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Archive for October, 2010

Logline Contest: Last Day to Enter Oct 31

That’s right. Today is the last day to enter the logline contest to win an autographed copy of Michele Wallerstein’s book, “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career.”

All of you who’ve been holding off on entering while the competition plays their hand — now’s the time to submit your entry! Use that Halloween candy sugar high to crank out a funny logline for this free contest.

Click here for the full contest details and to enter.

Query Letters That Work Oct 29

No Bull ScriptScript consultant, producer and former development exec, Daniel Manus, has written a highly detailed and insightful post on query letters. In fact, I’d say it’s the most complete discussion that I’ve seen on the web.

Here are some snippets:

As for format, your query letter should be about a half page, and never more than ¾ of a page. And while there are different ways to structure your letter, I recommend the following:

The greeting; your title; then a 2 sentence introduction to you which should include anything that is special about you that pertains to your story, writing, or the film business in general that will set you apart.

***

Next, comes your logline. The logline should be 35 words or less and contain no more than 2 commas. It needs to make clear the genre, the major conflict, and what makes your script different – basically, it’s hook. It needs to contain action words, not just passive, descriptive words (for example, “chooses” is passive, “is forced to choose” is active). It should tell us a bit of the set up or starting point, who the main character(s) is, and then whatever the main story is about.

***

Then, 1-3 short (!) paragraphs about your story, your main characters, what happens, etc. I always like it when one paragraph is a bit more descriptive and places the script in context by using comparison movies. It’s “this” meets “that.” Or “it’s in the vein of THIS and THAT.” Just make sure to use movies that are similar in genre and tone and that did WELL at the box office! Don’t use a movie just because it starred the same actor you want for your project!

Please click here for the full article. If you’re planning on sending out some query letters, it’s a must-read.

Danny’s a terrific script consultant and speaker that I respect. For those of you familiar with screenwriter Craig Mazin’s recent controversial post, you should read Danny’s rebuttal.

Category: Query Letters  | 5 Comments
Scriptwrecked Logline Contest Oct 25

Mind Your BusinessSo here’s something quick, fun and free — Scriptwrecked‘s first contest!

You can win an autographed copy of Michele Wallerstein’s great new book: “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career.”

All you have to do is come up with a logline that uses the following three random-ish words:

go, cat, he

The words can appear on their own, or as part of another word (e.g. “placate” could be used for “cat”).

The criteria that Michele and I will use for judging the winner is simple. The logline must be funny, original and marketable. It needs to sound like something that you could actually picture playing at your local cineplex.

Whoever comes up with the best one, or comes closest to hitting the mark, will win the book. If you need to brush up on what I feel constitutes a good logline, check out my logline primer.

Please post your submissions in the comments section below before November 1st (i.e. by Halloween night). Enter as many times as you like, and most importantly, have fun with it!

The Writing Show Podcast with Michele Wallerstein Oct 22

Michele WallersteinAs readers of Scriptwrecked should already know, Michele Wallerstein is a Screenplay and Career Consultant with years of experience as a Hollywood literary agent. She’s recently released, “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career” — which I reviewed here.

Recently Michele was interviewed by Paula Berinstein of The Writing Show, and the half hour podcast of their chat offers some terrific, hard-to-come-by information for aspiring screenwriters about the business of Hollywood.

Some items covered in the podcast:

  • How the book came about
  • Following the rules of Hollywood
  • The need to keep proving and improving yourself
  • What happens in a meeting with a producer
  • Deciding what to write
  • Studio vs. Indie films
  • Why new writers shouldn’t team up on specs
  • How to avoid shooting yourself in the foot
  • The realities of executive notes
  • What a writer’s career is really all about
  • Step deals, pay or play
  • Reinventing your career
  • Breaking in as an older writer
  • When to approach Hollywood

It’s definitely time well spent.

Click here for the direct link to the podcast.

Click here for the original article.

Quick Screenwriting Tip: Don’t depend on one line of dialogue Oct 21

Quick Screenwriting TipQuick Screenwriting Tip:

The comprehension of a scene or scene sequence should never depend solely on a single line of dialogue.

I’m still surprised by how often I see this mistake, in both scripts and movies. If something significant needs to be revealed in dialogue, that significant detail needs to be reinforced with some banter, or an action. In most cases, multiple times.

If not, the audience might miss it, and be left in the dark later as to how a character knew something, or why a character did something, or to the payoff of a key moment.

Example of how to do it right

In The Shawshank Redemption (SPOILER ALERT), written and directed by Frank Darabont, imagine if Andy (Tim Robbins) had simply said to Red (Morgan Freeman), “Tell you where I’d go. Zihuatanejo.” — and just left it at that. We’d probably be left scratching our heads at the end when Red shows up on the beach.

No, instead Red repeats the location (Zihuatanejo) back to Andy. On top of that, Andy has the following dialogue:

ANDY

Mexico. Little place right on the Pacific. You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific? They say it has no memory. That’s where I’d like to finish out my life, Red. A warm place with no memory. Open a little hotel right on the beach. Buy some worthless old boat and fix it up like new. Take my guests out charter fishing.

(beat)

You know, a place like that, I’d need a man who can get things.

Red stares at Andy, laughs.

It’s an important point, with a huge payoff later, so the dialogue reinforces it in the audience’s mind.

And when Red retrieves the package that Andy’s left for him, we are again reminded of the destination reveal:

ANDY (V.O.)

Dear Red. If you’re reading this, you’ve gotten out. And if you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further. You remember the name of the town, don’t you?

Never rely on one line of dialogue alone for the audience’s understanding or enjoyment of a key section of your movie.


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