#screenwriting #studios #suck
“This post has been sitting in draft mode since April 25th which when you read it will drive home once again that age-old lesson: Don’t procrastinate!
As many of you are aware – and certainly after this message – the fate of myPDFscripts, and indeed any online screenplay resource is quite uncertain. After decades of ignoring the practice of sites hosting screenplays online, movie studios have begun aggressively asserting their legal rights to have scripts for which they own the copyright taken offline.
These moves have very real consequences. As I noted in my post:
What is an aspiring screenwriter, TV writer, or filmmaker supposed to do? Or educators? How are people supposed to teach and learn the craft of writing a screenplay if the studios decide to make all of their movie or TV scripts unavailable online?
And then I suggested this:
What if by making movie screenplays easily available so writers could read and analyze them, writers would improve at their craft, more and better scripts would end up on studio execs’ desks, more and better movies would get produced, resulting in bigger B.O. and more valuable titles in the studios’ libraries.
And to be clear, we are not talking about scripts in development for future movies, which studios justifiably have a concern about protecting in terms of content going public, but rather screenplays of movies that have already been produced.
Why not create eScripts and sell them to the public? Or perhaps that’s too obvious a solution.
That led to conversations with Franklin Leonard and Nate Winslow where I suggested posting a ‘modest proposal’. Here are the specifics I had in the aforementioned draft:
Let me begin with this site. This is called WBShop and here you can buy virtually anything related to Warner Bros. products. DVDs, T-shirts, comic books, coffee cups, soundtracks, collectibles, toys, games, costumes, and so on.
I say virtually anything. Warner Bros. has every goddammed thing available for sale… but no movie scripts.
So here’s is a modest proposal to the movie studios to try to find a middle ground solution re script access.
#1: Every script that is available for movies that is on the National Registry? The studios should just let them be available for open circulation. It’s a part of our country’s cinematic heritage! Plus good corporate neighbor policy.
#2: If a screenwriter requests a script they wrote to be available online, the studio should honor that request. As I understand it, if the writer has separated rights, they may:
a. Publication rights. The writer obtains the right to publish the script, or book(s) based on the script, subject to a holdback period. The Company, however, has the right to cause a novelization to be published in conjunction with the release of the film, for the purpose of……….”
#screenwriting #television #film
A few years ago (pre-strike, though it is impolitic to say so), studios developed lots of material. Many creative minds (that would be writers) doing lots of good work led to lots of options for the studios as to what made it to the screen. Even though there was a lot more development then, the costs were small compared to the rest of the movie-making process. Writers are, for better or worse, usually a tiny percentage of a major studio film’s budget. As the corporations that own the studios searched for ways to cut spending, writers became an obvious target. All of these writers being paid for things that never got made? Preposterous! Development funds were slashed and the number of good scripts in circulation cratered.
Ironically, although this has been difficult for writers as a whole, the ones hardest hit by this disastrous policy are the studios themselves. They have crippled themselves in their ability to make good films.
Screenwriters are essentially the research and development departments of the film industry. Like any other business, a quick way to boost profits is to cut way back on research. But that costs companies in the long run, because they’re unlikely to have innovative products down the road.
Television hasn’t cut back in the same way. Even with the rise of reality television, the number of pilots ordered has increased, reaching a high of 169 produced pilots last year.
I don’t think it’s coincidence that TV has hit so many home runs lately. They’re taking more swings.
Television pilots cost several million dollars each — more money than any feature is likely to spend on a script. But in TV, shooting a pilot that doesn’t get picked up isn’t considered a failure. It’s par for the course. It’s the cost of doing business.
Poirier wishes movie studios would emulate the TV mindset:
More writers working on more projects, with more freedom as to where the story leads, and with the knowledge that they have partners at the studio they can trust to see the solutions as well as the issues; this is what will return movies to their rightful place as the most fertile ground for good storytelling. The corporations that run Hollywood now and the MBAs that develop for them must come to see that writers are, in practicality, the smallest expense in the entire pipeline.
There’s always the risk of a golden-age fallacy — things were so much better back then— and truthfully, writing for television can suck in its ………..”
Written Interview: Nick Hornby & David Simon
#screenwriting #film #television
““The Wire” is the best TV series ever. And if you do a Google search of this site, you will find multiple posts about the series and its creator David Simon. Indeed a prized possession of mine is Simon’s 1991 book “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets,” one of the best non-fiction works I’ve ever read and the basis of my second favorite TV series “Homicide: Life on the Streets.”
So I was thrilled when @webacion tweeted this interview Simon did with another of my favorite authors Nick Hornby (“Fever Pitch,” “High Fidelity,” “About a Boy”).
NICK HORNBY: Can I start by asking you something about the writing? How did you kick it off? All the seasons have had very unconventional shapes and paces to them, I think. Did you have something different in mind before you started, or did that happen during the creation of the series?
DAVID SIMON: I think what you sense in The Wire is that it is violating a good many of the conventions and tropes of episodic television. It isn’t really structured as episodic television and it instead pursues the form of the modern, multi-POV novel. Why? Primarily because the creators and contributors are not by training or inclination television writers. In fact, it is a little bit remarkable that we ended up with a television drama on HBO or anywhere else. I am a newspaper reporter by training who wrote a couple long, multi-POV nonfiction narratives, Homicide and The Corner. The first became the basis for the NBC drama of the same name; the second I was able to produce as a miniseries for HBO, airing in 2000. Both works are the result of a journalistic impulse, the first recounting a year I spent with the Baltimore Police Department’s Homicide Unit, and the second book detailing a year spent in a drug-saturated West Baltimore neighborhood, following an extended, drug-involved family. Ed Burns, my coauthor on The Corner and co-creator on The Wire, was a homicide detective who served in the BPD for twenty years and, following that for seven years, a seventh-grade teacher at a Baltimore public school. The remaining writers—Richard Price [Clockers], Dennis Lehane [Mystic River], and George Pelecanos [The Night Gardener]—are novelists working at the highest level of the crime genre. Bill Zorzi covered state and municipal politics for the Baltimore Sun for twenty years; Rafael Alvarez, another Sun veteran, worked as a merchant seaman and comes from two generations of port workers. So we are all rooted in a different place than Hollywood.
We got the gig because as my newspaper was bought and butchered by an out-of-town newspaper chain, I was offered the chance to write scripts, and ultimately, to learn to produce television by the fellows who were turning my first book into Homicide: Life on the Street. I took that gig and ultimately, I was able to produce the second book for HBO on my own. Following that miniseries, HBO agreed to look at The Wire scripts. So I made an improbable and in many ways unplanned transition from journalist/author to TV producer. It was not a predictable transformation and I am vaguely amused that it actually happened. If I had a plan, it was to grow old on the Baltimore Sun’s copy desk, bumming cigarettes from young reporters and telling lies about what it was like working with H. L. Mencken and William Manchester.
Another reason the show may feel different than a lot of television: our model is not quite so Shakespearean as other high-end HBO fare. The Sopranos and Deadwood—two shows that I do admire—offer a good deal of Macbeth or Richard III or Hamlet in their focus on the angst and machinations of the central characters (Tony Soprano, Al Swearengen). Much of our modern theater seems rooted in the Shakespearean discovery of the modern mind. We’re stealing instead from an earlier, less-traveled construct—the Greeks—lifting our thematic stance wholesale from Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides to create doomed and fated protagonists who confront a rigged game and their own mortality. The modern mind—particularly those of us in the West—finds such fatalism ancient and discomfiting, I think. We are a pretty self-actualized, self-worshipping crowd of postmoderns and the idea that for all of our wherewithal and discretionary income and leisure, we’re still fated by indifferent gods, feels to us antiquated and superstitious. We don’t accept our gods on such terms anymore; by and large, with the exception of the fundamentalists among us, we don’t even grant Yahweh himself that kind of unbridled, interventionist………”
#screenwriting #film #screenplay
“One question I get a lot is “How do I get an agent?” My first reply is usually, “Do you REALLY NEED one?” This is because, nine times out of ten, the writer asking the question is at the start of his or her writing journey and prizes getting an agent as his/her validation in STARTING that journey, when in reality, agents are not likely to be interested in writers who are just “beginning”. If that is you, then my recommendation would be to a) write a selection of scripts so you have a portfolio and b) collaborate and network as much possible FIRST.
If however you have already done those first two steps, plus have any of the following:
1) Have produced credits (TV or Film, usually paid, rather than collaborations - though if your piece has done VERY well, especially commercially this may swing it for you on the latter. Note agents may not be interested in short film UNLESS it has done spectacularly well on the festival circuit and has won awards)
2) You may be a professional writer in another field (You may have done corporate work or journalism, or have a social media brand, or worked in theatre; you may have written novel tie-ins for existing, successful television franchises; you may have been involved in award winning advertisements or won awards for your newspaper pieces; you may have worked in the games and toys market; you may have a huge online following on Twitter or have a blog with many hits, usually about a fictional work but also about scriptwriting or associated content; you may have created a new media phenomenon or have toured theatres with your play)
3) Recommendations/referrals from producers, directors or other writers (They will have read your work and are prepared to stand by their word for you in this case)
4) Have won or placed highly (ie. Finalist) in any Big Name scriptwriting contests (ie. BlueCat, Scriptapolooza, Red Planet Prize, The Peter Ustinov Prize, Final Draft Big Break, you may have had your work showcased by The Rocliffe Forum or similar - do note UK agents *may* not be interested in contests on their own, but in conjunction in one of the other elements too).
5) Favourable coverage from any big name script reading company (ie. “Consider” or above.)
6) Options or interest from big……”
#screenwriting #writer #screenplay
“……..while watching TALES FROM THE SCRIPT, I realized how similar writing is to martial arts.
Persistence, determination and belief in oneself are needed to finish any script or novel. Coincidentally, those qualities are also found in a martial artist.
Let’s compare the journeys:
MA: We train by repeating blocks, kicks and punches over and over until sweat drips from our bodies.
Writer: The first draft is never good enough, so we write it over and over, until our brain and fingers throb.
2. Fighting under pressure:
MA: Once you’ve trained hard enough, the moves become “muscle memory”. When under the pressure of fighting, we need our moves to occur without thought.
Writer: When you’re under a deadline, you need your words to flow effortlessly. That won’t happen if you spend your days procrastinating and not putting words down on paper (side note: the program Write or Die is fantastic at honing your writing-under-pressure skills).
3. Being tested by your Master:
MA: The test day for your next belt arrives. If you’ve practiced, your Master will know it and reward you. But if you haven’t, he can see it with one look into your eyes. There’s no way to fake being ready.
Writer: Every time you send out your work, you’re being tested. Are you prepared? Did you do as many drafts necessary to make it your best? Will your work be viewed as amateur or professional? Do you have the stamina to wait for, and then deal with, the feedback? It’s a test. It’s always a test.
4. Number one rule of fighting is to avoid a fight at all cost:
MA: Never, ever fight if you don’t have to. Only fight if it’s…..”