Tag Archives: ISA

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!

FRAUD ALERT- Amlan Basu, Master Screenplay Writers Academy

thR2B8MJCFRecently, I accepted an invite to “link in” with a gentleman named Amlan Basu, who describes himself as a director and screenplay writer from the Master Screenplay Writers Academy out of Maharashtra, India. I then noticed that Mr. Basu was posting about ten screenwriting-related articles a day, most of which were informative, instructive and laden with screenwriting and filmmaking advice. I immediately thought two things; one-this guy seems to really know quite a bit about the craft and industry of screenwriting, even though I’ve never heard of him before, and two- he’s prolific in his article writing.

I reviewed as many of the articles as I could- and there were about fifty at this point, in a very short period of time- when I came across one that read very familiar to me. While checking it out, I realized this “article” was a word-for-word plagiarized writing of a blog article I had written years before. I then began checking each and every article that he posted and claimed to have been written by him. At no point in any of these articles was there a disclaimer indicating that the article was “reprinted from”, or “reprinted with permission from”, or credited in any way to the original source, or the original writer. Many of the articles were stolen from the blogs of Ken Miyamoto and off the Screencraft website, but the articles were plagiarized from all over the screenwriting world, going as far back as 2010.

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This is not the first time I’ve encountered and uncovered plagiarism in the screenwriting world. A few years ago, I discovered that a self-described screenwriting “guru” had posted a blog article written by another (published)screenwriter, and attempted to pass it off as his own. While highly questionable, we can’t prove it was anything other than a one time mistake. I also exposed a couple of screenwriting job newsletters who claimed certain jobs as ones that they had recruited, to the point that they wanted their clients to respond to the ads stating that they found the post through their newsletter. It was discovered that they were actually cutting and pasting from a number of different FREE sources, then selling this information through their newsletter(s).

Mr. Basu, however, takes plagiarism to a whole different level.

I reached out to Mr. Basu and informed him that I was aware that he had plagiarized my own blog article and reposted it- without crediting me- and ordered it removed immediately. I also informed him that I had checked all of his other “articles” and that he needed to immediately remove any and all postings on LinkedIn Pulse and everywhere else that he copies from other sources without providing the original source material proper credit. We’re not talking an aggregate site that accumulates screenwriting articles  re-posts them on a different site, with author credit. We’re talking a straight line, cut-and-paste job.

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Amlan Basu of “Master Screenplay Writers Academy

Mr. Basu responded, indicated that he would “consider removing the articles”. The next day, all but three of his first articles were removed, but then, he added two more posted Pulse articles. A quick and easy check of these articles revealed that they were compiled, word-for-word, from various Quora responses by screenwriters in a question posed on one of their forum discussions. You’ll notice, from his “article”, the advice he provides sounds very disjointed and random- and that’s because it is. It comes from several different people over several different months. It’s still all stolen words and concepts.

I reached out to Mr. Basu once again, and he responded by telling me “You can do it what you want. May I have taken some lines from Quora but my own views also there.”

He added “I have a credit of several full length script and I am teaching the screenplay writing successfully!!!!”

Ironically, in advertising his screenwriting master academy, he refers to himself as the “yardstick of originality and excellence”. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but I suppose when someone calling himself a screenwriter and director is plagiarizing original written material from other writers, it’s not a stretch to think that they’d make fraudulent advertising claims as well.

Further irony, in checking his Twitter account, on March 13th, he tweeted “Plagiariism (sic) is the malpractice for writer”– misspelling and all.

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

His Master Screenplay Writers Academy (MSWA) blog can be found at mswainfo.blogspot.in. It has dozens upon dozens of screenwriting articles, none of which are credited to the original source. If you or someone you know writes a lot of screenwriting articles or advice columns on screenwriting, you might suggest to them to peruse this website and see if their written articles are being stolen and passed off as someone else’s work.

More than likely, they’re not even aware of it.

UPDATE: When last checked, Mr. Basu removed all but two posts, adding a third that was obviously his original article. One look at this article- less than 100 words, and clearly obvious that English is his second language- you’ll know immediately that it is more than likely original to him. We are pleased that Mr. Basu saw the error in his ways in attempting to pass of other writer’s hard work as his own and instead has decided to do the right thing and write original material. We will be keeping an eye on his posts to make sure he stays on this track.

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

“Don’t Be A Douchebag”- The Truth About Screenwriting Job Services

yousuck   We recently had a “conversation” (via email) with Craig James, who operates the ISA website, regarding the reprinting of ads from other sites. He was upset and angry at the picture we painted regarding ISA and similar newsletter websites who promote “writing gigs”. He challenged the assertion that ISA lifts posting from other web sites and reprints them on their own, as if they cultivated the job opportunity through their own hard work. He also denied holding these job opportunities “ransom” by demanding payment to their service prior to receiving the job contact information; information previously available for “free” on the originating job site.

This was a few of his responses (edited for space, not substance):

Re: The “lifting” of previously published posts: “Yes, we post gigs we find on Mandy, but not until we email the person who posted them there and request that they create an account on our site. They MUST create an account before we’ll post their gig, with their permission.”

When asked to provide one piece of evidence that they actually receive permission to re-post from EITHER the poster or the originating web site, Mr. James refused. Just because you claim it, doesn’t make it true. My claims are validated not ONLY through reams of printed out ads that were lifted from original sites, but also by his own admission.

It also doesn’t explain why, when this was first brought to the attention of the public, both ISA and SSU began re-writing the words of the ad in their attempt to avoid detection. If they are doing this with permission and with innocent intent, why, then, go through that trouble?

Re: The claim that ISA “holds information hostage”: “Yes some members have earlier access to them as a benefit to their Connect membership but no one on the site is required to pay to see gigs. All gigs, paid, unpaid or deferred are available to ALL members within 5 days of posting. Some are immediately available but no one ever has to pay to submit. And to help offset the cost for all the time we spend legitimately finding gigs on the internet we hold some of those gigs for 5 days before ALL members can see them.”

Once again, we have an admission in his own words. The claim was never about holding the “job posting” hostage. The assertion was that they withhold the information that is needed to RESPOND to the posted ad. He openly admits to doing this, but clarifies that it is for “five days only”. In my opinion, if you withhold contact information from a job seeker- especially information readily available for FREE- and your intent is to SELL this contact information (in ISA case, by signing up for Connect membership), it is unethical. If you cultivate your OWN leads and want to sell that information to a subscriber base, then that is a legitimate service. This is clearly not the case here.

Re: The assertion that his previous partner runs a similar, unethical business: “I have no relationship with Jacob Stuart. He runs Screenwriting Utopia and I have no interest in him, his company, his methods, etc. I don’t know him…”

We have been told emphatically that they once worked together in the past, and in fact, Mr. James actually fired Stuart. Either he has issues with his memory, or he or Stuart is lying. It doesn’t really matter either way, as they are both unethical.

The bottom line is this; you can choose to sign up for either ISA or SSU newsletters and pay the annual rate for information readily available on the net, or you can avoid these types of “services” who prey off of the hard work, time and resources (money) that other sites use to actually mind these job leads to provide for YOU, the screenwriter. If you use services that take this information and, in essence, claim it as their own, you are helping to perpetuate the theft of this hard work, time and resources.

These guys are even advertising “success stories” when the position is filled- even if they had nothing to do with filling the position! How sleazy can one get?

We say support the original sites that advertise these leads, and go out and scour the internet yourself and find these leads. Most of these jobs are removed (illegally) from sites such as Craigslist (Los Angeles/New York), Mandy.com, Elance.com, Mooncasting.com, DoneDealPro message boards, Ink Tip, and hundreds of other sources, including almost every prodco website out there.

One can provide this type of service ethically, as we do, if they choose to do so. On the rare occasion that one of my companies comes across an ad that we feel could be of benefit to our network of writers, we share that information, but we ALWAYS encourage the writer to respond to the post via the original posting site- Craigslist or Ink Tip, whatever. Most of our job postings and all of our script search announcements are as a direct result of our own networking. WE are providing the search on behalf of our client. In most cases, we do this free of charge to both the client AND the screenwriter.

For an industry that cares about the protection of our own written material and intellectual property to such a degree that many of us register and copyright all of our own written work, to willingly or unknowingly engage in exactly this type of conduct is hypocritical, as well as illegal. If anyone is willing to go to these lengths to lift posts and claim credit for “filling” the job positions, can you really trust them with your SCRIPT when they request script submissions? How about your personal ID, or even financial information (credit card, Pay Pal account) if you sign up for the newsletters?

The choice is yours.

*(the two graphic media additions were found on line through “Google” search. They were uncredited).

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