March 6


TEXT VS. SUBTEXT, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH… (Classic Post)

If staring at my pages were an Olympic event, I’d win. Right now, I’m thinking about my characters – their very conception. True, for me, the focal point of the script is the story as a whole and how it explores the related questions that interest me (a/k/a the theme). Like Aaron Sorkin, Gary Ross and many others, I organize my scripts around ideas that I hope are important, a set of ideas to bind all the scenes together.

That doesn’t mean I can ignore the characters. A common note every writer receives at some point is, “Your characters need more development,” or “They don’t seem real.” The development exec doesn’t really mean what she says. It’s not her fault; she isn’t a writer. What she means is, your characters must involve the audience. If the audience (which may be the reader in the case of a spec script) is not involved in the characters – the story is not working, pure and simple.

So, aside from organizing the story to explore a set of ideas that matter (and that is no small aside), how do I get the audience involved in my characters. That’s where the text and subtext ideas come in. “Text” is the literal meaning of the words on the page. “Subtext” is what the words really mean. If they are one and the same, the audience is bored.

The central concept I use to draw life into the words – to add subtext to the text (e.g. to make the words mean something other than what they literally say) is this: Continue reading

January 30


MYSTERY PEOPLE (Classic Post)

Mystery Man GifKevin of Cincinnati saw a listing like this on Craigslist:

Screenwriters Opportunity

Can you do it better than
the films you see?
Do you have the next SIXTH SENSE
or WEDDING CRASHERS?
Now’s your chance to prove it.

Award winning Hollywood producer/manager
Looking for motion picture scripts.
All genres. Send synopsis
plus contact info. Cinn.

Kevin asks:

What would you make of a posting like this; is it to be trusted? Is there any difference between a synopsis and an idea? Can a synopsis be legally more protected than an idea?

There are some legitimate managers who solicit via the Internet. However, a legitimate manager will share his or her identity and credentials, usually on a website, and these credentials will be easily verifiable. Also, usually, a legitimate manager will make the writer sign a release before submitting material.

I am not saying the person above is not legitimate. I am saying you probably want to learn more about the manager before sending in your material. Email him (or her, who knows?) and ask for the manager’s background.

Aside from the lack of disclosure about the identity and credentials, the fact that the manager is in Cincinnati is also a red flag, or at least a yellow flag. Managers must be in regular discourse with producers and other dealmakers. Most of these contacts are in Los Angeles (at least, for the American market) and, naturally, so are most successful working managers. (There are also a good number in New York.) While it may not be impossible to function as a legitimate manager from Cincinnati, knowing the manager’s credentials is even more important.

As for the last part of your question, I assume it means, “Do I have to worry about my idea being ripped off?” Any time you share an idea with an anonymous source, you have to worry about being ripped off. Irrespective of the legalities of intellectual property law, you normally would not send ideas or synopsis to an anonymous email address. You should always keep a submission log and know exactly where and when you submitted material, always submit material with a cover letter or email (of which you keep a copy), and always follow up in writing if you hear no response.

The bottom line on listings like the above: before sending in your material, inquire of the person’s identity and credentials in order to make an informed decision.

December 10


OPB (Other People’s Blogs) (Classic Post)

I received emails from a couple new bloggers recently letting me know they exist. Thought I’d pass it on to you….

Ken Levine, tv comedy writer/director with credits including M*A*S*H, Simpsons, Becker and Everybody Loves Raymond has a new blog called “by Ken Livine”.

Xander Bennett, a TV writer from Australia, also has an interesting new blog, Chained To The Keyboard.