A little help from your friends

boost
We’re all in this together

Bit of a shorty today – lots going on around Maximum Z HQ, but I wanted to post some items to show writers trying to break in that you’re not alone, and there actually are people out there willing to help you out.

-There’s been a lot of activity on Twitter to help non-WGA writers work on dropping the “non” from their status (as well as connect and network with other writers), and some positive results are starting to develop. Seek out hashtags like #ForYourWGAConsideration, #PreWGA, #WGAFeatureBoost, #WGAStaffingBoost, and #WGAmegamix.

-Read a phenomenal script by another writer? You can help give both it and them a boost by listing it on the Spec Script Shout Out site. It officially launches on May 31st, but you can sign up and register now. You’re also more than welcome to register yourself and your own projects. Bonus – it’s free.

The WRAC Group is a great way to help yourself out when it comes to personal accountability. It’s good, solid, and effective. Also free.

A few simple rules to keep in mind while you’re doing all of this:

-Be nice. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated.

-Be willing to help others out (leads, referrals, etc.). It makes more of an impression than you realize.

-Don’t whine. It’s tough for everybody. We all get frustrated.

-Don’t lie. The truth will always come out, and your name and reputation may not recover.

-Somebody else has something good happen? Offer some congratulations.

-Don’t be afraid to tout your own accompishments. You’ve worked hard to get there.

-Everybody has their own path to success. Some take longer. Don’t compare your progress to theirs.

The biggest takeaway from all of this is, as it is with screenwriting – YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK! Dedicate whatever time you can spare each day. Make it part of your routine. Productivity yields results.

Good luck, chums. Now go write something.

A support staff of one

multitasking
At least you’re a shoo-in for Employee of the Month

When it all comes down to it, you know who’s going to do the most to help you and your career?

That’s right. You. Nobody else.

Sure, there will be others who might be able to give you a helping hand now and then, but the responsibility of getting stuff done falls squarely on your shoulders.

This goes beyond just writing and honing your craft. You need to build up your network. Establish connections. Get to know people. Chances are a majority of these will be online and via social media.

Seeking representation or someone who might be receptive to your script? Do your research. Find out who’s looking for what. (And for crying out loud, DO NOT take the “Does somebody have a list I could use?” route.)

“But I’ve got no time to do all that!” you might protest.

Of course you do.

The key element here is time management. You already set aside time to write, don’t you? Well, you have to do the same for everything else. If you can devote part of your day to work on your script, then there’s no reason you can’t dedicate a few minutes to focus on your career.

A surefire way to give yourself more time – stay away from casual websurfing, or at least ration it. So much online material is nothing but a big time-sucking rabbit hole. “Just five more minutes” can easily turn into “Where’d that hour go?” Funny videos are all well and good, but probably won’t do much to help you get your career going.

On Twitter? Connect with 5 people a day. Interact with them. Ask about their projects. Make it about them, not you. If they ask about you and yours, keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm them with details.

Part of some online community forums? Take part. Ask questions. Start discussions. Get to know the other members. A lot of these folks will probably have more experience than you, so learn as much as you can. Very important – don’t be a troll.

Is there a professional writer out there whose work you admire? Send them a note saying just that. DO NOT ask for any favors right out of the gate. Establish a relationship. You’ll eventually know if they’re open to helping you. Sometimes they might even offer it without you asking. It happens.

All of these are going to take time to not only accomplish, but also to develop. Be patient. It will take time. You wouldn’t rush through getting your script done, so apply that same logic to developing and advancing your career.

It’s all on you, so make the most of it.

 

Networking: more than just a group thing

“Working on the rewrite while I wait to hear from that manager. How about you guys?”

Despite the fact that writing, for the most part, is a solitary activity, a lot of us take great pleasure in being connected with other writers.

They can be the invaluable support, guidance and motivation we sometimes need to give us that little extra boost. Having a problem and being able to tap into this kind of resource in order to find a solution is priceless.

We get access to all the goings-on, good and bad, that happen among us and our peers.

While I’ve seen my fair share of both, I’m glad to say that a majority have been of a positive nature. This person got a manager. That person finished their latest draft. That other person began working with another writer on a new project. I’m thrilled for all of these developments, and offer up congratulations and words of encouragement. Each and every one of these people has worked hard to reach this particular milestone.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. That sense of longing and wondering “Will I eventually/ever get to announce some good news of my own?” keeps nagging at me, so I continue to buckle down and redouble my efforts in the hopes of making it happen a little sooner. Some days it’s really tough to be patient.

On the other side of the coin are the not-so-great things. This person’s script got a pass from a high-profile agent. That person is suffering from a severe case of writer’s block (or worse – depression). That other person is going through some tough things in their personal life. These also happen to a lot of us, resulting in messages of sympathy, understanding and moral support.

I’ve experienced this too. When times are tough, you find out who’s really in your corner, and are glad to know it.

But I wouldn’t have any of this kind of support if I hadn’t sought it out. There’s a reason it’s called “social” media. I’ve been able to connect with so many awesome people because of what I’ve read or seen about them online.

Is there a writer (professional or peer) whose work you enjoy? Someone whose tweets always make you chuckle? Send ’em a note telling them that.

Even better – are they in your area? When I learn about a local writer, I’ll offer up the opportunity for a face-to-face chat over coffee or lunch. I’ve also done this with folks just visiting the Bay Area. This has resulted in some great ongoing working relationships.

Everybody’s career advances at its own pace, and all the fantastic help and support we get on days good and bad are major pluses. Many writers are introverts at heart, but you have to make the effort to put yourself out there and get to know somebody.

It gets easier the more you do it, and you’ll be glad you did.

Scriptshadow Success Stories – part 1

As far as I know, Mr. Reeves does not know what evil lurks in the hearts of men. I , however, do.
As far as I know, Mr. Reeves does not know what evil lurks in the hearts of men. I, however, do.

As one of the multitude of screenwriters working on establishing a career doing exactly that, I’m always  exploring different potential avenues to get that first break.

In recent years, the website Scriptshadow (and its moderator Carson Reeves) has offered writers the chance to submit their script for review and feedback. While most are sent back to their keyboards with suggestions of potential fixes for the next draft, once in a while a script garners approval, hopefully leading to continuing success for the writer.

Today’s spotlight is an interview with two of four writers who fall into the latter category: Joe Marino and Alex Carl, whose scripts were voted 1st and 3rd, respectively, in the site’s recent Top 10 Amateur Scripts EVER.

Part 2 will post tomorrow.

1. What’s the title and logline of your script?

Joe Marino (JM): A Rose in the DarknessA secluded boy’s way of life is threatened when he befriends Rose – the girl who his parents have imprisoned in the family attic.

Alex Carl (AC): Fascination 127A group of men are hired by a mysterious client to remove Jim Morrison’s casket, give it to him for 24 hours and then return the casket into the ground before it is publicly exhumed to be moved to the United States.

2. What did Carson think of it?

JM: Thankfully, Carson loved it. I got the email from him the week of 2012’s Thanksgiving (a few days before the review came out), where he told me he was ecstatic about it. I ended up getting an “Impressive” rating (a score that, at the time, was only shared with “The Disciple Program” in non-pro scripts). It was surreal, to say the least. All writers dream of the day where their work is publicly appreciated – and I never thought I’d be among the lucky ones to have it happen to me.

AC: Carson’s reaction was great. I believe he tweeted out late at night after he’d finished it, saying some very encouraging things. I wasn’t on Twitter at the time and so didn’t see anything until his posted review in the morning with a grade of [XX] Worth the Read.

3. How about the reader comments? Did you find any of them useful?

JM: The SS comment board was extremely helpful in making suggestions to better develop the draft. They’re a smart and observant crew, and it was an honor to have them focus that attention on my work. “A Rose in the Darkness” definitely came out of that experience a better script.

AC: The readers were fantastic with input and constructive critiques. I used many of the notes in the comments section during rewrites.

4. What’s happened with the script since it appeared on Scriptshadow?

JM: The script had a healthy thrum of interest. In the end, though, interested parties either went with other projects they liked more or decided to wait until further notice.

AC: Since the review, the script’s been optioned, placed in the top 25 of The Tracking Board 2013 LaunchPad contest and placed in the top 15% in the 2013 Nicholl. It got close to a sale twice when it was under option and received several reads based off SS, but ultimately I believe the story may be “a little too out there” to ever get made. It’s “too big a budget to take a chance on” is what I’ve been told repeatedly.

5. What’s going on with your writing career now?

JM: I’ve been focusing a lot on TV pilots this past year. Been trying to remain as prolific as possible.

AC: I’ve written two other specs currently under option, and am co-writing a pilot.

6. How can somebody get in touch with you to inquire about this or other scripts of yours?

JM: Manager Brooklyn Weaver brought me in as an Energy Entertainment client, which has been a huge boon in helping me find a voice and develop scripts that have the best chance of getting sold.

AC: Email me at hagpok@hotmail.com

7. Is submitting a script to Scriptshadow something you would recommend?

JM: Absolutely. I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in or have the opportunities I have without Carson. If you believe in your script with unbiased eyes, I’d highly recommend it. My biggest suggestion: don’t submit your script unless you’re 100% certain it fully conveys your vision. Don’t send if there’s even a moment in your script where you just went “it’s good enough.” Being satisfied with “good enough” will kill this wonderful opportunity for you. Reach for the stars and don’t allow yourself to be satisfied with inferiority.

AC: Most definitely. Some incredibly talented writers on there who will give insanely constructive notes, not to mention Carson’s insightful review.

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

JM: It’s a tie between peanut butter chocolate and strawberry rhubarb (particularly Amish-made).

AC: Oh, that’s easy. Key Lime. I lived in the FL Keys for a bit, and Key Westers are as protective of their claim to the best Key Lime Pie on the planet the same way Buffalonians will defend their crown of ‘best chicken wings’.

Out, damned trope! Out, I say!*

Do whatever you can to avoid falling into this perilous situation
Do whatever you can to avoid falling into a similar perilous situation

(*A slight variation on the actual line from MACBETH – Act V, Scene I. We’re all about accuracy around here.)

The more I work on the story of the monster spec, the more I realize how flimsy the villain’s plan is. I know what their objective is, but the biggest roadblock is figuring out HOW they’re going to accomplish it.

Part of the original story included a monster with shape-changing abilities taking the place of a high-ranking figure in world politics. At the time, it seemed good.

But now it just seems tired and stale. It really is something we’ve all seen before, which totally goes against what I’m trying to do. Coming up with a fresh, original story is one thing; telling it in a fresh, original way is another.

How often have you read a script or seen a movie or TV show and thought “Seen this before” or “Saw that coming a mile away”?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of using something that’s been used or done many times before. Cliches. Tropes. Clams. Call ’em what you will.  There’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s lazy writing.

Why would you go through the trouble of working so hard to create something new and exciting, but fill it with material that isn’t?

Read through what you have. Does anything come across as too familiar, or at least expected?

Look at that tired old chestnut as purely temporary, then go back and brainstorm a few alternatives which are totally opposite (or at least really different) but also accomplish the same thing.

Take a look at scripts and movies similar to yours. Can you see how they did it? Maybe it’ll inspire an approach you hadn’t thought of.

Feeling stuck? Ask for help. Twitter’s usually pretty good. You’ll soon discover that writers have the amazing ability to easily come up with ideas when it’s for somebody else’s project.

You’re a creative type, so get creative. You know there has to be a better way out of this. It may take a couple of tries, but you’ll get there.

In the meantime, I’ll be busy figuring out a new way for monsters to take over the world.