This blog has always been about trying to help out the screenwriting community and give others a boost whenever possible.
Letting the world know about your script seems like a pretty good boost.
This edition lists 33 feature and 15 TV spec scripts, all available for reading via the writer’s email. Something strikes your fancy and sounds like a fun read? Contact the writer and ask.
Is your script on this list and you want to let everybody know about it? Copy the url and post to your social media platforms. Go ahead and toot that horn.
Once again, a huge thanks to all the talented writers who sent in their script info. I hope you each get lots of eyes on your material, along with more than a few read requests, and all the good things those could potentially lead to…
Thanks for reading, and enjoy.
AMERICAN PRESIDENT: DEMON SLAYER
Facing off against a horde of demons and the satanic cult who summoned them, a new President must find her voice in order to save the world and her soul.
Winner – Best Horror Comedy Screenplay – Oregon Horror Screams Film Festival – Fall 2022
On the eve of ruining her niece’s wedding, a love-challenged divorce attorney must rediscover the reason for the romantic season with the whimsical guidance of the Ghosts of Valentine’s Day Past, Present, and Future!
A paranoid lifestyle YouTuber and a ghost-hunter team up to investigate an abandoned factory with a dark past, but when they’re attacked by ghostly foes, they’ll need to trust each other and work together to escape with their lives.
Traveling to ‘the old country’ to find her only remaining family, a bereaved young American woman is forced to choose life or death when learning her aunt is a goddess needing a younger host to survive.
Winner – Best Script, Pinnacle Script Awards (LA) 2021
After a troubled Texas teenager is convicted of lying to the police for claiming that he saw an astronaut fall from the Columbia Space Shuttle explosion, he witnessesa murder, but no one will believe him – except the killer.
Finalist – PAGE International Screenwriting Awards 2022
Finalist – StoryPros 2020
Second Rounder – Austin Film Festival 2020
Top 10% – Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting 2020
A single Latina mother, desperate to afford the medication her son urgently needs, unknowingly traffics young women across the border for a Cartel funded trucking company… for her children’s sake, she better deliver.
Facing police indifference and anti-punk hysteria after his two friends are brutally murdered, a punk rock zine writer becomes the next target when he enters the dark world of neo-Nazi extremism to find the killers and end the bloodshed.
Ruthless mercenaries, fanatical cultists, and celestial horrors won’t stand in the way of an all-girl urban explorer team hell bent on rescuing a little girl from the grip of a shadowy monster in a secretive lab.
When her groom is possessed by a vengeful disembodied spirit on their wedding night, a young bride must challenge the notions of her own faith and her place in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in a race to set him free.
Second Rounder – Austin Film Festival 2022
Official Selection – HorrOrigins Film Festival 2022
When a long forgotten colony ship reappears on the far side of the galaxy, explorers are sent to discover what happened to it, and why the vessel’s enigmatic commander insists it can never return to Earth.
Winner – Bridge Fest, Vancouver
Nominee – Hybrid Genre, ‘The Red List’, Toronto
Winner – Los Angeles Motion Picture Festival
Winner – H.G. Wells Award, LA Sci-Fi Film Festival
Nominee – Hamilton Film Festival, Canadian Film Market
When Santa Claus disappears at the most important time of the year, a recently deceased grandfather and new elf-in-training, must recruit his grieving granddaughter to help him save Christmas in order to convince her there’s joy in her life that’s yet to be discovered.
When a popular podcaster discovers a small-town taxidermist is his job-hopping childhood friend in disguise, he must decide whether to go along with the prank or reveal his identity in an effort to boost his own career.
Best of the Fest – Die Laughing Film Festival 2022
In this modern day reimagining of Frankenstein, the unhinged Dr. Victoria Frankenstein brings Mary to life, and forces her to kill people for scientific experimentation, but as Mary evolves into an ethical person, it’s up to her to stop her evil creator.
Still guilty over his three-year-old daughter’s untimely death, a Lakota Aspie detective fights skeptical and hostile colleagues, to prove his visionary skills matter when (re)solving mysterious cases.
Former Scotland Yard Inspector John Hawkwood is trying to redeem himself from his dark past by working as a private detective in an idyllic Cotswolds village in 1956 England, surrounded by a cast of equally quirky & unconventional characters.
Semi-finalist – Santa Barbara International Screenplay Awards, 2022
A corporate salesman attempts to understand why he left his pizza chef job for the woman that just rejected his proposal in Hawaii as he finds solace in a pizza truck, The Dough Mobile. While he thought he needed dough to solve his life problems, what really needs to solve them is that he has to knead the dough.
Any screenwriter who’s done their homework can tell you there are plenty of platforms and websites out there offering up the opportunity to put scripts on display.
Granted, I know this little operation of mine isn’t the biggest or the most well-known, but I also know how frustrating it can be when you’ve got a script you’re really proud of and want to let the rest of the world know about it.
I’m a big believer in supporting the writing community, and wanted to do what I could to offer up that same opportunity to any and all interested parties.
“Send me the vital details for your script, and I’ll post ’em!” I announced.
And 167 of you did exactly that.
What you will find below is a virtual treasure trove of material.
Film and TV scripts covering a vast spectrum of genres, many with accompanying awards and accolades.
But the most important part is that each and every one is available for you to read – courtesy of the writer’s email being included.
Something grabs your attention, makes you think “I’d like to read that.”? All you have to do is contact the writer and ask. Maybe they’ll want to do a swap.
This is networking and establishing professional relationships at their finest.
So settle in and start perusing. Hope you find something you like.
(And as long as I’ve got your attention, feel free to hit the ‘like’ button, and even take it one step further and start following this blog.)
12 HOURS 2 STEAL
A struggling artist must navigate a series of instructions to steal a valuable treasure for an unknown puppetmaster after she downloads an audio tour podcast for a specific painting in a gallery.
Winner, Best Unproduced Feature Screenplay – UK Motion Picture Festival, Spring 2021
Finalist – PIMFF 2021
Finalist – European Cinematography Awards 2021
Official Selection – Amsterdam World International Film Festival 2021
Finalist – Best Script Award 2021
Official Selection – Rome Independent Prisma Awards 2021
An aspiring country singer willing to hustle, a broke bartender with a big heart, and a two strike criminal find their lives thrust together under the neon shadows of Music City after a robbery gone bad turns to revenge.
Quarterfinalist – 2019 Nicholl Fellowship
Winner – Best Screenplay, 2018 California Film Awards, Orson Welles Awards, Best Screenplay
Finalist – 2019 Los Angeles Crime and Horror Festival
Quarterfinalist – 2019 Roadmap/Road to New Republic
Selection – 2019 Sacramento International Film Festival Screenplay Contest
While stocking shelves in a retail store, a struggling, newly single dad gets caught in a diabolical game where he must follow the instructions in each box he opens, or his estranged children will be murdered.
A young man in recovery is recruited by his N.A. sponsor to join a cult-like group of thieves. Lured in with the prospect of helping his father’s shaky new sales career in the home-security sector, Ethan learns the hard way, there’s no honor among thieves.
A suicidal comic, trapped in an isolated cabin with a traumatized ten year old girl who hasn’t spoken in over a year, discovers that if he assumes the persona of her favorite cartoon character, she’ll respond. They put crazy on hold, have a hell of an adventure helping each other survive, and begin to heal their personal wounds.
In an isolated, small town, a squeamish, vegan, lesbian detective falls in love with a sadistic, serial-killer cannibal and battles her inner and outer demons in an intimate and twisted psychological cat and mouse battle for survival. With the help of a brave Deputy in a wheelchair, she learns she needs to become her fear to overcome it.
Lexi, a heavily tattooed woman in her mid-20’s, who was known to be an on-the rise young skateboarder during her childhood, gave up her talent as she approached her mid 20’s due to her the loss of her father and her mother in rehab. She lives with her disabled grandmother and likes spending time with her abusive boyfriend. However, with her finances hanging on by a thread each day, she decides to run back to the one thing she loves the most, skateboarding.
A young burlesque dancer reeling from a breast cancer diagnosis forms an unlikely bond with the much older members of her support group, and must push past conservative mindsets and patriarchal, ageist ideas of beauty in order to run a burlesque workshop helping her fellow survivors reclaim ownership of their bodies.
When a superstar college quarterback suffers an injury that threatens to derail his pro career, a shrewd sports marketer offers him lifetime financial security if he can carry a team of talented misfits to the Olympic trials… in curling.
A young boy who’s always wanted to go on an adventure is dying of lung cancer. On the brink of losing all hope and youthful imagination, his friend’s teddy bear comes to life, bringing him on an adventure unlike any other.
Stereo podcast week 4 – $10,000 grand prize winner.
While the Vice President of a video game company tries to prevent her kidnapper from hacking into her company’s data, her coworker and best friend of over 40 years tries to escape the hacker’s accomplice.
Two colleagues who don’t like each other – and who are both in other relationships – fall in love and get married over one Passover. It’s a story about family, following your passion, and fish (gefilte, and otherwise).
Chloe Monet, desperate to prevent a predicted death, is introduced to two jet-setting brothers from Greece, exposing an International diamond scheme. Although diamonds are considered a girl’s best friend, in this case they are a source of contention and danger.
As the final battle between Good and Evil approaches, five desperate orcs plan to steal a magical shield from their Queen’s enormous fortress so they can pay for their escape from the inevitable slaughter.
A vengeful train robber and a female Samurai forge an unlikely partnership as they race across the Old West to rescue the Emperor’s daughter and stop a gang of thieves from stealing five mystical swords.
Finalist – 2021 Screencraft Fellowship
Top 100 – 2021 Table Read My Screenplay Genre Competition
After their conspiracy theorist buddy goes missing, two dumbass vets enter a seedy town with a seedy strip club that just happens to be full of seedy 80s clad stripper werewolves, and once again they need to save ‘Merica.
Coverfly – Overall Top 10%
Quarterfinalist – 2021 Richmond International Film Festival
Quarterfinalist – 2020 Big Break Script Competition
Tricked into babysitting their godchildren, a trio of egocentric dudes find themselves in the middle of a robbery turned kidnapping, leaving them one kid short. With the aid of a frenemy cop, they must defeat the bandits and save the kid before daddy returns.
As his people face constant persecution in 16th century Prague, Chief Rabbi Judah Loew suffers a crisis of faith and creates a Golem as a means of protection, only to lose control of his monster and be forced to stop it before it brings about an even greater threat.
The do-nothing son of a recently deceased business mogul is tasked to deliver his estranged father’s ashes cross country in order to inherit the family fortune. Along the way, he must evade 2 hit men hired by his father’s spurned business partner, with his unbeknownst secret agent girlfriend assisting him along the way.
A grieving man isolates himself on an island after the loss of his daughter and wife, but when his wife returns, his sanity and devotion are pushed to the brink as she shows increasingly violent, animalistic behaviours.
An inclusive dystopian sci-fi screenplay about a hot-headed woman, who after her mother is taken for missed organ payments, joins a small rebellion effort to save her, but when they uncover darker truths about the repossessed victims, she must save the people of the encased city, which seems impossible because the powerful CEO is standing in her way.
Upon accidentally gaining access to a sovereign fund containing billions of dollars, an awkward social-climber has to siphon as much money as he can, using brilliant and complicated financial structures, before the authorities close in. Based on the real-life fugitive Jho Low who was involved in the biggest financial scandal in history.
1st Place – Table Read My Screenplay (Genre: Historical / Biopic) 2021
DEA Special Agent John Fisk and Kayla, his detection dog, are a force to be reckoned, when a mission goes sideways, killing him. Waking up wounded and alone, it takes the unwitting help of a rookie agent for Kayla to exact justice.
Rooted in a gateway valley, a family of homesteaders and Indigenous band become targets of a railway tycoon intent on exploiting a recent gold discovery in the neighboring hills. Driven to defend their way of life the valley’s inhabitants must put aside their differences and join together if there’s any hope of preserving honor and justice in this brave ‘New World’.
Determined to attend senior prom, a teen born with a rare genetic disorder must also overcome social anxieties to secure a prom date, until a teacher he is smitten with provides him with a unique opportunity and arrangement.
Adaptation of my short script GENERATION CY, which placed in the semifinals in the 2020 Barnstorm Film & TV Fest
For transgender teen, Andy Cooper, finding love – much less a date to prom – is a pretty tall order. Things change when Andy rekindles his friendship with Valedictorian, Olivia McDonald. Together, the duo confront transphobic peers, family struggles, challenging friendships and life altering SCARS.
Official Selection – 2021 Script Summit
A biracial teen comes of age in inner city Miami, and resents her mother’s return home after serving a lengthy prison sentence.
The good news: Disgraced, down on his luck, dog-loving, former special-op, Mutt Hickock, finds his fortunes changing when he’s named the executor of a billion and a half dollar trust. The bad news: The massive fortune has been left to a pampered, Persian cat, which Mutt not only can’t tolerate, he’s allergic to as well. The worse news: There is a very badass group of people from Mutt’s past that want the cat dead so they can get their hands on the money. The worst news: Killing Mutt in the process would just be a bonus.
In an attempt to save his dying relationship, a socially inept slacker finds a way to adopt a literal monster baby, sparking a cross-country road trip to return it before someone dies or all their money runs dry.
When Nazi Germany invades her Ukraine homeland, a 24-year-old University student enlists in the Rifle Division of the Soviet Red Army, over the objectionss of her family and the recruiter; she becomes her country’s most prolific sniper.
When a damaged Somali Soldier’s hidden past is uncovered, he faces his demons to shepherd an innocent family on the run to Europe. But blood ties to the vengeful military regime hunting them force him to make an impossible and deadly choice.
When an Army ranger is forced to pass an unconventional sobriety program or face a dishonorable discharge, she stumbles upon a dark plot within the facility capable of undoing her past while sabotaging her future.
Best Feature Screenplay – 2021 FunMill Film Fest, Cleveland, OH
When an orphan discovers that she has been adopted for the sole purpose of being an organ donor for her sickly new brother, she must fight her new family and escape their old mansion before her life is taken and her lungs are harvested.
In the days before Hurricane Katrina, a former investigative journalist is drawn back to New Orleans following the death of her sister, where one of the Crescent City’s oldest families is on the verge of summoning an ancient god of prehistory.
In 1970s Indianapolis, a 2nd-generation hot rodder finagles a way to stay out of the Army (and the County Jail) so he can keep doing what he loves – RACING – but a cop with a grudge is obsessed with wrecking his life, and making him pay for ALL his family’s crimes.
Finalist, Official Selection – 2021 Die Laughing Film Festival
When a revenge plot goes horribly wrong, a sickly priest finds himself caught up in the chaos. As violence unfolds around him, and doubt enters the fray, he must do what he can if he wants to get out alive.
Ruthless mercenaries, fanatical cultists, and celestial horrors won’t stand in the way of an all-girl urban explorer team hell bent on rescuing their young sister from the grip of a shadowy monster in a secretive lab.
Wanted for murder, a Navy SEAL must save his fiancé by plunging into the most desperate hunt of his life–a shattering search for a brilliant killer who has come back to finish a job he failed at several years before.
Loosely based on the twisted tale of America’s first serial killer family. Set in the absurd and abnormal town of Labette, a determined yet naive young woman strikes up an unlikely companionship with a gunslinger, teaching her that she must forge her own way in the world. But when you come from a family of murderers, heads are guaranteed to roll.
Berlin 1938. The Catholic Church makes a deal with the devil and a reluctant young priest must either comply with the church’s appeasement of Hitler’s government or rise up against two powerful forces to become the hero the world needs.
In the endless rain and crop failures of an apocalyptic volcanic winter, a mythic being – both man and monster – comes to the aid of a diverse blended family to bring back the sun. (MAGGIE meets THE SHAPE OF WATER)
Returning from Iraq, Jacob Diaz works as a social media monitor where he’s forced to constantly watch videos of cruelty, conspiracy, and hate. Fed up with the inaction of his supervisors and the authorities—plus the toll on his psyche—he hunts down the offending posters in search of peace. Finding that he has become a viral sensation himself, he must now escape a rabid fanbase that uses him as its inspiration.
A refined young woman must avenge her father’s death by becoming what she despises most, a pirate. Chasing her father’s nemesis across the high seas and through the Queen’s court to extract vengeance and save the kingdom.
A Katniss Everdine heroine in a Princess Bride world. A story for girls that want to be the hero and a princess.
In 1810 England, a bankrupt and disgraced London socialite has three days to uncover the truth about her ex-lover’s disappearance and make amends for her role in her sister’s death before she’s taken by a mythical entity that punishes wrongdoers.
When an overworked, underpaid college grad finds the promises of her higher education degrees aren’t paying off, she teams with two misfit friends to steal a prized sculpture from their alma mater in order to save her father’s house and finally make a difference.
When a vindictive bounty hunter transports a bank robber from New Mexico to Colorado to pay for his crimes, the outlaw tests his captor’s weakness and forces the bounty hunter to find out if he truly has the courage to dispense his own personal justice.
After a 17yo student at a pretentious New Orleans Catholic school digs into her Colombian heritage in search of a pretty, petty picture to paint to get back at her infuriating Religion teacher, her project on Santa Muerte leads to her lighting candles and murdering her lecherous uncle, but did she find Santa Muerte or did Santa Muerte find her? Maybe death is her destiny?
Chapter One: Evil Roots Run Deep. In the Montana Wilderness of 1845, a French-Canadian fur trapper with a dark past is captured by a Native American family. But after duplicitously talking his way out of their captivity, he faces a reckoning for his sins, stumbling into an even more harrowing nightmare that proves as haunting as it is deadly.
When a tenacious AAPI teen witnesses four corrupt policemen beat her dad to death, she must learn to convert her auditory PTSD into a newfound power to uncover the identities of the killers and seek revenge- even as it transforms her from a naive streetkid to gold-suited superhero, Aurem!
After accidentally waking King Arthur in the present day, a disillusioned businesswoman must sort fact from fantasy if they’re going to survive his enemies, both ancient and new – problem is, she may be one of them.
When a doctor from a family of cops is unfairly suspended from a prestigious hospital, he is thrown a lifeline by the Croatian Mafia in his old hood. Committing to help their ailing boss as an underground war erupts, he may discover his professional calling, if he can survive..
A staffing service clerical error reclassifies a hopeful henchman as a supervillain, forcing him to reluctantly fulfill his new managerial obligations instead of what he really wants: to win back his estranged girlfriend and find a decent benefits package.
Found footage, Rock-Mockumentary, Dark Comedy, Thriller, Music
Decades after the underground rock scene of the 1970s ended, a son discovers his father’s lost interview tapes with some of rock’s lesser known “legends,” and discovers that rock ‘n’ roll may never die, but it sure can kill.
A preteen girl’s life becomes increasingly complicated when she unleashes an adolescent, hard-to-manage genie, who can’t leave until he grants her three wishes and realizes he may not want to leave at all.
A cheap private eye has to step up his game after he unwittingly uncovers a cold case involving murder, smuggling, and police corruption to become the unlikely hero and survive his deadliest adversary yet.
When a New York City medical intern of Navajo descent suddenly manifests supernatural healing powers, she must learn to control her abilities with the help of her long-lost medicine-man grandfather, and discover how a shadowy genetics corporation was responsible for her father’s mysterious death.
After her husband’s mysterious death and the disappearance of her 9-year-old son, a teacher discovers a dark secret in her home that catapults her out of suburban London into the heart of Mumbai’s underworld.
A freak accident offers the director of a failing funeral home the solution to her family’s money problems: murdering the men responsible for her husband’s death and reaping the financial windfall of their funerals.
Based on a true story. Two newly recruited female Resistance members risk their lives to rescue downed soldiers and translate Nazi secrets as part of a civilian spy ring, only to face betrayal and capture.
At a hybrid state-run boarding school, the boys’ soccer coach must merge his team with the girls’ and win a tournament to stay funded, but can’t get his own daughter to play ball let alone the rest of the team.
Placed on Coverfly’s 2020 Red List – Top-rated Family Televsion (one hour)
#2 – Coverfly’s Red List – Dec 2020 – Top-rated Family Television (one hour)
When Hurricane Katrina blows the film industry up from New Orleans to Shreveport, a displaced eccentric talent agent, a rebellious preacher’s wife, and a diverse group of local actors form unlikely bonds at a weekly acting class, all hoping to get their big break in the other LA.
After being framed for a massive senior prank he didn’t commit, ex-serial prankster Freddie Slifko is forced to repeat his entire senior year at his Catholic boarding school where he vows to pull off the biggest senior prank of all time.
Surrounded by cornfields and casual racism, the town of Standard, Nebraska is anything but— When a blatantly racist statue of the town’s founder is defaced, a high school journalist and his best friend discover that their hometown is at the center of a story that threatens to tear apart not only their community but a society that has yet to come to terms with race in America.
A “What If” comedy where the U.S. builds The Wall and it successfully eliminates all drugs and violence in America, leading to unintended consequences and a looming threat from the one place they forgot to take into account… Canada.
When a teen witch accepts a cemetery restoration apprenticeship, her ability to interact with spirits is reawakened. Unfortunately, so is her evil father’s desire to steal her power and use it to unleash the damned souls that he controls on the living world.
Second rounder – Austin Film Festival
Finalist – Fresh Voices
Quarterfinalist – Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards
Facing eviction, three pot-smoking, golf cart-crashing, fun-loving retirement village ladies embark upon a black market scheme in order to save their homes and continue to live life on their own terms.
After she unexpectedly kicks the bucket and finds her recently-deceased boyfriend did not make it into Heaven, a saintly medical student escapes back to Earth and uses her second chance at life to stumble her way into Hell.
After an alien device catapults the Moon through hyperspace to the farthest edge of the galaxy, the citizens of Tranquility Base must survive an interstellar odyssey in their attempt to return the Moon back to Earth.
Michael Tabb is a working screenwriter, decade-long current and active member of the WGA (the Writers Guild of America, West is the Hollywood screenwriters’ union), a multiple-award-winning screenwriting educator, and author of a film-festival-winning Best Screenplay.
He’s agile enough to write horror for UNIVERSAL STUDIOS, family for DISNEY FEATURE ANIMATION, a period war epic for a production company at WARNER BROTHERS, and has worked with creative icons of all types, from comic-book legend STAN LEE to Academy Award winning actor, DUSTIN HOFFMAN.
What’s the last thing you read/watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?
I recently watched the Netflix series Lost In Space and felt it did a lot of things right. The characters are really specific and strong, each with really unique qualities that separate them from each other. There was constant danger, whether through the hostile environment or the characters that found their way into the family’s graces (be they human or robotic). Meanwhile, each episode ends with a new and engaging development that hooks the viewers to binge another episode. Between Lost in Space and Stranger Things, I think Netflix is redefining the kind of television an entire family might gather around the flat screen to watch together.
Were you always a writer, or was it something you eventually discovered you had a knack for?
Star Wars sparked my imagination, and I was drawing and creating science-fiction stories by the age of six. In middle school, I handwrote ten 20-24-page short-form adventure stories of a starship crew called The Alliance inspired by Star Trek. Each chapter was a new mission. I explored superhero and horror spoofs earlier in my high school days until I wrote my first short (44-page) screenplay in a modern, contemporary setting for my final English Lit paper. In short, the more mature I became, the more my stories grew more grounded and closer to reality.
Even though I loved writing, saying I had a knack for it would be far too generous. I was certainly a storyteller, but I was always academically far better at mathematics than English. I did, however, have a knack for drama. I took acting classes at South Coast Repertory and was actively involved in my high school drama program for all four years, participating in every play and musical I could. Acting taught me how important it was to define your character from all the others and to keep the tension at a level high enough to make each scene compelling. Every character had purpose, and it was true no matter what scene or show I was doing. These lessons carry over into writing, but because I wasn’t a gifted English student in my formative years, I never would have suspected I could have a career as a writer. I always thought I was going to be a character actor.
It took me many years and tremendous insight from my teachers at USC, NYU, and UCLA to make me a decent writer. They all earned their money. The time I spent analyzing characters and scripts as an actor was very helpful, including studying at the Atlantic Theater Company in NYC, a brainchild of the great American playwright David Mamet. It took a lot of work to understand how to do each aspect of concept creation and execution correctly. The only thing that came naturally is my escapist imagination. The rest was hard-fought, learned, and earned over years of writing and rewriting.
What was the script you’d consider gave you your “big break”?
I want to pause a second to say that I think the cliché of miraculously getting that one big break that changes everything is a terribly unhealthy and damaging fallacy. One opportunity may lead to another, and sometimes it doesn’t. Most working writers are constantly “breaking in” over and over again. Anyone who makes a living wage as a creative in this business is fortunate. Just remember, we do this job for our insatiable love of telling great stories. If that’s not your goal, it won’t be worth the amount of work you have to put into this job. Trust me. People have won Academy Awards and not gotten a job for years afterwards. So, if you get a break, save up so the money lasts the unpredictable draughts and keep writing.
With that said, I’ll reply by talking about the script that landed me my first paycheck as a screenwriter.
I was exceptionally lucky that the first screenplay I ever wrote is the one that landed me an agent and my first writing deal. Even so, it didn’t happen overnight. It took several years for it to get into the hands of those in Hollywood that could make a difference for me, and I had written around ten scripts between having written my first and setting it up with producers. The option on that screenplay has since expired, and I own that script again. I still wish someone would make it. It’s a high-concept swashbuckler in the spirit of Shakespeare in Love, The Three Musketeers, and The Princess Bride. It’s a fun-spirited, romantic romp set in the south of France full of swords, gallantry, and a sense of humor.
Taking a look at your bio, you’ve worked in a lot of different genres. Are there any that hold a special appeal to you, and is there a genre you haven’t worked in yet, but would really like to try?
I’ve written in every genre I can think of, most of which were for money, including: rom-com, drama, western, war epic, historical, biopic, science fiction, fantasy, crime, thriller, horror, supernatural, action, and adventure. I love each genre differently and deeply for the gifts each offers us. While I’m very proud of the diversity and breadth of my stories, it has also been my greatest career shortcoming. It would have been a far smoother journey if I picked a lane and stuck with it a bit more, but that’s not how I work.
The more you prove yourself a master of one genre in our business, the more people pay you to write it for them. As an example of this in another profession, when an extremely famous comedic actor gets the chance to play a dramatic role, they often take a big hit in the pocketbook. They don’t get paid the same as they do in the genre of his or her specialty. Even so, working without constraints and limitations is worth it to me. I have a solid batting average for landing writing jobs on which I get to pitch.
When I decide to write a story about something, I refuse to fit a square peg into a round hole. I’m not going to force my story into a genre because that is my specialty. I would rather pick the genre that I feel will be the best and most poignant reality in which to tell it. The story tells me where it must go. Right now, I’m rewriting two screenplays simultaneously, an ensemble reunion-of-old-friends drama and a supernatural thriller. The project before that, which is still being developed, was a period adventure television show. I love writing period pieces, sci-fi, action, adventure, and anything remotely escapist. I adore them all.
What inspired you to write your book Prewriting Your Screenplay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Generating Stories?
I had kept a long document of all the tricks of the trade that I liked using best. It ran almost three hundred single-spaced pages. I developed my own approach to writing by putting those tricks together in a certain order. Since then, I have never had writer’s block.
I work on multiple projects at once, and I’ve been asked by tons of writers how I do what I do. Though editing takes a while, others have always been blown away by how quickly I can create a strong and cohesive initial draft. They’d take me to lunch and pick my brain. Later, they’d tell me I changed their lives and approach to developing stories.
I adore giving back, helping writers. Helping one person at a time was great, but I felt I could do better. I got more involved at the WGA, putting panels together for the Writers Education Committee, and I co-created the first ever WGA Mentor Program in my spare time. I guest lectured and spoke when asked in classrooms and served on panels for writer conferences. Finally, I bit the bullet and agreed to teach an actual class online in Full Sail University’s online MFA program while still taking writing gigs for companies like Universal Studios. I’m also going to speak at the Central California Writers Conference in late September.
When I was asked to be on a panel for the Screenwriters World Conference in L.A., I told Jeanne Bowerman of Script Magazine about my 284 pages of notes I planned to turn into a book one day when I had the time. She asked me to write some articles I could use as a kind of running start to writing the book about my method. So, I did that to get the ball rolling. As I fleshed those articles into a full-fledge book, Full Sail University liked the published articles I wrote on character creation so much, they asked me to take over the Character Creation and Development portion of their online MFA Creative Writing program. Based on that, I knew I was communicating my method well, and I should finish the book.
I figured the book was the very best way of helping the most writers at once. In short, it all stems from the hope of giving back to my craft. I am only as good as I am because the writers who came before me taught what they had learned. My goal was to take that knowledge another step forward in the hopes that someday my book will not only help others, but it will inspire another great writer to take my ideas a step further as well. In short, human knowledge is all about continuing to construct our Tower of Babel, evolving our art form by working together to save the world.
Yes, I said save the world.
I believe storytelling is how we inspire others to invent amazing technology, see the world from new perspectives, and provide a deeper understanding of humanity. So, teaching others to write better is my way of getting others to create stories that change the way we think. When we change the way people think, we can change the way people will behave and treat one another.
My job as a writer isn’t to just tell a cool story and make some money. I wouldn’t need to share my tricks if that were my only goal in this trade. Storytelling is an incredibly powerful medium. Think about how it can bring people to euphoric laughter and devastating tears over events that never even happened and characters that don’t exist. As Spider-Man has taught us all, with great power comes great responsibility. Writers have the ability to make the world better for having written their stories. If I help other writers be more effective, I could be helping thousands of writers convey their impactful messages, bettering our world through teaching empathy, understanding, and the potential paths forward (or to avoid) in order to achieve a greater tomorrow for us all.
Yes, that makes all of you writers out there potential superheroes.
With so many screenwriting books out there, what is it about yours that makes it especially unique?
I always said if I’m going to write something, it’s not going to be something they can find anywhere else done the same way. We can’t help but work off of some universally accumulated knowledge, like genre, character types, and three-act structure, but we can strike out on our own by presenting how to assemble them in a new way. The knowledge is all out there, but it’s about how you put the pieces together and in what order.
So many screenwriting books call themselves a “step-by-step” guide, but when you try to apply the steps in the order they offer them, it’s not a fluid roadmap you can follow to construct a story. It’s not really a step-by-step guide. It’s a series of things that leave giant holes for the writer to fill in to get from one step to the next. There’s a lot of explaining what things are and how they work, but they don’t tell the reader how to create those things for themselves. In fact, it’s a lot of analysis. Don’t get me wrong. They’re very educational, but being able to explain and understand the material makes you a potential critic who understands screenwriting and how it works, but it doesn’t necessarily make anyone a writer. They’re simply a more informed reader. This is a great thing, but it won’t get someone who wants to write to the goal of writing his or her own screenplay.
Prewriting Your Screenplay is actually a true-to-form, step-by-step process by which you construct an original story (starting with absolutely nothing at all) through answering questions and completing exercises at the end of every single chapter until you have a complete and original story idea with the characters perfectly designed to serve that cohesive story. It’s an instruction manual for putting together a story with all the elements that should fit perfectly together like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Then, the book ends by explaining how to do the whole process in reverse in case you’re in a situation of having to fill in the blanks of a preexisting story idea.
The process explains to writers how I create a well-formulated foundation for a movie, whether working from a blank page forward or having to reverse engineer a soul into a preconceived plot idea. I give all I know and can think of to share with you. I’m keeping no secrets because there’s never a reason to keep the logic of how things work secret. No two writers would execute the same idea the same way, so, even if you have my technique, you’d never execute it the way I would. It’s everything that I learned and use when developing a project that has kept me writing as a decade-long, current and active WGA member.
I thought it was very interesting that you use the word “prewriting” in the book’s title, as opposed to simply “writing”. What’s the reasoning behind that, and how does prewriting apply to the craft of screenwriting?
Put simply, Prewriting is the opposite of rewriting. Rewriting is the work a writer does on a script after the first draft, and Prewriting is everything the writer creates before he or she writes the first draft. This entire book focuses on everything a writer needs to consider before writing “FADE IN,” the old-school first words of a screenplay.
There are a ton of books that explain writing and formatting the actual script. Nobody needs to write another book that explains script format. It’s been done to death.
This book explains how to assemble everything a writer needs in order to write a screenplay. It’s the foundation a writer builds upon. There are many things a writer should figure out before leaping into an outline. Doing this work up front will save writers an enormous amount of time normally spent rewriting after the fact trying to make the story congeal. If time is money, this book can save writers a fortune in rewrites.
And because this book is strictly about how to develop a story concept with an incredibly strong foundation and structure, it is applicable to all mediums of storytelling. It’s a universal storytellers playbook for formulating a cohesive narrative. I’m a screenwriter, so the examples throughout the book focus on films, but the logic of my foundation development for storytelling applies to any and all creative writing mediums, including stage plays, episodic series, comic books, novels, video games, animation, and all other media. In fact, someone told me they’re going to start using my method to redesign history lessons to teach history to their students. It’s applicable to anyone who can use storytelling in whatever they do to be more effective.
No doubt a lot of aspiring writers will use your book to improve their skills. Is there a particular piece of advice you think every writer should know?
Uh… My brain just exploded. That’s a book in itself. It’s a series of books! That said, I offer you these 10 pieces of advice:
If you think you can live a happily doing anything else except screenwriting, this business is so obscenely tough, do something else. With books, you can self-publish. With playwriting, the production is not allowed to change the work without the playwright’s permission. Even in television, there are far more opportunities, and the writers have more say. In film, the writers are hired guns and the director is the creative king. In television, the director is the hired gun, and it’s the writers who develop the show and its seasons. I intend to make that jump when the timing is right, too.
Write what you love and would pay to see, not what’s trendy.
Rejection is common, and you should never take it personally. When you’re starting out, people are hesitant to bet on someone lacking experience. You need 50 to 100 rejections in order to get 1 yes. Even if you are not a good writer yet, you may find someone newer to the industry. This person may get what you’re trying to do and wants to work with you.
Never argue about feedback with anyone giving you feedback as a friend or to help. You can ask questions for clarity, but once you understand the notes, thank the note giver profusely and shut the fuck up. Never argue. If you disagree with the notes, you simply don’t apply them. They’re bound to give you one or two notes that lead to a good change. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
99% of the time the note giver is correct that there is a problem where they said a problem occurs in your script. 99% of the time, the solution they offer is incorrect. The difference between the note-giver and you is that you are the writer of this story. You will need to figure out how the problem needs to be fixed in order to best serve the story you want told.
Even a horrific writing experience or partnership is a good experience if you learn something meaningful from it.
When you agree to work with someone, get the full terms of your understanding in writing, even a cowriter.
Get in shape. I hate to admit it, but the entertainment business is a ridiculously shallow industry. People hire people they would want to spend time with, of course, and people want to spend time with those who look good and have the confidence that looking good provides them. You do not have to be attractive; you just need to be the best version of you.
You cannot be afraid to say no and walk away from a deal or offer. If the material isn’t getting you fired up, or the offer is going leave you feeling un-collaborative, it’s best not to engage in something you don’t feel really good about because that will leave an impression. You’ll just ending up not delivering and burning bridges, and there are only so many bridges in Hollywood because it’s such a small industry. Saying no to things you do not feel engaged by is actually a very good business decision. I recently had a dear friend bring me a project with big name people involved. I read the script and instantly knew it wasn’t for me. Friends and industry professionals understand and respect someone that isn’t desperate. They smell desperation from a mile away and find it repulsive.
Always be working on multiple projects at a time. That one actually comes from Robert Zemeckis. I like to work on three. Producers have a slate of projects because they never know which one is going to get momentum or when it will happen. So should you. You never, as an artist, want to put all your eggs in one basket. That leaves the writer feeling desperate, and you know how Hollywood feels about people who are desperate.
You’re listed as serving on the WGA’s Writer’s Education Committee. What is that, and what sort of things do they do?
There are several committees on which WGA members may serve. Some focus on diversity groups and others on general membership. One of the latter is the Writers Education Committee. It was created in 2002 to develop programs that provide WGA members with practical, insider knowledge about how the industry works and how it is changing, emphasizing tips and tools to help writers succeed. The goal is providing the most up-to-date working knowledge for writers.
I’ve chaired and served on a ton of panels for the WEC about the most current trends on going from spec script to studio green light, packaging, multi-platform storytelling, getting writing work with overseas producers, pitching in Hollywood, etc. Any WGA member can join the WEC, run ideas for educational events by the committee, assemble a sub-committee (if approved), and create the event of his or her own design.
You’ve also done a lot of lecturing and moderated panels about screenwriting. Are there any particular points or lessons you make sure to include as part of those?
Be true to you. The only thing no other writer in the world can do is be you. Figuring out who you are, what you stand for, and the original things you want to say to the world before you die will make you a one-of-a-kind writer in this or any industry.
Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?
This is like asking that genre question again or asking someone to pick a favorite child. It’s just not right. I love rhubarb, coconut cream, apple, pumpkin, banana cream, mixed berry (any berry really – blackberry, boysenberry… is cherry a berry?), and don’t forget the oddly reptilian-named Turtle and Grasshopper pies. So long as it’s filled with something tasty, how can you go wrong? It’s pie. As long as it’s not from Mrs. Lovett’s Pie Shop in London, I’m game.
I would like to add one more thing. The shocking and most wonderful thing for me so far has been the reception my book has received when requesting consideration for an endorsement. You can see a bunch of their responses on the Amazon page under EDITORIAL REVIEWS, including the creators and/or show runners of such shows as Lost, The Big Bang Theory, Hawaii Five-0, The Orville, screenwriters of the Dark Knight trilogy, Star Trek reboot, Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy, icons likeStan Lee, and the most recent president of the WGA.After that are the endorsements from educators at AFI, USC, UCLA, NYU, and many more.You can read what they are saying and pre-order my book at: https://amzn.to/2HOMVFg.
I’m always keen for a good movie-watching recommendation, especially if it’s something I’ve never heard of, or at least heard of but haven’t seen. We all know a few of those.
So here’s your chance to shed a little light by a film (or films) that you’ve always enjoyed, but a lot of people may not be too familiar with.
Here are three of mine:
The Kid Brother (1927) An amazing piece of work from Harold Lloyd. Worth watching for the boat sequence alone. Plus it has a monkey in it.
ffolkes (1979) Roger Moore at his most un-James Bond-iest. A somewhat dated but still very entertaining action-thriller.
Whip It (2009) A charming and fun story that combines equal parts comedy, drama and women’s roller derby. Features a lot more name actors than you realize, and Drew Barrymore’s directing debut.
It doesn’t have to be a classic, nor does it have to be “a cinematic masterpiece”. You get a kick out of it, and think the rest of us would too. Just write down the title and what you like about it in the comments below.
The final installment 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 Ryan Dixon.
Ryan Dixon is a writer, producer and the founder of Tartan Valley Ventures, a Los Angeles-based creative development consulting firm that works with writers, producers and financiers. As a screenwriter, Dixon has written projects for studios including Disney, Amazon, Universal and WWE Films. Dixon has also worked in film/TV creative development at such companies as Paramount, MGM/UA, IMAX, Good in a Room, The New York Times and Tribune Media.
1. What’s the last thing you read/watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?
EX MACHINA’s screenplay was masterful. It reminded me of a sci-fi version of those great meta-thriller plays of the 1970s, like DEATHTRAP and SLEUTH. P.T. Anderson did an extraordinary job with INHERENT VICE. His adaptation added a layer of depth and Los Angeles historicity that was missing in Pynchon’s fun, but flawed and rather juvenile novel.
2. How’d you get your start reading scripts?
As a movie-obsessed child, I used to buy shooting scripts at the late and belated Suncoast: The Movie Store. In college at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama, reading scripts was part of the curriculum. My first job in Hollywood was interning for Tom Cruise’s former company CW Productions, so from that point on, I’ve been reading and covering scripts professionally in one form or another.
3. Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?
I think it’s a matter of taste. Of course, one must have a certain degree of training and skill in order to fully recognize and appreciate any craft. A classically trained musician or a fine arts scholar is better able to pinpoint the minutiae of Beethoven or Picasso. At the same time, taste is a separate sort of knowledge and instinct. A layman can find beauty if they’re a person who can digest and appreciates art for art’s sake. Nickelback’s members are studied musicians, Lisa Frank is a trained artist, and both are wildly successful in their fields. Study can hone and illuminate the elements of a craft but that can only take you so far.
4. What are the components of a good script?
The basic elements (structure, character, theme) must be superiorly executed. Next, there should be something special in the piece. Even if it’s basic genre fare, the script should include elements that make the reader sit up and say, “Wow! I haven’t seen that before.”
5. What are some of the most common mistakes you see?
From young writers it’s always basic mistakes: mechanics, too much dialogue and/or scene direction. Sadly, these mistakes are also the easiest to avoid. What they reveal is that that writer hasn’t bothered to learn the fundamentals. This is fascinating because I can’t think of any other vocation where a similar incident would occur. If one were serious about learning to cook, a cookbook would be the first purchase. If you wanted to scuba dive, you’d take lessons before jumping head first into the ocean. While all the fundamentals are usually outstanding in the work of veteran writers, there is often a lack of courage and conviction in terms of content, as if they’re afraid to try something different for fear of being tossed out of another development meeting. If you are going to make the huge time commitment needed to write a spec script, swing for the fences. The creative dilution process can come later, once the script’s been optioned.
6. What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?
One is when characters (particularly female characters) are described solely on their looks. It tells you nothing about who a character is and often times a bit too much about the writer’s psyche.
Another is the oversaturation of beautiful people playing everyday characters. Even if you look at a movie from as recently as the 90’s, a man could be a regular guy with full chest and back hair and a woman could do a nude scene with a soft, everyday body. In contemporary films, everyone is sculpted, plucked and dyed to perfection. In this renewed Golden Age of Television, character actors are able to once again shine and it really strengthens the storylines and characters (Breaking Bad and Mad Men are obvious examples).
My wife is a screenwriter as well (and very opinionated to boot), so for better or worse, this is a constant discussion and analysis in our household. A big one for her is that men can have high-risk jobs and a strong drive, but if it’s a woman is in the same position, she needs a tragedy or a backstory. GRAVITY most recently did this—George Clooney is an astronaut because of his skill but Sandra Bullock is an astronaut because her kid died.
7. What are the 3 most important rules every writer should know?
-The believability of characters is often more dependent upon the execution of other elements in the script (e.g., plot, theme, dialogue) than anything else. A trap writers (myself included) often fall into is to confuse “believable” with “realistic.” Thus the ever-present tendency to write characters who are mill workers, teachers, office drones, etc. While there’s nothing wrong with this if that’s what your script dictates, it’s also important to remember that some of the most believable characters in cinematic history were also some of the most unrealistic: E.T., Yoda, Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, etc. They’re believable not because you could see them walking down the street, but because the creators of those characters did an amazing job of creating the world in which they existed.
-Master the art of writing a “skimmable” script. We all dream of studio execs, producers, agents, etc sitting down in a quiet space and focusing fully on our script, but the truth is that they are often read in a rush during limited time frames. This is why it’s important to craft your script in a way that a decision maker can easily understand it if they are forced to skim it. You want your script to FEEL like a movie. That means, a reader should be able to zip through it in about 90 minutes. If a first time reader can’t do that, they won’t be able to envision you script as a movie no matter its other strengths.
-This is stolen but golden: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” (Stephen King, a favorite author, from ON WRITING). Lightning doesn’t just strike and no one will just hand you anything in Hollywood. Nothing comes easy in writing and you have to work yourself to the bone to get success. I track my time using my iPhone timer and a writer’s log. I make sure to always get in 6 to 8 hours of writing a day. If I’m blocked, I take a brainstorming walk. I’m not perfect. I can procrastinate with the best of them and it took a few years to build to that point. But like any exercise, it works if you keep working at it and pushing yourself.
8. Have you ever read a script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, could you give the logline?
Elizabethtown by Cameron Crowe. I read the script while it was in development and was never so moved or in awe of a piece of screenwriting. In the end however, the final lesson I gained from the experience was that great scripts don’t always make great movies. For whatever reason, the alchemy needed to successfully transform material from page to screen failed. This specific incident was doubly disappointing since the writer directed the piece himself and has shown time and again that he’s an immensely talented director.
9. How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?
There are only a handful of contests that will have an impact on your career if you are a top finisher. I’m hesitant to state that all the others aren’t worth it if only because placing high can be a great confidence boost to any young writer (if they have the money to spend). But if you are cash-strapped, go for the big guns and ignore the others.
10. How can people get in touch with you to find out more about the services you provide?