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!

ARE YOU PAYING $100 FOR A SCREENWRITING JOB NEWSLETTER?

blue reel As many of you know, I’ve been sharing the results of my investigations exposing many of the unethical businesses and services in the screenwriting industry, chief among them are “screenwriting job” newsletters (and there are several) that charge $100 per annual subscription. They promise “paid” writing jobs, and if you have any interest in these jobs, you MUST pay $100 for the “contact information”.

Recently, one such ad was quoted as follows:

“This will be our 2nd job advertisement with (paid jobs newsletter). Back in March/April 2014 we found 2 (paid jobs newsletter) writers. I am looking to collaborate with a screenwriter who would be passionate about creating brilliant scripts based on actual historical facts and accounts. We can negotiate a suitable pay option that will be based on an agreed payment within 7 days of the production being financed. Pay will be structured on an overall basis of producing a script with revisions, but it will be under agreement signed by both of us to ensure we work together to create an outstanding script. Contact (name withheld)…”

Well, we contacted the original poster of this ad to find out the truth. The fact is, this ad was NOT exclusive to this (paid jobs newsletter) as it was found on Mandy.com. While he admits to granting (paid job newsletter) permission to post an ad in their newsletter, this was his response:

“It’s not exactly correct…what does puzzle me is why they would place the Facebook links, but that said, I have more faith in the applicants from Mandy.com, they’re always my first option anyway…The charge of $100, though, that is extreme, I’m against anything like that and if this is true, I would be honest enough to say “screw (paid jobs newsletter)”! Why post to a site like that when Mandy.com is free unless I have more posts within a specified time, so again, cannot thank you enough for the info.”

So, it’s apparent; not only are the cutting and pasting jobs ads, without accreditation to the original site, but they also alter the ad to make it appear that they are in exclusive contact with the client (they are not), while also making up a fake endorsement by the unsuspecting client, promoting their services! Little did they know, charging money for ads that are FREE on other websites happens to be a major pet peeve of this client- and he admonishes them for doing it. Not exactly a “praise-worthy” endorsement!

The client DID add, that his company gave them permission to re-post the ad, as they feel the more people know about the search the better- and we couldn’t agree more with them on that point.

Still, if there is ANY doubt about the validity of such claims against (paid jobs newsletter), we took a moment to trace back a few of their posted jobs leads. The asterisk signifies that, as of 2/06/15, these jobs are “less than 1 week old”:

Newsletter Posting Charging $100:
* COMPELLING FEATURE SCRIPTS. We will read ANY and ALL feature scripts, but we are MOST interested in strong female lead scripts. We are a collective group of film-makers, so you must be willing to see your script revised to fit our needs – this is crucial. We will discuss a reasonable fee for your script, if we choose to move forward. Send us your pitch (no scripts yet). SIGN UP FOR PREMIUM FOR DIRECT CONTACT.

Script Jobs FREE Posting: (02/06)
Employer: Ok Films
Salary: Fully-Paid
Apply to: Obaid
We are an International production company looking for full length feature film scripts. If we like your script we can pretty much guarantee that it will be made in a cost effective way. Your name will be attached and we can assure you it will open up new doors. The screenplay should be non-culturally specific. It should contain strong female protagonists and the story must be a romantic comedy.
Serious inquiries only.
Ad: http://www.mandy.com/1/jobs3.cfm?v=62727828

Newsletter Posting Charging $100:
* HIRING SCREENWRITER(S) TWF has over 15 feature, episodic and animation projects in need of writing . We know what it’s like to be a great talent and not have a resume that reflects your skill level so we are open to hear from all writers despite your level of expertise, experience or resume and are willing to pay according to skill level. Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller. SIGN UP FOR PREMIUM FOR DIRECT CONTACT.

Script Jobs FREE Posting: (02/06)
Screen Writer Jobs
Employer: TFW Endeavors
Salary: 680
Apply to: TEHANA F WEEKS
I am producing a feature film in the vein of Juno, Napoleon Dynamite, Moonrise Kingdom etc. and need the help of an experienced screenwriter. Compensation will be fair (at or around the average rate for such a project). The time frame is flexible and will depend on the writing process.
Ad: http://www.mandy.com/1/jobs3.cfm?v=62676846

Newsletter Posting Charging $100:
* TV DRAMA PILOTS. PWFP is seeking completed, hour-long pilots ready for production. Pilots need to be DRAMA. Scripts that take play in WW11 are preferred. We will also look at web-series concepts too. Send pitches and/or online reels. Payment TBD. SIGN UP FOR PREMIUM FOR DIRECT CONTACT.

Script Jobs FREE Posting: (1/26)
ISO SCREENWRITER-FOR-HIRE; TV DRAMA SCREENPLAYS- PAID!
Script Writer Wanted
Compensation: TBD
Perry William Film Productions – Seeking TV Drama Pilot Scripts
We are looking for completed, hour-long television pilot scripts/Screenplay We are particularly interested in material that could be done as either a pilot or a web series. Submissions should be for material that has drama elements. please email us your RESUME or online REEL with your name on. Perry Munoz
Ad: http://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/cwg/4859381063.html

Newsletter Posting Charging $100:
* CRIME/FILM NOIR SCRIPT. PM is seeking crime/film noir feature screenplays. Screenplays should be character-driven. We are keeping the budget low, so looking for scripts that ONLY feature a few characters and locations. Scripts where plot takes place in just a few hours or days are preferred. Principal photography will be done in Asia. SIGN UP FOR PREMIUM FOR DIRECT CONTACT.

Script Jobs FREE Posting: (1/26)
CRIME/ FILM NOIR SHORT SCRIPTS NEEDED!
Script Writer / Screenplay Writer Wanted
Status: Development
Type: Short film
Genre: Crime • Film-Noir
Plumeria Movies
About the job:
Script Writer / Screenplay Writer wanted for an upcoming Indie-Film project to be made of no-to-low budget. The script should be focused on less-number of characters and locations. No other requirements. The film will be made in India, with the help of few sponsors and donations.
If interested, contact at the earliest.
Thank You.
https://www.stage32.com/…/Script-Writer-Screenplay-Writer-W…

Newsletter Posting Charging $100:
* ANIMATION SCREENWRITER, ENGLAND. ONLY apply is you are have experience writing animation TV drama. The animation is a spoof of the characters based from a drama, taking a humorous and satirical angle on modern gang/youth culture. We are looking for experienced screenwriters for a two week period to write scripts for ten 26 minute episodes. Payment will be discussed with those we are interested in. SIGN UP FOR PREMIUM FOR DIRECT CONTACT.

Script Jobs FREE Posting: (1/22)
EXPERIENCED SCREENWRITER NEEDED; U.K. – PAID!
Experienced Screenwriter
Employer: SDMC Productions
Salary: TBC
More Info: http://http://www.sdmcproductions.com/
Apply to: Christopher Kenna
Payment is on a low paid basis.
SDMC Productions are looking for experienced screenwriters to be involved with the writing of a new animation series based on the popular drama series ‘The Endz’. The animation is a spoof of the characters based in the drama, taking a humorous and satirical angle on modern gang/youth culture. We are looking for experienced screenwriters based in Manchester for a two week period to write scripts for ten 26 minute episodes. Please get in touch if you feel interested in the project and you have experience that could contribute to the series.
Ad: http://www.mandy.com/1/jobs3.cfm?v=62581680

As you can see, some of these ads were posted by us over two weeks ago on “Script Jobs and Searches” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/scriptassignmentsandsearches/) and in our LinkedIn group of the same name. We also tweet these posting out to our Twitter followers @scriptjobs. So join and follow us today, and stay on top of the better PAID screenwriting jobs advertised. In doing so, you will eventually help force these newsletter companies to crawl back under the rocks where they came from.

02/07/15 Addendum:

It was brought to our attention that we failed to receive expressed permission to re-print portions of, what was believed to be, a private exchange between TSM and the client. The Script Mentor wishes to apologize for this oversight on our part. We’d also like to further explain that there was NO indication of the (paid jobs newsletter) having “lifted” this client’s particular ad, and no implication of such was done purposefully. We now understand that they were given permission to do so, although no permission was granted in the altering of the ad, or providing contact information through a Facebook page. The client’s feelings regarding the charging of $100 to obtain contact information readily available FREE through Mandy.com are accurate, as are their plans to continue to use Mandy.com as method of choice for advertising future script searches.

TSM apologizes for any confusion.

The Script Mentor

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF WHEN ACCEPTING PAID SCREENWRITING JOBS!

paid-to-write      Many of you have already joined The Script Mentor’s LinkedIn jobs group “Script Jobs and Searches”. As a result, you are probably also following us on Twitter @scriptjobs, and on our Facebook page “Script Jobs and Searches”. We make the daily effort of finding the best (paid) screenwriting jobs advertised throughout the internet, and re-post them in these groups. What separates us from “other” screenwriting jobs newsletters (besides the fact that they charge $100 for “premium” access to many of the same job and contact information that we provide for FREE) is that we provide the link to the original posted ads. Our scripts searches are mostly EXCLUSIVE to our network, as many producers looking for a particular project know the talent within our screenwriting network (over 10K) is wide-ranging, and include some of the best writers in the business.

While we’ve enjoyed hundreds of success stories among our network, taking on paid jobs; sometimes the first paid writing job they’ve ever had; we have heard from a few our members that they landed a paid assignment, but the client hasn’t, or won’t pay as promised. In some cases, this is unavoidable. The ads are original to sites like Craigslist, Mandy.com, Stage 32, Kijiji, Elance, Media Match, Done Deal Pro, GetFilmJobs, etc. and cannot/are not vetted. If an ad is “suspicious”, we take the effort to note that in a comment, or we simply don’t post it at all.

However, there are some things one can do to REDUCE this risk of getting “burned”. So, let me share with you some advice regarding your response to these ads and what you might expect:

1) Very few of those posting through free sites like Craigslist are “serious” industry folk. Some are, but so many are anonymous, you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth responding to.

2) Be realistic about your expectations. A “producer” advertising on a free website, like Craigslist, looking for a writer to write a 5-10 minute short, is NOT going to pay $1000 to have that done. Chances are they are financing the production themselves, and all of the money they have is going to be on screen. Sometimes, however, a free gig here and there leads to other good things, so don’t discount this entirely. For the record, however, we only advertise and promote PAID opportunities.

3) If the gig is advertised as PAID, determine how they are willing to compensate. Getting paid $500 or less for a feature screenplay written from scratch based on their concept, is probably too low for most – but maybe not to everyone. My first paid assignment was for $200- and I ended up rewriting the short six different times. This led to other, more profitable, gigs, as I got something much more important than money with that first assignment: confidence. You accept whatever YOU feel is good for YOU. Don’t worry about what others think; those telling you that you should’ve gotten paid more. We should ALL get paid more, but others, most likely, do NOT know your personal/financial situation. I still take writing assignments, on occasion, that pay less than I’m used to, but the producer may be a friend, or may have an excellent track record, or I feel that gig may lead to even greater opportunities. But, to date, I’ve never NOT been paid for writing a screenplay.

4) If the money is good, and the project is agreed upon, request the parameters of the agreement – in writing! If they hesitate, or claim they’re too busy, then take it upon yourself and write the agreement. Send it to them signed, and request that they sign it and return it – signed. I would advise you NOT to write a single word until the contract is signed.

5) Don’t hesitate to register the screenplay after the first draft, or so. If they do not pay you the balance and refuse to give you a legitimate explanation, “remind” the client that THIS screenplay is registered to you and you alone. If and when they do settle the debt, give them the registration number, and/or have them re-register it under their own name(s).

6) In the case of a paid assignment, request 50% up front. If they hesitate, they probably don’t have it, and if they don’t have it now, they’re probably NOT going to have it later. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for the money (I know how difficult that can be). If you want to be treated as a professional, act like one. Being quick to accept a gig, and “hope” that they come through with the pay afterwards is foolish, and anything BUT professional. You can make adjustments in the arrangement to fit the needs of all parties, but do NOT act like a doormat or you will be treated as one.

7) A true professional concerned about their relationship is not going to screw you over. Don’t think EVERYONE is out to take advantage of the lonely, lowly screenwriter. That’s just silly talk. Do not be OVERLY cautious, and make the client go somewhere else.

8) Most gigs advertising pay of $10,000 on Craigslist is probably NOT a legitimate lead. Check out each and every client your respond to. Ask who they are, what their website and IMdb page is. If they have a number of produced projects, chances are they are trustworthy.

9) Ask fellow screenwriters (or us) if that client is someone we know, and would trust. Ask if they are any red flags to be concerned about. We get group members all of the time who add information on a particular company or ad that gets posted. We don’t work in a vacuum; some of these ads are repeat ads posted from other sites, as the client attempts to spread a wider net.

10) If you accept the gig, let US know that you have, and we’ll promote you as yet another success story from the group. Make sure you meet all of the requirements that THEY are seeking as well, especially in things like due dates, approval of changes, etc. Personally, when I accept a writing assignment, I always offer a free rewrite, providing the basic storyline remains the same. They may want more comedic lines, or deeper character development, etc. Beyond the one rewrite, you should charge for your time.

These are some basic steps that you can take to protect the arrangement from going south. For a working relationship to be a good one, both sides have to feel happy with the arrangement. The last thing you want to do is spend six months writing a feature from scratch, based on a promise to be paid. If they break that promise, you HAVE to be willing to share this news with the masses. Only you can protect fellow screenwriters from getting ripped off, and we will refuse to post any other ads from those people.

DEBUNKING SCREENWRITING MYTHS, PART XVII – “BEWARE OF FALSE PRO(FITS)!”

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One of the services “The Script Mentor” provides to our network (gratis) is collecting and posting various PAID screenwriting jobs AND script search opportunities. We do this through our LinkedIn group “Script Jobs and Searches” (https://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostRecent=&gid=6739059&trk=my_groups-tile-flipgrp), a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/scriptassignmentsandsearches/, and on Twitter (@scriptjobs).

Occasionally, we like to highlight the more “questionable” opportunities, while sharing with you what WE look for in these opportunities when doing our own due diligence.

Recently, a company known only as “Eccentric Stories”, promoted a screenwriting contest through Craigslist. They advertised that it provides their “monthly winners” $500 cash prize AND “guaranteed representation”.

Naturally, this claim piqued our interest.

The “Eccentric Stories” website advertises “Introductions to Agents, Producers and Executives”- seemingly every screenwriters dream- or nightmare, if you aren’t careful. Prominent in the first sentence of their home page is the claim “Take your Chance to be the next Academy Award winner discovered by Eccentric Stories”! Now, we’re ALWAYS wary of any contest or writing service that boosts (as-of-yet) unsubstantiated claims of “Academy Award- level” success, but when told that you have the chance to be the NEXT Academy Award winner discovered, wouldn’t that imply that there was a first one? If so, who was the first one? What was the project? No such back-up information is available, unfortunately.

Another sign of a questionable “contest”, especially one that promotes a writing service in conjunction with the same site, IS the level of writing skill demonstrated on the site itself. This site, for example, has every other word capitalized, and some pretty poor grammar structure and punctuation issues. It looks to have been written by a fifteen year-old girl texting through a smart phone.

The biggest red flag on sites like these is the fact that there is absolutely nobody advertised as being associated with them- no site owners, no website managers, no judges. Nothing. In fact, when we reached out to them – several times – in an attempt to discover who is directly involved in such a site, there has been no response. This fact alone should make writers stop and reconsider before submitting their intellectual property (screenplays or manuscripts) to them, or send them any amount of money.

If I were a betting man, I’d bet this is a website from outside of the United States, which means that even if your project is registered and copyrighted, you have no protection outside of the country. Chances are, you’d never know what would have happened to your project, and you’d probably not be compensated for someone else using it.

There are legitimate services out there that have fostered Academy Award-level material, nominees and, perhaps even a winner or two. In these cases, however, not only do they promote it, it would be on their home page in big bold letters!

While we await any follow-up information from them (we won’t be holding our breath) we would suggest that you, the screenwriter, keep a wary eye for these types of services or competitions; we refer to them as “money-grabs”. Check references; ask questions. If nothing else, ask us. We’ll do what we can to get you the answers you need to make an informed decision.

*Photo courtesy of Worth1000.com.

**No wolves or sheep were harmed in the creation of this image .

The Script Mentor’s New Announcements!

thCAZ5C1XGGeno Scala, founder of “The Script Mentor” screenwriting mentoring program, is proud to announce that he has been signed to representation by creative artist manager Branden Cobb of “Starring Entertainment”. After reaching out to Geno months earlier, Branden has followed his blossoming writing career, which included a successful 2014 campaign in completing multiple paid assignments, as well as a TV writing assignment, currently being written by Geno and his co-writer, Brent Jones. The decision was made to sign Geno after the first of this year, coinciding with “The Script Mentor’s” announcement of the new “TSM Workshop” seminar series, kicking off April 2015.

TSM Workshop will be presenting eight (8) hours of webinar and seminar topics, to be packaged in two-hour, online, interactive “virtual classroom” sessions, with the material based predominately on writing and marketing the spec screenplay.

In addition, Geno and his production company, Shark-Eating Man Productions, are proud to announce that they are now one of the Executive Producers of Nicole Jones-Dion’s new horror film, “DEBRIS“, currently in development, . DEBRIS is about a down-on-his-luck treasure hunter who unearths a mysterious box that has washed ashore a California beach. Ms. Jones-Dion, an indie filmmaker in Los Angeles, is primarily known as a horror writer with two produced feature films (DRACULA – THE DARK PRINCE and TEKKEN 2 – KAZUYA’S REVENGE) that were both distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

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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.