Screenwriters Talk About Writers Block

…And we can see and hear ’em cuz it’s, like, on video. What’ll the interwebs – and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – come up with next?


Click the pic and learn, chilluns

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Update About Amazon Studios

From the amazingly wonderful blog written by John August, who knows this stuff better than anybody. Wow.

Articles like this are just the tip of the iceberg at (In other words, GO THERE!)


Alert: The following was not written by John but by Reader Mike (but it’s still informative as hell).

Amazon Studios at AFF

Amazon Studios has been a muchdiscussed topic on both the blog and the podcast. Last week at the Austin Film Festival, the company made a presentation explaining how they work with screenwriters.Reader Mike attended and took notes, which he generously offered to write up.

first personA little bit about my background: I started out working at a production company as an intern and as a reader, kept working at writing and eventually got representation from a manager and an agent. I’ve had scripts go out and I’ve done the studio water bottle tour a couple of times, but have yet to earn a single penny as a writer.

I consider myself in that grey, ugly pool of zombie writers: Part alive, but mostly dead inside.

I’m guessing the crowd ranged from people like me to those who are thinking about writing their first screenplays. I had heard a lot things about Amazon (including on the podcast), so I went in with an ass-load of skepticism along with a tiny bit of hope. Unfortunately, very little during the panel moved the skeptic needle, and it pretty much pissed all over the hope.

Again, I can only speak for myself.

First, it wasn’t really a panel. There was one Dude at a podium, so it was more like a new-hire presentation at Dundler Mifflin rather than a Q&A with a studio exec. The Dude, head of development at Amazon Studios I think, seemed nice enough and intelligent enough, but he used the phrase “I’d rather not get into the details of that” way too often for my tastes.

Bullet points:

  • Writers can upload their scripts to the Amazon Studios site as a non-WGA writer, or if they are WGA they can have their rep upload.

  • Once a writer uploads his script, he cannot sell his script to anyone for 45 days. Essentially a free 45-day option.

  • If Amazon is interested, they will option the script for a period of 18 months for $10k.

  • If that script goes into production, the writer will be paid $200k, with some other pay-outs if the film reaches certain financial milestones.

  • They also have open writing assignments from time to time, and these are handled much the same way, with writers submitting their work on the website for consideration for the gig.

All of this is well and good on the surface. I am not a million-dollar-screenwriter by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have some access to the lords of Hollywood. If I didn’t have anywhere to go with my scripts, I would probably be interested in what the Dude had to say. However, once he said they have somewhere around 10,000 submissions with 22 projects in development, it doesn’t take a Harvard grad to do the math and realize your odds are just as good in the traditional studio system.

The things that I found puzzling were mainly around their development process and their overall plan.

The Dude explained their development process by talking about information studios gather from test screening and how it is used. Basically saying that once you shoot a film, you have a test screening and get feedback from the general public on what they liked and didn’t like about the story, the characters or whatever. Meaning that the problem is that the film is already shot, so there is only so much you can do to alter it.

At Amazon (wait for it) they want to get public feedback (through their website) on the script as it is being developed so they can make changes before they begin shooting. They plan on doing this through several methods. They already have comic books made from a script in development that they are asking for feedback on. They are also thinking of making short videos and other things to get parts of the script out there and gather opinions from Amazon’s customers. The writer will get this info and incorporate it as notes for rewrites. Now, the Dude did say it is up to the writer to do what he wants with these notes. You be the judge on that. On one hand, I’d like to congratulate them on thinking outside the box on development. But I see problems with this, as I’m sure you do as well.

The other problem I had was with their overall plan: There doesn’t seem to be one.

They have a first-look deal with Warner Bros., but when he was asked questions about the deal he defaulted to the “I’d rather not get into the details of that.” He was asked what type of genres or budget ranges they were looking at, and he didn’t really have an answer. I would have been more impressed if they picked a direction, like saying, “We want to provide funding for small, independent minded stories that might not get a shot in the Hollywood system,” or saying, “We are looking for big, tent-pole, event movies.”

I had other concerns, but that was pretty much the thing in a nutshell. I think it great that someone with money is jumping in, and I hope for the best, but it looks like there are problems with hair on them, and I think there are some very rough growing pains in the making.


Big Writer Deals! Big Writer Deals! Big…Oh, You know!

Today’s dose of other people’s successes: (…sigh…)

  • Max Landis (CHRONICLE) will write the pilot for VIGILANT, a superhero show featuring a “a smart 20-year-old woman who happens to be a social outcast” for Fox. (Hmm, does Fox really want to glorify the kind of person its executives would never set up a meeting with?)
  • Jason Dean Hall (PARANOIA) is writing an unnamed pilot about a Steve Jobs-like tech billionaire who funds a hospital so its Best-of-Everything staff can heal him – and others as well – for CBS. (Hmm, hmm – this is the second announcement in a row about a writer whose credits we’re unfamiliar with…wonder what that means.)
  • Chad Hodge (THE PLAYBOY CLUB) is adapting Alice in Wonderland into a series called WUNDERLAND, for the CW. It’s about a female detective in modern-day L.A. who discovers an underground world. (Because a literal interpretation of Alice is all the CW thinks its viewers will understand? Or because that’s all the CW understands. Now there’s something to worry about.)
  • Richard Price (NYC 22, THE WANDERERS, etc.) is writing the pilot for CRIMINAL JUSTICE for HBO. The show is based on the BBC of the same name about a lawyer who defends people accused of murder and will star James Gandolfini, who also produces. (What? You heard us yawn? Sorry. We’ll be quieter next time.)
  • Matt Reeves (FELICITY, CLOVERFIELD) has signed a deal with 20th Century-Fox TV to create, write, direct and supervise new drama shows. (So we won’t be reading about him doing a U.S. version of any BBC shows, right? Whew.)
  • Screenwriting god John August is writing the pilot for CHOSEN for ABC and says, “We’re keeping the logline under wraps, but it centers around a family facing unusual circumstances.” John’s partner on this deal is Josh Friedman of THE (late, lamented) SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES.

Wait, that’s it. It’s all about the partners. Well not all, but the answer to the burning question of how did Max Landis and Jason Dean Hall set up their deals, considering their credits, is that they both have Big Producer Partners. Working with Max is Howard Gordon of HOMELAND. Working with Jason is Peter Lenkov of HAWAII FIVE-0. Don’t you love it when a mystery is solved?

“Silver Surfers” aren’t What You Think They are

by Larry Brody

…or maybe they’re what you think but not what I thought.


See the picture above? No surprise there. That’s Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s – and Larry Brody’s too – Silver Surfer.


A silver surfer

The second pic is a “silver surfer.” Defined by the BBC as an “American…aged over 65…using the internet.”


Not the superhero I wanted to be, but know what? I’ll settle.

[scrippet]FADE IN:


LB is hunched at his desk, peering at his two 27″ monitors. He raises his right hand, palm up.

To me, my board!

Immediately, his shiny silver USB mouse pulls itself loose from the pile of notes, papers, pens, and a cool marble drink coaster on one side of the desk and flies upward, slapping itself into his hand. LB doesn’t even bother to look.

Let there be a reckoning!

And, as he clicks on the next exciting URL, we



Thanks to John August for creating Scrippets.

Thanks to Stan & Jack for creating a great character, providing me with the chance to do this.