Tuesday, December 15, 2015


CI Contest Runner-Up Jeremy Shipp Makes the 2016 Black List

We knew this guy had the goods five years ago. Screenwriter Jeremy Shipp placed second in Coverage Ink's Writers on the Storm contest with his clever WWII adventure script SLEIGHT OF HAND, about a magician turned spy. An experienced TV writer, Shipp had been mostly working in animation on fare like "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", and he was itching to cut his teeth in features. We introduced him to UTA's Emerson Davis, who also saw Shipp's beacon shining brightly across the waters. 

Davis and veteran UTA agent and partner Julien Thuan (also a long-time Agent's Hot Sheet panelist) came aboard, and soon after, they'd set up Shipp's feature spec NIGHTFLYERS with Wind Dancer Films and Brown Bag Films. Since then we've kept in touch with Jeremy, watching his star rise (and weighing in on his drafts whenever he needed us.)

And now, his script CRIMSON TRAIL has docked at a slip on the coveted Black List, the annual list of the best scripts in town as voted upon by industry. Making the Black List generally propels a writer's career to a whole 'nother level. An awesome success story, and frankly, it couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Shipp's a hard-working writer and a really cool fellow to boot. We're excited and couldn't be prouder, and we can't wait to see the movie as well as what he's got in store for us next.

Congrats, Jeremy!

--Jim C.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Get Repped Now EXTENDED - Final Deadline Midnight 11/22

Last chance, folks! For those stragglers who didn't make it in by our Nov. 15 deadline, we have our traditional 1-week grace period/extension. There is NO LATE ENTRY FEE or any of that nonsense. So if you haven't gotten your script in to Coverage Ink's Get Repped Now! yet, or if you were cranking to get it in by the Nov. 15 deadline but just couldn't ice it, then, baby, this is it. However, there will be NO FURTHER EXTENSIONS. Midnight Nov. 22 PST is the final deadline.


GET REPPED NOW! is not a contest. It's a promotion where twice a year, for a limited period of time, we submit all scripts that have come in for coverage and scored a "consider" or better for script (roughly top 5%) to our manager panel. Each of them has agreed to personally read all of the considers because they trust our judgment and know that we've pre-screened the material for them. So while you may well be able to get a read from any of them on your own (and we encourage you to do so!,) having that CI "consider" behind you carries considerable weight and jumps you to the top of the pile. 

In fact, there was even something of a feeding frenzy over Brandon Barker, with several of our managers interested -- but Benderspink's Jake Wagner moved the fastest, grabbing him up within days of receiving the script from us. (Wagner sold that same script 3 weeks later to Disney.) Way to rock it, Brandon and Jake!

But hurry -- Get Repped Now! ends for real midnight PST Nov. 22 and will not return until Spring 2016. So head on over to Coverage Ink and show us what you've got. Good luck!



by Tanya Klein

Would you like to live in a high-rise that had been built without using a proper blueprint?

Would you want to be operated on by someone who lacks basic understanding of anatomy?

How about an airplane -- would you like to ride in one that had not been designed by people who have studied airplane engineering? 

There might be a few brave (suicidal) souls among you, but my guess is most of you will answer ‘hell no.’ Then why is it that so many screenplays represent the auteur-equivalent of the above-mentioned scenarios? 

As a story analyst, I read a lot of scripts. And I have to wonder why so many aspiring writers haven’t taken the time to learn what takes me about two minutes to explain -- that the script needs to have structure. My best guess is that many just don’t take their craft seriously and, yes, people, it’s a craft -- something that you study and hone throughout your career. This lack of solid writing craft seems to be partly to blame on the unfortunate misconception that it’s “the arts” where I get to “express myself freely” without being hemmed into a straitjacket. 

Well, with all due respect, then maybe you should consider poetry or performance art. 

Typical screenplay structure, expressed in architectural terms
Look, there is just no excuse anymore. A few short decades ago, if you wanted to learn about structure, there was only Syd Field and his books, along with William Goldman's great "Adventures in the Screen Trade." But now of course there are a quazillion tomes, websites, articles and so on, many just a click away. Every local library has ample resources on the subject. The how-to knowledge is not only plentiful, it's frigging omnipresent. Heck, you can download the Save the Cat! beat sheet for free.

Now we don't necessarily recommend slavish devotion to STC! and other formulaic structural templates (although it never actually has hurt a script, to my knowledge,) but the simple fact remains: if most beginning writers just glanced at any sort of structural roadmap before they began writing, many of the script's problems would go away. "Oh wait... act two should begin before page 50?" Yep.

Look, we all want to be successful screenwriters. It is a well-paid, highly specialized profession which requires a fair amount of mastery of the form (with a few famous exceptions who keep failing upwards -- but that's a whole 'nother rant.) In other words: one doesn't know innately how to write a screenplay simply because one has written some good essays or blogposts or even a novel or three. Like any other highly paid, specialized profession, screenwriting requires years of study and hard work to master (unless you just happen to know the right people; in which case, good for you.)

Okay, here are my two minutes of structure nitty-gritty. If I’ve covered one of your scripts, you may have heard my house analogy before – it’s the best one I’ve been able to come up with so far. Ahem:


To tell any story effectively, a solid structure is vital. It also makes a writer’s life a lot easier, since it provides a blueprint, a roadmap, to the destination. The most vital part of any script is the setup. It’s akin to building a house. For any structure, you need a proper foundation. It doesn’t matter how cool your first floor is or how roomy your attic. If the foundation isn’t there, the house won’t stand for long. 

For script purposes that means you need to set up your world and your characters. That’s why in classic screenplay structure, the first 10 - 12 pages are used to accomplish just that. And if your script is a genre piece, then I highly recommend a hook before your setup -- a couple of pages that will set the genre tone, and then you can leisurely set up your characters in their "known world" without worrying about tonal discrepancies. 

Raising the steaks.
The inciting incident (the event that sets the story in motion and throws a monkey wrench into the protagonist's life) should happen around page 12-15. The rest of Act I is comprised of what’s commonly termed “the hero rejecting the call” – your protagonist not wanting to go on the critically important journey we know s/he must go on.  

The transition to Act II usually happens somewhere between pages 20 and 30. This is the moment where our protagonist leaves his/her old world behind and enters a whole new world that s/he isn’t familiar with and that holds dangers all of its own. The next aspect of Act II is the midpoint (somewhere between pages 50 and 60). That is usually an “up” or a “down” moment -- in other words, it either seems like the hero’s got it all covered (a false peak, which will collapse soon after the midpoint) or has royally screwed up (a false down, which will reverse soon after the midpoint). 

After the midpoint, the stakes need to be raised. Essentially, this is where the bad guys close in. The next part of Act II is the so-called “all is lost moment,” which generally occurs around page 75-80. This, by the way, doesn’t have to be a complete down moment (as the term might suggest). It’s essentially the opposite of the midpoint. So, if your midpoint was an up moment, then on page 75, you’ve got a down moment. The hero’s life is seemingly destroyed; the quest has gone down in flames. They're at the farthest possible point from achieving their important goal. It’s the end. (Albeit, a false one.) Often in movies, this is where the mentor character (the person the protagonist was leaning on for advice and guidance) dies. But it is also the moment where it’s darkest before the dawn. 

And dawn approaches with Act III. (Around page 80 - 90.) This is where our protagonist finally hits upon the winning idea. S/he figures out how to defeat the bad guys and, with the help of allies made along the journey, learns his/her lesson and arcs.

See, two minutes. There's more to it, but again, these are the basics, and deviate from them at your peril! I mean, of course, many movies do; but sticking with the architectural theme, you've got to learn to properly design a building with working plumbing, power and heat, before you can become Gehry or LeCorbusier.

If you have any questions about structure (or anything else,) please email us. Seriously, we’re always happy to answer your questions – and it’s free. In the long run, it’ll save you work (and money) to have a solid outline before sitting down to write and (as an added benefit) it’ll save us from more gray hairs. Win/win.     


Tanya Klein is a writer/producer/director and story editor living in Los Angeles.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

First Get Repped Now! Consider Is In

Meet Adam Bertocci, our first Get Repped Now! consider for fall 2015 (so far.) Adam's script HERE GOES NOTHING, an adaptation of certain play called MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING but restaged in a high school, had all the right stuff. His script will be sent to our manager panel with our recommendations at the end of Get Repped Now!

Adam has enjoyed success as a novelist with his "comedie" TWO GENTLEMEN OF LEBOWSKI; and in case ye were wondering, yea, the dude doth abide. The novel is indeed a mash-up of The Coen Brothers and the Bard. With over 18,000 fans on Facebook, the book has very positive feedback, and one commenter noted, "(The book) incorporates lines from the movie in a thoroughly creative way while also being genuinely Shakespearean in style."

Bertocci is now looking to get traction in the screenwriting space, and we're only too happy to help.

GET REPPED NOW! runs through Nov. 15. All scripts which receive a "consider" for script will be read by our panel of top industry managers. Get your scripts in before it's too late at www.coverageink.com. Go, Adam!


Monday, October 12, 2015


Coverage Ink's Get Repped Now! 
October 12-Nov. 15, 2015

When we launched the first Get Repped Now! a year ago, we never expected it would have quite the response it has had. It's not a contest; there are no prizes, per se. But what we all really need more than anything is access. GRN is a great way for writers to actually get their scripts read by people that matter -- and best of all, put a little wattage behind them as well, in the form of our recommendations and the validation of good coverage.

See, we all know how hard it is to get the industry to pay attention to new writing talent. And you can't blame them, really. Most agents and managers have their hands full working crazy hours and then having to read their clients' drafts nights and weekends. There are only so many hours in the day; who has time to read unsolicited material? Even scripts that are requested may gather quite a bit of moss before ever getting read. Slush pile submissions are the lowest-priority reads -- generally covered by an assistant or intern and only when there's a rare lull in the action. The reps themselves, well, they generally will only read a new writer if it has been recommended to them by someone whose opinion they trust.

So that's where we come in. The first GRN brought us five considers; we knew these writers could make waves. Then Brandon Barker's script blew everything up times infinity.

Brandon Barker shows us how it's done
Barker's period adventure/comedy "Nottingham and Hood" -- sort of a "Midnight Run" in Sherwood Forest -- grabbed the attention of Benderspink's Jake Wagner, who moved lightning-fast. Within weeks, the script had sold to Disney (although we could not announce it for another month,) and Barker had signed with UTA. A grand slam right out of the gate. 

Then this year, Joey Ernand scored a triple-- three scripts entered into Get Repped Now!; and incredibly, three considers. Once again, Wagner pounced, and now those two are developing an original project together (read all about it right here.) Can you say "wow"? I knew that you could.

With wind at our backs, it is with great joy that we bring back Get Repped Now! one more time to close out 2015. We're looking for the best of the best -- scripts that demand attention and are great stories, well-told. Our standards are exacting -- the vast majority of submissions will be passes. But in all cases, we will detail exactly how to elevate both the material and your craft in the form of a thorough and empowering analysis of the material. As super agent turned producer Emile Gladstone once told me, "Screenwriting is a craft, like carpentry. It can be learned." And for those of you who land a consider, we will do everything we can to hone your presentation and hype your material.

Are you ready to bring it?

Get Repped Now! runs from October 12, 2015 to November 15, 2015. For complete rules and info, please visit Coverage Ink. We look forward to you blowing us away.

--Jim Cirile


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Kickin' Butt, Ernand-Style

Or, How Joey Ernand Dominated the Spring 2015 Get Repped Now!

 By Jim Cirile

We knew screenwriter Joey Ernand had the goods when his TV pilot RIFT JUMPERS scored a 'consider/consider' (consider for both writer and for script) in Coverage Ink's spring 2015 Get Repped Now. That meant his script would automatically be elevated to our manager panel for consideration. What we didn't expect was that RIFT JUMPERS was just the first salvo of a one-two-three punch. In fact, Ernand submitted three scripts -- covered by three separate readers -- and all three came back 'considers.' Boom. 

Needless to say, our panel took immediate interest. And as with the previous Get Repped Now, where he signed screenwriter Brandon Barker (and then sold his spec to Disney,) Benderspink head of lit Jake Wagner stepped up. He and Ernand are now working together, developing a brand-new project. Mission freaking accomplished!

We caught up with Ernand to find out how he did it and what the whole experience was like.

Jim Cirile (JC): Tell us a little about you, Joey. Where are you from? How did you get into writing? Had you made much headway previously?

Joey Ernand (JE): I fell in love with stories from the moment I first opened my eyes. Growing up in Miami, I was constantly digesting every kind of story across every medium – movies, TV, books, comic books, Saturday morning cartoons. I would act out story scenarios with my action figures. My mother would take my sister and me to the library often, and we would check out tons of books (my family has always been my amazing support system – I owe them the world.) I would write (and draw) my own little stories and comic books. When my parents got a VHS video camera – this was the '80s, so the cameras were giant awkward bricks you would strap to your shoulder – I started making home movies with my cousins and friends. Then I started trying to “formally” write features and shorts in the late '90s/early '00s. I completed my first officially-formatted screenplay in 2003. So all told, I’ve pretty much been writing all my life, and I’ve been specifically writing features and TV for about 15 years on and off. This was all mostly genre fare (fantasy, action, sci-fi, horror) and comedy, which still carries over till today (Star Wars and Spielberg are my bedrocks). 

As far as making headway goes - and anyone who comes out to LA will tell you this - you have to be prepared for the long haul. When I first got here in 2007, I was focused on two tracks: trying to survive by working any industry job I could get, and trying to strengthen my writing as I pursued my creative ambitions. Along the way, I found a lot of work as a script reader, and that really helped me in crafting my own scripts. I had little nibbles of screenwriting success – a contest win here, a writing-workshop placement there, getting hired to do some small independent stuff – but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. So two years ago, I went back to grad school to try and open more doors for myself, both creatively and professionally. I had never taken classes that were solely focused on the craft of screenwriting before, nor had I ever had a solid uninterrupted time in my life where I could just focus on writing and not have to worry about acquiring food and shelter like a desperate caveman. So it was definitely a seminal experience for me. Wow, this is long-winded! In short, my story is similar to many other LA stories out there – I just followed my passion out to Hollywood and kept chipping away till someone finally said, “Ugh, fine, we’ll give you a shot, just stop appearing outside my home holding a boom box over your head.” 
JC: What was it like meeting Jake Wagner? Were you nervous? 

Coverage Ink's Get Repped Now is back! Submit your script at www.coverageink.com.

JW: I actually wasn’t that nervous. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t because I was feeling cocky or anything. I was just so grateful to be meeting with an actual bonafide Hollywood manager who was willing to sit down with me, after years of trying to get into that exact position. And right off the bat it was clear that Jake was very down-to-earth. Plus, he seemed very honest and very knowledgeable about the industry. No reason to feel nervous. It felt good to be there.

JC: Is there anything you can tell us about the project you're working on or is it top-secret?

JW: It is in the very early stages, so I’ll keep it vague. I will say that it’s a feature. During our meeting, Jake asked me to tell him about other things I was working on, and I told him about this true story I came across. As soon as I heard that story, I thought: “There’s a movie there.” When Jake heard the idea, he had the same thought. After some brainstorming, we decided to pursue it. It will be an action-thriller spawned from real-life events. Hopefully that sounds intriguing in a vague way!

JC: Anything interesting, surprising, or unexpected about working with Jake?

JW: This technically isn’t surprising or unexpected, but I will say that what I’ve always heard is true: this is still just the tip of the iceberg. Things don’t change overnight just because you finally find someone who is willing to work with you. It really is up to you at every stage in your career, whether you are just beginning, or just breaking in like I am, or near the end. Sure, we need someone to take a chance on us, but you have to do everything in your power to prove that you deserve that chance. You have to do your best, always, and you have to bring the passion. What’s the saying? You need to put in the hard work so you can always be ready, because luck and opportunity can converge at any moment. Wait, is that even a saying? Wasn’t there something about a penguin? 


Anyway, in all seriousness, I’m very grateful that Jake is taking a chance on me, and I’m super excited to be working on this script with him. Who knows where it will end up? All I can do is work hard and try to write the best screenplay I can. Nothing has changed in that regard. You still gotta swing for the fences every time. 

JC: Awesome. So glad to hear! Alright, so was the Get Repped Now experience a positive one overall?

JE: It was definitely positive. The best thing about Get Repped Now is that it cuts right to the chase. There’s no deliberation, no dragging things out by first announcing Quarterfinalists, then Semifinalists, etc. The work speaks for itself – you either get a Consider, or you don’t, and then you get read by reps. Nothing against the contests that do the finalist-tree thing; there is definitely merit to that process (and some of these contests get so many entries that it only makes sense to do it that way). But there’s something so immediately gratifying about knowing that there are so few steps between submitting your script and getting read by reps, which is very, very, very hard to come by in this industry. It’s all so daunting out here in Hollywoodland, so anything that alleviates the pressure certainly helps. 

Not that it’s in any way easy to get a Consider, either! Most scripts get a Pass out there. With Get Repped Now, you still have to do the best work you can, and then hope your work connects with a reader on some level…enough for them to push it on through that infernal Hell Gate they are guarding. And even then, it still has to connect with yet another person, and this person just may be able to make a difference in your career. And that’s STILL just the tip of the iceberg. 

At any rate, the Get Repped Now model certainly inspires a very unique kind of motivational excitement. I just feel so very humbled that I made it through the gauntlet. Jim, you can attest to the many times I’ve thanked you in our various email exchanges, but it bears repeating. I cannot thank you guys enough. It means a lot. Truly.


Coverage Ink's Get Repped Now! is back for Fall 2015 and runs until 11/15. All feature and pilot scripts submitted to CI for analysis during that time period, which receive a score of 'consider' or better for script, are guaranteed to be read by our manager panel and considered for representation. Click here for more info or visit www.coverageink.com


Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Industry's Klatzker Joins Get Repped Now! Panel

We are pleased to announce that Industry Entertainment literary manager Micah Klatzker has come aboard Coverage Ink's Get Repped Now! manager panel. He has agreed to read all of the 'considers' we receive between 10/12/15 and 11/15/15. He joins managers Jake Wagner from Benderspink, Jeff Belkin from Zero Gravity and Chris Mills from Magnet Management.

A rising star literary manager with two client Black List scripts in 2014, Klatzker says he's fairly open to just about anything. "I like action, thrillers, sci-fi, and comedy as much as anyone, but I’ve been signing a lot of drama and dark comedy of late."

Coverage Ink's Get Repped Now runs from October 12 to November 15th 2015. All scripts submitted to CI for script coverage during that period which receive a 'consider' or better for script will be read by our manager panel for consideration. For more info and complete rules and info, or to submit your script, please visit www.coverageink.com.


Friday, September 04, 2015

Meet "The Insider" - The Man Who Could Launch Your Career

Interview with TrackingB.com's Founder

by Jim Cirile


There are two main reasons Coverage Ink has been referring writers to TrackingB.com for almost a decade now. Number one: TrackingB is a real, honest-to-goodness tracking board used by the industry. It contains a wealth of info useful to savvy writers keen to become students of the biz -- key to breaking in. 

And secondly, their contests kick serious gluteus. TrackingB's annual TV and feature contests are Hollywood's best-kept secret. While offering no monetary prizes or "stuff," their track record for discovering new writers is one which no other contest can touch -- not even the Nicholl.

So we sallied forth to meet TrackingB founder "The Insider" (hint: likely not his real name) at his secret underground HQ deep beneath Beverly Hills, to find out all about him (well, not really) but more importantly, about TrackingB.com and why you should know about it. We also snapped this first-ever photo of The Insider below!

The Insider
Jim Cirile (JC): Nice to finally meet you, The Insider. Tell us a little about your background.

The Insider (TI): Just call me "The." (winks) I'm the founder and active leader of TrackingB. I started out in the industry as a writer, and evolved into a writer/producer with projects now set up/being produced at various studios/networks around town such as CBS, Lionsgate, WWE Films, etc. I've always preferred to let the site, its industry reputation and success stories take center stage... and thankfully TrackingB has become much bigger than me!

JC: What was the genesis of TrackingB?

TI: We are the original. The site was founded 10 years ago as a way of centralizing the private tracking boards floating around the business into a central hub of information. It may seem hard to believe now, but at that time, tracking was largely an underground practice, relegated to the industry's inner circles.  And I know when I started this dream, I always felt out of that loop.  We brought tracking boards together in one place online and out into the open, so that anyone could be privy to the valuable information shared on them.  

And the site quickly evolved, largely by word of mouth, into being the tracking board for the industry. You name the studio, agency or production company, and we’ve got someone from there on our board daily (often many times!) WME, CAA, Paradigm, UTA, Sony, Paramount, Universal, Fox, Bruckheimer Films, Participant, Imagine, Principato-Young, Kaplan/Perrone, Energy Entertainment, Benderspink and the list goes on and on.  And yes, we even have studio heads as members. Members appreciate that TrackingB focuses on being a positive and productive place to do real business, that we break important industry news first, and that we discover such great material from new writers through our contests. 

Another TrackingB success story.
JC: How did you get into the contest game? And how did you stumble onto the stunning revelation that writers don't really care about prizes -- they really just want access?

TI: Once we had the industry's attention on a daily basis on-site, we conceived the idea of connecting new writers to them through contests. Coming from a writing background, I had a strong sense of what I would ideally want out of a contest, and made the decision to help writers with access, exposure, and support that would actually help move their careers forward. Everything else seemed secondary to me.  We would do more, and push more than any other contest had before to get people repped, sold, and/or produced.  

And it's been a wild, amazing ride with some of the biggest contest success stories ever coming out of our contests.  Mickey Fisher's EXTANT now in Season 2 on CBS with Steven Spielberg producing and Halle Berry starring, from a script that we discovered and championed.  And someone like John Swetnam (EVIDENCE, INTO THE STORM, STEP-UP: ALL IN), we actually awarded him twice before he broke into the industry (first as an honorable mention one year, and a finalist the next.) And the list of successes launched from TrackingB goes on -- Ashleigh Powell, Gabe Snyder, Cameron Alexander, Peter Hoare and many more.

JC: Yeah, you've had a pretty insane track record in getting the contest winners attention over the years.  Why isn't TrackingB the best-known contest in the world right now?

TI: We've been very focused on helping our contest top choices find and grow their careers, and haven't put a lot of time into advertising, social media, etc. And that focus has been great for our contest finalists/honorable mentions/winners.  We've mostly relied on steady word of mouth growth, but have a few initiatives planned to start spreading the good word further though.  So it's a great time to enter before the competition heats up even more.

TrackingB covers the spec and assignment markets in detail.
JC: You have a killer industry panel -- how do you get them to participate? Are they all friends of yours?

TI: One key is that these are not folks we just hit up twice a year for our contests.  We have built strong long-term relationships with them and many others in the industry through our interaction with them on our site. So it's a great situation for writers to be read by industry people who place inherent trust in our referrals, and of course, in a competitive situation where everyone knows others in the industry will also be clamoring to read. We're fortunate that the industry pays so much attention to our contests.  

JC:  I always tell our clients to use TrackingB for research, to determine if the idea they're thinking of writing is already floating around out there. What other advantages do writer/subscribers have?

TI: We appreciate that. We're just one part of the industry information puzzle, and the more pieces a writer has, the better.  There are also some great opportunities to learn about potential jobs, assignments, etc, and a multitude of other ways to utilize the information we provide to further yourself in this industry.

JC: Thanks so much for your time, The. Any tips you can give to writers entering the feature contest, apart from write a great script?


TI: We've awarded a vast array of scripts and genres over the years, and the common thread is that we fell in love with the story/characters/writing in some profound way. There's no formula. We just want to find great stories and scripts that we would be excited and proud to support and show to anyone.  It tends to be the kind of script that you can't put down -- the kind you rush to tell someone else about after reading.  

I could give all of the usual advice -- Write every page like it's your last -- blood on the page preferred (not literally). Be original. Move us. Make us want to turn the page. Make us care and feel something.  Be smart. Do something we've never seen before. Do something we have with a new twist. Tell a story you would want to hear/read/see. Dazzle us with your craft. Make your dialogue sing. I could go on and on, but what it all really boils down to is the magical power of great storytelling. When you find that magic, we'll be here, hoping to be taken in and transported by it. So get to work.              

The TrackingB feature contest late deadline is September 6, 2015. After that, the super late deadline kicks in (with a price jump,) so enter now!


Jim Cirile is a Los Angeles-based writer/producer and the founder of Coverage Ink, a leading screenplay analysis/development service. Coverage Ink has no financial association with TrackingB.com.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The New Speck Market -- and 13 Genres NOT to Write

by Jim Cirile

Fellow scribes,

The Aug 31 2015 Scoggins Report just streeted, and to no one's surprise, things pretty much suck out there. 

So far, 2015 is the worst year for spec sales in the past seven years -- a full 30% lower than average.

Now that's pretty ghastly, but when I say to no one's surprise, what I mean is: as writers, we all need to be aware that the old model just doesn't work as well as it used to. If you think you're going to write a killer spec and sell it for a milllllion dollars, thus launching your career and allowing you to sing Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah all the way to the bank, well, mate, may I suggest jolly good luck with that, and dammit, I said extra foam on that mocha frappucino, chop-chop.

Gazing through the Coverage Ink spyglass, with its startlingly non-rose-colored optics, we can see what's going on, what this all really means and how it lays out for us all. And in so doing, I compiled a list of 13 genres you should probably avoid writing -- unless throwing away a year of your life on a quixotic quest seems like a smashing way to spend your time. 

But first, let's break down the WHYS.

LESS FLICKS. I'm talking about studio films specifically. There are still plenty of indie and DIY features being made, but the actual number of movies produced by the handful of remaining majors is a fraction of what it was 20 years ago. What did Paramount release this year, like TWO movies? Plus we all know what types of movies they're making: things based on source material. If the concept is already out there in the zeitgeist in some way, be it as a song, TV show, graphic novel, successful web series (10 million views or above), work of literature, whatever -- it immediately has more weight than an original spec script. For studios, the built-in audience that comes with a known property is reassuring when they're considering reaching for their checkbooks. 

In short: they're just not buying or optioning nearly as many original feature-length scripts nowadays. 

The new mindset among agents and managers is: they'll send out a piece of material, of course always hoping for a sale, but knowing full well that it's really just a writing sample. They're hoping to introduce the writer to the town, get a "bottled water tour" (meet n' greet meetings with creative execs,) and then, if the writer and the execs hit it off, maybe get the writer a job either developing one of the producers' ideas, or rewriting an existing project on the prodco's shelf.

This in and of itself is not terrible -- it just means we need to revise our expectations from "selling my script" to "getting in the door." Once in, it's up to your charisma, not what's on the page.

A prestige TV offering coming from Amazon.
MORE TUBE. Our entertainment options have changed dramatically. Sure, we still go to the movies -- try to find parking at any theater on a Saturday night and you'll clearly see people are still going out. But perhaps because a night out at the movies for two now costs in the $50 vicinity when you add in snacks and whatnot, going to the cinema has become more of an event experience. We go see movies in the theater that are big-budget extravaganzas (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mission Impossible 5) or date-night picks (50 Shades, Trainwreck). That strands many genres which do not rise to the status of "event" movies in that "thanks, but no thanks" land, at least as far as the studios are concerned (see list below.) 

What's left? Comedy, Thriller, Action, "Elevated" Horror, Sci-fi and... um... yeah, that's pretty much it. 

Also driving this phenomenon is that fact that TV has never been better. Why roll the dice on a pricey movie in the theaters when there's always something decent on Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube? So while the hunger for original feature scripts drops like a dirigible mistakenly filled with concrete, the TV renaissance and increase in new TV networks means more openings for writers than ever before. Take five minutes to peruse the list of execs and what they're looking for on Virtual PitchFest. Three years ago, there were only a handful specifying they were looking for pilots. Now, virtually all will read them. This is a massive sea change. 

Or as Mitch Solomon from Magnet Management replied, when I asked what he tells his feature writers when they ask him if they should consider writing TV: "Do you like money?" 

BATTLE PLAN. Fortunately, none of this means we writers necessarily have to do anything differently. You can still write feature specs; just don't have unrealistic expectations. It will still act as a writing sample, and the best part is: the wall between TV and features has eroded to the point where agents and managers frequently submit feature specs to TV producers and TV pilots to feature producers as well. Good writing is good writing, and the snobbery of days gone by is history. So your feature could well get you a pitch meeting for that new Netflix show, for example. 

Do be aware however, that agents and managers are STILL looking for those feature scripts that MIGHT sell. Just because they know they likely won't sell doesn't mean they're going to take a flyer on your epic, non-branded (no known historical characters) period adventure. You will likely not even get a read unless your concept seems like a studio movie. 

Here are 13 things you should NOT be writing if you actually want people to read your feature script...

Uhhhh... no.


(if trying to interest a Hollywood agent or manager)

1) Anything topical. With the 24-hour "news" cycle incessantly bludgeoning us with stupidity and corporate/Pentagon propaganda, current events become stale very quickly. That topic that's all the rage now will be, in six months, a "nothing-burger" (to paraphrase Kevin O'Leary.) Plus, as far as the studios are concerned, movies are escapism. 

2) Terrorist-anything. See above. Unless it is a really unusual form of terrorist. Eskimos or Canadians or Venusians? Sure! But Muslims/Middle East/ etc.? Pass.

3) Traditional romantic comedies. Stale and formulaic. But find a way to change it up or make it fresh (e.g., "Trainwreck") and you may have something.

4) Fantasy movies. BUDGET! Sure, these are huge box office, but they're ALL branded. Unless you have the rights to "Dragonriders of Pern," you are dead in the water. No studio is going to bet the proverbial farm on original material.

5) War or Period/Costume Epics. BUDGET! Sure, these get made, but not by the likes of us. I wish I had a dollar for every great WWII script I've read over the last decade. Sure, if someone powerful like Angelina Jolie attaches, it's a whole different story, but try interesting an agent...  Consider restaging the conflict to a space station or another galaxy or inside a human body or something. Seriously.

6) Westerns. The genre is put-a-fork-in-it done theatrically and has migrated to TV.

7) Anything starring a cop or lawyer. Both are the purview of TV. Cop movies still get made of course, but there needs to be something really unique about it. A grizzled alcoholic cop, family falling apart, desperate to track down an elusive murderer? Ho-hum (unless there's true-life source material.) Legal anything: unless adapted from John Grisham, it's probably for TV.

8) Serial killer stories. Played out and also the purview of TV now. 

Who expected this movie to be any good? We certainly didn't.
9) Non-supernatural horror. Monsters and demonic forces are fine, but a crazed killer or slasher flick isn't going to get in the door at most places (unless it can be done for a dime, in which case there are specific companies who do that type of thing.) Also includes psychological horror, although really visual Jacob's Ladder-type stuff certainly has a shot.

10) Stories without Americans, in a country other than the US: America is a ridiculously xenophobic society. It's fine to stage your story in Zimbabwe... provided your hero is American. But US studios will likely not be interested in a movie focused on another culture, with actors who are not Americans -- unless (you guessed it!) there is source material, such as literature or a well-known play (e.g., "Les Miserables".) The exception to this is British, provided it's not about working class types or anything too Britishy-British.

11) Spy/CIA stories. Spy stories are so played out they were already spoofing them in the '60s (Kingsman:The Secret Service was based on a graphic novel.) And the CIA is such an overused element in screenplays as to elicit groans at the mere sight of the acronym. Invent your own agency or do some research -- there are a hundred other lesser-known alphabet soup agencies. 

12) Dramas. Again, TV has sucked a lot of the air out of this once erstwhile genre; and while they do sneak through quite a bit, they're seldom rewarded at the box office, even with a Sundance pedigree or critical notice. That means it's tough to interest an agent, manager or CE in reading them, unless there's a noteworthy attachment, or if you've DIY'ed it and won a passel of awards from film festivals. And finally:

13) Superhero movies. This might seem counter-intuitive at first, but if you've been paying attention you'll realize that while superhero movies continue to dominate, they all have one thing in common: NONE of them came from specs. (Except Hancock. But that's a whole nother story.) So unless your last name happens to be Lee or Ditko or Kirby, or you somehow got DC to part with the feature adaptation rights to Matter Eater Lad (that's a real thing, believe it or not), then don't waste one minute of your precious time writing a huge-budget superflick no one will even read. 

There you have it. It's a not-especially brave new world, but forewarned is forearmed. Consider carefully how to ford the raging rapids separating you from Hollywood's fortifications. Beware the minefield(s) and proceed with knowledge of the way things are, versus the way we want things to be. There are still ways in -- we just have to be smarter about our time and material. Go get 'em.

And hell, if you are writing Matter Eater Lad, then I want in!


Jim Cirile is a Los Angeles-based writer/producer and the founder of leading screenplay analysis/development service Coverage Ink, used by writers, prodcos and management companies to develop and hone their material. Coverage Ink Films is currently producing MALEVOLENT, the world's first US-made animated horror feature, starring Morena Baccarin (Deadpool.)  www.coverageink.com.


Sunday, August 02, 2015

BRINGING THE GOODNESS: Interview with Stephanie Palmer

"Good in a Room" -- as screenwriters, we've all heard this expression, which simply means "be engaging when you meet people." Seems intuitive, right? Just be cool and tell a story well.  

Yeah, that's not as easy as it seems for many of us.

Enter Stephanie Palmer. A former MGM studio executive, Palmer founded Good in a Room ten years ago and since then has given workshops for the likes of Google, Merrill Lynch, WME, Disney and Warner Bros. The company may be an answered prayer for many of us. After all, writing a good script is only half the battle. 

We caught up with Stephanie to find out a little about her and how she works her magic.

Jim Cirile: So, Stephanie, fill us in -- what exactly is Good in a Room, and how does it work?

Stephanie Palmer: “Good in a Room” is a term that agents and producers use to describe writers who present their ideas well in meetings. The purpose of Good in a Room is to help screenwriters to get meetings, pitch effectively, find agents, and sell their work.

My philosophy is that there is more to being a successful screenwriter than writing well. You also need a strategy for your career, a networking strategy to meet the right people, and a meeting strategy to perform well in any situation where you are presenting your ideas.

To help writers to create commercially viable material - and to be able to get that material in the right hands - I offer a Screenwriter Starter Kit for newcomers to the screenwriting world who sign up to my email list, and an in-depth course How To Be A Professional Writer for the more serious writers.

JC: How did you come to work for MGM?

SP: My first job was an intern on Titanic. Then, I was an assistant at Jerry Bruckheimer Films. The woman I replaced at Jerry Bruckheimer Films told me about the opportunity to work at MGM. I started as an assistant, then was the Story Editor, and then the Director of Creative Affairs.

 JC: What's your best memory of your tenure at MGM? Worst?

SP: There were lots of terrific moments from my time at MGM. I loved getting to work with some incredible writers and directors — people who were real heroes to me. I loved working with the team of script readers. I got to travel the world attending film festivals; I met basically everyone I wanted to meet in Hollywood and I got to supervise projects from the inception of the idea until the films were released.

The worst moment… well, there’s a lot of competition for that award. As an assistant I put up with a lot of harassment and verbal abuse. One time I had a stapler thrown at me (I ducked).

For the last year that I was at MGM (when the company was for sale), it was very hard to get films made because the status of the company was so tenuous. There was also one morning when I came into work early and the giant MGM lion logo on the wall in the lobby had fallen off the wall and was lying on the floor. That was a bad omen. :)

JC: What was the genesis of your book?

www.goodinaroom.comSP: I was interviewed on NPR and an agent contacted me and asked me to write a book proposal. I wrote the proposal, went to NYC, and pitched it. My first meeting completely tanked because I got nervous sitting on the other side of the desk. The irony was not lost on me that I was pitching a book called Good in a Room… and I was not.

But then I went back to the hotel, followed my own advice, got my act together, and eventually sold the book to Random House.

JC: You're delightfully candid on your website. I love the anecdotes about the house you grew up in not having TV and your theater experience. So how did you come to Hollywood and the film biz? And why did you escape to lovely Santa Fe?

SP: My college advisor was a theater, TV, and film director. While I was sure I was going to move to NYC to direct theater after graduation, my advisor strongly suggested I at least try working in Hollywood before I dismissed it out of hand.

I interned on Titanic and I loved it. I loved the pace, that there were so many creative people working together really hard - it was really exciting. I lived in LA and was immersed in the heart of the film business for 12 years.

However, I was growing tired of the traffic and commuting. I was getting married and we visited Santa Fe for a weekend and fell in love with it. We found a house that first weekend, signed up, and put our place in LA on the market. Initially, it was really just for a break, but I came to love Santa Fe. I visit LA whenever I am needed and will be moderating the American Film Market Pitch Conference on November 7th.

JC: Do you think anyone can be good in a room? Are there some hardcases who are hopeless?

SP: While there are some people who are naturally charming, extroverted, funny, and really can “wow” in the room, the goal of being “good in a room” is to express your ideas clearly and succinctly. That is something I think almost anyone can do.

Yes, there are hard cases, people who have social phobias and anxieties, but for most people, it’s understandable to be nervous pitching ideas (that you love and have worked so hard on) to strangers in high-stakes meetings. The key is to learn how to practice so that the nerves decrease enough to be able to use that nervous energy in a constructive way. 


JC: At what point do you recommend writers come to you, or can best avail themselves of your services? For example, if the writing isn't there yet, is there any point in learning how to better present?

SP: What makes someone right for Good in a Room is if they are serious about selling projects and becoming full-time writers.

A common misconception is that there’s the “writing phase” where you write the script, and then the “selling phase” where you pitch and sell the script. This isn’t completely true (as you know).

The truth is that pitching is an essential part of the creative process. Professionals pitch ideas and work out the kinks long before they go to script. However, for a pitch to generate constructive feedback, it needs to be pitched to the right people in the right situations. This makes a writer’s network and meeting strategy important because of how it helps a writer to focus on the right ideas and hone them, structurally speaking, before doing the heavy lifting of writing a draft.

The fact is that the choices one makes as a writer - genre, structure, even sequences and scenes - must be tightly integrated into your overall strategy for your career. The people you meet along the way and how you handle yourself in those interactions are factors just as important to your success as your natural writing talent and dedication to the craft.

JC: How do you feel about the state of features at the moment, and the rise of television?

SP: I think there are terrific films being made (though primarily outside the studio system). The rise of television has encouraged many clients and friends who were exclusively writing film projects to shift to TV. TV offers so much more creative control and opportunities. It’s understandable that many advanced feature writers are developing material for TV.

JC: Thanks so much, Stephanie. Any advice or words of wisdom you'd like to pass along to writers?

SP: My thought here is that it’s important for writers to have hope. The way I give writers hope is by telling them the truth about how to actually achieve their dreams - I don’t make it sound easy and simple and fun, because it’s rarely all three of those things at once. What I do is share my experience with how things work in Hollywood and reveal the strategies to get results.

Anyone who would like more information can start by checking out my free guide, 20 Screenwriting Terms You Must Know and taking a look at the Most Popular Posts on GoodinaRoom.com.



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Update from Brandon Barker

In late 2014, we launched our very first Get Repped Now! It was a new kind of promotion -- unlike a contest, there are no winners, no prizes, and you don't compete against other writers. The concept was simple: send in your script for coverage, and if it scores a 'consider' (or higher for script -- roughly 5% of submissions -- we'd pass along your script to our panel of managers, who guaranteed to read it. If you didn't score a consider, then you got 10-15 pages of detailed notes from our team telling you how to make your script better.

Right out of the gate, scribe Brandon Barker hit a grand slam. His script "Nottingham and Hood," -- in a nutshell, "Midnight Run" in Sherwood Forest -- was selected as one of five considers, and it promptly caught the eye of several of the managers. But it was Benderspink's Jake Wagner who moved like an arrow launched from Robin's own bow, signing Barker and sending the script out PDQ. Within three weeks of us getting Wagner the script, he'd sold the script to Disney (although we couldn't announce it until about a month later.) 

Brandon Barker, deep within Sherwood (his backyard)
Barker e-mailed us today to give us a quick update on how he's doing:

Robin Hood (aka Nottingham and Hood - we don't have an actual title yet) may have a director soon. Fingers crossed. Hope it keeps moving up the ladder. The Disney higher-ups and producers at Picture Company have been awesome. No horror stories! Learning a lot. These scripts are definitely a team effort. I'm working with Alex and Andrew (Picture Company) on a new pitch. And working on another with Broken Road Prod. Jake has been great with his sage advice and setting up meetings. And a great side effect -- the spec sale has allowed me to work part-time at the current day job. Wa-hoo!

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy, and it proves that every once in a while, perhaps as rare as a humanely raised fast food meal with nutritional content, it really is about hard work and writing a good script, not just who you know. We're getting ready to sending the latest batch of Get Repped Now! scripts to our panel of top motion picture and TV lit managers right now -- ten damn good writers who deserve a shot. Will one of 'em be the next Brandon Barker? Stay tuned.

GET REPPED NOW RETURNS FALL 2015... Dates to be announced.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

PAGE Awards Quarterfinalists Announced

Validation! It's a wonderful thing, ain't it? Thus we were stoked to see so many Coverage Ink clients on the recently announced list of The 2015 PAGE Quarterfinalists.  

Our client Paul Moxham won the action category a few years back -- let's hope one of these guys does the same! Congrats to everyone on this list -- we expect greatness moving forward. No pressure.


Darryl Anka
Tamara Shure
George Gier
Rod Thompson & Tim Westland
Helyn Dunn
Dan Longe
Holli Herle-Castillo
Julio Castillo
Joey Ernand (also a Get Repped Now! Top ten) 
Joe Borriello
Curt Burdick
Scott Burdick
George Covic
Jared Cohn
Alan Sproles & Lizanne Southgate
Lee Tidball
James Papa
Carlo Bordone
Lauren Hoekstra
Terry Kaufman

Go get 'em, kids!