Hollywood Catch-22

In the last few weeks I have been sending out queries for my latest screenplay, Stutthof, to managers and producers. Here’s the logline:

A survivor of Stutthof, a Nazi concentration camp, finds himself torn between his family and his past when he discovers that his dying friend, and daughter’s father-in-law, was an SS guard at that very camp.

One of those managers replied thus:

“We cannot accept a script that is not submitted by either an attorney or agent we are familiar with for potential legal reasons. Sorry. We wish you success.”

So, in response I asked this:

“I appreciate that, but I have to ask — and I know this is the ol’ Catch 22 — how do you go about getting a manager/agent if legal departments prevent you from reading scripts?”

His response:

“You try agents first and small agencies where you have a better chance.”

So, being the Pollyanna that I am, I did just that. I sent queries to agents in hopes of garnering representation. Here are some of the responses I received:

1. “sorry, too large a project for our agency.”

2. “Sorry Michael. This is a near impossible sell in this ever downsizing movie market…”

3. “Although we appreciate your interest, we have a firm policy of returning all unsolicited material unread.”


To agents #1 and #2 my response would be: Fine! Okay! You can’t sell it, but can you at least READ the damn thing to see if you might want to represent me and my other projects?

To agency #3: How the hell you going to find new talent if you don’t read their writing samples?


You can’t get representation without representation.

Agents won’t read your script-their policy is to return unsolicited material unread.

Managers won’t read a script if you don’t have an agent, who you can’t get without an agent.

Is there a Secret Handshake or Password? Pssst! Spielberg sent me.

Question: What’s a screenwriter to do?

Answer: Persevere and always

Keep Writing!

What is Conflict?

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I began my writing career turning out short fiction. I quickly published three short stories and thought to myself, “Hey, this writing shit is easy!” NOT!

Fast forward to today.

I still only have three published credits (haven’s submitted anything in, like, forever), but along the way discovered screenwriting. Twelve scripts later, I’m returning to my fiction-writing roots to discover techniques that will enhance my scripts and a great resource for me has been a series of books written by author Holly Lisle (http://hollylisle.com/). It is from her I have learned what conflict truly is and the types of conflict.

Conflict is, simply put, change. And, according to Lisle, there are five (5) different flavors:

• Implied conflict hides critical information from your audience. In her example you have a scene where blood drips through the ceiling and runs down the wall. Somewhere something or someone is bleeding and your audience wants to know who and why.

• Omniscient conflict allows your audience to see important changes take place (the conflict) without knowing who will be affected by the change, or what dominoes the change will knock over.

• Internal conflict forces your character to suffer. Your character wants something and can’t have it, or has something he wants to get rid of, or wants to do something he can’t, shouldn’t, or won’t and… he is tormented by these issues.

• Interpersonal conflict involves your character interacting with at least one other character. Your hero and that other character want things that get in the way of each other’s wants. Think, Protagonist -vs- Antagonist.

• External conflict forces your character to face impersonal, external forces that endanger, frustrate, or impede him, someone close to him, or the world.

Immerse your characters in conflict. Make them suffer. And always,

Keep Writing!

Writing that franchise character

Have an idea for a franchise character?  Ever wonder how to execute that idea?  How to create that series character? 

Me too.  Here’s what I have learned from…

Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series of books:      

You can’t design a series character to be successful.  Let the character be himself and hope for the best.  Don’t worry whether the character will be liked or disliked.

On character development, Child believes his readers are looking for the same character in different situations.  “Series characters don’t even have to age.” 


Barry Eisler, author of the John Rain series of books:

First, you have to remember that when we experience a character in a novel (film), we experience him or her not in isolation, but rather by reference to his or her surroundings.” 

Add backstory that makes your protagonist much “…more real to the reader (the audience).  Real means understandable, and understandable means, possibly, sympathetic.” 

Also, “…explore the character’s inner world.  Open up aspects of your character’s psyche that readers (the audience) can relate to.


So, go ahead, create that franchise. 

Keep Writing!

Going Back To My Roots

Not much has been happening on the writing front. Oh, I have plenty of ideas, two partial scripts and just completed a review/rewrite of my previous twelve screenplays.

Now, like most of you, my one or two faithful readers, I’m certain you have hit the proverbial writing wall yourselves. Some might call it Writer’s Block (but, I don’t believe in writer’s block). For me it turns out to be my method of writing. At my most prolific, I was writing everything out in longhand on yellow legal pads, then transcribing to the computer. Lately, in my not so prolific period, I have been writing directly into Final Draft. What’s the difference you might ask? Well, after careful consideration I have come to the following conclusion:

Writing longhand allows for more creativity, flexibility, and brainstorming. Here’s why.
Writing in longhand on yellow legal pads allows me explore alternatives to dialogue and theme and plot. I can draw arrows between lines to emphasize connections, doodle in the margins, explore characters, plot and theme more thoroughly. Then as I input those hand written words into the computer I can do more editing, revising, etc. Two drafts for the price/work of one.

Writing directly into Final Draft makes my writing appear, well, more final. Once it is in the computer all creativity ceases because I’m on to the next line, the next scene, the next sequence. Blahh!

So starting today, all my writing will be on yellow legal pads, revising as I enter the script into Final Draft, and getting my writing MoJo back where it belongs.

Keep Writing!

TED Talks For Writers

This is a great resource or all writers.  Check out the following videos:

Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story — Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story,” “WALL-E”) shares what he knows about storytelling — starting at the end and working back to the beginning. Contains graphic language.


Rob Legato: The art of creating awe — Rob Legato creates movie effects so good they (sometimes) trump the real thing. In this warm and funny talk, he shares his vision for enhancing reality on-screen in movies like Apollo 13, Titanic and Hugo.


Check out the many other talks.

Learn. Teach. Do.