Subscribe RSS

Archive for November, 2010

Dialogue in the Wild 1 Nov 27

Dialogue In The WildAs a screenwriter, I hope you’re always listening for great dialogue “in the wild.” You know — those brilliant lines that occur while we’re out with friends, chatting with our boss, eavesdropping on the next table at a restaurant, or even watching reality television.

They could be witty comebacks, terrible insults, bad pick-up lines, bizarre life philosophies, unintentionally stupid arguments, etc. Anything that stands out as prospective dialogue gold.

When you hear such a line, make sure you jot it down right away. You never know when you’ll be able to use it, or a modified version of it, to perfectly punctuate a scene.

Defending Your Buddy

I overheard today’s dialogue in the wild at Dave and Buster’s last weekend. A female server was arguing with a drunk customer. She was trying to cut him off, worried that he was going to be driving home.

That’s when the drunk guy’s buddy (who was also drunk) piped up with the following horrifying justification to keep drinking:

It’s okay, he’s a really good driver. He drives a school bus.


Do you keep a journal or document with great lines you’ve overheard?

Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

On Being Rewritten Nov 19

Michele  Wallerstein

Event Reminder: Michele Wallerstein will be holding a free seminar on Saturday, November 20th, 3PM at the Sherman Oaks Borders store.

The topic is: “Getting Started.” It’s the beginning of a 4 part series that she’ll be doing for Borders Books.

On Being Rewritten

by Michele Wallerstein
Author of:
MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career

Be prepared. That’s the best advice I can give to new writers. Be prepared to be rewritten, overruled, ignored and even forgotten. It’s a tough business that you are knocking yourself out to get into. It’s also rewarding, exciting, fun and eventually financially amazing. If you are ready to accept all of the above, then, by all means, get those fingers flying on your computer and aim your sites on Hollywood.

If you know what to expect, you’ll make better choices and have less concerns. Here’s the skinny on what will happen when you finally write the right screenplay that garners you an offer from a major production company:

1. The company will ask for a free option. “Oh, no”, you will say to your agent, “I thought they would offer me money”. Your agent will have to explain that producers don’t pay option fees unless the writer is BIG, EXPERIENCED and someone that the studios are dying to get. Producers are not the people who pay for options. Studios pay for options. If you have a good agent they will have submitted your screenplay to producers prior to studios. This way the studio people will know that a particular production company will be attached to see to it that a good film is made. Studios often have agreements with production companies. This means that they want to make movies with those producers. So, what this means is there is now a good script and a good production company. The option period that your agent will give the producer will allow them the time to: (a) Take the project to a star and/or director and (b) Present the project to their studio.

2. There will be a contract, negotiated by your agent, wherein it will state that X amount of dollars will be paid to you in the event a studio (or an independent third party financier) wants to move forward with the project. The deal will divide up the payments to you as installments (steps) for rewrites, polishes, production bonuses, and a purchase price. These steps are not promised to you. They only occur if and when they are required by the studio. The contract will be transferred to the studio in its entirety. This means that whatever the producer promised you in their contract must be accepted by the studio. The studio will now be responsible for paying you the option price as well as whatever other fees have been spelled out in the initial agreement. Just like in any other business, the folks with the money have all the power.

3. When you have agreed to the contract you will probably get the chance to do the first rewrite on your screenplay. Please note that I said “probably”. First you will have meetings with the producer(s), their assistants, their development executives and possibly a studio executive or two. If you are good in the meetings (see Chapter 21, in my book, “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career”) you will begin the rewrite.

4. Once you turn in that first rewrite things begin to get tricky. Inevitably there will be requests for more rewrites. The question as to who will do these next rewrites is up to the studio and producers. You and your agent will have no say in this decision. If you read your contract carefully you will note that further rewrites by you are “optional”. This means that the studio has the right to either hire you or someone else to do those rewrites. All new writers have this in their contracts. There is no getting around it.

5. Try as you might, you will never be able to second guess what these studio executives will decide nor why they will make those particular decisions. You will probably never know why another writer is hired to rewrite you. They won’t tell your agent and they certainly won’t tell you. There are innumerable scenarios that may occur. The studio may owe another writer for a different project that didn’t go forward, or the producer has a friend that they want to give some work to, or, over lunch, the studio executive mentioned your project to another writer who came up with ideas that the executive loved, or there was some other situation that has arisen. It’s a moot point, so move ahead and work on your next project.

6. Remember that your purchase price and production bonus are often tied to your on-screen credit. In the event you share that screen credit with other writers, your fees will be diminished. The screen credit will be determined by an impartial panel at the Writers Guild of America.

My final comments are for you to simply do the best job you can and keep moving forward. If you are responsible, agreeable, creative and clever, you will eventually have more power and decision making choices. Remember that this is the beginning of your writing career and that, like other industries, you will find that your status will improve with each new project.

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 2010 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.

Did No Ordinary Family pull a “Riker’s Beard”? Nov 17

No Ordinary FamilyIs anyone else watching No Ordinary Familythe show about a family of superheroes? I think it may have pulled a Riker’s Beard (the opposite of “Jump the Shark”) in last night’s episode, and turned itself around.

Don’t get me wrong, the show has its inspired moments. But usually it’s so bad that I created a new drinking game. You do a shot when you see something completely unbelievable.1

Here’s how you would have played the game with last week’s episode:

  • When the nosy grandparents show up unexpectedly, the entire family goes outside to talk in “private.” They discuss their superpowers out in their driveway in the still of night, without lowering their voices in any way.
  • The family is worried that the grandparents will notice something is different with them, so instead of trying to avoid them, they inexplicably alter their lives to spend more time with the grandparents so they can keep the grandparents from figuring anything out. On what planet does that make sense? 2
  • The father, who has super strength, jumps up to a half a mile from house rooftop to house rooftop without so much as breaking a tile or alerting the houses’ occupants.  Does he have silencer shoes? Why couldn’t he have simply made these jumps in alleys behind the houses or somewhere else more stable and discreet?

Needless to say, if I play this game I’m usually sloshed by the end of the episode.

But last night’s episode was disappointing, in that it wasn’t, er… disappointing. It was actually pretty good. Maybe the disparate voices in the writers’ room have finally agreed on the tone of show? Maybe it has pulled a Riker’s Beard and is about to become awesome?

Only time will tell. But in the meantime, I’ll have my booze ready. (Maybe the trick is to drink before watching the show?)

Anyone else find last night’s episode uncharacteristically good? Anyone think I’m off base? What’s your take?

Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

  1. “Unbelievable” shouldn’t be confused with “unrealistic.” An “unrealistic” world where superheroes exist should still come across as  believable.
  2. The plot device with the grandparents is necessary, but surely they could have come up with a less absurd explanation to force the interaction.
Category: Television, Writing  | 3 Comments
The Decision To Become A Screenwriter Nov 12

Michele  Wallerstein

Event Announcement: Michele Wallerstein will be holding a free seminar on Saturday, November 20th, 3PM at the Sherman Oaks Borders store.

The topic is: “Getting Started.” It’s the beginning of a 4 part series that she’ll be doing for Borders Books.

The Decision To Become A Screenwriter

by Michele Wallerstein
Author of:
MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career

OK, so, you’ve decided to write a screenplay. Your motives may be good, bad, strange, silly or desperate. You may not even know what they are. In any event, you’ve made that emotional commitment to become a screenwriter. Here come the important questions you now have to ask and answer. Just like a journalist you need to find out the who, what, where, when and how you will be able to accomplish this feat.

The questions of “who” has to do with looking within yourself to discover if you have the right combination of creative talent, business acumen with a bit of brio thrown in. Yes, you will absolutely need all of these personal qualities to be a successful screenwriter. If any of them are missing, you will be in big trouble. If you aren’t really creative, how will you be able to tell a great story, or provide fascinating characters? If you don’t have some business sense, how will you be able to know if your project is salable, or marketable, or if your representatives are doing a proper job for you? If you don’t have the personal fortitude to push yourself forward on a personal basis, how will you be able to pitch yourself and your work to strangers? How will you be able to attend conferences, workshops, meetings, seminars and countless other social situations with confidence and verbal clarity?

The “what” has to do with your choices of what to write. Are you interested in romance, drama, sci-fi, thrillers or comedies? If there are a couple of areas you are interested in, how will you choose?

The “where” deals with moving to the hub of the motion pictures and television industry. Can you really be a Hollywood screenwriter by living outside of California?

The “when” is now. Writing is primarily thinking so you may begin immediately. If you are serious in this endeavor, don’t put it off. You can even keep your day job and become a screenwriter. I love the Zen saying: “Leap, and the net will appear.” Go ahead, if it feels right, do it. Procrastination is a terrible thing that can haunt your life forever.

The “why” is honestly defining your motivations. Are you someone who has always been a dilettante? Do you simply feel that every time you go to a movie you think; “I could write a better movie than that”? Do you imagine a glamorous life with cocktail parties attended by famous directors and actors? Finally, do you have the calling?

Now, for the really hard one; the “how,” which is the finding of your starting point and moving on from there. This means making more right decisions than wrong ones which, in and of itself, defines success.

Of course you will need more than these things to discover about yourself, but these are jumping off points that are important to having a successful writing career. None of them can be ignored, but some of them can be learned.

You can learn to be braver and more forthcoming in personal interactions. You can practice, get into therapy, get help from seminars on self-confidence and find other avenues to learn to get rid of that terrible shyness.

You can also take steps to learn the craft of writing. It is actually imperative that you read the books, take the classes and most importantly, practice, practice, practice.

Writing takes sweat and tears. It’s a combination of a cruel and immensely rewarding occupation. It takes years to become a good writer. It takes a thick skin to listen to criticism and requests for changes in your work. It takes commitment and tenacity. If you either have the right answers to all of the above questions or you are dedicated to trying to work on the issues that you lack, then take that wonderful leap and see what amazing things can happen.

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 2010 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.

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