Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

The Scorsese Rule, screenwriting version!

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

If you’re looking to write a script or make a low budget film – there are several rules you have to follow. It’s a bit of a shame when considering film as an art form overall. Why should one follow certain rules as a result when expressing creative freedom?  Well if you’re looking to make money and sell the script, you’re doing it for someone other than yourself. Its work. Its someone else’s rules.

Let’s look at it from a screen-writing side first.

1) Length. If you have this amazing idea and it’s a 3 hour epic of 180 pages (assuming the rough page to minute 1:1 ratio that people use), it could be the most profound thing ever. However, if you are not a big name that’s established in the industry or related to one, it will never get looked it. Too much of a risk, too intimidating for those readers perhaps.

martin-scorsese-1

2) Direction. Unless you plan on being the director too and funding the thing (in which case, why are you even reading this, were looking at you Mr. Scorsese) don’t be too keen on writing about how it should be shot unless it is 100% vital to that scene overall. Describe the background short and sweet and to the point. Be sparse with close-ups at best.

3) Dialogue. Yep, no long speeches here except maybe near the end. Make every bit of dialogue count. You know those moments where a random scene pops up in your head and the dialogue sounds great and you can’t wait to write that down for your new script? Well good luck finding a place for it to fit. Maybe spare it for another idea? Sure. Most of the time you won’t ever use it.

taxi-drive-directed-by-scorsese-but-not-written-though

4) Character hooks

They need hooks. They need a style of dialogue, a style of movement and a quick but unique way of visualizing them. Sure, your goal is to let the actor/actress run with this, but it’s up to you to establish that. If you can switch out names in your script and no one notices, you’ve done that big mistake where all your characters seem a blur.

And…. How are your characters different? Whether positive or negative. Why did we just spend the last two hours watching them? Yes many movies now have that open ending which screams “sequel”. This is painful for one. Also this is for big budget films often based on things like comic books or previous hits. But you will need to set an level of connection from start to finish with each character. Known often as “character arc“.

three-act

5) The Three Act Structure.Yes that’s the image above, courtesy of rule in screenwriting for rookies. And veterans. Even Scorsese, sometimes – though unlike you, he can do this.

And what’s the climax?  Good vs. Bad, sounds so cliché, but that’s how it goes. What’s the incident that gets things going early on? Raise the conflict within the first few pages. Not the story about it, not the background fluff, what is this truly about?

5b) More importantly. Page 1.Yes, I’m going to end with the start. Page one has to have a hook. Yep, right away. Capture the reader on page one. You hear about how people decide within 10 pages? That was likely written 10 years ago. 1. Page 1. Get straight to key dialogue and scenes that tell the story. Yes, it’s not ideal, yes its why there’s a trend of movies that flow like that; and yes you might not want to do this -well after you make it big, you can do whatever you want.  Or just write it out anyway.  Cause you’re in it truly for yourself, right?  If so, then you truly are an artist.

As for Scorsese, not sure why the pun was intended.  Some of his movies are my all time favorites. Some not so much. But it seemed fitting to call some of these elements the Scorsese rule. Cause he can do 3 hour movies if he wants. I certainly can’t.  Directing version (which perhaps is more fitting) to come soon.

So You Want to Make Movies (Part 1)

Monday, January 13th, 2014

A couple of years ago I had a mid-life crisis. I was feeling a lack of meaning and that I had a lot more to contribute to life than what I was giving. I always knew that hidden underneath the layers of bitterness from working jobs I hated and the beer gut I put on over the years that I have a voice that is unique, powerful and needs to be heard. I decided that I wanted to pursue the one true passion I have in life and produce movies.

No, you probably never heard of me. Hell, even some of my closest friends have never heard of me. Even after reading this article, you probably will still be unaware of my existence. But the fact is that I got together with people who wanted the same thing: we wanted to make movies. And so we did. No, you won’t see our shorts as nominees at the Oscars. Yes, we made some mistakes and need to improve. But our movies are out there, forever. This all happened simply because we wanted to make movies and we made it happen. That simple.

First let me say this: do not waste your time and money going to film school. Why should you get into colossal debt so you can hear Professor Hoity-Toity Thompson give you 1,001 reasons why Citizen Kane is the greatest movie of all time because the NY Times critics or whoever film farts says so? If you want theory, go to the library and take out theory books or look up theory stuff on the internet. Better yet, form your own theories merely by watching all kinds of movies. Unless the courses are teaching technical skills such as camera operations or sound recording, save time and money and find a way to get onto a set and learn from the pros.

Film Set

For years I had let myself become intimidated by the stigma that comes with starting a film career: not finding work because I don’t have a film degree, finding work but it’s not steady, finding work but not getting paid for it or getting paid very little, struggling to make a living, arrogant film people squashing your pipe dreams of becoming the next great director. These thoughts must be controlled or overcome in order to achieve your goals. Whether you have the stomach to take on these challenges will tell you whether you have the desire to last in this business. I find that it’s best not to think, just do!

Once you decide to jump in, unless you have skills with a camera, lighting or sound recording; you will most likely have to get started as a production assistant. While it may not be the most glamorous work, it can be an opportunity to get experience and network with people for future work. It all depends on how you approach it. Chances are you will not get paid for your first few PA jobs. That is the unfortunate reality. Try to look at it as an investment for potential paying work in the future. If you stay the course, those paying jobs will come.

How do you go about getting on a set? Stay tuned…

Four Stages To Writing A Screenplay

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

So while it wasn’t done in a day, thats mainly because time is a hot commodity. Add up the hour here and hour there and there you go, though I have no idea what the exact number is.

I finished writing a screenplay today – and felt like it went through a four stage process, so I thought I’d share it.

Of course this is assuming you have some idea for a screenplay, key characters, etc, as I can’t really help much if you dont have the default.

1) Spreadsheet – Outlined the full story by scene and kept it top level, so I could see when to connect chracters, mix scenes around with ease and also see what pace I had things going. Just a top level line or two of who and what was taking place, little detail, no real dialogue unless I felt something absolutely had to be referred to in the scene. This made the story line very flexible and rearrange.

2) Rough Draft it up – Once I was about 95% sure with the structure of the story, I wrote up a rough draft in traditional screenplay format, though with a bit of a shortcut thanks to an App that works ok for rough drafting and convenient for the next stage, even if inadvertently. But by now I already had a good idea on what I wanted to write, characters, etc, and so it was written up quite quickly.

3) Fixings with decorations and hooks – Not only did I need to fix up spacing and format issues, but this read through inspired me to push comedic hooks within the dialogue (such as defining character lines to make them stand out from other characters). And by this point it became a storyline that occupied the rare moment of drifting blended with inspiration. So this is when the story got cleaned up, checked up and some decorations added, particularly in scene detail such as character reaction, movement and dialogue hooks to make sure there wasn’t too much down time or bland scenes that had no reason to be there.

4) Final polish – Then over to Justin for a final read through and feedback, and after taking my eyes away from this script for a week or so (as I’ll be kicking off the next storyline spreadsheet), then I’ll return for a final read through or act through if I’m lucky to have the right people around and thats’ that. It will never be perfect, but thats when its time to get it registered and run with it.

Almost there, waiting for #4. But starting #1 on the next story.

Hope that helps put ideas and writing into perspective from a scheduling task list point of view. Once thats in place, will try and keep posting when possible to look at what we do with the idea. It’s a 90 minute comedy in this case, so its easy going and I’m not too attached to it, which is an advantage. I’m aware the story can always be improved, and an idea is never 100%, but also that this is good enough that I dont need to waste time nitpicking.

Movie Sequels, Trilogies, Prequels & Correlations in the Economy

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

We often hear about how Hollywood is churning out sequels left and right more so today than ever before. Even movies that were not that big are getting sequels these days (example: Grown Ups 2), or even movies that were full on flops (Smurfs 2?!), or sequels that should have long been killed (Scary Movie 5, Fast and Furious 6 – and part 7 is set for a 2015 release, Bourne 5, etc). But it’s not ending any time soon, because the business is of playing it safe and releasing “sure shots” when it comes to movies generating revenue even if the actual movie is crap.

Interesting list of sequels in the works at http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/24211/111-movie-sequels-currently-in-the-works

Even movie sequels you left for dead “The Last Exorcist, Part II”, let alone “Bill And Ted 3” and “Blade Runner 2” are looking to cash in. And while “A Good Day To Die Hard” would technically be Die Hard 5, they’ve already planned a part 6!!! Or 21 Jump Street 2 (which isn’t even based on the TV show, but taking the branding of it as a marketing chip). This lack of creativity in Hollywood perhaps?! Even first parts are based on existing stories such as comic books or novels. And while many of these blockbusters are not my thing, I’ve seen a few of these in the cinema thanks to various friends of mine convincing me its worth a shot. Perhaps there are a couple that I didn’t mine, but then again, some of these movies that people loved, I felt were horrendous. Even the special effects looked too much the C in CGI. This used to really frustrate me when I was younger. WTF is with these movies, where’s the plot, etc.

It doesn’t bother me anymore though and I attribute a good portion of it to a couple of people telling me (on separate occasions but within the same month) several years ago that its mainly because when they go see movies, they want to “escape”. They want to veg out, escape their day and be entertained. Upon hearing this, it clicked. Not everyone is a film snob, wannabe writer, director, actor, etc. Most people don’t mind playing it safe and seeing a sequel to something that they know they liked, or seeing a movie because a one-liner and some special effects that make fictional things come true on the big screen looked cool and can compensate for any bad acting. Movies don’t always have to be memorable or meaningful I learned. So I thought and realized, yeah sure, I like a lot of comedies that in many people’s eyes are pretty stupid perhaps. However, its unique, it’s focusing on the acting, the delivery. But there’s more to it than that. Escapism indeed is a big source of why people watch these movies. And that factor peaks more at certain times. When times are tough, more people want to escape. When attention spans are short, more people want to escape. And both of these were factors recently.

When the economies are good, more descriptive flicks make it to the big time. Think about the wave of documentaries that crashed ashore in 2004-2008 (actually there still is a lot of strong documentary films out there, but its reverted to a more artist/critic based fan base). Or how movies transitioned in the 80’s to 90’s and then blew up into more of a business model. Thinking about compiling research on this, I looked around for info and things that could back up or counter this argument: and for the former, things like this piece from the LA Times – http://articles.latimes.com/2008/oct/26/entertainment/ca-chocano26

Or this detailed research piece at http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2012/07/sequels-and-adaptations-in-popular.html – where he “went through every year from 1936 to 2011 and tallied how many movies in the box office top 10 were a sequel or adaptation”. Though this can be misleading, as a top 10 list does not a market overview make, however still a great start (and way more time spent than I could pull off, so much thanks to this person, who has a few really good reads on his blog overall by the way) – and this graphic shows the recent explosion of sequels.

However, the level of adaptations (usually a book that gets made into a movie, so still more unique than say a sequel) has been around for a while. The study and blog post around it, compares movie sequel trends and escapism to some extent with homicide rates rather than economies, however traditionally crime and bad economies do go hand in hand, so I felt that this was a good resource of info when looking to get some data myself. And it backed up my thoughts about creativity in movies correlating with “boom times”, such as the 60’s and 80’s, and lack of during down times like the 70’s, early 90’s, and the 2008 wave when the economy took a hit (which in years prior such as 2004-2007 was a big documentary run).

Despite the recent recovery, there was been a down trend in box office revenue, as feeding sequels out one after another seems to be running out of gas. And maybe people want substance sometimes, or at least the right mix of it. As per this quote on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/17/movie-attendance-economy-recession_n_1097904.html – where “Stephanie” a woman in her 20’s commented “The end product doesn’t have to be a mishmash of expensive stunts and large explosions. If there’s something a little more interesting happening underneath the surface with that script and with the main characters, I’m going to walk away from the theater much more satisfied and likely to return” – so perhaps its not just me after all?

Overall, its a piece I’d like to build on when I get more time, but the thing is, its not a surprise to see that film is a business like many others, and like in other industries, it takes a few standout pieces to revolutionize it and push things forward within that industry. Do we think we can contribute that? We hope so, and that drives us. But unlike when I was in my youth, I know not everything has to have that message and there are many reasons people will like something. Good acting, good stories, good scene/visuals that feel real, and most importantly good delivery, that’s something we want when putting down money to see a film whether as a means of escaping or not.

Note: This post was tweeted with the hashtag #2013movies – and I discovered that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for this summer’s crop of movies, mainly commenting about the more anticipated sequels.  One guy even commented that movies need not be good for this summer’s crop, just get them out in 3D. Escapism is in full swing I guess!

How To Write A Screenplay in One Day

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

So, one thing I’ve been working on with the three screenplays currently in progress is efficiency. Outlining, writing when you are in a good flow, a good state of mind is key. Some days I am full of ideas and hooks that come from every direction. Some days I am useless. However what used to happen is when I was on the wave of creativitiy, I’d start writing, and a few scenes and pages later, it might fade or the time may have passed and I’ve got to leave/go/sleep/work/eat/acknowledge others. And while I’d be happy that I fit in a couple of hours and got some ideas down, I wish I could get more value for that.

I’ve already gone on about how outlining a screenplay is so important and the element of modern convenience is useful too, in an age and time where we seem to have a lot of the former but none of the latter. As I am still a long way away from developing an iOS app for screenwriting, let alone testing out the competition – I am still concentrating on what I’d want it to do in the first place. And I found an odd candidate for doing this. Microsoft Excel! I hate Excel, as what it stands for is something that eats up a fair bit of my work day, but at the same time, I see myself use it in more and more non-work scenarios.

The other day I had a couple hours to spare. And this was rare. So I knew I needed to make the most of it. One of my recent screenplay ideas was scribbled on a piece of paper. This is the first tip on how to write a screenplay in one day HAVE AN IDEA IN THE FIRST PLACE. So anyone expecting some magical trick here is out of luck. You need to know what you’re going to write about, how it will start, what sort of story it is, and how it will end.

But lets say you have an idea and you know how it will flow, how it will start, end and some main character elements. Open MS Excel. Create a spreadsheet with the following columns in the first row. Scene number, Outline, Location, Characters, Estimated Time, Notes, Hook Relation. Don’t worry, this isn’t advanced Excel 101, just some basic ways you can use it to your advantage.

So in this chart, we show how writing is a business and an art.

The “scene number” explains itself, the first one is 1, and so on. Outline is basically a summary of what the scene is, what’s the message, who’s in, and maybe a snippet of dialogue or how the vibe of that scene is overall. Then for Location we are looking at the traditional Location line, such as “EXT. PARK – NIGHT” for a outdoor scene in the park at night time.

“Characters” – this is where you list the main characters of the scene, so you can track who is involved where. Estimated time is a column formatted as a number where you indicate how many seconds you think the scene might take if you imagine it. No need to be too specific, think 15 for quick transitions, 30 for visual layouts, 45 for regular scenes, 60 for longer scenarios, 90 for large scale transitions with scenery/dialogue/interaction – use your judgement. Set yourself a total number of seconds as a target and put this as an equation on the sheet if need be. I do something like =SUM(E4:E150)/60
Where I total up the time estimates and divide by 60 to see an automatic update on how long into the plot I am.

“Notes” are more for you, if you have an idea of what should be in the scene or what should be referenced, put it here. Last but not least “Hook relation”. Every scene has to mean something in the plot. And sometimes its hard to keep track of a scene you wrote in page 7 when you are up to page 77. So desginate a hook note if its something you want to parlay into the script later – so as you build your plot, you can reconnect the hook into a loop, and thus layer your plot lines accordingly.

When you are in the flow, this is a great way to get your ideas moving and when you have a 2-3 hours with the creativity flowing, I was able to get close to 40 minutes of the story in place, as well as loose ideas for later scenes, open hooks that I need to close and how the ending will work out. I figure if someone gave me a whole day for this or a couple more 3 hour sessions, I’d be done with the outline. Then when I have less time and less creative flow, I can write out according to the outline.

Moving back to the spreadsheet though, there are other ways it can help you with establishing the outline and thus making the write up much smoother. Remember when I mentioned to make each column a different element, such as location? Highlight that top row and in the top menu of Excel (in the home menu tab on Excel 2007 at least) go to “Editing” and select “sort filter” and then “Filter”. Little arrows will go next to each of your column headers. Click on it and you can sort each column by location, character, scene number, etc. The filter option allows the rest of the columns to follow suit when shuffling up the spreadsheet. This way you can see which characters are getting more usage, which locations you have overused, etc. And to reset it back to “Scene order” just order by the first column of “scene number” and we’ll be back to the order of the scenes. I didn’t even really need to use this till after I had 30+ scenes in the spreadsheet, but its useful if you have a full length layout and need to polish up some aspects and/or make sure your plot hooks are closed up before doing your final write up.

Then from that, doing the final write up in proper screenplay format – well, its going to be faster than you’ve ever written up a screenplay before. And you’ll be able to freshly reference the excel sheet (which perhaps you have printed as reference for when you write the full version) in a way that you’ll remember each little bit about the plot, and make it more layered and cohesive overall. Was able to write up 20 pages from it in a 2 or 3 hours, so given a long day, it could be done. However, you will probably need to give it another final look at a later day, and read through, act it out accordingly (if you’re lucky enough to have a co-writer, that is one huge benefit). So its more like outline day 1, write up day 2, review day 3 and you’ll be pretty exhausted, but it can be done, and if you have that great idea, you dont want to let it fade. I’ve heard of books that say how to write a screenplay in 10 days. This method will at least reduce that.

Disclaimer: In reality, these days are spread out. Most people are only lucky enough to have an hour here and there to spare (as is the case with me doing insane hours at work, trying to have a life and not annoying the wife). So when saying a day or two, I mean two sets of 8-10 hours. If you have full 12+ hours to spare every day, well…. make the most of it! And obviously the question of a screenplay being “done” is another discussion.

Note: Some people don’t have Excel nor are willing to pay for it. However, Google Docs or Open office offer similar programs for free. I haven’t used them in a while, but for the basic spreadsheet layout, I assume these would suffice too.

The Right Way To Write A Screenplay

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Over the years I’ve had many an idea for a screenplay (often while intoxicated though). And I start it eager to plow through what I think is an awesome scene here and there, profound or hilarious or sometimes a combo of the two dialogue wise, a cool character mix and a story that has that right level of everything. I’ll burn through the first 10 or so pages that night and think, damn, this will be the shit. And then it fades out. Suddenly the script of many dreams has reached a dead end, or it goes off on a tangent that makes no sense. You try to keep going with it, catching occassional inspiration and rewrite motivations – to the point where the story was nothing like your initial idea. Not too long later, the story becomes another half script casualty. You’ve lost the plot, the scene transition is non-existent, its missing the hook and you have no idea how it was supposed to end anyway.

Yeah, I’ll admit, I’ve written a fair few screenplays where I either had no idea what the ending would be, or completely lost my way there. I just had a great idea and ran with it, and then one day wondered where the hell I was running to. And I know other people that have done this too over the years. In fact, not too long ago I thought thats how they all did it.

Now I know that this is also why people have unfinished screenplays. So here’s my advice, what I’ve learned (told you this blog would take you through the learnings too after all….). If you plan on writing a screenplay based on an idea one day and start writing dialogue, scenes, etc…. you are in trouble. It will usually fade out. Not always, as I’ve definately finished a few this way…. but the odds are against you.

Nowadays I have much less free time on my hands, and so sitting down and writing up loads of scenes is something that I rarely am able to do. However, I still manage to get some ideas every now and then, and scribble them down like old times. Instead of writing out a script, it made sense to just outline the scenes for now. Make this easier to convert into a full length, figure out what the plot is in the first place, figure out how it will end, get an idea of the structure overall before digging deep into character specifics like dialogue quirks. Then, when I have some time, yet not feeling too creative, I can churn through scenes quite fast and develop the properly structured screenplay. An outline takes much less time and allows you to get the most from your creative flow as well – those moments where you just have inspiration and ideas a plenty.

because we still print them out?

Either way, this is what I’m experimenting on a current screenplay, and it is working well. Very efficient time-wise too. Hopefully it will be converted relatively fast, and due to the outline (which was done very quickly), easy to keep track of what and where regarding plot and characters. It’s interesting to be able to write this way and I feel more confident with building the story idea while the creative juices are flowing – then finalizing and tweaking as I lay it out as a full length. It all makes sense. It’s also odd that they don’t really tell you to do this when you learn about screenwriting. But they should.

And perhaps to some slight disappointment (as its not some first time discovery that will revolutionize screenwriting, just something I feel like I was late to learn on), its also referred to by various other people. Such as this one at http://www.writersstore.com/outlining-your-script-or-story/ – quote: “writing a long, complex piece, such as a novel or screenplay from an outline will make the entire process easier, less angst-ridden, and — except for those of you with masochistic tendencies — far more pleasurable and satisfying. And, as with the Great Ones, your finished story will be better.”

And there are various tools to help you manage your outline a bit better when you have that idea.

So yes, I’m sold on outlines, not just its convinced me that the next one I write will require less “rewrite time”. However I still have ideas that will make this faster and even more efficient when translating thoughts and ideas to screenplays. I’ll save that for a later post though. Time to write up the current outline for now….. after all, its not going to write itself up, yet.

What to do with that Screenplay you wrote – stage 4

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

The proof is in the URL of this post. Write another screenplay.

And do other stuff, stay creative, stay switched on, no matter how busy you are.

That is my rationale behind this very short but hopefully meaningful post. Over the past two weeks, the only time I’ve had was minutes here and there. And if I was writing a screenplay the traditional way, I’d have a mere 2 pages. But luckily I’m working on a different way.

More info when there’s more time. And on part 5 of this series.

What To Do With That Screenplay You Wrote – Stage 3

Friday, January 4th, 2013

At this point you should be well into a couple other pieces and the title should be about what to do with those “Screenplays” you have written. Friends have perhaps glanced through it, and one or two might even like it. This is the hard part now. Get it out there some more…. to strangers.

I don’t really foray much into forums, as they can be more chat than actual insight, but there are some with decent communities overall. I used to like http://www.zoetrope.com to some extent, but the well has really dried out there, and hardly anyone uses it anymore in comparison to 5 or so years ago.

Still, it was there that I learned a lot about screenwriting, by reading other people’s screenplays. And I read some pretty bad ones, from users complaining about the types of reviews that they got. This perhaps is not wise to do, but it works out well. For the most part the insight was appreciated, and it was there that I was able to refine my own craft and learn what not to do. At the same time, I hunted out some good ones, or promised to exchange reviews if they were serious. The reviews you get fall into three categories though – very very useful insight that you couldn’t pay for, nit picking about the littlest things, or they didn’t read it and made bad assumptions. Category 1 happens, sometimes.

Perhaps this is because it’s always easier to improve someone else’s screenplay than your own, because you have some sort of ties to your own. There are loads of other forums and networks where one can work on their craft, such as http://labs.triggerstreet.com/ – which I used a few years back, but have decided to give another go. It seems to be much more active than Zoetrope these days, so we’ll likely test the waters here again in the coming week or two with Alphabet Soup.

Subscribe to the newsletters from https://www.withoutabox.com and http://www.moviebytes.com/ – they’ll tell you what’s going on out there, and what festivals are happening, where to enter short films, screenplays, etc, and how other people felt about the contests (in MovieBytes’ case, and they’ve been around for a long time).

That’s right, Screenplay contests. There’s going to be a point in time, where you’ll have to set foot in these. But which ones are legit? Read around. Some are more obvious than others, and some cater to certain niches, so take time to do some research on each – especially when most of them are not free.

Here are some of the more well known ones (which can also mean more competitive), that will get your name out there.

Nicholl Fellowship – http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/index.html (average of 6-7,000 entries per year)
Page Awards – http://pageawards.com/
TrackingB – http://www.trackingb.com/
Final Draft – http://www.finaldraft.com/products/big-break/
Sundance – http://www.sundance.org/programs/screenwriters-lab/
Script Pipeline – http://www.scriptpipeline.com/
BlueCat – http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com/
Writers on the Storm – http://writerstorm.com/
Cinestory – http://www.cinestory.org/
Zoetrope – http://www.zoetrope.com

They can also be local festivals such as:
London Independent (UK) – http://www.londonindependent.org/
Richmond Film Fest (VA/NC area) http://themixshorts.com/
Gotham (NY) – http://www.gsiff.com/

In fact its useful to find some ones near you and thus be able to attend them should you be considered. Sooooooo….. start scoping them out and see how you fare. But only do so until you’ve polished up your work and gotten free feedback from the likes of people you know and free member places like Trigger Street and Zoetrope – along with seeing what’s out there. Yep, part of getting your screenplay out there is putting in some work beyond writing up your magical idea. That’s what they kept telling us at least! And yes, we have entered some of the ones listed above.

Next part to come soon…… thanks for all the feedback so far.

What To Do With That Screenplay You Wrote – Stage 2

Monday, December 10th, 2012

So you’ve got a great screenplay, its well written (or so you tell yourself), you know about formatting and not driving the script on loads of dialogue that go on for pages and yet nothing happens in the background (always visualize!) – and using the right words to explain scenes thus flowing the story on at a good pace.

You’ve even made sure you covered your own back and sent yourself a copy, registered it with the WGA West or East, copyrighted it or some equivalent. You perhaps even read this piece we did last week.

What next then? Well, get it out there… but in most cases you will probably want to tread lightly and have mentioned it to friends, colleagues and/or family. And they’ll be happy for you and perhaps even want a copy of it, which you are happy to send them. Go ahead. And here’s what you should expect from this. NOTHING. Unless all your friends are screenwriters too.

So yes, expect nothing. And I mean that in the nicest way possible, take whatever you get as a bonus. This is not a knock or assumption on your friends, family, etc, this is just the truth. Why?

– They are likely not all screenwriters (which is probably a good thing).

– As much as they’d love to read your idea, the screenplay will require them to devote a fair bit of time that they likely do not have. So even if they have some screenwriting knowledge, you’d also better make sure that they have time too.

– They are biased (because they care) and likely not to give you the critique you want to get. And if they have critique they may be reluctant to give it you. The exceptions are if that “someone you know” is (A) in the industry, (B) aspiring to do similar things and is on your level, or probably a bit of (C) an asshole.

– (B) is a bit of work because often, what you write is very close and personal to you. I used to review work for other people back in the days. They were strangers, but often you had to really explain things in detail to combat their initial feeling of being offended (I’ll get to the reviewing thing in Chapter 3). Long story short, you have to let it get out there and people are going to have their opinions.

– If not A or B: the critique may be of no use and have nothing to do with the story, because they are not screenwriters, and likely have no idea how things like formatting and plot lines are supposed to work.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t send it to people you know? No. Send it, definitely. Just don’t expect this to be the magical trick to get your idea sold. You have a long way to go.

I sent it to some friends, a couple of them have connections or are in the industry. Perhaps they’ll pass it on. If they do, awesome, if not, you can’t really push them on it (other than a casual couple reminders perhaps). A couple of them are those who’s opinions I value greatly and I know that they have some knowledge about how things work with scripts and movies, etc. Are they professionals, no… but they are amateurs like us at this point, who have done a bit of work before, even if at a hobbyist level.

And so this is stage two. Just get it out there to people you know and trust first. If something comes out of it, consider yourself lucky. At the least maybe you can start a chain or two and get a contact or two. And this leads onto the next part, meeting strangers and putting out for strangers (the script that is…). Which is a lot easier now, than say 15 years ago.

What To Do With That Screenplay You Wrote – Stage 1

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Sure, it’s not the first screenplay we’ve written, but at the same time, we’re not experts. We haven’t quit our jobs and do this for a living…..yet. So why should we tell you how to get a screenplay out there? Well, someone has to. And trust me, some of the advice will be good, because we’re testing it out for you.

Here we tell you what we did. What we did right, and what we did wrong. What feedback we accumulated, what we learned and then denied admitting we learned.

Lets assume you wrote a screenplay first though. Because putting one together is a different matter, and that’s not what this post (or series of posts) is about. There’s plenty of material out there about how to convert that great story idea you had while intoxicated at 3am one night to a properly formatted piece that isn’t just a shit load of dialogue you thought sounded cool or carried a message you needed to say. . . . . . . . >>>>>>> Fast forward a bit. It’s done, great job.

Store Screenplays at The National Archives, or wherever no one is looking.

Register it. Do you need to? Maybe not, after all, it might just sit in the storage box or hard drive for years to come. Someone might find it decades from now and think its a rare screenplay that would make a great idea because by then movies are a dead art. Or who knows, things might work out sooner than that. You never know. But why not? It’s cheap and easy to register your script with the WGA, and it gives you some proof. Plus contests and companies often require you to list the registration number when submitting to them anyway.

And while you’re at it, email yourself a copy of it, and snail mail a copy of it via registered mail / certified mail, whatever gives exact proof of when you did it (though this is not going to win you a case by itself, it will help you prove your authorship). And you’re convinced its a good story, right? So then do all of the above. If not, you might as well throw it out and start again anyway.

So for the WGA part, go to: http://www.wgawregistry.org/webrss/ or if on the east coast – https://www.wgaeast.org/

What does it get you. Peace of mind perhaps. If you want to feel safer, visit http://www.copyright.gov or your local equivalent. Here’s a place that talks about the pros/cons of each – http://www.writersstore.com/wgaw-registration-vs-copyright-registration/

Does this matter. Only a little. Chances are it won’t happen, and if it does, you’ll need to be ready to do a lot of work, get a lawyer, etc. But the more you do, the more evidence you have. So get on with it. And now that’s done, we can start to dive in. Next chapter coming soon.