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Friday, August 22, 2014

Scripts of the 7 Week Challenge – Vow to Kill by Daniel Viau - posted by Don

Writers were challenged to write a script in 7 weeks. The genre: Thriller. The theme: Male lead about 50 years old. Race against the clock. The gist: Assume a male actor in his 50’s, in good physical shape, is looking for a mid to high budget “Race-Against-The-Clock Thriller”.

Each day, one script from the 7 week challenge will be featured. Next up…

Vow to Kill by Daniel Viau (Last Fountain)

A former intelligence agent, who has finally rebuilt his life after tragedy, is thrust into action on the day of his wedding. A madman forces him into a dangerous mission somehow revolving around 9/11. 97 pages (pdf format)

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Notes from a Veteran Writer – My Dinner with a Development Executive (P.J. McNeill) - posted by P. J. McNeill

My Dinner with a Development Executive

So, you’ve sent your script off to a production company, crossed your fingers, and now you spend your days religiously checking your e-mail, hoping for a response. (First off, stop that. Forget you even sent it. It can sometimes take MONTHS before you get a response.) Odds are, your script is going to be read by an assistant or unpaid intern. Someone like you. Probably even the same age as you. In fact, they’re probably a writer just like you, with their very own script. (Spoiler alert: they think their script is better than yours.)

If the assistant likes your script, they’ll pass it on to their boss. Who’s their boss? Odds are, it’s a producer or development executive. And their time is precious. They only have time to read the best of the best. (In fact, you might have to make it through a couple readers to get to them.) But when you do, that’s your shot. Wow them, and you’re golden…until they have to show it to their boss: the head of the company. They have to like it too. (The take-away here: your script goes through MANY hands when you submit it to a production company. It can’t just impress one person. It has to be so good that multiple people feel compelled to pass it on.)

But the development executive is your best cheerleader. Odds are, they know what the head of the company likes. They probably wouldn’t have their job if they didn’t. And once you get them on your side, you’re odds of snagging that sweet, sweet option increase ten-fold.

I’m currently in development on my latest script and had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with the development executive from the production company that optioned my script. He was kind of enough to talk a bit about the querying process.

For starters, they are a mid-level production company, making films with budgets ranging from 3-10 million dollars, with theatrical distribution at the studio level. They receive roughly 100 queries a week; so think about that when you draft your query letter. As I’ve said before, making even the smallest attempt to stand out does wonders.

He told me that the worst thing you can do is badger them. Don’t ask them too many questions, what the status of your script read is, or why you were rejected. You’re lucky that they’re even taking the time to write you about your rejection (most don’t), so don’t try and get coverage out of them. He told me the story of one person who just would not let their rejection go and absolutely had to know why he was rejected. The executive gave in and gave the guy a fair critique of his screenplay. The writer flipped out and sent the executive an angry response, cursing him out. The crazy thing was, several months later, the writer actually queried them AGAIN with a different script. Obviously, he didn’t get a read. The exec’s overall advice: a courteous reply goes a long way towards possibly getting another read. Remember: they don’t owe you anything.

Here was my favorite part of the dinner: I asked the executive if he cared if a script started with FADE IN. No. What about parentheticals? No. How about orphans? Do you care about those? No. He said he cares about story. Period. He said he’s waded through some pretty bad scripts, formatting-wise, because the story has shown promise. He said if they like the story enough, they can always option the script from you and fix it up in the development phase. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try hard to adhere to proper formatting, but it is not the be-all and end-all. Your story is.

If an executive rejects your screenplay but tells you they like your writing, keep that person in mind for future scripts. Drop them a quick e-mail, reminding them who you are, and telling them you’ve got something new. Don’t abuse your relationship with them. If you strike out with the next screenplay, it might be time to move on from them. I know it can be alluring: gaining access to an executive’s personal e-mail (and bypassing the assistant), but know when to walk away.

But maybe, just maybe, you’ll beat the odds, get an option and your script will enter development. From there, it’s all cake. Fluffy, delicious cake. Trust me.

Next week’s article: Welcome to Development Hell

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 AT gmail.com. New to P.J. readership?  Click here for more articles!

 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Scripts of the 7 Week Challenge – Manhunt by Marcello Degliuomini - posted by Don

Writers were challenged to write a script in 7 weeks. The genre: Thriller. The theme: Male lead about 50 years old. Race against the clock. The gist: Assume a male actor in his 50’s, in good physical shape, is looking for a mid to high budget “Race-Against-The-Clock Thriller”.

Each day, one script from the 7 week challenge will be featured. Next up…

Manhunt by Marcello Degliuomini (Reel-Truth)

A man who has spent his life taking down scores, must break out of prison to settle an old one. Before a malicious ex partner kidnaps his son in an attempt to retrieve the loot from their last job. 92 pages (pdf format)

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Scripts of the 7 Week Challenge – Slo Mo by Dustin Bowcott - posted by Don

Writers were challenged to write a script in 7 weeks. The genre: Thriller. The theme: Male lead about 50 years old. Race against the clock. The gist: Assume a male actor in his 50’s, in good physical shape, is looking for a mid to high budget “Race-Against-The-Clock Thriller”.

Each day, one script from the 7 week challenge will be featured. Next up…

Slo Mo by Dustin Bowcott

A mysterious man, seeing things in slow motion and suffering from amnesia after being shot in the head, attempts to figure out why someone wants him dead. 84 pages (pdf format)

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Scripts of the 7 Week Challenge – The Killing Lottery by Alexander Brauck - posted by Don

Writers were challenged to write a script in 7 weeks. The genre: Thriller. The theme: Male lead about 50 years old. Race against the clock. The gist: Assume a male actor in his 50’s, in good physical shape, is looking for a mid to high budget “Race-Against-The-Clock Thriller”.

Each day, one script from the 7 week challenge will be featured. Next up…

The Killing Lottery: Change (First episode) by Alexander Brauck (PrussianMosby)

In a world of nuclear deterrence, which had led to a revolutionary UN-constitution about an official killing exchange, a team of killers has to cross the Chinese Taklamakan desert to fight a man thrown on the market by a powerful bookmaker. (pdf format)

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Scripts of the 7 Week Challenge – The Bunker by Dena McKinnon - posted by Don

Writers were challenged to write a script in 7 weeks. The genre: Thriller. The theme: Male lead about 50 years old. Race against the clock. The gist: Assume a male actor in his 50’s, in good physical shape, is looking for a mid to high budget “Race-Against-The-Clock Thriller”.

Each day, one script from the 7 week challenge will be featured. Next up…

The Bunker by Dena McKinnon (pale yellow)

When a family shares their bomb shelter with a mysterious couple during a disaster, they learn the danger within might be worse than the danger without. 100 pages (pdf – format)

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Scripts of the 7 Week Challenge – Deep in the Bone by Richard Kinsella - posted by Don

Writers were challenged to write a script in 7 weeks. The genre: Thriller. The theme: Male lead about 50 years old. Race against the clock. The gist: Assume a male actor in his 50’s, in good physical shape, is looking for a mid to high budget “Race-Against-The-Clock Thriller”.

Each day, one script from the 7 week challenge will be featured. Next up…

Deep in the Bone by Richard D. Kinsella (Scar Tissue Films)

When only a bone marrow transplant can save his dying son and the only compatible donor is the son of a violent drug lord, a Doctor realises he will have to break the law,and every one of his morals, in a deadly race against time to try and save him. 93 pages (pdf – format)

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Scripts of the 7 Week Challenge – Shadow Games by Lee Cordner - posted by Don

Writers were challenged to write a script in 7 Weeks. The genre: Thriller. The theme: Male lead about 50 years old. Race against the clock. The gist: Assume a male actor in his 50’s, in good physical shape, is looking for a mid to high budget “Race-Against-The-Clock Thriller”.

Each day, one script from the 7 week challenge will be featured. First up…

Shadow Games by Lee Cordner (Leegion)

(Thriller) – A sadistic psychopath kidnaps a man’s family and turns him into his own personal weapon. 90 pages (pdf – format)

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – Know Your Worth (P.J. McNeill) - posted by P. J. McNeill

Yes kiddies, and STS Brethren: P.J. McNeill is BACK. 

(We know you’ve been in mourning, and rightly so…)  🙂 

Without further ado or yammering, please tuck into his next article – a rather vital piece entitled….

********************

Know Your Worth

The first script I ever optioned was for one dollar.

The story behind that option is an entire blog post itself, but in a short summary: the company held onto the script (a feature) for three years, and didn’t do a single thing with it. When the three years was up, I had next to nothing to show for it; just a lot of fake promises and a single dollar. I remember taking the check for the dollar to my bank, and actually feeling like a big shot in front of the teller as I plopped it down on the counter. “Yeah, you see that production company logo in the upper right corner of the check? That means I’ve made it. No, don’t look at how much it’s for, that’s not important.

But, you see, it is important. Several years after moving out to LA, I was sitting in a coffee shop with a professional writer, feeling pretty down. Fed up, I told him “I’m not going to work for free anymore.” He smiled and congratulated me, as if I had achieved some kind of goal/milestone. But, looking back, I think I had. A lot of writers are so eager to get their work produced that they’ll take anything that’s offered and sell themselves short. “Wait a minute, you’ll give me 85% on the backend?!? I’d be stupid not to sign this contract giving away all my rights!” (Ok, now take out a piece of paper and a pen and multiple 85 times zero. That’s what you’ll end up with in the end.)

You have to remember: they want your script. They see value in your writing. And because of this, you should see value in your writing. You need to know your worth as a writer. Know what your time and talent is worth. It’s a question that comes up ALL THE TIME: “A production company/filmmaker/student has contacted me asking to make my script. How much do I ask?” There is no one answer. You personally need to sit down and figure that out for yourself. How much are my shorts worth? How much are my features worth?

The main problem is that people are scared to talk figures. People hate talking about money. So, I’m going to share my figures. Whenever I sell a short, I always ask for a couple hundred dollars. My last short sold for $200. I’m comfortable with that. It was a 10 page short, and $200 (give or take) is reasonable to me for giving up the rights to the script. My last feature that I optioned was for $1500 every year. In the end, the script was given back to me, but I had nearly $5000 to show for it. Not only was it nice to get a check every once in a while, but it constantly re-assured me that they felt serious about the project.

Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky. Remember, many blog posts ago, when I said I hate people who speak in absolutes? That’s why I’m not going to say “NEVER accept a dollar option.” or “NEVER take less than you think you deserve.” You know why? Every situation you approach is going to be different. For example: the last script I optioned was for a dollar up-front. But, I did my research. I looked into the company and saw they were a company with a proven track record of multi-million dollar films (with theatrical releases) dating back over a decade. They were serious about their projects, but because they were in another country, could not offer me money on the initial option (as most of their money came from government grants/funding). However, when you’re taking the dollar option, you can use this as your leverage to negotiate certain terms. For example, I got them to agree to some money if the option was renewed (it was).

Be wary of the people with “credits”. I put that in quotation marks, because they’re credits that can’t really be verified. The first company I took the dollar option from? Their website (which had NO completed films on it) boasted their involvement on Harry Potter, as well as many other multi-million dollar films. The problem was, I couldn’t verify this involvement on IMDB (or anywhere else, for that matter). I’ve seen this a lot since then: producers who talk up all the films they’ve been on/helped on, but have no concrete proof as to their involvement. If you’re going to take the plunge and take the dollar option, really do your research, confirm that it’s someone you want to be working with, and feel good about yourself when you sign that dotted line.

But whatever you do, don’t work for free. At the very least, get the dollar. Then cash it, take it all out in pennies, go home, and roll in it on your bed. Because you’ve made it.

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!

 

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