Posts tagged ‘Script Mag’

October 18, 2013

Beyond The Page: What You Need to Know to Make It as a Screenwriter

Lee Jessup of Script Magazine recently wrote an article for writers that are on the verge of “making it.” Lee insists that knowing your craft isn’t enough. If you want to be taken seriously in the film world, you need to also know what’s selling, who the top agents are, what the top films are, who the major producers are… every nitty-gritty detail.

I think Lee has a point, and his advice is worth reading, but I would take it with a grain of salt. For every successful writer who has told me to read Variety and Deadline, another has told me never to look at the damn things. Crafting your script around what you think executives are buying makes sense, to an extent — you need to be concerned with whether your script has market appeal — but at the same time, you need to allow yourself the creative freedom to find your own voice, your own story. Trying to piece together an idea based on what’s hot right now will most likely leave you with a script that is out of date as soon as it’s complete, and probably not any good.

Take a look at what Lee has to say, and think about which parts might be helpful to you.

There are a slew of things, facts, figures, that every screenwriter should know, should have studied, should understand when they are trying to break in. Some of them will come up in conversations, other will show up in your work. Some of these things will be seen as givens to many. For others, they may be new bits of information, but no less critical. But there are, without a doubt, things you HAVE TO KNOW, HAVE TO DO, if you want to be taken seriously in the industry.

On a regular basis. I don’t care if you get it for free from, or if you pay for The Hollywood Reporter, start understanding this industry and marketplace. This world that you’re trying to penetrate has been ebbing and flowing, changing and changing again. While you don’t have to be able to track every shift, every change, or know every studio or network head by name, you should know, in general, what’s happening out there. Ask yourself: What did we learn from the summer of 2013? And how are broadcast networks doing this fall season, vs. the one that came before? Why is Breaking Bad being called the TV show that changed TV forever? Whichever your sector, it’s up to you to gather the information about what’s trending there.

Read the rest at Script Magazine, then take a glance at our Screenwriter Profiles to start learning about the top writers in this business.

February 22, 2013

4 Essential Elements of a Knock-Out Ending

Brad Johnson of Script Mag has written a great article covering what he identifies as the four essential elements that you script will need to end successfully. He uses Rocky to demonstrate his point that whether your ending is happy or sad, it won’t work unless it meets these four standards:

It’s probably the most common complaint I hear from people after they see a movie: “It was a good movie, but I hated the ending.” It has always confused me because most of the writers I know tend to start off writing their scripts already knowing how it begins and how it end. So why then is it so common to hear audiences bemoan some variation on this theme? Simply put, there’s a difference between having an idea for a great ending and writing a satisfying one.

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February 8, 2013

12 Things Spec Readers Look For

There are no hard and fast rules of screenwriting (formatting rules aside), but there are a number of key factors that readers look at to determine whether or not your script will be worth the full read within minutes of picking it up. Ray Morton of Script Mag has listed out the 12 key signs of a promising script:

Professional script readers will often claim that they can tell if a screenplay is going to be good or not after reading just a few pages. This is true – for me, anyway.

Granted, I can’t assess every single nuance of a script’s story in just five or ten or pages, but by assessing twelve specific elements, I can tell if the story, characters, and dialogue have potential and if the writer has the ability to pull off whatever it is she/he is attempting. Here are those twelve elements – those twelve signs of a promising spec:

1. The script is short – between 90 and 110 pages: The average length of a feature film is between 100 and 120 minutes (yes, I know that a lot of modern movies run longer than two hours, but those films are usually the result of self-indulgent directors abusing their right to final cut and does not reflect a desire on the part of the industry at large to make longer movies – studios and theater owners still prefer pictures to be two hours or less so that they can screen them as many times a day as possible and so want screenplays sized accordingly.

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August 17, 2012

Rewriting: Finding the Will to Take a Machete to Your Script

Jenna Avery of Script Magazine has written a helpful article about approaching rewriting with the right mindset — a mindset that is capable of cutting your favorite scenes, even restructuring your entire story, to make your script work.

She writes:

As I embarked recently on a major rewrite of a feature script, I bumped into a big wall of resistance. While I didn’t think my script was necessarily perfect, I was attached to my story in its then-current form. So even though I was getting feedback about the need for significant structural changes, I was struggling with the idea of letting go of much (okay, anything!) of the story.

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July 2, 2012

Crafting Subplots and B-Stories

This is something that I struggle with, and I imagine I’m not alone. That’s why I’m grateful that Danny Manus of No BullScript Consulting answered the following question for Script Magazine: “How many subplots should I have and how do I make them work with the overall story?” Danny responded thus:

A man can’t live on ‘A’ storylines alone – and neither can your scripts. If you’re not crafting and interweaving compelling subplots and B stories into your script, your story will probably feel flat and won’t sustain for 100 minutes.

Your subplots and B stories are what add new dimensions to your script and flesh out your concept and story. Most stories have at least 2 or 3 subplots, and can have more. But you don’t want them to take AWAY from the main storyline, only add to it!

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June 7, 2012

Film School: Is It Worth It?

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman has written a new article for Script Magazine regarding the pros and cons of film school. Take a look at what she has to say before deciding whether or not film school is worth it:

If you enjoy debate, not many questions ignite more argument than whether or not an aspiring filmmaker should attend film school. I’ve observed the film school question from a number of angles; I was a film student at Florida State University, I’ve taught film at Quinnipiac University, and I’ve worked with filmmakers who are both film school and non-film school grads. I know the benefits of attending film school, but I also see how the film business is changing. There’s a few different tracks for future filmmakers now, and you might be surprised how accessible they are.

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April 17, 2012

How to Talk to Hollywood (and Be Taken Seriously)

Peter Hanson has written a great article for Script Magazine featuring ten tips for talking to Hollywood. Whether you’re writing a query, making a cold call, or pitching your script in an actual meeting, these tips will help you present yourself professionally and effectively. (And they’ll help keep you from making an ass out of yourself.)

Peter writes:

 The movie business is just like any other private club, and once you learn the secret handshake (metaphorically speaking), you can get in the door.

The following tips are applicable to every possible interaction you might have with Hollywood professionals. You can use this advice for a cold call to a production company, an in-person approach to an executive or producer at a film festival or pitch fest, or even a Hollywood meeting.

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April 2, 2012

Writing Strong Leading Ladies

Pilar Alessandra recently spelled out ten tips for writing strong female lead characters. Here are her tips:

1. Turn The Tables on Female Stereotypes

Don’t ignore negative perceptions about women; challenge them by turning negative labels into positive traits for your character. “Gossipy” becomes well informed. “Catty” becomes competitive. And don’t forget that positive stereotypes are still stereotypes. Humanize the perfect model of a woman by showing the darker side.

2. Heighten Your Female Character’s Goals

The unappreciated temp doesn’t want to be noticed; she wants to be boss. The neglected wife doesn’t want to find out about her husband’s infidelity, she wants to get even. Scripts that think big sell!

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August 24, 2011

When it Comes to Your Characters, Reveal & Complicate

This article by the superb writer and script consultant, Erik Bork discusses how to write characters that will keep your audinece engaged and entertained:

A writer I work with as a consultant recently shared a phrase with me that came from her friend Craig Hammill (thanks, Craig!), which perfectly encapsulates a point that I often make with writers: “Don’t withhold; reveal, and complicate.”

What that means is this: withholding information — especially information about your main character and what they think, feel, want, plan, and are trying to achieve — tends to distance readers and audiences from your material, rather than drawing them in.

It’s a very common issue I come across in scripts, especially ones that are saving some sort of big reveal or twist for late in the movie.

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June 20, 2011

Why You Don’t Have to Worry About Protecting Your Script

This article gives some helpful information on protecting your work, what that means, and what that doesn’t mean. It also makes it clear why you really shouldn’t worry about your ideas being stolen:

You can not copyright or protect– in any way– your ideas.

Ideas are not copyright-able.  Only the execution of an idea is copyright-able.

So… let’s say you have an idea for a TV show about a boy who befriends a lost chupacabra.  You do NOT own that idea.  A TV company, a fellow writer, or your best friend could all write their own movies about boys befriending lost chupacabras… and you would (probably) have NO LEGITIMATE CLAIM they stole your idea.

Now, if you’d already written a script or treatment… and you could prove that they stole your plot, characters, lines of dialogue… you might have a case.  But the idea itself—”boy befriends lost chupacabra”—is not yours.  Even if you discussed it with people… you DO NOT OWN THE IDEA.  You own only your execution.

Now… can you protect your “execution,” your script or treatment?  Possibly.

But here’s another thing to understand…

Obtaining a copyright, or a WGA registration, does NOT guarantee protection of intellectual property.

A copyright or WGA registration simply provides a piece of EVIDENCE as to when and where you first held ownership of your material.

So if you registered or copyrighted your script on June 4, 2011, it does not mean that as of June 4, 2011, your script is protected.  It means you have one piece of evidence saying that on June 4, 2011, this particular piece of intellectual property was in your possession.

…And that piece of evidence may or may not be enough to convince a court of law you yourself created this particular intellectual property.

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