March 7


This is really part two to of the last post. It’s about “text” and “subtext”, only looked at in a very practical way. And it’s a kick in the pants to new writers. Listen, your dialogue stinks.

In my years as a reader (a/k/a story analyst), and even today when I’m asked to read scripts from inexperienced writers, 99 out of 100 scripts are awful to the point of being unmarketable in large part because the writer has no conception of what “dialogue” really is. While only a few writers can consistently write awesome, incredible, dialogue that raises the art form, every professional writer must write competent, engaging, interesting dialogue. Dialogue is inseparable from story – not something to add on later – but an integral part of the conception of the scenes and the story itself. If you’re having trouble writing quality dialogue in a scene, your troubles run deeper than dialogue.

So how can I help? Continue reading

April 29


How do you plan to put your spec into the marketplace? I too just finished a comedy spec and am thinking of using Have you used it before? If so, what were your results. Has anyone else tried it, or a concept similar to InkTip. And then there’s services like Scriptblaster. What are your thoughts about those services?
John (can’t get passed 4th place!) Hart

I have long been represented by a strong agency here in town (L.A.) and they handle initial marketing of my specs. I also have a great manager who does his share, too. Before I had an agent and a manager, I networked fairly aggressively and submitted scripts directly upon invitation. I have never sent a query letter to anyone and have never used a service like Inktip or Scriptblaster.

When I’ve been on the producing end of things looking for quality scripts, I did receive Inktip’s magazine which lists pitches. I don’t know how it happened to come to me since I never ordered it. I did not read it because I knew it was a pay-to-list service. Unlike agencies, which have some incentive to make sure the writing is marketable before they submit it, pay-to-list services do not. The material they list has had absolutely no professional eyes on it and no professional judgment. Ninety-nine percent of it is junk and neither I nor most producers have ever had the resources to review it to find the few diamonds.

Other services review your material for a fee, give you “coverage”, and claim that, if they like it, they will present it for you directly to industry professionals. These services claim to have sold some scripts. The services are very controversial for a number of reasons. Alex Epstein’s blog, Complications Ensue, has some material that presents both sides of the controversy – see it here.

A much sounder approach to your writing career is to share your writing through networking. As you network, you get real and continuous feedback on your scripts. It is a tough road because everyone has an opinion about your writing and most of the opinions can really shake your confidence. However, if you hang in and keep networking, you will develop a thick skin, learn how to channel input constructively, and improve your writing. The very process of working to make contacts for script submissions tends to help hone your craft.

While it is much easier to network from Los Angeles, you can do it from anywhere working through writing teachers, legitimate screenwriting contests, and other resources, honing your craft and getting your material submitted in ways that will get it noticed. It feels very hard to get noticed, but I can tell you from experience, once the writing really shines, it suddenly gets very easy to get noticed. Then begins the next level of hell – moving from getting noticed to making a first sale. But that’s a whole other topic.

Good luck with the spec.

November 5

Alba Disses Screenwriters (Classic Post)

Ardea alba
flickr: mikebaird
Jessica Alba apparently squawked for Elle Magazine, saying “good actors never use the script unless it’s amazing writing. All the good actors I’ve worked with, they all say whatever they want to say.” She’s currently working with Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Harvey Keitel, Laura Dern, Blythe Danner and Barbara Streisand filming Little Folkers. Maybe they’re the good actors that “say whatever they want”? (The birds to the left are included because they are Ardea alba. They also say whatever they want.)

Category: News, People | LEAVE A COMMENT
May 6


I’ve recently seen ads for a service that will make a “trailer” out of your script, or idea. This seems like a great way to show that your stuff has exciting visual potential, and specific marketing possibilities. However, are producers, agents, etc., going to watch these things? Is there a general vibe out there about this idea (which is made possible & affordable by dv, plus software like After Effects)?

Thanks very much!
Krista from Austin, TX

That’s a new one to me. I would say, save your money. You are selling you – your voice, your vision, your writing. You are not selling the trailer company. I can tell you, after reading thousands of produced and unproduced scripts, the ones that sell communicate these things on the page. If your idea or script does not communicate its own possibilities without a trailer, you need to develop it more. The producers are more likely to hire the trailer company if they like the trailer than they are to hire you.

If you are a writer/director, it is not unusual to shoot a short as a selling tool – but you are shooting it, not hiring someone else to do it. In that case, you are selling your own ability.

Even in the very rare case where there really is something special about your vision that is unlikely to communicate on the page, I would still not recommend that you hire a rent-a-trailer company. In that case, I would say, hook up with a director that understands what you are going for and shoot a short. That way, you are still promoting yourself (and the director) and not the rent-a-trailer company.

October 27


VIRGINIA JPEGTracy from Virginia asks:

Could you give us an idea of how to protect our budding “masterpieces”? After it’s written, and we’re mentally preparing ourself for the forthcoming fame (:) Is it best to try for an agent first (aiming for reputable with bona fide published works out there) and if your astronomically lucky to get one, how does that work? Do you pay them to represent you, or is their pay based on the level of success of the book – pushing them harder to get it out there? Do you just send it to them, or somehow get copyrights of it being yours before anyone sees it? Help!

You are mixing several different issues and I will straighten them out for you.

First, do not hire an agent that charges you a fee. WGA signatory agents are prohibited from doing so and no reputable agent does so. Some agents try to charge you for costs. I would try to avoid even that. See Agents Charging Costs. Better agents are sufficiently capitalized that they do not need to charge you anything until they sell your script or get you a writing assignment.

Second, do not just send the script to agents. They will not read it. The script will be tossed on a pile with the million other anonymous scripts that were mailed in and, eventually, it will be tossed out. You should not submit your script to an agent until you are invited to do so. The best way to get an agent is by referral. If you are not from Los Angeles or New York, there are still a number of techniques you can use to get an agent. See The Out-Of-Towners.

Third, regarding copyright, you own the copyright from the moment you create your script. It automatically springs into existence and it is yours. Of course, if you begin to share your work, you will need to prove that you created it and when you did so. There are several ways to do this. One is to register the copyright with the Copyright Office. Another is to register it with the WGA. The third way is to simply include a cover letter with your script whenever you submit it and send the script by overnight mail so you have a record of having sent it. Keep a copy of the cover letter and the mail receipt. I recommend doing this irrespective of whether you register your script. See My Idea Got Stolen.

Hope this helps.