July 16, 2011

Hello, fair gentle people of the keyboard. Time for more learning - some much-needed roughage for your grey matter. There's still heaps to catch up on, so consider me you ghost of Scripchats past.

No faffing about today, let's get straight to the gooey centre. Yes, that is Australian spelling. You'll cope.

TV WRITER CHAT Sunday 26th June

Because I don't write down everything that's said in the chats, just the bits that stand out and aren't easily found in the 4 million screenwriting books out there, I only have two notes from this chat:
* ABC FAMILY's demographic is 12 - 34-years-old. They are currently desperate for fresh ideas.
* Try out the Write or Die app.

THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS on #Scriptchat Sunday 10th July Guest: Zac Sanford, development executive and screenwriter

* During the development process, the Prodco (production company) and their development team are in the mix.
* As talent gets attached, most directors and bigger actors will want to put their thoughts in.
* The development process can mean one draft or it can mean MANY drafts.
* Each Prodco will have a different way of doing things.
* No matter how perfect you make your script, it will need to go through development.
* An option = a ticking clock. Development starts immediately after an option is purchased. Even with a new writer.
* Some Prodcos will give a writer development notes before optioning to see if the writer can take notes,
* A Prodco may give up on a writer who isn't a team player.
* As the writer, you may get very broad notes, or very detailed notes.
* There's a difference between a script being ready to submit, and ready to shoot - this is what development exists for.
* The more detailed the notes, the closer you are to being finished.
* Options can run 6 - 18 months for first option period, then typically two extension periods after that.
* As a non-produced writer, don't expect more than $100 for an option.
* The more open and collaborative a writer is, the faster and smoother development goes.
* A Prodco will either option or purchase your script. A purchase is better, but options are more common.
* The goal of development is: make the best script possible for the intended budget/audience.* Avoid Amazon Studios!!
* Once development starts, the writer is more like a partner than an order-taker.
* If a note has something missing/isn't clicking, dig into it. Find out what it's really about.
* Try not to ignore a note - give the Prodco a strong reason why it won't work.
* A newbie writer should only pitch finished scripts. A produced writer can pitch unfinished works.
* You should have 2 - 3 solid scripts before shopping around. Your intended project may not be right for them and they could ask "What else do you have?"
* A good note highlights a problem. A bad note offers the solution. Suggestions, however, can be useful.
* The best notes are often questions.
* Some kinds of notes you may get: 'Act breaks are wrong', 'scenes need punching up', 'main character is bland', 'jokes flat', 'dire straits aren't dire enough', etc.
* The first notes you'll get will be: broad story/character/scene notes.
* With that first broad set of notes, the producers are trying to get the ultimate spine and characters in place.
* These notes can include character changes, act breaks not working, set-ups and pay-offs missing, theme, ending, etc.
* Always have another project going while you're in development!
* You can get written out/replaced by another writer, especially if the script was purchased instead of optioned.
* Don't tailor a role to an actor unless the Prodco has a relationship with that actor.
* Usually, the producer will give you notes, then you'll meet up a week or two later.
* It can help to do a step outline/treatment between drafts if the changes are big (this is for you, not for anyone else).
* To learn the importance of development, be part of an indie short film. You'll learn a lot.
* A brain tumour the size of an acorn = not funny. A brain tumour the size of a beachball? Funny.
* Reading recommendation: Story Notes From Hell (blog).

And that's just the Scriptchat for Sunday 10th July! In a couple days I'll add the notes from the TV Writer Chat from that day, starring Mike Alber, and he gives some unbeatable advice about getting into the world of writing television.

Until then, here's something to think about: in the script you're working on now, what would happen if you changed the gender of your protagonist? Would the story still be roughly the same, or would everything need to change? Have you picked the right sex for your character? Maybe play around and see how they'd be as the other.

Screenwriters Anonymous - the support group that recommends failure as a stepping stone to success.

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