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Archive for September, 2011

Logline – Screenwriting Software for the Web Sep 28

Logline AppLogline Application

Here’s a great little web app I discovered at the Screenwriting Expo. It’s called LOGLINE. And while it has absolutely nothing to do with loglines, it has everything to do with writing a script… without traditional software.

This web application allows you to write your screenplay via a web browser. That way it’s available to you wherever you go, as long as there’s a computer you can access.

That means you could sneak in a little writing time at work (only during your lunch break of course), and not have to worry about installing Final Draft on your office computer, or worrying about which version you were editing.

It’s all stored securely online, with instant backups.


The interface takes a bit of getting used to, but there’s autocomplete for characters and scene headings, and a slick drag and drop interface for adding/moving scenes. All the fundamentals you’d expect from your screenwriting software.

I really like how the format allows you to effortlessly go from the outline phase to the screenwriting phase, with a section for Treatment notes. It also lets you have as many “Acts” as you like. I use this system for my sequences, so I have about 8 sequences with about 4 or 5 scenes in each sequence.

You can import your scripts from Final Draft 8, and export to Final Draft 8 or PDF with the click of a button. If you’re lame like me and still haven’t upgraded to Final Draft 8, my understanding is that there may be a workaround for us coming soon.

Also on the horizon is iPad compatibility. I’m told this feature will almost certainly be ready by Spring of the new year.

The other feature I’ve been pushing for is the ability to specify how many line spaces you want between scene headings.

I also wish the app detected when you were writing a scene heading if you start with “int” or “ext” like in Final Draft. Right now you have to hit [enter] and then select “H” for heading. I’m sure they’ll refine this aspect as time goes on.

Right now the guys are working on an advanced versioning/commenting feature set, which will be unveiled some time in the next few months.

Free!… For now

The application is currently in beta testing. For all you non-web geeks, that means the application is stable and working, but needs people like you and me to try it out. Find bugs, report issues, suggest improvements, etc.

During this period, all of the various plans are FREE. Even better, after the beta period expires, any scrips you’ve uploaded will continue to be free to use. So the time to sign up is now.

I’m not getting any type of incentive for this post. I just think it’s a cool application and the guys I met at the Expo were a couple of fellow web geek/screenwriters who’ve spent a lot of time working on this app.

Give logline a try! I think it’s pretty sweet.

Here’s a video that shows you what I’m talking about:

Screenwriting Expo 2011 – Pitching Tips Pt. 1 Sep 23

Pitching TipsPitching Tips

The Golden Pitch Festival

The Screenwriting Expo hosts something called the Golden Pitch Festival. You have to pay extra for it, even if you have an Expo Gold Pass, but being able to pitch is worth its weight in… well you know.

If you’re an unrepresented writer, it’s the easiest way to get face-time with the people who can actually help you get your movie made, give you representation, or hire you for a writing job.

The following pitching tips come from my own experiences (both pitching and public speaking), and from the training seminars I’ve taken.

I’ve decided to split this article into 3 parts, starting with:

Before you get to the Pitch Festival…

Pitching Tip #1: Make sure you have a logline

A logline consists of one or two sentences (one is better) that captures the premise of your script in the most compelling way.

If you don’t have a logline for your script, it probably means either A) your script is unfocused, or B) you haven’t been writing long enough to understand its importance.

Both are red flags to producers and managers.

Pitching Tip #2: Make sure you have a one-sheet

A one-sheet is something that you can leave behind when your pitch is complete. At minimum, it should have the title, genre, logline, a brief synopsis, and your contact information on it.

Optional items:

  • A catchy tagline for your movie
  • Loglines from other scripts you have completed (I don’t personally put these on there as I feel they dilute the focus of the current script I’m trying to sell)
  • A very brief bio (if you have experience relevant to your script, or have won some awards, or have a Master’s Degree in Screenwriting from USC, etc.)
  • A terrific quote from a respected industry reader or someone recognizable in the industry about your script
  • Hire a graphic designer to create a professional and memorable one-sheet for you on nice paper/cardstock

And remember, make sure you spell everything correctly! I met a woman at the Expo who had been handing out one-sheets with a misspelling in her title for several days.

Pitching Tip #3: Figure out the structure of your pitch

Yes, your pitch should have a rough structure. It should be something like this:

  • Genre your script falls into (e.g. Action, Comedy, Action-Comedy, Thriller, Pscyhological Thriller, etc.)
  • Time period of your story (only necessary if it doesn’t take place in the present or if the title begs the question)
  • Primary location(s) of your story
  • Title, then Logline; OR Logline, then Title (often times the Title can serve as the “punchline” to the logline, so make sure you have a good one)
  • Additional info to drive home the concept. For example: “It’s a modern day take on The Legend of Zelda.” Or “It’s Taken but with a brother and sister, instead of a father and daughter.” (That actually sounds pretty good)
  • High level story beats (notice I didn’t say “plot”). This will be the “meat” of your pitch.

The reason you don’t just launch into the story beats is because you want to orient the producer/manager as quickly as possible, and provide a context, to the world of your story.

Pitching Tip #4: Make sure you practice your pitch

We all have varying speaking abilities. Some people seem to have been born with the gift of gab (Quentin Tarantino), the rest of us have to work at it. Regardless of where you fall on the scale, you need to spend some time practicing your pitch.

Some of the best practice can come from just chatting up your friends about your script. Don’t tell them you’re pitching it to them, because it immediately sets up a weird dynamic. Just say, “Hey, have I told you about my latest script?”

Then try to sell them on it. Pay attention to what they respond to, and what they don’t, then incorporate the good stuff into your final pitch.

Pitching Tip #5: Make sure you time your pitch

Whether you practice your final pitch in front of other people, or just rehearse it quietly to yourself, you absolutely need to time it with a stopwatch. Yes, a STOPWATCH! If you don’t time your pitch out in advance, you WILL run out of time (5 minutes).

I wouldn’t recommend filling up the entire 5 minutes either. Remember, pitching is interactive and “in the wild.” Crazy stuff will happen that will chew up your time unexpectedly. And you will almost certainly be interrupted by the producer or manager with questions or comments.

It’s best to plan for a pitch that’s around 3 minutes. 4 minutes  tops! That way you can go into your pitch relaxed and not worry about the seconds ticking away.

Pitching Tip #6: Study up!

Pilar Alessandra has a great interview with the pundit of pitch-prep, Danny Manus. You can check out that podcast here.

If you have several months before your next opportunity to pitch, why not join a Toastmasters International club in your area? I’ve seen it work wonders for people who were previously crippled by the idea of pitching or public speaking.

Any other pre-arrival pitching tips you’d add?

Next Edition: Pitching Tips Part 2 — When you get to the Pitch Festival…

Previous Screenwriting Expo 2011 Posts:

First Impressions
How do you get a Manager?
Top 20 Agent Tips

Screenwriting Expo 2011 – Top 20 Agent Tips Sep 21

Top 20 Tips from AgentsAgents

Another post in the continuing saga of my experiences at the Screenwriting Expo this past weekend…

Today I’m excited to relay some excellent advice and industry insight from some Agents whose sessions I attended:

  • Victoria Wisdom, former partner at BWK
  • Emile Gladstone, ICM
  • Bob Hohman, Gersh

Just like my friend Michele Wallerstein, the first thing you notice about a successful Agent is that they’re all extremely high functioning and assertive. If you ever have an opportunity to meet with an Agent, make sure you’ve had a full night’s sleep, a double shot of Espresso, and are firing on all cylinders… or you simply won’t be able to keep up.

Wisdom (her real name), has a commanding presence that makes you sit up and pay attention.

Gladstone looks like Peter Parker, has an I.Q. that’s obviously north of 140, and is probably Kaiser Soze.

Hohman (the least intimidating of the bunch), made a joke in passing about his being a savant. (He probably wasn’t joking.)

After searching for some web links, I found Wisdom’s web site. I also found a great article/interview by Jim Cirile (who hosted one of the panel discussions) that features Gladstone. Be sure to read through these two sources for some of the same tips that were offered during their Screenwriting Expo sessions.

And now, without further ado, I present…

The Top 20 Agents Tips

Note: The following insights are my interpretations of what the Agents said. Any errors or omissions are purely my own.

Victoria Wisdom:

  1. The commercial market for films is about 70% overseas, and 30% for U.S. and Canada. That means you need to think about whether or not your movie will “travel well” — because the ones that do are the most likely to get made. Get global; write a story that’s universally understood.
  2. It’s dangerous to follow trends as a benchmark for deciding what movie to write next. However, if you’re trying to sell a script, it pays to reference current script sales and how they are relevant to your movie.
  3. Pitch the concept, not the plot. Pitch the concept in such a way that the story sells itself. Hollywood is very template-based. That’s why coming up with a concept that’s the “same, but different” is so important; something that can be summarized in a quick pithy line that Producers/Execs can understand. For example, the quick sell for The Bourne Identity is: “James Bond with amnesia.” Source Code is: “Groundhog Day with a sci-fi twist.”
  4. Do your homework on three things: 1) What are studios buying? 2) What are they making? 3) What was successful?

Emile Gladstone:

  1. Packaging (attaching an actor or director to your movie) is good for getting a movie sold, but not necessarily for getting a movie made.
  2. Often you’ll have to do multiple drafts of a script, simply to appease the Actors, Producers, Directors, Executives, etc…. knowing full well that some of these drafts will never see the light of day.
  3. If you’re a writer that wants any semblance of control, you should write a TV pilot. In TV, writers are the “directors” (i.e. they have the creative control). Film, is a director’s medium.
  4. If you want to sell a script, figure out which production companies are making the movies that are most like yours, then get in touch with the lowest Creative Executive on the totem pole, and try to get them to read it.
  5. Best selling scripts: Tentpole, High Concept, Genre-bending
  6. These days Hollywood uses a “P & L” (Profit and Loss) risk assessment to determine whether or not a movie can be made. He cited an example of a movie that the studio wants to make, has an A-list actor attached, but that they can’t get made because it doesn’t satisfy the risk profile.

Bob Hohman:

  1. The number one job of an Agent is to explain showbusiness to the client. (i.e. What Hollywood is buying, what just sold two weeks ago that’s exactly the same concept as yours, why you shouldn’t write that period piece, etc.)
  2. You need more than one script to show that you’re a writer.
  3. You’re in the business of making things up. Don’t write strictly personal stories that are only powerful because they happened to you.
  4. Don’t write your script alone and think you’re done. Generate fans of your work. Managers, Producers — they are all friends to help you write your screenplay and get it sold.
  5. TV is more concerned about a compelling idea than a script. Often networks won’t even read a script before they start developing. TV loves development (opposite of movies).
  6. For writing assignments, there’s no work in the middle pay bracket right now. So A-List writers are working and C-List writers are working.
  7. Aspiring screenwriters should have jobs with zero responsibility, while they’re trying to establish themselves. Save your brainpower for your screenplay.
  8. Always exceed expectations (e.g. If you’re given 10 days for a rewrite, get it done in 8).
  9. Unlike film, Cable channels will buy a pitch from someone who’s not famous. They’ll just pair them with an established showrunner.
  10. Most of his clientele who are making money are in their 50’s. Alvin Sargent is 83 years old and gainfully employed. It may be a youth-driven industry, but really it’s all about your energy.

Did you attend any of the Agent sessions? What was the best advice you heard?

Tomorrow’s Edition: Pitching Advice and Horror Stories

Previous Screenwriting Expo 2011 Posts:

First Impressions
How do you get a Manager?

Screenwriting Expo 2011 – Why and How to get a Manager Sep 20

How do you get a Manager?All this week I’ll be providing you with insights and stories from this past weekend’s Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles.

In yesterday’s post, I discussed my first impressions of the conference. Today I’ll share some terrific insights from the several Managers’ panels I attended.

What is a Manager?

What is a Manager and how do they differ from Agents? Others may have something different to say about it, but here’s my simplified take…

A Manager wants to guide your screenwriting career, work with you to develop great scripts, and help you find an Agent.

An Agent wants to make sure you’re working on a script they can sell, so they can sell the shit out of that script.

Managers tend to have fewer clients than Agents, because they need to spend more time with each client.

Why do you need a Manager?

Managers have their fingers on the pulse of the marketplace. Maybe you’re planning to write a vampire epic as your next script. A Manager can tell you that the marketplace is saturated with scripts about those moody, fangy bastards and save you 3 to 6 months of your life. (There is some overlap with Agents in this regard.)

They will also work with you to make sure your script is as great as it can be before it goes out. This is important, because studios aren’t interested in development. They’re interested in booking slots for movies. So the more polished a script is before a studio gets their hands on it, the less time will be spent on the script in development, which means there’s a greater likelihood that the script will actually reach the production phase.

Managers also have connections with Agents. If you have a proven track record of producing quality scripts, and have a killer script ready to go, a Manager can refer you to an Agent who can take your career to the next level.

How do you get a Manager?

Ah, the million dollar question.

First, it’s probably easier to get a Manager than an Agent. But “easier” does NOT mean “easy.”

Managers, like all non-vampires, only have a finite amount of time. So they can’t be spending their time reading every single script that comes their way to determine if the writer is any good.

That’s why they rely on two primary sources for new clients:

  1. Referrals
  2. Contest Winners


This is the biggie. If someone they know and trust recommends that they take a look at a particular screenwriter, then that means that screenwriter has already been vetted to some extent.

Okay so how do you get someone to refer you to a Manager?

Answer: Be a great writer.

Often times you’ll hear people talk about networking. And networking is important, but really the best networking happens as an ongoing result of developing your writing skills (going to conferences, participating in writing groups, meeting people in the industry). As I’ve written before, Hollywood uses a self-authorizing password.

If you have talent, and put in the time, you’ll learn to walk the walk, speak the lingo and come across as a professional writer. On top of that you’ll have a few quality scripts that prove you’re a writer and not a dabbler.

Success is where preparation meets opportunity. When you’re ready, you’ll have all the knowledge and the contacts you need to get a Manager. It’s not a magic bullet, but it is what it is.

Contest Winners

This is an interesting one. Many of the Managers said that they find new clients from screenwriting contests.

So if you’ve won a screenwriting contest, you’re all set right? Nuh uh. Doesn’t work that way.

I said that the Managers find new clients. If you’re sending them a query email or letter, odds are it’s going to get deleted or trashed. One Manager said that he only took on one new client based on a query letter in the last fifteen years. And he was the generous one.

Managers are bombarded with dozens of emails every single day from people who have won contests. And not all contests are created equal. If you’ve just won the Podunk Screenwriting Contest, it doesn’t mean anything.

Here are a few contests that the Managers said they look at (it’s by no means all inclusive, but it is listed in approximate order of mention/importance):

  • Nicholl Fellowship (They all look at this one. Even the runners-up.)
  • Script Pipeline
  • Script Shark (Not a contest — but if you pay for their script service and your script is good enough, they may forward it to their roster of agents, managers, producers, executives…)
  • Final Draft
  • AAA (Creative Screenwriting)

Did anyone else attend the Managers’ panels? Do you already have a Manager? Let me know if there’s anything important I left out.

Tomorrow’s Edition: Important Tips from Agents
Screenwriting Expo 2011 – First Impressions Sep 19

Screenwriting Expo PassThe Screenwriting Expo 2011

This weekend I attended the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles and took in some terrific seminars and panel discussions. I also pitched my latest script to a number of production companies.

All this week I’ll be updating you with screenwriting tips and insights gleaned from various sources. I’ll also throw in a few stories from my experiences. So stay tuned!

But first…

What is the Screenwriting Expo?

The Screenwriting Expo is a yearly event that gives screenwriters rare access to screenwriting consultants and established industry pros (Agents, Managers, Producers, and Professional Screenwriters).

You pay something like $100 for a basic pass and then $5 or $6 per seminar (some panel discussions and keynote speaker sessions are free). There’s also a Gold Pass which I believe is $300 that gives you unlimited access to any seminar. Though unless you’re Hermione Granger and can attend multiple sessions at once, I’m not quite sure how the extra $200 dollars is justified. Perhaps you get a free monkey.

Anyway, in addition to the seminar portion of the event, there are opportunities for screenwriters to pitch their ideas, and themselves, to production companies and management companies. The pitch tickets are extra (even with the Gold Pass), and depending on how you ordered them, they cost anywhere from $15 to $25.

So keep all that in mind for next year… if you decide to go.

First Impressions

I’m not gonna lie, the Screenwriting Expo web site is about as easy to navigate as that maze in The Shining, so I didn’t have high hopes for the organization of the event.

When I arrived at the main door of the Westin Hotel, there were no signs pointing me to the Screenwriting Expo (or maybe I was just blind), so I had to ask someone where to go.

After I found the registration area and picked up my package, it was discovered that my pitch tickets were missing. I was then referred down a long hallway to the pitching area. They, in turn, referred me back to registration… who then referred me back to the pitching area. Finally one of the volunteers wrote my pitching times on a blank card with a red Sharpie.

“You sure this is going to be accepted in there?”

“Oh yeah totally.”

It seemed sketchy, but Dude was right!

However, when I went in to pitch I discovered that if you had a 10:10 a.m. pitch time like I did, that didn’t mean you were pitching at 10:10 a.m. — it meant that you were pitching at some point in the future depending on how far behind schedule the pitches were running.

Turns out I only had to wait an additional 15 minutes. But on the last day of pitching, I had to wait an additional 40 minutes and missed the keynote speech by Ben Ripley (who wrote Source Code). However there were unexpected benefits to the whole debacle. More on that story later in the week…

The Case of the Disappearing Companies

Many people were told, while waiting in line, that their scheduled production or management company had cancelled.

This happened a lot. Standing there felt a little like Russian Roulette, only in reverse. You dreaded not getting your shot.

You’d be standing there, visualizing your pitch, stressing about how things were going to go, then you’d hear a volunteer call out, “Is anyone here waiting to see [insert absent company name here]?”

Then several nervous attendees would answer, “I am.”

To which the poor Expo volunteer would have to say, “I’m sorry, they’ve cancelled.” or “I’m sorry they’re unavailable right now — they had to go to a panel discussion. Maybe you can reschedule or switch to a different company at another time. Or you can get a refund.”

So it wasn’t bad enough that you had to worry about your pitching performance, there was a tremendous amount of added stress brought on by the fact you had to worry about whether or not your company was even going to be there.

But if you actually got in to pitch to your company, and you had your stuff together, it was a golden opportunity.

And I must say the volunteers they hired for Screenwriting Expo did a FANTASTIC job. They were good at diffusing stress, encouraging and attentive to the needs of the attendees, highly adaptable to the sometimes troubling circumstances, and tireless in their efforts.

The great news is that after the initial hiccups, things went quite well and it was a very rewarding experience.

Did anyone attend the Expo on Thursday or Friday? (I only attended on Saturday and Sunday.) What were your first impressions?

Tomorrow’s Edition — Important Tips from Managers