Posts Tagged ‘Script magazine’

Back in 2003 I finished a spec screenplay on a 22-year-old Internet wiz who was worth around a $100 million. It was a little after the dot.com bust and the economy was still recovering from the events of September 11 so maybe the timing wasn’t the best for such a story. But I had read about how these young Silicon Valley computer guys were often young, very wealthy, and  socially awkward and I was interested in exploring those aspect dramatically,

One of the first persons to read the script had a background in raising funds for feature films. He told me the young Internet wiz in my script was too young and too rich—and needed to be a college graduate. Ironically, the movie The Social Network (which opened this past weekend #1 at the box office) starts in the Fall of 2003.  The story centers around Mark Zuckerberg, one of the creators of Facebook. Today Zuckerberg is a 26-years-old  college dropout and estimated to be worth between $3 and $7 billion. (Yes, billion, not million.)

And my character was too young and too rich? Just a few days ago Forbes reported that Zuckerberg is donating $100 million to Newark, N.J. school system. My character was seen as being too rich just having $100 million and here’s a real life 26-year-old giving away $100 million. Take what people say about your scripts with a grain of salt—and be persistent in finding that one cheerleader for your story.

The Social Network movie was based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich with the script being written by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, A Few Good Men).

“I’m not a frequent visitor on the Internet. I send emails and that’s about it…I didn’t know anything about Facebook any more than I know about a carburetor: I’ve heard the term but I couldn’t open the hood of my car and point to it or tell you what it does…The (Facebook) story is as old as storytelling itself; friendship and loyalty. Jealousy and power. Things Aeschylus or Shakespeare would have written about, or Paddy Chayefsky would have written about just a generation ago. Fortunately, none of them was available, so I got the job.”
Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter The Social Network
As quoted in Script Magazine
The Truth (?) About facebook article by Bob Verini

P.S. Three  films worth seeing or revisiting that deal with friendship, loyalty, jealousy and power are the old John Houston film Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Wall Street, (1987), and the silent film classic Greed (1924).

Related Post: Screenwriting Quote of the Day #43 (Aaron Sorkin)

Scott W. Smith

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“Many careers have been launched by new media that was discovered on the web.”
Shelly Mellott
Editor in Chief, Script magazine

Were you one of the first people to get rid of your landline in favor of just having a cell phone? If so then you may have already cut your cable TV cord in favor of getting your traditional television entertainment not on a television, but via the Internet.  “Is television dead?” ask Robert Gustafson & Alec McNayer in an article in Script magazine (Sept./Oct. 2010) titled The Branding of Online Entertainment.

But it’s not only that you can watch your favorite TV shows on the Internet with sponsors  putting a tag and the beginning and end of the show, now sponsors are creating their own shows. The brand produces the entertainment, hence the phrase branding entertainment.  If you aren’t familiar with what that looks like check out the Ikea sponsored show Easy to Assemble.

“(Branding Entertainment) has to become about the actual experience with the brand. It’s not about trying to sell a product, it’s about making the audience feel good about the brand and its message.”
Dominik Rauch
Producer, Easy to Assemble

I’m not sure when this all started but in its modern form I’d point to the Superman webisodes that Jerry Seinfeld did for American Express in 2004-2005 that were directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man, The Natural).

Of course, if actors, writers and filmmakers are uncomfortable with product placement they sure aren’t going to like branding entertainment. But it is a trend that is going to grow and provide a lot of creative opportunities for actors, writers and filmmakers. And since the majority of actors, writers and filmmakers are unemployed at any given time it seems like a positive thing. Sure it’s a dance between art and commerce, but what isn’t?

Two weeks ago I shot my first project that I would call branding entertainment. It’s for an economic development group and has been a great opportunity to work on the project as a producer, director, cameraman, editor as well as write the script and work with the actors. Even if the idea of branding entertainment doesn’t thrill you think of the experience you can gain. Writing words one week, and seeing actors say those words the next week, and people watching them  online soon afterwards has its own benefits in a field where you can go years without seeing any fruit to your work.

“Like with television, we’re always looking for strong writers with a point of view and fresh concepts that offer some sort of ‘wow’ factor.”
Ryan Noggle
Supervising producer, NBC’s In Gayle We Trust (sponsored by American Family Trust)

In the article by Gusafson and McNayer they point out a Orbit gum sponsored online show called “Orbit Dirty Shoes” featuring Jason Bateman; “The writing is superb, the acting is excellent, and the gum itself was successfully incorporated in the story.”

Not every writer’s cup of tea, but as I think of all the businesses and groups out there and the potential for branding entertainment— for the first time in my life I can honestly say I don’t think there are enough qualified producers and writers to handle all the work that I see coming down the pike.

Scott W. Smith

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Get Low starring Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek received an 85% from the top critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Sharing the screenwriting credit are Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell.

“If you ‘know’ it write it, if you write it, write it well, defend it; if you defend it, pick your battles; if you lose, stay strong because you may win the war. Lo and behold you win the war, the phone just might ring with someone asking if you’d like to do it all over again. If that happens, say yes. It may take 10 years, as Get Low did, but it’s worth every minute.”
Chris Provenzano
Screenwriter, Get Low
Script m
agazine Sept./Oct. 2010
page 44

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SCRIPTGIRL was asked how to make a “script irresistible to a director” and she differed to the director of Bone Dry to answer;

“First off, I have to read it in one go. If I can’t, or I find reasons not to, I assume it’s not right for me (or visa versa) and push it aside. Beyond that, the search for a script involves questions of both art and commerce. Is this something I’m willing to comment to (like a marriage) until the vision comes to life? Is the script commercial enough to return the investment? Can my ‘voice’ add something to what the writer has on the page? Am I passionate enough about the story to face all the hurdles of the filmmaking process? Will this script translate into a film that will resonate with audiences? Will it be remembered?
When the answer to all of the above is ‘hell  yes,’ I might be on to something that could potentially be my next movie.”

Director Brent Hart
Script magazine Sept./ Oct 2010

Scott W. Smith

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And I thought it was pretty cool that Nebraska produced financial guru Warren Buffett, screenwriter Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election), and actor Marlon Brando, but now I’ve learned that ScriptGirl was born and partially raised in Nebraska (and has strong enough ties there to spend Thanksgiving in the Cornhusker state this year). And on top of that she was an Art History major at the University of Iowa.

I always thought that if Diablo Cody wouldn’t have broken through with Juno she would have evolved into something like ScriptGirl. (Actually, they are the same age so I imagine they attended the University of Iowa at the same time. Interesting.)  ScriptGirl for the uninitiated is the persona of a sexy librarian/farm girl-type turned savvy Hollywood script sale reviewer. While she doesn’t cover her breasts much she does a fine job covering recent script sales in an informative and entertaining way.

Her coverage (and lack of coverage) has helped her build a fan base of  around 8,000 You Tube subscribers (one video currently has 890,846 views). She is also well covered on the social media front including Facebook, Myspace, and twitter. Quentin Tarantino is said to be a fan.

So what prepared ScriptGirl for her online success?

“I didn’t go to film school. I studied art history. But, like so many others, I was drawn to the movie business and came to Los Angeles. I’ve tried or suffered through a lot of different industry jobs. But screenwriting to me was always the ultimate destination. After a couple years of flailing around, I managed to find an agent who liked my romantic comedy and shopped it around. It was optioned by the production company of an actor I shall not name, and I had some meetings on other projects. It was a pretty heady time for this Thai/German farmgirl from Nebraska. But before I could even put a down payment on a Prius, the rom-com was out on its keister, promises of other jobs dried up, and I was back to the harsh reality of 9-5 living.”
Interview with Kim Townsel

I’m not sure how much of a moneymaker it is for the small team that puts together ScriptGirl (there are You Tube ads and the occasional product placement of Red Bull or Final Draft) but it has to be good exposure. ScriptGirl now has a regular column at Script magazine. From a screenwriter’s perspective it’s a succinct way to follow script sales and it’s always encouraging to hear ScriptGirl’s closing words; “You can’t sell it if you don’t write it.”

So if you’ve never seen the Bellview/Omaha, Nebraska native (and Iowa educated) ScriptGirl in action, welcome to her world. (In case you’re wondering, Bellview is just across the river from Iowa. I’m starting to think this Midwest thing is becoming trendy.)

BTW-Did you know that when Alexander Payne was growing up in Omaha that Warren Buffett was actually a neighbor? And did you know Warren Buffett and Jimmy Buffett are distantly related?

Related Posts:

The Juno-Iowa Connection

Screenwriting from Nebraska

Scott W. Smith

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One of my all-time favorite quotes about screenwriting comes from Richard Walter at UCLA; “Planes that land safely do not make the headlines and nobody goes to the theater, or switches on the tube, to view a movie entitled The Village of the Happy Nice People.” When things are normal there is no conflict, and conflict is central to drama. (See the post Everything I learned in Film School.)

“Comedies live and die by the first 40 minutes. For starters, comedies are funniest in the first half, before the main characters start to arc and get all normal, so that’s when you decide if it’s funny. But more important is the fact that the potential energy of a comedy is wound up entirely in the spring of the protagonist’s misery when we first meet him. Sandra Bullock starts off very lonely in While You Were Sleeping. Dustin Hoffman has a flaw for every situation in Tootise. Bill Murray is a such a jerk in Ground Hogs Day. Will Ferrell is so egotistical. The Judd Apatow Players are so crude, immature, female-repellent, etc.”
Wesley Rowe
Script magazine
Volume 15/Number 2

Scott W. Smith

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It’s commonly agreed upon that the first 10 pages of your script are the most important. Script readers are savvy enough to judge in those first ten pages if the story, the characters, the set-up, and the writing keep their interest.  But Wesley Rowe makes the case that your spec script will probably be sold or not somewhere just after you turn the corner on the first act.

“Outside of friends and family, at least 90 percent of the people who read your script won’t make it past page 40. You will not be able to verify this fact because people in the film business are notoriously hard to pin down about anything. If your script goes out as a spec or gets some heat, expect that the full-read rate to drop under three percent. In fact, it could even sell to a studio without any of the people making that decision reading it from cover to cover.”
Wesley Rowe
Script magazine
Volume 15/ Number 2
Page 20

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