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My new Script Magazine article is up. If you’re writing a micro-budget screenplay, maybe check this one out. It details some pitfalls along the path of my making CHAT (photo above) and gives some insight on the earliest formats your script can take in the outlining stage.
Here’s a piece of it:
“Glance at the Go Into The Story Spec Script List for 2015 and you’ll see 55 specs sold last year. Then add up the screenplays registered with the Writer’s Guild that year– shall we say, conservatively, 50,000? About 1,000 to 1, though I’ve seen the odds– especially for those without an agent or manager– at much worse. Then look at the WGA 2016 Annual Report to see that for all the tens upon tens of thousands of folks writing screenplays last year, exactly 1,799 got paid. For every spec screenplay writer you see on Deadline.com breaking through with a magical story of success, you could point to a thousand dreams that didn’t pan out.
Jez Peditto, so you’re saying I should stop dreaming of being a screenwriter? I should stop writing… because the odds are against it?
Script EXTRA: 11 Ways to Develop Your Screenwriting Hustle
Not at all. I’m talking today about the need for re-calibration. A mental rearrangement of priorities. From Old School to New. The need to know yourself…and your project.
When you write a screenplay and ignore budgetary considerations, you guarantee needing other people’s money.
Needing other people’s money cedes power. It guarantees the need of L.A. and the necessity of the L.A. mechanism. It’s why you should consider writing with micro-budget in mind. When you write for cost you increase your odds of seeing the script happen. Because you control the mechanism.
The real question should be: How do I write a movie for the absolute lowest price possible without compromising the vision of my film?”
Read the rest of the article here!
I’ve highlighted Script Magazine often here at Script Gods. Yeah, I’m a Homer because I write for them, but there’s excellent content over there curated by my editor Jeanne Bowerman. This will be last time to the well for the 2016 articles. Guaranteed there’s something to help you here, Good Reader. Check it out…
Excellent post by Christopher Schiller on the legal aspects of getting paid as a screenwriter. Got your interest? Here’s a sample:
“Fans of Major League Baseball may realize that each team’s ballpark is shaped completely differently than all the others. From the dimensions of the field to the capacity of the crowd on down, there’s a great variety among them. Keep this in mind when seeking a “ballpark” figure for your sale. But just like there’s a set 90 feet between the bases, there are some commonalities you can look to to get a sense of the playing field for pricing your works.
For a starting point, a writer can look to the Writers Guild of America or WGA’s Basic Minimum Agreement (BMA) for minimum levels for nearly every facet of writing agreed to between the Guild and their signatory producers. The copious clauses and stipulations set out in detail all the specifics of the minimum dollar figures, requirements, conditions and schedules for each stage of typical agreements. Even with all their years of negotiations and deal making behind them there are still some areas that aren’t quite hammered down, such as just how much of work can be included in a polish before it becomes a new draft and triggers a different pay amount. But most of the minutia is at least addressed well enough to ease a writer’s mind.”
Loved this article by Rob Tobin on writing the first draft, cultivating the proper mentality, keep realistic goals, “penstorming” and style copying. Sample…
“I first came across penstorming during a financial workshop I attended many years ago. The workshop leader had us take pen in hand, and begin writing. There were no rules or instructions, other than we were not to stop, even for a moment, until she told us to. In essence, then, it was freewriting without even the restriction of remaining focused on a particular topic. At the end of fifteen minutes, there wasn’t a person in that room who wasn’t astounded at the revelations and perceptions staring up at them from the page.
Penstorming might seem too chaotic to produce anything of worth to a writer. In fact, however, the complete freedom which penstorming allows is what makes it such a valuable technique, especially for writers looking for topics on which to write. In freewriting, the restriction of having to stay on topic helps the writer produce something specific to the article he is writing, but restricts him from discovering new topics. Penstorming allows the writer to roam about at will, from the sublime to the ridiculous, from topic to topic.”
Here’s a topic I don’t often cover, writing for video games. Ashley Scott Myers interviews Justin Sloan and Stephan Bugaj here.
“Stephan Bugaj and Justin Sloan talk about how to have a successful career as a video game writer. They also discuss about their new book, Creative Writing Career 2, and some of the lessons they learned from conducting interviews with many successful screenwriters.”
Read the rest of this entry »
A 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:
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.”
Good Reader, another week, another confessional…
If there’s one thing I’ve mastered over the years– being Southern Italian and Type A– it’s “hating” well. Hating artfully.
To quote The Sound Of Music, here are a few of my least favorite screenwriting things– circa my article this week in Script Magazine.
The only thing I hate more than parentheticals, misused adverbs & adjectives, etc…is debating it. The older I get the more these online format discussions seem like the Bernie vs. Hillary stuff breaking out all over my Facebook page. Just…freaking…pointless.
If you write The Social Network, sure, you can jam in as many parentheticals as you like. You can make it 162 pages too, as Aaron Sorkin did. Nobody will be questioning the number of adverbs you used or didn’t use.
Story trumps format. That’s the point of this article. Check it out here.
OK, one last time to the well with the Script Magazine archives. Hopefully the previous samplings helped you. I’ve given this info before, but here is the full list of contributor blogs, a wealth of knowledge to be found. My own blog for them is here.
Shoot me, but I never heard of a “pitch deck” before reading this fine article by Martin Shapiro. Yeah yeah I know, you can’t even get “into the room” to pitch, so why should you worry? Because, Good Reader, there WILL come a day when you need to pitch. So, you’ll need this skill at some point. I actually like the notion of putting together a presentation like this as a primer to writing the thing. The better you see it, the better you write and pitch it. This article should help. Here’s a piece:
“How do startup Internet companies in Silicon Valley convince venture capitalists (VCs) to give them millions in seed capital?
It usually starts with a pitch deck, which is basically a PowerPoint presentation. Pitch decks are essential fundraising tools for startup companies today, whether a founder is after $500,000 or $20 million. Most of the big-name web apps like Mint and Foursquare started out small with a bright, young founder who put together a PowerPoint slideshow to explain their product and business model, and then showed it to VCs and angel investors.
Since each movie project you create is essentially a new product that requires substantial financing to develop and manufacture, I say why not utilize the same powerful sales tool that entrepreneurs in other industries use and adapt it to raising money for your movie or television production.”
Fuck no, I’m not giving it away! Stop tap dancing, Mr. Producer… stop giving me 10 reasons why it’s better if you run with my script than not. Explain why it is you’re not paying me for the ten months of work I put into writing it.
One of the few memories that remain from my days at William Morris is the image of my agent Bill Contardi negotiating an option agreement with a prospective producer. The producer came at us with a lowball figure and Bill told him, “it speaks to your level of commitment to the project.” If you feel passionate about my script, fucking show me. Money talks. What’s it say about my value to you when you ask me to sign a one-dollar option?
Don’t believe me? Try this ass-kicking article from Bill Boyles on the subject. Here’s a sample:
“Often the producer will attempt to get himself entwined into the very fabric of the screenplay. They make suggestions of changes in the script. They offer a line or two of dialogue, whatever. Now, even after the option has expired, they can have an effect on your script’s chain of title. They can attempt to lay partial claim to the script, and even if their claim is relatively weak, no production company wants to enter into a option/purchase on a script that does not maintain a clean chain of title.
You must realize that there is a perishable value to your screenplay that is partially protected by a fair option fee. The older the script gets, and the more submissions it has, the less salable it becomes.
The producer is not just optioning your screenplay, they are consuming years of its life expectancy and that alone is worth compensation.”
While we’re talking about producers, here’s a basic A to Z list of producer titles and responsibilities. If you missed film school, this is a must-read from Christopher Schiller. Here’s a sample:
“As writers, you will eventually meet and need to deal with Producers. (You may even become one yourself.) Just who are these people, what are their responsibilities, how much power do they really wield, and how should you treat them and be treated by them? The answer to those questions, as with nearly everything else dealt with in these columns, is “It depends…”
Producers can come in many different shapes and sizes, many levels of power and notoriety. Telling the big wigs from the wanna-bes and the pretenders from the powerful takes practice, a little knowledge and observation. Titles and how they are defined and interpreted vary substantially. A particular producer’s responsibilities and prestige are not always apparent on first blush. Getting and maintaining a clear understanding of just who is positioned where in the production hierarchy will help settle the confusion that often accompanies a writer’s dealings with producers of all ilk.
In most instances a title used in this industry clearly identifies the job of the person holding it. The Camera Operator operates the camera. Make-up people are in charge of make-up. The prop master controls the props. But there are some titles that defy easy application. That’s a case with the title producer and all its variations. In one sense a producer produces. But what does producing really mean? There are nearly as many applicable definitions as there are people claiming the title.
The word “producer” or some variant appears in a huge diversity of forms in the industry, most of which have some association with a production job that could be at least loosely tied to what we could call “producing.” They range from the straight forward to hopelessly vague and touch on every base in-between. A wholly inadequate list starts with just plain Producers, Executive Producers, Assistant Producers, Associate Producers, Co-Producers, Line Producers, Unit Producers, Production Coordinators, Assistant to the Producers, and on and on.”
I thought this flick would be Marvel Universe fluff. What a revelation, I liked a movie that grossed close to 800 million. Very interested to hear the genesis of how this happened and–ask and ye shall receive–here’s a Script Magazine interview with the writer Nicole Perlman. What would that be like, to have a written a flick that might make Broadway and a theme park ride? Find out here.
A sample: “Let’s talk about the now defunct Marvel Studios writers program. How was the program set up and what was your experience there like?
Perlman: Well, within the writers program at Marvel they had half a dozen properties that were by no means guaranteed that they were going to make it into a movie, but they were considering them. So they brought in five writers to be on campus. We each had an office and we were allowed to choose what projects we wanted, and even though they knew that science was my bent, I think there was a little bit of surprise when I chose Guardians of the Galaxy, which was such an unheard of property, and also because there were other titles on that sheet that were more family-friendly. So I was like no, I’m going for the one with Rocket Raccoon. That was how that came to be.
Why did the program shut down?
Perlman: I think the reason behind that is because they’re already making two movies a year right now and they’ll be making three eventually. They just don’t have a lot of room for some of these lesser-known properties. I think they’ll definitely start exploring those as time goes by, but having five scripts a year, projects that they’re really not going to have time to develop, I think they realized that they had too much to work with.
Let’s jump into Guardians of the Galaxy. You chose this property to work on. It was something that was completely unfamiliar to you. Did you have any knowledge of any of the Marvel Comics characters before going into this?
Perlman: I wasn’t really familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe or any of the comic books. So I was coming to it very fresh, which, in a way, I think I underestimated when I first started working there. I underestimated how much you really need to start developing in order to understand the history of all these characters. The first eight weeks I was there, all I was doing was reading comic books and binders and binders of color printouts that I was taking home and leafing through and reading. I had a lot of catching up to do because the stories have a huge history and all these characters have been around for decades. So it was important to get to know where they were coming from. Even though I did end up rebooting Peter Quill’s backstory a fair amount, it was good to know the original origin story for him.