The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter, June 18 2010 PDF Print E-mail
The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter - The Business of Show Institute

Dear Friend,

The Grand Prize for The BOSI Video Pitch Contest ends this Monday, June 21st at 11:59pm Pacific Time.

Have you registered yet?

If not, you only have a few more days to do so!

And check out the newest training video on the Registration Page.

In this video, Chief Marketing Officer James Lee shows you how to promote your pitch video with a Wordpress blog!

http://thebusinessofshowinstitute.com/pitchcontest/

2nd prize, 3rd prize, 4th prize, and 5th prize are also cool (you can check what they are under the Terms and Conditions on the Registration Page), but if you want to come to LA to pitch your material to real Hollywood professionals – then this Monday is the cutoff!

And here's what our team of experts have got for you in this week's Screenwriter's Success Newsletter:

Shell Breaking: is this week's article by yours truly. In this piece I introduce you to screenwriter Keary Speer – who blogs profoundly about her experiences with social media and overcoming her fears to reach success.

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.

Toxic Avenger: 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 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . If your question is chosen, it (and your answer) will appear in an issue of The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter.

From Writer to Exec: Changing the Way You Read: is this week's article from Director of Development for Clifford Werber Productions, 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? President and Chief Creative Officer for Fun Little Movies — Frank Chindamo!

The Scoggins Report: is our bi-weekly/monthly spec market analysis. Use this information to see what's selling, who's buying what, and what genre you should be writing for. This information 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...

Villains, the Characters We Love To Hate: is this week's article from our newest contributor — 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."

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? The Shortcuts to Success — Meeting with the Masters Mentoring Program! Hollywood's only screenwriting mentoring program where Marvin V. Acuna and his network of industry contacts will help you achieve the success you desire and deserve.

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





Shell Breaking

by Marvin V. Acuna

On route to the Sting concert I began scanning the news feed on Facebook, the following headline caught my attention:

The Contest — NOT a promotion on my video this time.

I clicked on it to read further and it led me to this blog http://kearyespeer.wordpress.com/

FULL DISCLOSURE: I DON'T PERSONALLY KNOW THE BLOGGER. I HAVE NOT WATCHED ANY CONTEST PITCH VIDEOS AND WILL NOT UNTIL THE DESIGNATED TIME AND UNDER THE SPECIFIC TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THE BOSI CONTEST.

For clarity, there are a numerous reasons as to why we specifically chose to utilize social media as an important and necessary tool for this contest. To inspire you to step outside your comfort zone was definitively one of them.

Chet Holmes, considered America's #1 Sales and Marketing Executive, believes that the best version of ourselves lies just outside our comfort zone.

Now whether Keary wins the BOSI contest or not in not relevant because she's already won something much more valuable and, in my humble opinion, profound. For as Bertrand Russell so eleoquently said, "To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom."

I enjoyed the post so much that I was compelled to share it here with you. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen meet Keary Speer.

This blog may come off as rather negative, but if I can't vent on my own blog then what good is it?

Since I finished this screenplay, I decided to hit it hard. I have been taking every opportunity thrown at me because I don't want to wonder down the road, “If I would have just done one more thing, would that have been the difference?” So, when the people at PAGE offer me a free webinar, I take it! When then webinar offers me a free contest with an amazing opportunity, it's on!

I almost got stopped dead in my tracks when I find out down the line about the YouTube part of it all. I figured making a video wouldn't be hard no matter how terrifying it seems to me. After all, the people seeing it I would never run into in my life, and if I did then it is because the liked it. So finding out that I had to let everyone I know see it and vote on it almost made me say, "nevermind!" I thought about it only for a short time before coming to the realization that I have always told myself I would do anything I needed to for this screenplay and effing jitters are not going to get the best of me.

Making the video was really hard. I cannot tell you how many times I recorded it, watched it, went to the bathroom to fix my hair, came back, recorded it, tried not to look out the window, re-recorded it, ran out of space in my memory card, re-recorded it, and SO ON!

I don't think I have ever felt worse about myself. The first chance I had to get a haircut, I took. The first chance I get to go get my hair dyed, I'm taking! I even thought, "Man, I need to work on my voice!" Every single thing I did wrong, I realize I did! I know I am saying "Uuum" and rolling my eyes and looking out my window. Nobody knows this better than me. I know people are telling me these things as "constructive criticism" so I don't blame them, but it makes it so much harder! I keep thinking that it will be fine because if I were to get picked, I have been working on it a lot.

Here is the real thing. I have 219 Facebook friends and 55 likes. I can count on one hand how many people have reposted my link, and three of those fingers have done it more than once. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to those 5 (maybe 6) people who have supported me. If I get this, those people are getting flowers!

It doesn't really stop there with the "woe is me" bit. The dislikes are starting to add up. I kept thinking it was the other people in the contest that were disliking everyone else's videos! Which, you know, I understand but could never do myself. Now, I have way more dislikes than there are people in the contest. I am starting to question all sorts of things. Am I annoying people with how much I post? Do I have that many friends on Facebook who are vicious like that, or think its funny, or really just don't want me to win? I know I should NOT being thinking these things, and most definitely shouldn't be writing them but it's hard not to. I don't want people to think I forgot about the people who have liked it because I haven't and I really do appreciate it. It seems like everyone is the same when it comes to this stuff. It is easy to dwell on the negative! I am hoping getting it off my chest will help!

The thing is, I know I am coming off as a narcissist and people are thinking it's enough already! But the truth is, every single time I post, I am embarrassed. I don't want people seeing me really, or hearing that voice, or thinking of me as one of those self-righteous so-called writers who would sit in Starbucks with their laptop so people can see them writing something in hopes that people will think "ohh a writer!"

As long as I am doing it though, I will keep promoting it, facing my fears and learning about what is to come. I am sure this is not even close to the end of shell breaking and you know, I really hope that's true.


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The Box Office Report




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Lessons Learned: One Writer's Journey

Toxic Avenger

by mc foley

It was a Sunday afternoon in WeHo, down in the laundry room, when my actor-teacher-waiter-neighbor filled me in on the latest drama...

"They don't even live here," he told me.

By "they," he was referring to the crack-whore couple. The ones who shuffled, twitching erratically, through the halls of our apartment building, sucking on parliament lights by the "no smoking" signs, blue veins glowing like peepshow marquees through their vampire skin.

"...I caught the guy shooting up in the stairwell," he continued, "and the chick was sprawled out in the hallway, waiting for Nia to let her in."

"Nia?!," I replied - my mind shifting to an image of her, that small, eccentric woman who lived several doors down.

"Nia knows those two?! I thought she was harmless..."

My neighbor gave me a look.

"C'mon," he said, "she sleeps all day, stays up all night, always looks sickly and has two crackfiends for 'friends.' I don't care what she says, I think she's dealing."

"Why - what does she say?" I asked.

"She says," my neighbor replied with a smirk, "that she's a writer."

"Oh -," he added, "and watch where you walk. I saw needles by the pool."


Later,

as I mulled over the news and considered installing a third deadbolt on my door, an odd thought crossed my mind: maybe Nia really was a writer - and she was spending time with smack addicts as part of some twisted research project. Maybe, in order for her to build a better story, she needed to experience the utter depths of hell that is addiction.

It was a passing thought.

One based in my own efforts to mine the highs and lows of life - for writing.

However, in my case, I'd never deliberately sought out difficult experiences. There was no need. Life presented enough of those on its own. And, for the darkest elements, I turned to research and imagination rather than spending time with a dirty needle.

For the less "grimy," but just as toxic situations, I, like many people, often needed to look no further than my own day jobs. The hamster-monkey-wheel environments I'd happily left behind me, but which, I had to admit, taught me a great deal about human interaction, hidden motives, desperate yearnings, friends, enemies, leaders, and yes, criminals.


The stories were endless...

There was the guy who not only downloaded porn, but ran an entire porn website from his cubicle; the coworker who went to white-collar prison for embezzlement; the six-figure earner who stole lunches from the office fridge; the righteous counselors who smoked fatty blunts just before meeting with the high school kids.

And there were the haters.

The spiteful, unhappy, entirely bitter people. The ones whose insecurities and unfulfilled dreams rotted inside of them like old fruit. The ones who never realized how transparent they were - how petty their actions - how haggard their entire beings.

The ones - who ended up in my writing.


It started with a 2nd grade teacher.

Mr. English. The guy who berated me in front of the entire class because I'd answered his question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" with the word: rich. "Rich people are evil!" he'd growled, his face burning up like a cooked tomato... A week later, I wrote my first tall tale - about a mean teacher who turned into a vegetable - and named the character "Mr. English," with glee.

At my first job - a nearby Starbucks - the supervisor's addiction to combining whip cream canister "whippets" and weed found its way into my homemade comic book.

At the crappy buffet where I bussed tables, the foul-mouthed, food-slopping regulars became the carnival sideshow in a screenplay.

And at a recent office, the bully who assumed her McMansion and big title somehow made up for the seething bitterness that spewed from her mouth onto every staffer "lower down on the totem pole"... became the evil stepmother in my YA fantasy novel - the "evil elephant" who abused her stepson until he turned to the dark side.

These were my difficult situations. My grimy opponents. Those toxic personalities that we must all, unfortunately, face. Because they fill our world - just as the uplifting, inspiring personalities do.

And - because they exist - because there is no turning a blind eye and just "wishing" them away... then why not make use of them?

Why not funnel the desire for vengeance - into a virtual impaling of them on the tip of my pen?

As writers Lloyd Kaufman and Joe Ritter so eloquently wrote in their campy, 1984, comedy-horror flick:

"Melvin was a 90 pound weakling. Everyone hated Melvin. They teased him. They taunted him. They tormented him - until he had a horrifying accident and fell into a vat of toxic waste. Transforming little Melvin into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength-

Melvin became - THE TOXIC AVENGER!"

Who knows...

...maybe Lloyd and Joe put a part of themselves into Melvin. Maybe, in some way, they gleaned the satisfaction of revenge from The Toxic Avenger's bloody, mutilating romp through the criminals of Tromaville. And maybe - the initially-ridiculed storyline, which became a cult classic and spun off into film sequels, comic books, graphic novels, animated TV series, stage musicals and superhero figurines with vomit green skin and face pustules...

...maybe that was just the icing on the cake.

Whatever the case, if Lloyd and Joe ever faced down toxic personalities in their "real" lives, then I'm sure the Toxic Avenger brought them much in the way of warm, fuzzy feelings. And much - in the way of earnings. Which, as the saying goes, is the ultimate payback. Because:

"Living well is the best revenge."

-George Herbert



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.


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A Legal Perspective for Screenwriters

by Gordon P. Firemark

Question:
"If I enter a 'Pitch Contest' what steps should I take beforehand, in order to protect my intellectual property?"

Answer:
As I've said before in this column, there's not much "property" there in a 'pitch' per se. The only way to protect an idea is to keep it secret, only divulging it to someone who promises to preserve its secrecy. You see, the law doesn't protect ideas, it protects the expression of ideas. So, assuming you're going to make the pitch anyway, the best way to protect it is to make sure it's sufficiently fleshed-out so that it's considered expression, rather than mere idea. So, for example, your pitch should be more than merely concept, but should include character sketches, motivations, plot points, etc. In order to have any protection at all, it's also necessary that you actually write down (or "fix" in some other tangible form) your expression of the material. Next, register your copyright in what you've created.

Finally, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to do business only with people you can trust. Reputations matter. Check out the folks you're planning to pitch to, and if they don't pass the 'sniff test', don't make the pitch!


Interested in how films get financed? Sign up for my free email mini-course on 6 Ways to Finance a Feature Film.


Have a legal question? Email them to: legalquestions@thebusinessofshowinstitute.com

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 entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles. For almost 20 years, he's helped creative and business people in the fields of film, television, theatre, music and new media achieve their professional and artistic goals. His practice focuses on negotiating and drafting entertainment contracts and business deals, film and theatre financing, corporate startups/operations, and intellectual property protection and licensing. Get more information at http://firemark.com/.


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No B.S. for Screenwriters — The Executive Perspective

From Writer to Exec: Changing the Way You Read

by Daniel Manus

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Time sure flies when you're having fun. It was one year ago that I started writing articles for BOSI. This is my 52nd article. And in that time, not only has BOSI grown and become a true online leader for information for screenwriters, but my company No BullScript Consulting has grown exponentially.

In fact, I was recently rated in Creative Screenwriting Magazine's 2010 Best Movie and TV Script Consultant's Survey as one of the top 15 "Cream of the Crop" consultants (you can buy the guide at www.creativescreenwriting.com). And that is because of all of you — my clients, my readers, and everyone who has supported me over the last year. Thank you!

So, since BOSI and No BullScript now have many more followers and readers than a year ago, I thought it would be the perfect time to go back to the beginning. So for the next 4 weeks, we will be re-posting some of my favorite articles. Don't worry — for those who have been following since the beginning, the articles have been heavily tweaked and edited (I've learned a great deal over the last year as well). So, please enjoy.

And as a reminder (and shameless plug), the Great American Pitchfest is on June 26-27th. In my opinion, it's the best pitchfest event in LA. I will be teaching my seminar "Become Your Own Development Executive" and holding private pitch consultations on Saturday and will be taking pitches for Clifford Werber Productions on Sunday. I will also have a No BullScript table set up and will be selling my E-Book "No BS for Screenwriters," so come by and say hello! And if your pitch or script need some tightening before the event, now's the time!

Now...let's flash back to the beginning

FROM WRITER TO EXEC: CHANGING THE WAY YOU READ

It's my hope that this column will give writers the no-holds-barred truth and tools they need to succeed, and help you see Hollywood and their craft from a different perspective — the executive perspective.

I have been writing since I was old enough to hold a crayon. I used to write short stories and at the age of 9, I wrote a novel. Okay it was 27 pages, but for a nine year-old, that might as well be "War and Peace." And thankfully, years later, my parents didn't scoff at the idea of joining the whoredom that is Hollywood. I moved to LA after college — along with every prom queen, theater geek, techie, writer and A-type personality from towns around the world. Due to bad timing, I was unable to find a job as a P.A. on a TV show, so I took a job as an assistant at an independent film production company and began working my way in and up.

Now, having worked as an intern, an assistant, an executive, an independent producer, and a script consultant, I believe I can shine the light on this elusive business in a different way that hopefully will help you realize what you need to do to get ahead. Whether that means how to connect with an executive (and how not to connect), how to write to grab their attention (and keep it), what the outlets are for screenwriters outside of Hollywood, how to increase your chances of success at different events, and how executives read a script, we'll go through it all — and we'll do it with humor and honesty.

I don't pull any punches and I don't sugarcoat. But I love writers and I want you all to be as successful as you can be — and make your scripts as strong as they can be. So hopefully this column will help you better your own projects or your plans on how you're going to break into the business — and stay there.

I often suggest that writers try and get an assistant job in the industry, especially in a development exec, manager, or agent's office because you will learn a side of the craft of screenwriting that you can't get from writers groups, classes, or sitting in Starbucks strapped to your laptop. It's a viable and very productive way to break into the business because even if you only spend a couple years as an assistant or junior exec, you will make enough contacts to send your script to everyone in town without needing an agent or manager, or you will be able to land one much easier.

And you will learn how to look at your script from a different perspective. There are a number of things executives specifically look for in material, and a certain way of thinking while they read. When I was interning, and even for the first few years as an assistant and junior executive, I was still looking at scripts as a writer — because that's what I considered myself. While reading, writers have a tendency to ask the following questions — "Is this a better line or scene than I would have thought of?" "Is this a better idea than the ones I'm working on?" and "Does this make me feel better or worse about my own talents?" It was more about jealousy, dominance or self-re-assurance than it was true analysis.

But somewhere along the way...that changed. Now, I can appreciate both sides of the equation because not only do I understand what the writer was thinking when they wrote it, but I know how to make it better and make it more sell-able. Thinking like an exec opened my eyes to how to really evaluate scripts and read them in a different light. The real shift in perspective from writer to executive revolves around one easy question — ‘Can I sell it?'

I never forget that I originally moved to LA to write and that's what always connects me to screenwriters, but being in development taught me my strengths and weaknesses — not only when it comes to story and talent, but also in regards to self-motivation, self-generation of material, setting deadlines for myself, and bringing my ideas from my head to the page. And I would offer a very unscientific guess that 40-50% of development executives originally came to L.A. to write. Being in development affords us the opportunity to be creative, write treatments and help write scripts, without having to depend on our ability to self-motivate to pay our rent.

There are two types of scripts that are sent to executives — samples and submissions. Samples are sent (or asked for) to get a feel for the writer's voice, how they handle tone, character, dialogue — whatever a company might be looking for at the time. Samples are usually scripts that didn't (or couldn't) sell but show off a writer's talents and voice nicely and might get them in the room or hired on a different project. Knowing if your script makes a better spec or a better sample is a great thing to realize. If you pitch your script to 100 execs and they all say they like the writing but the script isn't for them... it's a sample.

Submissions are scripts written and sent to (hopefully) be sold. Representatives submit them to production companies and studios and hope for the best. Executives look at submissions with three questions in mind — Can I sell it? Who can I sell it to? When can I sell it?

‘Can I sell it' means — is it commercial? What demographic is it for and is that demo big enough to matter? Is it what the marketplace is favoring right now? Is it what buyers are looking for? Can it sell internationally? Is it something that is already in development elsewhere? Can I picture the poster? The trailer? Is there a great logline and tagline?

‘Who can I sell it to' — Are there enough places out there looking for this type of material or is it a one-stop shop? Is it something that only one specific company would go for or is it broad? Can I package it? Can I get an actor or director interested in this material? Can I sell agents on why it would be a good project for their clients?

‘When can I sell it' — How many notes and drafts is it going to take to get it to a sell-able place? How much work still needs to be done? Is it the genre that people are looking for at that moment or are we going to have to wait for the next cycle? Is it a prestige Oscar movie or a holiday movie where the release date will really matter?

What else does an exec look for while reading? They look for an original and easily recognizable high concept hook. They also look for the all-important "writers' voice." It's that intangible quality in the writing — the dialogue and the actions — that just makes the script pop. Execs look for a script that's a fast read while not seeming slight; they look for something they can easily visualize and that feels cinematic; they look for something that can attract talent and sell overseas; and they look for the sure-fire signs that you are an amateur, which is a completely different discussion.

Some might argue that looking at a script through these glasses ruins the creative aspects of writing, and when I looked at scripts as a writer — I believed that too. But actually, it allows you to see the script from all different angles, resulting in the ability to find a way to improve story or character or dialogue, etc. It's about making slightly non-commercial projects commercial enough to sell, and making completely non-commercial scripts good enough to be a nice writing sample for you to get other work.

Now you shouldn't worry about all this stuff while writing your first draft, or even the second. But before you start pitching and submitting your script, you should try to go back and look at it with a different pair of eyes — those of an executive.


About Daniel Manus:
Daniel Manus is the Director of Development for Clifford Werber Productions (Cinderella Story, Sydney White). CWP recently set up a family fantasy/adventure project at United Artists which Daniel is attached to co-produce. He is also attached to produce several projects independently including "Dreams of an Aspiring Romantic," starring Emily Osment and "Strange Fruit," written by J.S. Cardone (Prom Night).

Daniel recently started his own script consulting company - No BullScript Consulting, which can be found at www.nobullscript.net. He has been a freelance script consultant for years, working for companies such as ScriptShark and Script Coach and teaches courses to writers at conferences around the country.

Daniel was previously Director of Development for Sandstorm Films, which had a first look deal at Sony Screen Gems and a development deal with Top Cow Comics. Raised on Long Island, NY, he holds a BS degree in Television with a concentration in Screenwriting from the Ithaca College Park School of Communications.


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Best Business Advice for Screenwriters

Frank Chindamo — President and Chief Creative Officer for Fun Little Movies — on his best business advice for screenwriters:

"...just get out there and do it. Write the stories, make sure they're great. Share the stories with your friends. You probably got people online. You probably got people on your hometown. I don't care where you live — Idaho, Iraq, Indonesia — it doesn't matter. You can put a pen on paper, you can type a keyboard, and you can write these stories. Just keep writing and then refining them until you think they're great. Then just figure out a way to get a hold of a camera. Edit stuff on iMovie, edit stuff on Final Cut Pro, and put it together. And if your first series sucks, don't worry about it too much. Just go on for the second one..."


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The Scoggins Report

2010 Spec Market Scorecard (through June 13)

by Jason Scoggins

The spec market has been very quiet since the last Scorecard, so much so that there isn't all that much to talk about this month, as you'll see in the grids below. I noticed this week, however, that on a percentage basis the number of spec sales this year has tracked remarkably closely to the same period in 2009. Of course, that's a bummer, since there have been so many fewer scripts on the market this year. One third fewer, in fact: 201 so far in 2010, compared to 300 through June 2009, by which point the spec market had already been slow for a couple of months.

But it begs the question: Is there less material on the market because buyers haven't been buying much original material? Or have buyers not bought many spec scripts because there haven't been all that many presented to them? I think it's the former, for what it's worth, but keep in mind, not every script that goes out actually makes it in front of buyers (not by a long shot). Practically speaking, the studios' development executives collectively read (or are at least aware of) pretty much everything that makes it into the marketplace. But the business proposition for material brought in to buyers by established producers or with significant elements attached is entirely different from that which doesn't generate momentum at the producer level.

Which seems to be its own chicken/egg problem: If you're a producer, you want to bring projects in to the studios that have a good shot at getting made. Yet the producers and development executives I've been talking to lately all say they don't really know what projects will move the needle at the studios at the moment. Over the past couple of years, the mandate seemed pretty clear: Potential franchises, particularly those based on movies, TV shows, games, toys and comic books. So far this year, though, the studios' big bets on those pictures have not paid off. Summer 2010 box office (not to mention attendance) is way off 2009's pace, to the point that corporate quarterly earnings are imperiled. As Nikki Finke reported this week, the studios are at a loss as to what to do going forward, which in turn makes it tough for producers to get excited about taking territories on spec scripts.

I think everyone's over-thinking this. We're entertainment industry professionals, after all — we may not know whether a particular movie's going to be a hit or a bomb, but we know "a good story, well told" when we see or hear it. Plus, it's really not hard to spot talented writers and directors and producers. So here's my suggestion: If the studios are going to abandon the development business (which they've effectively done over the past several years), they should take a page from the one hour TV business.

Over the past decade, we've seen a long list of fantastic and popular television shows (The West Wing, The Sopranos, The Wire, Lost, and on and on) in no small part because the networks have risked giving showrunners and creators room to tell compelling original stories. The movie studios should do the same thing: Be smart about production and marketing budgets, but take some risks. And trust the talent to do what they do best.


Overall Spec Numbers1:

All Specs Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
Specs 19 43 48 44 25 22             201
Sales 1 9 52 103 3 1             28
Percent 5.3 20.9 10.4 22.7 12.0 4.5             13.9

1 This grid tallies sales of scripts in the month they originally went out. All other grids in this report are straight tallies of each month's sales.
2 Does not include “Blank Slate” (went out in October 2009, sold in March).
3 Does not include “A Few Best Men” (went out in May 2009, sold in April).



Spec Sales By Genre:

Genre (sales) Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total % of Sales
Action/Adventure   2   2 1 1             6 21.4
Comedy   3 2 2 2               9 32.1
Drama       1                 1 3.6
Thriller   2 4 4 1 1             12 42.9

Spec Sales By Buyer (Studios):

Buyers (Studios) Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
Columbia     1                   1
DreamWorks   1                     1
Fox 2000   1                     1
Lionsgate   1                     1
Paramount   1   1 1               3
Summit         1 1             2
Universal   1                     1
Warner Bros.       1                 1

Spec Sales By Buyer (Other Buyers):

Buyers (Other) Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
Arclight       1                 1
Bold Films     1                   1
ContentFilm       1                 1
Corus Ent.     1                   1
Double Nickel     1                   1
Electric       1                 1
Endgame       1   1             2
Exclusive/Spitfire         1               1
Gold Circle   1   1                 2
Imagenation   1                     1
Radar     1 1                 2
Relativity     1                   1
RKO       1                 1
Rough House         1               1

Summit got on the board in a real way since the last Scorecard, but we're still waiting for the likes of Alcon, New Regency and Reliance to get in the game this year.

Each of the following production companies have been attached to one spec sale so far this year. The names in bold are new since the last Scorecard:

3 Arts
Anonymous Content
Circle of Confusion
Fake Empire
Furst Films
The Gotham Group
Hyde Park
Kurtzman/Orci
Michael de Luca Productions
Montecito/Cold Spring
Offspring
Original Film
Parkes/MacDonald
Platinum Dunes
Rough House
The Safran Co.
Smart Entertainment
Stuber Productions
Sunswept
Tailor Made
Thunder Road
Vertigo

In addition to the above, producers Cameron Bunce, Nicolas Chartier, Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg, Larry Malkin, Tom McNulty and Share Stallings have each set up a project as individuals in 2010.


Spec Sales By Seller (Agencies):

Sellers (Agents) Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Efficiency
APA   2 1                   3/12   25%
Bohrman       1                 1/6   17%
CAA     11 2   1             3/7   43%
ICM   2 1                   3/9   33%
Original       1                 1/4   25%
Paradigm       2                 2/8   25%
UTA   2   11 1 1             4/18   22%
Verve   1                     1/3   33%
WME       1 2               3/18   17%

1 These scripts are not counted toward the companies' 2010 efficiency ratings because they originally went out in 2009.

I left Original Artists off the previous grid because their April sale, "The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman" seemed to have been in development for a while, based on the Variety article. I'm assured it was in fact a spec.

Congratulations are in order for WME, which sold two specs since the last Scorecard.


Spec Sales By Seller (Management Companies):

Sellers (Managers) Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Efficiency
Anonymous                         1/3   33%
Benderspink     11                   0/3   0%
Caliber   1                     1/2   50%
Circle of Confusion     1 1                 2/9   22%
Generate       1                 1/3   33%
Gotham Group         1 1             2/9   22%
H2F       3 1               4/7   57%
Infinity   1                     1/2   50%
Kapital   1                     1/1   100%
Kaplan/Perrone   1                     1/5   20%
Madhouse Ent.   1       1             1/6   33%
Manage-ment     2                   2/3   66%
Management 360       1                 1/2   50%
Nine/8     1                   1/2   50%
Principal       11                 0/6   0%
Principato/Young     1                   1/3   33%
Smart Ent.         1               1/1   100%
Zero Gravity       1                 1/2   50%

1 These scripts are not counted toward the companies' 2010 efficiency ratings because they originally went out in 2009.


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 as well as on Jason Scoggins' website: http://www.lifeonthebubble.com.

Details on each person, project and company in the Reports can also be found at http://www.itsonthegrid.com, a database of feature film development information including active open writing and directing assignments in Hollywood. Click here to explore the IOTG blog, which includes daily posts of new and updated spec script, OWA, ODA and other film development information.

About Scoggins:
Jason Scoggins is a partner at Protocol, a literary management and production company. He manages writers, directors and producers of film and TV alongside Protocol's founding partners Brian Inerfeld and John Ufland. 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?

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:

Meredith Ahr
Senior Vice President of Alternative Programming & Development, Universal Media Studios

Lisa Barrett
Vice President of Development, Southpaw Entertainment

David Gambino
President of Production, Team Downey

Kat Gosling
Agent (Talent), Troika

David Gross
Senior Vice President of Development, Tijuana Entertainment

Chris Hart
Agent (Motion Picture Talent), UTA

Glenn Kaino
Senior Vice President of Creative, OWN Digital

Rob Luchow
Manager of Comedy Development, Mark Gordon Company

Greg Neal
Founder / Creative Director, Supertex Studios

Wally Parks
Vice President of Production, Tijuana Entertainment

Peter Schlessel
President, GK Films

Andrea Scrosati
Vice President of Programming, Promotions & Film Acquisitions, Sky Italia

Angela Solis
Executive in Charge of Production, Tijuana Entertainment

Anthony Vogels
Vice President of International Film Development, IMAX Corp.


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Insights and Screenwriting Wisdom from a Veteran Screenwriting Contest Judge

Villains, the Characters We Love To Hate

by Sean Hinchey

After you've worked on creating a solid protagonist, don't take a break and let the villain in your story wither away and die. There needs to be a person that the audience will love to hate, and if you want to win that next screenwriting contest you'll take this to heart.

There's three important elements you need to remember when you craft your villain. First, their level of evil needs to be in proportion to the story you are writing.

In Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, the antagonist was out to kill a wide variety of people from Star Fleet because he held them responsible for the death of his family. However, his hatred was focused on Kirk. Khan's quest was one of revenge. Khan does some sinister things to other people that stand in his way; he is not above torture.

Khan's acts of vengeance are in direct proportion to the tone of the story.

In the original Die Hard, the villain — Hans — is an intelligent and cunning man. He is not above killing someone who gets in his way, but torture and the gleeful celebration of murder is not what he is about. Killing is a business transaction; either someone can help you, or they or in your way and must be removed. The actions of Hans are in direct proportion to the tone of his story.

In a comedy, such as The Devil Wears Prada, the villain — Miranda — is a person who simply makes the protagonist's life a living hell. Death, murder or other severely evil actions don't exist in this realm; it wouldn't be proper for the tone of the story. Once you've established the proper reaction to the events around the villain, you have to layer in the second aspect of their character.

You need to make sure the audience will admire your villain. Despite their flaws, warped sense of values and level of ruthlessness, there needs to be a spark in their personality that makes us want to like them. Hans is arrogant, Khan is brutal, Miranda is cunning and disconnected — and yet, you can almost imagine yourself having lunch with them so you can engage them in conversation because they are charismatic. You want to hate them — and you do — but you can't stop thinking about how focused and driven they are in their quest.

Finally, you have to make sure that the character believes that what they are doing is right. The bad guy in the second X-Men movie; X2, has a wonderful villain in William Stryker. He is so bent on wiping out the X-Men, that he is willing to sacrifice his son to the cause. He truly believes that his mission is a just and noble one.

Develop your villain just as you would your main character. The only thing screenwriting judges love better than a great, good guy; is a bad-to-the-bone, bad guy. Give us a character that we'll relish hating — yet still want to take to lunch — and you'll have captured our attention. You know what that means? Grand Prize Winning Screenplay, written by you!


You've got your protagonist nailed, and you've written a solid villain. What about the other people in your script? Secondary Characters need First Rate Writing. Don't think you can get away with underdeveloped supporting characters!


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 in Spring 2010.


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The Business of Show Institute Recommends:

After mentoring dozens and dozens of successful screenwriters over the past 15 years, I can honestly say that you're probably just 1 good contact away from achieving the screenwriting success you desire.

Just one good contact who can introduce you to the right network of people, and finally help you penetrate the infamous Hollywood "Insider's Club"... even if you don't live in Los Angeles!

And if you let me, I'd like to be that contact for you.

HERE'S what this is all about...


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