April 1


GOT AGENT? (Classic Post)

If you don’t yet have an agent or manager, here’s a quick list of some things you need to know.

1. Many writers get their first breaks without an agent or manager, but having the right agent and/or manager sure helps.

2. The best and only way to find the right agent and/or manager is to write very well. Good writing always attracts attention. Attention gets you to a good agent and/or manager. If you don’t know how that works, you probably haven’t been writing enough yet.

3. The best way to submit material to an agent or manager is through a referral. The best way to get a referral is to write well. (See previous item.)Agent

4. Real agents don’t charge to read your material. Run away from the ones who do.

5. In Hollywood, agents are regulated by law and union agreement. They charge a 10% commission to shop your scripts. You only pay if the script sells.

6. Managers are different than agents. Managers are not regulated by law or union contract. Their fees vary, but real managers also only get paid if the script sells.

7. Technically, managers are not allowed to solicit employment for you, but they manage your career. In practice, managers always solicit employment for you.

8. Like a good agent, a good manager is a great ally, but anyone can call him or herself a manager. Make sure the manager has clients who sell scripts or get writing assignments on a regular basis.

9. Real managers also do not charge fees to read your material. Run away from ones who do.

Don’t freak on the agent/manager thing. Just work on the writing. The agent/manager will come.

October 10


TECHNOLOGY AND SCREENWRITING (Classic Post)

S. Pettyway of Connecticut asks:

What’s the deal with that writing program “Dramatica Pro” and is it really worth it? Or Should an inspiring screenwriter such as myself stick with the old tools of the trade, my heart and mind.

After having played with many programs over many years, my feeling about software and technology in general is that the best thing it can do for you as a screenwriter is get out of your way. Screenplay formatting software (Final Draft and others) is terrific when it is not buggy because it just sits there and lets you write. Some outlining software is pretty good this way, too, but it does not seem to be much better than a legal pad or index cards.

Programs like Dramatica Pro seek to impose a particular story philosophy on you. In fact, that is their whole reason for being – to shape your ideas to fit their story philosophy and thereby make your task easier and make the result better. The problem is, part of being a writer is developing your own story philosophy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard to understand as many well thought out ideas about story as you can, but I find any software that tries to marshal me into its story structure and concepts quickly becomes extremely frustrating.

There is no shortcut.

You are the creator of the story; you are not merely a scribe filling in blanks. This is not a moral position, but a statement of fact. Filling in the blanks simply does not work. Ideas about story structure are all imperfect – mostly after the fact analysis (even the old Aristotle). That means you need to invent each story you write – struggle through the issues the same as every writer, even the best of them, reinvent your personal story philosophy as you go, and no software, no book, no video tape, no CD will ever give you the answer. You must find it for yourself.

With all that said, there may be some successful screenwriter somewhere who made a sale using some story crafting software, but I guarantee it wasn’t because of the software. If you enjoy tinkering with new software (I know I do) and have a couple hundred bucks to spare – go ahead and play with it. Play is good and it might inspire you to create something. But don’t spend your food money or your school money or your mortgage money on it. Writing software is just a toy.

June 17


HEADS UP FOR MAC SCREENWRITERS (Classic Post)

Apple GifMariner Software is beta testing new screenwriting software for Mac computer users. I have downloaded it but have not had a chance to play with it. Generally, in my opinion, technology is not that important to writing a good script. Some of the best were written on note pads or using Underwoods. Nevertheless, if you enjoy playing with the latest toys (as I do), you can get the download from Mariner software here.

February 26


EVERYBODY LOVES BETA (Classic Post)

Martin from San Fransisco writes:

Just thought you’d be interested: we’re in the process of beta-testing our combined screenwriting / pre-production app (Sophocles 2007). I hope you can spare some time to have a look at it. I’d love to hear any thoughts or ideas you might have for future versions, etc.

You can pick up the beta at www.sophocles.net/beta. Or have a look at our Wikipedia article: www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sophocles_(software).

If you have any filmmaking friends you think might be interested, I hope you’ll let them know as well. The more feedback the better!

Thanks, Martin. I’m a Mac writer, so I won’t be trying it out. But windows writers, please let us know what you think.

May 11


ARE THE GATES OF HOLLYWOOD CLOSED? (Classic Post)

Yes. Almost. At a minimum, they are utterly clogged. Every agency, every producer and every studio exec gets scripts by the truckload. The city hires a literal army of readers to read the mountains of material flowing in.

And most of it stinks….

That’s right. More than 90% of it is written so poorly it is barely readable at all, let alone able to be made into a movie. The way into Hollywood is so jammed with crud, the industry is forced to spend millions each year just to sort through it. Hollywood is constantly on the verge of drowning in submissions. The only way to stay afloat is to erect as many obstacles as possible – as many barriers as the industry can dream up – to keep new screenplays away. It’s no wonder that no one here gets excited when an unknown writer from Iowa tries to submit a script. Everyone already knows it probably stinks. It’s probably a waste of paper, a crime against nature, two hours of an underpaid reader’s life she’d rather have back.

SO WHY BOTHER TRYING TO GET IN?

Because of that little word “probably.” Underneath it all, Hollywood is desperate for the new voice, the unknown writer who brings something fresh to the table, the new undiscovered talent. It is a great part of what keeps the industry going. Careers and fortunes are made on discovering and exploiting talent – and writers are talent. That’s why Hollywood spends millions searching for it. The industry needs it. And nobody knows where the next one will come from. They have no choice.

They must keep reading.

Their careers and fortunes depend on it.

But don’t tell anybody. Let them think the gates of Hollywood are closed. It’s less competition for the rest. Okay?