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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Original Script Sunday for April 27th - post author Don

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

– Don

Friday, April 25, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – The Pitfalls of Querying (PJ McNeill) - post author P. J. McNeill

The Pitfalls of Querying

 

Talent really will only get you so far. I’ve heard a lot of cocky people say “Well, if (insert person’s name here) were talented, they would have made it by now. Good material always rises to the top. No. No, it does not. Don’t get me wrong: you need talent. But you also need a healthy dose of luck. Luck that your screenplay will fall into the right hands. Normally you don’t know the sensibilities of the person reading your script. You could be sending your comedy to a reader who only likes horror films. Or your reader could just be having a bad day, and decide to hate every screenplay that starts with a noun. You just don’t know.

Let me tell you how my last script was optioned. I sent a query directly to the head of development and she requested a read. She then sent the script to her reader. The reader provided coverage on it that told her to pass, and about 4 months later, I received a rejection. (Yes, it can sometimes take THAT long – or even longer – to get a response). 2 months later the head of development reached back out to me and asked if they could option the script. Wait, what? It turns out that she couldn’t get the premise for my script out of her head and so she went back and read the script herself…2 months later. I was never told why the reader passed on my script, but the story could have easily ended there. And for most, it does. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of a scenario like this. Normally, when something is rejected, they can’t move on fast enough. What happened was luck, plain and simple. You could say it was just because my premise was strong, but I don’t buy it. A lot of stuff had to fall in place for this to happen, and it could have just as easily gone the other way.

Real quick: notice in the last paragraph I said the head of development. I made sure, when I was sending out my query letter, to do the leg-work and find out who the head of development was (Thank you, once again, 2 week free trial at IMDB Pro) and send her an e-mail directly. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT send to INFO e-mail addresses. It’s an absolute waste of time, and quite frankly, just a bit lazy. Anyone can guess an info e-mail address. Say the production company is Workshop Productions. Then my guess is their INFO e-mail is info@workshopproductions.com. And do you know who that e-mail is going to? No one. There’s a reason all companies put this on their website in lieu of actual contact information. It’s to give you the illusion that you might be reaching someone. (Note: I am not interested in receiving a couple anecdotal stories about INFO e-mail addresses you might have gotten a response from. I will still 100% believe you should do the work and find direct e-mail addresses.)

So, back to the story: why did the script reader pass? Who knows. John August (writer of Go, Big Fish) used to be a script reader and once wrote about the time Quentin Tarantino’s original draft of Natural Born Killers landed on his desk. He thought it was so good, he finished it, flipped right back to the beginning, and read it again. But he passed on it. Why? Because he was too scared to pass it up to his boss. It was too different. Too unique. And even though he thought it was brilliant, he didn’t have the guts to pass it up the chain, for fear it didn’t fit the current Hollywood mold. And I don’t blame him, honestly. Every reader is putting his/her seal of approval on any script that they RECOMMEND. They’re saying, Hey, executive with a million other things to do: take an hour or so out of your day to read this script. I’m not telling this story because I think it was the case with my script, but instead to point out that the factors for WHY your script could be passed up are so varied, you could get a PASS even if they love it. How messed up is that? (My guess is that they passed on my script because the main character spent half the story unconscious; something the production company that optioned it would later change.)

Or the reader could have been a cynical writer, frustrated with his or her own failures. You know another twisted irony of this business? The same people we’re competing against hold the keys to our success. All the hungry, young writers who come out here get jobs as script readers as they try to peddle their own material. So naturally, they’re inclined to think that their stuff is better and everything they read is garbage. Try talking to a script reader at a party sometime, and listen to all that bitterness as they write off 99% of what they read as garbage, but then quickly begin to talk up their own work.

So it all comes back to luck, mixed with the talent to follow through. But don’t give up. The odds are stacked against you (as any screenwriting book’s introductory chapter will gladly tell you), but don’t give up. If you give up, then your high school English teacher was right all along. And you’ll lose out on the satisfaction of some day being able to send her a cake with the words “Eat it, Miss Mudie.” written across it in frosting. And she’ll be hurt, but think she at least has the consolation of a delicious cake to eat. But then she’ll cut into it and be met with immediate disappointment when she finds out it’s red velvet. Because honestly, who the hell likes red velvet?

About the writer: A talented writer and 10 year veteran of the industry, “P.J. McNeill” has seen it all (and he’s ready to kiss and tell.) Got a question, a comment or just general bile /praise you want to spew?  Email PJ at pjscriptblog@gmail.com. New to P.J. readership?  Click here for more articles!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Original Script Sunday for April 20, 2014 - post author Don

Over on the Unproduced scripts page are thirty original scripts to read and enjoy.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Notes from a Veteran Writer – Querying (P.J. McNeill) - post author P. J. McNeill

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.)

***********

Querying

 

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 pjscriptblog@gmail.com,  If you’re nice, you might just get an hors d’oeuvre! New to P.J. readership?  Click here for more articles!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ginger Snaps screenplay - post author 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 imdb.com

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Wild Bunch screenplay - post author 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 imdb.com

More Movie Scripts on the Movie Scripts page.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Original Script Sunday (on a Monday) – Jaws inspired OWC entries - post author Don

Thanks to Darren James Seeley for his idea for the One Week Challenge. The OWC was inspired by a fan’s callout for low budget and brave filmmakers to crank out a series of Jaws fan-films by October 2015 as according to the possible future timeline seen in “Back To The Future II” (boy that almanac sure came in handy!) when ‘Jaws 19’ would be released.

Thirty brave writers took the challenge. Check ’em out!

-Don

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Field of Dreams screenplay - post author Don

Field of Dreams – March 9, 1988 final draft script by Phil Alden Robinson (based on the novel by W. P. Kinsella) – hosted by: Daily Script – in pdf format

Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice in his corn field tell him, “If you build it, he will come.” He interprets this message as an instruction to build a baseball field on his farm, upon which appear the ghosts of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the other seven Chicago White Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series. When the voices continue, Ray seeks out a reclusive author to help him understand the meaning of the messages and the purpose for his field.

Information courtesy of imdb.com

More Movie Scripts on the Movie Scripts page.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gone With The Wind screenplay - post author Don

Gone With The Wind – January 24, 1939 final shooting draft script by Sidney Howard – hosted by: Daily Script – in pdf format

Scarlett is a woman who can deal with a nation at war, Atlanta burning, the Union Army carrying off everything from her beloved Tara, the carpetbaggers who arrive after the war. Scarlett is beautiful. She has vitality. But Ashley, the man she has wanted for so long, is going to marry his placid cousin, Melanie. Mammy warns Scarlett to behave herself at the party at Twelve Oaks. There is a new man there that day, the day the Civil War begins. Rhett Butler. Scarlett does not know he is in the room when she pleads with Ashley to choose her instead of Melanie.

Information courtesy of imdb.com

More Movie Scripts on the Movie Scripts page.

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