A screenwriter’s year-end checklist: Do you have a game plan to hit the ground running in 2015?

December 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

21-happy-holidaysWho can believe 2014 is almost over? It will be 2015 in a twinkle of an eye. It’s always a powerful tool to look back over the previous year and critically analyze the good, the bad and the ugly choices we’ve made. Hopefully, we’ve learned from your failures and enjoyed our successes. Excuses abound, but what really matters is how productive have you been? Is there room for improvement? We must always adapt to survive in Hollywood’s trenches.

Have you become a better screenwriter and have you been able to move yourself and your projects down the field?  Have you opened doors and gained new “fans” of your writing? Have you been able to gain and hold new ground?  Established new relationships and contacts?  Created a solid body of material in a genre to show your unique voice? Sold or optioned a project?

The responsibility for a screenwriter’s career begins and ends with the screenwriter. The hard fact: Your screenwriting career is probably the most important struggle to you and not to anyone else. Only you know the hard work and sacrifices you’ve endured to go after your dream, so you need to protect your career path by taking responsibility for chartering the course of your career. Your time is precious and you need to constantly be moving forward and avoid the pitfalls of poor choices and negative experiences.

tumblr_lje93woH531qfs5byo1_400Too many times, I’ve heard screenwriters blame others for their own missteps or lack of success in Hollywood. Some writers look for the quick and easy way to success, but end up frustrated when their one script doesn’t sell, they have no other plans and they are not working on new material. Sure, it’s easier to soften the blow to blame the agent, manager, producer, or Hollywood itself for not getting your film made, but screenwriters need to step up and take more control over their choices. You can’t believe that every spec will sell—in fact most will not. Your new spec may not be the “one” — but one of many you’ll have to write and burn through until it jump starts your career.

Every time you write a new project on spec, you must consider how it fits into the bigger picture of your screenwriting goals.  It’s a risk when you write a spec and you are rolling the dice with your precious time.  Did you just have a “fun idea” for a movie and thought it would sell, so you decided to spend months writing it?  This is not an effective use of your time.  If it’s your passion project and you must write it—do it and hopefully you’ve executed it properly and your passion will be there on the page.

Boulder FlatChoose your material wisely. REMEMBER: What you write about is as important as how you execute it and just because you write it doesn’t mean they will “love it. You’ll only figure this out after you meander through four or five scripts that don’t achieve the plateaus you had expected or do not sell. You’ll be forced to take a step back and examine your reasoning for embarking on the journey with each project.  If you’ve been successfully making noise with a particular genre, continue to establish yourself as an expert in that genre. When you secure a writing gig, you’ll have steady work because you’ll be known for a genre. There is nothing wrong with being pigeonholed as a screenwriter. It means you’ll work and build up your résumé in a genre that you hopefully enjoy writing.

script oddsTrust me, bouncing around for years with different scripts in different genres hoping that something sticks is a fool’s endeavor. I’ve been there.  When something eventually hits and is a success, the producers will want more of the same from you in the way of screenwriting assignments—the bread and butter or working screenwriters. There is no shame in steady work.  I find sometimes aspirants believe they’ll hold out and will only go with a script that is “their vision” and somehow it’s “selling out” to take a job offered writing something that maybe isn’t their favorite choice of material—but it’s a foot in the door.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the odds are already stacked against you and time marches on so quickly. Only 4,745 WGA members reported any income this year (annual report ending in June) out of nearly 9,000 members. The other half did not work. Over half of those numbers who did report income were working in television. Think about those odds for a moment and then get back to work. And if you add the non-union screenwriters working… it can boggle the mind with more stats and there are no stats for non-union screenwriters working or not working. The main issue is that you must stay busy creating projects and casting your best scripts wide.

I’ve been blessed, this year was very busy for me and I’ve pushed various projects down the field to production. Early in the year, I landed my twelfth paid screenwriting assignment, the film was produced in September, and is now in post production. It’s my seventh produced film. And in October, I landed my next assignment (#13) and I just turned in my first draft to my producer early before the deadline. I completed writing the first season of a new web series that is out to financiers and may end up becoming a video game. I finished editing my new book on surviving in Hollywood’s trenches and plan to publish in early 2015 on Amazon. This blog hit over 48,000 reads this year alone. I created a new free app for screenwriters called SCREENWRITING GURU, I taught my new workshop to screenwriters, and continued to expand my screenwriting consulting business. We must stay active and not wait for others to open doors. We create new opportunities with every project that we create.

IMG_2016So, it’s never too late, even though the year is nearly over, grab a piece of paper and if you haven’t yet, set up a game plan for 2015.  Hit the ground running and achieve your goals every day of the week. Treat your screenwriting like a business—it’s YOU, INC. and every decision you make affects your pathway to success. Ask yourself the hard questions: “Why are you writing this particular spec and will it serve you in the best way possible to create opportunities and open doors?”

1) Make a list of all viable projects. Completed scripts and what condition they are in—ready to be read, needs a rewrite, needs a polish, only a first draft, etc.  Add to the list any fleshed out pitches, log lines, one sheets, beat sheets or treatments. This is important if you cross paths with an agent or manager. They want to see you busy and prolific on your own. What do you have to offer? One script only and nothing as a follow-up? You’ll need a solid body of work to standout and it will take time to craft these projects.

2) Make a list of your achievements in 2014. Scrutinize the successes and failures so you can see where you need to pick up the slack in areas where you need to focus in the new year. List any accolades—did you win or place in a significant screenwriting competition? Did you option or sell a screenplay? Did you graduate from film school?  Did you make any films, short movies or a webseries on your own?  Did you work on a production or take an internship. List anything that shows you are working toward to your goals.

3) Make a list of any new contacts that you met by networking during the year.  If you have an e-mail, or the address of their company, send a holiday card. Nothing like the holidays as a good reason to reconnect, right? In January, make sure to send them a: “First of the year—hope this finds you well—this is what I’m doing” e-mail.  It will put you back on their radar and if you list a few interesting projects, they might bite and ask for a read.

4) Make a list of potential deadlines for any rewrites or new ideas. Keep true to these self-imposed deadline as if they were real screenwriting jobs. Do not deviate from the commitment for anyone or any external forces. Trust me, either on purpose or by mistake, people will try to derail your schedule and will think it’s not that important because you’re writing on spec. It is that important.  It’s vital training for the time when you finally do get a job on assignment and you’ll know how to keep a deadline under any conditions.  Find respected screenwriting contests that you may want to enter and use their entry dates as a goal and deadlines to finish your new material.

5)  If you haven’t yet, start attending or attend more networking events in the new year. Become a member of the International Screenwriter’s Association ( ISA ) for workshops, webinars and in person events in your area. Also Final Draft hosts meetups every month with known screenwriters and offers tips and many free networking events during the year. Get out of your writing cave and meet other screenwriters and network.  Help others and you will find they will help you.

6) If you don’t already, read scripts on a regular basis. Good scripts, bad scripts, classics—read! You’ll be surprised how much you learn from reading screenplays. Be careful of the screenplays that are posted during award season. Do not try to emulate their style as many are written in a protected bubble of development and were not specs, so they can get away with many things regarding format that you cannot with a spec from an unknown writer.  “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” —Stephen King.

7) If you don’t already, read screenwriting blogs, books, articles and film websites with news about the film industry. You must do your homework on a daily basis and not expect your representation (if you’re lucky to have an agent or manager) to do it for you. Many things slip through the cracks and information is priceless currency in Hollywood. It can mean the difference between getting in a door with a meeting that could land you the next job that launches your career.

A game plan helps you allocate your precious time wisely. It shows that you’re your serious about your career and treating your screenwriting as a professional—not just willy-nilly writing a script and hoping it will sell on its own merits. It’s rare that one script makes a career. It’s always one script that opens the door, but you’ll probably have to write five or six to get to that “ONE.” The overnight success is usually a series of little successes along the way that lead up to continued success.  You have to consider how everything you do regarding your career fits into your bigger overall goals.

Your career aspirations can’t live or die by one project and you can’t focus on “the one” and hope it unlocks the gates of Hollywood.  It’s always going to be a numbers game with horrible odds of success. Even if you sell a screenplay, there are no guarantees and still so many hurdles to jump. The good news is—the more quality material you create, the better chance you have of garnering interest and that may lead to a sale or assignment work.  Keep your eye on the big picture.  It’s like what Bruce Lee said in Enter the Dragon, “It’s like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!”

And read this eye opening essay on the current filmmaking business environment as you try to chase the Hollywood studios with your specs: “How the Death of Mid-Budget Cinema Left a Generation of Iconic Filmmakers MIA.”

All my best wishes for a glorious and successful journey into 2015 and may it be the best year ever.

Scriptcat out!

Download my new free app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp. Weekly script tips, videos, and links.

Also check out my YOUTUBE Channel with weekly videos offering script tips.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay and need in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information. Hit the ground running in the New Year with a solid project.

Screenplay consultation services

“Deliberate practice, by its nature, must be hard. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.”—Florida State University’s Anders Ericsson

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”—Ray Bradbury

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure. But the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. [F]ailure means a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself to be anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believe I truly belonged. [R]ock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.” ~ J.K. Rowling

“People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand. They are afraid to find out how tough they are. Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.”—William Faulkner

“If you’re worried about failing, you ought to get into a different business, because statistics will tell you that sixty or seventy percent of the time you’re going to fail.  By fail I mean that the movie won’t make money.  Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.”—Richard Brooks, director of Blackboard Jungle, Sweet Bird of Youth, In Cold Blood, Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Your current spec may not be the one, but it’s one of many you’ll have to write…

December 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

script oddsIt’s a screenwriter’s ultimate dream, right? Write a spec screenplay, sell it for a million dollars and launch your career. It could happen, but it’s like winning the lottery. You have to play and play and the odds are stacked against you. Considering that Hollywood studios only purchase about just over a hundred specs a year, and conservative estimates say there are 30,000 or more projects bumping around town, you can see it’s a numbers game at best. The spec you are writing now should be considered just another tool in your arsenal to gain the necessary writing experience, open doors, and create opportunities to show your talent and ability. Nothing more.

Yes, I know the stories you may read in Variety about the fetus who dictated the script from his mother’s womb, kicking like Morse Code to his mother as she typed the scenes, and it sells for a million bucks. It’s not the norm. It’s stories like this that bring countless aspirants to the screenwriting game seeking fame and fortune. Many will burn out after a few script failures and many others will realize just how difficult it is to sell anything.

I’ve only sold one spec in my professional screenwriting career and that opened the door for steady assignment work and it’s been my bread and butter since. I’ve written many other specs for sure over the years, but now I’m usually so busy writing on assignment that I don’t have the time to write a new spec. I know—these are “champagne problems.” I see too many screenwriters hang their hopes and dreams on just one spec and when it doesn’t sell, or they don’t receive the feedback they expected, they are destroyed. This is why you need to detach from any outcome after writing your spec. Detachment will allow you to survive better over the long haul journey as your writing is subjected to criticism, notes and rejection. The ups and downs can be brutal and wear on your mental outlook. We are creative artists who continually face an uphill battle to get our work read, considered or produced.

BoulderFlatWhat you write is as important as how you write it. I also see many aspirants writing big budget screenplays and chasing the studios with their tentpole ideas. That’s great, but it’s such a huge gamble especially from an unknown writer without credits. Seriously consider the genre you are writing and see if those films have been successful recently in Hollywood. I love a good Western, but since the recent flop at the box office of THE LONE RANGER, I don’t expect many Westerns will go into development anytime soon. It had a $215 million budget and has only taken in $171 million worldwide. I know we will certainly see more superhero movies taken from comic books, as they already have a built in following and the ideas are owned by the studios and not from spec screenplays. So you can see if you write a particular genre that does not do well, it’s almost certain it will not be produced or even be something a studio or a production company is looking to make. You don’t need more strikes against your spec in addition to the ridiculous odds it faces anyway.

Write something that appeals to you personally and your writing will show through. Look at the films that garner awards every year. Many are independents with uplifting stories about people. Sure we all want to chase that elusive brass ring of the tentpole studio picture with all its fame, glory and money, right? Keep chasing and you’ll wake up one day and five years will have passed wondering what’s going wrong. It’s like being in the end zone of a football field, turning out the lights, and trying to throw a football into the goal at the other end. You could try a hundred times and come up short.

This is why you can’t write in a vacuum and need to be aware of the business realities of Hollywood. Fewer studio films are being made and they are coming from properties that either the studio already owns in the form of remakes, or projects that already have a built in following as books or comic books. All of those scripts are being written on assignment, not spec. Ninety percent of working screenwriter’s livelihood comes from screenplay assignment jobs. Maybe look to television companies that may produce your screenplay? There is no shame having movies on TV as millions of people watch in one airing and it can air repeatedly. I know, my TV movies air quite a bit here and overseas.

Now your big tentpole script just might be a great writing sample for you to land an assignment with a studio, but unfortunately most of those big writing gigs go to A-list, known and credited screenwriters who are on the studio lists to do rewrites, polishes and script jobs. If your intent is getting your spec produced, write something with a more realistic budget, a smaller film and this will open up the opportunities of where your project could actually get produced. If you chase the studios with your big spec, there is only a handful of places to go and when your script is rejected where else can you go? You can’t approach the small indie company that makes five million dollar budgets and below with your $100 million epic, right?

Screenwriting success is a numbers game with luck and timing—right project, right producer, right time. It’s like the stars must align and then BAM! And how often does that happen? Yes, it does happen and that’s why we continue to write and become better screenwriters. Even when a script sells, it can end up in development hell and never get produced too. This is why you’ll need a stack of scripts to burn through, each finds its way along the journey, some fail, some succeed and then fail, some succeed and go all the way.

So, one spec will not do it. And the spec you are writing now (no offense) will probably not be “the one” that does the job. It might, but don’t hang all of your hopes and dreams on it. Don’t quit your job and put yourself into the dangerous situation of “having to sell your script.” It’s one thing to believe in your work and hope for the best, it’s another to be foolish and not look at the realities of the business.

Specs are always necessary to gain precious screenwriting experience and develop your unique style and writer’s “voice.” The more you write and learn, the better you will become as a screenwriter. Experience takes time and you’ll need to dedicate the necessary time to mastering your craft. Treat your current spec as just another tool to move you forward on the playing field. It’s probably not going to be “the one”, but one of many you’ll have to write to stay in the game and have any shot at success.

Keep writing because if you stop, you’ll never have any chance at success.

Scriptcat out!

Download my new free mobile app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp.  It delivers my weekly script tips, videos and links.

Subscribe to my new YOUTUBE CHANNEL with weekly screenwriting advice.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay and need in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information. You never get a second change to make a first great impression with your script. Make the time to get it right.

Screenplay consultation services

“Deliberate practice, by its nature, must be hard. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.”—Florida State University’s Anders Ericsson

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”—Ray Bradbury

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure. But the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. [F]ailure means a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself to be anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believe I truly belonged. [R]ock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.” ~ J.K. Rowling

“Unlimited budgets make for a lack of precise decision-making.”— producer Lynda Obst

“People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand. They are afraid to find out how tough they are. Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.”—William Faulkner

Happy 4 Year Anniversary to My Blank Page!

December 5, 2014 § 2 Comments

anniversary 4Wow!  Time sure flies when we’re busy filling our blank pages. Yes, it’s my FOUR YEAR ANNIVERSARY here at MY BLANK PAGE! And a solid year with over 48,000 views of the blog, I say thank you to all of my loyal readers for a fantastic fourth year on the net.  I hope my articles helped in some way to you surviving in the trenches of Hollywood as a working screenwriter. As you know, screenwriting is a long haul journey to reach any level of success, but when you know other writers are out here slugging away, fighting the good fight, and being successful, it can help to give hope and strength to fill yet another blank page and follow your dreams.

In addition to my nearly 170 articles on the blog, I’ve also had guest bloggers too—the talented screenwriter Mark Dark who contributed a hilarious piece on what a nightmare TV pitch meeting from hell might be like, also his great article on the movie The Town, screenwriter/producer Christine Conradt‘s great article “Your Value as a Screenwriter: What are you Worth?” and actor/standup comic Rawle D. Lewis’ piece on The Actor’s Perspective: Great Dialogue is Like Audible Gold.”

I hope this has been a productive year for you as it’s been for me. I completed two screenwriting assignment jobs (my 12th and 13th paid gigs), one of the movies wrapped production in September and it’s in post-production, and I just completed a first draft of the other script gig this month and turned it into the producer a day before my contracted deadline. These two projects were the 27th and 28th screenplays that I’ve written since I started on this wacky adventure. It’s always a new experience every time up to the plate and I never take it for granted. I feel blessed daily that I’m living my childhood dreams of being a filmmaker.

I’m also wrapping up the final touches on my new book A Screenwriter’s Journey to Success set for an early 2015 release on Amazon, so keep checking back on the blog or my Twitter account for a solid release date.

I have a new free mobile app called SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp.  Once you download it,  you’ll receive screenwriting tips a few times a week from the app and it has links to my videos, website and other places to find script advice.  On the video front, I’ve also created a screenwriting YOUTUBE CHANNEL where I post weekly script videos with my tips, tricks and tactics to help you survive in Hollywood’s trenches.

And as you complete your latest magnum opus, if you find yourself in need of professional screenplay consultation, check out my screenplay consultation services. You never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay.

I  have renewed energy for 2015 and I hope you do as well. If haven’t done this already, make the time to craft a checklist and game plan for the new year so you can hit the ground running. Analyze your experiences this past year, examine your mistakes and failures, celebrate your successes, adapt and find new strategies to move you and your projects forward down the paying field.

My sincere thanks for your support of this blog. Remember to always respect your craft, keep the faith, and if you stop writing, you’re guaranteed to never have a shot at any success.

All my best wishes for 2015,

Scriptcat out!

never give up

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”—Pablo Picasso

“You must be confident enough to believe that you can “make it”—but humble enough to know it’s a long journey with much to learn.”—Scriptcat

This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

“It is no small feat to get a movie made, on any subject, on any screen.” —JJ Abrams

“People really are afraid to find out just how much hardship and poverty they can stand. They are afraid to find out how tough they are. Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.”—William Faulkner

Scriptcat’s 3 script tips to prepare yourself for 2015’s screenwriting journey…

November 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ikarloff scriptf you’re a regular reader of this blog, first of all—THANK YOU!  I truly hope you’re busy creating and forging ahead on your screenwriting journey and you’ve been able to take away a few nuggets of advice that helped. As you may know, I’ve been adding short posts (nothing is EVER short on this blog!) and sharing various survival tips. I do speak about these in the various articles on this blog, but this feature will be a quick reference to glance over and consider as you navigate your screenwriting journey.  So, in addition to my tips on Twitter (@scriptcat), I’ll be posting new ones here from time to time.  Thanks for reading and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting!

I can’t believe another year is winding down so quickly. Have you been planning your screenwriting goals for 2015? So far this past year it’s been a fantastic ride for me. My last screenwriting assignment job (my 12th overall!) was produced in September and is now in post production, I was blessed to be hired again for a new script assignment and I’m finishing that screenplay’s first draft, a film of mine just re-aired on TV, and I’m preparing for the publication of my new book in early 2015.

Okay, let’s get to the action—here are a few more useful survival tips for your journey…

TIP #1

the key to being a professional screenwriterAs a screenwriter, you must consider writing a job and this helps you to think of yourself as a professional.  It’s good practice and prepares you for the time when you do get paid to write and the producer requires you to complete the script on a deadline.  It’s no longer the romanticized dream of endless time to work on your spec in a dream world—it’s go time as you are getting paid, you have a schedule and a contract.  The producer or executive expects greatness from you and you generally have six to eight weeks to deliver the first draft.  And that draft must be excellent or you will be fired. This is not the time for a “vomit draft.” If you start meeting your own deadlines, it will be easier later when you are paid and under contract to meet your producer’s deadlines.

TIP #2

feedbackIf you’re going to play in the majors, you’re competing with the best and you must accept that sometimes you won’t find the validation you need. Many times you will be disappointed from your feedback and your high expectations may be squashed. Your ego’s bruised, beaten to a pulp and you to doubt your talent and chances for success. Don’t take it personally, because feedback is a rite of passage necessary for the growth of any aspiring screenwriter. If you want to survive over the long haul of a career, you’ll need to toughen up and build your courage to endure disappointment criticism and rejection. As you embrace this process, you’ll begin to look at constructive feedback as a positive experience that helps make your script better and teaches you collaboration as a team player.

TIP #3

quote of the dayTake everything as face value for talk is the cheapest commodity in Hollywood. Many times interest in you or your script and the endless talk is just that—interest and talk.  Many times meetings are just meetings.  Everyone wants credit for their good intentions and many times a producer’s upbeat attitude about your project can become infectious.  You want to believe that others see your dream and can realize it.  Why not?  It’s what keeps us going as screenwriters—belief in our projects and the faith that success is just around the corner.  I’m sure when producers and executives tell you that your project is going into production, they just might believe it themselves to be true — but too many times a writer is told this to buy more free time.  Everyone wants to keep a writer’s interest in hanging on until they work out the pesky financing details or want more free notes.   If they can’t raise the money for the budget and have a tiny development budget, there really is no money to pay the writer.  Get excited when a contract is presented, you sign it and get paid. Otherwise, you can’t live on the currency of good intentions.

Now get back to your blank pages. If you stop writing you’ll never have any chance at success.

@Scriptcat out!

Download my new free mobile app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp! Receive my weekly screenwriting tips, videos and links. It’s free with no ads!

Also subscribe to my new YOUTUBE CHANNEL with weekly screenwriting video tips.

Did you just complete your latest magnum opus? Time for in-depth screenplay consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information.

Screenplay consultation services

Do “you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“Deliberate practice, by its nature, must be hard. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.”—Florida State University’s Anders Ericsson

If you’re worried about failing, you ought to get into a different business, because statistics will tell you that sixty or seventy percent of the time you’re going to fail.  By fail I mean that the movie won’t make money.  Just do the best you can every time.  And if you’re going to stay in the movies, and you like movies—and I love them—you’d better love them a lot, because it’s going to take all of your time.  If you want to be in the movies, it’s going to break your heart.“—Richard Brooks, director of Blackboard Jungle, Sweet Bird of Youth, In Cold Blood, Looking for Mr. Goodbar

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure. But the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. [F]ailure means a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself to be anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believe I truly belonged. [R]ock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.” ~ J.K. Rowling

never give up

 

Be patient, respect the challenges ahead, focus on your love of the craft and not the urgency for success…

November 16, 2014 § 1 Comment

BoulderFlatIf you’re just starting out writing screenplays or if you’ve been in the game for a few years, you will recognize it’s a long haul journey to reach any level of success in the film industry. One script will not launch your career and it may take five or six until you hit your stride with your ability to compete on a professional level. Even if you reach the point where you are working, there are no guarantees of any continued success—ever.

Are you willing to do what it takes and spend the time to craft a solid body of work to compete? Are you writing and learning to become an excellent screenwriter? Do you have the drive and tenacity to weather the storm of criticism, rejection and failure during the years it may take to secure even one successful job?

Remember that no one forced you to choose this endeavor. It’s your dream and you must be responsible for it. No one else can go after it for you. Being a screenwriter is not for the thin-skinned or for those looking for a shortcut to success. Ask yourself the honest questions about why you are pursuing a career in screenwriting. Realize that you must stay in the game over the long haul to have any shot at success. It’s a fool’s endeavor to seek fame and fortune, but if screenwriting is your life’s work and passion, you will find a way around any obstacles to succeed.

And what about time? It’s your greatest asset or your worst enemy. It depends on how you use your precious time to write uninterrupted and become productive. That’s why I ask aspirants if they have an artist’s mentality — or the insanity to believe that even as they stare into the dark void of the unknown, their burning passion will guide them across yet another hurdle.

Iscript oddst’s a numbers game at best and you’ll burn through a pile of specs before one finally either sells or lands you a screenwriting assignment. This is why it’s so important to always have many projects in various stages of writing, development or the idea & pitching stage. The urgency we feel as writers for a read or to sell scripts is always pushed back by the reality of the film business and the bizarre amount of time it takes for anything to happen. Any movement on your projects will always take longer than you ever expected. A career will probably take many years to forge. This is why you never want to stake your future on just one project because the odds selling anything are rare. You don’t need to put yourself in a the horrible position where you need to sell a script to get you out of debt or to save you from a day job that you hate.

As you travel on your screenwriting journey, the image that you project is extremely important and you should keep up an image of success. You do this by being busy and creating a solid body of material to show prospective agents, managers, producers and executives that you are a work horse with something to offer. Never give them a chance to think of you as a diva who believes he or she is God’s gift to cinema. It’s the team player and collaborator who always works again. The pain in the ass gets branded as “difficult” and wonders why the work has dried up.

Also remember, after you finish your spec screenplay, unleashing it upon Hollywood becomes the most important driving force in your life — unfortunately unless it’s an assignment job where the producer is waiting for you to deliver the project, no one cares. They just don’t give a sh*t. I’m not being cynical, just honest. You’re now part of the other 50,000 scripts registered at the Writers Guild every year and without representation, you too must figure a way to catapult it over the wall and into someone’s compound for a read. This entire process of writing, rewriting, to finding representation takes a long time and requires tremendous patience. Especially if you’re working a day job you hate and you see your script as your way out and into the life of a working screenwriter. I don’t suggest putting this kind of heavy pressure on yourself, as it will make you stressed and even more impatient. Here’s my advice on how to juggle a day job.

It’s a long road to becoming a working screenwriter and forging a career usually doesn’t happen overnight. My personal journey took six years out of film school until I secured my first professional writing job and eight years until my fifth spec went before the cameras. If you are in this for the long haul, it will require tremendous patience. Even becoming a better writer does not happen overnight and requires you to continually write, learn and create projects that you will sadly discover will ultimately never sell.

Your journey as a screenwriter will be a series of failures and mistakes, triumphs and little successes that when added up will hopefully lead to a steady career as a working screenwriter in Hollywood.  The process will be long and difficult, but if you have patience and accept the challenges ahead, you’ll focus more on your love for the craft and not the urgency of success.

Keep on filling your blank pages and keep your eye on the big picture.

@Scriptcat out!

Download my new free mobile app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp. It sends out my weekly script tips from my upcoming book, my weekly videos and links.

Subscribe to my YOUTUBE CHANNEL for weekly video script tips, tricks and tactics to help you survive in the trenches.

first script

“No road is too long for him who advances slowly and does not hurry, and no attainment is beyond his reach who equips himself with patience to achieve it.” — Jean de La Bruyere

“… a basic “must” for every writer: A simple solitude—physical & mental.”—Rod Serling

Stephen King with advice from his old newspaper editor John Gould: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”

“One of the things that young writers falsely hope exists is inspiration. A lot of young writers fail because they aren’t putting in the hours. Whether you can write all day every day, or whether you can write four hours on Sundays, whatever it is, you have to protect that time.”—William Goldman

“If a writer stops observing, he is finished.”—Ernest Hemingway

The professional understands delayed gratification.  He is the ant, not the grasshopper; the tortoise, not the hare… the professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work. He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much. He accepts that.  He recognizes it as reality. He conserves his energy. He prepares his mind for the long haul. He sustains himself with the knowledge that if he can just keep the huskies mushing, sooner or later the sled will pull in to Nome.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

masater po

When you type “FADE OUT: THE END” — then it will be time for you to go…

 

Scriptcat’s three more tips from the screenwriting trenches…

November 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

script revisionIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may know, I’ve been offering my screenplay tips, tricks and tactics on MY BLANK PAGE and weekly short posts and share various survival tips. I do speak about these in the various articles on this blog, but this new feature will be a quick reference to glance over and consider as you navigate your screenwriting journey. So, in addition to my tips on Twitter (@scriptcat), I’ll be posting new ones here from time to time.  Thanks for reading and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting!

When I consult on screenplays for screenwriters through my consultation service, I can’t tell you how many issues I repeatedly find that harm the overall screenplay. It will live or die by 1,000 tiny details.  I know with a little knowledge and insight on the part of the screenwriter, these issues could be easily cleaned up and push the script to a professional level. It only takes one or two issues that repeatedly appear to make your project go from a “RECOMMEND” to a “PASS.”

Okay, on with three more survival tips that will help you on your screenwriting adventure…

TIP #1

Don’t overwrite and micromanage scenes by trying to put your imprint all over them for fear the actor or director “won’t understand” what you are trying to do. They’ll get it if your scene is properly written. Only include the most important action descriptions and avoid the unnecessary ones like: “Frank rolls his eyes, smiles, takes a deep breath, and turns toward the window.” Actors hate this and they will hate your writing even more on the set. The director and actors will figure out how stage the action in the scene from the character’s motivations, etc. Actors love to create their film character’s “business.” Try your best to stay out-of-the-way of the story.

TIP #2

Stay open to constructive criticism. A new writer’s rite of passage if feedback. You will always receive screenplay notes as the script is an ever-changing blueprint for a movie.  Once producers, a director and actors get involved there will be many changes and you should welcome the creative input from your co-creators on a project. These fellow artisans will bring it to an entirely new level of creativity. But if the process gets dragged down by so many changes you can become frustrated and feel like throwing in the towel. Stay positive, focused and persistent at executing the notes and turning in a better script.   Keep an eye on the bigger picture–getting the film produced and distributed. Find the passion you had for the first draft and put that energy into shaping a new draft that will please not only yourself, but the talent it will eventually attract.

TIP #3

Carve out a writing schedule and stick to it. You need to protect your precious writing time and treat it like a job because it will be exactly the same when you finally do get paid—but you’ll have the added pressure of being under contract, being paid and having the producer expecting “great things!” Hemingway said, “Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.” Working every day, even if it’s for a short period of time, creates discipline. The longer you write the more you’ll get to know yourself better as a writer.  You’ll discover your strengths and weaknesses, if you write fast or slow, and if you’re easily distracted or if you can work in a crowded coffee shop. When the writing gets difficult, time becomes your enemy as you never know each day if your creative juices will flow or dry up. Do yourself a favor and always protect your precious writing time from the forces of interruption and distraction. You’ll keep on schedule, writing will become a habit, and you will be acting like the professional you’ve become.

Keep the faith and keep filling your blank pages.

Scriptcat out!

Download my free app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp. Weekly script tips, video and links.

Check out my new YouTube channel with weekly screenwriting tips.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay and need in-depth consultation? Check out my services. Click on the icon below for link to my website and more information.  You never get a second change to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.
Screenplay consultation services
 “If a writer stops observing, he is finished.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Being an artist means not having to avert one’s eyes.”—Akira Kurosawa

The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then.”—William Faulkner

“… a basic “must” for every writer: A simple solitude—physical & mental.”—Rod Serling

Deliberate practice, by its nature, must be hard. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. Regular practice simply isn’t enough. To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.”—Florida State University’s Anders Ericsson

 

procrastination

Scriptcat’s fabulous fall screenwriting tips for your journey…

October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

write onIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, first of all—THANK YOU!  I truly hope you’re busy creating and forging ahead on your screenwriting journey and you’ve been able to take away a few nuggets of advice that helped. As you may know, I’ve been adding short posts (nothing is EVER short on this blog!) and sharing various survival tips. I do speak about these in the various articles on this blog, but this feature will be a quick reference to glance over and consider as you navigate your screenwriting journey. Download my new free all SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp—includes tips from my upcoming book with a November publishing date. So, in addition to my tips on Twitter (@scriptcat), I’ll be posting new ones here from time to time.  Thanks for reading and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting!

I can’t believe 2014 is quickly ending very soon. Have you been reaching your screenwriting goals for 2015? Okay, here are a few fall screenwriting survival tips…

TIP #1        NO ONE CARES!

The longer you slug it out in Hollywood’s trenches, you’ll learn that it’s important not to expect anything from the film business. Never expect anyone to love your screenplay as much as you do—that goes for your agent, manager or producer. And don’t expect anyone to care about your career as much a you do. It’s your responsibility to steer your career in a direction that you want. If you go into this business with eyes wide and your head in the clouds believing that success will be easy, you’ll soon be crushed by the reality of feedback.  As Lao Tzu wrote: “Act without expectation.” It’s a good philosophy to follow on the long haul journey to any level of screenwriting success.

TIP #2       YOUR TIME IS PRECIOUS & WORTH MONEY!

And what about time?  It’s your greatest asset or your worst enemy. It depends on how you use your precious time to create a solid body of work and continue to become a better screenwriter. That’s why I ask if you have an artist’s mentality — or the insanity to believe that even as you stare into the dark void of the unknown, your burning passion will guide you across yet another hurdle.   You’ll need to withstand continued rejection, criticism, failure, and even sometimes ridicule — and if you can remain strong and shout with confidence, “I am a screenwriter” and truly believe it, because you are doing the work. Sacrificing the time to create a solid body of work and not just talking about what you’d like to be doing.

TIP #3       DEADLINES, DEADLINES, DEADLINES… 

If you want to eventually work professionally, as I’m sure is your goal, you will need to work efficiently under a deadline, and at the best of your ability. It’s basically working quickly at the best of your creativity on a schedule and under a deadline. The only way to get to this place is to always set your own deadlines and meet them every time with your spec screenplays. If you’re not practicing this writing schedule now, I’d suggest starting it on your next project.

BONUS TIP!    

You may write a half-dozen specs that don’t sell before one of them secures you an assignment job from a producer or studio.  Keep writing and finding your unique voice, keep mastering your craft, and really think about why you are writing your spec. What you write about is as important as how you write it.   You never know the perils that await you on your pathway to success, but the road is definitely paved with your spec screenplays—it just might take a half-dozen or more.

Keep the faith and filling your blank pages.

@Scriptcat out!

Dig my new screenwriting app SCREENWRITING GURU — now free from Yapp. Weekly script tips, video tips, and links to my social media pages with valuable information for your journey.

Did you just complete your new screenplay? Time for in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information.

Screenplay consultation services

“We all have the tendency to want to take the quickest, easiest path to our goals, but we generally manage to control our impatience; we understand the superior value of getting what we want through hard work. For some people, however, this inveterate lazy streak is far too powerful.”—Robert Greene, “Mastery”

“If a writer stops observing, he is finished.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure. But the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. [F]ailure means a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself to be anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena where I believe I truly belonged. [R]ock bottom became the solid foundation on which I built my life.” ~ J.K. Rowling

This is, if not a lifetime process, it’s awfully close to it. The writer broadens, becomes deeper, becomes more observant, becomes more tempered, becomes much wiser over a period time passing. It is not something that is injected into him by a needle. It is not something that comes on a wave of flashing, explosive light one night and say, ‘Huzzah! Eureka! I’ve got it!’ and then proceeds to write the great American novel in eleven days. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a long, tedious, tough, frustrating process, but never, ever be put aside by the fact that it’s hard.”—Rod Serling

Most writers can’t tell at the premise stage whether they’ve got a good story because they don’t have the training to see the deep structural problems in the idea before writing it as a script.”—John Truby

“Luck is a prepared screenwriter who meets an opportunity and delivers the goods.”—Scriptcat

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 381 other followers

%d bloggers like this: