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 (creativescreenwriting.com) 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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28 comments:

Dango Forth said...

Jim,
I actually do have the list of the winners to the LA Screenwriting Expo competition. Out of respect for Bill, I'm not putting it "out there" until we know more. But they were identified.

sean1 said...

Wow. As a fan of CS, this really is a blow. I think the biggest issue here is the fact that what was once nearly impossible (breaking into screenwriting at the studio level) now seems VIRTUALLY impossible. Really too bad...

sean1 said...

BTW - I'm fully aware it's not "impossible" to break into the business, of course. After the strike, however, things got REALLY ugly. It's going to take a long while, if ever, for the public in general to accept the fact that writers are not the whipping posts of the studios.

Peter said...

Sad if true. Wondering if you have any updates on the magazine's future...

Mike M. said...

Really sad...especially for those of us that live outside of LA and relied on CS as sort of a pipeline of screenwriting info. I attended the Expo and it was not organized well at all (but I'm glad I did attend!!). Maybe someone can get an e-version of CS going.

Anonymous said...

As the winner of two of the CS contests this year, sure, I'm sympathetic, but more pissed than anything.

Dango Forth said...

CS statement:
http://creativescreenwriting.com/announcement.html

Dale R. Botten said...

As 2010 Expo Grand Prize winner, I too am saddened by this news. Although the the warning signs were there, it is still a shock when the possibility becomes the reality. I must say that I really was impressed with Mr. Donovan's sincerity and that of his staff. I corresponded quite often with them and was always treated with the utmost respect and kindness.

When I first saw the magazine itself, I wondered how anybody could put out such a quality publication and still survive. The paper alone must cost a fortune and to print and ship a beautifully-done full color magazine like that would necessitate charging more than many people could afford to pay.

I sincerely hope they are able to reorganize and if they do, I would suggest trying to put out the hard copy (I really do like actual paper...goes with old age, I guess) in a much less costly form. Elegance is great, if it doesn't drive you broke.

I'm sure there were other problems, also...along with what seemed to be a string of pretty crappy luck. I too have read some of the other blog posts, but I decided to reserve judgement for myself and I found them to be delightful people. I wish them luck.
Dale R. Botten

Admin said...

Well said, Dale.

Anonymous said...

hey jim,

FOND MEMORIES...
a few years ag, when the show was out of the LA convention center and to different hotels, CS and csopen always delivered. i always made contact with famous writers and they taught us what was happening in LA from lectures and face-to-face meetings with those in the know.
hard news if they fold, but they taught us the business was evolving and to adjust our screenplays to making them buyable.
CS will have to do the same.
all of my early advances in getting off my butt and to LA, were made because of CS!
ron ron

gnoyer said...

I paid for the digital edition last Sunday, just days (hours?) before it shut down. When I heard, I emailed and said I'd be happy with the promised access to back issues (mostly interested in your colum, Jim), but no reply so far. Why would that much not still be possible? Is there nobody there?

Anonymous said...

gnoyer,

you're not the only one left holding the bag. Contest winners have not and will not be paid, nor even reimbursed as they were promised they would be for traveling to the Expo and staying in the hotel.

So yeah, let's all shed a tear for CS--it really was a grew mag. And Bill D just might be the nicest guy in Hollywood. But come on, fair is fair.

Admin said...

Well, we don't know any of that for sure, whether anyone is getting paid or not. We here at CI have a bunch of people owed money as well. I did hear that they are trying to raise money to get people paid.

As for my column, many of them are posted on our blog, so just browse through over the past 2-3 years of newsletters and you'll find them for free. And thanks for the kind words!

JC

Anonymous said...

Raise money to pay the winners? Every single entrant paid an entry fee for those contests... What happened to that cash?

Hopefully they'll find a way to pay all the contest winners. It's not right (or legal) for them to take people's application fees and then not deliver the promised prize.

Anonymous said...

Do you think the magazine's writers stand a chance of getting paid?

Anonymous said...

From what I heard from someone on the 'inside' on this whole debacle, as it stands now, nope, nobody will see a dime. Prize winners, writers, staff, etc, will be left out. So, like, that guy who just won the $20K Expo writing prize and thought his life changed? Sorry.

Unreal. And total bullshit.

Elisa Graybill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elisa Graybill said...

Hi Jim,
Yikes! I'm happy to announce that the top three winners of the Cyberspace Open were at the awards dinner and winners were announced and published. I'm thrilled to have won, the pirate scene came in second and the sex tape scene came in third.

Hopefully we will receive our prizes. :( Holding out hope.

Elisa Graybill

Jim C. said...

Thanks, Elisa, and congratulations! I had no idea.

Dan Goforth said...

Elisa,
Here's hoping you (and I) receive a winner's check sometime in the future from CS!

Anonymous said...

Just curious re: "I'm happy to announce that the top three winners of the Cyberspace Open were at the awards dinner and winners were announced and published. I'm thrilled to have won, the pirate scene came in second and the sex tape scene came in third."

What exactly does published mean?

Elisa Graybill said...

Sadly in this case, published means in the little winners pamphlet that Creative Screenwriting gave to the producers, agents and managers who were at the Expo.

Anonymous said...

SCRIPT is now out of business as well, meaning there is no mainstream screenwriting magazine available to the general public. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

"Sadly in this case, published means in the little winners pamphlet that Creative Screenwriting gave to the producers, agents and managers who were at the Expo."
Oh, I see. That's unfortunate since William and myself were not listed in that pamphlet given out at the CS open dinner. Would have been nice to at least be in eye shot of the agents and managers. A nice compensation for losing our entry fees and finalist awards.
-Mike

Kevin D said...

Donavan that piece of shit treated the Instructors and his people like shit..Karma baby...Karma. No sympathy here, he gets what he deserves!!

Kevin DiBacco

Anonymous said...

Donovan is awful--that is true. And perhaps he is getting what he deserves. But the people he has hurt--the magazine's writers, the prize winners--didn't deserve this. And he seems to have no remorse. So while I do not feel sorry for him, I wish this had not happened because too many other people have suffered.

Anonymous said...

Anyone have news? Any updates about what is going on there? The CS website is till up.

Anonymous said...

Resurrection ahead?