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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.)




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,  If you’re nice, you might just get an hors d’oeuvre!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Can See You – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite



I Can See You

While delivering the mail, a joyless postal worker begins to see messages in the form of graffiti, then the seemingly harmless words take a dark turn.

There’s something about quirky scripts that’s just – charming.  Both to indie audiences and script reviewers.  Think about it: Juno.  Scott Pilgrim Saves the World.  Napoleon Dynamite.  Seven Psychopaths. Sure, raw drama has its place. But write something with character and a touch of mystery?  When done right, the result is magic… a film that’ll stay with your viewers long after the lights have gone up and the curtain down.

A solid example of that genre, I Can See You tells the tale of sad sack mail worker Carson Fox. Beaten down by life, Carson lives with his no-good brother Frank and Shelby (Frank’s too-good-for-him wife.) Though secretly crushing on Shelby, Carson knows he has no chance.  But Carson’s fate is about to change.  Assigned a new postal route, Carson starts to see strange signs… cryptic messages painted on the sidewalk and walls. Telling him how to win Shelby. Urging him towards other – darker – things.  Has Carson finally gone postal? Or is there meaning behind the madness?

Written with a subtle, humorous touch, I Can See You offers the best of what “quirky” has to offer. A unique premise and memorable/relatable characters.  What more can you ask for in a script?

About the writer: An award winning writer AND photographer, Marnie Mitchell Lister’s website is available at  Marnie’s had 5 shorts produced (so far) and placed Semi-final with her features in Bluecat.

Pages: 15

Budget: Medium.  There’s a variety of indoor and outdoor settings in this one… but not all that many characters.  And definitely nothing that requires FX.  Still – it’s not a script that an absolute newbie should attempt.  This one requires a touch of artistic experience.





Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Eleven Eleven – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite


Eleven Eleven

Shortly after being tricked into activating a curse she thought was to bring good luck, a young woman learns she has eleven hours and eleven days to reverse the spell before a demon comes for her soul.

After you’ve read a significant number of shorts – especially in the horror genre – certain patterns tend to emerge.  Usually, it’s a monster or creature we’ve all seen before.  Vampires, zombies, serial killers; the usual suspects.  Also, the stories tend to be pretty simple and brief…focusing on a quick twist at the end.

Eleven-Eleven avoids both of these clichés.  Yes, the “big bad” is a monster-demon type entity – but one that’s unique.  And, at 23 pages, this is one horror script that develops its world – weaving a complete story that’s more than just a literary jump scare.

Although there’s a cast of characters, Eleven-Eleven primarily follows Tina, a personal fitness trainer.  Tina’s world gets turned upside down when she witnesses her blind date’s strange habit – touching something red whenever the clock strikes 11:11.  He tells her it’s for good luck. Needless to say, Tina finds his belief off-putting and weird- but gives it a try, just as a joke.  At which point her world gets turned upside down…

Days later, Tina finds herself fighting for her life – and struggling to find the answers that will help her lift a deadly curse…

Want more?  Then you’re gonna have to open this one. Because I’m not going to give it away.

About the writer: Our very own James Williams (IMDB credits here.) With both shorts and features to his name, James is perhaps best known for the So Pretty vampire trilogy of shorts – the third installment now in production!

Pages: 23

Budget: A number of characters and scenes.  While not overly expensive, this one shouldn’t be done on the cheap.  As for the FX – latex would be nice, but not really necessary.  There’s nothing here that some well-placed shadows couldn’t handle…






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!  (FYI – keep an eye on this space for future shorts by Ms. Meyer: A Perfect Match, I’m Not Mandy and Mr. Smythe.)

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

A Trick of the Mind – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite


A Trick of the Mind

Page International Screenwriting Awards

A newlywed couple’s walk in the woods becomes a battle for survival when one of them is gravely injured.

For a lot of indie directors, the holy grail for a script is one location, two characters  – a ton of drama, and nothing else.  At least, if they have the chops and the actors to pull it off.

If this describes you, then you’ll want to give A Trick of the Mind a try.

At first glance, Trick might seem a daunting script.  Forty full pages…. And it’s a short.

And yet, this one’s a surprisingly quick read.  One which could translate to a riveting story onscreen.

A Finalist in the 2012 Page Awards, Trick follows the story of Natalie and Nick – a newly wed couple camping in the winter woods.  They stop at a bridge to take in the view; only to have the rotted wood disintegrate under their feet, sending Nick plummeting to the ground. Almost paralyzed, Nick starts to hallucinate. He tells Natalie of a dark invisible stranger who hovers nearby– telling him horrible things, and threatening both of their safety.

Lost and cold, Natalie’s forced to go it alone.  Will she survive – and bring help in time to save Nick – both from his injuries and whatever lurks in the woods?

Despite these details, it would be a mistake to think of Trick as an “evil things in the forest horror script.”  At its heart, this one’s a solid drama – one that will have its audience rooting until the end.

About the writer: A Canadian writer residing in British Columbia, Ryan Soprovich can be reached at ryzocasa – AT –

Pages: 41

Budget: Low.  All that’s needed are two characters and a patch of woods.  Admittedly, you’ll need a variety of terrain (including a bridge), and actors that aren’t afraid to get scraped up.






Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Mighty Fire – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite


A Mighty Fire

A blues-man seeks a legendary recording that may be nothing more than old rumors…or it might just be real.

When it comes to serving up memorable horror with unique characters and fresh concepts that haven’t been done to genre-death, it’s hard to beat Robert Newcomer.  Showcased previously at STS, “Bert” (as he’s affectionately known when we’re feeling cheeky) is also writer of Someplace Nice and Dark, a creepy little riff involving a delivery boy, a trailer, and an old man afraid of his own shadow.

In Mighty Fire, the setting is more exotic: a beat up old record shop in New Orleans.  Not the tourist section. The Seventh Ward.  Young blues wanna Jean Juneau arrives on the shop’s porch seeking the last record of blues legend Robert Johnson (rumored to have been recorded while Johnson was dying from a bad case of poison and a woman scorned.)  Known as Mighty Fire, the record is said to be the ultimate blues experience: agony and ecstasy all rolled into one.

Jean pawns his guitar and gets the recording.  Has he made the deal of a lifetime? Or a contract with the Devil himself?  Crack this script open, and find out!

About the writer:  Robert Newcomer recently received his first IMDB credit for another short, Them That’s Dead.  An intelligent writer, he has several other shorts and a horror feature length available for consideration. (IMDB credits listed here.)

Pages: 14

Budget: Moderate.  There are a handful of characters and settings: the record shop, a bar, and a room.  There may be some FX expense incurred to make sure one gets the atmosphere right. But for scripts like this, it’s worth the price.




Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Wild Bunch screenplay - posted by Don

The Wild Bunch - February 7, 1968 unspecified draft script by Walon Green & Sam Peckinpah (Story by Roy Sickner) – hosted by: Daily Script – in pdf format

An aging group of outlaws look for one last big score as the “traditional” American West is disappearing around them.

Information courtesy of

More Movie Scripts on the Movie Scripts page.

Restraint – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite



A father, trapped in a quarantined city, tries to save his daughter from a terrible fate.

With scripts, sometimes less is more.  Less characters. Less settings. Less FX.  In the right directorial hands, this strategy translates to focusing on what’s important.  IE: the drama between one’s chosen characters. The emotion, the conflict. The urgency.

That’s the essence behind Restraint.  The script opens with Doting Father Fenton sneaking out to a driveway with baby Jessica, strapped with care into her car seat.  He attempts to hotwire the vehicle. Quietly.  From his actions – and news alerts on his phone – it quickly becomes obvious that we’re dealing with a quarantine situation.  Possibly a mini World-War Z.

With armed soldiers on the way –  and infected unseen creatures everywhere – this script is the proverbial ticking time bomb.  Will Fenton and Jessica escape in time?  Or suffer some monstrous fate?

Whether one’s taste run to Romero or the Walking Dead, fans of the zombie genre know that some of the best writing comes from focusing on the human element, and surprise. Restraint pulls that off – successfully.

About the writer: Pete Barry is an award-winning screenwriter, playwright, actor, director and musician. His short plays have been published in numerous collections. He’s also a cofounder of the Porch Room, a film and theater production company, website available at  Please feel free to reach out to him with script requests at petebarry27 “AT” Hotmail.

Pages: 5

Budget: Very low.  Characters include only Baby Jessica and Fenton. The setting: a driveway and a parked car. There’s a small amount of FX makeup, that could probably be done in post.





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