WILDsound, SSU Updates!

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Be advised that WILDsound has created at least two additional twitter addresses from which to recruit additional victims to the number of (questionable) contests they run. These new address include “1st Scene Contest” and “Writing Festival”. We’ve taken the liberty of blocking both Twitter addresses, for fear of excessive spamming.

SSU (Screenwriting Staffing Utopia) is currently running a “logline contest”. The prizes are completely insignificant, and they have no partnership with the companies they claim are providing FREE membership upon winning. They are simply going to pay for the membership out of their own pocket out of the funds they hope to collect.

Coincidentally, this “contest” runs through Christmas, which is a standard operating procedure for the company that ran another paid-entry contest last year, of which no winner was ever named. They also sold spots for a fictitious “pitch fest” last year at the same time, which also did not come to fruition.

One can conclude this is how they try to get Christmas money…and it’s that time of year!

Be careful of these continuing scams! Do NOT participate in any way ans should they reach out to you to “follow”, block them!

WILDsound Owner Matthew Toffolo- “We Made Mistakes…and I Sucked!”- Part II

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After receiving an email from the owner of WILDsound Film Festival, Matthew Toffolo (see Part I), where he wanted to discuss my very public opinion about him and his organization, supported by many others as proven through their comments in various threads on the subject, he offered a “peace offering” of sorts. Calling it “an arrangement” he proposed the following:

“I can always help you out with garnering more traffic to this site (www.thescriptmentor.com) and your Facebook/Twitter pages.”

He added:

“And I LOVE, to give you a new set of notes on that script you sent us awhile back and forward them to a new set of reading. Free of charge, of course.” (This is verbatim, complete with the misspellings, sentence structure errors, and punctuation issues).

In return, he wanted to “chat” to give him the opportunity to explain some of the various “half-truths” in previous postings and articles. After his opening salvo, which I took as some sort of threat of writing some sort of “column” about me (I’d love the publicity, but does he really “know” me?), I responded with an email of my own. The email basically highlighted what I know are more lies from just his first email;

1) He claimed he had NOTHING to do with WILDsound prior to May, 2013, yet he sent a total of five emails, complete with his signature and from his email address, all in February 2012.

2) He admits that the previous employees were sleazy; he called them “sketchy”, and is at a loss as to why they all had fake profiles on many of the social sites, and why they all used his Twitter handle “matthewtoffolo” as their own.

3) Even while calling these employees “sketchy”, he would neither confirm nor deny whether they were STILL employed at WILDsound (we have since confirmed that many ARE still working there).

4) When presented with copies of the emails from 2012, he still denies sending them: “And the amazing thing is when you originally submitted to us and had the issue of coverage, I wasn’t around- but you think it was me!”

We exchanged our personal telephone numbers with one another, and I encouraged a Skype session, so I could look him straight in the eye as I offered up these facts. I’m pretty much an expert in interrogation, or in this case, simple “questioning”, and very few are able to bullshit me for too long. There are hundreds of felons still in prison as a result of this particular skill set.

Needless to say, I did not hear from him again.

I wrote back several days later, reminding him that he had failed to respond to my follow-up inquiries- after all, he reached out to ME initially. I received an onslaught of emails, explaining why he took so long to respond (“this is just my YouTube account”, even though I just hit “reply” to the email he sent ME). A second email minutes later attempted to explain how WILDsound has been advertising “winners” to their contests- over 70 in the last 18 months. The winning entry in any of their 24 contests results in having your script/novel/poem/first scene/TV script) read aloud by a table of (unknown) actors. He, once again, reiterated that he had “ZERO idea of who signed off” on those emails to me, adding “It angers me, actually!” Apparently, so angry, he’s not attempting to find out who did it. Truth is, he knows he did- “But why would you believe me? You don’t have a reason to.”
He’s right about that.

He continues to avoid any responsibility for any past misdeeds, and instead lives by the theory that if you say it long enough, people will eventually believe it. He claims that this is the “magic of the Internet, it’s free speech and you can say whatever you feel is right and the truth.” Actually, Matthew, you can’t, and I suspect you’re saying that as you and Jacob of SSU prepare yet another public relations attack on me and my family, or attempt to destroy my reputation. One cannot just “say what they believe” if it is damaging to one’s reputation. That is illegal. What I say is truth, as it is backed up by mounds of documentation. I suggest you have the same should you consider such a strategy.

Since his last email, dated 10/16/14, I have called him several times, and texted him at all of the available numbers provided by him. I have checked the site again, and noted recent announcement of “winners” who have had their “winning scripts” read. Perhaps he is making an effort in changing, but much more has to change in order to undo the damage he did to his reputation over the past several years. The list of unhappy customers or harassed writers is disturbingly long.

Most recently, I received an offer to network with an unnamed person from “Open World Toronto Film Festival”. Nowhere on their site is a name offered- anywhere. Before accepting the request (through Stage 32), I asked who was in charge, and have yet to receive a response. Now, I have no proof whatsoever; consider it a gut feeling; but I think there is a connection between this anonymous company that runs a number of contests- with the prize being a trophy and a certificate- and someone like Matthew Toffolo.

If I find out otherwise, I’ll make sure to update you.

WILDsound Owner Matthew Toffolo: “We Made Mistakes…and I Sucked!” PART I

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Last week, out of the blue, this blogger received a lengthy email from Matthew Toffolo, the current head of WILDsound Festival and website. You might be familiar with WILDsound, if not through their endless spamming, or their multiple LinkedIn and Facebook “employee” profiles, but perhaps through several articles written here, and elsewhere, describing some of their shady practices in operating screenwriting contests. The list of complainants about this company is practically endless, and many of those have chosen our various threads to air out some of those complaints.

Now, I haven’t had any contact with Mr. Toffolo for well over two years- and never on a personal basis- so his email did take me back.

“Hi Geno. Just wanted to reach out to you…but I wanted to talk with you before a column is posted about this site and yourself.”

A not-so-veiled threat, I see. What is this all about? As the email continued, he explained how he was contacted by Jacob Stuart of Screenwriting Staffing Utopia – someone he described as wanting “revenge” – and was asked to join forces with them to have his WILDsound “website traffic to help respond to you”. This is SSU’s weak attempt to have as many “bad reports” out on the internet, so anyone wishing to Google me or my various companies will see fake reports and claims of rip-offs and complaints. They’ve tried this several times in the past, and continue to fail epically. Matthew added that he’s heard how “polarizing” I am, yet in the same breath, he called me “amazing”.

He also admitted to having heard/read all of the things I, and many other people, have been saying about WILDsound- presumable about their sleaziness, lies and questionable business practices- and stated, unequivocally “Your opinions of WILDsound have some validity.”

BINGO!

WILDsound has made its mark by operating over twenty contests (24, to be exact), which can easily be considered “money mills”. You’d be hard-pressed to find ANY announced winners of their “Poetry Contest”; their “First Ten Page Contest”; their “Best Novel Contest”. Yes- they have come up with a contest for just about every writing format.

We anxiously await the “Best Sanskrit Contest”.

While they promote these contests through a series of heavy spamming via emails, tweets and Facebook posts, one could assume they have professionals on staff who are “experts” in each of these formats. You can’t really verify this through their website; hell, you can’t even find a contact email on their site other than general information. They do expect the writer to submit their payment (from $10-$60 on up) depending on the contest, and await some results.

These results would rarely come, unfortunately.

After I began writing about my personal experience with WILDsound and my email exchanges with Mr. Toffolo, many, many people began speaking up, and I soon realized this wasn’t an aberration, but more of a pattern; a sleazy, disgusting pattern of scamming screenwriters.

As Matthew and I exchanged emails, I explained my original situation with their organization, which he quickly side-stepped, claiming that he did not come into control of WILDsound until May 2012. Now, here is where the confusion starts: my email exchange with him took place in February 2012. He quickly back-tracked and said that previous employees, who he claims were doing some “sketchy things”, including attaching HIS Twitter handle on all of their fake profiles (ahem), was now responsible for attaching his email signature on these communications, which he had never seen until now.

Where I come from (law enforcement), we call that “implausible deniability”- in other words, “the bullshit meter is off the chart”!

He sadly admitted also that winners of his various “contests” were not announced for as much as six months at a time. He ended this first email with a request for us to bury the hatchet, as he was “wondering if we could come up with some sort of arrangement”.

Tune in for the next posting to see EXACTLY what this “arrangement” entailed, as well as my very detailed and specific response to his letter.

THE WRITER’S BIO

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One of the features of a query letter that is generally the most helpful has also proven to be the most annoying- simply because so few of the writers ever include one in their query. This is the “Writer’s Bio”, the two or three lines at the end of letter where you get the chance to brag about yourself a little.

And I mean “a little”; two or three lines, tops.

I have seen resumes that were twice as long as the query letters itself. I’m happy that you were the second male lead in your fifth grade school play where you starred as “The Pied Piper of Hamlin”. Awesome – but truly not necessary in a query letter. I see that you were optioned twenty seven times. That’s amazing! Can you name one of them for us, please?

The fact is these bios may just be the thing that TRULY separates someone getting their script read and someone who doesn’t, all things being equal. We like to know a little about the person submitting the script, so it’s incumbent upon you to tell us.

Here are some tips for a good writer’s bio:

1) Mention the contests you have won or placed in IF they are major contest- especially if the screenplay that won was the same screenplay that you are submitting.

2) If you were optioned, tell us the screenplay and who optioned it. Some due diligence is in order when a producer considers buying a project. This information WILL get verified.

3) If you have had successes with screenplays written in the genre for which you are submitting, we’d like to know that. Knowing you have six rom/com’s in your repertoire, when you are submitting a horror, is NOT important and can actually be viewed as a negative.

4) If you have really NO successes, then you’ll want to highlight your screenwriting education, be it formal (through film school or college) or through a particular course of study.

5) If you have no writing successes to speak of, and no writing education to really point to, it might help if you tell us why you wrote a screenplay about the Iraq war. Perhaps you were a soldier, or you lived in Iraq during the war. These are intriguing POV’s that would make most people sit up and take notice.

These are some things you DON’T want to include:

1) Do not simply add links to other pages. We’re not clicking on them

2) Don’t tell us to check out your IMdb for information. We’re not doing that either. If you include links AFTER you’ve told us a little about you, we’ll probably want to see more about you.

3) Do not tell us about the 25 YA novels you’ve written- when you’re marketing a screenplay.

4) Do not tell us about the eighth place finish of the “Oshkosh Screenplay and Bratwurst Competition.” Don’t care; ESPECIALLY if it’s NOT this screenplay.

5) Having spoken to Steven Spielberg once at a Starbucks is not going to help you get someone to request your screenplay… that is, unless he said “We’re shooting your script tomorrow, and Tom Cruise is playing the lead!” Then, you might want mention this fact somewhere along the line.

Screenwriting- For Money!

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So, how do you get paid for doing something that you’ve been willingly do for free for all of these years? Well, you have to have a track record of some success first, if you intend to make substantial (i.e. livable annual salary) money. Hopefully, you’ve had some successes in contests or an option or two, perhaps a produced work, or some other kinds of credits that are easily verifiable. So, to achieve this, you should be writing marketable spec screenplays that are perfectly formatted for the spec market, with a strong concept and well-written.

Beyond that, you MUST network. I realize “network” is a nasty word to some of you who prefer the shadows of your writing hovel only to come out for the occasional Twinkie and Sports Center update. But, it’s true; you really need to put yourself out there, technologically-speaking. For example, whenever I come across an indie producer looking for a script, I contact them (especially if I don’t have what they’re looking for) and ask them if they would be okay with me helping them to locate the best script for them. Now, they always say yes- because I have a network of 20,000 entertainment-related people, mostly writers like you, and they know this. They always ask “what’s in it for you?” and I tell them: I want the lead role and $100K in cash only. No, actually I tell them I’m not looking for anything, except perhaps, their professional friendship and possible future collaboration of some kind. True. No money, no credits, nothing. It’s a ton of hard work I’m willing to do for zip. Their friendship, that’s it. Sounds corny; it may sound unbelievable, but I can give you a laundry list of those I’ve helped, and still stay in contact with over the years. Many of these producers have gone on to bigger and better things in the industry, and I knew them and helped them when they were doing ultra-low budget ketchup horrors. So, that’s one way of getting your foot in the door to nice paying assignment writing; offer to help them without any expectations on YOUR end. Believe me; they’ll remember you and you will cash in on that good karma soon.

You also have to go to where the jobs are. The sites are plentiful, and I mention them all of the time: Craigslist, Mandy, Elance, SimplyHired, Media Match, GetFilmJobs, Mooncasting and a host of others. Now, some of these may require a paid membership, but they almost always allow you to try it for FREE first. So, sign up, fill out your profile, and check out the jobs. Elance is by far the best for paying jobs in general, and they have a sweet set-up. Mandy is excellent for screenwriting jobs, specifically. On Craigslist, instead of checking just Los Angeles or New York, check out “classifiedadsnationwide.com” and do you search. I scour all of these sites, and many more, and try to provide only the PAYING screenwriting jobs or script searches on our LinkedIn and Facebook sites “Script Assignments and Searches”.

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One last note: those screenwriting “job” newsletters like “International Screenwriting Association” (ISA) and Screenwriting Staffing Utopia (SSU)? Total scams. Don’t spend a dime on them, even though they BOTH ask for $100 for a “premium” account. ISA is owned and operated by an actor who simply cuts and pastes the ads found at the same websites we find ours. The difference is they withhold the contact information “for five days” unless, of course, you PAY the premium price, and then you’ll receive their contact information by accessing their website. Total scam, and the owner doesn’t deny doing this (well, he can’t because it’s true). So, save your hunnit and do the research yourself- 15 minutes, tops, once you get used to it.

As far as SSU goes, well, they are just a bunch of criminals from the get-go. Jacob Stuart and Sarah Stutsman are the sleaziest assholes you’ll ever meet, so don’t EVER send a dime their way. They also “cut-and-paste” their ads, but they go one step further; they claim these leads as their own. They INTENTIONALLY try to deceive the public into believing they’ve cultivated the clients through their own contact- of which they have NONE. I know this because I was personally scammed out of $2600 from them by being a partner and Vice President of their business. He lied to me as well, folks, and once the truth was revealed, I left immediately, but far too late. He claims to have worked FOR ISA in the past, from which he was fired (a claim denied by the ISA founder) so he started a business mirroring the ISA model. Once I called them BOTH out for plagiarism, as well as fraud, Jacob Stuart and Sarah Stutsman began “re-writing” the ads in their own words (which, to no one’s surprise, are mostly misspelled) in an effort to avoid detection. FAIL- as so is their business! If YOU have been victimized by EITHER of these newsletters, demand you full reimbursement today! Let them know you can find the same jobs and opportunities on your own or on our LinkedIn and Facebook pages. When they refuse to comply and not return your money, let us know: we’ll tell the world…or at least 20K industry-related people!

We will be the “light” to these cockroaches!

ASK “THE SCRIPT MENTOR” No. 6 – COST TO HIRE A SCREENWRITER; CONTESTS, ETC.

questions2Q. I’m thinking about hiring a ghostwriter, and I was referred to you and The Script Mentor services. Can you tell me what a ghostwriting assignment might cost, in general?

A. I’m flattered that your friend was kind enough to refer you to us. I’d love to thank them personally. Regarding ghostwriting, it is something that I’ve done, and have arranged for other writers to do. I boast a network that exceeds 20K entertainment-related people, many of whom are writers of various talent levels. In the last month alone, I’ve arranged three such assignments, and the price/cost varies from case to case.

When you are hiring a ghostwriter, you must understand two things:

1) It will generally cost more because the writer is trading his or her writing credits for pay. While the general writing assignment may run anywhere from $500- $5,000 – and higher – you can expect to double that for not giving the writing credit and having it a ghost assignment.

2) The second thing is you get what you pay for. Rarely (although it DOES happen), you’ll get a very talented, experienced writer for the least amount of money. For example, I’ve completed ghost assignments for as little as $2500, though I recently completed a television writing assignment where I received $50,000 (1/2 down, half upon completion). That show will most likely get made by the production company who hired me.

The last two assignments where I found the best writer for the paying client were for $5000 and $1000, respectively. The $5K writer was one of those rare examples of a landing a great writer far below the writer’s market price, but did it somewhat as a favor to me. The $1K writer- someone who wrote one of the best spec screenplays I’ve read in years- had a lot of writing experience, but was getting back into the field after being away for a while.

I will do what I can for you, and thank you (and your friend) for allowing us to help you!


Q. Hi Geno! Do you think you can advise me about cost estimation to engage a writer, particularly for our “Animated Feature” project(s)? We are currently filling in our budget for those projects. There are the plans we have in mind:

  • Plan A: Script notes- We are developing the Script internally; planning to send out to someone to provide us the script notes. How do we estimate the cost from there? What is the cost range would be?
  • Plan B: Polish Up / Rewrite the script: We would like to engage someone experience to have a look on our Scripts and perhaps polish up from there. How do we estimate the cost from there? What is the range would be?
  • Plan C: Provide a treatment to the writer and the writer start writing script from there. How do we estimate the cost from there? What is the range would be?

We just came back May 2014 from Cannes Film Festival, where we had a booth in Marche Du Film. So what is your advice, based on above Plan A, B and C? No hurry at all, just share with me whenever you are available.

A. Thank you so much for allowing me to help you and your animation team with on your new animation project. As you know, I boast a network of over 20K entertainment-related people; many of whom seem to be writers of all levels. It includes professional writers currently working in all of the major studios and production houses to new writers writing their first scripts- and everyone in between! Just this year alone, I have assisted dozens of writers in getting new writing jobs. In fact, I just closed one last week- an adaptation of a client’s novel- that paid the writer $5,000 USD on a budgeted project of about $100,000.

Here in the United States, a truly professional writer and member of the Writer’s Guild (an industry union) is bound by certain laws that require the writer to make a certain amount per script. Studios use these writers, as money is no object to them generally. They can afford the $100,000 payday for a screenwriter. If you can as well, look no further. I’m your man! ;)

Realistically, though, it will depend on your production budget for the project, and what you’re willing to pay for the quality of the writing. As I said, my network spans the quality spectrum. But if you told me how much you think you can spend on the writer, I would make the effort on your behalf and secure you the best writer for that money, someone I know and trust and would stake my reputation on. This is a lot of work for me to do this, but I feel it is important, especially if my reputation is behind it, and I love to be involved in fellow professionals- like you- from around the globe.

Re: Script Notes- If you have a script in place and require script notes on structure, formatting, plot and story, there are literally thousands of writers who offer to do this. Even I do this. The prices range from nominal to off-the-charts expensive. I can arrange to get you very solid notes from a contact whom I strongly recommend for about $150- $300 USD. It wouldn’t be me, but someone I think is very talented. I would make nothing on that deal.

Downside: The problem, of course, is getting one person’s point of view on a one-time read. If you wanted to go back to that person for follow-up notes (let’s say certain changes were made), you would have to pay that fee again, and again. This may not be the best solution in your case- but only you can say.

Re: Script Polish/Rewrite – Again, the number of writers I know, including myself, who could accomplish this is high. Generally, you’re looking at $1500-$2500 USD for this process, or more if you require a writer with vast credits and experience. As an example, I was recently paid $10,000 USD for this type of assignment.

Re: Treatment for a New Script: This may be the best move for your project. You can steer the final outcome of the script with much more control. These agreements are done in several ways. Most of the time, the writer accepts the assignment and is paid 50% of the agreed-upon fee up front. They are given a certain amount of time (for example, 12 weeks) to produce a first draft. The client reviews it, and asks for certain changes. The agreement generally calls for ONE FREE rewrite, where the writer fixes the script to your liking. Prior to the time of the final delivery, the remaining portion of the payment is made. The WRITER will generally request screenwriting credits, to be acknowledged through IMdb, our professional database for credits. This is very important to us, as writers. You could expect to pay between$2500 for a very new writer with little professional experience, to $100,000 for a working professional- and everything in between. This year alone, I was paid $5,000 USD for a rewrite of someone else’s script, and ten times that much for a brand new feature script from a very high-level production house with 15 shows currently running on cable television.

Another option is by way of a GHOSTWRITING assignment. Everything is the same, except the writer doesn’t get writing credits. In fact, no one knows they were involved in the project. You or your producer/director may wish to claim THEY wrote the project, and in exchange for money, we would agree to this. Of course, this is more expensive because we are selling our rights as writers. You might expect to double the writer’s asking price; my last ghostwriting assignment paid $10,000.

Summary: Your projected budget for finding and hiring a screenwriter for this animation project is all dependent upon the overall budget of the project. You’ll want to target about 2-4% of the budget; the higher end for the more talented writer. I would welcome the opportunity to find and help you select the lucky writer for this project. As a producer, I do this all the time with production companies and have assisted in getting many, many writers some great gigs, while helping production companies get the perfect scripts for their projects.

I’m very good at it.

Thank you for reaching out to me on this project, and I hope we can work together very soon!


Q. I want to thank you and The Script Mentor team for their help and guidance in finding my recent success at the Hollywood Pitch Fest. I received quite a few compliments on the pitch. A veteran writer I know looked at my script and commented on how much “white” there was on the page!

I had several fresh script requests at Pitch fest for both of my scripts. I was able to get one of them in the hands of Silver Productions (Matrix, V for Vendetta), and two other companies that did “300” and “Twilight” respectively. Morgan Creek also took both. Millennium’s VP was there and seemed enthused by the script, saying “this is exactly what we do.” He was very happy to take the one sheet (which he complimented me on, thanks again for your guidance!)

Again, I just wanted to thank you so much. I spread your name and company to a few writers at the event so I hope they get in contact with you.

A. Wow, that’s some great feedback- both on your pitches as well as our service in helping you to this point. I certainly hope your pals from the pitch fest follow up with your suggestion and contact us. I expect big things from you going forward, as I always thought having the Gods of mythology come alive in the present was something very unique and intriguing as a concept.

Continued good luck going forward!


Q. My name is Frank, I am a screenwriter, and I have been immersed in film and television since a young child as a hobby. I’m looking to place my work in some legitimate contest. If you have any ideas please send them my way. Thank you for your time, I look forward to speaking with you again.

A. I absolutely, one hundred percent, endorse entering contests. My own success through these competitions is directly linked to me recently landing several paid writing assignments. One client specifically sought out contest winners, of which I was one. In my opinion, it’s the quickest way to get recognized, get compared to your writing peers, and to get your projects read by executives and produces, who often judge these contests at the higher levels. In return, should you do well in them, the contest organizers themselves promote you and your work. Who wouldn’t want to lay claim that Frank’s project got produced after having done well in their contest? That’s their number one goal!

That being said, I would STRONGLY encourage some steps PRIOR to entering any contests that costs money to enter. I list these steps in my blog at http://thescriptmentor.wordpress.com. Before you even enter ONE contest, though, you’ll need professional feedback. Friends and family are nice, but they’re never going to give you honest feedback, and it is doubtful they know anything about screenwriting. Contest writing (and reading and judging) is all about the numbers. With an average of 5,000 entries per any mid-level contests, how can it not be? Therefore you can do certain things to ASSURE your advancement to the Quarter Finals round and beyond. We believe so much in our system at The Script Mentor that we offer a 100% MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE on that very thing! If a member of TSM followed our philosophy, we guarantee you a high finish in any one of the 3500+ competitions going today. So, get you screenplay reviewed by at least three professionals beforehand. We can help with that if you need it. We offer a FREE first ten-page review, which should give you a good indication where you stand, writing-wise.

I write a lot more about contest tips; here are but a few:

1. Determine what your budget is going to be for the year. In 2013, mine was set at $500, because I felt I had a strong entry.

2. Sign up for Moviebytes.com. I’m a paid member (WinningScriptsPro) and it is a very helpful and informative site and service. They list most major contests, and offer ways to easily enter and track your entries.

3. Investigate each contest, including user reviews. User reviews are very enlightening, I assure you.

4. Determine what the prizes are and if that is what you are looking for. For me, money, recognition and exposure were my goals. I’m less concerned about table reads or free airfare to someone’s seminar in Cabazon, CA.

5. Calendar EARLY BIRD DEADLINES. You can save significantly if you enter early.

6. Spend any extra money on an occasional feedback. It might double the entry fee, or more, but in most cases, it is well worth it. My very first feedback, years ago, was from Script Pipeline (Script P.I.M.P. as it was known then). The script was awful, but the reviews made it sound like it had, and I had, potential. This was extremely important to me, because, like many others, I was feeling vulnerable when submitting my life’s dream- my first completed screenplay- up for ridicule. The feedback was spot-on, extremely informative, but more importantly, highly positive in tone. This was a major reason for my delving into another script, and another, and so on.

7. Read, accept and learn from the feedbacks, but do not dwell on them. Take the review to heart, because if it’s factually correct, it comes from a good place. Make an effort to make the improvements/corrections as pointed out in the feedback. Also understand not everyone is going to like it, and not everyone is going to hate it. Chances are that the reader probably knows a bit more than you, especially in the bigger, more prestigious contests.

8. Check out “Withoutabox”. This is a great little secret that everyone should be aware of. It makes sending scripts, tracking scripts, and paying for entry fees extremely easy and user-friendly. It’ll save you money to pay for $100 towards $120 worth of entry fees, as well. Cool site.

9. Read all of the contest rules. Some REQUIRE cover pages with info; some others PROHIBIT them. DO NOT get caught with your contact info anywhere on the script (including title page) or you’ll be disqualified.

10. Get confirmation on your entry, and save it.

11. Document your script entries. If you don’t use a contest entry program, create an Excel spreadsheet, and document script, contest name, date of submission, entry fee, costs for feedbacks, date of finals and any other pertinent information. By the way, contest entries with feedback are tax deductible as a business expense (refer to your tax professional for details).
Some of the more popular contests are as follows:

A. The Nicholl Fellowship (http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/index.html) is widely accepted as the premier screenwriting contest in the contest, and how can it not be? It is owned and operated by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the same people who bring us the Oscars each year. This is a career “game-changer”. The downside is that it is an International contest and will receive close to 7,000 entries. The odds are long, so unless you’ve received several “recommends” from various coverage companies, I’d think twice about entering, at least in the early stages of your career. Previous winning entries include “Arlington Road”, “Finding Forrester”, and “Akeelah and the Bee”.

B. Scriptapalooza- another international contest with a solid reputation, but probably half as many entries. Past winning entries include “L.A. Confidential”, “Dark Woods” and “The Break-Up Artist”. They offer substantial prize money, and include several levels of winning, as well as several different genres winners.

C. Story Pros- Now in its fifth season, they boast of having the same contest “grade”, provided by Creative Screenwriting Magazine, as The PAGE, Scriptapalooza, Slamdance and Warner Bros. They offer $30K in prizes, and have a unique system that gives you up to 16 chances to become a winner.

D. Script Pipeline (formerly Script P.I.M.P.)- another solid contest, which boasts 2010 winning entry “Snow White and The Huntsman”, released this year, as well as the 2008 winning script “Killing Season” which is to star Robert De Niro. Pipeline is entering their tenth contest season.

You can review all of these and more at http://www.moviebytes.com.

(In full disclosure, it should be noted that I’ve won contests B, C and D, so while it may be slightly biased, few would disagree with these contests as being good ones for your career).

If “The Script Mentor” can help you or your writing career any further, please don’t hesitate to ask. Good luck!


 If you have any screenwriting questions, don’t hesitate to contact The Script Mentor @ thescriptmentor@hotmail.com. You can also join our LinkedIn pages at “Script-To-Screen Network” and “FADE IN”.

For PAID screenwriting assignments and notices of script searches (WITHOUT having to pay for a subscription to a  newsletter), please join the “Script Assignments and Searches” LinkedIn group, as well as the Facebook page of the same name. Everyday, new paid writing assignments or script searches will be posted, with the links available to the original ad site.

Please “like” The Script Mentor Facebook page, as well.

Jacob Stuart and Screenwriting Staffing Utopia Newsletter: An Expose of a Scam

scamalertRecently, our LinkedIn group was hacked into by an associate of Jacob Stuart- a “Ms. Allison Miles”- who deleted many of the group members, the forum posts and changed the title of the group page and email address. We know there isn’t a real “Allison Miles”, but this is, in fact, Jacob’s fiance, Sarah Stutsman, as she has done the exact same thing before to our Facebook and Twitter accounts after she was caught stealing $1600 from us. We believe the time has come to alert everyone about these two individuals.

Sometime last year, Mr. Stuart asked for an investment in a new business venture- a newsletter designed to provide original screenwriting-related paid opportunities to a network of screenwriters. After discussing the purpose and procedure of such a newsletter, I offered to buy in for $1000 investment, with a title of V.P. and a ROI of 10% of the profits every month.

During the first several months, I was more of an “advisor” to him, personally, and to the company. He generally accepted most of the advice and implemented many of my ideas. He ORIGINALLY told me, when asked directly, that he cultivated these leads through “friends” from various production crews.

This was later proven to be untrue.

He shared the idea of an on-line pitch fest, and decided, on his own, to implement it- against my better judgment- right before the Christmas holidays. I know he took $15-30 each from participants, and none of the “pitches” were ever viewed by any producer of merit.

He instituted a “screenwriting contest”, even advertising me as one of the three final judges, and I know several people paid a lot of money to enter. I did not read a single screenplay. None were ever forwarded to me, and no winner or placements were ever advertised. Just another scam.

Concurrent to these happenings, and while I became more and more suspicious of his activity, I developed a friendship with his girlfriend, Sarah Stutsman, who calls herself a PR and Marketing expert. I know they were struggling together financially after some hard luck events (karma, I suspect), and we worked out an agreement where she would be The Script Mentor’s public relations professional. I outlined a rough agreement as to what was expected, and she agreed to accept $1300 for working our account for one year. I made the payment in three stages; the last of which she begged for, since she had bills to pay- including rent. She confided in me at this time that Stuart had taken all of their rent money AND my previous PR services payments- and lost it all at the craps table in Las Vegas. It should be noted that, during this time, I had received abut $45 of the ROI on the initial $1000 investment, so clearly things were NOT going well.

After hearing about the gambling problem, I decided to end the relationship. I requested my full reimbursement of the $1300, which the final payment ($300) was forwarded to her via Pay Pal less than 24 hours earlier. After she balked at writing a contract, I was, in fact, terminating our agreement. Well, wouldn’t you know- she didn’t have the funds to repay me, after accepting the funds less than 24 hours before.

After many exchanges between myself and them- all of the emails accusatory, insulting and unprofessional for the most part (on both ends), they eventually agreed to a repayment plan. I rounded off what they owed from the total of $2600 down to a mere $1000, willing to accept it in five payments of $200 each; I have all of the documentation to support this agreement, including comments written by them on one of the Pay Pal payments. After the initial payment of $200- nothing.

We have retained an attorney and have filed a lawsuit for theft of services and fraud.

Since that time, however, Ms. Stutsman gained access into my Facebook account, deleting “friends”, spreading lies, and changing my profile. In one comment, already knowing my wife was battling breast cancer, she wished cancer on us, hoping we would die.

Sweet. Her parents must be proud.

In the meantime, Stuart has embarked on his own scorched earth campaign of filing fake rip-off reports under various names (none of them were ever actual clients, mind you) and group emails filled with vile hate and venom.

The theft of money and services aside, Stuart has also received payment from at least nine other people for his annual newsletter subscription, and all nine have been refused delivery. He took the money fast enough, though. Repeated emails and attempts at phone calls from every one of these clients have yielded no results.

You see, what this scammer does is he cuts-and-pastes jobs from other well-known job sites and claims them as his own leads. He begs his subscribers to advise the job to which they apply to to lie to them and tell them they got the lead through him, even though it originated somewhere else. He goes one step further; he not only doesn’t cite the originating site, he plagiarizes the ad itself. This is a “company” that encourages other to send in their loglines and screenplays for reviews, yet he plagiarizes on a regular basis for profit.

We keyed in on his activities and have been promoting many of the same posts in our LinkedIn group, “Script Assignments and Searches”. We scour the same sites and promote many of the same ads, but herein lies the difference: we do not charge anyone anything for this information. More importantly, we provide the link to the original ad and website, thereby giving the job site credit for filling the advertised position. In doing so, apparently it’s had the wonderful benefit of not only helping fellow screenwriters immensely, but must be having a severe affect on his company’s bottom line to resort to hacking into a group, deleting it’s membership and sending off libelous emails. We’re not worried, as a team of attorneys at this very minute, along with LinkedIn security personnel, are ultimately going to shut him down for good.

If you have any stories you’d like to share about SSU, or any other fraudulent screenwriting service out there, please send them in. Getting the word out is our best defense against these predators.