Why I Passed On Your Screenplay

A Hollywood pro steps up to tell us how the TV/Film writing biz really works. Our suggestion is that you read it carefully and relish the insight this knowledge gives you.

by Tennyson E. Stead

For almost 10 years, I worked as a development executive for Unified Pictures and Exodus Film Group. One of my chief sources of income over the last year has been writing script coverage, writing development notes, and in general parsing screenplays for writers and producers. My friends, I have read a LOT of screenplays. If you’re an undiscovered screenwriter with more than three our four scripts out there on the market, there’s a fair chance I’ve covered you at some point.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve read a lot of discussion on Stage 32 about how and why institutional Hollywood has come to regard the overwhelming mountain of screenplays currently being produced by aspiring writers as a burden, rather than as an opportunity to discover the next great cinematic voice. Is it really even possible that the percentage of “bad writing” versus “good writing” is high enough to justify ignoring or throwing away literally an entire market full of spec scripts? How did we get here?

How the Spec Market Fell Apart

Most people working in development today, whether we’re talking about screenwriters, executives, or representation, did not come from a show business background, so we need to preface this conversation with the understanding that a huge majority of the people working in Hollywood today either don’t know or can’t articulate just what the hell is wrong with our development process. Most executives today come from business school, and most writers of substance come from a literary or journalistic background. To a literary or an advertising mindset, bad screenwriting is usually a problem of tone.

Nope. Good dramatic structure is about action, motivation, and conflict – scene work, in other words – just as surely as it is about act breaks and turning points. Most actors, directors, and writers who come from a classical performance background know these practices as a matter of habit, and we usually take it for granted that Hollywood greenlights productions with an eye constantly cast towards the fundamentals of drama. Because the vast majority of writers, executives, agents and managers never actually learned those fundamentals in the first place….

Read it all at stage32.com

 

Stephanie Bourbon on How Writers Can Find Their Creative Selves

What does it really mean to be true to yourself? For that matter, who the heck is your true self? Clearly, this is a tough question for everybody, but writers seem especially prone to engaging in the search.

Sit back and click, young Jedi, as Stephanie Bourbon steps forward to help guide you through the maze

Stephanie’s YouTube Channel is HERE

And her Story Concierge website chock full of further instruction is HERE


Former Larry Brody student Stephanie Olivieri Bourbon has found great success as a writer and illustrator. Now she’s branching out into video with a series of extremely helpful ones about – surprise! – writing and illustrating.

PJ McIlvaine: The Winding Road

Doesn’t get much windier!

by PJ McIlvaine

Everyone’s path is different. Sometimes it’s easy; you query a few agents and get an offer right away. Other times, it’s a near miss or outright passes, or, sadly, total silence.

You wonder what’s wrong and fall into an abyss of despair and doubt. Why hasn’t everyone fallen in love with your pretty, shiny, new bauble that you labored on for months, even years?

The short answer, it’s a crapshoot.

The long answer, it’s a crapshoot.

God must love writers because She made so many of them.

Back in 2017, I was at a crossroads in my writing.

A little backstory here: for several years, I’d been the 24/7 caregiver of my Mom. For much of that time, her Alzheimer’s was manageable. She forgot things. Getting her to the doctor was an exercise in futility. She couldn’t see too well because of her cataracts (surgery was a fiasco). Unfortunately, her decline was shockingly quick, and she passed away in Hospice.

I’d begun and put aside several novels during that grueling period, trying to juggle Mom, my family, a full time job, and other assorted family dramas that ate up my time and energy. Being a novelist had always been a personal goal. As a teenager, and then as a young wife and Mom, I went to bookstores and envisioned MY book being on display there one day.

Someday, I told myself. Someday.

With Mom gone, I finally realized that someday was NOW, and a project that had been collecting dust on my hard drive came back to life.

So this is a roundabout way of announcing that I’m thrilled to be represented by the amazing Heather Cashman of Storm Literary. I can’t wait for you to meet Charlemagne, Violet, and all the other characters that have been taking up space in my head for so long (in a good way).

I think Mom would be pleased.


Pj McIlvaine is a prolific writer/author/screenwriter/writer/journalist. She has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, and a host of other places. Her Showtime movie, My Horrible Year (with Mimi Rogers, Karen Allen and Eric Stoltz) was nominated for a Daytime Emmy. Find out more about Ms. McIlvaine HERE. This article first appeared in her most magical blog.

Ken Levine on How to Make Stupid Money in Television

We love Mr. Levine because not only does he demonstrate great insight into the TV world daily, on his blog, “…by Ken Levine,” he also can rant like a son of a bitch.

And so, without further ado…

How to make stupid money in television — at this moment of time
by Ken Levine

Let’s see how long it takes for this business model to implode. Because it will.

TV is undergoing more changes now than it has in decades, perhaps five decades.

In the old days, here’s how the few lucky talented (but still fortunate) writers got rich:

Networks couldn’t legally own shows. So studios would make development deals to tie up the best talent. That resulted in multi-year seven-figure deals. The idea was that those writer/producers were exclusive to that studio and if they created a hit show everyone stood to cash in.

Additionally, writer/producers owned part of the shows they created. And in those days the goal was to make at least 100 episodes to sell into syndication. A smash hit like CHEERS or SEINFELD could be worth hundreds of millions to the writer/producer.

Once networks could own shows those development deals began to dry up. A few high-end deals still remained but the parameters of those deals were different. At one time writers only created shows and produced pilots. Under the new model, the network or studio (often the same thing) could assign you to work on whatever show it wanted.  You don’t have a pilot?  Guess what?  You’re Co-EP of THE NEIGHBORHOOD. 

Now we’re in a totally different universe. Streaming services are the future. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are getting competition from Warners, Disney, Apple, CBS, and more to come. They don’t need 100 episodes. They don’t want 100 episodes. Syndication is drying up. Soon there won’t be shows with 100+ episodes.  Series used to go seven years; in the future they’ll go three.  Producers once produced 22 episodes a season.  Now they produce 12.  Or 8….

Read it all at kenlevine.blogspot.com

Listen to Ken’s podcast!

Stephanie Bourbon on How to Make MONEY As A CREATIVE

One of the best things we have to say about Stephanie Bourbon is that she doesn’t hesitate to tackle the tough issues. And right here, right now, she’s taking on one of the toughest – making a living as a writer, artist, or other creative.

Click below, gang, so you too can learn the answer to your parents’ biggest question when you told them your creative dreams: “But…but…but, why can’t you get a real job?”

Stephanie’s YouTube Channel is HERE

And her Story Concierge website chock full of further instruction is HERE


Former Larry Brody student Stephanie Olivieri Bourbon has found great success as a writer and illustrator. Now she’s branching out into video with a series of extremely helpful ones about – surprise! – writing and illustrating.