Friday, August 31, 2007 in the "Los Angeles Times"

Our friends over at, the industry insider tracking site now available to screenwriters (see blog item below) got a nice little write-up in Jay Fernandez' Scriptland column in the "Los Angeles Times.", a growing pay website that tracks insider maneuverings and the real-time sale and buzz of new pitches and screenplays, (is) kind of bank vault to which anyone can buy the combination for $69 a year. is owned and run by the Insider, the nom de Web of Adam (who withheld his last name) who launched the site last October. It's meant to act as a common area for writers and their representatives and the development executives at studios and production companies who want to know what material they're circulating -- or about to circulate -- in the marketplace.

"I'm mostly using it to look out for: What are the new specs that are going out on the market, what's happening with the ones that are already out there?" says Fox Searchlight creative executive Jason Hargrove, who checks the site daily and nabbed a script called "Near Death," written by Carter Blanchard, this year because reported on it three days before it went on the market.

Although development execs have long had their own versions of invitation-only tracking boards, where they swap thoughts on writers, agencies and screenplays, the agents themselves have rarely been directly privy to the chatter.

In addition to insider gossip, also gives them an opportunity to see what their rivals are going out with and what's generating positive heat.

It also, of course, allows them to plant artificial buzz, which could dilute a script's potency if it's thought that an agent is merely hyping his own client's work.

At the moment, the site's subscribers are drawn mainly from junior creative executives and VPs at studios, as well as lower-level assistants, managers, agents, financiers and producers, although the William Morris Agency has an account and at least one production head at a major studio uses it.

"I always felt out of the loop when my work went out and hit the town," says Adam. "I felt like I was always one step removed from everything. So I wanted to create something where not only insiders could learn about the industry but people who were on the fringes of it could find a way to get more in the middle."
Check out HERE.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mr. Sulu Returns

Brace yourself, folks... classic "Star Trek" is back.

I'm not talking about the upcoming JJ Abrams "Starfleet Academy" movie, featuring new actors in the roles of Kirk, Spock and co. No, this is a the original series' "fourth season," a fan-based effort that started out admittedly cheesy and got progressively better as time went on. Now this series is boasting some serious firepower, with original Star Trek actors Walter Koenig and George Takei reprising their roles as Chekov and Sulu, original series writers and fan faves David Gerrold and D.C. Fontana behind the camera! And none other than Rod Roddenberry, son of the Great Bird of the galaxy, has given the series his stamp of approval.

The latest episode, "World Enough and Time," stars Coverage, Ink fave George Takei, whom many of you know also stars in the forthcoming CI film "Showdown of the Godz." "World Enough and Time" boasts 700 special effects shots and some amazing recreations of original series sets. Note that Paramount allows these fan-made productions provided that they do not make a profit.

To view the episodes, please visit the "Star Trek New Voyages" web site HERE.
Oscar and Emmy winners – along with the fans – team to complete Sulu STAR TREK episode begun 30 years ago

GEORGE TAKEI may be playing a hero on HEROES and serving as Howard Stern's recurring sidekick on subscription radio, but it's as the dashing Mr. Sulu, helmsman on the starship Enterprise, that he will be forever loved by the fans.

But he hardly imagined his greatest Sulu episode would come in 2007! Takei is starring in "World Enough and Time," a new STAR TREK episode produced by an amazing mix of Industry pros and fans that will be premiering at the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills on August 23, 2007, with both the premiere and episode streaming real-time worldwide on the Internet – literally a world premiere.

Plus one lucky fan will win airfare to the premiere and exclusive dinner with Takei, the writers and director of the episode. (To register to stream the episode and/or enter the contest, log onto

It all began when STAR TREK – NEXT GENERATION writer MARC SCOTT ZICREE learned of STAR TREK NEW VOYAGES, a high-quality series of fan episodes that were getting millions of viewers and beating the networks at their own game.

"I recalled a terrific Sulu story my friend MICHAEL REAVES came up with for STAR TREK PHASE II, a series Paramount was going to do in the mid-70s," Zicree recalls. "After a year of building sets and buying stories, the studio made the movies instead, so the script was never written. Ironically, Michael's story had Sulu aging 30 years and raising a family on an alien planet, so it seemed perfect timing to do it now."

Zicree suggested to Reaves, an Emmy-winner and also a STAR TREK – NEXT GENERATION writer, that the two of them write the script together. He then contacted JAMES CAWLEY, producer and star of NEW VOYAGES, who eagerly agreed to their proposal.

Finally, Zicree met with Takei and pitched him the episode (the two had been friendly acquaintances since Zicree had interviewed Takei for his landmark book THE TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION). "I told him, 'You're a brilliant actor who never got the Sulu episode you deserved, and this is it." Zicree laughs. "He read the synopsis then and there and said, 'I'm in.'"

Utilizing the existing cast and crew of NEW VOYAGES, Zicree set about augmenting it with Industry pros from his own career on network shows, including top STAR WARS artist IAIN McCAIG (designer of Darth Maul and Queen Amidala) and Oscar and Emmy-winning makeup, effects and storyboard wizards from such TV shows and films as BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, LOST, HEROES and SPIDERMAN 3.

Guest roles included two more STAR TREK legends – GRACE LEE WHITNEY, reprising her role as Rand, and MAJEL BARRETT RODDENBERRY, Gene Roddenberry's widow, contributing her talents as the Enterprise's computer voice. Rounding out the cast was Broadway actress CHRISTINA MOSES, as Sulu's daughter Alana.

Shot in high definition with over 700 effects shots, "World Enough and Time" boasts a level of production far beyond a network show. More than that, Zicree is proud that the story works on an emotional level.

"People who see it are in tears by the end," he notes, adding that ardent fans of the episode include such noted writers as MARV WOLFMAN, creator of BLADE, and science fiction icon RAY BRADBURY.

With the world premiere finally in sight, Zicree can breathe a sigh of relief at having finished his first directorial effort (after over 100 script sales as a writer-producer). Mentors who advised him included such esteemed directors as GUILLERMO DEL TORO (PAN'S LABYRINTH), MICHAEL NANKIN (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) and ROXANN DAWSON (HEROES). "But the best advice I got was from J.J. Abrams, who said, 'Pretend you know what you're doing!'"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Introducing ******

Coverage, Ink is proud to announce an association with the coolest new service for writers we’ve seen in a long while —

Founded by an anonymous industry insider, gives writers an unprecedented peek behind the curtain at a real, live industry tracking board. Tracking boards are the means by which the biz keeps tabs on spec scripts and assignments, who’s buying what, who’s looking for what, what’s hot and what’s not. When material goes out to town for consideration, the development network kicks in, and the status of your project—and everyone’s opinions of it—are tracked. (See article on this below--"On the Right Track".) is the #1 interactive online Hollywood tracking board — a place where film and television executives share and discuss new literary properties hitting the market, the latest hires and fires, hot spec sales, and other insider industry news. The site draws the tastemakers and buzzmakers of the entertainment community: A-list screenwriters, directors, and producers, top agents, managers, and execs from the major studios and production companies. Key information is exchanged. Connections are established. Projects are tracked as they heat up or cool down. And deals are made.

Now you guys can see how this info can be useful, right? Knowledge is power, and trackingb lets you be a fly on the wall to the industry — talk about the inside skinny! Industry-savvy writers have been jonesing for just such behind-the-scenes intel for a long time.

When you join, you’ll join up on the same board as the William Morris Agency, heads of studios, major prodcos and management companies. Regularly $69 per year, we’ve arranged a special discounted rate of only **$59** for friends of Coverage Ink/Writers on the Storm.

Go to and spend a few minutes exploring, and you’ll begin to get the idea just how cool this is. Then click HERE to subscribe at the discounted price.

We are very pleased to be able to offer this to you guys. Check it out! – the industry’s online network.

On the Right Track

What the hell is script tracking and why is it important in your life? You got questions, we got hamsters.

By Jim Cirile

"When you send out a spec, you're pushing a rock uphill anyway. But when the tracking boards (kick in), that rock gets a lot heavier." -- Manager/producer Graham Kaye

Try this on for size: you've just successfully landed your first agent, who is preparing to "go out wide" with your script in order to "introduce you to the town." The agent messengers your script to 35 or so creative executives, all of whom gladly read your script with no predisposition one way or another. Within a day or two, several companies have expressed interest, and your agent is gleefully assigning territories (coordinating which buyers the interested prodcos may present your script to.) You've got a decent chance that the script will sell.

Nice scenario, right?

Now, try this variation: your agent and/or manager are preparing to "go out wide" with your script to introduce you to the town. The agent puts out the word by calling the targeted companies' creative execs (also known as CE's.) The CE's spread the info via phone networking and "the boards;" before long, everyone in town knows your script is hitting the streets soon. Further, many companies who were not on the agent's "send" list see it on the boards and are calling him, begging for a copy. Suddenly, 50 companies are getting your script, not 35. Terrific!

The momentous day comes; your script goes out. Some producers tell their assistants to "drop everything and read this now." Within hours, your script is "covered," and feedback hits the tracking boards. Unfortunately, the first comments are not stellar. By afternoon, your opus has racked up a handful of passes. Over at BigSpecProdco, their CE tells her VP, who was planning on reading your script at home that night, that everybody's passing on it. Delighted to have some extra time that night with Sportscenter, VP doesn't take the script home, and instead tells his assistant to get it covered. By noon the next day, 75% of the companies have passed, which means, your heat has completely vaporized. Even though you're technically still alive, you're already dead.

Thus goeth tracking.

Just what is this mysterious thing called "tracking?" For production companies, it's a vital communications network; an immediate and effective way for them to exchange intelligence and keep up-to-date on the latest developments in the literary marketplace. And as illustrated in the above example, for agents, tracking can be both a useful tool for whipping up hype, and a dreaded obstacle.


Trackers are generally assistants and junior creative executives whose job descriptions specifically include keeping their ears to the ground for new literary material. This is accomplished by monitoring "tracking boards" -- private bulletin boards used by the industry -- and by heavy phone networking amongst their peers.

"The best way to think of it is like a big game of telephone," says Marc Platt Productions' Greg Lessans, who was known throughout the biz as an extraordinary tracker in his early tenure at the company, before handing off the reins to a younger exec. "It's the process of sharing information between a lot of different executives and companies. It's people talking to each other and saying, 'What are you reading? What should I be reading?, What's good, and what's not?' And all that information is shared both over the internet and over phone lines." ICM’s Emile Gladstone says, "Junior executives are very important to any writer's career. They will take more chances, they're more excitable; they still have to put feathers in their cap." Gladstone feels that utilizing the network of CE's is critical to building hype on a project, and for establishing a fan base for a new writer.

ICM's Nicole Clemens relates an instance where she used the tracking network to her favor: "There was this “LA Times” article that ran, and we did not control (it) at that moment in time, but we were in the process of controlling it. I put a writer on it who had a take, then immediately called up a couple of key tracking people and gave them the information. Literally within five minutes, the entire town knew that we controlled the article, and a desirable writer was attached. That triggered an offer from a studio, having not even heard the pitch. That's a perfect example of (using tracking to your advantage.) I needed to essentially mark my territory; it would have taken me four days to call everybody."

Quattro Media’s Jim Strader agrees that tracking can be a valuable tool for managers like himself. "We're setting up a movie based on a videogame called 'Toxic Grind.' And for kicks, on this one public board, I spammed the whole group about the project. And it's like 70 people. Most of them are industry, young people -- assistants, junior CE's -- who have their finger on up and comers, and people you should be aware of. You like to make sure these young people are supportive, so you can build a foundation. You try to get them excited. Well, I heard back from all these young assistants -- for three days, it was this constant flow of e-mails -- and even people who were not on this list, saying, 'so and so sent me this,' and they're listing all these writers and people I should know. That was very cool."


And now for the horror stories. Why is it that some people view the tracking system negatively? "Cockroaches," was the succinct description of trackers from one agent who asked not to be identified. Clemens fills us in: "It can kill you if your script gets out there and someone says, 'it sucks.' You're just screwed," she says. In fact, a few negative comments about the script can spread like wildfire, courtesy of the tracking boards. All that hype which is critical to selling your script vanishes, and some executives -- if they ever read the script at all -- may only do so begrudgingly. Strader tells us about an agent he knew who got sandbagged by bad coverage on a tracking board, which tainted the script before most of the production companies could even read it. "This (reader) hated it, trashed the shit out of it. Amazingly, (the agent) ended up selling it anyway. But I remember we talked about it, and it was this huge thorn in his ass. How the hell (was) he going to pull this one out, when publicly, on a board somewhere, there's this disastrous coverage for everyone to see?"

"Frankly, I wish (tracking) would go away," muses producer/manager Graham Kaye. "That's the honest-to-God truth. What you're usually dealing with are people that don't have the experience, or are not qualified at the level that (agents and executives are.) And so for them to throw out their random opinion, or to repeat negative coverage that maybe one studio gave -- although another one may think it's great -- can be disastrous. Then all of a sudden you get responses from people saying, 'I heard it was a pass,' or, 'I heard it wasn't good,' and (they) don't take the time to read it. When you send out a spec, you're pushing a rock uphill anyway. But when the tracking boards (kick in), that rock gets a lot heavier."

But Lessans feels that the only real way to formulate an opinion on a piece of material is to read it yourself. "A valid argument can be made that anything that impedes that buzz and momentum could be hurting that script's chances of selling," Lessans observes. "But I would argue that that has never happened to a truly good script. Good material rises to the top. It doesn't matter if I read on a board somewhere that so-and-so's script was terrible, I'm going to give it a read myself, and so are other people, and if it's worthwhile, it'll eventually overcome (the negative feedback) that some shmoe put up on a board. If it's not, then that (reader or CE) who may have been having a bad day, who may have been vindictive, is probably on some level speaking the truth. And that's why I think that a lot of times people may use tracking as some kind of scapegoat. (They say,) 'My script didn't sell because so-and-so bad mouthed it on a board,' or what-not, but in the end, your script didn't sell because of the quality of the script," Lessans notes.

But just like a game of Telephone, Lessans cautions that any information you acquire through tracking can be inaccurate. "By the time a piece of information reaches me, it may have passed through ten different executives at ten different companies, who wrote it down wrong, who got the writer wrong a lot of times you'll hear about something through tracking and it's not even real. Tracking is the least reliable source of information in this town. Even the stuff that comes over the internet, for better or worse, is mostly orally transferred, and everybody gets the facts wrong. The only way to get accurate information is to call the agent and say, 'Is this real?'"


One odd aspect of the tracking process is that companies who are essentially competing against each other are sharing critical intelligence. "Which is generally why the best material doesn't track," says Lessans. "If an agent calls me up and says, 'I have a fantastic piece of material, don't tell anybody about it,' well, I'm not going to tell anybody about it! Why would I? I'm going to read it, I'm not going to share."

"Knowing who shares tracking is important," says Gladstone, "'cause you don't tell one person something, and tell another person something else. You try to find out who's on which board... you do a lot of recon," he says. Lessans elaborates, "Generally on each board you may have one or two companies at each studio. The idea being, you don't want to be on the same board as your competition." Strader adds, "The people that track, for example at Davis (Entertainment), they're tracking for a specific exec, as opposed to tracking for everybody. Everybody competes side by side for stuff, and they don't really work together. It's very fiefdom-like." So then why is information shared at all? Strader postulates, "People stay in jobs 6 months to a year and a half. Generally, there's not a lot of upward mobility in a lot of these companies. You have to move laterally to move up. So at the end of the day, the only thing CE's really have is the support of their peers, and it's those peers that are going to help them get their next job. Really, it's cultivating a close circle of people who are willing to work with you in the future."


"Tracking is one of the more overrated systems in this town," says Lessans. "I'm just not sure that it ultimately either helps or hurts the material. I get calls very often from agents, asking me to track their scripts, because it brings a lot of attention... For example, after I've passed on a script, an agent may say, 'Please don't track your opinion, don't tell other people what you thought of the script.' That's something I respect, because what they don't want is for me to tell a friend I
didn't like it, and for my friend to not give it a serious read. I understand that." But Lessans -- leading by example -- isn't swayed by someone else's opinion, one way or another. "This is a town where the most valuable thing anybody has is their own personal opinion. So, I think the effective executives out there are going to read it anyway. That's why I say that tracking is over-rated. Doesn't matter what my friend says. I'm going to read it and decide for myself."

Graham Kaye is glad there are stand-up execs like Lessans out there, but knows that there are a few who are not. "In a business that's so incredibly creative, we wish that more people would form their own opinion. I mean, a perfect example is 'Forrest Gump,' which took ten years (to get set up.) Or 'Splash,' which nobody would buy because Brian Grazer didn't have a name yet. (But) it's an agent and a manager's
job to select executives who have their own voice, and really will read the material, and they have a track record (which shows) they won't listen to anybody's opinion but their own."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Interview with WOTS Winner Matthew Scarsbrook

Matthew Scarsbrook's excellent script EXIT MARLOWE recently won the big prize in our Writers on the Storm contest. This interview courtesy of our pals at MovieBytes. Thanks, Frederick!


MovieBytes Interview: Screenwriter Matthew Scarsbrook

An interview with screenwriter Matthew Scarsbrook regarding the
Writers On The Storm Writing Competition.

Q: What's the title of the script you entered in this contest,
and what's it about?

A: Title: 'Exit Marlowe'

My story is set in the Elizabethan Era and is based on the life
of Christopher Marlowe ...

1593, Elizabethan England: In a turbulent time of wars, famine,
and religious persecution, Christopher Marlowe struggles to
balance his life as England's most popular playwright with his
duties as a government spy.

Suddenly, when he falls under suspicion of atheism, Marlowe fears
his many powerful enemies have launched a conspiracy to have him

With only a few days to clear his name, he quickly enlists the
aid of a young William Shakespeare – one of the few friends he
can still trust. Together, they race through Marlowe's tangled
life of crime, espionage, and noble connections to expose the
conspiracy and save him from the hangman's noose.

But will anything save a man as troubled as Marlowe?

Q: What made you enter this particular contest? Have you entered
any other contests with this script? If so, how did you do?

A: Although Writers On The Storm offers a generous list of
prizes, I mainly entered the competition because of the exposure
it offered my work around Hollywood. They have a very tempting
list of managers, agents, and production executives who will read
the winning script. In my mind, if a contest doesn’t promote its
scripts around Hollywood, there’s no real point in entering it.

‘Exit Marlowe’ has also placed in a number of other competitions:
Finalist – Writemovies International Screenwriting Contest (2007)

Semifinalist – Scriptapalooza (2007), PAGE International
Screenwriting Awards (2007), and the Tennessee Screenwriting
Association Contest (2007) Quarterfinalist – Nicholl Fellowships
(2006) and the Bluecat Screenplay Competition (2007)

Q: Were you satisfied with the adminstration of the contest? Did
they meet their deadlines? Did you receive all the awards that
were promised?

A: It’s a very professionally run competition. I was always
emailed the results at every stage, and when I won first place
the contest organizer, Jim Cirile, phoned me specially to tell me
the exciting news.

The competition met most of its deadlines and quickly announced
new deadlines when they were a few days behind schedule. As long
as screenplay contests tell you when they have changed the
deadline, I don’t mind – it’s the competitions who don’t keep you
in the loop that I dislike.

Q: Were you given any feedback on your script? If so, did you
find the feedback helpful?

A: The competition offers a basic level of feedback to everyone
who enters. They send you an email with how your script scores in
categories like Structure, Dialogue, Story, and Originality, etc.
However, the contest reader also provides his/her brief comments
on the Strengths/Weakness of the script and also makes various
suggestions for improvement.

Overall, although it’s only short a critique, I found the
feedback to be a positive feature: it offered the views of an
experienced reader who had actually read the script (it’s easy to
tell when they don’t) and it gave me one or two useful points on
how to strengthen the story.

Q: Has your success in this contest helped you market your
script? Were you contacted by any agents, managers or producers?

A: It’s too early to tell yet… but Writers On The Storm have a
long list of contacts in the movie industry. Many of the names
are impressive and I’m confident that I will get at least some
contacts or meetings (as did the scripts who made it to the Top
Ten last year).

Q: What's your background? Have you written any other screenplays
or television scripts?

A: I have just graduated from Cal State Northridge with a Masters
Degree in Screenwriting. Apart from screenwriting itself, I am
also a novelist: I write my stories into both scripts and novels
and I have just completed ‘Exit Marlowe’ as a novel.

I have three other scripts written as part of my Masters Degree,
including an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s classic novel
‘Of Human Bondage’ (this script has also placed in many

Currently, all my work is historical in genre: history is rich
with interesting characters and stories that stimulate the
imagination. I believe Hollywood has yet to really tap the
potential life and excitement of this genre.

Q: Do you live in Los Angeles? If not, do you have any plans to
move there?

A: Thankfully, I live in Santa Barbara, California which is only
a two-hour drive from LA. Thus, I can still attend meetings in
the city without actually having to live in all the smog, etc.

Q: What's next? Are you working on a new script?

A: Next, I plan to sell ‘Exit Marlowe’ the novel. I have a
literary agent in New York who represents many bestselling
authors and she will soon start submitting the manuscript to
publishers. Fingers crossed!

As for screenplays, I have another story in the works about the
life of Lord Nelson that I will turn into my next script and

Anyone interested can learn more about me and my work at my

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