Category Archives: Uncategorized

Capturing the “Thrill of the Moment”!

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Timing is everything; in marathons, fashion, politics, even conceiving babies. It’s especially “everything” when it comes to screenwriting.

We are all familiar now with the ongoing desperate attempt to rescue the 12 soccer-playing teens from a flooded cave in Northern Thailand this week. At the time of this writing, eight have been saved, and one Thai Navy SEAL heroically drowned in his attempt to bring them back to safety.

That’s when someone posed the question about this event turning into a movie. You can bet on it, and I’m guessing more than a dozen name screenwriters in Hollywood are hard at work, pounding on their keyboards, while leaving the ending open until the end of the tragic story. Some screenplay versions of the story will tell it chronologically; some will focus on individual heroes, while another may explore the culture and politics of the country that allowed such an event to happen. Any way you slice it, there will be plenty of pieces to go around.

Does this mean this will be in the theaters Christmas Day 2018? Highly unlikely.

On average, it takes a professional screenwriter about six- to- twelve months to provide a final draft to their producer. It’s not that they are slow writers; it takes at least that long for rewrites, feedback, and to get everyone in the decision-making process rowing in the same direction. Now, you’re a year away from the actual event. Variety hears about the script being shopped around, and people say “Oh yeah, I remember that. Should be a cool movie!”

After that, they’ll work on funding the project. This is where timing comes in; does the story still generate the same interest it did at its height? Have there been other updates in the story that make it even more intriguing; lawsuits, deaths, prosecutions, etc.?

During this phase, they’ll be looking to cast the movie as well. Is there a person from this even that is the “face” of the news story; someone who an A-lister (Tom Hanks) would want to play? One downside of this particular story is that it takes place in Thailand, where English is not their primary language. The story of the trapped boys may be reported 24-7 in Thailand, but here in the States, it may or may not even lead the news shows. They keep us updated, but it’s not like CNN covering the missing Malaysian plane mystery.

Once the script is ready, funding is in place and roles are cast, filming may begin. Does it get filmed in Thailand or a jungle in Hawaii? There are a million questions you have to ask yourself- and when you have to answer questions, you’re talking about more time.

Recently, the big hit movie, “I Can Only Imagine”, was released; a film about the story behind the biggest-selling Christian single of all-time. You would think the film would follow shortly behind the meteoric success of the single, right?

The record came out in 2001.

american-sniper-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000“American Sniper” (2014) was released five years after Chris Kyle left the military. The film was in the works before his untimely murder in ’13.

The movie, “127 Hours”, was released in 2010, seven years AFTER Aron Ralston severed his own hand to free himself from a boulder (also, ironically, in a cave).

Chappaquidick-movie-trailer-YouTube-screenshot-ONE-MediaWe don’t even have to discuss other historical events being turned into feature films; Bible stories, war events, political stories. How life may have been different growing up had the movie “Chappaquiddick” been produced and released in the 1970’s, closer in time to the actual scandal in 1969! Ted Kennedy would probably be a pariah today, as opposed to the “Lion of the Senate” that he was called by many before his death. Most of the people alive today (which doesn’t include Mary Jo Kopechne, by the way) aren’t even familiar with this even EVER happening!

When this movie gets made, it’ll be at least two years down the line; two years of substantially more shocking , more tragic, and even more uplifting stories that have occured in real life. By then, the majority of the people will be saying “Oh yeah, I heard about that once. What was it, like ten years ago?”

Timing is everything. Unfortunately, it’s not the ONLY thing.

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Beware of False Prophets

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I recently had two experiences with these types of “screenwriting” people, and I’d like to share them with you. You can make of it what you want.

The first was a script consultant that I’ve used quite a bit in the past; Scott Parisien. At one time, I spoke very highly of him, and referred many other writers to him for screenplay analysis. Most recently, I referred a client of mine to him for a review of his screenplay adaptation of his crime novel, “Dual Therapy”. This novel, while self-published, was one of the best novels I’ve ever read, written by an amateur author, and I promoted it quite a bit on my sites and pages. The story involves a Colorado Springs homicide detective on the trail of a serial killer, and it is loosely based on true events. The author was, in fact, a retired detective with 35 years in police work. I helped him a bit on the screenplay, and I have ten years of police work, and ten years in investigations.

After acknowledging his police career, one of the first comments the consultant made toward the screenplay was how “it felt it was written by someone who didn’t have a sold grasp on police work procedure.” Keep in mind, the two who worked on this screenplay have over fifty combined years of police and private investigations, to include assaults, robberies, kidnapping, undercover, gang squads, sex crimes and, of course, homicides.

dont-be-a-dick-e1383925585548We are all aware of how the police in this country have been vilified of late, and an overwhelming percentage of it is unwarranted. Much of this vilification comes from the political Left in this country, and Los Angeles, California- to include the entertainment industry- is 95% left-of-center. Scott went on to infer that audiences (himself included) mostly only know police procedures by what they see in other movies and TV, so any deviation from that “standard” appears unrealistic.

I wrote to Scott, asking how he could not only say such a thing, but believe such a thing, and why he felt compelled to question the actual street experience of the author. He responded quite defensively, angrily rejecting any future referrals, and questioning MY professionalism. Just a complete schmuck.

 

free-bad-adviceThe second individual is Sophia Von Wrangell- a poet and author. Recently, she somehow became a group manager of the LinkedIn group, “Screenwriting”. I have been a hands-on manager of the group for over a years time, when her profile popped up as a fellow manager (the group owner, Elroi David, lives in Israel, and is rarely on the site). She immediately began dispensing screenwriting advice, even though there was no indication that she’d ever even written a screenplay. What was truly troubling about this, though, was that her advice was all WRONG. She literally didn’t know the difference between a logline and a tagline. Her own script scene examples were horrible. I wans’t the only one saying this, either; other very talented writers jumped in and complained. She then made the claim that EVERY SCREENPLAY SHE’S EVER WRITTEN HAD BEEN SOLD, saying the number was over 21 scripts. Now, even the top writers in the industry can’t come close to this kind of record, so she MUST be among the most famous writers in the world- yet, have YOU heard of her?

Neither have I.

After a little research, it was determined that her “screenwriting” was done in Bucharest, Romania, and one can only surmise, this is where her 21 script sales were done.

In any event, I monitored her posts, and challenged much of her advice, to the point where she complained to Mr. David, resulting in my being “blocked” from the group. All well and good; it doesn’t matter, but be aware of someone making these claims and offering services to help YOU in your screenwriting when she, herself, hasn’t a clue how to write. You also need to know where some (many) of these paid consultants are coming from regarding their screenplay analysis. We all have biases that we bring to our professional lives, but, clearly, a TRUE professional would work hard at overcoming those biases. To actually BELIEVE that you would know more about police procedure than two people with fifty-plus years of experience, when you admit that the only police procedure you know comes from “Lethal Weapon” (NOT authentic police procedure, btw) is embarrassing, shameful and transparent. It makes YOU the arrogant prick- not those who complain and point it out to you.

Debunking Screenwriting Myths, No. 29: Deciphering Consultant-Speak

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In my efforts to improve the landscape of screenwriting consultants out there, separating the true professionals from the vast amount of frauds, I’ve been able to put my previous investigative tools to very good use.

I’ve come to be an expert on deciphering, what I call, “consultant-speak”.

To many folks, consultant speak is hardly noticeable, yet it is usually the one thing the consultant-shopping screenwriter points out as justification for choosing that particular professional; “Hey- he worked with Will Smith on HIS script!” In many instances, it is a decision they live to regret, and that’s when they contact me.

Many of these indicators are “tricks of the trade”- a marketing tool in an effort to beef up one’s experience and claims. If you’re choosing someone to help you, and paying them from $100 to up to several thousand dollars for that help, you want to make sure you are getting what you are paying for.

Here are some of those indicators:

  1. The “award-winning screenwriter” – This claim means nothing if the specific awards aren’t mentioned anywhere on their site or business profile. There is a huge difference between winning the Nicholl Fellowship or Scriptapalooza, and winning the “Oshkosh Screenwriting, Beer and Brat Competition“.

 

  1. “Development deals” – This is an impressive claim, and one might be inclined to take this type of consultant seriously and use them, since this is one of the goals most screenwriting clients have- but are you just going to take their word for it? I would want to know more about these deals, specifically who are they with, the names of the projects, and where they are in the process. Some might want to claim “privacy”, but if a development deal is ten years old, I don’t think privacy is a concern at this point. What if you want to hire this consultant to work with you on your project, but he’s suddenly called away to work on this “development deal” project? If you’re going to CLAIM it, better be able to back it up.

 

  1. “Considered to be the best…” – Okay…by whom? Normally, one doesn’t toot their own horn. Others who are pleased with your service are very willing to do so through recommendations and referrals. Check out if the consultant HAS any recommendations to speak of.

 

  1. “…has consulted with (fill in major studio names here)” – Again; an impressive claim. Is it true? Has the consultant provided specifics on these projects anywhere – as in, the name of the project, or what did the “consulting” involve? Did you punch up the script, or did you recommend a food catering company at the shoot?

 

  1. “Success stories”; “Past Client Successes”; etc. – All consultants like to “brag” some, and why not? They deserve it, if by working with a particular client, that client has gone on to some writing success of their own. Personally, unless I’m told specifically by a screenwriter that my direct involvement in their process led to getting a studio writing job, I don’t take credit for their successes. You never know exactly HOW many other people helped along the way.

 

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I also believe helping one on a specific script is quite different than having said screenwriter attend a seminar in which the consultant spoke at, or a workshop put on by this consultant. There is a popular filmmaker who runs a very successful filmmaking workshop that promotes two or three A-list celebrities as having “graduated” his course. He has received permission to use their names in his marketing, but one has requested that he stopped doing so, apparently believing it’s a bit of a misrepresentation (or he was not getting any fees for the use of his name).

If a consultant makes a career of putting on workshops, for example, where 20-120 or more people may be in attendance, then years later one attendee hits it big by selling a spec script, it hardly seems to be a “cause and effect”- unless, of course, that fortunate screenwriter is openly crediting that workshop consultant. If the claim is missing any of the particulars- like, the writer’s name or the name of the project, or even the production company or studio with which the deal was made, chances are there is no significant “cause and effect”.

In conclusion, these are but a few of the more common descriptors I see on the websites or profiles of some of the screenwriting consultants out there. I’m not at all calling these people “frauds”. I’m simply stating their marketing tactics are transparent, and if you have a healthy cynicism of the way consultants work, you’ll learn what to question. Give that screenwriting “guru” a chance to explain. Just ask. If they can’t, or won’t, give you a viable answer- move on.

 

 

Don’t Be That Guy, #2: Hijacking a Thread

Hijacking Forum Group Threads

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Lately, I’ve noticed a number of LinkedIn members committing, what I consider to be, a most heinous and egregious “sin” when it comes to forum decorum- or just basic manners- in the forum groups. They do, what is referred to as, “hijacking a thread”.

When a group member takes the time to create a post, or ask a question in the group, the purpose of that thread is to initiate a discussion on that topic, shares thoughts and comments, or provide answers if the post is an actual question. The purpose of these exchanges is to get people involved in the group, to learn and/or teach, and to make the group far more interesting than a “post board” where people promote themselves and their businesses or projects.

Unfortunately, there is this ongoing habit with some very rude, ill-mannered and disrespectful group members who feel the need to “hijack” a thread, usually by promoting their book or project of some sort, on a thread that has no substantive relationship to their post. They believe it will MAXIMIZE views on their project because the thread is very active with responses.

However, the exact opposite is true.

Within minutes, their post will be so buried, you’ll need an archeological dig to retrieve it. In addition, you’ve just pissed off a whole lot of people that are involved in the thread- including the group moderator or owner- and it will result in you being moderated from this point forward or banned from the group altogether.

These hijacking have been going on for a while, and it’s not new, but I had two recent instances of this very thing on the same thread, and in the same group! Ironically, it was a thread about techniques in networking through LinkedIn. Not only did these two people obviously not READ the article, but they did one of the more damaging things to their reputations and networking strategies by hijacking the thread. The group was “Film and TV Tech” group, of which I’ve been a contributor for years with various postings regarding filmmaking, production and screenwriting.

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The first hijack was perpetrated by a gentleman named “Kolawole” from Nigeria. I contacted him, and he promised to remove his post on the same thread, promoting his “talent agency”. The next day, the post remained. I reminded him that he said he would remove it and he responded that he had, but it must have been from another thread (apparently, he’s doing this a lot). I provided a link to the thread and will wait another day, but I believe he will make the attempt to remove it, or at least I hope so.

The second hijacker was “Mark”- a sci-fi “author”; you’ll see why I used the quotes shortly. I contacted him after seeing his post publicizing some book he apparently wrote, and asked him- politely- to remove the post because it had nothing to do with the conversation. I also suggested that he start his OWN thread about his book, as no one will ever really see it on this thread (maybe 10 people?). He responded with an apology and a promise that he’d fix it when he got home.

The next day, the post remained, so I contacted him a second time. He responded that he thought my request was just a “suggestion”. The fact that he promised to take care of it meant absolutely nothing, as he clearly had no intention of changing it.

I pointed that very fact out to him, and this was his response:

“Apparently you have to much time on your hands. First Grow the F#$* Up. Are you Stupid or what? Or don’t you know that Everybody on LinkedIn is On here Too PROMOTE Their Selves and PRODUCTS! Duh .. Ass Whole, remove it yourself,. However you see Fit D!ck Face!”

(The message WAS cleaned up some for posting purposes).

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Now, keep in mind- this person is an “author”. I think one can easily tell by his writing skills just how successful a self-published author he is. More importantly, this comment, and the previous responses, shows this to be a purposeful act, not accidental, as originally thought. It wasn’t even the case of a newbie not knowing any better. He just didn’t care.

These thread hijackings are very troublesome and need to be closely moderated by the group owner or moderators. I own and moderate four groups of my own, and while it is a lot of work, it’s well-worth it. The members see how much better a group forum is when moderated closely. Our discussions can run 30-40-50 comments without interruption. Most of the information is either brand new to the members, or timely reminders on strategies, screenwriting, networking, etc. The feedback from these groups is 100% positive.

In other groups, where these hijackings and random self-promotions are more common, the commentary rarely goes beyond the initial post, when another thread starts- and stops, and then another post, and on and on. Pretty soon, a question posted that morning is now dozens of posts deep, never to be seen or read again.

I ask that people using these group forums be respectful of other people’s threads, and don’t use these forums so much as a tool for self-promotion. That is what your daily updates are for. I also request that moderators and owners take more personal interest in managing these forums to prevent these hijackings and you’ll see a much more involved group on your discussions board.

 

Don’t Be That Guy

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You’ve noticed that I’ve recently written several articles on the “art” of networking and marketing, especially for writers trying to get their foot in the door, be it in the film industry with their screenplays, or through their novels. When I provide such advice, I generally design it to the “Do’s” and the “Don’ts” of the networking, etc.

One of the biggest “Don’ts” – and one of my PERSONAL pet peeves – is when someone reaches out to connect with me in some fashion; linking in or friending; and, when it’s accepted, almost IMMEDIATELY asks for favors. These favors often come in the form of solicitation for funds, requests to read scripts, requests for script analysis, feedback notes, producing their project or introducing them to some network connection. Never is there an offer of reimbursement, or ANY kind of offer to exchange the favor.

More importantly, they are asking this of a COMPLETE STRANGER to them. I’ve never minded helping a friend, a colleague or a peer- even if they were new connections, but in those cases, some sort of rapport was established. I was familiar with a post or two they made, or a comment or response on a thread. They showed interest.

Case in point: I just received a message/request through LinkedIn from someone we’ll call “JC”. I’m calling him that because I don’t want to divulge his identity and embarrass him, but also because that’s his true first name on his profile! 😉

Here’s the message (some edits were made to make it legible):

“Geno – I’ve got a new project I wanted to get your opinion tell me what u think. I also have a video and TV streaming service, just finished filming in Flint, MI about water crisis…Do u mind if I send the sizzle to you thanks. If you can’t do anything with it can u forward it to others please…Also have a cannabis educational Video company were turning into a 30 min show traveling across the world to 420 sites shoot me your email I’ll send info Thanks for your time have a great day today and a better tommorow!”

Besides the obvious misspellings and grammatically horror story this is, the edited portions included the names of six or seven other projects he was “pitching”. What started out as a general request for “feedback”, turned into a full-blown pitch on, at least, eight different projects!

It was also VERY obvious to me, by the spacing of some of the sentences, that this was, in fact, a “cut-and-paste” letter, which included one piece of personal exchange: my first name.

Here was my (edited) response:

“Okay- there’s a lot of information here in this cut-and-paste form letter. Not sure what it is exactly you’re looking for. Are you hiring me to do something for you? I’m not sure we’ve even ever chatted or sent prior messages before this, so it’s somewhat a blast out of the blue.”

Not the friendliest of responses, but I’m not going for friendly. I’m going for facts.

His response to my questions was to send me a link to his promo video and his screenplay- both unsolicited. He didn’t even bother to respond to my questions.

I wrote back, and, yes, I was a bit testy. I already know what I was ultimately going to do with these requests, but he really pushed the envelope.

“Did you even READ my message to you? You didn’t answer my questions. I realize you’re a very busy professional, and it’s easier just to send attachments to save time, but you really should READ the message and at least TRY to answer the questions first before sending attachments w/o NDA’s and such…”

Finally, his next response made it clear that he discovered the errors of his ways, and he was falling all over himself in apologies, embarrassment and shame for his total unprofessionalism.

“Geno I appreciate u looking at Chasing Glory I have other projects can u also forward to your connects”

Needless to say, I tossed the attachments, and never once viewed either. He’ll wonder why he’s not getting any responses to his professional queries and he’ll brag about his vast network (we’re NOT connected anymore, but I don’t want to block him just yet).

The answer is because this guy is a tool; a total dick. Don’t be this guy. Don’t be a dick.

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Welcome to River Oaks Film Studio!

Welcome to River Oaks Film Studio, a brand new film studio in Savannah, Georgia!

Georgia has seen a boom in film production since 2008 when new legislation offered 30 percent tax credits to production companies. In 2016, Savannah added a local film incentive that is offered on top of the state incentive to help grow the industry in the region. The film and television industry is responsible for more than 79,000 jobs, roughly $4 billion in wages and has helped bring 120 more films to Georgia in the last seven years (according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.) In 2015, the film and television industry was responsible for more than $58 million spend in the Savannah region.

 

River Oaks Film Studios will offer production companies different amenities including 6 sound stages that will house mill shops for the creation of props, office space for makeup and dressing rooms, and more. The space also boasts 29 ft. ceilings, silent air conditioning, sound proof studios and ample parking. It will also provide a base camp for crews, as well as truck parking with 24-hour security.

River Oaks Film Studios will provide over 150,000 sq. ft. of space where production companies can film television series and movies that may be more appealing and cost effective than larger cities like Hollywood, New York City, or even neighboring Atlanta.

 

What the studio offers now is only the first phase of the plans for the River Oaks Films Studios. A 100,000 sq. ft. space will become available toward the end of 2017, which will offer production companies a campus like setting with multiple buildings including all of the amenities of film studios in larger cities but more cost effective with tax incentives in place. The expansion will also further the stability for skilled workers to find full-time employment in the Savannah market by bringing in more jobs.

 

The studio is the brainchild of Rodney Dickey, a serial entrepreneur with thirty-five years of warehousing and operations experience. This newest business venture will also be a family affair as his two daughters will play vital roles in the success of River Oaks Film StudiosAllison, who has worked as a production assistant and in location management, has relocated from Los Angeles, and will act as liaison for the studio and the production companies. She will work with the writers and producers to find out their needs, and to be sure Savannah’s newest film studio responds to those needs. April, the eldest of his two daughters, is a publicist in Tennessee, and will provide the company publicity it needs to help Savannah’s film industry grow.

If you are a filmmaker in the southeast, or anywhere in the country looking for value and a professional location for your filmmaking needs, look no further than River Oaks Film Studio. They are currently scheduling shoots and events, so contact them as soon as possible through their website at https://www.riveroaksfilmstudios.com.

We look forward to working with them in the future!

(article edited; reprinted from website; photos property of River Oaks Film Studio)

Fraud Alert: ECCENTRIC STORIES Claims Another Victim!

About a year ago, I posted an article about my suspicions over an ad found on Craigslist from a “John Alexander” of Eccentric Stories. He advertised various screenwriting services, including adapting books into screenplays and ghostwriting. At that time, 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.

Then, I was contacted by Kenny Wilson, a customer of Mr. Alexander’s, 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, after all. 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 not written a word of the script. 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.

He never heard back.

 

Now, fast forward to April 2017, when I had written an update on the on-going “Eccentric Stories” fraud. I was contacted by Jackie Bohacek, who had retained John Alexander’s services after reading a Craigslist ad. She was hoping to get an original short story written about a boy coming to America from her homeland in the mid-19th Century. They agreed to a sum, of which she paid $500. She provided Mr. Alexander with many of her original documents and research. After several months of not hearing from him, she finally, she got a hold of him, and was told that his residence burned to the ground. After further unfulfilled promises of updates, he told her that his car was stolen and all of his writing- as well as her original documents and his cash- were in the car.

First, a heart attack, then a house fire. Now, his car was stolen, along with all of his writing, her documents – and $4000 cash.

What a string of bad luck- or is it?

Ms. Bohacek wasn’t taking these excuses lying down. She did her own investigation, and learned that NO vehicle was reported stolen by Mr. Alexander. The fire department also stated that there was no reported house fire in the past year from Mr. Alexander’s neighborhood.

 

It was during this investigation, however, when she discovered my articles reporting “Eccentric Stories” as a suspected fraudulent writing service. She contacted me, thanking me on the previous articles, but saddened that she wasn’t aware of these articles BEFORE she paid him some money. They have exchanged multiple texts regarding him completing the assignment- of which I have possession of- and he keeps insisting he is sending what he had written- and saved- to Ms. Bohacek. He keeps insisting on more funds, which she refuses to send, and although he claims to have sent the material back to her, he cannot produce a tracking number or receipt.

Ms. Bohacek requested that write another article exposing this crook, in hopes that it will prevent additional victims. She is following up with Craigslist to have him banned from advertising there, and is following up with her State’s Attorney General to have them investigate him for mail fraud.

If anyone has additional information or reports regarding “Eccentric Stories”, or John Alexander of Portsmouth VA, 23703, please contact us right away.

Now, some important points to consider when you’re looking to hire a screenwriter or a ghostwriter:

– 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). No one of any real skill level is going to charge $1000 to do that for you. That’s less than $1 an hour.

– 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:

A) The start and end date(s);

B) The hourly rate;

C) The number of hours expected for the project;

D) Payment terms; down payment; balance payment schedule, if any;

E) Guaranteed first forty pages for review;

F) One (1) FREE rewrite

Note: While THE SCRIPT MENTOR does provide a money-back guarantee based on a specific expectation of success of the final screenplay, as outlined in the agreement, NO ONE can guarantee an option, purchase or production. Anyone who makes promises like that- take your money and RUN, because that’s what they’re going to do!