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Archive for May, 2010

Finding The Truth About Your Work May 21

Finding The Truth About Your Work – Good, Bad Or Indifferent

by Michele Wallerstein

OK, let’s say you’ve come this far as a writer:  you’ve written one or two original screenplays or a novel or one or two TV movies or spec episodes.  Now comes the scary part.  Are they any good?  Are you any good?  Are you the best or the worst anyone has ever seen?  Sure your family thinks you are either a genius or wasting your time.  What’s the truth and how do you find out.

Let me share some information with you that will help.  I’m sure you’ve already heard that the opinions of family and friends don’t really count.  By the way that includes any professional writers who happen to be friends or relatives.  The emotional baggage here is always in the way.  Next step you take is to present it in its entirety to your writers group.  “Ahhh,” you say to yourself, “Now I’ll get the truth.”  Not so fast.  The people in your writers groups have their own agendas.  These agendas may be conscious or unconscious, but they are there. Do these people really want you to succeed before they do?  Do they want you to be a better writer than they are?  Do they have the skills to really know???  The answers to these questions are most often NO.  The reason they are in these groups is to learn and to connect with other wannabe writers.  They aren’t pros.

That’s your answer.  Find a pro.  They are easy to find but you must fully “vet” them before you proceed.  Professional writing consultants come in all shapes and sizes.  Their fees vary widely as do their professional expertise and backgrounds.

You also must know exactly what you want them to do for you.  I’ve seen many websites where writer’s consultants offer “coverage” of your script.  Why, in heaven’s name, would you need coverage?  Coverage means that they will tell you your story.  You probably already know it.

You will also need to see that your material is in the proper format, has no grammatical errors, nor spelling errors.  No self respecting writer presents a flawed piece of work to anyone.

When you start looking for a good consultant, make sure that you thoroughly read their websites and that those websites give you all the information that you want.  You should also have a phone conversation with the finalists on your list.  See what they have to say about their work.  A good consultant has had lots of experience in your particular genre.  Perhaps they have worked previously as a development executive, editor, professional writer, agent, or producer.  These are all good things.  They show a history in the business and an interest in it.  Make sure that they have not just started consulting after spending 3 months at their previous work.  Get someone who knows their stuff.  You deserve it.

A consultant can do the following for you:

  1. They can tell you what is working in your material and what is not.
  2. They can advise you on how to fix the problems.
  3. They can give you their opinion as to whether the material is hot or possible cold in today’s market.
  4. They can help you learn more about the craft or writing vis a vis characters, plot, dialogue, story, etc.
  5. They can give you a fair and professional evaluation of your work.

A consultant can not do the following for you:

  1. They can not rewrite the script for you.
  2. They can not promise your script will sell.
  3. They can not tell if you have no talent. (explanation to follow)

Talent is a very ephemeral thing.  It’s not that it is simply subjective.  The ability to become a good writer can be learned.  It is a long and arduous task but there are lots of ways to do it.  When you are first starting out as a writer your work will not be wonderful.  At best it will be OK.  You must continue to practice the craft, learn from others and take good advice.

Sometimes writers choose the wrong genre.  They write novels when they should be writing screenplays.  They might want to write comedy but are better at drama.  There are so many choices to make.  When you start out you should put your toe into all different modes of writing to see what fits for you. Any consultant who tells you that you have no talents is out of line.  They can tell you that your piece needs a lot of work, or that you need to takes some writing classes, but they can not possibly know that your talent will or won’t blossom at some later date.

Getting the good advice from a consultant is half the battle.  Now it is up to you to follow that advice and improve your work.  Rewrite it until it shines and the consultant feels that it is really good.  Don’t get defensive when given notes on how to fix your material.  Listen with an open mind and heart.  Consultants want you to be good and they want you to be successful.  We have no other agenda.  If the first consultant you work with doesn’t feel right to you, than find another one.  You are lucky to be able to get this help.

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:

Copyright 2009 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.

Unstoppable May 18

Andy Dufresne is unstoppableSome movies are unstoppable

I’m not talking about runaway box office successes. I’m talking about those movies that can hold your rapt attention in every scene until the closing credits — whether you want them to or not.

Sometimes I’ll flip channels late at night, just to “quickly” see what talk show guests are on. Inevitably, I’ll stumble across one of my favorite movies.

That’s when the fight begins; the fight to stop watching.

I’ll keep telling myself, “The TV goes off at the next commercial.” After all, I already know what happens. And I really need to get some sleep. I’ll just watch one more sequence.

Then of course when the closing credits roll, I stagger to bed, bleary-eyed, in the wee hours of the morning.

The movie was literally unstoppable.

Is your screenplay like that?

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself about each and every one of your script’s scenes.

Does it…

  • … flow from the previous scene?
  • … address a specific goal of the main character?
  • … contain an inherent question as to what will happen?
  • … drive the plot forward?
  • … support the theme of your movie?
  • … handle any exposition in an organic, succinct and engaging manner?
  • … surprise the reader in some way?
  • … show the reader something they’ve never seen before (or in a way they’ve never seen it)?
  • … contain tension, conflict or humor?
  • … have high enough stakes?
  • … make the reader feel something? (Fear? Joy? Anger? Sadness? Compassion? Curiosity?)
  • … end on a button? (A punchline? An intriguing question? A powerful moment?)
  • … flow into the next scene?

There’s no such thing as a throwaway scene in a great script or movie. Make every one count, and your script will be unstoppable.

What are some movies that you find are unstoppable?

For me it’s The Shawshank Redemption, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Usual Suspects, The Matrix, Aliens, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, The Incredibles, The good, the bad and the ugly, and for some damn reason — Kung Fu Panda. If I tune in at any point in any of those movies, I’m stuck watching until the end.

See if you can stop watching this scene from The good, the bad and the ugly halfway through?

Want me to read your script and let you know what I think? Please take a look at my script services.

Category: Scenes, Writing  | 3 Comments
The Shorts Trend – Big Screen PIXELS May 13

PIXELSThe trend of successful viral shorts being made into movies continues.

Previously, I had posted this article about PIXELS.

Now comes this news:

So many shorts to adapt, so little time. Late last year Sam Raimi paid top dollar for Fede Alvarez’s internet sensation Panic Attack, starting a trend that has continued with Carl Erik Rinsch’s The Gift kicking off a bidding war between major studios. Today, another web short has been optioned by a top-tier entertainer, and given the star power and strength of his studio connections, we may actually see this get made.

THR’s Heat Vision Blog reports that Adam Sandler, through his Sony-based Happy Madison production company, will develop a big-screen take of French filmmaker Patrick Jean’s Pixels. The much-buzzed-about short featuring 1980s video game characters (including Space Invaders, Frogger and Pac-Man) attacking New York City got a thumbs-up from filmmaker Edgar Wright and became a viral hit in April, leading Jean to a contract with William Morris Endeavor.


Category: Shorts  | 3 Comments
How To Be Creative May 12

How to be creative

I was going through some of my old emails the other day and found one with the subject line: “I’d like my crayons back, please.”

It was an excerpt from an article entitled, “how to be creative,” by Hugh MacLeod, that offers 30 great tips and insights for us creative types.

Here are some of my favorites:

3. Put the hours in.
Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. 90% of what separates successful people and failed people is time, effort and stamina.

4. If your biz plan depends on you suddenly being “discovered” by some big shot, your plan will probably fail.
Nobody suddenly discovers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain.


6. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten.
Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with books on algebra etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the creative bug is just a wee voice telling you, “I’d like my crayons back, please.”


9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.
You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don’t make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness.

10. The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props.
Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece on the back of a deli menu would not surprise me. Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece with a silver Cartier fountain pen on an antique writing table in an airy SoHo loft would SERIOUSLY surprise me.


13. Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.
The more you practice your craft, the less you confuse worldly rewards with spiritual rewards, and vice versa. Even if your path never makes any money or furthers your career, that’s still worth a TON.


25. You have to find your own schtick.
A Picasso always looks like Piccasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway. A Beethoven Symphony always sounds like a Beethoven’s Symphony. Part of being a master is learning how to sing in nobody else’s voice but your own.


29. Whatever choice you make, The Devil gets his due eventually.

Selling out to Hollywood comes with a price. So does not selling out. Either way, you pay in full, and yes, it invariably hurts like hell.

30. The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it.
If you have the creative urge, it isn’t going to go away. But sometimes it takes a while before you accept the fact.

You can read the complete list here, along with links to more in depth explorations of each tip.

Which one resonates the most with you?

Category: Creativity, Motivation  | 3 Comments
Short Film: Evidence May 10

Creepy Girl from EvidenceThere’s an amazing extended scene in the movie Birth (2004), where the camera just holds on Nicole Kidman as she watches an Opera — her head swirling with emotion and confusion. It’s simple, but mesmerizing.

The short film Evidence (1995), by Godfrey Reggio, the writer-director of Koyaanisqatsi (2004),  reminds me of that scene. He’s taken a group of cute, confused and Omen-esque kids, and simply aimed a camera at them while they watch T.V.

Evidence looks into the eyes of children watching television – in this case Walt Disney’s “Dumbo”. Though engaged in a daily routine, they appear drugged, retarded, like the patients of a mental hospital. Evidence is about the behavior of children watching television – an activity whose physiological aspects have been overlooked in the current controversy surrounding television.

Throw in a haunting score by Philip Glass, and you have a chilling indictment of the power of television (or possibly Dumbo).

via Mental Floss

Did the creepy girl at 3:15 make you get up and lock the door too?

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Category: Shorts  | One Comment