Friday, September 30, 2011

On Creative Screenwriting

Fellow scribes,

It is with a heavy heart that I write this. Today I heard unconfirmed reports that Creative Screenwriting magazine has filed for bankruptcy.

To my understanding, that could mean one of three things -- either CS plans to continue operations, and will use the Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to restructure; or they could sell the magazine and its assets; or they might simply pull the plug. As of now, it appears their website ( has been abandoned, and only a template remains, which is never the best sign. Calls to CS have not been returned.

As many of you know, I have been a columnist with CS for a decade. It was my honor and pleasure to write the Agent's Hot Sheet column every issue, and moreover, it was a master's class for me in how the business really works; priceless information which I delighted in passing along to you all. I took journalism and copy editing classes specifically to help with my magazine writing, which also directly helped my screenwriting by teaching me how to hone in on a theme right away (the "lede") and how to self-edit like nobody's business. It's these very journalistic techniques which I teach to screenwriters, elements of which are in all my videos and our CI Spec Format and Style Guide. None of that would have happened without Creative Screenwriting. And writing for CS also opened the door for me with Script magazine, which I still regularly contribute to. 

We've also coordinated the CS Open and later the Cyberspace Open for Creative Screenwriting for nine years, as well as the Great Logline contest. In short, it was a pretty great relationship. If it is indeed really gone, then I am sad not only for me but for everyone, because through it all, Creative Screenwriting was one damn great magazine.

Here's what I do know: it's been a struggle over there of late. The crappy economy hit CS hard, and some poor customer service on some of their contests did some rather unfortunate damage to their reputation. As well, one of their contest coordinators bailed midstream a few years back, leaving everything higgledy-piggledy; it took a Herculean effort and many months to get that train back on the rails. As evidenced by some feedback on the screenwriting boards, the damage was severe and unforgiving. There were also some significant problems with the first go-round of the Cyberspace Open last year, a combination of a glitchy back end and scattershot customer service. But the next time out, those problems were solved and the ship sailed straight and true. Creative Screenwriting publisher Bill Donovan, to his credit, put his heart and soul into making it all work and responded personally to queries and complaints (as did I.) Lest anyone say otherwise, Bill really cared, and he worked tirelessly to innovate new products and to keep the magazine awesome (along with the amazing editor Danny Munso).

So what happens now? There may or may not be any new issues of Creative Screenwriting for a while, of course. Too, the future of the Screenwriting Expo is also up in the air. Now for contest winners or finalists, I have no idea what this means and honestly it's not really my place to speculate. I do know that Creative Screenwriting knows who the winner of the Cyberspace Open 2011 is, but I do not. I haven't seen the voting numbers and can't access them (and unlike national politics, that little consideration does in fact prevent me from calling a winner.) And whoever that winner is or would be, I have no idea if the contest prizes will be paid, and if they are, whether they'll be paid in full or only in part. (Coverage Ink did the judging for the Cyberspace Open, but the tournament is owned by Creative Screenwriting.) Yeah, I know that kinda blows.  So I feel terrible about that, and for you Cyberspace Open top 3 -- Michael, Elisa, and William -- I can only offer my apologies and commiseration.

As for Agent's Hot Sheet, it will continue--either right here on this blog, or perhaps as a podcast or even in another magazine...

Rest assured, however, that Coverage Ink is not going anywhere. We're right here, ready to help, responding to calls and e-mails the same day, as we always have been. Customer service is always tops with us, because we're writers too.

We may have lost a great and beloved asset to writers everywhere this week. I hope that is not the case. But if it is, I am confident that all of us who were Creative Screenwriting will continue to help nurture and educate and give back.

Jim Cirile
Coverage Ink
Writers on the Storm

Update 10/6:  Word is that CS is planning some sort of announcement soon.

Update 10/7: The announcement from Creative Screenwriting can be found right here. The bad news is they have confirmed that the magazine will cease publication, at least in the short term. The good news is they deny that that have filed for bankruptcy, and they seem to be pursuing avenues to keep the enterprise going. This is great to hear.

The other bit of good news (of sorts) is that CI is having a fire sale, with many of their products now available at deep discounts. The CS video series were great buys even at list price, but now they're a steal. Visit the page to check out some of their offerings and grab at them up at rock-bottom prices.

The other thing to keep in mind is that customer service and contests etc. are all on hold, it seems, so unfortunately this is going to leave some people in the lurch until everything is sorted. Again, we wish nothing but the best for CS and we are pulling for them. There are some really amazing and talented people who have poured their heart into this endeavor, given it their all. Let's all send good thoughts into the universe that they're able to find a way forward.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Friends, Romans, etc., etc...

Thank you all for your patience! We really tried to make our original quarterfinalist announcement date last week, but we were delayed due to reshoots on our film "Liberator" as well as the Without a Box-mandated final extension that chopped two weeks off our reading period. But enough excuses. Here are the numbers: we had a bit over 1100 entries this year (including folks who entered the contest by submitting their scripts to Coverage Ink for analysis. And for the record, we were not easier on the CI people--in fact, the percentage of CI submissions who made the QFs is actually a bit lower than folks who entered the contest directly.) To qualify for the quarterfinals, your script needed to score a 'consider with reservations' for 'script.' Scripts are rated from 'pass' to 'recommend' for both writer and script. 'Consider with reservations' or better for script is historically about 10% of submissions. We actually selected 142 quarterfinalists.

One of you guys is going to walk away from this shindig with 10,000 bucks and and pretty nice level of access. Awesome! But regardless of anything, all you folks on this list really brought it. You guys on here did the heavy lifting; you labored over your craft. And it shows. Congratulations for making the Writers on the Storm 2011 quarterfinalist list!

Now I know the vast majority of you folks reading this are not on this list. This sucks. No two ways about it. It's another damn "pass." It's frustrating. It takes the wind out of our sails. It gets us a little bit angry. Those passes add up and eventually start undermining your self-confidence and can even make you want to throw in the towel. Believe me, brothers and sisters, I have been there.

The first thing I would tell you is: we are not the be-all and end-all here. Whether you're on this list or not is because of one person's opinion. Now of course all our guys know their stuff and are pro writers and analysts, but still, we could be wrong. Also remember that the difference between a pass and a consider can sometimes be insanely minor--a couple-hour rewrite to fix. Usually the problem is something we're not even aware of, but then someone points it out and we go, "Oh, jeez, of course!" (Remember, all WOTS contestants get $10 off any submission to Coverage Ink for analysis until 12/31/11--just use code WOTS10 on the order form. We'll gladly give you the full skinny and empower your rewrite.)

Look, even if your script needs major surgery, that's okay. My last action script got "passes" right up until the 13th draft or so. It was the 17th draft that was finally deemed good to go, and because of it now I am developing several projects with two big-name producers. Believe me, those drafts were PAINFUL. But I did 'em anyway, cursing the readers and the producers (kept to myself, of course) every damn step of the way. Writing ain't easy and getting it Good to Go ain't quick, much though we always delude ourselves that it will be.

What matters here is, are you willing to do everything you can to improve your craft, to make your script as good as it can be? 17 drafts, guys. Steel yourself, accept and embrace the process and you will ascend.

Feedback forms will start going out on or around October 5th. Semifinalists (top 50) will be announced 10/10.

If you're at the Screenwriting Expo this weekend, please check out our seminars: Liberator: A Crowdfunding Success on how we (partially) used crowdfunding to make our film LIBERATOR, Sunday morning from 9 to 10:30; and Agent's Hot Sheet - Live! featuring me interviewing 5-7 top literary agents and managers on how the hell we can get their attention (Sunday 11 AM - 12:30 AM.) Stop by and introduce yourself.

Once again, thanks everyone for your hard work and patience as well as your committment to your craft. I'm pulling for every one of you.

Jim Cirile



33 Yarrows Way by Christopher Morrison
A Grand Life by Charlene Keeler
A Little Trouble in the Big Easy by Samuel C. Spitale
A Murder of Crows by Dorian Hess
A Series of Accidents by Adam Bloom
A Ship Through Fire by John Miller
A Simple Bridge by C.M. Robinson
A Thin Layer of Cheap Paint by M. Esther Sherman
Abomination by Ross Raffin
Am by C.N. Bean
Anatomy of a Town by Patricia  Fox
ARK by Darryl Anka
Atom and Eve by Hank Isaac
Avenging Blood by John Collins
Balloons by Nikki Braendlin
Bioterror Conspiracy by Louis C. Lio, M.D.
Blesse (Wounded) by Bob Canning
Brainwave by Conor Ryan
Bring Me Back by Alexis Lane
Bush League by Steven Shank
Caprivi by Peter Dewhirst
Captive by John Burch
Chuck Hodges Conquers the Universe by David Ball
Citizen Soldier by William Schreiber
Closer Than Love by Morris Clark and Rhonda Ermel
Convergence Zone by Glenn Gebauer
Crusade by Kristen M. Mozaffari
Custody by Lisa Redlich
Dark Complex by Mike Donald
Dead By Thursday by Anthony DellaFlora
Dead Walker by Josh Flanagan
Death Wind by Travis Heermann
Deceit by Naomi Lamont
Delirium Amour by Kevin Silva
Dirty Business by Haik Hakobian
Dust Devil by Mark Bankins
Eidolon 88 by James Edwards
Entangoed by Cecelie Berry
Erin's Voice by Greg Sullivan
Fairy Godmother - The Quantum Leap by Lee Tidball
Faithful by Dennis Luu
False Sense by Craig Cambria
Finding Room by Johnny B. Dunn and Georgia K. Vinson
Flipping the Bird by Robert Hestand
Furious Angels by Nathan Ruegger
Getaway, Inc. by Andy Maycock
Golden Hour by Norman Wexler
Hair of the Dog by Karen Lawler
Halfway Home by David Schroeder
Happy Trails by Michael Rhodes
Hate Storm by Dale R. Botten
Haunted by Darryl Anka
Haven by Bryan "Byron Scot" Hilbert
Heart of the Family by Sharon Duncan
Heavy Water [2H2O] by CJ Percy
Hill of Souls by Jennifer Hahn
Hold the Reins by Tracee Beebe
Hollow by Jeffrey J. Wagner
Hoop by Dianne Dempsey
Hot Beef and Son by John Conley and Teddy Lane, Jr.
If You Die In Two Rivers by Mark Roach
Imprinted by Alison McMahan
Inked by Fernando Gaviria
Insatiable by Michael D. Morra
Invasive Species by Patricia Semler and J. Russell Prine
Just Being Jack by Judith Dunn
Khamseen: The Killer Wind by Allan Ashby
Lame: A Romance in Three Wheelchairs by James Kahn
Last Man on Earth by Brian Pracht
Love in the Time of Zombies by Devi Snively and Circus-Szalewski
Lulu by Samuel Bernstein
Male-Order Bride by Charles Mitri
Man from the Moon by Kyle Wilmott
Marlowe by Louise Ransil
Mend by David Chester
Messenger by Tim Tyler
Misfortune Cookie by Amanda Darling
Muffled Screams by David Kaneen
Murdered by Dennis Luu
Night Watch by David Taylor
Nothing But Besties by Matt Ryan
O Golden Boy by John Bain
Paige and Hadley's Prom From Hell by Devi Snively and Circus-Szalewski
Paladin by Jared Kennedy
Passing Through by Jennifer Ward
Passing Through by Robert G. Rhyne
Private Storage by Jared Kennedy
Prom Night Abductions by Curt Burdick and Scott Burdick
Rage by Mike Davidson
Redemption by Robert S. Horvath
Requited by Bill Johnston
Roachtown by Cillian Daly
Rock Daddy by Chad Pennington
Run by Dennis Luu
Second Glance by Sue Morris
Shed by Dennis Widmeyer and Kevin Kolsch
Shiftress by Jonathan Edward Young
Silence by John Edward Flynt
Sliding Into Home by Rich Sheehy
Snake Hill by Lizbeth Finn-Arnold and Sandra Longo 
Some Other Gods by Jay Korn
Spoiled Rotten by Cynthia Sieber
Sporks by Richard Dane Scott
Spy Stuff by Kay Weibel
Student Council by Tony Cohen
Superawesome Superheroes by Noelle Stehman and Betsy Van Stone
Survived By... by Ruth Simerly
The Beekeeper by Sean J.S. Jourdan
The Beneath by T.J. Cimfel
The Book of Malachy by Colin Elves
The Boy on the Cover by Elizabeth Savage Sullivan
The Crossing Order by Dalisia Mendoza
The Dorchester Plan by Patricia Semler
The Hartford Senators by Rick Telesca
The Heckler by Jery B. Rowan
The Intake by Rich Sheehy
The Journey by Josh Flanagan
The Legend of Hohokam by Lizbeth Finn-Arnold and Sandra Longo
The Man Who Stops Time by Paul Sargia
The Nativity Knockoff by Jason Hellerman
The Needle's Eye by Kathryn S. Moller
The Northlander by David Humphrey
The Piper by Russ Meyer
The Plush Life by Bill Scollon
The Power of the Chasm by Elisabeth Loesch
The Project by Elizabeth Franklin
The Reality Principle by David  Sartof
The Sharecropper by Andrew J. Crane
The Spider's Web by Valerie Nordstrom
The Steps by Sybil Raney
The Swords of Nishimura by Gordon Milburn
The Ticking Jury by Mike Donald
The Touch by Naomi Lamont
The Wall by Jon Bachmann and Katherine Griffin
The Warriors of Westgate by Michael R. Harriel
The White Death by James Poirier
The Wind At Spanish Needle by Simon Nagel
Third by Sean McKee
Thirty By 30 by Scotty J. Pierce and Tom W. Metz III
Tick, Tick, BOOM by Don Perez
Triumph by John Winn Miller
Web of Deception by Elizabeth Franklin
Wright or Wrong by Glenn Sanders and Brooks Elms
Zombie Lesbian Sluts by Lesley Schroeder

Writers on the Storm QFs Weds night (hopefully)

Much scrambling to get these ready, folks! We're shooting to post them before midnight tonight (Weds 9/14) if possible. Might have to be the morning, but we'll see. Hang tight!

Jim C.