they will throw out big numbers, but it feels like they want to buy ready-to-go films that have a major element.” CMG manager Graham Kaye won’t even go out with a spec anymore unless he’s attached a big-name actor or director. “The spec market is dry,” he notes dryly. “Studios are either making big tent-pole movies, or they’re doing remakes. There’s not a lot of originality out there. Studios naturally want to make their corporations happy, so they’ll go with much more steady writers, proven writers. I go back to when Rob Carlson and Alan Gasmer sold, I think, 56 specs in a year when I was at William Morris—the glory days. That’s something you will never see happen again, I don’t believe.”

I should probably end the column right here! But no, the news is only mostly bad. In fact, for the lucky few, the rewards can be bigger than ever. Even though the odds of your spec actually selling on the marketplace have dropped dramatically, those busted specs become writing samples off which a writer will get meetings and, if you’re very “good in a room,” you may be hired for a lucrative writing assignment. “The bread and butter of Hollywood is the assignment business,” says ICM’s Emile Gladstone. So let’s see how we can get our hands on one of those rare ATM cards.

First off: make sure your script rocks before you waste anybody’s time. “Writing about big money--it’s kind of like writing about diets in a health magazine,” laughs ICM’s Nicole Clemens. “There is no easy way. Sure, I would love to take a pill and be thin. I would love to write one spec and be a millionaire. (But) the writers who are making the most money in the business have the goods. The people who are losing the weight are exercising and eating right.” The Hollywood system is clogged with thousands of scripts, 99% of which were simply not ready to be submitted to potential agents, managers, or producers. Just because you’ve spent time on something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ready to go. You need to get notes from friends, teachers, script analysts or coverage services, take classes at UCLA Extension, get yourself into a writing group. When you find yourself getting raves and “considers,” you’ll know you’re really ready to go. Yes, that means you have to do some work. Sorry.

When you reach that point, you’ll find that oddly enough, representatives will actually want to meet with you and—horrors—even try to sell your script for you. It now becomes critical to remember to keep that slavering, insatiable money lust under control! “It’s a tremendous liability,” observes Bowen. “A couple of times in my career I’ve made the mistake of looking at a (purely money-driven) client as just a potential piece of business. Every time I’ve done that, my ability to represent them has been diminished by the fact that I’m not passionate about their work.” Kaye agrees, “When they discuss money in the very first conversation, and vehemently, that makes me nervous. I know that usually there’s no stability or loyalty.” He recalls a former client who had an offer on his script from Disney for half a million dollars. “An agency came in and told this writer in the middle of negotiations that I was doing a horrible job. He believed them, and he passed on the offer. This big agency went out and tried to renegotiate with all the other studios—a couple days later went back begging to Disney for the same deal. This was a person who was living in a 1-room apartment with bullet holes in the walls. They’d hung paintings over the bullet holes. He was driving a bus, and his wife was teaching blind children. And I thought, ‘How could people with that much humility all of a sudden start behaving that way?’”

So keep that greed in check and “think long-term always,” says Gladstone. “You cultivate relationships with the producers and studio executives and directors. These will hopefully pay off for years. When you’re thinking about it just in the money terms, man, you’re not thinking clearly.” To illustrate, Gladstone tells us about client Matt Lopez. “In the same week, he sold a pitch and got invited into the Disney Writer’s Program. The pitch would have probably paid more and have been a shorter period of time. The Disney Writer’s Program was a full year. But he made a decision to go with the Writer’s Program because of the relationships that he would foster and the education that he would garner. You hope you make friends and gain respect. You learn the game a little bit, too, from the inside out. Now you’ve got to pay the bills, too, and oftentimes, writers that have options, it’s not about work, it’s about the right work. Sometimes the money jobs aren’t the ones that are the most creatively fulfilling. So you sort of balance out the year so that there’s cash flow so that the writer can send their kids to school and pay for their mortgage, and also not feel creatively bankrupt at the end of the year by just writing sequels and remakes.”

Which brings us to an incredible irony of the business: sometimes the best way to make big money is to turn it down. “Like a starving man in front of his first big meal, it can be incredibly hard to walk away from the table,” says Bowen. “When you finally get into the game, you’re scared to say no, because you don’t know when the next time you’re going to be offered.” But doing just that can be both a viable strategy to drive up the price on a spec sale and a wise long-term career move for a working writer considering whether to accept a dubious assignment. “(Walking away from the table) is a very, very well thought-out decision,” says Clemens. “I never encourage my clients to bluff unless they’re absolutely willing to not have (the deal) happen. But I don’t think I’ve ever bluffed and not gotten what we wanted. You read the heat, and if you have something pretty amazing, it’s going to find a home.”

Gladstone adds, “I certainly have gambled with clients based on my feelings about the marketplace and the spec situation. But I would say that I’ve had more times when we’ve taken less money to work with the right company than just take the extra 50 or 100 grand to work with a company that we don’t feel is the best place for the movie or environment for the writers. It’s not about the payday, man. It’s about the long term. Where you make money off these guys is in year two, year three. If the writer’s not in the right environment creatively to deliver a good rewrite of their script, they’re no different than they were before they sold a million-dollar script. In fact, it’s worse, because they become known as people that don’t deliver.”

In Part 2 to follow, our panel details negotiation strategies and tells you how they increase their clients’ quotes and maximize every opportunity. Be there. Aloha.

Monday, September 08, 2008

"WHERE THE DEAD GO" WINS FADE IN GRAND PRIZE


Huge congratulations to Mark Kratter, whose script WHERE THE DEAD GO has been announced as the Grand Prize winner of the 2007 Fade In awards! Kratter developed his script in 2007 with CI founder Jim Cirile. This is just the latest in a string of accolades for Kratter and this script, who recently finished a script-for-hire for Clark Peterson (who produced MONSTER with Charlize Theron).

A round of applause for Mr. Kratter!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

WRITERS ON THE STORM UPDATE


Hey, Stormies!

1,319.

That's this year's number. Wow! Pretty insane, huh? Now that includes some of you who submitted double entries and also anyone who entered the contest through Coverage, Ink. But our total this year is big, bad and mighty!

And now the bad news: we have to bump the announcement of the quarterfinalists to 9/15. Yeah, I know, I know, y'all are grousing and grumbling right now. And I have to apologize. Fact is, that extra week we tacked on for Without a Box kind of messed us up--not to mention one of our key team members suddenly became unavailable, and thus we had to borrow readers from Coverage Ink (Writers on the Storm and CI are actually two separate deals.) And then collating all that info and trying our best to make sure that is really is the top 10%, that's pretty tricky. Last year was bad enough with 900-something. Oddly, 400 additional entries kind of complicates things!

But have no fear, because we are on it, and we're reading and whittling and in some cases rereading (there are several on-the-fence entries,) and on 9/15 we are gonna drop that big list of (around) 131 quarterfinalists on y'all. We'll e-mail the list to everyone in a newsletter and also post it on the websites.

As always, I'm impressed by the amazing amount of talent out there. The amount of scripts in the pretty good category is huge, way outnumbering the not-so-greats. That said, naturally when you read a ton of scripts, certain patterns start to emerge. So I hope you guys do not mind if I present...

STUFF THAT DRIVES ME NUTS :)

Okay, these are little nitpicks that drive me crazy when I read scripts. If y'all do any of these things, then take a moment to think about addressing this stuff in your writing. Granted these are my personal peccadilloes, but for sure others share some of these concerns.

1) Using hard returns & line breaks between paragraphs in dialogue. Some of y'all skip a space between paragraphs in your dialogue, and that's just not how it works. If you need to pause for dramatic effect, just use (beat), or else write a smidge of description or action to break it up. But if you hit that hard return and skip a space, it looks weird.

2) Putting action in parens. Parentheses are not for action, so don't put it there. If your hero is going to put down his bottle of Dr. Pepper, put that in an action line, not in that tiny little parenthetical space under the character name.

3) Guessing at spellings. C'mon, guys, don't be lazy. You don't even need to grab your dictionary anymore since there are online dictionaries like dictionary.com and m-w.com. Words like anchorman and grandparents are compound (single) words. It's not anchor man and grand parents. Look 'em up! And if anyone else steps on the BREAKS in their car, I'm gonna cry!

4) Dumping commentary into description, e.g., "Bob realizes that he should have taken Jane's advice." I can't SEE that! Film is a visual medium, so that sort of thing needs to be depicted in either dialogue or visually somehow.

5) Using camera/shots in description. Get that stuff out of there! I don't need CAMERA FOLLOWS MARGIE as she enters the salon. Just write "Margie enters the salon."


That out of the way, It is, as always, my pleasure to announce the Writers on the Storm quarterfinalists to date! Now please everyone read this next sentence, because I’ve gotten a lot of e-mail about this. ***These quarterfinalists represent people who’ve entered Writers on the Storm via submitting their script to Coverage, Ink for coverage. *** They are the ONLY ones who find out before everyone else if they’ve made the quarterfinals or not, because the CI readers rate the scripts and forward the results to us. These represent everyone whose scripts got a ‘consider with reservations’ or better for script, or roughly the top 10%. The rest of y'all will not find out if you’ve made the quarterfinals until 9/15.

Okay! Without further ado, here are our Writers on the Storm 2008 Quarterfinalists **so far**:

Heather Upton, Belfast Boys
CA Bennett, Death Valley Dig
Kelly Murry, La Matadora
A.C. Yacobian, Rasta Pasta
Aaron Marshall, The Last Adventure of Martin Finch
Alan Sproles, Lizanne Southgate, Eden Lost
Rich Sheehy, Sliding into Home
Paul Sargia, The Man Who Could Stop Time
Steven Zawacki, Orcadia
Suzanne Darling, Brush With Fame
Dennis Bailey, Pound for Pound
Chris Jopling, Blacklights
Andrew Zeoli & Christian Wagner, Blueballers
Attila Nagy, Gilbert Inboden, Garen Inboden, Enlighten Up
Russ Meyer, Organic Svengali
Vito LaBruno, Last American Guido
Adam Nur, Jetpack
Nisso Cohen, The Source
Mark Eaten & Stacy Dymalski, Center of Fortitude
Art Blum, Back from the Dead
Patrick Nicholas, Edgewater
Michael Coleman Jr., Clone
Dan Williams, Forest Fire!
Lisa Cordova, Remote Stryker
Alexander Valhouli, Louis
CV Herst, The Bardo Realm
Marnie Collins, Silver River
Jerry White, Link
Sam Neil Kesler, Fatal Ambition
Jason Kent, Colossus
Jarran Davis, Newton’s Cradle
Krista Zumbrink, Virgin Marie
James Schannep, A Poem for Silvertown
Odin Shafer, Bury Me in Fire
David Larson, Laced Up
Gary Eichelberger, Catch 21
Susan and Wayne Boyer, Poser
Mark Nui, Shanghai Blood
Alasdair McMullan, The Blues Detective
Jim Corona, DEAD Line
Cynthia Troyer, Between


Back to y'all shortly with the BIG LIST!

Portia Jefferson
Writers on the Storm Contest Coordinator

QUERIES? AYE! for the Straight Guy (or Whomever)

Show of hands--how many of us agonize over query letters? We get clients asking us to help them write theirs all the time. So here’s a quick & easy formula you should use. You’re welcome!

The main thing to remember is that query letters MUST BE BRIEF. Three paragraphs. That’s it. If it cannot fit on a single page fax, you have blown it. Three and only three paragraphs. Here’s what those paragraphs should contain:

A) WHO ARE YOU? WHO-OO? OO-OO? Paragraph 1, briefly describe yourself in the most fascinating way possible. What have you done in your life that’s cool, different, interesting? No one cares if you have took classes in screenwriting or has some B-list celeb say he’s interested in your story. Talk about YOU. Maybe you took a walking tour of Bangla Desh and met the Dalai Lama. Maybe you shoveled horseshit at Yonkers Raceway for 4 years and still can’t get the stink out of your coveralls. Maybe you volunteer at a shelter and won a Parcheesi championship. The idea is to paint a picture of yourself that stands out and makes you seem like someone worth contacting. Sure, you can mention some quarterfinalist contest showings or whatever, but the main thing here is to sell YOU as a cool person. If you can be self-effacing, even better. One client recently wrote, “I’m an NYPD cop who bought rental property in Connecticut 5 years ago thinking I’d make a fortune. I’ve been getting my ass kicked ever since.” I love that!

B) LOGLINE. In no more than 3 sentences, pitch your script. (See article HERE: http://coverageink.blogspot.com/2006_03_01_archive.html) Feel free to ice your logline with a movie comparison, such as: “It’s DIE-HARD meets HOME ALONE”-- but with paramecium.”

C) THANKS AND OUT. Simplest part. For extra credit, CALLBACK to your opening paragraph here.
Seriously, that’s all there is to it.

+++

SAMPLE QUERY LETTER


Reynaldo Flemm
Flemm Films
flemmfilms@aoll.com

(date)

Hi, Reynaldo,

My name’s Writey Writerson. I am an ER nurse at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles--yeah, it’s nuts. I once climbed halfway up Mt. Kilimanjaro but had to turn back when my rented mule fell to his death. Seriously.

I have a screenplay I was thinking might be right up your alley: BURPIN’ SLURPIN’ ROBOT GHERKINS. Logline: Due to a tragically poor intelligence, an alien invasion squad transforms themselves into cybernetic pickles in order to blend into Earth society. But 7-year-old DANA VASSILY, heir to the Vassily pickle fortune, discovers the four and captures them in a jar. Will the Gherkins be able to escape and finally lay waste to our pathetic planet? BSRG is “Shakespeare in Love” meets “Taxi Driver”, but with crunchy dills.

If you’d like a look, please let me know. Happy to send along either hard copy or PDF--(knock on door) Who the hell is that? Oh, Christ! It’s the damn sherpa! How did he track me down? Crap, guess I’m gonna have to pay for that damn mule!

Sincerely,

Writey Writerson

THROUGHLINE... You Need One

Our pal Diane Wright, an excellent analyst in her own, er, right, has a cool website chock full of useful articles, and she’s graciously allowed us to ruthlessly steal one! Check out her site HERE. And feel free to subscribe while you’re there.

THROUGHLINE & SECOND ACT SAG

Most troubles in an ailing story can be traced back to a little something called the throughline. Throughline is the motor in your story’s boat. It’s the single, pervasive concept that not only guides every event and action but also the one thing to which everything must relate.

A tall order? You betcha.

So what is it? Throughline is the answer to the question, "What does my protagonist want?" or if the hero is not conscious of their desires, "What does my protagonist need?" The answer may not be apparent on a first pass if you're the writer (nor is it expected to be) but, at some point, writers and their story consultants need to hunker down and tease it out.

Why? Without the focus of the throughline, audiences sniff a wandering tale. We can innately sense when some bit of action or dialogue doesn't ring true--doesn't fit with that hero's quest or with their core selves. Our story bullsh*t detectors run overtime looking for any little thread to grab on to that will pull us out of our waking dream. Our jobs as story creators is not to feed that beast.

To do that, we can look for a couple of key signs and help ourselves--once we've identified it--by writing out the story's throughline and keeping it visible as we craft the narrative.

1. What is the protagonist's overarching want for this story?
Does she want to visit her homeland to find out who she really is? Does he want to save his family from the invading alien creatures? Must she recover the diamond?

2. What does the protagonist need?
Does he need to be loved and accepted for who his is? Does she need to break out of her rigid shell and live a little? Does he need to forgive and move on?

These questions will reveal the protagonist's EXTERNAL and INTERNAL motivations--their driving forces--upon which everything else in the story is based. They are two facets of a single idea: the hero's drive to reach their goal. In practice, this means that no line of dialogue, no thought, no action, and none of the characters they meet will fall outside of this idea. When they do, those nasty little story monsters reach out from under the bed, tickle your audience, and cause them to become impatient with your story.

Middle portions--or 2nd acts in a 3-act structure--notoriously suffer the sucking sandpit of boredom. That's often due to a weak and/or under-developed story motor. Check it for yourself. Find a novel or film that doesn't hold your interest, dig about for its throughline, and see if it's strong enough to hold the action all the way through without major diversionary tactics along the way.

Now find your own story's throughline and map out how everything else interacts with it. That Aunt Elsie character who wanders in on page 70? Sure she's amusing but if she has nothing to do with your hero's driving need, pack her bag and put her back on the train.

As always, these are not rules but guidelines and observations made over a lifetime of studying story. Feel free to disagree and discuss. In fact, please do.

FORMAT, SCHMORMAT

Got an interesting e-mail from John Zussman, cowriter of two exceptional Writers on the Storm top ten scripts (TRIO and ORIGIN.) He was responding to an excerpt from the CI Format & Style Guide in the last newsletter, the gist of which was: turn off your automatic CONTINUEDS and MORES in Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter. In other words, when BILL speaks, then something else happens in description, and then Bill speaks again, we don’t need to put (CONT’D) since it’s pretty clear Bill is continuing to speak. We recommend only using mores and continueds when dialogue continues over a page break.

John discussed this with his long-time consultant Michael Hauge, writer of many excellent books on screenwriting, and Hauge disputed this advice. Hauge feels that readers get into a certain rhythm or comfort zone when reading a script, and it disrupts their rhythm if they don’t see (CONT’D) after a character’s name every time that character speaks after a pause. Hmm. So I thought about that. I forget where I originally saw that bit about turning off the mores and continueds--I think it was the CAA Spec Style Guide--but after much rumination and with all due respect to Mr. Hague, who is a world-class analyst, I say, COME ON. If we see BILL’s name, do we really need (CONT’D) to know that Bill is continuing to speak? It’s just unnecessary clutter on the page.

But you know what? At the end of the day, it truly doesn’t matter. Format, schmormat. If you’re holding the reader rapt with your storytelling, they won’t give a vole’s tushie whether you leave the mores and continueds on or not. We can nitpick format to death--and I mean heck, I write the damn CI Style Guide, so I am guilty of this--but at the end of the day, there are some people who love ellipses, some who hate them… some who skip two lines between scenes and some who skip one… none of that truly maters. Tell a great story. End of story. Er, so to speak.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Writers on the Storm mini-almost-kind-of update


Hey, all of you patiently waiting to see some results! Actually, so am I. Here's the scoop: we are going to be late. Not sure how late exactly, but right now it appears like we're not going to be able to announce the quarterfinalists until around Sept. 15. We'll firm that up this week and then announce it in our newsletter and also here and on the websites.

Two big reasons for this--number one, we didn't anticipate exactly the volume of entries we would receive (still waiting on an exact count) and thus our team is taking longer than anticipated to read them all. Portia pilfered a couple of readers from Coverage, Ink, to, to speed the process along (ordinarily, Writers on the Storm and Coverage Ink are two separate operations.) And number two, the Without a Box extension week threw us for a loop, since we had not built that into our estimate -- and hard copy submissions were still trickling in (postmarked by the due date but still, thanks to the vicissitudes of US Mail, as recently as yesterday.)

So sit tight, everyone, and we'll announce some numbers and the new quarterfinalists announcement date shortly. Back at you ASAP!

Jim Cirile
Coverage, Ink
Writers on the Storm

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Deathmatch: "Atonement" v. "The Game Plan"


By Jim Cirile

In one corner: weighing in at 111 pounds, multi-Oscar-nominated, universally loved romantic period drama masterpiece “Atonement.” And in the other corner: at 277 pounds and rippling with lean beef, Disney’s fluffy and formulaic programmer about a self-centered pro football star who discovers he has a 7-year-old daughter -- “The Game Plan.” Let’s get it on!

Okay, okay, you’re thinking I’ve totally lost it, right? What the hell am I doing even mentioning kiddie piffle like “The Game Plan” in the same sentence as a Film like “Atonement”? And you’re right to think that -- hence this article, to explain it to all of youse. Because, you see, these two disparate films could learn a thing or two from one another. Astonishingly, I cried during “The Game Plan.” Yet I didn’t shed a single tear during “Atonement.”

Adapted from Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel by Christopher Hampton and directed by Joe Wright, “Atonement” tells the story of 13-year-old writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) who irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's (Keira Knightley) lover (James McAvoy) of a crime he did not commit. After being hauled off to jail, McAvoy is sent to fight in WW II, his love for Knightley the only thing sustaining him. As years pass, the lovers vie desperately to reunite while Briony unravels from guilt as she finally comes to understand the magnitude of what she did. “Atonement” is a big, beautiful, masterfully written, shot and acted movie that has “Oscar” written all over it. There’s a shot about halfway into the movie that is one of the most spectacular things you will ever see – a 5 and a half minute-long Steadicam shot showing the Dunkirk retreat. The performances are wrenching, and were she not a huge star already, this movie would certainly vault Keira Knightley to stardom.

The interesting thing about “Atonement” from the writer’s perspective is that the structure is unconventional. It doesn’t become clear until about midway into the movie whom the protagonist actually is. We are led to believe it’s Keira Knightley and James MacAvoy’s story -- but it’s not. Further, script tends to jump back and forth in time throughout, a device which we should all be careful of using ourselves, but which works here and allows the story to be told from multiple perspectives, each time enlightening us as to an angle we’d missed previously. It’s quite ingenious, and it’s the exact opposite of formula.

Now “The Game Plan.” Egotistical party-hearty quarterback Joe Kingman’s (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) team is on their way to the championships, and Joe's got all the money and fame that a man could want. A perpetual bachelor whose one brief marriage ended many moons ago, Kingman is stunned to learn that a long-forgotten fling has permanent consequences when adorable 7-year-old daughter Peyton (Madison Pettis) arrives at his doorstep. Can a swollen-headed football star adjust to a life of ballet classes, Barbie dolls, and afternoon play dates?

With a script credited to Nichole Millard & Kathryn Pryce (Audrey Wells also shares story credit) and directed by Andy Fickman, “The Game Plan” is formula, top to bottom. There is never a moment when you do not know what’s going to happen. It’s as if the writers simply lifted the template from the Disney, er, playbook, sketched in some characters and voila – instant kids’ movie. And while “The Game Plan” is cute and charming, and features an unexpectedly great performance from the Rock, who proves himself a more than capable actor -- it never really achieves comedic orbit, which is usually the thing that can propel formulaic family comedies to big numbers. The film was a surprise big hit for Disney ($90 million US box office, $22 million budget.)


So getting back to the crying thing. For all its wonderful characterizations, wrenching true human drama and heartbreak of “Atonement,” the film never really hit that chord, the one that really resonates and pulls our heartstrings. For a romantic drama like this, I’d expect to emerge a blubbering mess. And yet… nothing. Sure, I appreciated its craft and performances and thought it was a fine, fine film, but emotionally something was missing. “The Game Plan”? I had to leave my seat to run to the theater’s bathroom to blow my nose and wipe tears three times in the movie’s last act! Can you imagine? There I was, fully conscious of being manipulated every step of the way, knowing full well exactly what beats were going to happen and when -- and yet despite that, I was a frickin’ wreck! “The Game Plan” DID hit those emotional beats that “Atonement” did not. We came to care about The Rock’s Kingman and feisty and super-cute Peyton -- like boo-hoo, water-your-eyes-out care.

So what’s up with that? Here’s my theory, and you can feel free to quote (or deride) me: There’s a reason it’s called FORMULA. It WORKS. Even if you know it, understand it and teach it, guess what? It still freaking works. Executed properly, it hits all of us on an emotional level. It’s downright Pavlovian. And I believe “Atonement,” largely due to its unconventional structure and utter lack of formula -- well, I won’t say it doesn’t work, because it does, but *something* is missing. Because we are not allowed to really lock onto a single protagonist, I believe this affects our ability to really bond with the characters and thus really feel for them. Had Mr. Hampton tweaked the narrative to make McAvoy the clear protagonist, and kept him front and center throughout the entire story, the tragic ending would like have hit us all much harder, like “The Notebook” hard. Of course, that would have changed the entire thrust of the story and in fact invalidated its very title, since the atonement we’re talking about here is in fact Briony’s.

Please don’t misunderstand. I would never be such a jackass as to try to impose formula on a literary work such as “Atonement,” and the film’s Oscar contender status clearly shows the film is effective. In fact, I applaud Hampton’s screenplay because, much like Tarantino did, he proves that you CAN deviate from formula and still make a great movie (if you’ve got the chops.) But at the end of the day, a cheesy Disney kids’ movie touched me more deeply than “Atonement” did. Hmm... maybe “The Game Plan” should have been nominated along with "Atonement" and the lamest Best Picture Winner Ever, "No Country For Old men." But that's a whole nother story...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

DEADLINE APPROACHING! MIDNIGHT SUNDAY 7/27!

Stormies! Oh, my God, big news. Okay, yes, our final deadline IS indeed 7/27. That’s SUNDAY at midnight. After that, we pull the plug on the website and will not allow any more submissions. (If you’re sending hard copy, it would need to be postmarked by Saturday 7/26.) BUT... No, we’re not announcing some tricky last-minute final extension. That would be really weak, especially since we promised we wouldn’t do that to y’all. Except… we sort of are. Let me explain.

See, this year we partnered with Without a Box. About a third of our submissions so far have come in through Without a Box (which is great for any of you who hate Paypal and wish to pay directly via credit card.) Thing is, Without a Box recently asked us to extend the contest an extra week exclusively for Without a Box entries. In fact this was a condition of our buying additional e-mail advertising blasts through them last week. So we agreed to ONE FINAL WEEK only for WAB submissions. The WAB-only extension runs from this Sunday through midnight the following Sunday (8/3/08).

So... as far as the Writers on the Storm and Coverage Ink sites are concerned, we still have to pull the plug on contest entries 7/27, and that’s it. However, if you’re a WAB member (or sign up this week,) you can still enter through 8/3. Now my apologies if that irritates any of y’all, ‘cause maybe you were scrambling to make the 7/27 deadline, and I understand. However please note that WAB is jacking up the price an additional ten bucks during the WAB extension week! In a nutshell: enter late through WAB, pay more dough.

Okay. That out of the way, It is, as always, my pleasure to announce the Writers on the Storm quarterfinalists to date! Now please everyone read this next sentence, because I’ve gotten a lot of e-mail about this. ***These quarterfinalists represent people who’ve entered Writers on the Storm via submitting their script to Coverage, Ink for coverage. *** They are the ONLY ones who find out before everyone else if they’ve made the quarterfinals or not, because the CI readers rate the scripts and forward the results to us. These represent everyone whose scripts got a ‘consider with reservations’ or better for script, or about the top 10% Jim tells me. If you entered Writers on the Storm via writerstorm.com or Without a Box, you will not find out if you’ve made the quarterfinals until we’ve had read and processed all the submissions, which is going to take a bit. Everyone clear on that?

Okay! Without further ado, here are our Writers on the Storm 2008 Quarterfinalists **so far**:

Heather Upton, Belfast Boys
CA Bennett, Death Valley Dig
Kelly Murry, La Matadora
A.C. Yacobian, Rasta Pasta
Aaron Marshall, The Last Adventure of Martin Finch
Alan Sproles, Lizanne Southgate, Eden Lost
Rich Sheehy, Sliding into Home
Paul Sargia, The Man Who Could Stop Time
Steven Zawacki, Orcadia
Suzanne Darling, Brush With Fame
Dennis Bailey, Pound for Pound
Chris Jopling, Blacklights
Andrew Zeoli & Christian Wagner, Blueballers
Attila Nagy, Gilbert Inboden, Garen Inboden, Enlighten Up
Russ Meyer, Organic Svengali
Vito LaBruno, Last American Guido
Adam Nur, Jetpack
Nisso Cohen, The Source
Mark Eaten & Stacy Dymalski, Center of Fortitude
Art Blum, Back from the Dead
Patrick Nicholas, Edgewater
Michael Coleman Jr., Clone
Dan Williams, Forest Fire!
Lisa Cordova, Remote Stryker
Alexander Valhouli, Louis
CV Herst, The Bardo Realm
Marnie Collins, Silver River
Jerry White, Link
Sam Neil Kesler, Fatal Ambition
Jason Kent, Colossus
Jarran Davis, Newton’s Cradle
Krista Zumbrink, Virgin Marie
James Schannep, A Poem for Silvertown
Odin Shafer, Bury Me in Fire


Whew, that’s 31! And there will be plenty more. I hear there are some awesome scripts in here. But who will win the ten grand? I have no idea! But I can tell you it’s going to be a crazy next couple of weeks. Oh, and one more thing. Most of the scripts listed above are not going to make the top ten. Pause for a moment to let that sink in. Yep, we all want to win. Of course. But as Connor MacLeod might say, there can only be one. So, yeh, there’s going to be a little bit of disappointment out there. There already is from some of the folks on the CI side who got a pass and did not advance (about 300!) The thing is, can you use the feedback we give you, so the NEXT time, you get that consider? Can you do everything you can to give yourself the tools you need to make your script bulletproof, to succeed in Hollywood? Whether it’s taking a class or working with a mentor or going to Screenwriters Network events or joining a writing group or doing the coverage thing? Remember, guys, it’s a journey! One spec sale blows our puny10 grand prize out of the water, and that’s what counts. So give us what you got, Stormies! Off to get a very large coffee and strap myself in for the ride ;)

Portia Jefferson
Writers on the Storm Contest Coordinator
writerstorm@gmail.com

(Uh, Portia... “puny”? –Jim ;)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Queries? Aye. For the Straight Guy (or Whomever)

I wanted to address this because so many people agonize over query letters. We get clients asking us to help them write theirs all the time. So here’s a quick & easy formula you should use. You’re welcome!

The main thing to remember is that query letters MUST BE BRIEF. Three paragraphs. That’s it. If it cannot fit on a single page fax, your have blown it. Three and only three paragraphs. Here’s what those paragraphs should contain:

A) WHO ARE YOU? WHO-OO? OO-OO? Paragraph 1, briefly describe yourself in the most fascinating way possible. What have you done in your life that’s cool, different, interesting? No one cares if you have took classes in screenwriting or some B-list celeb says he’s interested in your story. Talk about YOU. Maybe you took a walking tour of Bangla Desh and met the Dalai Lama. Maybe you shoveled horse shit at Yonkers Raceway for 4 years and still can’t get the stink out of your coveralls. Maybe you volunteer at a shelter and won a Parcheesi championship. The idea is to paint a picture of yourself that stands out and makes you seem like someone worth contacting.

Sure, you can mention some quarterfinalist contest showings or whatever, but the main thing here is to sell YOU as a cool person. If you can be self-effacing, even better. One client recently wrote, “I’m an NYPD cop who bought rental property in Connecticut 5 years ago thinking I’d make a fortune. I’ve been getting my ass kicked ever since.” I love that!

B) LOGLINE. In no more than 3 sentences, pitch your script. (See article HERE: http://coverageink.blogspot.com/2006_03_01_archive.html) Feel free to ice your logline with a movie comparison, such as: “It’s DIE-HARD meets HOME ALONE”-- but with paramecium.”

C) THANKS AND OUT. Simplest part. For extra credit, CALLBACK to your opening paragraph here.

Seriously, that’s all there is to it.

SAMPLE QUERY LETTER

Reynaldo Flemm
Flemm Films
flemmfilms@aoll.com

(date)

Hi Reynaldo,

My name’s Writey Writerson. I am an ER nurse at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles--yeah, it’s nuts. I once climbed halfway up Mt. Kilimanjaro but had to turn back when my rented mule fell to his death. Seriously.

I have a screenplay I was thinking might be right up your alley: BURPIN’ SLURPIN’ ROBOT GHERKINS. Logline: Due to a tragically poor intelligence, an alien invasion squad transforms themselves into cybernetic pickles in order to blend into Earth society. But 7-year-old DANA VASSILY, heir to the Vassily pickle fortune, discovers the four and captures them in a jar. Will the Gherkins be able to escape and finally lay waste to our pathetic planet? BSRG is “Shakespeare in Love” meets “Taxi Driver”, but with crunchy dills.

If you’d like a look, please let me know. Happy to send along either hard copy or PDF--(knock on door) Who the hell is that? Oh, Christ! It’s the damn sherpa! How did he track me down? Crap, guess I’m gonna have to pay for that damn mule!

Sincerely,

Writey Writerson

Friday, July 11, 2008

WOTS CONTEST DEADLINE UPDATE


(PLUS QUARTERFINALISTS THUS FAR!)

Hey Stormies!

Well, we’re into the home stretch. As usual, you guys all wait till the end and then hammer us with the submissions. I know, I know, I’m a writer, too. I do the same thing all the time. Yeah, a deadline gets me moving. If I know I have 2 months, it gets back-burnered until the red alert kicks in -- yikes, 48 hours, I better get a move on!

Now I know our deadlines are a bit confusing, so let me try to explain this all as clearly as I can. (Note that as of this writing we're still waiting on our webmaster to get all the new info updated on the CI and WOTS websites.)
Our REGULAR DEADLINE is midnight 7/11. That means any script submitted to Writers on the Storm (at www.writerstorm.com or www.withoutabox.com) before that time gets into the contest at the $40 rate.

Our FINAL (LATE) DEADLINE is midnight 7/27. For the period from 7/12 through 7/27, the price jumps to $50 for any script submitted at www.writerstorm.com or www.withoutabox.com (or $90 for two submissions of the same script.) That’s the honest and true FINAL deadline, y’all. No extensions. 7/28, we’re out.

However -- and this is where it gets just a mite tricky -- you can also enter the contest through Coverage, Ink (www.coverageink.com) if you want a full script analysis. If you do that, entry into the contest is automatic and free, right up till 7/27. And there is no price increase. In other words, there’s only one deadline on the CI side -- 7/27. Send in your script for coverage any time up till midnight 7/27 and you’re in. Get it? Are we cool? ;)

And now once again it’s my pleasure to present our current quarterfinalists. These are folks who entered the contest via submitting their scripts to Coverage Ink for screenplay coverage, and they represent approximately the top 10% of submissions to CI since the contest began.

Congrats to our Writers on the Storm 2008 quarterfinalists so far:

Heather Upton, Belfast Boys
CA Bennett, Death Valley Dig
Kelly Murry, La Matadora
AC Yacobian, Rasta Pasta
Aaron Marshall, The Last Adventure of Martin Finch
Alan Sproles & Lizanne Southgate, Eden Lost
Rich Sheehy, Sliding Into Home
Paul Sargia, The Man Who Could Stop Time
Steven Zawacki, Orcadia
Suzanne Darling, Brush With Fame
Dennis Bailey, Pound For Pound
Chris Jopling, Blacklights
Andrew Zeoli & Christian Wagner, Blue Ballers
Attila Nagy, Garen Inboden & Gilbert Inboden, Enlighten Up
Russ Meyer, Organic Svengali
Vito LaBruno, The Last American Guido
Adam Nur, Jetpack
Nisso Cohen, The Source
Mark Eaton & Stacy Dymalski, Center of Fortitude
Art Blum, Back from the Dead
Patrick Nicholas, Edgewater
Michael Coleman, Jr., Clone
Dan Williams, Forest Fire!
Lisa Cordova, Remote Stryker


Will one of these guys be the big winner and pocket 10 grand??? Too early to tell! But a lot of these guys are polishing their scripts based on the coverage and resubmitting (their quarterfinalist status locked in.) Does that mean they have a leg up on all of y’all who just enter the contest directly? Maybe, maybe not! Depends how well they execute and how well your own screenplay gets it done. There’s plenty more room up there!

Oh, one last thing -- this year we have far fewer scripts over 120 pages than ever before. That’s fantastic. As most of you know, that’s the very first thing you’re judged on by the industry. D-Girls and creative execs assume if you can’t tell your story in 120 or less that you don’t have the discipline or editing skills yet to be worthy of serious consideration. It’s just the way it is, stormies! If you all take nothing else away from this, remember that first impressions count. If an exec picks up your script and sighs at the prospect of a 124-page trudge, you’ve already lost points. So get out that McCullough Eager Beaver chainsaw and rev that baby up and don’t stop till you’re at 115. You’ll be glad you did.

Love y’all!

Portia Jefferson

Writers on the Storm Contest Coordinator

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

SCRIPPED - SO EASY AN 8 YEAR OLD CAN USE IT


By Jim Cirile

Back in May, we filled you in on Scripped.com, the revolutionary new FREE online screenwriting software. We did a little test run with the software and gave it thumbs up (if you missed it, it’s up on our blog HERE.) So if you’re still using MS Word to write screenplays, brother, do yourself and the world a favor and give Scripped.com a whirl.

So here’s an interesting bit of putting-your-money-where-your-mouth is. Long-time CI blog and newsletter readers know my 8 year old daughter is a very creative, imaginative type. I’ve written previously about my efforts to keep her from gravitating towards screenwriting and moviemaking, only because overprotective dad doesn’t want to see his little punkin go through years of punishing rejection and frustration (like all the rest of us.) But of course, this was a futile undertaking. As early as 7 years old, she was helping flag typos on scripts (comma before *and* after all direct addresses, sweetie) and asking fairly advanced questions about things like story and conflict. Just today she asked me if I knew that the Captain in WALL-E was going to stand (you gotta see it.) And I said, “Yeah, because it was logical that would be his arc.” And she said, “I thought so, too.”

So it was no surprise when a few weeks ago she asked for my help inputting a handful of pages, handwritten in crude screenplay format, into the computer. ‘Twas her first script – an epic kids/fantasy/adventure called MYSTERY DRAGONS. My first thought was, okay, I can teach her Final Draft. But then I thought about it some more, and I decided, you know what? There’s too many things she could get stuck on with FD. Plus my copy is out of installs, which means she’d have to have a copy of the disk in every time she used it… or I’d have to pay again for another license. Nothing against FD, by the way, which I use myself and find to be very good software (but for a few minor annoyances.) But I wanted something SIMPLE. And then the lightbulb went off.

My daughter is now the youngest enrolled user of Scripped.com.

The great thing is, because Scripped is not quite as full-featured as FD, it actually makes it easier to use. Within 20 minutes I had explained what the Character, Parenthetical, Action, Dialogue, General and Transition tabs were, and VROOM, off she went. But for a few general issues with things like spelling, (Scripped actually has a full-function spell check, yay) where to skip spaces and capitalize words, and what goes in the parentheses, she was off and running with no hiccups.

One of the founders of Scripped told me they’ve been getting calls from Final Draft and Movie Magic. It appears those guys are worried. They should be.

++++

And thus I am proud to announce Coverage, Ink’s new association with Scripped.com. Coverage, Ink will be providing preferred screenplay analysis and consultation services to Scripped members through Coverage by Scripped, powered by Coverage, Ink. We think that Scripped is the wave of the future. And based on the thousands of registered users in countries around the world, a lot of other people feel the same way. Scripped is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with.

So, all of you, you no longer have any excuse for poor formatting. You no longer need to be able to afford Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter! Kick MS Word to the curb. Give Scripped a test spin and see what you think.