Friday, December 23, 2016

Film Grants!

http://www.filmdaily.tv/grants/upcoming-film-grants
Hey, friends! Want some money? Then check out FilmDaily.TV's huge list of FILM GRANTS and see if you might be able to get a piece. There are a few really awesome and well-known ones here, including Sundance Institute, Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship, Slamdance, Nicholl Fellowship and the BBC. But there are also some lesser-known ones which emerging filmmakers may be able to take advantage of, such as the Nextpix/Firstpix Crowdfunding Grant, which gives grant money to microbudget features (under $250K budget) whose budget is at least partly crowdfunded. 

Check it out and see if you can get a piece!

http://www.filmdaily.tv/grants/upcoming-film-grants 


www.coverageink.com

Monday, December 12, 2016

TOP TEN BIGGEST WRITER MISTAKES


…According to Agents and Managers

 By Jim Cirile 


Seven leading industry reps tell you what not to do and what drives them nuts. Stay on the rails and save your career.




I have made every single mistake listed here. How sad is that? I mean, it’s easy to understand why. As creative types, we pour our time, our passion, into a project. Thus when we’re showing it around, we can get defensive if anyone says anything other than, ‘I love it. Don’t change a word.’ Years of rejection may make us a wee bit neurotic or needy. And the tiniest taste of success could easily flip the switch over to, ‘Ha ha, you fools! I told you all!’ land. Ooh, not attractive. 

 

Well, CI is here here to put a stop to that nonsense. Before one more of you guys blows it with your new rep or even worse, kills your career, absorb the sage wisdom of these top agents and managers who know whereof they speak. Study well the lessons imparted unto you herein, and you may yet navigate the crazy minefield commonly known as a career in screenwriting. 

 

We now proudly present the top ten writer mistakes according to our panel of industry pros. Take it away!




10) IS YOUR CONCEPT SPONGE – ER, MOVIE-WORTHY?


Ever read a screenplay that made you wonder how anyone could have ever thought this would make a compelling film? UTA’s Julien Thuan says, “New writers need to understand that there are things that are movies. There are things that are television shows. There are things that are (best presented as) poems or plays. You have to be realistic about which area your idea is best suited for. A lot of problems writers run into to is when they’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.” In short, some writers think they can write their great American novel, only now it’s a screenplay instead, without really understanding the whole economic force of the business. Ask yourself if you can see your movie up there on the marquee sandwiched between ‘Welcome Back, Kotter -- the Movie’ and ‘Change-o Robots That Blow Up 7.’ Some ideas are simply not movie ideas circa 2016. Learn to tell the difference.


9) YOU WORK FOR ME, FOOL!


Manager/producer Richard Arlook from Arlook Group notes that it is critical to be sensitive to your representative’s time. “Don’t overcall the agent or manager. It’s exciting sometimes, if you’ve never had representation, to all of a sudden have it. When you’ve never had an opportunity to speak with somebody who has a lot of knowledge connected to the business, there’s an overwhelming desire to want to get the most out of that. It’s one thing if that person is being really chatty with them. Just don’t call for no reason. A quick e-mail is always better.” Manager Jake Wagner from Good Fear agrees, “Feel free to check in, but pick your check-ins strategically, and then the reps will be happy to keep knocking on doors for you.”


8) EGO IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD


The industry wants people who are easy to work with, not prima donnas. The biz tolerates a lot of crap from directors and actors. But from writers? Not so much. The Gersh Agency’s Sandra Lucchesi’s philosophy is, “Never be an asshole. That doesn’t mean you can’t be firm in your creative beliefs or have (a strong point of view.) Don’t be inflexible. When a writer goes into a room, it’s important that you’re listening to the comments from other people.” And watch that body language, folks. “There was one situation with a writer who showed his disdain by rolling his eyes, and the next day he was off the project. You have to be politically savvy. This is a business.”


Former ICM agent turned producer Emile Gladstone elaborates, “You have to be malleable. You have to learn how to give somebody something that you may not like, but you’re going to make it work. Sometimes ego makes that prohibitive.” Thuan tells us of a client who was very proud of his script…“and then he got what others would perceive as constructive feedback. Rather than absorbing it and figuring out a way to process it, he melted down. That’s not uncommon, especially with younger writers.” Gladstone adds, “The worst thing that could happen is a huge early success for a new writer -- selling your first script for $500,000 and above. That’s really damaging to the ego. They grow to be expectant, and they think that they walk on water -- ‘How dare that person give notes to me?’” Arlook says, “The writers I have who are not working, the main reason is because they did not handle the politics of their last assignment properly.”


Quizzing the Agent's  and Manager's Hot Sheet Live panel at Scriptfest 2016
7) I WROTE SOMETHING NEW ONCE. ISN’T THAT GOOD ENOUGH?


What drives Shuman Co. manager A.B. Fischer bats? A writer who “Doesn’t write, doesn’t constantly churn out something new. And along the same lines, trying to rehash the same project over and over and over again.” Many writers don’t get that it’s hard to get anyone excited about material that’s already been shopped. “Everyone’s seen it, everyone’s passed on it, and there are factors in the script that make it an uphill battle – whether it’s a period drama or whatever it is. After it’s been exposed to everybody, and everybody’s passed on it, (and they say,) ‘Oh, well, now can we just try to get it to Steven Spielberg?’ Well, I could, but… If you want to keep moving up, you’ve got to write something new. And this goes to writers who’ve sold stuff and writers who haven’t, trying to break in. You have to be prolific.”


Thuan differentiates between writers who have a slow process and others who are lazy and waiting for their agent to do all the work for them. “In an ideal world, [you should always] be developing an idea, writing a spec to maintain your voice, engaging in meetings and interaction -- you’re out there. Some people don’t like to do all of that stuff, but if you want to be a working writer in the studio system, you have to find a way.”


6) YOU DO NOT HAVE 120 PAGES. YOU HAVE TEN.


Lucchesi tells us that whether anyone bothers to read your entire script is determined by how much the first ten grabs them. “Right now, everyone’s time is so limited, and it’s so competitive out there, you have to make your voice known very quickly. In the first ten or 15 pages, you have to really capture your audience. The writing has to be standout and beautiful.” So make sure you’re first ten pages isn’t one long static dialogue scene, okay? Tarantino can get away with that maybe – you can’t. “So many development people share their coverage and their points of view,” she adds, meaning that coverage at one company can doom you at a whole bunch of others. “The more perfect your script can be, particularly up front, the better.”


5) DEAR AGENT, I’VE WRITTEN A WHOLE PILE O’ CRUD!


Readying a query letter? Producer/manager Graham Kaye, president of CP Productions and a former agent, says, “Don’t write me and say, ‘I’ve written ten scripts’ in a query. I’m incredibly busy. If you’ve written ten scripts, I can’t even imagine -- you’re not expecting me to read all ten, are you? Take one or two scripts in particular and make sure they speak so loudly that they can’t be ignored. If you don’t want anyone to ever return your calls, or to leave you a message that you’ve moved to Bolivia, tell them you’ve written ten scripts.’ Plus, whether you’ve written three scripts or 50, whatever you say is going to create a negative impression. Three? You’re a greenhorn. 50? You’re old, or you’re a hack. Avoid the topic entirely!


http://www.coverageink.com/ebooks.html
4) THE GRAVY TRAIN WILL RUN OUT OF COAL.


Once a working Hollywood writer, always a working Hollywood writer, right? BZZZ. Lucchesi warns, “Baby writers, don’t quit your day job. Don’t live outside of your means. You see so many writers – not just writers, everyone in town – at the end of the day, you’re still an artist. This isn’t a 9 to 5 where you’re collecting your weekly paycheck. You have to protect yourself in terms of how you take care of your finances. It happens to every artist. You’ll have moments of great success and then moments of not so much.”


Gladstone reminds us that the average life of a writer in Hollywood is about five years. “You have to be very careful how to extend that,” he says. “You have to play chess. It’s not just about being talented. You have to learn how to play the game and be a strategist and not be reactive, which is very, very difficult to do.” So when you break in, sock money away and invest wisely. Plan for a future in which the gravy train has derailed. Sure, you may be able to reinvent yourself and reinvigorate that career again. But if not, you’ll be glad you bought that pizzeria or income property!


3) SCRIBE, PIGEONHOLE THYSELF


This is a simple one that we tend to overlook. Says Wagner: “Don’t try to break out in more than one genre. That’s always a red flag as a rep.” So yeah, if you have a comedy and a drama and an actioner and a horror script, rather than telling a representative that you’re versatile, it says you’re too all over the place. Wagner continues, “And it confuses execs, too, because execs like to put writers on lists and in boxes. That’s how we sell them. A lot of writers think they can write everything. Very few can. The biggest mistake is the writer coming out of the gate pitching the Spring break comedy and a high-concept thriller. Own one zone. Sometimes you sign guys, and they’re like, ‘Here are the eight things I want to get moving.’ Great. Let’s focus on one or two.”


2) HURRY, HURRY, HURRY! NOW, NOW, NOW!


Now more than ever, the process of selling a script can drag on and on mainly due to packaging. The days of simply sending out a spec with no attachments are dwindling. Wagner says: “New clients learn as they go that the movie business is hurry-up-and-wait. You need patience. While you’re waiting for your screenplay to be packaged, work on your next one. You can’t just sit around all day. If (your script) is a good read, it will get some attachments, hopefully. It just takes time. The movie business moves slowly, and the sooner a writer realizes that, the better. It could all happen really fast, too, but most of the time when it looks like (a deal came together quickly,) it took four or five months or four or five years.”


Lastly, the number one biggest mistake according to agents and managers: (drum roll, please!)


1) NOT LISTENING TO YOUR #^&*@($!!! REP


Seems obvious, right? And yet so many represented writers don’t. Says Lucchesi, “We have our fingers on the pulse of everything that’s going on. If you’re going to write a spec script, make sure you check with them before you put pen to paper. We’ll know if there’s another project out there like it, and we can guide you. I know a lot of writers who’ve said, ‘I wish I would have talked to you before I did this.’ Listen to your agent!


***

I’d like to add one more from my own experience: don’t make any submissions to anyone ‘real’ until you are certain your script rocks. How many times have we sent out a draft, only to get feedback and then get that awful, queasy feeling because we pulled the trigger too early and sent it to our industry friends? Just because you’re elated over finishing a draft of something doesn’t mean it’s awesome yet. Make sure you Get It Right. The sensation of the door whacking you on the ass on the way out is not an especially pleasurable one, trust me on that.


###


Jim Cirile is a screenwriter/producer. He is the founder of Coverage, Ink (www.coverageink.com.) He lives in Los Angeles.

www.coverageink.com


Thursday, December 01, 2016

GET REPPED NOW - Last Chance!


What a Manager? Final Deadline Midnight Dec. 4

This is it. At 12:01AM Monday morning it's all over. Your last chance in 2016 to participate in Get Repped Now. Send us your script for in-depth script analysis. If it garners a "consider" rating, it will be read by our oanel of five top motion picture & TV literary managers:



>> GOOD FEAR -- Jake Wagner
>> INDUSTRY ENT. -- Micah Klatzker
>> ZERO GRAVITY - Jeff Belkin
>> MAGNET MGMT - Kevin Steele
>> MADHOUSE ENT. -- Manager X

Get Repped Now is a promotion, not a contest.  For a limited time, all scripts submitted to us for coverage (story analysis) which score a “consider” or higher for script (roughly the top 5%) are read by our manager panel. In the past, we’ve gotten writers meetings, we’ve gotten them signed, and we even had a big spec sale to Disney (“Nottingham & Hood” by Brandon Barker.)

You will receive a detailed 10-15 page analysis packed helpful suggestions, and you’ll receive a rating of “pass,” “consider with reservations,” “consider,” “strong consider” or “recommend.” Consider and above advances to our managers.

HOW MUCH? Standard analysis is $129 for feature scripts and $99 for 1-hour pilots.

Complete rules and FAQ: http://coverageink.com/getrepped.html

HURRY - GET REPPED NOW ends midnight Dec. 4th! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

COMPLETE SCREENWRITING DVD set - On Sale Now!

http://a-listscreenwriting.com/cart/products/Jim_s_Multi_DVD_Set_Pre_order-28-2.html

Save $100 Now + Free Shipping + Free Gift! Sale Ends Dec. 4

Well, it was only a matter of time before someone did it -- crammed an entire screenwriting master's class into a DVD set. Hollywood script guru and consultant Jim Mercurio has stepped up with COMPLETE SCREENWRITING. And what a set it is.

Mercurio's 6-disk set is jam-packed with ten hours of content, wherein he shares all his tips, trick and advanced techniques to launch your writing into the stratosphere. No matter what level you're at, this new, slick and engaging series will put about 50,000 volts of awesome into your technique. It really is screenwriting school in a box.  

Check out the trailer.
The Complete Screenwriting disk set includes:

Disc 1 - ORGANIC STORYTELLING
Expanding your Perspective Through Character and Structure
Disc 2 – THE PURSUIT OF ESSENCE
Breaking down story into its key Ingredients
Disc 3 - THEME
Using head and heart to find the soul of your story
Disc 4 - SPLITTING THE STORYTELLING ATOM
Discovering Power at the Core of your Scene
Disc 5 - ADVANCED TOPICS
Allowing your Reach to Exceed your Grasp
Disc 6 - BONUS DISC
AND MORE... Everything You Need to Know 


Click HERE to read more about Complete Screenwriting.

This set is regularly $299, but until Dec. 4 you can grab it for 33% off -- only $199 - PLUS free shipping! Use code COVERAGE100 when you order.

FREE BONUS DVD! Order now and Jim will include his top-selling KILLER ENDINGS DVD. Produced as part of the Creative Screenwriting education series, this DVD will help you go out on a high note and have producers clamoring to meet you. A $39.95 value.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Get Repped Now EXTENDED - MUST END Dec. 4!

http://www.coverageink.com

Howdy, fellow escribadors! Well, this is somewhat concerning. Normally by this point in our twice-yearly GET REPPED NOW event we have at least 6-8 "considers." by that, I mean scripts that have come in for coverage which we have rated a "consider" or better for script, which generally equates to about the top 5%. By the end of Get Repped Now we generally have around ten or so solid scripts to send to our manager panel. 

This time out we have two.

Joseph Balczo
This puts us in a bit of a spot. On the one hand, those two scripts are really good. That's exciting. Props to Joseph Balczo and Tony Dunoyer + Alex Chevasco (both of whom are previous Get Repped Now considers as well, so you know they've got the goods) for knocking it out of the park. We can't wait to drop their scripts on our managers, and I'm pretty confident we can make something happen for these guys. 

On the other hand, we've had so many near-misses this time out it kinda hurts. There's a lot of great material out there that just isn't quite there yet -- another draft or three may be needed to lick some plot logic issue or clear out the deadwood, etc.  This gives us less variety to present to the managers, and ultimately of course that means fewer talented people with the chance to get a meeting, gain a fan, start working with one of the managers or even get signed. 

Alex Chevasco

Tony Dunoyer
We generally do a 1-week extension as a matter of course with Get Repped Now, mainly because there are always johnny-come-latelies who only hear about our little promotion late in the game (it only runs for a month, way shorter than contests.)  And so it comes to this: our FINAL WEEK. Get Repped Now's final deadline is Dec. 4th. That's midnight Pacific Time, by the way.  So polish, polish, polish, get it as good as you can, because a lot is on the line here (no pressure.) Then send it to us for analysis and we'll tell you how close to the bull's-eye you are. And if it's awesome, we will give it to our managers with our recommendation, and they will read it -- guaranteed. Beyond that, it's up to you and the material.

Time to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and oh crap. looks like you're all out of bubble gum.

Submit now at www.coverageink.com.


--Jim C.
Coverage Ink

Friday, November 04, 2016

First Get Repped Now Consider!


www.coverageink.com

Big news, guys! Get Repped Now! has its first “consider.” We’d like to congratulate Joseph Balczo for bringing it with his TV pilot BLOODLANDS. The script concerns an Indiana conservation officer who uncovers a web of crime and conspiracy when he goes looking for two missing fellow officers. Joseph definitely has the goods -- this is his second time around as one of our GRN considers. 

"I felt this had some pixie dust on it," he said after we sent back his coverage. "I'll dig into the notes immediately and get to work on the adjustments. I'm very excited about this."

Joseph Balczo
This is the perfect time to wish everyone who has already submitted, or is about to, “good luck,” as well as put things into perspective for those of you who have gotten a “pass” or “consider with reservations.” We know how disappointing that can be. Here at CI everyone is a writer as well with plenty of firsthand knowledge of handing in a draft you think is pretty close to the mark and getting a “pass.” It stings! The important part is to carefully sift through the notes (or, alternately, rage-quit your email and give it a few days and then carefully sift through the coverage...) and think about how to improve your script. There is still time to resubmit and even if you don’t nail the rewrite before the end of GRN, there will be another one in the spring and plenty of other opportunities as well.

What are we looking for? The same thing as a manager or an agent will be looking for. Writing that’s so alive it jumps off the page, as well as a fresh and marketable concept. We are looking for someone who knows his or her craft, has a great attitude and is at least a little bit savvy about the business. Most of these things should be self-explanatory, but let’s examine why it’s important to be at least a little bit in the know when it comes to the ins and outs of this business. 

If you know something about what sells and what doesn’t sell, then one would hope that you won’t spend a year on perfecting something that doesn’t stand the proverbial chance of a snowball in Hell. A couple of years ago, a script came across our desks that was as close to the mark as anything we had ever seen. In fact, we handed it to several readers, because we couldn’t believe that there is such a thing as only praise and no notes. But such was the case with this script. This was that rarest of rare things: a "RECOMMEND." 

The downside? On a marketability scale of 1 – 10, the script came in at about minus 123. We floated it to all of our contacts. Every single one had the exact same reaction: “Really good writing. But there’s nothing I can do with this material. If the guy has something else, I’d be more than happy to read it.” We got some of our industry people to meet with him and... same result. 

Look, that’s not a terrible outcome. The writer managed to crack open a few doors, which he can utilize should he have something a bit more commercial. But it’s a far cry from Brandon Barker, whose spec NOTTINGHAM AND HOOD we discovered through Get Repped Now, and we got him signed by a manager, an agent, and, shortly thereafter, sold to Disney in a six-figure deal. 

www.coverageink.com
Now you might scratch your head and wonder why being an excellent writer isn’t good enough to get you through the door. Agents and managers ultimately are salespeople, and the main thing they want to know is if you can produce material they can sell. Everything else is secondary. And until you have proven that you can make them money, they won’t be interested no matter how good you are. We've seen it time and again -- great writers who get passed over because there's no (easy) place to shop their material. No one wants to take on the Sisyphean task of selling a brilliant period drama, for example. It takes years of work for a very small payday. Whereas if you write the next FAST & FURIOUS or THE HANGOVER, there are producers out there hungry for that material.   
       
None of this means that you should try to imitate someone else, or force yourself to write scripts that are "more marketable." Or that you should use the same concept as that summer blockbuster hit from last year. Don’t laugh. We see these scripts all the time. This is where fresh and original comes in. Look, nobody will sign an imitation of somebody else. They will sign you because of your unique voice. As they say, be yourself, it’s a tough act to follow. 

Or, as we like to say, be yourself, but marketable. 

Next, let’s talk about attitude. I was recently on the phone with a client who was very distressed because the fifth draft of his script still hadn’t gotten a “consider.” What was running through my head during this conversation? 

1.  And? Dude, I’m on draft 15 of my new script right now. If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen. Writing IS rewriting, folks. 
2. How could I possibly refer this person to our industry people, if he freaks out when he has to do another draft? They’ll be asking him to implement their notes on draft after draft after draft. Remember ANIMAL HOUSE -- "Thank you, sir, may I have another?" Yeah, that's screenwriting. Get used to it.
3.  If he has a hard time getting or implementing notes, he is not ready to work professionally in this business.  

And here is a personal favorite of mine: “But such and such writer (insert name of any famous Hollywood darling) doesn’t know what s/he is doing” or “doesn’t seem to know structure” or “writes terrible dialogue” or “never has a setup.” People, there are two sets of rules here. One set is for people who are already “in” (even if their entry wasn’t merit-based,) and the other set is for people who are trying to break in. If you’re already in… you can pretty much do what you want. If you’re not… well, you can’t. Seriously, if you need to find a blackboard and write this longhand 150 times until is sinks in, do so. Eventually, you’ll be glad you did. 

What do we really want? We want you to succeed. Really and seriously. I know that it’s difficult to get a “pass,” but the hope here is that with our help you’ll be able to improve your script to the point where it will become a “consider.” Why do we want you to succeed? Because it makes us look good. 

So let’s bring it! 

--Tanya Klein
Coverage Ink       

www.coverageink.com


Thursday, October 27, 2016

I Can Get You Signed... (But I Probably Won't)

Hi all, my latest article is now up at American Screenwriting Association. Check it out!


Okay, that snarky title is going to require some ‘splainin’, to quote the great Ricky Ricardo. Truth is, pretty much anyone who knows a few people in the biz can probably help get you signed -- a working writer, an assistant, an intern, whatever. Because anyone can be a passionate advocate. And if you absolutely love a piece of material, are gonzo excited about it, well, that’s contagious. And if your connection commands any level of respect at a company, at the very least the script they’re advocating for will be sent for coverage. But if they really trust that person’s judgment, the agent, producer or manager may well read that script personally. That’s the grease in Hollywood ‘s wheels-- referrals from people whose opinions they trust.

Problem is, most scripts don’t rise to the level of inspiring that sort of advocacy.
I founded CoverageInk.com in 2002, and we’ve seen a lot of scripts in that time -- tens of thousands. And while we’ve found a fistful of gems over the years, the vast majority of what we see are scripts that have potential but need a bit of work. Yeah, pretty much every single script, even the awesome ones, has some sort of problem. Of course, not all issues have the same weight. A great storyteller with voice and verve and panache, who constantly surprises the reader on every page? Heck, suddenly typos are much less important. On the other hand, a script with wonderfully dimensional characters but a weak structure is going nowhere fast, because jaded, ADD-afflicted Hollywood types are looking for any excuse to stop reading. Page 20 and your inciting incident hasn’t hit yet? You’re toast.

However, there are some scripts which we see -- not many, but a few -- which just radiate awesome. They might need a few more drafts, some rethinking, maybe a dialogue polish -- but still, they demand attention. Perhaps because of a unique, bracing writer voice. It may be a killer concept. It may be just a whole lot of brilliance on the page. But above all, it has to be entertaining. When I find a script like that, I have to champion it. I mean, that’s what we’re all looking for. (Except the assholes who will never ever do anyone a solid because they somehow think doing so will jeopardize their little fiefdom. We all know a few people like that, right?) I want to be able to call up my manager friends and say, “Drop everything and read this now.” And that’s exactly what I did with Brandon Barker’s “Nottingham & Hood,” which manager Jake Wagner (then at Benderspink) sold to Disney. More on that in a moment.

Click HERE to continue!

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

HEATHER HUSTLE

Screenwriter Heather Upton Makes Her Own Opportunities and Scores Writers’ Assistant Gig on Netflix’s IRON FIST

 

By Jim Cirile
www.coverageink.com

Heather Upton knows how to work it. After going to a liberal arts college in Philly, she kicked around various jobs in various cities until The Grub Street screenwriting class in Boston changed her life. Moving out to LA with a freelance, work-from-home editing job paying the bills, she cranked out specs, some of which placed highly in contests (such as our own Writers on the Storm, in which she placed third) and hit up everyone she knew, always scrambling to make connections and land jobs. She scored unpaid intern gigs at places like Paul Haggis’ Hwy 61, where she made more connections and landed a manager (Circle of Confusion.) Now she’s joined the Marvel superhero family -- where she fits right in, landing the gig of writers’ assistant on the upcoming 13-episode Netflix show Marvel’s Iron Fist. I talked with Heather about breaking in, working for Marvel, and how one must never stop marketing oneself -- because you are your own best advocate.

 

Jim Cirile (JC): Are you done? Are you all wrapped?

Heather Upton (HU): Production wraps this week, and then we’ll be in post for months. And we just heard the show drops March 17th 2017! 

JC: Awesome. So tell us about working at Hwy 61. That must have been amazing industry experience.

HU: It was phenomenal. Seeing the scripts that come in from the agencies and A-list actors who wanted to work with them was eye-opening… I recommend to all new writers to LA to get a job doing coverage. Having to read a script and then write what is and isn’t working really makes you think about the fundamentals of screenwriting in your own scripts.

JC: Were you surprised by the quality, or lack thereof, of all the scripts you read during that time?

HU: Some were as terrific as you’d expect, and some were shockingly low quality. And these were scripts sent to an A-list director. There was definitely stuff where I was like, I could write something better than this. I know people who could write something better than this. It made me keenly aware that success is not just about talent, but also who you know.



JC: Let’s talk Marvel’s IRON FIST. How did you get the gig?

HU: I actually kind of took a couple years off -- had a kid, renovated a house. And then when I was ready to really go hard again at getting work, I talked to friends about how much I missed working with people. That, to me, is one of the downsides of screenwriting. I had all these friends in TV, and they encouraged me to try it -- there are so many jobs, and it’s so interactive. So two years ago I applied for the Disney/ABC TV Writing Program, and I was one of the finalists for it. That was enough for me to get meetings at Marvel and a few other places through my manager and through personal connections. I called people and was like, hey, I’d really like to try TV, and the Disney/ABC people thought I was decent.

JC: Marketing yourself. So many people think once you’re represented, you can just sit back and sell scripts.

HU: It’s totally about asking people to help you, and that is something I feel like I’m still learning. So many people are willing to, and so many people definitely aren’t, but you won’t know until you ask. So I asked people to make connections for me, and this one at Marvel panned out. They didn’t have anything available when I went in, but the exec I met with said, “We’ll have more and more stuff. Keep in touch.” And I did, because it’s your job to follow up, not theirs. Eventually they had something come up, and asked if I wanted to interview for it, and I did, and I got Iron Fist, which was so fun.

JC: Proving that perseverance is at least as important as talent.


Finn Jones as Danny Rand in Marvel's IRON FIST, coming 2017 on Netflix.
HU: Totally. It’s both heartening and disheartening to sit in the writers room and talk to them about how they get work, and they’re like, “The hustle never ends.” 

JC: Tell us what a writers’ assistant does.

HU: Every writers’ room generally has between six and ten writers, and the writers sit in there from six to ten hours a day and break the story. So they come up with a season-long arc and a sense of who the characters are, and then break down scripts episode by episode. Some rooms even break it down scene by scene. Every single day there are ideas flying and creativity pouring out, and the writers’ assistant has to write down every single important thing that is said in the room, and also to filter out the stuff that isn’t important. At the end of the day, you send them 40 pages, and there’s as much useless stuff as there is useful stuff, it’s too much for them to wade through. It has to make coherent sense. 

JC: So you’re taking steno, in a way. And then a couple days later someone will say, “Hey what was that thing I said the other day?,” and you have to go find it?

HU: And then everybody looks at you… (laughs) and you think, “Oh God, I hope I wrote it down.”

JC: Sounds like it could be pretty stressful -- what was the overall vibe?


www.coverageink.com

HU: I definitely lucked out and got a roomful of people who were really nice and super supportive. It wasn’t so much stressful as it was just focused, hard work. Mostly it was really fun. I love the Marvel stuff. I love the story that we wrote, and I just loved being in the room and getting to experience how the story gets told and how it changes and gets shaped by different ideas. You know, you write one episode, and then you get down to episode four and you realize, oh, well, if we do this here, we’ll have to go back and revise everything that came before, because this new thing has a cascade effect on everything else that happens. It was really cool to see how things evolved over time, too. And then once we started shooting, it was interesting to see how the actors on screen actually changed the story.

JC: How did you guys interface with the other Marvel Netflix shows? Obviously, there’s this big, internal continuity. You have to be aware of everything everyone else is doing too, right?]


HU:  Everybody had watched Daredevil and (Jessica) Jones before we got there, and then they let us have the scripts for (Luke) Cage, and then they actually gave us the rough cuts of Cage, too. There are Marvel execs who, every time we pitch an episode, part of what they do is to give us continuity notes. There are a couple of Marvel execs who hold the entire TV world in their heads, and they’re constantly moving the pieces around to make sure that all the characters’ stories make sense and that something that happens on Iron Fist won’t affect a different show.

JC: Right, because there are other shows being planned in the future as well, which will all be affected by what you do.


HU: Exactly. Sometimes we would have meetings with the Marvel execs, and it was just extraordinary, to see how deeply and thoroughly some of them know the universe. It’s amazing.

JC: So how do you do it, what with being a mom and writing specs on the side? How do you pay the bills, raise a kid, work a demanding job and try to further your career all at the same time?

HU: You’ve got to be really organized (laughs.) It makes for some long days. I would be in the office for Marvel and then go home to my daughter, and it’s just me and her, and that’s a lot of work. I also have my freelance gig, because a writers’ assistant pay is crap. And then I’m writing my own specs on the side. Being in the room all day was exhausting, but it was also really inspiring. It was like being in a master class. I would come home with a head full of creative ideas. That really helped me sit down and say to myself, Okay, I need to do 30 minutes on my spec tonight. That was good motivation, constantly being around people who were coming up with stories. That, being organized… and wanting it, maybe? (laughs)

JC: Definitely wanting it, because it would be real easy to just come home and collapse. So where does this all lead? Any chance for advancement?

HU: One of the nice things about having worked at Marvel is that they have so many projects going, the ones we’ve heard of and the ones I imagine are in the pipeline. So now being in the Marvel machine, I think it makes it easier for me to pitch myself in the future Marvel jobs. It’s not only fun work, but my experience thus far is that Marvel is filled with really nice people, which is wonderful and sort of unusual in this industry. One of the challenges with working on a Marvel show, though, is that because they have so many, nobody really knows what’s going to happen with ours. Will there be a season two? When will it be? I have all this great experience now under my belt, but I still have to go back out on the job market.

JC: Hence you’ve been cranking out specs, and you have an additional level of legitimacy now.

HU: For sure. So what I’m doing now is what I did before -- getting in touch with people who work on shows, and telling them now I have experience under my belt and I loved it, so if you know anybody… And then my manager has me writing specs because he wants to put me up for staff writer jobs.

JC: That’s definitely the next step. Okay, last question -- and you may not be able to answer, so feel free to be as cagey as necessary. In the comic books, Iron Fist’s costume was really silly…

HU: (laughs) I can’t tell you anything!


JC: He wore a silly thing on his head with the Spider-Man white eye holes, a skin-tight green leotard with a plunging boob window and these little yellow footie-things… Luke is just walking around in street clothes. Is our guy going to have any sort of costume at all?

HU: I’m pretty sure that I can’t answer that at all. I can tell you that the traditional costume in the comics was the subject of much discussion for exactly those reasons.

JC: I mean, I grew up reading Power Man and Iron Fist in the ‘70s, and the idea of them not wearing their traditional costumes, that’s sacrilege. But then, could you actually see anyone wearing the Iron Fist costume in real life? It would be laughable.

HU: Right, especially when you consider Luke Cage, a black man in Harlem with a tiara.

JC: Heather, you’re a shining example of hustle and muscle. May others learn well from your example. I expect a big, shiny spec sale soon.

HU: Thank you!



www.coverageink.com

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Do You Like Money?


http://americanscreenwriters.com/Howdy, fellow scribes,

I'm pleased to announce that I've joined the American Screenwriters Association editorial board. This means I'll be writing new original content for the ASA blog every month (which we will link to here as well.)

As many of you know, I was the agents/managers expert for Script magazine as well as wrote the Agents Hot Sheet column for Creative Screenwriting for a decade. So it's exciting to have a new outlet, since there's a lot going on out there which I feel the need to grouse about -- and I still see screenwriters making the same damn mistakes over and over. Sigh.

My first article for ASA is called DO YOU LIKE MONEY?, and you can read it right here. It's about the changing shape of the marketplace, the emergence of TV as the new marketplace for emerging writers, and how YOU can get a piece of it. Bounce on over to American Screenwriters Association and check it out. You may also want to consider signing up while you're there!

To paraphrase a certain ballsy young meth cook: I'm back, bitch!

Cheers,

Jim C.
www.coverageink.com


www.coverageink.com



Sunday, September 04, 2016

Coverage Ink's Jim Cirile on Story Analysis

https://vimeo.com/179359359/29d20c0dd2

Well, this was a blast! Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with screenwriter and UCLA Extension instructor Brooks Elms as part of his Story Analysis for Film and Television class. Some of you may remember Brooks and his writing partner Glenn Sanders as former winners of our Writers on the Storm contest with their killer comedy script WRIGHT OR WRONG. 

We cover a lot in this 25-minute chat, from how contests work to Coverage Ink's Get Repped Now, to finding work as a script reading and how to learn to analyze a screenplay. If you're interested in learning more about story analysis, this video's a great place to start. Many thanks to Brooks and of course to UCLA for having me!

And now the disclaimer: "This video is not an endorsement or recommendation of any commercial products, processes, or services. The views and opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily state or reflect those of the UCLA Extension, and they may not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes."

Check it out right here

--Jim C.

www.coverageink.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The TEN

TEN “considers.” That’s a new record for Coverage Ink’s Get Repped Now, Spring 2016 edition. And once we get everyone’s polish drafts back in (mid August,) we’ll pull the trigger and send them to our manager panel with our recommendations. So let’s all pull for our ten considers -- the writers who really brought it.


ABDUCTING CHRISTMAS by Joseph Balczo & David Bricker
ATOMIC CITY by Russell Ward + Scott Miller
FORGIVE US OUR PRESS PASSES by Jocelyn Hough
ONE DAY AS A LION by Doc Stiggers
THE PINKERTON SISTERS by Susan Boyer
RECORDED HISTORY by Neil Riley
SPEEDVILLE by Patrick Hunt
SYNERGIZERS by Craig Cambria
TONE DEAD by Sarah Polhaus
THE WACC by Sabrina Almeida


If you’re unfamiliar with Get Repped Now, it’s a little promotion we do in the spring and fall, wherein for a limited period of time, we elevate all scripts sent to Coverage Ink for script analysis, which score a ‘consider’ for script or better, to our panel of five industry-leading managers. In the past, we’ve gotten writers meetings, we’ve gotten them signed and hip-pocketed, and we’ve even had a big spec sale (Brandon Barker’s “Nottingham and Hood,” which sold to Disney for six figures.) Get Repped Now isn’t a contest -- there are no winners and no prizes. Simply, if your script scores a ‘consider’ from the Coverage Ink reader, it gets read by the manager panel. That’s all there is to it.

It’s heartening to note that four of our eleven considers went through multiple drafts, polishing and honing their scripts until nailing that coveted ‘consider.’ So a special CI fist pump to Joseph Balczo and David Bricker, Susan Boyer, Patrick Hunt and Craig Cambria, who invested serious elbow grease in making their scripts nice and shiny.  

By the same token, there were a few writers who rejected the detailed story notes which, if they chose to listen, could help improve both their scripts and craft. Another fellow even tried to bribe me! I tried to explain to him that the secret to having us present his script to the managers was to actually do the notes and improve the script, not to try to grease anyone’s palm. Sigh.






But mostly what we saw was a lot of near-misses -- dozens and dozens of ‘consider with reservations,’ as well as scripts that were almost in that zone, but for another draft maybe. These are especially frustrating, we know, because hey, SO close. Of course we hope that the notes we provide gave everyone what they need to come back and kick our asses nine ways to Miercoles when Get Repped Now returns October 17.

If you were one of those near misses, or indeed a ‘pass’ (which constitutes the majority of submissions,) I can tell you from my own experience -- it’s hard not to take it personally, right? We get defensive. We think, “this reader is a MORON!” Hey, I think this constantly when I send my own scripts in for coverage -- and I run the company! It’s human nature. We all protect ourselves when we feel we’re being “attacked.” The truth is, of course, there’s no attack. Believe it or not, it’s actually help. But sometimes it’s hard to see it that way. Whether we’re just starting out and are baffled as to how to implement notes, or you’ve got a dozen screenplays under your belt, getting coverage can sting a bit


But I also know deep down inside that I really do need to pay attention to the notes, even if I don’t like them. So here’s my own little neurotic trick. After reading it once, I ignore the coverage for at least a week or two. During that time, I work on other things. And slowly, like a wave of rabidly voracious weevils, the notes begin eating at my mind. I find myself thinking of ways to handle the notes, or maybe even radical new ideas which might make the notes moot. But I DO NOT look back at the notes, because it still freaking stings too much to do so!

Then finally, after enough time has passed that the notes have lost their power to make me feel like poop, and when I’m emotionally ready for it, I revisit the notes. And I go through them, section by section, making my own notes -- good, bad or indifferent. The bad ones simply get crossed out. The easy ones, I hit those first. Typos and character name mistakes -- no sweat! Got this. Finally, I move on to the more substantive changes. And generally, I’ll have thought it through enough that I’ll have an idea on how to hit the notes -- okay, this will require a new scene here, cutting the dialogue here, and then threading this new character through to the end so it “tracks.” 


And thus the rewrite process begins in earnest. And it only took a few weeks to work around my own fricking idiosyncrasies.

I hope it’s a little easier for you! In any event, I hope all of you indeed took the notes in the spirit with which they were intended. I look forward to watching the evolution of everyone’s scripts -- there is nothing more gratifying than seeing a script go from a ‘pass’ to a ‘consider’ over multiple drafts and feeling we had a small part in that.

Get Repped Now updates as they happen. Now go write!

Jim Cirile
www.coverageink.com


Get Repped Now Returns Oct. 17, 2016!