Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Five Ways To Get Your Script Read

by Jim Cirile
Coverage Ink

"How do I get people to read my fricking script?" I've been asked this question an awful lot lately -- even more than "How do I get an agent?" Yerp, it's harder than ever to get people to read. The reasons for this are many, but in short: rampant media consolidation means fewer buyers. As well, there are pretty much no major indies left; many veteran producers have lost their studio deals and discretionary funds, and the ones that remain -- the big guns -- are well serviced by agencies and management companies. So they don't need to really look outside the box (although a few still do, thankfully.) All of which means that agents and managers don't necessarily have to read as voraciously as they once did, because they're having enough trouble keeping their current clients working. Vicious cycle, eh wot? 

Still, all is not gloom and doom. Though there may be fewer studios making less movies, there are film funds and foreign coproductions and crowdfunded projects and webisodes and so forth, and that means there are still pathways to get material made. So while you might be sitting there stewing in your own tantalizingly icy gazpacho of frustration, as we all do at times, keep in mind that all these obstacles are merely that. They are there partly to screen out the chumps -- the people who don't want it enough, who don't do the heavy lifting. We just have to be cool with the fact that while the jolly act of screenwriting means instant gratification, getting your stuff read is the exact opposite -- a slow, painful grind. Don't expect anything to happen on your wish-list timeline, sister.

With that, here are five things you can do to get your script read. Warning -- some of these are going to require effort and investment in yourself. Good luck.




5) PAY FOR ACCESS. This is a broad category which includes pitchfests, websites and more. There are a few companies out there who do good work and do actually have a pathway in. In terms of pitch fests, Ken Rotcop's PitchMart, Great American Pitchfest and InkTip Pitch Summit may not be cheap, but represent an awesome way to get in the face of creative execs. At these events it is up to you to sell not just your story idea but you. If no one bites, it means one of three things: they're not interested in your material (write something else,) you did a cruddy job of conveying it, or there was something about you personally they didn't spark to (ouch). But the potential access is there -- it's up to you to sell your project so compellingly that they must read it.

Black List's Franklin Leonard
You can also pay for posts/pitches, such as on Black List, InkTip.com and virtualpitchfest.com. All these sites have had successes. Black List really is becoming Hollywood's great unwashed slush pile, and their process is smart. Scripts do get elevated and found. InkTip has a great community of "below the radar" producers especially, so it's a great place to post low-budget, horror or indie type material that wouldn't necessarily work as a big Hollywood spec. And Virtual Pitch Fest pays producers a fee in exchange for responding to every query submission (although that response is often "No thanks.") But I know it works, since a top CI analyst got signed to a major management company from using VPF.

Warning: beware anyone who says they will shop your script for a fee (especially lawyers.) These people have zero juice, and your dough will disappear faster than a Popsicle in a blast furnace. 

4) CONTESTS. There's good news/bad news in this department. The good news is, most reputable contests do actually read your script, and if you place in the top ten, you get bragging rights and occasionally even some exposure to the town. Amass a couple of top-3 showings and it looks great in a query letter. The bad news is, there are about 40,000 goddamn contests right now, and only about a half dozen have any value at all. Your chances of winning or placing are low (although you can tip the odds in your favor with some elbow grease -- see #1 below.) And finally, entering more than a few can get costly, the waiting times are long, and the giddy thrill of rejection is ever-present.


Ask any industry people about contests, and they will inevitably tell you they are totally useless. For people in a certain rarefied strata, that is true. Certainly most A-listers can't be bothered with contests, unless it's the Nicholl Fellowship. Hell, I sat at the same table with Gale Anne Hurd and Sid Ganis at the Nicholl awards dinner a decade ago. But the truth is there are plenty of companies who will at least look over the loglines of any "real" contest. So, we recommend Nicholl Fellowship, Scriptapalooza, Script Pipeline, Austin, Final Draft Big Break, the TrackingB feature and TV contests, and of course our own contest Writers on the Storm (on hiatus in 2014.) For all the others, proceed with caution. I know how easy it is to rack up $700 on the ol' American Distress card on Without a Box, desperately trying to advance our careers. Amazon (owner of WaB) thanks you, but your pet lizard Goober, who will have to subsist on floor sweepings for the next month, likely will not.

http://coverageink.com/ebooks.html3) QUERIES. Finally, something that doesn't cost anything! Guess what -- good news/bad news here as well, and you already know what those are. Good = free. Bad = no response. Yep, you've got your imdbPro subscription (Amazon again, sigh) and you're ready to blast out those 100 queries to prodcos who have made movies similar to your script. Guess how many responses you're likely to get? If you guessed a big fat whoppin' zero, pat yerself on the back. 

Here's the thing. While most queries are instantly deleted, a small percentage are not. That means you've got literally about 5 seconds to impress that creative exec with your email. It may be a shot in the dark, and most execs, agents and managers will say they never read queries, but guess what? RODHAM, the Black List darling of 2012, soon to be a movie, was a query (discovered by our own Agent's Hot Sheet panelist Richard Arlook from Arlook Group.)

So HOW do you sell yourself and your idea in 5 seconds? 
  • Be CONCISE. Three short paragraphs: intro, logline/idea, and thank you.
  • Give them WHAT THEY WANT.  Study the execs' taste at that company and target accordingly. Study the biz and see what's selling. The bull's-eye is narrow.
  • Be AMAZING. Your writing needs to crackle in those few sentences. If the electricity jumps off their smartphone and fries their eyeballs, hell, you've got a shot. Use your VOICE. You're a writer. This is your audition for the goddamn Carnegie Hall here. Sing your damn heart out or go home.
Write that tight, killer query, have a logline that kicks 97 different kinds of ass, and watch your success rate skyrocket to 3, maybe even 4%. (Hey, four bites out of a hundred queries ain't chump change.)
 
www.inktippitchsummit.com2) DIY. The interwebs and cheap HD cameras have returned a certain amount of power to us writers. We no longer have to wait around for someone to "buy our script." Now we can shoot it ourselves and throw it up on the web. Maybe no one will ever see it. But maybe, just maybe, it might go viral. According to Robyn Shwer from Mace Neufeld Productions, ten million views is the magic number to get most major prodcos in town to pay attention. Easy-peasy, right? Um... 

Anyway, the point here is, so maybe you shoot a short version of, or a trailer for, your movie. Asking for a 3-minute time commitment is way easier than asking folks to give up two hours to read a feature script. And if they like it, heck, then they might actually read the full-length version. Hollywood has definitely become Short Attention Span Theater. And "test reels" are more and more common. Even Edgar Wright had to do one to sell Marvel on his vision for "Ant Man," which is now greenlit and coming 2015 (I guess Marvel didn't see Wright's recent turkey "The World's End.")

Hell, you can even shoot your own feature(s) using your own money or crowdfunding, etc., and start your own production company. That's what we did here at Coverage Ink -- after doing two shorts with big geek names like George Takei and Lou Ferrigno, we're shooting our first feature in 2014. In that case, who needs anyone to read your script? Ahem, well, except for the 14 Coverage Ink readers who read multiple drafts and helped us develop it. Which brings us to...

1) THE CREAM STILL RISES. Yeah, yeah, I know many of you were expecting to see "Be the college roommate of a prominent agent or studio exec" or "Have rich, well-connected parents" at number one. And shit yeah, those things are absolutely true. But I'm going to assume these do not apply to you. If they did, you'd be too busy doing rewrites on 6-figure assignment gigs to bother with this article. Good for you.


The rest of us have to settle for doing the hard work and making our stuff as good as it can possibly be. You bet that's a pain in the rump! It means not settling for first or even tenth draft. It means NEVER sending out a script until it gets consistent "considers" or raves from everyone who reads it. Truth is: the reason most people never get anywhere is that we send out our stuff before it's ready. Only much later do we get some notes back, and we go, "Oh, right. I guess I do need an Act II." But by then you've blown out the script to everyone you know, and those few industry friends have passed and You Are Done. 

But now suppose you sent out something which was the superfarfalating antimatter bomb of awesomeness? Suppose you did twenty drafts on that puppy over a year or so, and ironed out every imperfection? Well... most people would still pass. But a few would be like, "Whoa, Nellie!" See, here's how you know when your script is really ready to go: when other people enthusiastically volunteer to help you. Until that time, as painful as it may be, you just gotta keep rewriting. 

But when people are willing to make calls for you, to stick their neck out? You're in. 

And that's how every single one of us who does not have the benefit of being Harvard mafia or the son of a studio exec's nanny's gardener breaks in: hard, hard work and a passionate advocate or ten. It can and does happen all the time. But writers hate this because for most of us it seems unattainable, because we don't think we'll ever get there. So we take the easy way out and send our early drafts to contests and so forth, assuming it's like a lottery. It's not. No one wins by random drawing. You win by quality. And quality will win people to your side, who will compel the movers and shakers to read your script.

Best of luck to all and happy holidays!

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Jim Cirile is a writer/producer and founder of screenplay analysis/development service Coverage Ink and Coverage Ink Films. Their award-winning short LIBERATOR is now on DVD. Jim also writes for Creative Screenwriting and has two e-books, "The Coverage Ink Spec Format & Style Guide" and "Agent's Hot Sheet -- a Decade of Wisdom From Hollywood's Top Reps."

http://www.coverageink.com

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Coverage Ink Magic Movie Formula

We've had quite a few scripts coming in lately where we've had to review basic structure. This is not a ding against anyone, since we all have to start someplace, and God knows my first couple dozen scripts were pretty amateur-hour. But when I started 20-plus years ago, there were precious few resources for writers beyond Syd Field's Screenplay books, which provided a good but fairly insubstantial structural template. Nowadays, there's really no excuse for anyone not to have access to the info they need.

So we assembled our own Coverage Ink Magic Movie Formula for our CI Spec Formula and Style Guide (our own indispensible and dirt-cheap -- $3.95 -- go-to reference for screenwriting awesomeness.) Our Magic Movie Formula is coalesced from several sources, in particular Blake Snyder's Save the Cat!, Chris Vogler's The Writer's Journey, as well as what I call "The UCLA Method"-- the structural paradigms taught by Kris Young and Tim Albaugh as part of the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting.

Basically, if you follow this template and hit all these way-points, you can't go wrong. Well, you still can, but it makes it a bit harder to go off the rails! Most features made today more or less follow this template. Now a word of warning. Yes, this is FORMULA. And as I like to note, you've gotta know the rudiments before you can solo. But the best musicians are known for pushing the envelope, and so should you. Do Elvin Jones, Herbie Hancock, David Gilmour and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name a few, color inside the lines? Damn right they do, but they also cut loose and bring their own thing, which makes their music unique and brilliant. This formula is not the be-all and end-all. Break the rules when you have a good reason for doing so. Learn to anticipate that others will anticipate the formula, and change it up when we least expect it. Boom! You'll win over readers every time.

But above all, realize that formula is formula because it WORKS. So embrace it, and use it as an important tool in your screenwriting arsenal (and a way out of the corner we all inevitably paint ourselves into in Act 2.) So here's the formula. If you're interested in checking out the other 80 pages of our Style Guide, just click here.

--Jim C.



A complete screenwriting how-to book in a page or so? We proudly present you with our Movie Formula. I’m sure many of you out there hate formula, and don’t want it anywhere near your movie. That’s fine, unless you want to someday be paid for your work. This formula applies for many kinds of movies, and these benchmarks are fairly universal. Make sure your script hits these marks. Page numbers are approximate.
 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

1) THE HOOK. Pages 1-3. A cool or visually interesting scene that grabs us and makes us want to know more. Could be a precredits action or horror or comedy sequence, or showing the protagonist doing what he does best. Above all, set the TONE for rest of the movie here, and once you establish the rules of the world, stick to them!

2) GETTING TO KNOW YOU. Pages 3-9. Showing the protagonist in his or her KNOWN WORLD. The everyday life before the storm hits. Also in these pages indicate the main character’s PROBLEM. For example, “If only John wasn’t so arrogant, maybe he’d get that damn promotion.” Whatever he is NOT able to do here, he should be able to do at the end of the movie.

3) INCITING INCIDENT. Page 10-12. AKA “The Catalyst.” This is the monkey wrench that comes along and sends the protagonist’s world spinning. After this, life cannot remain the same. This then forces the character to make a decision: accept the challenge or not. Remember STAKES! In movies, the stakes must always be high. If the protagonist does not succeed in his mission, the consequences must be DIRE for the protagonist. If the hero can just go back to life as it was, then you shouldn’t be writing this movie.

4) HERO REFUSES THE CALL. Pages 13-17. Per myth, the hero doesn’t WANT to risk everything to set off on this dangerous adventure and has to be convinced into doing it by a MENTOR or other forces. The hero likely has to overcome his fears. Or another event occurs that gives the hero no other option but to take on the danger.

5) HERO PREPARES. Pages 18-25. Accepting what he must do, hero prepares—rallies friends, gathers necessary materials, etc.

6) END OF ACT ONE. Page 25-30. Hero debarks on The Journey, accepts the call to Adventure and sets out from the safety of his known world into the unknown new world of the second act. Note that this can come as early as page 22 or so, but not much earlier.

7) ACT TWO FIRST HALF. Pages 30-55. Several things happen here. First is we pay off the premise and have some fun. So if your movie concept is about a man dressing up like a chimp and going to live with apes at the Zoo, then these scenes show fun antics of what that’s like. Think ‘trailer moments.’ Secondly, here we need to again emphasize the protagonist’s dramatic flaw, which others are aware of, but HE is not—yet. Third, the protagonist makes allies here—new traveling companions or others met along the journey who could come in handy. And finally, the bad guy steps it up and tries to stop the hero. All the while, the hero is actively pursuing his or her quest. A passive hero makes for a lame flick.

8) MIDPOINT ACT 2. Page 55-60. The high point of the second act. Here we have a huge twist or change or a big set-piece. This is also generally where the hero finally begins to become self-aware—he finally starts to comprehend and accept what his problem is, although he still can’t fix it yet. The hero makes a move to take control of the emotional dilemma—generally followed by an immediate reversal to challenge that decision.

9) ACT TWO SECOND HALF. Pages 55-75. Fun and games are over. The conflict suddenly amps up. Bad guy strikes back. Hero is forced to zig when he wanted to zag. The conflict expands and escalates.

10) THE FALSE ENDING. Page 75. It appears the protagonist is going to pull it off. He’s within sight of his goal. He’s overcome obstacles and is about to win. But, no such luck…

11) THE BLACK MOMENT. Page 85-90. As we roll into the end of Act 2, everything starts going wrong. Allies abandon the hero. Hero’s plans fall apart. Perhaps he, or an ally or love interest, is captured. By the end of act 2, the hero should be at the farthest possible point from his goal. Despair and as Blake Snyder puts it, “a whiff of death” here.

12) ACT 3. Page 90-110. After the hero hits rock bottom, he has to pick himself up by his bootstraps. This often comes in the form of a mentor character imparting sage wisdom that enlightens and empowers the character. Thus the character CHANGES, and overcomes his dramatic flaw. In so doing he is now finally able to see how to defeat the menace. Also here allies met along the journey come back to help the protagonist succeed. Finally, and this is a MUST, is the showdown—the confrontation between the good guy and the bad guy.

13) TAG, YOU’RE IT. End of script. The protagonist succeeds and returns back to his known world of Act 1 a changed and better man, bringing with him “the elixir,” or in other words, the spoils of his successful quest. He is now able to do the thing he was NOT able to do in the first few scenes of the movie.


http://www.coverageink.com

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

SONS of ARANCHY pilot script

We're getting a lot of pilot submissions lately, and many folks ask us, where can we get pilot scripts? Just look around the interwebs! You can find a ton of them for free. Study them carefully, because TV structure is a very specific, formulaic animal. Check out Drew's Script-O-Rama TV page for tons of stuff. Apologies in advance for the pop-ups and pop-unders. I guess Drew needs to pay the mortgage somehow.

With no disrespect to BREAKING BAD, MASH, DEXTER, etc. SONS OF ANARCHY is probably one of the best-written shows in TV history. Here's the pilot. Free! Download it. Study it. Be inspired. You'll be glad you did.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Steve Kaire on Character Arc

Character arc is the change one of your main characters goes through from the beginning of your story until the end. Every well-written screenplay should have at least one character who learns something major and changes his behavior or attitude in the course of the script.

In the drama “Rain Man,” the Tom Cruise character starts out mistreating his autistic brother who he’s kidnapped and holding for ransom because he feels cheated out of an inheritance. By the end of a cross country adventure, the Cruise character learns to love his brother and ultimately turns down a large check in order to maintain contact with him.

In the movie “Liar, Liar,” Jim Carey plays an attorney who is forced to tell the truth for twenty four hours because of a wish he makes to his son. By the end of the film, Carey has not only exhausted all the comic potential that this high concept idea generates but he becomes a better father in the process for his honesty. That is his character arc.

Even though virtually every story has one character undergoing an arc, there are a few notable exceptions. James Bond is essentially unchanged from beginning to end in every film of the franchise. In “Godfather 2,” Al Pacino’s character stays ruthless throughout the movie and has no arc at all. In “The French Connection,” Popeye Doyle’s character remains a reckless, obsessive detective until the closing credits despite having just accidentally killed a fellow officer.

Despite these exceptions, your scripts should have at least one major character who goes through a change in his belief or behavior.

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Steve Kaire is a Screenwriter/Pitchman who’s sold 8 projects to the major studios on spec without representation. His CD, “High Concept -- How to Create, Pitch & Sell to Hollywood” is available on his  website along with more articles. HighConceptScreenwriting.com





Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Coverage Ink Oktoberfest Sale - 20% off!


Guten Tag, Dudes und Frauleins!

It's October, so what better excuse for a SALE? From now until 10/25, all scripts submitted to www.coverageink.com for analysis are 20% off. Just use this discount code when you submit:

OKTOBERFEST20

This sale includes all features and TV pilots (but note, discounts cannot be combined.) So hoist an overflowing stein of Hefeweizen and salute yourself for saving dough and getting top-flight analysis of your screenplay from CI.

The demand for great TV pilots has never been greater; but everyone is still looking for features that can be done for a price as well. The industry is hopping until the holidays, so the time is now to get your material shined up and out there any way you can. Submit your script at:

www.coverageink.com

And don't forget to include the discount code OKTOBERFEST20 on your order form. We'll deduct the 20% from your invoice and get back to you with insightful and empowering notes on your screenplay. Go for it!

"One of the best coverage services" -- TrackingB.com

Jim C.
www.coverageink.com

Sunday, September 29, 2013

OSBORN IN THE U.S.A.



Screenwriter Ron Osborn has been filling our lives with good times for decades via TV comedies like “Mork and Mindy,” “Night Court," “Moonlighting” and “Duckman,” as well as dramas like "The West Wing" and "Meet Joe Black." Incredibly, he was offered a staff writing gig on "Cheers" and turned it down. He has been nominated for Emmy, Humanitas, Cable Ace and Writer’s Guild Awards and teaches screenwriting at Art Center College of Design. He welcomes writer inquiries at his consulting site NoBSscreenwriting.com. Ron took time out to chat with us and share some anecdotes and insights from his 35-year-plus career.

By Jim Cirile

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Jim Cirile: What? Dude, you seriously turned down “Cheers”?

Ron Osborn: (laughs) Yeah. What had happened was my writing partner Jeff Reno and I had written a spec “Cheers” and we couldn’t get them to read it; and then a friend of ours got the script to them. But then “Moonlighting” came knocking right about the same time. And the "Cheers"people said, “Don’t make any decisions until you talk to us.” We were huge fans of the show, and it was a case of embarrassment of riches. There was something enticing about getting an hour-long (show)
after years of writing half-hour sitcoms, and so we made the leap. Whether it was the right one to this day, I don’t know. 

JC: That’s big balls.

Whoa, Bruce has hair?

RO: I do believe it was the excitement of the new. “Moonlighting” had six summer replacement episodes on the air at this point, and it sure looked imaginative -- characters I’d never seen before in television. I was getting married too at the time. So it was a real confluence of events.


JC: How did you hook up with Jeff?


RO: We met in a sitcom writing class. I had an agent at the time. I was writing features. My agent suggested I had a sense of humor and said I should be writing sitcoms. There was a school called Sherwood Oaks Experimental College back in the 70s. I got into a class there. They allowed 12 students in based on writing samples. It was the teacher who basically came to us after class one night and (complimented us,) suggesting that producers will hire a team over an individual writer because you usually don’t pay twice as much and you get two writers. 

Many times on Moonlighting  -- the production was so poorly run – Jeff and I couldn’t afford, timewise, to work on the same script together. We would be writing parts of other scripts or starting separate scripts and then rewriting each other. So they were definitely getting two writers out of us for the price of one. So this teacher suggested we partner up. We wrote a spec “M.A.S.H” (spec) script together.

Osborn and Reno
JC: So you guys were actually fixed up. Did you guys know what each other's styles were? Or was it just like a blind date?

RO: We knew each other from class. And we’d go out drinking after classes and stuff. 
We knew each other’s style a bit. I can’t say there wasn’t a learning curve once we got hired on a show.

JC: How did you get your first agent?



RO: I lied. A producer came to Art Center (where Osborn now teaches), and I went to hear him speak. I had already graduated and I kind of pigeonholed him after class and said, “Look, I’m a struggling writer..." and I gave him an elevator pitch. He said, “That sounds interesting,” and gave me 4 agents' names. 

I contacted each of them and said, “This producer read my script and really liked it and thought you’d be ideal for it.” One of them didn’t get back to me, and one of them said, “Nah, he wouldn’t do that.” The other two read it and both were interested. I went with one and it didn’t work out some months later. So some months later I called the other one and said, “If you’re still interested…” and I went with her. That was my first agent. 

That approach backfired on me, though. Later, when I was at Paramount, I got a call from a guy named Al Aidekman who worked on a Garry Marshall show. He said, “How could you recommend this piece of shit?” I said, “What piece of shit?” Turns out someone I had run into (had asked me,) “Hey, who do I contact over at “Laverne and Shirley”? I said, “Call this guy Al; he’s a nice guy.” Apparently (the writer) told Al, “Ron Osborn read my script and highly recommends you read this.” So karma got back at me. 

JC: Let’s hit some highlights. “West Wing.” What was that experience like?

RO: Well, it was so bad that we left the show, and Aaron Sorkin, on his next show “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” named two slimy characters after me and my partner. 


Sadly, not really representative of actual government.
We were brought in to run the (writers) room, and John Wells and Aaron interviewed us. We had previously met with Aaron – he had asked us to come on “Sports Night” – and we turned that show down because we were huge, huge fans of it and we didn’t think there was anything we could bring to the show. It was kind of a no-win situation where the worst you could do is maintain the great job they were doing and get no credit, or you could fuck it up. So we had passed on that. 

When he then got “West Wing” on, they got back to us. John Wells said, “(Aaron Sorkin) can’t run two shows.” Turns out, he had every intention of trying. And on top of that, Aaron had no intention of sharing control. The stories I could go into. We left mid-season. We walked out to develop a half-hour with John Cleese. And by the way, (Sorkin is) really a terrific writer. He’s an awesome writer. But he’s not a very nice human being. 


JC: What was the John Cleese project?


RO: That is also back in play right now. We’re actually in talks with BBC America. It was an idea of his called “Whetfish,” wherein almost all legal firms in the country were working directly for the devil in trying to hasten the end of days through frivolous and class action litigation. So all lawyers were basically demons working for the devil. Cleese wanted largely to produce it. He might show up from time to time as the Devil. He himself didn’t want to get into weekly production. Ironically, he had read the drafts of our West Wing script. We did write a West Wing script before we left. And our draft, not Aaron’s, was nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award. (Cleese) read that and asked us if we would work on this idea with him. He’s just one of my gods, and so we got to go up to Santa Barbara and sit on his patio overlooking the ocean and get him to do the French waiter (from "Meaning of Life") and other bits.
And at the same time he can be talking about Immanuel Kant and string theory, which he did. It was just one of the high points in my career. He was very pleased with the script, and as he was giving us notes, he goes page by page and just stops and laughs uncontrollably at a joke that I had written, and that was it. 

Anyway, ABC, who we wrote it for, passed. (Recently) we decided to pull the script out of mothballs and update it and send it out. We got a hold of (Cleese, who is now) living in Monte Carlo for tax purposes. He’s a great listener and loves to laugh. So we (got his blessing.)

JC: And BBC America is interested?


RO: We have been talking with them. That’s actually the first place we sent it. We haven’t really explored anywhere else yet. We’re in talks right now. So far they’ve been very engaging. We shall see. 


Brad Pitt, age 14.
JC: Tell us a little bit about the genesis of “Meet Joe Black.”

RO: (Jeff and I) were approached by Martin Brest, who asked if we were interested in doing an update of “Death Takes a Holiday,” and I remember that film very fondly. We kind of jumped at it. But even more to the point, Marty wanted to do it as a screwball comedy. Kind of like “My Man Godfrey” -- the stranger who comes in and disrupts the house. So we wrote the first draft. And then Marty said, you know, I think the themes are too big and important here to do so glibly. We should ground it more. So we did another pass where we grounded it more. And at this point it was about 12 months into the process. He works very deliberately. Very very carefully. So we kind of went through our contract on it and moved on. And he brought in Kevin Wade. We had a different take on Susan, the female lead. He made her probably a bit more audience-friendly. I still like our idea better. And then Marty brought in Bo Goldman to just kind of do a dialogue pass. Bo disappears for 10 months. Comes back with an entirely new script. And Marty has an aneurism and goes, “No, you don’t understand. I liked the story we have.” It was a very pleasurable experience working with Marty. We had a great time. We got to go to the set. It was just everything you want as a writer. He’s very respectful. He’s a writer himself. He would kind of ask questions that would lead us to the right places, I guess.  

  
JC: What are you up to today? No BS Screenwriting, your workshops -- are you still working with Jeff?


RO: Yes, we’re going out with the Cleese project. We’re also out with an hour-long horror pilot that just went out last week to a number of networks. It’s an ensemble horror series called Heartland. And then also we just wrote a spec, a big adventure, a kind of “Romancing the Stone” kind of thing. We're also pitching a big hour-long romantic comedy that we wrote on spec. So there's that, and then of course I'm still teaching one night a week at Art Center. I have a student who has a wonderful dark love story that I have set up with a producer and am working with her on. 


As for nobullshit screenwriting.com,
that's my script consulting service. During the writer’s strike it was like, well, I’ve got nothing to do. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I'm asked to read scripts all the time anyway. I had some of my former students help me set up the website, and I brought in a web designer. (It started with) one script I read which was just so all over the place in so many ways. I gave my notes and the general comments began with, “To call this script a train wreck gives a bad name to train wrecks”. And that person sent me another script. He appreciated the honesty. Timewiose though, that's getting harder to do.

JC: And you do workshops?


RO: I sure don’t, except for every year at Big Island Film Festival. Leo (Sears, founder of BIFF) gets me out there to the island.
I have a condo on the big island, and we were put in touch with each other by a mutual friend. It’s a great excuse to go over there. There is at least one vacation a year built around the film festival. This year I did two seminars -- "What's So Funny?" and "Ripped from the Headlines." 

I also went to Perth in Australia for 10 days to consult on a number of features subsidized by the Western Australian Film Commission. But mostly I focus on my classes I teach at the Art Center College of Design. I’ve been there for over 25 years now. I do that one night a week. Depending on the students, sometimes it’s magic and sometimes it’s like going to a bone marrow transplant. It’s an advanced class. I quit twice. Because the first time I spent too much time teaching the basics and just wanted to teach advanced. So now I do.It's limited to six students max, and it's a much more pleasurable experience for them and me.

JC: That must be a pretty amazing class. Ron, thanks so much for taking the time, and we're looking forward to Whetfish and everything else you have in store for us.



Sunday, September 08, 2013

5 Ways to Add More White Space To Your Script

by Jim Cirile

White Space! You love it. you need it. And if you don't love it and you don't think you need it, then come towards the light, my friends.

White space is the area around the words on the script page. So it may not seem very important, right? BZZT! Ooh, sorry, the correct answer is: it is bloody important indeed. See, proper use of white space lulls the reader into a (hopefully not false) sense of security. More white space generally equates to an easier, faster read. And creative executives want every read to be easy/breezy. They want to know they can sail through that puppy at breakneck pace. Your 110-page script with lots of white space makes a positive first impression worth its weight in dilithium crystals.

On the other hand, if said CE cracks the spine of your 110-page script, but it's densely written and there's more black ink on the page than 90-brightness Staples copy paper white, she'll groan, "Amateur." You'll be lucky if she gets five pages in before tossing your masterpiece in the ol' circular file.

So without further ado, here are five super-easy tips for adding more gorgeous, snowy white into yer screenplay.

1) TURN OFF AUTOMATIC DIALOGUE AND CHARACTER CONTINUEDS. One thing many screenwriting software programs do automatically is clutter your script with meaningless garbage like MOREs and CONT'Ds. Most people can figure out that if the scene hasn't ended by the time they reach the bottom of the page, there's a strong chance it may well continue on the next. So we do not need (MORE) at the bottom of every page, really, do we?

Similarly, when a character is speaking, then we pause for a little direction, and the character resumes speaking again, we don't need (CONT'D) after the character name. We can pretty much figure out from the fact that since it says SHECKY that Shecky is continuing to speak. Rather incredible our intuition, wouldn't you say?


So go into your drop-down menus or control panel and find the one that says MORES AND CONTINUED. Turn it all off with the exception of the one that uses them over a page break. That's handy.

2) USE SLUG LINES. Ew! Those slimy trails left behind garden slugs? No, intrepid scribes, I'm referring to a single word (or a few words) standing alone on its own line for dramatic effect.

Why would anyone do this? Three very important reasons. First, it tells the director (and the reader) exactly what we're looking at. In this way, you cleverly get to "frame the shot" without specifically telling the director how to direct or what to shoot (which is a no-no.)

Secondly, this technique says, HEY, IMPORTANT! Thus, crucial information does not get glossed over. Ever get a note that you "need to hit something harder?" or have someone miss something that was clearly in the script?

Put it in a slug line. No one will miss it now.

And finally, slug lines -- you guessed it -- add more white onto the page, thus improving reader perception of the script as well as adding breathing space into a sequence.
Slug lines in action.
3) BREAK UP BIG CHUNKS OF DIALOGUE AND DESCRIPTION. There's a rule in screenwriting (which, like most rules in screenwriting is constantly broken) which states:

No paragraph of description should ever be longer than five lines.

Now that's not a huge amount of space. How can we possibly convey what we're trying to get across in such paltry amount of room? Uh, well, couple easy ways. The first is, you could try simply breaking that 9-line chunk of thick, black, forbidding text into a couple of handy-dandy 4 and 5-line paragraphs. Rocket science this ain't.

Or you could try...

4) EDIT YOURSELF. We writers love to write! But like eating every single Ring-Ding in the box in one sitting, too much of a good thing can lead to agita. If you've never met an adjective you didn't like (and hey, what writer hasn't?), then perhaps closely scrutinizing your writing may be in order.

See, screenplays are not like novels. Your writing is not judged on its deliciously effusive and thoughtfully composed prose. Rather, we are judged on brevity and voice. How economically and efficiently can you convey something? Can you say ten sentences worth of description in a word or two? And can you do it in a unique or clever way (voice)?

Read the script over thoroughly, scanning every single line, paragraph, every page, scrutinizing it carefully. Keep the axe poised, and any extraneous words are outta there. It's a bit of an art to train your eye to look for bloat, but it's a skill any writer can learn. Take any sentence and challenge yourself: can I say the same thing in half the words? Or do I need the sentence at all? Be on the lookout for redundancies, scenes that are unrelated to the main storyline, unnecessarily wordy description (movie writing is supposed to be terse and snappy) and extraneous characters and subplots -- especially in the case of many ensemble scripts, which oftentimes would work better and be tighter with a central protagonist.

5) WRITE DOWN THE PAGE. This can be a great trick when used sparingly. What it means is, think vertically, not horizontally. In other words, when telling your story, use the white of your page dramatically.

Here's a chunk of action written as a paragraph:
Crapola, that is a lot to slog through. Your eyes roll up into your head at the mere thought of reading that, right? Just imagine how agents, managers and CEs feel. But now let's apply our magic "writing down the page" trick (using sluglines of course) and see what happens.


Heck of a difference, huh? Now the problem here is, of course, that doing it this way takes up more space in the script. And we don't want to inflate our page count. True, and that's why I said: use this effect sparingly, as well as: EDIT YOURSELF!

Employing these techniques should elevate your presentation lickety-split and create the impression that you've got the goods. After that first impression, of course, it's up to the story to hold their interest.

Good luck, brethren in scribliciousness!

##


Excerpts taken from the Coverage Ink Spec Format and Style Guide, available at Coverage Ink.com.

Jim Cirile is a Los Angeles-based writer/producer. He has been a columnist for Creative Screenwriting magazine since 2001 and founded Coverage Ink, a top-rated independent screenplay analysis/development service in 2002. Check out Jim's new comic book Lou Ferrigno: Liberator from Bluewater Comics.




Monday, August 19, 2013

Agent's Hot Sheet is Back

We're very pleased to report that the all-new Creative Screenwriting is now online. Featuring all your favorite columnists from over the years who've been lured back into the fold by CS founder Erik Bauer, who has returned to the company after moving on five years ago, determined to make it better than it was -- better, stronger, faster.

Check it out at creativescreenwriting.com.

Of course, that means my column Agent's Hot Sheet, which originally ran for a decade in the print magazine, is back. Check out the new Agent's Hot Sheet column, The Paradigm Shift, right here. We talk about how Hollywood making less movies has whammied the business.

WE'RE BACK, BABY!

--Jim Cirile

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Jim Mercurio DVD Set Now Available



Writer/Director/Screenwriting consultant Jim Mercurio from A-List Screenwriting has released his new 6-DVD set -- Complete Screenwriting from A to Z to A-List. This ain't any ol' screenwriting how-to. This insanely detailed 10+ hours of all-new material (with top-notch motion graphics) guides you step by step through developing high-concept material through execution, using examples from a panoply of hit movies like Liar, Liar, Tangled, Dead Poets Society, The Dark Knight, Superbad -- yes, Superbad -- and more! there's a reason why Mercurio is a consultant to A-List clients. His knowledge of things like Theme and adding emotional resonance to your characters is second to none.

From the description:
In this brand new DVD set, filmmaker, story analyst, and master teacher Jim Mercurio delves deep into the nitty-gritty of screenwriting and shows you how to:

- Teach your brain to see storytelling patterns everywhere.
- Understand why scene writing isn't a separate skill from screenwriting and storytelling.
- Learn to put character first and create structure organically from nothing.
- Right-brained approach to a left-brained topic - Discover how a location, a prop, or even the rewrite of one word contribute towards theme.
- Use Jim's detailed theories to jump-start your creativity and brainstorming.
- Look at the ten criteria of a line of dialogue including how to find its climax, create a reversal, incorporate it into a metaphor, align it to a concept, and reframe it toward theme.
- Perfect the most lucrative skill in Hollywood. Not how to come up with high-concept ideas... but how to execute them!
- Gain a new appreciation for the craft of screenwriting and what it can be.
So if you're looking for an all-in-one solution, the proverbial screenwriting school in a box -- here it is. Check it out right here.


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Coverage Ink INDEPENDENCE DAY SALE!


Declare your independence from lame script coverage. Coverage Ink's Independence Day Sale runs from now until July 17. $20 off any analysis! Don't send out your screenplay too early. Bring in the industry experts to make sure your script rocks.

Summer is the perfect time to set aside some quality writing time. When fall comes around, the industry comes back to work -- with acquisition budgets to be spent before the end of their fiscal years. Whether you have an agent or manager, or you plan on doing queries, BlackList, Virtual PitchFest or what have you, there will be creative execs willing and ready to read. Once that door opens, it's up to you. You can send out something which is not quite there yet and get the not-especially-polite radio silence pass; or you can roll up your sleeves and polish that draft until its brilliance causes retina burn when the exec cracks the spine.

I don't know about you, but I prefer the second category.

So many of us make the same mistake -- we're so excited when we finish a script, we blast it out to our contacts without getting any constructive, knowledgable feedback. Or we get a couple friends to look at it, and they either don't know enough about screenplays to make useful comments, or they pull their punches. Neither of which does us any favors. Or we do get sone notes; we do the ones we feel like, ignore the rest and assume we're good to go.

Every one of these scenarios results in the exact same result: FAIL.

Coverage Ink has been doing this for a long time. Founded in 2002, we are one of the oldest and best-respected, and top-rated script consulting and development services in the city. Our team of 14 hand-picked story analysts have the chops to root out all your script problems. And we're crazy affordable to boot. The best thing I can say about good notes is, at least once a week I get a e-mail from a client saying that the CI story analyst who reviewed their script ferreted out things the writer always knew were an issue but just couldn't quite put their finger on. When that lightbulb moment happens, it's a beautiful thing.

That's what CI is all about -- empowering writers, pumping up your projects and giving you a fighting chance when that door opens.

Speaking of doors beiung open, mine always is, so feel free to hit me back at any time about anything at info@coverageink.com. Now GO GET 'EM.

Happy Fourth of July!


Jim Cirile
Founder, Coverage Ink

Submit your script now! Use discount code INDEP20 and receive $20 off any screenplay or teleplay analysis at www.coverageink.com.



Saturday, June 22, 2013

LIBERATED

Lou Ferrigno in "Liberator"
TO CREATE A NEW SUPERHERO FRANCHISE ABOUT A SUPERHERO WHISTLEBLOWER WHO FIGHTS HIS OWN GOVERNMENT, WRITER/FILMMAKERS JIM CIRILE AND AARON POPE BROUGHT IN BIG MUSCLE.

By Tanya Klein

The writing team of Jim Cirile + Aaron Pope knew they were on to something when they sketched out their original short screenplay for Liberator – a character study of an aging ex-superhero with real-world problems. “Liberator was one of ‘America’s goodwill ambassadors’ – leader of a government-created team of supers,” says Cirile. “But that was just their cover. What they were really up to was something else entirely.” When a black op went south, the Liberator was forced to take the fall. Decades later, after a long stint in prison, Liberator is disgraced, reviled -- a traitor. “His own family, his daughter, won’t even talk to him any more. And that is just killing him.” So at great personal risk, after all this time – Liberator decides to blow the whistle and tell the truth.

“We knew that trying to launch an original superhero franchise without source material would be next to impossible,” says Pope.  "But if we had something with the right combination of grit and heart, we might just be able to speak to people with it.  That was worth the risk for us so we gambled on getting the closest thing to a real life superhero we could find and sent the script to Lou (Ferrigno)." 

Ferrigno sparked to the role immediately.  “It really spoke to him,” says Pope. “Once we had Lou on board, the cast came together quickly – Ed Asner (Up), the amazing Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita) and Mr. Worf himself, Michael Dorn, and we were off and running.” Well, except for a little matter of money.

Aaron pope directs Lou Ferrigno and Peta Wilson.
Cirile and Pope decided the best strategy was to shoot as much as they could with the funds they had. “We had enough dough to shoot five days,” says Cirile. “That was enough to get us a lot of great footage to put together a sizzle reel for Kickstarter.” With the reel showing off genre faves Wilson and Dorn, and featuring Ferrigno himself asking for finishing funds, the team set out to raise $18,000. “It was down to the wire,” says Pope. “We were sweating it out there as the deadline got closer and closer. But then with literally seconds to spare, three big donors all came in and put us over the top. We wound up raising almost $25,000.”

Turns out Cirile and Pope had their fingers on the pulse of time. Liberator landed right in the midst of the current whistleblower debate. Huffington Post, USA Today, Fox + Friends, Yahoo! News, and soon CNN have picked up or plan to run articles on the story.

“It’s a flipped coin,” says Ferrigno, regarding how he feels with regard to NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden exposing rampant, warrantless US eavesdropping. “In Liberator, I played a government agent who was dumped from the government, and he decided to blow the whistle and write a book. Being a police offer myself—being a deputy sheriff—I think leaking information is wrong. I think (Snowden) committed a crime. But I think it’s starting a dialogue. The constitution protects freedom of speech; (Snowden) felt he had to speak out. Part of me feels that it’s almost like Big Brother. So some people see him as a hero, others a traitor. It’s the same thing with my character.”

Liberator premiered last year at Holly Shorts Film Festival and since then has been playing at film festivals and comic-cons. To date it has won Best Dramatic Short from CalShorts and the Award of Excellence from IndieFest. The project’s building momentum has resulted in a comic book deal from Bluewater Comics, with Lou Ferrigno: Liberator hitting stands this summer. Even before publication, it’s already won an award: Best Digital Comic from New Media Film Festival. “This is a dream come true and in fact, it's almost like we've come full-circle,” says Pope. “We not only get to expand the world of our characters, but we’re creating our own source material, which was the issue we faced in trying to start a new superhero franchise in the first place.”

Now that Liberator is both an award-winning short and a comic book series, can a feature film be far behind? “Franchise was our goal from the beginning,” says Cirile. “The project already has fans in the biz. We’ll see what shakes out. In the meantime, this is my geek dream cast, geek dream project, and we’re really stoked that people are feeling it. Truth is worth fighting for.”

Liberator is produced by Coverage Ink Films. More at liberatormovie.com.

Tanya Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer/director.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Writers on the Storm VI Winners & Loglines

Ladies and gents,

We're happy to present this year's winners and top ten for our writing contest WRITERS ON THE STORM. 

This is one of those years where we had a bunch of scripts with really excellent craftsmanship on the page, and no clear winner in either TV or features. Of course we did have to choose winners, but damn if there isn't a lot of talent on display here.

Over the course of the next few weeks we'll be getting our detailed feedback to the top tenners in preparation for circulating their scripts and loglines. We're going to try to polish every one of these to a brilliant shine so that they cannot be ignored. Wish us luck!

For everyone on this list, I think allowing a few moments of patting yourself on the back is in order. We get enough rejection every day as writers that a moment or two of actual feelgoodedness every now and then is mandatory. And for those of you guys who entered and did not make the cut, really, don't sweat it. We mean that. The difference between pass or consider can be as small as tweaking a few things in a two-hour rewrite sometimes. So hopefully the contest feedback will give you a heads-up as to areas that could maybe require a bit more TLC in your script. Or, we could simply have been wrong. Subjectivity is an unfortunate but unavoidable part of the process, as much as we try to standardize our criteria.

In any event, keep the faith, folks, keep on plugging, and do not give up. This writing stuff ain't easy and no one ever gets anywhere in the first ten years. And those who do, we want to strangle them, don't we? LOL!

We proudly present our WOTS top ten:

TV - WINNER

Shaman by Eric Ian Steele
A white cop is raised by a Native American shaman with the power to control animals. Now he uses the same skills to bring criminals to justice. 

RUNNER-UP

Strategic Services by Jonathan Jones + Francisco Magdaraog
The Office of Strategic Services, or OSS, was the predecessor to the CIA. This series explores America's foray into espionage, assassinations and subterfuge. 

SECOND RUNNER-UP

Stealing Home by Sebastian Arboleda
A career thief is saddled with having to raise his three difficult half-siblings while dealing with obstacles from his past and present in this outrageous comedy pilot.

THE REST OF THE TOP TEN - In No Particular Order

Ditch Plains by Bernard Urban
A teen biker tries to fit into a town of surfers, but as he learns the secrets of his new home, he believes his mother, a CIA case officer missing for over ten years, secretly lives there.

Freebird by Simon Kay
Jimmy Waits, a former rock star fallen from grace, is released from prison after serving a ten-year sentence. In the outside world, he must navigate his old band mates and former loves, as he seeks personal and musical redemption.


Freetown by Jeremy Dickens
A burned out criminal defense attorney in a violent Arizona border town struggles to navigate a new world of corruption when a shadowy private security firm is hired to keep the peace.

Path by Michael Wright
A troubled detective finds himself caught in the middle of a decades-old battle between the most powerful man in the world and a group of telepaths determined to expose his dark secrets.

The RetroCog by Steve Morris
When an adrenaline junkie is paralyzed in a motorbike crash he develops paranormal powers, which he puts to use helping a police case but his abilities turn out to have unexpected consequences.

Triple Agent by Steve Morris
When an undercover agent publicly stops a terrorist attack the revelation of his secret and convoluted life endangers him from all sides as levels of conspiracy begin to surface.

The World by Kathleen Cromie
A shooting in Washington serves as the challenge to two rivals on a renowned newspaper who vie for the newly vacant position of managing editor.

FEATURES - WINNER

Carn Evil by Jason Siner
After a traumatic incident maims a newlywed and causes the disappearance of her husband, a young woman rallies her friends to return the crime scene -- a carnival with dark, deadly secrets.

RUNNER-UP

Clouds of Sorrow by Jack Davidson
Gripping tale of ten-year-old Sudanese boy who journeys from Darfur to Chad after his family and village is murdered by Janjaweed warriors. Also winner of Austin Screenwriting Contest.

SECOND RUNNER-UP

Damascus Cover by Daniel Berk + Samantha Newton
An Israeli spy navigates the tricky terrain of love, betrayal, and shifting allegiances when he is assigned to rescue a scientist from Damascus, Syria in the late 1980s.

THE REST OF THE TOP TEN In No Particular Order:

The Basement by Dawn Marie Guernsey
LENA, trapped beneath a building toppled by a tornado, is discovered by a madman who uses the property as a dumping ground for his murder victims.

Cake by Patrick Tobin
A self-destructive woman's obsession with the suicide of an acquaintance leads to a madcap journey of self-discovery.

The Heckler by Mike Hanson
'Spy-vs-Spy heckling wars break out between a slacker comic and freshly sent-down Major League slugger -- disrupting the game-fixing scam of an eccentric bookie.'

The Idea of Fireflies by Don Balch + Zack Smith
At the end of humanity, Ezzy Moore manipulates 'event waves' in an attempt to free her fiance and prevent a deadly machine intelligence from taking over.

Lulu by Samuel Bernstein
As silent film star Louise Brooks attempts to juggle the demands of her director, her sexuality, and Hollywood, she takes on a role that will define her career and her life.

On the Edge (aka Speedville) by Patrick Hunt
A feisty young woman's success at dirt track racing comes with bent fenders, heartache, high-RPM conflict on and off the track, and the understanding that winners don't necessarily have to finish first. 

Resilience by Lena Slachmuijilder
In war-torn Congo, a rape survivor overcomes shame and stigma to become a role model for others in similar horrific circumstances.



Friday, May 31, 2013

Jen Grisanti TV Staffing and Development Class - FREE!

Jen Grisanti
There are plenty of terrific classes and panels at Great American Pitchfest this weekend (Saturday, June 1st are the panels and classes; Sunday June 2nd is the pitching). But one we wanted to highlight is Jen Grisanti's TV Staffing and Development class

We had the privilege of hanging with Jen at Big Island Film Festival last week, and she is the real deal. As a former TV exec with over a decade experience, she knows her stuff. This 90-minute class is a great way to get started in pursuing the last remaining space where the writer is king (or queen): television.

So after checking out our incredible Agent's Hot Sheet-Live! free panel from 11 AM to 12:30 PM, stick around for Jen Grisanti's class from 2:30 to 4 PM. Trust us -- you'll be very glad you did. Great American Pitchfest is THIS WEEKEND at the Burbank Marriott, so juggle your schedule and make room! See you there.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Agent's Hot Sheet - Live! Panel Announced

Hi folks! It is with great pleasure that I present to you the full panel of our upcoming Agent's Hot Sheet - Live! panel. This can't-miss 90-minute extravaganza will cover everything you ever wanted to know about agents and managers -- specifically, how the hell to get one (and much more.)
PANEL:

Mitch Solomon, Magnet Management
Peter Dodd, UTA
Mark Hartogsohn, Gersh
Zach Cox, Circle of Confusion
Adam Perry, APA
The panel will take place Saturday 6/1 at 11AM at Great American Pitchfest at the Burbank Marriott. If you're unaware of the coolest screenwriting event of the year, let me fill you in. Every year, day one of Pitchfest (Saturday) consists of a panoply of (mostly) free panels. It is truly the best damn deal in town. For the cost of parking at the hotel, you get a full day of priceless screenwriting info, including Jen Grisanti's panel and so much more (check out pitchfest.com for the full schedule.)

Then Sunday is the pitching, and that is a paid event, but of course, well worth it if you have a script ready to rock and the idea of meeting 120-plus creative execs and representatives appeals to you. So get your questions ready for the agents and managers and come on out and take part in the fun. And while you're at it, stop by the Coverage Ink booth and say hi! See you there.

Jim C.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Coverage Ink/Writers on the Storm Newsletter May/June 2013


1. I Don't Have Any Freaking Time to Write!
2. Shorties
3. The Fasano Factor
4. As If Hollywood Movies Aren't Homogenized Enough

I DON'T HAVE ANY FREAKING TIME TO WRITE. How many of you guys know this mantra? Well, I've really been feeling it lately. Life has a way of overwhelming us with its obnoxious demands, and the first thing we sacrifice  is our precious writing time. Work hassles. Car repairs. Relationships. Laundry. Medical issues. Children. Social events. Pets. Dental work. Workouts. Facebook posts that need responding to. And of course "The Bachelorette - The Guys Tell All" special episode is a must-not-miss. All of these things take precedence, and before you know it, it's "Eh, I'll get some writing done maybe this weekend."

Compounding the problem is that if you're like me, you need quality time to write. To really immerse into the world of the story and get anything done, I need a minimum of two hours, preferably a lot more. A 17-minute window in my schedule ain't gonna do it.  I have to get comfortable and go away into the story world, and then when I'm back up to speed on all the characters and conflicts, I can actually produce something. When I attended the UCLA Professional Program some years ago, they said that writing every day was not just advice, it was required. And I was like, "Yeah, right." Just too damn busy!

Now I know some of you are thinking this is all a bit of an excuse. Many of you can write anywhere, anytime. My 13-year-old daughter recently blew me away with a several page fantasy story she had written during lunch at school on her iPhone. (I might try this if my clumsy, fat fingers could actually manage a decent new phone. I got a touch screen phone last year and promptly returned it when I couldn't even successfully enter the activation code.) And I know there's a little bit of truth in the statement that while I may prefer to have four uninterrupted, distraction-free hours in my office with my door closed, the truth is, I don't NEED it.

I am fully aware that in theory, you can tell your kids, "Dad needs to work now, don't bother me until 3PM." You can grab your laptop and write while waiting on your mechanic or in the doctor's office or the jury pool room. I've even heard it may be theoretically possible to NOT check social media or e-mail for several hours straight, although I have yet to test this somewhat outrageous theory. So yeah, I know all this, okay? But does it make it any easier? NO. This is 2013 and our lives have become this crazy cavalcade of crapola. It seems like there's always a fire to put out, always an errand that needs doing, and before you know it, it's too late for any real creativity -- might as well just put on Jon Stewart and try again tomorrow.

Now if you're reading this expecting some sort of great revelation at the end of this rant, sorry, pal. I don't have any. No, I'm basically just whining here. I have no solutions! I'm just saying this is how it is for me, and it kinda sucks.

But you know what keeps me going? Knowing that I WILL HAVE SOME DAMN WRITING TIME SOON. Maybe it'll be next Tuesday afternoon, or on that short hop flight next week, or even (I've done this) on that sick day you take for the express purpose of knocking out 15-20 pages. I must always know there's a window of time coming up. It may not be for days, but I know it's coming and it gives me solace. It's the only way to get through sometimes. Being able to go away into a script for several hours... it's like a mini vacay. Better than any day spa or movie marathon or sporting event as far as I'm concerned. It's just around the corner.

And it will be mine, bwah ha ha ha ha! Um... sorry.

So for all of you guys in the same boat, how do you cope? How do you find time to write in this day and age? E-mail me and if anyone has any good suggestions I'll post 'em. Because you guys have got to be better at time management than me.

+++

Bunch of coolness going on. We have our contest wrapping up -- we're down to the top ten and will be announcing the winners soon. Somebody is gonna grab a big fat $10,000 check! And on the screenwriting education front, we have two sweet events coming up -- Great American Pitchfest and John Fasano's new workshop series. We'll talk about both below. If you're at the Pitchfest, make sure you stop by the CI booth and say hi. And I'll also be hosting the Agent's Hot Sheet-Live! panel at Pitchfest Saturday June 1 at 11AM featuring five top agents and managers. Not to be missed.

Keep on writing, brothers and sisters (ha!)

Jim Cirile
Like us on Facebook!

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Continue on to Shorties