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Category: interview series (page 1 of 2)

An interview with screenwriter Joe Brennan, part three

Today we have part three of our interview with screenwriter Joe Brennan.

(This interview was conducted by email and no edits were made to Joe’s answers.)

Interview – part three:

SMS: Do you have a college degree? If so, what major and do you feel that it has helped your writing career in any way?

JB: 2 year degree, 6 years of college. I could not concentrate in college. If I got bored, my mind would go off somewhere else. The Bridge to Tarabithia, I can relate.

SMS: If you are not in Los Angeles – do you have any plans to move to the West Coast?

JB: Never!

SMS: Do you have an agent/manager? If so, what steps did you take to get one and what advice can you offer to other screenwriters looking to get representation?

JB: None right now. When I finish my 4 other scripts, I will hunt them down, when I ‘m ready.

SMS: How much do you estimate that you have spent entering screenplay contests during your writing career? Do you feel that has been a worthwhile expenditure for your career? If so, why? If not, how do you wish you would have spent that money to further your career?

JB: Contests keep you motivated. I have no regrets in that area. I meet the best writers on line. Many are my friends today. They also keep me motivated. I can’t tell you how much money, but not not that much.

SMS: Have you ever paid for script coverage? If so, what place do you suggest writers consider using, i.e. where do you feel gave you the most helpful feedback?

JB: Inktip.com is an excellent sight. You will get out of it what you put in.

SMS: What steps do you plan to take to continue furthering your writing career?

JB: I do this for myself. If it makes me money, that’s a bonus. I have a day job and can’t put the 100% in needed to be that successful. I have kids to feed. Maybe when I’m older.

SMS: Is there a question(s) that you wish I had asked you? If so, what is it and what is the answer?

JB: None, but I would like to say, I am not a great writer, I think I have a great imagination. I continue to work on the writing part. Everyone has something they need to do for themselves. For me, it is telling stories, whether it is through writing, filming or both, it keeps me alive and young. It is my escape from reality. Isn’t that why we go see movies in the first place.

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That concludes our interview with screenwriter Joe Brennan. Thanks to Joe for accepting our interview request and best of luck to him in his future endeavors.

If you missed the first two parts of our interview with Joe you can catch up at:

You can read the other interviews in our screenwriter interview series at:

An interview with screenwriter Joe Brennan, part two

Today we have part two of our interview with screenwriter Joe Brennan.

(This interview was conducted by email and no edits were made to Joe’s answers.)

Interview – part two:

SMS: What are some of your favorite screenplays?

JB: Nobody’s Fool is my favorite. What a great story.

SMS:  Can you tell the readers a little about New Hope ? How long did it take you to complete?

JB: New Hope took years to complete only because I was still learning structure. It is a story of Faith. It has to do with Near Death experiences, Clairvoyance. It is a twisted tale that spans some 40 odd years. It has a big hook at the end and I try to leave you to decide for yourself the meaning, for that is what faith is all about. It has to do with the battle between science and religion. That is what also makes it a hard sell. Hollywood likes to stick with mainstream. Mention religion and they slam doors.What they seem to miss is that New Hope does not give you the answers. It lets you decide.

SMS: How has placing in contests changed your writing career? Have you been contacted by any agents/managers/producers? If so, did anything come of it?

JB: It pushes me to continue, but the best thing is the networking. Meeting other writers. No agents have knocked at my door.

SMS:  Do you have any books on screenwriting on your bookshelf (or that you regularly get from the library)? If so, what are they?

JB: Yes, but they are mighty dusty. I can’t remember the names. I don’t feel I nee them anymore. They are great to get started. But you have to find your own writing skill and not mirror others. That will only limit your creativity.

SMS: Name one thing that you have done in your writing career that you think has helped you the most.

JB: Write what you are passionate about, it will shine through. Tell your great story, not one a production company wants you to tell. Unless you have a family depending on that income.

SMS: What advice do you have for screenwriters that are entering scripts into contests where they repeatedly get rejection letters?

JB: Keep writing. Don’t get stuck on one script. Move on to another one. It’s like school. If you get all Bs in first grade, you don’t keep doing first grade until you get all As, You move on to 2nd grade and try for As there. That’s how you continue to grow and learn.

SMS: Have you ever attended events like a pitchfest? If so, how was that experience?

JB: My first pitchfest was very successful. Shame my script was not as good as my pitch at the time. A major production company asked to read my script. They went with Stir of Echoes instead, so I think that what it was. I had no idea what I was doing.

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That concludes part two of our interview with Joe Brennan. Part three will be coming up next week. If you missed part one, you can read it at An interview with screenwriter Joe Brennan, part one.

An interview with screenwriter Joe Brennan, part one

As part of the ongoing interview session here at See Me Sell A Screenplay, today’s interview is with Joe Brennan. Joe is a screenwriter that has placed in a recent screenplay contest. For those of you wondering what it takes to place in a script contest, have a look at the interview with Joe for some insight. And you can read his script on the Philadelphia Screenplay Festival site. (This interview was conducted by email and no edits were made to Joe’s answers.)

Interview – part one: 

SMS: What is your day job? Is this a career that allows you a lot of time to write or do you find yourself trying to make time to write?

JB: Foodservice Sales. That ‘s what’s great about writing, you can do it with any free time. And better yet, when driving on far business calls, I am writing the story in my head. I also edit video for special occasions. Setting Pictures and video to music. A little extra money and it makes me feel good to see people enjoy it so much.

SMS: How many scripts have you completed? If more than the one ( New Hope ), have you entered any others into contests?

JB: I Have 2 completed” New Hope ” and “Someplace Else,” 1 Almost completed  “Breaching Heaven’s Gate” just needs 1 more re-write and 4 others half to ¾ way done.

SMS: What contests/placements have you earned with New Hope ?

JB: Other than the Philly, Top 20% in Project Greenlight

SMS: Are there any contests that you entered that particular script in that you did not place in? If so, was that before you started placing in contests with it or after? If before, what did you do to change the script that changed the game for you?
JB: Rewrites after rewrites changed the game. If the premise is strong, just master it. Make it the best it can be. Just like you want for yourself, to be the best that you are capable of being.

SMS: What, if any, type of training do you have in screenwriting? Do you do things like writers groups? Do you write with a partner?

JB: I have done a number screenwriting seminars in Philly and LA. I would love to write with a partner for my strength is my imagination not my writing skills. I want someone to take it as I see it in my mind, and put it on paper. I struggle with that. I was up against some great writers in this contest like T. L. Lewis writer of Rebirth. I read her script and thought, I’m not in her writing league, elegant of a writer as she is. I was honored and amazed when she contacted me raving about how much she enjoyed reading New Hope. She could quote, which I thought were the best parts of New Hope. That is amazing in one read.

SMS: Have you earned any money as a screenwriter? Do you get paid to do any other type of writing? If not, do you do any other type of writing?
JB: I make extra money editing video. Still telling stories. That’s OK for now.

SMS: Do you have a writing routine?

JB: No, When the story or drive comes, I write.

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Stay tuned for parts two & three of our interview with screenwriter Joe Brennan!

An interview with screenwriter and contest winner David Ebeltoft, part three

And now, part two of our interview with screenwriter David Ebelhoft. If you missed part one, you can find it here and if you missed part two, you can find it here.

Interview, part three:

SMS: Have you ever attended events like a pitchfest? If so, how was that experience?

DE: Never been, but now that you mention it, I think I should.

SMS: I see that you are based out of New York – do you have any plans to move to the West Coast?

DE: New York’s a great place, especially for a writer. Recognizing people’s idiosyncrasies is one thing but in New York you’re forced to deal with them. While on the subway I rub shoulders (sometimes unfortunately) with unique individuals and often plug their mannerisms into my characters when I come home at night. It also took the crowded, dirty, and fast paced nature of this city to make me realize that I wanted to start focusing on my hometown as a setting and subject. As of right now, I’m staying put.

SMS: Do you have an agent/manager? If so, what steps did you take to get one and what advice can you offer to other screenwriters looking to get representation?

DE: They’re both on my wish list.

SMS: How much do you estimate that you have spent entering screenplay contests during your writing career? Do you feel that has been a worthwhile expenditure for your career? If so, why? If not, how do you wish you would have spent that money to further your career?

DE: My grand total for 10 competitions was $464. I was able to keep the costs down by only entering competitions that accepted emailed or downloadable scripts (cutting down copying and mailing costs) and by trying to enter by the early deadline in instead of the final deadline. Most competitions have several deadlines at different price ranges, and if you enter early you can save 10-20 bucks per competition and sometimes be eligible for early-bird prizes.
The expenses were very justifiable, especially since you can write them off when tax season comes around. If I was to do it all I again I think I would enter about half of what I did the first round, focusing purely on competitions that offer workshops (such as Film Independent’s Screenwriters Lab and The Sundance Screenwriters Lab) and spend the rest on script consultation.

SMS: Have you ever paid for script coverage? If so, what place do you suggest writers consider using, i.e. where do you feel gave you the most helpful feedback?

DE: As part of an award, Joe Gilford, of Story Rescue (www.storyrescue.com) donated a full script consultation, which was a very fulfilling and rewarding experience. He sent a report covering general comments, analysis, and prognosis as well as a redlined copy of the script with numerous notes and corrections attached. We then spent the good part of an hour talking shop, covering topics ranging from what he thinks is lacking, to what he thinks is strong, to what I should do to make both better. He was very friendly, constructively honest, and encouraging.

SMS: What steps do you plan to take to continue furthering your writing career?

DE: I’ll obviously keep on writing, but I need to hit the streets and start a broader marketing plan. In the art and photo world you can usually let the visuals speak unaided, however in the script world I think you need to stand up and give your work an extra voice that rises above the ruckus. I need to work on polishing that voice and finding the right people to listen and ultimately read my work.

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That concludes our interview with screenwriter David Ebelhoft. And watch for our upcoming interview with screenwriter Joseph Brennan.

An interview with screenwriter and contest winner David Ebeltoft, part two

And now, part two of our interview with screenwriter David Ebelhoft. If you missed part one, you can find it here.

Interview, part two:

 SMS: Do you have a writing routine?

DE: I usually dedicate two to three nights a week to writing, research, and development, but I try not to force anything.  I used to feel guilty that I was not spending my 6pm-1am shift hunched over my keyboard composing mind blowing scenes and thought provoking ideas.  Sometimes when I forced myself to write I just couldn’t and on average composed a page an hour that in the end felt contrived.   So I switched the routine, spending one of those nights watching films and reading scripts online.  I recently started reading a script and then watching the film right afterwards, which I have found very amusing and informative.
The only problem I have with a writing routine is that my script doesn’t develop when I want it to.  I work all night for a breakthrough and then the following day, during my day job, is when I get the epiphany I was hoping and working towards.  To preserve these ideas, I start an email at work, either on my desktop or on my blackberry that I keep open and fill with the random notes and ideas that pop up.  At the end of the day I send it to my personal email address and start my next scheduled writing session with these ideas.  I also hide notebooks around my house, near my bed, in the kitchen, and near the john because I’m never sure when a good idea will arise.  I used to assassinate a lot of great ideas because I couldn’t find a pen.

SMS: What are some of your favorite screenplays?

DE: I think Groundhogs Day, by Danny Rubin & Harold Ramis, takes the cake.  It is dark and poetic but makes you laugh the whole way through.  I like that the script contains smidgens of Sir Walter Scott poems; Rasputin inspired death scenes, and good old American holiday absurdity.  I also really enjoy the Cohen Brothers’ Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski, Charlie Kaufman’s adaptation of Confessions of A Dangerous Mind and Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

SMS: How has placing in contests changed your writing career? Have you been contacted by any agents/managers/producers? If so, did anything come of it?

DE:  It made me realize that my writing can compete with the other work out there and that, with a little more polishing, it can be picked up and produced.  The contest circuit seemed like an extended obstacle course, and after you climbed the wall and tip-toed through the tires you either get an award or realize that you need to work harder for your next trial, or as in my case, both.
A production company was considering the script before I entered it in competitions but it was not picked up.  We kept communication lines open and since placing well in some of the festivals they wanted to continue talks.  I shared some of the changes that were inspired by the festival feedback and reviewers opinions and they’re excited to see the next version (cross fingers here).

SMS: Do you have any books on screenwriting on your bookshelf (or that you regularly get from the library)? If so, what are they?

DE: I own an earmarked and uber-highlighted copy of Screenwriting From The Heart by James Ryan.  When I decided to start writing a screenplay I went to a bookstore and read the introduction to about twenty books and this was the only one I found that didn’t promote a ‘winning formula’.  Sure, I wanted to sell the screenplay I was starting but I needed to craft a good story first,  and James Ryan’s book really helped with that.

SMS: Name one thing that you have done in your writing career that you think has helped you the most.

DE: Before I entered the screenwriting competitions my writing career was limited to a ménage-a-trios between a Microsoft word document, a 2-liter bottle of Coke, and myself.  The contests have given me exposure in a world that I had no affiliation with before and gave me a chunk of courage to continue my writing adventures.

SMS: What advice do you have for screenwriters that are entering scripts into contests where they repeatedly get rejection letters?

DE: It’s hard to receive rejection after rejection, especially since most contests post the winner lists online, but I like to remember that it’s just one festival’s, and in many instances, one reviewer’s opinion.

I was going to give up on the whole process when my first rejection notice came through.  In the pre-printed comment form, reviewer AR-1, hastily scribbled two lines, “People don’t die in comedies.  And, Cut To’s not listed since 1970.”  After my weeklong cursing of AR-1’s parents, siblings, pets and friends I realized that he/she was right, my script was not for their festival.  It didn’t mean it was bad, it was just not compatible with what they we’re looking for.  Which is why I re-tooled my goal for the script and focused on more constructive criticism as the reward.

I would recommend two things if your rejection notices keep piling up: 1) set out with a goal and enter the contests that cater to that objective and; 2) know where your script belongs.  My script didn’t belong in AR-1’s competition, and if I would’ve properly researched the festival beforehand I would’ve seen that they were looking for the next blockbuster script, not the independent dark comedy that I sent them.

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That concludes part two of our interview with David Ebelhoft. Stay tuned for part three.

An interview with screenwriter and contest winner David Ebeltoft, part one

As part of the ongoing interview session here at See Me Sell A Screenplay, today’s interview is with David Ebeltoft. David is a screenwriter out of the New York City area that has placed in a recent screenplay contest. For those of you wondering what it takes to win a script contest, have a look at the interview with David for some insight. And you can read his script on the Philadelphia Screenplay Festival site.

BIO:
Drawn to film by its visual explanation of the narrative and its efficacy as a collaborative system, David Ebeltoft penned the feature length script, You Were Once Called Queen City, in 2007. The script recently won the coveted Grand Prize at the Philadelphia Screenplay Festival and was also awarded one of three Feature Development Awards in the highly competitive 2008 Bluecat Screenwriting Lab Competition. David has written for the music-themed television show Noise Floor and has been a creative consultant on several projects for Denver-based producer and director, Kelly Magelky.

David currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Interview, part one:

SMS: I see from your website that you are a photographer, is that your day job? If so, is this a career that allows you a lot of time to write or do you find yourself trying to make time to write? I ask that because a lot of people that have desk jobs have set writing times of either before or after work or both.

DE: During the day I’m a mild mannered corporate art collection manager, and at night I’m slightly schizophrenic with my creative career, splitting my time between writing and photography. My day job is a gig to pay the bills and support my creative interests.  It’s hard to squeeze time in during the week for writing but I’ve found that being in an industry that is remotely linked to what you want to do helps.  I get to deal with art all day, which inspires my photography and in turn fuels my writing.  For example, while photographing my hometown in North Dakota, I started taking notes and recording memories of the settings and scenes being captured.  This eventually led to a narrative interest the camera couldn’t capture and my script, You Were Once Called Queen City, was born.

SMS: Can you tell the readers a little about You Were Once Called Queen City? How long did it take you to complete?

DE: The script is about Danny Mesersmits, a past-obsessed teenager, who is trying to decide whether to follow in the wrestling footsteps of his deceased father, a local legend.  It’s set in a sweet, mid-western town and contains a quirky collection of small-town idiots dusting up situations that sometimes help and other times hinder Danny’s decision.  When an unexpected tragedy occurs Danny has to come to terms with his past so he can deal with the present and face his future.

It took about two years to obtain the draft I submitted for contest consideration.  For the first six months I started doing free-writes associated with topics I knew I wanted to deal with.  I had a long list of short topics, everything from love and loss, to pickles and kool-aid that was based on my memory and experience.  I then took those free writes and started forming them into a story and plot structure.  After the structure was set (another six months) I sat down and penned the script, which took three months to write.  Six months and four drafts later, I thought it was at a point to release into the world.

Since receiving some helpful and insightful feedback, I’m now at the point where I need to dive back into it and make more changes, so in reality the script isn’t finished.  Final answer, three years and counting.

SMS: How many scripts have you completed? If more than the one (You Were Once Called Queen City), have you entered any others into contests?

DE: Just this one.

SMS: What contests/placements have you earned with You Were Once Called Queen City?

DE: I received the Grand Prize at the Philadelphia Screenplay Festival and was one of three Feature Development Award Winners in the Bluecat Screenwriting Lab Competition.  I was also a finalist in the 2008 Screenplay Festival.

SMS: Are there any contests that you entered that particular script in that you did not place in? If so, was that before you started placing in contests with it or after? If before, what did you do to change the script that changed the game for you?

DE: You bet, I entered a total of ten competitions and only placed as a finalist or above in three.  At first I wanted to enter about twenty, but upon receiving my first two rejection notifications I realized that a flat out sorry wasn’t going to help me.  I needed some feedback, like a ‘good try, but try this’ reply.  So I went back in and tailored my list to the competitions that offered feedback for every script entered and awards that were made to further the scripts potential as a literary work.  Monetary awards help as do industry credit, but I was timid and knew that although my script was worthy it also needed more work to compete in a land of lions.  I ended up cutting the competitions that offered ‘$10,000 and possible production’ and focused on intensive writing labs and story consulting as winnings.  I didn’t change much in the script itself, a few corrections here and there but nothing major, as I didn’t know what wasn’t working.

SMS: What, if any, type of training do you have in screenwriting? Do you do things like writers groups? Do you write with a partner?

DE: I do not have any training in screenwriting.  I went to school for photography and museum studies but was always attracted to the written, spoken, and performance aspect of the film medium.  It got to a point where my images were giving 10% of a narrative so after awhile I picked up the pen to continue telling the story the photo couldn’t.

I haven’t attended any formal writer groups or written with a partner.  I usually just run my ideas by a good and honest group of creative guys and gals, ranging from musicians to attorneys.  I can instantly get a sense if my idea is entertaining or needs a little more work.  It also helps to talk it through with someone who hasn’t been thinking about it constantly for the past 6 months, their initial reactions have helped immensely.

SMS: Have you earned any money as a screenwriter? Do you get paid to do any other type of writing? If not, do you do any other type of writing?

DE: I’m currently working on a pro bono basis.  I’ve done some television pilot and series work for a music-themed show and have consulted on several projects for a director & producer, but my payments have been lunch, beers, and knowledge.  All the projects I have worked on had non-existing budgets but were great learning experiences and made crucial connections in the film world where I’m still a newborn babe.
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Stay tuned for part two of our interview with screenwriter David Ebelhoft later this week!

More interviews on the way!

If you enjoyed the interview with screenwriter and author Blake Snyder then stay tuned! I have two interviews on the way with some other screenwriters. These screenwriters have not sold any million dollar scripts to Hollywood like Blake Snyder. But – they have placed in some screenwriting contests. So, if you are wondering what it takes to place in a script contest then keep checking See Me Sell A Screenplay or sign up for our feed to get it delivered to your inbox or feed reader!

An interview with screenwriter and author Blake Snyder – part four

Today we have the final installment of the See Me Sell A Screenplay (SMS) interview with screenwriter Blake Snyder (BS). If you missed the previous parts, first go read: An interview with screenwriter and author Blake Snyder – part one and An interview with screenwriter and author Blake Snyder – part two and An interview with screenwriter and author Blake Snyder – part three.

Interview, part four:
SMS: How important do you think it is for a screenwriter to go somewhere like UCLA and actually get a degree in screenwriting?

BS: I’ll just say I didn’t do that. I’m pretty much self-taught. I think any education you can get is great and I know lots of programs like UCLA’s which is excellent.

SMS: Do you think people in Hollywood give preference to screenwriters with a screenwriting degree?

BS: No.

SMS: Of the working writers that you know, what percentage of then have a screenwriting degree?

BS: You know, I’m trying to think…. I always go back to Billy Wilder. Billy Wilder was a gigolo. That was his training for being a screenwriter. When he came to America he has life experience that he put into movies. I don’t think he ever went to school for screenwriting. What he had was a vivid imagination and a desire to succeed. I think that holds true today.

SMS: Do you think that there is any other necessary training a screenwriter should have?

BS: Well, I’ll tell you, being an English major helped me because I understood story and story structure. I think any kind of writing you do; any time you exercise your writing muscle it’s valuable. I feel like I am being an advocate for commercial only, but I really do feel there is something about, well, I had a job where I wrote ads for a real estate magazine. They would send me the specs on a house and I would turn it into “Nestled, high above the hills in Alta Loma” and they paid me $50 per for that. The bad ones they kicked back to me and I had to fix. There is something about being paid to write and meeting a standard of what is determined to be success that is very valuable. And I think that is the best training that you can get no matter what that is. A lot of writers come to me and say things like “I’m just a technical writer” and I’m saying “Don’t say that! You’re a paid writer. Whatever standard you are meeting they are paying you for it. It’s words on a page and you’re meeting a standard.” That’s a good thing and that’s the kind of training that I think is important.

SMS: If a writer feels like the must have some sort of training and has the options of getting a degree in screenwriting or spending less money and time and going to a few workshops like yours, which do you think is more beneficial?

BS: It really depends on where they are in their career. If you really want to get a ground in screenwriting and there is an opportunity for you to go to a UCLA or a USC or even an online school or a writing boot camp or any type of training then I would take it. I wouldn’t go into debt to do it but an type of experience you can get is valuable. My particular workshop is unique. We have all kinds of people coming into that workshop – pros and people who have never written a word. They are all on an equal footing at the beginning of the class. We talk about concept and why concept is important. We talk about structure of the story and by the time they leave in two days they have a grounding in the Save the Cat! method, which I think is simple. The success of it is that it is easy to understand. I’ll get criticism for it being too easy but it is really to the point of tryin gto make it accessible to the most people.

SMS: Some say that the methods that you teach are very formulaic and nothing more than ‘paint by number screenwriting’ – how do you respond to that?

BS: It’s like the furthest thing from the truth. They think what I telling you to do is “on page 55 this has to happen” when what I am doing is trying to tell you the essence of why stories work. The way in is to discover how stories function. I think what is really great about Save The Cat! is that it makes it crystal clear about how stories functions. I don’t that a person that hadn’t been writing for over 20 years would have deciphered that. It’s only after I have personally written 78 scripts alone or with partners, been through the sales process and the development process and seen how it all works. But this is the farthest thing from a formula. It is not a straitjacket. It is in fact a key to unlock your handcuffs, in my opinion. The people who fear it as being formula fear that their creativity is being stifled and that is scares them and that is not true. That is why I wrote the second book. These beats appear in Legally Blonde; they also appear in Maria Full of Grace and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Fargo – they appear in any story. Understanding how that works is key to a writer.

SMS: With your books and workshops do you think that you are teaching people more how to write a good script or a script that will sell to Hollywood?

BS: Both. I think the essence of storytelling is found in Save the Cat! I also think that the essence of writing a successful story that can be sold is in Save the Cat! I am not embarrassed to say that I think writers think that being obtuse is creative. And it’s not. Communicating clearly is being creative. And that is the challenge that we all face.

SMS: That’s all the questions that I have today. Is there anything else that you would like to add for my readers?

BS: Buy Save the Cat! (link below if interested) I would like to add that I am extremely grateful for having the success that I have had with these books. It has changed my life. I was really mostly interested in myself and my screenwriting career when I wrote the first book. And I just wrote it for fun. What this has opened up for me is a whole brand new world of being able to help other people. To me it is an eye-opening experience of being able to offer something, a service, to others. I think no matter what level you are at in writing that is an important increment. Looking back, this way my breakthrough in screenwriting even early on. I really asked myself the question, “What service am I offering?” And I think service is an important thing. You should ask “what are you offering?” And “why should they come to you for what you do?” It’s not just you and I think is also something that I had to get over early on which was one of the early scripts that I wrote pleased me like crazy but no one else…. Another things writers should do more of is help each other. It’s a myth [that someone will steal your ideas]. The truth is that we need to be better at helping each other. It’s actually a problem of screenwriting. I think it is because it is so competitive. I used to call other screenwriters the day that their movie would premiere and I would go “Congratulations, I’m so happy for you! This is such a huge success for you” and they would kind of go “Why are you calling? What do you want from me?” And I genuinely thought “this is a victory for everybody.” Yet there was this defensive quality about ‘why are you calling me?’ and I just thought that was too bad.

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That concludes our interview with Blake Snyder. If you are ready to get your script ready for Hollywood, click on the link below for Blake’s Save the Cat! book.

***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!

An interview with screenwriter and author Blake Snyder – part three

Today we have the third installment of the See Me Sell A Screenplay (SMS) interview with screenwriter Blake Snyder (BS). If you missed the previous parts, first go read: An interview with screenwriter and author Blake Snyder – part one and An interview with screenwriter and author Blake Snyder – part two.

Interview, part three:
SMS: What is the lowest amount you think a writer should accept for an option on a script?

BS: I think a free option can be the right option. I think it depends on where you are in your career. The fact that someone is willing to take a chance on you and take your script out to promote it is an indicating factor of success. And it is something that you can go ahead and tell other people about.

SMS: What about thinks like Pitchfest and the Final Draft ‘Take A Meeting’ that happened last weekend – how beneficial are those for screenwriters?

BS: Tremendously. But I also think that you have to go into it knowing that the value of it is not necessarily ‘I’m going to go in and sell my pitch now.’ I think that the value is ‘I’m going to go in and very smartly make contacts, I’m going to get business cards and shake hands with people that I will contact in the future. And I’m going to be as interested in them as I hope they are in me.’ I think if you can get into a five-second conversation with a development executive something of interest to them then when you are surfing the net one day and you see an article on boating and you remember ‘oh yeah, there was that I guy I met that was interested in boating.’ Then you send them that article. I think there is a big part of it about being of service to other people that is extremely valuable in anyone’s career. It’s not just about you. So, that’s the value – you are interfacing with people who can go on your contact list and in a sense it is who you know, but who you know is controllable and you can manage that and sort of enhance that. I challenge writers to say at the beginning of the year or when I hook up with them to make a list of them contacts and double that list by the end of the year and then double it every year after that. And I think that this is an important aspect of the job. It’s not just sitting and writing a thousand words a day. The other half of that is, not marketing yourself necessarily, but networking. It’s an exciting thing too. What I love about my job now is that I get a chance to help writers understand this stuff. Whatever your goal is – you may want to make a lovely $100,000 independent film and show it on two screens and that is fabulous, but know going in that is what you are doing and that is your target. I will help you as much as I can to get that story as good as it can be. I will also help you target House Bunny and that kind of sale and that kind of world too. They are all viable and they are all of equal merit.

SMS: You already said that you thought it was a good idea for a writer to get a manager – is that over agents?

BS: Yup.

SMS: What about writers who just send queries out to production companies – should they focus more on getting a manager or sending out those queries?

BS: Again it depends on where you are but the query letter and the email query does work. We had a guy in our workshop who pitched in our class with a script called Dr. Sensitive. We worked out the beats for that story and he went on to write that script and pitched it in email query to several people in the Hollywood Creative Directory. One of the people who responded was Underground Management. The reason I like managers is very often, now this is not always the case, but very often they will also have a hat of producer. And their real interest is finding material that they can help you to develop and be attached as a producing entity. If you can find those people – again do you homework so you can distinguish between the ‘fly-by-night’ people and the real people – and proceed accordingly. Again, I think that this is all about the networking process. I think you can get results from an email query.

SMS: As someone in the business, how many working writers do you know that didn’t already ‘know someone’ to get their big break?

BS: I think a majority actually. Even though my father was in the business, he has passed away by the time I was making inroads in the business. I think what he did give me was an appreciation for certain aspects of the business. There is an up and down quality to this. The first lesson of show business for me was as a kid one Christmas we had a lot of presents and the next Christmas we didn’t have any. That’s showbiz! But it’s also normal so it’s not something to wrack your brain and worry about. It’s a tough career.

SMS: How difficult is it really for an outsider to break in?

BS: It’s the same. I think it’s a great democracy. There is this myth that there is this wall trying to keep you out from Hollywood when we are desperately trying to find the next House Bunny. But you have to put it in terms that we can understand and appreciate and that we think we can profit from. If you have that, you don’t need to be anybody.

…….

That concludes part three of our interview with Blake Snyder. Stay tuned for the final part where Blake gives his thoughts on what type of training a screenwriter really needs.

***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!

An interview with screenwriter and author Blake Snyder – part two

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!

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