A must-see documentary...

I want to let all of you know about a fabulous documentary I just watched. It’s titled Dreams on Spec and it follows three aspiring Hollywood writers as they strive to get their scripts written, sold, and into production. The film also intercuts interviews with such screenwriting luminaries as Gary Ross, Steven De Souza, Ed Solomon, Nora Ephron, Carrie Fisher, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, and James L. Brooks. All aspects of this production are top-notch. Bonus material on the DVD includes additional interviews with the aforementioned pro scribes and is full of valuable insight. If you’re a screenwriter, budding or pro, you will not want to miss this engrossing documentary. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get a real feeling for what a roller-coaster this business of screenwriting can be. To watch clips and order a copy of Dreams on Spec, go to:
Dreams on Spec

Note: If ordering via Neoflix, enter coupon code “Workingscreenwriter” and get 15% off!

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APRIL 2015 ANNOUNCEMENT: My debut novel, Luigi's Chinese Delicatessen, is now available in paperback from Amazon.com and Kindle e-book! (You're gonna love it cuz it's all about Hollywood and screenwriting!)

For your viewing (and study) pleasure...

I watched one of my favorite movies tonight. It’s called The Sting. For the handful of you who aren’t familiar with this movie, it’s a 1973 release starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. It won Best Picture for that year. I haven’t seen it in quite a while, so I thought I’d pop it in the ol’ DVD player. I’ll tell ya, you’ll find very few movies that have as solid a storyline as The Sting. The script, by David S. Ward, is perfect. There’s not a trace of fat to be found. The direction, by George Roy Hill, is flawless. Then you have Newman and Redford. C’mon, you can't do any better than those two guys. (As many of you know, George Roy Hill directed Newman and Redford in another one of my all-time favorites, the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.) I have the script for The Sting in my collection – I think I’ll dig it out and re-read it. So, ladies and gents, if you’re looking for a movie and screenplay to study, I strongly recommend you turn to The Sting. You won’t be sorry.

My book, Q & A: The Working Screenwriter, at The Writers Store!

New interview on Two Adverbs...

The fine folks over on the Two Adverbs site did an interview with me recently. Hope you'll check it out...

Two Adverbs Interview!

Words of warning for the novice (and not-so-novice) screenwriter...

I post warnings like this on various websites every so often. In fact, earlier today I posted this particular warning on one of the screenwriting forums. I figured I'd post it here, too. So...

A writer just contacted me and asked if I knew anything about a particular literary agency. Yes, I heard about this so-called agency. Many of us have. It’s the one that charges you a fee for having them rep you. They’ll contact you and say, “Oh, we really love your script and we think we can get it into the hands of the right producer, but we need you to send us $300 to get the ball rolling.”

Arrrghh!!

It really sickens me that unsuspecting writers are still falling for this scam. Here’s the rule:

If an agency or management company tries to charge you any fee whatsoever, avoid them like the plague. I don’t care if they tell you the fee is to cover script copying or costs of making telephone calls. They’re ripping you off.

Legitimize lit agents make their percentage when they sell your work or secure your employment.

You have been warned. Don’t become a victim.

SCREENWRITING EXPO 2007!!

People occasionally ask me, “Is it worth it to attend the Screenwriting Expo?” My answer is always the same: “Yes, go!” I truly think you’re missing out on a fabulous opportunity if you’d don’t go. If you live in Los Angeles, you have no excuse. C’mon, it’s $75 for four days of screenwriting, screenwriting, screenwriting. This is a no-brainer. Even if you only go for one or two days, it’s still worth the price of admission.

With the exception of last year’s Expo, I’ve been to all of them. I go mostly to hear the guest speakers. I’ve heard some great ones too: William Goldman, Richard Matheson, Shane Black, David Goyer, Susannah Grant, Joss Whedon, Harlan Ellison...and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And there are plenty of great classes and seminars to take advantage of as well.

The party/events that are held in the evenings after each day are also fun and worthwhile. You’re not guaranteed to meet any bigwigs from the film industry, but hey, ya never know. But it’s certainly fun mingling and schmoozing with other screenwriters, both budding and pro. As for the pitch session: these are only worth your time, effort and money if a) you actually know how to present a dynamite pitch, and b) if you have an idea for a great movie. Problem is, most people a) can’t pitch their way out of a paper bag, and b) don’t have a decent idea for a saleable movie. (For more of my opinions on pitchfests – though not necessarily the one held at the Expo – visit my website, The Working Screenwriter, and go to the “Questions & Answers” section.) So if you’re planning to pay your entry and pitch your script at this year’s Expo, make sure you nail it. Nail it.

The Expo will be held October 24 – 28 this year. It’s definitely a worthwhile event, so if you’re able to go, GO!

For more Expo information: Screenwriting Expo!

Only in Hollywood...

A few months ago, I blogged about the “creative vibe” that permeates Los Angeles. I experience this vibe on virtually a daily basis, but a couple days ago I got a BIG dose of it. To wit...

I’m at one of my favorite Starbucks – one that’s near a major movie studio and is regularly frequented by folks from The Biz. I glanced up and noticed Ron Howard standing in line. (I’ve dealt with him a handful of times years ago when I worked security on some of his movies. Nice guy.) Anyway...after Mr. Howard got his coffee, he went outside and joined another man at a table. This other man had to be a screenwriter. I mean, he just looked like one. But they were definitely working on a screenplay. My guess is they were doing rewrites on a film already in production. It was interesting watching the two of them toss ideas back and forth. I just found all this kinda cool – and it’s one reason why I enjoy living in this town. It’s that “creative vibe,” man.

Why can't they get it done?

My apologies for not posting anything in a long while. I’ve been keeping busy with a handful of script projects. I’ve also done a tad bit of traveling. Hopefully I’ll be able to post more in the next week or so. Anyway...

Today, on one of the screenwriting boards I occasionally haunt, someone posed the question: “Why are some people unable to complete a screenplay?” I thought this was a good question. So here’s my take on it:

Reason #1: Some writers stall the completion (or starting) of a script by always being in research mode. They spend months and months compiling information. After filling a few notebooks with all that great research, they feel they’ve done an admirable amount of work, give themselves a pat on the back, and move on to something else.

Reason #2: Most budding writers have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. Once they realize they must come up with page after page after page of material, they become overwhelmed and give up. Hey, that’s fine. I mean, not everyone on the planet has to write screenplays.

Reason #3: Many writers fail to outline. They have the "great" idea, and they write those first thirty pages, but then things just fall apart on them. It’s cuz they didn’t plot out their story and determine if it warranted a 100-page screenplay.

Reason #4: Many people will tell you their life is too busy to write. They’ve got the 9-to-5 job, the significant other, the kids. Sure, I understand. But the fact is, if you really want to write scripts, you’ll find the time. Even if it’s thirty minutes early in the morning before life gets busy. Thirty minutes a day equals 3 ½ hours a week of writing. That’s about fifteen hours a month worth of writing. Are you telling me you can’t get a script completed in six to eight months? Stop making excuses and do it.

Reason #5: Truth is, these people are not really writers. They think they are, they might want to be, but they’re just not. Writing 110 script pages is a daunting task. If your heart isn’t into it completely, you’re more than likely not going to get through it. I liken it to crawling across a burning hot desert, trying to make it to an oasis: if you don’t have fierce will and determination, you’ll conk out and die somewhere in the sand.

Reason #6: Many have a severe lack of patience and are unable to stay focused on one particular story for a long period of time. If you want to write a screenplay, you’re going to be “stuck” with that idea for quite some time, so you’d better be darn enthused about it.

Reason #7: Many wannabes like to give off the impression that they’re working on a hot spec script. You hear them all the time at social gatherings: “I’m working on a screenplay.” Hey, that sounds kinda cool, doesn’t it? Fact is, these people are posers and have no real intention of actually sitting down and writing a script.

Reason #8: Many wannabes get caught up in the “glamour” aspects of screenwriting. They’d get a rush telling people, “So I pitched my script idea this big producer at a lunch meeting last week. He thinks it’s great.” I mean, why actually write the script when you can just tell people about all the big meetings you’ve had on the idea?!

So there you have eight reasons why some budding writers don’t get their scripts written. If any of you have reasons you’d like to add, feel free to post ‘em here in the comments section.

Visit me at http://www.theworkingscreenwriter.com/ -- a site for the pre-pro screenwriter!