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Thursday, November 19, 2015

STS Exclusive Interview – An intimate (hot, steamy and snarky) chat with optioned writer Steven Prowse and Anthony Cawood - posted by wonkavite

Steven Prowse – Get to know him, love him – and be real jealous!

Interviewed by STS’s very own Anthony Cawood

Today we’ve the pleasure of interviewing Steven Prowse, who was good enough to answer my questions, both insightful and inane!

Steven has placed in over 130 competitions, winning 25 in the process with numerous quarter and semi final places to boot… he’s also just optioned a true WWII feature for a mid six figure sum to Hollywood!

To super-glue a smile to everyone’s faces, please take a look at dear Mr. Prowse’s IMDB page.

Trust us – this is a guy you want to have burned into your synapses. In a very good way…

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on yourself and how you got into screenwriting?

A: In my teens I was a math geek who hated English. English was way too subjective for my tastes. But I was somehow awarded a Scholarship to Cambridge University to read Math. After that I fell into accounting (this is where you start to feel sad for me) and am currently at CFO level (maybe not so sad). I’ve also played bridge at international level. So there was nothing in my history to suggest I would, could or should ever write.

However, in 1999 I took a year sabbatical and quickly became bored. One can only watch so much daytime TV before one’s IQ starts bleeding through the eyes. One random shopping trip I decided to challenge myself, and all I could think of was to write a novel. English – my nemesis. By the time I arrived home I had the first and last chapters pretty much verbatim, but it took almost the full year to connect the dots.

As research, it included personal tours of the White House, the DoJ Building and the main FBI Building. This was pre 9/11 – I’m not sure such accommodation would be granted now. It also involved getting some FBI agents drunk. Did they really think they could compete with a writer? I learned so much those two nights – especially on the second night when they brought in the professional drinkers. Their loss. My gain. Oh how they’ll talk!

It turned out, to my utter surprise, that I thoroughly enjoyed the writing process, with or without alcohol. The novel, like 98% of written novels, has never been published, though I am tempted to e-publish it myself next year. I never set out to have it published in any case – it was just to keep the brain cogs turning.

After the sabbatical, back to work for another twelve years before taking another sabbatical. I wanted to write again but didn’t fancy a whole novel – quite the investment. I remember snapping at one-too-many movies where it appeared the script had been written by a computer which had simply taken another script and moved some of the words and scenes around. I can’t even remember if it was an action movie or a rom-com.

Screenplays it was then. I preferred it in any case as there is no inner monologue and you don’t take a page describing the scenery. As a result, they are smaller projects (usually around 15-20% of the number of words of a novel), so one can have more variety in a year with different projects. Hence the plethora of screenplays out there floating on the internet vying for attention.

Q: And how many features, shorts etc have you written now?

A: Other than the novel in 1999, I wrote five features in 2013, one based on the novel: a Mel Brooks satire of all things Hollywood, an FBI Procedural, a medieval horror, a true WW2 story, and a low-budget children’s movie. The rest of my spare time since then has been spent revising and editing them – a never-ending process.

I have written a premise for a TV show which has won a first and second place, but I have yet to develop it.

I also have in my head a hopefully compelling and unique 7-hour TV drama. I’ve written down a detailed synopsis, the beats for each episode, but have yet to commit myself to actually writing it in full. If I can garner success with the other projects I have invested so much time, energy and passion into, then maybe I’ll pick it up. I’ve dreamt every episode. I’ve got to the stage where I refuse to expend any more energy on screenwriting, despite the successes.

Q: Did you undertake any formal training, courses or just jump in?

A: Warren Buffet once advised never to test the depth of the water with both feet. What does that billionaire know about anything? I ignored that and jumped straight in.

Q: Any advice for beginner screenwriters based on what you learnt with your first few scripts?

A: Please note that any answers I give forthwith (and above) are based on two-and-a-half years of intensive competition entries. Despite any successes, a certain amount of jaded, tired ennui will seep through. Please filter accordingly.

Feedback, patience and a thick skin rule in equal measure. Do not think your first scripts, and certainly not the first drafts of any scripts, are any good. 99.9% of the time they won’t be. The temptation once the wonderful first draft is done is to throw it and money into competitions and sit back vaingloriously awaiting the inevitable praise and offers that will come your way.

Send it to friends who will be truthful with you. Spend some money on independent reviews, even if they only offer feedback of a few pages. It will be cash well spent in the long run. Enter it in competitions that also provide this service as part of the entrance fee if you like. As I said, English is subjective and there is nothing worse than yourself appraising your own work.

Also, be careful over the first few scripts not to inject your personal favorite sayings, phrases and habits in different scripts. It’s an easy unconscious slip. Always focus on producing different, defined characters that are not similar cuttings of you.

Q: You are massively successful in screenwriting competitions, I think I counted 25 outright wins for all five features, plus nine 2nds and over a hundred official selections. What prompted you to go the competition route?

A: Exposure. Being a first-time screenwriter it was the only way to attract any attention from agents, managers or producers. The spam query letter, despite it being professionally sculptured, rarely (if ever) succeeds, not even with boutique companies.

Q: How did you assess and select the competitions you entered?

A: At the beginning I didn’t. It was pretty much a costly scatter-gun approach – the competition version of a spam query letter. Of course, I did the research and found out the top competitions and entered them but, in the beginning trying to get placings on my CV, it was a question of width rather than quality. I pretty much entered everything. There was also the hope of a quick placing for my own comfort that I must be doing *something* right. Many screenwriters do this. We are insecure.

Of course, as the placings and wins started to mount up I had the width, so quality became more important. Enter Phase II. Now I tend to avoid the pure internet-based competitions. There are some good ones out there that are not connected with a land-based film festival, but most are worthless by name, just by number. Now I research the history of the competition (I never enter a competition in its first year – it almost certainly won’t carry any weight), try to find comments from previous entrants, etc, etc.

Q: What’s the biggest you’ve won in your opinion?

A: A trickier question than one might think. In terms of potential exposure, it would have to be the long-running and popular Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival for the true WW2 story. Not only did it win Best Historical Screenplay, but was awarded a Special Jury Award as well. Potential exposure, yes, but nothing came of it.

In terms of ‘biggest’ from a personal point of view, and possibly the biggest surprise, it would have to be Best Screenplay for the same true WW2 story from the Female Eye Film Festival based in Toronto. This festival focuses on the advancement of women as directors, screenwriters and actors. I was lucky enough to attend last year and the dedication they spend trying to promote women at all levels in the industry is quite awe-inspiring.

Come the awards ceremony, I obviously did not expect to win, even though the script focuses on the true story of an all-woman air-regiment that basically bombed the crap out of the German forces, and the battles to have the regiment formed in the first place. No one with male genitalia had won in any category in its twelve year history. Yet I did. I really wish I had refrained from Writers’ Drink before the acceptance speech…

Q: What’s your favorite competition and why?

That’s an easy one. ReelHeART, based in Toronto. The enthusiasm and energy of the organizer, Shannonn Kelly, the fact that the top three nominated scripts get a full table read (an invaluable experience), the fact that unpaid actors rehearse these scripts time and time again and that they are integral to the whole festival…it just energizes you to a level you never thought you could attain.

Q: And what have you learnt from your incredible run in competitions?

To be honest, that most competitions (the internet ones) are there simply to make money from wannabe screenwriters like myself and do not care for their career. Skimming the market. Many boast great judges, great connections and that the winning script will be sent to their contacts. Maybe that is kosher, maybe it is not. Who can tell? But most agents / managers / producers will not have heard of these competitions nor care. As I said, there are exceptions of course.

But it’s a symbiotic relationship. I accepted most were not worth a damn but wanted some sort of recognition, any recognition, and wanted to build up that list as well. And it worked – like getting letters after your name from a bogus on-line university. I finally got noticed not by an agent, but by Network ISA as you mention later.

You say it is an incredible run, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I really can’t tell. Although I have a large number of wins / placings, for every one of those there are three competitions I failed to place in. Given the average number of scripts entered into a competition is around 600, perhaps a 25% success rate is something, I guess. With a machine gun in a crowd, you’re bound to hit some.

Also, as I said, grow a thick thin is a rule. There are several competitions I have entered that, given previous successes, I was a shoe-in for. Yet I never reached the first round. English. Subjective.

Q: Have the competitions themselves given you options/sales etc?

Nothing. Just USD 700 in cash, a few trophies, a few certificates, and many e-mailed jpgs saying ‘Winner’.

Q: I believe the volume and consistency of the competition successes brought you to the attention of the development team at Network ISA, how did that play out?

There are several websites out there that promote the concept that agents / managers / producers regularly scour them looking for the Next Best Thing, but there are rare successes. Interestingly, more than one website lay claim that Snow White And The Huntsman, which sold for over USD 3m due to a new overly-ambitious studio head at the time, was because the script was on their website. It was on many websites. Be wary of that.

Unless it’s a micro-budget, do not expect any interest. Obviously there are many, many exceptions, but just prepare yourself for a lack of interest. As I said, a thick-skin is one of the rulers. Chip, chip, chip away. Do not expect Thor’s Hammer with one mighty blow, no matter how good you think your script is.

On Network ISA however, instead of being just a dating site / data dump / hosting site like Blacklist and most others, they have a spot-the-potential (‘Development’) team headed by Max Timm that search through what is registered on their database, search through the post-your-success page, spot the potentials and then pro-actively engage to make the script and log-line better and then send it out to their contacts.

Now a lot of their post-your-success page is “I reached the quarter-final of something you might have heard of!” Well whoopee-do. I hate to say it, but nobody cares. Luckily, because of my costly scatter-gun approach, the number of wins and official selections became very high and as a result I became noticed by the Development Team. The investment in insignificant competitions worked – at least for me. Like everything in commerce, the success of a product is a mixture of how inherently good it is and the marketing campaign. I can only comment on my own approach.

Q: What have they done for you so far?

A: Max sent the script to a Hollywood studio, and after several months, it is now optioned for a mid-six figure amount.

Max has also helped on loglines for the other projects, and introduced me to an agent who, free of charge, helped out with the negotiations for the option as noted above. Wow.

I still don’t have an agent of manager, despite the success, so my only message to the audience is not to expect to get one.

Q: I understand it’s an invitation only scheme the ISA run, any tips for getting the invite?

A: Simply do enough to get noticed. Network ISA is a “tell us what you’ve achieved in competitions” database as opposed to the other more simplified “Here’s my screenplay and my log-line” dating databases that freckle and infest the internet. It turned out that my approach to competitions and their looking for potential was a perfect storm. It won’t work for everyone, it just happened to work for me.

Q: You are a ‘mature’ screenwriter and have come to the industry relatively late, do you think that helped or hindered?

A: Age only seems significant if one is a female actor. There are many reasons screenwriters rarely appear in front of the camera. Age is just one of them. I, for example, have the perfect face for radio.

Q: One of your recent, multi-award winning, screenplays has been optioned by Hollywood for a significant fee, what can you tell us about the screenplay?

A: Right now, female-led scripts are at the fore. They are looking to make The Expendabelles as a parallel to The Expendables, as an example.

There was a project for this true story about 15 years ago, but that script parachuted in a male, US lead to make it commercial, but luckily that plane never took off. Hearing about this aborted take-off of the actual facts, is what spurred me to write my own commercial version with as little distortion from the truth as possible. These women earned that. Here’s the log-line:

“With wood and canvas biplanes, no radio, no lights, no defenses and no parachutes, just bombs, these WW2 Soviet pilots terrorized the German front line night after night. They just happened to be women. A true story.”

To be honest, because I tried to deviate from the truth as little as possible, I feel more like an editor rather than a screenwriter. There was so much I needed to embellish, so much heroism I needed to cut, in order to get the big picture (pun intended) across to make it cinematic and therefore share the diluted truth with the maximum audience. I just hope I did them justice in the long run and that the equation worked.

Q: You’ve written a number of screenplays, what do you think set this one apart?

A: A multi-women action lead, where the women are not defined by how men perceive them? Priceless. It’s time is now. Prior to that…well you had Ripley solo in the Alien franchise, a few women in horror sequels, but that was pretty much it. The emphasis on ‘pretty’.

Q: And how did the option come about?

As mentioned, the Development team at Network ISA noticed the continuing successes of the WW2 story, as well as my other projects, and got in touch.

Q: Did you need or use an agent to negotiate?

Initially I used a lawyer in the UK, but he turned out to be as helpful as a one-armed wallpaper hanger. Luckily Max Timm introduced me to an agent friend of his who gave great advice at no cost re negotiations, which ultimately I handled myself. As a seasoned CFO making all sorts of third-party agreements, I hope I manged to avoid most of the traps.

Q: What’s the current status of the project?

A: Early days. No financing, directors nor cast in place yet. As to how many options are turned into films I have no idea. Watch this space.

Q: What have you learnt through the process?

A: Count to 10. Then learn how to count to 1,000.

Q: Any interest in your other projects as a result of your first option?

A: As you may have noticed, the title of the option has not been publicized anywhere, not even in this interview. No doubt it’s easily discoverable with Google, but the production company does not want it as yet actively advertised.

Somewhat frustrating both for me personally and Network ISA’s Development Team, but it does mean there is yet to be a cascade of dominos.

Q: Have you used, and if so what are your thoughts on notes and coverage services?

A: I have only used them as part of a competition – never in its own right. Perhaps that approach is a mistake in hindsight. Overall though, I would say costly, an investment, but invaluable. Many sites seem to have feedback generated by a computer. “Where’s the character arc for person #3? According to Save The Cat (“STC”) this plot point should be a page earlier”. Ack. Many really take the time and invest in your project. Many churn it out unthinkingly. It truly depends on the particular judge you get on the particular website. Despite any advertising by websites, it is a throw of the die.

I hate STC (Google “Save The Cat”). It should have been killed 4.5 times according to Schrödinger. One should write by wrote, not rote. Personally, I would have bombed the f***er and left no doubt.

Q: And do you use these if available in the competitions you enter?

Not now, but I have come to the end of my competition entries. See above.

Q: Do you have a favorite genre?

No, but I have ‘unfavorite’ ones. I will never do a straight relationship kitchen-sink drama for example. Nor I will not entertain a screenplay that deals with a person’s spiral into decay. If I want disappointment and anxiety in my life, I’ll use my memory. Some use screenwriting as a cathartic experience, I use it to fly with possibilities from a lighter platform.

I will only do screenplays where there are multiple beats where the audience gets warm / fuzzy / I should have seen that coming, dammit / LOL moments. In other words, entertainment as opposed to a journey. Commercial? Perhaps, but that’s me. Every writer has their own personal landscape the audience doesn’t see. That just happens to be mine.

Q: How do you approach structure in your scripts? Do you follow any particular method?

A: For me, and only me, let it mull / ferment / mature for a month. Patience. Write down the clever phrases, the beats, the pay-offs (along with earlier moments leading to it), the profound, anything that comes to mind or in the middle of the night.

*Only* then start to write it. Copy / paste in your ideas above wherever they fit into the script.

What you end up with is a movie through your own eyes. Almost certainly not commercially viable – audience of one. If you want your project to be shared, ie. viewed by others, you now need to take a long time, step back, and re-write it from the perspective of the audience. This I think is the hardest part of the writing process. Try your best to turn it from subjective to objective. Much of “self” needs to be discarded.

STC is pretty much the rule book for screenwriting for the machine-industry and, for me, is the most insidious thing ever written. Most people in the industry, overwhelmed by wannabees like me (screenwriting is easy!), simply use this as a rule book almost like a spam filter rather than seeing the underlying structure and story.

The scripts that stand out are the ones that do not follow the STC formula, yet to break into the industry you must be seen as a relatively risk-free investment – in other words you followed STC. Quite exasperating.

Q: What’s your favourite film? And script, if they’re different.

A: Film? Script? Luckily the same answer. Once Upon A Time In America. Not the butchered cinematic version that cut an hour, but the full version now available everywhere.

To make gangsters sympathetic characters is one of the greatest achievements in screenwriting and it is no surprise there were more than seven people involved in the screenplay.

The direction, the art direction, the cinematography, the acting and the music – rarely has it come together so well. The fact that the screenplay cuts back and forth between different decades without insulting the audience is an extra boon.

Q: What’s the best and worse screenwriting advice you’ve been given?

The worst? “Write for yourself” – you’ll have an audience of one. The best? Patience, think of the audience, and never think a screenplay is finished.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters on SimplyScripts?

A: To anyone, persevere. Expect blocked walls. Try to step back from your first draft. Get, welcome, and respond to feedback.

Q: Any advice for writers who think they have the next $500 million hit script if they could just get an agent/make a connection?

A: Think again, you arrogant self-absorbed fool.

Q: What projects are you working on now and when can next expect to see your name on the credits?

A: Nothing as of now.

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters of SimplyScripts?

A: There is no right answer, no correct path. All I have done is to explain the footsteps *I* took. I only have experience to give you with only a little wisdom. I doubt anyone can give general wisdom in this field.

– Steve (Editor’s note: we’d add “love and kisses” Steve. But we figure we’ll leave that up to him!) :)

About reviewer Anthony Cawood: I’m an award winning screenwriter from the UK with over 15 scripts produced, optioned and/or purchased. Outside of my screenwriting career, I’m also a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to my films and details of my scripts can be found at

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Screenwriters Lecture Series - posted by Don

Thanks Rebecca for the heads up on the Screenwriters Lecture Series from BAFTA Guru – Inspiring Minds in Film, TV and Games.

Lectures from notable writers such as William Nicholson, Charlie Kaufman and John Logan.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

You’ve Finished the Damned Script – Now What? (Anthony Cawood Primers for a Networked World) – Part 8 - posted by wonkavite

You’ve Finished the Damned Script – Now What?

(Anthony Cawood Primers for a Networked World)

Part 8: Scriptwriting Software

If you ask a bunch of screenwriters what software they use, you’ll get a cacophony of different views. Each one strident and strong. No matter the software, they’ll claim it’s the best. It’s industry standard, they say. You’d be mad not to use it. It’s the tool that makes writing… easy!

Needless to say, an article that examines the main contenders would be great. So here is my offering and personal experience – with opinions thrown in for good measure.

** Note – as I always do – it’s best to travel to the official websites of each: look at key features, current prices, file formats, supported Operating Systems and other details. Research is a very good thing. Especially where software is concerned.

First up, we have:

Final Draft

Price – $250

Demo – 30 Day Free trial available

Mac/PC – Both

Mobile/Device – Available for iPad and iPhone

Pro Advocates – Darren Aronofsky, J.J. Abrams, Robert Zemeckis

Final Draft considers itself the industry standard. In fact, it’s used by scores of professional screenwriters – but not all of them.

It’s feature rich to say the least. Anything FD doesn’t include probably isn’t needed.

It has over 100 script templates, integrates index cards well and even has a feature that reads the script out aloud – with different character voices!

FD’s also very customizable, with reports coming out of its ears. Plus, it imports and exports in a plethora of file types and formats.

One of the other good features – IMO – is the ability to save to Dropbox. That’s great if you use multiple devices, as it ensures you’re always working on the most up to date version of your masterpiece.

Yes, Final Draft does pretty much everything. It even has iPhone/iPad versions, currently on sale for $14.99.  (Note: mobile versions sync scripts with Dropbox. Scripts can also be stored locally, emailed, printed etc.)

The only real downsides to Final Draft? Well, the price – though it’s often discounted – and the relatively slow development timetable for enhancements.

You could always just buy the iPad version and play with that, if the price tag puts you off!


Movie Magic

Price – $170 (current sale price)

Demo – 5 Day full demo available

Mac/PC – Both

Mobile/Device – Not currently

Pro Advocates – Paul Haggis, Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, Evan Katz

Another high cost option that purports to be the industry standard. MM has a bunch of pro-screenwriter endorsements and it’s apparently the preferred format of WGA West.

From a features perspective, Movie Magic has much of the same as FD: including Text to Speech, a ton of templates and online collaboration features. And – this software has extensive (and free) support and a couple of features not found in FD.

It does, however, feel a little old these days – an overhaul seems overdue. And the inclusion of other popular hardware devices would be nice.

Downsides: price and lack of a mobile app (though their website says that’s in consideration).



Price – Basic – Free

             Standard – $9.99 per month

            Plus – $19.99 per month

Mac/PC – Online application – yes to both.

Demo – Standard & Plus have 15 day free trials

Mobile/Device – Yes

Pro Advocates – Kirk Suttles – Head of Production at

Celtx used to have a desktop version, but they’ve gone completely online of late (if you have the desktop version, it isn’t supported anymore). But if you just want a basic online screenwriting product, then the free edition is perfectly fine. Many people happily use Celtx for spec scripts.

The Standard version comes with more production type features, such as Shot Blocking, Scheduling, Budgeting, etc. The Plus version has even more features, including Live Chat support. They have a big focus on collaboration and team working as well – that’s not just a FD/MM thing!


Fade In

Price – $50

Demo – Yes

Mobile/Device – Yes (including Android)

Pro Advocates – Craig Mazin

Though a newer entrant to the market, Fade In is feature rich for the price and has some unique advantages (like Android support, a Linux version, EPUB exports etc) that make it a definite contender. It also has Dropbox support, so you can switch between desktop versions and mobile devices easily.

Fade In also also seems to have a really responsive developer, Kent Tessman – who happens to be a screenwriter too*. Additional features are added quickly and frequently, something that Final Draft and Movie Magic have been criticized for (frequently) in the past.

*Check out Kent’s great script, Chrome Noir on the Black List Table Reads podcast. It’s well worth a listen!

Downsides: I think it has fewer features in total than FD or MM, but I’m not sure they’d be missed!

If you are new to screenwriting and want a solid desktop based program, then I think Fade In is worth the look.



Price – $59

Mac/PC – Mac only

Demo – Yes

Mobile/Device – Yes

Pro Advocates – Michael Brandman, New York Times Bestselling Author

This one is Mac only (including iPad/iPhone). I haven’t had chance to look at it, but to be thorough, I thought it fair to list it anyway.

Geared for novelists as well as screenwriters, this one is a word processor with built in screenwriting functionality. It has outlining functionality, as well. You can add images and things like that to a story, just to give it more color in your mind. You can also create ePub and Kindle books via this software.

In certain ways, Storyist seems to be more of a writer’s tool. But if you are a Mac fiction writer who dabbles in screenwriting as well, it might be what you’re looking for!



Price – Free version (restricted features)

            $7.99 per month (or $99 Lifetime fee)

Mac/PC – Online application (so yes to both).

Demo – Has free version

Mobile/Device – Yes

Pro Advocates – Ed Solomon, Andy Nyman

I believe this is the newest in the collection. Like Celtx, the developers have chosen an online route. But they recently added a desktop version, providing good cross platform support. WriterDuet also incorporates cloud saving to ensure you are always using the most up to date version of your script.

One of the key features of the software is real time collaboration. You can work on scripts with a writing partner in real time – no back and forwards, or issues with version control.

One of the other good things is that the developer – Guy Goldstein – is very accessible and currently has an AMA going on Reddit (screenwriting). So he’s pretty active in general.

No, WriterDuet doesn’t have the production level features of some of its more established competitors. But to perfectly honest: if you’re an aspiring writer engaged primarily with spec scripts… do you need colored revision pages and page locking to get by?


So here you go. Check out the websites yourself. Try the free versions and find out what you like!

Admittedly, this article isn’t an exclusive list, but it discusses the main tools in use. Apologies if I’ve missed your favourite, but feel free to post in the Comments box!

My personal view? That if you’re just starting out and have a limited budget, then WriterDuet is a good choice. If you are looking for something with a little more and you have the bucks to spend, then Fade In’s the option I recommend. Then: if you want whistles and bells, the kitchen sink and don’t mind paying a hefty price, then Final Draft’s in your sights.

In the interest of full disclosure… I currently use Final Draft on PC and my iPad. But I’ve also written scripts with Celtx, WriterDuet and Fade In. So I’m agnostic with my software!

About Anthony: I’m an award winning screenwriter from the UK with over 15 scripts produced, optioned and/or purchased. Outside of my screenwriting career, I’m also a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to my films and details of my scripts can be found at

Friday, September 25, 2015

Congratulations to STS’ Anthony Cawood – Horror Short ‘Ouija’ Optioned! - posted by wonkavite

Yep – there’s something about Cawood and STS that just… works. Proving he’s a man on a serious roll, Anthony Cawood has just optioned his horror-comedy Ouija to Bondarenko Films.  So check these other shorts out and grab one – so we can keep shouting out good news to the press!

All My Love (aka Stuffed) (Horror/Drama) – A wronged woman takes a scorched earth approach to her revenge.

I-Robot (SF, Comedy) – It’s Man Vs. Roomba when Octogenarian Roy receives a surprise present from his daughter

Love Locked (Horror) – Two teenagers discover romantically painted padlocks on a bridge. Are they Valentines from a love-struck Romeo… or something more sinister?

About Anthony: I’m an award winning screenwriter from the UK with over 15 scripts produced, optioned and/or purchased. Outside of my screenwriting career, I’m also a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to my films and details of my scripts can be found at

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Skripteez – Project Showcase - posted by Don

Here is something I ran across. I haven’t had a chance to play around with it, yet. May be a useful tool.

Skripteez is a simple platform for screenwriters and filmmakers to showcase projects. Whether you have a finished project or just an idea, Skripteez wants to provide an easy way for you to express yourself and share your work.

– Don

Monday, July 20, 2015

You’ve Finished the Damned Script – Now What? (Anthony Cawood Primers for a Networked World) – Part 7a - posted by wonkavite

You’ve Finished the Damned Script – Now What?

(Anthony Cawood Primers for a Networked World)

Part 7a: Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to pick up a ton of useful information on screenwriting, scripts and the market for them. Not to mention a terrific tool for filling dead time: driving, commuting and the like. At their best, Podcasts are informative, funny, provocative and quickly become part of your ‘must do’ schedule.

So – without further ado – here are my favorites. In no particular order…except for the first one!


John August (Big Fish, Frankenweenie etc) and Craig Mazin (Hangover 2 & 3 etc) are the real deal. Working Hollywood screenwriters who write for a living… and who pay it forward by putting out a weekly podcast to share their knowledge, opinions and wisdom. Their insights are quite useful, based on their working knowledge and experience of the industry . And they don’t shy away from difficult subjects. There’s now over 200 episodes, so get downloading!

Note: John and Craig are chalk and cheese from a personality point of view, but this dynamic is one of the many things that makes the weekly episodes an absolute highlight of my week.

iTunes link

On the Page:

Pilar Alessandra is a professional script consultant in Hollywood. Her weekly show is based around a succession of guests: almost all of whom are screenwriters, but occasionally show runners and producers are added to the mix. The interviews are wide ranging, funny and informative. Pillar definitely knows her stuff and is a real livewire on the show.

iTunes link

BAFTA Screenwriters Lecture Series: 

These podcasts consist of records of lectures given by a variety of screenwriters at BAFTA/BFI events. They’re not regular, and tend to come out in a bunch once a year. Currently available are podcasts with Emma Thompson, Richard Curtis, Tony Gilroy, and Charlie Kaufman to name but a few (there’s approx 25 in total).

iTunes link

Curious About Screenwriting Network:

A great service provided by Network ISA. They have regular Tele Seminars with screenwriters, script consultants etc, which are recorded and released as podcasts. Currently there are over 50 that have been made available, and include guests such as John Truby, Robert McKee and David Trottier, and covering subjects like Rewriting (with Pilar Alessandra), Winning the Big Contests and Pitching.

iTunes link

Selling Your Screenplay:

“Starring” Ashley Scott Meyers, who is an aspiring screenwriter with a couple of sales and produced films to date. His podcast interviews other writers and focuses on how they broke in, how they got their films made and what tips and tricks they can share with fellow writers. Ashley is a genre writer with no airs and graces about his own work. It’s a refreshing attitude and the insights from his guests are great, as they focus on selling your screenplay. (Which is information that all of us writers can use!)

iTunes link

Third & Fairfax, The WGA Podcast:

This is a new podcast from the WGA West. Only a couple of episodes so far. It deals with WGA news, has writer and staff interviews and is pretty informative for both WGA members and non-members.

iTunes link

The Black List Table Reads:

This one is a little different… As Franklin Leonard puts it… ‘it’s movies for your ears’. In essence, this podcast takes well written scripts from the Blacklist and have professional actors voice them in a table read type setting. They work extremely well. The scripts they’ve done so far have been excellent and varied.

iTunes link

The UK Script Writers Podcast:

Tim Claque and Danny Stack are working UK writers who provide insights on the UK scene and interview UK based writers, producers and more. Informative and funny for us Brits, there’s almost 50 episodes so far.

iTunes link

As to how to access these resources? Use whatever Podcast app you have on your IOS or Android device, and remember to subscribe so that you get the new episodes as soon as released.

Which is not to say the list ends here. On the contrary – it’s just beginning. There are a bunch of other podcasts that I subscribe to, and find useful to my writing. The best podcasts spark ideas around subjects I like, and act as inspiration generators. My personal ones are Lore, Ted Talks, Mysterious Universe, Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews and Paranormal Report. In their own ways, each of these have provided info and snippets that have acted as the genesis for short or feature ideas. Mind you, these are my favorites – catering to my particular interests – so have a look round yourself. See what podcasts exist for your interests and fave genres. Because you never know where inspiration will strike next!

About Anthony: I’m an award winning screenwriter from the UK with over 15 scripts produced, optioned and/or purchased. Outside of my screenwriting career, I’m also a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to my films and details of my scripts can be found at

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

In Search Of – Guest Reviewers for STS! - posted by wonkavite

In Search Of – Guest Reviewers for STS!

Writers out there, take note! STS (Shootin’ the Shorts) is in search of a few TERRIFIC guest reviewers. After all, readin’ and reviewin’ scripts is hard and sweaty work. We need all the talented help we can get.

What we’re looking for: Seriously good writers that can preferably commit to one review a week. Though if it’s less, we understand and still want to hear from you! (In terms of time involved, we’ve generally found that a review can be written and polished in about one and a half hours, if not less. Depends on one’s writing style.) And regarding that writing style – we encourage reviewers to have their own voice but follow the general STS formula. IE: positive, humorous or poignant reviews that market the script’s best attributes.

What we offer: Well, like most writers, we’re all rolling in the money. (Insert sarcastic eye roll here.) Yes, folks – it’s a volunteer position. Unpaid. But what you gain is two fold – for every script you write, you’ll have space for your own “About the reviewer” logline. And a bit of exposure for your work, in that space. And you also gain writing experience – something to put on your resume, and hone your snappy writing skills until they bleed and shine. And trust us: that’s a very, very good thing.

Anyone interested, please send a shout-out to moderator Wonkavite at janetgoodman “AT” Yahoo.* Feel free to just introduce yourself. Or send a sample of your writing work (in the body of your email, please.)

Spammers need not apply. Seriously. None of us at STS needs a knock-off Armani bag, a mortgage refinance, or six extra inches. At least not the last time we checked…


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mark’s submitting to Film Festivals guide – repost from - posted by Don

Mark Renshaw has put together a guide based on his personal experiences in script and movie festivals.

Please also follow the discussion on this as well as other articles written by Anthony Cawood and P.J. McNeill.

Mark writes…

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

The two main contenders are Withoutabox and FilmFreeway. Both list thousands of festivals, provide various tools to help you create your projects, upload materials and browse/submit to the festivals.

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:

  • Read ALL the rules and criteria for the festival. It’s easy to get caught out by a stipulation.
  • Research the festival! The promotional page makes it look super professional and slick but go to their actual website and it may look like something a demented child has hacked together with a hammer and a jar of marmite. Do you really trust your work and money to a festival that can’t even put together a decent website?
  • Review some of the previous qualifying/winning entries. If last year’s winning entry was a black and white silent film showing a slug’s life over 24 hours, should you submit that romantic comedy?

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.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Understanding Screenplay Feedback – Repost from CHIPSTREET - posted by wonkavite

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,, Bleeding Cool, NoFilmSchool, ScriptTips and


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.





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