Home The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter, August 5 2011
The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter, August 5 2011
The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter - The Business of Show Institute
I'm sure you're well aware that screenwriting, like life, doesn't always go your way.
Sometimes it just feels like you're butting your head against a wall over and over and over again!
I'm bringing this up because right now we're experiencing some growing pains on the set of "Chez Upshaw."
Of course everything will be fine in the end, but sometimes show business can be downright frustrating!
But every time I get aggravated or a little out of sorts, I always think of something screenwriter Mick Garris (writer of "Batteries Not Included," "The Fly II," and "Riding The Bullet") once said:
"Our complaints mean NOTHING to the complaints of people who, you know, are pipe-fitters for a job. Or, you know, working on ships, or fighting overseas in the military. You know, those guys have something to complain about.
"And to bitch about somebody making them make a change to their script, and having that give them ulcers and sleepless nights — it's just not worth it."
And suddenly, I realize things aren't so bad.
As a screenwriter (like you) or a producer (like me), we are in the fortunate position of doing what we WANT with our lives!
Many, MANY people can't say the same thing about their professions.
We owe it to them, to ourselves, and to our loved ones to continue pressing forward – no matter what.
Wouldn't you agree?
And wow, just WRITING this note to you made me feel better =)
Gotta get back to the set, but I hope this has been useful to you!
And with that, here's what we've got for you in this week's action-packed 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!
The Root of All Evil?: is this week's article by yours truly. In this piece I talk about an almost taboo issue in the world of screenwriting... finances! Hopefully this article will educate you on this often misunderstood side of the business.
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.
WTF: 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.
The Greatest Myth of Hollywood... And the Idiots That Believe It: 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 writer of "Dog Day Afternoon" – Frank Pierson!
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...
Who Are You?: 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".
Movies You Should See...: is this week's article by our newest contributor, 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.
"All the things I could do
If I had a little money"
My hallucination suggests that if you're reading this you have a simple goal... make a living as a professional screenwriter.
And though many would say that discussing finances is rude, I feel strongly compelled to do just that... address the screenwriter's finances. I feel that it would be inappropriate, if not irresponsible.
Here we go. Ready?
The following is inspired by a true story (I have intentionally omitted specific names).
At the top of 2008, a screenwriter's spec script that I along with a major agency represented was introduced to an executive for a major production company. This particular entity wielded significant clout at the studio.
The executive responded favorably to the spec and requested a sit down with the writer. About a month later, the executive phoned to inform us that an idea had developed internally and they felt the aforementioned writer would be ideal to execute. They wished to discuss the idea, and a meeting was immediately set.
Following the meeting the writer was asked to draft a detailed treatment on how he would execute the idea. It should be noted this was to be done on spec.
The treatment was developed extensively with the guidance and direction of the executive. There were many drafts. Every draft was written on spec.
Four months into 2008, the executive was thoroughly satisfied with the final draft... of the treatment. At this point he committed to enthusiastically introduce the treatment and the writer's spec sample to his boss. You read that correctly. The boss had yet to read the screenwriter's sample. Not uncommon.
A few weeks later the executive rang to share the wonderful news: his boss was on board. With the boss' blessing, a meeting was scheduled to pitch the studio executives. It should be noted that the screenwriter had yet to meet the boss. And compensation had not been discussed.
About ten people were in attendance at the pitch meeting, but the boss did not attend. He simply called ahead and expressed his strong feelings for the project.
The pitch was executed in just under fifteen minutes, followed by a few questions from the most senior executive and the meeting concluded.
About an hour later, we received THE call. The writer nailed the pitch, he was hired. Finally, deal time.
I can honestly say that to use the phrase negotiations would be a distortion of the truth. The studio simply told us what they would pay. Take it or leave it. We took it.
A low six figure deal closed about three months later. If you didn't know, studios do not pay until the agreement is fully executed. For further clarity, they don't pay all at once. They pay in steps. Baby steps tied to delivery of the draft(s).
Are you following me? We're almost seven months into 2008 and the screenwriter has yet to see one red cent.
Finally, after badgering accounting at the studio, the first check arrives. Without revealing the exact number of the total deal, for simplicity let's take a nice round number. Let's use $100,000 as the figure to represent full payment and do a brief breakdown.
The studios pay a percentage upon signature of the agreement and a percentage at commencement of the draft. Other steps follow.
Payment on delivery of first draft, commencement of draft two, delivery of draft two, and in some cases a polish may be included.
Traditionally, payment tiers range between fifteen to twenty percent. For simplicity, let's assume the studio used its might and would not budge off of fifteen percent to trigger the first series of payments. Keep in mind, he who can walk from the deal has... the power.
Therefore for this brief example, a check totaling $30,000 for execution of agreement and commencement of script would be delivered by the studio.
Be aware that agents (10%), managers (10%), and attorney's (5%) commission on the gross, not the net. Uncle Sam does too!
Exhibit A: A basic breakdown of just the first and second installment.
15% for signature
15% for commencement
Less Uncle Sam *Approx
Less Agent (10%)
Less Manager (10%)
Less Attorney (5%)
There you have it. Almost eleven months later, the screenwriter celebrates with a cool $15K for 2008. Oh yes, one more payroll payment to make. It will be the newest member of your team... the WGA. You MUST become a guild member upon entering your first deal (spec or work for hire) with a signatory company. All studios are signatory. Yay!
As you can see a six figure deal isn't quite a six figure pay day. And payment itself can be delayed for some time.
As sample evidence, 2010 is three weeks away and the aforementioned screenwriter is still owed approximately twenty percent of his total compensation.
There are a few lessons one can glean from this:
Don't quit your day job after your first sale or gig! It'll be tempting, but don't. Not immediately.
Schedule time to write NOW. You must MASTER the discipline of scheduling time to write while you have a day job and... a life. And more importantly, before your first sale or writer for hire gig. I promise you it will come in handy.
Reward yourself, but don't go nuts. A screenwriter I know treated himself to an ergonomic executive chair for his writing station. He'd been eyeing it for years.
Save the rest. You never know when you'll be hired again or when you will sell a script again.
In summary, the screenwriter is no different then the entrepreneur who's enthusiastic about and committed to building their business.
Listen: It takes time, patience, discipline, and strategy to build a business that generates revenue AND, more importantly, produces profits.
Hear me: My intention was to illuminate an area in screenwriting that is rarely discussed, if ever. It's not to frighten you, but to inform you... to empower you with knowledge.
Because as James Madison, Father of the Constitution, so eloquently stated:
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
Some days are better than others. Some days, writing for weeks on end causes a kind of exhaustion and cabin fever that leaves a writer's nerves shredded and their focus spent. Sometimes you kill yourself to finish something then look up from the maelstrom and wonder... now WTF? And WTF is all of this for? And WTF am I doing with my life? And wasn't that scene in Sideways pure genius? Where middle-aged writer, Miles (Paul Giamatti), careens over the edge after yet another disappointing call from his agent, and chugs down a full vat of wine spit.
Some days, you consider all of that, you look at yet another spec script you've written and you think: Gee... if it's true that I sell my copyright when selling a spec script, and if it's true that selling my copyright to a company means they can take this thing and basically vomit all over it, shred the structure, gut the dialogue and change the lead character, a short, blind, Malaysian female — into a tall, white guy with X-ray vision who's always tearing his shirt off and rubbing himself in oil... then....
...why did I just kill myself to write it in the first place?!?
Not to mention... that's if anyone even buys it.
Why don't I create a different sort of intellectual property? Something that precedes the spec? Something like Xombie, which, as many of us know from recent trades, is a property that began as an online comic by James Farr — which he turned into a comic book — which was then pitched to Dreamworks by LAPD homicide detective-turned-screenwriter, Will Beall (with none other than Kurtzman/Orci in talks to produce).
Or something like Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book, which not only nabbed Gaiman the Newberry Medal — but which, he also turned into an audio book (named Audiobook of the year by the Audio Publishers Association) -— and which, is already being developed for the screen by writer/director, Neil Jordan (Interview With a Vampire, The Brave One...).
Some days you look at your sore wrists, your aching back, your days and months and years of sacrifice to produce a thing of beauty... and you think: I want to own this sh%^&*()_t. I want power and creative control over some m%^&*(ther f%^&*()_cking part of this. I'm not just gonna bend over and take it like a sheep! And if I'm not aiming to be a showrunner, for god's sake, I'm aiming to exercise my strongest ability — and to write my idea in a different medium first.
Some days... I think about a friend of mine. A friend, who spent two years crafting a teen comedy. A teen comedy — which went out wide — and didn't sell. A no-sale, which, in effect, gave the finger to his two years of blood and sweat. It was all over in 48 hours. Where's that script now? Shredded. Trash-foldered. Shoved into my friend's "old spec" pile. And where are his two years now? The two years he holed up like a hobbit and didn't date, didn't celebrate, didn't exercise enough. The two years he lost.
Which wouldn't be a tragedy... if his teen comedy was out in the world somewhere. Alive. As a web series... an online comic... a book. As something produced somewhere.
Yes, big money and your name in the trades and your story on the screen... that's all lovely. But not if it's so different from the story you wrote that you're now embarrassed to say you wrote it. And not if that never happens anyways because no one "got it" ... the way that you "get it." And not if you give up years of your life — years you can't get back - for nothing.
Because one of the greatest things about writing... is that it can be done anywhere, at anytime. And all the time. Which means... there is always time... to build your power. To create your thing of beauty — in many forms. To stamp your name on it and to say - this is what I meant.
There are examples of it everywhere you look. Aside from the two I just mentioned, check out the story behind author, William Young's controversial book, The Shack. Rejected by over 26 publishers, the author and his friends edited and printed the book themselves, spread the word through podcasts and turned The Shack into a surprise best seller, with over seven million copies printed in English so far.
It's not impossible. Writers aren't monkeys, built to churn out stories just so that they can be destroyed. Writers are creators. Who have power. To catch dreams and put them onto paper. To put that paper out into the world. In many forms.
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.
Gordon: I read your BOSI column weekly and had a question of my own I thought you may be able to answer. I was wondering what the protocol was for using a title for my screenplay that, after checking on IMDB the title, has already been used on a produced motion picture. If i used the title would I have to pay a fee to the owner's of the previous production? In the past I've seen movies use an old title but I have no idea if compensation was required to do so.
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.
The Greatest Myth of Hollywood...
And the Idiots That Believe It
by Daniel Manus
Welcome to Los Angeles - land of the rich and famous – where we all live fantastic lives dining with millionaires on the finest sushi in the world and snorting coke off the asses of Brazilian supermodels while our butlers and drivers wait outside in our Bentley convertibles and everyone gets their own reality show and three-picture deal and we all have Spielberg and Bruckheimer on speed dial.
Welcome to the biggest load of shit myth ever invented. And what's more astonishing than the myth itself, is how many truly fucking stupid people out there believe it and judge us for it. Like if we DON'T live this life, we aren't successful.
Yes there are people who live like that. But I can't tell you how many people who live outside of Los Angeles literally believe that everyone here who is in the business, is rich and powerful. And more so than that, believe that ONLY the rich and powerful are adept at giving them career advice, notes or help.
Last year at a pitchfest, a woman came up to me after one of my classes, gave me a sob story and asked me for help. Not being a totally heartless prick, I gave her my card and told her to email me. After a number of increasingly infuriating emails, she wrote that she found out that I (and a number of other consultants and executives at the pitchfest) don't even live in mansions and don't drive luxury cars, so how much help could we actually give her and why would she take advice from us?
And then just the other week, I got an unsolicited email that made me so angry at the sheer stupidity and gall of the writer, that I'm going to post the email here....ready? I am reprinting this verbatim – typos and all!
"Most of the Judges in script contests got zero clue about film-making. Why are they judging screenplays. They are not super rich or well connected in Hollywood or understand the costly business of film-making, so why should we listen to them? When I google them, they are not famous or rich or power brokers like Jerry Briekheimer or Michael Bay or George Lucas or Zack Synder... Why are you using low-key Readers to judge amateur scripts in your contests? If you ask a top producer or director to read one your winning script from your contest(s), they would probably use the script as toilet paper. Really, they have said that behind closed door. I refuse to buy false dreams."
This writer's name is Bill. I truly debated about whether or not I should give his full name because I'm so tired of stupid fucking people writing shit like this and we should weed people out like this immediately...but I won't give his last name here (I did on my Facebook and Twitter though!).
But he made me realize that some people outside of Hollywood think that only the rich and powerful are worthy of reading their scripts, that only the biggest names in Hollywood could possibly help them and be worth seeking out. Anyone who thinks this – please – do as I told both of the above-mentioned writers – and get the fuck out! Turn around, go back to whatever US Magazine-ridden-dumb-fuck-cave you crawled out of and stop trying to be a screenwriter – because it's never EVER going to happen.
Saying that you won't enter a contest because the people judging aren't power-brokers and therefore can't help you is like me saying, "Well, you're not rich or famous so how could you be a good screenwriter? Good writers are rich and famous." It's INSANE!
Here's the skinny on Los Angeles for those of you who don't know...
- Many producers, managers, consultants and writers (even big name ones) work out of their HOMES. They traded their big offices for low overhead.
- A PA or entry level assistant at an agency or production company makes an average of $500/week.
- A nice ONE-bedroom, ONE-bath apartment in a nice neighborhood in Los Angeles rents for $1200-1500 a month ($1300-1700 if really close to the beach). We are probably the fourth most expensive city in the country to live in.
- A two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath house in COMPTON goes for $250,000!
- An AVERAGE 2 or 3 bedroom house in an AVERAGE neighborhood – goes for $400,000.
- Parking to go out for a night on Sunset Blvd costs $25. Two drinks – another $25. Dinner with friends when you're NOT splurging or celebrating something special - $40/each. The parking ticket you get for parking illegally because you didn't want to pay $25 – will cost you $60!
- And a fucking Grande Frappachino at Starbucks is $4.85.
And what do we get as a payoff for being forced to live like this? Well, we can drive 10 minutes in most directions and be on a beach, we can smoke weed on the street without worrying about being arrested, and we get to see celebrities walking around and sitting at our local restaurants and movie theaters. Worth it? Your call.
So yes, many of us live in one or two bedroom apartments. If we all lived in some rural shack town in the Midwest, yes, we could probably afford a pretty nice place. But in LA, we're just scraping by like the rest of you! And many of us went to good film schools which means we owe Sallie Mae a fuck-load of money every month.
Personally, I live in a one-bedroom apartment with a view of an angry cat next door who likes to MEOW at me through the window like I just stole his mouse wife – but it doesn't mean I can't help you, your script, and your career.
Everyone thinks it's Los Angeles that's superficial – and in some ways it is – but we don't measure someone's ability to help by what kind of house or car they have. And as soon as you forget about the MYTH of Hollywood and buy into the reality, the sooner you will be able to become one of us. And the only way to do that... is to live here and experience it yourself.
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.
Frank Pierson – Academy Award winning writer of "Dog Day Afternoon" - on his best business advice for screenwriters:
"At each level you reach, you have to tear up what you have done before, which cost an enormous amount of psychological and emotional energy. That makes the process of screenwriting very, very difficult. And I don't know any screenplay that I have ever worked on where I did not go through ten to twelve or sometimes sixteen drafts before I showed it to anybody."
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:
CEO, National Geographic Channels
Senior Vice President, Partnership Marketing and Promotions, Twentieth Century Fox
Executive Vice President of Acquisitions, FilmDistrict
Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, NBCUniversal
President of Marketing, Universal Pictures
Senior Vice President, Sales Planning, U.S. Distribution, Sony Television
Senior Vice President of Scheduling and Acquisitions, Lifetime Networks
Senior Vice President of Development and Production, Cross Creek Pictures
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, The Walt Disney Company
Executive Vice President, Universal Media Studios
Head of Comedy Department, Innovative Artists Agency
Chief Marketing Officer, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
This may sound like a philosophical topic for a college exam, but it's a question that people don't ask of themselves often enough. In any facet of life, who you are can be as important as your skill set.
In Hollywood, who you are can make or break your career. It's not about pretending you are someone else; it's about projecting your genuine personality. As a writer, you aren't in the public eye as much as an actor or director. An actor may be on a talk show promoting their next movie, while a director may speak about the technical challenges of their latest feature in a magazine article. But who really knows anything about the personality of a writer, and would most people recognize an established writer if they walked by them on the sidewalk?
Writers exist in the shadows; they are the literary architects that are the foundation for TV shows and Motion Pictures. As you are establishing your identity in Hollywood, think about how you want people to perceive you, because that perception becomes reality.
Here are Three Aspects of your life that clearly delineate who you are as a person. Make them work for you so that people in a position of power accurately understand who you are.
1. Face to Face Interactions.
Establishing oneself as a writer in Hollywood is full of pitfalls and distractions. One way to make the journey from directionless struggle to limitless success is to define who you are. This guides your interactions with other people as you build successful relationships.
If you are a writer, what have your written? A person who has a one minute YouTube clip of a scene that they wrote is more of a writer than a person who has dozens of ideas on sticky notes, but not a single finished screenplay.
In other words, be able to back up what you say. It's better to downplay your accomplishments than to establish yourself as a big-shot without the track record. It's hard to impress people in the film and TV industry, so don't overdo it. Just as nobody likes a name dropper, people dislike others who misrepresent their accomplishments.
People want to get to know and like you as a person. The entertainment industry is about relationships, just like any other industry.
2. Social Networking
Be selective when establishing your voice on social networking sites.
Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and many other sites allow all of us to keep in touch with others via updates, photos and videos. This creates an online persona of who we are. Many times this online presentation can give a skewed perception of who you are in real life.
For example, on Facebook there are endless groups that we can affiliate ourselves with; religious, political, environmental, hobbyist and so on. The saying that you are who you associate with rings true in the virtual world.
While we are all free to express who we are online (and in real life) what you post can come back to harm your budding career. Most people lump their friends, family and business contacts together under one account.
Suppose you post something that could be very inflammatory regarding your religious or political beliefs? You could risk upsetting a potential business partner. Just because somebody is a "friend" on Facebook, doesn't necessarily mean they share you views.
Here's a scenario: You are going into a pitch meeting at a major studio, or meeting an industry person while attending a screening of a new movie. Instead of entering a conversation — with back and forth exchanges — you immediately begin talking about your political beliefs. Despite your best intentions, the meet-and-greet would probably end poorly.
Your message will have the same impact on networking sites as it does in a face-to-face situation.
The solution is easy; have two accounts. One for your friends, and one for your business partners. Post appropriate material on each account. It might not be the best decision for you to post pictures of a wild Las Vegas weekend on your business account when you're trying to raise capital for your next feature film! Even if you delete it later, the internet never forgets. Information has a way of popping up when you least expect it.
While social networking sites cover a large number of people with up-to-the-minute information, email offers more personal interaction. When someone gives you a business card with their email address on it, it's not an invitation to send them chain emails. Yes, it's happened to me.
First of all, you may be revealing that person's email address to other people on your blast list. Ever get those junk emails where your name is among hundreds of other addresses? Do you think all those people are OK with their addresses being made public? Second, it's an invasion of their privacy because it jams their inbox with information they may not have an interest in. When in doubt, don't send the email.
Make sure the emails are on target. Sending out an invitation to a movie screening, opening night of a play or a wrap party all play to recipient's vested interests. Don't bother them with pictures of cute puppies in Star Wars costumes or recipes for your grandma's fantastic apple pie recipe or anything soliciting money; even if it's for a noble charitable cause.
By understanding who you are as a professional, you will be able to respect people's time. Never put the people you want to do business with in an awkward situation. In return they will respect who you are, as a focused individual. And that is just one key to Hollywood success!
Coming up Next:
Let's get busy! Don't have time to write? I was always struggling with managing my time until I came up with the 5 Simple Steps to Managing Your Day and now I have more free time than ever before!
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.
As I have said, on numerous occasions, if you're in the business of making movies, you should probably watch one or two of them now and then.
I mean if you're going to write them, right? Might be a good idea to watch them.
There are a lot of lists out there that hail the "greatest movies of all time." If you haven't done so, I would strongly recommend watching every movie on the AFI 100. Check out the list here. Most of them are on Netflix and even a few are on Hulu. Take your time, watch a couple a week. Don't do the list like I did...in a month. I would come home from work on Friday and watch movies straight through until Sunday.
There's also book written on the subject. Books like 1,000 movies would should see before you die. That kinda crap. Nothing wrong with these kind of books, but sets a little bit of a lofty goal. Wouldn't it fucking suck if you hit 999 and then had a heart attack? That's just too much pressure!
Another list surfaced a couple of days ago. It's an unofficial list, apparently born out of twitter, thatstarted making its way around the internet. Unofficially labeled "The Spielberg Curriculum," it lists the 200 movies thatSpielberg says you need to see if you ever "dreamed of working with him." Translation, if you haven't seen these 200 movies (actually 206) then forget about it because I don't want to talk to you.
How awesome would that be if you met Spielberg and was like, "saw the list Steve...fucking PWND that shit, dude! What else ya got? Oh yeah, and Crystal Skull raped my youth, thanks for that!"
Wouldn't that be super sweet?
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you ever meet Spielberg, I strongly suggest you do NOT use the phrase above. You should also probably use "Mr." and bow before him lest ye want to end up like Megan Fox.)
One of the things mentioned in the story was that it was pretty sad that MOST people hadn't seen even 50 of the films Spielberg listed and only a handful had seen more than 50.
Probably some obscure shit, right? I mean we are talking about Steven Spielberg here...that would explain why so many people haven't seen a lot of the films, right?
We're talking about films like, 2001, Casablanca, The Godfather, Psycho and West Side Story just to name a few. (Check out the complete list here.)
Upon going through the list (bragging moment) I managed to check off 133 flicks. So that means I'm only 73 away from working with Spielberg. Nanny nanny boo boo, stick your head in doo doo.
Now, granted, these are some of the greatest movies of all time and yes, you should see them. All of them. But there are some films that don't see a lot of love on these lists and I started thinking... what films SHOULD you see if you want to be successful in Hollywood. While West Side Story holds a lot of fucking merit, it's not really going to do you any good in today's market.
That got me thinking... time for me to make my own list of flicks you probably should see, but before I do a little disclaimer: with the exception of a few flicks that I have something to say, I'm not going to repeat a lot from the lists above. So let's just agree that there are certain "gimmies" that you should have already seen.
I mean it's a no brainer that you should have seen The Wizard of Oz, right? I don't need to call out anyone on that shit? If you haven't seen the Godfather because "you don't like gangster flicks" then you're a fucktard and should be escorted down Sunset Blvd. so we can throw tomatoes at you.
Anyway, I'm not going to talk about those because I'm going to assume you've seen them. So without further ado, here are some of the flicks that I think you should see (in no particular order of importance):
Die Hard – It's fun and it's simple. Guy in the wrong place at the right time, takes out terrorists and saves his wife. Come on! How is that not awesome?
Lethal Weapon and Lethal Weapon 2 – Say what you will about Mel, but you can't deny that back in the day he was pretty bad ass. And let's face it, Shane Black's Lethal Weapon changed the game for good. So much so that people in the industry still say "we're looking for the next Shane Black."
Beverly Hills Cop – Before Disney castrated Eddie Murphy, he used to be funny... he also used to have some sweet flicks and Beverly Hills Cop was no exception. Sure, the sequels sucked, but the original was top notch. While you're at it, pick up 48 hours and give that a peep too. Make it a "Eddie Murphy used to be funny double feature."
Rambo: First Blood – Yeah, these movies get kind of a bad rap. Mostly because Rambo 2 and 3 became more about the action and less about the character. Go back to the first one though and really give it a look. There's so much in that movie about how we treated the Vet's after Vietnam and say what you will about Sly, I dare you to say he's a shitty actor. Between the first Rambo and the first Rocky? Come on... give up the props!
Predator – Most of Arnold's action flicks in the 80's were full of cheese and senseless violence... I'll give you that...but you can't deny that Predator is a fucking good movie. I'll even go as far as saying that Predator is Arnie's best flick. An yes, I'm saying better than T2 (sorry, but Eddie Furlong just doesn't hold up and gets even more annoying 20 years later.) Watch Predator and pay attention to the introduction of the characters. Watch how the story unfolds. It's quality people so get over the "cheese factor."
Speaking of Aliens...
Alien – another movie that is just so fucking simple. Really, watch that flick again. Distress signal, find an alien life form, dinner, blah, run for our lives (but run where, it's fucking space!) and blow up ship...credits. Some argue that Cameron's action fueled Aliens is a better flick, and while it's sometimes more fun to watch, Alien wins hands down.
The Matrix – Here's the thing about the Matrix. You can't think too hard about it. There are more fucking holes in this script then I care to mention. The "rules" of the Matrix tend to bend when they need it too. Put that aside and look at the spine of that script. Normal guy. Sucked into a world. Told he's Jesus. Fights the hero's call. Accepts the hero's call. Decides to be Jesus and kick some ass. Genius. More importantly, simple.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl – I wanted to mention this flick for one reason...it's fun. This really what movies should be about. Just having a good time and escaping your shitty lives for two and a half hours. The first Pirates delivers it on every level. Great action.Great acting.Thrilling chases.Funny moments.
Yeah, yeah, lots of testosterone above...so this is for the ladies...
When Harry Met Sally – When Harry Met Sally is by far, hands down, the best romantic comedy of all time. So much so that plenty of films have tried to emulate WHMS without ever catching the spark that WHMS had. The cast, the writing... there's not a moment of that film that's hard to watch. They got it right.
Love Actually – This tends to be a “"ove it" or "hate it" flick, but I have to say it's a VERY close second to WHMS. It's genuinely a feel good flick and the cast is absolutely amazing. It does get SLIGHTLY cheesy at times, but it definitely warms the heart. So much so that it's even a Christmas movie without ever FEELING like a Christmas movie. (Speaking of which... Die Hard...also a Christmas movie)
So there's a few movies that you really should see and the ones I wanted to comment on. Here, without any commentary, is the rest of my list...
Rules of the Game
Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Bridge on the River Kwai
Do the Right Thing
The 25th Hour
Lord of the Rings Trilogy (yes, all three)
Run Lola Run
Evil Dead II (it's a better version of Evil Dead)
The Hidden Fortress
Throne of Blood
South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut
Oceans 11 (the Clooney one)
The Man with No Name Trilogy
28 Days Later
Clerks & Clerks II
Paranormal Activity 1&2
Dawn of the Dead (the new one)
Shaun of the Dead
Living in Oblivion
The Bourne Trilogy
The Hurt Locker
This is Spinal Tap
Insomnia (the original)
The Third Man
My Man Godfrey
The Bad and the Beautiful
The Naked City
The Lost Weekend
The Moon is Blue
Y Tu Mama Tambien
Pierrot Le Fou
The Great Dictator
There you go peeps. Homework. You'll be a much better storyteller, movie buff and overall a better person for having seen these flicks. More importantly, you can sound like you know what you're talking about at dinner parties.
Obviously, I'm going to have forgotten movies. Miss any of your favorites? Email me and let me know. I know in about a day, I'm going to kick myself in the ass and slap my forehead and say... "I can't believe I forgot..."
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.