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Archive for the Category "Interviews"

Turn Your Script Into A Novel & Sell It – This Guy Did! Oct 24

Interview with Paul A. Mendelson

Paul A. Mendelson (Photo by Mike Floyd)

Paul A. Mendelson is a professional screenwriter and a super nice guy to boot! He was kind enough to give us some insights into how he’s been able to take his scripts, turn them into novels, and get Hollywood’s interest.

If you’re thinking about taking this path and want to see how your writing stacks up, I would definitely check out Paul’s latest novel, A Meeting in Seville.

And now to the interview…

Scriptwrecked:

Paul, you’ve done something really impressive — you’ve turned a script into a novel, then sold it to producers interested in adapting it into a feature film. What’s more, you’ve successfully repeated that process several times! What’s your secret?

Paul A. Mendelson:

Thanks for this. Good question. But I think you’ve exaggerated my success a tad.

So far I’ve made one actual sale to producers of a book that began life as a script. It was my first novel, In the Matter of Isabel, published last year.

The other two novels-inspired-by-scripts are bubbling under – one is ‘in development’ in LA – and there is a lot of interest in my most recent novel A Meeting in Seville. I’m expecting them also to be optioned before long

Another children’s novel as yet unpublished, based on a TV treatment, is being considered now for a series.

Of course the producers who bought the first book were delighted that there was a script already written. (I did revisit the original script as writing the novel had thrown up many new and richer ideas). This was clearly a plus for me.

When you ask about my secret I think the novels gained a lot of strength from what I had learned writing the scripts. Before I even began the novels I had the characters, the structure and much of the dialogue fairly nailed down. And I owe a lot of this to feedback on the scripts from colleagues, agents and especially people such as BlueCat and Screencraft, whose contests I entered and whose excellent notes helped enormously.

I have to say the novels are works in their own right, not padded out scripts. My publishers had no idea they had even been scripts.

I am in no doubt that producers are hugely attracted to existing IP and that a book – if it’s good – makes the script easier to sell. I actually found my LA producer via linked in. She approached me after receiving a general email I sent to several of my connections when the book was published. I feel very fortunate as she and her UK partner are great and highly respected.

I hadn’t intended to turn my scripts into novels. I had written a family movie which was much liked but I was told by several people there are very few family movies which aren’t based on books. So I wrote Losing Arthur and now, via some colleagues, I have found a possible home. (I can’t as yet say where as we are still in discussion but it feels hopeful)

You ask what my secret is. I think it’s no secret. I just bit the bullet and wrote the books. I had no idea until I began that I was any sort of novelist. Now I’m starting to believe that I might be.

Interestingly people who have enjoyed my books tell me they can really ‘see’ them. So this is perhaps what a scriptwriter – and I’ve been one for thirty years – brings to the party.

Scriptwrecked:

Thanks for clarifying. If anything, I may have understated your accomplishments! Sounds like your screenwriting skills really informed your novel writing. But how much did your previous screenwriting success factor in to your ability to get producers to look at your novels?

Paul A. Mendelson:

I’d have to say that my track record in TV (and possibly script contests) was clearly a factor in getting my novels seen. And a BAFTA nomination doesn’t hurt.

But I still found I had to do most of the work myself – as opposed to agents etc.

I do have a script agent but found it really difficult to get a book agent. This was probably because I’m not ‘genre’ and at my age clearly don’t have decades of novel-writing ahead. They like youngsters they can nurture and mould. (It looks I will have one very soon – but only after having had three novels published). So I found the publisher myself, who liked my work enough to publish it. (The novels aren’t self-published – they’re properly selected, which of course was an endorsement for me)

Once In the Matter of Isabel was published I did, as mentioned, try to tell every contact I had about it. I suspect the LA producer I finally found, who had previously accepted my Linked-In invitation, might not have done so had not my own contacts and profile been in some way appealing. (I’ve created several long-running BBC comedy series, written some acclaimed drama for TV and radio and had movie scripts optioned.)

Regarding my children’s novel Losing Arthur, a script editor I know – who seems to rate my work and who edited my most recent novel – liked it and its scripted version enough to show it to some people who showed it to other people … etc etc.

So now I’m trying to do the same with my newly published novel A Meeting in Seville. People do seem to like the book, I’ve written the script, so I’m about to put it out there. Like Losing Arthur, the script was a Screencraft Finalist, which may also help. And, of course, I have an excellent script agent.

So in answer to your question, I doubt I would have got this far without my previous success. However, had I been able to find a good book agent then they would have made the contacts for me and my track record would have been less important. (It would be more relevant in giving me credentials to script the novel they’d just bought!)

Scriptwrecked:

Success definitely begets success. But indeed, there’s also no substitute for good old fashioned hustle. Leveraging LinkedIn is a nice tip for finding publishers and networking with producers, etc. What other advice would you give to screenwriters who are not credentialed pros with any helpful contacts yet are thinking about turning a script into a novel in order to gain traction in Hollywood?

Paul A. Mendelson:

Tough one.

I would have to suggest trying to get the novel published, which most probably would mean either finding an agent (they read hundreds of manuscripts but take on very few) or – as I did – a legitimate publisher who likes the work. But again they have hundreds submitted.

At least this way the uncredentialed, unconnected writer would have someone who does have the contacts – especially if it is a reputable agent.

And it’s not credentials or a track record that get you agents or publishers. It’s the quality of what you send. Unlike film companies, agents do read unsolicited, unrepresented work – or at least the first three chapters/10000 words. Just check out their requirements and submissions policies.

Or, of course, one can self-publish, so at least you have something other than a script to tout around. The trouble with self-publishing is there is no quality control (some call it vanity publishing). But these days with Amazon etc you can build up a huge raft of positive reviews which causes other algorithms to kick in and the book takes on its own agency. This can actually lead to heavy-duty publishers taking an interest and taking the writer on. Which of course would interest the film companies.

I’m not sure how much attention film companies would pay to a self-published book unless you could get some legitimate mainstream reviews from respected celebs, reviewers, critics etc to go with it.

So basically it’s still a lottery. But what I would say is that writing the novel not only gives you something real, sold and ‘actual’, a work of art that exists its own right, like a painting or a sculpture – it will also probably make your script a lot better when you revisit it once the novel is done.


You can find out more about this talented screenwriter and novelist at paulmendelson.net.

Tips from Screenwriter Rhett Reese (Zombieland) Jun 25

Rhett ReeseA few weeks back I went to the Great American PitchFest and had a blast. I posted my overall impressions here. And also discussed a couple of free classes I attended, here and here.

Today I’m writing about the third free class I attended — an interview with screenwriter Rhett Reese (Zombieland, Monsters, Inc., G.I. Joe: Retaliation). I found Rhett Reese to be an extremely affable and generous guy. He truly enjoys teaching and helping aspiring screenwriters.

Here are some random tips from his interview (along with my usual paraphrasing) that I found interesting.

Tip #1: On breaking out of one genre after you’ve found success there…

Hollywood straps you with the “golden handcuffs.” You tend to become associated with one genre. But it’s possible to “reinvent yourself by degrees.” For example, if you’ve had traction with an action movie, you could write an action comedy next. Then if that one hits, you could write a comedy, etc.

Tip #2: Before you send your script out to decision makers

… start on a new script. That way “it’s easier to take rejection, because you’re already invested in a new project.”

Tip #3: “Make your characters very entertainingly ONE THING.”

“Simplicity is your friend when it comes to character. Keep it simple.” Play up the one thing that makes your character stand out.

Tip #4: “Never write past your punchline.”

He gave the example of the following line:

“The last time I was in a woman was when I went to the Statue of Liberty.”

It’s less impactful if you were to say it as follows:

“The last time I was in a woman was when I went to the Statue of Liberty in New York City.”

End on the button.

Tip #5: To be successful as a writer…

… you need to be like the T-1000 Terminator. In your career you’ll be routinely shattered to a million pieces by criticism and rejection. The successful writers will be the ones who can “relentlessly and robotically let these pieces coalesce.”

Is Netflix the best resource for screenwriters? Aug 08

The DialogueNetflix. What is it good for?

Absolutely… something!

Netflix has received some (probably warranted) bad press recently, due to their significant price hike. But if you can afford to shell out the cash for at least one more month, you’ll be able to take advantage of one of the best resources for screenwriters anywhere.

I’m not talking about their movie selection (though that’s good too). I’m talking about one specific set of DVDs known as The Dialogue.

The Dialogue: Learning from the Masters

Hosted by Mike De Luca (Producer of dozens of diverse movies including: Boogie Nights, American History X, Austin Powers, The Social Network), the series consists of in depth interviews with some of Hollywood’s elite screenwriters.

Here are just a few of the 27 screenwriters interviewed:

– Simon Kinberg (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Sherlock Holmes)
– Scott Rosenberg (Gone in Sixty Seconds, Con Air)
– David S. Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins)
– Paul Haggis (Crash, Casino Royale)
– Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air, X-Men First Class)
– Peter and Bob Farrelly (Dumb & Dumber, There’s Something About Mary)
– Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (Star Trek, Cowboys & Aliens)

The DVDs are only few years old, and will give you the best bang for your Netflix buck.

Not only are the interviews insightful as to the process of screenwriting, they will certainly open your eyes to the business of screenwriting as well.

I can’t recommend these DVDs enough. Each 80 minute interview is jam-packed with incredible tidbits of knowledge you can only learn straight from the pros. These are MUST SEE DVDs guys.

Note: The full set of DVDs are also for sale on Amazon.com.

Update: Apparently Amazon isn’t selling these interviews in DVD form, but they are streaming and making them available for download (for a small fee). Here’s a link to one of my favorite interviews, Nicholas Kazan (Matilda, Fallen).


Professional script critique, logline and page notes for $59.
(Yup, the rumors are true. It’s the best frikken deal on the web.)
Awards Watch Roundtable Video Nov 10

THR Writers RoundtableWouldn’t it be nice to eavesdrop on a conversation with some of the best screenwriters working today? Well The Hollywood Reporter has given us that opportunity.

Writers Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours), Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3), John Wells (The Company Men), Todd Phillips (Due Date) and David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole) sit down for an hour long Q & A.

If you just want a taste of the discussion, THR provides the following three quick snippets:

Awards Watch Roundtable: The Writers 1
How did the firing go down? For the first time, Todd Phillips reveals Mel Gibson’s reaction to being cut from “The Hangover II.”

Awards Watch Roundtable: The Writers 2
Aaron Sorkin, John Wells and Todd Phillips weigh in on wrangling with the legal department over their films. Plus, what title did “Old School” almost get slapped with?

Awards Watch Roundtable: The Writers 3
What is it about the WGA that makes “Due Date” writer Todd Phillips refer to it as “the whiner’s guild?” And why does Aaron Sorkin call the WGA “it’s own worst enemy?”

H/T to Benjamin R. for the link.

Category: Interviews  | 2 Comments
Interview With Aaron Sorkin Nov 02

Joshua Stecker, West Coast Editor of Script Magazine, interviews screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, A Few Good Men, Charlie Wilson’s War, The American President, The West Wing).

Here are some of the topics Sorkin talks about in this 20 minute interview:

  • Aaron Sorkin InterviewThe connection between his great teachers and his success
  • How he learned to write screenplays
  • The important lesson William Goldman taught him
  • What activity he does for inspiration
  • What medium he prefers to write in
  • His screenwriting “weakness”
  • The basic rules of drama
  • Advice for aspiring screenwriters

My favorite quote from the interview (especially in light of the recent controversy over whether screenwriting can be taught):

“I can trace so much of what I do every day, when I’m writing, to what I was taught back then by my teachers at Syracuse.”

SCRIPT Magazine Close Up with Aaron Sorkin from Alejandro Seri on Vimeo.

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