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Archive for July, 2012

Adam Levenberg – Script Consultant Jul 30

Since I’ve been on hiatus from script consulting, I’m often asked if I could recommend other consultants. I’m happy to add Adam Levenberg — former development executive and author of The Starter Screenplay: An Executive’s Perspective on Screenwriting — to the list.

I enjoyed Adam’s book and recently tried out his consulting service for my latest screenplay. It was an eye-opening experience.

My writing is strong enough that it can sometimes cause readers to overlook inherent deficits that may exist in the script. Not Adam — he homes in on those problem areas like a laser-guided missile.

The funny thing about screenwriting is that it takes years of practice before the lessons you’ve learned from university, books, seminars, etc. get transferred onto the page. You’ll make mistakes where you’ll say to yourself, “Geez, I knew that! What was I thinking?” The longer you write, the less this will happen. But in the meantime, you need someone like Adam to point those mistakes out to you. He’ll dig deep into your script and root them out.

And when I say dig deep, I mean it. He doesn’t just give your script the once-over. He spends a lot of time both reading the script and going over the issues with you. Part of his service is a comprehensive phone conversation, that might last several hours. He also welcomes extensive follow-up with his clients.

Obviously this service isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it . He’s not only a guy who can help make your script better, he’s a guy who can put you in touch with agents and managers if your script impresses him. That alone makes his service a cut above — especially for the more advanced writers out there.

For more information on Adam and his services, check out his website — He encourages writers, who are considering his services, to contact him in advance so he can make sure to meet or exceed their expectations.

Don’t F@#%ing Pitch Like This! Jul 17

Photo via Saturday I attended a fucking great series of talks sponsored by InkTip — a terrific fucking resource for screenwriters.

Why all the profanity?

Because I got to listen to one of my favorite columnists — Manny Fonseca — who’s known for his foul-mouthed, yet brutally honest and insightful articles for The Business of Show Institute newsletter. I highly recommend subscribing to the free weekly newsletter if you haven’t already.

When not swearing up a blue streak, Manny is a development executive for Kopelson Entertainment (The Devil’s Advocate, U.S. Marshals), where he’s always on the lookout for the next big script.

A Rogues Gallery of Pitchers

His talk at the InkTip Sessions on Saturday revolved around what NOT to do when pitching your script. As a veteran of many pitch fests, Manny’s seen it all. Here are some of the “types” that he and other execs hope to never see again:

The A La Cart

This pitcher gets to the table and plops down his list of scripts, then asks Manny to pick the one he likes. If you’ve got a bunch of scripts, not all of them are going to be suitable (Hint: “No Christmas Movies!”). Just do your homework and pitch the one you think is best for his company.

The Marketeer

This is the guy who comes to the table and starts talking about how the movie should be marketed. Everything from the actors who should be cast, to the tagline on the poster. This guy’s never had a movie produced, but he’s going to tell Manny how to do his job? Really?

The Show and No Tell

At the last pitch fest I went to there was this duo at a table who had a flip-chart that seemed to show every weapon under the sun. The exec at the table didn’t know what to do with these guys. They sure knew their weapons, but their ponderous presentation distracted from the script itself. Just stick to selling your script with words. If you can’t do it at the table, how are you going to present it to a room of producers, studio execs, etc.? Same goes for homemade trailers of your script.

The Repped Writer

You have an agent or manager? What the hell are you doing at a pitch fest? Odds are if you’re at a pitch fest, then you’re not really represented. You might be “hip-pocketed” but you’re not an actual client. Hip-pocketing means that the rep will be happy to take a commission for your script if the right buyer comes along, but you’re not on their official roster of clients whose careers they’re actively working to build. Odds are, if you mention that you’re repped, you don’t know the difference. And that’s a big red flag.

The “I got Drew Barrymore”/”I got James Franco”

(He gets those two a lot.) First of all, just because you had a conversation with an actor once, and they expressed a polite interest in your idea, doesn’t mean they’re interested enough to actually star in your movie. Even worse, any mentions of actors being attached are met with high levels of skepticism. Don’t say you’ve got someone attached if you don’t. Manny will just call the actor to verify. Yeah, he can do that. And does.

The Contest Finalist

Some people spend most of their time entering contests. Every. Single. One. Think you’re more enticing to Manny just because you’ve placed in the finals of the Spuzzum Film Festival? Think again. There are only a handful of script competitions that producers, managers and agents get excited about. And unless you’ve won one of those contests, it’s not worth mentioning. In my opinion, The Nicholl Fellowship might be the only one where a semi-finalist standing carries some weight — but even then, Manny’s probably not interested.

The Too Many Scripts Guy

Writing a great script is a lot of hard work. Writing dozens of great scripts is a lifetime of hard work. If you tell Manny you’ve written 50 scripts, that doesn’t impress him. It just tells him that you don’t rewrite. Almost every great writer will tell you that writing is rewriting. If you’re simply cranking out script after script, without much thought to revision, you may lack the discipline or habits required to make it as a screenwriter. And your scripts are probably terrible.

The “Have Some Traction” Guy

This is the guy who tells you that he already has traction with Producer A or Director B. That’s great — so why aren’t you making the movie with them? If these other people are so keen, then why are you coming to Manny? Keep your tenuous connections to yourself and just pitch your movie.

The Used Car Salesman

One of the best pieces of advice when pitching your script is to “just be normal.” Easier said than done of course. But you definitely don’t want to come across as a used car salesman. You know the type. They come to a pitch fest with their snappy speech patterns and rehearsed lines. Don’t do that. Just have a normal conversation with the person you’re pitching to that showcases your passion for your script.

Other Useful Pitching Tips

Don’t be nervous

You’re probably pitching to an intern. You probably make more than they do.

Don’t tell them it’s your 8th draft

It may be the 2nd or 10th draft of your script, but the producer, director, manager, agent doesn’t need to know that. It needs to feel like it’s hot off the presses, like no one else in town has read your script. Being first to read a potentially brilliant script is cool. Trudging through a script that’s been circulating through the fringes of Hollywood for years — not so much.

Don’t follow-up about your script

If someone has asked to read your script, there’s no need to follow-up. If they like it/love it, they’ll get back in touch with you. If they haven’t had a chance to read your script yet, you may risk irritating them by getting in touch with them. You don’t know what’s been happening in their lives… whether their mother just died, or whether they’ve been on vacation for a month.

Did you fall into any of the categories above?

The Serendipity of Final Draft 8 Jul 13

Final Draft 8Final Draft is arguably the most popular screenwriting program out there. Recently I upgraded from Final Draft 7 to Final Draft 8. I know, I know… What took me so long, right? I’m a big believer in the old, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage.

Anyway, I eventually realized that Final Draft 7, while not broken, was glitchy. So I upgraded. And there was a surprising result.

In my latest script, I was at the end of page 65 in Final Draft 7. After upgrading to Final Draft 8, I was now halfway down page 64! I had miraculously saved a full page and a half, just by upgrading!

Over the course of a full script, that might work out to 2 or 3 pages in savings. And that’s HUGE! Upon examining my script side by side in Final Draft 7 and Final Draft 8, I noticed that the settings were exactly the same. The only difference was that Final Draft 8 seemed to allow for a few more millimeters of space per page.

A few millimeters doesn’t seem like much, but on certain pages it  allowed for the occasional pushed content to be brought back onto a previous page — which of course caused a cascade of savings across the entire script — without having to cheat the margins.

So if any of you have been putting off purchasing Final Draft 8, you can count, page count reduction serendipity as a great reason to buy.

Hmm… I wonder what my page count would be in Movie Magic Screenwriter (that other really popular screenwriting program)? Anyone have any experience comparing the natural page counts of the two?

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