Writing Gigs- Real or Scam?

scamalert

You may be one of the hundreds of screenwriters out there who have subscribed to any one of the many dozens of screenwriting services out there who promise you “paid writing gigs” for the low, low monthly price of whatever. I’m familiar with many of them, because in all honesty, I, too have subscribed- to almost all of them at one time or another. Most of these gigs will come to you in the form of a weekly newsletter, announcing a new batch of paid (or unpaid) writing gigs, or various script searches from producers. You probably also believe that these companies MUST have an amazing network of connections, ones that trust them enough to uniquely and solely advertise these jobs or script searches.

That’s the scam.

In most cases, those selling this “writing assignment” or “paid screenwriting” opportunity have never even contacted the client. Not once.

They’re all guilty of it, and if they deny it, they’re lying to you. Want to find out for yourself? Here’s what you do…

Next time you receive an announcement of a “new client” in search of a ghostwriter for pay, or a production company looking for a certain type of screenplay, simply cut and paste a portion (or all) of the announcement in your browser. You will find out immediately where those ads originated.

What these “services” are ACTUALLY giving you- for the monthly subscription rate of whatever- is a re-posting of an ad, gleaned from other FREE posting sites, like Craigslist Los Angeles, SimplyHired.com, Mandy.com, NewEnglandFilm.com and many other sources. In fact, just the other day, we found one such ad reprinted from one of these sites, with an original posting date of 2012! Do you THINK that job is still available? Doubt it. Chances are, they’re out of business already!

Fact is, sites like Craigslist actually PROHIBIT the re-posting of ads; it says so when you place an ad, or respond to one. So, in most cases, what these sites are doing is illegal and unethical. But, trust me- I KNOW these people involved in these sites. Being UNETHICAL is status quo for most of them!

Now, you’re one of the few thousand desperate screenwriters who have had the misfortune to have been scammed by one of these several services offering writing gigs and such. YOU even became a PAID subscriber, hoping to land one of these unique opportunities offered ONLY to THIS particular service’s subscriber list! Mind you, this script search is no longer going on; the client found their project six months earlier. But, being desperate, not wanting to leave any rock unturned, you mindlessly submit.

Imagine the response of the people running the original ad, receiving a flood of emails for an ad placed- and re-posted without their expressed permission- six months earlier (or in some cases, two years earlier)!

Some of you may still feel that paying the monthly, or annual, subscription fee is worth it to receive ads that are re-posted from a handful of free sites. That’s fine. I know when I post a script search or a position for hire, these requests come STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE. I talk to these people almost everyday. They are aware of the vast network that is shared by The Script Mentor and Shark-Eating Man Productions. They know the high quality of writers and talent in our network, and they ask for my help specifically, in finding them the qualified candidate or project for their search. To date, these script searches have yielded 13 options, 6 script sales, one agent representation, and a countless number of writing assignments, producer reads, intros, and more. I do this ONLY as an unpaid favor for those IN my network TO someone also in my network.

Go back through any one of the dozens of newsletters or email blasts you may have received over the past couple of months; try it for yourself. Eventually, these scammers will catch on and actually spend the time (and money) to re-write the ad significantly in order NOT to expose the fact that they are cut-and-paste ads from other free sources. This is why you’ll often find the email address incorrect and you’ll get the returned email telling you it is no longer a valid address. Funny how a recent request from an actual contact might include an email address that is incorrect. Hmmm…

Save yourself some money; do the research yourself. Finding writing gigs is easy; you just have to know some of the sources. There’s no magic to this, certain not from these clowns. Their “magic” is simply having the audacity to steal money from unsuspecting subscribers and taking advantage of your naivete.

Oh, and don’t bother to complain to them either. They have a habit of dodging their complaint emails and avoiding a response altogether. Just remember when the time comes to “re-up” the subscription or pay for any additional services these scammers try to sell- like contests, pitch fests or coverage services.

Once a thief, always a thief.

Ask “The Script Mentor”, Part IV

questions

Q.”What can we do to guarantee a good script?”

A. There are many things you can do to ensure having a “good” script, but what you really need to strive for is a “great” script. Here are some starting points, and this list is random and far from complete:
– High concept/ idea (unique; easily explained in one sentence; appeals to most people).
– Should have a easily recognizable, solid theme
– Should have a strong PROPER structure
– It should read quickly; lean and mean, with no extraneous scenes, characters or words.

As a spec screenwriter, you should also consider;
– Production budget; don’t include a submarine when a bicycle will do.
– Limited locations
– Fewest characters possible.
– Marketable genre
– Great, memorable title
– Great character names

How to achieve these things:
Get a mentor; someone who’s “been there, done that”
– Learn the CRAFT
– Understand the business
– Write everyday, or every chance you get
– Be passionate- about your project and your craft
– Study; improve language skills, grammar, punctuation, spelling
– Read- books, blogs, newsletters, and successful spec scripts
– Have a solid work ethic
– Don’t take everything personally; you WILL be critiqued, hopefully constructively
– Don’t be afraid to ask questions
– Be blessed with some basic God-given writing talent, and a bit of luck.

Q. I need a good spot to send my script to that will actually look at it.

A. A good spot? Hmmm…how about Boca Raton? Maui?

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I kid, I kid…

You probably mean a website or a producer, right? Whatever you do first- do NOT send it out to market. The number one mistake new writers make is sending their scripts out to be read by producers when they’re NOT ready yet.

And you’re not.

Know how I know?

Because you’re asking this question.

What you HAVE to do first is find out where you are with your writing:
- is it up to the acceptable spec screenwriting level (probably not);
- has it received multiple coverages resulting in several “recommends” or, at least, “considers” (um, no);
- has it won or placed high in several mid-to-high level contests that average 5K minimum entries (doubt it).

I’m not saying you CAN’T get to that level; most certainly you can. Just don’t make the one mistake that many, many other new writers make and set your career back a few years, or damage it to the point where you might end up quitting. Be happy knowing that YOU’VE completed the first screenplay of your life, and 95% of those who start one NEVER get that far.

Congratulations!

Now, you can search for a variety of consultants on LinkedIn or on the Internet, pay whatever coverage costs may be ($100- $300 range), and be told a number of things that are wrong, but not how to fix them…

…OR you can contact The Script Mentor (http://www.thescriptmentor@hotmail.com) and ask for one of their FREE first ten-page reviews. I’m sure others will tell you that you will learn more about spec screenwriting in this free review than anywhere else you may have to pay boatloads of money, but don’t take it from me alone, as I am not nearly unbiased in my opinion. All I can say is that it’s an option.

Q. “I’m finished with my first written script. I have done twelve rewrites and have ideas for another. Should I stay with what I have?”

A. This is a very common question. It’s not unusual to have several concepts churning in your head. Get used to writing them down as soon as they come, and when you have time, mull them over and try to come up with loglines to tell your story (30 words or less). You’ve done 12 rewrites, but where are you with the script? Many writers confuse rewrites with edits; moving words around or replacing one with another is not a rewrite. Usually, a rewrite entails complete reworking of plots, scene structures, adding and subtracting- or combining- whole characters. That being said, what has been the feedback from the “finished” version? Take a minute and refer to my blog entry on the topic of “Cheers, Peers and Rocketeers“, and you’ll get a good idea what needs to happen next.

As far as moving on, it always seems to help your current story by stepping away from it for a time- a month or more – then go back to it and read it again. Guaranteed you’ll have a different opinion on how it reads and if it needs work. When you’ve gone back to it, and it surprises you how good it is, then you’ve done as well as you could up to this point. Now, it’s time to get the pros involved. Find yourself a qualified “peer” or two (or more) to give you a good assessment of where you stand with the writing. Make sure those peers are more experienced and more knowledgeable about the craft than yourself, otherwise it’s the blind leading the blind.

Yes, consultants will often have varying opinions and suggestions; you have to take into account one’s objectivity (or lack thereof) and their personal tastes. That’s why you get more than one professional feedback. I’m not even suggesting our own “The Script Mentor”, because we don’t “consult” or review screenplays in that fashion.

While I, too, stress that the writer should be true to their vision, all too often this occurs at the expense of being RIGHT, or even GOOD. Many just haven’t taken the time to LEARN the craft, and this is where my service has proven to be very effective. We basically take the first five years of “OJT” training, where it could end up wasting thousands of your dollars and months and years of time, speed through it and shortening that learning curve by two-to-four years, at least.

If you feel that you know your craft and produce a rock-solid product, and this has been corroborated through contests or script requests or meetings with producers and talks about options, sales and writing assignments, than just forget everything you’ve read from me. The best I can do is wish you God speed and hope that you’ll remember us little guys when it comes time for seats at the Oscars! ;)

Q. “I have many ideas for television and the silver screen. I purchased a notebook and I’ve been writing all my television and movie concepts down. My little beginner’s notebook is just about full of interesting odds and ends. But I’ve been having trouble formatting them and creating outlines for spec scripts. Anyone have any pointers on how to begin the writing process for a newbie?”

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A. You’ve developed an excellent habit of writing down ideas to flesh out later. Good for you! There are a million of “outlining” software out there to use, so I won’t begin to mention them all. I’m quite familiar with the Save the Cat formula of story beats, so I generally use this format myself, but to be honest, I rarely ever outline anymore- but really should, and you should, too.

Once you have a concept, ask others what they think of the idea. To some, it may conjure up another movie they saw, to others it may be really unique and exciting. If you get a lot of that kind of reaction, it may be worthy of pursuing.

Next, I would decide on a theme; what is it that you want your audience to walk away from the experience of your story having learned?

Then I would create a thirty word-or-less logline for the story, identifying the seven basic elements, especially the “hook”.

Assuming you have a working knowledge of screenwriting structure, I’d simply write down the three acts, and the basic walk-through of the 40-60 scenes and the story will write itself!

Now, obviously this is a highly simplistic list of how to accomplish the feat, as it may take several years of learning, or dozens of books to purchase and read, or finding a mentor to help you with your goal. But almost everyday, I read screenplays from writers having written their first script, and those people are in rare company, as 99% of those who START a script never FINISH the script. Out of those who finish their first script, 95% never go on to write a second. On average, it takes about 8 scripts to get it down and start achieving some level of success, however one might define “success”, but you’ll need at least three scripts in the same genre before you really consider marketing yourself to representation and so forth.

Hope this helps!

Q. “Hi! I am a writer, director, and producer and had a few questions for those who have produced film. I am thinking of using Kickstarter to fund my project, and I was wondering if anyone has used them before, and if so, what the pros and cons are with the website? Also, I was reading that it is helpful to have a Facebook/twitter account for the film, but I am not really sure if that is something I want to do. I am shooting the trailer for the film this June, and was wondering, what is the number one thing that I need to know/do before I shoot? Thanks so much for your insight!”

A. Excellent questions! Crowd-funding campaigns- yes, they can be effective. If you check out the “BLACK SALT” project on Indiegogo, which I am executive producing, you’ll see that we reached our goal five days after starting it, and we’re well beyond it now.

Re: Social media- Yes, creating a website to further promote your projects is just one idea that should probably be a part of a much broader marketing and promotion strategy, much like the crowd-funding. The more avenues you use to achieve your ultimate goal, the more chances of success in the end.

Re: Shooting the film- A few things to consider (you can decide what’s number one);

- “Does it matter?” Passion projects are fine- if you’re footing the bill. If you hope to get enough attention from real filmmakers, producers and investors, then you’ll have to make sure the concept is unique and that it appeals to those that extend BEYOND family and friends.

- Make sure the story and script are as good as they can be.

- If you don’t know everything, make sure you surround yourself with people who do.

- Your best hire for a film shoot is going to be your cinematographer.

Good luck!

Q. “Congratulations on the success of your “BLACK SALT” campaign – way to go! I wanted to know if you had any advice on branding, especially your production company, and where I might find out more about starting my own production company. I want to do this soon. I would really appreciate any advice on this topic. Thanks so much!”

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A. Thank you for this question. Setting up your own prodco is easy; come up with a name, start a web page and your in business. What you do with that business is the hard part.

In my case, my goal was to brand the company in a direction that ensured consistently high quality screenplays with an emphasis on leading roles that involved actors 55 yrs. or older. The abundance of great actors that I grew up with are now in that age range- or higher (Duvall, Pacino, Nicholson, Ah-nold, Streep, Van Dyke, Reiner, Brooks, Dennehy, Sarandon, etc.) and I wanted the opportunity to pitch to them someday. So, that was my stated goal.

The next thing was the networking; associating with those who share your vision, who are helpful for the sake of being helpful, and whom are quality people (hard to find, as I’ve come to discover). This is a judgment call most made from a chair planted firmly in front of a monitor on the internet. Not always the best POV – granted.

Then, you have to get involved; not only in your own projects, but with others as well. This generally comes in the form of money- financially assisting other filmmakers with their projects, promotions, etc. I would scan Indiegogo and Kickstarter or the Angel’s List and find projects that interested me and contribute whenever and however I could. You’ll want to find projects that will give you a minimum of Associate Producer credit, at least to start, then build from there. I communicate regularly with other producers who are much more entrenched in the industry, and as a result of these relationships, I now have 20+ production companies who are willing to read ANY project I refer to them. Over time, they’ve learned to trust my opinions and judgment. I do not use these relationships to further my own career, but rather to help other writers whose projects I believe are truly good. If you start sending over every crappy thing simply because you can, you’ll lose that connection and all credibility you worked hard to achieve. A week doesn’t go by when one of these guys (and gals) don’t pick up the phone to ask ME a question about contracts, or a particular writer, etc.

I also talk with people that “need” certain things, a certain type of script or so, Because of my network, I’ve managed to conduct script searches for several well-known producers and studio execs, and I did this through my production company, with no expectation of having the favor returned (it didn’t hurt having had my past involvement with AMPAS and the Academy Awards, I will admit). This has led to several writers whom I’ve helped getting options, selling their scripts and getting representation. Now, whenever they need something (script or project for development), they’re always sure to ring me up first!

In any event, I also strongly believe in “karma”, and by doing for others, this seems to come back to me ten-fold, and so far, it’s working out that way.

Hope this helps! Now, keep those questions coming, and feel free to contact The Script Mentor (www.thescriptmentor.com) for all of your screenwriting needs!

You Want Your Screenplay Produced, But…

th1As some of you know, “The Script Mentor” is also a producer; owner and operator Shark-Eating Man Productions (www.sharkeatingman.com). Currently, we are Executive Producers of “BLACK SALT”, a new martial arts action movie franchise that introduces the first minority action hero originally written as a lead character. Truly historic and ground-breaking stuff (please check out the highly successful Indiegogo campaign for more information at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/black-salt-the-movie-short). Yes, there is still plenty of time to contribute to that very worthwhile project, and don’t forget to mention that SEMP sent you!

As a result of our many successful collaborations and productions, rarely does a day go by where someone doesn’t email us or request a connection through one of the many social mediums. Their goal is to generate some sort of interest in their project. We receive loglines, concepts, “what if’s”, completed screenplays, and even some brilliantly crafted , complete production proposal packages ready for someone to finance and sign the dotted line.

What most people FAIL to include these is a question; THE question. As a result, most of these “requests” go unanswered. Why? Because there is nothing to answer. You’ve never ASKED THE QUESTION.

Stop and think. Have YOU even asked the question before?

That question is something along the lines of- “Can you help me?”

You might even try to ask “Would you be interested in collaborating on this project and help produce it?” At least that tells us your goal, what you are looking for, and what you hope to get in return.

I think you’d be surprised just how many people share their entire project, down to minute financial details, and yet forget to ask the main thrust of the entire conversation.

One reason they do this is out of fear; fear of rejection. I think in many cases this is done intentionally. In other cases, they probably believe it’s implied.

If only their screenplays had as much subtext.

As a rule, we try NOT to assume things, as it can lead to many embarrassing situations (as I remember that particular “woman” in Mexico back in my college days). I’m not going to “assume” that you want to ask us produce it, or you are looking for some sort of remuneration or support of the project. You are going to have to ask.

Why? Because it’s hard, that’s why. I’ve talked to so many people who say that they’ve been rejected time and again, by dozens, even hundreds of production companies, and want to know what they are doing wrong.

First of all, you’re going to get rejections- thousands of them. This can’t stop you from asking the question. If you don’t face up to the first challenge, it doesn’t bode well for you facing the hundreds of others waiting for you around the next corner.

Ask.

Wanna See a Movie?

GirlAtEnd

Hi everybody! Here’s a great movie I helped get produced, written and directed by my friend and colleague, Dave McGlone. They just had their premiere in Los Angeles last week, and the movie is available for download at the provided link. It’s a well done feature, and shows you what you can do when you put your mind to it and have a great network of friends.

Please enjoy “The Girl at the End of the World”!

Katie and Dan are in a long distance relationship but when a catastrophic event knocks out all technology, they must find a way across oceans and land to be with each other at the end of the world.

http://distrify.com/films/7779-the-girl-at-the-end-of-the-world?widget_id=5573&utm_source=Distrify&utm_medium=shorturl&utm_campaign=Widget-5573

Ask “THE SCRIPT MENTOR”, Part II

th1Q- How does one stay motivated? I’ve been struggling over the same story for a long time, and I’m getting bored of my own story. How are you able to be so prolific with YOUR writing?

A- I certainly understand how the interest/motivation wanes over time- the same characters, the same (but different) dialogue, the same outcome, blah, blah. Imagine for a second having to read them and NOT having written them- the same characters, the same dialogue (with minor changes), the same outcome…AND the same mistakes over and over again. That’s my life! But we chose our lives, and if we threw our problems in the middle with a hundred other people’s lives and their problems, I’d take mine back first every time. So would you. That’s the beauty of writing.
Yes, you will get to the point where you’re not going to work on that anymore- for now. Hell, I cannot tell you (actually I can, but I’d be embarrassed) how many partial scripts I have in various on line files. Let’s say it’s more than one, but less than the number of grains of sand in the Sahara. But not much less… ;)
Right now, the scripts that I am working on- open and actually touch almost daily- are “PEANUT AND CRACKER JACK”, “BLURRED LINES”, “SECRET AGENT BOB”, “SILOS” and “UNDEAD REDEMPTION”. I also just started a collab on one of my very first concepts called “GHOST PLAYA”; I started an outline 1:30 this morning. So, to say “I get it” is NOT a throw-away condescension in any way. I really do.
You might benefit by having several projects open at once. To me, writing is a very emotional response. If I’m not in a good frame of mind, creatively, it doesn’t get done. I have plenty of other things that keep me busy at the computer instead; time-suckers (no games- I hate games). When the mood is right, which is probably 85-90% of the time (I can’t write when I’m angry, and politics and sports usually make me angry), I write. My point is, everyone has a process and you have to decide which works for you. If you put it away, coming back in 6-8 weeks to it really is like meeting up with an old friend. You pick up right where you left off, and glad to see each other again.
If you want to start a new project, no sweat- I’m still here if/when needed. You’re a good writer. What you lack is time on the job. Nobody is great coming out of the gate. You try to apply what little you may have learned and taken to heart, and start developing a marketable concept.

Q- I understand that you are looking for 180 words per page/minute in a spec script. I find some of this kind of contradictory. A film is supposed to be visual. That means less dialogue; “show, don’t tell”.

A- I understand your hesitancy in what I’m sharing with you. This is where trust comes in. You’re right- a film IS visual. This is not a film; this is a script. Consider your position for a minute: You hesitate to make the necessary suggested changes- reducing the verbiage and wordweight to improve the flow and the “read” of your story, for the fear of reducing it to 70 pages or less, rendering the project useless., in your opinion. Is that about accurate?
So, in essence, you would RATHER keep the extraneous elements of your story in your ultimate effort to reach a certain page count. Is that about it?
I’m sharing with you what readers are looking for, and what they key in on. This point is not debated anywhere- ever. I didn’t make up the expression “more white than black”. What I DID do was create a formula for achieving that lean material. I believe it is a formula that works; it’s worked for me, and it’s worked for many others who have successfully gone through THE SCRIPT MENTORprogram. Can you achieve success without this limitation or putting this word count into practice? Of course! First of all, it’s only a GUIDELINE. You will exceed the word count from page to page, on occasion. I’m working on the averages, ten page sections at a time. That’s how it works in quality control.
I attached your page 60 transposed into Word document for the purpose of this exercise and demonstration. According to my word count, your page 60- the “action sequence” you were so worried about writing under the suggested word count- came in at 417 words on the page. Quite frankly, I thought the standard 8 X 11 page document only held around 350, as this was always the highest word count I’ve come across, so I’m a bit taken aback by that number myself. In five minutes, I took that page 60 and, without knowing anymore about the plot, characters or even the specific SCENE that’s taking place, reduce the overall wordweight by two-thirds, down to 145 words. This was accomplished by cutting out the fat, using better cinematic language, and a few punctuation changes.
It’s about choices: you can write it like a screenplay or write it like a novel. If I wanted to get “lost” in the writing, your version is much more descriptive and much more enjoyable to read- for a novel. But it’s not about getting “lost” in the words. It’s about moving along at a fast pace getting to the end. THAT’S what “movies” do, and therefore, that’s what scripts must do. Allow the reader to “fill in the blanks”. Do you need to describe each minor player’s physical appearance? No; they’re set pieces, essentially. You wouldn’t describe every chair in the scene, either.
I hope this exercise, not only proves a point, but shows you a little how it’s done. The numbers are guidelines, but like any guidelines, they’re in place for a purpose: to get the overall wordweight down. Everyone will tell you it’s necessary to control the number of words and the overwriting, but NO ONE except THE SCRIPT MENTOR will give you hard and fast numbers on how to accomplish this. Keep in mind, too- this is an average over the length of the script, which I choose to measure in ten page increments. If, over the length of the script, it eventually comes out to 200 words per page, it might very well NOT be an issue. I’ve read several good scripts that averaged slightly under or slightly over 200 word mark. If you shoot for 150-180, it might end up 190, and still be fantastic.
Also, we are ONLY talking about spec scripts from unproduced writers here. Oscar winning scripts, and most produced scripts tend to be much heavier in wordweight. That’s fine for them. They’ve earned that right. As a whole, we spec writers have not. We must work to get our projects read and eventually, produced.

Q- I keep sharing my concepts, screenplays and loglines with friends and fellow writers through various on line “writing groups”- and I rarely, if ever, get any positive feedback whatsoever. What can I do to keep my head in the game and my spirit alive?

A- I’m sorry you’re feeling a bit “beat up” at the moment. It’s one of the truths in this business- you have to have very thick skin. You’ll get negative feedback even AFTER you know you’ve nailed it. Do you know how many contest feedback/reviews I got that trashed my writing even after all of the success these scripts have had? It’s crazy, and not something you really get used to. You just flow with it.
In our case, my goal is to take care of the BIG issues first and let the small ones work themselves out. The Script Mentor may be the ONLY place that believes that 90% of the issues in most screenplays are format related. We also may be the only ones that believe that fixing these issues first will help improve the overall screenplay several hundred-fold. This is by design.
I’m not overly concerned about the “marketability” of a story at this juncture, especially if it’s the very first one you’ve written. Rarely are the first concepts EVER marketable, but it doesn’t mean the time spent writing it is for naught. In baseball, you play scrimmage games. They don’t mean anything, but in the long run, the experienced gleaned through these games: in-game strategy, at bats, fielding opportunities, etc.- all have a dramatic impact on your playing ability down the line.

No different here.

If it takes a new concept to help make you re-charge your batteries, have at it. Come up with some ideas, and include a “theme” for each concept; what YOU want the reader to walk away thinking this is what the story is about. If you’ve seen “Gravity” (saw it the other night; loved it), the theme was actually stated halfway through: the need to let go. It is so clearly played out throughout the story; a very strong thread of emotion tying everything together.
Once you have your concept and them, send them to me, if you’d like, with an explanation as to why you want to write each one. Just a line or two should suffice. We all need a reason to write a particular story. It doesn’t have to earth-shattering, but it has to want to keep you coming back to the computer to write it.

Q- I am working through my script, as you suggested, and trying to write using more “cinematic language”. This is first example I come across is:
“Rogue goes to the door.”
Are you looking for me to use more action words such as “Rogue strides to the door”?

A- Exactly. There are over fifty ways to describe someone’s walk, most of which define an attitude. This is important in describing action. If he “slithered” to the door, that implies one thing, “bounced” implies another, “sauntered” yet another. This is the “cinematic language” that I’m always referring to. You can use “walk” or its variation, in a script- once!
Now in this example above, “strides” indicates confidence and pride. If it fits that particular character at the particular time in that particular scene, it’s probably a good fit.

Q- Another example is:
“The goon goes for his gun.”
Would it be better as “The goon grabs at his gun”?

A- Yes, that would be one way. When I referred to “goes” and “begins to”, I’m usually referring to the habit people have (yourself included) where they write the way they talk in an informal setting. “He said this to her, and she goes “Screw you, asshole”, or someone “goes to get up and answer the door”. This is how most people talk, but we shouldn’t write like that.
“He begins to get ready to leave, opens the door and disappears”- we only “begin to get ready” if for some reason we stop, and this action of stopping is important. If we “begin to get ready to leave” and we leave, we just have to say “he leaves”; there’s no beginning to get ready part.
If someone “starts to leave” when the phone rings, and they stop and get the phone, that’s one thing. That’s a specific action, for a specific reason.
If someone “starts to leave, gathers up his books, opens the door and departs”, then just write that the person left.
It’s all about word economy, and these are areas that can cut out 5-10% additional fat in terms of wordweight. There are so many examples of this in a given script; I’m sure I don’t even get them all (I’d like to think I do, but occasionally one or two can slip by).

Q- Another thing I noticed that I write:
“Rogue looks on in surprise.”
Is it okay to write “Rogue is surprised”?

A- You can do even better than that. Show instead of Tell. How does one “look surprised”? What happens to their face?
“Rogue and the waitress return to his room. Without hesitation, she rips off her shirt and unsnaps her bra; her pendulous breasts swing free. She turns to Rogue; her eyes scream desperation.
Brows raised, Rogue cracks a slight smile.
ROGUE: “I thought I tipped you already.”

Notice the use of the cinematic language- rips, pendulous, desperation, etc. I described the specific action, giving it a deeper, two-dimensional meaning. I described his facial reactions; as opposed to saying he was surprised, or shocked or happy. His retort is in line with his aloofness and his “cool” demeanor- nothing fazes this guy. He’s in charge.

I hope this helps.

“Ask The Script Mentor”

screenplayjunkie5
The following are recent questions sent to The Script Mentor.
While we don’t pretend to know ALL of the answers, we do our best in steering people in the best direction, and in doing so, thought some of these answers could help you as well.

Q – “Geno, can you advise on whether it is advisable to submit a logline within the opening paragraph(s) of a synopsis or should the logline be submitted separately to the synopsis (as in, within the body of the opening approach letter)? I’ve heard different answers to this same question and would like advice on which would be more appropriate.”

A – If the synopsis is part of a marketing “package” being sent to someone, which might include the query letter and logline, the logline would be the first section of the query letter, with the one-page synopsis being on a separate page.
However, if the “client” is requesting just synopsis, chances are they’ve read the logline somewhere, but I would still include a title and the logline as part of the synopsis as separate sections above the synopsis. It can’t hurt. Otherwise, they may be reading a synopsis and not know what the project title is, and may not be able to attach it to the logline they’ve read somewhere. Keep in mind, a producer may get a hundred or so of these in a given month, so help them out by including it for them.
To me, basically, the title and logline go together on everything you’re creating as far as marketing material, which is one reason why they are both so important to nail. The logline tells you what, essentially, your story is about- in 30 words or less. The synopsis walks you through that story without the extraneous details.

Q – “How exactly does a program like ‘The Script Mentor’ work?”

A – First, I would encourage you to review the website. It discusses the various options, cost and payment plans. Beyond that, I can tell you that we have well over one hundred members of the organization. Each are assigned one of the mentors currently active with us. Basically, the writer and mentor work in tandem, at a speed dictated by the paying member (you). The best starting point is discussing (via email or, on some occasions, Skype) a new concept and working from there, but in actuality, we are generally helping a writer with a script in progress or a handful of completed scripts. Together, through suggestions, advice, and yes- mentoring- we shape the screenplay to make it a more marketable and professional project. We can work on one project throughout your membership tenure, or a dozen projects- it doesn’t matter.

Through TSM’s program, you will learn to write a more marketable screenplay, as well as learn a networking plan (peers, cheers and rocketeers), the trademarked LOGLINE formula, and a marketing strategy that will vastly improve your marketing opportunities. Many writers may have a good script, but do not know how to market it successfully, while some others know a lot of the right people, but cannot get them interested in their poorly constructed screenplay based and bad concept!

Along the way, you’ll pick up and learn a number of writing rules, techniques and writing styles that will otherwise take years to learn, or thousands of dollars to learn through screenwriting courses, seminars, webinars, newsletters, services, books, etc. You don’t have to choose that option; we’ve spent the money so you don’t have to! Our mentors have already attended those courses and seminars, and from them, developed a more efficient way of passing this information on to the newer writer. The reason for this company existence is, when I was starting out, I was inundated with the number of different places one could get little tidbits of screenwriting knowledge and information. While learning from all of these different areas, I soon discovered the amount of screenwriting advice that was contrary to one another! There was nothing out there, housed under one service, that was even close to being uniform or standardized.

Obviously, we cannot guarantee any specific level of success, as ultimately, we believe that talent and luck are two important elements of the equation we cannot control. However, the number of successes from our past- and current- members would strongly suggest that we know what we’re doing. One writer, who had enjoyed a certain level of success on her own, paid thousands of dollars to more than one consultant with the hopes of landing representation. After a series of failed and unfulfilled promises, she was assisted by The Script Mentor, and within thirty days, had a meeting with a literary manager which resulted in an offer of representation. Other writers have gotten their scripts optioned or produced or have achieved levels of success in various screenwriting competitions that they never reached prior to the wisdom and guidance of their mentor(s).

We are largely a word-of-mouth company, as all of our mentors are working writers. We do little-to-no advertising, and yet have reached a fairly substantial level of success and growth as a result. Our cost is about one-tenth the cost of other similar services, and we are now seeing a number of more established consulting services taking on the “mentoring” business model as a result of our successes.
We were the first, and I believe, the best, in the mentoring class.

Q – “Hi Geno! Thank you so much for getting in touch with me. I’ve heard you offer a free first ten-page read and review. Just out of university and I’ve been advised to get my script out as soon as possible. I need to work on the script a little but this shouldn’t take me any longer than a day or two and then I’ll forward it to you. Again thank you for this, look forward to your advice and feedback.”

A – I’m curious- who “advised” you to get the script out as soon as possible? I hope it was someone who knows screenwriting, who has read the script, and definitely feels it is as good as it can be; zero spelling, grammatical and formatting issues, excellent structure, unique concept and well-written in all facets. That being the case, then hopefully it has been read by several various professional screenwriting coverage services, and has received strong “recommends” across the board. Perhaps instead, it’s won a number of high-profile contests on top of all of that. Without all of this- and more- in place, that advice is wrong, wrong, and wrong on so many levels.

I am excited to read those first ten pages and to give you my honest assessment of the project, and if it has all of that, I know several managers and producers who will read it in a second!

Q – “A question about chase scenes. I have a chase scene going from a café to a safe house, do I have to label every turn as a new location? For example:
Int. Café…Leave café
Ext. Back of Café…Exit.
Ext. Alleyway…Turn
Ext. Another Alleyway…Exit.
Etc.
(I shortened each action line but I think you get the drift of can I write it in a paragraph)?

A – I think I know what you are going for, but I would have to see how it plays out when you write it to get a clearer picture. Generally, in a chase scene, not every location is noted unless action occurs there. Think “camera location”. If the camera is going to stop and be set-up at that location, it will be noted in the script as a scene location.
(after reading rewrite)
If the action narrative lines all relate to the same action, you should bundle them together. In other words, instead of this:
“Rogue exits the elevator.”
(new line) “He walks down the hall.”
(new line) “He finds the right hotel room and knocks”
(new line) “Bullets slam into the door, as Rogue dives to the ground”

It might be written like:

“Rogue exits the elevator on the fourth floor; cautiously slinks down the hall. He finds room forty two and knocks.”
“A click; the all-too-familiar sound of a shotgun hammer. Rogue hits the ground as a shotgun blast slams explodes through the door.”

Q – “I have a question for you. I translated dialogue and only have the English version in the script. Should I have the dialogue in Spanish?”

A – It depends on how much there is. If it’s substantial, I would write it in English, but make sure it’s clear the character is only speaking Spanish, by indicating as much in a parenthetical.
If it’s an occasional expression or cuss word, I wouldn’t even bother. Even if the reader doesn’t know what it means, literally, it’s probably understood to be an angry phrase or cuss word.
If it’s a character that speaks once or twice, but shares information important to the story (i.e.- a witness during a killing, etc.), I would write it in Spanish and either translate it in parentheses, or have another character translate it to others out loud.

More Q and A to follow…

A Walk on the WILD side…

thCABPBZ5RThere has been much discussion as to past commentary about the website WILDsound out of Canada. The site is owned and operated by Matthew Toffolo, and boasts about hosting an annual film festival. Besides having possibly the worst-LOOKING website in the history of websites (apart from my own, of course), it claims to run the following competitions:
Feature film screenplay
Short Film
TV Pilot Spec
Logline
Essay Contest
Horror Film Contest
Classic TV Script Contest
Sci Fi/ Fantasy Film AND Script Contest
Comic Book Film and Script Contest

That’s an amazing array of competitions; imagine the amount of staff it must take to read, review, and provide feedback on all of these entries? Keep in mind that each contest requires and entry fee, which may range between $25 and $65, or higher.

A few years back, I entered the screenplay competition, as I was entering several competitions that year with what I thought was a fairly strong entry. I paid the additional money for feedback, and a few months later, I got the review. The person providing the review stated that by not including scene numbers in my SPEC FEATURE SCREENPLAY, I will “never be taken seriously by agents or producers”. As we all know, this is wrong on so many levels, so I reached out and contacted Mr. Toffolo. Unfortunately, that’s pretty hard to do. His contact information is nowhere to be found on the site, and he’s pretty hard to track down. Fortunately for me, I was linked in with him through the business networking site, LinkedIn.

After explaining my issues with the feedback and the “contest” with him (never did hear who “won”, if anyone ever did), he offered $5 back. Five dollars- a Starbucks mocha grande. I made it clear this wasn’t acceptable and began listing the screenwriting organizations to which I was attached to, a member of, or working for at that time. This resulted in a network of several thousand other writers who, I explained, would hear about this incident if $5 was the best he could offer. Eventually, he relented, and re-paid the entire entry fee, along with his sincerest apologies for the “unprofessional review” I received.

Fast-forward to present time, as each of us has been inundated with their continuous spam emails regarding their website and the contests. I had also received a number of LinkedIN requests from various women (and a few guys), wanting to connect AND to join our forum groups. As you all know, I do a tremendous amount of due diligence on almost every member, in my efforts to prevent the spam mails, spam postings and the stealing of our personal contact information. It was during this due diligence search that I discovered the following:

1) With one exception, NONE of the members had a profile picture of themselves. They all had dog photos.
2) Their profiles were basic, incomplete, with the only contact information being through WILDsound.
3) All of their twitter handles were “Matthew Toffolo”, the owner of WILDsound.
4) All of their links fed back to a WILDsound blog or the WILDsound website.
5) The forum groups “Best of Screenplay Contests” and “Submit Your Loglines” are two groups owned, operated and moderated by WILDsound and/or one of it’s “employees”
Let’s look at some of these “people” specifically:

a) Zahra Factor- when Googled, the only reference to a Zahra Factor is the LinkedIN profile, with Mr. Toffolo’s information. “Zahra” received two recommendations through LinkedIn; one from Janice Freedman (two words: “Bright Future”) and Carson Deitner (two words: Terrific human”); her job description indicated as being a PA for WILDsound, where she “learned from terrific people”. She gave a LinkedIN recommendation to someone known as “Screenplay Writer”, calling them “An old soul”.

b) Carson Deitner- when Googled, the only reference is, again, the fake LinkedIn profile, with a picture of a dog- a prairie dog. Both the Twitter address (Matthew Toffolo) and the website go back to WILDsound. He gave on recommendation, to Ms. Factor, calling her only a “terrific human” (nice compliment, btw).

c) Larry Rothchild- when Googled, the only correctly spelled reference to this person is the LinkedIn profile, where by this person was listed to been a writer for 63 years, and an employee of Paramount for 61 of those years. Now, that would mean this person is over 80 years of age, which isn’t the issue. The question is- if he’s been writing for over 60 years, most of it with Paramount, has he not had a single credit anywhere along the line?

Needless to say, I conducted similar in-depth research on other WILDsound “employees”- Jen Francis, Jen Anderson, Irene Hopkins, Yealsa Hunter, Poetry Davis, Carrie Anderson, Jake Finkelstein, Thomas Bamburger, and on and on. If the LinkedIn profiles- pretty much the only bios available of them on the Internet- are anywhere close to an accurate portrayal of the person (as required by the LinkedIn User Agreement), then all of these people share Mr. Toffolo’s twitter feed, and all of them have let their looks go to the dogs.

So, I ask you: is this the work of a stand-up legitimate company? Are these “profiles” of employees the one’s you want to promote as your own? Is this the company whose contests you’re willing to shell out $40-$60 for, with feedback like that, and where you never know who won what contest? In my 17,000-plus contacts, I’ve never once come across anyone who has ever won a WILDsound contest, and if they have, had enjoyed any significant fruits of that victory. Not one.

The research has been done. Feel free to do your own. If you read this and still are willing to participate in any venture promoted by this company, all if can say is…

…you’ve been warned.