TSM Reviews Screenwriting Services- The Pros and the “Cons”; Part I

scam-artist

(a new article series based on one man’s opinion)

This Week: 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 to come across a legitimate enterprise that successfully operates “contests” for all of these major categories. Through their Craigslist listing, enticing those to “take your chance to be the NEXT Academy Award winner discovered by Eccentric Stories”, they are implying that previous “Academy Award winners” have been discovered by Eccentric.

Interestingly, though, there is no mention of these previous Oscar winners…because they don’t exist (RED FLAG #3).

A review of their website reveals no names of ANY of the principals involved (RED FLAG #4), as they describe themselves 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 and effective producers who are ready, willing and able to work with first time and aspiring writers”. Again, they fail to mention a single one of these producers (RED FLAG #5), not to mention failing to capitalize the second word in their own company title (“stories”, RED FLAG #6). For a company whose stock in trade appears to be “judging” others writing, errors in their own ad should raise serious concerns.

They claim 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.”, yet no logos of these companies sponsoring the contest are anywhere to be found, and no quotes from one of these members to help substantiate this claim are found on the site.

Eccentric Stories goes 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? Perhaps career management? Maybe it’s agent representation? Maybe they are offering to manage your kid’s Little League baseball team- who knows?

“Eccentric Stories” does have a LinkedIn page, located in “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.

Their first monthly contest yielded four different winners:

Winning Screenplay; Austin Davies (Houston, TX);

Winning Novel: Cheryl Carter-Love (Baltimore, MD);

Winning Log Line: Judy Lattimore (Bakersfield, CA);

Winning Stage Play: Marques Sessoms (Atlanta, GA).

In an attempt to reach out to the winners, `we did a basic Google search for the winners. Coincidentally, 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, who are 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. 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!

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 more specifics about their contest. At this time, however, based on all of this information, easily gleaned when spending a few minutes of time conducting a cursory due diligence investigation, we believe this site to be a “Con”; a “money grab” operation. We’ve reached out on several occasions to the owners of the site for additional information, and have yet to receive any return contact.

We would also like to encourage ANY of the four listed winners to contact “The Script Mentor” and share with us their experiences with this contest, and if this should prove to be a legitimate enterprise, we will certainly follow-up with that information.

ECCENTRIC STORIES: FOLLOW-UP

After posting my suspicions over an ad found on Craigslist from a “John Alexander” of Eccentric Stories, where he advertised various screenwriting services, including adapting books into screenplays and ghostwriting, I placed a call into Mr. Alexander, and within a few short minutes of time, it was fairly obvious he knew very little about the craft of screenwriting. He didn’t seem to have a grasp on the common terminology often used in screenwriting, and was less than forward with his pricing schedules and due dates, etc. It was clear to me this was a scam, and said as much in the article.

I was then contacted by Kenny Wilson, a most recent customer of Mr. Alexander, who expressed his sincere regrets of not having seen my article prior to signing on with Eccentric Stories and paying a hefty sum for a screenplay adaptation of his novel. Now, there were many red flags along the way, as Mr. Wilson now admits, but at the time, he was a bit more trusting of the man. As with many con artists, they have a skill to win people over and convince them they’re on the level, which is why they are so successful. Mr. Wilson paid John Alexander the sum of one thousand dollars ($1000) to adapt a 700+ page Action novel into a screenplay, and this transaction took place at the end of 2014. As of March 2016, he had yet to see a written word.

Mr. Wilson has managed to get a hold of Alexander during much of this time, and he was strung along, being told the project was coming along fine. Towards the end, when Mr. Wilson had had enough, and demanded his screenplay, he received a call from a “family member” of Mr. Alexander’s, claiming that he had a heart attack. Mr. Wilson was able to speak with him later still, when he was told that the script was done, and he (Alexander) was flying him (Mr. Wilson) out to Los Angeles- all expenses paid- where he had scheduled a number of meetings with various studio executives interested in purchasing the script. Mr. Wilson was highly skeptical, but he did re-arrange his work schedule to be on the safe side.

Mr. Wilson never heard back. We will be assisting Mr. Wilson as much as we can in helping him recover his money and recover his project.

SUGGESTIONS FOR OUTSIDE ASSISTANCE

There are some important points to consider when you’re looking to hire a screenwriter for a paid assignment such as an adaptation or a ghostwriting job. To read a 700-page book and then adapt it into a viable screenplay beyond a first draft is, at the minimum, a four-to- six month job (length of time varies depending on the writer, of course). I’ve done screenplays in six weeks, and I’ve done them in sixteen months. No one of any real skill level is going to charge $1000 to do that for you; that’s less than $1 an hour. I might charge $1000 just to READ a 700-page, self-published book, because I know what it’s probably going to read like!

Next, you should ALWAYS get a written contract, outlining EXACTLY what you’re going to get for your money. I will give you an idea of what I always provide in my contracts:

  1. A) The start and end date(s);
  2. B) The hourly rate;
  3. C) The number of hours expected for the project;
  4. D) Payment terms; half down prior to start; final pay prior to receipt of final draft;
  5. E) Guaranteed first forty pages for review;
  6. F) One (1) FREE rewrite

I should note that I will also tell you that I have friends in the business to whom that I can send your screenplay, because I do. I have a number of people who will read anything I send them because they not only trust my writing skills, but they also trust my judgment of projects I forward. There’s absolutely no guarantee of any option, purchase or production. Anyone who makes promises like that, or who tells you about all-expense paid trips to meet studio executives- take your money and run, because that’s what they’re going to do!

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