Wednesday, May 03, 2006


I have the good fortune of having a friend who knows two readers who worked for an agency in New York. Through my friend I was able to get two of my scripts read. Because of my connection these readers sent me script critiques on both my screenplays. I was told this is normally not done, but they were making an exception for me. The good news is they both liked my scripts and said they were passing them on A.I.S, which I was told stood for "As It Stands." I was also told I was "Red lettered." Which I was also informed was a very good thing.

My question is, is it acceptable to mention this in a query or on a site like Both readers have gone on to other areas of the industry and have said it's okay with them if I mention it, but I don't want to break some industry taboo. On the other hand being a struggling screenwriter with no representation I need all the help I can get. Could you offer any advice?

There is no industry taboo and you may do whatever you feel will best serve the script.

I’m not familiar with the term “A.I.S.” - except from the low budget car insurance commercials - nor have I heard of a script being “red lettered.” But congratulations anyway, because they are impressive sounding terms and could very well fool the unsuspecting into reading your script.

I prefer to make up my own mind (or at least have people I trust read a script), so coverage from other sources does not interest or sway me. Also, when a writer boasts, “They loved my script over there,” it forces one to ask, “Then why are you pushing it here?”

However, many of the producers who search the files of INKTIP may not have the luxury of readers or a support staff. So, coverage from a reliable source could work to your benefit.

Understand that advertising good coverage may not necessarily have the effects you expect. Know your audience and use that information at your discretion.

I’m new in town and trying to network. Right away I met a lot of “fringe players” (guys who are not in the biz, but know or work for people who are--and they all “have this great idea for a movie and if I’d just write the script for them”--you know the type). My question is, how do I get to meet the “center players” (guys who are In the biz). Is it a good idea to write for fringe players in order to meet center players? Am I attending the wrong parties? Any tip on networking would be greatly appreciated.

It is definitely not a good idea to write for fringe players – unless they are going to pay you. For the record, “guys who…work for people who are (in the biz)” describes almost everyone, since 99% of us are employed by someone. Regardless, consider those “in the biz” as people who work for companies that can be verified. Even then, employees often play themselves off to be more important than they are and mislead you for their own selfish reasons. Always use common sense and don’t be so easily swayed by big talk from little people. (My rule of thumb: The bigger the talk, the bigger the bullshit.)

If your writing is “ready,” you should seek management. A good manager will enable you to hook up with the “center players.” Soon, you’re on mailing lists and going to parties and making the kind of relationships that could one day pay off.

In lounge lizard style, you could frequent the hang-outs where executives and young agents go to forget their quotidian miseries. (Of course, your presence might be an unpleasant reminder.) This needs to be approached with some panache, but buying someone a drink might buy you enough time to make some sort of connection.

If there is a particular young executive or manager (for instance) you have read about or admire, don’t be afraid to contact that person and say, “I’m a new writer in town. I admire your work. I’d like to pick your brain – no strings attached. And I’d like to take you out for lunch or drinks.” Most will say “no,” but some might say “yes.” If you’re living in town, you have opportunities that other writers (out of town) do not have, and you must exploit them to give you an edge.

Otherwise, there’s no sense in being here.

What can an Entertainment Lawyer do for the screenwriter with no representation? Can they refer a writer to agencies, managers, or Production Company or do they only write contracts someone else has arranged?

Aside from contract work, entertainment lawyers can submit material to agencies and production companies for the writer.

However, getting a good entertainment lawyer can be just as difficult as finding a good agent. Some will charge the writer by the hour (or per submission) and others will charge a percentage of earnings. (To strike a deal for the latter, the lawyer will need to have real trust in the writer’s talents.)

Like any good agent or manager, an attorney needs to have relationships; otherwise, he may be able to get your script into the agency, but it could sour at the bottom of a pile. With the amount of screenplays that enter an agency/production company, it takes a lot more than a simple admission ticket to get noticed.

There are plenty of useless entertainment attorneys who will take your money and do little in return. Choose wisely and carefully. Ultimately, for a new writer – the best bet for a rep is a manager who will develop talent and strategize to help the scribe break through.

A script of mine won a contest last year. When the winners were announced in the Reporter and Variety, I received requests from about 40 prodco's, agencies, and managers (ICM among them, actually--maybe you even read it). The responses were generally positive--story, characters, craft, dialogue--and included many invitations to submit future work. But no actual takers. (The political subject matter was often cited as a tough sell.) I realize that a sale or even an option was probably a long shot. But I feel the exposure is at least the next rung on the ladder: a few doors opened, a few official pats on the back.

So, here's my question: while I still believe in this script, should I devote the time and energy in further developing it? Additional drafts, contest submissions? I know at least one new draft will address some legitimate, specific concerns, but the core story won't change. Or should I just shelve this script as a writing sample, and move on to new projects? When is a script ever officially "dead"?

Have you noticed that despite the death of Tupac Shukar ten years ago, he continues to put out product? I read a script of his last week.The estates of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley continue to earn profits. And the Hollywood Forever Cemetery has a map to the stars’ graves.

Nothing dies in Hollywood.

There are scripts circulating this town from over ten years ago. Maybe this isn’t the right time for your prize winner. But one day, somewhere down Hollywood Blvd., you might meet someone looking for a script just like yours. However, I wouldn’t continue to tinker with it.

Move on. The script served its purpose. It won you a contest, earned you some recognition and opened some doors. You need to exploit those opportunities with a new script.

To stay competitive while breaking through, try to write three new scripts a year.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t submit it to contests or continue to use it as a writing sample but obsessively rewriting it can become a fatal attraction.

Scripts never die, they’re merely put away. When the opportunity arises, a fresh copy on clean paper and a disingenuous adjustment of the draft date will make it appear as if you've just finished writing it for the very first time.

I have been writing for about 6 years, and have optioned a couple scripts, and done well in some contests. I recently placed in the top ten of the Indieproducer's Screenplay Contest (for a script about the life of Walt Whitman), and will be coming out to Los Angeles for their awards gala on May 12.

Although I'm from Ohio, I've done fairly well in terms of making contacts and getting my stuff read. My question is, given the placement of the script in the contest, and my upcoming trip to LA, would it be worth the effort to call up some agencies or managers and tell them who I am, what my script is about, that I'll be in LA from Ohio for a few days, and would they consider meeting with me?

Or would they generally not be impressed enough to give me the time of day?

Whether they’ll be impressed or not, isn’t your concern. The squeaky wheel gets the grease in Hollywood. And while I doubt that many in town are itching to make a movie about Walt Whitman, you should definitely call your contacts and anyone else you might be able to meet during your brief stay.

Use the contest as a resource. For instance, if they had a panel of industry judges, see if you can meet with them (away from the gala, so you can have them all to yourself). See if the contest organizers will make introductions for you as well. Try to focus your energies on representation – since that’s a must for someone who lives out of town.

There are so many contests that it’s impossible for executives to keep up with them all. But that could work in your favor. When you make calls, create buzz for the contest – as if you’ve just won the fucking Oscar. Score as many appointments as you can, but be prepared for the meetings to be cancelled too.

Two writers made an unproduced documentary about their cross country car trip to meet with manager Brooklyn Weaver. Unfortunately, his busy calendar resulted in constant rescheduling and missed appointments. Despite the writers’ 3000 mile car ride (six thousand round trip) for the sole purpose to meet with the manager, it never happened.

I have someone very much behind a script of mine (small, quirky, multi-characters who don't tie together; i.e. a very difficult sell; described by Peter Newman, who produced "The Squid and the Whale" and didn't much care for my script, as "Altman light."). My guy who's behind it is out of the Hollywood loop but used to be very much in the loop, so he knows people and has sent it out to some. He is willing to send it to Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, whom he knows personally. I'm sort of thinking that the script isn't as fabulous as I'd hoped (it's too disjointed, quirky for the sake of quirkiness).

I'm working on another that I think will be far better (though quirky and also a difficult sale). The gist of this long-winded question is, do you think I'm better off to wait and give Tim and Susan the better script or should I go ahead and second the notion of sending this one to them? I'm afraid that this might be my one shot at them and don't want to blow it... Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

I’m glad to hear that someone “didn’t care much” for your script. I don’t mean that in a cruel way, but it’s actually rather refreshing. All I ever hear is, “He really loves my script, but….”

Anyway, is your “guy” sending out the “Altman light” script as a favor to you? Or is he sending it out because he believes it’s a good script that represents the kind of quality work you do? Does he believe the script is a good match for Mr. Robbins and Ms. Sarandon? Or is he merely sending it to everyone in his phonebook? Is he sending it to them with a specific purpose – like for Ms. Sarandon to star? Or with no real purpose in mind?

If he believes in this script and feels it’s a perfect fit for Tim and Susan, then it wouldn’t be good form to say, “Let’s trash the ‘Altman light” and send them this other script instead.” (Is all your work written with T&S in mind?) If you’re just throwing out scripts to anyone your guy knows, with little strategy, then make the suggestion if you feel this second script is better. You certainly do not want to send a weak script. (By the way, are you positive this new script is really better? Send it to that Peter Newman first – he could be the most honest guy in Hollywood.)

However, waiting until the second script is finished could cause complications. During the wait period, your guy could lose interest, have a change of heart, move on, drop dead or lose his phonebook.

I think you should decide what the motives are for sending the script to T&S and then choose the one that is most suitable. If you decide the second script is the better way to go, then roll the dice and hope your guy doesn’t get impatient and renege his offer.

I suspect the time delay won’t cause any conflicts with Tim and Susan, since they’re probably not in any hurry to read your script.

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Let’s not forget those writers who passed away this last month. Their contributions to our industry and our lives are greatly appreciated.



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