Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

Here's to a Happy Holiday and much success in 2011. Let's sell some scripts!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Screenwriting Tips

I found these tips in one of my archives. I think these are from when I took Steve's pitch class many years ago.  Still relevant today.  The only thing that I would disagree with is #9.  Never say never.  Giving a free option for a short period of time for the right project could work in your benefit.  Now I would agree, do not always give a free option but doing it once in your career for 6 months when you are just starting out isn't going to break the bank but it could break your in be a foot in the door with the right producer for the right story.  So consider all options especially when you are just starting out.  Also, don't automatically agree to a free option, try to get some money.  People work harder if they put down some cash even if it's $500.  Plus, sometimes people will have a small amount of funds but will try to get it for free first.  So always consider all options even if you will eventually say no.  If they are truly interested, they may be able to scrap up something just to get the ball rolling. 


Screenwriting Tips

Steve Kaire, Pitchmaster

1. Dramas are difficult to sell because they don't pitch well.

2. Treatments should be 10-20 pages in length, double spaced, and have no dialogue.

3. To make your story original, your logline needs a hook which is a detail that makes your premise unique.

4. The order of pitching is: Title, genre, then your logline.

5. Pitch what your story is about, not what happens in the story.

6. By the end of your script, one of your characters should change, also known as the character arc.

7. The best time to call and reach a producer is 5-8 PM when the secretary has gone home.

8. High Concept scripts sell for more money than non-High Concept scripts and are easier to pitch.

9.Never give a free option on your material. Accept at least a few thousand dollars as a show of good faith.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How to Start a Screenplay

I found this article in my archives.  Sometimes it's difficult having a great start to a wonderful idea but this advice comes in handy every time I start a new project.  It works for every genre whether for television or feature film.


By Nicholas Turner

The best scripts feel both original and familiar at the same time—no easy feat. Even more challenging: being able to capture that tone within the first few pages. Your script only gets one first impression, and if it doesn’t hook a reader immediately, its next stop may be the landfill.

That doesn’t mean the beginning needs explosions and car chases—or that it even has to be particularly fast-paced. What it should do is introduce a bit of mystery. Your readers should have a thread of suspense pulling them from page to page. What’s going on here? Who are these people? Why does one of them keeping sharpening his bowie knife?

Unsure how to start? Here are five classic beginnings you may want to try. A tried-and-true formula gives you structure and helps ground your reader in something familiar. The challenge is to give your opening a twist, making it your own.

1. The how-did-we-get-here opening. With this beginning, you plunge right into the action—showing your character in an intriguing predicament. Maybe your hero is by the gallows, getting a hood placed over his head. Maybe she’s dragging a trash bag full of twenties past a policeman—and the bag slowly starts to split open. In any case, as soon as you’ve hooked your audience, you flash back to the beginning of the story. If you’ve done your job right, they’ll be itching to find out how it all happened. The ultimate version of this opening may be Memento (2000), which is told backwards.

2. The who-are-these-people opening. Mysteries don’t have to be about murder and cover-ups. Just put two characters together and have them start a conversation. Don’t tell us that they’re man and wife, or boss and secretary, or hit man and victim. Let the facts leak out gradually, through natural dialogue. The audience’s desire to figure out the relationship between characters can hold their attention. This approach often works best for stage plays (Harold Pinter is a master of the technique), where there are few clues other than dialogue.

3. The big-bang opening. There’s nothing wrong with an explosion or two. If you’re writing an action-adventure script, it’s wise to start off with a tightly paced set piece. In addition to grabbing the audience, it can help establish your character. In Speed (1994), an elevator sequence teaches us that Keanu Reeves’ Jack Traven is a quick-thinking cop on the bomb squad. In the Peruvian-temple scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), we see Indiana Jones’ bullwhip-cracking prowess, as well as his respect for ancient artifacts. After the set piece, you should step back and slow down—showing your character in a less frenzied environment (Indiana Jones teaching college kids, for instance). Remember that your climax will have to be even more exciting than your opener, so don’t pump up the action to the max. Where will you go from there?

4. The waking-up opening. This beginning is fraught with cliché dangers, so be careful. How many movies have you seen where an alarm clock goes off and a weary hero flails around in an effort to shut it off? It’s a shopworn scene. However, there’s something to be said for showing your protagonist starting out a typical day. It helps your audience identify with the character and also establishes who this person is—before the events of your script irrevocably change his life. To see a twist on this idea, check out Half Nelson (2006). Ryan Gosling’s character is in his living room, strung-out and wide-awake, when his alarm clock goes off in his bedroom. Like all good beginnings, this reveals something about the character: You know immediately that this guy is messed up.

5. The origin opening. If you want to add a little heft to a character trait, consider this opener. Say your protagonist is deathly afraid of bees, you may want to show her as a kid, when she bumps her head on a buzzing hive. Or maybe you’re giving the origin of a superhero’s powers, as in Superman (1978). When you cut to adulthood, the audience has a deeper understanding of the character than they’d get through dialogue alone. The risk: Starting off with your main character in childhood can easily be hackneyed and cheesy. And when you show that character as an adult, the audience may not recognize that it’s supposed to be the same person. (You also may want to withhold the origin story until later in the script, to give more mystery.) For an example of this approach done well, see The Orphanage (2007). It shows the protagonist Laura as a kid, enjoying games at the orphanage. You then can understand why she would return to the same rundown place later in life, eager to restore the idyll she remembers. Again, the best openings spotlight the hero’s character.