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Archive for March, 2010

Q & A with Michele Wallerstein Mar 19

Do you have a question that you’d like to have answered by a longtime Hollywood literary agent? Send it in!

Question: (Anonymous)

I had a recent experience with submitting my sitcom project for agent representation. I had submitted an email query to a “group” who in turn requested my treatment. They then invited me to submit my show’s bible (everything sans a completed episode script). Approximately a month later I received a form letter (all previous correspondence was very personal in nature) stating that they were passing on my project. The letter went on to state that for various consulting fees they would perform a full review and provide written guidance on how I could improve my product.

Although I feel that my project has great potential I did agree that it needed some polishing. Based on your previous answer it would seem that this particular group “changed hats” mid-stream. Is that the new norm in the industry or did they cross a line by shifting positions? Thanks again so much!

Answer: (Michele Wallerstein)

It is terrible to hear that agencies are doing this. It is not permitted, by the Writers Guild of America, for agents or agencies to charge a fee for reading any writer’s material. A bona fide agency must sign an agreement with the Writers Guild to be able to represent Writers Guild members. This agreement states that they may not charge reading fees. Any agency that asks for money should be reported to the WGA. The people you dealt with must be non-signators and should be avoided at all costs. They aren’t pros.

Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay & Novel & Career Consultant and author of MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career.

Web site:

Hollywood Access: A Self-Authorizing Password Mar 18

Da Vinci Code?

A few years back I went on a Dan Brown binge and read all of his novels. It’s a bit of a blur, but I remember in one of his books, there was the concept of the “self-authorizing password.”

The idea behind the self-authorizing password is that the code required for access doesn’t come from secret information, but rather from the accumulation of readily accessible knowledge.

In other words, there’s no secret key (or a secret door for that matter). You get in once you’ve gained the skills necessary to give yourself access.

The same thing can be said of “breaking in” to Hollywood!

Do the Time

If you feel you have a talent for screenwriting (and you’re passionate about it), then simply do the time… read the books, blogs, and lots of screenplays… go to seminars, take courses, listen to industry professionals, make connections… write a screenplay, then another, and another… and eventually you’ll not only have what it takes to succeed — you’ll have succeeded.

Simply put, if writing is what you’re meant to do, the only thing stopping you from making it in Hollywood is the time invested. Pay your dues (10,000 hours?), write a killer script, and the rest will follow.

But don’t take my word for it…

I think one of the signs you’re poised for a breakthrough is when every “new” writing tip you receive starts to sound familiar. With that in mind, here are some familiar words to take to heart.

“… some way, incredibly enough, good writing ultimately gets recognized. I don’t know how that happens but it does. If you’re really a good writer and deserve that honored position, then by God, you’ll write, and you’ll be read, and you’ll be produced somehow. It just works that way. If you’re just a simple ordinary day-to-day craftsman, no different than most, then the likelihood is that you probably won’t make it in writing. You’re going to wind up either getting married, working for an insurance company, joining the regular army, or what-all. But if you have a spark in you, a cut above the average, I think ultimately you make it.”
– Rod Serling
(The Twilight Zone)
(H/T Go Into The Story)

“When you think you have a great script – if it really is great – they will find you. The town is starving for great scripts. It sounds awful and pat and overly simplistic: but if you want to succeed as a screenwriter, write a dope script. I am not saying that shitty scripts get made. Of course they do. More times than not. And a good 65 % of working screenwriters should have their laptops revoked. But at some point, they wrote that one. That one that people noticed. A Zen approach is a good one. Don’t do a mass mailing introducing yourself to every agent in town. Don’t foist your script on the guy at the next table in the diner, who happens to be reading “THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER”. Just know that they will find you. It sounds strange. It’s not. L.A. is a city fueled by the frantic frenzy to find the next great script. The key is write it. And then watch them tumble…”
– Scott Rosenberg
(Beautiful Girls, Con Air, Things To Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Gone in Sixty Seconds)
(H/T Kid In The Front Row)

“Really great writing always, always gets noticed in Hollywood. When I hear someone say, ‘It’s who you know,’ or ‘I couldn’t get it to the right agent,’ that is the consolation of failure. When it really works, it might not get made, because you need a Jupiter effect of a perfect director and a perfect actor–but if the writing is great, you always get into the game.”
Mark D. Rosenthal (Mona Lisa Smiles, The Jewel of the Nile)
(H/T Screenwriting From Iowa)

Still not convinced it merely takes talent, time and tenacity? Post your thoughts.

And if anyone remembers which Dan Brown book featured the “self-authorizing password,” please let me know!

Want me to personally read your script and let you know if it’s ready to go out? Please take a look at my professional script services.

Category: Industry Advice  | 6 Comments
St. Patrick’s Day Must See Mar 17

After you’ve guzzled down a few pints of green beer tonight, if you’re looking for a fantastic Saint Patrick’s Day themed DVD to watch — do I have a treat for you!

State of Grace stars Sean Penn as Terry Noonan. He returns home to New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, where he reunites with his best friend Jackie Flannery (Gary Oldman), who’s part of the Irish mob.

Let me stop right there and say this — Gary Oldman gives a scene-stealing performance in this film that, in my opinion, is the best of his career.

Add into the equation, the brilliant Ed Harris as mob boss Frankie Flannery, music by Ennio Morricone, a Saint Patrick’s Day parade, intense sequences that exemplify ratcheting tension… and you’ve got yourself one terrific gangster movie.

It’s made all the more amazing by the fact that not many people seem to have seen, or even heard about, this gem from 1990.

Anyone else out there seen this movie? Is there another St. Paddy’s Day movie that begs to be seen?

Interview with Scott Rosenberg Mar 14

Kid In The Front Row has a posted a great interview with screenwriter Scott Rosenberg (Beautiful Girls, Con Air, Things To Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Gone in Sixty Seconds).

Here’s an excerpt:

There’s a big myth for writers trying to get into the industry; who feel that to work on anything with a big producer or studio, means no creative control and constantly having to incorporate other people’s ideas – has this been your experience?

The script is always going to be co-opted. Because with a budget that big, it’s the only thing they can constantly tinker with; it allows everyone to sleep at night, knowing that, somewhere, someone is working on the script. I think you have to do your best work, and hope much of it flies. But you also have to be realistic: “SPIDER-MAN” or “GONE IN 60 SECONDS” or “THE GENERAL’S DAUGHTER” -these are not the sad, sweet personal stories about my ancestors coming over from the Old Country. So I can be mercenary. I have to care. I have to make it deeply meaningful for me, so I can do good work. But I also have to divest myself emotionally. Because chances are good you will be re-written. My motto has always been: “Don’t Fuck With My Small Movies. Do What You Need With The Big…”

I highly recommend reading the full interview.

Photo: Jodi Hilton (Boston Globe)

Category: Interviews  | 2 Comments
5 Second Films Mar 13

Can you tell a satisfying story in five seconds? I’m a believer after watching this hilarious collection of the top twenty 5-second films. (This video is NSFW.)

Via: Neatorama

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