Q & A with Michael Lipoma

Michael Lipoma is a WGA writer and a producer whose scripts have placed in the semifinals or higher in every major screenwriting competition, including winning Best Feature and Grand Prize at SLAMDANCE last year. With experience writing on assignment for features and television since 2010, Michael enjoys backing his characters into corners, forcing them to fight their way out or die trying.

He has developed multiple producers’ original ideas into commercially viable screenplays and pilots. He is co-creator and co-writer of a new television series currently in development in New Zealand. He is the lead producer on a feature film project currently in partnership with an A-List actor’s production company. Before writing and producing full time, Michael was Vice President of a $150M company. He also finds writing in the third person a little weird.

What’s the last thing you read or watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?

I have been binge watching The West Wing, and am dazzled by the dialogue–but it’s more than that. Sorkin doesn’t just write great dialogue–it’s the situations he places the characters in that give great dialogue even greater depth. And the dialogue wouldn’t be as meaningful if he hadn’t made these characters people we care about.

How’d you get your start in the industry?

I wrote spec scripts. Bad ones. Then I went to school and learned the craft. Then I just kept writing. While working on a script with a partner, we met a producer at AFM, and within 24 hours, we had a handshake deal to write a feature based on her original idea. That script was The Fall, and last October, it won Slamdance Grand Prize and Best Feature. But that makes it sound too easy. That journey started seven years ago. We attached another producer, have been through more page-one rewrites I can imagine, and have gotten–and incorporated–notes from many, many people.

Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?

I believe recognizing good writing can be taught and learned–and you don’t need a teacher. The way to recognize good writing is to read ALL writing. I’ve learned more from giving really deep notes to scripts that were in terrible shape, than reading great scripts. Read every script you can, and when you read something good, you’ll feel it. It’ll sing to you from the center of your chest. But read all of it. After a while, you’ll internalize what’s good and what to stay away from. You’ll feel when a story turn is necessary. And you’ll realize that when watching a movie. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit pause on a movie, checked the timer, and said, “Yep. That’s midpoint.”

What do you consider the components of a good script?

The obvious, of course: structure, dialogue, making every syllable mean something. A story that turns, and delivers on the promise the writer made in the premise or opening. Also, a great opening. A killer first page. I’ve been working as a producer for the past five years, and I know within a page whether the script I’m reading has a chance at getting me interested. I do read all the way through, but I’ve always been able to tell within a page or two how it’s going to go. Haven’t been wrong about that yet.

There’s one more component, and it’s just as important to me as any of the other factors that make a good script, and that’s what people are calling today, “voice.” I read a lot of scripts, and many deliver what a script should deliver: Compelling characters, solid structure, serviceable dialogue. All good stuff. But when I read a script with an original voice, that delights me, and makes me want more, more, more!

I’ve also found that writers with a unique voice are fun people to hang with. And when you option a script, you’re going to be hanging with the writer for a few years, and hopefully you’ll end up friends for life. Also, I recognize I’ve strayed a bit from the original question about components of a good script. I do that. I stray.

What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?

Big blocks of action with no white space. My job as a producer is to read a script all the way through–but when I see solid pages of text, I take a breath, because I know it’s going to be a slog to get through. That’s not to say the script might not be great, but if I can offer advice to writers, make hitting the return key one of your best friends. Your reader will love it.

Another mistake is having dialogue move the story forward. In these cases characters usually tell each other what’s happening or how they’re feeling. That means everything’s on the surface.

What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

Movies starting at funerals–ugh. Seen it too many times. Watching a big, surprising reversal or twist and discovering it was a dream (that happens more in TV, but still). Also, movie shorthand: a woman throwing up = she’s pregnant. You see a woman SPRINT to the bathroom and barf. Next scene: she’s pregnant.

Another trope that’s actually harmful in my view is when you see scars on someone that indicates they’ve been “cutting” (non-suicidal self-injury), and it’s just “movie shorthand” for a “troubled” teen, or a violent character about to shoot up a crowd. That easy-way-out character development is not only lazy, it stigmatizes people with mental health issues. It needs to stop.

What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?

1. If you want to write what speaks to your heart, you should absolutely do so. You get to write whatever you want. But…if you want to sell, or make writing your career, you should understand what the marketplace wants. And I’m not talking about chasing trends. I’m talking about a script with a recognizable structure (I believe humans are hard-wired to respond to structure), a story that makes us want to know what happens next, and a satisfying ending. Oh, crap. I strayed again.

2. Spend as much time on your concept as you possibly can before putting a single word to the script. You’re going to spend the next few months writing this script–make sure the concept is firing on all cylinders before you commit to it. If you do this, you will discover a lovely surprise: people will probably love your script.

3. Sort of a continuation of 2: before I dig into a new spec script (whether TV or feature), I test the concept. I tell it to people and watch them react. Then, I refine it. What’s nice is at this stage, I’m not invested in any great scenes–it’s just a few sentences, so nothing’s precious. Once I get a concept, and I’m satisfied it’s working and marketable, I write the pitch. Straight from concept to pitch–before writing one word of the script. This does a couple things: it helps me discover cool, hooky moments (that only seem to show up when I’m writing a pitch) and it helps me know where I’m going when I start outlining. I think this solves the problem I faced for so many years: writing loglines and pitches after the script is written.

4. This may not work for everybody, but most successful writers I know do this: outline. Outline, outline, outline! You can start at the end, middle, or wherever, but do yourself the favor of writing a solid outline for your script. This is one of the most freeing things a screenwriter can do. It also keeps you from getting blocked or stuck because you always know where you’re going. My analogy for outlining is this: it’s like an actor getting off-book with their dialogue. Once they’ve memorized the dialogue, and it flows through them, only then can they bring the real bits of themselves to their performance. Same with outlining. Once you do the hard story work and get that outline done, your story is there, and it’s working–then, you put in all the cool stuff that delights readers.

5. Make me want to care about your characters. Many scripts I read from emerging writers use their characters as tools to move their story along. People go to the movies and watch TV and immediately try to relate to the character on the screen. There’s a moment when people ask themselves (sometimes unconsciously–but they feel it) “Would I ever do that?” or “Oh, no, what would I do if that happened to me?” The writer needs to make their characters human, relatable, and empathetic. Not necessarily likeable, but relatable. It’s a thing of beauty when an antagonist makes a reader/viewer see a dark side of themselves reflected in the antagonist. So do the character work up front, know who they are and how they’d respond in any situation.

There’s an exercise I’ve asked people to do: take a line of dialogue, and rewrite it as if the character were at gunpoint. Now rewrite it if they were trying to seduce someone. Now try it if they’re terrified. Exact same meaning, but different situations. This exercise can seem absurd, but if you lean into it, it’s actually a lot of fun, and it will reinforce the need to really understand how your character would react in any situation. Once you really understand this about your characters, the audience will respond to them, readers will lean forward when reading them.

6. Make sure your lead is the most interesting.

This has happened to me. My supporting character was way more interesting than my lead. It took a bit of rewriting and really killing some darlings, but once I did that, my lead really sparked off the page. No actor is going to attach themselves to a project if the supporting character has a better part.

Have you ever read a spec script that you immediately thought “this writer gets it?” If so, what were the reasons why?

Absolutely. And I’ve only read two that did that. It started with character. These characters were not only real and full of life, their dialogue was crisp, clear, and every character had a unique voice. Most of the actual meaning was delivered through subtext–and that’s not just for dialogue, it was for the action too. Characters took action that delivered on who they are, or what they needed, or what their wound was that’s been holding them back. Also: there was a lot of white space on the page, which made it a fast read, and allowed me to forget I was reading a screenplay.

How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?

I know there’s a lot of debate about this right now. For me: they’re worth it–but you have to realize the goal, and I think there are two: 1) you want feedback, and 2) you want wins/credibility. For feedback: You’re sending your material out to sets of eyes who have no stake in your success. If you can afford it, get the notes/coverage, too. Look, we all have people who love us, read our stuff, and tell us it’s great. And that feels wonderful, but not really helpful if your goal is to improve your writing and yourself as a writer. There’s nothing more sobering than not placing in a contest, and looking at the 375 names who did, and think: “Damn, every one of those scripts is better than mine–what do I need to change in my script or my writing to get me in that group next time.”

If you can afford the coverage, it’s great to see what a neutral set of eyes thinks about your material. And sure, sometimes the notes are spotty, but there’s ALWAYS something in there that can help if you’re open to it. And being in lots of contests can help you open up to that. For credibility, contest placements/wins in the major competitions can truly open doors. All of that said, be wary. There are some contests that just feel like money mills. Do a little research, and maybe don’t submit to “Jimmy Joe’s Upstairs Screenwriting Bonanza.” Look into competitions. Who are the sponsors, how many years have they been running, what kind of press do they get?

How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?

The best way to learn more about what I do is to contact me directly through my gmail account and not through the production company email or website because those get filtered before I see them. Email: mlipoma@gmail.com.

Right now, I write on assignment for television and features, and provide TV and feature script development, consultation, and rewrite services for projects that have been optioned or have a significant element attached. Since I’m a WGA writer, any writing I do must be with a signatory, but for non-signatories I can provide script consultation and development services, and work with the writer and producer to help the production reach its goals. I tailor my services based on the needs of the project: from a dialogue punch-up to extensive restructuring and rewriting. One of my recent efforts was a page-one rewrite of an action script. 

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

You and I are kindred spirits! Pie is one of my favorite things on the planet! Picking one is kinda like deciding which of my kids I love most, but if forced, I’d have to say cherry. Or a really deep apple. Or pumpkin. Ok, sorry…

Cherry.

There. I said it.

Arrivederci, contests! For now.

waving goodbye
Normally, one would say “Don’t forget to write!”, but that seems a bit off in this scenario

Starting a few weeks ago, and continuing into the coming months, the results of numerous screenwriting contests will be made public.

For the most part, my scripts won’t be part of them. I’ve opted to skip the 2020-2021 season to focus on creating some new scripts and fine-tune some pre-existing ones.

Contests and I have had a rocky relationship. The primary reason I enter is for industry access (or at least the potential for it). As nice as a cash prize is, I’d much rather my award be my scripts shown to a manager or production company.

Naturally, even that’s not a guarantee of success. Somebody could read a script that’s done exceptionally well in a contest – even win it – and decide “I like it/It’s good, but not what I’m looking for.” This has happened to me, and even a few writers I know who’ve claimed a finalist spot in some prestigious contests still couldn’t make anything happen with it.

Them’s the breaks, and usually means it’s back to square one. But not this time.

I don’t have anything against contests. They can help motivate you to work towards beating a deadline. Some of them might lead to something, but many just mean you get a nice set of laurels. And no slight to smaller contests, but I’ve seen lots of comments from reps and prodcos that contests don’t really matter that much to them. What’s important is if they like the script and want to do something with it.

Additionally, those contests fees can get pretty steep. I try to keep things on the lower end (early bird deadlines, discount codes, etc) because the fees can really add up. And this isn’t even taking into account paying an additional cost for “notes” – something I don’t usually do anyway.

Added bonus for me – I also shell out some shekels for 6-8 half-marathons each year. You think screenwriting contests are expensive? Ha! Many of the races I’d signed up for for later this year have been cancelled or postponed until next year. So not having to pay for races or contests definitely works in my favor.

So that’s it for me and a temporary “so long”. At least until around this time next year. Until then, it’s all about the writing. My scripts are good, but I know they can be better.

Since deciding to step back, it’s kind of nice to be able to consistently delete the barrage of emails announcing “LAST CHANCE TO ENTER!” or “CLICK HERE FOR SPECIAL DISCOUNT CODE!”, and then get right back to work. I won’t say it’s still tempting to want to enter, but it is getting easier to read an email from a contest, and then kill it without hesitating.

Interesting side note – it would seem I entered 2 of my scripts in a pair of contests several months ago. In fact, one was in October of 2019. Turns out each advanced through the contests’ respective first rounds.

Since I adhere to the “send it & forget it” rule with my scripts, guess my putting more emphasis on the latter half of that phrase really came into play. As one friend put it – “you seem to do better in contests you forgot you entered.” Can’t argue that.

So now that I don’t have contest deadlines or announcements to deal with, I can focus on these two new scripts. Both have been percolating for quite some time, and I figured lockdown and shelter-in-place were the ideal times to jump into both.

Would I have been able to dedicate so much time and effort if the world hadn’t changed? Possibly, but having the opportunity to do so has definitely worked in my favor.

The latest draft of one script is out with a batch of savvy readers, and the other is still in the outline phase. Feeling pretty confident about both.

I’m more than content to let the 2020-2021 contest season pass me by as I write and write, then rewrite, and then write some more.

For all you writers looking to enter contests in the coming year, you now have one less competitor to worry about.

Catch you on the flip side.

Presenting: Your Script!

spotlight gif

This was all about giving writers a platform to showcase the script they feel is the best representation of their writing, and a chance to help everybody expand their own personal network of writing associates.

I offered to list one script per writer, and the responses were many.

Boy, were they.

A whopping 130 scripts for both film and TV are here, with genres of all kinds represented. Trust me when I say there is A LOT to choose from.

So have at it. Read. Enjoy.  If something about your script catches somebody’s eye and they want to contact you about reading it (or potentially more), that’s why the email addresses are included.

A very hearty thanks to everybody who sent in.

And if there’s any interest, I might do this again later this year.

(for all you newcomers, feel free to subscribe to/follow this blog)

 

FILM

8TH WONDER OF THE WORLD

Pricilla Devi Kumar

Dramatic biography

A young French wrestler uses his ailment of giantism to dominate the sport of American wrestling, becoming one of the most celebrated wrestlers of the franchise; a fated journey that leads to his premature and preventable death.

pricillakumar20@gmail.com

 

9 MONTHS

Kelly Tran

Dramedy, Coming of Age, Asian

A 23-year woman’s entire life changes in the span of 9 months, starting with her mother falling ill and then her own unexpected pregnancy. 

Screencraft Fellowship – quarterfinalist

Los Angeles International Screenplay – quarterfinalist

thatkellytran@gmail.com

 

ABSOLUTE CONTROL

Laika Lee

Psychological Thriller

This story is about Jane, a girl with persecutory delusion, and Ragen, a psychotic killer with OCD. Jane is abducted by Ragen and imprisoned in a small cabin deep in the mountains, who tortures her every day for fun. During their time together, Jane seemingly uncovers the other identity of the psychotic killer, which is a 6-year-old little girl named Sanja, and she realizes as long as she can control this little girl who comes out every night, she might just have the chance to escape…

7 on The Black List

laika.lee@hotmail.com

 

A CHRISTMAS CHEER

Clint Ford

Historical drama

Seven years after his redemption, old Ebenezer Scrooge passes away on Christmas Eve morning. When he learns the spirit of Jacob Marley – who helped to redeem him – still roams the earth shackled and chained, Scrooge chooses to put his own Eternal Reward at risk so to confront Marley’s Ghosts of Christmases Yet to Come, Present, and Past in an effort to return the favor to his friend.

Page Turner “First 15”  – quarterfinalist

American Zoetrope – Top-Rated Screenplays for February 2020 – first place

Dallas International Film Festival – semifinalist

Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards – semifinalist

Inroads Screenwriting Fellowship – finalist

theactualclintford@gmail.com

 

A LONG AWAITED DAY

Mary Kate Allen

Historical Drama

When a WW2 plane wreck is discovered, it unites a group of strangers who work together to bring home a missing person. Based on actual events.

Content Creators of Atlanta – Best Feature Screenplay

Women Who Write In Film International Screenplay Competition – winner

The Monthly Film Festival – semifinalist (pending)

Featured on Coverfly’s The Red List

Allen.mk7@gmail.com

 

ALPHA 8

Stephanie Elie

Sci-Fi Family Adventure

When your mom isn’t your mom but really looks like your mom – she just might be an alien. That’s what 12-year-old Daniel discovers. So he sets out on an adventure to get his “real” mom back with the help of his three siblings. And yes, the alien comes too.

seliecreative@gmail.com

 

AN UNBALANCED LINE

Kristy Leigh Lussier

Sports Drama

A female football prodigy makes history when she saves a failing program and becomes the first woman named Head Coach of a college football team.

Script Summit – Best Drama

Twin Falls Film Festival – Best Screenplay/Excellence in Screenwriting

Las Vegas International Screenplay – Best Sports Screenplay

West Texas Film Festival – Finalist, Best Screenplay

Filmmatic Drama – finalist

Screencraft Drama – semifinalist

WeScreenplay Diverse Voices – semifinalist

rockitmpc@gmail.com

 

AN UNDOCUMENTED RUMOR

Philip C. Sedgwick

Drama/Action-Adventure

A journalist for an US-based Arabian TV network heads to the Arizona border to sleuth out a rumor regarding a terrorist attack formulating in Mexico. When the rumor proves true, the reporter enlists a most unlikely team to intercept the attack and take on the even more unlikely forces behind the operation.

Burbank Film Festival – Best Feature Screenplay

San Antonio Film Festival – Best Feature Screenplay

StoryPros – finalist (2x)

Hollywood Screenplay – finalist

Richmond Film Festival – finalist

philip@philipcsedgwick.com

 

BARMAGEDDON

Jimmy George & Chris LaMartina

Horror Comedy

A faithless bar owner must rally a motley crew of patrons to defend her pub against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

scriptbutcher@gmail.com

 

BARNSTORMING: A STORY OF SEX AND BASEBALL

Ronald J. Drescher

Historical Dramedy

In 1925, a hard drinking, rule bending English scandal reporter on the hunt in America to expose the lurid truth behind Babe Ruth’s worst slump must use all her wiles to save the Babe after discovering his true humanity and the sinister plot to destroy him.

Diverse Voices – finalist

Rondrescher@mac.com

 

BARRIO FIESTA

Donna Mae Foronda

Horror/Thriller

A young white man meets his Filipino girlfriend’s family for the first time and easily wins their approval, but in more ways than he ever could imagine.

donna.foronda@gmail.com

 

BLACKPILL

Ben Johnson & Jolie Noelle

Horror/Thriller

When a group of incels imprison several young women in an old fifties-era “dream home”, one woman must find a way to outwit her captors and escape their twisted fantasy.

Screencraft Horror – quarterfinalist

benjohnsonvideography@gmail.com

 

BOSTON LAWYER

Rhys Freeman

Drama

A determined, ‘no-nonsense’ lawyer looks for justice in a heart-breaking case. In his way stands the last man on earth you’d expect to be accused of such a crime, along with unexplainable questions. If justice does not prevail, closure for everyone will be hard to find.

Beverly Hills Screenplay – finalist

Hollywood Screenplay – finalist

rhysfreemanwriter@gmail.com

 

CARIBBEAN CRUISE VACATION

Jonathon Douglas

Comedy Adventure Parody

A white boomer must overcome his culture-centric dependence when he is forced to take a black teen on a family cruise in place of his estranged son and discovers the youth has the connections needed to bring his son aboard ship.

JonathonDDouglas@gmail.com

 

CHARLIE’S CHRISTMAS CAROLE

Diana Stout

Family Holiday

Christmas non-believer school principal Charlie Dickson must choose between keeping his job that removes the annual holiday pageant or his daughter who won the lead, his reunion with the play’s director, and an age-old reindeer with seemingly magical powers.

drdianastout@gmail.com

 

DARKNESS NEVER FADES

Gair Mcdonald

Horror-Supernatural/Thriller

A street-wise teen and her estranged mother, embarking on a road trip, are terrorised by a supernatural force, a cursed manifestation of family infidelity.

Next Generation Independent Film Festival – Winner, “Best Creature Feature”

Nicholl Fellowship – Honorable Mention

gairmcdonald123@btinternet.com

 

DARK OF THE MOON

Graham Holliday

Dramatic Thriller

At the climax of the next space race, an astronaut must decide what’s more important: landing on the moon first or revealing the hoax.

realgrahamholliday@yahoo.com

 

DREAM FILLER

Anat Golan

Science Fiction/Political Drama

After a nerdy medical researcher illegally impregnates a Dream Filler, a person who fulfills one’s desires, he must fight to save his unborn child and the Dream from termination by the hands of a ruthless government agent.

thewritescript@gmail.com

 

ELIMINATION AGENDA

Stuart Heimdal

Action-adventure

When a biological weapon to wipe out specific races is shopped on the black market, a CIA operative is tasked with locating it before it falls into the wrong hands.

Screencraft Action – quarterfinalist

heimdal@gmx.com

 

ELLSWORTH ’58

Graham Stone Johnson

Sci-Fi/Coming of Age

After aliens lay waste to a small town, a boy and his bully are all that remain. When the boy’s sister returns, aged 10 years overnight, she leads the trio on a perilous journey to locate the one thing that can save them.

grahamstonejohnson@gmail.com

 

EXODUS

Anthony Moore

Sci-Fi/Drama

A decorated FBI agent is assigned to find out why large groups of people are disappearing nation-wide and discovers that the answer is worse than he could have ever imagined, forcing him to question his own identity.

Black Screenplays and Stories Screenwriting Contest – grand prize

Filmmatic Drama – semifinalist

StoryPros – quarterfinalist

techrat@live.com

 

FAERIES: RISE OF THE SOUL EATERS

Chip Street & Sean Meehan

Horror Creature-feature

Four city-slickers lost in the wilderness are stalked by a pack hunting troupe of blood-thirsty faeries, and have to gamble on the erratic memory of an elderly local to find their way to the safety of a mountaintop ranger station before the creatures eviscerate them all.

Shriekfest – finalist

chip@chipstreet.com

 

FEVER DREAM

Jordan M. Horowitz

Timely Psychological Thriller

After being assaulted at an audition, a struggling actress lands the lead role in a film, but the further she delves into the dark mind of the character, the more her dream becomes a nightmare.

jordan@jordansfilms.com

 

FINDING CORA

Jalissa Cruz

Mystery/Suspense

A detective helps a victim link her past attempted kidnapping to a recent abduction, and with the help of her family and friends, they unmask a heinous small-town conspiracy.

yelissaaawrites@gmail.com

 

FLAT SQUIRREL

Fiona Ross

Animated comedy-adventure

When a determined but stranded flying squirrel joins a bunch of forest animals hooked on junk food, they battle the meanest-ever junk-food junkie who’ll kill them for the donut supply.

Florida Comedy Film Festival – Best Screenplay (Titanium)

Hollywood Screenplay Festival – Silver Award

fionafaithross@gmail.com

 

FOLLOW UP

Chris Watt

Drama

Over the course of an interview with a young music journalist, a broken and reclusive rock star reveals the secret behind his mysterious disappearance twelve years earlier, finding surprising inspiration for a possible comeback along the way.

Kosice International Film Festival – Honorable Mention, Feature Screenplay

British Independent Film Festival – official selection

New York City Independent Screenplay Festival – official selection

Rome Independent Prisma Awards – official selection

Austin Screenplay Awards – official selection

Indie Visions Film Festival – official selection

writeherewritenow80@gmail.com

 

FREEDOM FORT

Clint Williams

historic action-adventure

Two runaway slaves meet en route to a fort abandoned by the British following the War of 1812 and join a community of former slaves thriving under the protection of the fort’s cannons. But the growing village is threatened by a pending invasion by U.S. Army troops. Based on actual events.

Write LA  – grand prize winner

Nicholl – quarterfinalist

Final Draft Big Break – finalist; winner – historical/period/war

Black List score: 8

clintwilliams3@gmail.com

 

FULL MOON OVER THE NUDEY BAR

Daniel Bridges and Emily McGuiness

Horror-Comedy

Two vets head down South in search of their missing conspiracy theorist buddy only to find that he was “kinda right” and hiding in a seedy small town overrun by a pack of ’80s clad stripper werewolves.

Houston Comedy Film Festival – official selection

Portland Comedy Film Festival – official selection

Austin Comedy Film Festival – official selection

Screencraft Comedy – quarterfinalist

danielobridges@gmail.com

 

FUN AND GAMES

Ariel Relaford

Horror

Two adopted, teenage siblings receive a mysterious box. In order to save their own lives and the lives of others, they must race against the clock to solve the riddles it holds.

arielrelaford@gmail.com

 

HARBOR

Amina Divine

Suspense

A corrupted bed-and-breakfast owned by a Swedish couple hosted by a harbored African girl. Can she escape? Will she survive?

aminacarr@gmail.com

 

HOLY HARRY

Zach Witt

In the midst of a brewing revolution, the CEO of Heaven mysteriously vanishes, leaving a new arrival to keep the peace or face deportation to Hell.

Script 32 Comedy – quarterfinalist

zwitt87@gmail.com

 

IGOR AND FRANKIE

Jim Picariello

Animated family feature

Chaos abounds at the MIT women’s dorm when Igor mistakenly creates a serum that brings stuffed animals to life. When the formula’s stolen, she must team up with Frankie, her manic-inventor roommate-from-hell, to steal it back and subdue the resulting rampaging, fluffy abomination.

Nicholl Fellowship – top 10%

Austin Film Festival – second rounder

Stowe Story Labs Fellowship – finalist

jimpicariello@gmail.com

 

INCOMPLETE

Kenson Junicue

Drama

A self-depleted young black man lands an internship at a prestigious law firm and quickly becomes involved with his prejudiced boss.

Diverse Stories – semifinalist

International Independent Film Awards – finalist

New York Screenplay Film Awards – finalist

junicue@me.com

 

JACKSONVILLE

Jeffrey R. Field

Comedy/Thriller

A suicidal Army veteran rescues a mob princess from kidnappers, only to have her blackmail him into killing a key witness against her father. Of course, it’s Florida.

Screencraft Fellowship – winner

Nicholl Fellowship – top 50

jefffield88@yahoo.com

 

JUST MY IMAGINATION

Antonio Shorter

Short

One brother wants to be like the other, but the other brother wants him to be more and better than him.

antonioshorter.21@gmail.com

 

LAST DAY ‘TIL SUMMER

Jimmy Hurt

Slasher/College Drama

Seven sinful college students win a foreign internship lottery, only to be locked in the theatre by a cult of murderous professors on the last day of class.

jbirdsseets29@gmail.com 

 

LAWN BOYS

Steve Cleary

Comedy

An out-of-work ad man saves his buddy’s failing landscaping business by targeting lonely housewives but must become a champion of nature when a shifty artificial turf dealer shows up on the scene.

WildSound Festival For Comedy – table read

steve@stevecleary.com

 

LOCKDOWN AT ONKALO

S. H. Sadek

Sci-Fi/Psychological Thriller

In the distant future, a woman finds herself trapped in a nuclear waste repository for 20 years with a clone left there to protect it from the monsters outside.

s.hsadek.writes@gmail.com

 

LONELY BOY

Adam Argyrides

Queer Coming-of-Age Drama

A socially awkward loner struggles to realize his sexuality and personal potential amid the pressures and dramas of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

adamargyrides97@gmail.com

 

LOVE ME

Jordan Tate

Thriller

Traumatized and reclusive since a violent assault, a famed female screenwriter trying to return to her normal life accepts to write a screenplay for an independent and first time female producer who begins stalking her.

Jordantatescreenwriter@yahoo.com

 

MECHCRAFT

Brian Fitzpatrick

Science-fiction

A teen singularity is hunted by relentless enemies for his shape-shifting nanotech ability embedded in his DNA. The Matrix meets Harry Potter.

The Script Lab – quarterfinalist

Screencraft Sci-fi/Fantasy – quarterfinalist

Final Draft Big Break – quarterfinalist

PAGE International – quarterfinalist

brianfitzauthor@gmail.com

 

MIND BLOWN

Paul Jarnagin

Action-Thriller

A cybersecurity agent discovers a mind-control Trojan horse in a popular VR gadget and must stop the inventor’s wicked game plan to save her daughter’s life.

Vine Hill Productions Legendary Script – winner

StoryPros – Action/Adventure – 2nd place

milehiscribe@gmail.com

 

MINDSCAPE

Joao Alves

Film Noir/Horror

In 1941, two special agents must go inside the mind of a Navy sailor gone insane, to find who or what destroyed a naval base and left him as the sole survivor, re-living his memories and risking losing their own sanity in the process.

European Genre Forum – one of 10 scripts selected

joao.alves.anim@gmail.com

 

MOMOTAMI: RISING SON

Mista Martel, Mary Kate Allen, Samuel C. Connor & Steve E. Holbert

Historical Fiction

In 1918, a Japanese couple comes to the United States in search of a better life. After decades filled with prejudice, humiliation and human rights violations, when World War II ends, their son decides to run for President of the United States.

Content Creators of Atlanta – winner, Best Feature Screenplay

Black Film Festival Atlanta – finalist, Best Feature Screenplay

TMFF – The Monthly Film Festival – finalist, Best Feature Screenplay

Actormista@gmail.com

 

NANA AND JAKE

Ross Allaire

Family/Science-fiction

A retired first-grade teacher and her orphaned grandson must outwit an obsessed small-town sheriff in order to save who they think are refugee aliens on a doomed planet.

ross.rocknroll@gmail.com

 

NEURAL

Sarah Granger

Sci-Fi

An expert informant gets infected by an unusual cybernetic virus, giving her 24 hours to live. With nowhere else to turn, she goes to her ex, who recruits a team of hackers in a rush to find the viral code and take down the dark web boss who hurt her.

Fade In Sci-Fi – semifinalist

sarah (at) sarahgranger (dot) com

 

NICKED

Eileen Wilson

Short film

Santa, held up at the grotto, uses his magic to save a lost soul getting nicked.

Bloodstained Indie Film Festival – winner, Best Short Script

Top Indie Film Awards – nominee, Best Short Script

chorlton1and@gmail.com

 

NUMBER ONE

Rich Hammond

Drama

Afraid of losing everything, a fading rock star tries to save his career by faking his own death.

rich@richhammond.com

 

OH, MY LEO!

Jeff Naparstek

Dark Comedy

A man has the opportunity to spend twenty-four hours with his wife… three days after his funeral.

Georgia Shorts Film Festival – Best Feature Comedy

propwriter1@gmail.com

 

OLD WEST

John Henderson

Revenge/Thriller

An aging farmer saddles up to hunt down a Western outlaw and his gang after a shootout takes away the last of everything he holds dear.

johnmichaelhenderson@gmail.com

 

OPHIDIA (THE SNAKE)

Greg Tennant

Psychological Horror

A nightmare vision of a former activist getting over a bad breakup and becoming entangled with a woman who claims to be helping him but who threatens to feed him to a giant snake.

Oaxaca Film Fest – finalist

13Horror.com Film & Screenplay – finalist

Oregon Scream Horror Week Film Festival – official selection

Indie Suspense Horror Sci-Fi Film Festival – official selection

gjtennant@sbcglobal.net

 

OTHERSIDE

Marin Rymer

Sci-Fi/Thriller

A suicidal detective investigating a spate of missing persons becomes one herself when she’s apparently trapped inside a suspiciously perfect hotel run by a peculiar proprietor.

marin.rymer@yahoo.com

 

PIECES

Stephen Tronicek

Horror-drama

After accidentally causing the death of his brother, a renowned surgeon starts to cut pieces of himself off.

The Million Dollar Screenplay – semifinalist

Screencraft Horror – quarterfinalist

stephen.tronicek@gmail.com

 

RATIONAL PANIC

Robert Rhyne

Psychological Thriller

When a theater professor’s wife, who suffers a panic disorder, mysteriously disappears during Mardi Gras, the professor is sucked into a strange and deadly mind game with one of his students, who has written a play with an eerily similar character.
 

Horror Hotel – Best Horror/Thriller Script

Shriekfest – Best Thriller Feature Screenplay

StoryPros – finalist

Script Summit – finalist

We Screenplay – finalist

PAGE International – quarterfinalist

randprhyne@aol.com

 

REPRESSION

Minh-Anh Vo Dinh

Horror/Drama

While struggling with a dead end job to support his dysfunctional family, a young man begins to experience nightmare inducing sleep paralysis, in which malevolent forces and horrifying visions terrorize him.

Screencraft Horror – semifinalist

minhanhvodinh@gmail.com

 

ROUGH SURFACE

Tim Brennan

Drama

Based on actual events, a young reporter investigates the life and murder of a Lakota Sioux girl as the killer’s confession rock the foundations of a small town.  

Big Break Screenwriting – finalist

TSL Free Screenwriting Contest – finalist

tbrennan75@gmail.com

 

SANDHILLS, NE

Coral Rucker

Social Horror – short film

Isaac goes to Nebraska to visit his friend Luke. During his stay he experiences creepy and unnerving encounters with the townspeople of Sandhills.

coralaotw@gmail.com

 

SIMULATION THEORY

Mage Lanz

Drama/Sci-Fi/Mind-bending

A woman’s assumptions of reality are unraveled as she experiences different lives in different universes.

lanz.mage@gmail.com

 

SKIP TO MY LOU

P.J. Marino

comedy-drama

A man held prisoner in a futuristic desert penal colony befriends a soulful zombie hitchhiker, the last of many pets he names “Chrissy”, but Chrissy is jealous, and has a tendency to eat any new friend the man makes.

pjmarino@pjmarino.com

 

SLAYCAY

Bill Poore

Psychological Thriller

After discovering that her best friend is sleeping with her fiancé, an unstable Instagram influencer invites her cheating friend on an all-inclusive Jamaican vacation where she plans to take her revenge.

8 on the Black List

b.poore8@gmail.com

 

TERMINOUS 9

Stephen A. Rutkowski

Science Fiction

With the sun dying, a family joins an intergalactic mission to a new planet in hopes of restarting civilization. After an arduous journey that spans generations, they finally arrive at the new planet, Terminus 9, which has a healthy sun but may be uninhabitable for other, more sinister reasons.

s.a.rutkowski@gmail.com

 

THE FLASHLIGHT FARMER

Alison C. Wroblewski

Original Drama

A young widow must save her home and dairy farm with the help of her opioid-addicted father before the bank forecloses for a debt she didn’t know her dead husband accrued.

Richmond International Film Festival – finalist

Fresh Voices – semifinalist

The Black List x Women In Film Residency – semifinalist

Screencraft Fellowship – quarterfinalist

Screencraft Drama – quarterfinalist

Sundance Labs – second-rounder

alisoncrews@mac.com

 

THE INVADER

Phillip E. Hardy

Science Fiction/Film Noir

When several women are murdered in Texas, a small-town lawman suffering violent dreams and premonitions tries to prevent a growing body count, while hunting for what could be a serial killer from another world.

L.A. Neo Noir Festival – Winner, Best Iconic Neo Noir Screenplay

Mindfield Film Festival – Winner, Best Science Fiction Screenplay

Filmquest – Finalist, Best Script

Los Angeles Film Awards – Winner, Best Science Fiction Screenplay

Kapow Intergalactic Film Festival – Finalist, Best Screenplay

Shriekfest – Quarterfinalist, Best Screenplay

Hollywood Blood Horror Festival – Winner, Best Screenplay

phillip_hrdy@yahoo.com

 

THE IRON HORSE OF LUCY STEELE

Paul E. Zeidman

Western-Adventure

1874. A fiery train engineer relentlessly pursues the ruthless outlaw who has stolen her one-of-a-kind locomotive to pull off the biggest heist in U.S. history.

Creative Screenwriting Unique Voices – winner, western genre

Screencraft Action – top 10 finalist (2x)

Nicholl Fellowship – top 15% (2x)

Screencraft Fellowship – semifinalist

Tracking Board Launchpad – top 50

StoryPros – semifinalist, action/adventure

Worldfest Houston – Gold Remi – western screenplays

paul.zeidman@gmail.com

 

THE LAST TREE STANDING MOTEL

Howard Casner

Drama, Crime

After two hired killers murder someone at a remote motel, they receive a call from their boss telling them they can’t leave the motel until he gives them permission—but won’t tell them why; are their lives at stake, or is this some sort of sick joke. Whatever it is, tragedy is inevitable.

PAGE International – semifinalist

Austin Film Festival – semifinalist

All Access – semifinalist

London Screenplay – finalist

Glendale Screenplay – finalist

Beverly Hills Film Festival – official selection

hcasner@aol.com

 

THE MARIO PUZO STORY

M. J. Moore

Biopic/Drama

After his Depression-era youth in Hell’s Kitchen and his decades of postwar obscurity as a struggling novelist, author Mario Puzo triumphs in 1969 with “The Godfather,” which immediately became the fastest-selling novel in publishing history. 

 

 

THE PENNY

Roxanne Marchand and Sheila Brothers

Family, Coming of Age

11-year-old Harry’s estranged grandfather finds him sneaking around in the forbidden attic and is none too happy but the smallest of treasures and Grampa’s nostalgic stories take them both back to see the lives that were touched by this special coin while unknowingly forging an unbreakable bond between the two.

The Penny was honored and published in short story form in the book “Family Movies Hollywood Didn’t Make, But Should” by Young Films and Publishing.

roxmarch@bellsouth.net

 

THE PODESTA

Vic Sammartano

Historical/Biographical Fiction

A career politician under Mussolini faces revenge when his fight against the fascist regime is no longer tolerated. To avoid certain death, he and his family escape from Sicily, secreted on a commercial fishing boat, destined for French Morocco.Two years later the Nazis occupy France in WWII, setting in motion a series of life-threatening events as the story of three generations of his family unfolds.

Seeking feedback

yvic@comcast.net

 

THE PORTENT

Esther Agulian Carr

Drama

A Scottish Highlander in the 1800’s haunted by a dark spirit, must find the woman whose destiny is mingled with his, and yet it will take more than their love to break the phantom’s curse.

Screencraft Drama – finalist

Screencraft Public Domain – finalist

esthercarr9@gmail.com

 

THERE’S BLOOD ON THE DISCO BALL

Brian Flaccus and Chadwick Hopson

Dark Comedy

Four friends in crumbling relationships set out for a night of party therapy while hunting a serial killer.

brian@theknightsyoung.com

 

THINGS KEPT HIDDEN

Christopher O’Bryant

Western/Horror/Thriller

After being hired to locate a young woman, a new Pinkerton and a mysterious bounty hunter each with their own secrets, set out to find her, only to discover a cult will stop at nothing to keep her for themselves.

Breaking Walls Thriller – finalist

Los Angeles Crime and Horror Film Festival – semifinalist

Screencraft Fellowship – semifinalist

chris@obryant.ws

 

TILLIE

David Chester and Blake Pinter

Coming-of-Age/Period Drama

When her tyrannical father forces her to leave school to work on the family farm, a gifted girl secretly embarks on a life-changing journey to follow in the footsteps of her beloved teacher.

Pitch Now Screenplay Competition – finalist

Screencraft Public Domain Screenplay Contest – finalist

Vail Film Festival – finalist

davidhalchester@gmail.com

 

UNBURIED (based on the play UNBURIED)

Rebecca Norris – both play & screenplay

Dramedy

A wisecracking chronic hoarder must face her complicated past when authorities give her 72 hours to clean up her home or be put out on the street.

O’Neill Theater Center – National Playwright’s Conference – semifinalist

Austin Film Festival – 2nd rounder

Screencraft Playwriting – quarterfinalist

beckaroohoo@gmail.com

 

WHAT KIND OF WOMAN

Elizabeth  Block

Dramedy – short

A young woman’s life is flipped upside down by secrets from her mother and she is forced to become the parent instead of the child.

Screencraft Film Fund – quarterfinalist

SF Indie Fest Screenplay – finalist

screenblock@gmail.com

 

WINTERBURG

Owen Stidman

Drama

When their post-high school lives don’t turn out the way they’d hoped, five millennials return to their small Rust Belt hometown in hopes of finding personal fulfillment.

owenhstidman@gmail.com

 

YOUR MOVE

Danny Aviv and Jeff Haber

Romantic Comedy

A former photographer, nervous about #MeToo culture, gains a new perspective on life and love when he meets his ideal woman at the chess shop where he works.

j.r.haber@att.net

 

TELEVISION

4-F: OPERATION UNDERWORLD

Greg Beck

Historical Crime Drama Espionage

The New York Mafia of Lucky Luciano & Meyer Lansky work with Naval Intelligence in World War II to stop the Axis powers. Focus on Lansky underling with ALS & his handler a Sarah Lawrence graduate and a member of Women’s Reserve. Boardwalk Empire meets Sicario.

Austin Film Festival – AMC Pilot Script – Finalist

Scriptapalooza – 3rd place

gbeck86@gmail.com

 

A GENTLEMAN’S HEIST

Alex Konz

limited series – Action/Adventure

A crew of nine engages the FBI, Catholic Church, and the Cuban regime in a complicated game of cat and mouse across the globe while in pursuit of the remnants of a long lost king’s treasure. 

Coverfly’s The Red List – #15 Adventure Television of the Year

ark4497@gmail.com

 

AKITA ON PAROLE

Jordan SuperMan Taylor (RIH), Sire Eminence Zakkiyyiah, Stacci D. Great

Dramedy Sitcom

Akita, an accomplished, strong-willed, ball-busting attorney formulates an exit program to combat recidivism because she’s very arduous of the judicial system’s failing track record for rehabilitating repeat offenders. Little did she know that the implementation of this program would be like a punch to the throat.

WildSound February 2020 – winner

Catalina Filmfest – finalist

1greatproduction@gmail.com

 

AMATEURS

Dan Phillips and Chris Townsend

Sitcom

A small group of misfits find their place in local amateur dramatics where relationships grow in the strangest of ways, in the strangest of costumes. 

drphillips86@gmail.com

 

ANGELS OF WAR

Natalie G. Bergman and Victoria E. Rau

pilot – Drama, World War II history, Medical & Military – diverse cast led by female lead role ensemble

The untold true story of a group of American nurses trapped behind enemy lines for over three brutal years in the South Pacific during World War II. Follow their heroism, relationships, endurance and survival.

The Golden Script Competition – semifinalist

roseandpearlproductions@gmail.com

 

BOUNTY

Gary M. Howell

Drama

When a deep-sea explorer goes missing, his son must unravel a mystery embedded in his father’s will, and doing so will entangle him in a world of drug smugglers, murderers and backstabbers.

WeScreenplay – semifinalist

Screencraft Pilot Launch – finalist

Atlanta Film Festival – semifinalist

PAGE International – quarterfinalist

garymhowell@gmail.com

 

CHICAGO OVERCOAT

Abby LaMarre

pilot – Supernatural Drama

On the south side of Chicago at the helm of Prohibition, a horror writer finds herself torn between two worlds when she stumbles upon a speakeasy run by vampires.

Austin Film Festival – second rounder

Screencraft Pilot Launch – quarterfinalist

Screencraft Fellowship – finalist

James A. Michener Fellowship – awardee

lamarreabby@gmail.com

 

CLAIRVOYANT DETECTIVE

C.J. Knapp

Crime Thriller

Murders trigger a latent gift in a hard-nosed tenacious Asian detective. As she investigates the bizarre killings, she uncovers strange amulets linked to the Chinese Zodiac – and the world of demons.

Script Summit Screenplay – Official Selection (pilot)

Script Summit Screenplay – Official Selection (pitch bible)

Extreme Screenwriting – Recommend

cjknapp11@gmail.com

 

COUNTERINTELLIGENT

Natalie Sayth

Comedy

A clumsy FBI analyst must overcome self-doubts and a dysfunctional bureaucracy to locate a compromised informant and gain her boss’s trust.

natalie.sayth@gmail.com

 

CURTAIN CALL

Kate Harbert

Comedy

“Curtain Call” follows a touring company of a failing musical as they struggle with low ticket sales, insane crew members, and an unreliable cast.

Rome Independent Prisma – semifinalist

harbertekate@gmail.com

 

DICK DOCS

Marc Blitstein & Brian Rousso

30-minute single-cam comedy

A once-promising urologist who abandoned his profession, now this underachieving pool cleaner, is forced to start practicing medicine again to prevent his estranged broke father from ending up on his couch.

emailmarc@mac.com

 

DOWNTOWN

DeShawn Hill

Drama/Dark Comedy

A tightly-wound, bottom-tier business man is thrown into the underbelly of his mundane city after he witnesses the unthinkable on a night out.

Officialdeshawnhill@gmail.com

 

DYSFUNCTION JUNCTION

Jim Mercurio

1/2 hour Dramedy pilot

An orally fixated neurotic psychologist falls for an anally retentive businesswoman and all sex breaks loose. Will this modern couple be able to navigate through self-deception, projection, codependency and anger to find love or will their relationship become a dysfunction junction. In the vein of auteur-driven half-hour dramedies such as Fleabag, Girls, Better Things, and You’re the Worst.

Currently #1 for Drama Television (Half-hour)s of the year on the Red List

JimMercurio@gmail.com

 

FRANKENSTEIN UNLEASHED

Neal Wiser

Sci-Fi

Years after the virus he created killed his wife and millions of others, Vik Frankenstein and his brother have to harvest organs from the dead to keep Vik alive long enough to take down his old friend, the scientist who actually unleashed the virus.

Screencraft Fellowship – finalist (pending – winners announced in July)

WriteMovies Screenwriting – grand prize winner, Winter 2020

Inroads Screenwriting Fellowship – winner (top 10)

Stage 32 4th Annual TV Writing Contest – quarterfinalist

nwiser@gmail.com

 

GARYTOWN

Seth Nelson

Comedy, Mystery

A successful podcaster reunites with a job-hopping childhood friend and exposes his brother’s true identity.

snelson1076@me.com

 

GOING STEADY

Robyn Paris

1/2-hour single-cam Comedy

Ladies’ man widower Sid Shineman, the former owner of a high-end women’s boutique, moves in with his fashion designer daughter Abby after the death of his wife. Together, they navigate the world of online dating, while weeding through advice from their flamboyant live-in housekeeper, Wanda. COMPS: Grace and Frankie, The Kominksy Method

Stage 32 Pilot Competition – quarterfinalist

robynoparis@gmail.com

 

HADES

Michael Boaks

Medical/Crime Drama

When Australia’s top ER doctor is permanently struck off, his life spirals into chaos. Desperate, he takes a job as private doctor to a secretly unwell Croatian crime boss as gangland tensions rise.

michaelboaks@hotmail.com

 

HANDBASKET

Matthew J. Kaplan

Supernatural

When a drummer’s deal with the devil results in the disappearance of the singer, the remaining bandmates must face their own demons in order to break the deal before the next singer vanishes.

kapmatt@gmail.com

 

HOW HEATHER SURVIVED THE APOCALYPSE

Amanda Graham

pilot- Comedy

A smart-but-sneaky teen girl stuck in a crazy Baptist cult in 1986 discovers the world will definitely end in two years’ time.

Screencraft Comedy – quarterfinalist

amandagraham@gmail.com

 

HOW WE ROLL

Katey Clausen

1-hour Drama

Trapped under the boot of her father, a closeted young woman who comes to find herself, and her sexuality, through roller derby in 1984 California.

cynthiakclausen@gmail.com

 

HUNTING VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN

M. Pepper Langlinais

1-hour Drama – pilot

A newly dead man, a mortician, and a cop work together to seek the source of local zombie activity in small-town Kansas.

Fresh Voices – “worthy of network consideration”

Creative World Awards – semifinalist

methos@gmail.com

 

INFINITELY YOURS

Darci Faye

hour-long Drama (adapted from the author’s play of the same name)

Emily is forced to go home for her father’s funeral. When Emily crosses paths with her ex-boyfriend, she is not sure which scares her most – the fear that he hasn’t changed a bit … or the fact that she still has feelings for him. An explosive new drama about the hidden cycles of violence in rural Maine.

Planet Connections Theatre Festival – nominee, Outstanding Playwriting of a New Script

dcf@bu.edu

 

INVASION OF THE CUBECUMBERS

Brannon Hollingsworth

Animated Children/Family Comedy

When an overzealous boy applies too much fertilizer to his father’s crop of cubecumbers, he and his family scramble to put the abundant crop to good use.

brainypixelproductions@gmail.com

 

KISMET

Ashwini Prasad

Comedy & Drama

A South Asian woman leaves her sheltered family life in Vancouver, BC to New York City after a series of events lead her to a calling for a new life and a new career path as she embraces her autonomy and her sexuality. 

ashwini_prasad01@yahoo.com

 

KRIMPS

Michael Paul Caruso

Drama

In Portland, Oregon, 1889, an atypical vaudeville producer works to become a bold voice for justice to fight against a ruthless band of pirates who capture citizens and sell them to work on ships.

myshacaruso@gmail.com

 

MATCHMAKERS

Erin Felton

Sci-Fi Sitcom

A workplace comedy about a PR woman representing a company of matchmakers who genetically engineer women for love, even though gene therapy technology is still often defective. 

Austin Film Festival – second round

erinhollyfenton@gmail.com

 

MORNINGWOOD

T. Gordon Stanley

Dark comedy, mystery

A disgraced intelligence officer, who steals three million dollars, goes underground in a peculiar small town, but loses his leg while setting up an illicit operation to unveil international corruption.

Table Read My Screenplay – Park City – semifinalist

tgordonstanley@gmail.com

 

MYTHIC QUEST: MIDNIGHT KINGDOM

August Isles

Comedy

Mythic Quest’s newest expansion “Midnight Kingdom” has leaked to the public and it’s not well-received. Co-creative directors Ian and Poppy blame each other while Davis tries to deal with Montreal.

aiwritestv@gmail.com

 

NAMAHAGE

Travis Seppala

pilot – Horror

After her American husband is killed in an accident, a Japanese woman must save his children from a pack of mythological demons.

Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards – quarterfinalist

Austin Screenplay Awards – quarterfinalist

Scripts & Scribes Logline Madness – top 24

flannelmann@yahoo.com

 

NO THANK YOU

Brittany Suzanne Kelly

Comedy

Tawnie, a plus-size Caribbean woman living in LA fed up with her romantic connections not panning out, drunkenly places an explicit personal ad that gets over 500 replies. She decides to date those who responded in hopes of finding her true sexual match. 

brittany@striketwicecreative.com

 

OCCUPIED INTELLIGENCE

Collin Lieberg

Historical Drama

Inspired by the true story of two women in Occupied Europe who spy for Allied forces by rescuing downed soldiers and translating Nazi intelligence, only to be betrayed and captured.

collin.lieberg@gmail.com

 

PARKMONT

Brandon Hull

Comedy

Probation forces a twentysomething to find work or go to jail. He finally lands a job, unbeknownst to him it’s with South Florida’s largest gun and drug runner.

BHWrites24@gmail.com

 

PAX ALPHA

Kevin Ryan

Historical Fantasy

As the Roman Empire collapses, a vengeful grandmother protects her grandchildren while on a warpath to the magical rulers that murdered her husband and son.

kevinryan333@gmail.com

 

PUBLIC INTEGRITY

Shawn Decker

Crime drama

A new detective unit tasked with criminal justice reform faces obstruction when they investigate police corruption and brutality, starting with an officer-involved shooting of an unarmed Black celebrity.

shawndoc1996@gmail.com

 

REAPER

Kayona Ebony Brown

hour-long pilot – Drama, Crime, Fantasy

After being demoted from her job as the Grim Reaper, Death uses her unearthly powers to exact vigilante justice for the soon-to-be-dead.

Roadmap Writers Diversity Initiative – Winner/1st Place

kayona@kayonaeboynbrown.com

 

RESTING BITCH FACE

Dana Braziel-Solovy

1/2 hour comedy

When a people-pleasing starlet loses her ability to fake a smile, she must learn to embrace her inner bitch and rebuild her identity in a society that demonizes women who are not ready to make nice.

dana.braziel@gmail.com

 

‘SCRIPS

Craig Guerra and Jason Gardner (based on Craig Guerra’s memoir ALIVE and UNWELL)

pilot – Coming-of-age true crime drama

When his mother dies, a college student studying far from home struggles to reconcile with his estranged father while slipping deeper and deeper into the prescription drug trade.

craigguerra@gmail.com

 

SENIORS HIGH

Dave Goossen

1/2 hour pilot – Dramatic Comedy

After moving from Montana to North Carolina, a feisty octogenarian comes to terms (or not) with the “cliques” at his seniors home that parallel those of his grandson in his new high school and his daughter at her new job.

dave@davegoossen.com

 

SOUL SISTERS

Brandon Udy

Comedy

Ruth is psychic. Janine sees ghosts. Together, these middle-aged half sisters navigate LA life (and death), juggling relationships, careers, and the living and dead celebrities that frequent the city.

brendon.u@gmail.com

 

SOUTHERN FRIED

Guy Crawford

1/2-hour Dramedy

A prodigal daughter and her female fiancé return to her small southern hometown to take over the family diner, setting up a collision of worlds and values that leaves everyone trying to figure out how to coexist in the new normal.

guyc2_2000@yahoo.com

 

STAR DUCKS

Jake Lynch

Animated Sci-Fi Comedy – pilot (Quack Landing)

A crew of ducks crash their spaceship on an uncharted world under suspicious circumstances. Their lowest ranked crew member, reckless Sagittaria, sets out on an otherworldly journey to recover the missing ship pieces, find her missing crew and learn from the Scroops what it really means to be a true hero.

jakelynch25@gmail.com

 

SUBTERFUGE

Rich Andrew

Drama/Sci-Fi pilot

A scientist studying posthumanism goes on the hunt for a metaphysical artifact that could unlock a singular truth that’s been hidden from mankind by certain elites throughout history.

richandrew00@gmail.com

 

TEEN ZOMBIE SHOW

David Santo

half-hour pilot – Comedy

A small town girl with a razor sharp wit searches for the fairytale man of her dreams, but “happily ever after” gets tricky when her Prince Charming turns out to be a zombie, and her mother prohibits their illicit love.

Fresh Voices Screenwriting Competition – 1st place, TV 

Firereel Film Festival – 1st place

The Crime List – 1st place

Hollywood International Moving Pictures – 1st place

Worldfest Houston – 1st place

ScriptXpert coverage at The Writers Store – double recommend

davidsanto@hotmail.com

 

THE EXPLORER

Heidi Stangeland

Historical Drama/Thriller

When Vikings accidentally discover North America, it’s not only unfamiliar and hostile territory they have to conquer but the clash of old and new religion that causes conflict throughout the crew.

Script Summit Screenwriting Festival – Best Character Category

heidi@vegvisur.com

 

THE FAIRY KNIGHT

Sam Tracton

pilot – Supernatural/Fantasy

A man seeking to heal his dying aunt absorbs a stockpile of magical energy, embroiling him in an ancient fairy warrior’s hunt for revenge.

ratiyusarmor@gmail.com

 

THE IMAGINATION OF BILLY COULTER

Garison Ellsworth Piatt

Teen/Adventure/Drama

A young boy escapes his dysfunctional life through his overactive imagination, until his daydreams become real…and out of control.

writer@garisonpiatt.com

 

THE MAINELAND

Kelsey Kyle

pilot – Drama

In a sleepy seaside town in Maine, three estranged siblings must move in together after their mother’s suicide is ruled a homicide. 

kelseykyle1@gmail.com

 

THIS COVIDIEN LIFE

Emily Lozano

Comedy

In the midst of a global pandemic, six employees of a failing retailer decide to quarantine together in their abandoned offices. Will they save the company? Will they get caught? Or will they drive each other insane?

emily@emilylozano.com

 

THIS IS AMERICA

Jared V. Walker Jr.

Fantasy/Adventure

To escape his immoral past, an unexpected hero must deliver a powerful child to a mystical hidden city while fleeing a diabolical scientist who will stop at nothing to recover her experiment.

jarevwalkerjr@gmail.com

 

UNSOCIAL

Nick Coffman

1/2 hour Comedy pilot

Evicted from her luxurious, virtual lifestyle, an aggrieved woman returns to a real world run by droids and smart cars.

ncoff10@gmail.com

 

UNTIL THE RIOTS COME

Naja Rayne

one-hour Historical Drama

A Chicago newspaper publisher fights against the federal government’s efforts to censor the Black press during WW2.

Sundance Episodic Lab 2nd rounder 

najaraynewrites@gmail.com

 

VAMPI E.R.

Luke Zwanziger

Comedy-Horror

When a socially conscious OHSU doctor in Portland, OR is turned into a vampire, she is ethically compelled to help the sick and injured at a mismanaged hospital for mythical creatures and monsters.

WW FilmLabTV – finalist

LukeZwan@gmail.com

 

WANDERLUST

Alicia McLachlan & Paul Winters

pilot – one-hour Drama

In the isolated Australian Outback, an Aboriginal hostel clerk with an identity complex must decide whether to take over the struggling family business with her enigmatic best friend or leave town to pursue a life of her own.

https://twitter.com/AliciaMcLachlan

 

WENDIGO

Sandrene Matthews

Fantasy Drama

A selfish, supernatural flesh-eater struggles to maintain her free-spirited lifestyle when she is forced to lead the family hunt to protect them from their own barbaric desires and the humans who wish to eradicate them.

Screencraft Sci-Fi/Fantasy – semifinalist

sandrenehatesspam@gmail.com

 

WHITE PLAGUE

Michael A. Levine

Science Fiction/Horror

When an anthropologist returns to her home in Milwaukee, a worldwide pandemic breaks out – unlike any other because it can be energized by electronic transmissions like smartphones and wifi. She knows someone she believes has a cure – the traditional healer of the tribe she was studying in the Nicaraguan rain forest. But to get to her she will have to travel 3,300 miles through plague-infested areas without modern transportation and needs the help of the one person she detests the most – the man she holds responsible for the death of her brother.

Stage 32 Read My Screenplay – Consider

QuantumW@gmail.com

Q & A with Jeff Kitchen

072701AE-A653-4698-80FD-A2D6D67C3CE5

kitchen book 2

Jeff Kitchen was classically trained in playwriting technique, specializing in the work of the groundbreaking Broadway script doctor William Thompson Price.

Jeff worked as a dramaturg in the New York theater, Playwrights Preview Productions (now Urban Stages) and taught playwriting on Broadway at the Negro Ensemble Company. He then started teaching screenwriting and has taught for over twenty years in small high-intensity hands-on groups.

He teaches the craft of the dramatist, advanced structural technique, the core of dramatic action, script analysis, and plot construction. Jeff is a sought-after script doctor, plot construction specialist, and rewrite consultant.

He has taught his techniques to development execs from all the major Hollywood studios and they consistently say that he teaches the most advanced development tools in the industry.

One of his students, Ted Melfi, was recently nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Awards for his film about the black women mathematicians at NASA, Hidden Figures.

Jeff is the author of the book, Writing a Great Movie: Key Tools for Successful Screenwriting. Jeff is now doing high-intensity training programs for professional scriptwriters as well as script consulting.

What’s the last thing you read or watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?

Narcos: Mexico on Netflix. It was so gripping, so watchable. Hard to believe it was true. I kept telling my wife how great it is, and said to her several times I thought it was better than The Godfather. They move through so much story in just two seasons, with so much intensity and depth, great casting and acting, great writing, and so much material to weave together. The corruption makes your blood boil; the loss, the genius, the brutality, the nobility, the adventure, the chess game, the betrayal, the power and murder and love and ambition, and the pure history—there’s so much going on and it’s so compelling.

How’d you get your start in the industry?

I was mostly self-taught. A friend who was a playwright taught me the basics of Aristotle and gave me two old obscure books on playwriting to read. They were quite fascinating and very difficult, but I spent three years studying them intensely. The guy who wrote one of them, William Thompson Price, was a pioneering Broadway script doctor for top producers pre-1920 and he founded the first school of playwriting ever in the history of the world. Twenty-four of his twenty-eight students had hits on Broadway.

Price created several seriously groundbreaking tools for the dramatist and I emerged with a mastery of what he created, then improved on them and taught these tools nonstop for twenty years. People kept saying they’d never seen anything like what I taught and said they worked better than anything they’d seen. I trained development execs at all the major Hollywood studios and they consistently said I taught the most advanced development tools in the industry. So I found these old tools and ideas for tools, and studied them like crazy, then synthesized them into their current form. I taught and consulted with them for years, and got deeply experienced with them from working hands-on with them on thousands of students’ works in progress.

What do you consider the components of a good script?

The short answer to that question is my 352-page book, Writing a Great Movie. Of course I can say something in a paragraph or two, but a proper answer can go deep and wide and long. A great premise, first of all, because if your raw idea sucks, then no amount of structure or character or storytelling elbow grease will get that clunker up in the air as a commercially viable project. In the industry, it’s called Polishing a Turd. I always say well-structured crap is still crap. So start with a great idea.

Also crucial is a good strong Dilemma of Magnitude for the protagonist, but it’s not easy in such a brief format to properly communicate how to make that one dilemma occupy the full proportion of the script, build to a Crisis, force Decision and Action in the face of crisis, and then conclude with the protagonist’s active Resolution of the dilemma. The way in which the protagonist resolves the dilemma expresses the Theme, and it’s crucial to have a solid sense of theme as you build your story. You need distinct characters who are deep and complex and colorful in various ways, and who are deeply flawed, contradictory and universal.

You need attack as a storyteller, so you’re not making safe, cliché, or stock choices. Your script must be actable and it has to be stageworthy. The action of the story must move ahead aggressively, with nothing unnecessary bogging it down. It needs good cause and effect, escalating conflict, structural unity, dramatic action, and so much more. But mostly, it has to hit the audience where they live. If it doesn’t connect to the audience, then it’s not compelling.

What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?

Weak ideas, lack of imagination, lack of attack, poor execution, poor structure, lazy storytelling, stale characters, lack of depth, lack of color, overwriting, over-describing, overbearing, too much exposition, attempting to dictate an emotional response rather than earning it, lack of empathy for the main characters, underpowered ending, doesn’t pass the So What? test, crappy dialog, boring, derivative, packs no punch, uneven tone, peters out, holes in the story’s logic, lack of conflict, no clear goal for the protagonist, stupid, a simple plot vs a complex plot, episodic, formulaic, wooden characters, preachy, predictable, miserable writing skills, lack of follow-through, writing not cinematic, story not commercially viable, no sense of vision, no entertainment value, flat dramatically, lack of magnitude.

Just to name a few.

What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

I’m not sure how many more serial killers I want to read about, or how many more procedurals, or special forces dudes, or nuclear annihilation. They can all get tiresome, but it obviously has to do with the execution, because each of them can kick serious ass when done well. But I think that things like a serial killer can be just a cardboard prop or a vastly overused excuse to write something brutal and adventurous for people who can’t or won’t do the work to go deeper and find a freakier way to mess with people’s heads.

Watch a movie like Bad Boy Bubby or Bad Lieutenant with Harvey Keitel to see something fresh and wacko. People sleepwalk through the writing process sometimes, and it’s tedious because so many people are out there writing the same warmed-over tales. There’s probably room for a story about a serial killer who kills writers who are writing about serial killers.

What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?

Shake things up. You’re a writer. Do something to me, mess with my head, defy my expectations, violate my sense of how a story should go. Tell a story that really tweaks me, that seriously makes me care, that grabs me by the throat and makes me notice. Make me fall in love, or go through something unimaginable, or face death, or embrace life—but do it full tilt and do it well. I don’t need the same old tired stories coming at me all day long. I’m looking for adventure, depth, love, heartbreak, power, in any genre.

Make the overall structure for your story work first. If it does not, then the details do not matter. A beautifully written scene in a script that doesn’t work is meaningless. It’s like having an ornately finished room in a house that’s falling down. Learn to work from the general to the particular. Make the overall story work, then make each act work, then each sequence, and then each scene. You gradually develop and dramatize your work as you build it.

Learn to separate the Necessary from the Unnecessary. The work of the amateur is characterized by the Unnecessary. Dialogue and description are overwritten, scenes may not be needed, whole sequences may only be dead weight, sometimes an entire act can end up being unnecessary, and in fact your entire script may be unnecessary. Which may sound funny, but it’s not. The Unnecessary kills scripts. Most scripts are unreadable—and that means 98% of them—UN-READ-ABLE. Atrocious. And in many instances, the Unnecessary plays a major part in how unreadable it is. Clean, crisp cause and effect separates the Necessary from the Unnecessary, and moves the action of the story ahead crisply and cleanly.

Master the craft of the dramatist. Dramatic writing is generally considered the most elusive of all the literary disciplines. It’s tricky, it’s slippery, it’s hard to pin down, hard to predict, and hard to diagnose or cure. But the more craft you’ve got, the more mastery you have in addressing every type of problem. People forget that scriptwriting is a performance medium—intended to be acted out in front of an audience in such a way that it’s gripping. So take the time to really learn your craft, to master it. Because almost doesn’t count, and people don’t want to read scripts that could have been good but the writer didn’t have the chops to make it work.

Take the time to build or discover deep, complex, dynamic, unpredictable, flawed, dimensional characters. Explore the Enneagram (EnneagramInstitute.com is a great resource) for each of your main characters because it’s such a remarkably powerful resource. A mixture of ancient wisdom about human nature and cutting-edge psychology, it purports that there are nine basic personality types, and each of these types has a healthy aspect, an average aspect, and unhealthy aspects. This helps you go deep and complex, to develop substantial flaws, hidden strengths, the mechanics of failure, a path to greatness, and complex, sophisticated human emotional reality.

What was the inspiration/motivation for your book Writing A Great Movie?

I wanted to get down on paper the know-how I’d accrued from teaching non-stop for eighteen years while it was still white hot. I had always taught small hands-on classes, maximum six people, and each person had to bring a script idea with them to develop so I could really get them using the tools. This helped them not only learn how to use the tools, but their scripts improved so much in the process that word of mouth on my classes was through the roof. I never taught large groups because the material was too complex. I knew that if I just talked at people about sophisticated techniques without showing them how to really use the tools that it would be mostly useless, because they couldn’t go home and use it to build their own script.

But when they started doing a big Screenwriter’s Expo in LA, they dragged me into teaching 150 people at a time. And there were riots outside my classroom of people trying to get in, so I realized that with this many people having heard about my training, it was time to write my book. So I cranked one out and self-published it by the next year’s Expo and sold a lot of them. I shopped that version and it got me a lit agent in New York who got me a publishing deal at Watson Guptill where two phenomenal editors helped bring out the best in my writing.

There are a lot of screenwriting books out there. What about this one makes it unique?

Not only are the tools unique, unusual and powerful, but I worked hard to emulate the hands-on aspect of my small classes in which I worked with each participant on their script as I explained the tools. So I explain, illustrate, and demonstrate each of seven tools in the first half of the book, and then I build a real script from scratch in the second half of the book, using all the tools. I start with a one-line idea and build the whole script, demonstrating the full use of the tools as I utilize them to create, develop, structure and write it.

Because I was rewriting the self-published edition, my editor wanted to clean up the second half of the book. I argued, saying that it had to remain unvarnished because the process of using these tools to create from scratch is necessarily messy. I needed it to remain fumbling and exploratory and rough, because cobbling a story together and dramatizing it is like feeling your way along in the dark. And I wanted to show them the raw reality, not the cleaned-up varnished version.

In the introduction to part two, I say that the first half of the book is as different from the second half as training in medical school is from working in an Emergency Room, or as studying a bear in the zoo is from wrestling one in the wilderness. I jump from tool to tool bootstrapping the story into existence, using Dilemma, the Enneagram, the 36 Dramatic Situations, Crisis, Theme, Research and Brainstorming all at the same time. And then I put the story through two structural tools, the Central Proposition and Sequence, Proposition, Plot, which help dramatize the narrative, strip out everything that’s unnecessary to the forward action of the story, and create consistent, coherent, compelling Dramatic Action.

I build the whole script with my readers looking over my shoulder, and I think it did a good job of showing the tools in action in order to give the reader genuine know-how and experience in utilizing the tools.

How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?

The top five or ten are definitely worth it and have launched many careers. I myself wouldn’t bother with many others, but it totally depends on what you’re up to as a writer. If you just want to put your stuff out there to see what people think of it, then you can use it as a learning opportunity. But you can also just hire somebody to give you notes on your script and that might give you more specific feedback. But there are books and websites that can help you sort the contests for value, and people who know everything about them, and they’re definitely worth taking a look at as part of a career strategy.

How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?

My website is BuildYourScript.com and I can be contacted through there or directly at jeffkitchen88@gmail.com. I offer a free class on Reverse Cause and Effect at my site. This is a powerful class that shows how to take a story you’ve roughed out and work backward from the ending, chaining backward from each effect to its cause. This enables you to stitch together the main building blocks of your story, and then to gradually flesh out the details as they become necessary. I demonstrate the process in action by working on a real script.

There’s also a paid class on a remarkably powerful plot construction tool called Sequence, Proposition, Plot which is a groundbreaking way to structure and develop your script, working from the big picture down to the details. I do consults on scripts as well as private classes on technique. One of the coolest things I do is to help people build their script from scratch, or to work with them rebuilding it once they’ve gotten a script up and running.

I’m about to roll out a high-intensity training program for scriptwriters that I’m really excited about. It’s an online immersion program in which I train apprentices for a year as we work together building multiple scripts. We’ll work two hours a day, plus one hour of homework, five days a week. In what’s called a Community of Practice, I communicate know-how through using the tools to build real scripts on the spot, and I also have students do extensive drills and rigorous exercises, handling the tools, practicing them over and over, and learning to think in that language until it all becomes second nature.

This type of learning process is called Cognitive Apprenticeship, in which writers work hand-in-glove with me to learn how to think like me. I communicate both explicit knowledge and the more ambiguous but crucial tacit knowledge, that feel for things which is indispensable for full expertise. This will be a high-intensity program, similar to a trade school, followed by a year in which I work with these highly-trained writers on building their own scripts. They will emerge as trained dramatists with key skills and experience, who can forge a career as working writers.

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

It’s hard to pick, but right now I’d have to go with cherry.

cherry pie 2

Q & A with Victoria Lucas of Lucas Script Consulting

VML headshot #1

Victoria Lucas has more than 20 years of experience as a development and production executive at both major studios and independent film companies. She began her career with Ron Howard at Imagine Entertainment, working on films including Clean and Sober, Backdraft, and Far and Away.

She later joined with Academy Award-nominated producer Rudy Cohen to develop and produce the acclaimed coming-of-age film The Island On Bird Street (winner of three Emmys and two awards at the Berlin International Film Festival). As Director of
Development, Production Executive and Associate Producer at Signature Entertainment and April Productions, Lucas helped develop projects as diverse as The Black Dahlia, The I Inside, and The Body.

Lucas currently works as an independent producer and runs a professional screenplay development service for producers, production companies and screenwriters. She is also the on-air host for Arizona Public Media’s Saturday night feature film program, Hollywood at Home, providing historical background and an insider’s look at the making of classic films.

What was the last thing you read/watched that you considered to be extremely well-written?

Parasite. I was highly impressed by that script, especially the way the writers managed to switch plot directions – and even genres – so seamlessly. In fact, I feel that films, television and streaming shows are in something of a “Golden Age of Writing” at the moment. For instance, look at two other recent films: Joker and Knives Out. I’m in awe of how Todd Phillips and Scott Silver managed to make us sympathetic to the characters in Joker (helped, of course, by Joaquin Phoenix’ amazing performance). And Rian Johnson did a masterful job of updating and reinvigorating old Agatha Christie tropes in Knives Out.

How’d you get your start in the industry?

To be honest, it all started at birth. My mother, father and two grandparents were in the industry, with both my dad and grandma being successful screenwriters. I grew up in a house where writing was an everyday job, and it was taken very, very seriously. Unfortunately, their talent didn’t rub off on me, but I discovered through reading my dad’s work – and hearing about the process it went through before reaching the screen – that my real interest lay in working with writers to develop their scripts. From there, my career began as a reader, followed a pretty straightforward trajectory: producer’s assistant, story editor, creative executive, director of development, then into production.

Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?

I learned to recognize good writing through years of reading and discussion at home growing up. But if you’re asking whether good writing can itself be taught or learned, the answer is “Yes, I think it can.”

Screenwriting is both an art and a craft. You might be born with a talent for telling stories, but that’s only half the equation. Putting those stories onto paper in a way that will appeal to producers and audiences is the other half, and that’s the hard part. You need to hone your technique; or, put another way, to “develop your writing muscles.” Screenwriting classes, writers’ groups, how-to-books, blogs and podcasts – all can help. One of my favorite podcasts is Scriptnotes with John August and Craig Mazin.

But the bottom line is this: You have to sit in your chair and write. And write. And write some more. No matter how naturally talented you are, you must practice your craft. It’s no different than becoming a master painter, concert musician or sports star. The more you do it, the better you become.

In the end, though, every writer is different; each with their own technique. Some like to outline their story so they know exactly how it will unfold before they begin to write. Others prefer to let the characters “tell” them what’s going to happen. Some are naturals at structure; others write great dialogue. The challenge for a writer is to identify the elements of screenwriting that don’t come naturally, then work hard to improve them.

What do you consider the components of a good script?

A script is the blueprint for a movie, and the drawing begins with the concept. A great premise is like having an engine that drives the plot and the characters. If it is strong enough, it acts as the spine of the movie so that the structural elements – a compelling story, memorable characters, exciting action and all the rest – will fit together and support each other to produce a successful on-screen result. It’s not enough to create a literary masterpiece that’s envisioned entirely in the reader’s head; if the script lacks cinematic elements, it’s unlikely to get produced.

What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?

I know writers are tired of hearing about it – and many will simply ignore the  advice — but the way you present your screenplay is more important than you think. That means formatting to industry standards and doing more than a cursory spellcheck. Now, I can guarantee you that no producer ever passed on a great script because of a few spelling mistakes, but the script had to get to her in the first place. You need to realize that the first person to read your screenplay is likely to be a junior development person, an assistant or even an intern. Most of those people have a dozen or more scripts to plow through every week before the company staff meeting. If your script looks unprofessional with too many formatting errors, it’s far too easy for it to be put down.

A common mistake among emerging screenwriters is to overload a script with plot. Cramming in too many plots and subplots doesn’t allow you to develop the characters within the story. So, while a lot might happen, it’s hard to care about the people involved. Conversely, you don’t want a story where nothing seems to happen or change. Films are about conflict and drama. Always think, “What’s at stake?”

Passive lead characters are problematic. Hamlet may be indecisive but he’s not passive. In a similar vein, try not to fall onto the trap of creating supporting roles that are vivid and cinematic, while your hero is bland and uninteresting.

And please, please avoid using dialogue as exposition. I cringe every time a line starts with, “As you know…” or “Do you remember when we…?” That’s designed to give information or back story to the audience; it’s not something real characters would say to one another. Incidentally, when I was a young development exec, my friends and I used to compete for the best (read: worst) lines of expository dialogue. I won with “Tell me again why we’re going to Grandma’s.”

What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

It’s disheartening to me to find spec scripts that are pale imitations of the hot new movie or television show that just came out. Even experienced writers often forget that by the time a film is released or debuts as a series, the studio pipeline is already filled with similar projects. Rather than chase after what seems to be commercial at the time, write a great story that you feel passionate about – one that may change the direction of what’s commercial, just as George Lucas (no relation) did with sci-fi in 1977.

What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?

Read scripts. As many as you can. Then read some more. You can easily find Academy Award winning screenplays online, but don’t limit yourself to the greats. Mediocre or bad scripts can teach you a great deal… even if it’s “what not to do.” One often-overlooked element in screenwriting is structure. The classic three-act structure is the norm in a majority of American films, but there’s nothing magical about it: more and more scripts are written in five acts. However, every script needs a structure just as a building needs a foundation.

There’s a truism in films: writing is rewriting. You may feel that you’ve finished your work after you write Fade Out. But really, you’re just beginning. Most of the films I was involved with averaged 9 drafts before production started – and that’s on top of however many drafts the writer did before submitting the script! Learn how to take notes. Films are collaborative and, unless you write, produce, direct, finance and star in your movie, you will be getting notes. You might not agree with or accept all of them, but do be open to outside ideas that can help your script. Writers groan (often quite rightly) about “development hell,” but the reality is that most scripts can be improved.

Have you ever read a spec script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, what were the reasons why?

I’ve probably read over ten thousand scripts in my career, and I remember giving four straight-up recommends. That doesn’t mean I haven’t read dozens or even hundreds of superb scripts, but a development executive’s job is to find projects for her production company. If the company I work with produces mainly action films and I read an outstanding character drama… well, no matter how brilliant it is, it’s not a script I can recommend to the producers. Mind you, if the script is that good, I’ll for sure find out more about that writer and, at the very least, see if they might have something else I can take in to the producer.

How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?

Absolutely worth it! But be selective. There are too many contests out there that only want to take your entry fee. Do your homework and find the reputable ones. Nothing about the film business is easy, but placing well in the most prestigious contests can be a great calling card for a new writer, helping you get representation or even producers asking to read your screenplay. Some of the top contests use industry professionals as judges, especially for the finalists. This can be a big plus: If they read your script and find it’s a good fit for their company or agency, you’ll be hearing from them after the contest even if you don’t win.

How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?

My company is Lucas Script Consulting.  All the information you need is on the website, including a link to contact me.

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

Cherry. Ideally made with tart (sometimes called sour) cherries. Bliss!

cherry pie