Once upon a time a young business owner sat on a park bench, worried sick about the huge amount of debt he had gotten himself into.
His creditors wouldn't stop harassing him, his suppliers were demanding payment, and he could see no way out.
Suddenly, an old man sat down next to him on the bench.
"What's bothering you, young fellow?" asked the strange old man.
Thinking there was nothing to lose, the young business owner explained his dire financial situation to the old stranger, who listened in silence.
When he was finished, the old man said, "I believe I can help you... what's your name?"
Then, pulling out a check book, the old man wrote out a check and pressed it into the young business owner's hands.
"Meet me here in exactly one year and pay me back then. I believe you can do it!" With that the old man slipped away as quickly as he'd come.
The young business owner saw in his hand a check for $500,000 – that was signed by John D. Rockefeller - one of the richest men alive at the time!
And the check would erase his money troubles in an instant!
The young business owner thought about it for a moment, then decided he would put the un-cashed check in his safe for the time being. Just having the check gave him a renewed feeling of vigor and optimism about saving his business.
With this rekindled sense of confidence he negotiated better deals with his suppliers. He got his creditors to accept far lower settlements than what he owed. And he closed several big deals. Soon, he was back on his feet again, and within a year he was running a successful venture.
Exactly a year from that original, fateful day, the young man went to that same park bench with the un-cashed check in his hands.
And right on time, the old man also arrived at the park bench. Just as the young business owner was about to hand the un-cashed check to the old man, a nurse came running up behind him.
"I'm SO sorry," she exclaimed. "He keeps slipping away from the rest home and telling everyone he's John D. Rockefeller! I hope he hasn't been bothering you!"
With that the nurse led the old man away.
The young business owner was flabbergasted.
Here he was, wheeling and dealing for an entire year because he thought he was backed by half a million dollars - given to him by one of the world's richest men!
In reality, it was simply his renewed sense of confidence that gave him the power to achieve his goals.
I tell you this story because I meet a lot of screenwriters like this young business owner.
They already have the power and ability to achieve the success they desire, but they let excuses like not having an agent, not living in Los Angeles, or not knowing anyone in Hollywood – prevent them from achieving their dreams.
Chances are, you probably already have all the knowledge and resources you need to become successful in Hollywood.
Now do you have the unwavering confidence in yourself to make your screenwriting dreams a reality?
I hope so, and I hope that helps!
And with that, here's what we've got for you in this week's – confidence-boosting - edition of The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter!
The Business of Show Institute Recommends: is the weekly screenwriting product or service that our staff has personally reviewed and feel you would benefit from. This week? Free video reveals the #1 secret to getting your screenplay read by top Hollywood professionals... even if you don't live in Los Angeles!
Check it out here:
The 3 Critical Components of a Successful Screenwriting Career (Component #1): is this week's article by yours truly. In this piece I talk about 1 of the 3 critical building blocks of any successful screenwriting business. Does your business have this first pillar?
The Box Office Report: gives you the latest feature film releases as well as the opening weekend projections, so you can be on top of this critical information.
Nerves: is this week's article by mc foley. mc is an active writer and regular contributor to this newsletter. The title of her column is "Lessons Learned: One Writer's Journey".
A Legal Perspective for Screenwriters: is our column by entertainment attorney Gordon P. Firemark. To ask your legal questions, email us at
. If your question is chosen, it (and your answer) will appear in an issue of The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter.
What's in a Name?: is this week's article from Script Consultant and Producer Daniel Manus. The title of his column is "No B.S. for Screenwriters - The Executive Perspective."
Best Business Advice for Screenwriters: is dedicated to asking a top executive or successful screenwriter the absolute best advice they could give a screenwriter looking for success. This week's contributor? Academy Award winning film-maker T.J. Martin!
The Scoggins Report: is our weekly spec market analysis and/or pitch report. Use this column to see what's selling, who's buying what, and what genre you should be writing for. This real-time Hollywood market intelligence is pure gold...
Digging the Well Before You're Thirsty: is our column dedicated to tracking the promotions and movements of Hollywood's Executives. Use this market intelligence wisely...
The "Other" Action: is this week's article from screenwriting contest judge and author of "39 Ways to Win a Screenwriting Contest & The Nine Mistakes New Writers Make" – Sean Hinchey. The title of his column is "Insights and Screenwriting Wisdom from a Veteran Screenwriting Contest Judge".
Reading for Fun, Crap Sequels, and Contestin'...: is this week's article by Manny Fonseca. Manny currently works for Kopelson Entertainment and frequently attends pitchfests on the Kopelson's behalf. The title of his column is "Confessions of a Hollywood Gatekeeper."
That's it for this issue, but we are dedicated to making this newsletter THE resource for aspiring screenwriters.
If you enjoyed it, and would like to pass it along to friends, please have them go directly to http://www.TheBusinessOfShowInstitute.com and have them sign up there.
May Your Life Be Extraordinary,
Marvin V. Acuna
The Business of Show Institute Recommends:
Free Video Reveals The #1 Secret To Getting Your Screenplay Read By Top Hollywood Professionals...
Even If You Don't Live In Los Angeles!
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The 3 Critical Components of a Successful Screenwriting Career (Component #1)
by Marvin V. Acuna
Recently, I attended a festival and was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with various screenwriters. It felt a tad like speed dating. Every so often a festival volunteer would ring a bell and I would be relocated to yet another table.
We were not provided with an agenda and I was given no advance notice as to the purpose of this encounter.
Among the sea of screenwriters that I met one asked a very KEY question. Here it is: "What is the key difference between a successful screenwriter and a screenwriter who is not successful?"
I'll offer the same answer to you that I did to that particular table of screenwriters. Ready?
THE SUCCESSFUL SCREENWRITER RECOGNIZES THAT IT'S BUSINESS.
In my humble opinion, there are three pillars to a successful screenwriting business. And make no mistake... this IS a business.
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In this piece I'll simply address...
Pillar #1: The Craft
In Outliers, written by my favorite author Malcolm Gladwell (gladwell.com), it notes the following:
"The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours."
I feel screenwriters Craig Mazin and Ted Elliott offer some valuable wisdom in their blog (theartfulwriter.com):
"Let's be clear. Writing is a skill. Talent is a huge part of it, but there's also a practice part. A science part. A "read yer freakin' Campbell" part of it. There's hard work. Self-criticism. Structure. Vocabulary. A memory for movies. Grammar. Story analysis. Philosophy."
To further simplify — a writer writes. There are tremendous benefits that derive from consistently honing your craft. I'll focus your attention here on just three: A) You refine your voice; b) You isolate your strengths and weaknesses; and c) You create an inventory of material.
In a video presentation I heard sometime ago uber-successsful screenwriter John August (johnaugust.com) mentioned he had roughly 50 unproduced screenplays on his shelf.
How many do you have?
(to be continued)
The Box Office Report
|Wed, Mar. 7
|Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
|Project X (2012)
|Act of Valor
|This Means War
|Tyler Perry's Good Deeds
|Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
|Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
|The Secret World of Arrietty
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Lessons Learned: One Writer's Journey
by mc foley
They do the same thing to a lot of us.
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Keep us up at night. Make us sick. Sick with worry. Make us drink. Drink the entire bottle. Make us wonder — Where is my relief? And my vacation? How long is this godforsaken road? When can I take all the earnings from an intellectual property and let go?
Make us think — I'm not sure how much more I can take. I just wish someone else could see my pain.
Somehow we manage to ignore them. To keep on moving towards the goals that we've been told were impossible. To take a step, and another step, toiling ahead, slogging along in daylight. Where everyone thinks we're fine with this pace. Where we manage to brush off rejection and the never ending waits and we keep on.
I often ask myself — how can I use these nerves to my advantage?
How I can I turn them back on themselves, so they're not stabbing me with daggers at 2 am.
How can I make frustration and the fifteenth month of waiting for a word of hope work in my favor?
When I toured as a poet for many years, I funneled my nerves into my performances. Standing backstage, when I could feel them rippling through my chest, I would imagine gathering them into a ball and blasting them out at the audience. Within moments of my first uttered words, I felt free. Alive. And powerful..
How can I make my nerves work for my writing? And my writing career?
The truth is, there are several options for this. One of which — is remembering that I am running out of time.
Because, while it's true that we should savor life — that we should slow down and pause to take in the beauty that surrounds us everyday — as someone trying to earn a living off my writing, the sheer force of will that is required for me to push through and to generate more material, more stories, more scripts, more words.... is enormous. And to call upon that will day in and day out, especially in difficult times when money dwindles, health is shaken and sleep is hard to come by... to call upon that, it helps to look above the tangled mess of daily human frustrations, and to know that I will not be here forever.
To know — that I am here to leave a mark.
That regardless of how I feel today, tonight or tomorrow, none of this will be remembered in the long run. What will be remembered — is what I left behind. What I did to affect others.
And as a writer — my greatest impact — can come through words.
Through the words that I use to overcome my nerves.
Through the stories that I craft because imagination can be more important than knowledge, as Albert Einstein sort of said.. And it can be more important, because it fuels us as writers. It allows us to take the nervous worry, the anxious wondering, the gnawing fear, the quiet hopes, the exhilaration's — to gather them into a ball and blast them out at a reading audience. Or at a watching/listening audience, when we are produced — (or when we produce ourselves).
And if we've channeled these raw emotions effectively, we can help an audience to see themselves in an imagined story, to identify a similar pain, to breathe a sigh of relief, see the beauty in the smallest things. And to let go.
- mc foley
About mc foley:
Melinda Corazon Foley was born in Cebu, Philippines, raised in Virginia and currently resides in West Hollywood, CA. In 2005, MC Foley was named East West Players' James Irvine Foundation Mentee affording her the privilege to craft a new original stage play, the result: "Down and Out." It debuted at the Union Center for the Arts. Foley was then awarded the Asian American Writers Workshop Scholarship, which she utilized to re-imagine the aforementioned play into a web based series incorporating verse, motion graphics and comic book illustrations. Recently Ms. Foley completed work on a debut YA novel, The Ice Hotel. The novel is a fantasy adventure written especially for readers experiencing the profound pain of loss. In the book, a family, reeling from their eldest son's death, escapes to the Ice Hotel, where an age-old, arctic magic connects this world to the next. The Ice Hotel is now available at Amazon. Order your copy here.
A Legal Perspective for Screenwriters
by Gordon P. Firemark
I'm shooting a web series and in one episode, we showcase a magazine. The cover can clearly be seen. Do we need to contact the publisher for permission to use the magazine? The magazine is not mainstream and was purchased in a small shop. Please advise!
Yes, you should obtain permission to use that magazine cover. The cover design is most certainly protected by copyright law, and the title of the magazine, it's logo, etc., may also be protected by trademark law. So, it'll be necessary to contact the publisher. As long as your episode isn't disparaging of the magazine, it's probably not going to be a big problem, but the publisher may want some form of payment in exchange for the license.
Once you've agreed on terms, you'll want to get it in writing. A series of emails probably isn't going to protect you later on.
Have a legal question? Email them to:
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The foregoing is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship with Mr. Firemark. This information is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. Neither Mr. Firemark nor The Business of Show Institute will be responsible for readers' detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this column.
About Gordon P. Firemark:
Gordon Firemark is an attorney whose practice is devoted to the representation of artists, writers, producers and directors in the fields of theater, film, television,and music. He is also the publisher of Entertainment Law Update, a newsletter for artists and professionals in the entertainment industries. His practice also covers intellectual property, cyberspace, new media and business/corporate matters for clients in the entertainment industry.
Mr. Firemark serves on the Boards of Governors of The Los Angeles Stage Alliance (the organization responsible for the annual Ovation Awards for excellence in Theater), and The Academy for New Musical Theatre. In the past he has served on the Board of Governors of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, where he served as liason to the Association's Entertainment Law Section (of which he is a former chairman).
Mr. Firemark holds a B.A. in Radio, Television and Film from the University of Oregon, and earned his law degree at Southwestern University School of Law. Before opening The Law Offices of Gordon P. Firemark, Mr. Firemark was a partner with the Business Affairs Group, a boutique entertainment law firm in Los Angeles. He has also worked in the legal and business affairs departments at Hanna Barbera Productions and the MGM/UA Worldwide Television Group, and started his legal career as an associate at Neville L. Johnson & Associates, a West L.A. firm specializing in entertainment litigation.
For more about Mr. Firemark, visit http://firemark.com/.
What's in a Name?
by Daniel Manus
Titles can be tricky. How do you know if yours is appropriate or describes or accentuates your script well enough? I have come across some of the best and worst titles possible in the last few years and I have realized there are some trends that make a script more or less likely to get read. Now, I've never heard of an executive passing on a good script because it had a bad title — they would be pretty dumb to do that. However, titles DO set up a mindset for the reader and will set up some sort of expectation on whether that script is going to be funny, scary, thrilling, dramatic, high concept, independent, cheesy, sexy, etc. And a title can make an executive excited (or hesitant) about reading your script.
In a perfect world, your title should almost be able to replace your logline. It should sell the script on its own so that it doesn't even matter what your logline is. How, you ask, is this feat possible? A number of different ways. But let's look at a few of my all-time favorite titles from recent scripts or films in no particular order.
- I Wanna F*ck Your Sister
- Kissing a Suicide Bomber
- Forty Year-Old Virgin
- From Here to Virginity
- My Sister is Marrying a Douchebag
- Night of the Living Dorks
- I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
- Wedding Crashers
- The Beaver
- The Gary Coleman/Emmanuel Lewis Script
- The Gay Dude
- Sex with Animals
- The Frye Brothers Have a Threesome
- I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President
What do all of these titles have in common? They grab your attention! They either make you laugh, make you wonder, make you envision the story or the movie, tell you about the main characters, etc. And they ALL make you want to read more.
Some titles are really on the nose — in a good way. They tell you exactly what the movie is about so much so that you almost don't have to read the script. "Wedding Crashers," "Forty Year-Old Virgin" and "My Sister is Marrying a Douchebag" all tell you everything you need to know. No logline necessary. The 'Sister' title sets up the story, the conflict, and at least 3 main characters in the sister, the douche bag, and the sibling who hates him. It sets up the tone, the genre, and even the climax because we all know what's coming. This was a spec that went out, and it didn't sell (as far as I know), but everyone wanted to read it because of the title. It didn't even have a logline — and it didn't need one. Then there are titles like "Frye Brothers," where it screams comedy potential. There are many ways the story could go and it makes you curious as to which way the author chose and if he executed it well.
There are some titles like "Suicide Bomber" that are just intriguing. You're not sure what the story or tone is, but it sounds ORIGINAL and piques your interest. Other titles are so long that it's amusing like the "Unspeakable Evil" project. It has a rhythm to it and you can feel the writers' voice just from the title.
Then there are the outrageous and possibly inappropriate titles like "I Wanna F*ck Your Sister," "The Beaver," and "Sex with Animals." At heart, executives are like 9 year old boys, amused by the silliest of things. My guess is if you titled your script "Doody," someone would laugh and ask for it. So, don't be afraid of being bawdy, dirty, etc. If your title can make an executive laugh, you're in. Assuming, of course, that you're writing a comedy. Don't let your title ruin an executive's expectations by alluding to a different type of genre.
While most of the titles above are for comedies, it's imperative to have a good title for your drama or thriller as well. Your drama title should not be corny and your thriller title can't sound like a movie that might play on Cinemax at 1am.
A title for a drama can be something that is more symbolic and parallels your tale, or something that is referenced to in the script (perhaps a line of dialogue, perhaps a line from a book) that encapsulates the story or the characters: "American Beauty," "A Few Good Men," "No Country For Old Men," etc. If your script is about the relationship between a mother and child, don't call the script 'A Mother's Love.' It's cheesy, corny, and doesn't make anyone want to read it.
If your story is a thriller about the how the dreams of a married couple go horribly wrong, do not call your script 'Unfulfilled Desires.' It just sounds dirty. Thriller titles need to set up something. For example, "Primal Fear," "The Negotiator," "The Game," etc. One sets up the tone, one sets up the main character and point of view of the script and one sets up the cornerstone of the story.
Now since I mentioned some of my favorite titles, I thought it only fair to mention some bad ones, perhaps to learn from, perhaps just to enjoy...
- Whale Farts (yes, it's silly, but it's TOO silly)
- Judge Judy Presides Over the Israeli-Palestinian Border Dispute (No joke!)
- Daddy's Little Secret (I need to take a shower already)
- DopeMan (is he a drug dealer or just a moron? Either way, he's Dope Man)
- Anything with the number 4 at the end of it, like "I Think This Will Put Us Back in the Black Part 4"
So, now that you know how much a title can help, hopefully you'll take it a bit more seriously, because while executives try not to judge a script by its cover, this is Hollywood — and it's all about being pretty on the outside! So give us a title that is sure to make us want to turn the page and see the beauty on the inside as well!
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About Daniel Manus:
Daniel Manus is an in-demand script consultant and founder of No BullScript Consulting, which can be found at www.nobullscript.net and was ranked one of the Top 15 "Cream of the Crop" Script Consultants by Creative Screenwriting Magazine. He was the Director of Development for Clifford Werber Productions (Cinderella Story, Sydney White) and is attached to produce several projects independently. Daniel was previously a Development Consultant for Eclectic Pictures and DOD at Sandstorm Films, which had a first look deal at Screen Gems. He is the author of the E-Book "No BS for Screenwriters: Advice from the Executive Perspective," and teaches seminars to writers across the country. Raised on Long Island, NY, in an amusingly dysfunctional household, Daniel holds a B.S. degree in Television with a concentration in Screenwriting from the Ithaca College Park School of Communications.
Best Business Advice for Screenwriters
T.J. Martin – Academy Award winning film-maker of "Undefeated" - on his best advice for screenwriters:
"Embrace failure. I wish someone could've told me that. You are going to experience failure many times before you experience success. It's part of the process."
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The Scoggins Report
February 2012 Spec Market Roundup
by Jason Scoggins & Cindy Kaplan
When last we checked in on the spec market, we thought this week's Scoggins Report would have to open with some sort of silver lining comment. Turns out we needn't have worried -- February's spec sales numbers ended on par with January's.
As you'll see from the below grid, February 2012 is a bit off of February 2011's very strong numbers, but you know you're getting jaded about the spec market when you start looking down your nose at 9 spec sales in a month. That would have been the second highest month of the year in 2010. And we're still up year-over-year for total spec sales. Take that, 2011.
Here are our favorite highlights from this week's Report:
- Last month's buyers were more interested in material that had been in the marketplace for a while than in new specs. None of the 42 specs that went wide in February have sold, and five of the nine sales originally went out prior to 2012. Three of those were among the dozen or so 2011 Black List scripts that hadn't yet been set up by the end of last year.
- WME's outstanding 5 spec sales in February ties its single month sales record from November 2011. UTA's record is also 5 (March 2011), and the only agency to top that in the past three years is CAA, which sold 7 in October 2011.
Here are February's overall numbers, with year over year comparisons:
|Number Sold 1
|Percent Sold 2
|| 1 Action
| 1 Action
| 3 Action
| 3 Action
1 Total sales in February
2 Sales percentage of scripts that came out and sold in February
Weekly Activity Breakdown
Week of January 30:
- 4 scripts hit the tracking boards (2 in January), none of which have sold
- 6 additional sales were reported, 3 of which were in February ("Day 38," "Gaslight" and "NSFW")
Week of February 6:
- 15 scripts hit the boards, none of which have sold
- 2 additional sales were reported ("Picture Book" and "Saving Mr. Banks")
Week of February 13:
- 9 scripts hit the boards, none of which have sold
- 1 additional sale was reported ("The Waiting")
Week of February 20 (Presidents' Day):
- 5 scripts hit the tracking boards, none of which have sold
- 1 additional sale was reported ("Invertigo")
Week of February 27:
- 9 scripts hit the boards (1 in March), none of which have yet sold
- 3 additional sales were reported -- 2 in February ("Blood Mountain" and "The Most Wonderful TIme") and 1 in March ("Bloodshot")
Five of February's nine sales were of scripts that came out prior to 2012.
Spec Sales (alphabetical by title)
Writer: Jonathan Stokes
Reps: UTA (Ramses Ishak, Michael Sheresky, Scott Carr, Geoff Morely) and Energy Entertainment (Brooklyn Weaver)
Buyer: Derby Street Films
Attachments: Movie Package Company's Ray Mansfield and Shaun Redick will produce with James Gibb. Derby Street's Rachel Durkin and Nicola Horlick will executive produce with Stokes and Weaver.
Notes: Originally went out in July 2011; made the 2011 Black List.
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.
Writers: Chris Rossi & Gabriel Scott
Reps: APA (Ryan Saul) and Untitled Entertainment (Jennifer Levine)
Buyer: Syfy Films
Genre: Action adventure
Attachments: Richard Farmer is attached to direct. Mary Viola and McG will produce through Wonderland Sound & Vision.
Notes: Originally went out in August 2010.
Logline: TWISTER meets PREDATOR. A team of storm chasers finds itself caught in the path of a category 5 tornado, but the real problem is what's inside it.
Writer: Ian Fried
Reps: WME (Mike Esola, Daniel Cohan) and Prolific (Will Rowbotham)
Buyer: Exclusive Media Group
Attachments: Exclusive Media's Guy East, Simon Oakes and Nigel Sinclair will executive produce.
Notes: Originally went out in June 2011; made the 2011 Black List.
Logline: Secretly imprisoned in a London insane asylum, the infamous Jack the Ripper helps Scotland Yard investigators solve a series of grisly murders whose victims all share one thing in common: Dual puncture wounds to the neck.
Writers: Bradley Cramp & Ehren Kruger
Attachments: Kruger will produce with his Bobker/Kruger partner Daniel Bobker and Original Films' Neal Moritz.
Notes: Andrea Giannetti will oversee for Columbia.
Writers: Simon Boyes & Adam Mason
Reps: WME (Daniel Cohan) and Brucks Entertainment (Bryan Brucks)
Attachments: Joe Johnston (CAPTAIN AMERICA) is attached to direct. Max Minghella and Eloise Mumford are in talks to star. Brucks will produce with Blumhouse Productions' Jason Blum.
Notes: Originally went out in June 2011.
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.
Writer: Ben Magid
Reps: WME (Mike Esola) and Energy Entertainment (Brooklyn Weaver)
Buyer: Skyrock Ventures
Attachments: Damian Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot are attached to direct. Weaver will produce. Skyrock's Sameera Eligeti and Paul Rock will executive produce with Magid.
Logline: Contained horror/thriller in the vein of THE OTHERS.
Saving Mr. Banks
Writer: Kelly Marcel
Reps: WME (Philip Raskind)
Attachments: John Lee Hancock is reportedly in talks to direct. Ruby Films' Alison Owen will produce.
Notes: 2011 Black List script.
Logline: The story of how Walt Disney secured the rights to "Mary Poppins."
The Most Wonderful Time
Writer: Steven Rogers
Reps: ICM Nicole Clemens)
Buyer: Relativity Media
Attachments: Jesse Nelson (I AM SAM) is attached to direct and produce with Imagine's Brian Grazer. Imagine's Kim Roth will executive produce with Rogers.
Notes: Diane Keaton and Robert Redford are reportedly circling the project.
Logline: A story about two people who live for the future or hang onto the past, which prevents them from living in the moment, and not appreciating what is right in front of them.
Writers: Mark Bianculli & Jeff Richard
Reps: WME (Danny Greenberg, David Karp) and Anonymous Content (Elana Barry, Rosalie Swedlin)
Buyer: Warner Bros.
Notes: Chantal Nong and Sarah Schechter will oversee for Warners.
Logline: Mysterious events occur when two high school filmmakers decide to create the illusion of a haunting to mess with an unsuspecting neighbor. REAR WINDOW meets PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.
About The Scoggins Report:
The Scoggins Report is a terribly unscientific analysis of the feature film development business (in particular, spec script and open writing assignment activity) based on information assembled from a variety of public and non-public sources. The numbers in the reports are by no means official statistics and should not be relied upon as such. Past editions of The Scoggins Report can be found in the archives of The Business of Show Institute and now have a beautiful new home on www.thewrap.com.
Details on each person, project and company in the Reports can also be found at www.itsonthegrid.com, a proud division of The Wrap News, Inc. IOTG is a "for us, by us" film industry database, the only place mere mortals can find listings of Hollywood's active open writing and directing assignments... not to mention comprehensive spec market data, active film development information and relevant credits for released movies going back to 1988.
The IOTG Blog has a new home on the site, by the way: www.itsonthegrid.com/news . It includes daily highlights of recent database updates and individual posts on every spec that hits the market. You'll find buttons to subscribe to the blog's feed right where you'd expect them, and you can follow the site's Twitter feed here:http://twitter.com/itsonthegrid.
Jason Scoggins recently launched Eureka Canyon Enterprises, a literary management, production and consulting company that represents feature film and TV writers, directors and producers. He also founded and runs www.itsonthegrid.com, the aforementioned database of feature film development information. Jason got his start in the entertainment industry in 1995 as an agent trainee at ICM, which led to stints as a TV Lit Agent at Gersh and Writers & Artists. He left the business (and California) for several years in 2000, returning in 2007 as a partner at Protocol, a literary management and production company. Follow him here: http://twitter.com/itsonthegrid.
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Digging the Well Before You're Thirsty:
Tracking the Movement of Hollywood's Executives
What do you do when a friend gets promoted or moves to a new position? You congratulate them right?
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What else might you do? You might send them a card telling them how excited you are for their new position. Later, you might follow up with that person to see how they're settling in. Then, you might send them an interesting article once in a while.
Why would you do this? Because that's how relationships are nurtured and developed. (They're not developed by asking for favors before the relationship has matured)
So we'd like you to help us in congratulating the following executives who have just been promoted or moved positions.
The Business of Show Institute Congratulates the Following Executives in Their New Positions:
Senior Vice President, TV and Special Interest Marketing, Warner Home Video
Senior Vice President, Business Development and Enterprises, Fishbowl Media
Vice President, Scripted Development, FremantleMedia North America
Roy Lee, John Middleton, and Lawrence Grey
Partners, Primal Pictures (an arm of Vertigo Entertainment)
President, Alcon Television
Literary Agent, Verve
The "Other" Action
by Sean Hinchey
If your script is lacking the punch it needs to cross over from semi-finalist to finalist in an upcoming screenwriting contest, it may be the action that is lacking in your screenplay. Am I talking about car chases, and shoot-outs? No, I'm focusing on something a little bit different.
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I'm talking about dialogue. Wait a minute, didn't I say we'd be talking about "action"? Well, we are. Dialogue, the words that people speak in your screenplay, is a form of action.
Scripts are different from books. All we are allowed to know is what is on the screen. Unless there is voice over, we don't know what the character is thinking. We only learn about their past through flashbacks or their words. When a character makes a statement, that is a form of action. "I'm going to track down the killer and catch him myself!" Has the character actually accomplished that yet? No, but it doesn't matter at this point.
The words become a dynamic part of the story. They person speaking only has two choices — they can do what they say they'll do, or they won't. If they are all talk and no follow through, that speaks volumes about who they are. If they do it, then they are people of action — they don't mince words.
Now you may be scratching your head, saying to yourself, "I get that their words define who they are, but how is that action?" It's a valid point. In a screenplay, every character is trying to attain something. How they act and react to different situations creates action in relation to what they want. Therefore, their words are actions. To many, this may sound as though hairs are being split. But this is an important concept to recognize when writing. Not every action has to be played out through physical action.
If a person picks up a phone and gives someone an order, they have created an action with their voice. That tells the person reading your script, such as a contest judge, that a particular character wields a great deal of power. The less your character has to physically do, and the more action they can create with words, equals greater power. When that character actually has to get their hands dirty and do the job themselves, that indicates that something is awry and out of balance.
When a character declares that they want to do something, they are setting other actions in motion. For example, if a person says that they want to win a college scholarship so they can get out of their dead-end town, that sets their mind and will into action. We know that every scene in the screenplay will be about them working towards that goal. The script will be filled with successes and setbacks as they go about that process.
Use the words from the mouths of your protagonist, and antagonist, to drive your story forward. This doesn't mean you have to create on-the-nose-dialogue. It means reveal more through the interactions between characters to show us the authentic person; their strengths and their weaknesses. Don't always rely only on their physical actions to move the story. What a person says, and often times doesn't say can increase the impact of your message.
That is the difference between creating an award winning script that will get noticed by the contest judges versus another ream of paper that goes into the recycling bin.
Everybody wants their script to win a screenwriting contest, and most people get bummed out when they don't win. It could be something as simple as having too many characters that have names. What am I talking about? Read my next article, Not Everyone is Important.
About Sean Hinchey:
Sean Hinchey has been a script consultant for International Creative Management (ICM), Miracle Entertainment, Nash Entertainment, and Viviano Entertainment. He's also read the preliminary drafts of Michael Crichton's best-selling novels, State of Fear and Next and has performed extensive research for the stage plays and screenplays of writer/director Floyd Mutrux (American Hot Wax, Million Dollar Quartet).
Sean's expertise has made him a highly sought after judge for such prestigious screenwriting contests such as: The Big Break Contest, The Miramax Open Door Contest, Artists and Writer's Contest, Energy Contest, Smart Contest and The Chills and Thrills Contest. Throughout his career, Sean has read over two thousand scripts, giving him an insight into what it takes to become the winner of a screenwriting contest.
Three of Sean's screenplays have been optioned and one was a finalist in the Film in Arizona Screenwriting Competition. He won an award for his first non-fiction book, Backpacking Through Divorce.
Drawing from these experiences, he's written a book, 39 Ways to Win a Screenwriting Contest & The Nine Mistakes New Writers Make, set for publication this year.
Reading for Fun, Crap Sequels and Contestin'...
by Manny Fonseca
I spent most of the week doing something I rarely do. Reading scripts for fun and not for work. I spend most of my days trying to get through spec scripts that I start to get bitter about the process. So I decided to load up on scripts that are going into production or have already wrapped on production and will be out in the next couple of months.
I have to tell you, from a writing standpoint, you can really see the difference. These scripts are downright page turners. I get lost in the world's that are created and actually care about the characters.
Here's a shortlist of what I read: Dark Shadows, The Gangster Squad, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, Taken 2, Argo and Project X.
It was really motivational as a writer. Seeing what quality, working writers are doing and knowing that you're not that far off from them. Made me want to sit back down at the keys and get crackin'.
I strongly suggest that you go out and seek quality material. With the internet it's not that hard to find scripts. Besides the barrage of screenwriting websites that have scripts, there's also imsdb.com which has a shit ton of scripts available.
If you want to be a screenwriter, it's best you read scripts. Seems like a no brainer to me, but I know how stubborn some people can be. I know, I know... just reading a book and a taking a seminar makes you a screenwriter. I get it.
Please, take the time to read GOOD scripts.
It's funny, but the one thing I notice the most about good scripts, is how fast I get through them. They are literally page turners.
Yesterday I was given a script from a guy I met a couple of times. He called me up and asked me to give it a read.
Now, it's not horrible, but it's not very exciting either. It took me half a day to get through the first 12 pages because I just wasn't compelled to read it. The dialog was kind of cheesy and the action wasn't really full of well...action.
So I shelved t for the day and pulled out Taken 2. I was about 30 minutes in when I got interrupted and had to stop reading. I was on page 40. I just couldn't put it down because it was just such an easy read and fun to read.
Isn't that what you want for your scripts? Don't you want execs to be annoyed that someone came in and interrupted them while they were reading your script?
I know I would.
Anyway, didn't get lucky enough to read all great scripts this week...there was one bad script. I can't tell you the name of the script because I wasn't supposed to have it, but let's just say that someone slipped me a script of a straight to DVD sequel of a movie franchise that I kinda like.
It's pretty much B-action, but hey, that's what I grew up on so it's a guilty pleasure. (ironically, as I write this I have Code of Silence on starring Chuck Norris.)
Fuck the script was horrible! I mean really bad. I read it in between reading Abraham Lincoln and Gangster Squad so I'm sure that didn't help, but wow...if THIS guy can write and sell a script, none of us should have any problems.
So what was bad about it?
Couple of things and please, if you do these...STOP.
First, he went into major detail of every little punch, kick, dodge, throw and slam in every fight scene. He literally choreographed the fight scenes on the page. You know what's NOT exciting? Reading every detail of a fucking fight scene!
It was pages of "He does this, he does that, he throws this dude here but then this guy came and did this..." on and on. It was pretty shitty.
The other thing that was a major problem was that it read cheap.
What do I mean?
I mean it read like a straight to DVD feature. It read like it didn't have a budget.
Now, I understand, sometimes that's the constraints of the job. Sometimes you're going to have to work for a company that just doesn't have the financing to back the project. Sometimes producers are going to force you into a box. The one I see the most is the "one location" box.
This script was no exception. I'll give you the setup: The gang of bad guys were planning to go and rob a bank. In the process they were found out by a teenage girl and her boyfriend by accident...so they kidnap them for "insurance." Yeah, nothing new here.
And guess what?
Daddy is a bad ass and doesn't like it when people kidnap his little girl.
Gee, I wonder what's going to happen!
He tracks them down to the hideout and all hell breaks loose! I know, shocker...but here's where it's shitty. They never make it to the bank! Instead of racing to foil the crime, they never make it out of the hideout, they're foiled there.
Thus, the one location.
It's shitty when you tease us the entire time having them TALK about what they're going to do and never show us them actually doing it!
Remember, film is a VISUAL medium. We want to see some shit!
Again, I know this is for budgetary reasons, but come on...give us a little something for the effort. Know what I mean?
As you know, the re-write contest is going on and the deadline is next week. I want to thank those that have already submitted their re-writes. It's pretty awesome. If you haven't gotten involved yet, there's still time. The deadline is next week on the 14th. So get yours in before then.
Please don't wait until the last minute because I have to read all of the entries and break them down. I can tell you one thing, there hasn't been an entry yet that has TRULY blown me away yet. So if you want some bragging rights, get to the laptop and git a'writin'.
Till next week...
About Manny Fonseca:
Manny Fonseca hails from Dearborn, Michigan and now lives in the glamorous Hollywood. Always knowing that he wanted something more than a menial job in retail or the auto industry, he attended Ohio University where he received his M.F.A. in screenwriting.
He quickly navigated the industry, landing a job at Kopelson Entertainment where he plays mild-mannered exec by day, constantly looking for the next big script and turns into Screenwriter by night. You can often find his foul, yet honest, opinion at pitchfests around Los Angeles. You can also retain him for script consulting/developing services as well as pitch consulting services.
For info, have a question or just want to tell him you love him, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/manny.fonseca
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