Color me incredibly appreciative. The BlueCat Screenplay Competition Newsletter featured a synopsis and link to my 10 Things To Think About When You Option Your Screenplay blog posting. Can’t thank BlueCat enough … for the extra traffic, and for the…
On one of the many screenwriting forums I frequent, a screenwriter posed the question “Did this producer steal my screenplay?”
Good question. Here’s the story.
Making the sale
It seems the writer was approached by a producer who was interested in one of her screenplays. They swapped a series of emails, exchanged several versions of a sales contract, and arrived at a purchase agreement. Yay for her.
The screenwright delivered her screenplay via email, the producer delivered the agreed upon sum. Again, Yay for her.
But the final contract didn’t arrive with the payment. In fact, neither the screenwriter or the producer signed a hard copy.
It’s true, I like me some reality TV.
If you’ve known me long enough, you know how unlikely that statement is. I was one of the (many? few?) decrying reality TV as the launch of the apocalypse 10 years ago, the first of the 4 horsemen. But its siren song called to even me, and as a consequence I’ve just finished watching my 10th season of American Idol (the show that, yes, brought my lovely wife and I together) and am hunkering down for my annual fix of So You Think You Can Dance.
I do have my standards, though. My preference is for reality TV that rewards some kind of creativity and talent, extra points for illuminating a little known process or industry, double points for maybe inspiring others. And I don’t have much patience for behind-the-scenes cat-fighting (not too much, anyway … I’ll still DVR my Project Runway … I think mostly it’s because of Tim Gunn, who I think is hilarious and awesome and classy and I would love to have a beer with).
If you want to sell a screenplay, or win a screenwriting contest, you have to get past the gatekeepers: The Readers.
The Readers hold the keys to the kingdom … The Readers are the ones tasked with slogging through the “slush pile”, that unfiltered stack of screenplay submissions, and decide if any of them are good enough to pass up the food chain to the people who sign the checks. It’s The Readers who decide if the screenplay gets a “consider” (rare), a “recommend” (essentially a unicorn), or simply tossed out after failing to keep them engaged past page 15 (the fate of 99.9% of submissions).
The Readers are charged with reading stacks of scripts … dozens, hundreds of scripts … and they are, mostly, terrible scripts. Sad, but true. Anyone can press keys on a keyboard. Few can turn it into art. So The Readers get jaded, maybe discouraged, maybe even angry.
So how do you get your brilliant new screenplay past The Readers?
Another “regular guy” wants to be a superhero. Will this trend ever end?
“In this heart-warming family comedy, average accountant, Dennis Sullivan, is assigned to the account of a young widow and her son, a boy fascinated with a TV hero known as “Man America”. Taking an instant shine to the kid, Dennis visits The Imagination Superstore, where he tries on the ‘Man America’ costume. When he leaps from the dressing room to thwart a robbery, he embarks on a journey more complex than he ever could’ve imagined.”
I’ve already shared a list of six “regular guy superhero” movies, from Kickass to Zebraman. And the list just gets longer …
Liver cancer and comedy prove a perfect match.
Live Your Dream Or Die Trying
At 35, comedian Steve Mazan learned he was dying of liver cancer. So he did what any sane person would do: he dedicated the next year of his life to earning an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Or “Why Social Media is like a bad tattoo”.
Okay, that’s hyperbole. But I relearned a lesson recently.
If you’re a budding screenwriter, an indie filmmaker, an aspiring or established anything, social media should oughtta be part of your life. It’s where we make professional connections, build our brand, spread the word and mebbe, just mebbe, start careers.
Are you doing it right?
First, a related story.
Last month, we were interviewing for someone to manage our online marketing. We had one excellent prospect, who interviewed well. He had worked in online marketing for a large name corporation, but had spent the past 18 months doing other things. Understandable. The past 18 months have been tough on everyone. But he was ready to get back into the game.
After the interview, and while contemplating the next round, we did a little Googling. Of course we found his Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and a blog. In the bio section of the blog was this:
Saw Black Swan tonight. It was everything I wanted it to be… almost. Intense, dark, sexy, twisted. I enjoyed it, but in the end I was a little bit “that’s it?”. Why? Story. Again. Sure, all the parts are there,…
Thought I’d share. Stumbled across another Indie film distribution channel: Rent or stream your films with FilmBinder. It’s nonexclusive, you keep your rights. Sounds like a pretty good deal… let me know if you’ve got any experience with them.
Finding your descriptive voice in screenwriting
Screenplays aren’t Literature.
If there’s one core screenwriting truth you’re supposed to learn as soon as possible, that’s it. All the stuff that made your fiction writing awesome, all the flowery language, the detailed descriptions, and lengthy internal dialogues are anathema to the script. That two page treatise on your protagonists 1970’s wardrobe and its roots in a painful high school career fraught with bullying and inattentive parents? Fuggedaboudit. What got you gold stars in creative writing will get you tossed at page one by an intern at insertprodcohere.
In screenwriting, the industry tells us, your descriptive passages must remain simple, clear, minimalist. Describe ONLY what the viewer might see (with a few exceptions) and eschew Literary flourish (as well as directorial specifics – but that’s another discussion).
Play a little telephone
I often tell people: Imagine you’re watching an awesome movie (your movie is awesome, right?), and you’re on the phone with a friend. You’re describing to them what’s happening, while it happens. In fact, try it. Turn on the TV, call a friend, and see how it feels to really try to keep the story moving real time… 1 minute per page, 90 pages for 90 minutes.
Here’s what happens when you insist on being Literary on the phone: