FINAL DEADLINE edition!
1) JC's Intro Blather
3) Jim's Screenwriting Tip o' the Month
4) Barri Evins - Big Ideas Interview
5) Mo' Money, Mo' Problems
LIBERATOR in the can for about the price of a nice new car that I have become a passionate advocate of DIY. I just wrote an article for Script magazine on crowdfunding (sites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and Invested.in which allow you to fund-raise online) and did a 90-minute teleseminar last week with Million Dollar Screenwriting's Chris Soth (which you can listen to right here,) one of the themes of which was that you CAN take back the power and make your own movie.
Here's the thing. As screenwriters, we are all taught that once we finish the script, we are powerless. We must depend on others -- agents, managers, producers, etc. -- to champion or produce our scripts. Well, f*** that! Time to take back the power, brothers and sisters. Our day has come. Advances in tech have made it possible to shoot a great-looking movie on your iPhone, for crying out loud. Anyone can edit using free software that comes with your computer. So why are we sitting around whining about not being able to find an agent? Who the hell needs them -- or studios, for that matter, anymore? Okay, so maybe you can't afford Brangelina or Industrial Light and Cheesy Overdone Computer Graphics. But you can sure as hell afford that great gal you saw in the Pippin revival last month and your neighbor's son who's studying VFX at Lower Botswana Community College. And hell, we were able to get four actors who starred in hit television shows for LIBERATOR -- Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk,) Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita,) Michael Dorn (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and the legendary Ed Freakin' Asner (Up) for our movie. Okay, yes we had to dig a bit deep to get these guys, but not as deeply as you might think, because the script lured them all in. And while having a small cast and minimal locations definitely helps keep costs down, we were able to shoot at a real-life studio downtown with standing sets for 6 days for under $5 grand, and we got a green screen stage at a local high school for free. As a result, our movie looks like a million bucks.
|Jessica Jade Andres in LIBERATOR|
So, ready to take back the power yet?
As always, way too much going on right now. We've got the final final final deadline of Writers on the Storm midnight Sunday 8/21 (or 12:01 AM Monday Morning) plus an amazing two-for-one team-up with the We Shoot the Winner contest. We've got the last WOTS raffle winners. We've got an interview with screenwriting guru Barri Evins, who is coming to a city near you with her her kick-ass Big Ideas seminar. And as always, we've got news, tips, and attitude in what will hopefully be a great excuse for you to procrastinate from actual writing that you won't feel too guilty about, because reading this is kinda sorta writing-related.
Onward and downward!
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|We Shoot the Winner's Chris Soth|
And why do we like We Shoot the Winner? Because they are the ONLY contest that offers this prize: they will produce the winning script. See, this ties right back into the DIY theme in Jim's opening letter. Of course, the entry fee is higher than a regular contest, but the trade-off is you have MUCH less competition. Their regular entry fee is $297, but they're also discounting that $50 just for CI Newsletter readers. So for $247 you get both WSTW and WOTS, and that, folks, is what we call a deal. Click HERE to enter We Shoot the Winner and get your complimentary entry into Writers on the Storm -- with a $10K grand prize and 150 participating companies. Bang-zoom double-whammo! Hurry -- ends midnight 8/21.
But hey, if you cannot afford to enter both contests, then enter Writers on the Storm now at Without a Box. Final deadline remains midnight 8/21. There will be no more extensions.
So, a shout out to our current Writers on the Storm 2011 quarterfinalists to date:
- Getaway, Inc by Andy Maycock
- Sliding Into Home by Rich Sheehy
- Khamseen by AJ Ashby
- Flipping the Bird by Robert Hestand
- Just Being Jack by Judith Dunn
- O Golden Boy by John Bain
- Requited by Bill Johnston
- Hollow by Jeffrey Wagner
- Spoiled Rotten by Cynthia Sieber
- Entangoed by Cecelie Berry
- Snake Hill by Lizbeth Finn-Arnold & Sandra Longo
- Reality Principle by David Sartof
- Misfortune Cookie by Amanda Darling
- Golden Hour by Norman Wexler
- Needle's Eye by Kathryn S. Moller
- Avenging Blood by John Collins
- Triumph by John Winn Miller
But that doesn't mean she's won it, folks. Far from it! The field is still wide open. So, everyone, remember you have until midnight 8/21 to resubmit a polish draft to the contest (if you so desire) at our Without a Box page. BRING IT.
WOTS RAFFLE WINNERS. We've been giving away two free contest entries into Writers on the Storm every month since launch. So congrats to our final two winners: Cole Stennis and Emily Shostak. We've already contacted them both with instructions on how to submit their scripts. Nice going, you two! That's it for the freebies for now, but next month we will have a killer Fall Spec Season coverage SALE.
INKTIP PITCH and NETWORKING SUMMIT NON-REVIEW. Mea culpa time. The good folks at InkTip.com invited us to their pitching event back in July. They were proud that they'd made many improvements since last year's event and were eager to get us back, since we'd previously reviewed the first Pitch Summit for Script magazine back in January. They even asked us if we could helped them set up, which we of course said we'd be happy to do, especially since they were offering us a table. So we rolled into the Burbank Marriott that Saturday at 5PM... and found them packing up. The event was over. What the hell? Yeah, see we kind of assumed their 2-day event was Saturday and Sunday, with the classes on Saturday and the pitching on Sunday, rather like Great American Pitchfest. Well, you know what they say about when you assume. Turns out the classes were on Friday and the pitching was... yeah, you guessed it. So we totally blew it. Sorry, InkTip! So if any of you guys attended the event and want to let us know your thoughts, go ahead and comment here at the end of the newsletter or else email us at email@example.com. Now on to Golden Pitch at the Expo, which we're pretty sure starts at 2 AM on a Tuesday night...
DIY IN ACTION. Ted Leib was one of the Genre Prize winners (horror/thriller) in this year's Cyberspace Open. Though his scene "Square One" did not advance to the top three to get filmed, he did what we've been advising all of you guys to do -- he went out and shot his damn scene anyway (hey, do we detect a theme building here?) Ted sent us the link with this note: "I shot the genre prize winner with a teacher and student I work with at the Orange County High School of the Arts. I think it came out nicely. Would you have any interest in putting a link to it in your newsletter?" Why, yes we would, Ted, and nice job! Check out Ted's scene on You Tube right here.
Um... so is this Superman, or Aquaman? Because his costume seems to have taken on some sort of rubbery scales. Perhaps in the reboot, Superman comes from Atlantis and rides a seahorse? Hmm. Well, this is the trend in superhero designs lately -- unnecessary texture. The costume for the Spider-Man reboot seems to have been designed by Spalding. Seriously, the bloody thing looks like it's made out of basketballs. In related news, Sony just realized that their new Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield, is 27, so they've fired him from the sequel and will reboot the series again next year with yet another origin story starring the kid who plays Brick on "The Middle."
CYBERSPACE OPEN 2011 WINNERS! ER... NOT YET. Crap. Well, we'd hoped to bring you the winners of the Cyberspace Open, but as of press time, Creative Screenwriting was not ready to announce them. Voting closed July 31, but you can still watch the final three scenes (written by Michael Hedrick, Elisa Graybill and William Shank) right here. CS tells us they should be announcing the winners shortly, so sit tight, folks...
WAY TO GO, RICK! Big hat-tip to our pal Rick Jaffa, who with his writing partner Amanda Silver created "Caesar," which later became this summer's best Hollywood movie, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." I first spoke to Rick for my article skewering the incredibly faulty WGA arbitration process for Script magazine last year. At that time, he told me a little bit about "Caesar" off the record, and expressed his hope that the movie was going to come out well, since everything seemed to be rolling along smoothly. As a big fan of the Apes series, it is awesome to see a fellow fan do the franchise justice, especially after the latest abortive attempt by a certain director with the initials TB. Hail Caesar!
WHO is your movie about? Use the first ten pages of your screenplay to SHOW us. It's called "establishing your protagonist in his/her known world."
After the "hook," which is a visual scene that sets the tone for movie (pages 1-3,) spend the next 7 pages leading up to the catalyst, AKA the inciting incident, showing your protagonist in their day to day life.
Many writers make the mistake of launching the story right away. While some movies have done this effectively, more often than not this approach means you have to find other, clunkier ways, to inform us as to who the protagonist is -- such as flashbacks, voice-over and (ugh) expository dialogue like this:
Say, Bill, remember when you foiled that cheese
factory robbery last year? Because you're a police
officer? And you fell in that vat of Velveeta? But
that's okay because I know you like spray cheese
and also zydeco music and you collect belly button
that's okay because I know you like spray cheese
and also zydeco music and you collect belly button
So don't be afraid to use those pages to depict character. Make your lead(s) as dimensional and fascinating as you can. Show us their world, their friends, family. Go home with them and show us (don't TELL us) how they live. And THEN launch into the story and screw everything up for them. Go fer it!
4) BARRI BRINGS THE BIG, BIG IDEAS
By Jim Cirile
We met former development exec and President of Debra Hill Productions Barri Evins at Great American Pitchfest in June, and we found her immediately impressive. A lovely and charming woman who comes from the bigs (and quite clearly knows her stuff,) she is a ball of energy and positivism. In addition, she works tirelessly on charitable causes, not the least of which is the amazing First Book, which has donated over 80 million books to needy children. Whoa!
Barri's coming to Boston September 30th with her Big Ideas Weekend Intensive Seminar, so we thought we'd let her tell you guys all about it.
Barri Evins: I am a working film producer working on some fantastic projects, and in addition I am a screenwriting teacher. My whole goal is to help new writers by giving them the same sure-fire techniques that I use with professional writers.
JC: Okay, before we go into that, tell us a little more about the producing side. Are you actively developing projects now?
BE: My focus right now is on developing my own projects. I have a passion project, a true story called Stetson Kennedy with Tobey Maguire attached to produce and star in it, and it has Academy Award nominated screenwriters Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby, who wrote Children of Men and Iron Man are attached to write the script. That is my passion project, my big, big boulder that I am pushing uphill. It's a character-driven dramatic thriller in the vein of Donnie Brascoe meets No Way Out. It's the story of a man who grew up in a rich, white Southern family. He was very idealistic, and when (World War II) came along, everyone signed up. But he was 4F -- he couldn't enroll. He decided he needed to do something important. So he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, pretended to be a racist and proceeded to infiltrate and expose the Klan from the inside out.
JC: Wow, that is a killer story. I would imagine your experiences in the trenches have informed your approach to teaching?
BE: Absolutely. In my work with Mark and Hawk, they talk about how professional writers never get writer's block. The very same techniques that we used to develop a very imporant pitch to lots of very important people are the same techniques I share with writers who I meet with. We also had to take a true story and craft it quickly and efficiently into a really compelling theatrical story that would sell. We had to do it expeditiously, because these writers make a great deal of money. This is how it works in the real world. A lot of aspiring writers get caught up in what a lot of really smart screenwriting gurus have to say, but each of them talks their own talk and have invented their own vocabulary. That's why we break it down and show people that all of these brilliant guys from Aristotle on are saying the same thing about story. We talk in the same language that you hear in Hollywood industry meetings, which is about the five big beats and how to think that way and how to structure the script coming out of that -- as well as how to create strong stories and especially on how to focus on the very truth of the idea -- everything begins with the concept. It's a really organic way of looking at it.
JC: Give us the heads-up about your seminar.
JC: Wow. So what does that entail?
BE: E-mail and phone calls. People send me their one-pagers. They get feedback. Then I really prefer to have phone conversations, so that we can have an interaction. The part of my job that I love is the interaction with writers and development.
JC: Suppose someone comes in with a screenplay they want to workshop?
BE: This seminar is geared towards brand-new ideas. People are welcome to contact me for a script consult, and I'm really renowned as being the pitch doctor. But this is geared towards developing new ideas based on your terms, your passion, as well as an understanding of the marketplace.
JC: This is a two-day event?
BE: It is two days and two nights. When I say intensive, I mean intensive. We actually bring in all the food and drink. It's like a casino -- we don't let you leave. We create an intimate atmosphere, and it's Friday night, all day Saturday; there's a screening on Saturday night, and then we go all day Sunday, and they have to (participate in) my very unique idea-generating game. I dig deep, and our work on the seminar actually begins in advance with different exercises designed specifically to help me give everybody a truly transformational event.
JC: Fantastic. So how can people get in on this? You're coming to Boston next, yes?
BE: Yes. I go all around the country. I've taught in Richmond, Virginia, Chicago, San Francisco and Cleveland, and the next seminar is September 30 to October 2nd in Boston. That seminar is half full already. So anyone who wants to attend, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There's a discount to the organizer of writing groups and nonprofits (contact Barri for details.) And since I am a mentor for Cinestory, there is also a Cinestory discount, which is part discount and part donation to Cinestory. If you say "WOTS" when you sign up, you'll get a 10% discount.
JC: Excellent, thanks for that -- WOTS for Writers on the Storm of course. I want to also mention your nonprofit pursuits. I love what you're doing with First Book, and I understand even the seminar has a "giving back" philosophy beyond simply teaching.
BE: Absolutely, and thank you. I try to enhance every community that I visit, so I most often, if I can, pair a seminar with a free screening for the public or a local writing nonprofit. It really is a great way of giving back, and I often partner with a film commission and/or a local university.
JC: Thanks so much for your time, Barri. Any closing thoughts?
BE: You can got to my web page or my Facebook page or my YouTube page and see terrific success stories. One of my greatest success stories ever what a concept that was developed into a treatment, which then sold for six figures in four hours to Warner Bros. This method works. My writers are moving on. They're optioning books, they're making progress in coming up with stronger, more commercial ideas that they still feel extremely passionate about. That's why we begin with all these advanced assignments, so that I can help writers target their passion and their strengths.
5) MO’ MONEY, MO’ PROBLEMS
Every up and coming writer dreams of breaking in. But what then? Here’s how to keep from going broke as a successful writer.
Reprinted courtesy of Script magazine
By Jim Cirile
Ah, the life of the Hollywood screenwriter – fame! Fortune! Okay, not so much fame. But still – fortune! Right? Heck, your spec script could sell for a million dollars. Unlikely, but it could happen. You could become a production polish guru netting $250,000/week. Unlikely, but it could happen. Or you could sell your script for WGA scale plus 10%, then melt down into a neurotic mess for the next ten months until the next check, any check, finally comes in.
Likely, but it could happen.
Welcome to the scintillating world of Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems (with apologies to Notorious BIG.) We’re serving up the good, the bad and the ugly of how the whole money thing works for successful writers. We’re not even going to talk about being an up and comer, since as we all know, your writing income during that time is called “day job.” There’s no shame in that, and in fact it’s part of the deal, so suck it up -- and I said extra whipped cream in my Java Chip Frappucino, thanks. But once you finally do claw, scratch and furrow through the reinforced battlements surrounding Hollywood, it’s a good idea to have a clue what to expect.
THE PEOPLE WHO TAKE YOUR MONEY
Let’s say you sell your spec script for a cool $100,000. Nice, right? But how much of that do you actually pocket? The answer is $425.32. Okay, okay – kidding. But not as much as you may think. Tere are a lot of people with their hand out – agent, manager, attorney, WGA. And don’t forget least everyone’s favorite uncle (Sam) who desperately needs your money to keep blowing people up around the world. Here’s the breakdown:
Poof. Your six-figure payday is now the average salary of a llama groomer or a junior high janitor. The picture is exponentially worse if you have a writing partner. Each of you would net $22,601.25. And let’s not even discuss the 10% sales tax on anything you buy in Los Angeles. Oh, did I mention the $2,500 WGA West initiation fee (mandatory with any deal with a signatory)?
Uh... okay, that pretty much sucks. I know what you’re thinking – who needs all those hangers-on? Well, you do.
AGENT – It’s possible to get a deal without an agent, to be sure. They generally do next to nothing until you’re already established anyway, and then after you’ve done all the heavy lifting yourself, then they come aboard. You may be able to roll with just a manager and an attorney, especially if your manager is a former agent and has solid connex in town. But managers cannot legally negotiate for you, whereas agents can (or a manager/attorney combination could save you big bucks.) But when you’re starting out, the more people you have on your team, the better. Agents come with relationships, and those can be key not only to launching your career, but also introducing you to the town.
MANAGER – You don’t necessarily need both an agent and a manager. But what’s also true is that generally speaking, agents won’t give you the time of day, whereas managers will take your calls and help you develop your script until it’s good enough to land the agent who will then likely ignore you in the first place. If by some miracle you score an agent without a manager’s assistance, you’re either extremely lucky or your college roommate just happens to work at WME. But even in this scenario, you’re likely destined to be just a name on an 80-person list the agent can’t really bother with. Managers exist to provide that handholding and development most of us actually need but don’t think we do, to get us ready for prime-time as well as eventually get us the agent. So yeah, you don’t need to shell out that extra ten percent. Except you kind of do.
ATTORNEY – Five percent for an attorney? Trust me, that’s a deal. What can an attorney do for you that an agent can’t? A lot. They can build in bonuses and protections into your deal that agents sometimes miss or can’t be bothered with. If you get a piece of the merchandising of your film as well as box office performance bonuses, it’s because your attorney went to the mat for those. He is your “bad cop.” You certainly don’t want to be a d-y-c-k to the company who bought your project, and your agent may not want to ruffle too many feathers there either. But lawyers have no compunctions about ripping into the rapacious studio business affairs guys (whose job it is to screw you and delay payment in every possible way.) They act as your pit bull. You can certainly do a deal without an attorney, but you’ll likely get bent over most majestically.
So what's a working writer to do? Make as much money as possible while you can, obviously. The better the work you do, the more you’ll make. And if your quote is $250K and you’re getting two of three gigs a year, heck, even with everyone’s hand in your pocket, you’ll make out pretty well. So now the main thing is to try not to sabotage yourself, and to learn to financially cover your ass.
Many of us are assume that once we’re in, we’re golden. Er, not so much. ICM agent Emile Gladstone says the average life of a screenwriter in the biz is about five years. There are factors both within and out of your control that conspire to railroad your career. First up: ego. Think you can keep your mouth shut when idiot producers make you rewrite your draft (uncompensated) for the 26th time? Can you suck it up and say, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” Because it is exactly that ability that defines the successful writer with a long career. Seems obvious, right? But when you are in the thick of it and can’t take it anymore, you will rationalize a teeny little outburst. And in one fell swoop you could kill your career – no one wants to work with anyone perceived to be “difficult.”
And beware the trap so many writers fall into – not writing. We harangue our reps to keep shopping material the entire town has already passed on. Many a career has been killed by writers simply failing to write.
Sooner or later, the gravy train will derail. You need to have a strategy for how to handle that.
Okay, you’ve banked a couple hundred grand and are working steadily. What you need to do now is grab the snazziest suite in the Bellagio to celebrate your success and cruise in there in your smokin’ new Bentley Arnage. Buy an expensive house in Pacific Palisades with a heated pool and hire a staff. Take your pals to expensive dinners... in France. Oh, my God, did any of you believe any of that? Surest way to disaster. Many a writer has done exactly these things, only to wind up a one-bedroom in Van Nuys in short order.
So: diversify. Sure, we’re talking saving and investing, but that’s just part of it. Sock money away in the best interest-rate accounts you can find. Invest, but beware the volatile market – many of us lost good chunks of our life savings in the past few years. But also think about developing secondary and tertiary revenue streams. In other words, develop ways to make money immune to the vicissitudes of the movie business.
Maybe there’s an investment property you can buy – land, or perhaps an apartment building where the rents cover the mortgage every month and you make a little profit on top. Maybe you’re a closet cake boss. You could open a bakery and hire a manager to run it for you. Perhaps you can partner in your cousin Aloysius’s start-up electric dog polishing service. Because when your writing career gets cold, it’s nice to know Barky’s Wash & Wax will cover your rent! We all have interests other than writing – baseball, renaissance faires, study of ancient Latvian dentistry manuals. Find a way to monetize it. Putting all your eggs in the screenwriting basket is the surest way to eventually crush a marriage and land you in therapy (which you will not be able to afford.) Please consult with a trusted investment professional before investing in anything. We at Script magazine are not financial advisors and are not making specific recommendations.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS
So now you’ve seen that despite your best efforts, despite years of dedication to the craft, your exciting new career may end sooner than you thought. What to do when that happens? Go to ground and plot your comeback. Take the time. Maybe it’s six months. Maybe it’s two years. Your next salvo is going to be incredibly important. It could reinvigorate – or permanently sink – your career. And then, when you are absolutely certain that new piece of material is tight enough to bounce quarters off of, then contact your remaining industry pals and casually ask them if they’ll check out your new spec. The great thing about being a writer is that a sizzlin’ new spec can re-energize even the iciest career.
And remember, there are plenty of ways to be a writer. Consider TV, novels, childrens’ entertainment, plays, etc. Bang out a 5-page comedy sketch and put it up on YouTube or Funny or Die. Something you could generate in a weekend could wind up going viral. Same principle – shoot a short and take it on the festival circuit. Win a couple awards and suddenly it’s a whole new ballgame. Travel magazines are always looking for writers and pay damn well. Dash off some articles and submit ‘em. Write about that expensive dinner you flew your buddies to in France. And hey, there is no shame in falling back on that barista gig.
The good news is it has never been easier to jump-start a flagging career if you’re smart about it. Just make sure you’re realistic about what to expect from the movie business, and remember: downtown Culver City does need a pizza joint.
Yep, we stole the name of our letters column from "Cracked."
Dave writes: Hi Jim, thank you very much for sending me your Spec Format and Style Guide. I've just been reading through it and the layout is very clear, and you explain issues with spec script writing that isn't covered in The Screenwriter's Bible -- well, certainly not the version 4.0 copy I have, maybe in version 5.0, don't know. However, your e-book is certainly much easier to use and apply for my writing than having to refer to a large book like The Screenwriter's Bible every time I just want to check on the correct formatting to use. Your e-book and the information it contains is literally at my fingertips. Thank you for taking the time to produce such an amazing source of information for us screenwriters.
Jim C. replies: Thanks, Dave! yeah, we've been thinking of raising the price. you know, $3.95 is really dirt-cheap, and I put a lot of hours into writing that thing. How much does the Screenwriter's Bible go for? Whoa, seriously? No way can we charge that much. Eh, well forget that. $3.95 it stays!
Marcy writes: I am so frustrated with Final Draft. Why do they have to make it so hard to find the title page? Why isn't the thing simply the first page on your screenplay, and then you fill it out and continue? Why is it a separate document? How do they expect people to find it? And then when you do find it, don't make the mistake of 'saving' it! Oh no, because that gives saves your title page separately from the rest of the script. The only way to get it to save onto the rest of the script is by X'ing out of the title page, and then you save the script, and then then when you make a PDF there it is. I mean, does this make sense to anyone?
Jim C. replies: Yeah, I wrote about this in our Spec Format and Style Guide. Not sure if this problem persists in version 8, but it is pretty annoying, and probably 25% of Coverage Ink clients send in their scripts with no title page because they can't figure it out. Sigh.
Thanks for reading! Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail at email@example.com.
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