Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seriously, How Do I Get a Damn Agent? Or Manager?

Ah yes, the question we are asked several times a day. No, it's not impossible. You CAN get representation. You just have to go about it the right way. And you have to make sure that your material is absolutely fricking bulletproof before you waste anyone's time. That's the hardest lesson, because all of us, myself included, are impatient. We finish a draft and, excited from the rush, assume it's great. So fire off a blast of queries and we send out our new masterpiece to all our industry connex... and only THEN do we find out what's wrong with them (after the door hits us on the ass on the way out. Pass!)

That's one of the reasons I started CI, to try to prevent this from happening to you guys and me, too. Still, it is insanely hard to resist the urge to simply send something out right away. Getting feedback and doing notes is HARD, it's time-consuming and a general pain in the ass. far better to be blissfully ignorant and just assume the script is great!

Anyway, we've posted two of our most popular articles: SERIOUSLY, HOW DO I GET A DAMN AGENT? and SERIOUSLY, HOW DO I GET A DAMN MANAGER on Check 'em out! The top agents and managers in the biz tell you how to get their attention. Listen up, brothers and sisters! And if you haven't checked out Talentville yet, you should. It's a new screenwriting community from Final Draft creator Ben Cahan. We'll be interviewing Ben soon to find out all about Talentville, which looks to be sort of a combo of Trigger Street, Zoetrope and InkTip but with a few extra dollops of coolness. In the meantime, browse around and see for yourself. It hasn't officially launched yet (still in Beta,) but it looks pretty good, and the concept is interesting indeed.

--Jim C.

Friday, October 21, 2011


NWE manager Mike Goldberg

Well, damn if it ain't good times in Hollywood for writers once again. According to It's On The Grid, the crap spec marketplace of the last few years is, at long last, gone. It's downright vibrant out there once again! After what amounted to a 5-year break, the buyers are at long last gobbling up original material.

This is not only great news for writers but frankly for the state of movies, which could use an injection of freshness to be sure. WME leads the pack with 13 sales (so far) this year. But the others are not far behind, with CAA racking up 12, UTA with 11 and ICM 10. Just today, Fox gobbled up THE MOUNTAIN by Helen Childress, a sophisticated horror spec; Ben Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld are producing.

On the management company side, New Wave Entertainment is throwing heat with a staggering 7 sales so far for 2011. This is especially gratifying to me, because I am a client. It's on the Grid's Jason Scoggins calls NWE lit managers  Mike Goldberg and Josh Adler "the manager equivalent of (WME power agent) Mike Esola." Hot damn, boys! My hat is doffed.

Best part: the year isn't over yet. So get those scripts shined up and spiffy, because now is the time! An up market means people are going to be more receptive to spec material and to launching new writers. Do the hard work and then go for it!

Jim C.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


It is with enormous pride that we announce that our client Paul Moxham, hailing from lovely Monbulk, Victoria, Australia, has won the Gold Prize in the Action/Adventure category of the 2011 Page Awards!

Almost two years ago, Paul came to us with this concept, and we loved it. We gave him notes over a period of a year and many drafts, and he hung in there doing more drafts than anyone should ever have to do. But the last draft pushed it over the top, taking him from a semi-finalist in last year's Page Awards to a Gold Award in this year's.

"I just found out and I couldn't be happier," says Paul. "I want to thank you and AP for helping me with the script and thank you for the hard work. I couldn't have made the script as good as it is if it weren't for him." You're welcome, Paul, and it couldn't happen to a nice guy! We knew this one was a winner when we first set eyes on it (it was a Writers on the Storm honorable mention last year as well.) But a little elbow grease makes all the difference, huh? Paul could have rested on his laurels, but he knew that it could be better. So he knuckled down and did it.


Friday, October 14, 2011

New Column, New Magazine

Boy, when one door closes, another one (or three) really does open. As you all know by now, our beloved Creative Screenwriting magazine may not be with us any longer (at least in print format... we'll see what happens), but you can be damn sure I will continue to bring you the inside skinny from the top literary reps in the biz.

To that end, I am happy to announce that beginning next month, Jim Cirile's Rep Report will begin in the new online magazine Hollywood & Vine. H&V is a slick, fun and breezy new magazine all about breaking in and the Hollywood lifestyle. I'll be talking with agents and managers about what they're looking for (and what they're not.)

And there are more things coming soon, which I'll fill you all in on when they're a little closer to prime-time. So for all you guys who've written saying you're going to miss Agent's Hot Sheet... yeah, trust me, we're good :) Oh, and you guys have noticed to dozens of Agent's Hot Sheet columns right here on this blog, right? Dig a bit and you will find a treasure trove of intel.

Now stop procrastinating and get back to writing.

Jim C.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Without further ado, we proudly present our Top 50 (semifinalists.) You guys are the elites, the best of the best. At least until we name our top ten, that is! Which will be right around Halloween. Nice work, all!

If you're not on this list, we sympathize, but just keep in mind there were many scripts on the cusp. We had to draw the line somewhere. Please note that these numbers are not rankings; the list below is in alphabetical order. And if you're wondering where your feedback form is, they started going out last week and will continue all this week (it takes us a while to get them all out -- we have to send each one individually.)

Thanks again to everyone who participated, and remember, we are here to help.

Jim Cirile

  1. 33 Yarrows Way by Christopher Morrison
  2. A Ship Through Fire by John Miller
  3. Am by C.N. Bean
  4. Atom & Eve by Hank Isaac
  5. Blesse (Wounded) by Bob Canning
  6. Bring Me Back by Alexis Lane
  7. Bush League by Steven Shank
  8. Caprivi by Peter Dewhirst
  9. Captive by John Burch
  10. Crusade by Kristen M. Mozaffari
  11. Dead by Thursday by Anthony DellaFlora
  12. Dead Walker by Josh Flanagan
  13. Death Wind by Travis Heermann
  14. Erin’s Voice by Greg Sullivan
  15. Faithful by Dennis Luu
  16. False Sense by Craig Cambria
  17. Getaway, Inc. by Andy Maycock
  18. Happy Trails by Michael Rhodes
  19. Heart of the Family by Sharon Duncan
  20. Hill of Souls by Jennifer Hahn
  21. Hold the Reins by Tracee Beebe
  22. Imprinted by Alison McMahan
  23. Insatiable by Michael D. Morra
  24. Invasive Species by Patricia Semler & J. Russell Prine
  25. Lulu by Samuel Bernstein
  26. Male Order Bride by Charles Mitri
  27. Marlowe by Louise Ransil
  28. Messenger by Tim Tyler
  29. Muffled Screams by David Kaneen
  30. Murdered by Dennis Luu
  31. Night Watch by David Taylor
  32. O Golden Boy by John Bain
  33. Paige & Hadley’s Prom From Hell by Devi Snively & Circus-Szalewski
  34. Paladin by Jared Kennedy
  35. Private Storage by Jared Kennedy
  36. Rage by Mike Davidson
  37. Roachtown by Cillian Daly
  38. Second Glance by Sue Morris
  39. Shed by Dennis Widmeyer and Kevin Kolsch
  40. Silence by John Edward Flynt 
  41. Spoiled Rotten by Cynthia Sieber
  42. Student Council by Tony Cohen
  43. The Beneath by T.J. Cimfel
  44. The Book of Malachy by Colin Elves
  45. The Boy on the Cover by Elizabeth Savage Sullivan
  46. The Heckler by Jery B. Rowan
  47. The Nativity Knockoff  by Jason Hellerman
  48. The Spider’s Web by Valerie Nordstrom
  49. The Ticking Jury by Mike Donald
  50. The Touch by Naomi Lamont
  51. The Warriors of Westgate by Michael R. Harriel
  52. Third by Sean McKee
  53. Wright or Wrong by Glenn Sanders & Brook Elms

See our newsletter right below!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Coverage Ink/Writers on the Storm Newsletter 10-11

1) Intro Letter and Shorties
2) Agent's Hot Sheet - Back in Black
3) Test Your Screenwriting IQ with Steve Kaire
4) On Creative Screenwriting

Hi folks,

My screenwriting brethren,

We've got a pretty jam-packed newsletter here full of good news -- and one big piece of kind of sucky news. By now many of you have heard about Creative Screenwriting. We broke the news earlier in the week that the magazine is ceasing publication and the enterprise may be on the ropes (read the full story right here.)

This is a blow to the screenwriting community, and it may be a while before we know the full ramifications. Regardless of anything, Creative Screenwriting has been a damn good magazine for over a decade, rich with content and assembled by people who actually gave a crap, and their Expos and contests, while perhaps flawed, challenged and engaged and launched careers. Let's hope they somehow pull this one out of the fire and continue on in some way, shape or form.

It was my privilege to write the Agent's Hot Sheet column for CS for the last decade; one way or another, I'll find a way to keep bringing all of you the inside skinny direct from the top lit representatives in town. And certainly new media will step up to fill the void. Former Script magazine West Coast editor Josh Stecker is launching a new online writing magazine/community which will also feature a free screening series. It's called The Script Reporter, and Coverage Ink is pleased to be a part of this new enterprise. We'll let you know as soon as it's ready for lift-off.

Oh, and I did mention good news. Our CI team and clients have had a crazy amount of success lately. You'll see we really do back up our "The Industry Experts" slogan. On top of that, the spec market is back with a vengeance, so we're launching a huge-ass sale so all of you can get out there and make it happen. All this plus the latest in Steve Kaire's excellent Test Your Screenwriting IQ series, Agent's Hot Sheet explains how the Black List works, and way more, all hurtling at you right about now-ish.

Jim Cirile
Coverage Ink
Writers on the Storm


P.S. See the Writers on the Storm quarterfinalists right here. Semifinalists dropping imminently! Feedback forms are being sent out now (this will take about a week or so to get them all out). If you do not receive your feedback by 10/15, please email us. (Coverage Ink clients who entered the contest through CI received long-form coverage and do not get the contest feedback unless they resubmitted a new draft directly to the contest.)



WRITERS ON THE STORM QUARTERFINALISTS. We announced the Writers on the Storm QF's last week (if you missed it, click here to see them.) The top 50, otherwise known as our semi-finalists, will be announced right here within the next few days.

THE SPEC MARKET KICKING ASS. Man, this is a great headline to write. According to the Scoggins Report, 2011 is the best year for spec sales since 2007-2008.  Warner Bros. has bought 11 specs so far this year, up from its industry-leading 9 last year. And while DreamWorks has said they're done with buying for the year, the recent executive shuffle over there could change that picture in a hurry. After years of discussing the decline of the spec market in our Agent's Hot Sheet column in Creative Screenwriting, it is exhilarating to report that things have turned around. In fact, savvy readers may have noticed that our panelists Mike Goldberg from New Wave Entertainment and Emile Gladstone from WME called it a year ago, both predicting a big 2011 sales uptick (based on the studios having nothing on their slates for 2014-2015.) So if you've been feeling dispirited about the chances of breaking in of late (and who hasn't?) here's a whole bunch of happy for ya! (And don't forget to take advantage of our sale below to get your specs polished up and ready to rock.)

TRACKING B FINAL DEADLINE. We run our own contest of course, Writers on the Storm. Yet we have to give a hat-tip to our buddy The Insider and his amazing Tracking B Screenwriting Contest. Their final deadline is charging in fast (October 30th,) and if you enter no other contests this year, you should enter this one. Why? Because Tracking B is the most expensive contest around ($85 for "really late entry") and it offers no prizes per se. Wait, huh, wha'? Okay, we'd better explain.  See, it's worth it, because Tracking B is the ONLY contest around that gets their winners signed, promoted and produced regularly. Last year's finalist John Swetnam got signed thanks to Tracking B; his movie EVIDENCE just wrapped production. The amazing thing is, he's the rule, not the exception. And lest you think it's too pricey, if you submit two scripts you get a free 1-year subscription to, the real-life industry tracking board (a $79 value.) Head on over to and investigate for yourself.

O'Hare celebrates.
LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE FOR CI ANALYST. The string of good luck continues for both CI and for our analyst Kevin O'Hare, who has for the second time sold a TV pilot to Universal. "Just got an offer yesterday for another one of my spec TV pilots," says O'Hare. "Still in shock because it literally happened in two weeks. Just signed with ICM last month, they asked for any work I had laying around, and it just so happened I had another pilot no one had seen (very 'Lost') - they loved it, got a producer to take it into Universal because they bought that other pilot of mine, and sure enough Universal put in an offer to take it off the table." The deal also earned O'Hare enough points to get into the WGA. You rock, man! By the way, TV (and feature) writers, O'Hare is still available for coverage. Submit online at and just put "I'd like reader KO, please!" in the comments box. (See "Sale!" below.)

BACK IN PRINT. Last year we bemoaned the loss of The Hollywood Reporter's daily print edition. We tried to like the new weekly magazine format. We really did. And truth be told, it's slick, well-done bathroom reading. But it's not like the old THR, chock full of reviews and obits and minutiae; it's now more glammed out and superficial, in our opinion. And their daily email? We never even bother to read those. Another e-mail--who cares? Well, one of our staffers had a radical notion a few weeks back, and she went and subscribed us to Variety. Glory, glory, hallelujah. In-depth, daily entertainment news, on paper, is once again arriving at the CI offices. And, brothers and sisters, that is a beautiful thing. If, like us, you've grown dispirited over THR, give Variety a chance. You'll be very glad you did. Yeah, sorry, THR. You kinda suck.

COLLEEN'S GOT THE EYE OF THE TIGER. Our client Colleen Houck, who consulted with us on her entire book series, has optioned the film rights to her New York Times bestselling teen novel “Tiger’s Curse." Ineffable Pictures grabbed up the rights, and they aim to start production on the film within two years. This is especially gratifying to us here at CI, because one of the main areas we consulted on was in making the material as cinema-ready as possible. "Tiger's Curse" is the first of five planned novels following 17-year-old Kelsey Hayes as she tries to break a 300-year-old Indian curse that has turned a prince into a white tiger. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ineffable Pictures founder, Emmy-nominated producer Raphael Kryszek, says he read the book at the urging of his 11-year-old cousin. Way to go, Colleen! Visit the book's website right here.

LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE FOR ANOTHER CI ANALYST. CI Senior Story Analyst (and "Liberator" director) Aaron Pope has been busy on the for-hire writing front, recently landing assignment work on horror flick CROPSY for director Tom Holland ("Fright Night") and the family comedy I MISSED THE BUS for Vendetta Filmworks. Both are slated for principal photography in early 2012. In addition, Pope has other projects percolating at big prodcos all over town. And yes, he is still available for coverage as well! Just ask for AP when you submit. And speaking of "Liberator"...
Lou Ferrigno returns to superheroics in "Liberator." Photo by Russell Griffin.
OPERATION: LIBERATION CONTINUES. Coverage Ink's latest production LIBERATOR finished reshoots and pickup days in September, and the stuff looks fabulous. We were fortunate enough to have a stunningly successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign, raising $24,650 (our goal was $18,000.) We funnelled that money right back into the production, and we were finally able to get the shots we always wanted (which we did not have the time or money to shoot during the main shoot in June.) Liberator stars Lou Ferrigno as a disgraced, former superhero whose secret black ops past comes back to haunt him. The film also stars Michael Dorn (Star Trek: the Next Generation,) Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita) and Ed Asner (Up). Watch some behind the scenes footage right here, then "like" us on facebook! And if you want to find out all about Liberator, listen to Director Aaron Pope and Executive Producer Jim Cirile talk about the film on the podcast SciFi Diner right here.

CI POST-CONTEST SALE! With the spec market on a tear, it's time for all of us to get a piece of the action. It's our first sale since launching Writers on the Storm in the spring, and we're making it up to you guys in a big way: 20% OFF ANY SCRIPT SUBMISSION. Just submit your script to CI for analysis and use this discount code in the text box: CINEWSLETTER20. Hurry, sale ends 10/31!

"Hannah's Law" writer John Fasano
THE WESTERN IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE WESTERN. The old west has had a tough time of it lately at the US box office; while most of us love a good oater, they're unwanted as spec scripts. But the genre thrives on the small screen -- specifically on the Hallmark Channel, which has been blessing us with an avalanche of original, high-quality western telefilms and miniseries. Their latest flick is Hannah's Law, directed by Rachel Talalay (Freddy's Dead) and written by Coverage Ink's good pal John Fasano (Tombstone.) The film stars Sara Canning (Vampire Diaries,) as a strong-willed forntier gal who corrals Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp to help her town take a stand for justice. Hannah's Law also stars Billy Zane and and Danny Glover. The film is shooting in Canada and will air on the Hallmark Channel in 2012. Way to go, JF!

Anjali Patil in "Delhi in a Day"
FOXY. The hit parade for CI analysts continues. This time it's Billy Fox, who did story work for Director Prashant Nair on the new feature film DELHI IN A DAY. The film is now screening at festivals and has its Indian premiere in Mumbai on October 14th. The cross-cultural dramedy is getting fantastic reviews and won Best Feature Film award at the Houston Indian Film Festival. Its next US screening is at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival 10/23. "CI was indeed instrumental," says Nair. "We are finally pitching to distributors in the coming weeks - goal is a small theatrical release in India, UAE and UK. So keep fingers crossed!" Nair has put together a mesmerizing little movie, and we are proud to have helped it to the big screen. Visit the film's website to see the trailer and sign up for the mailing list. 

Paul Moxham
CI CLIENT MAKES PAGE ACTION TOP 10. Hot young Australian writer Paul Moxham reports his script BLIZZARD, a Writers on the Storm honorable mention, has hit the top 10 of the Page Awards. Moxham's crackerjack writing landed him a manager earlier this year, and his scripts have placed highly in several contests. We have a soft spot for this little snowbound action/thriller about a man returning to his Montana hometown only to find his father--the Sheriff--has been kidnapped by the thugs he used to run with. We really hope this one cleans up. Show 'em how it's done, Paul.

Ever wanted to turn the tables on an exec at a pitch fest? We thought so.
WRITER WISH FULFILLMENT. Tell us if this sounds like a cool premise to you: at a screenwriters' pitch event, a vengeful writer turns the tables on an arrogant studio executive, ordering him at gunpoint to pitch a good story or die. As the clock ticks down, the exec gets a lesson in truthfulness and storytelling, but will he learn in time to save himself? Yeah, we thought you guys would dig that! That's the premise of Slamdance winner DEAD IN THE ROOM, a new short film burning up the festival circuit right now. "I got the idea for this after having attended a few pitch events myself," says writer Margie Kaptanoglu. "I just thought it might be interesting if an industry exec had to learn what it feels like to be 'under the gun' so to speak." DEAD IN THE ROOM screens next at the Red Rock Film Festival, Saturday, November 12th, at 2:30 pm in St. George, Utah. "Like" it on Facebook.

CI SCORES HOLY-CRAP!!!-HUGE NEW CLIENT. One last bit of amazing news for now. Coverage Ink recently landed our biggest client ever. This is a major production company with a a pipepline of huge studio movies. We really wish we could name names here. We would maybe make it our new slogan or something -- Coverage Ink, the script development service used by Holy Crap!!!-Huge Productions. Has a nice ring to it, huh? We've helped them with two projects so far -- an international best-seller we've all read, and an original period piece based on a true event.

Continue on to:

Agent's Hot Sheet - Back in Black
Test Your Screenwriting IQ with Steve Kaire
On Creative Screenwriting



The release of the Black List has become an annual event of importance for writers and their representatives. Agent’s Hot Sheet goes behind the curtain to find out what the list is and learn how someday you too might be in the ‘Black.’

Reprinted courtesy of Creative Screenwriting

By Jim Cirile
The Black List is out, and you all should read it ( Why? Because anyone who is anyone in Hollywood feature lit is either on it or wants desperately to be on it.

Overbrook executive Franklin Leonard
Compiled at the end of every year by Overbrook Entertainment exec Franklin Leonard, the Black List is a compendium of industry favorite scripts, voted on by over 290 executives. Each voter selects ten scripts; a script must be nominated a minimum of five times to make the list. They are then rated not by # 1, 2, 3, etc., but rather, by the number of votes it received. For example, this year's top-ranked screenplay "College Republicans," about young Karl Rove's first dirty political campaign, scored 49 (pretty remarkable for subject matter which is itself blacklisted from the US corporate media.) The list has become instrumental in building heat around a writer. In other words, making the list is kind of a big deal. “It’s something that a writer now, as a result of how big the Black List has become, can put on their résumé,” says FilmEngine’s Jake Wagner. “When I send out (a submission letter), you always mention if the script was featured on the Black List. It’s clout. There can be a herd mentality oftentimes, so it validates it for people that are maybe on the fence.”

One of the cool things about the list is that the only criteria for inclusion are that the script be good. So a raucous comedy like Jeff Bushell’s “Ricky Stinicky” can share the list with the real-life Abscam thriller “American Bullshit” as well as the touching music drama “Imagine.” No Oscar-type snobbery here. And many of the scripts on the Black List are overlooked or undiscovered gems (a Black List rule is that a film cannot be released in theaters in the same year its nominated.) Included on the 2010 list are big spec sales like Evan Daugherty’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” and Dante Harper's manga-based sci-fi actioner "All You Need is Kill."

But for writers whose script may have been well-liked but perhaps not gotten the traction it deserved, making the list represents a rare second chance. “I went out with a script called 'Kitchen Sink' by Oren Uziel, which everyone loved,” says Circle of Confusion manager Britton Rizzio. Logline: a vampire, a zombie and a human teen team up to save their town from alien invaders. “But it was a harder sell because it was a little left of center. People shied away from buying it even though it had all these fans. And then it ended up on the Black List. (Former Sony exec) Matt Tolmach took notice, read it over the break, and ended up acquiring it the first week we were back from the holidays.” Rizzio thinks Tolmach might have missed “Kitchen Sink” had it not made the list. “People go through that list and they say, okay, what should I be reading or what should I have read this year? I think that’s important.”

Leonard says that he never expected it to turn into such a big thing. “I would love to claim that I had the strategic vision at the time to know that there was an appetite for a thing such as this, but no,” chuckles Leonard, who coined the name in part as a reference to the original Hollywood Blacklist as well as a hat-tip to his ethnicity (he’s African-American.) “Initially, I was working at Leo DiCaprio’s company, Appian Way. My job was to identify and filter great material up the chain of command, and I hit a bad patch where I was reading a lot of stuff that I didn’t think was very strong. I was looking at the rest of my life and saying, one of two things is happening here -- either I’m not very good at my job, in which case that’s a problem, or reading bad scripts is going to be the dominant feature of my professional life, for the rest of my life, which didn’t really feel like a good option either.” So Leonard reached out to his industry friends. “I asked them to send me a list of up to ten of their favorite screenplays (from) the previous year, and in exchange I would send them back everybody’s list. I think the first year was maybe ninety voters, and I sort of combined it, slapped a vaguely subversive name on it, and went on vacation.”

Now six years later, the Black List has become, in a way, the Spec Script Awards. But it’s not just writers who benefit from inclusion on the list. “It shows up on, the tally vote,” says Wagner, “what agency had the most, which I believe was CAA, and what management company, which was Circle of Confusion. It brands them as tastemakers. Relationships and taste, that’s the game, you know?” ICM’s Ava Jamshidi, who had several projects on the 2010 list, agrees. “I had a number of attorneys and managers either congratulating me or saying, hey, it’s awesome you’re on the Black List, what business can we be doing together? It’s definitely nice, especially with a couple of these guys who are on the list this year. They’re really homegrown. You really invest in (your writers) and in their talents and their abilities, and it makes me happy to see them getting that attention. It’s validating for me to know that I put all my energy and belief into something that other people see the same qualities in.”

The Black List’s popularity has also spawned competing lists. “I’ve been lucky to have people on the list in the past,” says UTA’s Julien Thuan, in the Black this year for “The Escort” and “Keep Coming Back.”  “But I honestly have little sense of where the value stands, particularly with the proliferation of so many other lists like it.” So are other lists like the Hit List, the Brit List and the Blood List diluting the Black List’s impact? “I do read all the other lists because I am curious,” says Wagner. “I think there were four or five floating around this year. But the Black List is the Oscars, and the rest are like the American Music Awards.” Says Leonard, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I think some of them are noble in their intent and decent in their execution; others are less so on both counts. But ultimately what sets (the Black List) apart is the process by which the information is gathered, and the fact that at the end of the day, it really is all about the writers.”

I asked Leonard about how he felt about the perception that the list has become overrun as of late with material that has already been set up, versus in the past. “I think that’s actually untrue,” he says, pointing out that the very first Black List had Aaron Sorkin and David Benioff scripts in the top ten, both of which were already rolling towards production. “I think where that’s coming from is, you have certain people who are like, oh, well, I used to love this band, but now that they’re on the radio, I don’t like this band anymore -- the anti-bandwagon bandwagon. I think that’s been the cause of a lot of the backlash against the Black List.” He notes that the last two years’ number one scripts were written by writers who did not live in Los Angeles, and the projects had not been set up or have producers attached at the time of the list’s publication.

So the big question then is, how can we all get in the “Black”? Or should we even try? “I think you should aspire, because it really validates the writer as a great writing voice and separates them from the pack,” says Wagner. “(When) I start (reading) clients’ scripts, I think to myself, this could be on the Black List , or I think, eh, probably not. I kind of instill that in the writer early, like, hey, this is a potential Black List script -- people are really liking it, you’re going to get some votes. I think that fires writers up.” But Rizzio cautions, “I think that aspiring to it will drive you totally bonkers. There’s not a science to it. Because I’ve had some things on the Black List, people have said to me, oh, I think you’re fixing it or I think you’re rigging it. But I swear, I put it out there and it kind of has a life of its own. So, advice I have for writers is write what you’re passionate about and that will translate.”

Good luck, and hopefully someday we’ll see you, too, on the list.

Return to Newsletter

Test Your Screenwriting IQ with Steve Kaire


by Steve Kaire

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

True or False:

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

That’s true.

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

That is true.

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

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

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

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

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

That’s true.

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

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

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

This is true.

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

That’s true.

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

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

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

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

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


12. The title of your material is not important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s true.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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