HOLLYWOODSCRIPT.COM NEWSLETTER (Special Contest Issue)
Welcome to the latest edition of Movie Scribe Online Newsletter (7/2000) which is published by script consultants Craig Kellem, Judy Kellem (http://www.hollywoodscript.com) (and contributed to by Colin Chapman (http://www.chapmanfilm.com).
THIS NEWSLETTER IS NEVER SPAM.
You are receiving this newsletter because you expressed an interest in screenwriting by subscribing to this newsletter; requested a read or a free query letter evaluation from Hollywoodscript.Com(s) Craig Kellem or Judy Kellem, or requested a copy of Colin Chapman's screenplay, "Smoke and Mirrors."
If you do not wish to receive this newsletter, please reply to this E-Mail and put the word "UNSUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.
The purpose of this newsletter is to share information, ideas etc. concerning the fascinating (and elusive) world of screenwriting.
MARKETING HELP AT LAST
Although we've always tried our level best to be helpful to our clients by carefully addressing questions about marketing (and have even, on occasion, pointed clients in the "right" direction), Hollywoodscript.com has steadily maintained a certain detachment from this area. The reason? We felt that too many writers focused on the agent/producer side of things when, in fact, they needed to be concerned with the creative status of their scripts. As you may know, we strongly believe that the most effective aspect of marketing is MATERIAL THATS TRULY READY. Thus craft has always been our focus.
It is ironic then that even with this attitude, we were awarded an "A" in marketing by Creative Screenwriting Magazine.
Well, this is to announce that we've now decided to really earn our "A" since the demands for assistance and exposure (after the script is in shape) have increased.
THE HOLLYWOODSCRIPT.COM HOTLIST
As of September 15, 2000 and about every two months thereafter, we will announce the results of our new contest in which we will pick the TWO best and most marketable (in our opinion of course) client scripts and announce them with shameless prominence on the MAIN page of our web site. In addition to this SPLASHY ANNOUNCEMENT, winners will be invited to POST their log lines, link and even a scene or two (if they so choose) from their winning work. As part of the big announcement, if you provide the basic summary of your story, well add our obviously GLOWING REVIEW of your project and convert the whole thing into professional COVERAGE (FOR FREE) which can be used for submission purposes and, if the writer chooses, well also POST THE COVERAGE on our site. Finally, we will direct the winners to a big time HOLLYWOOD AGENCY which has promised to read and scrutinize winning coverage. (No promises here of course, but youll get the shot!) One other thing, since there are only two of us here, your chance of seriously contenting is increased since we only have a small pool of material from which to choose.
Material will be eligible from consultation work received after July 1, 2000.
The award will provide TERRIFIC EXPOSURE since we get considerable
traffic and industry contacts will be regularly notified of this source.
THE HOLLYWOODSCRIPT.COM GALLERY
As of August 18, we will provide a special place on our site where our clients will have the opportunity to post their log lines (for about a two month period). The log lines will have direct links back to you (we do not act as middlemen nor do we seek any interest in possible sales, etc).
As it now stands, we get A LOT of traffic on the site which will undoubtedly increase via a special effort on our part to notify our friends in the industry about this promising collection of material.
For those who are shy about sharing their premises but want to participate, you may choose words that will hopefully interest potential agents and producers without being too specific about your idea.
Material will be eligible (retroactively) from consultation work received after June 1, 2000.
It should be noted that many clients want anonymity and may not choose involvement in either the HOTLIST or the GALLERY. That's fine. For those who are interested in the Hotlist (contest), a check box will have to be marked and initialed on our release form for you to become eligible. Regarding the gallery, you will be doing the posting (so if its not for you, dont post it.)
Please know that those who do choose to participate in either of the above do so at their own risk. HSCL will not be liable for any injury, claim or liability resulting from this.
We also encourage you not to submit work until and unless its either registered with the Writers Guild, copyrighted or both.
We also reserve the right to:
1. remove what we consider to be an inappropriate listing
2. edit for length etc.
We recommend that you not send material to any responding company/agent unless you are certain, through your own research that the company is legitimate.
WE GET LETTERS--
Q-I want to adapt a story from a novel. I know that the film rights are available. I've contacted the author's publishing agent but I'm not sure what to do next. Should I ask the author's agent how much for an option on the story? Or should I talk to a lawyer first? How much should I expect to pay for an option? I dont have a lot of money.
A-There are many ways to skin this cat. But because of your financial circumstances, I'd do this. Call the author's agent. Tell him that you'd like to take a crack at the screenplay and ask if he'd be willing to give you a deal:
acknowledging your effort
giving his blessings (and a window of exclusivity)
agreeing to let you shop the finished screenplay (perhaps he'd like first crack representing it)
to negotiate in good faith if you find a buyer.
Using this method, he could hold you up, but the advantages are that it's easy and uncomplicated, costs nothing and, if you find a buyer, then your sale to them will be conditional on the BUYER acquiring the underlying rights from the author.
It should only happen, huh.
Q-It seems the first thing studios want to do when they buy a spec script is rewrite it. Is the writer obligated to accommodate the studios after the script has been sold?
A-If they buy your script they can do whatever they want with it. The trick is for the original writer to negotiate (in the original deal) that she/he gets first crack at the rewrite with the price prenegotiated.
Q-I have been waiting 4 weeks today for a response from 5 agents, should I call them up or do I give them a few more days?
A- hard to say. I'd wait and put my energy into working on the next project. Waiting (which is part of the game) can wither the soul unless one can learn to roll with it.
We dont usually put fan letters in the newsletter but this short one touched our soul.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I FEEL THAT THE UNKNOWN WRITER HAS A FRIEND IN YOU.
Writing Between the Lines: The Power of Persona
By Judy Kellem
When a writer friend recently asked what - apart from story - I found to be screenwriter's biggest problem I answered, "the narrative." He laughed knowing I write fiction, then asked me to explain. Here's what I said.
Much of what distinguishes a professional from an amateur script is pacing. Narrative can be the key in this, as fast-flying, lean scripts derive serious momentum from a strong narrative. A powerful narration starts with an economy of words - but doesn't stop there. Professionals often have the added edge of using an omniscient narrative voice that sneaks between the dialogue and woos the reader in such a way he/she feels swept along. This voice creates a sense of speed. It is a personality that enters the visual aids, location and character descriptions, guiding us from scene to scene. In amateur scripts, these directions are often dense, overwritten or simply lie like cold instructions upon the page. The result: The pacing gets sabotaged. Dull narration slows everything down, losing reader interest when the talk stops and the directions start in.
Many professionals know that these directions avail themselves to this extra narrative voice, an "MC" if you will, who - like a character of sorts in itself - will race the reader along. Most of this voice comes from descriptive language that swings with attitude.
As an example:
A. MORE NEUTRAL NARRATIVE:
EXT. ON THE HIGHWAY
Paul drives fast. He smiles at a neighboring driver (blond, 30's) who doesn't look back. She passes and gravel knocks his windshield.
PAUL (very upset)
MORE DESCRIPTIVE NARRATIVE (Exaggerated for illustration):
EXT. ON THE HIGHWAY
Paul blasts down the highway, a lunatic's beam plastered on his face. He flashes a wet gummy grin at a blonde (30's), who splatters his windshield with gravel as she passes.
PAUL (foaming at the mouth)
It is a subtle but powerful presence that, if charming and seductive brings not only vitality and life into any script, but gives that unstoppable movement necessary to keep material a compelling read.
A hidden narrator can shift the reader's perception of the story, can influence the cadence of dialogue, can alter the way in which the screenplay is experienced as a whole.
Think of it this way: Say you're at dinner and someone tells a great or not so great story. If the person telling it is interesting, beguiling, humorous, engaging you often pay attention regardless of whether or not you care about the subject matter. And, you're probably open to hearing more stories from this person either way. You keep listening.
I do "coverage" - meaning, I analyze professional scripts for agencies- and have found that many of these screenplays have this extra voice. (This is in fact an old pro trick, as is sneaking info into the narrative even when the pro knows it'll never get on the screen. They play with the difference between a selling draft and a shooting draft - often it takes the former to get to the latter.) These narratives convey an intimate quality, as if a distinct person were whispering the whole film into my ear, asking me to see it and feel it. This creates a sense of the familiar, a cushy universe within which to travel. Often it is as if I were hand in hand with a friend who is telling me a tale.
The difficulties in doing this are of course, two-fold:
1) You've got to be able to craft this voice in very little space.Narratives need to be short and sweet, very, VERY lean or the script feels like a book and we forget we're supposed to be "watching" and start to feel ourselves "reading".
2) You've got to strike a voice that is lovable. If your narratives are carried by an unlikable persona it's a disaster - like getting stuck at a party with an annoying host who won't leave you alone. One must be careful of what MC is hired for the job.
Ultimately, story and dialogue count most in the final vote of great screenwriting. Still, this trick of the trade is certainly worth noting and considering in the quest to make your script stand out among the rest.
A STACKED CREATIVE DECK
by Craig Kellem
Did you know that the only writers who get the chance to write without grueling preparation are those who are not getting paid.
Good, you say. I hate preparation--I just love the writing part.
There are many writers out there who think that NOT having to prepare intensely is one of the benefits of the freedom that comes with doing your own thing. But in truth, I think, it's more of a hindrance than a help because, in most cases, thorough preparation is the name of the game and will often make the difference between a project that has potential and one that's doomed to fail.
The typical Hollywood writer has to jump through preparatory hoops before she/he will get the chance to initiate the actual writing of the script.
First theres the pitch.
Whether it's a feature, sitcom, drama episode or TV movie, if you want to get paid, you've got to tell somebody your idea. Inevitably, at this point, you will find yourself in a creative negotiation. In other words, the buyer will have questions and opinions which will inspire discourse and debate that will result in all probability in a somewhat altered premise.
From there, if theres enough interest, you will hopefully be asked to come back with a revised pitch. But even if the revised pitch works, there will undoubtedly be additional creative adjustments. Whether you know it or not, youre already into intensive creative preparation.
If you're lucky, youll eventually get the job.
But, guess what-- the job is not to write the script. It's to write the story.
That's right, you still have to SHOW THEM. So now you're back pitching but this time it's the specifics of the story. And, that's right, you're back to the inevitable creative negotiation and more prep.
Once the story is accepted on a verbal level, you are then engaged to write it out in narrative. I have seen feature film narratives reach forty-five or fifty full pages. Even sit-com narratives can run a dozen pages or so. Every aspect of what is forthcoming is covered which means that you need to really know your stuff.
So you finish the story. What happens next?
Inevitably, a laborious meeting where every inch of every scene of every act is discussed and scrutinized. Better bring your lunch (and maybe even your dinner) --youre going to be there for a while. And then when you finally get to go home, its to implement the latest revisions of the story.
If the story doesn't work you get paid but cut off. The story is either ditched or revised by another writer.
If the story is okay, you finally get the job to write the script. And of course each draft of that script will be thoroughly discussed and dissected.
Most writers hate this process, but, truth be told, this creative collaboration, this exercise in checks and balances is usually of great benefit to all since the kinks get worked out, creative ammunition has been cultivated and, at this point, your script is truly ready to be written. You have done your homework-and then some.
So what's my point?
Its that those of us who do not have to go through this process would be wise to create a similar process for ourselves because it takes all the kings horses and all the kings men to get one of these puppies right.
If you want to find out more about Hollywoodscript.com and the work Judy and I do with screenwriters and their scripts, please visit our site at http://www.hollywoodscript.com
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