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Whats Your Screenwriting Workspace Like?

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Where do you like to write?  Where do you feel the most comfortable, and the least distracted?  Do you like it dark and womb-like, or open and bright?  How to you decorate your office?  Do you have an office or prefer to work outside?

Clearly, our mood can vary depending on our surroundings. Generally writers like a fairly quiet space where they won’t be too distracted. Some people, however, can’t write at home and need to find a Starbucks, where they feel they’re still social beings.

Some people like to hole up in a cabin in the woods when they write. Some people would rather write in a hotel room overlooking the beach.

If you can create an office space that reminds you of your favorite place to write, you’ll feel more motivated even in your own home.

You could decorate your work space so it suits you. If you like a clean, uncluttered place, make sure your workspace reflects that.

If you’d rather be surrounded by photos of the beach, or the woods, or your favorite scripts and books, you can fix up your office that way.

If you like, you can hang up classic movie posters or stills from your favorite films to inspire you.

You want comfort in your environment, and few distractions. You definitely want to leave your cell phone in another room while you’re writing.

Some people want a pot of coffee nearby, some may need to smoke. Some people like to write on a laptop in their kitchen.

Some people might want to write outside, especially if they live in a scenic area.

Psychologically, they don’t feel like they’re sacrificing so much if they actually leave the house and soak up the sun, while they write.

Surround yourself with things that make you feel good. Some people will feel more confident in a luxury hotel; others will want a more bohemian location. There’s a reason writers are drawn to Paris.

There, aspiring writers can work in coffee shops, bars, or small apartments, or in the town square, knowing that great writers like Hemmingway and Sartre shared the same rarified air.

 Check out my website,  HollywoodScriptWriting.Com.  Make sure your screenplay is in great shape before you send it out.

Join the Facebook group I moderate, LA Creative Professionals.  Network with other writers.  Ask opinions.  It’s free.

Screenwriting tip of the day; Why Specs Sold

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One thing that can really help rookie, or working screenwriters, trying to sell features, is to read the spec scripts that the studios bought recently.

While I was researching where to find those scripts, I found this article by Eric Bork, a screenwriter and a blogger. He breaks down what the specs that sold had in common. 

This blog was written back in 2012, but it’s still very relevant.  In one respect the prospect of selling your spec script is worse today in 2016.  (Sorry)  So far (in April 2016) only 11 screenplays have been purchased by the studios or production companies. 

Extrapolating, there will only be 33 screenplays bought this year.  I want to re-iterate, spec scripts rarely get sold and produced.

Ninety percent of the time, the best outcome for a spec script is that it becomes a “calling card” script. It’s the script that gets you into meetings with producers, studio executives, agents or managers.  You should be thinking along those lines.  If you get those meetings, you’ve succeeded.

Back to 2012.  132 spec scripts sold.  One thing all the spec scripts that sold had in common was they fit nicely into Save the Cat’s 10 Genres.

Here’s the list and the Save the Cat genres they represent.

We screenwriters want to sell our work, naturally. This, of course, is very rare. How rare? Well, in 2012, according to The Scoggins Report’s “Year-End Spec Market Scorecard”, there were 132 “spec sales” – or scripts that sold — in the entire year. And this matched a 15-year record HIGH from 2011. And this is not just studio sales – this includes all buyers who were known to have bought a spec screenplay from a writer, according to my friend Jason Scoggins’ research. (He’s been compiling this information – and making it available for free – for many years.)

But the point of this post is not to discourage you – as you consider how many tens of thousands of scripts did not sell, so that these 132 could. My point is to offer a few observations about those scripts that sold, and especially about their content – as evidenced by the logline and genre information the “Scorecard” includes.

I think reading these loglines can be incredibly helpful for aspiring professional screenwriters, to get a sense of what makes a marketable concept. It’s one thing to hear that “a great logline is important, and the first thing to focus on.” Which is true. It’s another to read the actual loglines of scripts that actually sold, in the last year.

Below are 10 examples, out of the 132. A few things jump out at me about these (and the larger list), besides the fact that they all have premises that are clear from the logline, and sound fresh, compelling and entertaining – like big challenges for a relatable main character.

1. The writers generally had both an agent and manager. These days, that seems typical. A manager might be easier to get, and can eventually lead you to an agent. Who is more directly involved in brokering a sale.

2. There aren’t a lot of straight dramas – only 8% of the 132. To sell, it’s important to have a very strong entertainment component, and dramas tend to feel more “flat” – even if they are well executed. So the sales included 27% thrillers, 22% action/adventure, and 21% comedies. Plus 11% sci-fi and 10% horror. Drama comes in dead last.

3. The concepts clearly read like a fresh twist on an established genre – not only the traditional definition of “genre” (comedy, thriller, etc.), but also the ten “genres” or types of stories that Blake Snyder identified in his Save the Cat books. These are my single favorite tool for screenwriters, and I strongly recommend writers know these types, and seek to write squarely within one of them, with every script.

When I watch movie trailers, it’s almost always very obvious that each film fits one of these genres. And I think it’s hard to find successful movies which don’t. On my website, I’ve recently added a modified PDF chart of the ten genres and fifty subgenres from the Save the Cat website, where I added additional recent and classic titles that I think fit each genre. I really believe every good and successful movie fits one of them.

Without further ado, here are the ten examples of 2012 spec sales, with my comments on their apparent Save the Cat genres, under each entry:

Dear Satan

Writer: Dan Ewen
Reps: APA (Chris Ridenhour, Will Lowery) and Elements Entertainment (Christopher Pratt)
Genre: Comedy
Buyer: Fox
Logline: Follows a young girl who accidentally misspells Santa and instead invites Satan to bring her a toy for Christmas.

Save the Cat genre: “OUT OF THE BOTTLE”: Where a “wish” leads to a magic “spell” that will complicate life greatly, and lead ultimately to an important “lesson”. As in Liar Liar, The Nutty Professor or The Change-Up.

2

Writer: Barry Levy
Reps: UTA (Charlie Ferraro, Keya Khayatian, David Park) and Evolution (Stephen Gates, Stephan Marks)
Buyer: Universal
Genre: Thriller
Logline: A New York detective must figure out which twin brother actually robbed a bank and stole sensitive counterfeiting information, when both confess to the crime.

Save the Cat genre: “WHYDUNIT”, which focuses on a “detective” of some sort, figuring out not just who did it, but why, which generally involves a “secret”, and a “dark turn”. As in L.A. Confidential, Chinatown or Mystic River.

52 Percent

Writer: Zina Zaflow
Reps: Chad Snopek Management (Chad Snopek)
Buyer: QED International
Genre: Romantic comedy
Logline: When a longtime married couple contemplates divorce, a clash develops between their daughter, who hopes for reconciliation, and a jaded young divorce attorney, who’s unwilling to lose a client without a fight.

Save the Cat genre: “BUDDY LOVE”: A romantic comedy about the attorney and daughter’s relationship (I presume), in which an “incomplete hero” meets their perfect “counterpart” (who we think they should end up with), but there’s a “complication” –something big that’s in the way of the relationship, which the movie mainly focuses on. As in Wedding Crashers, Pretty Woman or Brokeback Mountain.

Blood Mountain

Writer: Jonathan Stokes
Reps: UTA (Ramses Ishak, Michael Sheresky, Scott Carr, Geoff Morely) and Energy Entertainment (Brooklyn Weaver)
Buyer: Derby Street Films
Genre: Thriller
Logline: After his team is ambushed and killed in Pakistan, a young army ranger must escort the world’s most wanted terrorist over dangerous terrain in order to bring him to justice. While being hunted by both of their enemies, they must find a way to work together in order to survive.

Save the Cat genre: “GOLDEN FLEECE” (“Epic” subgenre): Where a “team” goes down a long “road”, toward an important “prize” – which will make their lives much better if they reach it, and much worse if they don’t. As in Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars or The Rock.

Cherries

Writers: Brian & Jim Kehoe
Reps: DMG Entertainment (Chris Fenton)
Buyer: Good Universe
Genre: Action comedy
Logline: Three naive dads band together to stop their high school sophomore daughters from making good on a prom night sex pact. “The Hangover” meets “Taken.”

Save the Cat genre: Also a “GOLDEN FLEECE” (“Buddy” subgenre): with a clear team, road, and prize – akin to The Hangover, Finding Nemo or The Wizard of Oz.

Lights Out

Writer: Jay Frasco
Reps: APA (Ryan Saul) and Festa Entertainment (Dannie Festa)
Buyer: Universal Pictures, SyFy Films
Genre: Sci-fi thriller
Logline: The story focuses on a teenage boy trapped in his house with his sister when a deadly intruder enters the home and “mysterious events” start to occur.

Save the Cat genre: “MONSTER IN THE HOUSE”: Where there is a constant life-and-death threat from a “monster” that our main characters are trapped in something akin to a “house” with — and it all began with some real or perceived “sin”. As in Alien, Fatal Attraction or Psycho.

The Counselor

Writer: Cormac McCarthy
Reps: ICM (Amanda “Binky” Urban, Ron Bernstein)
Buyer: Nick Wechsler Productions and Chockstone
Genre: Drama
Logline: Follows a respected lawyer who thinks he can dip a toe into the drug business without getting sucked in.

“Save the Cat genre: INSTITUTIONALIZED”: Where an individual gets mixed up with a “group” of some sort, with its own challenging and morally questionable culture, which leads them ultimately to have to make a “choice” and “sacrifice” around the question of staying with it, or turning against it. As in The Godfather, The Devil Wears Prada or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Acolyte

Writer: Derek Kolstad
Reps: UTA (Charlie Ferraro) and New Wave Entertainment (Mike Goldberg, Josh Adler)
Buyer: Voltage Pictures
Genre: Thriller
Logline: Centers on a rogue government agency that blackmails ordinary citizens into committing acts of terror. The agency comes under attack when the wife of a retired operative is mistakenly kidnapped and the former operative sets out to take the agency down.

Save the Cat genre: “SUPERHERO”: Where a hero with a “special power” but also a “curse” of some kind (the former operative, in this case, it would seem) takes on a “nemesis”, in order to protect or help innocent others. As in Erin Brockovich, The Matrix or Harry Potter.

Son of a Bitch

Writer: Kelly Oxford
Reps: WME (Cliff Roberts, Lisa Harrison) and Anonymous Content (Steve Golin, Kelly Kohansky Roberts)
Buyer: Warner Bros.
Genre: Comedy
Logline: A popular party girl tries to maintain her image despite recently becoming pregnant.

Save the Cat genre: “RITE OF PASSAGE”: Where a relatable “life problem” inspires the main character to react in a “wrong way” – chasing an ill-advised goal, where complications ensue, until finally they fail and reach some level of “acceptance” of life as it is. As in Superbad, The War of the Roses or My Best Friend’s Wedding.

Not Safe For Work aka NSFW

Writers: Simon Boyes & Adam Mason
Reps: WME (Daniel Cohan) and Brucks Entertainment (Bryan Brucks)
Buyer: Universal
Genre: Thriller
Logline: A young paralegal is trapped in an office with a killer on a secret mission to destroy files and anyone who stands in his path.

Save the Cat genre: “DUDE WITH A PROBLEM”: Where an “innocent hero” finds that a “sudden event” turns into an adrenalized “life or death battle” that powers the rest of the movie. As in Die Hard, Misery or Apollo 13.

Just for completeness sake, the one Save the Cat genre not represented on this list is the “Fool Triumphant” – where a seeming naïve “fool” gets involved with a more worldly “establishment,” and goes through a “transmutation” that results in them triumphing over all – as in Legally Blonde, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Forrest Gump.
– See more at: http://www.scriptmag.com/features/scripts-that-sold-in-2012-what-are-the-common-elements#sthash.QWxb9YF3.dpuf

 

Check out my website,  HollywoodScriptWriting.Com.  Find out why you absolutely need a professional Screenwriter/Producer’s feedback on your project.  I’ve sold screenplays, rewritten scripts Steven Speilberg, created 5 TV series, and worked as a Story Analyst for the studios.

Join the Facebook group I moderate, LA Creative Professionals.  Network with other writers.  Ask opinions.  It’s free.

Screenwriting tip of the day: Ideas about funding

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If you’re trying to shoot your scripts as low-budget features, a social media presence is pretty important.  Here are some quick ideas about where to look for funds in the internet.

There are sites online like Kickstarter and Indiegogo for crowdfunding. They both take in the neighborhood of a 5% platform fee, plus 3-5 % processing fees.

Seed & Spark is slightly different, in that they are selective about the projects they’ll consider for crowdfunding. They don’t post just any film project they get, they cherry pick projects they’ll set up for funding.

Pozible is an Australian crowdfunding site that has launched over 6,000 film projects. Fundrazr is a Canadian crowdfunding site that supports all kinds of projects, including film projects. Both are available to international filmmakers.

There are many other ways to raise funds for your low budget film.

There are groups on LinkedIn you can join and find out about funding. One such group is called Film Financing Group.

The idea is to make friends on the site, then once you’ve created a relationship, ask for help raising funds. Similarly, Facebook has The Indie Film Scene, and the Independent Film Society.

Meetup.Com has lots of groups for writers and filmmakers. There’s one in Santa Monica Called the Film Funding Club.

Again, growing relationships is what it’s all about. Become part of the community before you ask “what can you do for me?”

Attaching talent is another way to improve your chances of funding an independent film. If you can find a director and some actors with some buzz, it’s a huge advantage in fundraising.

There are people who will provide what they call “matching funds,” if you can get your script to a star (who can carry a movie) and get them to sign a letter of intent.

Join LA Creative Professionals, for more free tips, answers, to network, or just reach out.

David Silverman/ veteran Film/TV writer/Exec Producer/  check my site Hollywoodscriptwriting.com

 

 

Screenwriting tip of the day; Send your script to –who now?

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Screenwriter Michael Elliot built a career on sending his screenplays — not to studios or producers — but to Hollywood professionals on their way up. This is a smart and radical play, but it worked for him.  He sent his scripts to people in town who were dying to read a good script, so they could star in it, direct it, represent it, or produce it themselves.

  1. “Older” Academy Award winning actors, they’re still looking for great parts, and they still have the contacts and are bankable.
  2. Cinematographers, or Directors of Photography, who are dying to direct. They have the contacts, and need a great screenplay to make their move.
  3. First AD’s (Assistant Directors), for the same reason. No first AD wants to stay in that position the rest of their careers. Your script can make their dreams come true.
  4. Music Video Directors.  Elliot gives examples, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Brett Ratner.  Again, they’re talented, connected, and they need your script.
  5. Commercial Directors. Examples;  Ridley Scott, Michael Bay.  Studios like them because they can create an emotional connection in 30 seconds.
  6. Production Managers. They all want to be producers. Take advantage of other people’s ambitions. They’re hungry.
  7. Casting Directors. Like everyone in town, they want to produce. They work with stars, they have access. They need your material to change their careers.
  8. Produced Screenwriters. They want to produce or direct, too — and obviously have the contacts at the studios. They have credibility. Studios know they’ll get the script in shape.
  9. Tomorrow’s Agents and Managers. The Assistants are always looking for their own clients to represent when they get their break, and move up. If they love your script, it may make the difference for them.

The tricky part then, is how to get your script to these people?  You need their address, or office address.  Google Oscar winning actors by name.  Especially if they seem right for your part.  It better be one hell of a part, too.

Same with many of these other categories. Google Casting Directors. There are Hollywood Directories for many of these people, too.  Check Amazon.  Buy the directories. Go to bookstores and copy the pages if you can’t afford them.  Get the addresses, be creative. You know someone who knows someone. And make sure your scripts are awesome.

 

This is a summary of Michael Elliot’s article on the subject. To read his article in full, click here.

 

 

 

Screenwriting tip of the day; Read 1 Script A Week (Free Scripts)

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Screenwriter and blogger Scott Myers created a simple formula for success that involves completing 4 goals per week. 

Scott Myers 4 magic numbers for you to remember:

1, 2, 7, 14.

  • 1: Read 1 screenplay per week.
  • 2:  Watch 2 movies a week.
  • 7: Write 7 pages per week.
  • 14: Work 14 hours per week prepping a story.

Regarding goal #1.  Pick from these 70 screenplays,– 12 Years A Slave, Argo, Flight, Gravity, Lincoln, Moonrise Kingdom, Mud, Prisoners, Promised Land, The Social Network, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty – and more — Many of them have won Academy Awards, many have been nominated.  Try to read one great screenplay a week. Download them here for FREE.

Download 70 Great Screenplays here, legally, for FREE.

Join LA Creative Professionals (Facebook Group) with veteran writer/David Silverman

 

 

Screenwriting tip for the day; The “great Idea” Myth.

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A lot of writers actually have an awesome idea for a movie, but they can’t execute the script at a high level. They haven’t been writing long enough, or they haven’t gotten enough solid feedback on their writing, and learned how to write better. They haven’t reached professional levels.

So, they write what they can and say to themselves, “the studio will see there’s a great idea in there.” Not true. Producers want to see a highly level of execution. Solid writing. A great idea like “a coming of age love story on the Titanic”, poorly executed, would not sell.

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Screenwriting tip of the day; Managers vs. Agents

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“…managers in general tend to be more accessible than agents. And unlike with most agents, query letters CAN still open doors with some managers. A.B. Fischer gets “a ton of queries, and I read every single one. I don’t respond to most of them, but if something catches my eye, I’ll absolutely read it. You never know where you’re going to find a client.”

—from a blog by Jim Cirile.

Join LA Creative Professionals, Facebook/with David Silverman

How To Stop Procrastinating For Screenwriters — 9 Best Tips

I Can't Think.jpgAccording to writer-therapist Dennis Palumbo, a friend, Facebook friend and personal mentor,  procrastination is ultimately about a fear of being judged. He tells his clients (screenwriters, tv writers, and novelists), that instead of obsessing about it, they should write about it, as a dialogue with themselves, or as if they were writing a letter to themselves.

1.  Ironically, often just writing about procrastination gets a writer writing, and, this is in itself a cure.  This simple process helps many of his clients.  Further exploration of these underlying beliefs can be done in therapy, but that’s not something you can do now.

(If you do want therapy, remember Dennis is out in the Godforsaken Valley somewhere, while I’m centrally located in West LA).

BuddyHive.com is a website that links procrastinators up to “buddies,” who will hold them accountable.  Without going into therapy, you can look inward, and try to figure out the nature of the kinds of task you find difficult and which emotions or behaviors are at play.  Examples are:

Unpleasant tasks,  complex projects,  fear of failure (lack of self confidence) and fear of success,  indecision,  lack of interest, and distraction (or lack of focus).  They recommend:

2. Complete unpleasant tasks first.
3. Break complex jobs into smaller, more manageable tasks.
4. With fears, maintain focus on the end result, and remember how good it will feel to finish.
5. For indecision, make a deadline to make a decision, and keep to it.
6. For lack of interest, schedule tasks for when you’re at your peak and reward yourself.
7. For distraction, make it a rule not to leave the desk until a smaller task is done and prioritize.

If you sign up at BuddyHive.com, you can take advantage of their free “buddy system.”  Simply login and they’ll assign you a “buddy.”   Ask for your buddy’s help in holding you accountable to completing specific tasks.  You’ll provide the same service for them

 

Where Do Great Film Story Ideas Come From?

David SilvermanHow do you come up with your screenplay story ideas?  For me, some of the best ideas have come from reading non-fiction. For example, I was reading a psychology text about agoraphobia, which is a fear of open spaces, crowds, and it often keeps people housebound, afraid to go outside.

I was thinking about some films I’d seen in which a police officer teams up with an unlikely partner to solve a crime. For example in 48 Hours, an officer is allowed to free a prisoner (played by Eddie Murphy) for 48 hours to help him solve a crime. The script make for a suspenseful, yet comic thriller.

I was looking for something in that genre, when I hit on the idea of a highly anxious agoraphobic who finally works up the courage to cross the street and take a walk in the park. He has a breakthrough, and makes it to the park only to witness a mob hit.

The hitman gets a good look at him before escaping. I decided to pair him up with a fearless, and freewheeling female cop to solve this murder. The big twist then, was that now the mobsters knew where he lived, he was no longer safe at home.

Together, he and this fearless female cop have to run around town, together, she protecting him, while solving the crime. The whole time they are just one step ahead of the killers. The agoraphobic (picture a young Woody Allen) has to overcome his fears in the process.

So there’s an example, reading about this psychological condition. I was able to sell the story to a big production company.

Where else to writers turn for help in crafting their stories? Here are some quotes from some very famous writers:

Write in recollection and amazement for yourself. ~ Jack Kerouac

I write out of my intellectual experience. ~ Tom Stoppard

You write about what you know. ~ Larry David

And if you don’t live, you have nothing to write about. ~ James Maynard Keenan

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. ~ Anais Nin

Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure. Emotion is easily transferred from the writer to the reader. ~ Joseph Joubert

I write books to find out about things. ~ Rebecca West

Writing a story … is simply an exploration of the nature of behavior: why people do what they do, how it affects others, how we change and grow, and what decisions we make along the way. ~ Lois Lowry

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. ~ Joan Didion

If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. ~ Toni Morrison

Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come the most unsought for are commonly the most valuable. ~ Francis Bacon

The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. ~ Neil Gaiman

I dare you all to write one more thing that you won’t say to my face. ~ Marilyn Manson

Write books only if you are going to say in them the things you would never dare confide to anyone. ~ Emile M. Cioran

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. ~ Cyril Connolly

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it. ~ Anais Nin

Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure. Emotion is easily transferred from the writer to the reader. ~ Joseph Joubert

Write in recollection and amazement for yourself. ~ Jack Kerouac

Usually, I walk and think about things. When I come across a thought that makes me laugh, I write it down. ~Demetri Martin

I like to write when I feel spiteful. It is like having a good sneeze. ~ D. H. Lawrence

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for. ~ Ray Bradbury

And by the way, everything in life is writable about, if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ~ Sylvia Plath

Get my free top 10 resources for screenwriters, including how to read Save the Cat free, how to raise money to make your film, how to get your script online, or blasted to agents and producers without an agent. It’s FREE.