Month: October 2012

How To Manage Industry Relationships

A client recently emailed me that he was attending an event with a huge screenwriter and asked my advice regarding the situation. I jokingly replied “Are you asking me how to greet and converse with another adult?” Clearly, the client was wondering how he could utilize this meeting to advance his writing career.  I’m glad this happened, as I was able to reiterate that his screenplays were not ready to hit an agent’s desk.  He knew this but still didn’t want to miss out on a perceived opportunity.  Rest assured, there was no opportunity passing the writer by because there was nothing for him to sell! Screenwriter Josh Olsen (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE) wrote a popular blog entry about this called “No I Won’t Read Your Fucking Script”.  I would suggest Josh wasn’t upset at his friends who needed his professional feedback before turning in a studio assignment, but at the droves of unrepresented writers who routinely ask him to check out their latest abomination of a spec in the hopes he can get it into the right hands. Remember, if a writer doesn’t have major agency representation, there’s about a 99% chance their material is NOT ready for the market. This has nothing to do with writing talent, simply that the writer hasn’t completed their screenwriting education yet (and the vast majority of that 99% never will). I’m...

Read More

Page Count Counts

The folks behind the Great American Pitchfest are currently holding a big screenwriting event in London. On Twitter, I saw someone quoting a panelist or speaker claiming “Your calling card script should be under 100 pages.” If someone actually told a group of screenwriters this, he would be a fucking moron. It’s horrible advice, ESPECIALLY for unrepresented writers. Here’s a section of THE STARTER SCREENPLAY that speaks specifically to this issue. Blake Snyder suggests that your screenplay end around page 110. For decades, the limit was 120 but studios realized the “one page/one minute” rule is a lowball estimate. Longer films usually have more texture (establishing shots, quiet moments) so a 150 page epic runs about three hours on screen. Contained thrillers such as VACANCY and THE STRANGERS often run 90-100 pages. Simple comedies max out there as well. But when an aspiring screenwriter types “The End” without breaking 100 pages, it’s usually a sign the movie is lacking necessary elements. And that means the script sucks. Why? Unrepresented writers rarely deliver a tight script. Screenwriting is about finding the simplest way to get the point across and a professional can accomplish in one sentence what an amateur may have trouble establishing in two pages. When I read unrepresented screenplays, even the best can cut the length by 10% without fundamentally altering a single scene. So even though the...

Read More

Make Older Characters Young At Heart!

Whether it’s Alan Arkin getting laughs (and an Oscar) for playing a heroin-addicted nursing home lothario in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE or Jane Fonda playing a pot dealing New Age grandma in PEACE LOVE & MISUNDERSTANDING, audiences love energetic senior citizens. Hollywood writers bring a vibrancy to older characters that amateur writers tend to overlook. Amateur writers write authentic old people–and that’s boring. Check out this deleted suggestion from THE STARTER SCREENPLAY. MAKE OLDER CHARACTERS YOUNG AT HEART & ENERGETIC!  Actors HATE playing grandparents. Some stars flat out refuse to do it, even when its age appropriate. When writing an older central character of either gender, keep them as young as the story will allow. From HAROLD AND MAUDE to COCOON, senior citizens are often portrayed as wild and crazy without regard to consequence. Their mission is to teach younger people how to live with vitality and purpose. In LAST CHANCE HARVEY, Dustin Hoffman (71) is fired from his job after learning his daughter wants the stepfather to walk her down the aisle. The film is an exploration of the indignities faced when getting older, but it also features him romancing the much younger Emma Thompson. And notice in MEET THE FOCKERS, Robert DeNiro has one grandchild still too young to form sentences. Forget about the actors—Older moviegoers still want to be portrayed as people who experience adventure and romance! Just...

Read More

XXX: The Dynamic Opening Analysis

In my book, THE STARTER SCREENPLAY (Available on Amazon), I discuss the importance of the opening sequence. In short, you better sell the audience by introduce the rating, tone, what makes the film special in terms of your approach to the genre, and maybe introduce a mystery. Sometimes characters are established as well. I suggest you think of your opening sequence as your sales pitch to the buyer–because if they don’t like it, they may not continue reading. This is especially true for unrepresented screenwriters while established writers have earned the reader’s trust to keep going. The book breaks...

Read More
  • 1
  • 2

Get the Newsletter

Official Screenwriting Podcast

On Twitter