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10/14/2002 - Making the next script the best you have to offer!

Welcome to my column. Thank you for stopping by and allowing me to share with you a part of me. For those of you who already know me, hopefully I'll be able to provide a bit more enlightenment, on myself, the world around us, and more importantly, about life in general. For those of you who don't know me, the same applies except with one caveat - hopefully, together, we'll learn a little bit about the craft and business of screenwriting. Feel free to e-mail me at anytime as we take this journey together into the unknown. I can't promise that I will return all e-mails but I can promise I will read all e-mails. With that being said, I want to thank Howie, your infamous webmaster, for allowing me the opportunity to express myself here.

On with the show.

My first screenplay was a piece of shit. The paper it was printed on wasn't even good enough to use after a bowel movement. I'm not kidding. It was complete garbage. At the time, however, I thought it was a work of genius. I was sure that all I had to do was send it out, and within months, I would receive my first Oscar. It was a done deal. I begged all of my friends and relatives for money so I could move to Hollywood where I would claim my fame and fortune. I was able to raise the cash and off I went.

Once I got there and got settled in, I did everything I could to get my script into the hands of stars, agents, producers, whoever worked remotely close to the entertainment industry. In other words, I made a complete ass of myself.

Luckily, the earthquake of 1993 scared me off to Las Vegas where I saved myself from further humiliation.

It wasn't until years later that I realized just how bad that script really was. As a writer, you have to know that the first screenplay you endeavor upon is going to be miserable. I don't care if you have a genius IQ, or even if you're related to Steven Spielberg. The first script that comes off your fingertips is going to be lacking.

So what can you do to prevent yourself from writing another piece of garbage?

The first thing you need to do is read as many unproduced screenplays as you can tolerate. They're out there. Search and you shall find. By reading what doesn't work in these scripts, you will save yourself the time and trouble of making the same mistakes.

Next, watch a movie that is similar in tone to the next script you want to write. As you watch the movie, write down every scene, the purpose of the scene, and most importantly, the length of the scene. Do this with at least three movies.

Do a step outline of the script you're about to write. Perfect it.

Write the script.

Read the script once, twice, three times. Take out every single typo, error and misspelled word. Then give it to a friend to proofread it again.

Read the script again. See what scenes are working and which ones aren't working.

Write the first rewrite.

Proofread the script another few times.

Give the script to a friend or industry professional to get some notes. If you don't know anybody in the industry, pay somebody for coverage. Do this at least twice so you can compare notes. Don't buy everything they say. Follow your heart. You know what is best for your story. However, if two or more people say a certain something isn't working in the script, then it probably isn't.

Once you have the notes and have decided what you want to change, write the polish.

Print that baby out. Proofread it three times and make the changes.

Print it out again. Send out queries to specific producers who you think might be interested in that kind of story. Or use a service like Scriptblaster or Venice Arts.

This next part is important. Wherever you get your copies done, make sure it's on high quality 20 pound paper. Not this cheap, thin paper that some copy stores use. Before you send each copy, go through it page by page. Make sure no pages are missing and that there are no smudges.

Put a card stock cover on the front and the back. Nothing fancy. A solid color with nothing printed on it.

Finally, put one brad and screw on the top hole, and another one on the bottom. Leave the middle one empty.

Send the script out to those who requested it with a nice cover letter paper clipped to the front.

I'm sure I left something out... The important thing is to be a perfectionist when it comes to your work. Also, remember that you only get one chance to make a first impression. You want that to be the best you have to offer.

Good luck and keep writing!


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