The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter, November 12 2010 PDF Print E-mail
The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter - The Business of Show Institute

Dear Friend,

In 1906 an Italian scientist named Vilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the people.

He also observed that 80% of the peas in his garden were housed by just 20% of the pea pods.

Today, the "Pareto Principle," also known as the "80/20 Rule," can be applied to just about everything in life.

80% of the wealth in the world is controlled by 20% of its people.

80% of your daily interruptions come from 20% of the same people.

80% of the material you produce is generated during 20% of your working hours

And in Hollywood, 80% of screenwriters will struggle to get by, while 20% will actually be successful, find work, and make a living.

Here's an even more stunning fact.

There's even a "95/5 Rule" – where it's been proven that an elite 5% completely dominates every industry!

Here's the point.

Now that you know that 80% of the screenwriting industry will be mediocre, which side of the fence do you want to fall on?

Further, do you want to be part of the "successful" 20%, or do you want to be an elite 5%'er?

Heck, how about a 1%'er?

Now that you know and understand these principles, you can make a clear decision about how successful you want to be, and then work towards achieving that goal.

Seriously, be clear about your goals.

Why?

Because you can't hit an invisible target!

That being said - let me ask you right now...

How successful do you want to be?

The answer is not 20%, not 80%, but 100% up to you =)

And to help aid your success, here's what we've got for you in this week's action-packed Screenwriter's Success Newsletter:

Embrace Fear: is this week's article by yours truly. This piece focuses on the crucial ability to embrace fear as a screenwriter. So let me take you into a real studio pitch session with one of my writers. My hope is that you take a valuable lesson away from this experience.

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.

I Hate Writing: is this week's article by mc foley. mc is an active writer and regular contributor to this newsletter. The title of her column is "Lessons Learned: One Writer's Journey".

A Legal Perspective for Screenwriters: is our column by entertainment attorney Gordon P. Firemark. To ask your legal questions, email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . If your question is chosen, it (and your answer) will appear in an issue of The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter.

If The World was a Fempire (aka Chicks with Scripts): is this week's article from Director of Development for Clifford Werber Productions, Daniel Manus. The title of his column is "No B.S. for Screenwriters - The Executive Perspective."

Best Business Advice for Screenwriters: is dedicated to asking a top executive or successful screenwriter the absolute best advice they could give a screenwriter looking for success. This week's contributor? President and Chief Creative Officer of Fun Little Movies - Frank Chindamo!

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...

One Ingredient Your Script Must Have: 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".

What Not To Do At A Pitchfest (Final Thoughts): 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."

The Business of Show Institute Recommends: is the weekly screenwriting product or service that our staff has personally reviewed and feel you would benefit from. This week? "The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Representation!" If you'd like to get represented by a successful literary agent or manager... NOW... then this is going to be the most important message you will ever read! Best Part – you don't need to live in Los Angeles to work with an established & successful Hollywood Representative!

That's it for this issue, but we are dedicated to making this newsletter THE resource for aspiring screenwriters.

If you enjoyed it, and would like to pass it along to friends, please have them go directly to http://www.TheBusinessOfShowInstitute.com and have them sign up there.

May Your Life Be Extraordinary,

Marvin V. Acuna





Embrace Fear

This morning I was on a conference call to discuss notes for the 1 hour drama my partner (a professional screenwriter) and I are currently developing for a major network. Here are some of the moments that I experienced on the call:

First off, the call began late. You should note that my partner and I have yet to be on a conference call that began on time. Someone from the scheduled discussion is always late to the call.

I read an article sometime ago that stated being 30mins late to a meeting has become the norm. Apparently, this phenom is a direct result of the cell phone. Personally, I'm thinking cell phones have nothing to do with it.

During our wait time there was discussion about the type of hold music playing, the sounds of someone chomping away on pretzels, and then simply dead silence. Every so often an assistant would chime in and make some random announcement.

You should note that there were a total of 10 executives and an additional 5 assistants listening in to the details of the call. I find it amusing that all the calls begin with the simple...Hello.

Keep in mind everyone (less the assistants) goes around and says hello, but it's just voices. It feels like I’m simply yelling it out into the Grand Canyon and it's my own voice echoing back to me.

Silence then overwhelms the call. If we were sitting together it'd be awkward.

The call began and for the first time in over 10 years of working with my partner, I heard a hesitation, a nervous energy in his voice. He excused himself from the call for a beat. Silence. Then he announced that he was overcome with nervous energy. The top Network executive quickly stepped in and immediately reaffirmed that they were big fans of the project and of the work already done. He offered to cancel the call and set a face to face meeting for all of us. Another executive chimed in and offered further reassurances that it's not the first time and certainly it wouldn't be the last time a writer had experienced nervous energy at the top of the call. She further affirmed that the network understood the shift for a writer. Writers express themselves via the written word and are not accustomed to expressing thoughts verbally, especially over a phone to faceless voices.

He asked for another moment, took a deep breath and dove into his ideas. Within a second his nervous energy transformed to strength and confidence.

He took ownership of his feelings by acknowledging them, settled (he allowed the nervous energy to be present) and then moved onward.

In the end, we addressed all the Network notes and had a fruitful discussion. We were given the green-light to commence the new revisions.

Embracing fear is a KEY trait that I have recognized among all the successful screenwriters. Today I witnessed that essential characteristic flourish and rise to the occasion.

Back to my pretzels.


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The Box Office Report




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Lessons Learned: One Writer's Journey

I Hate Writing

by mc foley

That's what he said to me. This particular TV writer who'd been in the business for one year shy of a decade. This particular writer who'd undoubtedly handled a hefty mortgage and multiple car payments with the loot he raked in from TV.

His comment was prompted by my question:
"Do you write other stuff too? Books? Plays?"

"Books?!," he snorted, his body shaking with laughter – and I imagined his face transforming into that of an 80-year-old war vet, a wad of dip oozing between his grizzled, yellowish-brown teeth as he spat.

"Listen kid," he grunted, "I'm in it for the money."

The what?! I thought to myself.

The words began to echo incessantly, my brain tumbling through some alice-in-wonderland hole into a freaky dimension where the rules of life are upside down and backwards... I'm in it... in it for... the money... the money... I'm in it for the money....

And then my brain split in two different directions:

1) If only my family could hear this.

"SEE!," I would tell them—

"—in this industry, people write - to make money! Writers actually drive cars and buy houses and visit the doctor with insurance cards out here! I told you I was right about not joining the marines!"

and...

2) That's a long ass time... to do something you hate.

Sure, I knew plenty of people who worked jobs they despised. And I knew plenty of people who dragged their wretched selves through these soul-sucking gigs for a decade or two. Or four.

But what caught my attention here, was that this person not only deliberately pursued a career in one of the most competitive, challenging, time-intensive fields in the country - but also - that he managed to work consistently, and to climb the TV ladder as he worked. And all the while - hating - one of the main requirements of the job.

I thought about the other writers I knew...

...the friends of mine who'd been on successful sitcoms until the shows went off the air - and then didn't work for the next three years. The friends of mine whose structure, dialogue and characters practically exploded off the page because they were such phenomenal wordsmiths - but, who hadn't seen a cent of earnings off their writing since Bill Clinton lived in the White House.

The stories of "success" - or the lack thereof - were as varied as the writers themselves...

One feature writer I knew was the sole breadwinner for his family, owned a nice house in Burbank, had sold 19 scripts, but never saw any of them produced. He was a master re-writer. A "go-to" guy for making a screenplay sing. But - look him up on IMDB or baseline, and all you could find was one credit for a short film shot sixteen years ago.

Another feature writer hit it big with two back-to-back script sales. Major script sales. Sales that prompted him to buy a behemoth, swanky pad in the Hollywood Hills... only to find, eight years later - after all the money dried up, after he hadn't sold or re-written or earned any writing money whatsoever (aside from a smattering of residuals) - that he had no choice but to sell the house and go back to renting a one bedroom in Beachwood Canyon.

What were the reasons?

What made one writer rocket up the ladder of success and stay at the top until arthritis took it all away?

What relegated someone with a natural born gift - to the unpaid sidelines.

What kept some people churning away at the keypad, pulling in dough - and sent others back to shitty dayjobs?

Honestly...

...these are questions I still ask myself. I could make it all very simple and point at a writer's social prowess, at his or her knack for fitting in a writers' room, at bribes, extortion, at blackmail. But the truth is, each person's journey is different. And ultimately, all of the skills we learn will be put to the test in ways we could never have foreseen.

However - when it comes to writing for film and television (not to mention, videogames, mobisodes and webisodes), one thing is for certain:

a love, for the written word - is not enough.

That's only one part of the game. So much more is required that - even the people who hate writing - can earn their living that way.

-mc foley


About mc foley:
Melinda Corazon Foley was born in Cebu, Philippines, raised in Virginia and currently resides in West Hollywood, CA. In 2005, MC Foley was named East West Players' James Irvine Foundation Mentee affording her the privilege to craft a new original stage play, the result: "Down and Out." It debuted at the Union Center for the Arts. Foley was then awarded the Asian American Writers Workshop Scholarship, which she utilized to re-imagine the aforementioned play into a web based series incorporating verse, motion graphics and comic book illustrations. Recently Ms. Foley completed work on a debut YA novel, The Ice Hotel. The novel is a fantasy adventure written especially for readers experiencing the profound pain of loss. In the book, a family, reeling from their eldest son's death, escapes to the Ice Hotel, where an age-old, arctic magic connects this world to the next.

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A Legal Perspective for Screenwriters

Question:
"I have written a screenplay based on my published novel, on which I hold a copyright. Do I also need a copyright on my screenplay?"

Answer:
Yes.

The screenplay is a "derivative work" of the novel, and therefore is a separate work, in the eyes of the copyright law. The good news is, you hold a copyright in each new, original work you create, from the moment you set pen to paper, or otherwise take steps to "fix" the work in some tangible form. (typing into a computer and saving the file satisfies this requirement).

Although registration with the U.S. Copyright Office isn't required, it's a good idea to do so within 90 days after first "publication" (dissemination to 3rd parties), so you obtain the maximum protection and preserve your right to enhanced monetary relief and attorney's fees in case your work is copied illegally.


Have a legal question? Email them to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

The foregoing is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship with Mr. Firemark. This information is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. Neither Mr. Firemark nor The Business of Show Institute will be responsible for readers' detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this column.

About Gordon P. Firemark:
Gordon Firemark is an attorney whose practice is devoted to the representation of artists, writers, producers and directors in the fields of theater, film, television,and music. He is also the publisher of Entertainment Law Update, a newsletter for artists and professionals in the entertainment industries. His practice also covers intellectual property, cyberspace, new media and business/corporate matters for clients in the entertainment industry.

Mr. Firemark serves on the Boards of Governors of The Los Angeles Stage Alliance (the organization responsible for the annual Ovation Awards for excellence in Theater), and The Academy for New Musical Theatre. In the past he has served on the Board of Governors of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, where he served as liason to the Association's Entertainment Law Section (of which he is a former chairman).

Mr. Firemark holds a B.A. in Radio, Television and Film from the University of Oregon, and earned his law degree at Southwestern University School of Law. Before opening The Law Offices of Gordon P. Firemark, Mr. Firemark was a partner with the Business Affairs Group, a boutique entertainment law firm in Los Angeles. He has also worked in the legal and business affairs departments at Hanna Barbera Productions and the MGM/UA Worldwide Television Group, and started his legal career as an associate at Neville L. Johnson & Associates, a West L.A. firm specializing in entertainment litigation.

For more about Mr. Firemark, visit http://firemark.com/.

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If The World was a Fempire (aka Chicks with Scripts)

by Daniel Manus

I think it's been a while since I've pissed a bunch of people off with my column – I let Manny take those reigns the last few weeks. But, this week....it's my turn. I was asked by a writer to address specific issues facing female screenwriters trying to sell their work or break into the business. My gut reaction was – there aren't any gender-specific issues - you're either a good writer or you're not. Talent IS the great equalizer. But then I thought about it a bit, and I came up with one. Ready?

The biggest issue facing female screenwriters – is getting over their perceived gender biases and getting over themselves.

There was an article published in the New York Times Fashion and Style Section on March 20, 2009 (yes, I realize this was a while ago) about the female Entourage-type group of writers self-nicknamed The Fempire. Its members are the insanely successful, hip and hot foursome of Diablo Cody, Dana Fox, Liz Meriwether and Lorene Scafaria.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, these four distinguished ladies have collectively (though separately) written "Juno," "27 Dresses," "Couples Retreat," "What Happens in Vegas," "The Wedding Date," "The United States of Tara," "Jennifer's Body" and one of my personal favorites, "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist."

Now, this is not a hate piece about them at all. In fact, I've been a fan of theirs for a long time. Male, female, robot, whatever – these women are at the top of their game. I'm in awe of their talent, their work ethic and their ability to stay friends in a business where friendships are qualified by how much you can do for each other. I wish I had real friends that were as supportive as these women are for each other. Well – I do – but they all live in New York and none of them are in the film business.

But these ladies have made a statement – women are no longer second to men in this industry. Which brings me to the point of this column... If women are no longer second to men...perhaps they could stop complaining that they are?

The article points out that "among the screenwriters who are in steady demand for major projects, only about 20 are women." But how many writers out there (other than actor/writers like Jonah Hill, Justin Theroux and Jason Segel) are really in steady demand? 50? 60? Twenty of them being female isn't that bad of a ratio. Yes, most TV show writers' rooms are filled with Harvard-educated men, but I think that says more about the division in this industry between Ivy League vs. Non-Ivy League, than it does about men vs. women. Does anyone think Tina Fey isn't the funniest writer in the room?

Are there genres that a female writer might have a harder time breaking in with? I don't really think so, but sci-fi films and big action movies are usually left to male writers. I don't think it's because of any bias – I just think it's because men are largely the ones who watch these movies, and men know what men want to see. Same reason why the majority of successful romantic comedy projects are either written or directed by women.

I know a bunch of executives who LOVE when they find a female writer who can write like a man. And by this, I mean they can be sexual and raunchy and gory and disturbing and dark in their material. Quite frankly, I think it's a turn on. However, I don't know that many execs that are looking for a male writer who can write like a woman.

Are there more male producers and writers than female? Yeah. But why does every woman in this industry have to point out they are a "woman in a man's job." Don't they know how insulting that is to women? You're not doing a MAN'S job. You're doing YOUR job which MEN also happen to do. As far as I can tell, the only MALE job out there is being a FATHER. Maybe if women stopped referring to writing, producing, or directing as being a "male world," it would increasingly stop seeming like one.

On the executive side of things, I can't tell you how many companies out there state specifically that they are looking to hire a woman. Perhaps it's just to get a female perspective in the office – perhaps it's because guys like looking at chicks while they work. Who knows. It's their prerogative and while it sucks, I accept it. I just can't stand hearing how women are treated unfairly. I'm officially calling bullshit.

It has been reported that there are now more women going to college than men. Far more women move to LA every year than men. And looking around, I think there are more female assistants and low-level executives in Hollywood than male - or at least a pretty even number. So why are there more higher-level male execs than women? It doesn't take a genius to figure it out.

Around the ages of 27-34, the prime age for promotion to that cushy VP job, most women start hearing that ol' biological clock and they choose to get married and start a family instead of continuing to pursue their career. Is that fair? I don't know -- I don't have ovaries. But I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be blamed for that. And I'm definitely sure the industry as a whole shouldn't be blamed for it either. And by the way, you know what pregnancy and maternity leave is a great time for? Writing!

And why is it that for those women who choose to stick with their careers and become the bosses, when a new hot young female assistant starts at their company, instead of trying to take them under their wing, they usually try to devour them and spit them out? Men seem to like having protégées, while women seem to enjoy being the only Queen Bee in the hive. Perhaps if more women were like those in the Fempire, more of them would get ahead.

Dana Fox correctly pointed out that, "It's rare to find women who have that balance between work and life, who are really psyched for another woman's success. I love that about our little group."

I've worked for (and with) both men and women, and while the men I've worked with were constantly trying to prove they could do the job and become successful, the women were constantly trying to prove they could do their job better than men. Perhaps if women just dropped that chip on their shoulder, they'd be able to get ahead without having to undermine every man with whom they work. And this goes for screenwriters too.

I'm actually a feminist in that I want real equality. I want the best person for the job to be hired – and if that's a woman – fantastic! I want women to make equal pay. I want men to be able to get a sick day every month because sometimes we feel bitchy too. I want men to get paternity leave. I want women to get hired and promoted because they deserve it – because they are smart and good at what they do - not because they wear short skirts or have some great...assets. Because as sexist as women might find that, men trying to get hired for the same job - hate it even more.

But let's be honest - in a situation like a pitchfest, women have an advantage at the table when pitching to a male executive. Let me rephrase that – GOOD LOOKING women have an advantage at the table. But you still have to back your looks up with great talent.

With the members of the Fempire - these women aren't rich or eternally employed because they all look like characters out of "Sex and the City" - however they ARE famous because of it. Do you think the NY Times would have done a piece on these women if they were ugly, fat or had bad hair? Or basically...if they looked like most male writers? The answer is no. "Juno" would have been great no matter what Diablo Cody looked like, but do you think she would have been a guest on David Letterman if she wasn't a cute, tattooed, former stripper? Not a chance.

At every single event outside of LA I've ever been to, the male execs wait for that one hot writer chick under 30 to sit at their table and pitch. I had a cute girl come sit at my table, tell me she likes Jewish teddy bear types and she used to be a sex addict. Guess what – you bet your ass I took her script. I am only human. But here's my point -- ladies – stop complaining that men judge you on your sexuality if that's all you're going to use to sell yourself. Get over your perceptions of men and just be a writer.

Manny Fonseca pointed out in his column that he doesn't want to see your boobs at the table – and I agree – they are distracting and we will stare. Men like boobs. The best advice I can give female writers when it comes to pitching (besides all the same advice I give to male writers) – is if you're really good looking, use it, but don't abuse it. There is a natural sexiness in confidence and in being able to tell a story and relate to men without making us feel like you're teasing us. Again, at the end of the day, talent is the great equalizer. So, if you're a female writing a raunchy, male-driven sports comedy – as long as your script has a great story, great characters and a great voice, no one will care if you have an innie or an outtie.

So let's all (men and women) take a lesson from the Fempire. Do great work, be smart, savvy and unselfish, forget about the differences in our pants and just get the job done!

***And just one more reminder, I'll be teaching 3 great seminars on Nov 13th in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. Tickets are still available – for more info or to purchase tix, please visit www.knifves.org. Hope to see you there!


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.



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Best Business Advice for Screenwriters

Frank Chindamo, President and Chief Creative Officer of Fun Little Movies (and the foremost authority on using new media in screenwriting) – on his best business advice for screenwriters:

"So I'm quoted in SAG magazine as saying, 'Those short films that stars you is the headshot of the future.' So if you are a writer, actor, you just got to mix stuff. You get out there; get a camera.

Basically, whether you're a writer-producer, writer-director, writer-actor, you really want to get something made because your competition already has."




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Digging the Well Before You're Thirsty:

Tracking the Movement of Hollywood's Executives

What do you do when a friend gets promoted or moves to a new position? You congratulate them right?

What else might you do? You might send them a card telling them how excited you are for their new position. Later, you might follow up with that person to see how they're settling in. Then, you might send them an interesting article once in a while.

Why would you do this? Because that's how relationships are nurtured and developed. (They're not developed by asking for favors before the relationship has matured)

So we'd like you to help us in congratulating the following executives who have just been promoted or moved positions.

The Business of Show Institute Congratulates the Following Executives in Their New Positions:

Cara Casey
Reality Development Consultant, Sony Pictures Television

Kathy Davidov
Executive Vice President of Production, National Geographic TV & Film (Washington, DC)

David Janollari
Executive Vice President, Head of Programming, MTV

Chris Linn
Executive Vice President, Programming and Head of Production, MTV (New York)

Christopher Ridenhour
Partner/Manager, Prolific Entertainment

Lara Spotts
Vice President, East Coast Development, Bravo (New York)

Andrew J. Wilson
Partner/Manager, Prolific Entertainment


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One Ingredient Your Script Must Have

by Sean Hinchey

While you are hammering away on your next screenplay so you can submit it just under the contest deadline wire, you've probably taken time to watch some movies. While kicking back to enjoy some downtime, you may realize that there is one aspect of your script that is missing. There is One Ingredient Your Script Must Have. Does yours have it?

Before we can discuss what exactly this secret component is, let's look at the screenplay as a whole. What is it that you are trying to do with your script, aside from trying to win the next script contest?

You want to create a quality product that will move your captive audience. This can be done through the dialogue, characters and the world that you have created. All of this needs to come together in one cohesive form that will dazzle them. Think of your script as a stew; all of the ingredients need to work together. However, a spice that works in one dish, may not work in another.

It's the right combination, a confluence of different elements that makes for successful story telling. Proportions are important as well. You could have a great character in your script, but they are in the wrong setting. Would Indiana Jones work well in a romantic comedy?

What is the mystery ingredient that your script has to have in order to fight its way to the top of the heap of scripts waiting to be judged? You have to give your protagonist motivation.

You may tell yourself, "Sure, my character has motivation, so I'm a sure thing to win." Not so fast. The motivation of the main character has to be in the proper proportion to your story. Just like cooking, if you add to much salt - or not enough - to your stew it could be ruined.

There are a great deal of scripts that have passed before contest judges that don't have a well crafted motive. Without it, the rest of the story sounds hollow. Motive is about having enough at stake so that the actions of the protagonist come across as genuine and logical.

In the movie The Bicycle Thief the main character loses his bike when it gets stolen. The movie is about him trying to find it. Is this a good motivation for his character? Absolutely! His bike represents an income for his family in post-World War Two Italy, where jobs are scarce. It truly is about life and death for him.

If you were to ratchet up the motivation for him, by having him chase after a stolen chest of gold bullion, would that work? Probably not, it's too much for that character to have to absorb in the context of that movie. Here is a man trying to get by and feed his wife and kids; stolen gold just doesn't fit. Recovering stolen treasure works in the movie The Train because the art work represents the pride and dignity of France.

Motivation is not a one size fits all deal when it comes to writing a script. What the protagonist is trying to attain needs to be vital to them - the protagonist - not necessarily to us as the audience or judge. Make sure your script has everything going for it, including the motivation and you'll find yourself on a journey that will astound the judges and may even lead you to the winner's circle.

While you dream about accepting an award for the next screenwriting competition, take a look at the movies that are currently playing. As you do so, ask yourself, What Makes a Blockbuster a Blockbuster? If you can deduce what makes them work, you can apply that information to your next screenplay.


About Sean Hinchey:
Sean Hinchey has been a script consultant for International Creative Management (ICM), Miracle Entertainment, Nash Entertainment, and Viviano Entertainment. He's also read the preliminary drafts of Michael Crichton's best-selling novels, State of Fear and Next and has performed extensive research for the stage plays and screenplays of writer/director Floyd Mutrux (American Hot Wax, Million Dollar Quartet).

Sean's expertise has made him a highly sought after judge for such prestigious screenwriting contests such as: The Big Break Contest, The Miramax Open Door Contest, Artists and Writer's Contest, Energy Contest, Smart Contest and The Chills and Thrills Contest. Throughout his career, Sean has read over two thousand scripts, giving him an insight into what it takes to become the winner of a screenwriting contest.

Three of Sean's screenplays have been optioned and one was a finalist in the Film in Arizona Screenwriting Competition. He won an award for his first non-fiction book, Backpacking Through Divorce.

Drawing from these experiences, he's written a book, 39 Ways to Win a Screenwriting Contest & The Nine Mistakes New Writers Make, set for publication in Spring 2010.

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What Not To Do At A Pitchfest (Final Thoughts)

by Manny Fonseca

The past few weeks may have seemed like I was a little harsh about what not to do at a pitchfest. Maybe it was poor taste to tell some of you to "stick it in and break it off," but I feel as if some of you need to hear it.

Call it tough love.

Some of you might have just said "this guy's a prick" and moved on thinking that what I had to say didn't apply to you.

Let's get this straight right now:

If at any time you read any or my articles and thought "thank God, I'm not like that!"

Guess what?

You're like that.

So stop.

Please.

All you'll accomplish is wasting time, money and burning bridges. That's not how you become a successful screenwriter.

You become a successful screenwriter by being able to write...and write something good. It's not hard.

Go and read scripts. They're out there.

It's called practice. Athletes do it. Musicians do it. Why don't you do it?

Study your craft. Know the business. Know who's who and who's doing what.

It's not hard. Read Variety every day. Read the Hollywood Reporter. Read Deadline Hollywood.

For you iPhone users, all of the above have apps for that shit.

The information is out there, why are you not using it?

I've spent weeks yelling at you. Have you been listening? Believe it or not, I'm actually trying to help you. I hope you recognize that.

No one else is going to tell you this shit. It's what I'm here for. I'm here to help. You might like the WAY I'm trying to help, but sometimes you need to be bitch-slapped.

You're welcome.

So what's the plan from here? What do you do when you feel like your whole world is pulled out from under you?

You do what you need to do.

You pick your shit up off the floor, roll up your sleeves, crack your knuckles and get ta typin'! That's what I do. You know why?

Because I want it. I want it so bad that I can taste it.

And I will do whatever it takes to get there.

Last week I finished a pretty big script. I had been working on it slowly. In all honesty it was really a backburner project that I worked on from time to time. I never really meant for it to be anything more than a writing sample. Something I could use to show people I could write. In the meantime, I would focus on the stuff that I really wanted to write.

I wanted to be the next Woody Allen.

It took me many years to realize I couldn't be the next Woody Allen. That's not my wheelhouse when it comes to my writing.

I can honestly say that shit fucks you up. It's not easy to realize what you're doing is shit. Especially when you set out with one idea in your mind of who you are.

At the end of the day, you write because you have to write. So it doesn't matter. You learn, you adapt and most importantly, you grow. You become who you're supposed to be naturally.

That being said, I finished this script and gave it to someone pretty high up in the company I work for. I thought I was good. I thought I was done. I had my writer's "blinders" on.

He finally read my script and gave me seven notes on my script. Six of them were fucking GENIUS. So genius that I got re-excited about the script and wanted to get right back into it.

(SIDENOTE: That seventh note? I don't remember it, but I knew it wasn't right. I totally smiled, nodded my head and said "uh huh." Then immediately forgot it.)

It wasn't easy; those notes meant some major re-hauling of my script. It was going to be a lot of work. But fuck it, I loved the script and buckled down and got it done.

This led to my second draft. Upon that draft, I knew I had it. I fixed all of the issues and the script was so much better than its first version.

Then I gave the script to a friend of mine. Someone I really trust. She rips it apart. Popped my balloon. But she was right. It needed to be better.

What did I do? Rolled up the sleeves. Make it work.

I spent the next 36 hours barely sleeping and cranking it out.

I fixed it. Fixed it to the point where it felt right. I gave the script out to a few friends, a wider audience and they loved it. No notes. I had nailed it.

I gave it back to the person high up in my company. He read it. He loved it.

But he had three notes that he told me I could choose to ignore, but that he felt would make the script better.

I listened. I evaluated his notes and let them process. Two of the three notes were easy fixes. The third one? It meant a total overhaul of the structure of the script.

This happened yesterday.

I'm about to go into the fourth draft of the script. I'm going to completely dive in and re-tool the structure and it's going to be a lot of work.

But you know what?

I'm fucking excited about it. I'm almost there. I can feel that brass ring.

And that feeling is pretty fucking good.

I want all of you to have that feeling. I want all of you to feel what I'm feeling about my writing.

The first step?

Stop being a douche in a pitchfest!

Once you do that, you're going to be a better writer. When that happens, you're going to get your script read off of a pitchfest.

After that, what do you do?

Next week I'm going to tell you the etiquette to follow after a pitchfest. What to do when you actually get an industry person to ask to read your script.

Till then...


About Manny Fonseca:
Manny Fonseca hails from Dearborn, Michigan. Always knowing that he was destined for something more than a menial job in retail or the auto industry, he set forth to discover his passion.

After discovering Woody Allen films in undergrad, he knew what he wanted to do. Be a writer. Putting his ability to pen witty sarcasm to good use, he applied for the master's degree program at Ohio University.

Three long years later, he exited the graduate school womb and entered the world of film, ready to take on the industry with swinging fists. Staying optimistic and showing that he's willing to put in the effort, his internship days reading scripts, writing coverage and doing slave labor paid off into a full time position where he reads scripts, writes coverage and does slave labor. This time, for money!

He's currently working at Kopelson Entertainment and frequently attends pitchfests on the Kopelson's behalf.

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