Chasing Trends. When screenwriters decide their next script will be thematically the same as whatever the latest hit film was.

And there are loads of so called experts, including managers apparently, who think this is the only way for new writers to get themselves out there. Don’t write what you’re passionate about. Write something THAT’S ALREADY BEEN DONE.

Yeah... that’s the way to get noticed.

Trend chasing is an exercise in futility. You understand that films are developed over years. By the time your trend chasing script gets out there, that trend has been replaced by another one.

New writers get noticed for their trend setting, not chasing. By their wholly original work, which MAY NEVER GET MADE, but sets them apart from all the formula drones and trend chasers, whose scripts are routinely rejected at the first phase of review.

New writers get noticed by their own unique voice, a voice that gets attention instead of yawns or worse, derision when your script is the same as everyone’s. How do you find your own voice if you’re trying to write another version of Guardians of the Galaxy or Star Wars or Fast & Furious or any superhero film? You don’t. YOU DON’T. You get thrown into the reject pile or never read because your logline screams: Seen it before.

With everything you see out there on the big screen I can see how the wish of every screenwriter who wants their name there would think this was the way. But it’s a false flag. The writers whose names appear on those films got them there by first writing something so original that their writing was noticed as something different or special in the first place, that they knew how to tell an original story. Those completely original scripts MAY NEVER HAVE GOTTEN MADE, but they set the writer apart from the masses and got them in the rooms they needed to be in to succeed.

On a screenwriting board I look at occasionally, a writer was complaining that his managers were rejecting all his original ideas. Ideas that excited him as a writer. Ideas that he was passionate about, and telling him no. They told him that he needed to chase trends, to write what THEY wanted him to write. I gave him the following advice:

Get new managers.

If you can’t write what’s inside you aching to get out, how can you write honestly? And when reps tell you to chase trends they aren’t thinking of you as an individual artist, they’re thinking of you as no different from anyone else in their stable of writers. Part of the masses who write will write what they want so they can throw them all at the few walls and hope one will stick. Doesn’t matter which script or by which client. They aren’t managing you, they’re running a script farm.

It’s not an accident that the most exciting new original stuff in now streaming on platforms like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu or on cable TV networks. These are ideas and scripts by people not afraid to go out of the box. To write what they’re passionate about. Did it take a long time to get there? You bet. It takes EVERYONE a long time to get there. But they got there. That’s the take away. Not by chasing a trend or using some phony roadmap of beats, but by being original storytellers.

The best spec script I think I’ve ever read is A Killing on Carnival Row by Travis Beacham. Just amazing from start to finish. Did it get made right off the bat after EVERYONE went nuts over it in the industry? Nope. It sat. For years. Travis got a career out of it though. It put him on the map. It gave him instant credibility with decision makers. He got a running start because of his originality. I always wanted to see it come to life.

Now, it is. As a Netflix series. Not the film he envisioned, but as a streaming series. His originality rewarded. My guess is that it will be a huge hit. I’d bet on it.

Don’t chase trends. No matter what you hear or what “experts” say. You’ll always be late to the party. Write what moves YOU. Write a story you want to see. It might not be successful, because truthfully most every script isn’t. If that happens, write another one. Then another. You’ll see each one getting better and better as you get closer to revealing your own unique voice. The voice that sets you apart.

I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about how long it takes to get noticed as a screenwriter in this business. It does. It’s a frustrating maddening long time for everyone. There is no instant success or gratification.

Now I have to get back to my new car chase script “Speedy and Really Really Mad.”

(For you out there who are literal, the above was a joke)

Go forth and write something original. IT MAY NEVER GET MADE. But it could get you a job writing Spiderman 12.

Follow me on Twitter. @bobsnz

Lately, there have been a bunch of experts, who aren’t, online espousing the supposed unbreakable “rules” of screenwriting. That if you do ANY of these things and break ANY of these rules in any way, readers, producers, agents, and managers will throw your script in a shredder, burn it, or put a hit out on you and your pets.

Of course none of it is true. So I thought I’d espouse on the subject myself. Shall we get going?


Uh... no. I don’t use it because it’s a choice. But no, no one is drop kicking your script if it’s there. They’ll drop kick it if you use it and the script sucks, but then they’d be drop kicking it anyway. It’s also not a good idea to use it a lot because it takes a lot of white space you could be using for story, but if your script is great... NOBODY CARES. They care if the story is good or not. That’s it.

Nobody is rejecting your script just because you use it. Not happening. And I’ve read some spectacular scripts that used it.


I have put camera moves in my scripts occasionally. Even ones I’ve sold and optioned. OH NOOOOOO. I did it because I was writing a FILM and the way the camera was used helped tell the story I wanted to tell in certain places and helps the reader SEE THE FILM, which is exactly what you want. It’s not a good idea to do it a lot because again it uses the space you need to tell your story, but used occasionally for effect, NO ONE CARES.

Unless your script sucks.


No. They won’t. If you use them poorly, they will. But c’mon. Think of how many wonderful films you’ve seen where both have been used to great effect. I’ve used them in scripts I’ve optioned and sold. Extracurricular Activities is filled with them and not one single person said a word about them. Why? Because they work and are needed to tell that particular story. By the way, it comes out next year.

One of my other scripts has flashbacks almost every other scene and my manager thinks it’s my best script. It’s not the USE of them. It’s how they are used, just like anything else. The screenwriting purists, most of which haven’t ever sold a script, will tell you they are the worst thing you can do.

They’re not. You can use them effectively, if you need to, to tell the story you want to tell... the FILM you want the reader to see. That’s the secret.

The worst thing you can do is write a crappy script, with or without flashbacks and voiceover, and send it out thinking it’s good.


Of course not. I had a studio executive I asked about this say to me, “If a reader did this on script I had requested to read I’d fire them immediately.” NO ONE CARES. They care about what’s IN the script, not what’s on the front page. There have been all kinds of scripts sold and made that had an image or two on the cover. Stop believing this crap. It’s passed along as cold TRUE fact when if you thought about it logically for even a second you'd know it’s ridiculous. I’ve never put an image on a title page because I haven’t written a script it would work for. But would I? Hell yes.

Ask Eric Heisserer how it worked out for him on Arrival. Nice image on the cover page. But why didn’t they throw it out? Because they don’t. It’s also one of the best scripts I have ever read and an Oscar Nominee. NO ONE CARES.

Unless the script sucks.


By a show of hands, I want you to name me a producer or agent or manager you know who COUNTS LOGLINE WORDS. None? You’d be correct. THEY DON’T CARE. They only care if it interests them or not. One sentence. Three sentences. 25 words. 50 words. They don’t care. Is it something they want to read?

I have one logline that’s 9 words. The script gets read and has been optioned. I have one that is three sentences over 50 words... It got made. You write your logline so they’ll want to read the script, not to solve some grammatical math problem. Be smart and economical, but NOT at the expense of your story. Again, if you just think about this, you wonder how crap like this got started.

There are more rules that don’t exist, but this is enough for now, as the sound you hear in the background are the “experts” whose heads are exploding.

Just write a great story. It’s the only thing that really matters.

Follow me on Twitter @bobsnz

What’s a Spec Script? I’ll tell you what I think it is.

It isn’t what's going to be shot, that’s for sure.

A friend of mine who is an exec at a big production company was telling me the other day how hard it was lately to even get through a lot of scripts to find the story.

And I’ve been hearing a lot of bad advice lately about what should or shouldn’t be in a spec script when only one thing should be in it.


A story a reader can see. I didn’t say audience. I said reader. If you write specs you hope will eventually get made this is very important. The first people you need to get through to option a script are even called “READERS”. That’s why you need a slick fast reading script that’s not bogged down with all the crap you’ve been told by some people you need.

You don’t need overly long physical descriptions of your characters. Blonde hair? Blue eyes? Brown eyes? Red nail polish? I’ve seen it all. Waste of space. No one cares. Unless it has to do with the story, it doesn’t matter. In fact, these days the less you say is better. Why is this? Because as the READER is getting into the story, they get to picture the character the way they want to and that helps with the ease of the read. If there is a physical characteristic that is a story point, then by all means get it in there. Otherwise, let the words spoken and the actions, the story, define who the character is.

I just read a script where every female character was described with some flourish to be as sexy or beautiful as she could be. It took me right out of the story. Why? First, I hate it. Lots of people who read scripts hate it because it’s unrealistic and cheap (and sexist) and if you look around you wherever you are, you aren’t going to see a lot of supermodels, so why populate your script with them. You want to write a story that resonates with real people? Write about real people. Real women. Real men. You can put them in unique and other worldly situations, but they still need to be real. Let the reader decide who your characters are inside and out by the dialogue and action and what they feel and see in their heads as they read.

You don’t need descriptions of what everyone is wearing unless it’s part of the plot. I just wrote a scene where a woman had a wedding dress on. Why? She was getting married as part of the plot. In every other scene she’s in? Not a word about her wardrobe. Why? It has nothing to do with story. It takes up valuable story space and it takes the reader... you guessed it... out of the story.

Capitalizing sounds? BAM. BOOM. Capitalizing props? CAR. BEER BOTTLE. SANDWICH.

I had one writer tell me those things need to be there for the Sound and Prop departments so they know what they are in the film. I hate to tell you this... but there are no Sound or Prop departments in a spec script. There are no departments at all. You only have those if the script sells and they go to a shooting script.

That goes to my next point... Spec scripts never ever ever never ever ever never get made the way you wrote it anyway. Never. Ever. By the time a Sound or Prop department sees the script it’s been rewritten so many times it often doesn’t resemble what you wrote in the first place. So ALL those WORDS capitalized in YOUR script JUST look RIDICULOUS and... yes... take the reader out of the story.

Don’t use character names that are unpronounceable. Don’t use words that the average reader will have to look up. I see these all the time. It’s not about impressing someone with clever names or vocabulary. They don’t care. Honest.

The purpose of a Spec script is for the reader to see and experience your story through your words. To see it in their head as a film or TV show. That’s it. It’s not anything more difficult to understand than that. It’s not easy to do, but that’s what gets you noticed and your script noticed. Lean and clean. Uncluttered.

You want a script they don’t put down. One that they want and need to keep reading. You clutter it up and make the read difficult and it’s too easy for them to put it down. Maybe to never pick up again. When they can read your script in an hour because it READS well, you stand a much better chance of moving it to a different level.

Leaving all this crap out is liberating. It actually sets you free to just concentrate on what’s important.


That's what they option. That's what they buy. That's what they want to see from a screenwriter.

Follow me on Twitter @BobSnz


Not completely true. Here’s the thing. Writers respect writers. Directors, for the most part, respect writers. Producers love and respect good cooperative creative writers, know who they are, and remember them. Entertainment Executives like writers who know what they are doing and appreciate them. They also know and understand the necessity of the writer. Industry people from all walks pay attention to who writes what. They know. Serious film buffs know who some writers are, especially the A List ones.

A small percentage of the public will see something based on who wrote it. And by small, I mean, very very small. Bordering on microscopic when you take the population into consideration.

The public at large?

Not so much. They know SOMEBODY probably wrote it, but man, did you see those Dinosaurs? Or that explosion? Or how the actors in that scene made you cry? Or how cool the film looked? And how did they drive that car out of that plane?

They do notice writers when the film sucks. “Who wrote that shit?” But even then they don’t actually look and see who did.

And on the films or TV where they were entertained? Don’t kid yourself. They may look at the name, but it’s gone by the time they get home.

But Bob, there are screenwriting podcasts. And books. And websites. And seminars.

And blogs.

Those are all for those select few thousand (out of millions and millions) who care.

So why don’t people care who the writers are?

How do I count the ways. Writers are invisible. You never see them onscreen. Their names are on the film once, as the audience is walking in or walking out. The audience didn’t come to see the writer. They may have come to see the story the writer created but they never consider who wrote it. Or they go to see the stars, or the hype. The writer is never on Jimmy Kimmel to promote the film. You never see the writer walk the red carpet either. They do, but when that happens, it’s time to cut to commercial.

Writers do get to be on panels at Film Festivals, but those are for the small percentage of people who actually care who the writer is and want to hear from them. And mostly it’s people who want to be writers, too.

Do I sound bitter? Absolutely not. I started out as an actor. When I decided to try writing, I knew what the bottom line was. I knew where the writer was on the public’s food chain. I knew if I succeeded, I would have to be content having the industry know who I was as a pinnacle. I’m still working on that.

You don’t get into the screenwriting business to get famous. I got into it because I wasn’t that good an actor so I thought I’d try it because I LOVE movies and don’t want to do anything but work on them. What I found out was that I loved writing. I loved creating story. I loved fitting all the story elements together like puzzle pieces. And the first time I saw my script, my story, my characters, my dialogue on a screen, I was hooked. A junkie. I want it again and again and again.

Everyone has their own reasons why they write for film or TV. Getting famous shouldn’t be one of them. And being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway. I’ve been out to dinner, played golf, and had drinks with some very famous people and I wouldn’t want that kind of public attention for anything. It might be fun for a while, but for me it would wear very thin.

So, for that group of writers, or would be writers out there who think it’s not fair that writers aren’t as publicly valued as actors and directors... Don’t blame the industry.

It’s the public. They don’t care. They just want to be entertained and thrilled and to laugh or cry or be frightened. No more. No less. And if you as a writer accomplish that and can sit in the theater or a home or a screening room with people watching something YOU wrote and they react to your work in any of those ways..... you’ve gotten everything you need from them.

You don’t need to be stopped in the grocery store or walking your dog for autographs because, well, it’s not going to happen.

And, to be honest... I’ve also noticed that most of the people who complain the loudest about no public recognition of screenwriters are the ones who’ve never sold anything or had anything produced.

Having the respect of industry peers beats the hell out of anyone recognizing you in Costco anyway.


Follow me on Twitter. @bobsnz

This question was posed on Twitter last week: Do you think you are a better writer because you started out as an actor?

Hmmm. Well, I have spent many more years as an actor (or trying to be an actor) than I ever have writing. In fact, I’m headed out next week to be an actor again after my first audition for a film in over two years actually netted me the part and caused me clear the cobwebs and dust off my SAG card.

It’s not a big part by anyone’s definition, but a funny little part in what I think could be a very funny film. I made the camera operator laugh in the audition and I believe that helped because his laugh had to be heard in the background. Couldn’t have hurt.

And it’s a nice situation for me. No other responsibilities except learn my lines, hit my marks, and make it real. I know my limitations and this part doesn’t get near them, so I’m just gonna have some fun.

But switching back to actor mode, and believe me it is a switch, got me thinking about the question. How much has my acting experience helped me as a writer?

I'll tell you. A whole lot. Maybe more than a whole lot.

Has it helped me write better dialogue? You bet. You still have to maintain the character you’re trying to write, it just makes it easier putting the right words together in the right order if you look at it from an actor’s (who is still playing your character) standpoint.

No actor wants wooden dialogue. No actor wants dialogue that no human would say. Yet I see it all the time in spec scripts. Dialogue so unreal it’s like space aliens wrote it. I’ve auditioned in the past for independent films or TV where I got the sides, (actor’s audition lines in script form as scenes or parts of scenes), and I've cringed at having to say what was on the page. Sometimes you just can’t. There’s no way to make it come out right because of the way it’s written. How then, you ask, did such bad dialogue get as far as an audition? Beats the hell out of me. Tell me you haven’t seen films or TV with dialogue like this. You just don’t want to be the one who writes it.

Actors LOVE great words. It makes them happy. When I was on the set of the film Jeff Willis and I wrote, “The Right Girl”, it made my year when all three leads told me, unprompted, that they loved the dialogue in completely separate conversations. They didn’t have to do that. They could have just ignored me, but they didn’t. The female lead hugged me out of the blue when we met and thanked me for such a great script. (See what you missed Jeff?) And one of the male leads remembered when we worked together as actors on a TV series episode. That was cool, considering I had a flea sized part compared to his. But it was an acting, then a writing connection. We talked about my transition to writer and he had a lot of questions because he's trying to do it too.

Acting experience has also helped me with constructing character in my scripts. Knowing how to define my characters better on the page. Giving characters more of what I think a good actor might look for in the writing to help them understand who they are. I don’t change story for what an actor might like, I just think it helps me build more life into my characters an actor can relate to.

I’ve always thought that writers should take acting and improv classes anyway. I’ve encouraged my writing friends to do it on more than one occasion. There are community classes everywhere. In LA you can’t walk (sorry, it’s LA, I mean drive) by a strip mall without seeing someplace that has acting classes.

I’ve also encouraged writers to get their butts on a film set as an extra sometime. Extras are the lowest of the low on the film production food chain. The guy that waters the plants on the set is higher. You should do it anyway. You’re on a set. You’re watching how films get made. You watch the people in the director’s chairs looking at the monitors and you can see yourself there someday. I did that. I started as an extra on films and worked my ass off to network, to get an agent, to get auditions, to improve my craft as an actor, basically the same route I eventually took as a writer. But I learned what making a film really entailed. I learned what goes on. How sets work. How films get shot. How BIG ASS 100 million dollar films get shot.

And when as a writer I’ve gotten to sit in director’s chairs at the monitors for films I’ve written, it’s a feeling you cannot describe. It’s a place I dreamed about... It’s... Stop it Bob... get back on track.

I’ve worked with actors who devoted their craft to learning everything they could about their characters to get them right. To do them justice. Watched and learned from them as they searched out even the littlest thing in the script to help them with backstory to bring a little more reality to their character. I've put those things into action myself as an actor. You don’t think this helped me writing scripts? Think again.

Every writer is always looking for an edge. That one thing more that can take them to another level. I think going to some acting classes and taking them seriously is one of those things. And you may well stink. Lots of people do. Acting, or acting well, is a very hard thing to do. Acting in front of a camera with all those people standing around waiting for lunch is even harder. But I don’t know a writer who wouldn’t grow from the experience. Gain insight. It’s all part of investing in your career.

And who knows, maybe someday you’ll beat me out for a part or we’ll be acting on the same project. Stay away from the breakfast burritos at craft service though... not a good idea.


Follow me on Twitter. @bobsnz

Yeah. Imposter Syndrome. You know what I’m talking about.

C’mon. If you’ve had any success at all, or were/are on the verge of it at any time, you KNOW what it is.

I have a horrible case of it at this moment and it haunts me and I have to fight it because right now everything couldn’t be going better. People are returning my calls, and in a timely manner. People I want to work with are calling me to talk. Or working with me. Or optioning my stuff. Or making them. It’s all kind of magic.

So what’s the problem? I’ll tell you what. I look at all of it and think, “This is ME! How soon before they figure that out? How long can I fool them before they catch up with me?”

Imposter Syndrome.

The constant waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the production companies and producers and directors to one day look at you and go, “What were we thinking? Can we get a real writer in here please?”

Like everyone who is afflicted with the strong desire/need to write films or TV (I truly feel sorry for you), I daydreamed long and hard about all the things that have actually happened in the last four years.

It can seem surreal, like I’m watching it detached from who I am. Sitting on a film set watching well known actors say your lines and be the characters you dreamed up. I’ve caught myself looking around the set and wondering how soon they’re going to kick me out because this really can’t be happening.

Imposter Syndrome is a real thing. It affects writers, actors, directors... and you have to not let it overwhelm and paralyze. I’ve talked to many writers and actors who will tell you it’s always under the surface someplace ready to spring out and cripple them. Even the most outwardly confident.

When I start feeling this way, I find that if I read one of my scripts I haven’t read in a while, besides finding typos and things I can improve (always), I also find really cool stuff I forgot I thought of. Stuff that’s good. Sometimes really good. And it helps me realize that maybe I do deserve to be here doing the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do professionally.

When I was nervously waiting what I thought was too long a time to hear about a rewrite from a director a few weeks ago, I finally talked to her. And after she told me she loved it, I admitted I had convinced myself she hated it because she didn’t call right away. I also admitted to her I was probably too neurotic and needy for my own good. She said, “Relax. All writers are neurotic and needy. Goes with the territory.”

So... we got that going for us.

If you write well enough get a manager or agent, option something or sell something, or get a rewrite or adaptation job, stand tall. You did something good (or sometimes great) to deserve it. You’re there because you did the work and did it well. That’s not an accident.

Don’t always looks for the other shoe to drop. Be prepared for it though, because at times it certainly does drop, but a LOT of times it doesn’t. Honest. They’re not going to find you out because there’s nothing to find.

It took me a while to realize that when I was invited to production meetings it was because they wanted me there and wanted me to contribute. I can tell you the exact meeting where I finally realized I had earned my seat at that conference table. Best meeting ever. It was a revelation. Learn this: If they ask you to be there, they WANT you there. Accept it.

The first time I visited a set for a film I wrote they had a director’s chair at the monitors and a headset to listen all ready for me. A LONG LONG way from my days as a Film and TV Extra, where I started in this industry so many years ago. Extras are, well, below the guys who water the plants on the film set food chain. At the very bottom. Below the bottom. I once heard a major film producer refer to Extras as “Props that eat.”

So sitting there that day in that director’s chair, looking back on where I was once and where I was then, and having everyone be so amazingly nice and respectful, kind of threw me off my game. Imposter Syndrome. You know it exists. Now you know it by its insidious name. Now you can recognize it and fight it.

We’ll fight it together.

Made it through about 8 pages of a script I was sent a couple of days ago. I had to stop reading. It wasn’t the story, I don’t think. I have no idea because I couldn’t wade through the misspellings and atrocious grammar to get to it.

Maybe some of them were typos. There’s not a writer alive that can find every single typo in a script. But most of them were sheer laziness and probably based on the attitude of “If they buy it, they’ll fix it. It’s the story that counts.” I’ve actually heard more than one writer say this or something similar to me in the past.

They are wrong. Spelling and grammar matter in a script. It reflects on how serious you are taken as a writer. Making the read as smooth and mistake free as you can is essential to getting your story told. Every misspelling or massive grammatical error takes the reader out of your story and focuses them on how poor the writer is for leaving them there.

Your writing reflects you. And getting anyone, besides your family and close friends, to read your script is an accomplishment. What you want is for them to want to read more, to love what you do and your style, to get them on board with you as a writer. Bad grammar and spelling does the opposite.

Yes, scriptwriting is different. We can all acknowledge that. You can write in fragmented sentences. You can break any and all grammar rules in dialogue if you have to. You can even break some spelling rules in dialogue to get a character’s syntax across. That works. But systemic spelling problems on every page will get your script tossed, in my opinion. Ur is not a substitute for Your. Twitter speak in your action lines is not the best way to get your story across.

Every program has spellcheck, so I’m kind of amazed that the spelling errors are still so prevalent. But they are and mostly all in bad scripts.

The excellent scripts I’ve read in the past and three for sure in the past couple of months were, not surprisingly, about 99% mistake free. (Thumbs up to Mike Maples, Emily Blake, & Eliza Lee)

I’m not reading the rest of that script I got 8 pages into. I’m calling the writer and telling her why, too. If she fixes it, I will happily give it another try.

Ok. Spelling and grammar rant over. Now... let’s talk about budget.

This is one subject that really gets some people in a lather. Should you pay attention to the budget of the script you’re writing? Or... should you just write the story you want to write and to hell with how much it will cost to make?

There are compelling arguments on both sides, but I come down on the side of paying attention to it, with a BIG unless...

If you are writing your big budget script as a writing sample, using it to try to get a big budget writing job somewhere down the line, I get it. That makes sense. I have a couple of those.

To expect to sell big budget scripts is a whole different matter. The truth is that there are very few producers or production companies that can make big budget scripts anymore that are pure specs. Maybe 5 or 6, tops. Maybe. And even those will make a script based on a sequel or a well known novel or a comic book or a cancelled TV show or a video game or an iconic cartoon or an amusement park ride or a board game before they’ll make a big budget spec. Hell… they’ll remake a previously failed film before they’ll make a big budget spec.

Now, before you fill my inbox with all the exceptions, I am aware of them and also know I can count those on my fingers in the last 5 years. You don’t even have to be paying much attention at all to see this trend. And add in unproduced writer to your resume and the odds go down a lot further.

But, as a writer trying to break in, if you write your scripts, or most of your scripts, with a budget of a million dollars or so, some maybe even less, there are tons of producers and production companies that want to read what you have and they can actually buy them and make them.

I am convinced that as a new writer trying to get noticed and optioned, right now, at this time in the industry, writing a great low budget film is the way. That may change, although I doubt it, with all the studios making safe tentpole Spiderman 14’s rather than something they have to take a chance on.

A great big budget script can help you if it’s for a writing sample, so you have to weigh it. But getting a big budget script read is also harder to do, in my opinion.

Write what moves you, but think about writing something lower budget that moves you, too. There are a lot more people out there who can read and option those.


One thing screenwriters hear all the time is “Write what you know.” Well… in a lot of cases that can be pretty limiting. Yes, writers should be drawing on their personal experiences for sure, because what you’ve seen and heard for real can be used as real in your writing, even if you have to enhance it or use it out of its original context.

But writers… most writers… come up with ideas for scripts all the time on subjects they know nothing about and what separates the good or great writers from the pack is what they do about it.

The good writers do RESEARCH. Real research. They don’t just look up stuff on Wikipedia or do a cursory internet search, they get out there in the real world and find what they’re looking for to bring authenticity to whatever they are writing about.

I read a script not too long ago that mostly took place in a Hospital. To say this might have been the worst script I have ever read is giving it some credit. The paper it was printed on threw up a little knowing what was written there. Nonetheless, the Hospital scenes were extra astounding due to the fact that the writer got everything about them 100% wrong.

Where do I start… ok… A nurse who is an integral part of the plot is only a REGISTERED NURSE because it’s part of her community service for being arrested for prostitution. No nursing school. No nursing license. Community service. The protagonist uses vacant operating rooms in the Hospital to do illegal operations on someone as part of a revenge plan without anyone there knowing or finding out. They use a “spare Hospital Room” for this same person while they recover, keeping it a secret from everyone.

I asked him, “Where is this Hospital? On Mars?” I then asked him if he had done one second of research on how hospitals really work. I knew the answer. “No.” I then told him that none if this would happen, ever, in any hospital in this country, ever. His answer was, “But it’s a movie. It’s not real.” It was then that I thanked him for letting read his opus and made a quick getaway.

Most all scripts are fictional and most are set in the real world and thus, need to be grounded in that world. If you’re going to be writing a film about the Secret Service, you need to find something out about how they operate. If you’re setting a film in a hospital or crime lab or anywhere else real, you need to learn the reality of those places so your script is steeped in that reality.

If your characters are doctors or cops or lawyers or scientists or any profession that requires a specific knowledge or ability, it’s your job to obtain enough of that knowledge to write intelligently about it. AND… you’ll find that knowledge opens all kinds of plot doors you never would have thought of in a lot of cases.

Ok, Bob… since you think you know so much… how do we go about doing this the way you suggest instead of just surfing the net for our education.

I can only go by what I’ve done in the past. I’ve interviewed and gone on ride-alongs with cops. I’ve interviewed real life detectives and even one Chief of Police of a semi-large city. I’ve bought lunch or visited at work to watch them in action, all kinds of doctors, forensic scientists, gunsmiths, military experts of all kinds, lawyers, art experts, Theoretical Physicists, Historians, Chefs, FBI agents, Theologists… You name it, I went and found them.

And I found they all had the same thing in common. They wanted me to get what I was writing about correct. To a person, they mostly hated the way their professions had been portrayed in film and on TV and were more than happy to help me get it right. Did I know all these people before interviewing them or watching them work? Nope. I cold called  some of them and got referrals from friends for others and told them I was writing a film about what they do for a living and wanted to get it right. A few have said no, but mostly it’s been a fabulous experience leading to a couple of lasting friendships.

Great research makes your job writing a great story easier and it helps once you’ve optioned or sold a script, too. I can think of three separate instances where I was in production meetings getting notes where someone has questioned whether something I wrote in the script could really happen. In all three instances I was able to use the research to prove that each thing could and in most cases would happen in whatever setting or occupation I set my story. Not only are they impressed that you know, but sometimes stop asking those kinds of questions after a while because you’ve demonstrated that you do your research.

Yes. It takes more of your valuable time. Yes, you do have delay starting your script with the great idea. Yes, it takes effort and does cost something, but it also leads to your script being a whole lot better than if you don’t. It might make the difference between an Option and a Pass.

I love strong independent women. I’m married to a strong woman. I have two wonderful daughters who are strong women. No, none of them are going to win an arm wrestling contest. But if you could arm wrestle by sheer will, they’d wipe out all comers.

I am proud that they are not defined by their gender or their jobs (although all of them do very well there, too) or who they're married to. They’re defined by their strength of character, something that shines through the way they live every aspect of their lives.

All of our female friends are strong independent women, as capable of handling anything the world throws at them as any man. They aren’t afraid, or subservient, or incapable, or weak minded, or dependent, or shallow, or stupid. (Things I see way too much in scripts lately and hate.)

All these women are complex, exciting, and fun. And, I believe, representative of most women.

All this begs the question:

Why the hell aren’t women represented this way in film?

I’m tired of watching films where the female characters (as few as there are sometimes in some films) play second fiddle when the filmmaker could have opened up the story, making it more complex and more genuine by having capable females doing in film what they do every day in real life.

I love writing strong real female characters. They’re actually, to me, more fun to write because of the natural much more complex thought processes compared to men. (sorry if this sounds sexist, but to me, women often do better than men in this category.)

So today my challenge is to look at the scripts you’re writing and turn them on their ear, if you need to, and write female characters that rival your male ones.  Don’t let your female characters continue to be the underused or stereotyped 50% of the population they’ve been. Make them reflect real life. Don’t make them weak and dependent. Don’t do what I see in a lot of scripts these days. Don’t marginalize them. Don’t make them second class citizens in your stories.

Try writing a script with a strong female protagonist or antagonist. The comedy I just optioned through the Black List has just that. A female antagonist for the ages, I think. So does the company that made me the deal. They told me she was reason they optioned it.

This rant was courtesy of a spec script I read last week that I thought was an insult to women because it completely ignored them, when as way of writing a much much better story it should have been embracing their contributions to it. It was that blatant and that BAD. And it pissed me off. Thanks for letting me vent.