Home The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter, August 12 2011
The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter, August 12 2011
The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter - The Business of Show Institute
Short and sweet note for you today =)
A little while ago I conducted a video interview with a very successful screenwriter.
Ligiah Villalobos is the writer and executive producer of one of the highest grossing crossover films in the U.S. "La Misma Luna" ("Under the Same Moon").
She is also currently in development on the screenplay for the feature film "Diego Ascending" with Salma Hayek.
And if that wasn't enough, she was also a T.V. writer for shows like Nickelodeon's "Go Diego Go" and NBC's "Ed."
But as you'll see in this video interview, many of her unique insights on becoming a successful screenwriter are the result of her background as a successful television and feature film executive!
In short, this is a "can't-miss" video interview for any ambitious screenwriter.
Fortunately, the Ligiah Villalobos video is free to you – in exchange for a small favor.
You may have seen us trying to get the word out about our free video which reveals the #1 secret to getting your screenplay read by top Hollywood Professionals... even if you don't live in Los Angeles!
We'd like you to help us spread the word by telling your screenwriter friends about this amazing free video! (sharing is EASY and the details are below)
And in return I'll give you instant access to the Ligiah Villalobos video interview!
So if you're interested, then click on the link below:
NOTE - The Ligiah Villalobos video interview comes down on Monday, August 15th at midnight PST. So take advantage of this opportunity while it's still available!
And it will – without a doubt – aid you on your journey to screenwriting success!
And speaking of success, 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!
Is This The Best You Can Do?: This week's article - by yours truly - is focused on getting you clear with your screenwriting goals. I mean crystal clear. Because you can't hit an invisible target! My hope is that this article will help you crystallize your dreams of becoming successful in Hollywood.
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.
Pigeons... Fly: 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.
Get Off Your Soapbox and Tell Me a Story! The Difference Between Screenwriting, Blogging and Therapy: 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? Late, great screenwriting mentor and author of "Save the Cat" – Blake Snyder!
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...
5 Simple Steps to Managing Your Day: 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 2: Electric Boogaloo: 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.
It is said that former US secretary of state and Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger reviewed the work of his new speech writers in the evening. The following morning he would gather his new staff and utter one simple comment "Is this the best you can do?" The apologetic staff passionately argued they could do better. It is suggested that for three consecutive mornings the assignment elicited the same response. Finally, on the fourth morning the staff responded with a resounding, "Yes. It is the best we can do!" Mr. Kissinger simply replied "good, now I'll read it".
Before you seek out representation make sure your work is ready. More importantly, make sure YOU are ready!
Take the next few moments and review the following questions. This is not a test, there is no wrong answer. But, answer truthfully.
My hope is that these questions help you define a clear vision.
Why do you want to be a screenwriter?
Is this your dream or someone else's dream?
Is this still your current dream or are you pursuing the dream of an old you?
What about screenwriting do you enjoy most?
What is your definition of a successful screenwriter? Be as clear as possible. In essence, how will you know when you are successful? Be clear.
Would you enjoy rewriting other people's work?
How will you feel if others rewrite your work?
How much money do you want to earn each year?
How will you feel if you earn a good living, but your material never gets made into a film?
Most people require stability and job security. Writing is a fulltime freelance career. Are you disciplined enough to manage your own schedule?
How much time are you devoting to writing each week? I often feel that you must treat writing like a part-time job until it becomes a full-time job, can you commit 20 hours a week minimum to writing?
As a business owner, I am accountable only to myself. While I am extremely disciplined, ambitious, and motivated, being accountable to nobody, but myself makes it easy to be distracted. The power of accountability to others has allowed me to move mountains and create the life I now live. Is there someone you trust and respect that will support you and encourage you when tough times occur? If not, find someone. If so, share your goals with them.
Have you set daily, weekly, and yearly writing goals? If not, create them.
Are you clear as to your strengths as a writer? How do you know? How did you develop this strength?
Are you clear as to your weakness? How do you know? What are you doing to develop this area?
Which screenwriters inspire you? Have you actually read their material or simply viewed the finished product?
What type of stories do you want to tell? Why should people care? In essence, what is the necessity of reading your stories? What are you doing that's different?
How many years are you prepared to devote to building this career? Is there an end date?
Which producers do you wish to work with? Do you know anything about them other than their movies?
Which directors do you want to work with? How about actors?
Is there a writing group in your town you can join? Have you considered creating a writing group?
What will you buy with your first check from screenwriting?
How will it feel to see your film screened in a theatre in your hometown?
How will it feel to win your first award? What would you say?
Do you want to adapt novels? If so, is there a novel that you can adapt now?
The list of questions can go on forever, and they should. The clearer you become as to your career as a screenwriter the more enjoyable the journey will be.
I sometimes ask myself: If I could write — only one type of story — for the rest of my life — what genre would it be?
And my answer is always the same: Fantasy.
Or, to expand: Fantasy adventure. Family Fantasy. Magic Realism. Dark Fantasy. (And by this, I do NOT mean AVN-style fantasy. I leave that to one of you.)
That is not to say I'm only interested in writing fantasy, but rather — considering the stiff competition to "make it" up the writers' mountain, if I were to experience the creatively-annoying-but-commercially-useful position of being pigeonholed, then I would rather be pigeonholed as a fantasy writer. Because, if need be, I could write fantasy every day of my life and be fine with that.
Truth be told, I'd be more than fine with that, as I love fantasy. And I'm thankful for this love, because it helps me to constantly zero in on my very specific, very peculiar road.
Of course, as writers, we are not blessed with the wide-open stretches of oft-traveled highways that other professionals have. Our trails twist through mountainous patches overgrown with weeds, poison ivy and gnarled tree branches thick enough to choke out the sun. But this way — is the way we've chosen. And it's nice to know that if we can at least identify, within ourselves, which sort of trail most attracts us... then we can always center ourselves, our efforts, our doubts, our fears... by remembering the fact that others have, indeed, preceded us on the journey. And we can, thankfully, take great notes from them.
Moreover — for screenwriters — not only is the path treacherous, lonely, sometimes painful and desolate... but it is also blocked by "threshold guardians," as Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler would call them.
According to Vogler, "Threshold Guardians are usually not the main villains or antagonists in stories. Often they will be lieutenants of the villain, lesser thugs or mercenaries hired to guard access to the chief's headquarters. They may also be neutral figures who are simply part of the landscape of the Special World. In rare cases they may be secret helpers placed in the hero's path to test her willingness and skill" (p.49 The Writers Journey).
In other words: agents, managers, executives, audiences, critics. Or rather — people who like to know what they're getting. People who like to sell something familiar. People who are used to brands.
Many of us know we are in a world of artificially-enhanced and rampant fear, declining profits, transforming entertainment platforms, piracy, and global financial crises. And many of us know that in this world, the willingness to open a door for an untested writer — ie: an unknown element who may or may not deliver — is shrinking. Even the tried-and-true writers may be peered at with an unforgiving eye.
What does the human animal do in times like these? Search for safety. For something reliable. Something branded — or, as some would call it — pigeonholed.
Yes, it's true — throughout history, pigeons, rats and cockroaches have gotten a bad rap. But times are changing, and places like the Discovery Channel and Pixar have recently sung the praises of these disease-infested yet strangely-heroic species. Discovery, for example, recently dubbed cockroaches "the ultimate survivors." And on a grander scale, Pixar dedicated years to its hugely successful Ratatouille, which placed Remy, its sewer-dwelling hero, squarely in the limelight.
The world of pigeons — and their holes — has also been explored (see Valiant, the animated 2005 comedy set in WWII), but the poor bird still has quite a ways to go before it reaches its own PR-tipping point. However, if we just look at pigeonholing as less of a rut, and more of a means to "classify information," then it would mean a pigeonholed writer is classified as a writer who specializes in one type of writing.
Just like Roald Dahl specialized in fantasy with books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and James and the Giant Peach, there are screenwriters who can be classified by their specialties. One example of this is a very talented writer I've paid much attention to, named Caroline Thompson. Ms. Thompson has the enormous talent and the great fortune, to have worked on scripts including Edward Scissorhands, The Addams Family, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, and City of Ember. If that isn't a list of films, which can be classified as one specific genre, then I'm not sure what is.
Now, I don't know Ms. Thompson personally, but I can list her as a writer I greatly admire. And while she might take offense to an article wherein she is compared to the humble pigeon, I can only hope that the heroic analogy is clear..
After all, pigeons — especially the esteemed homing pigeon — come from a long line of survivors and legends. Going back as far as 3000 years, they've carried important messages to people, often in times of war, and sometimes at the cost of their very own lives. A special few — have been awards medals of honor.
And if I, as a writer, am ever compared to a heroic bird, which has been branded as a creature that carries important messages to people — ie: audiences — alone, across great distances, despite peril and fear... then I would gladly accept.
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.
Guy wants to know If there is a book or books where the author/s are no longer alive or exists and the publisher no longer holds a copyright/patent and/or is defunct -- what are my legal or ethical obligations regarding any living relatives (if any) to the original author/s...? For the record; he has tried to locate the original author, who is now deceased - and, could not locate anyone living and/or related to the author -- but that was before Ancestry.com, etc ...
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.
Get Off Your Soapbox and Tell Me a Story! The Difference Between Screenwriting, Blogging and Therapy
by Daniel Manus
Do you have an issue or cause you feel really strongly about? Do you have a political, religious, social, ethnic, or racial group or corporation you wish to discuss or denounce? Great. Write a blog.
Some say that one's eyes are the windows to the soul. I say it's the not your eyes – it's your scripts! Except executives don't care what your soul is like – they just want your script to be something they can sell. Everyone always says "write what you know" and "write what you feel," but all too often writers take that too literally and end up writing a personal, preachy, blog-like script instead of writing a commercial project with relatable characters.
"Writing what you know" means you should be influenced by what you have gone through in life. Take some of the most incredible or relatable or expandable or exciting moments in your life and bring that to a different story. Or bring some of those wacky or special characters you've come across on to the page. It doesn't mean that if you hate something, you should write a script about a guy who hates that same thing.
When your dialogue is overly preachy, that usually means your story is taking a back seat and you don't know how to separate yourself from your script. Screenwriting is not the medium for soapbox writing.
There is a big difference between inserting your voice as a writer and inserting your personal beliefs, opinions, biases, political or social values, or whatever is going on in your own life that day. I can tell a lot about a writer by his or her dialogue. Yes, it's your "characters" who are speaking, but a good executive can tell when it's more than just a character’s way of thinking. Letting your personal feelings seep through your characters' dialogue is natural, but you need to make sure you keep your personal agenda out of the story and that your dialogue doesn't become too preachy... and it is a thin line.
Perhaps you might be wondering what the harm is?
This is Hollywood, a very liberal town in general, but when a script is written that is INCREDIBLY left or INCREDIBLY right, or discusses a really taboo or touchy "in the headlines" subject, studios aren't interested because they don't want to piss off their audience. So you may have a great anti-Bush political thriller about Hurricane Katrina, but no one is ever going to make it. And all you've done by submitting it, is tell people you hate republicans.
I had a writer recently who wrote a script where the lead male character was REALLY against gay marriage. Now, this is obviously a touchy subject in Hollywood to begin with, but I began to wonder if he used this character trait because it was important to the story or if the writer just didn't like homosexuals and that was his little way of inserting his personal beliefs. So, I asked him. And his response (and I quote), was that he "didn't have any problem with the disease of homosexuality." That told me enough. I knew what that script was – a rant against something he didn't like cloaked under the veil of a script.
I get a lot of war veteran writers who, after seeing atrocities my city-boy ass could only imagine, write their true war story. But very, very few take an unbiased look at the war they are writing about – it's almost always a 'we're right, fuck them' type of story. And that's not the point of a screenplay – that's what books and blogs are for.
And sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between "genuine dialogue" and just using derogatory names. In Vietnam, Japanese people were called Japs. So if you DIDN'T use that term in your Vietnam War story, your dialogue would not sound genuine. Just like if you're writing an urban thriller, you're probably going to be using the N-word a lot. So where do you draw the line? When it's not something your character has to say.
I can't tell you how many scripts I have read where the writer's own racist tendencies became supremely obvious. Where the writer didn't like blacks or immigrants or gays or Jews, so the "characters" spew out a page long diatribe about them. I even had a pitch once that was pro-Nazi. That's right, pro-Nazi. After hearing this pitch and closing my mouth (which must have been doing an impersonation of a hungry pelican), I looked the writer right in the eye, pointed at myself and said... "Jew."
I have also been pitched by (and read scripts written by) more than a few pedophiles. You can just tell. Creepy people give off creepy vibes. And I was pitched by a guy who felt creepy to me and before he ever pitched his story, I made myself a bet that the story would involve kiddie porn. And well, I won that bet. It was ptobably this writer's way of expressing his demons therapeutically and "writing what he knows" in a creative way and he probably thought no one would ever suspect the reason.
Trust me, we know.
Now, much more common than the racist or pedophilic scripts, are those that are incredibly anti-women or anti-men. I read more scripts written by jilted, bitter, middle-aged divorcee women than I can count and every single one is basically the same. A husband is cheating, a husband or boyfriend is lying, men are pigs, women are not appreciated, all men want is sex, men need to change, etc. Sound familiar ladies?
Or on the flipside, I get plenty of scripts written by men who have been screwed over by women or had to pay dearly in their divorce and therefore all women are manipulative lying bitches or sluts who just sit around the house all day watching Oprah trying to force their men to change, and are just out for money and men should never get married, they should just sleep with as many hot young girls as they can. Sound familiar, gentlemen?
What's the problem with writing a man-hating or woman-hating script? Well, half the execs who might read your script - are men. And the other half (in case you couldn't guess), are women. So you have a 50% shot at offending and pissing off the person reading your script because instead of being influenced by what happened to you, you drowned your script in preachy one-sided dialogue that should have been saved for your therapist's office.
The best male/female stories are those written where the audience can understand or sympathize with (in some way) both sides of the story. Sometimes I wish I could introduce my man-hating female client to my woman-scorned male client and watch what happens – or force them to write a script together –because THAT might make for a better script. If you're pissed at someone of the opposite sex (or the same sex) for screwing you over or cheating on you... well... join the club. It's called the Human Race. We have jackets. So what makes you think your story is more interesting or cinematic than the billion other break up stories out there?
Now, battle of the sexes scripts can work – and they can work great. From "War of the Roses" to "First Wives Club" to "The Break Up," this is a genre that can be full of fire and passion, conflict and heartbreak, and wonderful characters in relatable situations. But, you need to have an original HOOK to the script that sets it apart from everyone else's break up story. And it can't be a one-sided preachy tirade against one sex.
Writing can be wonderful therapy – I highly recommend it. When I'm having a bad day and want to rant against the world or whatever (or whomever) is pissing me off in that moment, I often take a pad and pencil and write a stream of consciousness diatribe about whatever flows through my brain – it gets it all out on to paper and out of my head and then I can read it over and see how ridiculous some of it is. And then I either hide that paper in a file no one will ever find or I tear it up into bits. I DON'T turn it into a screenplay and try to submit it to producers. And neither should you.
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.
Blake Snyder – late, great screenwriting mentor and author of "Save the Cat" - on his best business advice for screenwriters:
"We have already heard every story ever told. Like little kids who ask for the same tale over and over again, told in exactly the same way, we too respond to hidden patterns. The elements that vibrate in us like a running fork — the stories that truly resonate — are based on patterns deep in our DNA.
What we're looking for as writers, and even as listeners, is an 'internal balance,' a story that satisfies some pre–thinking part of our soul. And connecting to the stories we've told forever is key to figuring it out.
I, and my friends, call it 'breaking the story.' But really it's about finding it.
I personally love working out a story. And I love knowing that I am part of a long tradition of writers who have wrestled with the very same problems. I'm glad I know 'making it fresh' has always been the job. But it really comes down to: Does the story work? And if not, what can I do to make it work?"
As we hoped, July ended up extending the streak of strong monthly spec sales numbers that started in February this year. The month's six sales match April's and May's numbers, blowing away July 2010's tally and even besting July 2009, as you can see from the below grid.
Speaking of streaks, here are three more worth highlighting:
- Warner Bros. continued its buying spree, picking up three specs in July, the most in a single month since it bought four in September 2010. The studio has bought nine specs so far this year, for a total of 16 in the past 12 months.Columbia remains strong in second place with 7 spec buys, well ahead of third place Paramount.
- CAA's five spec sales in the past two months (3 in June, 2 in July) jumped the agency into a tie for first place with UTA and WME, with 9 sales each.
- Selling one spec per month for two months may not exactly be a streak, but lit managers Josh Adler and Mike Goldberg are in fine form since joining New Wave at the end of May. If you include the projects they set up earlier this year at ROAR, they're second only to Benderspink in spec sales in 2011.
Here are July's numbers:
1 Comedy 1 Drama 2 Horror 1 Sci-Fi 1 Thriller
1 Action/Adventure 1 Sci-Fi
1 Action/Adventure 1 Comedy 2 Thriller
1 This number is a tally of every script that sold in June. 2 Only counts scripts that came out and sold in the month. In July 2010, 2 scripts sold from previous months.
Weekly Activity Breakdown
Week of July 4 (Independence Day):
1 script hit the tracking boards but hasn't sold
Week of July 11:
5 scripts hit the boards, none of which sold
1 additional sale was reported ("Haunted")
Week of July 18:
7 scripts hit the boards, none of which sold
3 additional sales were reported ("A Thousand Words or Less," "Hellfest" and "Second Sun")
Week of July 25:
1 script hit the tracking boards and hasn't yet sold
2 additional sales were reported ("Rockabye Baby" and "The Outsider")
Spec Sales (alphabetical by title)
A Thousand Words or Less Writer: Bert Royal
Reps:Paradigm (Trevor Astbury and Valarie Phillips) and R.E.D. Entertainment (Dana Jackson)
Buyer:Fox Searchlight Genre: Comedy
Attachments: Royal is attached to direct. Michelle Manning will produce through her MM Productions along with R.E.D.'s Jackson.
Haunted Writers: Eric Kripke
Reps:WME (Jason Spitz) and Principato-Young Buyer:Warner Bros. Genre: Horror
Attachments: Greg Berlanti and Kevin McCormick will produce through their respective Berlanti Productions and Langley Park Pictures banners.
Hellfest Writer: William Penick & Chris Sey
Reps:APA (David Saunders)
Buyer:CBS Films Genre: Horror
Attachments:Gale Anne Hurd will produce and Ben Roberts will executive produce through Hurd's Valhalla Entertainment.
Notes:Mark Ross and Alex Ginno will oversee for CBS Films.
The Outsider Writer: Andrew Baldwin
Reps:CAA (Jay Baker)
Buyer:Warner Bros. Genre: Thriller
Attachments:Linson Entertainment's Art and John Linson will produce.
Notes:Sarah Schechter and Chris Gary will oversee for Warner Bros.
Rockabye Baby Writer: Christopher Baldi
Reps:CAA (Bill Zotti) and New Wave (Josh Adler, Mike Goldberg)
Buyer:Paramount and The Montecito Picture Company Genre: Drama (Dramedy)
Attachments: Montecito's Tom Pollock, Joe Medjuck, and Ivan Reitman are attached to produce.
Second Sun Writer: Justin Rhodes
Reps:ICM and Kevin Donahue Literary Management (Kevin Donahue)
Buyer:Warner Bros. Genre: Sci-Fi/Adventure
Attachments:Scott Aversano will produce through his Aversano Films.
Notes: Chris Gary and Sarah Schechter will oversee for Warner Bros.
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.
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:
Theater Agent, ICM
Talent Agent, ICM (New York)
Talent Agent, ICM (New York)
President of Network Strategy and E! News, E! Entertainment
Senior Vice President of Programming and Production Development, Travel Channel
Agent, Artist Marketing Department
President, Current TV
President, Marketing, NBC Entertainment
Executive Vice President and Co-Head of Marketing, Showtime Network
Executive Vice President and Co-Head of Marketing, Showtime Network
Senior Vice President, HBO Entertainment
Senior Vice President, HBO Entertainment
Scientific Studies have concluded that there are currently as many hours in a day, as there were 1000 years ago.
Think about that the next time you complain that you just don't have enough time to finish your script. Nothing has changed, clocks still tick away one second at a time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You are alloted as many hours in a day as Tony Gilroy, Akiva Goldsman, and the Coen Brothers.
All these marvels designed to save us time — email, iPhones, text messaging, networking sites — they all seem to suck our time; make us feel like we are far too busy to actually get anything done. While a busy schedule can feel overwhelming at times, by following these 5 Simple Steps, you can effectively manage the time alloted to you throughout the day.
Do you feel like you won't have enough time to write, from the time you wake up?
If you turn off the alarm clock as you wake up in the morning, stare at the ceiling and tell yourself, "With everything I have to get done, I'm not going to get a single page written!" I can tell you this; if you don't finish your script, you'll have nothing to enter into the next screenwriting contest. If you don't enter, it's impossible to win because I'll have nothing of yours to read!
Let's get you back on track to finishing your script so you can win the next contest you enter. You've got nothing to lose by trying this technique, and everything to gain. You may find that the order of these 5 Simple Steps to Managing Your Day can be shuffled around and put into different orders.
Remember the Five "L's" Laser, Learning, Leisure, Longevity and Love
Again, I list them here in no particular order. Do what works best for you.
Step 1: Laser
This is the time that you are most focused on what needs to be accomplished today. Is there something that needs to be sent out by the end of the day? Is there a phone call that you need to make that can't wait? Are you scheduled for a meeting or other appointment? For example, I am writing this blog posting during my my Laser Time.
Laser Time is when you work on that one — or several related projects — without interruption. This means no phone calls, no e-mail or any other work on the internet that detracts from you completing the goal. In fact, turn off your phone, close your door and ask not to be interrupted unless it's an absolute emergency.
How do you decide what is important to finishing your project? A phone call relating to an important conference call that will advance your career is necessary, while returning a call to your friend about going to a hockey game this weekend, can wait.
Use an egg timer
Buy yourself a basic timer with a knob that you turn with your hand, it doesn't have to be anything fancy. Give yourself a time frame to finish the project, let's say, 40 minutes to finish a specific task at hand. For example: regarding a proposal for my upcoming book, I make sure they are all proofread and spell checked in my alloted time before I email them out.
By giving yourself a deadline, you'll find a way to get the job done.
I like to get all of my Laser Time tasks done first thing in the morning, while the day is fresh and my mind is clear. Then, there's no looming tasks hanging over my head.
Step 2: Learning
This is the time you spend finding, absorbing and organizing information. It could be reading magazines, researching on the internet, making and returning phone calls as part of networking or writing e-mails to churn up new contacts. Consider this the bulk of your work day. While Laser Time is the time to complete a process or harvest your ideas, Learning Time is when you plan and gather for your project; sow the seeds.
Have an organized plan to utilize this time. Again, use the egg timer to limit your work on each different project you may be tackling. Expect to reach dead-ends in this process. The information you are seeking may not be where you expect it or a person you are trying to reach may be out of town.
My Learning Time is when I'm researching material for next blog posting, web series or book.
Will the work that I performed during my Learning Time today help me finish a project in my Laser Time tomorrow? Try to utilize this block so you can either pick up your research where you left off the next day during your Learning Time, or have the necessary material to complete a project during Laser Time.
Step 3: Leisure
While everything you work on should be considered fun, this time block has nothing to do with increasing your productivity at your job.
This is the time to watch TV, go to a movie or read that "guilty pleasure" book. You can also run errands. You may not consider a trip to the market, car wash or drug store Leisure. But it is time away from your actual work, and it is a necessity to your well-being and will increase your health.
Often times, I'll find inspiration for my next project by doing the most mundane tasks. Why? Because I'm able to break up my day and allow my brain to relax and wander, even if I'm standing in the check-out line at a book store.
Step 4: Longevity
Take time to go to the gym, bike ride, walk, do some Yoga or just meditate. Playing video games, or watching TV doesn't fall into this category. This is when you are actively taking care of your body.
While Leisure Time gives your mind a break from your work schedule — the mental component; Longevity is the physical aspect of your well being. Only have an hour for lunch? Brown bag it, take thirty minutes to eat, and use the remaining time to take a walk around the block. Half an hour of exercise is better than zero minutes of activity because you're doing something to get the blood pumping.
I love hiking and mountain biking. There's something about focusing all your pent-up energy in a brief but vigorous workout. It relieves stress, clears the cobwebs out of the brain and creates a fresh mental tablet for new ideas. It was after a particularly brutal, one hour hike that my brain wandered onto a new course that allowed me to write my next book!
Step 5: Love
This is quality time spent with your family or friends. Don't answer the phone, check emails, go shopping or begin any significant projects that will take up this time block. This is a time to re-connect with your loved ones.
Usually, this works best in the evening, so that everyone can share their stories of what happened during their busy day. Some examples are; dinner together, or a family outing. It could be helping your children with homework or watching a movie with a spouse, walking the dog, or phoning siblings and relatives to catch up with them.
These are the moments that make all the hard work that you accomplish throughout the day worthwhile and should be cherished. Without the connections to my family, nothing else I accomplish throughout the day, month or year is meaningful. It's the time I spend with them that makes any hardships worthwhile.
You should be able to put every action you do in a day into one of these categories. This will help you balance your day effectively and help you achieve all your goals, free from the helpless feeling that there isn't enough time to make it all happen. Time can be on your side, make it work for you.
Coming up Next: Now you're ready to open a new file on your computer, or break open a fresh notebook for your next script so you can win a screenwriting contest. What should you write? Read my next article, Writing for the Market.
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.
So I got a lot of feedback about my list of movies... as I expected. I assumed I'd get a shit ton of "how could you forget... (insert your beloved film here.)?!"
And I did.
So I want to continue the discussion.
First, for those of you that wrote in and mentioned a classic film such as:
To Kill a Mockingbird
Singin' in the Rain
Breakfast at Tiffany's
All About Eve
Or any of the other classic flicks that got sent my way... let me reiterate what I wrote: If they made the AFI 100 and they made Spielberg's list, unless I had any strong argument either way, I wasn't really going to talk about them.
These flicks fall under the "gimmie" category. I shouldn't HAVE to tell you to see these, you should have already seen them or added them to your Netflix queue. These are staples in any film education. I shouldn't have to tell you to see Jaws. Got it?
Oh, and although these are "classic" flicks, Shawshank Redemption also falls under the "gimmie" category.
Now there were some glaring, flat out obvious omissions.
Namely the films of the Coen Brothers and Tarantino (although I did mention Inglorious Basterds.) How about we chat about these guys and their films for a few?
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: Get your hate mail ready, cause I'm about to piss off a lot of you.)
First, The Coen Brothers.
Not a fan... not totally.
I know, I know.
Sorry, but I just don't get the obsession with these guys. I had a friend of mine that use to teach a Coen Brothers class, she could never really explain what the fucking draw was. Sure, Blood Simple is alright. Is what it is, but hardly ground breaking.
It's been a long time since I've seen Miller's Crossing. Again, good flick... well made, but upper echelon? Eh.
I get it... Fargo's good. It's kind of a comedy, it's find of a noir. There's some GREAT transitions in that flick, but I don't think it really holds up. You're not going to call your friends over for a movie night and say "Hey, let's put in Fargo!" To me, the repeat value is low.
Okay, here's the big one: The Big Lebowski.
I can quote the FUCK out of Lebowski. Now only that, but I can quote entire scenes, especially scenes with The Jesus.
What about the rest of the flick? Weird artist Julianne Moore? Tara Reid? Flea?
There are some great parts to that movie, but that's about it. As a whole... it just doesn't work for me.
I did enjoy O Brother, Where Art Thou?, mostly for Clooney's performance (it's the one time Clooney isn't being Clooney) but again, the repeat value is sorta low for me.
I'll give you No Country for Old Men. Had a weird ending, but dug that flick.
Here's another thing... they're not that squeaky clean when you look at their entire career.
The Hudsucker Proxy?Intolerable Cruelty?The Lady Killers?The Man that Wasn't There?
They're not batting 1000.
Now, on to Tarantino.
Yes, Pulp Fiction changed the game. I saw it 6 times in the theater when it came out. Haven't been able to watch it since.
Reservoir Dogs? Eh, it's alright. Kinda gets boring for me in the second act.
Jackie Brown? Anyone?Bueller?Bueller?
I can watch Kill Bill 1 & 2 every now and then, but it takes every ounce of my body to overlook Uma Thurman, who I can NOT fucking stand.
Fuck Grindhouse. If I wanted to watch dumbasses sit around and talk for an hour and a half, I'll go to a family reunion. I'm paying 12 bucks to be fucking entertained!
I'm actually a little more impressed with Quentin's writing when he's not a director. I mean True Romance is pretty fucking genius. From Dusk Till Dawn? That's entertainment!
Obviously, I really enjoyed Inglorious Basterds. It was different for him. Almost classy.
So there you go... now you know why they were off the list.
Alright, time for confession. Needless to say that I haven't seen EVERY movie known to humankind. Who Has accept Leonard Maltin and Roger Ebert?
But there are a lot of films that I SHOULD have seen that I haven't. A couple of films are films that you've written in SLAPPING me that I didn't mention them.
So here it goes...
Confession #1: I haven't seen The Big Chill. I KNOW! Started it once.Never finished it.Listened to the soundtrack.Haven't watched it. OWN IT! Yet to crack it open.
Confession #2: I haven't seen Cinema Paradiso. Again, own it, just never watched it. Isn't it like fucking 3 hours? Ugh. Who has the time these days? I'll get to it eventually.
Confession #3: Yeah, haven't seen Battle of Algiers. Wish I could say that I didn't own the Criterion Collection DVD of Battle of Algiers, but I do. Haven't watched it.
Confession #4: Bottle Rocket. Fuck that movie. Started it a couple of times.Can't ever get past the 20 minute mark.
Confession #5: Paths of Glory. I'm pretty sure I don't own it, but I might. I remember Netflixing it once, but I was so exhausted I feel asleep. It's one that I really want to make time for. Might do that after I finish the fourth season of Prison Break.
Confession #6: Requiem for a Dream. Yup, you guessed it. Own it. Never watched it. I know what it's about and I've seen scenes and I just can't bring myself to go through the trauma of it all.
Confession #7: Haven't seen any of Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" trilogy. Bought it.Got it as far as my DVD player. Got distracted and never went back.
Confession #8: Pi. Don't have the time or the tolerance for it.
Confession #9: The original Night of the Living Dead. I've seen it in parts, but I don't remember sitting down and watching it from start to finish. Yeah I know, I'm a total fucktard for this one.
Confession #10: Staying on the horror front... I've never seen Suspiria. I think it's been in my Netflix queue forever. I promise to get to it soon.
So there you go... not big movies like The Godfather or anything, but still beloved films to a lot of people.
Wanna take a moment to address a couple of glaring categories overlooked on the list: Documentaries and Animation.
First off, although there are some great Docs out there, they don't really do us any good when chatting about fiction... unless you're talking about Michael Moore movies! WOW! ZING!Ya like that? I want all conservative propaganda on yer asses! (totally love Michael Moore, by the way.)
Anyway, you get the point.
On to animation. I think I noted Spirited Away and South Park, which are genius in their own right, but left a lot of the classics off of the list. I did this for a reason, mainly because it's pretty fucking hard to break into animation so I didn't really see the point is telling you to see Snow White or Finding Nemo.
Now to the ladies...
A few of you ladies wrote in with your "how could you forget these two classics." Well, let me tell you why... cause I fucking HATE them! If these movies were people, I would hope for violent deaths.
Shitty Chick Flick #1: Dirty Dancing. Really? Back Alley abortions are romantical? Grinding on some dude you met a couple of weeks ago and who's like 20 years older than you is cool? No one puts baby in a corner? Ya sure?Cause I think baby should always be in the corner.
Speaking of corners... the award, for ALL-TIME WORST CHICK SHIT FLICK OF ALL TIME goes to:
Pretty Woman. FUCK THAT MOVIE.
"But Manny, it's a modern day fairy tale!"
Yeah, which says this: Be a hooker. Fuck for cash and one day a rich guy will come to your rescue, sweep you away from your hooker life and give you the life of luxury. Hey ladies, guess what? You're still a fucking whore! All you did was negotiate your price better than the average street walker.
And really? How long do you give that relationship past the movie? He's a white collar exec and she's... a HOOKER! Not even a Charlie Sheen high priced escort, but a true Hollywood prostitute. At what point do you think Richard Gere snaps at the dinner table?
Julia Roberts: "can you pass the cucumbers darling?"
Richard Gere: "For what? So you can suck them for CASH!"
Come on ladies. Set the bar a little higher. Please.
Lastly, there were true "oopsy" omissions that I just forgot. Some of you reminded me of them, some of them I slapped my forehead after going to print. Here are some of those now:
The Social Network
Life of Brian
Up in Smoke
Day for Night
Rome, Open City
The Shop on Main Street
The Great Escape
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Silence of the Lambs
Boyz 'N the Hood
In the Mood for Love
Once Upon a Time in America
Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo
Life is Beautiful
Things are Tough All Over
Better Off Dead
The Best Man
So there you go... just a few more for you to fill your weekends up. Ignore the wife and kids and make it a Netflix weekend. Enjoy!
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.