Thursday, August 27, 2009

FREE Agents, Producers & Managers Panel 8/31

Join me, "Script" magazine and a panel of 6 agents, managers and producers at Writers Boot Camp Monday 8/31, 7:30 PM -- FREE!

Attendees tentatively include:

Jewerl Ross, Silent R Management
Ava Jamshidi, ICM
Jake Wagner, Energy Entertainment
Mike Goldberg, Abstract Management

and more!

1-hr panel moderated discussion followed by audience Q&A.

RSVP: Just click HERE.

Writers Boot camp is located at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, CA. Plenty of free parking! Visit for directions. See you guys there!

--Jim Cirile

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The New CSCS Open

We are proud to announce that the CS Open, the only-one-of-its-kind live writing tournament we've been coordinating at the Screenwriting Expo since 2001, returns for 2009 -- but in a new, re-imagined format. The CS Open is now the CSCS Open -- Creating Screenwriting Cyberspace Open -- and takes place (largely) online.

Sample scene prompt: Your THREE PROTAGONISTS can’t stand each other, but they are forced to work together in order to retrieve something that has been stolen from one of them which is important to them all. But they suffer a setback when the item is inadvertently destroyed due to a screw-up on one of their parts. Write the scene where they nearly come to blows and desperately try to figure out how to salvage the operation. As with the previous round, you can approach this however you like — any genre, setting or style. Good luck!

In the past, we gave participants a scene prompt like the one above and 90 minutes to write their own best version of it. In pencil. Needless to say, a lot of folks wanted to use laptops over the years. Well, you're finally able to. Instead of cramming 80-100 writers into a classroom every two hours over the course of a weekend, we're giving everyone the prompts online and giving you the entire weekend to craft and polish a 3-5 minute scene. The first two rounds will be 100% online, and the final round will be both online and live at the Expo, and will conclude, as always, with the top 3 scenes being performed by actors at the closing ceremony. Winner receives $3,000, and every scene gets feedback from our team of pro readers here at Coverage, Ink. Not bad for a couple hours work!

We're psyched, because this approach not only means you won't have to write by hand anymore, but also because we won't have to try to decode your chicken scratch handwriting! So get ready for action, folks. First round begins the weekend of Sept. 18-21, and entry is a measly 12 bucks. We're jazzed to be bringing the new, improved CSCS Open to you. Now let's see what you've got -- BRING IT!

Go HERE for all the details!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Imagine this. You’re raising a family in a pleasant suburban community in California. In the middle of the night, cops burst in, arrest you and your spouse, take your kids away -- then terrorize and psychologically manipulate your offspring into testifying against you on child molestation charges. Testimony and evidence that would lead to your exoneration is deliberately shutdown by a DA hellbent on wiping the floor with you. In short, you are being shanghaied on a one-way ticket to a life sentence in prison. And you’ve done nothing wrong.

Think it can’t happen in America? Think again.

WITCH HUNT is a jaw-dropping, award-winning new documentary executive produced and narrated by Oscar winner Sean Penn. It chronicles the nearly two dozen victims of this outrageous travesty of justice in 1980s Bakersfield, CA. Parents, friends, coworkers, community members -- all arrested as being part of a purported ‘child molestation ring.’ Families were destroyed, lives ruined, dozens imprisoned... for decades. All were eventually exonerated... but the people who pulled off this atrocity are still in power.

Co-directed by Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, WITCH HUNT is available on DVD at the film's web site. We caught up with Nachman to find out more about the film --and ask how the hell this could happen in the United States of America with, over 20 years later, no one held accountable.


Coverage, Ink (CI):
Great to meet you, Dana. How did you and Don become aware of what was going on in Bakersfield?

Dana Nachman: (DN):
Don and I were journalists for the San Francisco NBC station (KRON) and had done numerous stories on the Innocence Project here in Northern California. All of those stories were done after the people were found not guilty. I called them and asked if they could let us know when they were starting to work on a case so that we could see it unravel. They said that they were in the middle of a good case at that time. That was John Stoll's case. He is the main character in our movie.

CI: Were you skeptical at first that Stoll, Scott Kniffen and Jeff Modahl, among many others, really could be innocent? I mean, we all have to have *some* faith in our system.

DN: Don and I drove down to Bakersfield for part of John's trial. The ride home got a little tense at times. There was about 5 hours of driving, and we debated for a couple hours, exactly because of what you're talking about here. We all do want to believe that the system works. But by the time we got home we were both convinced that the system failed John big time... we were sure he was innocent. By the time we met the Kniffens, Jeff Modahl and the Pitts, they had all been exonerated. It's no easy feat to get exonerated... many innocent people cannot meet the massive burden of proof that's necessary... so in that sense we do have faith in our system.

CI: Tell us how you decided to mount a documentary based on this subject matter... and how did you raise the money to make it?

DN: When Stoll got out (after 20 years in a CA prison), he moved to our area and we became friends. Over beers one night, he told us that his case was just one of many. We had no idea. We did a little research and found out everything of what he was saying was true! So, we started making calls, and practically everyone we called said they would do an interview with us.

Don and I did 95% of the work on the movie while we had our day jobs - so we didn't need to bring in a salary. Anything else we needed during production we just asked our friends, and they were happy to help. The particulars like travel and tape... we put all that on our credit cards.

When it came time for post-production, we needed some cash. We were sponsored by the Film Arts Foundation, so we were able to raise money. We mostly raised money from friends (I know we have good friends!) family and people who support the Northern California Innocence Project.

CI: How did you get Sean Penn involved?

DN: Sean, Don and I have a mutual friend who was kind enough to tell him about the project. For about 2 years Jack - our friend - would tell Sean little things about us and the film. He would pass along a letter when the time was right and different cuts along the way. There were times that we
had a new cut and we knew he had an old one and we would just cringe knowing that Sean Penn had our crappy first 20 minutes! Luckily, he never watched any of those cuts. After a while, we started losing hope, but Jack would say, keep the faith... he's going to do it... We vowed that if he ever said yes that we would call our production company... KTF Films. (And they did.) So there you have it.

CI: After seeing the film, there’s no doubt the people involved were railroaded. The prime suspect appears to be Kern County District Attorney Ed Jagels, who may well have deliberately framed innocent men to serve his own political ambitions. But you have to wonder, how could this be pulled off in the USA? There would have to be a bunch of people involved to make this work, to coerce the kids' testimony, etc.
I know, shocking!!!

CI: I understand Jagels refused several requests for comment?

DN: Yes, I called up a few times and got no reply, then I started to call once a week... it was on my to-do list every Monday morning... it was kind of fun... still, months went by and we got no answer. Then, on one Sunday night I was sitting at home. My cell phone rings, and there's a 661 number. I pick it up, and it's Jagels’ press person – the only thing I can think of is that he thought he was calling a work number and that I wouldn't pick up on a Sunday night! He said that no, they would not participate due to pending litigation -- they always say that. But John Stoll is suing the county for $50 million, so I can assume that's what they were referring to.

CI: How long did it take to make the film? And how did you guys stay centered while spending all that time investigating such a criminal miscarriage of justice?

We started working on John's case in January 2004, that was for NBC. We started the documentary in December 2004 and it premiered at Toronto (International Film Festival) September, 2008.

I think the more cut and dry and shocking the story is, the easier it is to stay focused... oh, and I had two kids in that time... so focus was out the window anyway!

CI: How did you guys go about marketing the film? Getting MSNBC Films on board must have been a real moment of elation.

DN: There were four huge moments of elation during the making of this film... and many hundreds of joyous moments (and I can't lie, a few dozen moments of complete depression, frustration and hopelessness.) But let’s stick with the four moments of elation:

When Eddie Vedder called me to say that he would be happy for us to use his song -- gratis!!!

When Sean Penn said, "I'm in."

When Molly called from the Toronto International Film Festival to say that they were (going to schedule) “Witch Hunt”;

When our agent called to say that MSNBC bought the movie!!!

The purchase of the film was all because of our agent Josh Braun from Submarine Entertainment. We were very privileged to be able to work with him. We hired the awesome David Magdael who did our PR. What an incredible team!

CI: The film's been getting great reviews from top newspapers and has gotten a lot of top-tier festival play, including AFI and Toronto. What's next for the film? Any chance of a theatrical release?

DN: We are self distributing the DVD ( and are finishing up with one more film festival here in the Bay Area. We're hoping to get the movie into the hands of colleges so people studying this kind of stuff can be better educated then the people who caused this travesty of justice. We're not going to do a theatrical run. We were thinking about doing an Oscar-qualifying run, but we just couldn't justify spending the money. Instead we're shooting our next movie with the money we would have spent.

CI: Is Jagels *really* still in office? Has this film brought about any sort of inquiry or new publicity into these cases? DAs are elected positions... seems to me everyone in Kern County should get a copy of WITCH HUNT...

DN: Yes, he is still in office. We all went down to Bakersfield and showed the movie to an incredibly supportive crowd. The movie would be great material for anyone running against the status quo in that town... unfortunately, that candidate does not exist.

CI: So what is the next movie?

DN: It’s called "Love Hate Love." It's about three families from around the globe who have been affected by terrorism. Each family has come through the trauma vowing to make the world a better place, showing that the terrorists don't win. Actually, Don's in Uganda right now shooting! We shot in India and Australia earlier this year.

CI: Thanks so much, Dana, for fighting the good fight. And remember, folks, fascism begins at home (ugh.)

Check out the film's official web site right HERE.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The deal with the deadlines

Hi folks, just to clarify:

Writers on the Storm is now closed for submissions. Except:

You may still enter through until 8/18. They made us tack on an extra week for them. The price is jacked up an extra $10 for the final week, but Withoutabox members get that discounted.

Also, we will honor that deadline for any script submitted through Coverage Ink, even though all the signage on the web sites say 8/10. We don't want anyone to feel hosed.

If anyone has any questions, please write us at But here's the final word from me: scripts submitted to Coverage Ink this week ARE still eligible for free contest entry at no extra cost. Sorry for the confusion, everybody.

--Jim C.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Late deadline: midnight 8/10 Pacific time
Final (Without A Box only) deadline: midnight 8/17 Pacific time

Tick... tick... tick...

Stormies! Oh, the confusion! Okay, yes, our late deadline is indeed midnight 8/10. After that, we pull the plug on the website and will not allow any more submissions. BUT... No, we’re not announcing some tricky last-minute final extension. This is how it works. We have three deadlines in total: Regular deadline (passed, sorry, guys,) Late deadline (8/10) and then Without-A-Box-only FINAL deadline (8/17.)

See, for the second year we have partnered with Without a Box. About a third of our submissions so far have come in through Without a Box (which is great for any of you who hate Paypal and wish to pay directly via credit card.) Thing is, Without a Box asked us to extend the contest an extra week exclusively for Without a Box entries. In fact this was a condition of our buying additional e-mail advertising blasts through them. So we have to tack on ONE FINAL WEEK only for WAB submissions. The WAB-only extension runs from 12:01 AM 8/11 through midnight 8/17. So… as far as the Writers on the Storm site is concerned, we still have to pull the plug on contest entries 8/10, and that’s it. However, if you’re a WAB member (or sign up this week,) you can still enter through 8/17. Now my apologies if that irritates any of y’all, ‘cause maybe you were scrambling to make the 8/10 deadline, and I understand. However, please note that WAB is jacking up the price an additional ten bucks during the WAB extension week!

However, you can still submit your script to Coverage Ink for coverage until 8/17, and for no additional fee, you’ll still get a free contest entry. As of midnight 8/17, we close the door and Writers on the Storm 2009 is history.

Okay. That out of the way, It is as always my pleasure to announce the Writers on the Storm quarterfinalists to date! These quarterfinalists represent people who’ve entered Writers on the Storm via submitting their script to Coverage, Ink for coverage. They are the ONLY ones who find out before everyone else if they’ve made the quarterfinals or not, because the CI readers rate the scripts and forward the results to us. These represent everyone who’s scripts got a ‘consider with reservations’ or better for script, or about the top 10%. If you entered Writers on the Storm via or Without a Box, you will not find out if you’ve made the quarterfinals until we’ve had read and processed all the submissions, which is going to take a bit. Everyone clear on that? Okay! Without further ado, here are our Writers on the Storm 2009 Quarterfinalists **so far**:

The Enginist by Tim McGrath
Macau Twilight by Tony Shyu
Nightmare in the Ardennes by Walt Malinowski
Shades of Grey by Abhimanyu Kulkarni
Svengali Effect by Jeremy Shipp
Operation Chronos by Jon Sklaroff
Man on the Overpass by Kevin Madden
Sense of Self by Craig Cambria
Rainwashed by Paul Sargia
Future Visions by Stephen Moretti
Sure Would Be Nice by Thomas Serio
Scout's Honor by Jocelyn Osier
Three Cousins & the Cannolis by Lisa Cordova
Angel Trap by Holli Herrie-Castillo
Murderous Me (Reflections of Vengeance) by Vicky Sutton
Tortoise and the Heir by Russ Meyer
Laramie by William Johnston
Sorority Kings by Scott Fickas and Brian Jones
War Without End by AF Grant
Peanut Butter by Yvonne Miranda
The Last Secret by Ron Basso
The Minstrel by Todd Sorrell
Peshtigo by John Carter
Kamali'i Nia The Dolphin Princess by Rockwood

Whew, that’s 24 so far! And there will be plenty more. There are some good scripts in here, guys – these are all considers and consider with reservations for script, or top ten percenters. But who will win the ten grand? But I can tell you it’s going to be a crazy next couple of weeks. Last thing, I have to remind everyone that… wait for it… most of you are not going to win. What??? No, seriously. They’ve already eliminated about 250 scripts that have come in on the Coverage Ink side for coverage that were not judged top ten percenters. And there’s been a little grousing and kvetching. We understand. The thing is, can you use the feedback so the NEXT time, you get that consider? Can you do everything you can to give yourself the tools you need to make your script bulletproof, to succeed in Hollywood? Consider, just consider, what if he or she is just a little bit right? As painful as it may be to dig in to those notes and start making changes, cutting lines, scenes, characters you’ve worked hard to bring to fruition, unfortunately it’s part of the deal. Yep, one thing you learn fast out here is you better be up for ‘Thank you, sir! May I have another?’ because that’s what it’s like working with every producer in town.

I remember my first meeting. I’d been out here almost two years and finally got in the door at a small production company. And I meet with this little guy who liked my romantic comedy, but he had notes. And I gotta admit, guys, my walls went up as he laid them out. Gotta tell you, some of those notes were downright stupid! I was cordial, but I walked out of there seething. Good thing my mom talked some sense into me as she always does. In her no-nonsense style, she was like, “Sugar, you get your ass in gear and do what he tells you to do and put your ego in a box or I am going to come out there and kick your ass upside down and sideways!” Thanks, mom. Well, I ate crow and did those notes and the guy still lost interest. Whatever. Point is, mom was right. I still have to get those reminders from her every now and again, as I imagine y’all do, too. I guess what I’m saying is what we do here with this contest, and with the coverage, it’s just a little taste, a practice run. You can use it to not only make your script better but also to steel your tush for the abrading it will take once you start with the general meetings ;)

Smoochies, you guys!

Portia Jefferson
Writers on the Storm Contest Coordinator

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

R.I.P., Blake Snyder

It is with incredible remorse that we report that our friend and mentor Blake Snyder, the genius behind the "Save the Cat!" book and software series, passed away today. He was 57.

Snyder was well-known in the screenwriting community for his incredible story sense and his generous nature. Thousands of writers around the world have improved their story craft thanks to Blake. His book series was a best-seller and his weekend lectures always sold out around the world. Blake's easy-to-understand breakdown of the studio movie has become the go-to template at screenwriting classes around the world.

Here at Coverage Ink and Writers on the Storm, we became Snyder converts a while back and recommend his book constantly, not because he's a friend (he BECAME a friend because we felt so strongly about his methods) but because his canny wisdom and breezy writing style made learning about screenwriting fun again. Blake has been a Writers on the Storm contest sponsor for several years now, donating books, software and seminars to our winners. Earlier this year, we interviewed Blake for this very blog (COVERAGE, INK/WRITERS ON THE STORM: SAVING MORE CATS THAN THE SPCA) and were once again impressed by this man.

He will be missed.

--Jim Cirile