October 9, 2016 § Leave a comment
Yes, it’s finally here—Final Draft 10. After graduating from film school, my first and only screenwriting software purchase was Final Draft and I’ve used it and loved it ever since. I can remember writing my fourth spec screenplay using Final Draft 1. Now ten versions later, I’ve written twenty-six of my thirty feature screenplays and all of my TV pilots using Final Draft. It’s the only screenwriting software that I use.
When I consult on screenplays, my biggest pet peeve is dealing with aspirants who don’t want to invest the money in professional screenwriting software recognized by the film industry. This is a blatant disrespect of the craft and immediately shows me they’re not serious about their career. Never use something that you formatted yourself.
Some of the cool new features of Final Draft 10 deal with outlining and structuring your screenplay. The new STORY MAPTM feature is a story-planning tool that offers you a high-level view of your story and allows you to easily preview and navigate to scenes. It’s displayed at the top of your script in a long strip and shows the page numbers and the length of your scenes in an easy view. I’m a huge advocate of screenplay structure and my producers never allow me to start my assignments until we have locked to story.
Another cool new feature is THE BEAT BOARDTM and it’s like having your own corkboard on the screen where you have to freedom to brainstorm and organize your ideas completely within your script file. You can write down ideas, story beats, or whatever you want in boxes and color code each one to your preferences. If you drag a beat box up top into the story map and release it, the feature will link to that page number. This is useful when you know you want to hit that beat at a certain page in your screenplay.
Another new feature is the ALTERNATIVE DIALOUGE element. If you write a line of dialogue, there will be a small “plus” sign at the end. If you click on it you can enter another version of the dialogue and it saves it in a box for easy reference later. You can toggle between the various lines and choose the one you like the best.
If you are working with a screenwriting partner, another useful new feature is called COLLABORATION. This allows you to work on your script remotely in real time with your writing partner(s). You can host or join a session, enter your name, the script’s title, and work in real time with your partner.
And with the STRUCTURE POINTS feature, you can create your screenplay’s structure within your .fdx file. They’ve also added new SCENE NUMBERING OPTIONS in line with industry standards, improved the HEADER and FOOTER allowing you to add file names to them automatically, and added the ability to bold your REVISION sets.
Overall, Final Draft 10 is a solid new version with strong features to help with your screenplay’s structure and collaboration. Check it out at the FINAL DRAFT website. As I always say, regardless of your methods, keep screenwriting because if you stop writing, you’re guaranteed never to have any shot at success.
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“Writers, like most human beings, are adaptable creatures. They can learn to accept subordination without growing fond of it. No writer can forever stand in the wings and watch other people take the curtain calls while his own contributions get lost in the shuffle.”—Rod Serling
“The well is where your “juice” is. Nobody knows what it is made of, least of all yourself. What you know is if you have it, or you have to wait for it to come back.”—Ernest Hemingway
“Dramatic economy, which includes the ability of a writer to cut what at one point he might have considered to be his best work ever, is one of the most important skills a writer can have. It is learned only through much experience, combined with a ruthless attitude and utter lack of sentimentality.”—Alexander MacKendrick, “Sweet Smell of Success”
January 1, 2016 § 1 Comment
Okay, it’s one thing to finish a screenplay and another to understand the complexities of how it fits into forging a career or what I call “the bigger picture.” Sure, a completed screenplay is an accomplishment to be celebrated, but you have to realize it’s only the beginning of a long journey. If you’ve completed a few screenplays, congratulations. Now get back to work because it’s always going to be about the work. Writing the perfect screenplay is elusive at best, but we can still try, right? Every time out is a chance to get better and learn while you build your screenwriting arsenal.
If also you lack humility on this adventure and think it’s an easy road, the film business will humble you and fast. According to the 2016 Scoggins Report, only 70 spec screenplays sold in Hollywood. Also there are approximately 50,000 scripts bouncing around Hollywood every year and half of the Writers Guild doesn’t report any income and those are writers with professional credits.
Consider your first screenplay as a training tool and one of many that you’ll have to write badly to get to a place where you’re writing at a professional level to compete. Specs usually end up being your calling card instead of a million dollar sale. Also realize now that everything you write is not going to sell. It might take ten scripts and four drafts of each to have one open the door for a job.
The pursuit of a Hollywood screenwriting career, especially in today’s film business, is not for the thin of skin or for anyone looking to achieve easy fame and fortune. I wish you the best of luck if that’s your intention. There are better careers that pay more on a regular basis instead of going from script to script with many never getting produced or you paid. Honestly, no one cares who wrote the screenplay when they see a film at the multiplex. They’re going to see the stars or the story and hopefully your name is still on the end product and you haven’t been fired or have to share credit.
If you’re calling yourself a screenwriter but without credits, do you have four or five solid screenplays written, other pitches, one sheets, or treatments and have you done the training necessary to compete? Professionalism is an attitude, work ethic and discipline that shows you are serious about your screenwriting even if you haven’t sold anything yet.
Time to check the list…
THE TEN WARNING SIGNS YOU’RE STILL AN ASPIRANT:
1 . You don’t spend the time necessary to become a better screenwriter because you still believe it’s easy to establish a career.
2. You’re writing beyond your ability at this point in your screenwriting journey because you want to sell a Hollywood tent-pole before you’re ready.
3. Your writing is only a rehash of what you’ve seen before in movies and on television and not something unique to your voice.
4. You lack the patience to master your craft and want success to come fast without sacrifice.
5. You’re not open to notes, you’re defensive about criticism on your screenplay and bristle at the suggestion of cutting anything. You have not learned how to be a collaborator and team player with professionals.
6. You haven’t accepted it’s a long haul journey to reach any level of success in the film business and believe it’s going to be different for you because you are the “chosen one”– it’s just that Hollywood hasn’t chosen you yet.
7. You don’t learn from your mistakes and you’re doomed to repeat them.
8. You constantly bemoan, “The producers, executives and agents don’t know what they’re talking about. I see the movies out there and I can do better.” If so, why haven’t you sold anything?
9. You feel entitled to success just because you’ve completed a script and expect Hollywood to grant you a big sale and a career.
10. You do more talking about your “writing” than actually writing.
If you’re guilty of any of the signs on this list, consider making immediate changes to your attitude and game plan. Hollywood is filled with screenwriters and the odds of establishing a career and being paid regularly are horrible, but it does happen. Respect the craft and the journey because that’s what professionals do and you don’t want to be stuck aspiring for success.
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Did you just complete a new screenplay? Time for in-depth consultation? Check out my services by clicking the blue icon below for the link to my website and more information.
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“Don’t focus on where you’re not (famous or A-list writer)—focus on where you’re at—hopefully screenwriting. Regardless of success or experience, we’re all equals in front of that blank page channeling the muse.”—Scriptcat
“‘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
“Seeking support from friends and family is like having your people gathered around at your deathbed. It’s nice, but when the ship sails, all they can do is stand on the dock waving goodbye. Any support we get from persons of flesh and blood is like Monopoly money; it’s not legal tender in that sphere where we have to do our work. In fact, the more energy we spend stoking up on support from colleagues and loved ones, the weaker we become and the less capable of handling our business.” —Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”—Aristotle
February 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
Okay, 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. This 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.
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.
8. Always turn in your work on schedule or early. You want to build your professional reputation as someone the producers can trust.
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!
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“… 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 Faulkne
“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