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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

STS Book Review: The Writer Got Screwed (But Didn’t Have To) - posted by wonkavite

The Writer Got Screwed (But Didn’t Have To)

 

Type “Screenwriter” into Amazon Books. Go on. I dare you.

A heck of a lot of stuff pops up. (More books than an impoverished screenwriter can afford. Guess it’s time to go to the library again!) Needless to say, much of it has to do with how to perfect your screenplay: books from the late and great Syd Field. Save the Cat from… well, you know that guy. Other books focus on what to do after you type Fade Out. Pitching and selling your masterpiece.

What you don’t see often are primers explaining the legalese, which is rampant in this industry. After all, Hollywood (indie or otherwise) is a money making business. And businesses like that need lawyers. Flotillas of them: to make sure they secure all the rights to your script they can, and ensure they don’t get sued (fairly or unfairly.)

If you’ve ever submitted a script, chances are that you – Mr. or Ms. Writer – were asked to sign a Release Form. And you probably didn’t run it by an Entertainment Lawyer… after all, they’re pretty expensive (and not available through the library!) So – do you really understand what you signed? If you’re lucky, the query resulted in a contract. Were you offered fair compensation for your services – rewrites, polishes, etc? And what rights have you signed away? Gee… wouldn’t it be nice if there was a “Dummies” book to explain these things to us poor writers? Something simple and to the point? (After all, you gots writing to do!)

Guess what: there is. Penned by Entertainment Lawyer Brooke Wharton, The Writer Got Screwed is the broke-ass writer’s primer to the legal aspects of the Entertainment Industry. At only 273 pages, it’s simply written, and a breeze to read. One notable caveat: published in 1997, some of the information is out of date. But the fundamentals presented still apply. Honestly, the discussion of the differences between Library of Congress and WGA protections alone make this book worth purchasing. No, this book won’t make you a legal expert. But it’ll give you the Rosetta Stone you need to read basic industry forms – and an understanding of when it’s time to hire the big guns (and evaluate their services.)

ORDER THIS BOOK AT AMAZON HERE

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fit – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite
Laptop-Shorts

Fit

A “Biggest Loser” contest turns into a case of one-upmanship that gets wildly out of hand…

The world loves silly films. Sure, we try to prove to our dates how erudite we are, dragging them to all those Woody Allen fests. But for every When Harry Met Sally, you’ll find two or three goofier films that really hit box office gold. Airplane. Dumb and Dumber. The Waterboy. Hey, we have to keep our brains engaged at work. So when it comes to entertainment, sometimes it’s fun to just cut loose. This script that does just that.

Set at a “Biggest Loser” type contest, Fit follows Lorna and Rick – two competitors vying for “the most weight lost”… and the prize at stake’s a brand new car. The results are neck and neck. Lorna accuses Rick of cheating, resulting in a new weigh-in. Tensions build, slapstick erupts. And extraneous clothing starts to fly. Needless to say, the results aren’t pretty. Will Rick or Lorna emerge as champion? And will the crowd go blind from sight? All this and more (unfortunately) will be revealed. We dare you to open this script and find out!

About the writer: Born and raised in Sweden, Pia Cook is director of the short film “Them That’s Dead and writer of produced feature films “Finders Keepers: The Root of All Evil” and “Blackout“. She started writing screenplays in 2006 and has written over sixty short screenplays and ten features. (Yeah… that’s not a typo. Six ZERO.)

Pages: 6

Budget: Relatively low. You’d have to pin down a show-room type location – complete with a car… and a few extras for the contest crowd. So this one’s not zero budget. On the other hand, it’s single location with no FX. Your main requirement? Two actors with great comedic timing. Pull that off, and this script’s smooth sailing.

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

 

 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Original Script Sunday for April 27th - posted by Don

Over on the Unproduced Scripts page are twenty two original scripts for your reading pleasure.

– Don

Friday, April 25, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – The Pitfalls of Querying (PJ McNeill) - posted by wonkavite

The Pitfalls of Querying

 

Talent really will only get you so far. I’ve heard a lot of cocky people say “Well, if (insert person’s name here) were talented, they would have made it by now. Good material always rises to the top. No. No, it does not. Don’t get me wrong: you need talent. But you also need a healthy dose of luck. Luck that your screenplay will fall into the right hands. Normally you don’t know the sensibilities of the person reading your script. You could be sending your comedy to a reader who only likes horror films. Or your reader could just be having a bad day, and decide to hate every screenplay that starts with a noun. You just don’t know.

Let me tell you how my last script was optioned. I sent a query directly to the head of development and she requested a read. She then sent the script to her reader. The reader provided coverage on it that told her to pass, and about 4 months later, I received a rejection. (Yes, it can sometimes take THAT long – or even longer – to get a response). 2 months later the head of development reached back out to me and asked if they could option the script. Wait, what? It turns out that she couldn’t get the premise for my script out of her head and so she went back and read the script herself…2 months later. I was never told why the reader passed on my script, but the story could have easily ended there. And for most, it does. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a scenario like this. Normally, when something is rejected, they can’t move on fast enough. What happened was luck, plain and simple. You could say it was just because my premise was strong, but I don’t buy it. A lot of stuff had to fall in place for this to happen, and it could have just as easily gone the other way.

Real quick: notice in the last paragraph I said the head of development. I made sure, when I was sending out my query letter, to do the leg-work and find out who the head of development was (Thank you, once again, 2 week free trial at IMDB Pro) and send her an e-mail directly. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT send to INFO e-mail addresses. It’s an absolute waste of time, and quite frankly, just a bit lazy. Anyone can guess an info e-mail address. Say the production company is Workshop Productions. Then my guess is their INFO e-mail is info@workshopproductions.com. And do you know who that e-mail is going to? No one. There’s a reason all companies put this on their website in lieu of actual contact information. It’s to give you the illusion that you might be reaching someone. (Note: I am not interested in receiving a couple anecdotal stories about INFO e-mail addresses you might have gotten a response from. I will still 100% believe you should do the work and find direct e-mail addresses.)

So, back to the story: why did the script reader pass? Who knows. John August (writer of Go, Big Fish) used to be a script reader and once wrote about the time Quentin Tarantino’s original draft of Natural Born Killers landed on his desk. He thought it was so good, he finished it, flipped right back to the beginning, and read it again. But he passed on it. Why? Because he was too scared to pass it up to his boss. It was too different. Too unique. And even though he thought it was brilliant, he didn’t have the guts to pass it up the chain, for fear it didn’t fit the current Hollywood mold. And I don’t blame him, honestly. Every reader is putting his/her seal of approval on any script that they RECOMMEND. They’re saying, Hey, executive with a million other things to do: take an hour or so out of your day to read this script. I’m not telling this story because I think it was the case with my script, but instead to point out that the factors for WHY your script could be passed up are so varied, you could get a PASS even if they love it. How messed up is that? (My guess is that they passed on my script because the main character spent half the story unconscious; something the production company that optioned it would later change.)

Or the reader could have been a cynical writer, frustrated with his or her own failures. You know another twisted irony of this business? The same people we’re competing against hold the keys to our success. All the hungry, young writers who come out here get jobs as script readers as they try to peddle their own material. So naturally, they’re inclined to think that their stuff is better and everything they read is garbage. Try talking to a script reader at a party sometime, and listen to all that bitterness as they write off 99% of what they read as garbage, but then quickly begin to talk up their own work.

So it all comes back to luck, mixed with the talent to follow through. But don’t give up. The odds are stacked against you (as any screenwriting book’s introductory chapter will gladly tell you), but don’t give up. If you give up, then your high school English teacher was right all along. And you’ll lose out on the satisfaction of some day being able to send her a cake with the words “Eat it, Miss Mudie.” written across it in frosting. And she’ll be hurt, but think she at least has the consolation of a delicious cake to eat. But then she’ll cut into it and be met with immediate disappointment when she finds out it’s red velvet. Because honestly, who the hell likes red velvet?

About the writer: A talented writer and 10 year veteran of the industry, “P.J. McNeill” has seen it all (and he’s ready to kiss and tell.) Got a question, a comment or just general bile /praise you want to spew?  Email PJ at pjscriptblog@gmail.com. New to P.J. readership?  Click here for more articles!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Original Script Sunday for April 20, 2014 - posted by Don

Over on the Unproduced scripts page are thirty original scripts to read and enjoy.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – Querying (P.J. McNeill) - posted by wonkavite

As you may already know, we’re a varied bunch at STS.  Our main focus is – and will continue to be – showcasing scripts.  Short and Sweet.  Feature lengths, long and hard (um, okay… that came out WAY wrong.)

But in addition to the reviews, we’ll also be presenting interviews with directors and writers, book reviews, and various articles about the script writing industry.  Today, we’re honored to present to you our featured guest writer “P.J. McNeill” – a talented writer and 10 year veteran of the industry.  This guy’s seen it all.  So sit back – enjoy the read. And learn a little something today.  (And for alot of foreseeable Fridays to come.)

***********

Querying

 

I was once at a dinner party, talking with a writer who had just sold something to Sony. My interest, naturally, piqued upon hearing this. “How? Did you query a lot of producers?”, I asked. He arched an eyebrow. Clearly the term “query” was lost on him. “No, I just gave it to a friend…and they gave it to a friend…and THEY gave it to a friend, until it wound up in the hands of an agent.” I stared back at him in shock. Then he said “Honestly, I don’t even know who gave it to the agent.” His nonchalance made me want to ram my plate of hors d’oeuvres in his face.

Those of us not lucky enough to just release a script out into the ether and have it immediately sell are left with the dreaded query letter. Over the last 10 years, I must have sent out a couple thousand query letters. I do not have an agent or a manager (but believe me, I’ve tried), so I’m left with the task of pitching my material myself. (Side Note: A few months after my infant daughter was born, my wife and I were approached by a talent agent; looking to represent her. We declined, but as we were walking away, my wife said, “4 months old, and she would have had an agent before you.” Ha…ha.)

When I first started writing query letters, I would send these long, bulky letters that I’m almost 100% positive no one read. They were boring to write, so I’m sure they were boring to read. It was only several years later that I realized I needed to do something special. Something that stood out from the one-hundred-some e-mails producers must receive every-single-day. I won’t go into detail what I did, but suffice it to say, I received the most reads I had every gotten from a query blast, and optioned my script within a couple months. It’s important to stand out. It’s such an obvious piece of advice, but I ignored it for YEARS. I just thought “Hey, my work speaks for itself.” Well, no…no, it doesn’t.

It’s also worth mentioning that you need to strike a balance. Get a producer’s attention, but don’t go too far. There’s the obvious example of the guy who left his script in a briefcase at an agency in LA (that was subsequently blown up by the bomb squad – the script, not the agency). Run your idea by a few people before executing it. Ask them “Will this make me look like a nutjob?

Avoid query e-mail blast services. It’s all a crock; believe me, I’ve spent money on them (Future article title: Don’t Spend Money). Don’t get me wrong, they’ll hold up their end of the bargain: they’ll send your query letter to a BUNCH of people; I just wouldn’t expect them to be quality. The way these services get you is by showing you an incomprehensibly large list of producers/agents/companies and expecting you to just give them your money without looking into it; which I didn’t do…AT FIRST. After the service provided me NOTHING in return, I looked into the people on their list. Most of them either a.) hadn’t produced anything in YEARS, or b.) had no real connection to the film industry at all. You’re better off getting a subscription to IMDBPro (or if you’re cheap like me, the 2 week trial) and doing your own work yourself. That way YOU control who you’re e-mailing. It takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it.

So, to sum up: if you’re ever at a party and some writer is going on and on about his recent sell as if it’s no big thing, just take your plate of hors d’oeurves, get a good solid grip on the plate…and offer it to them.  Then give them whatever the hell they want.  Seriously, screw querying.  Just make a powerful friend.  It’s a lot easier.

Contact info: Got a question, a comment or just general bile (or overwhelming praise) you want to spew?  Email PJ at pjscriptblog@gmail.com,  If you’re nice, you might just get an hors d’oeuvre! New to P.J. readership?  Click here for more articles!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Our Little Secret – Now in Pre-Production! - posted by wonkavite

Congratulations are in order for Sally Meyer.  Her drama short – Our Little Secret – was recently showcased on STS.

Sally has informed us that she’s been contacted by a director who saw the review – and the script is now in pre-production!

Best wishes to Sally…  a talented writer who truly deserves the accolades!

*****

Please follow these links for more Sally Meyer scripts available on STS!

I’m Not Mandy – Two teenage sisters realize that being popular… rocks!

Mr. Smythe – When Cyril breaks the rules on his first day of school, he finds out that the scary Mr. Smythe has a heart after all.

World’s Greatest Mother – A hen pecked daughter struggles to find a way to get away from her domineering, bed ridden mother.

Perfect Match – After a tragic accident, a mother is forced to make a decision that will affect her life forever.

Ruby and the Lamp – Short Script for Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite

Laptop-Shorts

Ruby and the Lamp

A cleaning lady discovers a suitcase filled with diamonds and a genie lamp; she gets three wishes but isn’t careful what she wishes for.

Every see the Twilight Zone? Not the TV series remake, or the Spielberg flick – the original series, hosted by Rod Serling in good ‘ole Black and White. If not … you owe it to yourself to do a binge marathon. Even those who are already fans might get a kick at watching the series all over again. It’s surprising how much holds up after all these years.

One of the main reasons is that Twilight Zone relied on classic storytelling. Some of the tales were pretty straightforward. But they worked; and usually featured some kind of ironic twist at the end.

Ruby and the Lamp harkens back to that kind of pedigree; following the simple tale of Ruby – a cleaning lady that finds a magical lamp in a hotel room. She rubs it, and the Genie appears… resulting in the standard offer of three wishes. There’s a touch of modern humor in this one, giving the story a fresh feel. What will Ruby wish for – and how horrifically will it go wrong?

Open the script to find out. But make sure it doesn’t cost your soul…

About the writer: Darren J. Seeley contributes regularly to Movie Snitch, and is writer of the recently produced short Forced Donation. Contact Darren at Darrenlives – AT – myfrontiermail – DOT – com or Darren7Seeley (twitter).

Pages: 9

Budget: Relatively low. Only two main characters, and one setting (the hotel room.) There’s a *little* bit of FX that’ll be needed on this one. But nothing that can’t be done with ingenuity and some talent in post!

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ginger Snaps screenplay - posted by Don

Ginger Snaps – July 15, 1996 draft script by Karen Walton – hosted by: Horrorlair – in pdf format

Is becoming a woman analogous, in some deep psychological way, to becoming a werewolf? Ginger is 16, edgy, tough, and, with her younger sister, into staging and photographing scenes of death. They’ve made a pact about dying together. In early October, on the night she has her first period, which is also the night of a full moon, a werewolf bites Ginger. Within a few days, some serious changes happen to her body and her temperament. Her sister Brigitte, 15, tries to find a cure with the help of Sam, a local doper. As Brigitte races against the clock, Halloween and another full moon approach, Ginger gets scarier, and it isn’t just local dogs that begin to die.

Information courtesy of imdb.com

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