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  • Creating the Pitch-Perfect One Sheet

    April 15th, 2017

    By Danny Manus

    One important part of the pitch that writers constantly forget is the One-Sheet. 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 pitching experiences. But how many of you have completed your one-sheet?

    If your hand isn’t raised – you’ve got some work to do. 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 pitches that day, is going to be able to remember you after the salient details of your glorious pitch have escaped them. I used to write my comments on the one-sheet the second the writer left the table so I didn’t forget. “Great Idea, Not Commercial, Bad Pitch, Nice Writer, etc.”

    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.

    –  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 1-3 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 why would they want to read 100 pages ot that? Many execs 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. In the 3500+ pitches I’ve listened to, the one-pagers I keep the most and take more notice of have something different on the page. They are a bit more visual, perhaps there’s a poster or pattern on the page that connects with your story, or they are printed on a slightly harder stock of paper than just 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. This seems to be the trend these days and there are a number of places out there offering this more graphic service.

    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 keeps getting 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.

    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.

    Many people say things like 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. Untrue! 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.

  • 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.

  • Just Give Them What They Ask For

    June 21st, 2011

    By Danny Manus

    Today’s column comes from the “live and learn” files of Hollywood.  I recently had a client, who will remain nameless, who had sent her script to an executive, who read it and liked it and asked the writer to come in for a meeting. During that meeting, my client pitched the exec a couple of other projects she was working on and was also pitched BY the executive a couple of projects their company was looking to develop.

    This is what normally happens in a pitch meeting. Most production companies have internal story meetings where they come up with and pitch (to each other) story ideas that they may want to develop and find writers to work on. When I was at Clifford Werber Productions, I’d say at least one-third of our projects were self-generated between the two of us. Some were winners, some weren’t. But since A-List writers don’t write on spec and they usually only pitch their OWN original material – this is where YOU come in!

    So, my client was pitched this one idea (which will also remain nameless) and given a few specific (but basic) notes on what they were thinking. It was basically a “reversal” of a concept of a popular movie from years ago (and that is ALL the information you’re getting). Now, here’s what you need to know about executives – they usually don’t really know what they DO want – they just know what they DON’T want. 

    I had this original project idea at CWP that I had written a 3 page pitch document for which basically had the set up, much of the first act, and premise to the story and characters.  We pitched this to tons of writers and had 3 or 4 (over a year’s time) come up with a nicely-fleshed out treatment and pitch, but for one reason or another – Clifford didn’t like them. They just didn’t match with his vision for the project, even though he and I weren’t sure EXACTLY what we wanted that vision to be.

    But a good take on our story is like obscenity – we know it when we see it.

    Anyway, my client came up with a take on the project and presented it to the executive – but it wasn’t right for them. It wasn’t what they were looking for. But she was given one more chance. So, she came to me and we re-worked it and re-wrote it (No, I do not take co-writing or story credit), and I thought the idea that resulted from our 3 hour in-person consultation – was pretty damn solid. If it came to ME as an executive, I’d probably be pretty happy with it, though it was only a 4 page pitch and not an extended treatment. There were still many story specifics not worked out.

    Unfortunately, once again, the executive did not think it was what they had envisioned. And she’s right – it wasn’t. In my eyes, it was better. It took the one-line concept they had given my writer and (in my opinion) expanded it, gave a different twist to it, made it more castable, etc. But that’s not what the exec wanted.

    All too often, writers try to do something totally new and different – when all the executive really wanted was for you to basically regurgitate exactly what they asked you to do but in a more stylized and interesting way.  Sometimes this takes great control on behalf of the writer, but it could mean the difference between getting the job and not.  If an executive tells you they want a 16 year-old female protagonist, don’t change it to a 25 year-old male because you think it’s better – just give them what they asked for.

    What I tell my writers to do, and what I would have done with this client if we had more time (the meeting was in 2 days), is to come up with at least 4 or 5 different takes on the concept so that if the executive shoots down your first take in the meeting, you have fallbacks and options that you can immediately follow up on and pitch instead. They will be impressed that you gave it so much thought.  Perhaps in one, the focus of the story is on a different character, or it’s set in a different location, or there’s a different catalyst and inciting incident that sets up the story. It’s never a good idea to ONLY have one idea.

    It was frustrating when I got the call from the executive, who was nice enough to give me a heads up because she is a personal friend of mine (yes, she knew I was working with the writer as a story consultant).  She didn’t love the pitch we had come up with – I was honestly very surprised. But it wasn’t my place to fight the points she raised – it was my job just to listen, smile and nod and hopefully learn a bit more of what they actually did want.  I could have argued, but I didn’t want to screw my client over, who was meeting with her the next day. Know your place in whatever situation you’re in.

    But the phone call I received also illuminated a few things I did not know previously, including how my client had actually been pitched this project THREE months ago and was finally getting back to the exec.

    Here’s the thing – if an executive tells you they want to hear your take on their project – they want to hear it SOON! Not the same week, of course, but probably about 2-4 weeks later. If you are taking more than 4 weeks to come up with a take, that exec is going to expect much more than a 3 page basic treatment. They will want a fully fleshed out story and characters and probably a 10 pg document.

    Also, if it’s not an idea that you truly spark to – DON’T force it. I know you all want to make the executives happy and get on their good side and create that relationship. But they will respect you even more if you say “that’s a great idea, but I’m honestly not sure it’s an idea that’s right for me or one I can connect to enough to do a great job.” They would rather find something else you both agree on and have a vision for than waste their time hearing a take on something you don’t even like.

    You need to know the politics and expectations of meeting with executives. You have to respect what they are asking you to deliver, you have to deliver it within an acceptable amount of time, you have to be incredibly prepared, and you have to know when it’s not a good fit.

    How do you do this? Well, much like my client did, you live and you learn.

  • It’s Willamette, Damnit!!

    August 25th, 2010

    By Danny Manus

     

    I’m sorry for not posting this sooner, but August has been one crazy month both for No BullScript and for me personally! And it started off the best way possible – in Portland at the Willamette Writers Conference. This was my 4th – possibly 5th – year going to the conference. To be honest, I don’t remember how many years it’s been. But once again, it did not disappoint and is still one of my favorite Writers Conferences of the year.

     

    The Willamette Conference has a very different vibe than the conferences in Los Angeles I attend. First, it’s probably 60% literary – so there are lots of smart book people walking around. They are usually pretty scared of us film folk and keep a good distance.

     

    There’s definitely an invisible wall between the book and film executives no matter how hard we all try to knock it down. Portland’s a fun town, and after a full day of giving classes, taking pitches, and using our brains, the film execs like to go out and have some fun. We try to include the bookies, but every year they choose to return to their comfy hotel rooms and read themselves to sleep. Oh well.

    However, on friday night, we did all attend a lovely dinner together which made me look at baby carrots in a whole new way. It was…an interesting dinner. And if anyone is ever looking for a passionate, verbose chef, let me know – I have just the guy for you! For all the other late night hi-jinx, well, I’m afraid Vegas isn’t the only city that can keep a secret.

     

    The writers in Portland are also very different from LA writers. Many are older, many are published authors, and many like to write smaller personal journey stories. There’s nothing wrong with this, but as I’ve always preached – know your audience. There were some BIG name companies there this year – Fox 2000, GK Films, New Line, William Morris Endeavor, etc. – and they don’t want to hear tiny little personal journey stories. They want to hear something exciting and commercial and something that jumps off the page without even reading a page. Out of the 30ish pitches I heard, at least half of them were set in Portland. Writers write what they know – I get that – but let your imagination take you to other places in your writing.

     

    Now, Portland has some amazing stories – dark, awesome stories. It’s the number one city in the country for sex trafficking. It also has more strip clubs per capita than any other city in the country (um, so I hear). And yet almost every Portland-set story I was pitched was a low budget dramedy or drama or comedy.  However, it’s still better than last year where all I got were period pieces.

     

    One thing I will say about the Portland writers – they are all such nice people. They are amazingly welcoming and sweet and will bend over backwards to help you, and that’s always appreciated. Especially since in LA, they will bend over backwards to stab you in the back.  And Willamette writers truly want to learn. They don’t JUST show up to pitch things, as many in LA do. They WANT to take the classes – they pay attention and take notes. They really seem to take everything in and want to get better and that’s the best quality for a writer to have.

     

    I sat on 2 panels and taught two classes – “Become Your Own Development Exec,” which went over very well and “Loglines, Query Letter and One-Sheets…Oh My!” which was a new class but was exactly what these writers needed. I got great compliments on it and I hope everyone else enjoyed it as much as I did. I got to read through everyone’s loglines and show them what they needed. I wish I had taught this class on Friday instead of Sunday because out of the 30ish pitches, only about 3 had actual loglines. Most writers had taglines or short synopses, but almost NONE of the writers had a real logline. Hopefully after taking my class, I’ll come back next year to find a bunch of wonderfully constructed and sellable loglines!

     

    There were some great speakers and teachers there this year for film and lit – really something for every writer at every level. And the executives this year were top notch and all really cared about writers and helping them succeed. I even made some new friends, which is even better than finding a great script. It was a great mix of people and made for a really relaxed, fun and enjoyable conference.

     

    And it was a great weekend for No BullScript! We were advertising everywhere, I got to do my first book signing for my E-Book, and I have already started working with a bunch of new clients from the conference! I’d like to send a BIG THANK YOU to Gibran, Diane, Elisa, Joan, Julio, Donna and Robert, Stefan, Nancy (for bringing me there years ago) and everyone else at the conference! You’re awesome!

     

    And I can’t wait to come back next year! Perhaps by then I will have learned how to correctly pronounce Willamette, which I still mess up after all these years. It’s Willamette, Damnit!

     

    Spartacus!

  • The Dirt from Willamette Writers Conference

    August 18th, 2009

    Hello again, BullScripters! First, I’d like to thank you all for checking out the site and being so supportive. This company has been growing leaps and bounds the last few months and that is due to all of you! And look for many more new updates in the coming month or so! And thanks for checking out my articles on the BOSI website and for all the great feedback.

     

    Anyway, I had the pleasure of attending the Willamette Writers Conference (pronounced Will-AM-ette – and dont you forget it!) in Portland Oregon last weekend. It’s my 4th year going I believe and it’s always a good time! Now, the number one rule for execs about pitchfests is – you don’t talk about pitchfests. Or at least what happens after the pitching is over and nighttime activities commence. Needless to say, the last few years in Portland have been action packed and we always come back to LA with plenty of fun stories to share (or use as blackmail material haha).

     

    This year, however, we chose to be a bit more understated. Sure, we still sang TV theme songs at the top of our lungs in the Oregon Culinary Institute. And we still hit the dive bars and drank cheap beer like it was water. But it was a much more low-key event this year. Perhaps we’re all just getting old. It has been an ongoing trend (and joke) that the film execs go out and party ‘til 4am and the book execs all go back to the hotel, read and go to sleep by 11. And that is pretty accurate. Though this year, perhaps we all felt a bit more bookish. I’m not saying we didn’t party, but the party ended earlier than it used to.

     

    On the pitching side of things, the people that attend the Portland conference are always so nice and gracious. Sure, there was the older woman who propositioned the exec panel for sex. And sure last year, there was the guy who thought his story about father daughter incest was a commercial project for a teen audience. And sure, there was the guy in the blindingly bright silk suit and pompadour who made me wonder what his day job was. But that’s what makes these events fun!

     

    I heard some good pitches and asked for a few scripts, though not as many as I normally ask for. I have noticed a couple trends with the Portland conference as far as material goes. First, I hear more stories that involve spirituality, magic, Native American rituals, and things like that in Portland than almost anywhere else (Santa Fe had a bunch of Native American based stories too). And I have to say – these don’t sell. Broad audiences don’t care about Native American stories and they don’t care about spiritualism. I just can’t sell it.  As I mentioned in my recent article on www.businessofshowinstitute.com, I also got a ton of period piece pitches despite making it very clear that we are not interested in period pieces. Perhaps it’s because Portland writers have always been a slightly older crowd and those types of stories appeal to that demographic, but that’s not the demographic we as producers cater to.  The third type of pitch we get a great deal of in Portland is the book to movie adaptation. Willamette started as a book conference and it is still a HUGE and very valuable part of the conference (even more so than the film part), but it’s really hard for us to buy into a pitch for a book by a first time writer if the screenplay isn’t written yet simply because – we don’t know if you can write that adaptation. You’ve got to write a screenplay first. That being said, I did find some good stuff and am starting to go through it all now.

     

    The classes at Willamette are great. Some are better than others, but the few that I got to observe briefly were really enlightening. I don’t get to meet many book people or hear them speak, so I relish the chance to learn a bit more about that world (especially since I’m working on my first book). Even though I didn’t get to teach my No B.S. Pitchfest Class, my Living in and Indie World class went wonderfully and we had a really great turn out. I hope everyone got as much out of it and enjoyed it as much as I did. I can’t wait to come back next year, if they’ll have me, and hopefully I will be teaching many more classes.  And at the end of the day, I met a bunch of wonderful other execs, managers, agents and book people that I hadn’t met before, and networking is always the name of the game!

     

    Thanks to all the wonderful organizers and volunteers. A BIG special thanks to Gibran Perrone (who is just awesome), Ann Buenzli (a great help!), Nancy Froeschle (who didn’t run things this year but is still awesome), Elisa Klein, writer Robert Kienbaum, Mary and everyone else there!

     

    Next up on the No Bull Tour is Dallas in September…so stay tuned for more info!! Til then, Keep Writing!

     

     

  • The Santa Fe Screenwriting Conference (SCSFE)

    July 22nd, 2009

    I realize this is coming a bit late, but I had the great pleasure of being a guest lecturer as well as take pitches at the Sante Fe Screenwriting Conference about 6 weeks ago and I have to say – I’ve done a bunch of these conferences and pitchfests, but this one may be the most fun I’ve had.

     

    I should have known I was in for a good weekend when the 75 year old woman who met me at the airport told me we had to go back to her house first to pick up her hearing aid. Along the way, we crossed the intersection of “Gun Club Road” and “Coors Blvd.” I couldn’t make that up! We went on to get lost for an hour in the dark (it was after midnight) and we didn’t make it to the hotel until 1:30am. A two hour ride from the airport, when the flight from LA was only an hour and a half. But it was a fun adventure, capped off by getting goosed the next day by my white haired chauffeur.

     

    Now, not only did the conference have great classes (if I do say so myself), but they don’t run the execs and teachers into the ground. We don’t start at 8am and go straight through until 6pm. I had time to do some sight seeing, relax, and even visit a wonderful Japanese Spa. I realize I live in LA, but I never get to do anything remotely nice or relaxing, so I took advantage of the opportunity. I even got a nice tan, though I think my body, which hasn’t seen the sun since I was 12, still hates me for it. But this conference really had a nice blend of busy and laid back. The programmers understood that execs really don’t like hearing pitches at 8am and going for 5 hours straight, and doing so only hurts writers’ chances.

     

    The conference seemed to be a big success. My classes were both very well attended, with my pitchfest class being standing room only. I love that. Quite frankly, my other class didn’t go quite as well as I would have liked, but that was my fault. I tried to change my spiel but kept forgetting that I had changed it. Oh well, live and learn.

     

    The other execs and I had a wonderful time sampling Santa Fe’s…ambience. And by ambience, I mean beer. I would love to tell you more, but the first rule of Pitchfest is…you don’t talk about pitchfest. At least not what happens at night.

     

    The pitchfest itself was crazy. I was booked the whole time, and even went about a half hour over. I heard some good pitches and some bad pitches, but happily, I think I only got one or two ridiculous pitches, which is far below the average number I usually get. And only 2 or 3 people made me want to back up slowly out of the room. Ha!  Actually, I was highly impressed with how prepared most of the writers were to pitch (the other execs said so as well). Sure, most still didn’t know what “commercial” means or how it relates to story, but that’s to be expected. I asked for about 10 scripts, which is a lot for an exec to ask for.

     

    And I will break the news here – Clifford Werber and I have decided to come aboard to produce one of the scripts I found at the conference and the writer is currently doing a new draft with our notes. The writer is New Mexico’s own Hannah MacPherson and we look forward to working on her great horror project. In addition, there were at least 2 other writers that I was incredibly impressed with and perhaps could work with in the future.

     

    In the van on the way to the airport, all the other execs (a bunch of guys this time around) all shared our stories of best, worst and most creepy. And at the end of the day, not only did I meet some great lecturers, writers, and volunteers, but I made a new group of friends that I can now call to send them my projects – and that’s what it’s all about. And I got to have a great conversation with Emmy Winning writer Kirk Ellis (“John Adams”) and fellow lecturers Karl Iglesias and Cynthia Witcomb, all of whom got rave reviews for their workshops. And I hear I did a nice job as well…

     

    Now, there were a few downsides. I thought a couple of the people teaching weren’t quite qualified enough or weren’t doing the writers enough of a service. No, I won’t tell you whom. And then there was the issue of food. I didn’t realize that Santa Fe closes at 9:30pm, and I don’t like to eat very early, so I went without dinner for the first two nights. Cheez-it’s are not meant to be an entrée. They didn’t even have bottled water at the hotel (I know – I sound like an LA snob, sorry!). Though the hotel did have a delicious melon and cucumber water in the lobby – but that was gone by 6pm! The hotel was lovely, despite some reservation issues, but they really need to keep room service going past 6pm!

     

    But I want to give a big thanks to Larry and his wonderful volunteers (Laura, Steve, Vicky, Jason, etc) and I can’t wait to return next year! I highly recommend this event for both writers wanting to get some real personal attention and learn their craft, and for execs who want to get out of LA for a while and maybe find some great material.

  • He’s Just Not That Into You…Or Your Writing

    July 3rd, 2009

    For a writer, dealing with an executive is often a bit more like dating than business. And in a courtship, sometimes less is more. And much like in dating, making the wrong move at the wrong time, or sending the wrong message, can often end a relationship prematurely. One of the biggest concerns of writers – and understandably one of their biggest frustrations – is what to do after they’ve actually submitted their script. You’ve gotten the okay to send the script, you’ve made sure it’s professional and ready, and you’ve sent it with a lovely cover letter. And now…you wait. Sound familiar?

    How long do you wait? Do you make contact first? Is there a three week rule the same way there’s a three day rule before calling a girl back? The honest answer is – in general, you wait until they get back to you. But this all depends on the situation. If you are represented, you should have your agent or manager get in touch with the exec in about 2-3 weeks time. If you are unrepresented but had an actual in-person meeting with the exec, during which they gave you his or her card, then you should follow up yourself in about three weeks time. If the exec promised to get back to you in a couple of days, then maybe follow up in two weeks instead of three. If your submission resulted from a pitchfest or cold query, then I would probably wait about a month to contact the exec you sent the script to.

    So, let’s say hypothetically, you met with an exec, but you’re not represented. It’s been three weeks and they have not gotten back to you (and by the way, holidays are not counted in that time so if you submitted your script the Monday of Thanksgiving week – don’t even bother counting it). What should you do? Write them a very short and sweet email with the subject line being your script’s title and maybe something quick like “Checking in.” And in the email, all you need is one succinct and respectful line that goes something like:

    “Dear So and So,
    Just wanted to drop you a line and see if you’ve had a chance to read “my script.” I look forward to your thoughts.
    Best regards,
    Your Name.”

    That’s it. Do NOT point out that you submitted it over a month ago. Do not point out that the exec had promised to get back to you in a week or two. Do NOT reiterate what your story was, how great it is, or how perfect it would be for their company. You already made your pitch – that’s why they’re reading the script. All you need to do is gently remind them that they haven’t responded yet, and that one line will do that.

    Here’s what NOT to do:

    “Dear So and So,
    I submitted my script “Called This” over a month ago and I haven’t heard back from you yet. You had given me your card and thought it was a great pitch. I really think that “Called This” is the perfect script for you. It’s incredibly original with great characters and blah blah blah. I hope you get back to me soon.
    Sincerely,
    Your name”

    Writing something like this shows a lack of professionalism and tact and your script will probably be tossed in the pass pile. And even more important than not writing something like this, is not writing more than ONE follow up email. So, keep it short, sweet and professional…and then wait. Patience is a virtue. Execs read anywhere from seven to 25 scripts a week so you just don’t know if you’ve caught them on a busy week or not. Don’t think that just because he hasn’t gotten back to you, that he’s not interested or didn’t like your writing. Now if it’s been over three months, then chances are your writing was so bad that the exec didn’t feel he needed to waste time responding, but don’t get paranoid if it’s only been a few weeks.

    Getting a second “date” with an exec isn’t hard – you just have to make a good first impression.

    And maybe wear something low cut. No not you, sir. Just kidding.

    Best of luck and keep writing!

  • I’ll Put A Spell On You

    July 3rd, 2009

    Quite a few writers lately have asked me if typos and grammatical mistakes are a big enough reason for me to pass on a project. My quick answer is YES. I then ask them: “Why do you ask? Do you intend on writing something with lots of typos?” It almost seems like a silly question for a writer to ask. Are you worried that you can’t spell? Many of history’s greatest writers have stated publicly that they are horrible spellers or never passed a grammar class. Well, that’s okay because guess what – there’s a program that can help you with that.

    One of my biggest personal pet peeves is spelling and grammar. Maybe part of that is because my mother is an English teacher and when I used bad grammar, she’d give me the eye. But the real reason is two-fold:

    1. It distracts me. It takes me out of the story and the writing because now I’m counting and correcting spelling instead of connecting to your characters or trying to figure out the big picture of your script.

    2. It tells me that you are a lazy and sloppy writer, and I don’t like to work with lazy writers. It takes so very little time to run a spell check or grammar check and you, the writer, should be going over every word of your script with a fine-toothed comb before you submit it anywhere – even to a script consultant.

    However, never in the history of screenwriting has a script been passed on because it had one or two misspelled words. Okay, maybe Scott Rudin did it once, but it was a busy day. So when I say typos, I don’t mean a couple. I mean if there are one or two typos on EVERY page (or every 5 pages)…then yeah, I might pass because I don’t think you worked hard enough to make it look professional.

    The bottom line is – with the myriad of reasons executives and analysts have to pass on your script, why would you want to give them one more? Especially something you have full control over. You can’t control what else they have in development or what genre they are looking for, but you can make sure that your script looks professional. If I find two scripts in the same genre that I love equally, which script do you think I’m going to want to read again and again – the one with typos and mis-wordings and grammatical mistakes on every page (which also tells me they will be there in all subsequent drafts), or the one that reads clean and easy and keeps my head in the story?

    Do yourself a favor…never ask an exec the question about typos again and instead, ask the following question of yourself: “Is my script the best representation of my ability as a writer?” And then make sure you spelled the question right.

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