Tag Archives: Shark-Eating Man Productions

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!

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Ask “THE SCRIPT MENTOR” – #16

5-stupid-questions-sales-people-should-stop-asking

Q. How can I sell my script to a producer?

A. Answering this question is like asking “how does one become an astronaut.” There are entire books and careers based on answering this very question, so it’s not likely you’ll find ALL of the answers in a single response, but considering I provide this kind of information every working day through various outlets, I’ll do what I can here.

In this microwave world of instant gratification, text messaging, IM’s and 24-hour instant news cycles, the craft and business of screenwriting needs to catch up. Many writers are hesitant and fearful of starting their journey, knowing that there is no guarantee of success at the end of that journey, and it will probably result in years (not weeks or months) of time and dedication to the craft.

Anything worth doing and worth doing well is going to take a major investment of time and resources; of that, there is no question.

These are but a few points of helpful advice that I have learned and developed along the way that might — just might — help save YOU a significant amount of that time and those resources.

These points are in no particular order:

1) You must write something worthy of being purchased, or write with a fresh voice or style worthy of getting paid. This means that it is unique, fresh, perfectly formatted, grammatically and punctually correct, exciting and appealing to the masses.

2) You must write a perfectly constructed logline that highlights all of the elements, including the “hook”- the one element that separates your story from all others in that genre.

3) You must prepare an excellent query letter, preferably in the format that is now considered the best for a query letter (from recent polling data).

4) You need to develop a networking and marketing strategy and stick to it, spending a set amount of time each day to nurturing it, and as much time as your spend writing. You should do both concurrently.

5) You should explore multiples avenues for marketing and/or breaking in. This includes contests, offering assistance, writing assignments, adapting source materials, etc.

6) You must understand that there are many ways to achieve your goal (whatever goal that may be), and that your avenue to success is as different as there are goals. In other words, someone wanting to work as a script reader may have a different tact than someone wanting to sell spec scripts for a living.

7) You should understand that because one person wrote a script this way, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Writing spec scripts are much different than the way QT or Cameron write theirs.

8) You need to develop your three completely separate support systems we like to call our “cheers”, “peers”, and “rocketeers”, and build that circle of trust around you.

9) People may offer constructive criticism and sound advice to your writing, but the vision is yours. Stick to the vision.

10) You have to be someone that others WANT to work with. Be polite and professional, and people will know you as such.

If you follow thescriptmentor blog, you’ll get a lot of other helpful articles along the way. Good luck!

Q. Why is selling a screenplay so difficult?

A. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

 

Q. As we are designing our online screenwriting classes, what Top Four things would you list that need to be learned by new screenwriters (remember – this is a writing course, not a filmmaking/production course)?

A. I find it odd that someone creating a course to “teach” screenwriting would look for input on what OTHER people consider to be important topics to cover. It seems a bit like going to a driving instructor, who then asks others “What does this foot pedal do?”

If you’re going to create a course, I would suggest that you first know the topic that you are teaching. Being that you’re designing it, it should come from YOUR theories and beliefs; this, in the long run, is what is going to separate you from the other thousand online screenwriting courses- most of which do not have it right. It’s all regurgitated pablum from other courses, famous quotes you find when you Google “screenwriting”, and arbitrary and random nonsense. Sorry to be so blunt, but that’s the way it is.

I read hundreds of scripts a year from writers who have never had a screenwriting lesson in their lives, and hundreds from those who have taken all of the courses and webinars, and read all of the recommended books. I can count on one hand how many were worthy of reading all of the way through- because the writer had never been taught how to write a basic spec script, and what gets their script read. You can’t sell a script if you can’t get it read.

If you were to create a course that dealt with how to write a spec script- and if you KNEW how to write a spec script well enough to create such a course- I guarantee your course would be the most popular- and profitable- course online today. It would be the ONLY online course to actually TEACH one how to begin to be successful in this business.

Most everything else is fodder, filler and bullshit.

Q. Does it matter how many camera directions you put in a script that is directed by you? Would this affect the ability to get it sold to a producer?

A. Yes, it matters, and outside of “FADE IN” and “FADE OUT”- as a spec script- there shouldn’t be any other camera directions. The one exception is that you NEED a particular camera direction to emphasize a key moment or the story is not properly told. Even then, I can’t think of a reason/situation to use as an example. Camera directions sound FX, title credits, etc. or NOT part of a spec script, although so many new writers want to include them. Camera directions will come later in the process when a “shooting script” is written.

Whether you direct it or not, is generally not up to you, unless it’s a deal-breaker regarding funding. Good luck in that case, unless you’re a recognized director of some acclaim. It also depends upon the expected budget- “The higher the budget, the bigger the names!” In other words, no one is going to fund a $50M movie with Joe, the neighborhood guy who videotaped my daughter’s wedding, “attached” as the director.

Assuming it’s a great script, perfectly written (sans camera directions and “beat” and a host of other spec script mistakes), your first concern should be getting it optioned or sold. In order to do that, it has to be damn near perfect. Camera directions are not part of that equation.

Q. How can I describe my girlfriend in one (1) movie title?

A. Hard to say. I don’t know your girlfriend.

If you want to describe her in a way that might MAKE a great movie title, keep it short (less than four words, so it’ll fit on a marque), pithy and make it have a double meaning, or “two-sided”. “American Beauty” was the name of the rose the wife obsessively grew in her yard, but it also aptly described the husband’s underage fantasy girl.

It would also help if you can find irony in the title, such as “The Book of Eli”. Eli possessed the last written works in his post-apocalyptic world, and protected it with his life. We come to learn (irony) that Eli is blind, and can’t read written words. The end reveals a twist that compounds the irony that much more.

Short, two-sided with a splash of irony. That would be your movie title.

 

Q. How much should I pay a ghostwriter for a 5000-6000 non-fiction word eBook?

A. The average word count per page for an eBook is approximately 250. At 6000 words, you’re looking at a 24–25 page non-fiction eBook.

Sounds more like a pamphlet.

Would the need for a ghostwriter be because you can’t write 25 pages, or is it that you don’t know how to create an eBook? If it’s the latter, it would behoove you to write the “book” first, then hire someone to create the eBook for you, or learn how to do it yourself, getting the right software, etc. If it’s the former, then you probably can get a decent writer- even a newer writer- and get it done for far less. Let’s be honest; you won’t need an established professional writer (My projects run between $20K-$40K, and I have plenty of work to keep my writers busy) to pen out a 25-pager. You just need someone who follows your direction, knows sentence structure, has a novel or two under their belt, and spells correctly. There are plenty of writers out there who would be THRILLED to do the project for you for $20-$50/a page. Good luck with the eBook!

 

Q. Should I take a screenplay class before writing my first screenplay?

A. Absolutely. You need a solid foundation of knowledge before even attempting to write a screenplay. A course at a local college or an on-line course/seminar/webinar will all be beneficial (just don’t waste your time or money with Hal Croasmun’s “ScreenwritingU” if you don’t know how to write first). But, keep this in mind; none of these courses will teach you how to write a SPEC script, which is what you’ll be doing most of the time should you continue in writing screenplays. The BEST tool is “The Screenwriter’s Bible” by Dave Trottier ($20–30), Read it through-and through, several times. If you like screenwriting, you’ll love to read it. Memorize it. Keep buying the updated editions, as these “rules” change on occasion.

If you put into practice what the book teaches, you will be miles ahead of almost everyone who writes spec screenplays.

Q. Is it popular to sell scripts to movie producers and executives and use that money to produce one’s own movie? I read that many screenwriters who are professors, lecturers and consultants sell scripts and concepts just so they can finance and produce their own movies. Is this popular? Can I do it? I have certain scripts and concepts I’d be happy to sell the complete rights to for decent cash.

A. Many people, at your level, finance their own projects. We’re talking short films, zero budget or extremely low budget projects (less than $10K), for film festivals, web projects, etc. Anything beyond that would – in all likelihood – need to be financed by others, and you may STILL be able to do it. Selling your current pile of screenplays is quite different than having a garage sale to raise money. If you’re sitting on a pile of scripts that you haven’t marketed to this point, I’d wonder why. Is there a diamond in the rough in that pile? Possibly, but not likely. You already know my strategy:

  • Get the scripts reviewed for notes;
  • Make the suggested fixes you agree with;
  • Enter as many screenplay competitions you can afford for that script;
  • Once wins and high finishes pile up, build your buzz and your network;
  • Market the script with a great logline, proper synopsis and proper query;
  • Use as many of the services, like “Ink Tip”, you can afford;
  • Review IMdb Pro for prodcos who have produced similar concept films;
  • Review IMdb Pro for actors and crew involved in similar concept films;
  • Target market those people;

If these scripts are good enough, you might get an option for $3500 or so, or a sale- but it won’t come from a studio. It’ll come from a small prodco or a producer interested in filming that kind of story.

But, it all starts with the script…OR a rich uncle.

Q. Is it true Marilyn Monroe had an IQ of 168?

A. Highly doubtful. Born to an unwed mother, she spent most of her childhood in foster homes, bouncing around in the Los Angeles area. She attended over ten different schools during that time, culminating in her dropping out of University High School at aged 16 and getting married. This is NOT conducive to a solid education, and IQ tests are largely based on learned knowledge.

What you see advertised as her reported IQ test is simply known as “click bait”, designed to get the reader of the ad to click on to the ad for marketing purposes. Names like Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy and even Madonna and Kim Kardashian, have been proven to be among the most Googled people in history, both for name recognition and general knowledge. Therefore, it makes sense to attach an ad with someone as easily recognizable as MM. By claiming she had such an outrageously high IQ- with no proof to support or deny the claim- it’s safe to claim. Common sense will tell you that, while Marilyn was reported to have been “intelligent” (meaning she stood upright and could carry on a conversation), she probably was more wise than smart. If you want to learn about a particularly intelligent actress of that same time period, research the life of Hedy Lamarr.

Q. What was the best horror movie you’ve ever seen?

A. This is such a subjective question. While the original “The Exorcist” and “The Omen” were tops back in the day of my youth, horror movies have progressed further than any other genre except for science fiction. The word “horror” means different things to different people, too. In my book, if it’s outright scary, it IS horror- and it doesn’t necessarily need blood or creatures to be scary. Two movies come immediately to mind- “The Others” and “The Strangers”- neither of which I would watch alone at night. To scare the crap out of me, a movie has to be based in reality, as it relates to MY personal belief system. To someone who doesn’t believe in Heaven or Hell, movies about the Devil may not be as frightening. I am a believer, so if it includes the devil, chances are I’m going to be uptight about it. I’m not necessarily a “ghost” believer, but “The Others” had just a great story, it just made it that much more tense and suspenseful. Movies that involve particular crimes get me, as I lived this in my past. I’ve seen what some evil people in this world are capable of doing, and this is a thousand times more frightening than a giant gorilla, a blood-sucking man in a cape, or a burn victim with garden shears for hands.

Q. Since actors in movies that feature heavy CGI content know what was done behind the scenes, how do they feel when they watch their films?

A. Most actors understand that creating a film is a collaborative effort- from the make-up crew to the camera crew and all point in between. Most aren’t so vain as to think they’re the sole reason for the success- or failure- of a movie. As a result, when they see themselves interacting with a dinosaur on screen and know that, during filming, they were talking to a tennis ball hanging by a string to create an eye line, and regurgitating brilliantly funny dialogue that came from the mind of the talented screenwriter, they are as impressed as the rest of us. The FX people, like most people involved in the filmmaking process, are at the top of their profession and generally the best in the world at what they do.

If they aren’t, they don’t last long.

Q. Is talent a must in screenwriting? What are the core elements to be a good screenwriter?

A. I believe everyone has God-given talents in many areas; storytelling can be one. Screenwriting is a learned craft, and I believe one could do it with even the minimal amount of “creative writing” talent. I don’t believe you need to be a “talented writer”, per se, to be a successful screenwriter. I know many comedy screenwriters who write severely funny scripts, but are the most unfunny and least entertaining people in person. Ultimately, talent is probably going to be the factor that separates the wheat from the chaff at the professional level, but, like everything else in life, hard work at improving one’s skill often overcomes any lack of given talent.

As for the “core elements” to a good screenwriter:

a) Know HOW to tell a basic story.

b) When learning how to write a screenplay, get a solid foundation in knowing what is needed/wanted in a SPEC script. Dave Trottier’s “The Screenwriting Bible” is just $20–30, and it gives one everything they would need to learn how to write a basic spec script. Of any “online” course, Jeff Bollow’s “FAST Screenwriting” is the only one you should consider. The rest are garbage.

c) Develop a concept that has never been explored before. If you have a story that HAS been done before, than do it differently. The story of the three little pigs and the wolf who blew their houses down has been told- but it’s never been told from the wolf’s perspective! Stories like “The Mummy” have been told ad nauseum, but Tom Cruise has turned that tired, cliché-ridden concept on its ear! You’ll never think of “The Mummy” as some gauze-wrapped creature dragging his right foot as he “chases” his victims ever again!

Do these three things first, and you’ll be off to a very fast start; faster than 95% of your competition.

Q. How can I be attached to direct my own written screenplay financed by producers? Not a big budget picture…but more like an independent film trying to attach investors for a festival debut.

A. Producers are investors; they are not likely to risk millions of their dollars, or OPM (other people’s money) on the ego of a screenwriter who thinks he/she can also direct. If you have a proven track record, and have directed some good stuff, then your chances increase, but in all likelihood, if we’re talking about a multi-million dollar budget, then in order to secure financing at that level, the financiers are going to want a couple of “sure things”- be that a few name talents, a name director and probably a name cinematographer. The more money your film wants, the more names they’ll want, and it’s only practical. However, if the script is so good that they HAVE to have it, you’re in the driver’s seat and can make certain demands before selling it. Even then, you might have to be happy with an AD or 2nd Unit directing title.

Q. Why do people prefer new films instead of old films?

A. To a certain extent, they do, but “Gone With the Wind” and “Citizen Kane” continue to rank one and two as the greatest films ever made.

There will always be “new films”, as the original “Star Wars” is already 40 years old, and truthfully, that one hasn’t aged well. There are so many classic B&W films starring REAL stars, and not these Internet-created personalities. That’s one reason, actually. Back in the 40’s and 50’s, the stars were mysterious. The only time you actually saw them was in the film. Your imagination convinced you that John Wayne lived on a ranch branding cattle all day, when, in fact, he was in California on a boat most of the time. We didn’t have “paparazzi”, TMZ, websites devoted to nude celeb hacked phones, etc.

Today’s movie have the advantage of advanced technologies, which most people find more appealing, but it’s no mistake when critics and film historian continue to worship many of the great film of the old days. The writing, directing and actor were held and shoulders above today’s films. They know that even the crappiest of crap will make money in PPV, Red Box rentals or internationally.

 

 

Screenwriting Groups- Pros and/or Cons?

Lately, I’ve been asked getting a lot of questions about seemingly basic screenwriting issues, and they seem to be coming from writers who are a bit more frazzled and confused or frustrated than usual. When I ask about the source of their frustration, it seems to lead back to their writers group.

Ah, yes- the screenwriters group!

Monkeys-typing

Some find these groups helpful, educational and supportive. Others have walked away, kicking themselves for wasting their time, and shaking their heads at the nonsense that is being spread within these groups.

So, who’s right? Are the groups full of “pros” or are they full of…cons?

Let’s define the groups we’re talking about. I am including online groups, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Simply Script, Meet-Up and dozens of other writing and social media sites that provide group settings; as well as local community groups where people actually meet in church boardrooms, basements, bars, pizza restaurants, college classrooms (not affiliated with the school), or member’s homes.

Another quantifier is the individual member and how they respond to this kind of “learning” environment. The few groups that I have been a part of (live meetings) varied as far as someone leading the group, so it was often confusing and poorly run. This detracted from the overall experience. Personally, I normally excel in this kind of environment, so it was rather disappointing.

Of the screenwriting groups that I am personally aware of, I believe the large majority are guilty of “the blind leading the blind”. They have been organized by alphas who are very organized and structured people, with a strong leadership mentality, but they generally lack any real substantive working subject knowledge or record of success in the (screenwriting) industry. When you dig into their actual experience, they’ve attended a three-day seminar of one of the more well-known screenwriting “gurus”, read a handful of books, watched a number of videos, read blogs daily, have written or co-written two or three screenplays, but have achieved no real screenwriting success to speak of. They feel they can justify charging money to attend a seminar given by them, where they provide regurgitated information and, often, reprinted hand-outs from that guru workshop they attended three years earlier. They can’t tell you WHY you do this or that, or the significant differences in genres, or marketing strategies or even how to compose a proper logline, but they can cash your check, and that’s what’s really important.

Online groups are more about sharing information, self-marketing, and asking questions and getting answers, or so has been my experience. By being online, geography doesn’t come into play, and you’ll get input from all over the world. There usually is no “leader”, although there is generally someone responsible for the group (a founder or manager that maintains decorum and enforces group or site rules). In these groups, it’s best to ask questions that generate opinion responses, something besides “What’s your favorite Tom Cruise movie?” If it’s a question about Master Scene Headings, for example, you can ask what your problem is, and what you’ve been doing that now you’ve learned was incorrect. You should get quite a few responses to a broad question like that.

Here, in my opinion, are some keys to having an effective screenwriting group. Feel free to add some of your own ideas to the list as well:

1) STRONG LEADERSHIP: Strong doesn’t necessarily mean “tough”, “rude”, “or “harsh”. It just means someone who will stand by the rules, goals and principles of the group and continually move the group in a positive and forward direction.

 

1A) SKILLED LEADERSHIP: Not all strong leaders are skilled leaders, and not all skilled leaders are strong leaders. If you have a screenwriter in the group that has written several screenplays, or has been optioned, or sold, or has been paid for their screenwriting, or has been produced or has won screenwriting contests or has somehow in some way been recognized for their writing, you need to have them as one of your group leaders. If not an actual leader, than at least use their name. It will add credibility to the group and help membership, if you want to grow.

 

2) GOOD COMMUNICATION: Both in getting the meeting information out to the members in a timely manner, meeting minutes, and speakers at the time of the meeting. Know your speakers, and know they can do the job. Being nervous does not mean they’ll be bad. Some of the worse speakers I’ve heard were overly confident professionals who did it for a living.

 

3) RELEVANT TOPICS: If the group is a screenwriting group, the main discussion topic should be about screenwriting. Sounds easy, right? Then why do you waste forty-five minutes of the group’s time discussing the new “Star Wars” trailer?

 

4) DO SHORT, MULTIPLE TOPICS: Instead of a 30 or 60 minute discussion on “dialogue”, why not do fifteen minutes on dialogue, fifteen minutes on action sequences, and fifteen minutes on character names? This helps keep the meeting alive and the members awake.

 

5) FEEDBACK/CRITIQUE: Many groups feel an important aspect of screenwriting groups is the group “feedback and critique”. However, most of the complaints and arguments from members of screenwriting groups originate from something that happened during a feedback and critique session. IF the group is harmonious in every other way, I would STRONGLY SUGGEST TO FOREGO any feedback and critique sessions in your group. There’s too much of a chance of hurt feelings. Most, if not all, of the people within the group, are going to be at pretty much the same level, experience-wise, so all they can really render is a personal opinion based on taste, not a professional opinion based on quality. The difference between a professional critique and a non-professional is that a professional has to read something they really, really hate and give it an honest critique based on the writing- NOT the genre, subject matter, writing style or the personal feelings of the writer themselves- and that is as hard as hell to do!

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!

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)!”

fpII
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 .