Thursday, October 25, 2012

Coverage Ink/Writers on the Storm October Newsletter

October, 2012 Edition

1) The Impatient Screenwriter by Jim Cirile
2) Shorties - Screenwriting News, Tidbits and Disinformation
3) Should You Choose an Agent, Manager or Attorney? by Steve Kaire
4) Relationships, Relationships, Relationships -- Guest blog by Barri Evins

***NEWS FLASH: Writers on the Storm 2011 Winners Brooks Elms & Glenn Sanders have just signed with UTA!*** 


Hello, friends! I think it's high time we discuss... wait for it... patience, specifically as it applies to writers. No one talks about this, and yet it may be the single most important issue for us to comes to grip with. Specifically I mean: we writers don't freaking have any. And this lack of patience can often lead to us making bone-headed mistakes, over and over again.

Got brains?
There are two key ways in which lack of patience really screws us. The first and probably most important is in expectations. I was talking to a friend a few weeks back who complained that he had been in Los Angeles almost four years and still hadn't made any headway with his scripts. Four years. That seem like a long time to you? Really?

Let me put it to you like this: how many years should a professional athlete have to practice before making the bigs? Or how about an architect who designs state-of-the-art high-rises -- how about it, four years from beginning his studies to designing that building is plenty of time, right? (Hell, I ain't renting a suite in there.) Or how about the surgeon who's going to remove your appendix -- if she started studying medicine four years ago, then, brother, you'd best have a good probate attorney. And all those professionals are likely studying their field intensely, doing nothing else, for four, six, eight or more years. Screenwriting? Most of us allocate an hour or two a day maybe, read a couple articles, watch a movie. Please.

Why should writing be any easier to master than any other well-paid profession?

When you break in, you may be entrusted with a project with significant investment behind it as well as, potentially, the careers of a whole bucketload of individuals. You have to be able to prove you have a steady hand on the till. If you've written five scripts and have one time made the quarterfinals of the Karbunkle, Indiana, Writing Kompetition, I'm sorry to say but you probably are not there yet. Like any other field where you're being paid a decent wage, you'd best be insanely great at what you do. That means a solid educational pedigree, real dedication to your craft and being a student of the business.

Now I know what you're thinking -- Hollywood is not a meritocracy. If you're the roommate of a high-powered agent, that's good enough. Sadly, this is 100% correct. For those dudes, the rules don't really apply. I hate them. But nothing we can do about that. But for the REST of us, you have got to be the absolute most bad-ass shizzbombdigitty at what you do in order to stand out from everyone else. And that means lots of practice, lots of passes, lots of rewrites and frustration. In short it means: patience. It may take a decade. It may take TWO. But if you keep at it, eventually you should become great.

The other part of the equation is, since we are all impatient, we all make this same mistake time and again: sending out your damn script too freakin' early. Here's how it goes: You finish your first draft; you're psyched to get eyes on it. Of course you really only want to hear how awesome it is. So you fire it off to your friends and connex; but instead of "I love it! Don't change a word!," you get back... notes. Groan.

So here's what we do: we hit the notes -- well, the easy ones anyway -- and discard the ones that would require real work, such as the disappearance of your protagonist from pages 46 to 93. And then, satisfied the script is awesome, we contact our connex, send out queries, go to pitchfests, the usual routine. And then comes the deafening silence of never hearing back from anyone (the silent pass.) Maybe six months later you get some coverage or notes from a friend pointing out all the remaining problems in the script you never fixed, plus new ones created when you tried to fix the previous ones. Oh, crap.

And then on the next script, we repeat the whole damn ugly cycle. And the next. Because writing is HARD. It's a pain in the ass to do a million drafts. There are always more things to fix, and oftentimes our craft level is just not strong enough yet to really be able to nail those problems efficiently. And so eventually we pull the plug and say "it's ready!" and, you guessed it, we do the whole process all over again.

Next thing you know, it's four years later.

Solutions? Education is key, and if you're not taking writing classes somewhere, you should. They keep the creative juices flowing and will slowly up your game. Getting into a writing group, same thing. And of course, reading anything and everything you can about writing, getting smart feedback or coverage from people who know what they're doing, and dedicating real time to this craft -- all good. But ultimately the best thing I can tell you is... chill, my brothers and sisters. It may not happen on this script, or the next, or even the next. You have to find a way to be okay with that. As writers, we should have plenty of ideas, and when one project flames out, make sure you have another one already on the burner. Eventually it's gonna all really begin to click. All we need is just a little... wait for it... patience.


Much awesomeness for you all in this month's newsletter, including Steve Kaire as usual and a terrific guest blog from our pal the amazing Barri Evins. All coming at you right about now.

Onward and downward!

Jim Cirile
Coverage Ink
Writers on the Storm

Continue on to SHORTIES - Screenwriting News, Tidbits & Disinformation below.

SHORTIES - Screenwriting News, Tidbits and Disinformation


THE LIBERATION IS UNDERWAY. Coverage Ink's new short film LIBERATOR is Hulk-raging to a festival or comic-con near you (this weekend: Wizard World Comic-Con Austin.) LIBERATOR stars Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) as a washed-up ex-superhero trying to get his life back on the rails, and features an all-star geek cast: Peta Wilson (La Femme Nikita), Michael Dorn (better known as Worf, son of Mogh), Don "The Dragon" Wilson (Bloodfist) and the legendary Ed Asner (Up) as President Whitlock. Directed and co-written by Aaron Pope and exec produced and co-written by Jim Cirile, the film recently screened at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo to enthusiastic crowds. It blew us away when producer Tom DeSanto implored the audience to take to the social media and do everything they could to help promote LIBERATOR. Almost as cool as Stan Lee interviewing Lou about LIBERATOR on Cocktails With Stan. Please like Liberator on Facebook to find out when and where the next screening will be.

WRITERS ON THE STORM EARLY DEADLINE COMING FAST 10/29.  Whoa, is it really the WOTS early deadline? Heck yeah, and this is your last chance to get in cheap. As of 10/30 the early entry period ends and the price goes up. Writers on the Storm is our own big-money, big opportunity contest ($25K cash and prizes, including a $10K first prize for features and $2.5K first prize for TV pilots.) Plus we've got some really killer, unique prizes this year -- fancy a meeting with the producer of the upcoming sci-fi tent pole Ender's Game (starring Harrison Ford)? Or with staff writers from Sons of Anarchy and Burn Notice, or with the Co-Executive Producer from How I Met Your Mother? We got all that and way more. And entry into Writers on the Storm is FREE with any screenplay submission to during the contest. Jump on this now!

TRACKING B - LAST CHANCE TO ENTER. One of the few contests out there worth the money is the Tracking B feature film screenplay contest. This revolutionary contest offers no prize money or prizes. Seriously. They merely offer insane levels of access. See, Tracking B is an industry tracking board with a pretty bad-ass selection of industry heavyweights as judges. More often than not they get people signed and launch careers. The final deadline is Sunday 10/28, so get in before it's too late. And every writer who submits two scripts scores a complimentary 1-year subscription to Tracking ($89 value.) Enter now at

DID YOU WATCH THE DEBATE? No, not the one where the two military industrial complex-owned candidates bragged about how much they plan to drill, kill and further increase the bloated "defense" budget. No, I'm talking about the third party candidate debate, hosted by Larry King. These four excellent candidates -- Green Party's Jill Stein, Justice Party's Rocky Anderson, Constitution Party's Virgil Goode and Libertarian Gary Johnson, may not have a chance of winning in 2012, but here's hoping that changes sometime soon or we are in deep doo-doo. Over 90 million people say the country is heading in the wrong direction and identify themselves as independents. Check out what the third partiers have to say -- you won't regret it.

HORRIBLE SING-ALONG. Looking for a fun vaguely-related Halloween event in Hollywood 10/27? Why not check out the big-screen bouncing-ball sing-along version of Joss Whedon's 2008 camp musical epic Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog? Includes episodes of Dr. Horrible star Felicia Day's The Guild and Husbands. It's all a benefit for Best Friends Animal Society (bring canned food for the food drive as well.) There are a whole passel of announced guests, and it's a pretty safe bet that Joss Whedon and some of the cast (Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day) will be there as well. More info and tix on 

MIDWAY THROUGH THE FALL SPEC SEASON... Every year, a glut of new material hits the market in September/October, one of the times when the industry is traditionally fully engaged and not in summer vacation/Sundance/Toronto/holiday mode. In other words, there's a 2-month window that occurs twice a year when specs flood the market--right after Sundance, and right after Labor Day. Last year's numbers were pretty fantastic, with 20 specs selling (out of 53 that went out) in October 2011. This year the numbers aren't quite as strong, with only two specs selling so far this month -- but the market remains hungry, the doom n' gloom from a few years ago (when no one was buying jack squat) at least temporarily abated. In short, all is well, but as usual the bull's-eye continues to shrink. High concept remains king, and industry staples action/thriller, comedy, and horror rule the day. Best part: Paramount seems to be trying to tell people they really are still in business. They're releasing 8 movies by year's end and have gobbled up 11 specs so far this year. Not a bad time to be a writer! 

TOTAL MOGUL HOLLYWOOD POWER WEEKEND POSTPONED. We were really psyched for this one, but we've had to bump it to spring 2013. Producer and event coordinator Steve Longi recently left Permut Presentations where he's worked on many of their hits over the past 15 years (like Face/Off) to launch his own shingle Longitude Entertainment. He's been acquiring material and making deals and, well, being a busy little mogul. Which means unfortunately we have not had the time to build this into the world-class event it needs to be -- so we're pulling it for now. We've notified the attendees and will announce a new date in the next few months. In the meantime if you're interested in finding out about this all-new, premium event, where you get to hang poolside and schmooze and booze with agents, managers and producers, please visit the site at and drop us a line if you're interested in participating.

COUNTING YOUR NICHOLLS. On Weds 10/24 the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the five winners of the the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowship for 2012. These fellows become Nicholl Fellows and get s $35K prize, with the proviso they are to complete a screenplay in the next year with tutelage from their heavy-duty mentors. Congrats to New Yorkers Nikole Beckwith and James DiLapo, Louisiana's Allen Durand, Sean Robert Daniels from South Africa and Michael Werwie from Los Angeles. The Nicholl Fellowship is the most prestigious of all screenwriting contests, and winners often go on to prestigious careers in the industry. In 2012 they received a record 7,197 submissions, so if you didn't win, don't feel too bad. In the meantime, set your sites on honing your craft and try your hand at this short list of contests worth the money: Scriptapalooza, Tracking B, Script Pipeline and Writers on the Storm.

HANKS HOUSE GRAND SLAM. Okay, no question slam poetry is a pretty easy gimme and a go-to for comedy routines, but this one from Cloud Atlas star Tom Hanks, about the uber-cheesy '80s sitcom Full House, takes the proverbial cake. By way of retribution, I fully expect John Stamos to bust a gangsta rap about Bosom Buddies on Letterman within the week. You heard it here first!

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Continue on to Should I Get an Agent, Manager or Attorney? below

Should You Get an Agent, Manager or Attorney?

By Steve Kaire

Getting a good agent these days is almost an impossible dream for writers.  The reason is that they’re just not taking on new writers unless the writer somehow managed to make a big sale on his own.

There are distinct differences and some similarities between what literary agents, managers and entertainment attorneys do.  Agents are registered with the state and can only charge ten percent for their services.  They send out their client’s material, get them meetings and writing assignments as well as negotiating deals.  The top three agencies are William Morris/Endeavor, International Creative Management (ICM), and Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

Managers also send out material and try to get their clients writing assignments.  What managers can not legally do is negotiate a deal so they work with entertainment attorneys for that.  Managers can charge whatever fees they want and they range from ten to fifty percent with the average being fifteen percent.  A manager can be anyone from a former agent to your cousin and will often act as one of the producers on the project as well.

The trend these days is for writers to hire an entertainment attorney to negotiate a deal for them.  They charge an average of three hundred dollars an hour for their services or five to ten percent of the entire deal. They don’t usually send out material or get their client assignments.  They can also acquire rights, litigate, and deal with all legal and contractual issues.

If you're thinking about which to go after, well, agents likely won't be interested unless you've managed to create some heat on your own, or you have a personal relationship with a manager or producer who recommends you. Most "real" entertainment attorneys will also not be interested unless you have a deal (with real money--five figures or higher) on the table (beware the shysters who will charge a fee to send our screenplay to, say, ten companies.) 

That leaves managers, and that's a great place to start. It's their job to read scripts and cultivate new talent. While finding a manager isn't easy by any means, it's possible. As with all things, it will take work and perseverance. But don't waste your time until you are 100% certain your material is worth their time. Take writing classes and workshop your script. Get coverage from reputable companies like Coverage Ink. Get into a writing group and really listen to the feedback. It will be clear when you're ready to go, because your friends will be volunteering to help you. Go get 'em!


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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Continue on to Relationships, Relationships, Relationships below

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

Guest blog by Barri Evins

In real estate they say the most important thing is location, location, location.  In the film business it’s relationships, relationships, relationships.

Absolutely everyone in the industry who is doing well is succeeding in large part because of their relationships. 

We’re good at cultivating relationships because we have to be.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here.  In fact, if you do it right, it’s fun.

Writers, for the most part, suck at building relationships.  I don’t know a nicer way to say it.  Writers have lots of other important skills, but I can’t tell you how many times a writer has said to me, “Yeah, I just had a great meeting.  Some guy named, Mike or maybe Mark, over at Paramount.”

Actually, I can usually figure out who they met with because my job is to know who the buyers are.  But clearly the part of the brain that is devoted to remembering these kinds of details in writers is crowded out by the ability to create authentic dialogue, understand structure or by writing in their heads all the time. 

There’s a lot more to it than just remembering who you met with – just keep a log – seriously, that’s what I do – it’s meeting people in the first place.  And then knowing how to build the relationship and keep in contact. 

I know that’s not easy.  In fact, when I started out as an assistant I was afraid I was no good at it.  But once I started looking at it differently, everything changed.  While I felt as if I had nothing to offer, I realized that actually it was a two way street.  I saw it as challenge to meet as many interesting people as I could.  It became fun for me. 

So here’s the big secret that should change everything for you – we need to know good writers as much as you need to build relationships with execs, agents and managers.  You may have been focused on how you can’t succeed without us, but look at it from our point of view.  We can’t succeed without you!
Networking is a terrifying word, so let’s not even use it. 

It’s a jungle out there right?  So think of yourself like Tarzan, swinging through the forest with vines.  Every time you see a vine grab it and see where it takes you.  Don’t let go until you can grab another vine.  Before you know it, you’ll be building momentum and moving fast.

Here’s how to swing, whether it’s on social media or in a social situation:

Focus on what you can give not just what you can get.  As Marvin Acuna, producer and networking maestro is fond of saying, “Give before you get.”  How?  Take an authentic interest in the other person as a person, not as a vehicle to get you where you want to go.  When online, don’t just hit a single button or send a form request.  Take some time to research the person you’d like to connect with.  Then lead with something authentic based on what you’ve learned.  Maybe you liked their website, an article they wrote, or a movie they worked on.  A genuine compliment goes a long way.  The same thing goes in person.  Starting with “Hi would you read my script?” would be like hitting on someone in a bar by asking them to sleep with you instead of saying “You look great in that outfit!” “Can I buy you a drink?” or even “Come here often?”  So try, “I enjoyed your panel.”  “Your book was really helpful to me.”  “How did you get involved with that film?”  Build some rapport first.  A writer who feels she is “not good at the schmooze” recently asked me for pointers about networking at the Austin Film Festival.  Here’s what I had to say:  Meet everyone you can and everyone they can introduce you to.  There are a lot of significant people from all areas of the industry just walking around the halls.  Hard to know who's who if you don't recognize them, but get out there and meet everyone you can.  Ask them who they’ve met and ask them to introduce you.  Hang out.  Be outgoing.  Be professional and polite.  Be honest and authentic and you will stand out from the rest.  Collect business cards and names.  Follow up as appropriate after a reasonable interval.

Recognize an opportunity when it’s staring you in the face.  I was recently chatting with a screenwriter who was interested in bringing my seminar to her hometown.  He had recently done well in a major contest and was getting some inquiries from execs about his spec.  I told him how terrific it was that he was building relationships only to find out that he was simply forwarding the emails straight to his manager.  A manager he had never met and had no formal paperwork with.  I flipped.  How could he pass up on all these opportunities to build relationships with film industry professionals by not taking the time to write each of them a gracious note thanking them for their interest in his material, at the very least?  Not to mention doing some homework on them and the company they worked to find something personal to add.  He had passed up on an awesome vine, one that most writers would kill for.  Nothing wrong with having the manager send the material, but what if he and the manager parted ways someday?  The writer wouldn’t have a relationship with the exec – the manager would.  He sat down that very day and wrote each person a letter.  And opened a door to building a working industry relationship.

Remember it’s not just about who you know, but about who you know knows.  You really don’t know who you know till you ask, so leave no stone unturned.  Here’s my all-time favorite story about this.  When I was running producer Debra Hill’s company, Debra’s assistant’s mother’s friend had a son who wanted to break into the movie business.  To make her mom happy, Debra’s assistant had lunch with the guy.  After lunch, because he seemed like a good kid and was earnest and willing to work hard, she dragged me over, reluctantly, to meet Jeff.  I gave him a few minutes that he used to ask practical questions, and I gave him good advice.  He indeed did seem like a good kid, so I offered him an internship.  He did a bang-up job that first day.  Then we got a call that the movie Debra was in pre-production on needed an office PA right away.  Jeff was the only one who volunteered, as all the other interns were learning a heck of a lot right where they were.  Jeff did well as an office PA.  He went on to become King of the PAs working on the movie, to being last PA to stay on the film, at which point Debra’s assistant moved on, he took her job, worked hard and ultimately became our Story Editor.  He helped supervise the interns including a beautiful and bright young woman I hired.  When Jeff used his relationships with us to get an informational interview at the company of his dreams, he had been working at this so long that he’d done coverage for me on a script that just happened to be one of the exec’s favorites as well as his.  He was ready to speak articulately and passionately about the material.  Through this Jeff wound up working at his dream company as an executive.  When he began writing, I played matchmaker with him and his agent.  Win-win for me.  And now Jeff is a screenwriter working at his dream company and writing a big project.  And he married the pretty intern.  I think he owes me a project!  That’s how the game is played, boys and girls.

Keep up the momentum. Once you’ve managed to grab a vine, keep moving through the jungle.  It can be as simple as saying, “I’d like to stay in touch.  What’s the best way to connect with you?”  This will likely get you a business card and email address.  When you use that email address, have a specific reason.  Don’t write just to say “hi.”  Start with a reminder; after all, we meet a lot of people.  “Great meeting you after your class at Screenwriters World.”  A smart young woman who met me at a talk to a group of summer interns from my alma mater wrote, “I was the one wearing red lipstick if that helps.”  It did.  Imparting information is always great.  “I just learned my script is a Nicholl Semi-Finalist.”  “I am now working with the terrific folks at WOTS.”  When you meet someone you think is terrific, tell them, “I really enjoyed meeting you.  Is there someone you think is terrific that I should get to know?”  Wash, rinse, repeat. 

Looking forward to meeting you!

A working film producer who’s sold pitches and specs to all the majors, Barri Evins created BIG IDEAS to give aspiring screenwriters what it takes to break into the business, teaching them techniques she uses with highly paid professionals on big league projects and giving them the tools to achieve their dreams.

Barri’s Big Ideas Screenwriting Seminar is offered across the country.  This intimate and interactive weekend, gives you an insider’s perspective on the business and shows you how to put that knowledge to work creating stories that ignite industry interest, powered by your strengths and passions.  The intensive revolutionizes the way you create, giving you powerful new tools to develop successful screenplays faster than ever before.  The seminar includes Barri’s mentorship for a year. 

Learn about upcoming seminars including Albuquerque and Los Angeles in November, and bringing Big Ideas to your hometown at  

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Monday, October 01, 2012

"Lone Wolf" McQuaide Nabs the Prize

We love it when our clients and readers write in to share some good news. Lord knows as struggling writers, we all need some! This weekend we heard from our pal Colleen McQuaide, who sent along a really well-done, all-official-like press release trumpeting her recent film festival screenwriting award win. So we'll let her tell ya all about it... 

Hey, that's a cool award!
Colleen J. McQuaide took a major comedy honor in an international screenwriting competition for her romantic comedy script Kat’s Mystique. The actress, screenwriter and producer won the Write Brothers Excellence in Comedy Award in the Action on Film (AOF) Festival Aug. 23 in Los Angeles.

In keeping with today’s trend toward strong female lead characters, Kat’s Mystique follows a woman as she takes a sabbatical from a prominent job in Philadelphia to return to her hometown after the death of her mother. Once back home, she has contentious run-ins with a man who had been a high school classmate of Kat’s, who now heads up the town council and seeks to develop land next to Kat’s homestead. As the two do battle over the land, they find they have more common ground than they had imagined.

McQuaide herself had to battle strong male-dominated odds in taking the prestigious screenwriting honor. Of 155 scripts accepted by the AOF Festival, only 35 were penned by females. Eight women were among the 34 writers who received honors at the annual screenwriting event. Kat’s Mystique was given top comedy honors after being chosen by representatives from Write Brothers, an Academy Award®-winning maker of screenwriting software who was a sponsor of the festival.

As an actress, McQuaide is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and appeared in films such as The Sixth Sense. Her production company, Hedge Jumper Pictures, recently wrapped production of a promotional trailer for another of her comedy scripts, Happy Acres. For the trailer, McQuaide drew on actors and crew from the shooting locale in rural Pennsylvania as well as Hollywood professionals such as costume designer Mimi Matsumoto (Code Name: Geronimo). McQuaide’s Happy Acres script is in keeping with her mission of providing family-friendly scripts to the film and television industry.

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