Friday, November 30, 2012

Two blogs you should read

You guys should all know about Geoff LaTulippe's new blog. He's a talky bastard on Twitter, and now he has succumbed to the urge to put his thoughts about screenwriting into longer form at

LaTulippe is the writer of that fine Justin Long/Drew Barrymore film Going the Distance, but as you should know by now, IMDB credits only tell a fraction of the story. The guy knows the business and has a lot of good stuff to say on the subject. Hopefully he'll keep this thing going.

And if you're not already reading it, you should also regularly check Doug Richardson's brilliant exploits in the film business. He wrote Die Hard 2, Bad Boys, Money Train, Hostage - in short, the dude has a long and interesting career, and he talks all about it in the most wonderful stories that you must read.

Go. Read. Learn.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let the Holiday Hiatus begin!

 I hope you guys have a lot to be thankful for tomorrow. I know I sure do.

This year I was able to quit my day job and focus on writing, and even though I have yet to be paid, my loving husband has griped about it far less than I would have thought.

I have in-laws in town, so between the cleaning and cooking and general family gathering, I haven't had a lot of time to physically sit at the computer and write pages.

But that doesn't mean I'm not writing.

Part of writing is the planning, and I'm doing that all the time. While I'm mixing up pie batter, I'm working on a story idea. Waiting for in-laws at the airport - I'm reading a script. So at least I know I haven't wasted my time.

In Hollywood, this is the time when everybody starts winding down, so if you're new to these parts, don't expect anything to happen between now and January. There will be reading, though. Lots of reading.

Franklin Leonard created the original Black List because he was an executive looking for recommendations on what scripts he should read over Christmas vacation, so that's exactly the purpose it serves. Execs and agents and managers will all be reading scripts from the list while they're on vacation. That probably means they're less likely to be reading your script.

So the best thing to do right now is stop worrying about who's reading and when they'll get back to you and what they think. Just eat, drink, be merry, hang out with your relatives, then retreat to your computer when you're tired of them and get some work done. But don't spend your time waiting for a phone call, because the likelihood of that is pretty slim until 2013.

And in the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2012

When your parents don't approve

Whew. Last week was bananas. I had no idea that posting that article on Scriptshadow was going to create such a shitstorm.

But buried in the comments was this question from Astan:

This morning my folks (mom) said to me that "writing films, doing this film thing, trying to do any business, trying to get some big hit was all a fantasy. I'm living in a fantasy world." Then she implied I need to wake up and give up fantasies altogether.

How would you feel if your folks or someone important to you said something like that to you?

And I think this comment deserves some attention because I bet a lot of people can relate to this.

Personally, I say FUCK IT.

In the beginning, my mom was totally against me coming out to LA. She believed I should be a teacher, that Hollywood was a pipe dream, that working in movies was a waste of my talent.

I told her I really wish she felt differently, then I moved to Hollywood. I taught school - that made her happy - and in the meantime I just kept working on scripts. I sent her my finished drafts. She'd shrug - my work isn't her cup of tea. She didn't change her mind.

Then I was working on a period piece about a time in which she's an expert, so I called her up and asked her to help with research. She really liked that idea. Then she started going out with her girlfriends and telling them the story I was writing. Then she started giving me story notes. Then objecting to plot points I wanted to change.

Then I put her now-deceased best friend into one of my scripts, and she loved it. Then I got repped. I told her - and this is true - that the character based on her friend is one of the reasons people loved the script so much.

Now, she tells everybody who will listen that her daughter is writing movies.

In the beginning, I think parents are concerned because screenwriting is such an insecure business. They'd much rather you not going into something that crushes your soul and pays you nothing. Nobody plans for their kid to be a starving artist.

But everybody loves movies, except for crazy people. Non-crazy people, even the ones who don't watch movies that much, really enjoy feeling like a part of the process. Make your mom a part of the process.

I imagine this won't work for everybody's mom, but you can try. I bet she's got a story she thinks should be a movie. Let her give you ideas. You don't have to do anything with them, but tell her how much you enjoy her input.

My mom now sends me newsclippings about stories in the local paper that she thinks I should write about. Every now and then she'll hit on something.

Sometimes it takes some time for parents to come around. Sometimes they never do. Either way, live your life for you, not for them. They'll either get over it, or they won't.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Scriptshadow: How I lost my faith in Carson Reeves

Most of you have heard of Scriptshadow.

I tried to stay out of it, but I can't. I give a shit about the screenwriting community, and I don't like what's happening. I have to say something.

Scriptshadow started as a blog for analyzing professional screenplays. It's run by a man who goes by the name Carson Reeves. In this business, many people represent themselves with pseudonyms, so for the purpose of this article, I will continue to respect Carson's choice by referring to him by his chosen public name.

When Carson started, his goal was to review scripts publicly and share the files over the Internet as a way to break down the barriers between amateurs and Hollywood - an admirable goal. I was right where he was then, still trying to figure out the screenplay thing, and still trying to figure out where one got copies of all those scripts everyone else seemed to be able to find. Carson provided a source for these scripts and a thoughtful analysis of how to make your work more like that work. I didn't always agree with his opinion, but it seemed like a wonderful gift to a young screenwriter.

He also seemed like a really reasonable guy. I remember explaining to him why I loved a script he hated - Tonight, He Comes - and he was completely open to considering alternative viewpoints. I supported him completely.

I took his cue and started reviewing scripts on my own here and there. Then screenwriter John August posted his now-famous rant about why Scriptshadow is bad for the community. Gary Whitta (Book of Eli) was still posting to the screenwriting board Done Deal Pro then, and he agreed with August's sentiments. I asked Gary, what if I LOVED The Book of Eli? (which I did) Wouldn't you be okay with me posting a positive review of your script? Gary said he didn't want ANYONE posting about an unfinished work, as a script inevitably is. I didn't get it at the time, but he was the professional and I was the nobody, so I listened. I haven't posted a script review since. And now that I have had a script hit the tracking boards, I can completely understand Gary's perspective. I wouldn't want my script reviewed either, positive or negative. It's not a published novel - not a public document for the entire Internet to peruse. I worked on a script recently - if it got out before it was ready, while I was still sending it to a couple of people for notes - it could sabotage a potential deal.

But I digress.

I still took the scripts Carson offered, and read them on my own, keeping most of my thoughts to myself or only sharing them with friends. I still read his blog, and occasionally commented.

He had a few little contests that were fun - I entered and did ok, got a few pages up on the site. Carson and some of the commenters gave me really helpful notes that I ended up using. I was grateful.

I don't know exactly when it happened, but one day Carson stopped trying to figure out how to be a better writer, and starting thinking about how to monetize his good idea. Nothing wrong with that, really. People do it all the time. But it's the way he did it that bugs me.

At some point, he started offering notes for money. It makes sense. He gave notes all the time on professional scripts, and eventually started posting reviews of amateur scripts, which was actually great for the community. Plenty of people give notes for money. I've thought about doing it, except I hate reading shitty scripts. But when Carson started charging for notes I thought, "Okay, I don't usually agree with his opinion so his notes probably aren't for me, but good for him if people are willing to pay him for his thoughts."

Then came The Disciple Program. This is a script written by the talented Tyler Marceca. Marceca submitted this script to Carson after already winning one high profile contest, and Carson sent it to his contacts.

The script blew up. It went everywhere. It got Tyler repped at WME and a deal. The Disciple Program was just named #1 on this year's Blood List.

This was all great for Tyler, but also great for Carson. He got a writer exposure. He helped the community. I was elated.

But suddenly, his cost for notes went up and up until he was charging $1,000 a pop. The ONLY reason you'd pay that much for notes is that you think he will pass your script onto his contacts.

(As a contrast, the well-respected Screenplay Mechanic's MAX price is $325.)

Then it started to feel like Carson was the one who made The Disciple Program happen. He posted entries less about Tyler's success and more about his own genius in finding a great script, as if this was somehow a really amazing skill, more amazing than actually writing the script. I'm pretty sure Marceca would have been found eventually, by someone.

Carson's tweets became more and more self-serving, until they started to make me uncomfortable.

Then came this post about Carson wanting to become a producer, but not being entirely sure about what a producer does. His conclusion is that he should find a script and a producer with a big name and a bank account and attach Carson's name to the project.

He's found talent at least once and introduced it to the town, which sounds like a manager's job. So why not become a manager, you may ask?

In the comments of the above linked post, Carson said this: "Thought about it but I tried managing for a little while and it sucked up way more time than I thought it would.  So I think I'm focused more on the producing end."

So managing is hard, but producing - that's something any old nobody can do with no experience or time?

I know more than one actual producer who takes great offense to that comment.

Carson will still review your script for free in his Amateur Friday posts if he chooses it out of his multitude of submissions. Maybe he'll even send it to his contacts - those same contacts that launched Marceca. Or, if he doesn't pick your script from the logline, you can pay him or his employees a small fortune for notes. It's not difficult to see the problem that arises here.

Let me be perfectly clear, and if you get nothing else out of this long post, remember this: Any producer who charges for notes is not someone with whom you want to be in business. Real producers make their money by making movies.

Now Carson has his own official website, where he advertises artists who charge a hefty fee to design a poster for your movie. I'm certain he gets a cut of their take. You do NOT need a poster to sell your script. Ever. If you want to design one, go for it, but no legit producer will ever expect this of you. They might even think it superfluous.

But back to this producer thing.

If Carson took some of his reader earnings to finance a micro-budget picture from a script he found and loved, or even went around to possible financiers and begged the money out of them - then I'd be in full support. That's what an actual producer does. An actual producer also puts together a team that will make a film by recruiting talented directors, actors,writers, and anyone else who can make it happen.

But that's not what he claims to do. He wants to attach his name to a script and use someone else's money, time and name to get it made without actually doing anything at all.

Friday he posted about a script he liked called Sanctuary, announcing his intention to attach himself if anyone will let him. Here's what he said about the script hitting the marketplace: "Really hoping something good comes of it.  And if not, well, that's not so bad either.  Maybe then I'll be able to convince Todd to let me jump on board."

What does he bring to the table? He knows a few people. He can read.

Shit, I know people. Go on Done Deal Pro and hang out for a while, you'll know people too. Take a UCLA extension class. Enter a contest. Get a job as a PA. Please don't pay ANYONE $1,000 for notes, no matter who he knows, no matter how great you think your script is. There are other, cheaper, better note givers out there, some of whom have actually been involved in making an actual film.

Carson used to want to be a better writer. That's where he started. He was a good dude with good intentions. Now he's an overpriced reader and fake producer who loves to call successful professional writers "lazy" any time Carson doesn't pay attention to a plot point.

Honestly, it makes me sad. I used to believe in this guy. I admired his gumption. I thought he really believed in learning how to make scripts better, how to help new writers break down the barriers and find a new way into the business. Now? Now he's just another cog in the wheel.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Back to work, Lazybones (Lazybones is me)

I didn't do much writing in the last week. Two weeks ago I finished a Super Secret script I'd been working on (or at least, I hope I did. You never know until it gets kicked back to you by the next level of readers), so I took a week off to do some other stuff.

But you can't put this off too long or you're not really a writer, so today I got back into it.

Before I got sidetracked by Super Secret Spec Project, I was working on a script that's been giving me trouble. It's a bit of Jason Statham type story - lots of rock 'em sock 'em coupled with a love story. Ok so everything I write is an action romantic comedy, but this time it's an ACTION romantic comedy.

Today I could put it off no longer. I got back into it, and started on page one. I'm doing this as part edit, part B story first draft. I haven't been idle with this story, despite not actually doing any writing; I've been thinking. So today I went through and changed things I already wrote to accommodate the adjusted B story I've come up with, and then added in the B story parts.

I worked really hard and trudged through it, and then was like "Ok, I think I'm done for the day."

But then I looked around and realized that it had been 20 minutes, I added one page, and I was on page 7.


Some scripts you fly through on a gentle breeze. Sometimes you have to put on your scowly face and push through with your hip waders on.