Monday, February 28, 2005  

And The Oscar Goes To...

The 77th Academy Awards Presentation lacked the luster of years past. Variety took the spotlight. No one film dominated taking home 10 plus Oscars.

"The Aviator" won five awards but director Martin Scorsese is now 0-for-5 in the best director category. The film won best art direction, best cinematography and best costume design, as well as best supporting actress.

The big winner of the 77th Academy Awards was "Million Dollar Baby." It captured four of the top awards, including best picture, best director and best actress. "Million Dollar Baby" also featured the best supporting actor winner, Morgan Freeman. It sure was nice to seeing him win. This was his fourth nomination.

To Jamie Foxx, congratulations on his Oscar win. As strange as it may seem, every time I see him I just can't get the goofball he played on the Jamie Foxx show out of my mind.

Speaking of the mind, "Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind" won best original screenplay. A couple of weeks back in a previous post, Eternal Sunshine was my front runner for best original. I came up a little short for best adaptation. Sideways, a film I did not see snagged the Oscar.

Listed below are the winners from 77th Academy Awards Presentation.

Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman; Story by Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth

Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor

Jamie Foxx

Morgan Freeman

Hilary Swank

Cate Blanchett

Brad Bird

Dante Ferretti (Art Direction); Francesca Lo Schiavo (Set Decoration)

Clint Eastwood, Albert S. Ruddy and Tom Rosenberg

Robert Richardson

Sandy Powell

Clint Eastwood

Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski

Robert Hudson and Bobby Houston

Thelma Schoonmaker

Directed by Alejandro Amenábar

Roger Mayer

Sidney Lumet

Valli O'Reilly and Bill Corso

Jan A.P. Kaczmarek

"Al Otro Lado Del Río"
Music and Lyric by Jorge Drexler

Chris Landreth

Andrea Arnold

Michael Silvers and Randy Thom

Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer and Steve Cantamessa

John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier

Wednesday, February 23, 2005  

So You Wrote a Spec Script, Now What?

This is a question every amateur screenwriter must face. In all honesty, writing the script is the easy part. Getting legitimate producers and production companies to read your great American screenplay is difficult, but achievable. Let's step back from this idea for a brief moment. Turn our eyes away from contests right now. I hope to pass on a few of the lumps on my head that I've received while marketing one of my screenplays.

The first step is to get your work protected. Before you let anyone out there read your script, register it with the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Twenty dollars protects your work for up to five years. Always protect your work.

I've taken a baseball bat to the subject before, but a really good place to start is peer to peer review sites. You can get, somewhat honest, criticism about your script from other amateurs like yourself. Always keep in mind that peer to peer means just that. Another amateur's criticism can only get you so far. Nonetheless, it can be helpful., a site for peer reviews, is the easiest place to start. You simply sign up for an account, upload your script, place a log line listing and you're all ready. How the system works has changed over the past year or so. Thus, I am hesitant to go into details about it. Basically, you read other writer's scripts and review them. You earn credits. Those credits are used to have other people read your script. is another great site for reviews. The system they have in place is different and requires a more detailed review than what is expected at Triggerstreet. Both sites are free. is a little different than the previous two sites I've mentioned. At helium you can pay for people, known as mentors, to read your script. The fees vary from a couple of bucks to twenty or more. This is an option if you don't have the time to read other scripts and you want quick feedback. I'm not to keen on this. I'm an amateur. I haven't got the bucks to spend on the words. I'm to busy buying paper to write my own words.

Now, about getting those production companies and producers to read your script. Slow down. If you have only written one script, life gets even more difficult trying to get readers. That's why the peer to peer idea is great. You can get feedback that will help you polish your script and learn more about the craft. Peer reviews helped me. They can help you. Start with peer review sites while you learn more about submitting your script to producers. Submitting to them requires a solid query letter, a concise synopsis, filling out release forms… take your time. Patience is a virtue well rewarded.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005  

7th Annual Scriptapalooza Screenplay Competition

The Writers Guild of America, west supports Scriptapalooza.


First place prize is $10,000

All thirteen winners will be considered by Scriptapalooza's outstanding participants.

2004 Entrant 3rd Place Winner SOLD, "Redumption (AKA How to Win Back Your High School Sweetheart)" was discovered during the judging process by Colin O'Reilly and picked up by Level 1 Entertainment for low against mid-six figures.

Scriptapalooza FACTS:

  • All the judging is done by 60 production companies

  • Entertainment Weekly Magazine calls us 'One of the Best'

  • The top 30 winners get software from Write Brothers

  • Finalists, Semifinalists and quarterfinalists get requested consistently

  • The Grand prize is $10,000

  • For information visit or call 323-654-5809.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2005  

    Movie Review: Boogeyman

    Those of you who might have believed in the Boogeyman when you were little might enjoy this one. What could be better than the demise of that horrible man who peered at you from within the darkness of your closet? Director Stephen T. Kay (Get Carter - 2000) does a decent job on this film considering the script lacked a lot of punch. 

    Writers Eric Kripke, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White were able to produce a delightful result in a few areas of the script. Boogeyman is a classic example of an individual character in conflict with himself. Even with the slow pace of act two, the writer's were able to show a progressive build in the main characters internal struggle. The character was driving himself stir crazy. It was driving me crazy thinking, why did I come to see this? In fact, the first two acts of this script were so slow a cute couple, a few rows in front of us, got up and left. Witty dialogue and strong character relationships do not exist. This is a character driven script through and through. Man against his mind. Man against the supernatural.

    About that cute couple who wasted away a few dollars on Valentines Day, they missed act three by about 10 minutes. Act 3 of Boogeyman clearly carries the entire film. If you can stand sitting around for over an hour being teased with some of the old ghost story cliche', make you jump in your seat gags, your in for a treat. Act three is a rush. It played out beautifully on the big screen. The protagonist finally overcomes his internal struggle and battles his supernatural antagonist. As for who wins this battle, you'll have to go see the movie for yourself. Just be prepared to sleep for an hour or so.

    The concept of this film is interesting. Box office results of the first two weeks for Boogeyman produced 33 million in ticket sales to prove it.

    I'd have to say this would be a great weekend rental when it becomes available if you're not a guru like myself when it comes to horror/ghost flicks.

    If you love a very slow building, almost mundane, plot pace, go ahead and give it a ride.

    The official movie site:

    PS: It's not really a date flick. However, if you do have a significant other to go with you, it's strongly advised. Their shoulder will make a good pillow while you sleep. They'll also be there to wake you up at the end of act two so you don't miss what you're actually paying for, the third act.

    Friday, February 11, 2005  

    The Amateur Screenwriters Bookshelf

    You love to write. This idea, this story you've conjured up in your head is dying to be told. This brilliant idea would be a great movie. Where do you begin? What do you do?

    The best advice I have for anyone thinking about writing a screenplay is to read every book that's available by author Syd Field. The amateur screenwriter's bookshelf should contain a collection of his works. I've read three of the books listed below. They're fantastic. Filled with a handsome wealth of informative topics to help you study the craft of screenwriting.

    Syd Field has become one of the most respected teachers of the craft amongst his peers. Read his books. This is where you begin.

    Read and write. Read a little more. Write a little more. Re-write. Watch a movie. Read more. Write. Re-write more. This is what you do.

    You'll soon learn if the desire to turn that great idea into a movie is worth the challenge of learning how to do it. I've bought into this theory and have chosen to accept the challenge. I hope you do to.

    The following books are available at The Writers Store. Be sure and see the other great products available from Syd Field.

    Syd Field Book
    Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting
    From concept to character, from opening scene to finished script.... Here are easily understood guidelines to make film writing accessible to novices and to help practiced writers improve their scripts. Syd Field pinpoints the structural and stylistic elements essential to every good screenplay. He presents a step-by-step, comprehensive technique for writing the script that will succeed. -Why are the first ten pages of your script crucially important? - How do you collaborate successfully with someone else? -How do you adapt a novel, a play, or an article into a screenplay? -How do you market your script?

    Syd Field Book
    The Screenwriter's Workbook
    This tried-and-true workshop approach to teaching the mechanics of screenwriting has been a hit since 1984. This popular teacher helps you define your idea, create the paradigm professionals use, and bring your characters to life. Discover how to make dialogue really sound believable and use techniques like voice-overs, subtitles, flash forwards (and backs) effectively and gracefully, and structure your screenplay to work from page one to end-credits.

    Syd Field Book
    Selling a Screenplay: The Screenwriter's Guide to Hollywood
    This is the classic text on discovering what they want, who to see, and what to do afterwards. Field helps you analyze where to market, studios or the independents; how to connect with networks, or cable; how to get an agent, and why you need an attorney before you sign the contract. Frank, information-packed, essential basics for everyone in the industry. Interviews with today's top screenwriters gathered by the author of Screenplay and Four Screenplays.

    Syd Field Book
    Four Screenplays: Studies in the American Screenplay
    Field analyzes Thelma & Louise, Terminator 2, Silence of the Lambs and Dances with Wolves and interviews Callie Khouri, James Cameron, Ted Tally and Michael Blake about how their clear knowledge of technology, myth and transitions got them from idea to the box office. This analysis of four groundbreaking contemporary classics, in-depth interviews and comparative remarks will help any screenwriter reach the goal of great writing, commercial success, and winning entertainment.

    Syd Field Book
    The Screenwriter's Problem Solver
    All writing is rewriting. But what do you change, and how do you change it? All screenplays have problems. They happened to Die Hard: With a Vengeance and Broken Arrow-and didn't get fixed, leaving the films flawed. They nearly shelved Platoon-until Oliver Stone rewrote the first ten pages and created a classic. They happen to every screenwriter. But good writers see their problems as a springboard to creativity. Now bestselling author Syd Field, who works on over 1,000 screenplays a year, tells you step-by-step how to identify and fix common screenwriting problems, providing the professional secrets that make movies brilliant-secrets that can make your screenplay one headed for success...or even Cannes.

    Syd Field Book
    Going to the Movies
    Watching a movie is easy. But it's hard to figure out how its structure, images, acting, camera work and scripts can make us respond so powerfully. Writing in a chatty, informal manner, the author of several popular screenplay-writing manuals (including Screenplay, which is used in numerous college courses) turns to autobiography to meditate on what makes a movie great. Whether he is addressing his friendship with the great French director Jean Renoir, whose masterpiece La Grande Illusion Field considers one of the foundations of modern cinema, or about his classes with the great feminist film director Dorothy Arzner, Field conveys an enormous amount of technical and practical knowledge.

    Thursday, February 10, 2005  

    The AAA Screenplay Contest

    Call for Entries!

    Breaking into the world of screenwriting is no easy task. Creative Screenwriting Magazine is proud to present the AAA Screenplay Contest, a chance for a few talented writers to take the next step in their writing career.

    The winning script and synopses for the top ten screenplays have been requested by the following companies:

    * BenderSpink
    * David Foster Productions
    * The Donner Company
    * Endeavor
    * Escape Artists
    * The Gersh Agency
    * Hofflund/Polone Management
    * International Creative Management
    * New Line Cinema
    * Paradigm
    * Radar Pictures
    * The Radmin Co.
    * Spring Creek Pictures
    * VH1
    * Weintraub/Kuhn Productions
    * Winkler Films
    * Zide/Perry

    Plus over eighty additional agents, managers, and development executives.

    The winner of the AAA contest will be profiled in Creative Screenwriting magazine and the names of the top ten finalists will be published in CS Weekly. Finalists and their screenplays will also be publicized in press releases and ads placed in industry publications.

    Prizes include $3,000 cash for the Grand Prize winner, plus the winning script mailed to over 100 agents, managers, and development executives who have requested it, screenwriting software, and a subscription to Creative Screenwriting and free admission to Screenwriting Expo 4. Second and third places receive $500 cash, free software, subscription, and admission. Plus the top ten have synopses for their scripts submitted to over 100 agents, managers, and producers who have requested them.

    Submit your best work in any genre. Only $40 to enter.

    Sposored by Creative Screenwriting.

    For complete details visit,

    Monday, February 07, 2005  

    Screenwriting 101

    Republished from a newsletter.

    Screenwriting 101 is an online class for beginning writers or writers wanting to brush up on the fundamentals. In two intense class sessions you can jumpstart your writing and hit the ground running. The class presents the fundamentals of screenwriting: character development, plot development, structure, conflict, and dialogue. Mainly focused on beginners or anyone who wants to brush up on the fundamentals. Students gain enough knowledge to continue writing their screenplay, start their first screenplay, and finish.

    Class Training schedule:

    February 15th and 17th (6PM PST, LA time)
    March 21st and 23rd (6PM PST, LA time)

    Class space is limited so reserve your space now for the next class.

    Class Goals:

    * Reading (e-text), movie analysis, and some writing exercises
    * Lectures on fundamental concepts
    * Present work for critique

    The online class is in two-parts, first an online tutorial (e-book) you access right away after signing up; and then two intense training Sessions with the professional instructor:

    * Finding the Heart of your story
    * Plot or Character driven, which is best?
    * Cause and Effect (Characters and Plot)
    * Thinking about Characters
    * Fully fleshed Characters
    * The Paradigms of a Story

    Screenplay Structure (This is not a discussion on simply the 3-Acts, every story has a beginning, middle, and an end or it would not be a story, and we're only interested in writing screenplays with a story.)

    * What is Structure and why is it important?
    * What Structure best suits your Story?
    * Structure and Genre
    * Classic Structure: Linear, Journey, Chase, Search
    * Types of Alternative Narrative Structure

    Republished from a newsletter.

    Friday, February 04, 2005  

    Etymology in Character Naming

    I've read several articles and even been to a few websites that touch on the subject of character naming, but they never really give solid advice. I developed my own process for finding the perfect names for my characters that will help them come to life and breath off the page.

    A screenplay has characters with names that you must create. Etymology can help ease the burden of this process.

    By definition etymology is the origin and historical development of a linguistic form as shown by determining its basic elements, earliest known use, and changes in form and meaning, tracing its transmission from one language to another, identifying its cognates in other languages, and reconstructing its ancestral form where possible. Let’s look at this idea in a more simplistic form. Etymology defines names.

    In the development stages of any script character naming issues exist. You look over the mock profile you've created for a particular character: age, sex, physical attributes, fictional background etc. and ponder - what's the best name for this person? I seem to always want to use my own name. I like it. Always sounds good. It's real. After all, a lot of the main characters I develop stem from some sort of subliminal aspirations I have of who I want to be anyway. Wrong on so many levels. There are more creative and satisfying ways to create character names that will stick to your readers’ palette.

    The use of etymology in the selection of character names offers endless possibilities. Not only will you find creative names with this technique; the name you choose will reflect your characters personal profile that you created. Your character's name will also help you remember their most poignant attributes. This is a benefit in the tedious task of giving life to a fictional person.

    Every character of a screenplay consists of three elements: physical attributes, personality and background. When the time comes to name them, look over your notes and pick out a few keywords that dominate their profile. For example, I describe a protagonist as being strong hearted. A good keyword is "strong". Cross-reference the keyword selected in an etymology dictionary. ( is a great place to find one online.) A name that I came up with after searching returned, BERK. Berk means, "solid, firm and strong" in Turkish. I also described my character as being somewhat cheerful all the time. The next keyword is "cheerful". Another search produced MERIWETHER. The name comes from a surname meaning "happy weather" in Middle English, originally belonging to a cheery person. BERK MERIWETHER. Has a nice original ring to it. I think it’ll stick in people’s heads.

    I find myself in the middle of a writing a scene. I try to keep in mind what my character is all about. Where is he coming from? Where are my character notes? Crap, what was I just thinking about adding to this scene? (sigh) Berk, strong: Meriwether, cheerful, that's what he's about deep inside. Back to the scene.

    This is of course a simplistic explanation of the technique. Who on earth would write a script with a strong and cheerful protagonist? That's not the point. It's merely selecting first and last names that help you remember key attributes about your characters. When your nose deep in the keyboard and focusing on a draft the last thing you want to do is pull your head up. Just looking at your character name will jog your memory and keep you in tune with what you’re writing. Besides, editing is a big part of screenplay writing. During the re-write process you can always go back and review your character charts to make sure they stay true to their original development.

    Now armed with a new technique, go ahead and give it a try. Look up your own name and find out what it means. It's a good place to start. It can be fun. After all, a little self-realization goes along way when your goal is to become a screenwriter.

    Wednesday, February 02, 2005  

    Nicole Kidman Oscar vs. Overexposure

    Beauty. Sophistication. Talent. Desire. A combination that has smacked Hollywood in the jaw and keeps them begging for more. Being an admirer of Nicole, I only have one question.

    Dear Nic,

    I can't help but notice you've turned into a work-a-holic since your separation from Tom. Do you think that a little rest and relaxation might help you put your ongoing body of work into perspective?

    Yours Truly,

    A Concerned Fan

    Since 2001 (Moulin Rouge!) Nicole Kidman has completed 10 films. How many do you remember? A handful right? She's committed to seven films in 05' and 06'. When star athletes hit their prime, Super Bowls, World Series titles and the Stanley Cup is expected. In comparison, Nicole's in her prime and we should expect one of the following movies to produce an Oscar for best actress. The only downside - if a few of these movies flop at the box office, Hollywood will start looking for the next big time leading lady.

     The Untitled Alexander the Great Project
    (2006) (in production)
    Wedding Season
    (2006) (announced)
    Emma's War
    (2005) (pre-production)
    American Darlings
    (2005) (pre-production)
    (2006) (filming)
    (2005) (post-production)
    The Interpreter
    (2005) (post-production)

    So where would both of the previous scenarios mentioned leave Nicole? An Oscar solidifies and acknowledges her body of work and her current run as the top leading lady. Overexposure opens the door for a new actress to take top billing.

    I only hope when, and if, the door shuts on Nicole's remarkable run, it doesn't hit her in the fanny and give critics a reason to overlook her accomplishments thus far.