Sunday, September 23, 2012

Writers on the Storm begins NOW!

It's finally here! Writers on the Storm VI, Coverage Ink's very own big money/big opportunity contest, is back and it's on right now. And this year we are accepting not only feature screenplays but also pilots -- 1/2 hours as well as 1 hours. The early entry period has begun, so if you enter early you could save some money, and if you're like me saving every dime is pretty important. So what are you waiting for?

And remember, as always, there are two ways you can enter WOTS. You can either submit directly to the contest at, or if you send your script to for coverage, then contest entry is included at no extra charge! This is a great way to make sure your script is ship-shape before locking it down, since we contest judges will actually be telling you what we think of your script (and giving you detailed notes on how to fix it) in advance.

This is my first year coordinating this contest (Portia J. has moved back to Texas) so wish me luck, LOL! But with Jim and the great team behind me I am confident everything is going to go smooth as silk. We've got a really amazing crew of readers who really know their stuff -- no 22-year-old interns here, and in fact I trust them to help me develop my material too.  If you have any q's please feel free to e-mail me at writerstorm [@] Thanks everybody, and now let's get this party started!


Julie Connor
WOTS Contest Coordinator

PS We still have a few more companies and more prizes to add so please bear with us!

PPS Oh yes, we are working with Without a Box and will be adding them as another way to enter soon. We know it's nice to not have to fill out those forms over and over! That said, our entry forms on our site are pretty simple as well :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Save the Cat! Literally :)

Hi folks, here's an appeal from our pal, screenwriter teacher/coach Barri Evins. She's looking for someone to care for her little cutie kitty until December. In exchange she's willing to offer a $350 screenplay consultation. Not a bad deal, plus you get to save the cat! Blake Snyder would approve :) Here's Barri:

Help! My cat is desperately in need of foster care from now until December. Kiki is a very quiet, (doesn't meow unless to convey urgent info like "hey, there's no water in my bowl.") doesn't go where she doesn't belong (never on the bed) and loves having people around as she was abandoned. She's a people-a-holic. In fact, she adopted me!

She cannot be with other cats as they intimidate her, but is fine with a mellow dog. I'm willing to sweeten the deal for a screenwriter willing to help out. Thanks!

If you're interested please email us at info [@] Good luck, Barri!


Friday, September 07, 2012

Tip of the Year: Manager Jake Wagner

Just caught up with our buddy Jake Wagner, one of the hottest young managers in the biz, formerly from FilmEngine (Jake is about to land elsewhere but we cannot disclose where just yet.) As always, Jake fired off a flurry of great advice, and we just had to share this bit:

Jake's the one on the left.
If you’re in LA, most likely you know some people in the industry, even if they’re just assistants. Get some assistants who read a lot of scripts to read (your screenplay). That’s always the best way, because if an assistant likes it, they’ll start circulating it within the industry and to their boss, because they get kudos for finding a good script. 

As a manager, I always ask the assistants, have you read anything good lately? A lot of times tomorrow’s next big writers are the friend of an assistant or the actual assistant themselves. Assistants read a lot of scripts and they know the actual flow, so they know if something is good or not nine times out of ten. 

So I would say get to know some assistants, ‘cause those are forgivable reads too. If they pass on your script, who cares? Those aren’t the hands you want to get into eventually anyway. It’s just a way to move it up the ladder. So if they don’t like it, it’s no harm, no foul. But if they do like it, then they’re slipping it to me, they’re slipping it to people to impress them and earn their stripes. That’s where a lot of new writers come from – roomies of assistants.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Coverage Ink/Writers on the Storm Newsletter

COVERAGE INK'S BIGGEST SALE EVER. In celebration of the launch of Writers on the Storm VI, we are launching one monstrous sale. From now until 9/23/12, our standard analysis (for features) is 99 BUCKS. That's a $30 discount! TV writers, you'll receive a flat $20 off our already ridiculously low TV coverage prices. And to sweeten the deal, all orders will receive a FREE copy of our 80-page 2012 Coverage Ink Spec Format & Style Guide, the craft bible used in screenwriting classes throughout the US. So now you have no excuse not to get your material ship-shape before the storm hits. To claim your discount, submit your script at and use the code CIPRESTORMSALE! in the text box.

WRITERS ON THE STORM RETURNS 9/24. WOTS is back and bigger and badder than ever!
  • Over $25,000 cash and prizes. 
  • 150-plus companies. 
  • $10,000 cash money for the winner. 
  • New TV pilot category with a $2500 top prize. 
  • Consultations and mentoring from top producers in TV and film. 
Sounds good? Yeah, we thought so!

As always, there are two ways to enter -- directly into the contest (at,) in which case you will receive feedback at the end of the contest; or if you submit your script to Coverage Ink for analysis during the contest period (9/24/12-1/1/13), your entry into Writers on the Storm is FREE. ('Consider with Reservations' or better for script advance to the QF round.) Last year's winners Brooks Elms + Glenn Sanders have been hip-pocketed by a major agency and their new comedy is out on the spec market as we speak! And WOTS 4's runner-up Jeremy Shipp was signed by UTA and is now staffed on ABC's Family Tools. Get ready: Storm season is upon us!

LIBERATOR DOUBLE WHAMMY AT STAN LEE'S COMIKAZE EXPO. Coverage Ink Films' new 18-minute short film LIBERATOR is slated to screen not once but twice at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles (aka "Comic-Con LA.") On Saturday 9/15 LIBERATOR opens for WITH GREAT POWER: THE STAN LEE STORY, at the Downtown Independent Theater, with panel featuring filmmakers of both movies and special guests Stan Lee and Lou Ferrigno; and we are also screening at Comikaze Sunday 9/16 at 5PM, with a panel afterwards again featuring Lou.

LIBERATOR stars a bunch of genre icons -- Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk,) Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita), Michael Dorn (Mr. Worf from Star Trek) and the legendary Ed Asner (Up). Ferrigno portrays a disgraced, washed-up ex superhero whose secret black ops past comes back to haunt him as he tries to put his life back together. LIBERATOR premiered last month at Holly Shorts (out of competition) to tumultuous response. Get your tickets now at!

COVERAGE INK PRESENTS: THE TOTAL MOGUL HOLLYWOOD POWER WEEKEND. How do you end up hobnobbing poolside with Hollywood's power players? By hobnobbing poolside with Hollywood's power players. The Total Mogul Hollywood Power Weekend is a totally new kind of premium event brought to you by Coverage Ink and producer Steve Longi, whose credits include Face/Off and Struck By Lightning (Glee's Chris Colfer's new movie.). It is not a seminar. It is not a pitch fest. It is three days of education, schmoozing, empowerment and access, poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It's glitz and glamour, but most importantly it is opportunity. We'll bring the industry and take care of everything. You bring yourself, your projects and your desire to get your inner mogul on. The Total Mogul Hollywood Power Weekend begins October 19, 2012 and we are limiting it to ten participants. Read all about it at

MOXHAM GETS ENTREPRENEURIAL. We love this! Writer Paul Moxham, the honorary mention from Writers on the Storm 4 who got signed by manager Kathy Muraviov (who sold a spec this year! But not one of Paul's,) has decided that instead of sitting around waiting to hear back from various people on his projects, he'd create his own source material. Moxham has taken several of his screenplays and rewritten them as e-books and is now selling them on Now, when a producer expresses interest in one of his projects, he can say, see, it originiated from a book (which incredibly carries more cachet than simply the screenplay by itself.) Plus he might even make a couple bucks for his efforts. Moxham's efforts look slick and pro, so we wish him the best of luck! You can see all of Paul's books on Amazon right here.

TRACKING B: FINAL DEADLINE! We've been remiss on letting you guys know about the deadlines for our favorite non-Writers on the Storm contest this year -- but it's not too late. The Tracking B Feature Script Contest is one of the top contests out there -- WAY better than many of the big name contests you all know. Why? Because is a real-life, honest-to-Jehosaphat movie industry tracking board, subscribed to by agents, managers and producers. The industry panel who reads the winners is jaw-dropping. And pretty much every year, one or more of the winners gets signed, produced, etc. Plus every double contest entry receives a free 1-year subscription to, an absolutely indispensible resource for any writer serious about marketing themselves and understanding how the biz works. Hurry! You have until 10/28. Enter online at

CI CLIENT MAKES SUNDANCE LAB. Prashant Nair, the director of award-winning feature film Delhi in a Day (developed with CI analyst Billy Fox, credited) has been named one of five people accepted into the Mumbai Mantra-Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab. The lab is a result of an agreement announced earlier this year between Robert Redford's Sundance Institute and leading Indian business group Mahindra + Mahindra, a $7 billion company. The participants will be mentored by a spectacular list of talent, including Michael Goldenberg (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Kasi Lemmons (Talk to Me), Anjum Rajabali (Rajneeti), Howard A. Rodman (Savage Grace), Malia Scotch-Marmo (Hook), and Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun.) Way to go, Prashant! And by the way, CI client Nilesh Patel is also short-listed for the group. Kick butt, guys!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Agent's Hot Sheet - Wither Indies?

By Jim Cirile

Yep, it’s hard as heck to break into Hollywood. But it’s even harder for someone with indie sensibilities. Come with us as we investigate how an indie-minded writer can make a living in the film business nowadays.

Wither indies? The answer, sadly, is yes. Indies, as we’ve always understood them, are not only withering, they’re pretty much gone. Over the past ten years, many of the major indie production companies and distributors have shuttered. This leaves fewer and fewer opportunities for writers with a penchant for more provocative, out of the box, non-Hollywood studio system material. The path in is now longer and bumpier than ever -- but opportunities still exist for the savvy indie writer.

To begin, the big indie production companies have largely gone the way of the dodo. In the ‘90s, we had Miramax, Paramount Classics, Fine Line… every major studio had an indie division. But as the studios were swallowed up into corporate media behemoths, these specialty divisions, that maybe only returned a paltry few million in profit each year, were eradicated. The last two standing: Fox Searchlight and Sony Classics. “It was about business, not art,” says Adam Leipzig, former CEO of National Geographic Films (March of the Penguins.) “When specialty division dollars were not (deemed profitable enough,) the studios started to abandon smaller movies and force their larger product onto the screens that were once available for indie films.” At the same time, exhibition chains took over independently owned theatres. Thus the number of screens available for indie movies shrank precipitously. And according to Leipzig, only about 1% of the 3,800-plus features submitted to Sundance this year will get any significant form of distribution, including Netflix. So while there is no shortage of indie filmmakers out there, getting those films seen is another thing entirely.

Because of these factors, most agents and managers don’t want anything to do with indie scripts. At some point, pretty much every rep has invested years of his or her life championing a brilliant little gem they truly believed in, a Sisyphean task with often little or no reward. Few are keen to repeat that experience. “It is the more difficult, if not most difficult path (to break into the business,)” says manager Mike Goldberg from New Wave. He advises that indie writers need to manage expectations “as far as how difficult the path will be as well as how long it will take. Patience is absolutely key.”

Manager Jeff Belkin from Zero Gravity Management tells us about one client, a multi-contest winner, whose period piece drama was so great he couldn’t not represent her. “I said, this is the most amazing writing. I love this script,” Belkin recalls. “I’m a movie popcorn guy. I like summer movies, so for me to get involved in a period biopic -- ridiculous! But if something spectacular crosses my desk, I want to get involved. So the next step was, who the hell do I give it to?” One person he gave it to was producer J. Todd Harris, whose credits range from Dudley Do-Right to The Kids Are Alright. “He and his partner Mark Marcum just flipped over it. It’s been long process of trying to get the financiers, the agencies, the talent, what have you. They’re still very much passionate about the project, and we’re hoping, fingers crossed, that it will happen very soon.” Even so, Belkin has spent three years so far, ever so slowly moving that ball downfield with no end in sight.

Despite that, Goldberg agrees with the battle plan. “You have to (partner with) a very talented, well connected, hardworking producer who (has a hand in) the more independent arena. That producer has the know-how and the contacts and the diligence to help put the pieces together to move your project forward.” He cautions that whether it’s a $30 million dollar project or a $300K project, “it’s going to take the same amount of work, just the people involved are going to get a lot less money. You have to find those producers who do it not to make money, but do it for the love of film and good film, that are willing to roll up their sleeves and put the projects together.”

So how does one’s indie script get the attention of Hollywood? With great difficulty, of course. One good way is by getting validation from an outside source. High-profile contests like the Nicholl Fellowship remain a great way for indie voices to get exposure. “(Actor/writer/director) Tom McCarthy wrote and directed a tiny little indie movie in The Station Agent,” says The Arlook Group’s Richard Arlook, “that he wrote in his trailer while he was making the first Meet the Parents or something, and he made that movie for under half a million dollars. It won the Waldo Salt writing award at Sundance. As a result of that, it sold to Miramax and launched him as a real filmmaker (Win Win.) You don’t hear about it, but he works consistently, and gets compensated very fairly, to fix up studio scripts.”

Indeed, it’s a fairly open secret that some successful indie filmmakers pay the rent as script doctors for studio films. Says Leipzig, “To do that, that screenwriter has to write sample scripts that really show that he or she understands the commercial requirements of the business, so the writer can get an agent and get submitted for (that) work. I think that there is a potential business model for this writer to kind of do one for them, one for me, one for them, one for me.” Arlook adds, “John Sayles probably made more money over the years writing and fixing studio scripts than he ever did as an independent writer.”

This could be a really splendid solution for indie-minded writers -- the crossover. “There are definitely some writers who can do both independent and commercial films,” says Belkin. “I have some clients that do and some that very much do not. In a perfect world, it’s wonderful to introduce yourself to Hollywood in a more commercial way, because you have more chance of exposure and being read by an agency.” Leipzig feels that screenwriters need to determine if they are writing to try to get movies made that they deeply care about, even if they are not going to be very commercial -- or if they view writing as a business. “Let’s assume this is an (indie-minded) person who still wants to pay the rent by writing. I think that this person now has to think about bifurcating their work. There is not a great business for independent screenplays. Even if the movie gets made, the writer does not get paid that much, so that’s not really (the best way) to make a living. But there is a potential business for a screenwriter with really good character sensibilities to do studio rewrite and assignment work.” To do that, you will need to generate a sample script that really shows that you understand the commercial requirements of the business. “There’s still a lot of assignment work out there,” says Leipzig.
Mike Goldberg

Another way to get the attention of the biz is to DIY. Don’t wait for someone to come along and give you money. Unless it’s a big-budget period piece, chances are you can shoot your script yourself on HD. “Get the money through friends and family, through credit card debt, through loans,” says Goldberg. “It’s been done in the past; it’s done every day. The most important thing is trying to get your film made, and if you can do it by yourself, great. If you can’t, try and find the right people that can do it with you or for you.” And if it comes out good enough, a few festival awards later and you may very well have a calling card.

But if one hasn’t won an award or gotten their film onto the festival circuit, you can still act as your own representative. “When I was a writer, coming out of film school, nobody told me how to find people,” said Belkin, who started out as a writer. “Nobody told me about the Hollywood Creative Directory or IMDBPro. I went through the usual query letter course and all that stuff. But the HCD is great in terms of finding companies, and IMDBPro is invaluable when it comes to finding producers with similar sensibilities (to your own.)”

The path in remains an uphill one to say the least. “To assemble a feature film from idea to execution takes an average of seven and a half years,” says Goldberg. “An independent film may take even longer.” So gird yourself for a long, tough battle, and consider, if you can, bending a little bit towards the commercial side. Above all, hang in there and keep working at your craft. Concludes Arlook, “Every once in a while, (a script comes along) that is just so wonderful that it’s undeniable that the writer has talent. Those scripts get passed around, those scripts get represented, those people get in rooms and book jobs. It’s very few and far between, but it can happen. The bottom line is that if you write something that’s great, doors will eventually open.”


Should You Option Your Script?

by Steve Kaire

Since most screenplays get optioned rather than sold outright, writers need to know how options work. In general, options are a bad deal for writers.

Writers are basically renting their material out for a fixed period of time, usually from six months to two years. Option prices vary from no money up to a high of $25,000. And during the option period, writers cannot show or market their material to anyone else.

To illustrate how options work, we’ll use this example: an option price of $5,000 on the front end against $50,000 on the back end, for a period of one year. That means the writer is paid $5,000 up front at the time the option begins.

After one year, several possible situations arise. What happens most often is that the optioner passes on the script, having failed to generate interest from a studio or financiers. The writer keeps the $5,000 paid to him and all rights revert back to the writer, who is now free to shop his script around again.

A second possibility is the optioner asks to renew the option for another year, in which case the writer is paid another $5,000 (or whatever amount is agreed upon for renewal.) After that second year is up, the optioner can pass again on the script, or exercise the option, which is of course the best outcome of all. It means the option reverts to a sale, and the writer will be paid the back end money agreed to. In our example, the writer was paid $5,000 initially, followed by another $5,000 to renew, then will receive another $40,000 for a total of $50,000.

Doesn't sound terrible, right? The reason why options are generally a bad deal is because writers are usually offered nothing, or a couple of hundred dollars for a one or two-year period. (Technically, an option needs to be for at least $1, to show "good and valuable consideration" and make the contract legal.) During that time you have given up the rights to your material and you are prisoner to the person who holds the option. After that time is up, the optioner usually passes and the writer has nothing to show for it.

My advice is never accept a free option. If a company is seriously interested in your script, they should pay you five to ten thousand dollars as a show of good faith for the option. If they don't have that, but they do have something -- let's say $500 -- then the writer needs to weigh how much juice the optioner really has. Are they "real"? Have they produced successful movies similar in genre/tone to your project?  $500 might sound great when you're broke, but who knows what you might be able to make happen on your own during that option period.

Editor's Note: Another strategy you can try is a "non-exclusive option" or a shopping agreement. Producers like to tie up material with cheap or free options so that they don't have the rug pulled out from under them or waste their time. A non-exclusive option gives them the right to shop the screenplay, and in return, you promise to notify them of any submissions you make so that you're not working at cross-purposes. This protects the writer because you give up none of your rights and can sell the script to someone else. Please consult an entertainment attorney before entering into any sort of arrangement!-- JC


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.