Archive for ‘Recommendations’

November 22, 2013

Recommendation: Jameson First Shot Competition

CaptureThe deadline for the Jameson First Shot competition is around the corner on January 2. This screenwriting competition is a rare chance to have your script professionally produced and starred in by a well-known actor. This year, the actor is Uma Thurman.

In previous years, the competition was not open to residents of California, but the rules have changed. Entry is free, and if you win, you’ll get to direct your own production.

This competition has some very specific rules in terms of script length and content, so be sure to review those carefully before you start writing. The contest states:

We’re looking for more outstanding writer/directors to enter the 2014 competition, where we will be offering an incredible opportunity; giving people a ‘first shot’ in the film industry by having their short film produced by the Academy Award-winning Trigger Street Productions and giving them the chance to direct Uma Thurman in the leading role.

In order to enter you must be from South Africa, Russia or the US (now including California!), be at least 25 years-old, and write a script of no more than seven pages based on one of three themes (‘Legendary’ OR ‘Humorous’ OR a ‘Very Tall Tale’).

I don’t know of any other contests quite like this one. Good luck!

October 14, 2013

50 Resources to Help You Outline Your Script

You hear it from every direction: You need to write an outline. Some writers insist that a basic skeleton is enough to get you started; some say you have to spend a month outlining every last detail of your script before you start writing; and still others insist that you should just start writing and be prepared for the inevitable page-one rewrite that will follow your first draft.

You’re pretty sure you need an outline, but you’re not sure whether it should seven lines or forty pages…

If you’re struggling to find the best outlining method, check out these 50 resources for outlining your script. You’ll find a variety of opinions in here — the trick is finding the advice that is most helpful to you.

Here are a few of the articles I find most useful on the subject:

Outlining on ScriptShadow

Outline So That You Have a Plan to Ditch Once You Start Writing on Mastering Film

Outlining Your Script on The Writer’s Store

October 10, 2013

How to Win a Screenplay Contest

Gordy Hoffman, founder of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition, recently shared his thoughts on how to win that contest, and his words can be applied to virtually any screenwriting competition.

The regular deadline for BlueCat is a few days away, and this is one of the few contests I recommend entering, mainly because their feedback is quick and spot-on. Even if your script isn’t contest ready, BlueCat is a cheap way to get excellent coverage.

Here’s what Hoffman has to say:

If you think you’ve gone over it a hundred times, and you’re ready to submit, here’s a list of a few things to consider:

Grocery List

Go through all your description and get rid of all the style and texture and loveliness that calls attention to your wonderful incredible abilities as a Writer. We don’t care what kind of writer you are. All I remember from the scripts that won is what the story was and how much they made me laugh or cry. You know what a grocery list looks like? Make everything simple, straightforward and clean. Grocery list your description. Clarity is the most overlooked element of screenwriting.  

read more »

September 12, 2013

Challenge Yourself to Write Every Day with the Fall Goalpost

Fall-Goalpost-Slider1-590x343The BlueCat Screenplay Competition is putting on a little challenge for screenwriters: write at least three pages a day for thirty days, starting on Monday, September 16. If you follow through with the challenge, by the end of thirty days you should have the rough draft of your next script in hand.

read more »

May 1, 2013

Support Fellow Writers & Find Great Movies at IndieFlix

infl(Read to the end for a free gift from IndieFlix)

It’s pretty rare for us to put up recommendations on this site. We only get behind products, books, and services that we truly believe in. IndieFlix is one of those services.

IndieFlix is a subscription streaming movie service that let’s you watch the latest and greatest independent films from writers and directors all over the world. The service costs just $6.99 a month and gives you unlimited access to their full repository of films. If you get on there by May 3, for example, you can watch Living On One, a documentary about four university students who spent a summer living on one dollar a day in a rural, Guatemalan village. (Here is the film on IndieFlix.)

Perhaps the best thing about the IndieFlix setup is that it gets profits to the filmmakers so they can go out and make more movies.

read more »

November 1, 2011

Recommendation: Save the Cat! Story Structure Software 3.0

Blake Snyder Enterprises has announced the release of Save the Cat! Story Structure Software 3.0. I haven’t tried this software yet… but it looks really cool. As someone who struggles with structure (and a big fan of Snyder’s 15 beats) I’m thoroughly excited to download this product and plot out my next script.

The software has an innovative Board for visualizing your entire script in an easily viewable way right on your computer screen. It also has tools for beating out your script, developing your logline, and framing your structure according to one of Snyder’s 10 genres.

You can learn more about Save the Cat! Story Structure Software 3.0 here. It costs $99.95 and has Windows, Mac, iPhone and iPad versions.

And please — If you’ve tried previous versions of the software or have already purchased this release, let us know how you like it!

October 17, 2011

Recommendation: Where to Write in LA

*Note: Sites and services that I choose to recommend do not compensate me for my recommendation. These are simply resources that I have found helpful.*

I recently discovered and have fallen in love with it. I know some writers prefer to be away from the internet when they work, but for those screenwriters who like to be able to check facts, research locations, or just take a break and check their email, this website is invaluable. has complete listings of coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, and all sorts of other public locations that have free wifi readily available throughout the Los Angeles area.

Look for wifi hotspots within specific neighborhoods or specific types of locations. This is an amazing resource for finding your new favorite writing spot. Plus, if you’re not LA-based, the site has listings for a number of other major US cities.

August 2, 2011

Recommendation: Classic Cinema Online

I just stumbled upon Classic Cinema Online and decided I had to share it with all of you. This website features a number of classic films, silent films, and serials that you can watch for free on their website.

Watching these films from our past is a great way to build your film knowledge, to find inspiration, and to improve your understanding of film history. I would particularly recommend browsing through the silent films — Classic Cinema Online has an impressive collection. Enjoy!

May 9, 2011

3 Tips for Getting Your Script to the Studio Level

Here’s another great article from Michael Ferris (THe NPH picture will make sense once you read the article). When you get to the end of the article you’ll notice that Michael includes his email address in each of his articles. I would highly recommend taking advantage of this resource. I once emailed Michael with a question about one of my scripts, and he got back to me within two days with a thoughtful, in depth response that was extremely helpful.

But on to the tips:

1. Make White Space Your Best Friend

In today’s spec market, unknown writers can impress by doing one thing: writing a “fast” read. Sometimes, this can compensate for lack of things like character arcs, or the occasional on-the-nose dialogue. Mind you, this won’t fix poorly plotted or structured stories, but writing a fast or “quick” read can make you seem like more of a seasoned pro than you might be. If you read scripts from the 50s, for instance, it will be light years different from the type of scripts written nowadays, and one of those key differences is how the physical pages of the script look. Back then, they looked much more like novels.  Now, they look like someone took a chop shop to a novel, and left the body of the car on bricks.

Whether it’s a consequence of our shorter attention spans or not, industry people have even less time than ever to read spec scripts from unknown writers. One of the ways to set yourself apart and become their best friend is to give them a “quick” read. So what does that mean?

read more »

April 22, 2011

Recommendation: BeatSheetCentral

 *Note: Sites and services that I choose to recommend do not compensate me for my recommendation. These are simply resources that I have found helpful.*

I discovered this site today while looking for articles about how to beat out a script. It’s called and its simply a collection of user-generated beat sheets for famous movies and television shows.

You can search through the site’s content and try to find beat sheets for films similar to the one you’re trying to pen. Seeing the written structure of a film and trying to pick out for yourself where the inciting incident, the act breaks, the midpoint, the climax, etc. fall can be extremely informative when trying to create a structure for your own story.

Here are a few words from the site’s creator:

A few notes on what I consider a proper beat sheet:

  • It should contain every scene of the film, and say fully what happens in each scene.
  • It should be concisely written and easily readable.
  • Each scene should be its own paragraph, and be numbered for easy reference.

I should make this clear: I do not believe that there is a formula for creating commercially or critically successful films. I believe they come from, in the words of Norman Mailer, “experience filtered through the prism of memory.”

read more »