Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Lesson in...Screenplays

Okay, right off the bat, what is a screenplay? It's a movie in written form. Everything is different when writing a screenplay versus writing a novel: format, description, narration, action, number of pages. Unlike a novel, where words flow down the pages in paragraph form, a screenplay is tight writing with the dialogue down the center of the page posted under the character speaking. Small scene set ups (descriptions) are written to tell the reader where the action is taking place. In my research, I found out that a minute on the screen equals about one page of text. So, for that two-hour movie, the screenwriter had to come up with a 120-page script. You can find all you need to know on the Internet or in books, except of course for the words. You'll have to come up with those. They even sell screenplays on online auction sites if you'd like to see what a professional one looks like.

Now that you've written that next masterpiece, you know the one where you receive the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, what do you do with it? How does it go from the page to the movie screen? Not that I'm a professional, but I can tell you the path I've followed.

First, you have to draft a pitch. This is comparable to a novel pitch, where you have one page to catch the producer's/agent's/manager's attention. In this pitch you have to contain a lot of information in a short space. For example, the title of your story, what it is comparable to in films, and the meat and potatoes (main character, conflict, the goal of the main character, and how he/she will get to the goal, plus who the story would appeal to (the audience). I've pitched to producers many times. Although most have passed on my story, with some giving me great feedback, others have requested the screenplay -which still hasn't gone anywhere but that just makes me work harder. After the pitch hooks the reader, he or she may instead request a treatment. A treatment is more thorough and contains more information than you can put on one page. Again, you can research on the Internet about treatments.

Why am I telling you this? Because I've written four screenplays (with two in progress), haven't bought the fancy script-writing software that is available since I can type it all out in Word, and have pitched to producers on my own. It all started years ago by watching stupid, boring, lame, (and any other derogatory adjective you want to use) movies. I told my husband, "I can write a better story than that," after watching something so stupid we eventually turned it off and I don't even remember the name of it. Yet, Hollywood continues to roll out lame blockbusters which makes you question the entire process. (Is it really who you know?) Perhaps I'm trying too hard, at least that's what my husband says. But, I believe in my heart one day my story will end up on the screen, probably jumbled into the same category I just ranted about above. Yet, if other idiot writers can do it - so can I because I'm NOT an idiot writer. (Yes, I'm jealous can't you tell.)

To help you better visualize a pitch, I'm including an actual pitch below. This was sent to a Paramount Producer about a month or so ago. For confidentiality, I will not list his name. It's not perfect, but at least I had to courage to send it. Who knows what lights the fire under these people, but you never know until you try. If you were a movie producer, what would you think about this? The format may be lost in copying and pasting, but I think you'll get the idea. Oh, and I'm not worried about someone stealing my idea. We all have ideas. When we convert our ideas to a tangible written form is when it's protected. All of my screenplays have been registered. Research copyright and registration on the Library of Congress website.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

You're Invited

In less than 90 days, the group I belong to - Bayou Writers' Group - will host its annual writing conference. If you've never attended a writing conference, I'd like to invite you to 'A Bridge to Publication' on Sat, Nov 10th, 2012 in Lake Charles. Topics to be discussed include poetry, folk telling, fiction, and presentations by a literary agent and editor. Please visit our website at for registration details.

Everyone is working hard to bring you a wonderful experience. Even if you've never had anything published, you will learn how at our conference. You'll network and meet people. You'll have a chance to buy books, and we even serve lunch on site. It's scheduled from 8:00 am to around 5:00 pm. We even have a free one-page writing contest throughout the day. Check out the website for details about the On The Wall/Best First Page Contest!

So, get ready to have a blast! Don't wait to the last minute, since you can save money by registering early. See one of our ads in every Thursday's Lake Charles American Press Scene Section. More ads will be appearing soon in other publications, but stay updated by visiting our website.

I hope to see you there. The above picture was taken at the Gay Pride Parade of 2011 in New York City. Mama and I were there that day and got caught up in the festivities, but hey that's another story. Just as you never know what you will see in NYC, you never what you can learn at a writing conference. On the same trip, we attended Tony Kushner's play "The Illusion" where we met husband and wife David Margulies and Lois Smith who were cast members. Very sweet people, and Lois Smith appeared with James Dean in East of Eden!

You never know what you'll experience either in New York City or at a writing conference!