Wednesday, September 30, 2009

HItFix Picks 29 Possible Contenders for Oscar Nominations

HITFIX just recently posted a list of 29 films that could show up on this year's Best Picture nomination sheet. Remember, this is the first time the Oscar will go to one out of ten nominees, rather than the traditional one out of five. It's an interesting list, with a mix of genres and live action versus animation. Some of the films are more obvious contenders than others, and all have short pros and cons listed. Check out the full article - or if you're in a hurry, read the 29 selected films here.

(With the number of films he's apparently in this year, George Clooney could theoretically be in half of the best picture nods, if the projects he's tied to from the below list are all selected. I'm a bit surprised Public Enemies didn't make the cut. Or, to a lesser degree, Watchmen - just in light of some of the other choices. Also, I'm still not sure where the line is drawn for certain categories, i.e. Mr. Fox or Up appearing in Best Picture instead of Best Animated Feature categories, or District 9 and The Prophet taking one of the ten spots, rather than one of the five for best foreign. Frankly, I'm not even sure if District 9 is considered a foreign film or not.)

1. Invictus
2. Avatar
3. The Informant
4. Nine
5. Julie & Julia
6. Broken Embraces
7. Precious: Based on a Novel by Sapphire
8. Where The Wild Things Are
9. Star Trek
10. An Education
11. The Men Who Stare At Goats
12. District 9
13. The Tree of Life
14. The Hurt Locker
15. Bright Star
16. Up In The Air
17. A Prophet
18. Up
19. A Single Man
20. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
21. Capitalism: A Love Story
22. The Road
23. 500 Days of Summer
24. Inglourious Basterds
25. Everybody's Fine
26. Amelia
27. A Serious Man
28. The Lovely Bones
29. Brothers

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 91 - Out to Agents

One of the biggest things I've learned in the past year is that, in addition to talent and strong ideas, a thick skin and a refusal to give up, a writer needs patience. A lot of patience. Early last week, my manager slipped my post-Apocalyptic spec to three agents. And thus began more waiting.

We're hoping to hear something early this week from the agents. If they don't express a desire to represent the script (and ideally that actually means
me), then we'll take the script out without an agent. Of course, these sort of deadlines are semi-arbitrary. It might become obvious that waiting another week will work to our advantage with the agents. Yes, this is sort of prime spec market time, so we don't want to fall too far behind the times. Still, I'm waiting for a less-than-concrete deadline to come, and there is very little I can do about it at this point (other, of course, than work on a different project).

In the mean time, my manager is reading my Roman-army spec. I've asked for his feedback with the clearly-stated caveat that some of the beats in the script are very obvious place holders. There are some rather laughable moments (more embarrassing each time I think about them), and I gave him a re-write outline to accompany the script, with the hope that that takes care of some of his concerns about the more problematic beats. Though I'm 99% sure of the direction the new draft will take, I expressed a desire for my manager's input and am open to suggestion if he has other or better ideas.

This second script serves a couple purposes. First and foremost, once it's completed, it'll be my followup (hopefully, I'll need one) to the post-Apocalyptic spec. I don't like the idea of potentially going into meetings without a solid back up ready to go, and have already lost more time for rewrites than I should have. In addition to being the back-up, though, this script is also an addition to my resume so far as my manager is concerned. We still haven't solidified whether we'll be working together beyond the post-Apocalyptic project (maybe it's one of those things that will go unsaid). Last we spoke about our longer-term working relationship, we agreed that we'd see how the rewrite process went this summer and that he would want to read another project of mine. That's what the Roman-army spec is now.

Lastly, I guess sending him the script does something else, something equally important. It lights the fire under me to get back onto that project. Now that my manager is reading it and going to get back to me, I have no option but to start draft two.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Development Freeze at Universal

I just saw the following article (a few days after the fact, it would appear):
Universal Says No More Development for '09
Wednesday, Sep 23, 2009
Source: Variety

Universal Pictures put the word out late last week that it will not spend money for the rest of the year to advance development projects.

Variety's Michael Fleming reports, "Word began filtering down to lot producers and the deal-making community this week that development has essentially been frozen at the studio."

A studio insider denied development has completely been frozen and stated that the studio has solidified its 2010 slate, and has made commitments to the projects it feels will line its 2011 slate.

There is also talk that Warner Bros. is paying scale to writers who don’t have established quotes, and most studios are employing one-step writer deals.

What does this mean for new and unproduced writers? I'm not necessarily convinced that there's any real cause for alarm, yet. Though, I must admit, this is a little disheartening to hear, especially since I think my team and I are about to try and go out with my post-Apocalyptic spec. the reason I'm not really worried, though, is that studios often change their plans or contradict some edict they've just sent down. Freezing development could, theoretically, mean freezing development, unless that one amazing project comes along. Exceptions are always a possibility in this business.

Nonetheless, if this is indicative of a larger trend to come, that last sentence about writers without established quotes being paid scale and one-step deals could be a bit worrisome. One-step (or, one draft/re-write) isn't a great sign for someone trying to break into the market with a spec. Typically, writers selling a spec can reasonably hope to be able to have a two-step deal (or more), whereby they are contracted to do a certain number of re-writes before the studio can take them off a project. If the one-step deal applies to specs as well as writers brought on to touch up a script, then there's a chance that new writers with great concepts but no name recognition to back them up could be dropped for an established writer much sooner on.

I'm curious to see if this is the last of these stories, or if this is just the beginning. More than that, I'm interested to know how that affects new writers trying to sell their first spec (yes, I am talking about myself in part, as well). Again, I don't really think there's major cause for concern - yet - but time will tell.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

HALO: We Are ODST - Best Trailer Ever?

A testament to the fact that Zombie and our other roommate and I are all mid-twenties year old males, there are no fewer than four working video game systems in our apartment. Last weekend, we watched the trailer for the new installment in the HALO franchise, ODST. I made my roommate replay it three times, because I couldn't get over how good it was. If you haven't seen it yet, check out the trailer:


Making trailers has become an art form unto itself. We all know how a great trailer can make or break a movie, even before it opens. FUNNY PEOPLE led a lot of people to think they were seeing a typical Judd Apatow comedy. What they got was a more serious film with funny elements. Word of mouth from the disappointed raunchy comedy fans turned a lot of potential viewers away. On the other hand, there are some trailers that ensure audiences right away and show them exactly what they're hoping to see. There's no mistake with a trailer for something like INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS that you're going to see a bloody movie about Jewish soldiers slaughtering Nazis.

In fact, trailers have become such an integral part of film marketing these days that it's not unheard of for writers to be asked to write partly for the trailer. When I was in school (and I've seen this in books I've read since), I remember being told that people who write action specs should have a couple obvious trailer beats in their script. There are always a few lines of witty dialogue right before someone gets blown up or a really awesome mid-air battle that helps sell the movie to the target audience just as much as the idea itself does. Hell, I've probably come up with no fewer than three trailers for my Roman-army spec.

The Halo ODST trailer blew me away. It is - for all intents and purposes - wordless. It has beautiful music. It perfectly conveys a world and protagonist. And, most importantly, it's clear what you'll be getting out of it. If this were for a movie and not a video game, I would have already bought my midnight showing tickets.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 90 - Editing the Edits

One of the many things I've learned about trying to make it as a screenwriter over the past year - and there have been many - is that it's important to plan for buffer time. Deadlines are things that (up and coming) writers absolutely have to meet. Beyond that, though, it's equally important to factor in time for edits, tweaks, re-writes, and anything else that might come up.

Today, just now as a matter of fact, I sent my producer and manager the umpteenth draft of the script. (When I say draft here, I mean it in the loosest of possible terms. A lot of writers define a draft as a version of the script in which substantial scenes/sequences have been changed or rewritten. This might mean that whole parts of the script have been removed, or brand new content has been added. What I'm talking about now, though, is more of a revision in which potentially minor edits have been made.)

The rewrites started out pretty big. At first, I wasn't quite prepared to accept them all. I was still ignorant about the assumed success of the script as it was back in May. I thought that the notes would change it dramatically, corrupting its "integrity" in the process. I was definitely wrong.

Once I came to accept the fact that the script not only needed changes (which I knew, but don't think I really wanted to make), it was then easy to see that the proposed changes I was given would really go a long way toward making the script stronger. From there, the rewrites got smaller. Elements that I was hanging onto from earlier drafts (actual drafts, in this case) were becoming more and more apparently out of place. As those got cut, the streamlining process kicked up a notch. The larger structural and plot rewrites segued into smaller edits to trim dialogue and action, particularly to keep the fast pace.

Over the past week, I've probably done no fewer than three edits, where I've worked off of a revised version my producer went through line by line. Each email from her had fewer and smaller edits, condensing beats, shortening monologues, and cutting the page count. At the start of this process, the first draft she read was 105 pages. It ballooned to 117 as I incorporated rewrites. Finally, after weeks of tightening, trimming, and tucking, we're back down to 106. Though only a page longer than the initial draft I gave her, this draft has so much more weight to it. The fluff and repetition are gone, as are the elements that weren't working. All that's left is a deeper, more substantial script that I am genuinely proud of.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Logline Central - Wicked Lovely

Logline Central is an irregular segment that takes a deeper look at loglines of scripts or projects that have just been purchased, as listed on DoneDealPro.

This was logged earlier this week:

Title: Wicked Lovely
Logline: A 17-year-old girl, who can see fairies, must fend off the advances of a fairy king determined to marry her to save the planet from his vengeful mother.
Writer: Caroline Thompson
More: To be adapted from the first book in Melissa Marr's series. CAA brokered the book deal with Writers House.
Maybe it's just me, but the first time I read the above, I dismissed it. Fairies. Meh. Not that I have anything against fairies and unicorns and the like, but they're just not my thing. Next.

Then, just now, I re-read it. What interests me isn't so much the mystical element, but this: "must fend off the advances of a fairy king determined to marry her to save the planet from his vengeful mother." Does this mean what I interpret it to mean? Our dear little protagonist is rejecting the (assumingly) unwanted advances of a fairy king, but he mainly wants to marry her, because doing so would save the Earth? So... he's not a bad guy? Rather, he's actually trying to do something heroic?

It's clear that the "vengeful mother" is the antagonist, but not immediately so. When I first skimmed this - and yes, I skim a lot of loglines, which is probably not too different from how most people in the industry "read" them - it seemed that this fairy king was the antagonist. Closer inspection, though, paints him in a different light. No, it's still not positive, per se, but he's nowhere near as villainous. In fact, he's probably just as good or bad as the 17 year-old he's trying to marry (he should probably wait until she's 18 to avoid winding up on To Catch A Predator).

There seem to be three major characters in play here, though my guess is that the vengeful mother is more an off-screen presence than an on-screen one. Again, I'm not so interested in the idea behind this adaptation, but more so the mechanics of who is represented in what sort of light on screen. The line between the "good guys" and the "bad guys" is less clear in this logline than I initially believed. And that, just for the record, is not necessarily a good thing. Loglines should be pretty clear about who is who. I'm not sure I have the right impression from this, though I am curious to know more. In that way, I suppose this worked.

If I were an Exec at League Productions, I'd most likely request coverage on this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Competition Alert - The Cyberspace Open

We don't normally promote a lot of competitions here at the League, especially ones that we have not participated in before. But, the Creative Screenwriting Cyberspace Open is not only an intriguing competition, but one that at least 3 Leaguers are entering, as well.

What I like about the sound of this one - besides the low $12 price tag - is that this is a true test of deadline making. There are three, rapid burst rounds of the competition, in which participants write 5-page scenes based on assigned scenarios and characters. Round one gives everyone an entire weekend (this coming weekend) to nail that five pages and click send. Round two offers 100 qualifying writers a night to complete another scene based on a new prompt. Round three lasts 90 minutes from prompt to print for the 10 semi-finalists that make it that far.

Writing under pressure at the whim of a deadline? I'll bite.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 89 - When do you Make A Stand?

If you recall last week's Writing Week, I was winding down Labor Day weekend waiting for the edits on my post-Apocalyptic spec (some day I hope to be able to give you the title) to come back from my producer. Monday night, I received an email from her that something had come up, which delayed her getting to the script. In the mean time, though, she'd done some thinking and decided that it would be worth adding some of the science behind the scenario I was writing about to the actual script. I've been working on this spec on and off for over 20 months now, and one of the first things I had definitively settled on was that I was never going to go into the science. For the first time since I signed the option agreement at the top of the summer, I was adamantly against the note I'd gotten. I agonized over how to proceed.

This might seem like a no-brainer to many of you, but I was pretty worked up for a while. As new writers, I feel like we get it drilled into our heads to be easy to work with, to know how to take a note and to propel our careers onward by making people want to work with us again. Because my producer and manager and I have been working so well together so far, I didn't want to risk looking problematic right after they felt the script was ready to go out. I would try to work with the note if it came down to that, but I was strongly opposed to it.

I decided to send my producer an email (in response to her note), explaining my two major reasons for being against the additions. The next morning, I sent a follow-up, reiterating both my point and, should the additions be desired still, my willingness to work the changes into the script. It is in no small part due to the fact that I have been so willing to work with the notes I've gotten so far that the lines of communication between the three of us working on this project right now are so open, and I was able to speak my mind. In the end, we opted to remove a few small lines of dialogue that alluded to certain elements, rather than add anything major - in favor of my point of view on the issue. I really count myself pretty luck to be working with industry professionals who honor my opinions on these things (which is not always the case for a writer, as almost any book/story/article on screenwriting will tell you).

Then, on Saturday, I got the edits. Going through them, I noticed one short scene cut and a few lines here or there streamlined out of the script. For the most part, though, the script changed very little. It came in about 7 pages shorter, but cutting a line or two on one page can dramatically adjust content on subsequent pages, so there wasn't actually a ton cut out. There were some instances of dialogue being moved from character no longer in the script to those still in, which I'll go back and reconfigure to sound more like the people delivering them. I'll admit that I was not 100% comfortable having my material in someone else's hands with their figurative red pen hovering over it and me nowhere to defend my work, but seeing the final product has put me back at ease. I'm still not sure I like the idea of edits without me around, but maybe that's something I'll have to get used to going forward in this business.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"I will not read your f***ing script."

A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson blogs for the Village Voice in a piece called "I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script":
I will not read your fucking script.

That's simple enough, isn't it? "I will not read your fucking script." What's not clear about that? There's nothing personal about it, nothing loaded, nothing complicated. I simply have no interest in reading your fucking screenplay. None whatsoever.

If that seems unfair, I'll make you a deal. In return for you not asking me to read your fucking script, I will not ask you to wash my fucking car, or take my fucking picture, or represent me in fucking court, or take out my fucking gall bladder, or whatever the fuck it is that you do for a living.
Simple enough, indeed. A bit later:
Which brings us to an ugly truth about many aspiring screenwriters: They think that screenwriting doesn't actually require the ability to write, just the ability to come up with a cool story that would make a cool movie. Screenwriting is widely regarded as the easiest way to break into the movie business, because it doesn't require any kind of training, skill or equipment. Everybody can write, right? And because they believe that, they don't regard working screenwriters with any kind of real respect. They will hand you a piece of inept writing without a second thought, because you do not have to be a writer to be a screenwriter.
A very harsh truth in a lot of cases, I'm sure - but I have had experiences in the past where professional, working screenwriters were more than willing to offer feedback and advice to a fledgling writer. I know other Leaguers have, too.

You can read the full article here, and feel free to let me know what you think.

It's Sale Season!

Labor Day has come and gone, marking the unofficial end of summer. Offices are operating at full steam again, as the long weekend getaways have come to an end. So you know what that means...
Get those scripts ready, because studios are getting ready to start buying again. My producer tells me that for the next month or so (in particular once September ends), the spec market is like a shark feeding frenzy. It's highly competitive, and companies are biting.

In light of that - or perhaps as a testament to it - today's DoneDealPro tracking was the busiest I've seen it in weeks. Granted, six of the sales were to the Swedish company Yellow Bird that I haven't heard of before, which bought up what looks to be an eight-part novel series about crime reporter Annika Bengtzon.

Still, I think that the post-summer market deserves it's own Logline Central, so let's represent the times with:

Title: Supermax
Logline: Set in a maximum security prison for the supernatural, a guard must join forces with a lethal inmate after a riot ensues in order to fight his way through various monsters and mad-men in order to survive.
Writer: Christopher Allen Nelson, Mitch Rouse
More: Spec. Broken Road's Sean Robins & Todd Garner will produce. Sony's Doug Belgrad & DeVon Franklin will oversee.

I chose SUPERMAX for a few reasons. One - it's a spec. There aren't nearly as many specs selling (compared to adaptations or sequels) as any writer would like, so it's great to see one go. Two - the writers are intriguing. Christopher Allen Nelson might be most recognizable (or was to me) as Uma Thurman's groom in KILL BILL and has done a ton of work as a special effects makeup artist; he doesn't have any other writing credits on imdb. Mitch Rouse has more writing credits to his name with STRANGERS WITH CANDY, WITHOUT A PADDLE, and EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (among others).

The last reason that I chose SUPERMAX this week is that it is disappointingly similar to an idea I had. That happens, unfortunately. Doesn't mean I won't immediately drop that idea, but it's part of my training to become a working writer. I hope any of our readers who, like us, are trying to get into this crazy field develop enough of the c'est la vie attitude to let things like that roll off their back when it happens.

Anyway, go take that script market by storm!

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 88 - The Plan of Action

As I was leaving work on Friday, my phone rang. It was my manager, and he had Gretchen - the producer who optioned my post-Apocalyptic spec - waiting to conference in. With all three of us on the line, it was time to talk about the latest (and we hoped, final) draft I had turned in and what the plan for moving forward with my script is.

First, the great news was that they really liked all of the changes I have made and how effectively I have incorporated their notes. They reminded me that unproduced, young writers can best guarantee their careers by being easy to work with. Had I fought every note I've gotten from them, I'd be burying myself. Since I took their notes, threw in my own new ideas, fleshed the story out, and made the script much stronger, they said I have a much better chance of having a long career.

There's one final round of edits that Gretchen and I will be working on. There were some things that she wanted to cut, so she was going to use the weekend to really comb through the script. I should have those final edits soon. The difficulty, though, is that I write in Movie Magic 2000, while she uses Final Draft. Though the software claims to be compatible, I've found that it really isn't. She finally managed to get the script working in Final Draft after I converted the script to a rich text file. So, we'll see how re-converting goes.

Once the edits are all done, we're actually going to hold off on going to production companies or studios. Gretchen and (manager)
Kevin have decided that trying to get an agent on board will make our case for the sale stronger. Their reasoning is that an agent at CAA, WME, or ICM will have other contacts at possibly bigger places and will also bring a level of name recognition that we might not yet have. Not to say that Kevin and Gretchen are unknown in the industry, but since they're working with an unknown writer, we have to do everything we can to make some things happen. If, however, we don't get any bites from agents by October 1st, we'll go forward on our own.

So, while there's more waiting ahead, I can handle it fine. There's been so much waiting to this point, that the next month shouldn't be too bad. Yes, we're waiting to hear back on some potentially big news, but I know I can't make those deadlines come any quicker. the best thing I can do going forward is to get another script in order that I can use it as a follow-up to this one. Roman army spec, here I come.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Logline Central

Logline Central is an irregular segment that takes a deeper look at loglines of scripts or projects that have just been purchased, as listed on DoneDealPro.

I just came across this today:

Title: At Swim-Two-Birds
Logline: A 19-year-old student sees the fictional characters in the play he's writing intertwining with the people in his life.
Writer: Brendan Gleeson
More: Based on Flann O'Brien's seminal metaphysical novel. Parallel's Alan Moloney will produce. Brendan Gleeson will direct. Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy, Gabriel Byrne and Brendan Gleeson will star.
The idea isn't what caught me about this (though it is vaguely similar to something that a Leaguer was working on). No, what I'm most interested in is the cast. Not only is Brendan Gleeson near the top of my list of actors I want to work with (alone, Gleeson as writer, director, and star will get me in), but with Farrell, Cillian Murphy (another one I'd love to collaborate with), and Gabriel Byrne all also attached, it's a virtual who's who of Irish actors. Add Liam Neeson, and it might be overload.

I'm certainly going to keep a close eye on this one. It's proof for me what a great cast and do to attract people to an idea that might not at first be wholly riveting.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bite The Bullet

My thesis professor once told me that he always gives his script to his wife because he knows she'll be flat out honest with him and tell him what's working and what's bullshit. I've always been a little hesitant to give my writing to my girlfriend. I'm not worried about how much she knows about screenwriting. She knows enough about the craft and is more involved with the entertainment industry than I am right now. There's just something about getting criticism from the person I wake up next to that scares me from time to time. I can deal with her being frustrated with my choice of tv shows, or with my wastefulness of faucet water, but her being frustrated with my screenwriting is often more than I'm willing to deal with. I usually opt not to fight my battles so close to home, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. I did more than bite the bullet. I put the gun in my mouth and pulled the trigger, and in a Fight Club kind of way, I feel like it saved my life.

A few months ago I was feeling none too thrilled about life. My girlfriend was feeling more like a roommate, she was making strides in the industry while I sputtered, the lease on my interest in my job was expiring, writing was slow, and my closest work friend and confidant was leaving the office to face her unknown destiny. I tried to fall back on my writing and completed two first acts to two different scripts. I enjoyed the concepts and hope to return to them, but the pages weren't fulfilling. I did something I've never done before. I abandoned my 200 million dollar concepts, dug real deep to get to the marshmallow of my personal emotions, and poured it all out into a minuscule budgeted, character driven script. It was a different animal. Those closest to me would be able to point at specific characters and events and say "Wait, I know that." It was the most personal thing I've written to date, a 90 pager about a recent grad who begins to question his current path and the relationships surrounding him after experiencing a traumatic work incident. So much of this script stemmed from feelings towards my girlfriend, some positive (love, admiration), and some not so positive (jealousy, envy). Even though the script was a work of fiction, it would hit home with her and had the potential to cause wounds. I felt it would be an extreme one way or another. Either she would be pretty upset and uncomfortable that I could write something like this without her having any knowledge of the process or content, or she would appreciate the invitation into parts of my life and value what I had chosen to share with her and what I had been able to create from those feelings. Despite some cautioning from the league, I gave her the script.

Around 10pm last night I got a voicemail from her stating that she'd read my script and she wanted to talk about it. Oh no. She can't even wait until she gets home from her late night commercial shoot to tell me how awkward she feels. In perfect dramatic fashion I couldn't make out the second half of the message. "I hate you" jumped through my mind, but it turns out it was "I love it." In our five years together I've been fortunate enough to get my fair share of "I love you", but this was the first "I love it", pertaining to a screenplay. I called her and we talked on the phone for half an hour about the script until she absolutely had to get back to work. I can't remember a time we talked for half an hour on the phone, and I can't remember a time she felt so strongly about one of my screenplays. You have to factor in the emotional connection to the material, but it was more than that. The discussion was surprisingly less personal but rather focused on the script as a story and how it might play out on film. I was so excited and relieved, because it just wouldn't have been fair to me to love the script as much as I did and have her not enjoy it.

In writing my untitled piece I not only got back on track with my writing, but I had put myself through self therapy and was feeling healthier. I felt better about my relationship with my girlfriend, my job situation (used to be a fatal tailspin, now just a loss of cabin pressure), and my emotions concerning my friend who had moved on. On top of that, I now have a very affordable, character driven script that I'm confident is pretty good. Lucky for me I get the league verdict on that later tonight at our next meeting.

I love the league and respect their opinions, but this might be the one I put my foot down with. I feel like I wrote it the way I wanted to write it and the way it needed to be written. There were so many moments when I felt the urge to make traditional screenwriting choices, things that would crank up the drama and solidify structure. But each time I tried to make those choices I felt like I was betraying the script and losing the human element that made it real. There are a few elements I'm open to changing, but I will most likely be stubborn as a mule regarding the vast majority of edits. That stubbornness might not make the script better, but maybe it will. Right now it doesn't matter, because I feel I've completed something more important than material.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Site Alert - Writers Store: The 11 Laws of Great Storytelling

An email with a link to the following article just popped into my Gmail account (now that Gmail is back up and running, that is): The 11 Laws of Great Storytelling by Jeffrey Hirschberg.

Most of these are pretty rudimentary, but they're good to have all down together. Obviously, there are other things that all writers should be aware of, also. But for the purposes of this blog - i.e. aiding aspiring writers -it's a worthwhile read. Hirschberg takes readers through the following 11 key reminders/pointers (with my summary and thoughts in italics):

1. Assume everyone has ADD
Hardly anyone is going to devote their precious time to reading a script that doesn't instantly captivate them. Their phones will ring; they'll get emails; they'll be at home trying to get their kids to bed. Hook them, and keep them hooked, or their eyes will wander from your script to something more interesting, and you can consider that opportunity blown.

2. Spend most of your time on the first ten pages of your script
Most readers and acquisitions people will tell you that you get 10 pages to reel them in. Within that ten, not only do readers learn who the protagonist is, the world the script takes place in, and what happens that launches the protagonist's upcoming journey, but they get a good sense of a writer's ability. If a writer doesn't wow the reader in those first ten pages, then the remaining 110 pages look like a chore, and the opportunity is often blown.

3. Write roles to attract movie stars
This one is good to keep in mind if you want to write major Hollywood blockbusters. Most male action stars don't want to look especially weak or vulnerable or afraid on screen, so trying to get Tom Cruise to play a guy who is afraid of butterflies - unless it's a comedy - is not likely to happen. Personally, I wouldn't rank this #3 out of 11. Yes, you'll want a star to get your $80 million budget financed, but don't sacrifice what you want to do for that. Especially if you're not looking to break the bank. A number of League members have written great scripts with no celebrity in mind.

4. Write economically
You only get so many pages. Don't clutter them with unnecessary description and excessive dialogue. That doesn't mean skimp on either. My rule of thumb is that I try to keep most blocks of action/description to three lines (Hirschberg says five). This keeps action moving. Short but sharp descriptions urge the reader forward, keep their eyes on your script, and make it a page turner. All good.

5. Make sure every character has a unique voice
If everyone sounds the same, your reader will get lost. In a strong script, a reader will breeze over slugg lines and character names marking dialogue, because both will be obvious from the description of the scene's setting and the character's voice.

6. Understand your audience
Hirschberg means both the reader/agent/producer/manager you're submitting to and the target audience for the intended film. When agents send scripts to production companies, they know who they're targeting. They won't send your comedy to the guy who mostly does horror, and they certainly won't send your bloody horror spec to the family films people. Likewise, your horror film better be scary to the high schoolers its intended for. Want to blow another opportunity: send a horror spec that might scare a three year old - if that - to the people who acquire family films.

7. Know your three-act structure
The reader/manager/agent/producer knows it, and they'll be looking for it, especially if they don't know you. New and unproduced writers have got to show they know the basics. While there are always exceptions to any rule, it's not really a great idea for new writers to try to scrap three-act structure for something more experimental. If you can do it and do it well, though, then my hat's off to you.

8. Be aware of theme, and keep it consistent throughout the script
Ever seen a comedy that turns really dark and almost scary half way through? Were you surprised and disappointed when that happened? Readers have the same reaction to scripts that do the same thing. That doesn't mean a comedy can't get dark, but remember that it's still a comedy. Even in the darker parts.

9. Watch and re-watch successful movies similar to your story
You're writing a movie about gladiators. Watch Gladiator and take notes. Why was Gladiator so good? Why did it get made? And what can you do in your script to make sure it's not a Gladiator rip-off. Same token: you're writing a revenge script; watch Gladiator of Man on Fire and outline them. Where does the betrayal come in? How does it unfold form there? When does the final showdown come into play?

10. Know what your hero wants (the goal), what happens if he doesn’t get what he wants (the stakes), and who/what is preventing him from getting what he wants (the villain)
Screenwriting 101. Set the stakes high. If your hero is a low-income high school football player who needs to get an A on his math test, make sure we care that he gets it. If failure to get the A means he doesn't get into the college that's giving him a full ride, that's a big deal. If not getting the A means that his parents are mad and he'll go to a different school, we care less.

11. Leave them wanting more
Hirschberg doesn't mean set up a sequel (though most producers/managers I've spoken to about my action specs look for sequel potential). What he means is that your reader should wish there were more pages, because they couldn't get enough of your story and your writing. They want to see more, and since there isn't more, they want to a) see this script become a move and b) see what else you have.

Visit the Writers Store to read the full article, which is actually an excerpt from Jeffrey Hirschberg’s recent book: “Reflections of the Shadow: Creating Memorable Heroes and Villains for Film and TV.”