Script Gods Must Die - Chicago Screenwriting Consultant

The Biz: 2016: Part 1
Nov 27th, 2016 by paul peditto

showbizAs 2016 winds down, I’d like to dedicate this post to recent trends in the business of TV, screenwriting, web series, changing trends, etc. Here are some of the best articles I’ve read on the subject during the course of 2016.  With apologies to all my Columbia College students, this is dedicated to your ongoing edification in the screenwriting trade without incurring film school tuition debt! I mean….screw that. Vamos!



From the ever-great nofilmschool comes this article about Amazon Video Direct, a new video service that allows anyone to download content and get paid directly per hour. Nofilmschool (writer V Renee) considers if this is game-changer for content-creators in how they bring their product to market:

“If you have spent any time researching what Amazon Video Direct is all about, you’ve most likely seen it touted as a direct competitor to YouTube, in that it allows anyone to upload their own content, whether it’s feature films, shorts, web series, or music videos, and lets them decide whether or not to make viewing that content free.

However, what’s different about Amazon Video Direct is that it gives users four options on how to earn royalties from their work. According to Amazon, this is how that breaks down:

Buy or rent: Content providers can allow viewers to buy or rent their work and receive 50% of net revenue.

Included with Amazon Prime: Providers can make their content available on Amazon Prime and earn $0.15 for every hour their content is streamed.

Free with ads: Providers can make their content free with ads and receive 55% of net advertising revenue.

Add-on subscriptions: Providers can make their content available only to those with add-on subscriptions and receive 50% of net monthly revenue.



Thanks to ScreenCraft for this article on the realities of what a writer who ISN’T Shane Black or Max Landis can’t expect to make when selling a script. Printed toward the end of 2015, it uses the WGAA 2014 chart, but still very informative.



In case you needed visual confirmation of the edgy originality of what Hollywood has planned for you in the coming months, here’s an article that gives you 109 projects in the works for rebooting and/or remaking. Oh boy! Who needs gritty, honest, and challenging movies of the 70’s when we’ve got a remake of The Blob slated for possible 2017 release!

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Best Links 2016: V. 2.0
Nov 20th, 2016 by paul peditto

Breakfast Sausage Links Yes sir, ladies and gents, time for another round of– Best Links 2016! Lots of good stuff today culled from the internet this past year. Hope it helps your Quixote’s Journey to get your film made. Vamos!Blood-Simple-Coens-620x424


I’ve talked about Proof-Of-Concepts before. Trying to developmental cash, you scrap up some seed money and make a teaser trailer to pitch the project. Now we’ve got the pitch trailer the Coen Brothers made for Blood Simple. Runs 2:16 and demonstrates their abilities on the cheap. Want a one-up on the other 50,000 writers registering scripts with the Writer’s Guild this year? Make one of these.



Very interesting article from the about a recent appearance by Whedon at Comic-Con. Here he’s talking not The Avengers, but social media and entitlement:

“It could be something lovely,” he said of interacting with fans via social media. “It could be something funny. It could be ‘Hang yourself, here’s a noose. When can I kill you?’ That’s less fun. That’s less interesting. Eventually, it becomes kind of a white noise. You can’t remember what the dialogue was, so you stop having it.”

Whedon clarified that he didn’t leave Twitter because people were mean to him — although, for the record, people were awfully mean to him.  Rather, he found himself at the forefront of a new era of fan entitlement that for some creators has raised tricky questions of ownership. Just who deserves a say in the development of pop media — those working to dream it up, or those paying to keep a project afloat?

“I would like always to have a dialogue with the audience, but at the same time you can’t create by committee,” Whedon said…”


Here are a bunch of articles you might find interesting with no connection:

Top 10 Joss Whedon Writing Tips are here….

One for DePalma fans on the making of Obsession here

The thinning line between Virtual and Reality concerning the new Microsoft Hololens here…

An actual Pro 3-Act Structure argument here

Filmmaker Magazine article gives advice to young writers on how to take a General meeting here…




Great article by Filmmaker Magazine written by Gregory Bernstein about Copyright Law–

“Pitches, Facts, Characters and the Ambiguities of Section 102”

“So let’s say I’m playing golf with a Netflix executive. I’m standing on the beautiful fifteenth fairway of the Riviera Country Club when, just as my playing partner is about to swing, I blurt out an idea for a new Netflix series. What if the executive subsequently uses my idea without paying me? Answer: I’m out of luck, because there’s no implied contract here; blurting out an unsolicited idea on the fifteenth fairway hardly sets up the expectation that the listener will have to pay for what was communicated. If it did, I could blurt out ideas all day long and put listeners in a terrible legal bind.

No, the circumstances of the pitch must demonstrate that the listener – the producer, director, studio executive or whomever — is obviously expected to pay for the idea if he uses it.”







Format Revisited: V 1.0
Nov 13th, 2016 by paul peditto


January, 2010! 6 1/2 years ago…my first post on screenplay Format. Haven’t talked about it for years because the stuff just doesn’t change much. I’m sure it bores you to death but for the sake of the new arrivals at Script Gods, seems like I should at least update some of what I wrote waaaaaay back when. You can access the 17 Format posts I wrote previously (don’t all line up at once!) by writing Format in the Search box at the top of the SGMD Home page. Meanwhile, let’s update and condense some of those posts for your edification…


Format isn’t sexy.

I’d recommend you study it only under special circumstances: Like, you want to sell your script.

Learn the rules. Then learn how to break the rules. Story trumps format every time. But you still have know this stuff.

Use professional software. Final Draft is industry standard. Free programs exist: My favorite these days is Amazon Storywriter. Celtx ( is the Columbia Film & Video School broke-ass student program of choice. Generally fine, it has a glitch or two (dialogue can drop off at page end, short pages, etc.) Please don’t use Word.

Read screenplays. There are thousands available online. Start with, or or Fan of Alien 3? (Ok, nobody’s a fan of Alien 3, but if you were…I’m just sayin’…) You could go to Drew’s and find the William Gibson draft, two revised drafts, and a pair of “unused drafts.” Grab the Director’s cut DVD, some cheese popcorn, and check out what 17 drafts have wrought.

When studying scripts, you’ll notice something: There are as many styles as writers. A Woody Allen script looks different than a Charlie Kaufman script. Star Wars looks nothing like Sin City, which bears small resemblance to Dark Knight. Being a student of screenwriting craft means reading screenplays. Want to hone your own style? Read screenplays.

more format 4

SCENE HEADINGS: Every scene opens with a scene heading. Is the scene indoors? Use INT. Outdoors is EXT. Follow this with location. INT. ROOM, EXT. STREET. Be as specific as possible with your locations. Next comes time of day. I mostly keep to these five: DAY, NIGHT, CONTINUOUS, LATER, and SAME. I am not a fan of EARLY AFTERNOON, TWILIGHT, or DAWN. The only reason you’d say INT. ROOM- 7:01AM, is if it’s necessary to plot, otherwise keep it simple: DAY, NIGHT, LATER, SAME, CONTINUOUS.

Use a scene heading when you change time or location.

Use a scene heading when you indicate a flashback, montage, time frame, or a dream sequence.




Following the “slugline” (Scene Heading) come the Action lines. This is you telling the reader who is in the shot and what’s happening. At its essence, it’s what the camera is seeing now.

One of the few “rules” the 10,001 screenwriting blogs can agree on is don’t direct the screenplay. That means keeping technical terms like CU, MS, ECU, WIDE SHOT, DOLLY and other director lingo out of the script. Why not put it in? Because it’s not your job. Let the director direct. For instance…


Jillian watches as the pageant parade passes, seeming to remember the day she was crowned Miss Southeast Panhandle State 1956. There was a goldenrod sun that day too, and as she drove along waving from the festooned Wheaties Breakfast of Champions float, all manner of soon-to-be Mickey Mantles followed, hoping she would throw them a souvenir Wheaties box. It was a glorious, glorious day!

All the sadder that Jillian now peels an orange, watching the new beauty queen pass, thinking how unfair life is, wondering if there is indeed a God at all.

Good Reader, don’t do this! The camera can’t see Jillian’s beauty queen past. It can’t see her ponderings on Life and Eternity.

How would you change this screen direction?

Ask yourself: What is the purpose of the scene? What do you need to happen? What are you trying to say? The whole passage, really, could be boiled down to…


Jillian watches the beauty queen pass, her nails grinding the orange she holds into pulp.

The essence of the scene is Jillian’s attempt to cope with mortality, and her failure, as the parade rolls by.

Find the action, the physical equivalent, some business the actor can play, rather than hitting us with backstory (everything that happened before the movie began) that the camera can’t see.

Also avoid unnecessary detail, like this:


Pauly Vegas walks in, placing left foot in front of right, making his way to a craps table. He checks the table limit, a 25 dollar game, shakes his head and sighs, on the move again.

Pauly reaches into his pocket, finds some lint, a winter-fresh breath mint, the pink dry cleaning ticket from his Colombian laundry joint that never has his clothes ready on time, and a single dollar chip. Motioning with his left hand to the waitress for a gin and tonic refill, he smirks as he sees a blue-haired Bayonne lady squeal and scoop up her video poker winnings. Pauly bobs his head, all smiles as he finally spies, yes! A table!

This is not just unnecessary detail, but the wrong detail. The purpose of the scene is…what? Do you really believe the actor will care that on page 66, midway down the page, the writer wants him to shake his head and sigh before motioning with his left hand for a gin and tonic? Never going to happen. Waste of space, and a drag on the reader’s eye. Don’t do it.

Don’t do the production designer’s job either. If you want to tell me about the cat passing the fauve 19th Century Ming vase, that vase better be needed to tell the story. The damn cat too. A general rule: If in doubt, take it out. Cut everything you can. Does the scene still make sense? If you cut Pauly shaking his head and smiling, does the scene fall apart? No. Then it stays out.

Develop a cut instinct. Readers have only so much “eye.” If you kill them with screen direction, you feed the tendency to skip screen description altogether and read only the dialogue. Keep your screen direction lean and mean.

Pro screenwriters find a way to get their voices into screen direction. How do they do that?

They cheat. Like this:


Roger drags himself out of bed. He looks for his shirt, finds it and throws it on, finds his socks too, but…where are his pants?


Honey, have you seen…



As Roger looks under the bed, something catches his eye. He pulls out, brilliant and fluorescent green, a man’s cuff link. What the…? Roger confused–He has never, in his life, owned a fluorescent green cuff link.

The part about never owning a cuff link can’t be seen. What can be seen is Roger’s face, his confusion. This comes from finding another man’s cuff link. Thus, we’re technically cheating on the action line rule about only writing in what the camera can see. Pros cheat all the time. They have enough craft to get away with it. For you I’d say go for it but only in key moments. Don’t overuse the device, and don’t get cute.

Here’s an example from Backdraft:


A pissed-off Chicago, hauling itself off to work in the morning snap, passes by Brian’s window. Tough Midwestern brick. Tough Midwesterners. Heads-down in their 150 year war with a wind committed to pushing the whole damn thing into Lake Michigan.

What a marvel this little paragraph is! Anyone living in Chicago–especially those of us who take the EL every day—can attest to the truth in that passage. If you were just following the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) approach, you would write something like: Brian rides a grimy subway car. There is nothing wrong with this. Describes what the camera sees. Problem is, anyone can write Brian rides a grimy subway car. Now look at the above example. Look how the writer puts you into the head of the protagonist. This is POV. It is advanced screenwriting. It’s what separates the pro from everyone else. Do you think the fact that you can’t see “their 150 year war with wind” is going to be penalized by the reader at that prodco/screenplay contest/agency? Hell no. Those eyes are starved for originality. The pro gives it to them with POV, with attitude. Thus, the true definition of screen direction: What the camera sees—with attitude.

backdraft 3



Script Magazine 2016-Sampler 1
Nov 6th, 2016 by paul peditto

script mag 2A bit less than two years ago I was welcomed into the Script Magazine world by my editor, friend, and– caps for emphasis– All-Around Good Human Being– Jeanne Bowerman. She’s a mentor to thousands of folks around the world both with her column and choices of contributors.  Many in-the-biz folks write for Jeanne. These are sharp people, not just in film but TV, not just with writing but producing, direction, micro-budget. If you’re interested in the craft of screenwriting, please check out Script Magazine.

Consider this a sampler of what Script Magazine has to offer. You can check out my own articles for Script Mag here. Here’s a taste of what they offered in 2016:

  • Feel My Pain: Travails Of An Undernourished, Unproduced Screenwriter

Bukowski once told me: “Anger is vindictive. Disgust is the Holy Water.” — Meaning laughter among the ruins. I love the black tone of this article. You can hear Michael Giampa’s voice clearly, sharp, take no prisoners. He walks the line between giving the reality of the screenwriting landscape for a newbie today, while still being able to provide hope. Here’s a sample:

“I sent my labors of love out to “industry people.” Heartless, cigar-munching “industry” people who dress in black and drink gallons of Evian. I wasn’t prepared for their abuse. Abuse can be in the form of: no response to your script, response on characters that don’t actually exist in your script and a response in which your script is returned stuck together by a substance of unknown origin.

Even if their response is favorable (“We’d love to see your script about the bionic monkey”) the odds are still stacked monstrously against you. Over 40,000 new scripts a year are registered with the Writers Guild of America and another 10,000 at the Library of Congress and assorted author’s agencies. Factor in a batch of online registration services and the “mail it to yourself poor person’s copyright” and that adds up to about 60,000 newborn scripts annually. Considering there are really only 12 major studios that each release about 12 movies theatrically within 12 months and about triple that for serious production houses that manage to get out, say, a half dozen films for wide market “straight to video” and – are you keeping up? – I’ll do the math. Your script has a .0006 % chance of seeing the light of any screen in any aspect ratio ever….

Now, this is the moment where “overnight successes” are born. Somebody actually does get that life changing let’s-do-lunch-this-is-Steven-Spielberg-calling phone call. The reality is it’s not going to happen. Forget that cover story about the teenager who sold Hip-Hop Hootchie for more money than Iraq’s defense budget. Do not base your motivations on this. That is an exception to the norm. And you and I are likely “the norm.” Some screenwriters are lucky. Some are deserving geniuses like Billy Wilder and … uh … Billy Wilder. The rest of us will have to settle with being marginally talented. Skills come with practice. Style comes with discipline (“ass/desk” etc.).”



Lots of people writing screenplays. Lots living outside Hollywood. The age-old question: How to break in? How to make a sale while not living in L.A. Here’s a podcast from Ashley Scott Myers of Shane Weisfeld, a guy who did just that…

“Shane Weisfeld is a great example of a persistent writer who has been able to forge a career while living thousands of miles from Hollywood. He gained representation and sold his first script, Freezer, starring Dylan McDermott, all while living in Toronto, Canada.”

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Oct 30th, 2016 by paul peditto

There’s a line in Patton where George C. Scott as General Patton talks about his tendency to curse. Paraphrasing here, he tells the reporters when he wants it to stick he gives it to them dirty, giving them something to remember.

Funny thing about f-bombs….the more you use them the less impact they have. I’ve used my share in my own writing but I’m always aware of the frequency. Blast an audience non-stop and the effect will diminish, then become a bore, then become a liability. It’s a delicate balance. As George Carlin teaches us, it’s not the word itself, it’s the context…

As with other dialogue, f-bombs should be used to advance character or plot, and there should be exactly as many f-bombs as you need to accomplish the task. Kinda like that scene in Amadeus where the King tells Mozart there are “too many notes”. Mozart replies, “There are exactly as many notes as I required, your Majesty.”

That’s how I feel when I read scripts trying to do verbal gymnastics with fabulous new combos of obscenities. Who are you trying to impress? The money guys? You’re trying too hard. The world is full of wannabe Shane Blacks. Believe me, development people, agents, managers and, more importantly, their readers, have seen it all. Don’t connect pieces of words for hip effect, OK fuck-tards?

Believe me, I love a good rant. I wouldn’t even know where to start on my fav f-bomb scenes… OK, that’s actually not true…

Here are five classic f-bomb scenes. Notice how every one of them defines character, defines the ranter… enjoy!

  • CLERKS: Jay and Silent Bob Intro

  •  THE BIG LEBOWSKI: Nobody Fucks With Jesus


  • FULL METAL JACKET: Gunnery Sergeant Hartman

  • GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS: Deadbeat Leads

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