May 7th, 2013
By Danny Manus
All good things come to an end, as they say.
After just about 4 years and 180 articles, my column at BOSI has officially come to an end. There will be no final article, so I’m posting one here instead.
It’s been a fantastic run, we’ve covered tons of great topics, I’ve made some wonderful friends, gained hundreds of wonderful clients, and launched numerous programs and classes. And I’ve written over 450 pages worth of material all for you, and all for free!
I’m not going to go through all the reasons or details as to why the column is ending. Sometimes, it’s just best to appreciate what it was and move on. Though I get pretty chatty when I’m drunk. Haha!
I want to graciously thank Marvin Acuna and James Lee for inviting me into the BOSI Community and allowing me to post my articles here and for helping to really launch No BullScript four years ago. Their support, friendship and promotion meant so much over the years, and I wish them much success.
For those who don’t know, I became involved with Marvin after we both were part of a panel at the Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe in 2009. I had met him briefly before that, but it was after the panel we became friends. He liked what I had to say and invited me to get a drink with him a couple weeks after the event. And as we got shitfaced on a Monday at 4pm in the middle of West Hollywood, he offered me a weekly column in this new endeavor he had started. I needed the promotion and the audience and he needed the content…BOOM. Done.
It’s been a long, strange, and mostly fun journey since. Marvin has taught me a great deal about the business of show, perhaps the most important lesson being – ‘business is business.’ And you have to protect your brand, your name and your integrity with everything you have. I tend to take everything personal and internalize and analyze – when in the end, there’s always a bottom line to pay attention to.
Most of all, I want to thank all of YOU! The BOSI Readers and Community. You’ve put No BullScript on the map. You’ve emailed me questions and article topics and great feedback and encouragement when there was an article you loved (or hated). And you’ve made me think much deeper about this business than I ever had before. And I am so thankful to the thousands of you who read what I have to say every week. And I hope to work with each and every one of you!
In these 180 articles, we’ve discussed almost everything I could think of. But I’ve still got a few more tricks up my sleeve, so I invite ALL of my wonderful BOSI readers to follow me to my new column on ScriptMag. The title of my new column is “Notes From the Margins.” And I’ll be going through all the tips and things you need to know to make your story shine. So you can check that out twice a month (starting this week) on www.scriptmag.com.
As you’ll notice, Manny Fonseca has also ended his podcast and column on BOSI but he is still doing his podcast and I hope you follow him too.
It’s unfortunate that things have to end sometimes, but life goes on. And as I always say… Best of Luck and Keep Writing! I know I will.
August 19th, 2010
By Danny Manus
In case any of you read Creative Screenwriting Magazine’s recent survey and analysis of the best Script Consultants out there, you may have noticed two things. One, I was named one of the Top 15 “Cream of the Crop” Script Consultants. And two, there are well over 100 script consultants out there, and each has their own point of view and experience and opinions on what deserves a recommend.
Writers always want to know how they can get this elusive “recommend.” But even more than that, writers wonder what they should expect from a script consultant, how to find the right one for them and if the whole industry isn’t just a bunch of scam artists.
As for the last question, the answer is No. Are there less than credible consultants out there giving less than adequate or constructive notes? Absolutely. Are there people who charge far too much and deliver far too little? Absolutely. Personally, I think your script should never cost as much as your car. And I don’t suggest writers use anonymous services where you don’t know who is actually giving you notes. But as a whole, I have found that script consultants are writers/producers/executives/ teachers/managers, etc., that truly care and want to help writers improve and succeed. And they bring their experience and knowledge to those who need it.
I bring the executive perspective to my notes and I think that’s a valuable, different voice than many other consultants out there. I’m not putting down any other consultants, but many companies give you notes from another writer’s perspective (granted, a more established successful writer than yourself that probably has good insight), but when your script is ready to go out, you’re not going to be sending it to other writers – you’ll be sending it to executives!
I liken consultants to the American Idol judges (see my Mission Statement on my home page). Simon’s not a singer, he’s not a songwriter, he’s not a performer – and yet he’s the one people trust because he’s the one that songwriters and singers GO TO and submit their stuff to – he’s the one that actually evaluates talent.
I say a good script consultant’s job is two-fold.
- To improve your writing abilities and open your eyes about your own script, giving you insight into your story (and the many story elements) that you perhaps did not see before, giving you a fresh set of eyes on your material and constructive feedback. And…
- Help make an uncommercial script more commercial so it has a better chance to sell or do well in a contest or garner you attention.
At No BullScript (did I mention we were recently ranked as one of the Top 15 “Cream of the Crop” consultants by CS Magazine?), I use a 20-point grading grid of elements to judge a script – including story, structure, concept, characters, commerciality, tone, dialogue, transitions, format and spelling, pacing, stakes, climax, originality, international appeal, etc. But then there’s the X factor. And for me, the X Factor is – does it read like a first time or amateur writer wrote it? That’s really the last and ultimate question I ask myself. Does this feel like it was written in 3 days? Does it feel like this is a first script? And if so, then it’s not ready and it doesn’t get a recommend.
But I ask myself these three questions before deciding on a grade:
- Could I sell this? Is this something that could do well in the marketplace?
- Could this script be a contest winner? Is the voice, writing and story strong enough to do well in screenwriting contests?
- Even if it couldn’t sell and wouldn’t win a contest, would this script be a nice writing sample for the writer that could score him or her meetings?
If it’s a NO to all 3 questions, then it doesn’t get a recommend. At the end of the day, I put my executive hat back on and ask myself – would I pass this on to my boss to read? Would I be willing to put my name on this? And if the answer is no, then I can’t recommend it even if the basics are there. I would be doing you a disservice. And my reputation is more important to me than repeat business.
Too many companies out there hand out recommends because they want repeat business. I find that repeat business comes when you give good notes and specific, constructive things to work on. And I will say that almost all of my clients come back with a second script.
If your script has great potential but it isn’t there yet, I will give it a ‘Consider’. But if I can answer at least ONE of those questions above with a resounding yes, then your script has a good shot at getting a recommend.
Good luck and keep writing!
January 11th, 2010
By Alecia Smith
In reference to my script titled, “The Performers” analyzed by Daniel Manus
So, analyze this! A script doesn’t become a script until it has been conceived with thoughts and ideas, and a back and forth motion of words and thoughts are released. These words, ideas and thoughts, known as the premise, travel to the paper where a burst of brainstorm hits and conception has begun. A seed has been planted and now that seed must grow. We help nurture the little seed by feeding it with food such as characters, plots, sub-plots, and moments of “Damn this is good!” However, is it really good? Listen, if you have nine months to get this baby together before it is born, you have to prepare, stocking up on all the things you will need.
So, let the birthing process begin.
How do you birth a really good screenplay?
This process is not as easy as it seems for many screenwriters, including myself. We all think we have a really good story. And I have to be honest, I was hit on the head by a hammer when I hired and started working with Daniel Manus of No BullScript Consulting. He has help me realized just how critical certain elements of screenwriting are like plot development and having three-dimensional characters. The process is painstakingly hard, and I’ve had a true moment of, “Is it all worth it?” I had to learn first hand just how to push the limits of writing a really great screenplay, let alone tell a story in industry standards of 120 pages (a 2 hr movie).
Three months ago, I had hired Daniel to complete studio coverage on “The Performers”, a romantic love story that was adapted from a previous script titled, “Something to Remember.” Daniel completed the coverage and I was excited and couldn’t wait to hear all the good news he would have for me. However, it wasn’t good news. The coverage stated that it was a sweetly played love story but with no real punch! He said the characters were superficially drawn and not three-dimensional and my second act just fell apart. The person he thought was the antagonist turned out to be a really good person. WTF?
Daniel said, “It’s great for a romantic novel, but not for film!” Of course, I’d taken this information as a slap in the face and I was really hurt. I really thought I had a pretty damn good story. I had many readings and people who were very excited about the story and then it hit me; everyone was not Daniel Manus. No one else was looking at it from an executive perspective. The story was just that – a good story. He pointed out what I did very well, and what I really needed to work on. I had a pretty solid premise, but the story was lacking the punch it needed to move it forward. There was confusion whether it was a romantic comedy or a drama. There were really funny lines, but not enough for it to be a comedy, and there really wasn’t enough ‘drama’ for it to be a drama. So, what is the genre? Daniel stated, “I needed to create the “OH MY GOD effect!” Things that may your jaw drop. It doesn’t have to be big budget, it can be small enough and still make you say wow!” So, I was given a challenge to go back and complete a re-write. Daniel advised me that the story would be better told as a drama as opposed to a romantic comedy, because of its commercial appeal. It was up to me to take this advice or leave it. Should I re-write this story based on what someone else says, or should I just give up writing for good?
Wink …I took the challenge and decided to move forward with Daniel’s notes. He’s the birthing coach and I’m the pregnant lady that’s trying to give birth to a stubborn child. I wasn’t feeding her right. I was using the wrong formula, which would explain why I was so sick when I heard the bad news. I needed to help my baby grow by feeding her the right formula. It was really that simple, but the hard part was finding the right formula, so she could grow in order to be born. The formula was Daniel’s advice.
I’d gone to Office Depot and stocked up on paper, pens, highlighters and ink for my laser jet; I was ready. I sat and pondered the story; I didn’t want to change the story and I struggled immensely hard. “I don’t want to change my story!” Then, I realized I needed to find a way to make it punch and the only way to do that was to indeed change the story. It wasn’t easy, because I really loved the original, which was like a sweetly played Cinderella kind of theme. But I also knew that the Cinderella aspect would have to go if I really wanted to make this baby kick. After a few weeks of pondering, I told my self that I have the opportunity to tell a really great story, and deliver a powerful message. So, if I do this, I’ll have to go hard, really HARD!
So, I used the formula Daniel had given me and started forming a new treatment with all of my ideas from the original story and created something more dynamic. After weeks of writing the treatment, it was finished and I was scared all over again. It’s like going to the doctor for a check-up and you’re waiting to see if you’re going to have a healthy baby or not. So, I sent the treatment to Daniel to review it, to make sure I was heading in the right direction with the new developments.
Daniel read the treatment and we had our conference call to talk about what I’d done and the new direction. I didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, I felt Daniel was going to slice it with an ax from some bloody horror movie like he did my first script. I was expecting it. I’d prepared for it. The first thing he said was, “Damn, you created a whole new story!” I chuckled a bit, because it was a whole new story – same characters and premise, just a new direction. Then he said in a subtle, yet timid voice, “Hmm, I read your formula and I was a little worried there for a minute. I didn’t know how this could be pulled off!” Of course my face fell again, and I casually said, “Oh no!” falling into the slumps again. I was devastated! But he quickly continued, saying, “But you totally pulled it off! This is totally sellable in the market, providing you execute the screenplay well! Very good, Alecia!”
My face lit up like fireworks on the 4th of July. I was ecstatic, goober-excited to hear those words, “Very good!” and it was from an executive perspective. I apparently had followed the formula. We talked for two hours going over everything: the theme, the premise, the pace, the characters, the plots, and sub-plots. Daniel said that everything was there for a really sexy drama to unfold and my characters now seemed very three-dimensional. He gave me kudos for a really good treatment format too, excluding the grammatical errors (it was for his eyes only). Now the hard work was turning that treatment into a sellable screenplay. Daniel had only one problem with the treatment – I had so much going on, he wasn’t sure if I could fit it all in a 120-page script.
Months later, it’s January 2010 – a brand new year, and the screenplay is complete. It’s ready to be sent over to Daniel for coverage again. Fingers crossed. But little does Daniel know; there have been some new plot twists and developments that came from the powers of the universe. Totally unbelievable (in a good way) and the birthing process to writing a really good screenplay has begun. I totally look forward to Daniel’s response and feedback. I hope that I’ve executed a great screenplay and a really solid and powerful story. So to answer the question, “How do you birth a really good screenplay?”
- You get advice from a screenwriting coach who knows what they are talking about.
- You take that criticism and use it, even if it’s negative. Don’t throw it away. That’s valuable advice.
- Learn how to take those mistakes and learn from them, by taking your time and pulling back. Reconsider all options. Remember you’re feeding your baby the wrong formula.
- You follow the instructions (the formula) your coach has given to you.
- Follow your gut and go for it! If it speaks to you, your baby is telling you something. Even if it’s not the original direction you wanted. Take the risk and go for it. It may just pay off.
- Read books and other screenplays by writers whose scripts have been produced and turned into film. They are a great reference tool.
- You execute the formula correctly and you will have a really good and healthy baby (screenplay). Don’t give up. Keep writing.
Writing a great screenplay is about executing the formula. Making sure you have a solid premise, theme, plots, twist and great characters to move your story forward. For more information on writing great screenplays, read Robert McKee’s “Story,” an amazing book. It’s available for purchase at Barnes and Noble and the audio version on iTunes.
If you are an aspiring screenwriter who has friends that keep telling you that your story is the greatest, then have Daniel Manus take a look at it and get a professional, executive’s perspective on it – you will be amazed. His notes are exactly as advertised – “NO BULLSHIT!” It may hurt, but wouldn’t you want someone to tell you that you’re making mistakes and give you the opportunity to correct them and let your work shine! Or would you prefer to rely on your friends and be set up for failure, because they won’t be honest with you, because they know how much it means to you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. The choice is yours.
Daniel is as honest as it gets and I highly recommend him. Just like his tagline says, “Hate me today …Love me in your acceptance speech!” I know I will and that’s why he’s my professional reader! Please visit Daniel Manus and No BullScript Consulting at www.nobullscript.net
Wish me success!
Alecia Smith, Screenwriter of “Elysian Fields & Love Stronger than Pride”