Monthly Archives: January 2015

First of all let me thank everyone who reads this Blog. I am constantly amazed at the nice mail I get from writers. You have to look around my website to get my address (, by the way). So you made an effort. I appreciate that. And some of you have asked questions. The ones about writing I’m happy to answer. Luckily, the personal ones mostly inquire about how my wife’s doing since her serious illness late last year. (She’s doing fabulously well, thank God)

So, let’s dive into three of the many writing questions I really received which I will paraphrase for brevity’s sake.

Dear Bob, What’s it like to write with a partner? How do you find a good partner? I know you write scripts on your own, but you’ve mentioned writing and selling scripts with other writers.

Well... it’s been a pleasure to write with other people when I have. I’ve sold one script I wrote with another writer, Jeff Willis. Jeff and I were friends (I went to his wedding) before we ever wrote anything. I also respect him as a writer and one day we decided to try and write together. We also decided on a style for writing, which consisted of me writing 5 to 10 pages, sending it to him, and then he edited my pages with his ideas and wrote 5 to 10 pages to add on to the story, and back and forth editing each other and writing until we were done. Then he did a polish and then I did a polish and then we discussed things and ended up with a first draft. It was about as smooth as you could imagine an experience like that could be. We’ve written three scripts together and all were that good an experience.

Good partnerships are born out of friendship and respect. Otherwise I don’t see them working. In order to do something as big as creating a film from nothing with another person both people have to be able to listen to the other person’s point of view and be open, understanding, and honest. Only with having true respect for each other’s talents can trust like this take place. Get to know the person you’re thinking of writing with. That means not just reading their work and liking it, but personal contact. Get to know each other as people, not just as writers. I’m about to embark on writing a script with a guy whose writing I respect a ton, but I’m also excited to work with him because I genuinely like him. And again we were friends before writing this script ever came up. The point is, don’t rush into any writing partnership. Feel each other out and get to know each other first.

Don’t go post on some board: Looking for someone to write a movie with. Or answer some Craigslist or Facebook post asking for a collaborator. You’ll most likely be sorry. Let it happen organically as you meet and get to know other writers. If it’s meant to happen it will.

Dear Bob, Do I need to BOLD my sluglines? I read a famous script and the Sluglines were in Bold.

Are you frigging kidding me? Really? This is what you’re wondering about as you try and write a script that you want someone to spend a million dollars or more to make? This also applies to Cut to:, and “We see”, and all those other things the “RULES” say you’re not supposed to do. First of all, please let me say this... There are no real rules about these things. Sorry.

The only thing everyone needs to do is to format your script correctly, meaning you use Final Draft or whatever screen writing software you choose and you don’t screw with it. Don’t screw with the font or font size or margins. Then... write what you damn please.

Cut to: “We see him writing in the correct format.”

The truth is, no one cares about these things if you write a fantastic story. That’s the only thing that matters. The story. Bold Sluglines? If your story is crap, does that matter? Nope. If your story is amazing and they can’t stop reading it? Does it matter? Nope. It’s your script. Do what you want. But damn, concentrate on story, ok? The rest is white noise to distract you.

Me? I don’t use Cut to: or We see or Bold Sluglines because I choose not to. Why? Because I choose that. I want the reader to see the film in their head as they read it and don’t want stuff in there that’s not story to take them out of it.

Last question for this Blog...

Dear Bob, Can I write a Batman movie? Will anyone in Hollywood read it?

Can you write a Batman movie? Sure you can. You can write anything you want. I’m not sure why you’d want to write a Batman movie except to see if you could do it. Will people in Hollywood read it? There’s a guy that lives in the bushes on Sunset, he might read it. He’s in Hollywood.

Ok. Seriously. First of all, there is no “Hollywood”. There’s no secret cabal of bigwigs who meet at a Starbucks on Ventura Blvd twice a week to decide the fate of the film business and who have decided you will never succeed. Sorry. Not real.

There are, however, hundreds of producers, production companies, and directors out there, and they all want to make films or TV shows or Cable films or films and shows for the Netflix’ of the world and they hire writers and buy scripts from writers. They also want to buy and make things they own the rights to. So they don’t want to see any Batman scripts. Warner Brothers and DC own the rights to Batman so only they can make a Batman film. So the array of buyers you can approach with your Batman script is a little small. In fact, you can count them on one finger. Plus, they don’t want to read your Batman script ever. And if you try to sell it to them, they may have one of their many lawyers write you a nasty letter asking you to never darken their door again and to burn your script because you don’t own the rights. That should also figure into your decision to write it.

But I’m also not saying you shouldn’t write it if you think it will help you learn screenwriting. As a sample, it’s kinda worthless, but as an instructional experiment? If you want to do it? Ok. I think it’s a waste of time to write something you can’t sell or try to sell, but that’s me.

Well... that’s it for today’s edition of Ask Bob. Keep those cards and letters coming.


So it’s 2015 and it’s starting with a bang and a boom. Already had my first 2015 trip to LA, a two day whirlwind of meetings that saw me come home today with a GREAT job that I can’t talk about yet. But I am happy. Like really really really happy. And maybe, just maybe, an adaptation job on top of that one. It’s looking, knock wood, thank You God, like it may be a good year.

Plus... I got to hang with a really fun, genuinely nice, intelligent group of writers. Drinks and a little pizza and talking and networking and learning. I always come away from talking to writers with a little more knowledge than I had before we talked. I enjoyed it more than I can say.

On to the subject at hand. I read a LOT of scripts. I trade with some people to get and give notes. Writers ask me to read their stuff. My manager sends me scripts he’s been sent for me to read. Sometimes production execs or development execs send them directly to me to read. I love my Ipad. I can download and read most of them there, only printing out the ones I have to take serious notes on. Even then, my wife asked me to do something about the stacks of scripts in my office. I’m not looking like a hoarder yet, but the opportunity awaits.

Lately (thank you Mac & T.A.) some scripts I have read are really good. Scripts that show imagination, skill, and care.


Most of the scripts I read are, to be polite and we should always try to be polite, are... lacking. Some in big ways. Some in huge ways. It’s hard to tell someone their subject matter won’t sell tickets or cause someone to hit the button on their remote to watch ever. To tell someone their script has enough plot holes in it to fill the Albert Hall. (A Beatles reference for you to look up if you don’t know) But damn... even if your story sucks, you shouldn’t be making glaring technical errors. Some of these errors are so bad I think the writer never really read what they wrote. Some of these errors are pet peeves of mine and because it’s my Blog and no one but Enzo the Dog is here with me, and he agrees with everything I think and say, I WILL talk about one of them now.

At or near the top of my peeve list is the subject of REAL TIME. Movies, TV, take place in real time. Unless you use some story device to suspend real time, what you write that happens in a scene is supposed to happen in the time you describe... Ok. Let me give you an example:


Chester and Harry emerge from the building. Chester holds Harry by the ear and pulls him.


Owww. Okay, okay. I said I'd go.

(Hey. My Blog isn't letting me format this right and I'm pissed, but what's new about that?)

That’s the whole scene. 1/8 of a page. Let’s break it down. Chester and Harry emerge from an office building door. Chester firmly gripping Harry by the ear, pulls him along. Harry says one line of dialogue.

If you saw this in real life on the street it would take, what, maybe 15 - 20 seconds at the longest to watch it. You saw it in real time. That 15 – 20 seconds it could/should really happen in is real time. Just like it’s described.

Now, an example of something I just read with major changes to protect the writer, but the gist of the scene is THE SAME:


Bob and Bobette take their seats at the table. Bob reaches out his hand and takes hers in it.


Wanna do the salad bar? I know you're on a diet and I'm trying to be more sensitive.

Bobette pulls her hand away.


You trying to tell me I'm fat? I wore my skinny jeans.


No. Of course not. C'mon. Let's get a salad.

They stand and walk to the salad bar and make their salads, returning to their table, sitting down and eating.


You know, this really is a good salad. Thank you for suggesting it.

Bob smiles triumphantly.

Let’s break this scene down. An unfeeling jerk tells his girlfriend she’s fat. She reacts, he brushes it off. I just timed it on the clock in my office. 10 seconds. Real time.

Then they get up, walk to the salad bar, and MAKE THEIR SALADS. I don’t know about you, but I don't want to take 4 or 5 minutes of my time to watch these clowns make a salad and take it back to their table and then EAT IT. That’s exactly what's described in the action line. It looks like the writer wants the audience to sit in silence watching these characters build a salad then take it back to the table and stuff their faces. Oh... the suspense of what dressing they choose. Will they like it or not? Is that arugula in her teeth?

Ok, we know that’s not what the writer wants, unless he’s insane or Andy Warhol, but that’s exactly what's described in the scene. Exactly. In real time.

Another example. I once got a script where an action line read something like this:

Billy stands by the side of the road and hitchhikes for an hour, watching cars pass him by, before a white Limousine pulls up.

I laughed. I called my friend Jeff Willis and read it to him and he laughed and said, “Man, that’s one long scene.” Yeah, as described even though it’s not what the writer meant, that scene as written uses an hour of screen time. With NOTHING going on. Action lines are literal. They happen in real time.

Good readers, pro readers, notice this stuff. They KNOW that’s not what the writer meant. They recognize the technical errors. But it IS what the writer wrote. It’s right there on the page. They know if you’re not on the ball enough to see these things, it’s gonna be a long read. It colors the way they look at your script from that point on. You need to pay attention to every word you write. They mean things.

Look back at your old scripts. I hope you don’t find these things. You might though. And from this day forward, think in real time. How long is exactly what I am describing going to take?

It’s such a simple thing.