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


How Hollywood Writing Credits Really Work

This should be required reading for every aspiring film (and to a lesser extent TV) writer. The smart ones will read this before coming to L.A.

Meet the Writer of ‘Gemini Man’ (Who Didn’t Actually Write ‘Gemini Man’)
by Borys Kit

Sitting near the back of the Chinese Theatre, in between his wife and his parents, Darren Lemke watched the big Imax screen light up, Gemini Man unfolding before his eyes.

He was at the Paramount-Skydance movie’s Sunday night premiere and had walked the red carpet not too far from star Will Smith and director Ang Lee. And why not? He had his name in the credits, right next to David Benioff, the famous co-creator of the Game of Thrones TV show, and Billy Ray, who was nominated for an Oscar for writing Captain Phillips.

But Lemke was having a vortex of emotion and in the midst of a surreal, almost out-of-body experience that was also tinged with a bittersweetness.

Because despite having his name in the credits, despite walking the red carpet, Lemke had nothing to do with the movie currently playing onscreen.

But the fact that the movie exists at all has everything to do with him. And that’s because Gemini Man is a quirky example of how no idea is truly dead in Hollywood, shows that every movie has its own road to the screen and reminds people that the 1990s spec script market was its own wild animal.

In the mid-1990s, Lemke was working at a grocery store, pushing carts and pushing 27, writing murder-mystery theater in North Jersey. A graduate of New York City’s School of Visual Arts, he had seen his classmates enthusiastically rush to Los Angeles after graduation, then slowly return like soldiers from the warfront. He stayed behind, tapping away at the keyboard on spec scripts, all action and thriller.

In a weird only-in-Hollywood confluence, only in this case it was only-in-Jersey, he went out to the movies one night, giving a script to a friend of a friend’s brother, who gave it to an assistant to a movie producer, who then gave it to said movie producer….

Read it all at hollywoodreporter.com

Status Report from Newly Re-elected WGAW Prez David A. Goodman

LB’s NOTE: I’d say this covers just about everything re where the Writers Guild of America is now and where it – we – want to be in the immediate future.

September 20, 2019
Dear Members,

I want to thank all of you for your participation in our election. As you may have already heard, turnout was the highest it’s ever been, more than doubling the record set last year. This was due in large part to the fact that this election ended up being a referendum on the agency campaign. It’s important for me to state that though an overwhelming majority of members made it clear that they support the current strategy, all voices were heard, and the elected leaders, whether re-elected incumbents or new to the board, recognize and take into consideration the points of view of all Guild members.

And so, on Monday, the 2019-2020 Board of Directors will meet for the first time. Over the next few months, elected leaders and staff will intensify our preparations for the 2020 MBA negotiations, as well as continue the ongoing strategic work of the Guild that includes enforcement, public policy, research, organizing, workplace initiatives, and all the other services and functions membership has come to expect from their union.

We will also obviously continue our work on the agency campaign. Given the large numbers of Guild-wide emails sent by all the candidates and other members during the election cycle, we refrained from sending out agency updates during that period. Because the outcome of the election was seen as possibly affecting our strategy, many agencies explicitly stated they would not negotiate with us during that period, so there isn’t a lot to report.

But here are a few things to bring you up to speed:

  • Non-franchised agency outreach to writers has increased as agents continue to try to pressure and/or entice their former clients to violate Working Rule 23. Anonymous sources are quoted in the media claiming writers have returned to agents in droves. That is not true. The anonymous rumor-mongering by some agencies simply shows how badly they are being hurt by the absence of writers. We are working to make a deal, but in the meantime writing jobs are being filled. As always, you can contact agency@wga.org if you have any concerns or questions.
  • On September 13, over the agencies’ objections, the federal judge overseeing the WGA/WME-CAA-UTA lawsuits granted the WGA’s motion to consolidate the three cases, and is requiring the agencies to file a new single amended complaint (by September 27). Ultimately the ruling will make the case more streamlined and economical to litigate.
  • The WGA Platform just added two new ways for writers and representatives to connect. The first is a list of managers seeking clients. This is currently on the Platform for writers to browse. The second is a list for writers to submit to if they want to be listed as seeking a manager or agent. Submissions can be made via the Platform and the first list will be posted for managers and agents to access next week.
  • WME has set a date next week for its IPO, the culmination of its plans to leverage access to talent for its own financial gain. With WME working for the benefit of Wall Street investors, an end to the conflicted practices of packaging fees and producing is more necessary than ever.
  • The WGA has continued outreach to the remaining unsigned agencies and remains committed to moving the negotiation process forward.

I just want to close by saying elections naturally highlight our differences, but they also have a way of reminding us of even more essential things: in the record turnout, of how much this Guild means to all of us; and in the gracious words of Phyllis Nagy, that, in the end, “our goals are the same.” With respect for one another – and with some pride in the fact that we’re willing to fight for ourselves and for each other – let’s take on the long list of challenges that face us. This is a booming, expanding industry, and we’re at the heart of it. It should be an easy time to demand our fair share. But nothing’s easy, so we’ll do what is hard.

In Solidarity,
David A. Goodman
President, WGAW

WGAW 2019 Officers and Board of Directors Election Results

via TVWriter™ Press Service

EDITOR’S NOTE: Current Writers Guild of America policy regarding agents, agencies, and TV series packaging were backed by a solid 77% of the voters in this year’s election. Solidarity! for the win.  Here’s the Guild’s official announcement.

The Writers Guild of America West today announced the results of its 2019 Officers and Board of Directors election.

The following members were elected to serve as Officers: President – David A. Goodman (inc.); Vice President – Marjorie David (inc.); Secretary-Treasurer – Michele Mulroney.

The following eight members were elected to the WGAW’s Board of Directors for two-year terms, effective immediately: Liz Alper, Angelina Burnett (inc.), Robb Chavis, Dante W. Harper, Zoe Marshall, Luvh Rakhe (inc.), Meredith Stiehm (inc.), Nicole Yorkin (inc.). *Note: (inc) denotes incumbent.


President: David A. Goodman (4,395), Phyllis Nagy (1,282).

Vice President: Marjorie David (4,708).

Secretary-Treasurer: Michele Mulroney (4,164), Nick Jones, Jr. (1,256), Evette Vargas (203).

Board of Directors: Meredith Stiehm (4,115), Luvh Rakhe (4,000), Liz Alper (3,967), Angelina Burnett (3,960), Nicole Yorkin (3,874), Zoe Marshall (3,819), Robb Chavis (3,679), Dante W. Harper (3,628), Marc Guggenheim (1,488), Sarah Treem (1,476), Nicholas Kazan (1,462), Courtney A. Kemp (1,418), Jason Fuchs (1,270), Rasheed Newson (1,255), Ayelet Waldman (1,203), Ashley Edward Miller (1,160), Mike Mariano (715).

Write-in votes are not included in the totals and not every ballot contained votes for every office.

A total of 5,809 valid ballots were cast. Representing 58% of eligible voters (9,988), this turnout is the largest in Guild history and more than doubles the previous record turnout of 2,475 in the 2018 Board of Directors election.

The ballot count was supervised by Votenet Solutions, assisted by the WGAW Tellers Committee, which tabulated the mail-in ballots

Yo, Writers, Be Honest. Do You REALLY Have A Story?

Harsh but true words all writers need to heed.

by Lucy V Hay

Gotta Be Honest

Bang2write is known for being honest in its feedback. Note that doesn’t mean brutal, vitriolic or cavalier. Writing is tough and writers have to make all kinds of sacrifices to get words on the page. Nothing winds me up more than readers and feedback-givers who don’t exercise due care. Every piece of work is an expression of someone’s hopes and dreams. I take this very seriously.

But I do have to be honest. I would be failing in my remit as a script editor if I do not put honest notes at the very heart of what I do. So, realise what I say next is said with honesty, but also love …

The majority of stories I read are not really stories at all.

What This Means

But what do I mean by this? Well, when I read speculative drafts or short pitches aka loglines, they are often what I call ‘non-stories’. These can be broken down like this …

  • We don’t know who we are rooting for in terms of characters, or why
  • The conflict (ie. problem or issue) is not clear
  • We don’t know what the story is in terms of genre, tone or type
  • It might be too ‘writerly’ – interesting to the writer, but no one else
  • It might be too samey – we’ve seen this type of story, this way ‘too many times’
  • The writer has placed too much on an *issue*, so it seems too educational
  • A combo or all of the above

In other words, the concept just doesn’t sell itself ‘off the page’ to me. As I’ve said multiple times on this blog, if you don’t have a great concept, you’ve got nothing. What’s more, knowing your concept from the offset can help you write, since it creates a powerful baseline to work from.

Concept is really important and one of the key elements writers underestimate … Not only in terms of writing screenplays and books, but in terms of getting agents’, producers’ and publishers’ interest.

What Is Concept?

By concept, I mean what happens in your story at grass roots level. The premise, the controlling idea, the seed of the story if you like. So when someone says, ‘What is your story about?’ you can tell them.

I know this sounds obvious (and it is). Yet lots of writers start writing without working out what their story is *really about* this out in advance. Then they get stuck writing the draft … Or they can’t get anyone’s interest like agents, filmmakers and publishers because it feels too unclear/muddled.

Read it all at bang2write.com