Over on the Unproduced Scripts page are twenty six original scripts for your reading pleasure.
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Over on the Unproduced Scripts page are twenty six original scripts for your reading pleasure.
Back in November, STS was thrilled to announce the optioning of Lee O’Connor’s short, The Brightest Star.
And today, we’re honored to be able to help unveil the finished product. Directed by Grant Pollard, TBS will be hitting the festival circuit – including TMFF and the Apex film festival in Minnesota (and that’s just for starters!)
In the meantime, the full film is available for your viewing pleasure here: https://vimeo.com/129374340. Congratulations again to Lee, for a job well done!
About the writer, Lee O’Connor:
I am a writer from the UK for the screen and theatre. I have written several shorts which are in various stages of production. I am currently in the process of writing a feature film which will be shot in L.A early next year. Alongside that, I am in the process of working on two feature films which the genre and subject will remain a mystery.
I like to tackle subject matters that will pull on the heart strings, educate and open a your eyes. Although these genres are at the opposite ends of the spectrum I predominately write drama and sci-fi. I believe you write with what you know, so be yourself and don’t try to mimic another film or script you have read, create your own voice. I am reachable via email: lee.a.oconnor “AT” gmail
Thanks, Phil for the heads up on these.
This is an early draft of The Fugitive. This story is based in Philadelphia, instead of Chicago, and it ends in a Pennsylvania coal mine instead of a Chicago hotel.
Wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, Dr. Richard Kimble escapes from a prison bus and tries to find out why she was killed and who the murderer really was. He is relentlessly pursued by Samuel Gerard, a U.S. Marshal, and is forced to keep out of contact from any friends or relatives. However, his determination and ingenuity soon produce results and he comes to the frightening realization that he can trust no one.
Information courtesy of imdb.com
Mark Renshaw has put together a guide based on his personal experiences in script and movie festivals.
The below ‘guide’ is based on my own personal experience submitting scripts and short movies to festivals over the past 12 months. Take from it what you will.
You’ve created a masterpiece. Maybe it is a script Tarantino would go medieval on your ass to own, or maybe you’ve managed to get a script produced into an ass-kicking-awesome movie. You’ve written your Oscar speech and hired your mom to be your Manager. What now?
Well, you could enter a film festival to show the world (especially JJ Abrams) what you are capable of. What are your options?
There are over 3000 film festivals worldwide. That number is growing exponentially; a bit like my stomach as I eat those bags of chocolate that are ‘big enough to share’ but I ain’t sharing pal! The point is, there are so many it’s impossible to track. Luckily there are websites which specialise in this area.
Festival Submission Websites
Withoutabox has been going since the dawn of time (2000), you can tell by their archaic design. In 2008 they were bought out by IMDB. So the good news here is you get an IMDB title page/credit for every eligible submission. The bad news; the website is user unfriendly, they’ve been slow to keep up with changes in technology and there have been complaints about overcharging. Personally I don’t like them. I’ve had submissions go missing and others where the status has not updated, so I’ve had to contact the organisers direct to sort things out.
Filmfreeway is the new kid on the block. It doesn’t have as many festivals available as Withoutabox but the list is growing all the time. It’s more modern looking and is constantly adding new functionality in response to feedback. Personally I prefer it. I’ve had a good user experience so far. I wouldn’t be surprised though if Withoutabox buys them out once they’ve reached a certain size.
How much will submissions cost?
Withoutabox and Filmfreeway are free to join, free to use but the entry fee for each festival varies and is based on a tiered system. The key here is to get in early. Some festivals start accepting over a year in advance and most offer an early bird discount. If it’s a Seasame Street festival I’m sure they’ll offer a Big Bird discount, but I digress…again. From this point on the prices rise steadily through a tiered range as time goes by.
To save some cash it is also worth following some festivals on social media, as they do randomly throw out discount promo codes.
Some festivals are free! If you use the advanced search options, you can set the price filter to $0 . Be careful though, some of these are only free under special circumstances, like if you are a student or a wizard with a lisp or something.
Which Festivals should I enter?
This is where you are going to have to do your research. Festivals will gladly accept any script or movie you submit. They’ll gleefully accept your money, while dribbling saliva down their chins like rabies infected baboons. However, as soon as they start trawling through the thousands of submissions, they will reject yours faster than a fast thing that’s been fast for a very long time, if it doesn’t meet their criteria.
Let me put it this way, it’s no use submitting a script about a blind albino transgender Jew in war- torn Nazi Germany, who has a secret love affair with Hitler’s briefcase, to a sci-fi festival is it? And yet you will be surprised how many people pick festivals at random.
It’s not just the genre. Some festivals focus on a certain theme, others specialise in supporting a cause or championing a specific gender. I saw one which specifically said in the small print they only accepted submissions where you could prove it was a collaborative project involving people from different countries. Yet, the rest of the promotional material did not state this rule.
The other aspect to consider, what are the prizes? If you just want to promote your work, get some awards, any festival will do. There’s nothing like bragging rights, right? However if you want a way into the industry, if you are looking to get an agent, win a professional table read or if you want cash, then only certain key festivals offer such rewards. Be warned though, the competition for these is fierce!
So before parting with your hard earned cash:
What are my chances?
Here is the mule kicker. Entering and paying a fee doesn’t get you into the festival. It’s gets you a consideration; that’s it. You can pay a small fortune and simply end up with a load of rejections with no explanation as to why.
What festivals will never, ever do, is inform you of your chances of being accepted. The promotional material makes it all sound glamorous, exciting and within your grasp. Just remember it is all marketing aimed at trying to generate as much money as possible.
Let me throw some figures at you – this is based on independent movie submissions only, I don’t have any actual figures for script submissions.
• Manchester (UK) International Film Festival – This is their first year. They’ve had over 1000 submissions with only 20 slots available.
• Palm Springs (LA) Film Festival – Over 3400 submissions.
• Sundance – 200 slots available – woo hoo! Over 9000 submissions – WTF?
With so many entries, it’s hard to fathom how they could possible review each one and give each their full attention. From the stories I’ve heard some festivals don’t. Mere mortals like us have no idea which festivals review each entry fairly and which just take your money and run.
So unless your work has the backing of a big player, a recognised actor or a major Indy studio is involved who could promote your work, it’s worth considering:
Online festivals – They have more slots compared to traditional venues and the festival can run over longer periods of time.
Smaller, specialised festivals – Sure they may not be as glamourous as Cannes but there are less submissions to contend with.
Feedback Festivals – Some festivals provide feedback! So even if they reject it, you’ll know they gave your submission the attention it deserves and you will know why you got rejected. Please note, some festivals charge a hefty extra fee for feedback but some provide this service as standard.
New Festivals – These are trying to establish themselves, they’ll be wanting to make a good impression in their first year, get as many submissions as possible and therefore the rules for acceptance may be less strict.
Super Secret Tip!
If you’ve read this far, well done! You win a straw donkey! Plus, I’ll let you in on something I’ve only recently discovered. The GOOD festivals actually want you to engage with them direct!
Shocking I know. It’s easy to leave the communication between the third-parties like FilmFreeway, I did for a long time and ended up with a lot of rejections. I’ve come to realise that once you’ve submitted your project, the best thing you can do is get hold of the festival’s email address, tell them a bit about yourself, tell them about the project you’ve entered and even tell them how it’s doing/done in other festivals.
I’ve only used this method for the past few weeks and already I’m receiving great engagement from the festivals via email and on social media. Will this increase my chances? Who knows? Time will tell but it can’t hurt to try.
If you have any personal experiences to share please do so.
Best of luck, unless you are entering the same festivals as me! If you do, may your submission supernaturally explode and I win by default.
Follow the discussion on the discussion board.
This in from Zack, Came across something cool today on bloodydisgusting.com that may interest you. It’s the original script for “Final Destination”, back when it was title “Flight 180” and was actually an episode for “The X-Files”.
Alex is boarding his plane to France on a school trip, when he suddenly gets a premonition that the plane will explode. When Alex and a group of students are thrown off the plane, to their horror, the plane does in fact explode. Alex must now work out Death’s plan, as each of the surviving students falls victim. Whilst preventing the worst from happening, Alex must also dodge the FBI, which believes Alex caused the explosion.
Information courtesy of imdb.com
Understanding Screenplay Feedback
You wanna write screenplays? Seriously? Hopefully for a living? Well, one thing you’ve got to do is perfect your art. Write. Rewrite. And keep plugging away… nonstop. Keep polishing your craft until it shines!
…and be open to lessons learned from those who’ve been in the trenches, and blazed the same trail that you seek to tread. STS is happy to be reposting a series of articles from ChipStreet. Folks, this is a terrific website – we recommend that you check it out in more depth! (Original article available here)
About Chip: Chip Street is an IMDB credited indie screenwriter, director, and art director. His short films have screened at festivals, and his feature screenplays have been optioned and sold. He is a screenplay analyst, competition finalist, screenplay judge for a major industry competition, screener for an International film festival, founder of Write Club Screenplay Challenge, and a respected blogger on the art and business of screenwriting. He’s been published or cited by The BlueCat Competition Newsletter, Script Magazine, JohnAugust.com, Bleeding Cool, NoFilmSchool, ScriptTips and IndieWire.com.
When to listen to the reader: Understanding screenplay feedback
Originally posted on January 27, 2012 by Chip Street
* This post was recognized and redistributed by the BlueCat Screenplay Competition.
We hear it all the time. If you want to write a better screenplay, get feedback and listen to it.
But I promise you this: the feedback you get from contest readers, other writers, and even friends and family will not be consistent. Readers will contradict one another, you’ll get mixed messages even from single readers, and figuring out how to use any of it to build a better screenplay will be overwhelming.
A few years ago I attended a talk with Sony’s Sam Dickerman. My favorite observation of his was that when producers say “That’s great, but can we add aliens somewhere?” they don’t literally mean “add aliens”. They mean they’re looking for something spectacular and unexpected, and it’s your job to understand what result they’re looking for, and find ways to deliver on that while remaining true to your story (and yourself).
So what do you do?
Be open minded. Some feedback is going to resonate with you as an “aha moment” that you know is exactly right for your story. Some is going to simply feel “different not better”. And some is just going to sound flat out wrong. Don’t dismiss any of it out of hand… think about it, and see if there isn’t something of value there.
Watch for patterns. Three readers all giving the same note very possibly means there’s an issue there that you should seriously consider, even if it’s not resonating with you. When you find yourself saying “These people are idiots! Why do they all think Juanita is a Martian?” it may just be that you have not, in fact, made it clear what you mean by “alien”.
Add value, not information. For those changes you decide to make, ensure that you’re adding value, not just more words. Can you use the change as an opportunity to develop a deeper character? Enhance a relationship? Build tension?
Easy to say, harder to do. We’ve recently gotten lots of feedback from a variety of respected readers at a number of high-profile contests… specifically BlueCat, SlamDance, and WildSound. So by way of example, we thought we’d share some of the feedback we got on our horror screenplay Faeries.
Pacing: You can’t get there from here [fast enough]
By design, we modeled our screenplay structure on The Descent, a relatively recent creature feature that enjoyed real success and spawned a sequel. As in The Descent, we spent lots of time building the characters and relationships, saving the first creature reveal for the midway point (at page 47, we still beat The Descent’s minute-50 reveal).
Because of that slow build, the action really takes off midway through the second act, following the characters as they’re pursued through the woods, picked off by the creatures one by one.
This slow build and sudden shift in pacing could be considered a gamble, The Descent notwithstanding, given the traditional genre (and SyFy Channel) preference to “get to the creature quick”, and the inherent impatience of readers in general.
The response was mixed.
BC: “This second half of this script is incredibly strong. Once the faeries arrive, the action is non-stop. Every time our characters look like they have escaped, they are placed in another dangerous situation. The danger keeps increasing, keeping the audience at the edge of their seats.”
BC: “The title of this script is Faeries, yet we never see a faerie until page 47… For a thriller, the action unfolds quite slowly…”
SD: “The build is very strong. The author doesn’t try to rush things and make everything happen immediately or too fast, but lets the horror build… the slow build is a good idea.”
BC: “The story does not take off until the midpoint, making the first half feel more like a really long setup instead of a thriller.”
WS: “…the authors maintain a brisk pace throughout the piece.”
So the build worked for some, and not for others. This is subjective feedback. Our intention was a slow build — those for whom that didn’t work simply aren’t our audience, right?
Yes and no. In fact, it prompted us to look at the first half, and ensure that the time we were spending on building characters and relationships was engaging, well-paced, and escalated in a way that made it as interesting as possible. Because what we don’t want is for it to *feel* like a “long setup”. We found a few places to make some adjustments, and we think it’s better for it.
Character Development: Who are you again?
Choosing to write a character-driven horror movie (and sacrificing an early creature reveal) means we’d better do a damn good job of building interesting characters. This is something we felt we’d done well at. Here’s what the readers had to say.
SD: “The characters are above average and the author strives to give them some depth and individuality.”
WS: “There are also some wonderfully subtle moments of character development.” “…characters are so strongly developed”
BC: “Each character is well-developed and fits nicely into the story.“ “…the female characters are strongly portrayed.”
Great, right? Then there’s this…
BC: “In general, the characters are not fully developed.”
Once again, opinions vary from reader to reader. More confusing still, the same reader who said “Each character is well-developed” also said “the characters are not fully developed”.
So what do we do with that? We chose to combine the refinement of the first half (our response to the long setup issue) with character building (our response to character issues), by looking for opportunities to enhance character in ways that also contribute to tension, plot, and escalation early in the story.
Issues of clarity: Did you even read the script?
Speaking of characters, our main character, a woman, is suffering from head trauma and has lost an unborn baby, the result of a terrible car accident in which her husband was the driver (and she the passenger). That accident is illustrated via a trio of flashbacks, which demonstrate the long-standing tension in their relationship. In the flashbacks, she’s described as “clearly pregnant”. In the present story, of course, she is never referred to as pregnant, and is even shown drinking. Driving it home, during one conversation about the accident, another character says to her “It’s not about blame. It’s about getting you healthy. Kids can come later.” We thought we’d been pretty clear, and for the most part readers seemed to get it.
WS: ”She also endures some terrible personal tragedies, from the loss of her baby to her head trauma…”
Yet somehow, others completely misunderstand this.
BC: “Reese’s pregnancy makes a more vulnerable and likeable character.”
BC: “…even though Reese is pregnant, no one seems to discuss it or treat her with extra care… her friends do not seem concerned about a baby. The pregnancy is only mentioned once; consider removing that detail.”
This is frustrating. How “on the nose” do we have to be to satisfy readers who clearly just aren’t reading carefully? We’re certainly not going to remove the pregnancy. It’s a huge factor in the couple’s troubled relationship. But that said, if its impact on the relationship was working, would a reader say “the pregnancy is a minor detail you can lose”?
This is an opportunity to “add value, not information”. As tempting as it might be to simply insert some clunky descriptive line that says she’s “clearly no longer pregnant”, we’ll be better served by addressing why the pregnancy is a valuable story point, and look for opportunities to enhance interactions between her and her husband in ways that organically demonstrate the impact of the lost child on their relationship… and the story.
Format: Dot those I’s, cross those T’s
Format feedback is pretty objective stuff. Yes, there’s room for some flexibility, and it does evolve over time. What was allowable decades ago wouldn’t be acceptable today, and what works today may not fly in a few years. But by and large, if you’re still peddling spec scripts, it’s not on you to reinvent the font or margins.
SD: “It is first suggested that the author bring the screenplay to industry standard or a more modern style of doing narrative. Here this means that no words should be fully capitalized except for a character’s name when they first appear. Also, do not list transition shots like dissolve to, or POV shots. Other than that, the narrative here is well written.”
AL: “Don’t put so much contact information on the title page.”
When I first started writing screenplays, all SOUNDS were capitalized. Apparently that’s not what (at least some) readers are looking for today. There’s little in the way of formatting that’s worth standing firm on if you’re hearing that it’s a problem. More than two readers complain about your capitalized sounds? Get rid of ‘em. Focus on story.
What’s the upshot?
While we found some of the feedback insightful and enlightening, some of it was clearly conflicting, and some of it, frankly, so astonishingly off the mark we wondered if they’d read the script at all. But in the end, we did our best to set aside our egos, give all the feedback due consideration, and be open to ways to improve our script.
After all, if you’re asking for feedback just to hear how great you are, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
We learned a lot, and ended up making some minor but impactful modifications that changed our screenplay for the better.
Thanks, all you readers, for taking the time to tell us what you thought.
Over on the Original Scripts page are 19 original scripts for your reading pleasure.