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Screenwriters need to get into the game, if for no other reason that they can affordSAVE | SEND ] 23 Steps to a Feature Film Sale by Terry Rossio There's this great bit in THE PLAYER where the director character is steadfast that his ending must be downbeat. "I don't think this is even an American movie," he sniffs. Later, though, he changes his mind. His development assistant is astonished to learn that he's sold out his artistic instincts. "Are you kidding?" the director says, "Did you see the response cards from Encino? They hated it!" Something a bit similar happens during the screenwriting process, for writers just starting out. The initial drive is often purely artistic. The power of the vision the writer sees in his head fuels the writing. Only afterwards, when the screenplay is done, does the writer deal with the realities of selling his work. It's a little like that director ­­ the priorities start to shift. Now I'm a big believer in writers making the sale. Screenwriters need to get into the game, if for no other reason that they can afford to quit their day jobs and concentrate on their art. Screenwriters should give some thought to commercial considerations before they sit down to write. In the end, we're all a little bit like that director. We do want to sell. And if you're going to feel that way after your script is done, you'd might as well admit it to yourself before you start. A good friend of mine, Steve, a technical writer, loves movies and wants to write screenplays. He asked me straight out how to break into the business. He's a practical guy and wanted a practical answer. Just what did he have to do to make a sale, which would let him quit his job ­­ which was his definition of breaking in. It was fun to look at the problem from a purely practical angle. I gave him a film concept that he liked, and I wrote him a letter ­­ '23 Steps to a Feature Film Sale.' These steps offer a different way of looking at a film project. It's writing toward a purpose, toward making the sale ­­ yet I don't think it's at odds with the creative process. A copy of the letter follows. Gee, the advice I give you here is the advice I'd give my best friend! Put bluntly, if it's a great script, Dear Steve, Here it is, as we discussed, 23 simple steps to your first feature film sale. Shouldn't take more than a year or two to accomplish. Note that some steps overlap, and can proceed simultaneously: 1. Make sure (as best we can) that a similar concept is not already in development at the studios. Scanning Variety's 'Films in " id="pdf-obj-0-3" src="pdf-obj-0-3.jpg">

Screenwriters need to get into the game, if for no other reason that they can afford to quit their day jobs and concentrate on their art.

Screenwriters need to get into the game, if for no other reason that they can affordSAVE | SEND ] 23 Steps to a Feature Film Sale by Terry Rossio There's this great bit in THE PLAYER where the director character is steadfast that his ending must be downbeat. "I don't think this is even an American movie," he sniffs. Later, though, he changes his mind. His development assistant is astonished to learn that he's sold out his artistic instincts. "Are you kidding?" the director says, "Did you see the response cards from Encino? They hated it!" Something a bit similar happens during the screenwriting process, for writers just starting out. The initial drive is often purely artistic. The power of the vision the writer sees in his head fuels the writing. Only afterwards, when the screenplay is done, does the writer deal with the realities of selling his work. It's a little like that director ­­ the priorities start to shift. Now I'm a big believer in writers making the sale. Screenwriters need to get into the game, if for no other reason that they can afford to quit their day jobs and concentrate on their art. Screenwriters should give some thought to commercial considerations before they sit down to write. In the end, we're all a little bit like that director. We do want to sell. And if you're going to feel that way after your script is done, you'd might as well admit it to yourself before you start. A good friend of mine, Steve, a technical writer, loves movies and wants to write screenplays. He asked me straight out how to break into the business. He's a practical guy and wanted a practical answer. Just what did he have to do to make a sale, which would let him quit his job ­­ which was his definition of breaking in. It was fun to look at the problem from a purely practical angle. I gave him a film concept that he liked, and I wrote him a letter ­­ '23 Steps to a Feature Film Sale.' These steps offer a different way of looking at a film project. It's writing toward a purpose, toward making the sale ­­ yet I don't think it's at odds with the creative process. A copy of the letter follows. Gee, the advice I give you here is the advice I'd give my best friend! Put bluntly, if it's a great script, Dear Steve, Here it is, as we discussed, 23 simple steps to your first feature film sale. Shouldn't take more than a year or two to accomplish. Note that some steps overlap, and can proceed simultaneously: 1. Make sure (as best we can) that a similar concept is not already in development at the studios. Scanning Variety's 'Films in " id="pdf-obj-0-7" src="pdf-obj-0-7.jpg">

Screenwriting Column 07 [ SAVE | SEND ]

23 Steps to a Feature Film Sale

  • There's this great bit in THE PLAYER where the director character is steadfast that his ending must be downbeat. "I don't think this is even an American movie," he sniffs. Later, though, he changes his mind. His development assistant is astonished to learn that he's sold out his artistic instincts. "Are you kidding?" the director says, "Did you see the response cards from Encino? They hated it!"

  • Something a bit similar happens during the screenwriting process, for writers just starting out. The initial drive is often purely artistic. The power of the vision the writer sees in his head fuels the writing. Only afterwards, when the screenplay is done, does the writer deal with the realities of selling his work. It's a little like that director ­­ the priorities start to shift.

  • Now I'm a big believer in writers making the sale. Screenwriters need to get into the game, if for no other reason that they can afford to quit their day jobs and concentrate on their art. Screenwriters should give some thought to commercial considerations before they sit down to write. In the end, we're all a little bit like that director. We do want to sell. And if you're going to feel that way after your script is done, you'd might as well admit it to yourself before you start.

  • A good friend of mine, Steve, a technical writer, loves movies and wants to write screenplays. He asked me straight out how to break into the business. He's a practical guy and wanted a practical answer. Just what did he have to do to make a sale, which would let him quit his job ­­ which was his definition of breaking in.

  • It was fun to look at the problem from a purely practical angle. I gave him a film concept that he liked, and I wrote him a letter ­­ '23 Steps to a Feature Film Sale.' These steps offer a different way of looking at a film project. It's writing toward a purpose, toward making the sale ­­ yet I don't think it's at odds with the creative process. A copy of the letter follows.

  • Gee, the advice I give you here is the advice I'd give my best friend!

Screenwriters need to get into the game, if for no other reason that they can affordSAVE | SEND ] 23 Steps to a Feature Film Sale by Terry Rossio There's this great bit in THE PLAYER where the director character is steadfast that his ending must be downbeat. "I don't think this is even an American movie," he sniffs. Later, though, he changes his mind. His development assistant is astonished to learn that he's sold out his artistic instincts. "Are you kidding?" the director says, "Did you see the response cards from Encino? They hated it!" Something a bit similar happens during the screenwriting process, for writers just starting out. The initial drive is often purely artistic. The power of the vision the writer sees in his head fuels the writing. Only afterwards, when the screenplay is done, does the writer deal with the realities of selling his work. It's a little like that director ­­ the priorities start to shift. Now I'm a big believer in writers making the sale. Screenwriters need to get into the game, if for no other reason that they can afford to quit their day jobs and concentrate on their art. Screenwriters should give some thought to commercial considerations before they sit down to write. In the end, we're all a little bit like that director. We do want to sell. And if you're going to feel that way after your script is done, you'd might as well admit it to yourself before you start. A good friend of mine, Steve, a technical writer, loves movies and wants to write screenplays. He asked me straight out how to break into the business. He's a practical guy and wanted a practical answer. Just what did he have to do to make a sale, which would let him quit his job ­­ which was his definition of breaking in. It was fun to look at the problem from a purely practical angle. I gave him a film concept that he liked, and I wrote him a letter ­­ '23 Steps to a Feature Film Sale.' These steps offer a different way of looking at a film project. It's writing toward a purpose, toward making the sale ­­ yet I don't think it's at odds with the creative process. A copy of the letter follows. Gee, the advice I give you here is the advice I'd give my best friend! Put bluntly, if it's a great script, Dear Steve, Here it is, as we discussed, 23 simple steps to your first feature film sale. Shouldn't take more than a year or two to accomplish. Note that some steps overlap, and can proceed simultaneously: 1. Make sure (as best we can) that a similar concept is not already in development at the studios. Scanning Variety's 'Films in " id="pdf-obj-0-39" src="pdf-obj-0-39.jpg">

Put bluntly, if it's a great script,

Dear Steve,

  • Here it is, as we discussed, 23 simple steps to your first feature film sale. Shouldn't take more than a year or two to accomplish. Note that some steps overlap, and can proceed simultaneously:

  • 1. Make sure (as best we can) that a similar concept is not already in development at the studios. Scanning Variety's 'Films in

you'd be better off not having anyone attached.

You're done, you're thrilled, you want to get it out there. But that ignores the one advantage a first time writer has over the pro, which is time.

the Future' list is one place to start. And we can get our agent to check into what's going on around town ­­ and let us know if something similar surfaces in the future.

you'd be better off not having anyone attached. You're done, you're thrilled, you want to getsites which list stuff in development around town. We need to read through there for stuff similar to what we're planning. We don't want to put in a year's worth of work, and then get beaten to market with a competing project. 3. Compare your writing abilities to the industry standard. I need to look at your latest screenplay and see whether it's up to par technically. (I'll give you copies of GODZILLA , ZORRO, SINBAD and SANDMAN to read so you can make the same determination about our skills!) Ted and I may be able to identify areas where you need to improve, or specific mistakes you may be making. You can do this on your own by buying several good film scripts, and self­assessing where you're at. If you need more technical facility, you may need to write one or more 'interim' screenplays to further develop style, understanding of the format, etc., while we put this idea on hold. 4. Learn the basics. There's some stuff that, walking into any story meeting in town it's assumed that you've read, so you'd better make sure you've read them. "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldman. "Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. Syd Field's book "Screenplay". "The Art of Dramatic Writing" by Lajos Egri. "Making a Good Script Great" by Linda Seeger. In addition, there's other material I highly recommend: the videotape series "Word into Image." The "Comics Journal" Alan Moore interview. All of my oh so very important notes on writing screenplays (these must be memorized). Truby's story structure course, which I have on audio cassette. There're so many more I'll have to make a separate list. Anyway ­­ get this stuff, read it, know it. 5. Determine your writing­partner situation. Basically, do you want to work with a partner on this or on your own? Remember that, the impact you make in the industry is what will define you in the industry's eyes. If you create an impression of being part of a writing team, that's what they'll think of you as, and the only offers you may get will be offers to write as a team. 6. Determine the 'deal' between you and me. Basically, if I give you this concept, and help develop the screenplay as producer, this is what I want in return: we'll discuss everything and make decisions jointly, but in those rare cases (Ha!) where we cannot agree, I get to have 'final say.' This applies to everything, including title, characters, plot, scene descriptions, lines of dialog, submission strategy, etc. (The idea being, I've done this before and perhaps can do it again.) What you get: the screenplay will be completely 'yours' in terms of payment, your name goes on it, and you get to use it as a writing sample. If it doesn't sell in one year, then it reverts to you solely, and you then have 'final decision' on everything, including all of the above (in other words, you can change anything about it you don't like or maybe never agreed with). This is to cover the case of "If it's going to be my writing sample, then goddammit it's going to be what I believe in," and " id="pdf-obj-1-9" src="pdf-obj-1-9.jpg">
  • 2. Along the same lines we can check out 'Done Deal' and other

sites which list stuff in development around town. We need to read through there for stuff similar to what we're planning. We don't want to put in a year's worth of work, and then get beaten to market with a competing project.

you'd be better off not having anyone attached. You're done, you're thrilled, you want to getsites which list stuff in development around town. We need to read through there for stuff similar to what we're planning. We don't want to put in a year's worth of work, and then get beaten to market with a competing project. 3. Compare your writing abilities to the industry standard. I need to look at your latest screenplay and see whether it's up to par technically. (I'll give you copies of GODZILLA , ZORRO, SINBAD and SANDMAN to read so you can make the same determination about our skills!) Ted and I may be able to identify areas where you need to improve, or specific mistakes you may be making. You can do this on your own by buying several good film scripts, and self­assessing where you're at. If you need more technical facility, you may need to write one or more 'interim' screenplays to further develop style, understanding of the format, etc., while we put this idea on hold. 4. Learn the basics. There's some stuff that, walking into any story meeting in town it's assumed that you've read, so you'd better make sure you've read them. "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldman. "Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. Syd Field's book "Screenplay". "The Art of Dramatic Writing" by Lajos Egri. "Making a Good Script Great" by Linda Seeger. In addition, there's other material I highly recommend: the videotape series "Word into Image." The "Comics Journal" Alan Moore interview. All of my oh so very important notes on writing screenplays (these must be memorized). Truby's story structure course, which I have on audio cassette. There're so many more I'll have to make a separate list. Anyway ­­ get this stuff, read it, know it. 5. Determine your writing­partner situation. Basically, do you want to work with a partner on this or on your own? Remember that, the impact you make in the industry is what will define you in the industry's eyes. If you create an impression of being part of a writing team, that's what they'll think of you as, and the only offers you may get will be offers to write as a team. 6. Determine the 'deal' between you and me. Basically, if I give you this concept, and help develop the screenplay as producer, this is what I want in return: we'll discuss everything and make decisions jointly, but in those rare cases (Ha!) where we cannot agree, I get to have 'final say.' This applies to everything, including title, characters, plot, scene descriptions, lines of dialog, submission strategy, etc. (The idea being, I've done this before and perhaps can do it again.) What you get: the screenplay will be completely 'yours' in terms of payment, your name goes on it, and you get to use it as a writing sample. If it doesn't sell in one year, then it reverts to you solely, and you then have 'final decision' on everything, including all of the above (in other words, you can change anything about it you don't like or maybe never agreed with). This is to cover the case of "If it's going to be my writing sample, then goddammit it's going to be what I believe in," and " id="pdf-obj-1-16" src="pdf-obj-1-16.jpg">
  • 3. Compare your writing abilities to the industry standard. I need

to look at your latest screenplay and see whether it's up to par technically. (I'll give you copies of GODZILLA, ZORRO, SINBAD and SANDMAN to read so you can make the same determination about our skills!) Ted and I may be able to identify areas where you need to improve, or specific mistakes you may be making. You can do this on your own by buying several good film scripts, and self­assessing where you're at. If you need more technical facility, you may need to write one or more 'interim' screenplays to further develop style, understanding of the format, etc., while we put this idea on hold.

you'd be better off not having anyone attached. You're done, you're thrilled, you want to getsites which list stuff in development around town. We need to read through there for stuff similar to what we're planning. We don't want to put in a year's worth of work, and then get beaten to market with a competing project. 3. Compare your writing abilities to the industry standard. I need to look at your latest screenplay and see whether it's up to par technically. (I'll give you copies of GODZILLA , ZORRO, SINBAD and SANDMAN to read so you can make the same determination about our skills!) Ted and I may be able to identify areas where you need to improve, or specific mistakes you may be making. You can do this on your own by buying several good film scripts, and self­assessing where you're at. If you need more technical facility, you may need to write one or more 'interim' screenplays to further develop style, understanding of the format, etc., while we put this idea on hold. 4. Learn the basics. There's some stuff that, walking into any story meeting in town it's assumed that you've read, so you'd better make sure you've read them. "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldman. "Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. Syd Field's book "Screenplay". "The Art of Dramatic Writing" by Lajos Egri. "Making a Good Script Great" by Linda Seeger. In addition, there's other material I highly recommend: the videotape series "Word into Image." The "Comics Journal" Alan Moore interview. All of my oh so very important notes on writing screenplays (these must be memorized). Truby's story structure course, which I have on audio cassette. There're so many more I'll have to make a separate list. Anyway ­­ get this stuff, read it, know it. 5. Determine your writing­partner situation. Basically, do you want to work with a partner on this or on your own? Remember that, the impact you make in the industry is what will define you in the industry's eyes. If you create an impression of being part of a writing team, that's what they'll think of you as, and the only offers you may get will be offers to write as a team. 6. Determine the 'deal' between you and me. Basically, if I give you this concept, and help develop the screenplay as producer, this is what I want in return: we'll discuss everything and make decisions jointly, but in those rare cases (Ha!) where we cannot agree, I get to have 'final say.' This applies to everything, including title, characters, plot, scene descriptions, lines of dialog, submission strategy, etc. (The idea being, I've done this before and perhaps can do it again.) What you get: the screenplay will be completely 'yours' in terms of payment, your name goes on it, and you get to use it as a writing sample. If it doesn't sell in one year, then it reverts to you solely, and you then have 'final decision' on everything, including all of the above (in other words, you can change anything about it you don't like or maybe never agreed with). This is to cover the case of "If it's going to be my writing sample, then goddammit it's going to be what I believe in," and " id="pdf-obj-1-26" src="pdf-obj-1-26.jpg">
  • 4. Learn the basics. There's some stuff that, walking into any

story meeting in town it's assumed that you've read, so you'd better make sure you've read them. "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldman. "Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. Syd Field's book "Screenplay". "The Art of Dramatic Writing" by Lajos Egri. "Making a Good Script Great" by Linda Seeger. In addition, there's other material I highly recommend: the videotape series "Word into Image." The "Comics Journal" Alan Moore interview. All of my oh so very important notes on writing screenplays (these must be memorized). Truby's story structure course, which I have on audio cassette. There're so many more I'll have to make a separate list. Anyway ­­ get this stuff, read it, know it.

you'd be better off not having anyone attached. You're done, you're thrilled, you want to getsites which list stuff in development around town. We need to read through there for stuff similar to what we're planning. We don't want to put in a year's worth of work, and then get beaten to market with a competing project. 3. Compare your writing abilities to the industry standard. I need to look at your latest screenplay and see whether it's up to par technically. (I'll give you copies of GODZILLA , ZORRO, SINBAD and SANDMAN to read so you can make the same determination about our skills!) Ted and I may be able to identify areas where you need to improve, or specific mistakes you may be making. You can do this on your own by buying several good film scripts, and self­assessing where you're at. If you need more technical facility, you may need to write one or more 'interim' screenplays to further develop style, understanding of the format, etc., while we put this idea on hold. 4. Learn the basics. There's some stuff that, walking into any story meeting in town it's assumed that you've read, so you'd better make sure you've read them. "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldman. "Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. Syd Field's book "Screenplay". "The Art of Dramatic Writing" by Lajos Egri. "Making a Good Script Great" by Linda Seeger. In addition, there's other material I highly recommend: the videotape series "Word into Image." The "Comics Journal" Alan Moore interview. All of my oh so very important notes on writing screenplays (these must be memorized). Truby's story structure course, which I have on audio cassette. There're so many more I'll have to make a separate list. Anyway ­­ get this stuff, read it, know it. 5. Determine your writing­partner situation. Basically, do you want to work with a partner on this or on your own? Remember that, the impact you make in the industry is what will define you in the industry's eyes. If you create an impression of being part of a writing team, that's what they'll think of you as, and the only offers you may get will be offers to write as a team. 6. Determine the 'deal' between you and me. Basically, if I give you this concept, and help develop the screenplay as producer, this is what I want in return: we'll discuss everything and make decisions jointly, but in those rare cases (Ha!) where we cannot agree, I get to have 'final say.' This applies to everything, including title, characters, plot, scene descriptions, lines of dialog, submission strategy, etc. (The idea being, I've done this before and perhaps can do it again.) What you get: the screenplay will be completely 'yours' in terms of payment, your name goes on it, and you get to use it as a writing sample. If it doesn't sell in one year, then it reverts to you solely, and you then have 'final decision' on everything, including all of the above (in other words, you can change anything about it you don't like or maybe never agreed with). This is to cover the case of "If it's going to be my writing sample, then goddammit it's going to be what I believe in," and " id="pdf-obj-1-32" src="pdf-obj-1-32.jpg">
  • 5. Determine your writing­partner situation. Basically, do you

want to work with a partner on this or on your own? Remember that, the impact you make in the industry is what will define you in the industry's eyes. If you create an impression of being part of a writing team, that's what they'll think of you as, and the only offers you may get will be offers to write as a team.

you'd be better off not having anyone attached. You're done, you're thrilled, you want to getsites which list stuff in development around town. We need to read through there for stuff similar to what we're planning. We don't want to put in a year's worth of work, and then get beaten to market with a competing project. 3. Compare your writing abilities to the industry standard. I need to look at your latest screenplay and see whether it's up to par technically. (I'll give you copies of GODZILLA , ZORRO, SINBAD and SANDMAN to read so you can make the same determination about our skills!) Ted and I may be able to identify areas where you need to improve, or specific mistakes you may be making. You can do this on your own by buying several good film scripts, and self­assessing where you're at. If you need more technical facility, you may need to write one or more 'interim' screenplays to further develop style, understanding of the format, etc., while we put this idea on hold. 4. Learn the basics. There's some stuff that, walking into any story meeting in town it's assumed that you've read, so you'd better make sure you've read them. "Adventures in the Screen Trade" by William Goldman. "Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell. Syd Field's book "Screenplay". "The Art of Dramatic Writing" by Lajos Egri. "Making a Good Script Great" by Linda Seeger. In addition, there's other material I highly recommend: the videotape series "Word into Image." The "Comics Journal" Alan Moore interview. All of my oh so very important notes on writing screenplays (these must be memorized). Truby's story structure course, which I have on audio cassette. There're so many more I'll have to make a separate list. Anyway ­­ get this stuff, read it, know it. 5. Determine your writing­partner situation. Basically, do you want to work with a partner on this or on your own? Remember that, the impact you make in the industry is what will define you in the industry's eyes. If you create an impression of being part of a writing team, that's what they'll think of you as, and the only offers you may get will be offers to write as a team. 6. Determine the 'deal' between you and me. Basically, if I give you this concept, and help develop the screenplay as producer, this is what I want in return: we'll discuss everything and make decisions jointly, but in those rare cases (Ha!) where we cannot agree, I get to have 'final say.' This applies to everything, including title, characters, plot, scene descriptions, lines of dialog, submission strategy, etc. (The idea being, I've done this before and perhaps can do it again.) What you get: the screenplay will be completely 'yours' in terms of payment, your name goes on it, and you get to use it as a writing sample. If it doesn't sell in one year, then it reverts to you solely, and you then have 'final decision' on everything, including all of the above (in other words, you can change anything about it you don't like or maybe never agreed with). This is to cover the case of "If it's going to be my writing sample, then goddammit it's going to be what I believe in," and " id="pdf-obj-1-38" src="pdf-obj-1-38.jpg">
  • 6. Determine the 'deal' between you and me. Basically, if I give

you this concept, and help develop the screenplay as producer, this is what I want in return: we'll discuss everything and make decisions jointly, but in those rare cases (Ha!) where we cannot agree, I get to have 'final say.' This applies to everything, including title, characters, plot, scene descriptions, lines of dialog, submission strategy, etc. (The idea being, I've done this before and perhaps can do it again.) What you get: the screenplay will be completely 'yours' in terms of payment, your name goes on it, and you get to use it as a writing sample. If it doesn't sell in one year, then it reverts to you solely, and you then have 'final decision' on everything, including all of the above (in other words, you can change anything about it you don't like or maybe never agreed with). This is to cover the case of "If it's going to be my writing sample, then goddammit it's going to be what I believe in," and

also cover the case, "I know the thing would sell if only Terry would change the stupid title that I never liked!" During the life of the script I'm attached as producer ­­ and I can attach other producers (like Ted) or other creative personnel as I see fit. Such a deal!

also cover the case, "I know the thing would sell if only Terry would change the
  • 7. Research movies (television shows, plays, old "Outer Limits"

episodes, whatever) that are similar in subject and style to what we're trying to do. Even bad films ­­ like ****** and ****** ***** ­­ should be viewed to show how it shouldn't be done. Let's re­watch ********** and other good films to get a feel of style, pace, and tone. The process here is straightforward: identify applicable films. Buy them. View them. Repeat as needed.

also cover the case, "I know the thing would sell if only Terry would change the
  • 8. More research: we must become knowledgeable about books

that may have been written on this subject. There have to be lots! If we're in luck, we may even find a book worthy of optioning. Something close to what we're planning, or even something so good it changes how we feel about what we want to do. We'll have to check mystery and science­fiction book stores, post questions on the internet, ask friends who read a lot, question aficionados of the genre, scope out mystery and science fiction conventions, etc.

also cover the case, "I know the thing would sell if only Terry would change the
  • 9. More research: actual events related to the concept. There

have been many cases, I'm sure, where (******). We should build a library of such reference material ­­ we'll become the experts on the subject. I'm sure there have been cases of actual (******). We should know it all, and this material will no doubt suggest situations. (I'll be happy to budget our 'reference library.')

also cover the case, "I know the thing would sell if only Terry would change the
  • 10. Collect ideas, jokes, information, situations related to the

topic. This was the method they used in GHOSTBUSTERS:

Ramis, Aykroyd and Murray spent several months just coming up with a bunch of funny stuff and neat ideas about ghost hunting. That gave them source material to use for the eventual screenplay. (Aykroyd's writing­style seems to match your own ­­ basically sit down, and spew out a bunch of stuff, let it happen on the page, and worry later about honing it, about how to make it work.) What you

want is a screenplay that is STUFFED (think of the original BACK TO THE FUTURE) with cool, funny ideas and moments.

also cover the case, "I know the thing would sell if only Terry would change the
  • 11. Character design. Since we'll probably end up adopting

some of the conventions of the genre, we should take even greater care on those aspects of the film that are different, especially designing the characters. What's 'offered' to the audience in this type of film is first, the unique concept and situations, and second, the unique characters and their relationships ­­ not necessarily new plot twists. (In other words, we can probably use a conventional plot if we do it really well, or are really funny.) THE MASK illustrates this, as does DUMB AND DUMBER. The plots were conventional, the concepts and characters unique. The story beats of the main two characters are especially important ­­ this is a buddy film and perhaps a romance as well as a ******** ******.

also cover the case, "I know the thing would sell if only Terry would change the
  • 12. Plot. Of course, there's nothing wrong with coming up with

a unique and cool plot, too. You know the drill: we'll start by

making up a board with the story beats on it, maybe even another board with 'visual development.' One place for you to start is to

look at classic films, and pick a classic story structure or genre to play around with. SUNSET BOULEVARD, for example, starts off with a dead guy in a pool, and tells us the story of how he got there. I'm not saying that that's the plot to use, just that it's a good idea sometimes to be aware of and work off an identifiable genre, and do twists on the classic story beats. Even if we eventually use nothing from the classics, it's a good thing to know what's gone before, so we have an idea of what's unique and what isn't.

look at classic films, and pick a classic story structure or genre to play around with.
  • 13. Theme. We should look to classic literature, aphorisms,

poetry and quotations for our theme. We should be able to clearly articulate the theme of our movie ­­ it answers a lot of tone questions, and narrows down some of the choices, providing a nice touchstone. The theme can become an organizing element of the movie.

look at classic films, and pick a classic story structure or genre to play around with.
  • 14. Revise board. We need to pitch the board, rearrange the

board, review the board, question the board, show the board to Ted and others, challenge the board, re­think the board, over and over again until we are utterly confident that we are not going to waste actual 'writing time' meandering down the wrong path. This is the Disney animated feature approach that Ted and I like ­­ we feel that one or two drafts of the screenplay can be leapfrogged by working it out on the board first. Note that not everybody would agree with this! One quote I've always liked: in a good screenplay, everything has a purpose, and the audience is so controlled it's not allowed to feel anything else other than what you want them to feel. Structuring out that ride is our goal at this stage.

look at classic films, and pick a classic story structure or genre to play around with.
  • 15. Finally, ACTUALLY WRITE THE SCRIPT. This is your

job. However you want to do this is fine by me.

look at classic films, and pick a classic story structure or genre to play around with.
  • 16. Determine submission strategy. As we move along, we'll

discuss submission strategies, crucial to the business end of things. Basically we try to answer the question, who gets the script and when? When do we attach other 'elements,' like a director or star or producer? This is an area where my role as producer is potentially at odds with your desires as a writer. Put bluntly, if it's a great script, you'd be better off not having anyone attached. (For example, a producer might shy away from driving up the price in a best­case scenario bidding war if another producer ­­ me ­­ is already attached). You may be in a hurry (financially) to get some heat on the project, make a sale (or take an option offer), whereas I might be more inclined to follow a more strategic approach ­­ and even shy away from some producers or companies that are only going to screw it up. Another question: when do you use it to get an agent, which agent, do we follow their advise, and when do you start to use the script as a writing sample (to gain assignments and income?) We'll have a lot to talk about!

look at classic films, and pick a classic story structure or genre to play around with.
  • 17. Submit script for comments. This does not mean send the

script out! That would be a common mistake, and a big one. You're done, you're thrilled, you want to get it out there. But that ignores the one advantage a first time writer has over the professional, which is time. Paid screenwriters commonly work under deadlines measured in weeks. The first­time screenwriter can take months to hone his material. And he should. It's only by honing the material, and taking time with it that it can stand out from the crowd. But

you do need to get feedback. We'll show the script to just a few professionals whose opinion we trust, and get their comments for the first revision. (Ted, for example, I'm sure will have lots of great ideas.)

  • 18. Revise the script. After the script has been set aside for a bit, we'll go back and make revisions. A lot of this will be small stuff (word choice, style choice, dialog polish) but some of it may be big (whole scenes thrown out, new sequences invented, etc.).

  • 19. Revise the script again. We'll do a read­through from the point of view of each character to make sure each character's story is working, and the 'voice' of each character is consistent. We'll look for things to cut, things to simplify, stuff that's still in there because we loved it at one time but doesn't fit any more. Again, the revision may include small and large changes, and each revision will probably take as long to accomplish as the original script took to write.

you do need to get feedback. We'll show the script to just a few professionals whoseBack · TOP · Next Welcome Forums Columns Indy Pros Company Archives Copyright ©1997 Terry Rossio www.wordplayer.com Mail " id="pdf-obj-4-11" src="pdf-obj-4-11.jpg">
  • 20. Polish script. We'll read­though for continuity problems.

We'll read­through for typos and spelling errors. We'll polish dialog some more. (This read­through is best done, I believe, 'on the page,' not up on the computer screen. It's amazing the stuff you catch only after it's printed out.) We'll read the entire screenplay out loud, which is another great way to catch mistakes.

you do need to get feedback. We'll show the script to just a few professionals whoseBack · TOP · Next Welcome Forums Columns Indy Pros Company Archives Copyright ©1997 Terry Rossio www.wordplayer.com Mail " id="pdf-obj-4-17" src="pdf-obj-4-17.jpg">
  • 21. Finalize submission strategy. Ideally, we'll have interested an

agent by now, and with the agent's help the screenplay will 'hit the market' over a weekend, with a few 'key' people having the script a few days in advance (fishing for a 'preemptive bid'). Or a big name will have already become interested...

you do need to get feedback. We'll show the script to just a few professionals whoseBack · TOP · Next Welcome Forums Columns Indy Pros Company Archives Copyright ©1997 Terry Rossio www.wordplayer.com Mail " id="pdf-obj-4-23" src="pdf-obj-4-23.jpg">
  • 22. Submit the script. Simply, we execute our agreed­upon

submission strategy, cross our fingers. (If a murder isn't solved in the first 24 hours, or the first two days, or the first week, there's an

ever­decreasing chance that it will ever be solved at all. Same with selling a script.) Of course, there's always the second­prize: the script doesn't sell, but generates meetings which could lead to a story assignment. Or...

you do need to get feedback. We'll show the script to just a few professionals whoseBack · TOP · Next Welcome Forums Columns Indy Pros Company Archives Copyright ©1997 Terry Rossio www.wordplayer.com Mail " id="pdf-obj-4-31" src="pdf-obj-4-31.jpg">
  • 23. We accept a mid­six figure offer against high six­figure

back­end. Welcome to Hollywood! "You can check out any time

you like, but you can never leave..."

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