RSS icon Home icon
LinkedIn Twitter Facebook

  • 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!*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!!

  • 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!



  • Vancouver Pitchmarket Review – Updated!!

    March 17th, 2010

    This year for the Oscars, I was in Vancouver for the first annual Pitchmarket 2010, a screenwriting conference run by FTX West, where I was invited to teach a couple classes and take pitches. Now I had been to Vancouver a few years ago for a pitchfest event and one of the same people were running this event. So I was really looking forward to returning to Vancouver! I love the city of Vancouver – it’s like NY but cleaner, nicer and smaller. And everyone says ‘sorry’ when they bump into you on the street.


    Now, the Olympics had just ended a week prior to my arrival, but the spirit was still in the air – as was much of the signage and posters, which was cool with me. The cab drivers and business owners seemed much more relaxed however.


    I always look forward to these conferences – especially when they are outside of Los Angeles. It’s nice to get away, and Canada is sadly about as far as I get to travel to (seriously, doesn’t anyone in Europe need some screenwriting help?). I landed Friday afternoon after a delayed flight and as I was landing, my popping ears made me realize – oh yeah, I’m getting sick. And flying hurts. Good times.


    Once I landed, I was taken to my hotel which was…not what I expected. It was more like a residential living facility. Now the rooms were very nice and had beautiful views of all of Downtown Vancouver and the Mountains. But the Worldmark “Hotel” did lack a few things – air conditioning, wifi internet, toiletries and maid service. Thank God for Blackberries or else the other executives probably would have demanded another hotel. I don’t want to make it seem like LA Execs are prima donnas – but we are sometimes. I’m a really easy person to please – but when you’re sick, in another Country and you have a million things to do, little hotel perks go a long way.


    Anywho, I taught my classes Saturday morning – How to be Your Own Development Exec and No BS Guide to Pitchfests. They both were very well attended and I thought they went great (I will hopefully post some pictures soon!). The writers really seemed to respond to my No BullShit approach and they all seemed to take away something from the seminars. I was really impressed with the writers there, who all had some great questions and seemed really interested! Or maybe they were just placating me haha!  And I had brought some of my E-Books, which also sold pretty well. I can always tell even from looking at writers in my class, which ones are going to do well in their pitches. It’s like a 6th sense but without dead people.



    Saturday afternoon I had all to myself to play in Vancouver. I love days like this. And despite being increasingly under the weather, I was not going to let a cold ruin a beautiful day. So, I took a long walk down to the water and caught a SeaTrain over to North Vancouver and explored a bit. Then came back and walked all the way back to the hotel. That night, we had a lovely dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and I was finally able to socialize and meet some of the other execs attending (they arrived later than I did so I hadn’t seen them yet). A couple of agents, a couple managers, and me. There weren’t that many execs from LA brought to the conference but we had a nice little group. I won’t dare repeat the items discussed at the dinner table, but a good time was had by all.


    That night, a group of the LA execs went out and partied. I probably shouldn’t have, but I can’t turn down a good time. One of the agents knew an actress in town who knew some club promoters and we all got into a couple fun hotspots. But it had been a LOOONG day with no nap time, so most of us were back to the hotel by 1am, a pretty mild night considering.


    Sunday was pitch day, but I woke up in Hell. I normally really enjoy the constant pitching, but my ears, nose, throat and body hurt. I had been taking cold pills since Saturday morning but they weren’t working. So I got MORE pills. And I could barely speak (teaching for 4 hours and screaming over music in the bars probably didn’t help). I will admit I became a bit of a diva and had someone get me tea and cold pills as the pitching began. THANK YOU to all the volunteers who helped me out!


    I was actually pleasantly surprised – the pitches weren’t bad at all. I probably heard about 30-40 pitches in 10 minute increments. And only a couple were really bad. Most had taken my class the day before and knew what I wanted to hear. And the ones that didn’t…well…it was obvious. Only one man sat down and said, “This isn’t my best work…you’re going to hate it…I don’t even know why I’m pitching this…” before he even told me his title. Never lose before you even play the game. You need to be confident and sell yourself and your project even if you’re unsure.


    And one other gentleman sat down and said he wanted to do a reality TV series on a very general topic, which I won’t mention, but didn’t have any idea on an angle, hook or premise. And when I politely told him that we don’t do reality TV – he just kept pushing. There was nothing I could do for him, so when I realized he was going to sit there for the whole 10 minutes instead of letting me sneeze and breathe in peace, I had to tell him that he needed to go back to the drawing board.


    If you just have an idea for something but no hook, angle, premise, concept, or story – guess what – you don’t have enough! You need to be specific and educated on the topic. I actually thought his broad concept could be an interesting half hour sports special, but it wasn’t not a series. And even if it WAS – I don’t do reality TV! Pitching me harder isn’t going to make me become a reality TV producer!


    I think the most common note I gave was that the writers’ story wasn’t going in the best direction possible or the set up wasn’t as good as it could be. Sometimes a writer has such a good idea but you can see the minute where it just went off-track and you want so badly to pull it back on the road and set them straight. That’s what I tried to do in my pitches.


    Out of the 30-40 pitches I heard, I asked for about 5 or 6 scripts, which is about an average number for these events. So who knows…maybe one of these will totally blow me away. I got a few pitches that really sounded great and I’m hoping the scripts live up to the hype!!


    Sunday night was our Oscar Party and while it was perfectly nice and fun and the food was pretty darn tasty (not to mention the free vodka!), I was full blown sick. I felt like crap. I was coughing and sneezing and worried about the plane ride home I’d be taking in 24 hours. So, once Avatar lost and Sandra Bullock won, I decided to forgo the late-night festivities and actually went back to the hotel, got all kinds of fuzzy on cold pills, and passed out before midnight. When I woke up, I only felt slightly better but the cough had gotten worse as had my ears. I was afraid my ear drums would literally rupture on the plane, but I was going to have to brave that chance.


    I bought ear-planes – the earplugs for planes that have been tested by like the Navy – so I figured those would help. And thankfully, I found a wonderful plane-buddy in Ellen Sandler, one of the other speakers at the conference and an Emmy-nominated exec producer and writer for “Everybody Loves Raymond.” She by chance had changed her seat and was now stuck sitting next to me. But we chatted the whole way about the business and writing and she even read my E-Book and loved it, which I took as a great compliment as her book is fantastic and quite successful.


    She was even nice enough to drive me home….awwww….I was thrilled to have gotten to know her on this trip and hopefully we will work together soon. I finally landed – with only minimal ear pain upon landing – but I was half deaf with totally clogged ears. Small price to pay I suppose for a fun and productive weekend in Vancouver!


    I want to send a big thank you to all the volunteers, helpers, sponsors, etc that helped put on a great event and chauferred my sick butt around! But most of all, I’d like to thank Danika Dinsmore who did a great job with the classes and pitchfest, Marcy Schacter, who put together a great event and kept it moving, and Joan MacBeth for suggesting that I attend!


    For those wondering, I’m hoping to be back in Vancouver before the end of the year to do a weekend of classes with Biz Books and Capilano University. I’ll keep ya posted! And if you know of a conference or group in YOUR town that is looking for a speaker, please, let me know. And hopefully I’ll see you all soon!

  • Bringing Spiritualism to the Screen – God Help You

    November 30th, 2009

    As I travel the country speaking to new groups of writers and attending pitchfests and conferences outside of Los Angeles, a certain trend in the types of material I hear has become clear and it alludes to a huge cultural difference between those who live in LA and NY and those who live elsewhere.


    At an LA-based pitching conference, perhaps 5 out of 100 pitches I receive revolve around spirituality, new age religion or some faith-infused plotline. But at recent trips to Santa Fe, Portland, and Dallas, I would say at least 40% of the total projects I was pitched or consulted on were based on spirituality in some form, including some sort of Native American angle or practice. Since Native Americans currently only make up about 5% of the U.S. population, why do people think this would be a big commercial success?


    And why is this observation of the connection between location and religion important? Because if no one in LA connects to this spiritual/new age/true believers movement, then why would we make a movie about it? Now, Los Angelinos are known for being progressive, spiritual and new age, but we’re more the organic, yoga, too lazy for real religion type of progressive. Screenwriters and producers in Los Angeles worship a different deity…and it’s green and fits in your wallet. I am convinced that this difference in attitude towards religion is what’s keeping many writers from writing a commercial project – because they think religion IS commercial…and it’s not.


    Religious types will often retort with how successful “Passion of the Christ” was – and it was – but that was an anomaly directed by Mel Gibson. Now, there is a huge book market for these types of projects and most of these pitches would make for great novels, just not movies.


    There is also a big and potentially profitable niche market for faith-based movies – “Fireproof” proved that one. However, this is a mostly Christian market and we all know how Christians feel when someone tries to horn in on Jesus. So, there really is no market for new age spirituality or Native American tradition. I cannot think of one company that is actively looking for anything like this. If I’m wrong, please – companies – tell me so because I got about 100 pitches I’d like to send your way.


    I respect how important spiritualism is to some people and if there is some sort of religious theme you would like to express through a completely unrelated story, that’s fine. Or maybe you read a passage in the Bible and it inspires an idea for a horror or action movie – that’s fine. Or maybe a character’s spiritual beliefs are a small part of his or her arc – that’s fine too. You just have to be aware of how much you are including the religious/spiritual aspects on the page. I understand trying to bring one’s religious beliefs to a larger audience – but that’s what Republicans are for, not screenwriters. As a general rule, if you want to write a commercial and mainstream Hollywood movie, keep your religious beliefs in your heart and your head, not on the page.

  • All About Instinct

    July 3rd, 2009

    What is it that would propel a writer to jot down one hundred and thirty pages about the one-legged woman who married the inventor of the soybean? Or a story about the quadriplegic midget who falls in love with a gold miner in 1886? Or a nice sentimental drama about a man who was raped be a seal?

    The answer – bad instincts. That thing every writer has inside of them that basically serves as their navigation tool – their story compass – that points their script in a certain direction. They can kill a writer’s career long before it ever starts. If your instincts drive you to a completely noncommercial, ridiculous, boring, inappropriate, or confusing place – there’s not much we can do for you. And by the way, I have been pitched at least ONE of the stories in the first paragraph.

    One of the most common remarks you’ll overhear an executive say at a pitchfest, is “we can tell the writer just has bad instincts.” We can usually tell if you have the right instincts, but often bad instincts can be disguised by a great pitch. I’ve had pitches that blew me away but when I started reading the script, the characters were downright despicable and the story went into odd, random directions that were never even discussed in the pitch.

    It’s THE dreaded comment really, because most other things can be fixed or improved upon with a little hard work and dedication, but we can’t change a writer’s instincts. Sure, we can change the story your instincts have driven you to write, but to change a writer’s instincts is like pushing a 10 ton truck up a hill. It’s just too hard to try. There’s too much resistance and not enough upside, because a writer with bad instincts is like dead weight on the page. It’s also the most frustrating comment for us to give, because we can see that you have a spark of a good idea or something that COULD work – if it were in another writer’s hands. And we want to take that idea from you and make it what it SHOULD be – and sometimes we are tempted. But we know that giving you notes to change your whole story is only going to anger you and waste our time. There’s nothing we can do but show you alternate directions for which to take your story, but ultimately, if a writer wants to write a story about a quadriplegic midget who buys a horse, nothing we say is going to make him reconsider.

    There are a number of things that go into shaping a writer’s instincts. Much like how one’s upbringing and relationships growing up affect their future relationships, it also affects their writing. If you were born on a hippy commune, your first script might be an anti-government conspiracy tale. If you come from a home with divorced parents, your first script might be an “American Beauty” wannabe (as my first script was). This is because when you start your writing career, everyone tells you to write what you know. I always tell people to write what is in them to write – and then put it aside and write something that can sell.

    How do you know if you have good instincts? Well, let’s say you have a great general set-up but you’re not sure what direction to take your story in. For example, your set-up is a guy falls in love with his lifelong best friend’s girl. Common enough right? What’s going to show us you have good instincts is your take on how this occurs, why this occurs, and where it goes once it has occurred. If you have poor instincts, you go to the same place everyone else goes – the men fight over the girl trying to best each other being nice until she gets sick of both and they learn that friendship is more important.

    Someone with better instincts will put a different twist on that story. Perhaps instead of the girl realizing she doesn’t love them, THEY discover they don’t love her, but neither wants to lose, so they keep dating her trying to drive her to the other guy. That’s a new twist on a really old concept. I’m not saying it’s a great idea, but it’s a new twist. There are a hundred ways to go with this kind of concept, so I suggest a writer sit down and list 10 different directions you COULD go with your story – even if you have your whole story figured out. Give yourself options. Because invariably, some studio exec is going to give you the note, “we love the set-up, but is there another direction this story could go in?” And you will already have 9 more ideas to pitch them.

    Everyone says that a person’s first instinct is usually the right one – that is not the case with writing. Often it takes the rewriting and editing process for a writer to realize his or her story’s true potential!

    How do you know if it’s your concept that isn’t working or your story instincts? Pitch your story two different ways. First, pitch your project as just a high-concept logline. Then pitch your project more in depth with more of your story. If you get bites for your concept, but your story gets you rejected, then your story instincts have led you astray.

    Improving ones instincts is a great deal harder than just rewriting a script or improving your dialogue, because it goes deeper. It’s not just a line on a page, it’s what you feel in your heart. However, in order to get past your writer’s block, repeated rejection, or repetitive story rut, it’s your instincts that you’re going to have to examine.

©2010 No BullScript Consulting - All Rights Reserved     Powered by Discreet