The latest in a series of interviews with script readers and consultants who would be worth your while to work with if you want to get your script in shape. Today’s spotlight is on Michele Wallerstein.
Screenplay, Novel and Career Consultant, Michele works with writers to help get their work into shape so that it is marketable for the Hollywood community and/or the publishing world. Michele’s career consulting consists of critiquing your projects and/or having personal career conferences to answer questions that writers have about their creative work as well as questions about the business side of their creative life. Michele is the author of: “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career”.
Prior to becoming a Consultant, Michele was a Hollywood literary agent where she represented Writers, Directors and Producers in Motion Pictures, Movies for Television and Television Series and has sold $1 Million spec scripts. Michele served as Executive Vice-President of Women In Film and was on the Board of Directors for many years. She owned The Wallerstein Company and guided the careers of writers such as Larry Hertzog (Tin Man, La Femme Nikita, 24), Christopher Lofton (Robinson Crusoe, Call of the Wild, Scarlett, True Women), Peter Bellwood (Highlander, La Femme Nikita), Bootsie Parker (Booty Call, Married, With Children, The Hughley’s), and many others.
Michele has been a Guest Speaker at numerous Film Festivals, Pitch Fests and Writer’s Groups all across the country. She teaches the ins and outs of the business of your writing career as well as how to get the most out of your material.
1. What’s the last thing you read/watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?
I adore the writing on “Downton Abbey” on PBS. Their character delineations are superb. The dialogue makes the stories come alive. Unfortunately, I rarely go to theaters for movies because most of them don’t seem to be made for grown-ups.
2. How’d you get your start reading scripts?
I began reading scripts about 100 years ago when I was an assistant to a literary agent. After becoming an agent, I continued to read everything I could get my hands on. These experiences gave me a world of knowledge and have been a great help to me as a screenplay consultant.
3. Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?
I’m not so sure it can be taught or learned. Anyone can learn the basics of screenwriting by taking classes and reading some of the many books available. However, understanding human nature and the psychology behind people’s actions and reactions comes with life experiences. If one doesn’t understand these things they will never get the importance of great dialogue.
4. What are the components of a good script?
In my experiences as an agent and as a consultant I find that adhering to the basic 3-act structure is invaluable. Along with that a writer must be able to write characters with heart, feelings, emotions and individual personalities. Grammar, spelling and syntax are also keys to good writing.
5. What are some of the most common mistakes you see?
I often find that the characters are uninteresting and I don’t care about any of them. It’s also common to find people who try very hard to write something unusual and it comes across as too complicated, far-fetched or dull. If written well, a thriller, mystery, love story or romantic comedy can be a standout showpiece for a good writer.
6. What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?
I’m quite tired of action films and films with an abundance of blood and guts. Too many people have become dulled to violence and those scripts are written without decent stories or characters.
7. What are the 3 most important rules every writer should know?
-Follow the accepted 3-act structure.
-When writing spec scripts it is a good idea to do at least 3 in the same genre.
-Have your scripts read by vetted professionals prior to trying to land an agent.
8. Have you ever read a script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, could you give the logline?
When I was an agent I read a spec by a new, young writer that knocked me out. It was a love story with lots of fantastical action about the discovery of the Garden of Eden. It was gloriously written and I sold it for close to $1 million within 2 weeks of reading it.
9. How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?
Contests, pitch fests, seminars etc., can all be very worthwhile if one knows how to make contacts and to follow up with those people. It is a great place to meet executives who can help move your writing career forward. I explain this in detail in my book “MIND YOUR BUSINESS”.
10. How can people get in touch with you to find out more about the services you provide?
I am always happy to help writers and they can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a monthly blog for writers: www.wwwconsulting.blogspot.com. Writers can also check out my online course Moving Your Writing Career Forward via Screenwriters University.
11. Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?
I do love warm peach pie with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.