Tag Archives: scripts

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


Ok. Yes. I have been away from this Blog for about 6 months. Not exactly a vacation, but kinda. I did have an awful lot of work last year and it was the best year by far I’ve ever had as a writer, but that’s no excuse. I just got away from it. So, hopefully you’ll let me weasel my way back into your good graces.

The Art of Backtracking. Some history...

Last year sometime in the fall when I was back in LA, I was lucky enough to find myself sitting across a conference table from the head of a pretty big production company. His development exec had brought me in to pitch a couple of things she liked. In the room were the development exec, a sofa full of interns, the head of the production company, his assistant, and a well known actress that came with me because... well, it made sense since one of the pitches was with her in mind and she’s a good friend so it couldn’t hurt, plus she’s great to be with. They weren’t unhappy she came with me.

After some introductions, mostly the interns, and some idle chatter, I got down to business and pitched the movie idea I had with this actress in mind. I got about a minute into it and the boss turned to his assistant and said, “We’re buying this, let the business office know.”

Yes, my jaw dropped. The actress’s jaw dropped. Afterward, she said she’d never seen this happen in 25 years in the business. But there it was. They also asked for a synopsis they could approve before I started writing. At that point I probably would have agreed to anything because shock. So I went home and wrote one. Did I like it? Absolutely. To me, it worked. It worked for them, too. They said, “Get going on it.” I said, “Where’s the contract?” and unleashed my Rep to make a deal. Which after an extended time period, he did. And... a week and a half ago, after a lot of planning, I started on the draft.

Was really happy with the first 10 pages. It flowed. My female protagonist was sharply drawn, I thought. So far the supporting characters worked well, too. I had an ending that worked for what I wanted to do based on the synopsis and my bullet points.

But... and this is a big but... when I got to my male protagonist on page 13 and began to work on the meat of the story with the both of them, I hated him and what was happening to the story. A story I had well planned out. He was a nothing burger. They had zero chemistry. My fault, because I set him up to fail in the synopsis but didn’t realize it. And yet, I wrote on and was painting myself into a story corner because this guy was so lame. Dilemma? You bet. The deadline clock was running and they approved this storyline based on my premise which I still believed was rock solid, so I forced myself forward. As I did this I found it harder and harder to motivate myself to write. The lure of the internet, playing with Rocket the Dog, little chores around the house, screeners to watch. Anything but writing. Guilt? You bet. Admitting I was wrong? Not yet.

So yesterday I forced myself to open the file. To waste more time, I decided to reread what I’d written so far. And there... on page 7, it was. My “what if” moment. A three line minor character I put there to help establish a location greeted me waving his arms wildly and yelling, “Look at me!! What about me!!” And I said, “What if this guy was the male protagonist?”

I sat, my brain finally fully engaged in this writing process I’d been avoiding, and thought about the possibilities. And like a beautiful lightning strike (are there beautiful lightning  strikes?), the whole story opened up. A new much more meaningful emotional ending. A way to build this relationship surprisingly and with intelligence. The whole Magilla. It was all there. Zowie.

It also meant deleting 36 pages of script completely. Gone. Deleting 36 pages of hard struggle. Of hours and hours of work. And completely new story points to work out.

Took me about 30 seconds to think about it and do it. I hit the key. (I still had a backup) Victory was mine. Then I thought... “Uh oh.”

I needed to make the call to the producer to explain I was keeping the premise, the theme, and was completely changing direction in story and would you please let me. She was totally receptive as I explained exactly where it needed to go to work well, asked a couple of excellent questions as she always does, and then said, “I like it. Go and do it.”

I know it’s unfathomable to realize that writers, no matter how much they prepare themselves, can be completely wrong about their story after they’re into a second act. Sarcasm aside, you as a writer owe it to yourself, your characters, your story, to listen to that little voice that says “This is NOT working” when it happens instead of plowing ahead thinking you can write your way out of it. The delete key is your friend. “What if” is your friend. Don’t fear using them liberally if you have to.

This is not the first time this has happened to me, but never on this big a level or circumstances. I find new stuff and get new ideas, not just from me but from my characters, all the time in scripts as I write and go back and adjust. This time it was major. But after my Ah Ha moment I didn’t hesitate because you have to service your story before your ego. If I had kept going with my original storyline, the script wouldn’t have worked. And any rewrites would be based on a script that didn’t work. Plus I’m NOT going to turn in a script that doesn’t work. Neither should you.

Among all the other stuff you have to do as a screenwriter is question the honesty of your work as you go along. Be truthful with yourself. It’s not easy and it hurts a lot sometimes. But it also makes the big picture of what you’re trying to do better, healthier. If you see a character obviously not working, stop and fix it, even if it means radical change. Relationships in the story or conflict not working? Stop. If you force these things it kills good story and killing good story kills scripts, essentially wasting your time.

So, with a renewed sense of purpose I will plow new ground in this script, but this time won’t hesitate to zig in another direction if I think it gets off track again.

Glad to be back. 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.

Fear. Fear you’ll never make it. Fear, if you’ve had success and then get a lull, that you’ll never ever work again. Fear that the script you’re halfway through sucks like crazy. Fear that the script you’re halfway through and LOVE is already being made someplace. Fear that you’ve been pigeonholed in your career and now all anyone wants from you is a narrow scope of one genre. Fear of rejection. Fear your manager isn’t brave enough to tell you that NOBODY wants to see you and that you should take that job at Home Depot.

Loathing. Loathing the empty page that’s been sitting in front of you for three days. Loathing social media because it’s a time suck you can never get back, but you just can’t stay away because you might miss something good. Loathing that your moods about all these things will affect the people you love and care about. Loathing looking in the mirror for fear of seeing a fraud.

How do I know all of this? Because I’ve experienced all of them. Sometimes all at once. It’s not fun. And even though I know when this happens, and it will happen to you or already has, that the only person it hurts is me, I still fall into it.

Welcome to the world of creative arts. It’s not just screenwriting that this affects. My story isn’t different than anyone else that has the need and desire to create.

Film and TV is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. From the time I was about ten years old, I knew it. I obsessed about it. I wanted to be an actor and I set about doing something about it. I worked at it. I didn’t wait for it to happen. I was proactive. It wasn’t until I found some success at it, I realized I wasn’t destined to make at living at it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been in a bunch of films and TV shows and just got cast in a pretty good film this week. (My first acting job in a couple of years.) But it's not my strength.

Don't misunderstand, I’m really comfortable on a set and in front of cameras. I mean, I enjoy the hell out of it. And in a small range of characters I’m not too bad, but I’m never going to be a world beater as an actor. It was a sad, but liberating thing to realize. It got me looking in other directions.

It was then I found out I got more joy from writing. And even more fortunate that I seemed to be somewhat good at it. Much better than I was as an actor.

I still have the same desire I had when I was ten years old. All I want to do is make movies or TV. Every time I step onto a set as an actor or a writer it’s magic. I shed a tear of happiness in private on every set I’ve ever been on. It’s a dream come true every time. I am so grateful for everyone who’s helped me on my way, too. But I’m also very aware I’m always one lonely step away from that ledge.

When you want to do something creative for a living, it’s like walking a tightrope without a net. You’re out there alone with nothing to catch you.

You are on your own until you establish yourself one way or another. Even then, the only person you can count on in the long run professionally is you.

Therefore, fearing and loathing can become your daily companions. And it’s up to you to fight the hell out of them. And you do it by putting your head down and plowing through it. If a blank page is taunting you, write. It doesn’t matter what you write. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. You can’t let that damn blank page beat you. You do that to every fear. Knock it on its ass.

And I’m the biggest criminal. I was in the grips of the great fear I’d never work again in this business when I got the acting job. Couple of days later a producer sent me the galley of a novel that’s coming out late this year for my take on the adaptation. (GREAT novel, by the way, so far.) And a director called to say the film based on a script I wrote 17 years ago (you read that right) is still on track for shooting early next year. My manager set a meeting with a big production company that’s very interested in a limited series I did with another writer. The light at the end of the tunnel was not an oncoming train. All the effort and time I wasted on fear and self-loathing was just that. WASTED TIME. And I knew it at the time and still I let it color my life.

Thus, I hit myself in the head and say, “Idiot.”

You can’t get anything constructive done when you’re paralyzed with this kind of fear and loathing. You can’t. But boy do you get to make excuses. Tons of them. All of them lame.

You are going to experience this. You do experience this. You’re experiencing this now. Well then... Wake up! Stop it! I know it’s easy for me to say now, but damn it, I need to write this because I need this advice myself. I need to listen to it and put it into action.

You need to tell fear to get screwed. You don’t have time for it. I’ve written before about how you need to be fearless to do this screenwriting thing, but it’s more than that. You need to dispel self doubt. You need to believe. In yourself. In what you do.

Doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the work. The hours and hours of all kinds of research and all kinds of reading and writing and rewriting. The hours and hours of work to get it out there. The hours and hours of work marketing yourself and what you do.

You can choose though whether it’s painful or a joy. You can choose how you react to the setbacks and rejection. And there will be plenty of both. You can choose to let it paralyze you or you can use it as a motivator. As a learning curve. To use it to make your scripts better. Because it can be all that if you choose it.

Now if I can only be smart enough to take my own advice.


Follow me on Twitter. @bobsnz

Let’s get something out of the way first... What networking is NOT.

Networking is NOT meeting someone in the industry and instantly asking or expecting them to help you succeed. That’s trying to USE someone. And surprise!!! No one has the deep secret desire to be used that way. No one.

Networking is NOT going to an industry get together or party or screening with a script under your arm to give out. Or with business cards to give out (unless someone specifically ASKS).

Networking is NOT going on some screenwriting board or twitter and after having a known writer answer your question or comment on something you said, using his/her name to as a reference to try to get your script read. (This has happened way more than once and again, SURPRISE, producers, agents, and managers check references.)

Networking is NOT expecting anybody to do ANYTHING for you.

It IS all about building relationships and your skill as a writer. Period.

We’ve all, in our lives, built relationships with people. Emphasis on “built”. Friends who are lifetime relationships. Friends who for any number of reasons end up being temporary relationships. Friends you make and lose touch with, but still have meaning to you. You can quantify every one of these. You care about them. If it’s a true relationship, they care about you. Even business relationships work this way. You know the person you’re dealing with and trust them because that trust has been BUILT. It’s not instant. It’s a bond that takes time and effort and sincerity.

And that’s where I lose a LOT of screenwriters. TIME? I don’t have time. I want my script sold now. My mom loves it and thinks it should get made. Have you seen the crap that gets made? My time is now. EFFORT? Hey! I just spent a good part of maybe a month writing this script. You have no idea how much effort that was. Effort to get someone to help me? No way. They should want to help me because they’re already there and I’m not. SINCERITY? I don’t have the time and I don’t care about them. What about ME???

I’ve been to the industry gatherings and parties and screenings. I’ve seen the best and worst of networking. I’m not surprised that the best networkers and most sincere people are usually the best writers. They have made the effort to understand what it takes to be successful beyond having written great scripts. They are at these things to foster good relationships within the industry. To meet people, not to USE them. To get to KNOW people as people, not as things who can help them. And if that ends with them getting some mutual business benefit from it at some point, great. If not, great too because you’ve still got maybe a friend out of it.

When you network correctly, you have to throw your ambition out the door for a while. Not in a calculated way either. Really toss it. Network to learn. Network to grow. Network to build your circle of friends.

Again. You need to get to know people as people. I know this sounds ridiculous on the face of it because you’re thinking, well... duh. But a lot of writers forget that successful writers and producers and agents (well, some agents) and managers are just people. With lives and interests outside the industry. Nobody just wants to talk business all the time. Nobody. And nobody in the industry is dying to help you. They just aren’t.

Successful producers and writers and directors and agents and managers all have their radar on, watching for people who would try and use them. They have to. It happens more than you could ever imagine. The second they even get a whiff of that you can see it in their eyes as they glaze over with the thought, “Not again”. I’ve seen it. Hell, I’ve experienced it both ways. Don’t think I didn’t make some horrendous networking mistakes in my young career when in my stupid ego induced state I thought some people were living their lives just to help me. It wasn’t until someone who loved my writing pulled me aside and set me straight about making an ass out of myself. And luckily, I listened instead of letting my ego rule (and ruin) everything.

And my eyes have glazed over when I've been confronted by writers who wanted my list of contacts the first time I met them. And no, I didn’t give it to them.

Networking is a slow dance. With someone who doesn’t want to dance with you at first. They’ve seen it all and they don’t like what they’ve seen. So you don’t walk up and grab their ass and pull them on the dance floor to dance to YOUR song. That never works and can hurt you in ways that can kill a career. You sincerely get to know them over time so that when their song comes on they don’t mind when you ask them to dance.

Oh… and you still have to have a great script at the end of the dance.

Follow me on Twitter. @bobsnz

I go out to breakfast with bunch of guys occasionally, friends who are not in the Film or TV business. They’re always interested in what I’m doing because as my friend Chris says, “Nobody else we know does what you do.” My question back was, “What do you think I do?”

Before I reveal their answers, I’ll pass on an experience that I had not long ago. We were out at a social gathering, again not an industry gathering, and an older woman my wife and I have met before but don’t really know that well came up and asked me, “Are you still writing your skits?” I told her I was and she smiled and said, “That’s nice. What do you do for a job?” I thought about my standard answer “A jockey at the dog races” and decided not to be a smart ass and tell her the truth. “I am constantly looking for new jobs.” She looked confused, smiled, and said, “I had no idea. I hope you find one.” and probably went off to gossip about how I was an unemployed bum. Which at the moment is true. So ok...

Back to my friends at breakfast. When I asked, “What do you think I do?” I was met with some interesting answers from all them.

“You get to hang out with movie and TV stars.” Uhhh. NO. I’ve met some. I’ve worked with some. Because of the TV series I did I’ve remained good friends with some. But that’s not my job.

“You write movies, so I guess... you write what they say?” No. I write the whole story. I write everything they do and say.

“Doesn’t the director come up with what they do?” No. I write what they do and the director films it the way he or she wants to. True, most of the time the director can change any of it. But to start with, I write the whole story.

“Wow. I thought the actors made up a lot of what they said.” No. They don’t. That’s why there are writers. For most TV series there’s a room full of writers mapping out everything that happens on the show including everything they say.

“Ok. But like for your Christmas movie, all the magic stuff like her book and the purse that made money and her ears changing (at least he watched it), you made all that up?” I did.

“That must be hard.” It isn’t easy to do it well.

“So you write everything they say and do. I never knew that.” That’s ok. Most people don’t. In our insulated world we like to think they do, but in reality, they don’t. Not a clue. And to be honest, most don’t care. They just want to be entertained and the writer is last person that comes to mind.

On my way home, that exchange got me thinking. What do I do? I came up with an answer I think is true and scary at the same time.

You really want to know what I do? I ride a rollercoaster. That’s my job. A business and emotional rollercoaster that can never stop, because if it does, I’m through.

You want to be writer? Grab your ticket and come aboard. This rollercoaster goes higher and dips lower than any amusement park ride ever. It corkscrews longer and when you get to the upside down loop it sometimes stops and leaves you hanging, making you sick on occasion. And if you’re not ready for it, it can toss you out on your ass. Or... you have the ability stop it and walk away. Not many do that because once you get to one of those high parts, you want to get there again.

New writers are anxious to hop on, in the front seat if they can, anticipating that rise, their arms thrust up high, thinking the exhilarating ride with be nothing but joy with bags of money tossed on board as the ride takes them on red carpets with cameras flashing.

Wow. Does that sound bitter? I hope not. I don’t want it to.

I’ve had some pretty great highs. Wind rushing through what’s left of my hair. A feeling like no other. I want it again. And again. I look at the stack of DVDs on my desk of the films I wrote or wrote on and I still have to pinch myself sometimes. It is the best part of the ride.

I’m sitting on the edge of a few more highs right now. Not there yet and because it’s screenwriting it’s NOT on my timetable. Yes, it’s frustrating. Kinda like the slow ride up that first climb and never getting to the top. Or hanging upside down. Or both at the same time.

I also experienced an unexpected huge dip in the ride last week which left me uncharacteristically angry and depressed. This is the part of the ride my wife hates because she can’t make it better. Not that I haven’t been there before, because every successful writer has been there and will be again, but this was so unexpected and so disappointing that it made me think, just for a split second, “Do I need to get off?” or worse “Am I being thrown off?”

No. I’m not getting off. I’m sitting down today and starting a new script. I’m riding the climb from the bottom back up and I’m reaching out for new gold rings and having faith that the old gold rings that have been promised will be there. I’m been on the ride too long to do anything else.

You want to be a screenwriter? This is the ride. This is what you get on. And it’s powered by your creativity, your hard work, your determination, endless patience, luck, skill, networking, and your ability to endure a wide array of emotion. How you handle the highs with humility knowing they don’t last and your ability to survive the subterranean valleys. And your determination to grab onto the ride and swing yourself back on after you’ve been thrown off if you have to.

And it’s a ride that’s operated by people who control all of it and none of those people is you. You do have some control over the quality of the ride however. How you conduct yourself on it. The quality of your work. How you interact with the ride supervisors as you pass them by, reaching for that golden ring they hold out.

And the movie going and TV watching public? They have no idea you’re even on it.

Follow me on Twitter. @bobsnz

I read a script the other day. A script a friend of a friend asked me to read. The premise was pretty good. A solid idea.  The execution of the premise? Oh boy. Mostly not there at all with some passable hints of ok here and there. Spelling was atrocious. Dialogue nobody on this planet would say, ever. A LOT of exposition.  People telling people things they would already know to inform the audience. The worst kind of exposition. For a first script it was a pretty standard try.

We spoke. I told the writer the truth, in my eyes, what was wrong with the script. I started by telling the writer how good I thought the idea was. How I wish I’d thought of it. Then I started in, I think gently, to tell the writer how off the mark the script was and why. I didn’t get very far when the writer interrupted and said, “You’re hurting my feelings. Why are you so mean?” I am NOT KIDDING. I may have laughed for a split second. “Seriously?”, I said.


I was flummoxed. Never heard this one before. He went on to explain that all his friends and family thought the script was great and would be a wonderful film. All he had to do was get it to an agent or studio and let the nature take his predetermined course. Why was I being so mean? Just because I was successful, I didn’t have to lord it over him. Why couldn’t I just read it and pass it on. Or NOT read it and pass it on. This was his honest thought process.

I said, “Is this a joke?” I was trying to think of which writer friend of mine would have put him up to this and how I was going to get them back.

He assured me it wasn’t a joke and I said, “You know, I went easy on you. A reader would have just thrown your script in the trash and never said anything to try and help you. A producer wouldn’t have been that nice. This is a tough business and you have to be tough with it.”

He said, and I kid you not, “I understand it’s a tough business, but you’re not a producer and this isn’t business so you could be nicer and more respectful.”

It was about then I started picturing in my head the walls of this young man’s room, lined with participation trophies and ribbons that told him he was a winner no matter where he’d placed in anything he participated in. This person had never been told he’d didn’t win. He expected a participation trophy from me.

He didn’t get one. I told him to grow up. I told him the real world didn’t give out participation trophies. That he’d have to measure up to industry standards or be left behind and that meant listening to honest constructive criticism and leaving his “Feelings” at the door. He honestly didn’t understand. You could hear it in his voice. This isn’t the first time I’ve run into this out there.

I told him I wasn’t sending it anywhere. I told him if he did send it out he was going to hear a lot worse that what I said. And that he didn’t even let me finish and tell him how he could fix it, although I don’t think he has the ability now. I told him I was going to delete his script from my computer and I would take my mean old self as far away from him as I could. I wished him... I don’t think I wished him anything... I just ended the call.

I’ve said this before. I was given a tremendous amount of help and advice when I was first starting. Help from some amazing pros who didn’t have to, especially considering where my stupid ego was after selling my first script out of the box. But they did. And I listened and I learned and I made mistakes and I fixed my mistakes. Because I had that kind of help.

So in this vein, I also visit some screenwriting boards and butt in when I see something I can comment on that I have experience with. Some young person had posted that you HAD to put camera angles and POVs and camera pans in your scripts so the director knew what you wanted to do. This WAS the industry standard and that Syd Field’s book was the way you HAD to do things or you wouldn’t succeed in Hollywood because they knew if you were using Syd’s book or not by the way your script read. He was “the industry’s guru.”

I have a lot of friends who are writers. Most of which who are better than me and have more experience and there wasn’t one of you that wouldn’t have commented on this. I did. I said that wasn't true. I didn't sugarcoat it, but I wasn't nasty about it. And was met with the same kind of crap I got from the writer on the phone. That I thought I was some ego maniac big shot writer who was trying to tell them what to do. And in a mean way. If he was wrong why couldn’t I sweetly tell him with a private message or something instead of embarrassing him. He came back and said some snotty thing like “My Bad”.

So I answered it like this, “No, not at all. You're learning. You're anxious to get going in the industry. You're eager. You're motivated. Those are things that will help you move forward. Don't change that. When I was first starting I also was free in giving out advice because I was excited about what I thought I had learned. I was wrong. And I got shot down because I gave advice without the industry experience or screenwriting work history to back it up. Plus it was erroneous advice because I didn't really know crap. You're just starting. My advice to you? Read scripts from films you like. Read bad scripts to see what people did wrong. Read any scripts you can get your hands on... Then write write write. Learn the business end of screenwriting. If you want to be screenwriter, that means you have to be an independent businessperson. Just writing a script is the beginning. Keep going and I wish you nothing but success.

And it started an avalanche of comments from a bunch of wannabe writers on another thread dedicated to complaining about how experienced writers thought they knew soooo much. And how they never liked the loglines people posted and were probably stealing them and never said anything positive (meaning what they wanted to hear) and on and on...

What it taught me was... never again. I’m not reading friends of friends scripts anymore. Just not. I’m past done doing that. I’m not visiting that screenwriting board anymore either. Doesn’t mean I’m done giving back, just going to be more careful and selective.

When you write and want honest feedback leave your ego and feelings at the door. Tough to do, but every writer I know that’s successful does it. Why? Because you'll learn something. You'll get better as a writer. But mostly because if you don’t, you won’t survive.

Follow Bob on Twitter @bobsnz

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

Let me state right up front that these are my OPINIONS. They are based on my experience, but they remain my opinions. I will also be up front and say I have in the past written for free at times (not for a long long time and not ever again) and if I had to do it over again...

I wouldn’t do it.

So... let’s talk turkey about writing for free or optioning your work for free (or a dollar).

It’s not fair to you.

Let’s talk about script options first.

A guy walks into a shoe store and says to the owner, “I want your best shoes, but I’m only going to pay you a dollar or maybe take them for free and rent them for a year and in that time I’m going to let other people wear them for a day or two to see if they like them and if one of them does and wants them permanently in that year, I’ll pay you your regular price for them and give you credit for renting them to me. If no one buys them, then you get them back and you can keep the dollar, unless you agreed to let me take them for free, and then you can try to sell them again, but not to me. And by the way, we return 99% of the shoes we rent.”

Sound like a good deal to you?

If you’ve invested exactly NOTHING in something, how easy would it be to give up on it? Pretty damn easy. If you invest actual money in something that you will lose if you fail? You’re going to try a lot harder. If you really believe in something and value what it took for the person you’re getting it from to create it, you’re going to reward them for their effort. Even if it’s minimally.

When you option your script for zero, what you’re telling the person optioning it, is that you are placing your worth at zero. You’re setting your quote.

Believe me, if a legitimate production company balks (and legitimate ones don't) at giving you (if you are new and not WGA) $500 to $1000 dollars for a 12 month option they aren’t that crazy about your script anyway. Plus now they have skin in the game. They invested money. It’s not as much the amount as it is the psychology of it.

And this doesn’t take into account the “Producer” who may be offering you $100 to $1000 dollars to BUY your script if the project is super low budget. NEVER accept, even if it’s a super low budget film, just “Screen Credit” as pay. That producer or director offering that is using YOUR script to make a film that they want to advance THEIR career. Not yours. Don’t let someone make their bones on your back. Even if the budget is 10K, you need to get your 2 ½% ($250). Fair is fair and your work is the BASIS for the film. Get paid every time.

I know I’m making it sound like there’s an adversarial relationship between writer and producer. If the producer is a legit producer, it’s not. Any producer, and I mean ANY producer, who can get work for free is going to try. Hey. I had one try with me a couple of months ago. Right after they did it and I laughed and said no way, we got serious about fees and it was a quick negotiation. It wasn’t a problem. There were zero hard feelings. It’s business. Would I have passed on the job if there was no pay, but just promises? Yes. My personal view is no pay, no work. Promises don’t pay bills. If I’m going to work for free, I’ll write a spec script that’s all mine, not owned by someone else when I’m done.

They aren’t going to get pushed out of shape or hold it against you if you stand up for yourself as a business person and ask to get paid for your hard work and imagination. It doesn’t have to be a lot when you’re first starting, but it should be something. If someone wants your work, then you have worth. They’re telling you that by wanting it.

Now... let’s talk about writing a script for a producer for free.

Mr. Producer has a great idea and he needs a writer to write it. He likes your work and comes to you and says, “There’s no pay upfront, but if we make it you’ll get paid and get credit.” Uh huh. Again, he has ZERO invested in this besides thinking it’s a great idea. ZERO. How easy is it for him to give up on it? Pretty damn easy. Yes, sometimes a one in a million shot happens and the film gets made. But I’ve heard from countless writers who spent months of their time on other people’s projects for free and got paid exactly what was promised. Nothing. And they didn’t have any ownership of the script either. Less than nothing.

The vast vast majority of these projects go nowhere, just like the vast majority of most projects go nowhere. But if you get paid for your work, you still have something to show from it. Even if it’s a minimal amount like $500 to $1000 dollars (depending on budget) for a new writer.

Plus, you’re going to work harder on it and do a better job, knowing you’re being treated as a professional.

Yes... You’re going to hear people say, “But writing for free is paying your dues.” No, it’s not. It’s setting your worth at nothing. What other business would take something that you spent a lot of time to create from you for free? I can’t think of a lot of them. Hell, I can’t think of any.

How hard do you have to work to finish a great script? A script someone might want. A script that’s a good enough sample to get you write for hire offers? Why would you give it away? Even for 12 months.

I have worked with some amazing producers and directors in my short career. Some smart wonderful fair people. I’m working with some now. This business is filled with real business people who are fair when you ask to be treated fairly. Will some of them lowball you? You bet. It’s in their interest to try. Are they upset when you don’t agree? Nope. It’s business. And I have to tell you, a lot of the time you will get fair offers to begin with.  I'm just talking about the times when you don't. And when you get a manager and agent and a lawyer, they’ll handle it anyway. But even if they handle it, YOU still have to agree. You are the one who signs the contract. You still have to look after yourself and ask the questions you need to ask and be satisfied with the outcome. It’s YOUR career.

Someone offers you nothing for your script or nothing to write for them? Your choice. I always say no. I’m worth more than that.