Got a screenplay or TV script you want the rest of the screenwriting community to know about? Well, here’s your chance to put it front and center.
It once again gives me great pleasure to officially announce that The Maximum Z Winter ’22 Script Showcase will post on Friday, December 2nd. That means you have between now and Thursday, December 1st to submit. Details listed below.
It’s my little way of giving a helping hand to any writer who’d like to give their script a little publicity boost, absolutely free of charge. And once the Showcase posts and you see a script that you’d like to read, then by all means drop the writer a line and ask. I bet they’d be thrilled to send it your way.
Once the post is up, I’ll post a link to it on my various social media platforms, and highly encourage you to do the same if you want to get more eyes on your listing.
Here’s how it all works:
Email the following info here with the subject line “Maximum Z Winter ’22 Script Showcase’:
-Film or TV?
-Awards (if applicable) – 5 at the most
And that’s it.
Two VERY important details to keep in mind:
-DO NOT SEND THE SCRIPT!!
Just the info above. Nothing else.
Only one script per person.
New scripts are highly encouraged, but submissions from past Showcases are also welcome.
Again – send it in between now and Thursday, December 1st.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – proofread the email before sending it. There’ve been more than a few typos over the years, so make sure everything reads the way it’s supposed to.
Looking forward to seeing what you’ve got, so don’t delay and send it today!
Kyle Andrews is a Screenwriter, Actor, Producer, and Writer Advocate living in Los Angeles. As a writer, Kyle has written for or worked with several film hubs and online screenwriting resources. As an advocate, his “Kyles List” has helped several up-and-coming writers attain success in the industry. He is currently in development on three features, two as producer and one as writer.
What was the last thing you read or watched you considered exceptionally well-written?
There’s so much thoughtful, inspiring, engaging, and downright special (yeah, I said it) content out there at the moment, sometimes it’s difficult to narrow that down to just one or two. So, I won’t!
Lately I’ve been watching a lot more television than film. This past weekend I binge-watched Ted Lasso and I’ve never been left so deeply inspired by such a lovable goofball. For dramatic flavor, Raised by Wolves reminds me a lot of how I felt watching both The Leftovers and the reboot of Battlestar: Galactica, and I really wish more people would take a chance on it. WandaVision is also fantastic—though if folks enjoy a Marvel show that takes risks, I’d encourage them to check out FX’s Legion (also on Disney+).
There have also been a number of exceptional scripts I’ve read from undiscovered writers recently, and I’ve got those up over at my Advocacy page: kylefandrews.com/advocacy
How’d you get your start in the industry?
I’ve been writing screenplays and stage plays for 20 years, since I was a high school drama nerd and indie video store manager in my hometown in Massachusetts. At the risk of being too honest, this is where I admit writing wasn’t really my pursuit—I just enjoyed doing it while I focused on trying to be an actor, a much safer career choice. I ended up at Emerson College where I got a BFA in Acting with a playwriting minor, both of which taught me a great deal about craft…and very little about how to actually apply it all to the real world.
After moving to LA a little over a decade ago I had some moderate success acting in commercials but didn’t start finding real momentum until I started writing and producing my own projects. After a short film I cowrote, coproduced, and starred in got some traction at a few festivals I was approached by a competition and coverage service to help run their contests and manage their reader staff. That gave me the freedom to start meeting kind and generous industry pros while stretching my writer legs. This led me to where I am now: advocating for screenwriters, developing scripts and writer skills, lining up a few feature productions, and writing for myself and on contract.
Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?
Any skill can be taught or learned, so long as someone puts in the time, has a level of humility and self-awareness, and is willing to admit they don’t know what they don’t know.
When it comes to recognizing good writing, I would hesitate to make it too binary a distinction, that you either can or you can’t. I think the most important thing is to recognize your own approach to what the author has written is inherently biased, subjective to your own experience and perspective, and—most importantly—not canon. Criticism free of judgement is how you empower artists to flourish.
For me, the most important thing is to recognize whether the writer met the goals they set out to meet, if doing so was an engaging experience for me as an audience member, and if not, how best to help them achieve those goals.
Anything else is just, like, your opinion man.
What do you consider the components of a good script?
Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, and Heart. Go Planet.
The thing I look for most is how a script ties its various components together. The threading of the various aspects of character, plot, theme, relationships, personal history and backstory, setting, and even tone and genre together in a way that makes sense as we come to learn about and experience them for ourselves, and grow as we watch them succeed or fail (or both).
Another thing writers hear a lot is “don’t be boring,” and like, yeah, that’s generally good advice. But how do avoid boring your reader? Interesting characters, smart dialogue, fun action are always useful—but for me, it’s making the threads of the story as dangerous as possible. When a script is connecting with a reader on a visceral level, it’s because we care about the people we’re reading and we don’t know whether they’re going to get out of it.
And danger doesn’t always, or even typically, mean physical—it just means the stakes behind it are life and death, even in comedy. For instance, a character in unrequited love might feel like they’ll die if their love interest ever found out; the opportunity for a potential yes gets overshadowed in the misery of all the ways they could say no. Get some real tension in there and we’ll care what happens regardless of the answer.
What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?
Writers make the mistakes that fit their level of experience, so every mistake is common in that sense. For a newer writer, it’s thinking that formatting is the biggest concern and not spending enough time in the pre-work before diving into the script itself. For a pro, it’s leaning on habits that may no longer be serving them.
Not following through with actually marketing the script is another concern. Personally, I look to elevate the craft whenever I can, and I love seeing writers who do the same—but our art form is one that is only going to be appreciated by a handful of people. Figuring out how to get the script made into a visual piece of art is something I encourage writers to focus on, at least for a bit before they jump into the next great script idea that they’ll lovingly craft and not pitch to anyone.
I run into plenty of “basically ready” scripts, but the writer has no idea how to market their work—or worse, throws obstacles into their own way through assumptions. Instead of trying to pitch what they’ve got, they spend their time writing new scripts and their money and energy competing for the approval of anonymous screenwriting competition readers with indeterminate levels of experience to soothe their ego.
Combine that time, energy, and money into learning how to pitch your work and grow your network and you might actually see the results.
What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?
I’m actually a huge fan of using tropes if a writer is able to subvert it with purpose and puts it in a new light. Which on some level makes it not a trope, I guess?
That being said, I don’t consider misogyny, racism, ableism, or the like to be “tropes,” but rather a deeper indication of something inherent in the writer’s worldview It’s very easy for me to tell the difference between a character with these qualities and a script that actively or passively engages in these things. I tend not to make time for these works and I let those writers know it.
What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?
-Script rejection is not about you, it’s about them and their current needs.
-You will never get anywhere if you don’t let people read your script.
-Disagreeing with a note is as important as agreeing with one because it helps the writer clarify for themselves what their intention is.
-Invite and embrace constructive criticism and encourage yourself not to dismiss all criticism as “unconstructive.”
-At the same time, respect yourself by recognizing when someone isn’t respecting you and allow that person’s opinions to fade into the background.
-“Formatting” is less about demanding adherence to a strict set of rules and more about making sure a script reads clearly to the benefit of potential collaborators.
-Please for the love of all that is holy stop focusing on whether to bold sluglines or use “we see” or include songs and just tell a good story.
Have you ever read a script where you thought “This writer really gets it”? If so, what were the reasons why?
Absolutely, often, and with great aplomb, from new and “elder” writers alike. In these situations, the writer has deeply explored the backstory, invested in the characters’ individual perspectives, and connected the relationship threads between them, their world, and the events of the plot, found the organic rhythm for the story, and presents it to the reader in a way they can engage with, understand, and visualize as often as necessary.
Do all that and no one will care if you’ve bolded shit.
How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?
Hoo boy, this is the most complex question phrased in the simplest way. Having worked within that system, I know first-hand how some writers and their careers have benefited from winning or placing high in them. I have personally worked with contests to help them promote their writers and have connected several with managers, gigs, and a larger network as a result. I’ve even developed a couple of services that certain contests still employ to the benefit of their writers.
I’ve also heard from reps and producers that they’ll receive a Top 10 list of writers from a competition or coverage service and none will get signed because the folks judging the scripts don’t have a frame of reference for what is ready for market. This gets compounded when some writers whose scripts are close but do need some work get an outsized impression of their impact and don’t bring it the rest of the way.
There can also be a lack of transparency that that doesn’t serve to build trust. I don’t want to disparage individual competitions, but some of them also pitch relationships they don’t actually have or prizes that they can’t fulfill. There are also a couple full-on scams, but I don’t want to get sued by the sociopaths who run them (they are, thankfully, fewer and farther between than you might think).
I guess my feelings boil down to how an individual writer uses it to their personal benefit. If they can win or make finals and they promote themselves with those victories, then that’s great. If the service has a presence in the community a writer finds helpful, that’s also good. If the writer is newer and they’re looking for basic, no frills feedback, then it can certainly be a starting point for development. For everyone else, I think they’re best as accessories to the main work—fun for adding some flair but won’t provide you much cover in public.
How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?
My website kylefandrews.com includes all aspects of my work including Writer Advocacy and my own acting, writing, and producing.
Since it worked so well a few months ago, I thought it would be nice to once again offer creators (which includes writers, filmmakers, artists, and so forth) the chance to present their materials to as wide an audience as I can provide.
The master list will be posted on Friday, October 2nd – ONLY ONE LISTING PER PERSON!
And with the holiday season just around the corner, what better gift to give than something that helps support your fellow creatives?
So if you’ve got a book, a film, a webseries, a comic or webcomic, or pretty much any other kind of finished and ready-for-public-consumption product, this is your chance to put the word out.
If you and your project were among those listed last time, you’re more than welcome to be included again, but it would also be great to see some new material added into the mix.
And for all the screenwriters wondering when it’s their turn, a post that’s all about scripts will be taking place in late October or early November, so keep an eye out for that announcement in a few weeks.
Barb Doyon is the owner/founder of Extreme Screenwriting, a Los Angeles-based screenplay and TV pilot coverage service. She is well known among Hollywood producers as a skilled ghostwriter who is also a produced screenwriter, producer and award-winning documentary writer.
What’s the last thing you read or watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?
Extreme Screenwriting’s client Larry Postel’s upcoming Netflix movie The Main Event was a solid, inspirational read. Larry captured the Follow Your Dreams theme and wove it into a compelling conflict that incited a hero to break through his flaws and become a champion. It’s the story of a little boy who takes on WWE Superstars and I love how the trailer states the theme.
How’d you get your start in the industry?
I worked at Walt Disney Studios in the press room where I wrote daily press releases for then-CEO Michael Eisner and the studio’s production companies. One day a producer asked if I had time to do coverages and he showed me how to spot the diamonds among the coal heap. This eventually branched into my company Extreme Screenwriting.
What do you consider the components of a good script?
Whether they realize it or not, audiences want to viscerally live through a hero and experience the types of change they can’t, won’t, or are too afraid to implement in their own lives. Regardless of genre, the writer should make sure that the external and internal conflicts are interlocked, resulting in an external conflict that forces change in a hero. Most writers are excellent at coming up with unique concepts, but fall short when it comes to the hero’s flaw and arc. A good script combines external and internal conflicts to solidify a hero’s arc.
What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?
-Interlock internal and external conflicts, as noted above.
-A producer should be able to remove all dialogue from a screenplay and still know what the movie is about. It’s called a ‘motion picture’ for a reason.
-Don’t take format for granted. Learn how to use it to create pacing, emotion and to help guarantee fewer scenes are rewritten or deleted during the development phase.
-Stop asking gurus to explain subtext and start listening. Learn to hear subtext in everyday dialogue. This is fastest, easiest way to learn how to write it and how to become a pro at lingo.
-Don’t toss in something because you think it’s interesting. If Mona’s red skirt doesn’t mean something to the story as a whole, then leave it out.
-Learn the genre rules! Producers buy screenplays based on genre.
-Start thinking of description as action and create moving picture. Don’t tell us the room’s filthy. Show John walk in, toss cigarettes into an overflowing ashtray and kick his feet up on a pile of yellow newspapers.
-Be able to state the screenplay’s theme in one line. Producers ask, ‘What is the theme?’ to weed out amateurs from pros. Amateurs can’t answer this question.
-Your hero should get the best lines, the last line, the big scene moments, a grand entrance, and the worst-case scenario should happen to them and they alone should resolve the main, external conflict.
What was the inspiration/motivation for your book Magnetic Screenplay Marketing?
It’s heartbreaking to see extraordinarily talented, aspiring screenwriters struggle for years to get a producer to read their material. Extreme Screenwriting does help writers promote their material in our monthly newsletter, but writers need to spend as much time marketing as they do writing. Most do not! Instead, they send out a few queries here and there, maybe attend a pitch festival every couple of years and that’s it.
The market is rapidly changing, and if aspiring screenwriters don’t change with it, they’ll be left behind with little hope of getting their material into the right hands. The change in the industry requires a new way of thinking and it does have a learning curve, so that’s why I decided to make a book detailing how to get ahead of the curve and beat the competition with this a marketing strategy.
This book is very different from other screenwriting books in that it focuses more on what a writer can do AFTER they’ve gained some experience and have market-ready scripts. Is what you describe a newer development for screenwriters, and what results have you seen from it?
The marketing technique I outlined in the book, related to getting a producer to call you, isn’t new to the industry. It’s been around for a long time, but until recently, this strategy hasn’t applied to screenwriters. However, there’s been a shift in the industry. Like any other product (yes, a screenplay is a product), the buyer (producer) wants social proof of its viability and is even hiring staff to find material with this ‘proof’ attached.
The Magnetic Screenplay Marketing book teaches the writer how to develop this marketing strategy and put it to use. Prior to publishing the book, I worked with 13 writers to beta test the strategy resulting in agent representation, three options, a television pilot deal and 362 combined read requests, averaging 27 per beta tester. A few did fail at the process, but they didn’t complete the steps, skipped steps, or simply quit before even giving it a try. Therefore, results will vary, but the bottom line is the fact that the industry is changing. I highly recommend aspiring writers get aboard this fast-moving train before they’re left behind.
One portion of the book is about writers obtaining “bread and butter assignments”. What does that mean, and why are they a potential avenue for writers?
This pertains to one of the strategies outlined in a section of the book on how to get an agent to call you. The first agent 99% of writers sign with will be from a boutique agency. These are the smaller agencies in town and while they do make sales, most of their commissions are generated from writing assignments, rewrites, and ghostwriting. It’s so prevalent that it’s literally become their ‘bread and butter’, in other words it’s the main moneymaker.
However, a lot of writers refuse to do this type of work. They’d rather wait around to sell their own screenplays. This sounds reasonable, but if it’s been a year (or 2) and a writer’s work hasn’t sold and the writer won’t do this lucrative work, they become dead weight for the agent. This creates an ‘opening’ for the aspiring writer who notes in queries that they’re open to all kinds of writing assignments! During the beta test, one of our writers gained representation using this strategy. A writer who isn’t open to doing assignments is leaving a lot of cash on the table and missing out on a golden opportunity to gain representation.
You mention sending in writing samples (when and only when requested). One of the options you suggest is to send the last 10 pages of a script. Why the last 10 as opposed to the first 10, and what results have you (or other writers who’ve done this) seen from this?
This is a strategy I decided to add to the book after several years of hearing of its success. Most agents, producers and story analysts agree that most writers know how to nail Act I, but then the material starts to fall apart. The result is an accumulation of story points that miss the mark.
Therefore, if a writer can still intrigue them with a strong ending that reveals voice, theme, solidifies a plot, and nails down pacing while intriguing them to want to know more, then the screenplay’s worth reading. This isn’t the preference for all agents and producers, but even those who start off requesting the entire screenplay often flip to the end first.
You also have a section of the book regarding writers creating teaser trailers for their scripts. What’s a teaser trailer for a script, and what’s the advantage in doing it?
This is part of the new marketing strategy that involves creating an audience for a screenplay via social media, primarily YouTube. This doesn’t involve a Hollywood-style trailer, but rather a simple teaser video that can literally be done for $0 cost (the book shows how) and all the writer has to do is write a 1-page script.
Think about it. For years, producers have purchased books and reality-TV concepts that got their start on social media, based solely on the fact they came with a built-in audience. When a writer sits down to pitch a script, I guarantee the producer is wondering if the story can draw an audience, but imagine the potential for a sale if the writer walks in the door with an audience already attached to the screenplay. It’s a huge advantage and can make the project a hot commodity!
How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?
Extreme Screenwriting invites writers to visit us at www.ExtremeScreenwriting.com. We offer coverage, a free monthly newsletter, and see the Bookshelf tab for the Magnetic Screenplay Marketing book (available for instant eBook download).
Used to be that you’d need help promoting your own material. Agents, managers, editors, publicists, etc.
Not as much anymore.
With the worldwide reach of the Internet, a creative individual can present themselves and their endeavors to a global audience, via a website or blog, ads, tweets, and so on.
Having seen more and more of my writing associates taking the initiative and becoming their own promotions department, I was curious to find out more about HOW THEY DID IT and the results.
Some of the responses are presented here, with the rest coming up in future posts. (And if you’ve done something similar for yourself, feel free to drop us a line to be included).
In today’s spotlight:
Mark Gunnion (MG) Boomer Murrhee (BM) Diana T. Black (DTB) Craig Griffiths (CG) David Hal Chester (DHC)
What projects are you promoting?
MG – I’m pretty much promoting my last four screenplays for spec sales, and myself as a writer for assignments and re-writes.
BM – A one-hour TV Thriller/Drama titled HELLBOUND HEROES.
DTB – I have three completed features, and one of my teleplays is being rewritten as a feature.
CG – at the moment “The Hostage”
DHC – I’m actively promotiong my two female-driven dramas, TILLIE and BIG SISTER. TILLIE is an adaption of a long-forgotten American book, and BIG SISTER is based on a tragic family event. Both screenplays have placed multiple times as finalists, and feedback has been consistently good. I’m also promoting a Netflix-style comedy PRINCESS. IN REVERSE. It’s based on my co-writer’s book, published by Simon & Schuster, about her unique experiences as a young American wife in Nagoya, Japan in the 1990s.
Do you have a website for your material, or do you post each project on an individual basis?
MG – I use a variety of posting sites to post the full scripts and loglines, and for sharing – MovieBytes, FilmFreeway, InkTip, Coverfly. And I have my own “Screenwriting Services” page, 500Haiku.com, to post my awards, the posters my wife has made for my scripts, a bio, photo, and my log-lines. I’ve also just joined a new site for writers to swap reads and reviews, attached to Twitter, called SpecScriptShoutOut.com, where you can post similar info. I maintain profile pages and loglines at most of those, to varying degrees, when I can get around to updating them. I also have a LinkedIn page that is split between my day-job (naming new products and companies) with my screenwriting services and news. I also host a Screenwriter’s group on Facebook where I mostly learn from people with more experience, and where I try to make a welcoming place for writers to swap war stories and strategies.
BM – I post each project individually. However, I may consider a website in the future.
DTB – I have a website but it’s still under construction and I need to do a rethink, because it’s getting spammed via the ‘Contact Me’ page… not sure what to do about that. As I’m also a professional actor, I may have to split the current website and have two … warming up to that idea.
CG – www.griffithscreative.com.au is my site. I don’t do social media. I used to focus on social media. However, that is a stream. A stream needs maintenance. My website is a resource. I intend to start a twitter and instagram for each film. For a few months leading up to release.
DHC – I have a website dedicated to not only my original screenplays, but also my short films and produced screenplays that I was commissioned to write. https://www.davidchester.com/
How do you put your promotions together?
MG – Any time I have anything plausible to announce – Finishing a first draft, or advancement in a contest, or a new poster, or something in the news that makes reference to something in one of my scripts – I’ll do a LinkedIn posting, with some kind of exciting, eye-catching picture (since LinkedIn is visually so boring). When I have a good result at a contest, I’ll often do an email blast to prodcos and managers with the win in the Subject line. I am beginning to work the #Writers and #Screenwriters angles on Twitter, and have made a few interesting connections there.
BM – Once I complete a project and have gotten feedback from peers or coverage I will focus on a succinct logline, query letter and a one-page synopsis. For a TV project I put together a series bible. I begin by sending queries to contacts in my network who may be interested in this type of project. I then expand my network and research IMDb-Pro for producers and show runners. I entered several TV Pilot contests. I am currently planning on another trip to LA/Burbank for face-to-face pitches.
DTB – I have to go back and complete/review the marketing modules for ScreenwritingU’s MSC and Binge-worthy TV Bootcamp…and get marketing, but until I have this body of work ‘licked into shape’, I see little point. I’ve heard that creating buzz regarding a specific project via Instagram/project is helpful. I’m yet to explore that option.
CG – I focus on developing my personal brand. This will work across all projects.
DHC – I create mock film posters for my projects, which includes mentions of placements in contests, and create a page for them on Facebook. I also promote them via Twitter and sometimes on Instagram. I also create a 2-page written pitch, a 1-page written pitch, and 1-paragraph pitches, which are made specifically for including in query letters. I also connect with screenwriters on Twitter and writing groups on Facebook and do subtle promotion on those sites.
How have the results been from your doing this?
MG – Nada. Well, that’s an exaggeration. I have a response rate to my cold queries around 1-2 percent, not atypical for cold-calling type emails, and similar to what I get from my day-job promotion. Only difference, that approach in my day-job has generated a living wage for over 20 years! While after seven feature specs, I’ve only had a couple of no-pay options, and no sales. I have some interactions with a couple of movie-makers via LinkedIn, and I assiduously work on expanding my contact list there.
BM – I’ve had over 20 script requests. However, this has not resulted in an option agreement at the time of this writing.
DTB – I know when I do get around to marketing, it must be a concerted, documented effort and with timely, professional follow-up.
CG – I used to have thousands of twitter follows. I just stopped. I am releasing a podcast on writing which is also a great channel and less cluttered than other channels.
DHC – Perhaps the best thing to be said is that I’ve connected with fellow writers, some of whom have proved to be incredible mentors for pitching and some whom give notes that are better than anything I’ve received in competitions. I have not received any responses to queries, but I will continue to send them out. I personalize them, and that takes a lot of time.
Do any formats seem to work better than others?
MG – None of them have had much impact, as far as I can tell. I still feel like one voice in a stadium full of writers, all screaming for the attention of someone on the playing field – but pretty much just contributing to the general roar.
BM – I’m looking to personal pitches. I will know more after I’ve pitched in person.
DTB – My greatest success (potentially) has been through LinkedIn via industry connections.
CG – I focus on helping people. I avoid self promotion. People will want to help you as a source of thanks.
DHC – Posting quick blurbs on Twitter and connecting with certain other writers and following specific hashtags puts me on people’s radar and I get the sense that when the time is right, it could be productive.
What’s the link for people to find out more about you and your projects?
MG – Please check out my Screenwriting Services website at www.500Haiku.com, or my LinkedIn page at /markgunnion, and my Twitter feed at @Gunnion – and you can search for my name and see my pages on InkTip, Coverfly, MovieBytes, and probably a few others I’ve forgotten about already (Hi, Stage 32!).