Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Screenwriting links: Tuesday, March 26

AFF Interview with Greg Beal, Franklin Leonard, and Matt Dy
[Austin Film Festival]

Chuck Lorre: Make 'Em Laugh, and Don't Micro-Manage [Variety]

John Hawkes Gives Seven Tips to Survive the Film Industry [MovieMaker]

Friday, March 22, 2013

Slamdance script competition early deadline approaching

Planning on entering Slamdance this year? Apply by the early deadline of March 25 to save some cash! (The regular deadline is May 13.)

From their website:
The Slamdance Screenwriting and Teleplay Competition is dedicated to discovering and supporting emerging writing talent. To that end, we are unveiling an exciting new partnership this year with JuntoBox Films who will be awarding a Grand Prize of $10,000 cash and a $50,000 production grant to the winning feature length script. JuntoBox Films’ goal of producing films and finding writers with innovative and interesting stories is a great fit with what Slamdance strives to achieve. 
We welcome screenplays in every genre, on any topic, from anywhere in the world. A unique feature of the competition is providing constructive feedback for every entrant. In addition to this, we also offer a more intensive coverage service for a supplementary fee. Now in our eighteenth year, we have a history of highlighting talented, independent screenwriters and introducing them to the entertainment industry. All of our readers approach scripts differently, but in general we are looking for originality and promise in a work. As an organization, we strive to foster an independent spirit among new writers and filmmakers. We've established a strong track record through our competition successes and are committed to continuing our pursuit to champion outstanding new work.

• Feature
• Short
• Horror
• Original Teleplay/Webisode


• Early Deadline: Feb. 25th - March 25th, 2013
• Regular Deadline: March 26th - May 13th, 2013
• Late Deadline: May 14th - June 25th, 2013
• WAB Extended Deadline: June 26th - July 2nd, 2013


• A total of $19,000 will be awarded to the winners this year.

• Slamdance Grand Prize by JuntoBox Films: $10,000 cash and $50,000 in production funds for the best feature length screenplay regardless of category.

• The winner of the Feature, Horror, and Original Teleplay/Webisode categories will receive $3,000 each.

• The winning Short screenplay will have an option to be produced and screen at Slamdance 2014.

• The top three screenwriters in each category will receive prize packages that include Festival Passes good for all screenings and parties at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah (January 2014)

• The top three screenwriters in the Feature and Horror category are eligible for membership in the Writers Guild of America’s Independent Writers Caucus.

• The winning Short and winning Feature screenplays will receive $2,500 in legal services from Pierce Law Group, LLP.

• The top three screenwriters in each category will receive merchandise from the Slamdance SHOP (T-shirts, beanies, etc.).

• The top three screenwriters in each category will be included in the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival program which is distributed to industry professionals in Park City and year round.

• Production companies, studios, top agencies and managers request to read our top scripts

Screenwriting links: Friday, March 22

'Admission' screenwriter talks higher education, comedy, and writing for Tina Fey [IFC]

Mindy Kaling Tells Us Why The Mindy Project’s Mindy and Danny Can’t Do the Nick-and-Jess Thing [Vulture]

Find The Thing You're Most Passionate About, Then Do It On Nights And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life  [The Onion]

The Hero's Journey Meets the Screenwriter's Journey [Huffington Post]

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Get inspired by pro writers' early scripts!

Note: this post was written by new blog contributor Rob Pilkington

If you’ve logged even just a couple years in this whole “aspiring screenwriter” thing, you’ve probably discovered that revisiting your old material isn’t always a picnic.  Sure, there are lessons to be gleaned from some of those crude, bumbling, early pages, but the spirit of learning is likely trumped by the urge to lock those embarrassing attempts forever inside a fireproof safe - and to drop that safe into some shark-infested waters.

If nothing else, it's comforting to know that even the most successful professional screenwriters were once just like us. We now have proof: a few online resources have cropped up that allow us to examine early scripts by actual working writers. Show Us Your Specs is a new online library of the spec scripts that first got now-showrunners noticed. Early entries already include Revenge’s Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts, Once Upon a Time’s Jane Espenson, and Don't Trust the B’s Dave Hemingson.

While all these writers can stand to leave these specs off their resumes now, it’s easy to see why they’ve become responsible for what’s piped into our living rooms every week. I haven’t watched Homicide: Life on Street in over a decade, but Matt Olmstead’s spec, which landed him both a Sopranos offer and a NYPD Blue gig, conjured tone and character voices I recognized in an instant. Here’s hoping that more TV pros join int he fun and send Show Us Your Specs a little love.

If you’re looking for something a little more on the raw and vulnerable side, look no further than the Scriptnotes podcast by John August (Big Fish, Frankenweenie) and Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part II, Identity Thief). In episode 58, John and Craig are brave enough to summarize, discuss, and even post (post!) the first three pages of their very first screenplays (Here and Now and The Stunt Family, respectively). It’s heartwarming and inspiring to hear these two pros tear apart their maiden voyages, knowing that they've both grown into highly successful and super cool screenwriting dudes.

Ideally, this level of transparency that Show Us Your Specs and Scriptnotes offer will continue to rise on the web, particularly concerning those first (and sometimes gruesome) milestones every TV and film writer must endure. As John eloquently puts it, “you just need to get that [first] one out of your system” before graduating to the good stuff.  And if you can, and people pay you for it, the good news is that sharing your first scribbles will be an enormous generosity…and not a requirement.

Because seriously: no one is finding that safe.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Screenwriting links: Friday, March 15 - and all the 'Veronica Mars' articles you can handle

Vimeo Launches On Demand Distribution Offering Creators 90/10 Revenue Split: SXSW [Deadline Hollywood]

Playing the Spy Card - Q& A with FX's "The Americans" Showrunner Joe Weisberg [WGA.org]

Joss Whedon’s Top 10 Writing Tips [Aerogramme Writers' Studio] 

How to get laughs without writing jokes [Ken Levine]

A Map to Get Out of Writer's Block [NY Book Editors]

Will Smith and John Lassiter TV script contest [TV Script Doctor Blog]

And for all you VERONICA MARS fans, here's a roundup of articles about the record-breaking Kickstarter movie project:

'Veronica Mars' creator Rob Thomas on the wildly successful Kickstarter movie campaign [HitFix]

Has 'Veronica Mars' Ushered in a New Era of Movie Development? [The Hollywood Reporter]

'Veronica Mars' Kickstarter: Why It's Good (Even if the Movie's Not) [HuffPo]

$2 Million for 'Veronica Mars' Breaks Kickstarter Records, Gets Greenlight [Variety]

'Veronica Mars' movie: Meet the guy who just pledged $10k for a speaking role [EW]

Why the World Needs a Kickstarter Veronica Mars Movie [Time]

What's Really Fueling the Veronica Mars Frenzy [Vulture]

The Veronica Mars Kickstarter Problem, and Ours [S.T. VanAirsdale]

Anyone Know of a Better Charity than The Veronica Mars Kickstarter? [The Atlantic]

Veronica Mars Kickstarter Thoughts [John Rogers]

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Multi-cam sitcom format vs. single-cam sitcom format

Aspiring writers often get confused by comedy script format - especially since multi-cam sitcoms are formatted differently from single-cams. Below is a sitcom formatting guide to make things easier.

Note: This post contains snippets of copyrighted material presented as instructive examples in the craft of screenwriting.  If you own the copyright to any of these scripts and want them removed, please contact me.

Single-cam sitcoms (like MODERN FAMILY and PARKS AND RECREATION) are formatted just like feature screenplays. The only difference is that the beginnings and ends of acts are labeled (such as ACT ONE and END OF ACT ONE), centered, underlined and in caps - and new acts start on new pages. For example, here's a page from the 30 ROCK episode "Flu Shot":

Keep in mind that premium cable comedies sometimes leave out act break labels, since they don't need to accommodate commercials.

Multi-cam sitcoms (which generally have laugh tracks and are filmed in front of live studio audiences, like BIG BANG THEORY and MEN AT WORK) are formatted differently, with double-spaced dialogue, capitalized action/description, capitalized parentheticals (which don't go on their own lines within dialogue), lettered scene labels and lists of who's present at the top of each scene. Take a look at this page from the FRIENDS episode "The One With the Butt":

IMPORTANT NOTE: Many of the scripts you find online at the Google TV writing page are shooting/production drafts, not writer's drafts. These can be enormously helpful - but you don't want to copy these exactly. You DON'T need character lists, location lists, scene numbers or (DAY 1) and (DAY 2) in your sluglines. Try to find WRITER'S DRAFTS if you can. The aforementioned 30 ROCK script is a good example of a single-cam writer's draft; this BIG BANG THEORY pilot script is a good example of a multi-cam writer's draft.  (Drama writers: Here's a good MAD MEN writer's draft - but note that MAD MEN doesn't label its act breaks.) 

If you're writing a spec of a show, read all the scripts you can find to discover its specific formatting quirks, names of common locations, etc. (Reading a variety of scripts can also be useful in formatting a pilot.) For example, both PARKS AND REC and MODERN FAMILY use mockumentary interviews, but PARKS AND REC calls them TALKING HEADS, while MODERN FAMILY calls them INTERVIEWS.

PARKS & REC (this is a shooting draft):


Also pay attention to act structure; you might be surprised to learn that NEW GIRL is in four acts. 

The more you read professional scripts, the easier this will get. It's also a good idea to keep a folder of pro scripts on your desktop so that you can search through many scripts quickly when you have a specific formatting dilemma. If the PDFs have been converted from Final Draft files (rather than scanned from paper copies), you can use the search box and search through the text of all the scripts at once. So when I write a montage, for example, I can just search that term and pull up 10 scripts to read how different pros chose to format their montages.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Screenwriting links: Tuesday, March 5

Are Romantic Comedies Dead? [NPR's Monkey See]

Loglines from the 2013 fall pilot season: comedies and dramas [Entertainment Weekly]

Keith Gesson, Nathaniel Rich: I'm Sorry I Trashed Your Novels [Salon.com]

Video: The Writers' Room, an interview with BUFFY, LOST, 24, and FRINGE writer-producer David Fury [Huff Post Live]: