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  • 5 Ways to Pitch for Success

    April 10th, 2013

    By Danny Manus

    This weekend, there are two big screenwriting events – the Screenwriters World East Conference in NY and the Toronto Screenwriting Conference in Canada. And both afford writers the chance to pitch the pros.

    So, I figured it was a good time to whip out some quick pitching advice to keep in mind. There is no ONE set way to pitch your script that will guarantee your success, but here are 5 different pitching strategies or focuses you could use to grab, attract and impress the other side of the table. But you better know what your project’s strong suit is before you decide how to pitch it.

    1. Focus on Story, Hook and World. If you think you have a very high concept story and the strongest selling point about your project is your amazing, original hook, then focus on that. If you have a truly original idea that hasn’t been done or you have a crazy new twist on a great existing concept that when you hear it, you get the story completely, then all you will really need to do is give them an awesome logline that gets that across and some perfect comparison movies that get your concept across (it’s THIS meets THAT). If you have a truly original – and COMMERCIAL – concept, you will get a visceral reaction to your logline. If you get no reaction, then either your logline sucks or you don’t have an original concept that grabs people’s attention and you will have to go into more depth on the story. Try to go through whatever exemplifies what’s original about your story.

    Focus on the elements of your script that will make it stand out – the world of your script, the locations, time periods, twists and turns in the plot, etc. If you have written a futuristic thriller, and your world is so visual and creative that it jumps off the page – then focus on that world and bring the exec into it. Give them the highlights that will help them picture it and then go into the specifics of the story that will bring that world to life. Focus more on the actual plot and the build of the story to tell us why audiences will be hooked all the way through.

    However, you should never EVER pitch the structure of your story. It is a major amateur mistake to just go through the Save the Cat structural beat sheet instead of the actual PLOT. Tell them a story like you would describe a movie you just saw to a friend. You’d never say “And then as we broke into three, the character did this…”

    Examples of movies that would probably be pitched this way – Olympus Has Fallen, Alien, Shaun of the Dead, Taken, The Departed, The Help, The Hangover, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Looper, etc.

    2. Focus on Character, Arc and Relationships. Sometimes a project is more character-driven than plot driven and the new angle or most interesting aspect of your story will be the characters you create and the journey they embark on. Or perhaps it’s about a special relationship that is forged over the course of the story that will really touch an audience like in Thelma and Louise or Superbad (Side note: It’s often the creation of a great dynamic or relationship and putting that into a high concept story that makes the most sellable projects). In this case, you want to really make us love both your characters and get across their dynamic and backstory.

    Sometimes a character is so complex, interesting or relatable that it’s the casting possibilities that hook an executive. Sometimes it’s the specific goals they have to accomplish and the obstacles they face that will make a story stand out. Focus on your character’s life, their struggles, their goals, give a morsel of their backstory, and then tell us what happens that totally turns their life upside down (the inciting incident) and what they have to do now. Build them up, tear them down, and tell us why we will want to watch it.

    Very often, it’s the non-high concept or more indie films that might be better pitched this way. Or a film that’s based on a real person and their life story. Example include; Magic Mike, Little Miss Sunshine, Erin Brockovich, Castaway, Rocky, Jerry Maguire, Into the Wild, Lost in Translation, Royal Tenenbaums, etc.

    3.  Focus on You and your personal story. Sometimes it’s not about making them love your pitch or your project, it’s about making them love YOU. I can’t tell you the number of pitches I’ve taken where I hated the story, but there was something so charming, relatable or likable about the writer that I asked to read a writing sample anyway. If you can come off as comfortable, professional, collaborative, fun to be around (without being an over the top clown who is trying to hard), and someone who truly knows their shit – then they will want to deal with you more. If you mind your manners, have a pleasant disposition, are decently attractive, dressed normally, have done your research, and just have a disarming way about you, that will often get you further than a great logline.  It comes down to three things – don’t be combative, don’t be desperate, and don’t be crazy.

    If you have real experience in the film industry or with writing in general in other areas, then you want to stress that. If you’ve won MAJOR contests (and I said WON), you want to mention that. If there’s something that is special about you or that you can claim that no one else can, then mention that.

    And if there is something about your life or your personal story or experiences that inspired the script you have written that will make us connect with you, you should share that. If you wrote an international action movie and you were a soldier fighting overseas, then that’s great to mention. If you wrote a sci-fi thriller and you’re a scientist or engineer who has been studying the very field you are writing about, then say that. If you were in a bank when it got robbed and it inspired you to write a heist movie, share that story. If you were witness to some huge event in time and you have a specific point of view or new information and your life rights are truly important to the story, then share that. If you are an EXPERT in a certain field, let them know.

    However, there are some major exceptions to this rule!! If your script is about a woman who got beaten, raped, divorced, diagnosed as clinically insane, was sold into sex slavery, raised in a cult, got cancer 17 times, etc., and it’s your own personal true story – keep it to yourself. Keep it light, but meaningful. This is not a therapy session, it’s a pitch meeting. You want to share something that will inspire a connection and confidence – not pity.

    Especially if you are pitching an agent or manager, you want to pitch YOU much more than a single story. Show them you have a real vision for your career, know what type of writer you want to be, what genres you want to write, whose career you’d like to have in 10 years, and what you’ve been doing to work towards that.

    4.  Focus on the Trailer Moments. Sometimes the plot and the characters may not insanely original or strong, but you have some awesome moments in your script and story that are sure to get people into the theater. This usually applies more to comedies, action films and horror movies, but if you know you have created some amazing set pieces or huge scares or amazing original action scenes, then that’s what you should highlight in your pitch. Don’t go through a character’s backstory or the beat by beat story – give us a logline, a quick overview of the story and then give us more of the specific, visual, compelling examples of the best parts of your story. Treat your pitch like you were writing a movie trailer. Set up the world in 1 line, set up the protagonist in 2 lines, give us the inciting incident that kicks the story into gear, and then give us the trailer moments and build to the amazing climax.

    Examples of movies that would probably be pitched this way include Project X, The Expendables, Evil Dead, Spring Breakers, Fast and the Furious, There’s Something About Mary, etc.

    5.  Focus on creating a relationship. This is where instead of sitting down to rapid-fire pitch a memorized speech for 4 and a half minutes and hope for the best, you just want to take the time to culture a relationship and create a connection. Get to know the person, learn what they look for, what type of project they’ve always wanted to find, what their pet peeves are, ask for general career advice and try to make yourself seem like someone who isn’t trying to SELL them something, but instead is someone they might want to get a drink with. This especially works if the conference you’re pitching at is NOT in LA, because those execs WILL be going to get drinks later and if you seem cool enough, they may invite you to come with. The best sales jobs are the ones where you’re not actually selling anything…while selling everything. The key to this kind of ballsy pitch is to make it seem natural – and they will know when you’re putting them on. But let them know you’re working on some new projects and that you’d love to contact them at some point in the future, etc.

    Whether you’re in NY or Toronto this weekend, or any other pitching situation in the future, know what your strongest selling points are (and your story’s) and let that dictate what kind of pitch will be the best fit.

    **On Saturday, April 13th, I will be teaching a LIVE in-store class at The Writers Store in Burbank. “12 Steps to a Screen-Worthy Script.” If you’re in LA area, you should be there! Sign up now and you get a free Logline Critique! We’ll go through different exercises and the 12 steps to getting your script to the next level. For more info and to register, click here – http://www.writersstore.com/12-steps-to-a-screen-worth-script/

  • The Biggest Threat to Screenwriters in the Digital Age

    March 26th, 2013

    By Danny Manus

    It used to be that a screenwriter’s biggest fear was pitching or sending a script to a producer and them stealing their idea and making a billion dollars without them. But in the new digital, social media age where every week there seems to be a new website that writers can post their scripts on in the hopes of being reviewed, loved and discovered, the biggest threat to screenwriters – is other screenwriters.

    Between Amazon, BlackList, Talentville, Virtual Pitchfest, InkTip, Greenlightmymovie, Triggerstreet, SpecScout and many more – there are a ton of websites that promise (or at least intimate) you will gain access, attention, accolades and success from Hollywood heavyweights by using their sites and posting your scripts or pitches or synopses. And many of them do have great success stories. Some of them are even free. But there’s a downside to posting your script in a forum or on a site where ANYONE – not just Hollywood professionals – can see it.

    Let me preface this article by saying that I don’t have anything against any of the aforementioned sites and I have worked with (and continue to work with) a few of them. I believe the people running all of those sites have the best of intentions and are not doing anything wrong.

    However, this past week, one of my clients (who will remain nameless but I’m sure many of you reading this may know who I’m talking about) had an issue on one of these popular script-posting/review sites. She discovered that there was another project with the same title and basic concept, time period and protagonist posted onto the site months after she had posted hers. Now, it was a TV script and hers was a feature, and after reading both it was clear to me there were notable differences in the stories, writing and focus. But, they were definitely similar. And while it wasn’t a wholly original story, it was original enough – especially the title – to draw some ire from numerous writers.

    After much ado, and numerous emails between the parties (some of them contentious), the situation was looked into by the website and resolved as best as possible considering no one had sold their project yet and no one could actually PROVE anything. Though mark my words – if one of their projects sells, there will be a lawsuit. Which means both their projects are now tainted and if a production company hears there might be a registration claim against a script, they will most likely stay away.

    Writers need to know there is basically no recourse through the site when something like this happens (especially if it’s a FREE site), because most have terms and conditions you have to agree to before you post your material, and any smart site will include a big old paragraph that basically says – “Post at your own risk. It ain’t our fault if your story gets jacked.”  At least, that’s the legal terminology I would use.

    In addition, if you’re posting into Facebook groups, screenwriting forums like the notorious Done Deal Pro or others, many people use screen names, fake names or pseudonyms – so you’d never be able to find out who actually took your idea.

    Let me ask you something – why the hell do you care what a fellow amateur screenwriter living 3000 miles away from you thinks about your screenplay? Do you know what their opinion means? Absolutely nothing! Many of these sites and forums are the blind leading the blind. And in the land of the blind, the one-eyed-man is king.

    Situations like the one I mentioned above seem to be happening on a weekly basis now – and it’s not going to improve until these sites take more control over what’s being posted and have a more in-depth system or screening process or algorithm to compare (or search for) projects. Or until writers realize that posting their script for peer reviews is mostly a waste of time and often opens them up to more harm than good. Everyone is so hell bent on getting feedback from EVERYONE and getting their script in front of as many eyes as possible, that they don’t realize some of the pitfalls of posting their projects or loglines or ideas online.

    And some contests aren’t much better. First and second round judges for many contests out there, are writers. Perhaps they’re writers with a couple options under their belt or a manager or agent, or some credits. But for the most part, it’s out of work writers trying to make some extra money. And the rest of the judges are readers, who get 20 bucks a script. It isn’t until the quarter or semifinal rounds where more major Hollywood professionals get involved in the judging.

    So this leaves burgeoning writers with two very important questions – How do you promote yourself, get read and try to break in while ensuring your ideas won’t be stolen? And are you sabotaging your career if you refuse to post your scripts on these websites or enter contests?

    The answer to the first question is just to be smart and protect yourself and always keep a paper trail! Know when you registered the script, know when you copyrighted it, know when you started writing it, know the first time you pitched it to someone. Know what sites, at what times, your script was posted and keep a log of who has seen it or read it or commented on it. And that goes for your writers groups and friends as well. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned after 10 years in this business, it’s that friendships don’t mean dick when there’s money at stake.

    Read ALL terms and conditions before you post. Try to post on sites where there is more DIRECT access to professionals or where it’s only professionals who can access your projects. Or where YOU can control the access. At least with Virtual Pitchfest, for example, your query letter goes directly to the professional and no one else is able to see it.

    The answer to the latter question I posed, is YES. By choosing NOT to put your script out there at all, you are cutting off your nose to spite your face. You can’t be THAT precious with your idea, because chances are it’s already been done anyway. And if you’re not trying to pitch and sell your idea, then what was the point in writing it? You can’t sit there and complain that you’re not being discovered if you’re not being pro-active about getting your script read. But again, you have to protect yourself.

    Do NOT post your brand new, unregistered idea or logline or synopsis in Facebook groups or on twitter or in ANY screenwriting forum asking for feedback. If you want to know if your idea or project sounds commercial and might be worth pursuing, or you want to brainstorm your story concepts (especially before they are written), then for the love of God – go to someone who isn’t a fellow writer! You’re not selling your project to other writers anyway – you’re selling them to execs, producers and reps!

    I realize I’m a bit biased here, but use a professional! Pay the $50 bucks and use a professional who can give you constructive feedback but will also keep your project confidential and won’t be wondering the whole time if your project and idea sounds better than the ones they are trying to write.

    Pitching to an executive or producer or submitting work to a script consultant or even your own personal writing groups is much safer than posting your story all over the internet. Why? Because the former all rely on their reputations staying intact in order to stay in business. And if someone in your writers group stole your idea – you’d know who they are, where to find them, and exactly how they got it. There would be a clear paper trail.

    Now, the law of averages – and the sheer number of writers and scripts out there – dictates that your idea was probably thought of by someone else, somewhere. Every few months, I get two clients that submit a similar story or concept and they live countries apart and have no connection to each other whatsoever. Even the most random of story ideas, has probably been thought of in some form by someone else. It’s just a coincidence and there’s nothing you can do about it. And just FYI, I do inform my clients when that occurs.

    This happens to professional writers and production companies all the time as well. When I was at my old production company, Clifford Werber Productions, I sold an “Oz” movie to United Artists. We were first out of the gate. But within months there were 4 other Oz projects set up and as you can see…ours didn’t win the race. We developed a revamped Jack and the Beanstalk…oh well. We developed a project called “Family Bond” and the very week we sent it out to the town, another script titled “Family Bonds” (with an S) was also sent around by another producer and the story was eerily similar. And just this month, a consulting client of mine submitted a script with the same concept as one I developed years ago at CWP. It happens all the time because as different as we are, humans all share certain experiences and people write what they know.

    And if you suspect that one of your projects, ideas or scripts has been “stolen” in some way, the best way to handle it – is calmly. Don’t go threatening lawsuits or demanding anything – especially of the sites on which the projects were posted. First, read the other writer’s project to make sure it’s not just a similar title or same broad generic idea. Make sure there are REAL similarities throughout the script. Investigate, do your due diligence, go back thru your paper trail, and contact the writer or the site and try to come up with a resolution that benefits you all. And worst comes to worst, take down your project and just move on to the next one. Because if your script has been posted on a site for 9 months and NO ONE has read it or contacted you about it – it’s not doing you any favors anyway.

    In the 90s, it was snail mail query letters. In the 2000s, it was email queries and pitchfests. In the 2010s, the new norm of breaking in for writers without connections is thru social media and self-promotion thru certain types of websites. And the fact that new writers can more easily connect to big Hollywood players is a great thing. But with these new rules and opportunities, come new threats and problems that writers need to be aware of, and protect themselves. And hopefully now, you’ll be a bit better prepared.

  • Writing Yourself Out of a Hole

    March 26th, 2013

    By Danny Manus

    There’s an old story I’m tweaking slightly for our purposes that goes…

    A screenwriter is walking down the street and falls into a deep hole and can’t get out.

    A Director comes by and the screenwriter yells, “Hey, I’ve fallen into this hole and I can’t get out. Can you help me?”

    The Director throws a camera down the hole and says, “I can’t get you out, but if you film your journey, I can make it into a movie.” And he moves on.

    Then an Executive Producer comes by and the screenwriter yells, “Hey, I’ve fallen into this hole and I can’t get out. Can you help me?”

    The Exec Producer takes out his wallet and throws a bunch of money down the hole and says “I can’t get you out, but if you figure out the way, I’ll pay for it.” And he moves on.

    Finally, a fellow screenwriter passes by and the writer in the hole yells out, “Hey, I’ve fallen into this hole and I can’t get out. Can you help me?”

    The second screenwriter immediately jumps down into the hole with him. The first writer turns to him and says, “Well that was stupid, now we’re both trapped in this hole.”

    And the second screenwriter says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down in this hole before and I know the way out.”

    Writers write themselves into holes all the time. But the sign of a truly great writer is being able to write yourself out of it. And let me tell you, more than 80% of writers – can’t.

    Writing yourself into a hole usually happens if you haven’t planned, plotted, outlined or completed character exercises before starting to write. If you get stuck and you’re not sure what should come next, or after you’ve started rewriting and you (or someone else) find tons of plot holes and unanswered questions – you’ve written yourself into a hole.

    And I’m guilty of this myself. On the conspiracy thriller script I was hired to write, I had a rough treatment going in, but the person who hired me and had written the treatment forgot one major part…the conspiracy. So, we knew where the story started and we knew where it ended and we knew a few of the major moments and action in the middle. But I started writing before I really nailed down how the conspiracy was going to come together or how everyone was exactly connected and what the pieces of evidence were that would ultimately expose said conspiracy… And guess what…I wrote myself into a hole. I had killed a character that I realized could have been the key. I had created a conflict that caused a major plot hole before I had thought of a solution. And I didn’t know exactly how to pace the conspiracy so it would make sense but not reveal too much, too soon. And the hole began to get deeper.

    So when you find that a question is unanswered or a plot hole has formed, instead of continuing on the same road hoping the hole disappears, here are some of the major things to think about and examine to go back and cement that hole and keep your story moving.

    –          Set Ups – I dare say that 60% of all plot holes and story issues exist because the writer has failed to set up something earlier on that would help explain it all. A set up doesn’t always have to be a big extravagant moment – it can be a quick line or quick shot of off-color comment, but that we will connect later on to what’s happening. If your character has to know how to climb a mountain in order to escape her situation in the climax and you’ve never set this up that she knows how – you’ve written yourself into a hole. But instead of going back and inserting many scenes of her climbing, you could just show us pictures of her doing this in the first act or show us mountain climbing ropes and gear in her car, etc. It’s all about set ups, but it doesn’t always means retooling your whole story.

    –          Motivations – Look at why you’re characters are there, doing what they’re doing, and why (and if) it’s important to them, what they have to accomplish and why (what happens if they don’t accomplish it?). You may find that your hole has been created because your characters are doing something unnecessary or not set up as being important to them. If your characters are only doing something because YOU need them to in order for other things to make sense, then you may be writing yourself deeper into a hole.

    –          Locations – Look at where the action (and the hole) is taking place. Do your characters have to be here or is there an easier way? Is it a location that makes sense to the story and action taking place? If it feels like your characters are just pinging back and forth between different locations, is there a way to condense them so your story won’t feel confusing or scenes won’t seem unnecessary? But also, do your locations give you enough opportunities for action or scares or comedy and afford you the visuals you need to make your scenes work without forcing it? If not, you may want to think about changing your locations.

    –          Coincidences – If big moments in your script (more than 1 or 2) only occur because of coincidences taking place, then your plot is not strong enough and you will be writing yourself into a hole. If “coincidence” is the only explanation for your action, you’re not outlining enough. Go back and think of other ways or reasons why that “thing” could occur or bring your characters to where “it” occurs.

    –          Brainstorming – It’s all about thinking about different ways to obtain the same result. If your character has to get into a house without being heard, think of 5 ways for him to do so. Always give yourself options and see which one makes the most sense for your set ups, your characters and your purpose. Ask other people if you need to.

    –          Streamlining – Very often holes are created because you’re trying to do too much with your plot or action or you’re working too many characters into the plot because you think it will keep things interesting. Streamlining your story and only including plot points, subplots and characters that advance the important storylines and arcs of your protagonist will ensure that you don’t write yourself into unnecessary holes.

    –          Common Sense – When all else fails, follow an old adage that always holds true – KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID. If you find that your characters are trapped in a situation or have to do something and they don’t know how to, just use common sense. Think about what YOU would do to get out of that situation – then make it visual.

    So many writers try to get all complex and intricate with their conspiracies or their action or even small innocuous things – like getting through a front door for example.  But sometimes you don’t have to wire a tree to break a window to signal the dog to chase the cat to jump on a bookshelf to knock over a lamp to ignite a fire to burn the door down…Sometimes you can just turn the fucking doorknob and walk inside.

    There are so many holes that writers can find themselves trapped in – don’t let it be one you’ve created for yourself. And if you do find yourself looking up from that position, don’t be afraid to ask others who have been there for help.

  • 50 Shades of an Amateur Screenwriter

    September 24th, 2012

    By Danny Manus

    There are probably hundreds of signs that the writer of that script I’m screaming at is an amateur. But today, I’d like to give a mere 50. Most of these may seem like common sense, yet you’d be amazed at the sheer number of projects plagued with these issues. Some of them may make you worry about your own work. But hey, at least you’ll know for next time and you’ll be one step closer to making sure your work is at the highest of professional standards.

    The following is in NO particular order and covers a broad range of script issues.

    1. Writing CUT TOs, FADE TOs, FADE OUTs, or any other Transitions between every scene.
    2. Telling us instead of Showing us.
    3. Description is in past tense instead of present tense and does not use the active form of the verb. For example, John drives – not John is driving. Danny stands – not is standing. Limit –ING verbs.
    4. Not using pronouns or articles in your sentences. THE room, HIS dog, HER chair. You don’t walk into room – you walk into THE room or A room. I know less words is a good thing, but this is horribly distracting when the reader has to fill in the word.
    5. Having wordy description paragraphs longer than 4 lines on a page without a line break.
    6. Not CAPITALIZING your characters names the first time we meet them in your description. Also, capitalizing characters names every time they are seen or mentioned (Not the case in TV).
    7. Capitalizing every single noun and/or verb in your description.
    8. Not having a new scene heading for every new location or writing things in your scene heading other than the location, time of day and relation to the previous scene.
    9. Your description tells us exactly what your characters are thinking or are about to discuss in dialogue, or tells us backstory the audience cannot see.
    10. The script is written in Microsoft Word, Notepad or Celtx. I know Celtx is free – but no one working in Hollywood uses it or even knows what it is.
    11. Not knowing the difference between a Montage and a Series of Shots. A Montage condenses numerous scenes, locations and the passage of time while progressing plot and character arcs. A series of shots is a visual style to show many different actions or specific visuals all from one scene or a short time span.
    12. Having Camera Direction in your description (“we see”, “shot of”, “camera pans” etc)
    13. Writing parentheses before dialogue on every page explaining the emotion or how the line should be said.
    14. You are not using “Intercut With” when going back and forth between two scenes instead of restating the scene heading each time.
    15. Lengthy location descriptions or too much production design – we don’t care what color the couch is.
    16. Use of Voice Over to tell us things you could express though action and dialogue.
    17. All conversations start with “hello” or “how are you” and scenes end with “goodbye, goodnight or talk to you later.” Or if dialogue is full of conversational niceties – thank you, please, your welcome, etc.
    18. The scenes lack dynamics – no conflict or tension or build or emotion.
    19. Story is missing the meat – there are planning and reflection scenes instead of execution scenes.
    20. The subplots are not tracked or seen for more than 15 pages.
    21. A kitchen sink script where everything is thrown in to make it seem more commercial and original.
    22. Scenes have no emotional goal.
    23. There is a lack of emotional/reflective reactions and moments for characters.
    24. Introducing more than 3 characters in 1 paragraph – each should preferably have their own paragraph so they don’t blend together.
    25. Using incorrect margins on the page – having too much or too little white space around the edges. Also, incorrect font, spacing, or type set.
    26. You use dreams and flashbacks interchangeably. Flashbacks are events that actually happened seen through a character’s POV. Dreams are subconscious and uncontrollable thoughts that happen while sleeping.
    27. Not giving us your main character’s LAST NAMES and AGES when introducing them.
    28. Using music – specific songs and artists – in your scenes or writing a scene to a specific song. What do the Beatles, Bowie, Beach Boys, Bon Jovi and Bon Iver all have in common? Their songs will add MILLIONS to your budget.
    29. Your main character feels like they were born on page 1.
    30. There’s nothing on the line – no STAKES – in the first scene.
    31. It isn’t clear where and when your story takes place.
    32. Your only antagonist is an emotion or a personal demon.
    33. The most commercial moments are not exploited and the dialogue, SFX and VFX don’t POP on the page.
    34. There is no time clock of any kind in your story.
    35. Your subplots and B stories are not resolved or connect to your main storyline.
    36. You are lacking in Set Up, Execution, or Payoff.
    37. Your scenes do not evoke any emotion from the reader.
    38. You don’t know how to use dialogue, actions, settings or set ups to create great smooth transitions between scenes.
    39. Your scene goes on 1-2 lines too long and doesn’t end on the most powerful or interesting moment or dialogue.
    40. You don’t know the difference between VO, OS, and OC or when to use each one.
    41. The dialogue is slight, Q&A, isn’t genuine to the characters or lacks subtext and is all very on the nose.
    42. You think a theme and a message is the same thing.
    43. Your first scene and first 10 pages don’t grab me.
    44. Your protagonist is passive and/or isn’t present in your climax.
    45. You write a comedic scene just to hit one joke or one visual gag.
    46. You think when you finish your 3rd draft, you’re done and it’s ready to be submitted to agents, producers, actors or contests. It’s not.
    47. Your story is not driven by conflict and doesn’t contain an internal, external, mental, physical and emotional conflict.
    48. You think the only difference between you and an A-list screenwriter is an agent.
    49. The first words out of your mouth when you meet someone are “I’ve written this script…”
    50. You think you can break all of these aforementioned rules and mistakes and people will still want to read your script and you’ll still be able to break in because Tarantino did it.

     

  • Creating the Perfect One-Sheet

    May 7th, 2012

    With the Great American Pitchfest in less than a month, I know many of you are preparing your pitch, getting your script in shape, and figuring out what your strategy should be to maximize your pitchfest experience. But how many of you have completed your one-sheet?

    If your hand isn’t raised – you aren’t ready to pitch! One-Sheets are an absolute must if you are going into a pitch meeting, especially at a pitchfest event. It’s what you are going to give the executives at the conclusion of your pitch that will allow them to remember you and your story a week or two after the event, when they finally go through everything and decide what they want to read. If your pitch is your first impression, the one-sheet is your lasting impression.

    It’s the only way the executive, who has listened to 50-100 pitches that day, is going to be able to remember you after the salient details of your glorious 5 minute pitch have escaped them.  I write my comments on your one-sheet the second you leave the table – Yes, no, great concept, bad story, liked her, hated him, ask for script, totally retarded, smelled bad – whatever.   

    Your one-pager (another term for one-sheet) is your calling card and you should always keep one on you at all times. Even if the event you’re pitching at tells you not to!

    It’s not just a selling tool for your story, but also for yourself. It differs from a synopsis in a few ways. First, as its name dictates, it’s only ONE page.  Secondly, unlike the synopsis which is just about your story, your one-sheet can be a bit about you as well. It’s much closer to the query letter but without the letter aspects. You don’t need the greeting or closing, but a good one-sheet should include the following:

    –  Your name

    –  The title of your screenplay

    –  Your contact info including email (even if they have it already)

    –  The genre of your script

    –  The logline of your script

    –  If appropriate, 1-2 lines that state anything special about you that pertains to your story or the film business in general just like in your query letter. Or mention of any major contest wins, produced projects, etc.

    –  Then, 1-3 VERY short paragraphs (about 8-12 lines on the page) about your story, your world, your protagonist and what they must accomplish, what is against them, and what’s on the line.  It should be a bit more stylized than your synopsis, which means your voice as a writer should shine through. 

    –  Much like the query letter, you should not give away your ending, but you should tease and intimate your awesome ending – let the exec know that your story builds to something exciting.

    On a one-sheet, you can also include at the bottom a few more titles with genre and logline of other projects you have written (if you have others), because the executive might not like your project, but they might like YOU, and want to know what else you’ve done.

    And incredibly important for your one-sheet — no typos or grammatical errors!! If you cannot write a half a page without a typo or mistake, then you are sloppy or lazy and I don’t want to read your script. I know many execs who will throw away a one-sheet with a typo on it.

    Execs can tell if someone can write by their one-sheet, and they often will not ask for a script if the one-sheet is unimpressive, bland, boring, or doesn’t tell them anything.

    The paper shouldn’t be boring. You shouldn’t doodle little animals on it or anything, but I find that the one-pagers I keep and the ones I take more notice of have something different on the page. They are a bit more visual, perhaps there’s a picture or pattern on the page that connects with your story, or they are printed on a slightly harder stock of paper than regular printer paper. It doesn’t need professional graphic design, but I’ve seen many one-sheets that are basically the poster for the movie on one side and the synopsis and other information on the other.

    Just like with your pitch – the more visual a one-sheet is, the more memorable it will be. Is an exec not going to read your script because your one sheet isn’t visually stimulating? No, of course not. But you are trying to do things that make you stand out, in a good way. Executives may tell you it doesn’t matter, but subconsciously, it does. People like shiny objects. It’s how Transformers got made. So if there is something visually stimulating – not detracting or distracting – but stimulating about the page, chances are execs will pay more attention to it.

    But one thing you should NOT do – is put the actor you want in your movie on your one-sheet. Nothing will scream amateur more than a photo-shopped picture of Adam Sandler!

    However you design it, I cannot express to you the importance of having one. Writers always ask if a business card is good enough. As far as getting an exec your contact info, a business card works. But even if the title of your script is printed on that card, that’s not going to remind the executive about your story or your pitch or some of those key words you dropped during your pitch. Business cards get lost, they fall out of pockets or bags, get thrown away, etc. A one-sheet is a preferred.

    Some people say one-sheets are unnecessary and that if you don’t write them, an executive will have no choice but to ask for your script instead. Those people are complete morons. They have another option…not asking for anything! And if they were on the fence about your project, not having a one-sheet makes it that much easier for them to forget you were ever there.

  • Making Sure Your Subplots Aren’t Sub-Par

    December 20th, 2011

    A man can’t live on ‘A’ storylines alone – and neither can your scripts. If you’re not crafting and interweaving compelling subplots and B stories into your script, your story will probably feel flat and won’t sustain for 100 minutes.

    Your subplots and B stories are what add new dimensions to your script and flesh out your concept and story. Most stories have at least 2 or 3 subplots, and can have more. But you don’t want them to take AWAY from the main storyline, only add to it!

    The first 8-10 pages of your second act is where your main character will face their first major test or challenge and take the first step in their arc. But these pages are also where you should begin introducing and developing your subplots and B stories. Somewhere in pgs 30-40ish.

    It’s a fuzzy area, but I actually think there are some differences between a B-STORY and a SUBPLOT. I think B stories usually still directly involve your main character, whereas subplots do not – at least not initially.

    The B Story is your character’s secondary motivation or mission – the OTHER thing they have to accomplish. Your B Story may be a second problem or issue that your main character has to fix. And while your A-Story presents itself at the inciting incident and is solidified at the end of the first act with the acceptance of the adventure, your B-Story often can’t be identified UNTIL the second act begins, because it’s what is illuminated by the adventure beginning. 

    For example, in The Wizard of Oz – Dorothy’s A-Story is to find the Wizard and get home, but the B-Story becomes helping Oz and her new friends. She had no idea she was going to have to do that until the adventure began.

    The B Story is often the more emotional thing, and not the visual, tangible, action-y thing. It’s connected to your concept – but is usually caused because of or caused by your concept. It’s what your hook or major storyline leads your characters to (or to do).

    For example, in the political comedy Dave, the main storyline is Kevin Kline pretending to be the President and getting away with it while adapting to his very new life as the leader of the free world. But there are two B stories – or perhaps B and C story – the first is the love story with the First Lady. The second B story, perhaps the C story, is that Dave must get this bill passed to save children and cut the budget.

    In my company’s own movie, Sydney White, the B story is how Amanda Bynes’s Sydney character affects and helps the “Dorks” characters. She’s still involved, so it’s not really a subplot. It’s a true secondary storyline. 

    Your B Story could be a love story for your main character (though in a straight romantic comedy, this would always be the A story). Very often, in action or disaster films, the B story is the love story, but it can be in any genre.

    Some examples where the B story is the love story include Juno (love story with Michael Cera), Liar Liar (love story with Maura Tierney and winning his wife back is a second mission and motivation to overcoming the issue of not being able to lie), Twister, Armageddon, 2012, Die Hard, etc – all have B love stories.

    In contrast, your subplots are basically a way for you to cut away from your main storylines and main characters and infuse different life and personality into your story. These subplots do NOT have to include your main characters, and probably shouldn’t. However, it usually does and SHOULD intersect and affect your major plotline at some point.

    It could be your sidekick, best friend, mentor character or antagonist that you’ve introduced us to in the first act, now develops their own slightly separate storyline and goals. Or it could be a totally NEW character that you introduce here.

    Your subplots actually can cause or lead to your turning points in your second act if they intersect well with your major storylines.  For instance, in The Ref, the two subplots are the son’s storyline and the Drunken Santa storyline. They eventually intersect and affect the main storyline of Denis Leary and the parents, but they are separate.

    In thrillers like Primal Fear, The Negotiator, or Long Kiss Goodnight, the subplots are the behind the scenes politics or overarching stories of corruption, dirty cops, revenge, business, etc. that affect and help drive the main action. In Primal Fear, there’s a real estate subplot that leads to discovery of clues that intersect with the main storyline, but it’s just a subplot and doesn’t directly involve the main characters.

    Or the subplot could be the OTHER side of your love story. For example, in Six Days 7 Nights, the major storyline is Anne Heche and Harrison Ford’s love story developing as they try to get rescued, but the subplot is their respective boyfriends/girlfriends back on the mainland as they get closer.

    Remember – much like your main ‘A’ storyline, your B stories and subplots should have a set up, a beginning, middle and end – they need a structure – and they need to be resolved. This is done usually by the end of your second act or middle of your third act – but it depends on how big and important the subplot is.

    Your B story – your character’s secondary missions – they have to include obstacles just like the A story does. And your subplot MUST have conflict – or else it is not a subplot, it’s just filler! I’ll say that again – if your subplot has no conflict, it’s just filler.

    The subplot must also connect with your story’s main theme. In fact, the subplot often drives home the theme even more specifically and obviously than your A storyline. Look at Crazy Stupid Love – had tons of storylines and subplots, but even the smaller subplots of Steve Carrell’s kid’s love life and the funny angry neighbors all added to, and brought out, the theme of the story.

    If you have a true ensemble piece – meaning there is pretty equal screen time shared amongst 5-10 different characters, then you don’t need subplots because each of your characters will have their own storyline and those will be more than enough to use to cut away from whatever else is going on, and progress the story. Basically, your whole story is made up of subplots that tie into an overarching concept, story or theme. For example – Crash, Love Actually, New Year’s Eve, Traffic, etc.  But keep in mind that many of these storylines should intersect in some way at some point just like your subplots would.

    And if you have created a wonderful subplot on page 32 and introduced new characters, but then we don’t see them again until page 83, then you haven’t tracked that subplot well enough and it will not seem important enough to the story. After your major structural points or turning points, that’s usually a great time to cut away from your main characters and check back in with your subplots.

    So as you develop your script, make sure that you’re creating and tracking subplots and B stories that are just as compelling as your major storyline so that your concept, hook and theme can truly shine.

  • Creating Set Pieces for Success

    December 19th, 2011

    By Danny Manus

    Ever wonder what it takes to create truly memorable movie moments? Those scenes that just stay with you long after you leave the theater? Those scenes that, when someone mentions a movie title, immediately rush back into your mind? Those scenes that allow you to picture the trailer?

    These scenes are often called set pieces. And this week, I want to share with your how to create them and automatically make your script more commercial.

    While I had heard the phrase “building set pieces for your script” hundreds of times, I never truly thought about it until the recent panel/interview I moderated with A-List comedy writers Tim Dowling and Joe Nussbaum. Dowling has written Just Go With It, Role Models, the upcoming This Means War, and more. Nussbaum has directed Sydney White, Prom, American Pie: Naked Mile and has written some very hot scripts around town, two of which landed on the Black List.

    I learned something so valuable from our chat about the importance of set pieces that it has changed the way I look at scripts. And maybe it will have the same affect on you. 

    Set pieces are not just locations – they are a scene or a short, connected sequence of scenes that builds in a way that not only makes for a memorable and trailer-worthy moment, but also develops your characters, plot, increases emotion, and exploits and explores the hook of your story.  One of the keys to building great set pieces is building layers into your scene.  If your scene is not accomplishing all of the aforementioned things, then it is not a set piece – it’s just a scene.

    Nussbaum and Dowling said that it’s their ability to brainstorm and picture these 3-6 major set pieces that tells them if their concept has potential.  If you cannot think of 3-6 scenes and moments that do all the things mentioned above, then you may not have a strong enough concept to write about. All the big comedy giants – the Farrelly Brothers, Judd Apatow, Weitz Brothers, etc – use these types of set pieces in their scripts.

    And this is NOT only for comedy – action, horror, thrillers, sci-fi, and even drama – ALL should have some version of set pieces. When you come up with a concept and a hook, you need to brainstorm and ask yourself what kind of big set piece scenes could EXPLOIT this idea – where are the big moments within this concept?  What are the scenes that are going to get this hook across, connect an audience with my main character, and create big cinematic, iconic moments?

    The difference between a scene and a set piece is in how it builds. Your set piece should build so that you’re not JUST writing or building a scene to hit that ONE joke line or have that ONE visual gag moment, but instead the comedy is constantly and continuously building and hitting throughout the scene. So basically, there are at least a handful of big laugh (or action, scare, suspenseful) moments within each set piece.

    To create a set piece, I’ve come up with a basic formula for the scene. Though sometimes the steps are not exactly in this order and not every set piece is alike, this is a basic guideline:

    1. Set-Up – This includes your location, setting up what your character wants to get out of the scene (so we know why it’s funny when it all goes wrong), and the situation your character has walked into.
    2. Bring out the conflict of the scene.
    3. First big funny moment/visual (or action, scare, suspenseful moment)
    4. Payoff for first funny moment/visual which causes or increases an uncomfortable situation, tension, anxiousness, or other funny emotion. Changes your character or the way others view your character.
    5. Regroup and try again hoping for different results – but unsuccessful.
    6. Second big funny moment/visual that raises the comedic stakes.
    7. Payoff for second funny moment/visual.
    8. REPEAT steps until you have exhausted the hilarious moments and visuals of the scene and exploited your hook.
    9. Last button on the scene which is the final, if not funniest moment or visual of the scene that makes it clear how the scene affected or progressed the story.

    And just so you can see exactly what I’m talking about, I want to give you a few of the examples Dowling and Nussbaum used, which will help illustrate this perfectly;

    –        The Zipper scene in There’s Something About Mary – Stiller gets to the house, is already nervous and wants badly to impress her and her family and seem like a suave guy. He sees Diaz in the window (first funny moment), her father isn’t too happy with him (conflict), Father goes into the bathroom to help – doesn’t work, raises humiliation (second funny moment), they regroup and wife comes in (third funny moment/line/reaction), cop comes to the window (fourth funny moment/reaction), then the memorable visual of what’s stuck in the zipper (fifth funny moment), then the button final action and reaction (fixing the zipper and Stiller’s hilarious scream). Then he’s taken by the paramedics – prom is ruined and he’s lost his chance with his dream girl.

    –        The Dinner/Urn scene in Meet the Parents – the set up of the conflict was set up previously but increases in this scene as Stiller tries to impress and win over DeNiro’s character (his motivation). The scene builds with the “milking” dialogue (first funny line), the VISUAL of Stiller milking the invisible cat (first funny visual), DeNiro’s reply (the payoff and second funny line), Stiller regrouping and trying again unsuccessfully which makes him even more nervous and anxious, the revelation that Stiller’s girlfriend was engaged before (creates more conflict and affects the story later on), champagne cork hits the urn and smashes it (third funny moment),  the cat takes a shit on the ashes (the button on the scene).

    –        The opening Masturbation/Sock scene in American Pie – it’s clear what Jason Biggs’ character wants. We have the scrambled porn and porn dialogue (first funny visual and line), mom comes into room and he scrambles to hide and excuse away what he’s doing (second funny moment, causes uncomfortable situation), more porn dialogue (third funny moment), father comes in (fourth funny moment, raises stakes of comedy), Biggs tries to regroup without success, reveal of the penis sock (fifth big funny moment/visual), and the father’s dialogue and look at Biggs’ humiliated face (button on scene).

    And a few scenes I thought of which also exemplify creating great set pieces – you can watch them and do the breakdown yourself:

    –        The Bridal Shoppe scene in Bridesmaids where they all get sick

    –        The Beauty Pageant scene at the end of Little Miss Sunshine

    –        The chase scene in The Departed that leads to Martin Sheen’s death (spoiler, sorry)

    –        The opening scene of Scream.

    Each of the above-mentioned scenes USE and EXPLOIT the hook of their story piece – a guy who can’t get laid, a guy meeting his fiancée’s family, a woman dealing with her friends’ wedding arrangements, etc. And they build from that hook with a visual, a set up, an action and/or dialogue, and a payoff – then another visual/dialogue and a payoff that builds the moment even more – then repeat and repeat until that scene leaves you in stitches, or crying, or scared, or on the edge of your seat, depending on the genre.

    All of these scenes don’t just have ONE payoff moment or line or visual – but a constant build of big moments/visuals and creates those trailer moments. Memorable moments.

    Even smaller personal private journey movies often employ this technique. For example, in Into the Wild, each of the important characters that help the lead character on his journey is a different set piece. 

    Sometimes the first big set piece is in the first act, but if not, it could serve as a great scene to begin your second act. Just as your characters are starting their adventure, this is a great time for a big set piece because normally your set pieces also serve as OBSTACLES for your characters (look at all the examples above).

    Another key to set pieces is that they must feel incredibly natural to the story and concept you are writing – they are not forced moments. They fit naturally within your story and structure and character arcs. Do not force a set piece – it will throw your story off completely.

    So, take a look at your scripts and stories and see if you are creating set pieces for success. Good luck and keep writing!

  • The Ultimate Do’s and Don’ts of Pitching at Pitchfests!

    June 1st, 2011

    By Danny Manus

    DO:

    1. Have a FINISHED script in proper format.
    2. Know your target. Do your Research.
    3. Embrace the “Alternate” and use it to your advantage.
    4. Try to get a pitch session before lunch, but not the first session of the day.
    5. Know your story!! Backwards and forwards. Characters, arcs, plot, story, ending, act breaks, etc. No using Cue Cards!
    6. Be open to constructive criticism on your story, characters, pitch, and even your personality.
    7. Have an excellent and visual one sheet with your contact info, email, title, genre, 1-2 paragraph synopsis, additional project loglines, any relevant background info, etc.
    8. Ask us if we want to take your one sheet if we haven’t asked for it already. Or at least leave a business card with contact info and your project’s title.
    9. Dress appropriately. No costumes. No flop sweat. No spittle. Bring some hand sanitizer too!
    10. Make us think you’re from LA, or at least would move there.
    11. Make sure you can pitch in English. At least coherent enough to understand.
    12. BE NORMAL!!!
    13. Know what the hook to your story is, what the original twist to your story is, and highlight that.
    14. Make sure your first minute contains: your name, your project’s title, any pertinent background info, whatever sets you apart, your project’s genre, the logline and hook, one or two comparison films, etc.
    15. Make sure the rest of the pitch contains: your main story line, descriptions and arcs of your main character(s), some of your big set pieces, funniest/scariest moments of your script, etc. The most commercial and original parts of your script. The trailer moments!
    16. Prepare to answer questions about you, your story and your writing process.
    17. Make sure your TV show idea can last 4 seasons before pitching your premise.
    18. Gear your pitches to agents/managers so that it’s more about YOU and your vision for your career than a specific project.
    19. If we ask for it, send us your script within 2 weeks.
    20. Respect the pass if you get one at the table.
    21. Say hello if passing us in the halls after your pitch. Act normal and smile.
    22. HAVE FUN! RELAX!

    DO NOT:

    1. Set yourself up for failure.
    2. Cry while pitching.
    3. Use Cue Cards. You should know your own story better than that.
    4. Act your pitch. Just tell a story and have a conversation. Also, no singing, dancing, or funny voices necessary.
    5. Tell us that this is the first time you have ever pitched this to anyone. We shouldn’t be your first pitch.
    6. Use a gimmick. No posters, toys, props, etc. Trailers are okay and drawings are okay if you are a professional FX Artist.
    7. Fight with fellow attendees, even if they are taking up your time.
    8. Fight with execs and argue about their take on your story or pitch. Don’t tell them that you don’t think they’re right. Keep it all inside and just smile and nod.
    9. Start your pitch with something incredibly personal or embarrassing.
    10. Start your pitch with a rhetorical question!
    11. Ask execs to take your script at the table. And don’t beg.
    12. Ask execs for their card more than once.  
    13. Pitch projects that are not appropriate for pitchfests (period epics, sci-fi trilogies, Hollywood insider movies, Oscar-type Prestige Dramas, Autobiographies that haven’t been published/covered somewhere – a book, article, short film, doc, etc)
    14. Deny execs your big twist ending.
    15. Have typos or grammatical errors on your one sheet!!
    16. Insist on directing or acting in your script.
    17. Make execs regret saying yes. Don’t be annoying or email/call incessantly.
    18. Under any circumstances, pitch execs in the bathroom or on a cigarette break.
    19. Become a horror story.

  • Screenwriting Expo 2010: Recap and a Recurring Problem with Writers

    October 12th, 2010

    By Daniel Manus

    This past weekend was the 2010 Screenwriting Expo, where writers from all over the world come to congregate, learn, network, get inspired, pitch, and try to break into Hollywood the old fashioned way – by paying for it.

    Before I get into my recap of the weekend, I’d like to congratulate my friend and client Tracy Reilly for WINNING the Expo’s 30 minute TV Script Category, beating out hundreds upon hundreds of other scripts and scoring the $1000 prize! It was a hilarious script and it deserved to win! And I’d like to congratulate my two other clients who were semi-finalists in the feature and short categories, respectively. Nice job guys! No Bull clients are making waves!

    Now, I’ve learned not to bite the hands that feeds me, but the Expo has changed significantly over the years. I personally had a great time, met some great new clients, writers, fellow teachers and friends and got to have a nice chat with great screenwriters Shane Black and Bert Royal (“Easy A”). And I sold a good amount of copies of my book over the weekend. But, it definitely wasn’t the Expo of old.

    I’ve been coming to the Expo every year since 2003 and haven taken pitches at every expo until 2009. Back in ‘04, the Expo had almost 5,000 writers and took over the LA Convention Center with big names like William Goldman, Aaron Sorkin, Paul Attanasio, Dean Devlin, Joss Whedon and Syd Field, had a pitching hall filled with about 80 companies ready to speak to writers, and an exhibition hall that felt like a convention within itself.

    This year, the Expo had about 700 writers (and that’s being generous), had John August and Shane Black speaking to a muted audience of 100 writers each, had only 35 companies taking pitches, and took over parts of 2 floors of a hotel near the airport. And the exhibition hall featured the Writer’s Store, CS Magazine, John Truby, and only about 6 other companies.

    There were reasons for the low turnout this year, though. Yes, the economy.  But there was also an unfortunate strike of hotel workers that caused the WGA, who had been supported by those hotel workers during their strike, to send out 2 letters to its members saying not to attend or speak at this year’s Expo. So, planned special guest speakers like David Milch, Jennifer Salt and William Goldman, stayed away. And this isn’t the Expo’s fault – it was the Hilton’s. But, the Expo certainly paid the price for it.

    But here’s the thing…without all the big name speakers and the huge list of companies to pitch to, the Expo turned into what it should have been all along – a chance for writers to LEARN something. But, once again, writers did themselves a disservice and didn’t show up because this year, there was less of a chance of them meeting a celebrity or landing an agent.

    And this is what is wrong with most wannabe screenwriters today – thousands of you that try to break in every year – you all want to be lazy about it.  You all want it to come easy. Many of you want to write a script in 2 weeks, sell it 2 weeks later, land an agent by Thursday, quit your job by the end of the month and trade your life in to party at the Palms. You don’t go to film school, you don’t take the courses or the seminars, you don’t move to LA and suffer as you work your way up, and you don’t attend events unless you think you can SELL YOUR SCRIPT.

    And it’s not JUST at the Expo. At the Great American Pitchfest earlier this year (whose overall turnout turned out to be higher than the Expo’s), there were about 450 people there taking FREE classes on Saturday, but over 1000 pitching on Sunday! I like to call the 500 some-odd people who just thought they could show up and sell a script – HOPELESS.

    There were some great classes at the Expo this year – including my 3 classes. And while mine were very well-attended on Thursday (in part because there were only 3 classes being given all day and writers from out of town were already there), the rest of the weekend found most classes half full (or half empty if you’re a pessimist). Yes, star speakers like Pilar Allessandra and Michael Hauge had some packed rooms (don’t get me started on the advice Hauge gives on pitching), but I don’t think any class had over 75 people in it. Years ago, most classes were standing room only (as my pitch class was on Thursday afternoon).  

    I sat in on some of these other classes, and I had my little spies around all weekend telling me who was worth seeing and who wasn’t. I’m not going to bad mouth anyone, but I will say I was highly impressed with new speaker Corey Mandell’s class. It was the only one where I actually took out my pad and pen and wrote stuff down. Pilar is always entertaining and engaging and knows how to grab an audience and make them feel like they are really leaning something. James Jordan is a No-Bullshit guy like me, and I respect that. And Hal Croasmun’s class was very informative.

    Yes, there were a few classes and teachers that had no business being there or who weren’t very informative or entertaining, but hey – that’s why you have a choice of 10 classes to attend every 90 minutes.  

    I know the problem writers have with the classes is that there is SO much conflicting information – everyone has their own style, their own opinions, their own formats, tricks and rules for writing and pitching – that it all gets confused and writers don’t know who to listen to. Well, I can’t tell you who to listen to (listen to me), but I can tell you that getting every perspective and deciding which works for you is still much more valuable than staying home and getting none of them.

    If you are serious about this business, then you need to LEARN this business! You need to do your research, you need to network, you need to become the best writer you can be. And you can’t do that sitting at home typing away and reading a 20 year old copy of Robert McKee’s book. You can’t. So, even if it means you’re not going to get famous in one weekend, you should still be attending these conferences and learning what you can. If you learn 3 things that make you a better writer and make you see your script in a different way, then it was worth the money!

    I hope to see you there next year! Thanks to Bill, Danny, Tee and everyone else who helped put on a fun event!

  • I’m Back Teaching at the Screenwriting Expo! Get the Info Here!

    October 3rd, 2010

    It’s the largest screenwriting conference of the year with tons of great speakers, seminars and exhibitors, so you knew we had to be there!

    If you haven’t bought your tickets or gotten your passes, please click the link below to do so!

    http://csorders.com/cgi-bin/sc/ref.cgi?storeid=*166792a1603291a807d0a44e61&name=2010ExpoAffiliate-DanielManus 

    WHEN: Oct 7-10, 2010

    WHERE: The Hilton Hotel at LAX

                 5711 West Century Blvd

                 Los Angeles, CA 90045

    I’ll be teaching 3 seminars over the weekend – 2 on Thursday and 1 on Friday! And if you want to have a successful Expo, they are not to be missed! Here’s the lowdown –

    Thursday 1-3 PM – Loglines, Query Letters and One-Sheets…Oh My! 

    Class will cover how to construct proper loglines, query letters and one-sheets, what to include and what not to include, the difference between loglines and taglines, what executives are looking for in each, and how to write ones that grab attention and sell! Writers should bring their loglines with them and we will go through and improve them in class!

    Thursday 4-6 PM – No B.S. Guide to Pitching and Pitchfests

    If you’re pitching this weekend, you HAVE TO take this class!!

    Topics include: The Do’s and Don’ts of pitchfests, Who should be pitching and who shouldn’t, what you should and should not be pitching, what execs are looking for at a pitchfest, How to prepare your pitch (everything before you sit down), What to include in your first minute and making first impressions, Making the most out of 5 minutes, The top 15 concepts execs have already heard, The Magic One Sheet and Horror stories and Success stories!

    Friday 11am-12:30pm – Become Your Own Development Executive

    Writers always ask, ‘What is an executive looking for? How come they don’t see what I see?’  This class will teach writers how to think, read and write from the executive perspective. Topics Covered include:
    How a Development Exec reads a script – what they’re looking for and the difference between how a writer reads and an executive reads; The 3 questions executives think of while reading; The Top 13 Notes an executive gives and how to avoid them; How an exec hears/interprets a pitch; What it takes to get a “recommend” from a script consultant/reader; The development process – giving and getting notes – what to expect and how to survive it with flying colors; Q&A.

    Hope to see you there!!

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