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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Congratulations to Zach Jansen – In The Grip of Denial Now Optioned! - posted by wonkavite

STS sends out a hearty congratulations to talented writer Zach Jansen, who recently optioned his reviewed short In the Grip of Denial!  But worry not, oh indie producers and directors – because Zach has more scripts available in his writing chest.  Check out the following scripts for additional available Jensen work… but you’d better act quick, before they’re gone as well!

Interrogation An interrogator employs questionable methods to extract information from a suspect.

Always Bad A woman searches for her missing daughter… with a child predator on the loose.

Bringing Dad Home A son arrives to collect his estranged father and his possessions – but finds more. Old memories…

Adaptationing Night School A screenplay writer runs into trouble when his lunatic twin stops by to help…

About Zach: Zach Jansen is an award-winning and produced screenwriter from Saint Paul, Minnesota.  He enjoys spending time with his kids, anything movies, and sitting at his desk pounding out his next script.  If for some reason you want to learn more about him, you can check out his IMDb page or quasi-frequently updated blog.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Original Script Sunday for September 28th - posted by Don

Over on the Unproduced Scripts page are eleven original, unproduced scripts for your reading pleasure.

– Don

Friday, September 26, 2014

You’ve Finished the Damned Script – Now What? (Anthony Cawood Primers for a Networked World) – Part 2 - posted by AnthonyCawood

Part Two – Getting Feedback

At the beginning of this series, we discussed writer promotion basics; how to establish you (and your work) as an active on-line commodity. Assuming you’ve been a busy marketing beaver, you’ve now got your new website all set up and ready to go. And you’re all over Facebook and Twitter like ants at the proverbial picnic table…

So what’s next on your journey towards screenwriting world domination?

Well, you could use some of the great resources out there to get coverage (aka, feedback, notes etc) of your cinematic baby. Rewriting and polishing it until it shines, for that day when you get that oh so precious email: “send us a copy of your script…”

As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So you want that script to be perfect.

Don’t you?

Okay, so you’re not going to get professional coverage without paying for it. (Though when you’re ready, don’t forget to take a look at STS’s very own talented and detailed script consultant, Danny Manus, of NoBullscript Consulting!

But there are some great places to get your screenplays read without shelling out your limited dough, complete with feedback and notes.

Below you’ll find a list of sites where gifted amateur screenwriters – and the occasional pro – congregate and provide useful recommendations.

A few words of caution before we dive in: it’s worth pointing out that you’re putting your work (your baby!) online for others to see and comment on.

1) Make sure it’s copyrighted – either through the Library of Congress or at least WGA. And no, not everyone’s out to steal your script or idea. But there are always some bad apples lurking around. Somewhere.

2) Bear in mind: on the net, free expression reigns supreme. Barring any board limits and moderations, people can and will voice their opinions as they see fit. Feedback is usually respectful, but inevitably some trolling and flaming occurs. Following are a few helpful ideas to keep it to a minimum:

3)   Check your grammar and spellen. (Um, “spelling”) And then check it again! Readers quickly get distracted with error strewn scripts… and often leave choice comments before they move onto other things. Besides, if you can’t be bothered to run an easy spell check and read through the pages, why in the world would you expect a stranger to do so. For free?!? (An extra tip, if grammar isn’t your thing, there’s some online help… check out Ginger for example.)

4)   Make sure the screenplay’s formatted correctly, using screenwriting software to ensure the basics are right. Final Draft is the standard for pros, but a bit pricey. For the cash strapped, CeltX is free, as is the web version of WritersDuet. Making sure your formatting’s up to snuff removes another reader distraction.

5)   Save or upload your docs as PDFs. People don’t like seeing screenplays written in Word. It screams amateur.

6)   The vast majority of these sites work on – and appreciate – reciprocity. So if you ask for a read, make darned well sure you give thoughtful ones in return.

7)   Consider all comments and feedback. No script is so perfect that it can’t be improved on. That said, don’t forget it’s your script. So use the recommendations to improve and polish your work. Not change it into something else.

8)   Don’t limit yourself to asking for script feedback. These sites are the online homes of tons of helpful fellow writers. Reach out to them with other questions as well. How to get through a tricky piece of writing, logline reviews, etc. You name it. People will have thought about it, and will be willing to share.

Now for the online resources themselves:

Simply Scripts – http://www.simplyscripts.com/

Kind of an obvious choice, given you’re reading this off the homepage. But it’s a fact that bears repeating: the SimplyScripts discussion board is populated by a bunch of talented writers, most of whom are happy to help fellow scribes out. The site has two primary sections for getting script exposure: 1) A general discussion board for unproduced works – divided by features/shorts and genres, 2) The script Showcase “Shootin’ the Shorts” (STS), where selected short scripts (and one feature a month) get fantastic exposure through in-depth reviews. Please note: STS is for shorts ready to shoot, not first draft works in progress!

Reddit – http://www.reddit.com/r/ReadMyScript/

Reddit has a few different areas (fondly known as sub-reddits) for writing, and two or three that focus on screenwriting in particular. I’ve found that the link provided above is the most suitable one for your needs. The feedback is usually decent. Not as good or in depth as SS – and there’s the occasional troll or flame war. But you’re on-line. You should be used to that!

IndieTalkhttp://www.indietalk.com/forumdisplay.php?f=43

A movie making Forum with a relatively healthy screenwriting section. If you ask for script feedback, you’ll generally get 5-10 responses. Not to the same depth as SS, but pretty decent all the same.

AbsoluteWrite – http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=12

A broader forum that contains a wealth of info on a number of writing specialties (including Screenwriting, of course.) It’s worth a look – but less detailed than some of the other options here.

The Black Board – http://theblackboard.blcklst.com/forums/forum/screenwriting/

This is the Forum site for the Blacklist. Yes, the Blacklist. As such, it’s pretty active with five screenwriting boards. But it’s more business related – less on the “how-to” of the craft, and more on the “getting things made” end of things.

Stage 32 – http://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting

A great resource for connecting people involved in film making, in all the various disciplines. Acting. Directing. Cinematography. Producing. And, yes, Screenwriting. It’s a little like Facebook or LinkedIn, but specifically for film makers. Each discipline has it’s own “Lounge” for discussion and online interaction. There, you’ll find a variety of exchanges: requests for feedback on scripts, loglines and more. As is true everywhere, there’s a ton of opinions on S32… so please remember Rule #5. It’s your script. Take constructive criticism and value it. But remain true to your vision.

Screenwritinggoldmine Forumhttp://www.screenwritinggoldmine.com/forum/forums/screenwriting.14/

There are extensive sections on screenwriting in this active site. Definitely worth looking at for advice and reads.

MoviePoet – http://www.moviepoet.com

This one shares several members with SS – and has generated some serious talent. Scripts are limited to five pages or less. They’ve got a great monthly competition, where everyone gets to vote and comment on your script. The only downside: that you don’t see anything until the results are announced, then you get all the feedback at once. More on Movie Poet in the Competitions article.

Zoetrope – http://www.zoetrope.com

Yep, Copolla’s site! You need to join officially. But then you can post scripts and get them read. And you do need to read scripts in return. This is one site that I’ve limited experience with. More notes on it at a later date…

Screenwriter’s Utopia – http://www.screenwritersutopia.com/

Has a Script Swapping Forum for people to exchange scripts, get notes etc. The forum doesn’t seem very active, but the site has other resources worth checking out, too.

Established and respected resource for all things film, including an active screenwriting community, who are always happy and quick to help. Check out the other sub forums too, there’s a wealth of info here covering the gamut of film making subjects.

Well, that’s enough sites to start with (search on-line and you’re sure to find even more!) If you do find a gem, please let us know.

In the meantime, start digging around in these sites – they’re all essential tools to improve your script, your craft… and provide valuable networking opportunities too!

Next up: Where to publicize your scripts, once you’re good and ready…

About Anthony: Anthony Cawood is a new(ish) screenwriter from the UK with two produced short films, two in post production and another seven sold/optioned. His script, A Certain Romance, recently won in the Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition (short script category), and two other scripts have recently placed 2nd and 3rd in the FilmQuest Screenwriting Competition and Reel Writers Screenwriting Competition respectively. Links to his films and details of all his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Congratulations to Bill Sarre – Lost and Found now in Preproduction! - posted by wonkavite

STS wishes to give a hearty congrats to writer Bill Sarre. As the result of our earlier review, his short Lost and Found has gone into pre-production. Please note: this shoot is non-exclusive, so the script’s still available for consideration by other producers.

Then there’s Bill’s other numerous works of note. (Take a peek before they’re gone!)

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

Lost and FoundAlone in an airport terminal, a man discovers he has lost something rather important.

Inner Journey An unconventional counsellor seeks to explain to a new client the meaning of her inner journey, only to discover he is uniquely placed to help her.

Shark DreamingAfter the death of his partner, a fisherman is tormented by a life changing decision he must make.

True MythWhen a secret military team gains the power of psychic foresight, their greatest challenge is what happens next.

The Ultimate WeaponA dying patient with an unusual story tries to explain to his doctor why he should fear the ultimate weapon.

The Grieving SpellA grieving man uses a special magic to relieve the pain he feels following the death of his wife. (Review pending in October – but script now available for download. Grand prize winner of the London Film Awards!)

 

Congratulations to Rick Hansberry – Alienate The Movie (Interview on Synergomatique) - posted by wonkavite

A follow-up on the pending movie premiere of Alienate – by STS’s own Rick Hansberry! SF buffs take note: the film’s being unveiled on November 7th. You can get an early taste of it and the latest trailer at Synergomatique’s recent interview with Rick.

FYI – Rick can be reached at djrickhansberry – AT – msn, (cell phone 717-682-8618) and IMDB credits available here.

As for you SF directors and producers looking for your next feature length project… Rick’s got more in his script treasure chest. His script Expiration is available for viewing here (pdf format).

EXPIRATION – When an insurance actuary discovers there may be a formula for calculating a person’s expiration date, he must race against time to solve the mystery of the equation before the impending death of his girlfriend.

*****

For yet more scripts by Rick Hansberry, check out the STS reviews below. (Better grab ’em before they’re gone…)

Taking the Reins (feature)

Hold Your Breath

Left in the Dark

Over the Lump

Burn the Ships

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Original Script Sunday for September 21st - posted by Don

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

– Don

Friday, September 19, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – Development Hell – Part III (P.J. McNeill) - posted by wonkavite

Welcome to Development Hell

Part III: Game over, man. Game over!

Over the last 10 years, I have optioned nearly every single script I have written. And outside of a few short scripts, I have NEVER seen a feature script make it to production. I have watched each script painstakingly go through the development process, only to fall apart with little to no warning. That means that I’ve done years of re-writes multiple times for multiple scripts, with next to nothing to show for it.

Thankfully, as mentioned several posts ago, I no longer work for free (and you shouldn’t either). My last option that collapsed lasted for THREE YEARS. And think about it honestly: would you do ANY job for three years with absolutely no pay? Sure, I could go on a tangent about how it’s my passion and the joy of writing should be good enough for me, but screw that, I have a family, and three years is a long time. I can’t imagine if I looked back on the entirety of that time and realized I literally had nothing to show for it.

And THAT’S why they’re paying you. Not only for your time (and the time the script is off the market), but for the off-chance that NOTHING happens with your script. If nothing happens with your script and you have no money to show for it, what can you actually say about the last three years (give or take) of work you’ve done? I’ve done $0 options before, and when the years have passed and the project collapses, you look back and realize that is time you can’t get back. And worse, your idea might be outdated by that time. Several years ago, the three year option script was original and had a unique selling point. Now, when I try to pitch it, I get responses like “I’ve had two people try to pitch a script like this in the past couple months.”

The biggest thing independent filmmakers love to fall back on are points, instead of pay. The very first option I had was for one dollar, but man, oh man, did I have lot of points on the back end. I remember feeling pretty damn proud of myself, negotiating the percentage of my points higher than what was originally offered. Unfortunately, the filmmaker held onto the script for a couple years and eventually gave it back to me, thus making my points completely and utterly worthless. You can have a million percentage points, but it’s pointless (heh.) if you don’t end up with a film. (Add that to the fact that even if you DO get a film, those points are probably worthless. Seriously, get cash up front.)

It’s going to be hard to tell people your option fell apart. You know how I said, in the last entry, that you’ve probably told your friends and family, and they’re most likely always asking for updates? Well, now you get to tell those same skeptical people that your project fell apart.   It will come to the point, if you’re like me and have had several options that didn’t work out, that the people you know will become skeptical of optioning/development. It’s like how people get less and less excited with each kid you have. Everyone’s pumped with the first one – sending you congrats and what not – but by the forth, it’s like “Alright already, you can have kids. Hooray. Let me know when they do something worthwhile.” Same thing with optioning. I can see it in people’s eyes now. I tell them I optioned something, but all I see is “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let me know when it’s a movie.”

The biggest fear you will have is people thinking your script didn’t get made because it isn’t good. That YOU’RE the problem. Let me just say: that’s bullshit. It’s not your fault if your script doesn’t get made. There are so many factors at play in securing funding for a film, that it is horribly simplistic to blame it entirely on the quality of the script. It’s not just the good scripts that make it to production. Don’t believe me? Take a look at ANY section on Netflix Instant. If it WAS your script, odds are it was because your script didn’t fit a particular mold. Your script isn’t the type of script you can point to and say “THIS is why it will make money.” And when you’re trying to secure funding, it’s all about finding out what is “sellable” about your script. Your script being “good” sadly isn’t enough. My last story session with the director concentrated more on “what would sell” than what would make for a good story. (Spoiler alert: any scene over two pages – doesn’t sell)

I’m more confident about my current project in development than I have been about any project before it. I would be shocked if I received an e-mail telling me they were pulling the plug. I fully expect it to go into production. Which is great, because they told me I could have 125% of the film’s profits. Suckers.

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, September 14, 2014

Original Script Sunday for September 14th - posted by Don

Over on the Unproduced Scripts page are 23 original scripts for your reading pleasure.

-Don

Friday, September 12, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – Development Hell – Part Two (P.J. McNeill) - posted by wonkavite

Welcome to Development Hell

Part II: The Waiting Game Sucks, Let’s Play Hungry, Hungry Hippos

The production company I’m currently working with has (at least) 12 other projects in development; ranging from television to feature films. And only one – count ‘em – one development executive. Granted, he has a slew of interns working for him, but the bulk of the work rests solely on his already heavily weighed down shoulders. So what does that mean for me? It means, when I send in the latest draft of my script, I have to get in line. It might be days, weeks or even months before I hear back. And you, as a writer, have to really become OK with that: the waiting.

One time, I turned in the latest draft of my script, and started the process of waiting. Two weeks later, I received an e-mail from the executive apologizing and telling me it would be awhile before they would get a chance to read it because they just entered production on another film. Production time: TWO MONTHS. That meant, for two months, I was being pushed to the back of the line. (NOTE: So think about THAT when you’re waiting for a production company to get back to you while querying. You know how I’m at the back of the line? Well, you’re not even IN the line.)

Most companies won’t talk in depth about what they have in development, and it is certainly not your place to ask (unless you’ve developed a good relationship with them). You’ll start to wonder where your project ranks. And even if you had the gall to ask them (which you shouldn’t), they’d most likely tell you that ALL their projects are equally important. Which is BS, just like when your parents say they love you all equally. (Spoiler alert: they love your sister more.)

The worst part is that you’ve most likely told your friends and family that you’ve optioned a script. And what do they want? Updates. And why wouldn’t they? It’s exciting, and they’re excited FOR you. But what they don’t understand is that development is a slow-going process every step of the way. Even in the studio system, most films spend YEARS in development, unless they’re the lucky few to be on the “fast track”.

So whenever you’re at a party or a family function and every-single-person opens with “So, what’s going on with (insert script name here)?” and you have NOTHING to tell them, it’ll start to nag at you after awhile; especially as the months go by. And every time you talk to that person, and have no updates to give, you’ll start to see their interest fade and give way to good ol’ skepticism. You’ll try to think of things you can tell them that put a positive spin on it all, but if someone doesn’t understand development, it just sounds like a lot of nothing.

Because of this all, you’ll be tempted to contact the company. Don’t. If they have something to tell you (about your script drafts, the state of financing, actors attached, etc), they’ll tell you. You don’t want to become the needy writer they quickly become sick of working with. Because REMEMBER: you want to keep a good working relationship with them. They just might make your next film. But they won’t if they remember you as that writer who wouldn’t leave them the hell alone. If you do e-mail them, make it short and sweet and only do it EVERY SEVERAL MONTHS. But I really would advise against this, unless you have the type of relationship that merits it.

The best thing you can do – and the thing I even have a problem with – is to throw yourself into something else, like another script. It’s tough though. Having your script in development IS exciting. You want to know what’s going on with it. After all, this could be your big break, and the “green light” could happen any day…in a couple years.

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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