Tag Archives: Optioned Script

Reject: a :  to refuse to accept, consider, submit to, take for some purpose, or use <rejected the suggestion> <reject a manuscript>

The official Miriam Webster definition of Reject actually includes “reject a manuscript”. It’s  part of the official definition of the word. Holy crap.

I actually laughed. But when you think about it, it makes all the sense in the world. Rejection is the one constant in any screenwriter’s life. It haunts us daily. Whether we’re dreading it or mourning it or anticipating it, it lives with us, taunting us.

Am I making it seem like more than it is? I don’t think so. Most non-writers wouldn’t understand how personal it feels when someone says, “We’re going to pass on your incredibly hard work that’s probably perfect for us but we don’t realize it.”

Well, they don’t actually ever say exactly that, but that’s what writers hear. And the thing about these rejections is that they’re not personal even though writers take them that way. Honest. It’s a titanic waste of energy to take them personally. And the sooner you get there the better.

When it comes to rejection, producers, agents, managers or production company execs really don’t care how hard you worked or how much you care, only that your script doesn’t work for them. They think about your script until they don’t have to anymore. Then it’s gone. You as a person are not even part of the thought process until they like it and want to talk to you about it.

A few days ago, there was an internet post by a young woman who talked emotionally about how she’d poured her heart and soul into her first script. How she’d struggled over every single perfect word. And right off the bat... a Producer wanted to read it.

To her, it was now a foregone conclusion that said Producer would buy and make her script. It was now down to a choice of dresses to wear on the red carpet.

Then the producer got back to her and said, “Pass”. Thus unleashing an onslaught of rage that can only be defined as:




a more emotional or forcible response than is justified.

Yep. And after the rage, she publically announced she was quitting being a screenwriter altogether. She was done. He unfairly squashed her dreams and kept the world from her amazing script. So she’s taking her ball and going home.

It was sad and unnecessary because REJECTION is what you should be ready for. It’s not something that you want, but it is part of screenwriting every day. Anticipate it, then be surprised when it’s not. That’s a lot easier than getting stomped on every time it happens.

I could start a list right now of all the wonderful successful scripts that spent years being rejected before someone took a chance on them. Including a couple of mine. But you’ve read all those stories time and again.

Screenwriting isn’t about anything but the LONG game. You need to bear the weight of each rejection. Learn from them, then slough them off. Letting them go. Moving on to the next read. The next submission. The next chance. Not easy. But better than going crazy.

I feel sorry for that young lady. But if that’s how she’s going to react to ONE rejection, she’s not ready for number 100. Or number 200.

Rejection is also realizing sometimes you need to move on to your next script. That the one you thought you had, wasn’t exactly what you thought you had. That’s just as hard to realize as anything. But you need to realize it and move to the next one. And the next one. And the next one.

I had 3 rejections last week. 3 Passes. Each one different. 3 different scripts. One was “Pass” with no explanation, which is fine, at least I heard. One was a no response at all after a reasonable amount of time (months), which is absolutely a Pass. One was a really really beautifully written Email that was very complimentary of the script and my writing, but guess what? It was just a really really beautifully written Pass.

I also got a script back that has been optioned and reoptioned for the last three years. The Producer, again, was very respectful as he told me, “We tried. Just couldn’t get it made.” Another rejection. I thanked him for believing in it, hoped we could work together on something else in the future, and went about doing a rewrite/polish on the script so I could get it back out there.

The funny thing is... my wife takes these rejections way more personally than I do, which I appreciate. She gets incensed. Then annoyed sometimes at me because I tell her it’s not personal.

The thing to keep in your mind all the time as you try and do this screenwriting thing is that all it takes is one person... one... who believes in your script to make it happen. To give you the success you’ve worked so hard for.

Those moments happen. I’ve been fortunate enough to have them happen to me. I’m thankful for them every day. I’m working hard so they happen again. But I also know there will be a lot of rejection before it does.

You want to do this? Live with rejection. Learn from it. Let it go. It does make life a lot easier.

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




I did a Podcast last weekend for @FilmReverie with the lovely Mike and Brad, who were a joy to talk to. We mostly talked about my seeming career and my thoughts on writing. It was a lot of fun. I’ll link to it at the bottom of the Blog if you want to give it a listen. But during the hour or so we spoke, something we talked about got me thinking about why some great ideas hit and why some don’t. And most of the time, the randomness of it all.

There was also a post on DoneDealPro that spurred this. A writer who couldn’t understand why, given that everybody loved their pilot ideas and scripts, and even though they were getting in rooms and getting to pitch, they couldn’t sell or option any of them. There was more than an air of frustration in the post. They expected to do better. And as we all know, expectation is the mother of all frustration.

So, let’s get the a few things out of the way first before we get to the meat. In order to get turned down you had to make it a whole lot further that 90% of writers. And that took toil and sweat and damn hard work that paid off with the opportunity. I know that doesn’t help much when the answer is still no, but it means you’re seriously in the game.

And believe me, I understand the frustration. I’ve lived intimately with it, sometimes turned all the way up to 11. Every kind of writer frustration there is. And you know what? It ALL goes away the Moment someone says YES. It’s amazing how years of frustration can vanish when that happens. The problem lies in getting to that MOMENT.

The Moment. That instant where the word YES enters the head of a producer or actor or director or production company exec. The magic moment that can change your life. Or your bank account. The elusive Moment.

You can be spectacular in a room, have the greatest idea ever, a solid script, and you will still probably hear NO 99% of the time. It’s a numbers game. Hundreds of thousands of film and TV scripts in the system and only so many optioned and a lot less greenlit.

So you go into that room uber-prepared and give it your best shot. They’re smiling and asking the right questions... It’s all going like you imagined. And then you walk out empty handed.

What happened? Well... It boils down to what works for producers or network people at that Moment. If you're in there on the right day at the right time with the right idea for them at that exact Moment... you're gold. And you have zero control over it.

They don’t want you to fail. They want you to have an idea/script they love at that Moment. It’s true. But that damn numbers thing keeps rearing its ugly head. The people in the waiting area when you left? There to pitch their script or show. And the people arriving in the parking lot as you leave? There to pitch after them. And so on. The odds just by sheer numbers are against you. I was told over and over what an amazing fresh take my pilot was on the procedural genre. Never sold it. Never got close. Will I save it for down the road? Sure. And maybe somebody remembers it when they're looking for a procedural in 3 years. One can hope. But for now, deader than dead.

Experienced credited writers hear No most of the time. And like all serious writers, at first they look at all rejections as personal. Can't help it.  I know I do until I shake myself out of it, which sometimes takes a while. But the good ones regroup and move on to try again to get to the Moment.

It always helps to realize that there are thousands of writers out there wishing they were where you are. Getting to pitch seriously. But you also need to realize you aren’t the only one they’re saying No to. I know I forget that when I'm feeling sorry for myself. You’re not alone.

Like I said, I thought for sure my procedural would be my in to series TV. It would at least be optioned by someone. Even production companies who I’d worked for and optioned to before said they liked it. But when the Moment came... well... it didn’t come. But that doesn’t mean you don’t put your head down and look for more ways in. Never giving up.

And then... I sold a pilot. One I hadn’t even written. How? By sheer good fortune. God. Right place. Right time. The moment. At lunch with a production company exec I'd worked with who'd just moved to a new company. At the end of the lunch she casually mentioned they'd just signed a deal with a BIG TV star. Household name big. And they already had a cable network on the hook for the show, based on his name alone and the agreed upon genre. Now they needed to come up with the series for him. They had a vague idea of what he wanted. By vague, I mean his 2 required elements. One kinda specific, a dog, and the other a general feeling of tone. That's it. Genre, a dog, and tone.

As the check for lunch came and we were getting ready to part, I asked her if I came up with an idea, could I pitch it? She said sure, they were out to other writers, but ok, send me a one page.

I went home and wrote one. I decided to go outside the box and do something a little weird because I knew other writers would be trying to stay in the box. They responded favorably and the dance started.

Over months and months of back and forth and some serious contract negotiations from my manager (Thank you, John), they bought the idea and I wrote the pilot, on a contract, for money. Now I wait to see what happens next.  And like all projects at this point, there are a million reasons it fails right here, and hundreds of miracles that have to happen for it to move forward. The rug pulled out from under the Moment. I hope not, but man it’s nice to get this far.

Don't let the Nos get to you. Easy to say, hard to do. Write more scripts, more pilots. Keep pitching the ones you have. Get to that Moment. And remember, nothing happens when you want it to. Ever. You hear no, punch something, preferably soft, and move on. Move forward. I get the frustration. Believe me.

Quite a few of my friends who are writers have gotten to the Moment lately and it makes me really happy. It can happen. It does happen. But only if you don’t give up.

Here’s the link to the Podcast: http://filmreverie.com/podcast/film-reverie-take-50-bob-saenz/

Follow me on Twitter: @bobsnz

You can. It’s not always easy. But you can.

As much as I’ve said more than once in my Blogs that no one is the exception, that everyone’s scripts get changed and they always bring in other writers (Hey... I’ve BEEN that other writer on many occasions), it still hurts when it happens to you, especially completely unexpectedly on a project I’ve been working on for 10 years. Not that it wasn’t completely explained in a very nice way by someone who was clearly unhappy to be doing it, it stung a lot. I do get it. I do understand, but... damn.

And yet, as a script I was hired to rewrite goes out to the original writer today, I can’t help feeling like a hypocrite. He’s going to read a script that was based on his, but isn’t his. I did try my hardest to write it with his intent at the front of my mind at all times. As I told my wife, “They bought HIS script, not mine.”

So I strove to make his characters true to what he had intended for the most part. Yes, I did change a couple of them radically. One from a comic relief spectator to a very important cog in the story wheel. Another just to make her more interesting and less like the other female lead. But these changes, in my opinion and of the producers who’ve already read it (thank You, God), I believe have made this story a fully arcing compelling, funny, tale. With weaving subplots that all come together for a satisfying end. Plus stuff for the audience to talk about as they walk out and over coffee. That’s not too bad.

I hope he likes it. I’ll understand if he doesn’t. I changed a lot of dialogue. There are whole scenes he didn’t write. I took out a huge subplot and replaced it with... nothing. It’s just gone. And so are the three characters that populated that subplot. I took that space to meaningfully build the main story and main characters.

And now... or soon anyway, someone will be doing the same thing to my script.  It’s just what happens when you decide to try and be a screenwriter.

Of the seven produced films I have out there, I’m happy to say that two are 95% of what I wrote for my final draft. Two are probably at 75%. One at about 50%. One at maybe 35%. And one at about .01% and have no idea why my name is still on it. Plus, it’s irredeemably bad.

I think I’ve actually been luckier that way than most, talking to some of my friends. And I like all the films, except the THAT ONE. Whoever wrote the percentages I didn’t write (except THAT ONE) did well enough to make the film as good, or in some cases, better than I had written them. Just in a different way.

If you get to the point of having something produced, you’ll go through the same things. And even though I understand intellectually that this IS the business I chose and the way it works, I still spent a lot of yesterday wanting to punch something. Ok, and maybe actually punching some helpless inanimate objects.

Today? Not so much. I’ve erased the project from my white board and for now, am moving on to other projects I am actively writing or involved in. Including the rewrite that went out today, which may be one the best I’ve ever done, or at least I feel that way right now.

I’m getting paid to do the thing I dreamed about all my life.  I look at it and it’s a dream come true.

I have a super supportive wife, super supportive kids, supportive friends who mean the world to me, a kick ass dog who gets me, a manager who has been true to his word and puts up with my bullshit, and when I think about all those things, I realize what I was upset about yesterday has happened for a reason. What that reason is has eluded me thus far, but if I sit in a corner and dwell on it, the only loser is me.

Being a screenwriter this day and age is as close to being a masochist as you can get. You do get beat up a lot. You hear NO (in more inventive ways than you can count) more than a lot. You get soooo close soooo many times and then, poof, it’s gone a lot. You have to be tough. You have to be resilient. You have to have a good supply of stuff soft enough to punch and not get hurt. And at the end of the day, you have to be able to sit back and, as clichéd as it is, count your Blessings.

I think about my set visits to films I wrote and wonder if they were real because they were so amazing. I think about watching director’s cuts of my films with my wife and trying not to cry when something I know I wrote works so damn well on screen. I think about the production meetings. The conference calls. The exhilaration when I write something I know works. The high of finishing a script. Of polishing a script. The discovery of something you never dreamed of for a script while writing it and having it make everything work better. Those are the things you LIVE for professionally. Of working with someone, whether it’s a partner, producer, director, or development exec on a script and having it hit on all cylinders. It’s those things that bring you back. It’s those things that move you forward.

Wow. My amazing wife just brought me some hot tea with honey. Rocket the dog is here at my feet and I have another writing assignment due this month. I don’t have time to think about what’s past.

A smart screenwriter looks forward, only looking back to learn from mistakes, not looking back at what could have been. That accomplishes nothing. So I thank you... for letting me use my Blog this month as therapy. And my hope is that you can learn from this and be prepared for how wonderful and painful this screenwriting thing can be at the same time.

Welcome to my Annual Thanksgiving Edition where I give thanks. Or sometimes complain a little. But mostly gives thanks.

First up... My Wife. Number one. My kids. Right there. Spectacular. Thank you.

A quick long overdue thank you to Jeff Lowell. Who a few years ago said this in a DoneDealPro posting: “As for Bob, I don't think that, given his resume, he should be handing out advice that contradicts actual industry pros.” This said in reaction to some BAD advice I gave on an IMDb Screenwriting Board because at the time, I thought I knew it all. I didn’t. Not even close.

I had optioned a couple of scripts (never made) and had a couple of small independent film rewrites (made, but never distributed), nothing big. So... of course, I thought I knew everything about screenwriting.

Then someone told me about the DDP thread and I read it. I also looked Jeff up. He’s the real deal, but then most of you know that. To have someone of that stature saying that about me by name was an eye opener. Made me look at myself and realize my ego was much bigger than my knowledge by a long shot. Made me take a BIG step back. I realized having a couple of optioned scripts, of which there are hundreds out there, does not make you an expert. Yet here I was offering black and white advice about screenwriting when I had no business doing it. I hadn’t been in a production meeting, I hadn’t ever worked with a development exec, I had barely ever worked with producers, I didn’t even have a rep. Idiot. Was talking when I should have been listening and learning.

And I'm still learning, 6 produced films later. I just had a two week rewrite session with a director (Thank you Jay) on one of my spec films that goes next year and the amount I learned from that session alone is staggering.

Do I give advice now? Yes. Hey, I have a blog. But now I give it from a background as a produced writer who makes a pretty good living at it. I also rightly label it as my OPINION based on experience and not like I walked down off some mountain with Gold Tablets. If you learn one thing from this: One unmade optioned script to your name? Look for advice, don’t give it.

So thank you to all the writing pros who took me under their wings and to executives, both at the production company and cable network level, and to producers and directors who have let me suck the knowledge from their brains over the years. You’ve all made me a smarter better writer. I hope to never stop learning.

Thank you to my Manager, John. Not with one of those big management companies. An independent guy. We’re having a pretty special year so far. And next year looks even better. Which goes to prove that, yes, even though you often strive toward a big name manager, sometimes it’s better to find one who just believes in you even if he’s not a household name. Something I think new writers need to consider when they’re looking down their nose at a person they’ve never heard of who wants to work with them, waiting for a better offer from a bigger rep that may never come.

THANK YOU to the execs and producers that believe in and support my work. There aren’t enough words to express my gratitude.

Thank you Jay Lowi. Ten years. TEN YEARS. Let’s go make a movie.

Thank you to my real life writing pals. All of you. The people who come and drink with me when I’m in LA. The writers who want to, but can’t make it. The writers I talk to on the phone and trade scripts with. The writers who I want to be successful in the biggest way. Your friendship is one of the things that makes this journey so much fun. Just know how much you mean to me. The writers on Twitter, who make me laugh and who make me happy when they share their successes.

I walked up to my wife 23 years ago and told her I was quitting my pretty successful day job to become a film actor and a screenwriter. Also maybe a radio DJ. She could have said, “Hell no.” Instead she said, “You gotta follow your dreams. But only if it takes you a couple of years.” (See why I always thank her first?)

That was enough for me. So I ventured out KNOWING NOTHING about any of these things or how damn hard it was to even be a part of them, let alone succeed. And in those first two years, I got my SAG card, did some movies and commercials, I was an actor was on a successful TV show (for 6 seasons in a microscopic part, but I was there getting paid to learn how to make movies and TV, Thank you Don Johnson), I optioned the first script I ever wrote to a production company at Warner Bros (never got made, and BOY is that a sad story), and I was on the air as a DJ on KYCY, a country music station in San Francisco. AGAIN, I KNEW NOTHING. I didn’t know how hard these things were to do so I went and did them.

I’ve had a Forrest Gump kind of life. Right place, right time. (Thank You God) Got to work for directors like Coppola, Eastwood, Fincher, Ron Howard, even Michael Bay in blink and you’ll miss me parts. But I got to watch them work. I’ve met and talked with acting heroes of mine I couldn’t have imagined meeting. They wouldn’t remember me, but I’ll always remember them. I’ve gotten walk around movie studios, and not as a tourist (although I’m sure I looked like one). The list of the amazing things I have lucked my way into is too long and boring to list. But damn... my grateful quotient is off the chart.

Finally, thank you to the readers of this Blog. The numbers who read it constantly amaze me. I appreciate you, too.

And everybody have a Happy Thanksgiving.




Formula. Food for babies so they get all the nutrients they need. A blending of chemicals to make a drug. A specific path to follow to make beer or wine. A way of rating race cars. In Mathematics, a rule or principle, frequently expressed in algebraic symbols. A formal statement of religious doctrine.

A way to write a successful spec script? Not so much.

I know this may rub some writers or some script gurus the wrong way, but in my opinion a spec script written to a formula is never going to be anything special. How do you write a creative story that lets your own unique writing voice sing out if you have to write it according to some formula? If the story reads like everyone else who’s used the same formula, it most likely can’t.

I’m not talking about format. You need to follow that.

The reason for this Blog is a couple of emails I got and an advertisement I read online all touting to have the secret of getting your script sold and made. All by people who’d never had a screenplay produced, or if they did it was in 1986. They were pushing their formulas. Not unlike Save the Cat, which personally I also think stifles creativity and good storytelling.

Now. There are people who will tell you certain genres have Formulas you have to follow. Where did these formulas come from? From writers who went out of the box to begin with to find success. And when it worked, others followed. Thus becoming formula. Does that mean other new things in that genre won’t or don’t work? Hell no. This is about going out of the box or being a follower with your own spec scripts.

When you get to the point of doing some writing for hire for producers, or studios, or networks, some will have you follow their formulas, their rules for what they want in a script. Some cable networks actually have them written down. Most every TV show has them in stone.

The problem with actually getting these jobs is that you have to get noticed for your own spec work to get them. And believe me, the people who would rep you or hire you are NOT looking for formula from new writers. They’re looking for exciting great stories they haven’t read before told with a unique voice. Your voice. Not a Tarantino clone. Not a Shane Black or Tony Gilroy clone. The one you’ve developed by writing and writing and writing and letting go of preconceived ideas and releasing your own creative voice. One of the best compliments I ever got about a spec script I wrote was from a producer who said she knew I’d written it about five pages in by the voice and style. She also optioned it.

Then there’s my spec script that’s responsible for EVERY job I’ve ever gotten, EVERY room I’ve ever been in, got me my Rep, and is in some way responsible for everything else good that has happened to me in this business. What about it? Readers have trouble deciding who exactly the Protagonist is. When they finally decide it’s one person, that person dies. The main character, who may or may not be the Protagonist or may be the Antagonist, has NO ARC. He doesn’t change or grow or learn a damn thing. In fact, in his last line of dialogue he tells the audience that in so many words. Did I write it that way on purpose?

No, not really. I’m also not sad it turned out that way. I just wanted to write a great story that would be great on screen. Something I’d never seen before. And I came up with something I believed in, something if it worked that would make people pay attention to me as a writer. Does it follow any formula at all? Well, I guess it has three acts. Inciting incident? Page 37. Oh… it has specific music cues in it. An opening scene where the first characters introduced never say a single word for their entire time on screen in the film. Are they important characters? Yes.

And guess what? No one has cared. No one. It’s been optioned 8 times over the last 16 years by 8 different producers or production companies, including a studio. In the past, I’ve had producers in line waiting for an option with another producer to lapse so they could option it. I got a call a month ago asking if it was available. (it's not) And it’s never been made. No one made it because... well... the story itself is a wee bit controversial too.

Something else I did on purpose. I really never meant for it to get made. I meant for it to get me noticed. It did. The fact that it’s getting made next year, by the 8th production company, is a bonus.

A spec script these days has a very slim chance of getting made. Just the way it is right now and for the foreseeable future. Yes, there are some that get produced. Hell, I’ve had some produced. But selling specs is a very very tough road to go down. What you want from a spec is to show people, people who could hire you for writing jobs, that you have skill, imagination, a unique voice, and the strength to go out of that formula box, even though they may put you back into it to work for them. I know, it’s weird. But true. Ask any writer who’s broken out lately if they didn’t throw some formula to the wind to make the spec that got them noticed something different and special.

Formula has a place. You will be asked to use it for writing jobs. So you should know it before you ignore all or parts of it for your spec. It’s there to make familiar things happen that audiences are used to in certain kinds of films. Things everyone has seen before. It’s there because some people think it has to be there for your story to work cinematically. I personally don’t believe that.

But if you stick to it in your specs, trying to mold your story around it, Producers and Reps probably have nothing special to notice.

Follow me on Twitter @bobsnz

I’ve been ignoring my Blog the last few weeks. Not because I had nothing to write about, but because it’s been kind of a whirlwind last six weeks. Busy doesn’t begin to describe it. I am thankful and grateful for the work (a massive last minute rewrite job) and the amazing opportunities whose timing, without them all knowing it, couldn’t be better right now for a lot of reasons. So thank You God and let’s hope it keeps up.

Today I want to talk about understanding what it’s like to be a screenwriter. I know that sounds simple and you all probably know or have an idea what it means anyway, but damn, lately I’ve watched some good people give themselves some self inflicted wounds they didn’t have to because they didn’t understand how movies and TV happen and the writer’s role in it.

Let me be clear. Yes, a writer writes. That’s the primary role. But in order to get to the place where your role is writing for money by optioning or selling or getting an assignment job, there are some non self-destructive things you need to think about.

If you want all control over your intellectual property from start to finish, make the films yourself. And finance them yourself. That’s the only way. Otherwise, don’t look like someone who doesn’t understand the process and ask for control or approval of any script changes. No matter how good your script is, producers will walk away and not return your calls if you do this. Development of your work is going to happen and more than one person is going to have a voice and none of them is you.

Just this week I heard more than a few stories from some Producers about writers who just don’t understand. It’s not a rare thing.

There’s a guy I know who is just about to find out how this works. He’s said he’s going to hold out for creative control over his script. Script approval. The people who want to produce this film couldn’t care less what he wants. They know in the real world of filmmaking this is a deal breaker. I’m not sure he understands they are completely prepared to walk away and put their money into another project tomorrow if he insists on this today. And they will. And they won’t look back. Unless you’ve written another Harry Potter with millions of built in fans, you aren’t getting any kind of script approval.

I hear writers on forums talking about how unfair this is and how stupid this is and how writers should band together to stop the practice, but the fact is there are too many factors to list here as to why scripts need to change in order to get made and they’re not always easy to understand. It’s different for every project, but as I have said before, every script gets changed before it hits the screen. Every single one of them. And the people who put up the money and hire the director (and give him or HER power to change it along with them) get to make the decisions.

Listen, it can be hard to take. Some of my films are almost exactly how I wrote the last version (that I got notes from directors and producers on) and a couple, well, I don’t understand why my name is on them because nothing, as in ZERO, I wrote is on the screen. That’s the lot of a screenwriter. It happens to everyone. Did I like the films? One of them is ok and one of them is so bad it’s kind of embarrassing. Mystery Science Theater 3000 bad.

I was at a meeting and one of the people I was meeting with had watched that film to get an idea of what I do. Why they chose that one is beyond me. I could see in their face they were wondering why the hell I was in the room if my work was so putrid. Why they just didn’t read the writing samples I sent is another question I ask myself, but I’m glad the others did.

I also explained to the group that I actually didn’t write the film it ended up being. Every single one of them understood because it happens every day. Hey, they were looking for someone to rewrite a film for them. But I didn’t get that job.

The job I just finished was a rewrite of another writer’s script. I think I may have been the 5th or 6th writer on this project. I never even saw the original writer’s script at all. I worked off of the last version written. And using notes from all kinds of executives (five, to be exact) and my own, I rewrote the script and changed 95% of the dialogue (killing the mounds of exposition), eliminated characters, changed character’s personalities, jobs, and relationships. I eliminated subplots, added different subplots, layered and added depth to character. My guess is the only thing standing from the original is some character names and the premise, which is quite good.

Do I feel badly for the original writer? Sure. I’ve been there. I’ve been rewritten. It’s what happens. But his name is going to be on it as the writer and everybody involved thinks it’s going to be pretty good. Including me. Doesn’t mean it will be, because there are so many factors still to come by the time it hits a screen. But I think this one has a chance of being very good and I mean that. It’s nice because you don’t always feel that way.

Part of this profession is the understanding of your role in the much bigger machine. Not that it isn’t important, because hey, try making a film without a writer, but that machine has so many more moving parts that need to fit and work together and need to be oiled that what you wrote, that they optioned or bought, is always going to need to be modified or changed to make it work as a whole. And it’s self destructive to not acknowledge that, understand that, and get yourself into a mindset where you’ll be happy to try to work under those conditions.

Knowing these things going in helps in being able to listen to and comprehend the notes you WILL be given to change your script and to blunt the pain sometimes of having to kill things in your script you love. But know that if you can’t or won’t do these things they’ll hire people like me or many of my friends to do it.

Don’t be self-destructive when trying to option/sell a script. Don’t ask for things that they can’t or won’t give you or they would have no problem walking away from you forever because of. Don’t ask for creative control. Don’t ask for casting approval. Don’t ask for an acting role. That’s NOT what they want from you. They want your script, so they can use it to build a film. If during the process you develop a relationship with them based on your cooperation and their trust and reliance on you to be a team player, there’s no telling what decisions or opportunities you could be in on. I’ve been there and it’s fun. But not until it’s clear you understand how it all works.

Asking for these things going in also make it easier for them to make a decision to jettison you from the project faster if you do end up optioning your script (without your demands).

Believe me, the more you understand how film production operates at every level and your role, the better a writer you’ll be and the more valuable you’ll become to production companies.

Been a little bit since my last blog. Lots of stuff happening. Finished a brand spanking new, kinda based on a real thing, comedy script spec I love with a new writing partner that I love writing/working with. Multiple trips to LA. Surprising meetings with studios. Meetings with some people I want to work with and meetings with people I never want to see again let alone work with. Meetings with cool friends I cherish. New life on a dark/comedy pilot I thought might go away, which is a good thing because it’s a killer concept. Other projects seem to be moving forward, one in particular is speeding, and loads of people I respect are asking/demanding to read the new spec.

Some personal family health hurdles to get over, which they did and received a Gold Medal for. Thank You God.

Life is good. I know you didn’t ask, but I need to announce it from the rooftops.

Now, let’s talk about being the Exception.

You know, those writers who dropped their script into the lap of a sleeping star on an airplane and it was made into a hit film. Or the writer who put their script into a pizza box and delivered it to CAA and got signed. Or the writer who slid their script under a restroom stall to that big director who made it his next film. Or the writer that got a star map, printed a dozen scripts, and threw them over the walls and fences at the Stars homes and the bidding war for the script that ensued afterward. Or the writer who made like he was delivering a singing telegram to a producer and ended his song by handing his script to the producer and the joyous celebration the two of them had afterward.

Yes, these things have all happened... the results didn’t, but the writers did make fools out of themselves trying these desperate and really unprofessional ways to get their work read.

There has been nothing that hasn’t been tried unsuccessfully, many times. Nothing. You may think it’s original, but it’s not. I have heard the stories from people who have been subject to this loonyness. It amazes them, it frustrates them, it pisses them off. In Amy Poehler’s new book, she talks about this invasion of personal space with an example of the time she was asleep on a subway in New York and someone dropped a script in her lap, waking her up. She was not happy. She was not nice. And I don’t blame her.

Who wants their personal space invaded? No one. Yet some writers seem to think this is fair game because once they heard a story from someone or another who knew a guy who knew someone who gave Coppola a script on a plane and it got made. This is how urban legends live on, because people need them to be true to justify their desperate actions.

Do people throw their software ideas over Bill Gate’s fence. Or their design ideas for a new Tesla under Elon Musk’s bathroom stall? Hell no. Why is this industry any different? Well, because it isn’t.

What the writers who try this craziness don’t realize is that producers buy writers as much as they buy writing. Why do you think they want to meet with the writers before they buy or option anything? To get a feel for who the writers are and if they can work with them. You know what they think of writers who do these over the line things to get their script read? Not a hell of a lot. The line, “Get off of my lawn!” comes to mind.

Hollywood as a business is amazingly risk averse right now, as if you couldn’t tell with all the sequels, remakes, and comic book films. One of the things they are really averse to is the uptick in law suits from writers who are sure their idea or script was stolen. That’s why no one will take any script that hasn’t been requested or brought to them by someone they trust. It’s too risky and they’d be flooded with scripts. They get enough scripts the right way as it is. Why do you think it takes so long to get a read once you’ve sent a requested script?

But... But... you don’t understand, Bob. I’m going to be the exception to the rule. It’s going to work for me because I’m brilliant and my script is brilliant and my film needs to be seen by audiences everywhere.

I can't tell you how many times I've read or heard this attitude. And then when their script get no traction, it's always everything but the script's fault.

I will say what I always say and will continue to say, GREAT SCRIPTS FIND A WAY. They don’t always get made, but they can make careers. If you’re not getting traction from your script from querying or reads or contests or sites like the Blacklist, you need to take a hard look at yourself and your script and face the fact that maybe it isn’t the people rejecting the script, but the script itself. Every writer has had to face this. Every writer who is a success now. What did they do? They didn’t get mad and feel sorry for themselves or blame anyone else. They pulled up their big boy/girl pants and wrote another one. And another one, working to get that one great script to get them noticed. Work.

You aren’t going to be the exception because there are none. You hear a story about some writer who sold his first script for big money? Chances are he spent as much or more time networking and querying to get it read and then was GREAT in the room. And as I’ve said previously, networking is nothing more than developing genuine relationships with people. Something that takes time and effort. Expecting someone with contacts to do something for you out of the blue is not networking. It’s insanity. Networking is work. Just like querying is work. Sites like the Blacklist cost and not a little. You have to invest your hard earned money for maybe no results. It’s what screenwriters do when they understand the business they’ve chosen. When they don’t understand, they throw scripts over fences.

Follow me on Twitter...... @bobsnz

Is there a Hollywood conspiracy against new writers? An organized effort to thwart new writers from breaking in? Is it a closed industry dedicated to keeping new writers out? I know this is a question every writer has asked themselves. Well, every writer except me and a few thousand other relatively sane writers who have a reasonable grasp on reality.

Let’s get this out of the way right now. There is no conspiracy. NO cabal of producers who sit and twirl their mustaches and plot to keep spec scripts from being read or optioned. People who want to keep the industry closed to new ideas or new writers. Yes, the industry is hard to break into. But any big industry is hard to break into. It takes work and perseverance. Patience and more hard work. Talent and even more hard work.

You mean I have to pay my dues? I don’t get what I want because I want it? Now? Then there must be a conspiracy.

At a writers board I lurk on sometimes to see what people are asking and thinking (and to get Blog topics on occasion), I was not surprised to see the often asked question, “Why won’t Hollywood just open its doors for new writers?” “Why do they keep going back to the same things all the time?” “Why don’t they buy spec scripts?” or... “Why don’t they buy MY spec script?”

I’ll tell you why they don’t buy your spec. It probably sucks. You probably queried it or networked to get it read before it was ready to be seen or you wrote it about a subject matter no one wants to buy. Tough words, but the main reasons why spec scripts don’t get optioned or sell.

There are so many things to consider as a screenwriter before you ever write the first word of a script anyway. And you have to be honest about it. Is this idea viable? Is it something people would pay to see? Do I know enough about this subject to write intelligently about it? What kind of research do I need to do? What new things can I bring to this idea that will make it stand out? Who is the audience I’m writing for? These are real questions to ask yourself when thinking about the film you want to write. I can’t tell you how many scripts I’ve read that were written without the author thinking about these things that, out of the gate, killed their script.

I’ve read police procedural scripts that have been done a thousand times before. Films about hobbies or about car repair or painting murals or the world of flower arranging. (really) Fast and Furious copies. Tarantino copies. Raunchy comedy copies that brought zero new ideas or concepts. Zombie films with nothing new. The list goes on.

If you write about hospitals, find out how they work for God’s sake and don’t make it up. If you set your script in a real place or real occupation (that’s interesting) find out how it works. I half read a script about scrapbooking and finally couldn’t read any more because it was too painful.

I’ve read scripts about people’s personal fetishes (get help, some of you). NONE of them put any thought into the fact that people have to read these and decide to INVEST MONEY in them. And I’ve been taken aback by the profound anger of these same writers when I’ve dared asked them who they thought would want to see something or invest in something like they wrote, not even taking into account the quality.

This is the hard work and honest thought needed before you write that most people don’t think about or want to do because it doesn’t lend itself to the instant gratification they’re looking for.

Again, I have seen real anger from people who can’t believe their script (usually their first script) isn’t the toast of Hollywood immediately upon its completion. I mean, sometimes it’s pure rage. I often see posts from writers who say, “Hollywood needs to be changed. I say we writers band together and change it.” and I ask them, “How would you change it?” They say 100% of the time, “Open it up to everybody. Have the studios stop making remakes and sequels and superhero movies and start buying specs again and make original films.”

I point out that the studios make these kinds of films because they’re profitable, there’s a demand and an audience for them, they’re safe investments for their investors, and... they’re private corporations who get to make what they want no matter how many writers “band together”.

More honesty. Producers LOVE new writers. They really do. But... it’s new writers who are great. And being great isn’t easy and it isn’t something that happens overnight. Sure, there might be some element of luck involved, but you still have to deliver to cash in on that luck.

I have a friend who’s a reader for a BIG production house. BIG. She says in the last three months she’s recommended ONE script and read well over a hundred. And she’s a good reader. In the past year I’ve read three scripts I thought were great, out of the close to a hundred I’ve read. And two of them were from previously optioned writers. It’s NOT easy.

And the angry writers say to this... “Then why is there so much CRAP made?” Well, first of all, crap is in the eye of the beholder. Lots of what you may think of as crap has an audience and makes money and that’s the whole idea of the film BUSINESS. The rest of it? I’ve seen great scripts turned into not great films over and over again. But they were great scripts to begin with.

It’s easy for me to say... just write a great script. It’s much much harder to do. Those great scripts you’ve read? They didn’t just appear. The hours and days and months and years of damn hard work to get there aren’t charted on the cover page, but you can see it in the content.

No one is trying to keep you from succeeding. And the competition is ferocious for sure. But great scripts with great ideas do rise to the top. They don’t always get made, but they do rise and get noticed. And those writers who can consistently deliver on the promise of that great script do get to make a living writing for films and TV.

But there’s no conspiracy and it’s never ever easy.

Yes. You read that right. Strategic Patience. I first heard this term when someone in our Government used to it to explain why they weren’t doing anything about a huge problem that needed attention. I laughed, but on second glance I thought, you know, really not a bad term to use when it comes to writers.

As every experienced writer knows, patience is something that is needed almost as much as creativity is. I was terrible at it for a long time. I stressed and fretted about not hearing from producers or production companies after submitting something. I let my imagination run wild and all of it bad. But I finally learned to let it go. Let things happen when they do.

A writer hears NO more than any other word in their professional life. From direct NO’s, to light positive NO’s, to broad excuse NO’s, to “we love it, but...” NO’s, and everything in between. The worst is the silent NO where the producer just never responds and you’re supposed to understand that is still a direct NO. In fact, and this is a truth. Anything that isn’t a direct YES with a contract involved is a NO.

And you’re supposed to understand that NO is standard and the occasional YES it supposed to be treated like a miracle that might not ever happen again. I understand it, but it still hurts a little no matter how many times you experience it, whether it’s for a spec or for a rewrite or adaptation job you thought you had a chance for.

I’m asked all the time by new writers “How long do you wait to hear from a producer or manager/agent after you submit a script?” My answer is always the same. “Who the hell knows?”

You can hear the next day or you can hear in 6 months or a year. Or as I said before, never. Good producers, good agents, good managers are busy people. In most cases, really busy people. They also usually have a huge stack of scripts to read. The ones sent from friends, professional contacts, actors, the big agencies... those get read first. Sorry. Just the way it is. They do get to yours if they’ve requested it, but most of the time it isn’t timely. And you as a writer have to practice strategic patience. Meaning... you can’t be calling to find out what’s going on or emailing on a regular basis asking if they’ve read it yet. Yes, you can do these things, but sparingly. Being a pain in the ass is not the impression you want to leave.

This is also goes for writers who send in rewrites on a heavy deadline and then hear nothing for weeks. I know it’s tough. I’m experiencing it now. The big rewrite I had to have done on January 5th and got in on time? Have I heard anything yet? Not a thing. Does that make a writer semi-crazy? Uh huh. But the last time I had a deadline like this with the same company I waited 10 months to hear. Yes, I called or emailed a couple of times during that period and received very nice polite answers that said, “We’ll get to it.” This is a GOOD company that I’ve worked for many times, so I wait. Strategic Patience. Last time after not hearing 10 months, they called to tell me when the first day of shooting was and how we needed to rush the next rewrite for production. You just never know.

But you can still get caught in it. You can still misfire and be stupid. I had a very interesting 5 day rewrite on a script that a director and producer needed done because at the end of the 5 days they start their location scouting. Tight tight schedule. I was thrilled to get the job after pitching for it. I got the script on the Friday before Superbowl, read it and made my notes Saturday, and had a conference call to pitch my ideas with the director and producer on Sunday before the game, then waited until Tuesday when I got the job. No time to celebrate either because they needed it Saturday. Terrific people, too. Very open to my ideas and pretty much let me apply those ideas any way I wanted. So I sent it to them early, late Friday Night. Yes, I did write about 12/16 hours a day to get it there. They said they would read it immediately and get back to me.

And then Saturday & Sunday came and... nothing. About 5pm on Sunday, I texted the director with a “Hey, you guys read it yet?” She got right back to me to say basically, “Relax, we’ll get back to you soon.” So, like most neurotic writers I immediately figured the reason they hadn’t called was because they hated it and were busy rewriting it themselves. I was a failure. What did I do wrong? My wife, who was used to this when I first started out, hit me. “Stop it. Have you learned nothing?”

Apparently. They called Monday late afternoon to say they loved 95% of it and the other 5% was the part I didn’t particularly like either. They didn’t have a solve for that 5% yet and neither did I, so we’re in a holding pattern on that, but the rest... they really liked and were going to use.

I let my own discipline about patience fly out the window. Not good. It makes me look unprofessional. It raises my blood pressure. And my wife hits me. (not hard, ok?)

I have a white board in my office that has a list of everything I’m actively working on listed with deadline dates if they have them, number of pages completed if it’s a script, and a checkmark next to it when it’s finished, like a synopsis or treatment (don’t get me started on treatments, I hate them more than anything). And then, when I send it, the date it got sent.

Then after a month or so, or I get more work than the white board can hold, I start erasing. Even if I haven’t heard back yet. My way, I think, of compartmentalizing everything. To send and try to forget for at least a while.

Right now, besides waiting for news on the rewrite from January, I’m waiting for news about my Procedural Series from a very large Production Company who told me they are excited by it. By the way, production companies can be very excited about something you wrote and not buy it. Happens every day. So, I wait. And I move on to other projects and opportunities and will not be bugging them. You have to let things happens in their own time. Hollywood time. Where time sometimes stands still. And remember for every NO you waited a long time for, when you get a YES it’s all worth it. Honest.

You send something? Be smart. Practice Strategic Patience.