You’ll need multiple projects in the marketplace at all times for any chance at success…

March 12, 2015 § 1 Comment

a projects journeyIt’s a numbers game at best. Consider the odds of selling a spec screenplay the same as winning the lottery if you believe the numbers—nearly 40,000 projects bounce around Hollywood each year with just over 100 specs selling at the studio level most years. Hollywood released 692 movies in theaters domestically in 2014. Don’t forget about the thousands of films without distribution that end up competing at film festivals every year with only a handful landing deals. Sundance had 4,057 films entered in 2014 and only 119 got in and about 27 got distribution deals. Ah, don’t forget about the hundreds of pitches that don’t sell. They’re worse because they struggle out there in the ether with the producer or executive debating if the writer can deliver the goods as pitched.

Yes, I also hate learning about the odds, but it’s a reality that must be considered so you know the mountain that you must climb with every new screenplay. This is an example of why you must have multiple projects, pitches and treatments in the marketplace at any given time for chance that one might—and I stress might—find interest and move farther down the playing field.

And talk is cheap in Hollywood, so add that to the journey of your projects when producers or executives head their praise on your talents and your screenplay, but string you along with offers of free work as they dangle the carrot of production.

Interest, even when you receive a payday, doesn’t always guarantee your film goes on to being a produced film. Sure, money makes their interest real, but your project still must jump over hurdles that are out of your control.

  • An option for little money doesn’t end up with the purchase of the script.
  • A script is purchased, the writer is fired, and it’s rewritten so many times it languishes in development hell and never gets produced.
  • A script is close to being financed when suddenly the investors pullout, the producer loses the money and the star as a result.
  • A project is put on hold because of scheduling conflicts.
  • A project isn’t produced due to changing global marketplace factors. It’s cheaper NOT to make the film than take a risk.

Each project you create will have a shelf life and travel on its own unique journey to either failure or success. Sometimes a spec that that didn’t sell two years ago can find a new home, but it’s a long haul journey for any project to find a producer or executive who likes it enough to move forward in some way. The project must also survive the dicey minefield of the development process and with luck, move into production.

Even when a film is produced, there still is no guarantee of success either. How many films considered a “guaranteed hit” end up a bomb at the box office? It happens every weekend. As you see there are many hurdles that are out of a screenwriter’s control, but the one thing in your control is creating a solid body of work and putting it in the pipeline with the goal of having one move forward down the field to production. This is why you can’t be a “one script wonder” and burn out after a few drafts of your first screenplay. I just completed my 28th overall screenplay that is my 13th paid assignment and it’s still hard work and humbling.

first scriptOne of the hardest lessons that I had to learn when I finally started being paid to write screenplays was that not every project that I wrote was going to be produced. Many projects that I was hired to write ended up in development hell, not from anything I did, but because of a variety of circumstances out of my control. These projects remain viable with production ready drafts, but might never get off the shelf and into production.

That’s okay. Take your lumps and move onto generating your next logline, pitch or treatment and hopefully another job. Never forget that Hollywood is a business and screenwriting is a profession with the same dilemmas of other jobs. Your goal is staying in the game and being hired again and again to write screenplays to establish a career. It may take writing a half-dozen projects for one to finally sell or get you assignment work, but every new script is a new opportunity or a missed opportunity–it depends on how you play it.

The other harsh reality is that you will need plenty of time to master your craft and be writing at a professional level with at least four or five solid projects that can be out in the marketplace competing with the thousands of others. This is why I stress the practice of patience during this period of your journey. I find many beginning screenwriters are too eager to sell their first script for a million dollars—like it’s just that easy. It’s not just that easy. And you need to respect your craft and practice it every day. You’ll need the time to fail and write badly before you can become an excellent screenwriter, execute notes and work on a schedule under pressure. You don’t want a yellow belt in screenwriting—you want to achieve a Grand Master 4th degree Black Belt—and to do this you’ll need to train by writing every day.

boxerThe only way you’ll be able to do this is to keep to a tight writing schedule. You’ll need to protect your precious writing time. Stephen King calls it “closing your door.” When your door is closed, it means that you are writing. You have to take your career seriously and become a master at scheduling your time. If you dabble at your career, time becomes your enemy, it passes quickly while projects burn out and life gets in the way of your most splendid screenwriting dreams. If you keep the pipeline always filled with your best work you will create opportunities and have a shot at success.

If your body of work includes feature-length original screenplays and if they don’t sell, the scripts can become solid writing samples that can get you assignment work.  If you want to work in television, your body of work should include your original TV pilots to show an agent, manager, producer or executive your unique voice. It used to be that you needed to write a spec episode of an existing series, but now agents and managers look for original material to get a handle on the writer’s talent and unique voice. And for both feature films and TV continue to craft your pitches for ideas that you want to write.

If you have a solid body of work and you’re always creating new projects, you will be more attractive to an agent or manager as they can see you are not a “one script wonder” but a workhorse. They don’t like divas and love writers who write and create the product. As you build up your projects, you’ll be working on your craft and becoming a better screenwriter in the process. And as it’s extremely difficult to sell a project, you’ll want to increase your odds by unleashing solid projects into the pipeline so you can attack a career on different fronts. Eventually one script will slip through and stick and it will jump-start your screenwriting career.

Keep on writing and keep the faith!

Scriptcat out!

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 chance to make a first great impression.

Make the time to get it right.

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“In an unmoored life like mine, sleep and hunger and work arrange themselves to suit themselves, without consulting me.”—Kurt Vonnegut

“You can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love. If it is all the same to you I would rather not expound on that.”—Ernest Hemingway

“Most directors do not want to rewrite the script. They have more pressing commitments on the sound stage. The writer’s best insurance against a rewrite is to have an understanding of the directorial problems. Write a scene that can’t be played, no matter how beautiful the words or thoughts, is begging for a revamp.”—Jerry Lewis

“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

“The time we have alone; the time we have in walking; the time we have in riding a bicycle; are the most important times for a writer. Escaping from a typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give your subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs on the subconscious level.”—Ray Bradbury

“I never feel the need to discuss my work with anyone. No, I am too busy writing it. It has got to please me and if it does I don’t need to talk about it. If it doesn’t please me, talking about it won’t improve it, since the only thing to improve it is to work on it some more. I am not a literary man but only a writer. I don’t get any pleasure from talking shop.”—William Faulkner

Scriptcat’s magnificent March screenwriting tips for your journey…

February 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

BoulderFlatIf 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. 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 my free mobile app SCREENWRITING GURU and 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! Okay, here are three more survival tips that will help you on your screenwriting adventure…

TIP #1 Work your way to becoming a multi-hyphenate screenwriter.

multi-hyphenateEventually to gain more creative control over your projects, you’ll need to become a multi-hyphenate filmmaker and not just a screenwriter who is a “hired gun.” This means along with your talent for creating the script you will move into producing and or directing as a way to maintain your total creative vision on the project.  This won’t likely happen on your first few screenplays, but eventually you can negotiate your way into being one of the key decision makers or ultimately the director whose vision takes the script to the screen. Your goal is working your way into being a double threat: A writer/producer or writer/director—or a triple threat: a writer/producer/director.

 

TIP #2: When you just finish your first draft—do not immediately give it to someone for a read. Let the creative dust settle and go over it by yourself. karloff script

Avoid the temptation to give anyone your screenplay moments after you finish it. Put it away and let it settle for a few days or even a week before giving it your first read.  You’ll be coming down from your natural creative high and you don’t want anyone to harsh your buzz.  It’s the necessary time a screenwriter needs to spend alone with his/her script. You’re also in a raw and vulnerable place after giving birth to new material, so you don’t want feedback now to taint your clear vision or perspective. This will only lead to chasing notes because everyone has an opinion.  Keep your script close.  Don’t boast or talk about it.  You did the work now do something to celebrate. You need to enjoy the little and big successes on your long journey as a screenwriter.

 

TIP #3 Find filmmaking mentors and apprentice with them.

lucas & coppola on setAnother good way to do your homework with regards to learning is to find a filmmaking mentors and apprentice under them or at least have access to them as they are working.  Many busy screenwriters need an assistant and they’re willing to pay an hourly wage for the job. It’s a great way for aspiring screenwriters to learn while getting paid. If you can’t find a paid position, offer your time to a working screenwriter in exchange for access to their knowledge and the whole process they go through daily.  A true professional is always willing to give back and share knowledge. When you’re able to observe working professionals, be like a sponge and soak up everything you can and ask questions. I’ve been blessed over the years to work with many top professionals and veterans of the film business and a few have become my mentors.  As I worked with them and collaborated on the films that I wrote, I was able to have inside and unlimited access to help build my screenwriter’s toolkit.  Seeking knowledge is an ongoing discipline for every artist. Keep filling your blank pages. If you stop you’ll never have any chance at success. Scriptcat out!

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Did you just finish you latest screenplay? Congrats! Do you need in-depth analysis, editing, proofing? Check out my consultation services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website.  You’ll never get a second chance to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.

Screenplay consultation services

The time we have alone; the time we have in walking; the time we have in riding a bicycle; are the most important times for a writer. Escaping from a typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give your subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs on the subconscious level.”—Ray Bradbury

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

“All you need to do is write truly and not care about what the fate of it is.”—Ernest Hemingway

“No person who is enthusiastic about his work has anything to fear from life.”—Samuel Goldwyn

I don’t think of it as an art. When it works it’s skill & craft and some unconscious ability”—Ernest Lehman

“When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb outside with a pencil and a ten cent notebook and start the whole thing over again.” — Preston Sturges

Work inspires inspiration. Keep working. If you succeed, keep working. If you fail, keep working. If you’re interested, keep working. If you’re bored, keep working.”—Michael Crichton

Scriptcat’s 3 tasty screenwriting tips for your journey…

February 13, 2015 § 1 Comment

sullivans-travels-052As you may know, I’ve been adding short posts and sharing various survival tips on the blog in addition to the full articles. This feature offers 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 tips here as part of an ongoing series.  Thanks for reading and as always: Carry on, keep the faith and keep screenwriting!

When I consult on screenplays for screenwriters, 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.” And you get one shot to make a first great impression. Take the time to get it right.

Okay, three more survival tips that may help you on the long marathon on your journey as a screenwriter…

#1 )   As you navigate on this slow climb to success, do not judge yourself as a writer only by an agent or manager’s opinion of your work. 

feedback equals disappointmentI once received feedback back in the day on my script from an agent who held court at a powerful and mighty agency. He actually hated my screenplay—this was a script that placed in the top 1% of the Academy’s prestigious Nicholl Fellowship at the Motion Picture Academy. It was a top 20 script that year in competition and it eventually went on to being produced and distributed worldwide. Who knows the reasoning behind any given feedback? Bad day, fight with wife or girlfriend/boyfriend, bias against the genre or storyline, not interested in the genre, similar film bombed at the box office, who knows? I think we as writers know in our hearts if something we’ve written is good, clear and is authentic writing. Get in touch with writing the truth and scripts that represent your unique voice.

#2 )  As you’re screenwriting, keep the intimate details of your work to yourself.

never believe them untl the check clearsDo not continually talk about the status of your projects, your “writing process,” or how each project is moving forward.  Hollywood has a bizarre time warp that works on its own schedule. Every project will take longer than you ever expected and you don’t need people thinking that you’re blowing smoke when you talk about the status of your material. The truth is that it takes an incredible amount of time for any script to find a home and eventually get produced—if ever. Sometimes the less you say about your progress the better. We all have our own inner voice of self-doubt, but why give fodder to your critics and skeptics who will use it to squash your dreams? They’ll even taint any good news you share and use it to belittle your success because they didn’t have the guts to risk everything to pursue their own dreams. They enjoy raining on your parade instead. Protect your dreams and cut the naysayers out of your life. Keep your work close to the vest until it’s finished.

#3 )   Don’t be a “one-script wonder” and believe that one script will make your career.

spec scriptsBecome a writing workhorse who constantly writes new material because it’s a numbers game at best and you are up against tremendous odds of selling anything. Always have ready a new pitch, synopsis, treatment and script to offer.  Hollywood is a business, and agents and managers size you up to see your career potential. They want you to work and need the material to send into the pipeline. That means you may write five or six scripts before ANYTHING happens that moves you forward in a real and positive way. It wasn’t until my fourth spec screenplay out of college that made some noise for me and it was my fifth spec that received an option and went on to be produced into a film. You also need to be good in a room while pitching your ideas — and you’ll need to execute the notes well and write under the pressure of deadlines. Be a team player and don’t bristle at criticism. This is all part of being a professional screenwriter.  Potential reps will look for these traits because your potential employers will as well. Hollywood is such a fickle business where years can pass between jobs, writers are “hot” and then not, and life can get in the way and derail even the best attempts at a career. Respect the craft and the journey or it will humble you.

Keep on writing and keep the faith— @Scriptcat out!

Download my new free mobile app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp. It features my bi-weekly script tips, videos and links to my website and other screenwriting advice.

Subscribe to my new YOUTUBE CHANNEL for weekly screenwriting video tips.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay and need in-depth consultation before you unleash it upon Hollywood? Check out my services by clicking the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information. You get one shot to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Make the time to get it right.

Screenplay consultation services

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

“Reading, in the showbiz game, is work. Drudgery even—antithetical, I might argue, to why most writers toil. We write to be read. Hopefully enjoyed. Even to later be complimented. But most importantly, we’d like to know that we entertained. That the reader either laughed or was moved to tears or struck by some worthy emotion summoned by the strings of words we’ve chosen.”—screenwriter Doug Richardson.

It is one thing to study war and another to live the warrior’s life.”—Telamon of Arcadia, mercenary, 5th Century B.C.

“… 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.”

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

Scriptcat’s Top 10 Disciplines to Being a Professional Once You Sell the Script……

February 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

handshake cartoonOkay, you finally have some interest in your screenplay, perhaps an option or maybe a sale. Congrats! Now the real work begins. It’s one thing to write your spec in a protected bubble, where every idea is yours and you never have to change a word—now you’re thrust into the professional world of screenwriting. This is not the amateur hour and not the time to act like an aspirant. You’ve been granted entrance behind the gates and  just graduated into the big leagues, so your attitude and actions must follow. Even if  you’ve never sold anything yet, you should always act like a professional.

Okay, you sell a project and there is interest in your talents, that is an amazing start, but never believe you are Hollywood’s new gift to screenwriting—you aren’t and there are thousands, possibly ten of thousands of other writers, equally as talented, more driven to success, who are not divas and can get the job done. It is a fickle business where years can pass between jobs, writers are “hot” and then not, and life can get in the way and derail even the best attempts at a career. Hollywood owes you nothing, so respect the journey or the business will humble you.

the key to being a professional screenwriterThis is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned on my fifteen plus years as a professional screenwriter. It’s such a competitive business with the odds stacked against you even before you start your next script, but if you always act as a professional, your reputation will definitely help you before and finally when you do land an opportunity. I’ve experienced it over a dozen times with jobs, and I’m sure it is what has helped me secure my assignment jobs over other writers.

Yes, talent is very important, that is a given, but the ability to craft a really good first draft, execute notes, being a team player and collaborator, all of these professional actions can mean the difference between securing a job or not. I’ve been on the short list many times for projects, and I’ve secured the jobs because I can show the producers that I care and they can trust me. This is how you get hired again and again—that’s called a career.

Remember, luck is a prepared screenwriter who meets with an opportunity and knocks it out of the park.

Here is my TOP 10 list to help you stay in the game as a professional after you have sold a script:

1. Always deliver your best work, every time, regardless of your salary. You’ll probably make very little money at the start, but always look at the bigger picture—a long and successful career.

2. Be the writer/collaborator whom they trust to execute the notes and get the job done on schedule.

3. Never be late for meetings. Ever. They are late and make you wait, don’t you do the same.

4. Don’t be precious with your screenplay. Never get testy about script notes or show your anger. A “team player” works again. Remember, no scene or dialogue is wroth losing a job over. Trust me.

5. Go the extra mile on the project and clearly show them how invaluable you are to the producers.

6.  If you haven’t trained enough or built up the ability—pay close attention to all details. So many things slip through the cracks, it’s your job to make sure to point every one out for the sake of the film. They will appreciate you for it.

7. Become a repository of knowledge about the script for the director, producer and actors. Help them make the film and offer any support you can to make their job easier. You have lived and breathed it more than they will ever do and it came out of your head so you’re the expert.

9. Be fun to work with on projects. Your unique personality will go far and if you’re fun to be around, people will remember your positive characteristic. Nobody likes to work with a diva or A-hole.

10. Be humble and know that we all are just traveling from job to job. The work you do now is going to pay off over the long haul for your career, so always keep the bigger picture in mind and do everything you can now to build a solid foundation for success.

Being a professional doesn’t only mean that you’re getting paid to do your craft, it means you always follow the code of a professional in a business where time is money and they don’t put up with divas. You’ll always find opportunities to build your reputation and integrity as a professional screenwriter.  It will take some time to build up a solid reputation, but it’s vital if you want longevity in this business.

Every new project is a chance to build new relationships and show the producers and executives they can trust you by being a person of your word.  If you promise to do something—do it.  It’s really that easy.  Over time, these professionals will know they can count on you and that your word means something.  It’s part of being a professional in all aspects of your career and you will attract those by the way you act.

Keep filling your blank pages because if you stop… you’ll never have a shot at any level of success.

@Scriptcat out!

Download my new free app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp — it features my bi-weekly script tips and videos with plenty of screenwriting advice for your long haul journey.

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Did you just complete your latest script and need professional consultation? Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information.

Screenplay consultation services

“… 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.”

“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

“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

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

procrastination

 

Keep filling your blank pages, one page at a time…

January 31, 2015 § 1 Comment

script oddsLike any discipline in life, it’s usually one “thing” at a time, one rep of a workout, one-minute, one day, or one step after another for any journey. Follow your screenwriting disciplines the same way. If you stop and think about the entire one-hundred or so pages at once, it can overwhelm you. Focus on the scene in front of you, but also be aware of how it relates to the bigger story and the journey of your protagonist. Do not stray from your writing schedule and step by step, you will finish your script if you stick with it every day.

Nice and easy does it every time. You’ll soon find that every trip up to the blank page is a different experience and every script is an adventure with its own unique set of triumphs and failures. It does get easier with experience, but even as I’m working on the second draft of my twenty-eighth feature-length screenplay, it’s the same process as it was on my first script.

You never know how it’s going to go until you type FADE IN and set off on that journey. Never take the process for granted or believe that you know everything—you will always be surprised and humbled by the craft. Sometimes the writing comes easy, other times it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. When the writing becomes difficult and you’re hitting a creative wall, remember there’s no way around it, you can only break through it by focusing on the project and making a breakthrough happen. If you avoid the writing because it gets difficult, that breeds procrastination and it’s a disaster for any writer.

write onWhen the writing becomes hard, a long time friend of mine who is a writer/director exclaims, “It’s crap!” Yes, and the worst thing is to know that you’re writing “crap” and just slogging through putting words on paper, hoping to fix it in the next draft. You may have heard the moronic phrase sometimes used on a film production, “Don’t worry, we’ll fix it in post.”  The reality is—you can’t fix it in post. The same goes for your first draft.

This is why I’m not a fan of the “vomit” draft where you just spew out whatever comes into your mind and worry about it later. I don’t have that luxury when I work on my screenplay assignment jobs for producers, as they’ve hired me to write a fantastic first draft based upon a super tight story treatment. You should get into the habit of making your first draft as good as possible to train yourself for the time when you do land an assignment job. You certainly don’t want to find out on your first job that the producer wants you to do a “page one” rewrite of your first draft because it was substandard. Make it as amazing as you possibly can. Why not?

I believe the first imprint on those virgin blank pages will forge the DNA of the screenplay—or at least it should. If you are following a tightly structured treatment your first draft is a relative breeze. Nail it the best you can the first time out and avoid the pitfalls of stumbling into a horrible trap of development hell.  It’s hard to go another direction with the story in another draft, and you’ll need years of experience being able to execute screenplay notes and successful rewrites—or be fired.

Screenplays live or die by their execution and good screenwriting always includes rewriting. Here is the formula: A good idea + a bad script from that idea = an unsuccessful screenplay and screenwriter. Screenwriting is rewriting and don’t forget it.  Trust me, you might have seven more drafts to follow as the producer or executive may suddenly have a genius thought on a different story direction.

One page at a time. If you write every day, you’ll be in the zone and will not to lose momentum. You’re also training for the long haul marathon to reach any level of success. If you take a day off you’ll think, “why not two days?  Maybe three?” And suddenly, you’re stumbling to get back to your screenplay. If you have other commitments, make sure to carve out your precious writing time and protect your schedule from distraction or interruption.  Keep a tight schedule and do not stray from it as writers need the uninterrupted time to dream, write and get the job done.

In private correspondence the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed, “even if I didn’t write anything, I made sure I sat down at my desk every single day and concentrated.”  Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower. This sort of daily training was indispensable to him.  A writer needs to write something every day.  The more you write—the better you will become.

Five pages a day is a finished script in twenty days — actually my fastest record of completing a first draft for an assignment. You can do it and meet your deadlines if you just keep filling your blank pages, one after another. I completed my latest first draft assignment job in twenty-six days because I worked from a detailed treatment, so I already had done much of the heavy lifting figuring out the story and the structure. The fun part was fleshing out the story and letting the characters come to life, breathe and send them on their journey.

praise or blameOnce you sign on for a script assignment, you lose the leisure time you may have had with your spec to craft every word perfectly. You’re now under the gun and the clock is ticking. The producer expects a draft by the scheduled delivery date and you are getting paid under a deadline. It’s a very different experience from working on your spec only when you get inspired or maybe a half hour a day. If you’ve been hired professionally, you are in work mode and the producer is paying you to deliver the goods. I once had to write 26 pages in 24 hours to complete a script so the producer could show it to the German investors who just flew into town—it was a screenwriting nightmare, but I did it.

I never want to deal with a nightmare scenario like that again, but at least I know if my back is against the wall, I can deliver the goods even under a ridiculous deadline. We know writing is hard work and difficult to do well. Don’t stress about the bigger picture, just keep your focus on the scene you’re writing at this moment, and fill your blank pages, one page at a time.

Keep the faith and if you stop writing, you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success.

Scriptcat out!

Download my new free app “SCREENWRITING GURU” from Yapp —

Features my bi-weekly script tips, videos and screenwriting links!

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Did you just finish your new screenplay? Congrats. Screenwriting is all about the execution and is it time for screenplay consultation/editing/proofing?  Check out my services by clicking on the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information.

Screenplay consultation services

“Writing is survival. Any art, any good work, of course, is that. Not to write, for many of us, is to die. We must take arms each and every day, perhaps knowing that the battle cannot be entirely won, but fight we must, if only a gentle bout.”—Ray Bradbury

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”

“What I’m saying is that is it frustrating.  If a painter paints a picture, he can scrape it off and do it again, if he doesn’t like it.  In a film, it will cost you forty thousand dollars to do that again, just for that once scene that didn’t come out the way you wanted.  All the time I hear young filmmakers say, “But I’ll never make a compromise.”  Baloney!  All of life is a compromise. It’s one succession of compromises after another.”—Stanley Kramer

Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can assume great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became “geniuses” (as we put it), through qualities the lack of which no one who knew what they were would boast of: they all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole.” —Friedrich Nietzsche

Scriptcat’s 3 strategic screenwriting survival tips for your journey…

January 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

script revisionIf 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 app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp—includes tips from my upcoming book with a hopeful spring 2015 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!

Have you been reaching your screenwriting goals for 2015? Okay, here are a few more screenwriting survival tips…

TIP #1        NOTHING PERSONAL, BUT 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 train for this is to always set your own deadlines and meet them every time with your spec screenplays. If you’re not practicing working under a strict writing schedule now, I’d suggest starting it on your next project. Write the same time every day, make your page count and get the job done. When you do land a screenwriting job, you don’t want to be without this vital ability and experience and then struggle to finish your new paid job under a deadline.

BONUS TIP!  

reading guy 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.

Visit and subscribe to my new YOUTUBE CHANNEL for weekly screenplay videos.

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

You just typed “FADE OUT – THE END”… now what?

January 15, 2015 § 2 Comments

completing a scriptThere is no better creative high than when you finish your screenplay. The moment you type “FADE OUT—THE END” it starts a new journey of notes, criticism and rewrites. Embrace it all because it’s part of the long haul screenwriting journey. First on your list, print a copy of your script, put it away and go out and celebrate your victory. We must celebrate the big and little successes along the way, and if you completed a screenplay, you are farther along on the journey than most writers because you’ve actually completed a screenplay.

I find far too many “screenwriters” talk about their writing, and how great their latest screenplay is coming along, and the excruciating minutia of the process—all as they procrastinate from the actual writing. When you come into contact with these types, it certainly sounds like they are writing, but when you check in a few months later, they’ll still boast to you, “I’m on page 30.” You pause for a beat and quickly remember they mentioned the same thing to you three months ago. Talking about writing certainly doesn’t get the job done. It’s not magic that fills the blank pages—it’s a passion for the craft, followed by an ass in a seat, staring at a screen, using the discipline and techniques to churn out pages.

When you finish the work, as productive screenwriters, we always need to celebrate our accomplishments with regards to work actually produced with words on a page. Under no circumstances do you give your first draft to anyone for a read—even if they beg you— and certainly not to any producer or Hollywood industry type. You and the material are too fragile and you need to digest what you’ve written without any outside criticism. This is the precious time needed between a screenwriter and his or her script to form an opinion. What you thought was genius will be crap and what you thought was crap will be genius.

After a week, take the script out from the drawer and go read it alone somewhere using my “20 Steps to use after you type FADE OUT—THE END. I prefer my local coffee-house with a nice large cup of java. Read it through once just to see if the entire script flows. You will find that it’s different from you might have remembered while you were actually writing it. Time away from a script allows you to redefine the story in your head and upon your first read, you will immediately notice things that work or do not work.

script pageNext, take a pen and read through again making your notes. I always find a million small changes to the wording of a scene and the dialogue. Once you’re done, go back to your computer and make the chances into your second draft. Now, if you feel confident about it, take this draft and give it to those people you trust to give a read. I am lucky to have a small circle of fellow writers whom I trust and we always send our latest scripts back and forth to each other for notes. I trust them to give me constructive criticism that will help in my next draft. We’re lucky to share a special esprit de corps in our ranks, each member rooting for the other and striving to make each other better writers.

Writers are known for trying to get away with easy or lazy writing and fellow writers will always bust you if you’ve tried the easy way out in your script. These notes are invaluable as they are coming from a story point of view and not from a producer’s point of view. My fellow writers let me know if my project is effective for what I was trying to do, not give me notes on the way “they would have written it.” There’s a big difference. I only want notes at this stage to tell me if I was successful in my attempt at telling my particular story. I don’t want notes to tell me how to change it to be another story. Those type of notes will surely come from a producer in due time.

Once I have my writer’s circle notes, I head back to do yet another pass and hopefully the script is pretty solid at this point so it’s just a true polish and not a complete rewrite. Now, I’m talking about my spec (speculation) scripts with regards to my choice to receive my writer’s circle notes. If I am working on my script assignments for producers, the only notes I care about during that process are the ones the producer (my boss) has to give me. On an assignment job, I’m hired to write the script the producer wants, and the producer’s notes are the only ones that matter because he or she is dealing with the investors or the network who have their requirements too. As writers, we definitely want to please our bosses the producers who have hired us and believe that we are the right person for the job.

A reader of my blog, screenwriter/filmmaker Claire Duffy (@chilldivine) from Sweden (her blog: www.watchovermemovie.com) shared with me some great advice, she’s been finding lately that actors are an under utilized resource for feedback. Just as with writer friends they have to be picked carefully, but a lot her actor friends are auditioning constantly and so regularly reading soon-to-be-produced scripts. This can be useful to get their take on how your latest spec measures up. Great idea, Claire.

If your script is at a stage where you feel confident in giving it to a professional to read, don’t ever call them a week later and say you have a “new draft” and that you hope they didn’t read the copy you gave them. If a professional gives you their time, respect it by giving them the best possible version of the script that you have. If your script is not ready, that’s okay.  Take the time to get it to a place where you are completely confident with your writing and choices, and then set it free and let the chips fall as they may. Never send out a script that isn’t the best possible draft for it will harm your ability to get others to read your next script if you cut corners on this one.

You’ll always need to make sure the script you send out is the best possible draft, as you only get one chance to make the right impression with your writing. If you need to feel more confident about your script, it’s a good idea to seek the safety of professional feedback and analysis before you unleash it upon Hollywood. It might be a good idea to invest in hiring a script consultant. Either way, only send out your best work because you and your script live or die by what’s on the page.

Keep filling your blank pages because if you stop you’ll never have any shot at success.

Scriptcat out!

Download my new free app SCREENWRITING GURU from Yapp with my weekly script tips, links and advice about survival in the world of screenwriting.

Subscribe to my YOUTUBE CHANNEL for weekly screenwriting videos.

Did you just complete your latest screenplay? Congrats! Time for in-depth consultation/editing/proofing? Check out my services by clicking the blue icon below for the link to my website.  “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

 “…Self-doubt can be an ally. This is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing and desire—desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer?  Am I an artist?” Chances are you are.  The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“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

“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

first script

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