Saturday, October 08, 2011

Test Your Screenwriting IQ with Steve Kaire


by Steve Kaire

Here we go again with more Q's to tickle your brain stem. A couple of these are gimmes, but a few of them may stump you. Good luck!

True or False:

1. “Pay or play” is a term that means a writer has to be paid whether the buyer likes the material that’s been written or not.

That’s true.

2. For a television series to be sold, a showrunner has to be found first.

That is true.

3. A deal memo is an agreement between an agent and a writer for representation.

That’s false. A deal memo is an abbreviated copy of a contract listing the major points of the deal.

4. The biggest set pieces are found in horror movies.

That’s false. They’re found in action movies.

5. When you pitch your logline, the potential should be obvious if it’s a comedy, adventure, thriller or action movie.

That’s true.

6. You should mention your story falls into multiple genres when you pitch.

That’s false. Pick one predominant genre and stick to it.

7. The expression “turn it upside down and inside out” is a brainstorming technique that means take an existing story and change it substantially to make it fresh.

This is true.

8. When you pitch an action movie, you must mention who the hero and who the villain is.

That’s true.

9. The expression “half baked idea” is a negative term.

False. It means that there is something of value in the story but it needs to be developed further to become “fully baked.”

10. Acquiring rights to a story can be done by the writer himself.

While that’s technically true, it’s best to go through an entertainment attorney.

11. The reaction you want when you’re pitching is “Why didn’t I think of that idea?”


12. The title of your material is not important.

False. The title is the link to your story is a marketing tool; it's what they remember you by.

13. During a pitch session, if you’re asked if you have a treatment on your story, you should say yes even if you don’t have one.

That’s true. Say yes, go home, write one and get it back to them immediately.

14. Good dialogue should say exactly what’s on a character’s mind.

That’s false. It should be communicated in subtext and not be “on the nose.”

15. The order of your pitch should be: Title, Genre, Logline.

That’s true.

16. Granting a free option on your material makes sense for a new writer.

False. Never give a free option. You should receive a few thousand dollars as a show of good faith.

17. “Hip pocket representation” means that an agent or manager isn’t taking you on as a full time client but on a project-by-project basis.


18. Most writers with representation and are happy with their agent.

False. Just the opposite is true. This is generally because writers discover they still have to do much of the promotion themselves.

19. It’s a waste of time to keep rejection slips.

False. They start the paper trail in case of theft of material.

20. You need a contrast of writing styles with your writing partner.

False. Your styles better be similar or you’re both in trouble.


How did you all do? If you got every one right, then pat yourself on the back and go get 'em, tiger. If you knew several, then way to go -- you are a savvy student of the business. Keep up the good work, and I'll see you all back here in 30.

Steve Kaire ( is a Screenwriter/Pitchman who’s sold 8 projects to the major studios without representation. His top-rated CD, “High Concept--How to Create, Pitch and Sell to Hollywood” is available on his website along with original articles and national screenwriting contests.

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