Thursday, July 16, 2009

Is Harry Potter Afraid of a few Vampires?

Just saw the new Harry Potter movie last night and I enjoyed it. Who could complain? An evening sitting down with old friends, catching up on what's new at Hogwarts and of course, confronting new evils.

The problem is that now, in hindsight, Harry seems like a good Chinese dinner. I enjoyed it at the time but two and a half hours later I was left feeling hungry and empty.

I intentionally didn't re-read the book before seeing the movie. If Steve Kloves can't tell a good story with the script alone then I'm kind of screwed anyway, right?

Only this time it felt like Mr. Kloves got the order to make this "Twilight" like, up to and including hormonal adolescent growing pains. Yes, I do remember that's what ONE of the stories of the book was but in the movie it was the main driving force. There was "snogging" everywhere, even in the background of what should have been a tense, suspenseful, danger-filled moment.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against a good snog on a frequent basis but the story should have and could have been about so much more. While this was nowhere nearly as lame as "Twilight," I can help but wonder if the producer of this aging behemoth of a series is feeling the hot - or in this case very cold - breath of the new rock star in town.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Special Speaker Event: "Respecting the Antagonist"

The latest entry in the Scriptwriters Network's Speaker Series sounds like an interesting one to attend for any LA based writers. Given by writer/producer/mentor Bill Boyle, it's called "Respecting the Antagonist". Here's the info:

"The essence of true character conflict is not derived from the protagonist being right and the antagonist being wrong, but from both characters being right – carried to an inevitable conclusion. Villains and unsympathetic characters don't consider themselves evil.

Everyone including your antagonist is doing the very best he can given his fears, needs, knowledge, skills, pain, and personal history.

The hero offers us the journey and the objective of the story, but it is the antagonist that creates the drama.

A great antagonist makes us squirm not because of the opposition he represents, but because there is a truth behind his position that makes us uncomfortable. It is the antagonist that forces both the hero, as well as us, to confront our shadow side.


Bill Boyle is a veteran screenwriter who has been involved in the film industry in both Canada and the U.S. for over 25 years as a writer, director, agent, producer, story editor, and mentor.

Mr. Boyle devotes a significant amount of his time mentoring younger screenwriters through his Screenwriting Workshops and Script Coaching. He is presently teaching screenwriting at UCLA Extensions."

The event takes place on Saturday, May 16th from 1 - 3pm at CBS Studio Center in Studio City.

For more information and to RSVP (which you must do to attend) contact the Scriptwriters Network. You can also call them at (888) 796-9673 (1-888-SWN–WORD)

Hey, besides getting great info you might also win Movie Magic Screenwriter Software
or a subscription to Creative Screnwriting Magazine so it's a win-win all around!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book recommendation to get your writing in gear

Everyone who writes needs a kick in the pants once in a while to remind them that what they truly loved about writing in the first place. Recently, a friend loaned me a book that I highly recommend as that motivation that we all need once in a while. Oddly enough, it’s written by horror demi-god Stephen King. “On Writing: A Memoir” offers insights from the master of suspense that pertain to any kind of writing. Whether you’re writing a script or a book, comedy or horror, you need to read this guide to writing from one of the most successful names in the book and movie world.

If you care about your writing as a craft and not just a way to pleasure yourself at the keyboard this is a must read.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Free Classic Film Scripts from the Writers Store

This from Jeffrey Gund of the Good news for those of you in the LA area!


The Writers Store is giving away FREE screenplays from top Hollywood films!

First come, first served. Only ONE script per person!

The store is open from 10am-6pm, and it's first come, first served with a limit of ONE script per person.

For most scripts, we have only one or two copies, so be sure to get there early so you can get the one you want!

If you choose to purchase anything else while you're there, mention and get 10% OFF anything in the store! However, you don't have to buy anything to get the free screenplay!

Thursday, April 9th, 2009
10am - 6pm
The Writers Store
2040 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(800) 272-8927

Here are the script titles to choose from:

8 MM
15 minutes
48 Hours
1942 Conquest of Paradise
2001: a Space Odessy
Above the Law
The Abyss
Ace Ventura
The Adams Family
Agnes of God
Alien 3
Alien Resurrection
Almost Famous
The Anniversary Party
The Apartment
Apollo 13
Apt Pupil
Army of Darkness
As Good As It Gets
Bad Santa
Barry Lyndon
Barton Fink
Batman 2
Batman Forever
Beauty and the Beast
Big Lebowski
Bruce Almighty
Departed, The
Ed Wood
The Elephant Man
Elizabeth 1
First Blood 2
Five Easy Pieces
The French Connection
Freddy's Dead: Final Nightmare
Four Rooms
Freddy vs Jason
The Frequency
Friday the 13th 3
Get Shorty
The Ghost and the Darkness
Gods and Monsters
Gone in 60 Seconds
The Green Mile
The Grifters
Grosse Point Blank
Groundhog Day
Halloween H2O
Hand the Rocks the Cradle
Hard Day's Night
Hard To Kill
Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone
Heavy Metal
History of Violence, A
Hollow Man
Honeymoon in Vegas
The Horse whisperer
Hotel Rwanda
House on Haunted Hill
Independence Day
The Iron Giant
Incredibles, The
Interview With the Vampire
Invaders From Mars
Jason X
The King Of Comedy
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Law and Order
Leaving Las Vegas
Legally Blonde
Legends of the Fall
Lethal Weapon
Little Monsters
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Mad Max 2
Man on the Moon
Marathon Men
Married to Bob
The Messenger
Midnight Express
Midnight Run
Mississippi Burning
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
The Mummy
My Own Private Idaho
A Night at the Roxbury
Nightmare on Elm Street
Notting Hill
Ocean's 11
Office Space
Pirates of the Carribean
Pretty Woman
Star Trek The Motion Picture
Star Trek 3, 4, 5 & 6
Star Trek: Generations
Star Trek: Nemesis
Star Trek: First Contact
Starship Troopers
Strange Days
Superman 2
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Terminator 2
Terms of Endearment
Texas Chainsaw 2
Topsy Turvy
The Truman Show
True Lies
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Usual Suspects, The
Verdict, The
Wag the Dog
War Games
Wedding Crashers, The
What Lies Beneath
White Christmas
Wild Things
The Witches of Eastwick
The Wizard Of Oz
The Women
You've Got Mail

The Writers Store® is the world's foremost resource for software, seminars and workshops, books and reference materials dedicated to writers and filmmakers.

Specializing in story development, script formatting, production and multimedia software as well as books, classes and tapes covering all aspects of writing and selling scripts, and pre-production, the West Los Angeles-based company has an award-winning website,, a free bi-weekly eZine featuring articles by film industry experts, an international reputation for its user-friendly services and programs, and a long list of devoted clientele ranging from novice and weekend writers to such top screenwriters as Martin Brest, Wes Craven, William Broyles, Nora Ephron, Daniel Petrie, Nicholas Pileggi and Steve Zaillian, and many more.

For more info on The Writers Store, please visit:

Friday, March 27, 2009

What does your title say??

You’ve worked for (fill in time span here), pouring your blood, sweat and tears into your script but it’s finally done. The only thing left to do is the title page. You think about it for a few minutes and think, “aw, screw it, what’s in a title anyway?” Sound familiar? If this is how you view your script’s title, think again. In some cases, the right title can mean the difference between getting made and sitting on the slush pile for all eternity.

Don’t believe me? The other night I saw Greg Kinnear on “The Graham Norton Show”. (It’s on BBC and if you’ve never seen it you are missing one of the funniest hours on TV.) He was talking about his movie X. It originally came across his desk with the dubious title “Windshield Wiper Man” and sat there for three months before he even took a look at it. It sounded to him like another goofy superhero movie and he had a hard time getting over the mental image of a man in a cape, etc. Fortunately, for whatever reason he got past it, made the movie and the rest is history but what a close call.

Similarly, I was reading a script for a client and the title smacked of a whacky comedy. I sat back waiting for the laughs to come in only to find out it was a horror movie. It’s a good script but the human brain being what it is, my expectations were let down and in general I felt disappointed with the read. I would have read it regardless but if someone was looking to make a horror movie, this script would not have leapt off the pile with a big “read me” sign in bold, dripping, blood red letters.

So take some time, do a few “test groups” with your friends, co-workers and fellow writers to see if your title evokes the genre, tone and excitement you’re looking for.

Photo from City of Centralia Illionois

Friday, March 20, 2009

Are screenwriting contests worth the entry fees?

Google “screenwriting contest” and you get a mind-boggling 511,000 results. The entry fees as well as the prizes they taunt you with can be equally staggering. So how do you decide what contest, if any, to enter?

According to Cynthia Cree, founder and President of the Hollywood Nexus and the Hollywood Omnibook, “Writers should participate in screenwriting contests as a means of motivation to write (e.g. to complete a submit-able draft by a set date), to obtain feedback, and for the experience of competing against other screenwriters.” But, she warns, don’t enter if you’re going to equate not winning failure, or take it to mean that your script is not good. The point of any contest, according to Cree, is to help you be better today than yesterday.

Pasha Mckenley with Creative Screenwriting agrees that contests go beyond winning or losing. “Contests are a great way to get exposure. We have access to industry professionals who will read your script because it was selected over thousands of others. I get calls and emails from executives who are looking for the next hit. Sometimes I even give executives scripts that didn't make it to the final rounds but were strong contenders where the writer showed promise.”

She also feels that entering contests helps you prepare your script for industry standards such as putting it in the correct format and correcting typos. “Learn the BASIC techniques of screenwriting before sitting down to write one. It’s shocking how many scripts are entered into contests that aren’t even properly formatted.” Finally, she advises writer to carefully read the rules and regulations of the contest.

Writer Deanne Devine has only positive things to say about her contest experiences. She entered BlueCat because it offers 1 page feedback for every entry. If you enter early, you get your feedback in a month and can revise the script and reenter it by the regular deadline (at a reduced fee) to improve your chances of winning (and get a second critique).

“My screenplay came back with nice comments, but a TON of ‘needs improvements.’ It was really helpful for the price.” She took the feedback to heart and did a total rewrite on her script. This year, the feedback was much more encouraging and showed only a few areas that need tweaking.

Benjamin Ray, quarterfinalist in the 2008 PAGE International Screenwriting awards, advises all writers to apply to as many contests as possible, especially those that give you feedback. “Overall its fun and creates opportunities”. His favorite contests have been the Austin Film Festival, PAGE, and In general, he finds that most contest providers are on your side and are happy to offer you help if you ask.

Beyond simply winning or losing, contest have taught Ray to work with deadlines. “Use this to your advantage by setting up a series of screenwriting deadlines to build up a solid resume.”

His tip for finding a good contest? “Look for ones that give a lot of details on their webpage.”

Having judged a number of contests over the years, I would advise any writer to enter contests that offer professional feedback first. No matter how you place, you’ve come out a winner if you’ve learned something from the experience.

The other main benefit of contests is the exposure to industry professionals. If a contest is judged by a panel of executives and agents, you’ve basically been given the opportunity to submit your writing to people who wouldn’t normally accept an unsolicited script. In the long run, that can prove far more important than winning the actual contest.

(photo by Martin Kingsley)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Note about the message forum

Just got a note from someone who tried to use the message forum and was bombarded by pop-ups (see comment below). My apologies to anyone who has this problem. I tried it myself but Firefox blocks all pop ups so it wasn't a problem for me. So beware, if you want to leave a note you may get some ads depending on your computer settings.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Ongoing Scriptwriting Program Debate

An Anonymous Reader poses the question:


In the heart of entertainment ,HOLLYWOOD, what percentage is using final draft and what percentage is using Movie Magic?

My gut feeling is that more are using Final Draft BUT that could be a personal bias against MM. Way back in the old days of stone tablets (ok, maybe not that long ago but close) I had a crummy experience with the original company that made (still makes??) Movie Magic. I wasn't even using the screenwriting program so admittedly, my bias is completely illogical and unfair but there you go.

I have installed a new message forum so please weigh in on the continuing scriptwriting program debates!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More on Movie Magic

Deanne, a writer in Cincy, wrote to say "I use Movie Magic, and you can save scripts as PDF by going to "PRINT" and then choosing "Print to PDF".

Please take note all you writers out there who use Movie Magic for when you send your script out into the world to be read. It's much easier to read in PDF and will help your chances of getting a fair reading immensely.

Thanks for the info, Deanne!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Is Your New Year's Resolution to Sell Your Script???

New Years is a great time to renew your resolve to sell your script. Here’s a couple of tips to keep you from getting taken to the cleaners on the way to the red carpet:

Requiring money up front – SCAM
If ANYONE tells you they are interested in your script but they need you to pay ANY kind of fee up front to represent you or your project, run to the nearest exit. The most common one I’ve heard of is when an agent or manager requires you get your script covered by a “certified reader” for a fee. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve never heard of such a thing as a “certified reader”.

It’s not unusual or out of line for an agent or manager to ask you to give a synopsis of your script before they’ll consider your material. They may even give you a few names as suggestions of readers to use. What a legitimate company WON’T do is refuse to consider a synopsis SOLELY based on the fact that it doesn’t come from a “certified reader”. If they do run, don’t walk, to the nearest exit.

Asking for a free option – NOT A SCAM
It’s perfectly legitimate for a producer to ask for a free option on your script. Just be sure to give them a LIMITED free option – 6 months is a typical amount of time but you may want to make it shorter. For instance, if it’s about the Olympics or a “true” predicted natural disaster, then time might be more of a factor. If they want to keep pitching the script after the option runs out, make them pay some kind of fee.

The producer may also want you to address notes for free. That gets into sticky territory. They are honestly trying to get the script in the best possible shape to sell; you have to decide if their notes really make it better. If so, you’ve just gotten free script notes, be happy. If their notes don’t make any sense, it’s time to consider whether they’re the right people to be involved in your script in the first place. Even if they sell it, will they keep your vision of the story or turn your brilliant take on “Santa Clause V” into a horror movie? Are you willing to go there for mere money? Only you can decide....