Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How “Aloha” will become the new catch phrase in Hollywood

“Aloha” is one of the most beautiful words in the English language. 
And I appreciate its beauty not only as a writer, but as a native Hawaiian.
The word “Aloha” is often voiced when one greets another person, but is also used when one wishes to express goodbye.
Natives originally used “Aloha” to convey the hope and anticipation that only a short time would past before the two people exchanging the word would be reunited.
One word, two common uses, a deeper third meaning.
But after May 29th, I believe those who work in the Hollywood Industry will hijack the word “Aloha” and tarnish its historical beauty -- One word, two common uses, a deeper forth meaning.

This week Sony Pictures will be releasing the latest film from Cameron Crowe, the writer and director of such great movies as “Jerry McGuire,” and “Almost Famous.” Unfortunately, Mr. Crowe is in the midst of a losing streak, and this latest film, "Aloha” doesn’t appear to be the movie that will help him break his creative and box office slump. 

If you don’t trust my ability as a prognosticator, I urge you to take in the words written by Amy Pascal, who greenlit the film as the head of the movie studio. She thinks the movie sucks --

“I don’t care how much I love the director and the actors.
It never, not even once, ever works.”

We’re privy to Ms. Pascal’s candid email summation to her  colleagues because of the recent terrorists’ hacking into the Sony Studio computer system. And what the cyber-terrorists/NYTimes wouldn’t reveal, WikiLeaks recently made public. 
Earlier this year, Pascal was fired from the studio, no longer in charge of this week's distribution of the movie “Aloha.” Tom Rothman, a veteran studio executive who replaced Pascal as the Sony Studio head, has the tough job of walking the thin line of publicly expressing support for a prior regime’s project, while at the same time -- dooming “Aloha” with Machiavellian apathy.

“No one is hiding from this film,” said one person associated with “Aloha” in Variety
Perhaps the above quote is sincere and comes from someone not associated with the P.R. firm handling the marketing of the film. Regardless... this is the point I'm attempting to make --
There are many in this town who have nothing to do with Crowe's movie and relish the film's impending crash and burn because of the oportunity to add a new word to the Hollywood lexicon for failure.  
Don’t be confused when witnessing a producer... agent... entertainment lawyer... maybe even the guard at the studio gate shouting the word “Aloha” to someone they clearly despise.  The entertainment Industry has a sorry past of taking the hip catch-phrase/ memorable gesture in produced movies and recycling the moment as a weapon to use against someone who has hit an Entertainment Career Detour. 

“Hasta la vista, baby” was the Valedico du jour after “Terminator 2” became a hit movie in the 90s.

And two decades before, the classic Industry send off for failure was the full face kiss Michael Corleone gives his brother Fredo in “GodfatherII."  

For the purpose of giving back to the industry, I’ve collected some commonly used phrases used today in Hollywood so the younger generation coming up through the ranks will better understand that there are often times in this Industry when “Hello” actually means “Goodbye” --

“Who are you… and how did you get on the lot?”

“Thank you for your submission. Your script was covered by one of our best Interns...”

“I had my agent call your agent. It turns out you don’t have an agent… or a manager. But we have a bigger problem -- you also don’t have a lawyer. So right now, my lawyer is just sitting in his office… not sure who he should call…”

“I’m sure you’re really important, but I still need to see your badge”

“Go ahead and use that phone to try and contact your agent. Let’s find out together if he answers your call.”

“My assistant read to me the evaluation on your script this morning. Brace yourself because what I heard from her was not good news...”

“I heard someone here really liked your script, but unfortunately we're no longer accepting any script submissions outside the 310 area code.”

“I saw your movie at the premiere party. But that was a long time ago. At least nine months, right? Have you ever tasted champagne from a bottle opened nine months ago? There’s no bubbles rising to the top. Just the taste of sour grapes.”

“I hear it’s a red tide. You’re gonna need your thick, old school surf board to handle this wave. Aloha…”

The above quote came from a phone call just this morning.
From my manager.  
We’ve been together for over 15 years.
He’s not even waiting to use the new exit word until after the movie’s opening.
That’s how quickly a lei around your neck can turn into a dead albatros.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How a Movie can be Screwed by its Trailer

Besides being a professional screenwriter and producer, I also consult with Indie Filmmakers about their projects. I have found there are times when my most valuable advice is NOT about --

-- the development of the script... 
-- Or the issues concerning an up coming production...
-- But on the Movie Trailer created to promote their film.  

Marketing any production (film/TV/Internet) is always a challenge, but the mission becomes more difficult if the production lacks obvious promotional assets like marketable actor(s) or a hot filmmaker. 

The movie trailer has always been the consistently reliable weapon for any filmmaker to count on as the cornerstone of their marketing campaign with or without other assets (such as a star/hot director). In fact, I believe the last decade has seen the power of movie trailers to market a project only increase with modern audiences embracing Internet related videos that are entertaining and only take up two to three minutes of their time. 

The challenge for modern filmmakers is to come up with an engaging movie trailer that lives up to the higher expectations in the marketplace. And being successful often times requires drawing upon totally different aspects of the art and craft the filmmaker used during the original production. 

One of my first professional jobs in the entertainment industry was creating thirty and sixty second spots/promos/trailers for a TV station in Oxnard, California. My job was to highlight the quality of the prime time movie broadcast every night so audiences would tune in. I didn't know it at the time, but my job was one of the best training grounds for a career as a producer... and screenwriter. 
I will point out that what I created over two decades ago would be laughable now. Like most aspects of our culture, the world of Movie Trailers has evolved at an accelerated pace to keep up with the media sophistication of modern audiences. 

However, in a strange way, the creative construction of a movie trailer for a mass commercial audience has not become more complex, but has in fact become more consistent in the way the storytelling beats are organized. This is especially true when the movie trailer is promoting a "genre" film/TV show/Internet project. 

Because so many filmmakers today have a toe in every aspect of the filmmaking process, including marketing, I thought it would be interesting to examine the creative construction of a  movie trailer. For the first thoughts on the subject I chose a recently released trailer promoting an indie Horror movie, “Anarchy Parlor.” I apologize ahead of time to the filmmakers involved in this particular project for attempting to score creative points by disecting their trailer. But there are two reasons that I chose this film trailer – 

1) The trailer for “Anarchy Parlor” is a professionally executed example of an Indie horror/slasher movie. The overall quality of the trailer is more than strong enough to weather the constructive criticism I’m about to dish out.

2) The “Anarchy Parlor” trailer does commit a mistake that is worth noting with the purpose of enlighting other filmmakers about the art and craft of creating a movie trailer. 

So join me in watching the“Anarchy Parlor” TRAILER HERE See if you can spot the problem I have with the way it has been executed.  

Did you spot it?  
I believe the movie trailer seems to start all over again at the :53 second mark.

The problem with the "Anarchy Parlor" trailer is the structure, the beats of laying out the story, and that's why we end up with this "restart" feeling in the trailer.  
The “script” for a movie trailer “can be” (quotation marks around those two words because it doesn’t have to be) very similar to the structure of a movie script. And if the trailer is for a genre movie, more adherence to a formal structure is demanded when laying out the beats. Conversely, if the the trailer is for a non-genre film (meaning a storyline that is unusual/problematic/offbeat... Comedy or Drama, or a genre project like SF that is challenging thematically, etc.), their is much more room for the creators of the trailer to experiment with different beats, images... anything and everything regarding the selling of the film to mainstream audiences. 

But the trailer for “Anarchy Parlor” is promoting a horror/slasher genre movie, and therefore the conventions of structure must at least be recognized. The trailer for starts with an introduction of the "killer." Quotation marks around the word killer because perhaps we're probably not seeing the real killer at the beginning of the trailer, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that the filmmakers went for the creative beat of a setup/tease beat of the tattoo artist choice and it doesn't work... because there is nothing mysterious/creepy/intriguing/foreboding that is exceptional, and demanding your attention. This creative choice was made over the more standard conventional choice -- setting up the main characters/"victims" as the first beat in the movie trailer.

The next mistake by the filmmakers is to include (at the :40 second mark in the trailer) presumably one of the main characters/"victims" talking to the same tattoo artist seen earlier. So by only focusing on one character here, it suggests the movie will be about one main protagonist. Nevermind this part of the trailer allows us to definitely rule out the guy we saw at the beginning of the trailer as the real killer. Not only is the true identity of the real killer almost never shown in a professionally produced movie trailer (which would eliminate any mystery or suspense for your moviegoer), the young woman featured in this part of the trailer also says (via her V.O.), "That girl is a tattoo artist," a reference to someone different than man we first meet at the beginning of the trailer. 
"We're here on vacation..." is also said by the main character in her Voice Over during a sequence that features a montage of shots that builds toward the implication of violence.

And then at the :50 second mark, the most noticible problem kicks in when the movie trailer seems to start all over again. 
At the fifty second mark we see images of kids partying on vacation in some foreign country... eventually running into trouble when at least one of the characters decides to visit a tattoo parlor. Everything we see feels like the movie's first act set up, Act one in this horror story, and that we would need to do in the trailer is move forward and lay out the highlights and thrills of the movie's final two acts. 
But the problem is that False Start. 
Modern audiences have been mentally conditioned to expect certain structural beats in a genre trailer. And if the filmmakers/producer want to connect with their audience, adhering to the structure of a genre movie trailer is a big deal. 
There is no reason to throw your targeted audience mentally off kilter and risk the subconscious negative vibes that they can't articulate, but definitely feel. 

One more time, I will reiterate -- the preview for “Anarchy Parlor” is solid, and I'm sure viewers who enjoy the horror/slasher genre will be attracted by the professional quality of the trailer to seek out the movie.  
My dissection above is meant only as words of advice to indie filmmakers when they create a professional movie trailer used to market their project. 

Monday, May 11, 2015


05-13-15 UPDATE

JACOB STUART REPLIES TO MY ORIGINAL BLOG POST (which was a Reply to his Original Blog Post on 05-1-15) 
Stuart's 05-13-15 reponse follows my original blog post below

JACOB STUART runs a screenwriting job search website, Screenwriting Staffing

An original blog post he authored appeared on Linkedin with a very provacative title -- "Why SCREENWRITERS may be responsible for the global EXTINCTION of SCREENWRITING as an art form…" 
You can find Stuart's ORIGINAL POST HERE 

My response to Stuart's Post

I think there’s some valuable advice in Jacob Stuart’s original post. 
Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of problems. 

A big problem is the apocalyptic-like title he employs for his post. 
On the one level he probably intended, he has succeeded -- people have made comments. And I'm now posting my reaction to a blog that lured me in with a provocative title.
Unfortunately, after digesting the content of his post, there is no level the title of his post truthfully resonates except as an exploitative tease. Just to cite one counter fact -- Screenplays are also teleplays, and the quality of TV writing/production has never been better. Therefore, the idea that screenwriting as an art form is on the endangered species list is wrong, total hype. 
If the intention by Stuart was to have the rest of his post taken seriously, his title doesn’t help his cause. 
But I'm now setting aside the ridiculous, over-the-top title because I did take the content of his post seriously. 
And I found even more problems with the content of what Stuart writes. 

I begin with something he is right about, but its a concept he never actually writes about, only infers in his post.
It is the perception amongst a lot of (non-professional) screenwriters who believe their lack of a breakthrough/and/or/success has much to do with “access.” Or to be more accurate, the lack of access to the entertainment industry and how it generally does business (in the United States) to this present day. 

What Stuart writes about in his post can be summarized as the frustration he feels (and apparently a lot of his producer contacts share his frustration) with non-professional screenwriters who don’t have access to the status quo in the entertainment industry, but won’t do what it takes to get that access. Stuart infers that access to people who work in the industry (which he is offering through posting adverts by producers, which he features on his online service, Screenwriting Staffing) is being squandered by non-professional screenwriters who are normally denied access to the status quo. Stuart goes on to infer that the “Access,” he provides is something the average, undiscovered screenwriter has not had previously, but does now have (through his services/and other similar connection opportunities via the internet) and should be taken seriously by would be non-professional writers looking to get a break and expose themselves to industry professonals.

So, as far as what I’ve outlined above, I agree with a few of the issues he raises, including this specific one (which, again he doesn’t actually write about, but I believe he implies)  -- there are tradeoffs in return for the potential “access,” or opportunity to contact industry professionals. And this opportunity is newly available to the undiscovered screenwriter.

Access to whom? Stuart believes those who submit the adverts he features on his site, and also the producers he quotes in his post are industry professionals -- Film/Tv/Media Producers… or Film/Tv/Media Production companies… or some variation of the former and latter. He believes those he is helping in the search for scripts/IP properties/written material are reputable and industry professionals.

In reference to the above, what I write is an indirect response because I simply cannot say if what Stuart implies is 100% true, or partially true. But here’s my indirect response --  there have been writers that have applied to the adverts featured on Stuart’s site that have found a place on the map – meaning they’ve found a place on the entertainment industry map, and are working in some capacity with professional filmmakers in some way.  
And I believe this is great. In general (there will always be exceptions), anyone who was once an unknown screenwriter that is able to land on the entertainment industry map in some way, if it comes via an advert that they responded to, a social network outreach that Jacob Stuart is responsible for, then this is a good thing. 
The next question I naturally ask is -- could the landing on the map have occurred in other ways? If the answer comes up as... "No," as I believe might be the case, then one must keep this under consideration, which I ask the reader to now do, at least until you finish reading my entire post.

Back to Stuart: In his original Post, he believes there is a problem, and his post seeks to highlight these problems, but it mostly comes under this general point -- The interaction with the non-professional screenwriters submitting material to industry producers/production companies (via his online adverts) falls very short in meeting the requirements of the producer/production company needs.

But rather than following up his problem with tips about how to succeed, Mr. Stuart, makes other claims, attempting to expand his throughts into something grander, citing a bigger picture with the process he has been able to witness first hand. And’s its when he proceeds on this path in his post which is where he runs into huge problems. 

Here’s the first problematic quote from his post -- 

“Most screenwriters will admit that writing the actual screenplay was the easiest part of the process.”

Stuart's first mistake is his use of the phrase “most screenwriters." 

Earlier in my post, I could have chosen to write "most," but I went for the word, “many,” because that word captures all the screenwriters I dare to speak for. 
In response to Stuart's quote above, I now speak only for myself, (a professional screenwriter, member of the WGA). 
Actually writing a creative, entertaining theatrical/TV screenplay is the hardest part of the writing process.  This is true if you were paid to write it, whether it was produced, and probably more true if what you write ends up getting produced. 
It's not even a close race between first and second place (assuming coming in second is selling the screenplay, which I'm not sure I believe is true). 
And here I go venturing out there, speaking for other writers -- I believe there are many professional screenwriters who would agree with me.

So why does Stuart write such an absurd statement?
The answer could be where Mr. Stuart and I find common ground.
I think he believes his above quote to be true because many screenwriters he comes in contact with (in the daily course of operating in his business) are writers, perhaps some are professional, but I'm presuming, many more are non-professional, many who are having trouble getting a foothold in the entertainment industry. 
And because Stuart's daily contact with these non-professional writers might be much larger than the professional kind, it's reasonable to assume his views on the matter have become skewed. Many who write scripts (and are not paid as professionals) end up with screenplays of very poor quality. Therefore, trying to sell a badly written screenplay is indeed probably the hardest part of what they will do in the screenwriting process. 

Here’s another statement written by Mr. Stuart from his post – “Every time a screenwriter doesn’t follow simple submission instructions, it pushes the producer a little closer to the edge.”

As well as being a professional screenwriter, I’m also a professional film producer with nearly a dozen films to my credit.
And as a producer, I can tell you what producers like me are like --we are always close to the edge (“Edge” being defined with a multitude of possibilities that might apply – the producer is on the edge of the mental spectrum; is close to being over-stressed; Is a person by profession that is Risk embracing; There is a pattern of moral and ethically impaired decisions).

My point is this – being close to the edge would be the norm standard for any industry professional producer (which Stuart is inferring he’s dealing with). So when Stuart insists that there's a serial situation of many unknown screenwriters testing the patience of producers by their haphazard material submissions, and that this behavior needs to be red-flagged because it is responsible for pushing producers in mass to be closer to the edge... I think of a quote from a script written by John Milius, (and I’m paraphrasing here) -- we might as well be giving out speeding tickets at the Indi-500.

Back to Stuart’s original post: "Now, the screenwriters who DO follow instructions, and have exactly what this specific producer is searching for, will NEVER get the opportunity to submit to THIS producer directly via their website – all because of a few knuckleheads."

I sympathize with what Stuarts writes above. 
I’m a first born (but part of a mixed family, which perhaps makes me a rule follower, as well as someone who is equally tempted to break the rules); I’m a producer, and have often operated with the premise that if I put something down in writing, the intended reader should be able to follow through with an understanding of my intentions. But as I’ve learned, its na├»ve to believe this to play out consistently.

And similarly, what Mr. Stuart writes comes off not just as misguided, but wholly inconsistent with what is actually empirically visible every day in the entertainment business  – rule breakers in the industry are rewarded. Those who take risks, and/or ignore what was asked of them, they succeed.
Yes, there are plenty who crash and burn because they break the rules, take risks… and ignore what was asked of them; but its even just as likely that those who failed are the ones who played by the same rules, as if those rules were never going to change; or did what they were told  to do, all the way up to their last order - now fall on your sword.

Stuart writes: “If a producer is seeking a screenwriter to re-write a script, this means the producer already has a script – a script they like. Now all they need is someone to re-write it to fit their personal needs, budget, and cast. They are NOT looking for a new script. All they want is to bring on another writer to compliment their project. Simple. Easy.”

The fact is that there are plenty of projects in active development that have nothing to do with what Stuart describes above. For example, someone optioned the original script/source material not realizing how hard it would be to produce and they need a complete, radical/“page one rewrite.” There are a dozen other very common reasons why a screenwriter would be hired to do a complete reworking on a project. 
Actually, what is less common is what Stuart describes/and infers -- a reputable producer/production company with a greenlight on a project looking for a polish or minor rewrite to proceed forward to production… and seeking someone answering an ad on the internet to perform the job.

Stuart writes: “If I’m wrong, then why on earth would a screenwriter submit a project, or a different genre, that wasn’t requested? I’m still stumped.”

Jacob Stuart is a smart guy.
I’m not smarter than him.
But perhaps I have more experience in this industry and that’s why I was able to come up with the answer --
Because they are desperate.*

Again, my answer comes from experience in this industry.  
My answer is something that ends up being the go to answer to a lot of similar questions about the entertainment industry --

Q: Why did the actor get that horrible face surgery?
A: Because he/she was desperate.

Q: Why did the executive green light that piece of shit movie that cost the studio two hundred million dollars?
A: Because he/she was desperate.

Q: Why didn’t the screenwriter walk away from working on the 5th sequel of that bad B-movie.
A: Because he/she was desperate.

Q: “Why on earth would a screenwriter submit a project, or a different genre, that wasn’t requested?”
A: Probably because the writer was desperate.

That’s what trying to break into this industry will do. Or trying to succeed in this industry will do. It makes you desperate.

Honestly, Mr. Stuart needs to turn his castigating eyes in the direction of the producers who place adverts on the internet looking for screenwriters or scripts. This is not the way it has ever been done before. And I believe there are two reasons this is happening now (and on the rise).

One reason is that the producers who do this… are desperate.

The second reason, is that the ways things are being done regarding the outreach for creative material is changing.

I will now go full circle, and reiterate what I wrote in the beginning of this post. What Mr. Stuart offers in his post is some valuable information -- if you apply for an advert from a producer – Follow the rules of what is requested. Don’t act desperate, because it won’t get you anywhere.
And who knows, you might be answering the ad from a desperate producer whose career is going up in flames.

I go to the trouble to write the above because…
I believe Mr. Stuart, (like RB at Studio 52), are on the forefront of a new shift in the way things will be done in the industry regarding acquiring material for production.
Access has always been an issue, and the Internet has, for a few years now, been the promise of becoming the great equalizer.

I certainly hope this proves to be true, because I’m haunted by this one unshakable, consistent situation that seems to have always been true, not just about Hollywood, but about creativity in general, and the pattern seems to go back hundreds of years  –
The pool of creative talent, capable of professional work in any field of commercial art has always been about the same size... extremely small.
How do we enlarge this pool (if indeed it can be enlarged?).

If people like Stuart succeed, it will only be by truly, deeply understanding how the game was played before they walked into the cage. And what's truly, deeply happening right now.

I'm rooting for them to succeed if their methods end up increasing the quantity of quality art going out to the masses... and more artists are rewarded with Fame... Glory... and at least enough money to get them to the next project.

* Update on 05-13-15 a reader of my blog pointed out to me that in the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER that just came out online (dated May 22, 2015) "the REPORT" headline is  -- TV Upfronts: Who's up, Who's Down, Who's Desperate 
"Desparate" being the word I chose (in the reply to Jacob Stuart) to explain the emotion that best describes those who are on the outside of the entertainment industry... and (per the the Hollywood Reporter Headline) those on the inside as well.



Submitted on 05/13/15 

Reader: Please note that the content of Stuart's post reply has NOT BEEN edited, but has been altered for presentation on this blog. All the Bold faced/ital/red highlights are editorial choices made in an effort to be consistent in style with my original post above. 

After reading your rebuttal post, it's fair to say you have made some very valid points. So let me start with this. Since posting this article last week, I've had 2 "producers", who on the surface, seemed to be very reputable and wanted to post their “needs” with me. Perfect. After back-and-forth e-mails and some misguided phone tag, it occurred to me why nothing was getting done: compensation. Not their compensation, but the compensation for my writers. 
What do my screenwriting members get paid? Is it upfront, or it on the back-end? I’m not here to judge, I just NEED details to share with my writers. So I thought on it, and in some ways you are right, these producers were desperately seeking someone to write their “scripts” without nailing down any type of agreement (probably because they were broke or unprofessional), but here’s the thing, they didn’t make it through… they were vetted and their leads NEVER came to fruition. The 3 examples I use in my article are all very real, reputable industry pro’s. Were they desperate? I guess that depends on your definition of desperation... but they weren’t desperate to break into the industry… they already are in the industry.

I think for the most part, those who are members of my service, understand full-well what I was saying (that’s the overall consensus I’m getting). That’s not to say everyone agrees with me though. But for those who aren’t familiar with my site, think of it as a drive-thru for industry pro’s. These aren’t pro’s who have days, weeks, or months to comb through material. They need something now, for a number of reasons. What many of them have is resources and money. What they DON’T have is time. So if a screenwriter chooses to use my service, it’s in their best interest to send the proper material requested in a timely and efficient manner. Your comment suggests that it’s OK for writers to submit improperly because Hollywood was founded on risk-takers and rule-breakers? I’m not a Hollywood theologian and doubt I could talk “shop” with Hollywood’s elite, but I do know one thing. When it comes to screenwriters, risk-taking to me is about writing content no one wants to “talk about”. Starting a social movement based off of your words. Getting out from behind the computer and going to places where industry pro’s congregate… festivals, mixers, bars/coffee shops… anywhere! These are all very broad and vague, but I hope you get my point. But I think what you said is the mind-set these writers who don’t follow instructions come from. They have been told by professors or by seminar “speakers” to NOT follow the norm. So if society says one thing, do the other! This has now manifested itself in simple screenwriting searches. If a producer provides their full name and e-mail, and asks for a specific request via e-mail only… they still get phone calls! Why? Well, I’ve spoken to these writers, and they all say the same thing: I thought it would make me stick out. They are right, it did! But not the way they were hoping.

My formula to 100 success stories in 2 years is not complicated. The writers with the best material and/or skill-set, who follow instructions, get the job. If a writer doesn’t follow instructions, 9 times our of 10 it’s because they don’t have the right content or skills to even be applying for the job, so they mask it by being “different”... or as you suggested: “breaking the rules”.

It should also be noted that my site isn’t for the screenwriter who “can’t break in”, as you suggested. I have a plethora of writers who are WGA, won prime-time emmys, and have been recognized by the Academy.… I even have wga-accredited agents and managers who use my services for their screenwriters. My site is not for the screenwriter who wants to “break in”. It’s also not where a screenwriter should “end” his/her destination. It should only be used as a resource in their never-ending journey to screenwriting success. That’s why it was created. It’s there for the screenwriter who can’t spend hours upon hours searching for leads during the day. It’s for the screenwriter who’s working on an assignment at this VERY moment, but is worried about finding their next paid opportunity when “this” job ends. It’s also for the screenwriter who doesn't have representation (or their representation lacks contacts), and needs a friendly and productive place to begin. But most importantly, it’s just another place, regardless of how much success the screenwriter has had, where a screenwriter can try to find a home for their script.

I could talk for hours on this subject. So let me try to wrap this up ;) 
Producer’s should expect getting inappropriate submissions when submitting their info and requests online. That’s a given and risk they are taking. So for the most part, I don’t sympathize with them. But here’s who I DO sympathize for: the screenwriter following instructions. Because when writers become “risk-takers” and “break rules”, showing up on door steps, making phone calls to the producer’s cell, or submitting polar-opposite material that wasn't requested, the producer then suspends the search (all of these things have happened). That producer then spreads the word to other producers, meaning these “other” producers won’t submit with us. I want to give my screenwriting members the BEST opportunities available (at least within my reach). Having ONE screenwriter ruin that IS and WILL always be infuriating to me. And it’s not something I will ever apologize for. I’m not angry because it’s hurting my “business”... there will always be “new” leads. No, I’m angry because I’m a screenwriter myself. And I take my craft serious, and I would expect that my fellow writers do as well.

A FINAL THOUGHT. The original article (or rant) was designed to shed light on a very isolated way of submitting. There are a million and one ways to get your screenplay “produced”. There are volumes of literature that explain in detail the tricks to selling a screenplay. And just like in any line of work, a screenwriter MUST stand out of the crowd (and so should their screenplay). But when it comes to submitting scripts online through script searches, whether it’s through my site or a similar site, the producer is ONLY seeking a “breaking the rules” style of screenplay, NOT a screenwriter “breaking the rules”. The producer is using this platform and approach because it’s organized, safe, and quick. So when a screenwriter doesn't follow basic instructions, making the submission process more complicated, my platform (and similar sites) loses its original purpose. Do producers always follow instructions? No way! And that’s why, for the most part, their “request” never makes it in our system. But if a request does get approved, it’s because the producer followed our instructions, and in all fairness, they expect (and so do I)  the writer to do the same.

Jacob N. Stuart 

Founder, Screenwriting Staffing

Thursday, May 7, 2015



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For readers who want to enjoy a great story...

And keep coming back to read more of the book as we...


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Friday, May 1, 2015


I’m excited about a recent development for this blog – I’ve worked out a deal with the brilliant film critic Doug Pratt to feature one of his reviews from his insightful and thought provoking monthly newsletters.

Amongst the more than three dozen Home Video releases Pratt features in his May/2015 Newsletter, he writes about Tim Burton’s latest, “Big Eyes” (The film is still very enjoyable as history and as a succinct look at the dichotomies of popular art, but running 105 minutes, by its end you feel like it has given you more of an overview of what happened to the characters than a real understanding of why it happened) and “Prometheus,” Ridley Scott’s recent return to SF/”Alien” territory. Pratt doesn’t like the movie (the effects rarely add to the film’s thrills, such as they are… and are certainly not enough to rescue the obnoxious movie as a whole), which is consistent with many who saw the film and shared his oppinion,
especially SF/”Alien” hardcore fans. Personally, I found a lot in “Prometheus” that I really liked, but want to see the movie again, which is what I strongly suggest people do a few years from now, because I think only then will the accomplishments of the movie be fully appreciated.

But on this blog I share with you Mr. Pratt’s thoughts on a movie which depicts the major dramatic beats of an artist’s life, while sublimely capturing the essence of the painter’s work, and how he was able to  achieve such a high creative level of artistic achievement. I admit a bias in choosing this particular Pratt review -- I love the work of J.M.W. Turner. If I was to have a private gallery showing of the two artists that I admire the most, I would be showing off the work of John Singer Sargent… and J.M.W. Turner.

EXCERPT From  May 2015 Issue
Doug Pratt

One of the most sublime and satisfying films of 2014, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner explores everything from the social mores of the early Nineteenth Century to the ennui of aging, through a biographical portrait of the English painter, J.M.W. Turner. 
It is a film that must be seen on Blu-ray, and the outstanding Sony Pictures Classics release (UPC#043396445673, $35) rises to the occasion. Letterboxed with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1, the colors are consistently precise and the image is constantly intoxicating. The DTS sound is also highly satisfying and best amplified to a maximum level. The environmental sounds and Gary Yershon’s striking musical score complete the transportation of the viewer to the film’s world. 

Timothy Spall, heretofore consigned to playing Charles Dickens and Harry Potter villains, lands the role of a lifetime as the title character, often harrumphing his way through conversations or personal reflections instead of using actual words, although you know precisely what he means in
every instance. 
Running 150 minutes, the film begins at the height of Turner’s success and follows him until his death, through his refined but still bickering interactions with his fellow artists, his incredible relationship with his father, who worked quite happily as his servant until age took its toll, his uncomfortable but practiced obsequiousness with his patrons, and even a romance, which brings a surprising amount of cheer to what had otherwise seemed to be a diminishing emotional life.

The cinematography, of course, is influenced by classical paintings, not only Turner’s works, with which it sometimes magically merges, but with Dutch paintings of middle class interiors lit only by candles and weak oil lamps, and other inspirations.  What the film strives for, in addition to exploring Turner’s psyche as a person and a painter, is to create as rich a sense as it can achieve in looking at what day-to-day living was like, what conversations were like, what meals were like and what the world was like at the dawn of the Industrial Age.

It was the invention of the camera, which gets some nice dramatic space in the film, that propelled painting into Impressionism. Turner was ahead of that curve, and is that way at the start of the film, but while the movie cannot answer why or how he developed that style—gloriously hazy visions of land and seascapes—it does portray his compulsion to sustain that vision, in essence his reflection upon the desire to hold onto a spiritual nirvana as the world became more frighteningly ordered.
There is an audio track that describes the action (“Billy strolls across an expanse of sunlit grass.  The leather satchel hangs from his shoul­der.  Using his umbrella as a cane, he heads towards a lush hill, topped by a small stone building.  In single file, dark brown horses with shaggy manes follow after the painter.”).

French, Spanish and Portuguese audio tracks, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles, a trailer, a lovely minute-long deleted scene that could easily have been left in the film, and two very good promotional featurettes, running a total of 49 minutes, looking not only at how the outstanding production design and cinematography were achieved, but identifying the other painters who appear in the film as characters and providing details of what their work looked like. 

 Leigh also supplies a commentary track for the film, which is supported by English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitling.  He elaborates further upon the material covered in the featurettes, and also delineates the historical foundation for each sequence and how he worked with the cast and the crew.  The talk would be sufficiently worthwhile for the reflections it offers on Turner alone, but to also include Leigh’s insights on his filmmaking process makes it all the more valuable.

The above review by Mr. Pratt from his newsletter was included in its entirety. If you are a Blu-ray and DVD fan you can see that Doug Pratt has your back with the specs on each home video release (I mention this because the previous blog excerpt on Pratt’s review of “Game of Thrones – Season 5” did not include the Home Video Disc Specs). For a collector of Movies/TV Series/Media on DVD-Blu-Ray, Pratt’s Newsletter has been my bible for years.

Once again -- I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the thoughts of Doug Pratt as a regular part of this blog!