It’s been a long while since we talked about the basics here at Script Gods. When I say basics, I mean baby steps, the stuff you’ll need to get started–a potpourri of everything from software to copyright questions. You old pros can take your leave now, you’ve got these fundamentals down. Riiiiight?
Current industry standard is Final Draft 9. Retails with “tons of new features” for $249. No, I’m not giving you the link. These guys took a page from Microsoft on nasty product upgrade mandatory purchasing (meaning if I still have Final Draft 6, I can’t read Final Draft 9 docs, but 9’s can read 6’s docs. 9’s can also save in FDR docs which 6’s can open). Movie Magic is quite good, and is another paid software option. The Columbia College broke-ass student program of choice has long been CELTX. Go to their website and you’ll see that, of late, Celtx is making noises toward a paid model. Students who have had it for years are grandfathered in with no charges. There is a free “Student” model that you can sign up for, as well as a 9.99 per month or yearly 69.99 model. I have to ask the folks at Celtx why ANYONE would want to rent their software, which is pretty much accepted as a knockoff of Final Draft. I mean, if I’m paying, why wouldn’t I just pay Final Draft and own the software? Just askin’…
It’s been quite some time since I’ve either consulted on a student’s screenplay, or written one of my own, that has called for a hard copy to be delivered. Being as I’ve never worked in the L.A. agencies I’m not sure if hard copies are still messengered over to clients as they were back in the day when I was at William Morris. Those were the day of Dixie cups and string, so I’m guessing the days of the hard copy are at or nearing an end. If you do get asked to deliver one, remember to print out clean on 3-hole punch paper, TWO 3/4 inch brads at the top and bottom of the page.
PDF’s are industry standard now.
- COPYRIGHT vs. REGISTRATION
I am not an entertainment lawyer, nor do I play one in court. That said, there are some important differences between copyrighting and registering your work. If you’re copyrighting it’s with the U.S. Copyright Office at www.copyright.gov. Click the button that say “How to Register a Work” and go from there. $35 bucks for online registration. Copyright is good for life of the author plus 70 years and applies the moment a work is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.
The other alternative is registering the script with the Writer’s Guild, found here. Go to the link at the bottom right of the home page that says Register Your Script and hit it. What you’ll see is a drop down menu that lists all sort of things that can be registered. You’ll notice that you can not register an idea or a logline. However, you can register an outline or treatment. So, if that rare MONSTER CONCEPT appears to you in the warped manifestation of your dreams, jot it down in a 2 or 3 page treatment or synopsis before you start pitching to perfect–and not-so-perfect strangers who might pilfer your idea.
Only recently I’ve had dealing with a possible partner on a script idea. I spent about a week developing a 4- page outline (something more than a beat sheet, but less than a full step outline). I did this to protect myself in case my partner got cold feet before paying me. I don’t really know this fellow and for all I know he could have used me to flesh out the full story line, only to disappear, pay me nothing, and ride off into parts unknown before writing me a check. This way, should any movie get made with his involvement using my idea, I’ll have legal options for down the road. Footnote on that: Going on two weeks late now to sign that first check over, K(*&*…. Just sayin’!
Costs for registration of non-WGA members is $20.
An excellent breakdown of the differences between registration and copyright can be found here.
Ok, so the script is written and registered. It’s ready to be sent out. Sooooo, what now?
There are astounding online resources to be found for free. Start with Done Deal Pro, the Links section. Shit you not, I’m screenplay geek boy enough to spend a full year on this page–the links on this page are r-i-d-i-c-u-l-o-u-s! Here are a few:
I’ve recently started to contribute to Script Mag, which has just an overwhelming archive on articles on the craft of screenwriting.
These are Captains Of Industry known by a different name. Their websites are slick growth industries that would be admired by any Wolf Of Wall Street. Their business model steers the hundreds upon thousands of newbie screenwriting lambs toward their overpriced services and outstretched promises. These are gurus and PLEASE don’t ever confuse me with that company. Sure, I have to pay bills. But I also know damn well there isn’t a writer on this earth to whom I’d pay $3,000 for a script consultation. Ok, maybe Paul Schrader, but we’d be talking Taxi Driver, not Lindsey Lohan….
Spell these folks S-H-A-R-K, Good Reader, and please keep a look out. Yesterday someone asked what’s wrong with the market bearing what it will. If someone gets $3,000 for a consultancy, perhaps they’re worth it. This country guarantees freedom of enterprise.
Sure does. Guarantees freedom of speech too. Even if I could raise that $$$ amount, I would never ask it. Money is too tight. I know what folks have to do to raise that kind of scratch. There is simply no justification. Leave the glitzy guru websites and punch their names into IMDB, you’ll see what I mean.
The fact is, now that you’ve written your first screenplay, Good Reader, the other 9/10ths of the battle will kick in. That’s what selling and making your movie are– 9/10ths of the battle.
We’ve already talked about a bunch of this stuff on Script Gods. Dig back to some of the early posts. They’ll help. Email me if you ever need a question answered, for free.
And, for Heaven’s sake, never use the G-word around me.