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Friday, September 5, 2014

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

Development Hell

Part I: Your Script is Never Locked

                A month or so ago, a reader wrote me with a question pertaining to a production company’s interest in his script. He told me that a company liked the script, but didn’t feel it was quite there yet. The development executive said that she felt it was about 70% there, and that she was willing to work with him to get his script to 100%. (First off, how do you even arrive at 70% as a figure to throw out? What separates a 65% script from a 70% script? Or 70 to 75?) Obviously, she wanted money; for “consulting”. About $500, to be exact. Then maybe, just maybe, they could start shopping the script around. This surprised me, because what she was describing was known as development, and here’s the thing: it shouldn’t cost you a goddamn thing. (Sorry to be crass, but I’m tired of all the blood-suckers, trying to bilk innocent writers out of their most likely already limited supply of money.)

You see, no company is ever 100% when they option your script. There are always going to be changes. They may like your script….they may LOVE your script…but guess what? They want to change it. And don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t make them evil or unable to “see your vision”, this is just how it goes. Some changes will be better than others, some will be much, much worse, but your script will change. And you have to be ready to walk the line. You have to be willing to accept criticism and new suggestions, but also fight for what you think is right. But you have to do this without coming across as “the stereotype” of a writer.

And what stereotype is that, you ask? The writer who is “overprotective of his/her baby.” Get ready to hear that word a lot. Your “baby”. “I know this is your baby, but…” or “You have to be willing to slaughter your baby.” (There’s going to be a lot of graphic, violent imagery associated with your “baby”.)   Every time you speak up, you’re going to have to work extra hard to choose your words carefully, so you don’t sound like a mother looking at their ugly child through rose colored glasses. Because of this you have to make concessions and pick your battles; you can’t defend everything.

When I used to work in copy, my mentor gave me some great advice on dealing with bad advice. Say an executive is giving you a note you don’t particularly like, and you just flat-out don’t see how it can work. His advice: Show them why it doesn’t work…and then have a back-up ready. The back-up being what you really want. It’s not always going to work, but if it is bad enough advice, once it’s put to paper, it just might show through. And if it does, you want something good on stand-by.

But back to the original point: your script is never locked. Let me give you an example: I’m currently in development on a script (hence my month-long hiatus). I optioned the script over two years ago, and once the ink dried on the contract, we immediately began re-writes. I was originally told that the re-write would consist of small changes; a tweak here, a tweak there. One year later, I had a “locked” script. During that year, the script had been passed off to interns, producers, and veteran executives for their impressions. With each impression came more notes. I changed the script a lot during that time, including hacking off the last 50 pages and re-writing them in their entirety. But finally, the “lock”. Everyone at the company was happy. Now it was time to look for a director. But once we got the director on-board…he had notes. And these notes spawned more notes from the producers at the company; because once one person starts commenting, it’s hard to not add something. So it was time for another re-write. And here’s the kicker: during our meetings, the director was flipping through the script and said “And of course, once we get the actors attached, they’ll all have their notes.” And it was then that I realized that this is never really going to stop. I’ll probably be making changes to the script on set if we ever get there.

And you, as the writer, have to be OK with this. You have to approach every re-write as an opportunity to tighten and tune the script. Do I like every change I made in the new draft? No. But I can appreciate that many of the changes I made are solid and have, in the end, benefited the script immensely. I worked with the company/director, not against them. And because of this, I have a new, beautiful baby…that I’m going to have to kill in about two months.

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!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Movie Poet contest winners - posted by Don



MoviePoet.com is proud to announce the winners of their July 2014 short script competition.

“Best Left Unsaid” by William Boehmer ~ First Place
Family dinner is never quite as it seems.

“Truffles” by Santi Spadaro ~ Second Place
A man boasts about his wife’s cuisine.

“The Hunger of Pride” by Rod Thompson ~ Third Place
Two Generals, at the height of the American Revolution, share dinner in a bid for peace.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Red Dragon script two-fer - posted by Don

Red Dragon – April 23, 2001 unspecified draft script by Ted Tally (based on the book by Thomas Harris – hosted by: Horrorlair – in pdf format

Red Dragon – April 25, 2002 Gray Revised Draft script by Ted Tally (based on the book by Thomas Harris – hosted by: Horrorlair – in pdf format

Will Graham (Edward Norton) is just about to retire from the F.B.I. when he is called back into duty to track down a brutal killer known at the Tooth Fairy. The killer, Francis Dollarhyde (Ralph Fiennes), detests the title given to him and would rather use the title that he thinks of himself as: the Red Dragon. Now, Dollarhyde has set his eyes on a young woman named Reba (Emily Watson) and Graham will do anything to stop him from killing her. But for him to do that, there’s just one thing that he needs to do that he has never wanted to do ever again: visit his arch-enemy, the cunning Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), who has been giving the Red Dragon some information about Graham’s family recently.

Information courtesy of imdb.com

More scripts over on the Movie Scripts page.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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

So – you’ve finally done it; you’ve completed your first short script. Congratulations! Great feeling, isn’t it?

Now what? Well re-write, re-write and re-write…. Until the final version really shines.

But once you’ve gotten to that blessed point, how the heck do you get it filmed?

Now what? That was the question that confronted me in August 2013, when I finished my first short, Prototype. (A dark serial killer script… available again after a lapsed option. Hint, hint, hint…)

Now what? Over the last twelve months, I’ve wrestled with that question every day, on some level or another. And I’ve discovered there’s no one answer, or quick unravel of this Gordian knot. Believe me on this. I’ve looked and tried.

What I have discovered in my research is a wealth of information scattered around the net: resources, writing communities willing to help – and a bunch of places to connect with potential filmmakers. (Including STS: Shootin’ the Shorts, of course!)

In the interest of paying it forward, I’ll be using this series of articles to share what I’ve personally learned, including topics such as:

  1. Marketing yourself
  2. Where to list and publicize your work
  3. Where to share works in progress, and learn more about your craft
  4. Where to find Directors/Producers looking for scripts and new writers
  5. Competitions
  6. General Resources for the new (and not-so-new writer)

A quick editorial note: I write shorts, so that’s where my articles focus. But many of the resources I’ll be mentioning can be used for Features and TV, too.

But first things first. Forget for a moment about the script. You have to be ready to market you.

Marketing Yourself

Let’s be honest. To some, “Marketing” is a dirty word. But it’s best seen as a great opportunity – a chance to showcase your writing. With the right approach and attitude, you can use the tools of marketing to share:

  • News on your newest scripts and their availability
  • Your growing success when things get produced, wins in competitions, etc.
  • Your thoughts and ramblings on writing and film making
  • Your own tips and info on how to get those darned scripts made

In other words, you have to “get yourself out there.” It’s a horrible, over-used expression – but important if you want to get your scripts actually filmed. And get them made regularly.

I was lucky. For me, marketing came naturally. You see, I work in marketing (please don’t hate me or throw things!) But for others, it might not be as easy. So here’s a quick guide to some of the tools you can use to “enhance your profile”:

Websites

A website’s essential. It provides you with somewhere to refer potential film makers to – a place they can look beyond the pat logline, and find details of what you have available. It’s a place to compile and showcase scripts that you’ve had filmed, and show that you take writing seriously. In other words, it’s the hub of you.

Mine, incidentally, is www.anthonycawood.co.uk. When you step into the world of web design, btw, you should seriously consider getting your own domain. (That’s the bit after www.)

Mine you, building your own site can be daunting. Chances are, you’re not an IT programmer! But, it can be easier than you think. There are tons of services out there that take IT out of the process… providing templates, drag and drop functionality, etc.

But what about content? That can vary according to your style. Here are just a few examples of writer websites I personally know about from the Simplyscripts and Moviepoet community:

Rustom Irani: www.planetrusty.com

Marnie Mitchell Lister: http://brainfluffs.com/

Breanne Matson: www.breannemattson.com

Mark Lyons (Rc1007): Facebook page for The Ephesian – https://www.facebook.com/TheEphesian

Rendevous: http://rendevous.yolasite.com/

Alex Sarris: http://www.alexsarris.com/

Dena McKinnon: http://www.denamckinnon.com/

Dustin Bowcott: www.dustinbowcott.com

Quite a diverse bunch! But as you look them over, you’ll see some reoccurring themes and topics, such as:

  • Scripts with loglines and additional script details
  • News of their latest scripts and any developments in various projects
  • Details of produced scripts (with links to videos)
  • Contact details (email, phone, etc.)

And websites have added benefits: they make you more visible in Google and other search engines, and are also a convenient place to store your scripts (in case of that future devasting hard-drive blow-out.) I have a hidden page on mine that holds PDFs of all my scripts. That way, if I get a script request when I’m away from home, I can just send people the relevant link. You can of course use Dropbox, Google Docs and similar services for the same purpose. Or email yourself updates of scripts just in case.

And then there’s the fringe benefits. I’ve had numerous occasions where a potential film maker has asked to see Script A, checked out my website and saw a logline that they liked… then asked to see Scripts D and F too!

Facebook

Like most people out there, I already had a Facebook (FB) page for personal reasons. But it can be used for industry purposes as well. Many film makers create specific pages/sites for their film projects. They serve the same sort of purpose as a dedicated website, but tend to be more project specific. And also are slightly easier to set up and share. FB pages are terrific for news, networking with people who share your interests and creating communities for your work. And when it comes to connecting – don’t forget LinkedIn as well. Because knowing people is the name of this game!

Twitter

When it comes to internet tools, Twitter’s more of a two way street. Not only can you share your news, views and general rants – but you can also get feedback from fellow writers, producers and directors. As with Facebook, it’s a great way to keep people posted on your writing developments… Just make sure you don’t end up using it as a writing diversion! I’m @anthonycawood11, by the way….

Other Stuff

Admitted, Facebook and Twitter are my two main marketing weapons of choice. But don’t forget to explore other noteworthy options:

  • Dedicated Blogs. Service providers include Tumblr, WordPress and others…
  • Instagram – great for sharing stills from films made from your scripts.
  • Vine – good for posting short clips
  • Youtube/Vimeo – also great for getting your videos seen by the masses
  • Pinterest – I’m sure there’s something useful here. But I don’t quite have a handle on this one. Yet.

One Last Tip

Don’t forget synergy! (You’re a writer – you know what that means…) Combining the power of these tools are a great strategy for marketing. Forget any hesitation, and mention them at every opportunity. For instance, Facebook and Twitter are both prominent on my website. And my email footer has my web address listed.

I know and you know that you’re a great screenwriter. But make sure everyone else finds out, too! 🙂

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

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