Yep, it’s that time of year, EVERY year… we’re talking best screenwriting blogs, we’re talking John August. How he finds time for the blog with everything he’s got going on professionally is a minor miracle. These days, it seems he spends most of his blog time with Scriptnotes, the best screenwriting podcast out there. Even though his partner Craig Mazan can be a jerk, I’d recommend buying the back broadcasts for $25 bucks.
There are also can’t miss posts in the site archive. Here’s a sample, and thanks for all the work JA.
- HOW TO INTRODUCE A CHARACTER
From 2007, excellent insight in this article. Sample:
“1. Show and tell
The best character introductions tend to include both a sense of what you see (the character’s physical appearance) and an intriguing tidbit about their personality and/or situation. That’s certainly the case with both Burke and Lance.
You don’t have to give an age range, but it’s common. You don’t have to say the character is good-looking, but if it’s your hero, that’s not a bad idea. While many actors want to play “ordinary people,” they prefer playing “quirkily good-looking” ordinary people.
In other cases, the appearance of a character isn’t as much of a concern. In my script for the never-made Fantasy Island, I needed to include the mother and father of a teenage boy. Obviously, they had to be old enough to have a teenager, but beyond that, what they looked like wasn’t particularly important:
Jeremy’s FATHER is a commodities trader, remarried to a dental hygienist named MINDIE. Jeremy’s MOTHER is two valiums and three stiff drinks into the afternoon. She’s trying to figure out how to work the disposable camera.
Look for details that have an iceberg quality: only a little bit sticks above the surface, but it represents a huge mass of character information the reader can fill in. The “ie” ending on Mindie’s name suggests booby vapidity, and given that she only has one line, that’s really all the setup she needs.
- PRODUCER CREDITS AND WHAT THEY MEAN
From 2004, title says it all. Article here. Sample here…
“The highest ranking producer is simply called Producer. This is the person ultimately responsible for the film. He or she is also the person who collects the Oscar if the movie wins an Academy Award.
After that comes Executive Producer, who is involved in the development, financing or production of the movie, but generally not all three.
Below executive producer, the credits get a little murkier. Occasionally, you’ll see Co-Executive Producer, but the third-highest ranking is generally called Co-Producer. Then comes Associate Producer. These two “junior producer” credits often go to someone who performs a key function in getting the movie made, but who doesn’t have the power or clout of a producer or executive producer. For instance, I was a co-producer on Go.
Line Producer is really a job, rather than a title. This person, who is directly responsible for many of the day-to-day burdens of production (such as budgets, unions, and bureaucracy), would often have another title, such as Co-Producer or Executive Producer. Many line producer functions overlap with a Unit Production Manager. Depending on the film, you might also see a Production Supervisor or Production Coordinator listed.”
- MONEY 101 FOR SCREENWRITERS
Back to 2008 for this primer on money from a guy who actually has made it from screenplays like Big Fish and Charlies Angels… Article here. Sample below…and how can’t you love that last line about being six months away from teaching at Community College!
“1. Don’t quit your day job — until you have to.
Before writing this post, I asked a dozen working writers for their recommendations, and this was by far the most-often made point.
The natural instinct is to immediately quit your crappy day job once you’re hired to write something (or sell a spec). After all, isn’t that the dream? Isn’t this why you came to Hollywood? Every waiter and barrista in Los Angeles considers himself a screenwriter, so quitting your day job is an important way to distinguish yourself as a True Screenwriter, the kind who gets paid actual money to push words around in 12-pt Courier.
But don’t. Don’t quit your job right away.
Even if you sell a spec for $200K, it will be months before you see a cent. The studio will sit on your contract as lawyers exchange pencil notes about things you can’t believe aren’t boilerplate. When I was hired for my first job,1 it took almost four months before I got a paycheck. I was living off of money from a novelization, but when that ran out, I had to ask my mom for help paying rent.
Nearly every screenwriter I speak with has a similar story — you’re never as broke as when you first start making money.
Beyond the initial delay in getting paid, keep in mind that there’s no guarantee you’ll have a second writing job. I haven’t seen numbers, but my hunch is that a substantial portion of new WGA members aren’t getting paid as screenwriters two years later. A career is not one sale. As one writer friend says, “I always think of myself as six months away from teaching community college.”
- AND SOME OTHERS…
Here’s the experience of Adam Davis, whom August mentored, of his first 10 years in Hollywood. Insightful for anyone considering the move to L.A.
More about that move to L.A., and if you should make it, here.
Lastly, what I like about August is his fairness. After his big-mouth pal sounded off on Screenwriting Consultants (oh shit, I’m one of them), August weighed in with a more balanced take on paying for notes and consultants here and here.