A book (or three) for you

Some exciting news today out of the literary department at Maximum Z HQ:

My new book GO AHEAD AND ASK! INTERVIEWS ABOUT SCREENWRITING (AND PIE) VOLUME 3 is officially released – in both paperback and e-book.

Putting all three volumes together has been quite an effort, and definitely a long time in coming, but they’re all set and ready for purchase here or here.

It was always my intent to have these books be about more than just writing a script; it’s about providing the writer with the tools to help them improve. This is why each volume is chock-full of helpful information, tips, and guidance from a wide variety of writing professionals to not only guide you in developing your craft, but how to potentially make your script better. Definitely a win-win scenario.

Not only that, but if you like what somebody has to say and are interested in asking them about helping you with your material, their contact information (email and/or website, and the occasional social media handle) is right there on the page for you.

Plus, numerous types of pie, along with a few other assorted desserts, being mentioned, which is always a good thing.

For those who’ve already purchased volumes 1 and 2, I offer a heartfelt thank you, while also hoping you feel the need to complete the set and get volume 3. Or if there’s a special screenwriter in your life who you think might benefit from, or at least enjoy these books, I’ll just casually mention that the holidays will be here before you know it, and that books always make for an excellent gift.

Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoy them.

Clear some space on your bookshelf

Coming soon to a trillion-dollar online retailer near you!

This one’s been a long time in development, and I’m quite thrilled to be able to finally discuss it.

Over the past few years, I’ve done over 100 interviews with script consultants, screenwriters, television writers, filmmakers, and writers across several mediums on this blog, and my intent for quite a long time was to collect them all in a book.

Turns out all of those interviews in print form would have resulted in a book approximately 700-750 pages long, so the book then became two.

After some additional editing and formatting, along with a little more re-evaluating, it was decided that the two would actually work better as three.


My 3-book GO AHEAD AND ASK! series will be coming out over the next few months.

Volume 1 collects the original set of interviews that kicked the whole thing off, and will be available in paperback on Amazon starting on 22 April.

(All three books will only be available in paperback. Sorry, e-readers.)

Volumes 2 and 3 contain the interviews that have come out since then, with Volume 2 slated for release in either late June or early July, and Volume 3 wrapping things up in September.

I am truly elated to finally be able to offer these books to the screenwriting community, and hope they prove to be both informative and entertaining, as well as inspire you to enjoy a piece of pie while you read them, because what else would match so perfectly with something I wrote?

Ask a Produced-and-In-pre-production Script Consultant!

rob tobin

The latest in a series of interviews with script readers and consultants who would be worth your while to work with if you want to get your script in shape. Today’s spotlight is on writer-author-lecturer Rob Tobin. 

Rob is a produced, award-winning screenwriter, published novelist, former motion picture development executive, author of the screenwriting books “The Screenwriting Formula” and “How to Write High Structure, High Concept Movies,” as well as several screenwriting CDs. He’s been a frequent guest lecturer on screenwriting at film festivals and writing conferences around the world.

*April 2015 update – Rob is currently working on a multi-book adaptation project and is not available for story notes, but can fit in one additional script polish or rewrite assignment.

1. What’s the last thing you read/watched that you thought was incredibly well written?

My wife and I just saw “The Normal Heart,” which blew me away. Brilliantly written, acted and directed. Most importantly, the title wasn’t the only thing that had heart, something most films no longer have. Even a film like “The Fault in Our Stars,” a film with tremendous heart, that I loved. I’d much rather see a film or read a script like that than a brilliantly written script with no heart.

2. How’d you get your start reading scripts?

I’m originally Canadian, and came to USC in L.A. to get my M.A. in screenwriting and become a working screenwriter. My background was as a novelist. Everyone at USC told me I should intern at a film company. I did, and started reading scripts as part of my internship. Lots of them. Years later as a development exec, I stopped counting at 5,000 script scripts read and covered. In that process, I wrote two screenwriting books, starred in a couple of screenwriting DVDs, then people started flying me around to lecture on screenwriting – Canada, New England, the South of France.

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

Definitely something you can be taught. Screenwriting has structure, elements, rules, all of which you can learn. Of course some people are going to be better at it than others. In addition, there is the other part of being a script consultant, and that’s helping the writer find ways to improve her or his script. That can also be taught, but there’s a much bigger talent component to that.

4. What are the components of a good script?

I actually wrote a book about the seven essential elements of a well-written screenplay, but to be honest, as I mentioned, one of the biggest aspects of a well-written script is heart. Yes, you can write a brilliant script about crime, sex, war, and so on. Bond movies are great, but I still think that heart is what makes a script special. Something like “The Normal Heart” or “Good Will Hunting”, or even comedies like “Big” or “Tootsie” have heart. High concept is also important but as I said in another recent interview, a high concept piece of crap is still a piece of crap. A low concept work of brilliance is still a work of brilliance. There are techniques and elements, of course, but I love that old saying about not writing because you want to say something, but because you have something to say. Say something worth saying, and say it with heart. If I had only one piece of advice to give, that would be it.

5. What are some of the most common mistakes you see?

Mistakes in a script are almost always structural, because almost everything emerges from structure. Dialogue, characterization, theme, it all emerges from structure. If you don’t understand structure, you’re in trouble. When I work with clients, the first thing I do with problem scripts is talk to the writer about structure. The mistakes and solutions are almost always located there.

6. What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

Easy killing. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a cop who easily kills a bad guy, or an action star killing hordes of bad guys, easily, without remorse, and without ever getting shot him or herself. Killing as a relatively trivial thing is the worst trope of all in my opinion, and it can’t go away fast enough.

7. What are the 3 most important rules every writer should know?

-Write only if you enjoy writing, because the chances of making a living at it are extremely remote.

-Learn your craft.

-Never submit a first draft of anything.

8. Have you ever read a script that was an absolute, without a doubt “recommend”? If so, could you give the logline?

Thank You for Smoking.” It came to me when I was a director of development. Out of thousands and thousands of scripts I read, I recommended 34, despite the fact that I worked for major producers who were getting the best scripts from the best agencies, but that was it: 34 out of over 5,000 scripts, all from the best agencies in the business. “Wag the Dog” and “Dangerous Minds” are some of the scripts I recommended. Every other script, the ones I didn’t recommend, had structural problems.

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

Yes, if they’re the right ones. I always tell beginning writers to never submit their first, second, third or even fourth scripts to the industry itself – producers, agents, etc., but rather to contests, especially contests that give feedback. That way if their first few scripts are subpar, they’re not going to be branded by industry people as subpar writers. And the feedback from the contests can help them figure out what their weaknesses are.

10. How can people get in touch with you to find out more about the services you provide?

Email me at scripts90@gmail.com. I don’t do coverage anymore, but I do story notes, polishes, rewrites, and adaptations.

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

Apple pie with ice cream.