Ask THE SCRIPT MENTOR, No. 14: Cheers, Peers, Rocketeers and Reindeers

Q: Geno, I’ve been poking around your articles on LinkedIn. You have some great insight, and I found your profile interesting. I have to say, I’ve never had any luck finding “real” jobs, film work, or screenwriting work via LinkedIn. Considering one of the points in the article you posted last week, if I’ve only got 2 hours to spend networking, is LinkedIn where it should go?

 Thanks in advance for any insight.

Bill

Script Analyst and Department Head

A: Hi Bill! Thank you for the kind words. The only “work” I’ve looked for thru LinkedIn was new clientele for my mentoring, and now, ghost screenwriting services, and I can say that a large percentage of them came from LinkedIn, as I do have a strong presence here. I run a few groups; been active in about 30 others (I’ve since cut back to less than five or six now), and built up a network of over 25,000 industry-related people.

There was a period of time a few years ago that LinkedIn was far behind technology-wise, and at the same time, my account had been hacked, so I was experiencing about a year of real issues. I mirrored some of the groups on Facebook, and started marketing outside more. I now know many of my connections quite well and these have led to many writing assignments and some truly amazing opportunities. It’s also allowed ME to help others achieve THEIR goals, which I find more exciting (I’m 56, so I’m not moving BACK to Hollywood again any time soon); I’ve helped many writers get their first paid writing assignments, their first script sale or option, their screenplays produced; I’ve helped eleven writers get representation, and got one writer her agent! I even got credit for helping a writer get her animated screenplay sold to 20th Century Fox, where she is now an Exec. Producer!

As for your own personal networking, I suppose it’s dependent on what kind of networking you hope to be doing. Being a Script Analyst with one of the most recognizable and prestigious competitions in the game provides INSTANT credibility to you (congratulations, btw), but I don’t see where you are operating your own “consulting” business. If this is what you’re planning to do, let me know, as I believe I can help you some more.

My suggestion is to use LI to help with your main goal of looking for that all-important main job; obviously it won’t be your only source for job search (Careerbuilders, HotJobs, and hundreds of other sites and avenues). I would also use it to network with those who can help you in your writing career, as well. The “best use of time” question is for you to decide. It’s helped me tremendously, but probably not everyone. Managing one’s time with a real job outside of the home, writing on their own, and networking looking for paid gigs, is a TON of work, which seems to separate the contenders from the pretenders; the writers from the hobbyists. Add to that family obligations, or medical issues, or keeping up a house or a farm or caring for a sick parent- I know people in each of those situations- and you’ve got nearly impossible challenges against nearly impossible odds, but some don’t give up. People have seen enough in your skills to give you positions, so I think that says something. I wish you nothing but success moving forward!

Q: Geno- You asked why I used “CAPS” so often in my teleplay. The reason caps are used for a TV script is that those are effects and that helps producers get an idea of the costs associated with scenes as they’re putting a budget together. The people I’ve been dealing with at Netflix are quite adamant about it.

Thanks for your feedback!

Nicholas

Monkeys-typing

 

A: Hi Nicholas! I understand WHY some of those things would be capitalized – in a SHOOTING script – but this looked like a spec script to me. I didn’t know you were writing ON ASSIGNMENT from a producer from Netflix. That’s a major “get”; outstanding! I’m very proud and happy for you! You can get a lot of mileage with such an announcement by including that information with that post. Everyone would be very impressed to know that!

 

I brought it up in my post because these are the more common errors made by writers when writing spec scripts and it merely highlights their amateurism as opposed to showing their professionalism. A shooting script is the last thing written, and, most likely, it won’t even be written by you. What capitalizing 43 of the first 80 words on the first page does is make it VERY difficult for a PRODUCER to READ if HE chose to SIT down one DAY and READ the SCRIPT with the INTENTION of DECIDING WHETHER or not TO buy the SCREENPLAY. IT makes FOR a VERY SLOW and DELIBERATE read WHICH is the LAST thing A PRODUCER wants WHEN reading SPEC scripts.

 

Q: Hello, I have just completed a screenplay called (Title Withheld) that I would like to submit for your consideration. This screenplay won the Park Avenue Award (New York Screenplay Contest). Genre: Comedy Get ready for an absurd comedy of the likes you’ve never seen before…(Screenplay) takes us on a hilarious journey through the world of organized crime and foolish criminals. This is a movie that audiences will never forget… not even in their wildest dreams. Watching this movie, you will see reference to slapstick/absurd comedy classics like Hot Shots and Naked Gun throughout this movie. Yet, the overall tone of the movie and the dialog and quirky characters are something right out of a Coen brothers’ movie. Imagine a cross between Raising Arizona and Burn After Reading and you have (Screenplay)—a movie full of greed, fools, fun and laugh out loud absurdity. I also submitted this screenplay for professional analysis and review and received the following feedback: “A highly recommended script. A story full of highly original off-beat characters and wonderfully absurd situations. Potential to be a cult favorite and a worthy financial investment with low risk and high profit potential.” I believe this captivating yet humorous story will attract a wide audience and entertain people in a way they’ve never seen before. I hope you will give me the opportunity to share my screenplay with you. My script is registered and I’m happy to sign a release form.

Kind regards,

Peter

screenplayjunkie5

 

A: Hi Peter! Please take a moment and read my most recent (and appropriate) Pulse article regarding notes like these. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/10-tips-how-screenwriters-can-properly-network-through-geno-scala. I can tell you that query letter will do more damage to you that help you; you say many of the WRONG things in that letter that you may wish to reconsider saying in future query letters. I’ve seen “recommends” before, but this is the first “highly recommend” I’ve ever seen or heard. That’s an amazing accomplishment; sounds like a “can’t miss” future success story! It does sound like you’ve received ONE feedback review thus far, so I would encourage you to get at least two more. If I can of any additional help, don’t hesitate to ask, once you introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about you that I can’t find on your LinkedIn profile! 😉

Q- Hi, what is wrong with my query letter, because this query made for me company – http://www.scriptmailer.com/. I can also send you professional analysis of my screenplay also from this company. If you are interested I can send you my curriculum vitae. I would be more than happy if I could you send my screenplay and then you can send me feedback and your opinion. Please send me what is so wrong in my query.

 

A: I can tell you two things about that query letter. First, it’s not good at all. The concept itself is not good, but the query is poorly put together; whoever did it hasn’t a clue what they’re doing. Second, by writing me, asking to “link in”, then sending me a direct query, violated the exact protocol I just wrote an article about the day before, so it wouldn’t have mattered to me if the query letter was absolutely perfect, and the concept was perfect- I wouldn’t have responded anyway. You don’t reach out to someone, ask to join their network, then immediately hit them up for a favor. Can I borrow $50? I know you don’t know me, but we’re in the same network now- send me fifty bucks. Come on, we’re ol’ buds now. No- you just don’t do that, at least, not with me. That is why I sent you the link to the article, which I hope you read. More importantly, however, is this site, THE SCRIPT MAILER, with Jennifer Sloane, the owner. For someone in sales – and supposedly a registered agent – you can’t find ANYTHING out there on the Internet about her. Very strange- and suspicious to me. She doesn’t have profiles in IMdb, LinkedIn, or Facebook that I could find, based on the information I uncovered. I found plenty of Jennifer Sloanes, and any one of them may just be her, but beyond the name, none of them are agents, have anything to do with screenplays, live in Los Angeles or Nashville. As for those “testimonials”- I found several of the names to be quite ordinary- “C. Rodriguez”, “Jane Williams”, “Sarah Williams, “Jess Evans”, “Mike Richards”, etc. Most of these people could not be narrowed down and/or verified either, which makes these testimonials also very suspicious to me.

spam1

 

I’m quite familiar with emailing services- there’s many of them, and most of them are a waste of money. Why? Because the companies that receive these emails block them and they go straight to the trash file. I signed up for THE SCRIPT MAILER newsletter, and mine went straight to the junk file! Chances are the 800 or so emails that were sent out for you, less than 50 reached their destination. Have you received responses, beyond an auto response, to any of them? More than ten percent of them? Thirty-three percent?  How about fifty percent?

You can buy books- and now software- every year with these email addresses (which they do), and they’re simply loading it into their database and with your payment and a push of a button, off goes a terribly written query to 800 people, 90% of which will never see it. Sorry to break the news to you, but that’s the truth as I see it. At least they offer you a money-back guarantee, and if I were you, I’d take it and never look back. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies like these out there, and most of them are shams and scams. Read my blog; I try to uncover as many as I can. I was in law enforcement for several years, and have experience blowing the lid off of frauds. I’m reaching out to some of these successful “clients on the testimonials to determine if, in fact, they were instrumental in helping them secure an “agent”. I’ve gotten 11 writers literary management representation, and one I got agent representation. I also helped get a writer her animated feature sold and produced at 20th Century Fox, where she is currently an executive producer- but I’ve taken no money for this. I do it because they earned it. Anyway, you can believe what I say, or ignore it. I’m okay with it either way.

There are better, more effective ways are marketing and networking. Yes, it takes work, but it doesn’t cost you anything but your time and effort, and in the end, you gain a lifetime contact. Good luck!

(From my blog article https://thescriptmentor.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/ask-the-script-mentor-no-7-getting-reped-marketing-formatting/)

 

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

Horsehead

I know lots, but who says they’re “market viable” screenplays? 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:

a) 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.

b) 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.

Other articles include:

Query Letters: https://thescriptmentor.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/ask-the-script-mentor-5/

E-blast Query: https://thescriptmentor.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/debunking-screenwriting-myths-part-xiv-the-e-blast-query/

 

Q: Hello, my name is Alston and I’ve wanted to write scripts for movies as long as I can remember, but I live in a not-so-popular city. I’m still young and I am wondering on what the best way to get my scripts noticed. I can create a script for almost any genre ranging from horror to love stories. While I think they are good, I can’t trust friends or family to be brutally honest with me to help me get better. I’m not trying to get famous and rich, but I am trying to bring my imagination to the screen to make as many people happy and entertained as possible. Any way that you can give me tips on helping would be appreciated. No hard feelings if you don’t respond, I’m sure you get many emails like this all of the time, so I won’t be too upset. Thank you for reading.

Alston

A: Hi Alston! You say you think the scripts are good, but you don’t provide a logical basis for this; you seem to write well (this letter), better than most, I’d say, but it’s a small sample size, with basic wording and sentence structure. It doesn’t sound as if you’ve had any kind of formal “screenwriting” training, which makes it virtually impossible to be good at it. You might “write well” but screenplays are an extremely specific type of writing style and format. You can be self- taught- up to a point. With professional feedback, you would KNOW if you were good because so and so told you, or producer so and so hired you to write this or that.

You ARE right NOT to trust the opinions of your friends and family, though; very wise. They are your “cheers”, who will love you no matter what. Your “peers” will help give you an honest assessment, but some are also your direct competitors, so be aware of that. Your “rocketeers” are those in the industry who, by virtue of their assistance, or a hand out to help, or a solid recommendation or a referral, can rocket your career upward and forward. So, you’ll need to start creating a network and mentally dividing these people into these sections, and knowing who’s who.

While it’s sometimes fun to write in different genres, at some point down the line, it’s best to determine which genre you like best or write best in, and settle on that and stay in your lane. You want to be known as the “guy who writes _____ better than anyone else!” You want to be that go-to guy. Don’t chase a genre that’s hot now, because in two years, whenever a script you’re starting today might ever be ready to produce, it’ll be two years down the road, and “found footage” movies might be passe by then. Write what you relate to the most, what you enjoy the most. You want to have fun doing this because you’ll be doing this ALL OF THE TIME- talking about it, reading about it, posting and networking and promoting it. So, if you write rom/coms but find them stupid, personally, it’s not going to end well for you! I prefer Mafia-based crime stories, hostage stories, real cops and robbers stuff. No surprise, considering I was a police and private detective, so it’s in my blood and has been for 36 years now. I like comedies too, and feel I can write all genres. These days I do, because I’m paid to do so; I don’t stick to one genre, but when I write my own material, you can bet it is good versus evil, with a lot of blood, body parts, secrets, guilt, conflict, and a mean twist no one sees coming (I hope). If you want an “opinion” on your writing, I’ll read the first ten pages of anything you have and give you my opinion. If you want feedback with constructive notes, go to my website at www.thescriptmentor.com, and look under services for the first ten page read. Good luck to you, and I appreciate you reaching out!

 

Q: Hi, Geno, It’s Candy. I just read your 10 things NOT to do. Good advice, as usual! Question; I have spent two months now on LinkedIn Pro and made several valuable contacts. What would you think if I posted the first two pages of my script, (which contain the inciting incident) indirectly on my profile page, (A reader would need to click to it.) Then I would let all my contacts know my profile has changed. Good idea or not good?

Candy

A: Hi Candy! You would post the pages of the script (not a bad idea), then let everyone know your profile changed (sounds unnecessary to me, but if you want to drive them to read the script, sounds like a good tactic). Is that the gist- getting your contacts- presumably a lot of producers and decision-makers- to read these pages, and hopefully request to read the rest? I don’t see an issue with that as a strategy. It’s non-invasive, still gives them the choice to continue. I would want those two pages to be absolutely PERFECT; above all scrutiny, but I like the idea. I’d be curious if it leads to anything beyond. Keep me in the loop, if you can. Good job!

 

Q: What is the standard fee, if there is one, for an entertainment lawyer to review a contract for script purchase?

Thanks! Deen

eek

A: Hi Deen! Like any service industry, their fees change from attorney to attorney. They’ll probably charge hourly, but I would guess you’re looking at $200-300, depending on the size of the contract. I wish I could be more helpful.

 

Q: Hi Geno, Please know that you post great information and I appreciate it. It’s been a while since we last touched base. Since then, I hired a professional service for a Script Coverage Report for my TV drama pilot as I know that this is part of the process. They recommended my script for series, now they want me to pay them for additional consulting services to “tweak” it. If I gave you the name of the company, would you give me feedback as to their credibility? I paid $500.00 and now they want more money. I don’t want to get taken, but know I need the direction to move the project forward. Thanks, Geno! Please know that I respect your opinion as I know you’ve been in the industry for a long time.

Sincerely,

Dana

A: Hi Dana!  It sounds like you may have put the cart before the horse; doing the due diligence AFTER paying them $500. That’s too bad. I praying that it wasn’t $500 for coverage or analysis on the TV pilot. That’s 2-3 times what it the average cost would normally be. Of course, I could tell you what I know about them, recommend and refer others to you specifically for TV and look at it myself, and just give you informal feedback notes, nothing official as I won’t charge you anything, if you want. It’s up to you. If you’re on Facebook at all, you can check out my latest post on The Script Mentor Facebook page, regarding the notes I got when we recently pitched out TV pilot, “Bad Priest”. I knew it was good, but I didn’t know it was received that well. I hope you can check it out!

Dana Follow-up: I fear I may have been taken for $500 bucks. The company is [EDITED OUT]. Please let me know if you have any feedback for them. Thanks you. I’ll get back with you after your response.

dr-strangesheen-promo

A: I see their Pulse articles every week, which are just the same ads for their services. The site is terribly confusing to me. Personally, I wouldn’t make any changes until I got the three feedbacks, then compared the notes. If there was a common theme to the feedback (for example- poor formatting, or dialogue issues), I would concentrate on those fixes. If these suggestions are based on one’s personal “taste” and NOT technique or story, then ignore it. Sometimes it’s hard to give notes and NOT express personal preferences. As for [COMPANY], if you are pleased with what they provided, and depending on how much the next charge is, it might be worth it to have them “fix” it. If you no longer want to go with [COMPANY], send me the script in PDF and their notes and I’ll look them over this weekend. I have two deadlines coming up on two screenplays, but I can find time for this- if you want me to.

WRITER’S BIO: Geno Scala has over two dozen completed feature film screenplays and television pilots. This year, he’s completed five ghostwriting adaptation projects; novels-into-screenplays, and counts many celebrities among his vast clientele. His most recent television project, “Bad Priest“, was pitched to and reviewed by several executives, who provided the following feedback: “Overall, this pilot is compelling and clear and offers just enough to tease us with where these stories and characters might go. It begs for a full season, which is a huge accomplishment.” Two other TV projects, (“Hell Hath No Fury”, “Sextracurriculum”) are under consideration by SPIKE TV for an upcoming line-up. His feature film screenplay, “BANKING ON BETTY” was the winner of the StoryPros, the Script Pipeline and a top finalist in the Scriptapalooza. Mr. Scala spent twenty-two years- plus in the Hollywood community, and during 1999-2000, was the executive director for the 72nd Annual Academy Awards. He held similar positions with The Soul Train, Grammys and Blockbuster and Saturn Awards shows. You can find his IMdb page at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5346759/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1.

He currently resides in Huntsville, Alabama, with his wife and four children.

From our family to yours, we wish you all a merry Christmas, happy holiday season, and a happy and safe New Year!

the-world_s-top-10-funniest-animals-dressed-as-reindeer-2

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