Today we have the second installment of the See Me Sell A Screenplay (SMS) interview with screenwriter Blake Snyder (BS). If you missed part one, you can find it at: An interview with screenwriter and author Blake Snyder – part one.
Interview, part two:
SMS: When you made your spec sales, like for Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot, how closely did the final product resemble what you had written?
BS: Oh, not at all. And that’s just part of the process. At the time I was just so grateful to sell a script. That was one where I had the idea, wrote it, and in like six weeks I had a check in my hand for $300,000. And I started that with being a guy who was digging pennies out of the couch to go to a place like Urth Caffe and buy a cup of gourmet coffee. So, this was a good deal for me. And it also allowed me…what I always call it is “get on the boards,” you know just have somebody take a chance on you. And that makes the next sale easier.
SMS: Would you say you spend more time now writing books and doing things like your workshops or writing scripts?
BS: I try to write a thousand words a day. At least when I am home. I like to try to have a routine and think of it as “being open for business.” By doing that you kind of get that flow and the creativity is bringing ideas at a regular time every day. And I just think that is important.
SMS: What is the most recent movie that you have seen?
BS: I just saw Burn After Reading.
SMS: What is the last movie you have seen that you thought just had brilliant writing?
BS: Um, well, that’s really hard. I mean, there are so many different forms of good writing. Well, the last really clever thing I saw and thought ‘I wish I had done that’ is House Bunny. I think the Coen Brothers are great writers, but I have to admire House Bunny more. To me, I thought ‘what a great idea.’ It was clever, well executed, just a really clever script. It was very funny and worked the premise brilliantly. And it’s simple. Every story informs us, so I think ‘brilliant’ is really an elastic term.
SMS: How important do you think screenplay contest are for unknown writers?
BS: Well, it depends on what your goal is as an unknown writer. If you are really just starting out and you just want feedback then I think that any form of feedback that you get is good. If you are in an intermediate stage where you have written a bunch of scripts and you feel like your skills are getting up there where you think it’s time now to ‘take a dollar from the man,’ which is one of my favorite expressions, I think you want to concentrate more on finding partners, finding people who can help you to sell your script and make your movie. I always say to screenwriters starting out ‘Seek out a manager versus an agent.’ A manager will be more likely to become a partner for you. So I guess the answer to your question is ‘it depends.’ I do however think that a lot of screenwriters get overly involved with how they did in a screenplay contest when I think at the end of the day it may not be important. And I think you just have to pick your contests wisely to see how this will move your career for you.
SMS: Did you enter contests when you were starting out?
BS: No. I was mostly anxious about getting a job. Of course, they weren’t as prevalent then. There were a couple of things around but it’s not like it is now.
SMS: Do you think it might be a better idea for screenwriters to pay for coverage on a script as opposed to paying fees for contests?
BS: Again, it depends on where you are in your career. I don’t think you have to be an expert to give a valuable opinion on a script.
SMS: Do you know any working writers that started their career out with a screenplay contest win?
BS: I know a couple that targeted the Disney Fellowship, which I think has really helped their careers. I think the Nichols have launched a few. But again, it gets into just what we were talking about before. I admire House Bunny. I don’t know if that would have necessarily won a contest. I say this in my book and I will tell you this up front – I am really for you selling your script. I do have that phrase which is ‘take a dollar from the man’ – you don’t have to sell a million dollar screenplay to be victorious in my opinion. A hundred dollar option from somebody is a victory. It means that somebody opened up their checkbook and bought something off of you and I think that is something important for a writer to experience.
That concludes part two of our interview with Blake Snyder. Stay tuned for the next two parts where Blake gives his thoughts on the lowest amount you should accept to option your script, more on why you should focus on getting a manger instead of an agent and what type of training a screenwriter really needs.
And as a side note, I got an email the day after my interview with Blake wanting me to make sure to mention the Final Draft Big Break contest.
***Get Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need today! This book has helped tons of screenwriters and just might be what you have been looking for! It was recently the #1 seller on Amazon in the screenwriting category!