“Just Like Elvis” Docudrama Trailer, Starring Wesley Hurless

justlikeelvislogo2 Shark-Eating Man Productions presents a brand new segment clip from the upcoming television docu-series, “Just Like Elvis”. This segment stars former Marine, and current ETA, Wesley Hurless!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haJzSNm4e-Q

**Please subscribe today, as future episodes may only be available to channel subscribers.

Thankyouverymuch!

Producer Bio: Geno Scala of Shark-Eating Man Productions has been involved in a number of feature film projects including “The Girl at the End of the World” (2014), “Mirror Lake” (2013), “The Dick Jones Project” (2013), and a half-dozen other films. He serves as Co-Executive Producer for Owen Ratliff’s upcoming feature film “Black Salt”; the first superhero film in cinematic history written for a minority lead, as well as the multi-award winning horror film, “Debris”, written and directed by Nicole Jones-Dion. He and writer/producer Brent Jones recently developed the television reality series “Model Family”, about the goings-on inside an exclusive South Beach fitness resort that caters to the rich and famous. Mr. Scala was one of the Executive Directors of Operations for the 72nd Academy Awards presentation, as well as the Grammys, Blockbuster and Soul Train awards presentations.

Welcome Back, WILDsound!

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While the following two (2) blogs are actually reprinted from earlier submissions, I do so to “welcome” the newest follower of The Script Mentor blog, “1stcenescreenplay”- the latest money-grab from the King of Money Grabs, Matthew Toffolo and WILDsound. WILDsound has previously been exposed by us after having identified over 24 different contests. Mind you, in the past, there have been no announced “winners” of these contests, yet this small factoid doesn’t prevent them from marketing, spamming, and generally harassing thousands of screenwriters by bombarding them with contest announcement spam. We see that, only recently, various winners have been getting announced; we believe it is as the result of these blogs; but we don’t believe the perceived value of the winning prize meets or exceeds the actual submission cost.
In the past, we’ve also uncovered the number of fraudulent profiles created by Matthew Toffolo on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Stage 32 in an attempt to create many employees, when, in fact, most of these people didn’t exist and certainly were not employed by them. This façade was necessary to try to explain how a company could review a feature film screenplay, a novel and a poem all within the same time frame for their advertised contests, and with equal credibility. Obviously, these contests are not real, and the employees are not real. The money they take in for these contests, however, is very real.

Today, we welcome 1stscenescreenplay to read these re-prints and remind them that, while hundreds of screenwriters may be naïve enough to continue to be victimized by these groups, we will continue to expose the frauds and crooks of the screenwriting business in our effort to clean up the industry. This campaign has resulted in tremendous cost to us, personally, as well as attacks on our reputation resulting in loss of income. However, this only strengthens our resolve. The number of letters we have received from grateful screenwriters who have either been saved from being a victim, or who have fallen victim to these types of services and wanted to share their own personal story, has been staggering.
In the end, it is up to YOU to decide which contests you’d want to enter. Our blog provides contest tips of what one might want to look for in a contest before investing their hard-earned money in a submission fee. We hope you take some time to review these tips as well.

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

(Reprinted from 2014)
Last week (10/14), 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 (a known scam artist whose name will not be mentioned here) 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 (known scam artist whose name will not be mentioned here) 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, 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 (ahem) profiles , 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”.

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

(Part II)

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, 2012, 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.

Toffolo 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 (a known scam artist whose name will not be mentioned here) 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 contest winners who have had their winning scripts read. Perhaps he is making an effort to change, 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.

Screenwriters and Filmmakers Networking Through LinkedIn

Tom-Cruise-Steven-Spielberg-Producer-Post-SilhouetteThe art of networking- making connections within your industry- is a learned craft, much like the craft of screenwriting itself. There are many ways to “skin” that proverbial cat, but some ways are just better, more effective and less time-consuming than others.

Here are my quick-ten tips:

1. Accept the fact that it WILL take time and dedication: You HAVE to put aside a certain amount of time and do it consistently. If I’m scheduling a four-hour write day, I will factor in half of that time for networking: 4 hrs. writing, 2 hours networking.

2. Join groups: Perhaps ninety percent of all LinkedIn groups are total time-sucks. They are filled with self-promotion and re-postings of published articles. Join them, check them out, and after a few weeks if that’s what they are, then dump them.

3. Decide what you want from the group: If you are looking for helpful information, guidance, etc., find a group that is operated by a person in your industry. If you are going to treat it more as a social network, looking for friends, I suppose it doesn’t matter much.

4. Choose the group carefully: Check the profile of the owner and/or moderators of the group. If the owner is a legal secretary, for example, and they operate a group for screenwriters, chances are they’re not managing the group closely enough. With these sites, anyone posting a question is pushed off the front page- with no responses- in a matter of minutes. A closely moderated group will often prevent that type of thing from happening.

5. Reach out and “touch” someone: LinkedIn allows you to “endorse” someone. Do it! This begins a connection.

6. Welcome newcomers: Don’t post a welcome; send a personal message. Share your experiences. Make the note personal.

7. Do not hesitate to link in: If you are in the same group, that’s the opening you need. Don’t send the “standard” pre-written invite. Personalize it. Let them know you saw something in their profile that compelled you to want to meet them.

8. Review profiles thoroughly: I spend several minutes reviewing every profile before I send an invite. I look at where they live, their website, their employer, their other groups, their influences, and their other connections. I rarely invite someone with no previous connections.

9. Learn what and where the bogus profiles come from: If the person requesting a link in or group entry has no writing or entertainment background whatsoever, no information of their profile is available, and their photo appears to be less than legit, I avoid them altogether. Usually they’re from another country, and I don’t need to spam or the hacking worries.

10. If they could benefit by knowing someone else in your network, introduce them: LinkedIn has a way to do this through the site. Do it- it’s a nice thing to do.

POSSIBLE SCAM ALERT- “SCRIPT BUYERS GUIDE”

scamalert  Recently, I was contacted by a screenwriter, well aware of my “Scam Alert” series, who wanted to share an email he received from “Script Buyers Guide”. The “guide” is reportedly a book of script titles and loglines from screenwriters like YOU, packaged and prepared for “major film markets including Berlin EFM, Cannes and the American Film Market AFM.

The author of said guide is unknown at the time of this posting.

This screenwriter friend forwarded me the original email he received back in August 2014. He paid $50.00, for “space in the next printing of the book” where he could advertise his many completed screenplay concepts. He was also told that these books were going to be distributed among those in the industry who “buy screenplays”.

In March, 2015, a full six-plus months after the transaction, he received a free guide, with his screenplay posting on page 154. He later found out that the guide is currently being sold on Amazon, which was NOT what he was led to believe. The Amazon listing was for $19.99.

That’s when he contacted us.

A cursory search of the “Script Buyers Guide” reveals that their website is no longer active. Emails addressed to “Karen Moore” (a name found on the original email ad), and “Steve Howard” (customer service) came back “undeliverable”.

We did manage to find the guide advertised on Amazon for $20, with 172 pages of screenplay titles, brief screenplay description, screenwriter’s name and page count. At $50 a post, with an average of 6-8 posts over the 172 pages, they made a lot of money putting this guide together. It is unclear and unknown at this time IF, in fact, these guides were ever distributed to 30,000 filmmakers- as our friend was led to believe.

“Fifty dollars is not a terrible loss”…our friend said, “…it’s the lies. Distributing a booklet of scripts for sale at film markets is actually a good idea, but, no – these people turn around, make a half-ass book and dump it on Amazon so they can double dip and sucker people on both ends. No one is going to BUY a book of scripts for sale!”

Inasmuch as there is no way to contact this company, one might fear that this was, in fact, a scam, but there is no way to be 100% sure. Someone might want to maximize the monetary take while delivering something much less than what was promised, then repeating this process annually. To date, our writer “victim” has NOT been contacted by ANY producer claiming to have gotten his information through this guidebook.

We discovered, and contacted, a second writer who had received an email regarding this guidebook a few years earlier. He did NOT send them any money, but had reached out to other writers in various screenwriting forum groups inquiring if anyone had any knowledge of the book or the people involved.

To date, he has received no positive response.

Our recommendation would be to NOT spend money on the placement of your screenplay in a guide book, presumably being distributed to producers for free, until you can be assured that this is where the books are going. It is very hard to independently verify that this distribution is even taking place. Putting the book on sale through Amazon is NOT an effective way to disseminate this information; producers are just not going to “buy” a list of available screenplays. In effect, our writer friend paid fifty dollars to have his logline posted in a homemade book, where it is then sold, probably back to those who originally posted their loglines!

Thus far, there have been zero reviews on the 2015 version of the guide.

You would be much better off paying to have your logline and concepts posted in a newsletter like INK TIP, where there is a long record of successful options and sales from their producer database.

We will continue to research this book, the authors and others involved, and periodically check on the website to determine if it ever becomes activated again.

Until then, we recommend…AVOID!

“ASK THE SCRIPT MENTOR”- No. 9

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Appreciates the Advice:

Q- “Dear Geno (The Script Mentor);  I wanted to thank you for all the time and effort you put into providing insightful information to writers. It helps to have guidance, wisdom, and clarity regarding all spectrums, and you definitely cover many of them. To me, you are “Obi-Wan Kenobi” in our screenwriting world! I believe that our efforts are always matched, or surpassed, by the Universe, and that what you are doing will, through karma, be returned to you in a significant way. Regardless of whether you share these beliefs, I am grateful to learn from you, and I am very appreciative for your enlightenment and efforts, as I expressed. The “kindness of strangers” truly resonates with me. Thanks again for all.”

A- I don’t know about achieving “Obi-Wan” status, but I appreciate the kind words! I’m driven only by what I went through starting out, and how, one day, I asked myself “Why hasn’t anybody taken the time to warn me/us about this stuff- the wasted money on useless services, the true motives of some of these “consultants”, what contests are REALLY all about, not warning us about the scams that are prevalent in screenwriting, and- most importantly- how can a producer (or someone else) determine the difference between a PROFESSIONAL script from a newbie’s script? Since I was unable to find these answers, I decide to find them out myself, and instead of hoarding the answers, and perhaps getting far ahead of my peers (the more knowledge one has, the better prepared they are for success), I chose to share much of it.

I appreciate you noticing and acknowledging the time AND effort that goes into doing this, and its comments like these that make me continue the effort.

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Advice on Having Sensitive Information:

Q- “Hope all is well. Just wanted to ask if you have come across a (named casting director)?? He sent me a mail yesterday regarding an audition and working in Hollywood, but after doing some research, I came across some disturbing info. Just thought I’d ask as I you seem to be quite a resourceful person. Speak soon.”

A- I’ve not heard of (named casting director) before, and having done a quick b/g check reveals that “disturbing” information you speak of. Assuming it’s the same person, I must tell you as a former detective, “registered sex offenders” could encompass anyone from child molesters to someone cited for peeing in public! But let’s assume the worst- you’re not a child, and based on your profile picture, I’d be willing to bet you could take care of yourself in an uncomfortable situation through self-protection. So, I’d say it was your call. If I wanted it bad enough, I’d go, knowing I was armed with the knowledge of his past. Some people screw up in life and deserve a second chance. Not saying this is the case here. Just saying an Internet search gives you enough information to make one more aware. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Q- (follow-up question): “Thanks for the advice. Yeah part of me was thinking everyone does make mistakes! I guess the main thing to weigh up was the association with someone with such a past. Do you think it would be a bad idea to bring it to light that I have come across this piece of information?

A- (follow-up response): Maybe if you get the role, and still had some concerns about. He’s probably NOT going to inform you, as he’s not obligated to.

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Career Advice, and The Script Mentor Services:

Q- “Dear TSM: I get the strong feeling that this is NOT a career for an old-timer like me. Although I describe myself as the worst kind of screenwriter, I don’t actually call myself a screenwriter out loud. I would not disrespect the craft as I have not successfully written a screenplay. I am not a poser–at this point I suppose I even aspire to be a poser! So if you can help me, and I think you can, I would like to connect with you. I have a few very good film concepts. But my experience in the ad business producing TV commercials and radio spots tells me that a great movie idea is a long, long way from a produced film. It needs to be an idea with a script and a subsequent pitch that inspires someone with a lot of money to produce it. So my big question is: can you help me get a spec screenplay together, and what does that kind of coaching cost? Your thoughts?”

A: I can tell you that you are never too old to try it- this coming from a 54 yr. old who also started later in life; screenwriting/producing is actually my third career, following one in law enforcement and one in private business in executive management. It’s a long journey, and a craft that you have to learn from the ground floor and up, but we have something the young kids don’t- perspective. Our experience gives us knowledge and information that most of them have yet to accumulate. You have a very specific niche of interest, one that is pretty rare and getting rarer with the passing of each soldier from the Greatest Generation, and the baby-boomers of Viet Nam. While you may not have had field experience (that’s just an assumption on my part), you have studied this topic out of sheer love for it. I’ve amassed a treasure trove of mementos and collectibles on Elvis, but I never met him. Does this make me less knowledgeable on the topic? I doubt it. Actually, you possess a great foundation to do well in this business; you appear to be “mature”, varied life experiences, probably some college, a solid b/g in writing (albeit a different media), and practical knowledge about concepts.You’re absolutely right about a concept being far from a finished screenplay- but, having a good solid concept is the biggest hurdle, by far. Learning HOW to write a marketable spec screenplay is probably the EASIEST part of this venture.

But, here is a fitting cliché: Life is a marathon, and all marathons start with the first step.

What I do in my business is try to impart the wisdom that most people, if they’re lucky, will eventually learn after years of writing and floundering out there without direction, spending money needless on a bunch of unsuccessful consultants, etc. You have to learn what it takes to write the proper spec screenplay, because that’s what we all do.

As I rule, I don’t “teach” screenwriting, per se. I generally point out the faults of a screenplay and suggest corrective measure. Many consultants suggest reading produced scripts off of the “interwebbies” of your favorite movies; I don’t. In fact, I would encourage you NOT to do this, not if you expect to learn the right way. These are produced movies, and 99% of them are shooting scripts, a quite different animal altogether.

I would also encourage you to purchase “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by Dave Trottier, and refer to it daily. I’ve read it front to back a number of times, and STILL learn things (just like the other Bible)!

My mentoring service charges by the month or on an annual basis, and they’re posted at http://www.thescriptmentor.com website. My annual charge guarantees that you will reach a Quarterfinal finish minimum in any one of the 3500+ screenwriting competitions. That’s a huge accomplishment. Who is crazy enough to “guarantee” a certain level of writing success when it involves such God-given talent as writing? THAT’S just how much I believe in this system.

In April, we will be doing a series of online webinars on this very topic- “How to Write the Spec Screenplay that Producers Will Read (and Win a Few Contests Along the Way)!” There will be four sessions, covering four different topics, and it will be interactive between the participants and instructor(s). If you learn some of these keys, in the long run, you’ll save a ton of time, money and sweat equity, avoiding the mistakes almost everyone else learns a bit too late. Armed with these tools, I’d bet you’ll be able to produce an extremely viable first “vomit” draft, and we can go from there!

Hope this helps!

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Marketing Advice:

Q- “Hi Geno! I have been working in corporate affairs for several global companies, for 15 years but have also always had a passion for movies. I have written my second short film script and after more drafts than I care to recall I plan to pitch it and find a director/producer. The idea is to have success with the short, then turn the story into a feature.Do you have tips, on next steps? Thinking if I can get funding from the government but I assume I could pitch it to anyone that loved the idea. Any thoughts appreciated!”

A- Some thoughts based on what you’ve said:

In my opinion, the number one mistake new writers make is marketing themselves, or their projects, too quickly. I would make  sure you have the following in place:

1) The first thing a producer is going to ask is “What else you got?” You have to make sure you have a minimum of three completed projects to show them, to convince them you’re not a flash-in-the-pan and that they can work with you.

2) Has this script been reviewed and covered by professionals?

3) Has you received “recommends” or, at least, “consider”?

4) Has it won or placed high in a number of contests?

If the answer is “no” to these questions, and the concept isn’t so awesomely unique (haven’t found one yet that was), these are the types of writers you WILL be competing with- the ones with several “recommends” and a handful of contest wins. You might be a little outclassed in those terms; like being a rec league basketball player going up against Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

You have one shot at making a first impression, so make it count. There is no rush, unless you’ve been given six months to live. If that’s the case, chuck it all, pack your bags and go to Hawaii!

In the meantime, try and find two or three reputable coverage services, or at least a few pros that can review your short and tell you where it’s lacking. I’m not a fan of shorts, myself; I think they’re a total waste of time; but my first paid assignment was a short, so you have to start somewhere.

What I teach is the key to any spec screenplay is APPEARANCE. If it’s doesn’t LOOK like a professional script, it’s not going to READ as one, and it will be tossed aside. I can usually tell from the title page, and generally the first page, if it has that “look”.

For just a handful of pages, you probably don’t need any analysis, but rather someone just to see if it looks professionally written. If you’d like me to take a look at the short, I’d be glad to do so. You can forward a PDF to thescriptmentor@hotmail.com.

Just make sure you have something else. Generally speaking, one script is not going to get them excited about you.

Good luck!

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Copyrights and Registrations

Q- “Hello, I hope all is well. I will have my first script ready for copyright this week and was wondering what they (prospective producer) need. I went to their website, but I am not sure. I know they need the full script, but do they need the full FINAL script? It doesn’t look like it but I want to be sure. I am still tweaking mine. For my second script, would it be OK for me to send them the 30-page treatment to get the story copyrighted, or do I have to send the entire script? Thank you!”

A- Copyrights and registrations only protect WRITTEN documents. In the case of a shortened script, or treatment or outline, if the main focus of the story is within that document (the “hooks”, as it were), then it should be alright. I don’t see any reason to protect something NOT completed, since you should never be sending out work that is not completed, so there’s no reason to share it at this time.

By the way, in my opinion, the overall thought of having work “stolen” is a total waste of your “worry” time. Very few writers have such a unique story idea that ten other writers- or more- haven’t written about already. Relax. Just get it written, and when the final, FINAL draft is done, register it with the WGA, then send it out for coverage and/or analysis.

Hope that helps! Good luck!

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Is This an Effective Service?

Q- “Hello, The Script Mentor! I’ve been working on my feature length script for almost two years now and over the last few months have been actively trying to sell it. I was wondering if you have ever submitted a script to the website: “The Black List”. I hear it’s the best route to selling a script but wanted to reach out to you and see what your opinion was. Have you ever dealt with this website before? Is it worthwhile? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time,

A- I appreciate you requesting my advice on this. At one time, it was an honor to be posted on “The Black List”, as it represented the BEST spec screenplays that were NOT sold or optioned. Many well-known movies emerged from the BL after having placed high on this list at the end of the year. The scripts were judged by professional readers entrenched in prodcos throughout the industry, and pretty soon, word would spread on a great script that no one was pulling the trigger on. They devised a point system, and at the end of the year, the Black List was formed of the scripts with the highest points.

In my opinion, it has now turned into just another money-making venture, where you submit your script, get judged by a panel of employees (not necessarily professional readers working in the industry), and you’re given a score.

You also have the option of paying for screenwriting services to “improve” your score. It’s just another money-making service that entices the screenwriter into believing a good score will get you noticed, while promoting services to make additional money. Scoring “high” on the BL does nothing anymore as a result of this change; their judges are no more or less knowledgeable than StoryPros, Script Pipeline or any of a hundred other services.

I am not familiar with the claim that more scripts are “sold” off of the Black List than other sites/services, but I suspect Ink Tip has them beat significantly. Whatever you can afford to have your script marketed, it’s always good to have many irons in that fire. Ink Tip’s clients tend to lean towards budgets under $5M, so if you have a studio-level concept, it may not do well at either place.

My question to you is, are you sure it’s ready to market? Have you received coverage, and if so, did you receive three “recommends”, or at least, “considers”? How about contests- have you won several or placed high in several? If the answer is “no” to any of these, marketing your concept now might be a mistake. You might have a great concept, but when they read the first page and see mistakes, they’ll trash it.

Just giving you a head’s up. The number one mistake of most screenwriters is marketing their stuff before it’s ready.

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What Companies Do I Target?

Q- I am on my first class, 3rd week at a well-known screenwriting program, and my homework is asking for information like what companies would I like to work for? I’d love to write television series but what screenwriter wouldn’t so in the meantime can you suggest anything.

A- To answer such a general question, two responses immediately jump to mind.

The first response would be “any job that pays!”. If you’re working in an industry that you want to work in, doing what you want to do (writing and developing television), than it probably wouldn’t matter which one, at least not initially. In time, if you get that far, you’d probably end up working for a majority of different production companies anyway.

The smarter approach is as follows, though: I assume you have ideas on TV shows you’d like to create of your own (why else would you have gone down this path?), so you’ll want to create a list of the shows that are currently on TV that are similar to your own concept.

For example, if it’s a reality-based competition show like “Survivor” or “Biggest Loser”, you’ll want to research those production companies that produce those shows. Mark Burnett Productions does “Survivor”, The Apprentice”, “Shark Tank”, etc. ; semi-scripted reality shows that feature a competition between the participants.

The same rule of thumb goes for most scripted shows, like dramas and comedies. It’s not often that a prodco will do a half-hour, one-camera comedy…as well as an hour-long political drama.

This holds true for most feature film companies as well. The producer finds a genre they like and excel in and concentrate on that area of expertise. Doesn’t mean the writer may not write a drama and a comedy, but they’ll usually end up going to two different prodcos.

I hope that helps answer your question, and thanks for reaching out. Good luck to you!

Geno

SCAM ALERT- “ECCENTRIC STORIES – MONTHLY CONTEST”

scamalert

ECCENTRIC STORIES

Our scam radar (“scamdar”) was alerted recently when we came across “Eccentric Stories Screenplay Contest” in a Craigslist ad (RED FLAG #1).

Eccentric Stories advertises writing contests for ALL of the following categories: Screenplay, TV script, Playwright, Novelist and Logline contests (RED FLAG #2). We’ve yet come across any LEGITIMATE enterprise that successfully operates “contests” for all of these major categories. Two  previously identified scam sites; “WILDsound” and “Screenwriting Staffing”; operate in a similar fashion, and everyone in the industry knows them only as “money grabs”.

Eccentric’s Craigslist listing entices those to “take your chance to be the NEXT Academy Award winner discovered by Eccentric Stories”. Clearly, they are implying that previous Academy Award winners have been discovered by Eccentric Stories however, there is no mention of these previous Oscar winners, probably because they don’t exist (RED FLAG #3).

A review of their website reveals no names of ANY of the principles involved in the company (RED FLAG #4), describing themselves only as “a company run by and for writers and filmmakers”- purposely being vague and ambiguous. They also claim “Eccentric stories (sic) work with some very well known (sic) and effective producers who are ready, willing and able to work with first time and aspiring writers”. Again, they fail to mention a single producer (RED FLAG #5), not to mention failing to capitalize the second word in their own company title (“stories”), and excluding the proper punctuation in “well known” (RED FLAG #6). For a company whose stock in trade appears to be “judging” others writing, errors in their own ad should raise an eyebrow or two.

Eccentric also claims that they will “pitch your script, manuscripts and treatment from your Log Line to companies such as CAA, ICM, William Morris Endeavor, ACME, The Gage Group, etc.”. No logos of these companies sponsoring their site or their contests are anywhere to be found, and no quotes from any of the employees of these companies ever made it to the ad or to the site itself. Just a missed opportunity? Perhaps…but I doubt it.

They go further to claim that they “guarantee the winner representation” (RED FLAG #7). Again, they are ambiguous about the type of representation they guarantee; is it Talent Management? Career Management? Agent Representation? Marketing? Maybe they’ll manage your kid’s Little League baseball team; who knows?

“Eccentric Stories” does have a LinkedIn page, with a listed address of the “United States” (RED FLAG #8) with an email address, but again, no specifics as to who is running this company. Their site currently offers no links to any of these major social marketing sites (RED FLAG #9). The same vague written description found on their website is repeated on their page, and they show that they’ve only been in operation since January 2015. Maybe just more missed opportunities, or a poor job at building an effective website?

However, now they’ve announced their first monthly contest winners: Winning Screenplay: Austin Davies (Houston, TX); Winning Novel: Cheryl Carter-Love (Baltimore, MD); Winning Log Line: Judy Lattimore (Bakersfield, CA) and Winning Stage Play: Marques Sessoms (Atlanta, GA). In our attempt to reach out to the winners to offer our congratulations (and perhaps get some additional information on this contest), we did a basic Google search for the winners. However, NONE of the winner’s names came up matching the spelling as listed and/or the city of residence (RED FLAG #10).

None.

Four people, apparently in the creative arts, yet none of them have a web page, a Facebook account, a LinkedIn profile, a listed telephone number or mailing address, or any internet marketing of their projects (RED FLAG #11). It seems that these four people simply wrote their projects and their one and only attempt at having it read or publicized in any way was through this particular contest!

What are the chances?

Now, there is a chance that, in its infancy, this company hasn’t yet worked out all of its hiccups and kinks. We would certainly allow for some of this oversight, and perhaps plans are being made to better improve the site, the information on the site, and provide more specifics about their contest.

It should be noted that, on several occasions, we’ve reached out to the owners of the site through the contact information provided, seeking additional information. To date, we’ve yet to receive any response (RED FLAG #12).

So, in review, the RED FLAGS are as follows:

1) Advertises on Craigslist

2) Multiple, unrelated contests

3) Unsubstantiated claims of Academy Award winners

4) No mention of any principles/executives with the company on their site.

5) Unnamed “producer” clients

6) Multiple spelling and/or punctuation/grammatical errors in their ad

7) Non-specific “guarantee of representation”

8) Address given: “United States”

9) No links to any other major social sites

10) No listing of any of the four winners selected

11) The winners have no previous Internet presence whatsoever

12) No return contact on multiple inquiries

We would also like to encourage ANY of the four listed winners, should they exist, to contact “The Script Mentor” and share with us their experiences with this contest. If and when they do, we’ll be sure to pass it on to you. Until that time, however, based on all of this information, easily gleaned when spending a few minutes of time conducting a cursory due diligence investigation, we have to believe this site to be just another scam; a “money grab” that you’d be better served to avoid completely.

ASK “THE SCRIPT MENTOR”, No. 7- GETTING REP’ED; MARKETING; FORMATTING

QuestionsQ. My writing partner and I would like to submit our writing projects to Amazon. Amazon like Yahoo and Netflix is currently seeking to add to its staff as writers. The problem we do not have a manager or agent.

Can you recommend someone we could speak to and ask to submit our projects to Amazon?

A. If Amazon is asking for submissions, you may not be required to have a manager or an agent (unless they say this is a requirement specifically). I cannot refer anyone to a manager or an agent if I don’t know them personally, or know of their work, as it is a direct reflection on me and my reputation. I do not have any “connections” at Amazon that could help with this, but that shouldn’t mean you should not pursue it.

If you require a manager (you’re not going to get an agent, so don’t waste your time), find a small boutique agency that might be looking for new talent. I’ve posted several ads to this effect in the past in our group “Script Jobs and Searches” on LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as through our Twitter feed “@scriptjobs”.

Let me know how it progresses. You’ll really want to solidify your marketing materials, namely your logline, query letter, and synopsis.

Good luck.

Q. Needing some advice on investors looking for ADV/touch of SCI/Thriller, screenplays (2), market viable, ready to go… know anyone, Geno?

A. I know lots, but who says they’re “market viable”? Here are some things you’ll need to have IN PLACE before you begin your marketing strategy:

1) Do you have minimum three (3) “Recommends” or at least “Consider” from reputable coverage readers or established cover companies?

2) How many, and which, contests did either of the scripts win/place/show?

3) What feedback have you received regarding logline, query letter and one-page? Are they up to current professional standards?

4) What marketing have you done to date, and for how long?

The answers to these questions will help determine your next step.

I don’t deal heavily with investors to date, but I network like crazy, and they’re out there when that time comes. If you are ONLY looking for the investors, I’d get busy in some angel investor network groups.

I can’t give any feedback on the loglines or queries since I’ve not read them. Usually, when it comes to the lack of interest in a viable, marketable concept/screenplay, the marketing material is flawed.

Since we’re only dealing in generalities, as I know nothing about the story or even the genre, there are two things that you should do to generate buzz and interest:

1) If you believe your script is ready, find a handful of mid-to-upper-level contests with great reputations and start submitting them. You can check my blog at https://thescriptmentor.wordpress.com for more info on contests, which to submit to, what to look for, etc. Don’t waste your money if the screenplay is NOT ready.

The benefit to contests is that many of the judges at the higher levels tend to be agents, managers, producers, studio readers or studio executives. Even if you don’t win, place or show, you will most likely get substantial sets of eyes on the script, which can lead to several great things.

2) The second thing I’d do is to make a list of the movies in the past 5-10 years that were similar to yours: in genre, style, subject matter, budget, etc. Perhaps you envision a certain actor as your lead. I would take this list, go to IMdbPro and start researching these other movies. Like Steven and TC, in many situations, producers, directors, cinematographers and even actors tend to work together over and over again. I would seek out their reps through IMdb and contact them with your story. It’s a needle in the haystack-type of process, but it beats waiting for someone walking up to your door and knocking, looking for a script!

Beyond that, I would recommend networking every day; if you write 8-10 hours a day, you should network another 4-5.

Q. Hey Geno! I’ve used a Flash Forward at the beginning of my screenplay. When returning to it later in the script, where should the scene pick-up from?

A. Does it open with a FF? You can’t flash TO or FROM anything if there is nothing to start from, so make sure this is not the case (many writers incorrectly open with a “flashback” when no present time has yet been established).

Assuming you opened the story in the present, the story would then pick up in the present after returning from the FF. If you opened with the FF, it is incorrect- for this very reason. You don’t know where to return to.
I hope that makes sense. It feels like we’re in a worm hole of time when reading this…

Example: I’m playing basketball, and the script flash-forwards to the end of the game, where I’m seen taking a game-winning shot (we don’t know yet if it goes in), then the script returns back to me on the court, where I was before that flash-forward. I’m dribbling around, breaking ankles left and right, a euro-step, then a shot- the same shot we saw in the flash-forward.

Swish! We win!

I’m a hero; carried off the court on the shoulders of my teammates.

Get it? Got it? Good!

;)

Q. I am really looking forward to entering (Script Title) in as many contests as possible this year, and I’ve already started making a list of contests I’d like to enter.

I’ve always valued your opinion and was wondering if there are contests you think more highly of than others. Which did you enter “Banking on Betty”? Did it win in any of the contests?

A. I can tell you’re anxious and excited at the prospect of (Script Title) doing well in the upcoming contest season. I believe strongly that you have every right to be excited, as it is a tremendous screenplay.

Contests- Everyone has a different opinion on contests, which ones to enter, etc. If you read my blog article series on contests (12/2012), you’ll get an idea of my point of view on the subject, and the best way to do it.

In summary, there are three tiers of contests: upper echelon, middle tier, and the rest. The upper tier includes the Nicholl, which is run by AMPAS (for whom I once worked), Austin Film Festival, Scriptapalooza, and a handful of others, which are often up for debate. I do NOT include the PAGE in this tier anymore since I discovered that first-round readers are not screenwriters, never have written a screenplay, and are basically people hired off of the unemployment line to “read”. This is sleazy, IMO. You’ll need to decide which contests are best suited for you and your script, and I can help you with this.

Always try to submit during the “Early Bird” entry phase, if possible. Why spend $55 on a contest on Monday, when the Friday before, the same contest was $35 or $40? That’s just stupid to me. These same contests come around each year at the same time. Paying the EB price on ten contests can save you over $100. You should.

My screenplay, “Banking on Betty”, won the Story Pros, and was the top finalist in both the “Script Pipeline” and the “Scriptapalooza”. I had another one which was a finalist in the Creative World Awards. In my opinion, Story Pros and Script Pipeline are high second-tier contests, and those contests did a lot of marketing and sending my screenplay out to various agents, managers and producers. Through these reads, I developed a lot of important contacts- as you will as well. By virtue of doing well in ‘Palooza, it gave the script some added credibility, especially having done so in different years. The CWA is a lower-tier, although it’s a cool title. I’ve won over $20K in cash and prizes, but gave away most of the prizes (software and books, etc.) to fellow writers who needed some of these tools.

Q. Because you are my mentor, teacher, and friend- and since it was your job lead that got me this paid adaptation assignment, I thought I would share this with you:

Basically, I’m being asked to decipher each ‘Chapter’ and turn it into a working screenplay on its own. He is planning on producing it himself once it is done. His goal is to have the script done by the end of April. I’m starting on Chapter 1 later today.

Thoughts?

A. Yes, this is going to be a lot of work for you. At the pay you are receiving, probably more work than it’s worth- but, hey- you have to start somewhere! ;)

The bad news is that it is NOT a published book; it’s not EVEN a book, but more of an outline for a book. When adapting a real book into a movie, you take the best 12- 15 scenes from the book and use them to make your movie. The best I see this is a short, as most of it is NOT convertible to a movie script (or, at least, a good one).

The good news is I doubt your client even knows what makes a good script. You could probably take his outline, convert it into a running script, format the text lines properly, freshen up the dialogue, add some connective tissues and filler along the way, and come away with something resembling a screenplay, which is what he wants.

I had a celebrity client in the past who had a horrible script that he wanted finished. Once it was formatted correctly, dialogue improved, placed where it should be, and a few additional things, he thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Truth was, the script was vastly improved, but since the story couldn’t be changed (per the client’s instructions), it was still a horrible concept. Fortunately, I was a ghostwriter on the project and my name was nowhere to be found.

My gut is telling me to tell you to “run”, and in the end, you probably wish you had, but the challenge will teach you a lot, and that is priceless. You will learn to:

1) Write on a deadline;
2) How to respond to someone else’s opinion on what you’ve written;
3) How difficult it is to take direction from someone who doesn’t understand the craft.

I HOPE you don’t have to learn what it’s like when the client doesn’t pay you- because that SUCKS! Anyway, I’m here if you need help with any of it along the way!
Q. I don’t get it. After you win a contest, you presumably have to leverage it somehow. I presume not many opportunities come while you sit on your hands and wait to be called, but most producers do not accept queries from “unrepresented” writers. As you said, trying to get representation at the start is a tough nut. I get the part about networking in person at events, pitch fests, festivals, etc.

Here are two questions:

1) I take it from your statements that you agree with Dave Trottier when he says that agents are a poor way to “reach people”.

2) What resource did you use to find the contact info I requested earlier? You ALWAYS seem to have the answers, which is why I go to you first!

A. I’ve not heard Dave say that, specifically, so I can’t comment on this being attributed to him, however I know many writers waste their time trying to LAND an agent first.

Talent agents are always looking for work for their particular client (presumably “actors”). If you have a project that might be a good fit for their client, I see no reason for you not to try to get them interested in it- but it’s going to take more than just a script. I would never just “blindly” send it to their agent.

Spec marketing is hard, and it requires hours and hours of networking and strategy building relationships. My contacts, such as the ones that led me to the information you were seeking earlier, took years to cultivate, acquire, and maintain. This part of the business does NOT happen overnight. There are books out there that you could get your hands on (Hollywood Screen Directory), but neither of those contacts you requested were in there. For finding contact info, the Hollywood Screen Directory and IMDB Pro are both useful. The more contact options you have, the better. I’m sure there are plenty of folks in the HSD that are NOT on IMdb, and vice versa. However, it takes time and discipline to develop a network as thorough and strategic as the one I’ve built thus far.

IMO, contests and film festivals are the way to start your marketing strategy. You have to create the proper “buzz” for your project to get anyone to sit up and pay attention to you. If you were a finalist in a major or highly- respected second-tier contest, my guess is that agent you are seeking would pay attention and respond in some way.

Q. I hear you, Geno, regarding the difficulties of marketing and networking. Here’s one you’ve probably never been asked before: have you ever heard of any groups or individuals that are associated with alums of M.I.T.?

A. You’re right- I’ve not had that question before. I do have a personal friend from high school who is a graduate of M.I.T. Through my LinkedIn network alone, I discovered that I’m connected to ten M.I.T. graduates involved in some way with the film industry. You have to work at it and network!

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