The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter, December 14 2013
The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter - The Business of Show Institute
This tiny action = BIG results in your screenwriting career!
I know that you've got some big goals as a screenwriter.
And it's my to intention to help you achieve your goals as quickly as possible!
So let me tell you a brief story that reveals a powerful tool for screenwriting success.
This one is from David Bach, author of "Smart Women Finish Rich."
Achieving Your Goals Isn’t Something That Just Happens
In a study done at Harvard University more than 40 years ago, researchers polled the graduating class of 1953 to find out how many students actually had clearly written specific goals and a plan for achieving them.
This being a class of highly intelligent people at one of the world's most renowned universities, you'd expect the answer to be most of them, right?
Not even close.
In fact, only 3 percent of the class had taken the time to write down their goals.
Now here comes the really interesting part.
Some 20 years later, researchers polled this same group of graduates to see how they had fared in life.
It turned out that the 3 percent who had written down their goals had accumulated more wealth than the other 97 percent of their class combined!
Researchers reported that these people also seemed healthier and happier than their classmates.
I was in college when I first heard about this study, and I wondered if achieving your goals could really be that easy.
"Put in writing what you want and focus on it daily"?
Well, it may not be easy, but over the years I definitely have seen it work.
I know that goal-setting is usually a task reserved for the beginning of the year, but what Bach is talking about is more than just getting clear on your goals and writing them down.
That's just the first part of this equation.
The second part of the equation is holding that image in your brain and focusing on it daily.
Why is this important?
Because screenwriting success is a marathon, not a sprint, and there will be good days and there will be bad days.
And when you aren't clear about what you're trying to accomplish (and why) then you'll be acting like every other wannabe screenwriter trying to make it in Hollywood.
Wannabe screenwriters rely on hope and have only a vague notion of what their goals are.
Smart screenwriters know they can't hit an invisible target and write down exactly what they want to accomplish – and by when.
So if you haven't written a brief outline of what you want to accomplish as a screenwriter, go ahead and take some time to do that now.
Once you're done, take a little time every day to review that outline.
Clarity is power.
And I promise you that this simple exercise will help you gain more clarity and help you reach your screenwriting goals faster than you ever thought possible!
The cool thing is, in the “Read My Script” program, after I read your script, I will show you exactly what you have to do to make your screenplay attractive to Hollywood Professionals, to talent, and to the studios.
And if your script is REALLY good, then I’ll even pass it to my personal network of Hollywood Professional friends with my full recommendation!
That’s the power of clarity, and that’s the power of the “Read My Script” program.
The Business of Show Institute Recommends: is the weekly screenwriting product or service that our staff has personally reviewed and feels you would benefit from. This week? Would you like Marvin V. Acuna to read your script? If so, then join the “Read My Script” Program!
What Screenwriting Books Do You Recommend?: is this week's audio from yours truly. In this week's dispatch I cover the screenwriting books that I highly recommend you read!
The Box Office Report: gives you the latest feature film releases as well as the opening weekend projections, so you can be on top of this critical information.
The Cure – Part Five: is this week's article by mc foley. mc is an active writer and regular contributor to this newsletter. The title of her column is "Lessons Learned: One Writer's Journey".
A Legal Perspective for Screenwriters: is our column by entertainment attorney Gordon P. Firemark. To ask your legal questions, email us at
. If your question is chosen, it (and your answer) will appear in an issue of The Screenwriter's Success Newsletter.
All The Things That Are Wrong With Your Screenplay In One Handy Inforgraphic: A professional script-reader read 300 screenplays for five different studios, all the while tracking the many recurring problems. The infographic he made with the collected data offers a glimpse at where screenwriting goes wrong. Joe Berkowitz at Fast Company has the full story.
Best Business Advice for Screenwriters: is dedicated to asking a top executive or successful screenwriter the absolute best advice they could give a screenwriter looking for success. This week’s contributor? Screenwriter of “The Hunger Games,” “Captain Phillips,” and “Color of Night” – Billy Ray!
The Scoggins Report: is our weekly spec market analysis and/or pitch report. Use this column to see what's selling, who's buying what, and what genre you should be writing for. This real-time Hollywood market intelligence is pure gold...
Digging the Well Before You're Thirsty: is our column dedicated to tracking the promotions and movements of Hollywood's Executives. Use this market intelligence wisely...
Rethink Your Title: is this week's article from screenwriting contest judge and author of "39 Ways to Win a Screenwriting Contest & The Nine Mistakes New Writers Make" – Sean Hinchey. The title of his column is "Insights and Screenwriting Wisdom from a Veteran Screenwriting Contest Judge".
That's it for this issue, but we are dedicated to making this newsletter THE resource for aspiring screenwriters.
I've been looking at past BOSI newsletters looking for the article when you recommended a few books. I've found some forgotten tips and articles but I haven't found the one I was looking for. If you don't mind can you recommend a few screenwriting books or material which helped you or find your favorite?
The illness, the one that almost killed me, or almost killed my soul, was also the thing that brought me here. A new home in my city of angels. Heads on stakes. Enemies impaled. All of this revenge surrounding what used to elude me - Power. Until now. One visit to the bird streets and everything changed. They say absolute power corrupts. Absolutely. Yes, it does.
Numb. That's my defensive stance as I look at the email. It's what I expected. It's what I'm used to. I read over a few of the lines again. "...story didn't keep my attention..." "...not sure who the main character is..." "...thank you for your interest..."
I add another dent to my mental armor and move the email to that swollen folder: FUCKERS WHO DIDN'T GET IT. The folder, which used to be named: TOLD ME TO FUCK OFF... until I changed it in an attempt to maintain a more positive outlook.
Off in the distance I hear that murmuring. Oh yes, that's right, my sister is still lecturing me. I hold the phone closer to my ear.
Worry? You should worry... I think as she breathes her nerves into the phone. I just sent a man to his death.
I know he deserved it... I tell myself. But it's... the way he's going to die... it's... it's just... just so...
What? Exactly. So what? I don't feel bad. Not really. Why? How is that possible? Why am I forcing myself? Struggling to make myself feel bad? Why is every inch of my body tingling with that same, saturating sensation... that... pure... golden...
"We haven't seen you in two years, Evan!," my sister says. "Dad isn't the healthiest man on Earth, y'know? And don't you want to MEET your nieces and nephews?!"
Not right now... I think. Not while I'm trying to figure out what this is...
"Of course I do but I told you I'm struggling," I say. "Do you know how expensive it is over here? I'm barely paying rent and you want me to buy a frigging plane ticket?"
"You say that like it's nothing to be embarrassed about," she spits at me. "You're a grown woman and you can't even afford a plane ticket?!"
She snorts into the phone. No doubt, she's shaking her head. Again. Like always. I hate to admit it to myself... sometimes I'm proud they think I'm such a disgrace.
"Why don't you come back. We've got everything you need to start over again."
"Start over and do what? Get knocked up like all the rest of you and squeeze out more babies that the world doesn't need?!"
"—If I went there," I say, "I'd be dead in a year."
"If not from the boredom, then from offing myself."
She's disgusted now. I can hear it in the silence. In her strained breathing. She wants me back. Of course she does. We've always been opposites, but we've also always been close. Closer than siblings who never had to hide each other. Take beatings for each other. Keep patrol for each other whenever that name-in-only-mom made the malevolent rounds, double-fisting like she always did. One butcher knife to threaten and one wooden stick to hit.
"How's Christopher?," I ask.
She exhales now. Holds the catch in her throat.
"He's fine. He's... taking new medicine."
Christopher. Our brother. Our brother, who... if any of these wishes could do me a favor and give somebody something good... I'd give it all back to Christopher. All the ability. The youth. The lean muscle. The working hands. All that life he used to have... before the goddamned rheumatoid arthritis came and took it all away.
I could do something to her... I think. Something to that selfish, life-sucking, poor excuse for a girlfriend. That bullshit-leech who made him spend all his money and time worrying about her instead of taking himself to the doctor... instead of getting the meds that would have stopped the RA from taking root...
And after that happened – what does she do? She up and leaves him. Like the soulless scumbag she is.
I could do something... something really fucking awful... I could give her the same disease...
"You'd be surprised," my sister says. "He's eating all these greens now. He even stopped eating red meat."
"Wow," I say.
It's not fair...
Wet pools spread themselves around my eyes. My voice shakes. My chest hurts. I can't say another word.
"That's huge, right?," she says. "Imagine... Chris, the barbecue master... now he won't even go near that thing. Won't even cook the greens. He says he's going to eat everything raw."
"Raw?!," I balk. "That stupid, fucking RA... it's doing a number on him."
"Evan," she spits at me again. I can imagine her on the other end of the line, pursing her lips and clutching that cross around her neck.
"Frigging. That frigging RA. Okay?," I say. I'm not in the mood to fight about pointless bullshit or her oversensitive ears.
"Yeah," she says. Loosening up. Half-swallowing the word as she says it. "Only thing that'd surprise me more is if your alky butt stopped drinking."
I laugh then. I know she means it, but I also know she's cracking a joke. I know her chest hurts too. Of course it does. Because we had to watch a bright light fade.
"Seriously Evan... I want to see you. We all do. Please."
"Then...," I start. I don't want to agree, but I feel myself giving in. I feel the guilt.
"Then, Nissa... someone else has to buy the ticket. And I can't go for at least a month. I need to give notice at work."
She'd better try to understand... I think. With the most recent cut in pay, even the most basic things are difficult. Just two airport cab rides could break the bank.
"Evan, just buy the ticket. I know you have the money or a credit card somewhere. When you get here, you've got a free place to stay and all the food in our fridge, so you have no excuse."
"I'm NOT fucking around!" I feel like throwing the phone against the wall. "You wanna know where I get my toilet paper, Nissa? From work. I steal that shit from WORK. Okay?!"
"That's ridiculous," she scoffs. "Then use a CREDIT CARD."
"I don't HAVE ONE," I shout. "I filed BANKRUPTCY after the last goddamn pay cut. HAPPY NOW?!"
I said that on purpose. Goddamn. Said it to make her uncomfortable. Just like I'm uncomfortable admitting what a fuck up my finances are. Admitting how my "stupid Hollywood dreams," as they liked to call them, aren't working out.
My neck feels tight. Something inside me is seething. There it is again. That rage. Damn lucky thing she's my sister.
"Your mouth," Nissa tries.
That's it. I'm over this.
"You know what, forget it. You guys wanna see me, fly your goddamn asses over here."
About mc foley:
MC Foley was born in Cebu, Philippines, raised in Virginia and resides in West Hollywood, CA. After winning a poetry slam competition in Oakland, CA, Foley toured as a performance poet, doing shows across the U.S. and overseas. Foley then wrote/acted lead in "The Coconut Masquerade," a play written in verse and produced by Bindlestiff Studio in San Francisco's SOMA district. Segments of "Coconut," were featured in theaters around the country including the national Hip Hop Theater Festival and LA's Greenway Court Theater. Now in LA, MC Foley is an active novelist, screenwriter and weekly e-columnist. Recently Ms. Foley completed work on a debut YA novel, The Ice Hotel. The novel is a fantasy adventure written especially for readers experiencing the profound pain of loss. In the book, a family, reeling from their eldest son's death, escapes to the Ice Hotel, where an age-old, arctic magic connects this world to the next. The Ice Hotel is now available at Amazon. Order your copy here.
The foregoing is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship with Mr. Firemark. This information is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. Neither Mr. Firemark nor The Business of Show Institute will be responsible for readers' detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this column.
About Gordon P. Firemark:
Gordon Firemark is an attorney whose practice is devoted to the representation of artists, writers, producers and directors in the fields of theater, film, television,and music. He is also the publisher of Entertainment Law Update, a newsletter for artists and professionals in the entertainment industries. His practice also covers intellectual property, cyberspace, new media and business/corporate matters for clients in the entertainment industry.
Mr. Firemark serves on the Boards of Governors of The Los Angeles Stage Alliance (the organization responsible for the annual Ovation Awards for excellence in Theater), and The Academy for New Musical Theatre. In the past he has served on the Board of Governors of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, where he served as liason to the Association's Entertainment Law Section (of which he is a former chairman).
Mr. Firemark holds a B.A. in Radio, Television and Film from the University of Oregon, and earned his law degree at Southwestern University School of Law. Before opening The Law Offices of Gordon P. Firemark, Mr. Firemark was a partner with the Business Affairs Group, a boutique entertainment law firm in Los Angeles. He has also worked in the legal and business affairs departments at Hanna Barbera Productions and the MGM/UA Worldwide Television Group, and started his legal career as an associate at Neville L. Johnson & Associates, a West L.A. firm specializing in entertainment litigation.
All The Things That Are Wrong With Your Screenplay In One Handy Inforgraphic
by Joe Berkowitz
If selling a screenplay were easy, all those people crowding coffee shops with their laptops would be millionaires, or at least optioned. It's not easy, though. So many factors that are totally out of the writer's control tend to combine and form a phalanx keeping him or her out of Hollywood. One thing that certainly is up to the writer, however, is whether the screenplay sucks. A new infographic offers some hard-earned insider tips about pitfalls the novice scribe should avoid, in order to refrain from sucking.
An anonymous professional scriptreader read 300 screenplays for five different studios recently, all the while tracking the many recurring problems found along the way. If it's frustrating experience to bang out a screenplay without much experience, just imagine what it's like to read some of these hastily banged-out doozies, one after the other. Eventually, the person doing so organized all the data into a handy infographic that could be read as a diagnostic on where screenwriters go wrong.
Billy Ray – Screenwriter of “The Hunger Games,” “Captain Phillips,” and “Color of Night” - on his best advice for screenwriters:
“From the beginning we were very determined that we didn’t want cardboard bad guys. That’s just not good writing. You always want to dimensionalize your characters whenever possible, whether they’re good guys or bad guys. You always want them to look like full, actualized human beings. Not so much that audiences can sympathize, but so that audiences can understand and maybe recognize a piece of human behavior in those characters and that was very important to me.”
As we hoped, November’s spec market maintained October’s heady pace, notching the second month in a row of 2011/2012-style numbers as you can see from the month-over-month grid below. As we noted last week, last month’s numbers are the highest for a November since 2007, and the combined October/November number rivals 2011’s crazy high total from the same period (28).
Here are our favorite highlights:
Three non-studio buyers got on the board for the first time this year, while 2013 stalwart studio Fox bought its 5th of the year and 2013 laggards Columbia and Warner Bros. bought their 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
UTA's 3 sales in November extended its 1st place lead over 2nd place WME to nine and over 3rd place CAA to twelve. APA had a great month, too, posting its own hat trick.
Big ups to Scott Carr, one of our favorite managers, who sold his first spec under his new management company banner, Management SGC.
November’s raw numbers are below, followed by the usual weekly breakdowns and the details of each sale. Enjoy.
1 Total sales in November
2 Sales percentage of scripts that came out and sold in November
The above percentages reflect just those that came out and sold in November.
Weekly Activity Breakdown
Week of November 4:
8 new specs hit the boards (one on Friday the 1st), none of which have sold
4 additional spec sales were announced:
Blood Ties (11/4)
Bus 757 (11/6)
Line of Duty (11/7)
The Civilian (11/5 - went out 10/23)
Week of November 11:
8 new specs hit the tracking boards, one of which has sold
The Politician (11/14 - went out 11/11)
4 additional spec sales were announced:
From Here To Albion (11/13)
The Unseen (11/11)
Week of November 18:
8 new specs hit the tracking boards, none of which have sold yet
1 additional spec sale was announced:
It’s On (11/21)
Week of November 25 (Thanksgiving):
No specs hit the boards (surprise)
No spec sales were announced (see above)
Spec Sales (alphabetical by title)
Project titles in the report are now linked to the corresponding Spec Scout page, so you can click to see which of the below we’ve covered and scored there.
BLOOD TIES Writer:Steve Hanulik Reps:Unrepped Buyer:Nasser Entertainment Genre: Heist thriller
Attachments: Dennis Lee (“Jesus Henry Christ”) is attached to direct. Brothers Jack and Joseph Nasser (“Recoil”) will produce.
Logline: A disgraced hostage negotiator is called in to resolve a crisis at a bank, only to discover that the hostage-taker is his estranged father.
BUS 757 Writer:Stephen Sepher Reps:Unrepped Buyer:Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films Genre: Action thriller
Attachments: Sepher will produce with Randall Emmett, George Furla and Alexander Tabrizi. Untitled’s Beth Holden-Garland will executive produce with Dan Grodnik and Emmett/Furla’s Brandon Grimes. Tim Sullivan will co-produce.
Logline: A Las Vegas card dealer puts a crew together to rob a bank and hijack a city bus as collateral.
FROM HERE TO ALBION Writers:Rory Haines & Sohrab Noshivani Reps:UTA and Oasis Media Group (Benjamin Rowe)
Buyer:Participant Media Genre: Thriller
Notes:Jonathan King and Erik Andreasen will oversee for Participant. This is the first sale for the neophyte scribes.
Logline: A tragic accident sets a chain of violence in motion in a coastal English town, leading a malevolent stranger to seek revenge on the perpetrators and the detective who covered it up.
IT'S ON Writer:Scott Rothman (“Draft Day”)
Reps:CAA (Bill Zotti, Chris Till) and Kaplan/Perrone (Aaron Kaplan)
Buyer:Gulfstream Pictures Genre: Comedy
Attachments: Gulfstream’s Mike Karz and Bill Bindley will produce.
Notes:Josie Rosen will oversee for Gulfstream.
Logline: Kept under wraps.
LINE OF DUTY Writer:Cory Miller Reps:APA (Adam Perry, Chris Ridenhour) and Luber Roklin (Bryan Brucks)
Buyer:Lotus Entertainment Genre: Thriller
Attachments: Brucks and Matt Luber will produce.
Logline: A police-thriller version of Macbeth: The tragic rise and fall of a heroic NYPD narcotics detective who is pushed to the dark side of police corruption.
NEMESIS Writer:Chris Wheeler Reps:UTA Buyer:Warner Bros. Genre: Action thriller
Attachments:Akiva Goldsman will produce through his Weed Road Pictures with Safehouse Pictures’ Joby Harold and Tory Tunnell and Animal Logic’s Zareh Nalbandian and Jason Lust.
Notes:Craig Rosenberg (“The Quiet Ones,” “Jurassic Park III”) is already rewriting.
Logline: Kept under wraps.
STOLEN Writer:Joe Burke & Kevin Oestenstad Reps:APA (Sheryl Petersen) and Principato Young (Peter Principato)
Buyer:1984 Private Defense Contractors Genre: Horror
Attachments: 1984’s Adi Shankar and Spencer Silna will produce.
Logline: A young city couple’s short trip turns into a rural nightmare when one of them steps out of a quiet local movie theater to answer her phone and never returns.
THE CIVILIAN Writer:Brian Pittman & Rachel Long Reps:UTA (Ramses IsHak) and Management SGC (Scott Carr)
Buyer:Millennium Genre: Action thriller
Attachments: Millennium’s Mark Gill will produce with the customary long list of Millennium executive producers: Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson, John Thompson and Christine Crow.
Notes: Reportedly sold for mid-six figures.
Logline: When an American doctor has his identity stolen, the only way he can clear his name is to assume the dangerous mission of the spy who stole it.
THE POLITICIAN Writers:Matt Bass & Theodore Bressman Reps:WME (Solco Schuit) and PYE (Bressman: Peter Principato) and Circle of Confusion (Bass: Julian Rosenberg)
Buyer:Columbia Genre: Comedy
Attachments:Mark Gordon will produce through his eponymous production company with Grey Point Pictures’ Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and James Weaver.
Notes: Reportedly sold for mid- against high six figures. Writers are proteges of Rogen and Goldberg. Hannah Minghella and Andrea Giannetti will oversee for the studio.
Logline: “Bad Santa” meets “Midnight Run.” A disgraced Governor and his accomplice go on the run from the FBI and US Marshal Service. Along the way, the governor gets kidnapped by a crazy, disgruntled constituent.
THE UNSEEN Writer:John Travis Reps:APA (Steve Fisher, Chris Ridenhour) and Industry (Ava Jamshidi)
Buyer:Fox Genre: Horror
Attachments:Hutch Parker will produce through his eponymous production company.
Notes: Adapted from John Connolly’s short story “Mr. Pettinger’s Daemon.”
Logline: Kept under wraps, but said to have the tone of “The Others.”
THE STRATEGIST Writer:Inon Shampanier Reps:Original Artists (Chris Sablan, Jordan Bayer)
Buyer:Millennium Genre: Thriller
Attachments: Shampanier will also direct. Millenium’s Mark Gill will produce with Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson and John Thompson.
Logline: A chess master CIA recruit is brought in to mastermind the takedown of a dangerous dictator. The adversary is himself a brilliant man with impenetrable security who must be outmaneuvered at every turn.
THE UNSACRED Writer:Amanda Gusack Reps:Paradigm (David Boxerbaum) and Zero Gravity (Eric Williams)
Buyer:Screen Gems Genre: Horror thriller
Attachments: Father/son team Peter and Alan Riche will produce their Riche Productions.
Notes:Scott Strauss is overseeing for Screen Gems.
Logline: Kept under wraps.
UNLEASH THE MULES Writer:Chris Parker (“Heaven is for Real”)
Reps:Gersh (Bayard Maybank, Devra Lieb) and Circle of Confusion (Noah Rosen)
Buyer:Columbia Genre: Drama
Attachments:Joe Roth will produce through his eponymous production company with son Zack Roth and Dennis Stratton.
Notes: Devon Franklin will oversee for the studio.
Logline: A skeptical coach helps a blind high school student win the state wrestling championship.
UNTITLED CANTWELL/ROGERS/KOSINSKI PROJECT Writer:Christopher Cantwell & Christopher Rogers (“The Knoll,” “Halt & Catch Fire”)
Reps:Verve (Aaron Hart, Bill Weinstein) and Management 360 (Darin Friedman, Chris Huvane)
Buyer:MRC Genre: Action thriller
Attachments:Joe Kosinski (“Oblivion”) hatched the idea and is attached to direct. Dylan Clark will produce.
Logline: Kept under wraps.
WHITE RUSH Writer:John Schramm Reps:CAA (Matt Martin) and Energy Entertainment (Brooklyn Weaver)
Buyer:Thunder Road Genre: Action thriller
Attachments: Thunder Road’s Basil Iwanyk will produce.
Logline: Contained action thriller in the vein of “Point Break.”
About The Scoggins Report: The Scoggins Report is a terribly unscientific analysis of the feature film development business based on information assembled from a variety of public and non-public sources. The numbers in the reports are by no means official statistics. Caveat emptor.
Jason Scoggins is a serial entrepreneur and senior entertainment industry executive whose 15+ year career includes stints as a TV literary agent and feature literary manager. His most recent venture, SpecScout.com, which soft launched at the beginning of December 2012, is his second web-based entertainment industry start-up. Previously, he'd founded the film development database company ItsontheGrid.com. In addition to guiding Spec Scout, he continues to provide consulting and management services to his clients.
What do you do when a friend gets promoted or moves to a new position? You congratulate them right?
What else might you do? You might send them a card telling them how excited you are for their new position. Later, you might follow up with that person to see how they're settling in. Then, you might send them an interesting article once in a while.
Why would you do this? Because that's how relationships are nurtured and developed. (They're not developed by asking for favors before the relationship has matured)
So we'd like you to help us in congratulating the following executives who have just been promoted or moved positions.
The Business of Show Institute Congratulates the Following Executives in Their New Positions:
Have you really read through your script to make sure it's ready to be sent out? Before you submit it to your next contest, there are a probably a few things you neglected to check first. However, if you pay attention to the Three Things That Can Keep You From Winning, you just might give your script the polish it needs to win.
While you may have sweated out a rewrite on your recent script, there's one page that you may not have given much thought to. If you haven't captured the essence of what your script is about you may need to Rethink Your Title.
Just as every script has a memorable moment, a good title does wonders for your material. I you take the time to understand these Three Suggestions that can help you shape just the right title for your script, you may increase your chances of winning the next screenwriting contest.
First suggestion, make sure your script is genre specific for the title you've chosen. If you're writing Science Fiction, you can get away with high-tech sounding words, like "Laser", "Portal" or "Space" in the title. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to have a character study script with a title such as, "It Came From Beyond Our Dimension", unless you are going for something campy.
While it's true that most people don't judge a book by its cover, the title has a lot to do with it because it helps the contest judge understand what they are about to read. "Eat, Pray, Love" doesn't sound like an action movie, while "Any Given Sunday" has football as a background, but the story goes beyond the gridiron. A very simple test when struggling with several different titles is to bounce them off different people whose opinion you trust. Ask them what they think your script might be about, just given the title.
The second suggestion is keep your title short. There have been many titles that are simply too verbose. If you have a colon in your title, it's too long. The only movie titles that are worthy of a colon are sequels. Most likely, you won't be entering any sequels into a movie contest; why would you write a sequel before the original?
The title of the original "Star Wars" is actually "A New Hope" and it is chapter four in the series. "Star Wars" just sounds cool. There are the high-concept titles that do a wonderful job of suggesting what excitement may be in store; "Speed", "Die Hard", "Sudden Impact" and "The Hangover". All of the titles are succinct, and specific. One word titles, such as "Inception", "Jaws", "Traffic" and "Vertigo" can be very effective if the right word is found and properly utilized.
The final suggestion is that you should stay away from a specific names of people unless you are doing a biographic or historic piece. For example, political names such as "Churchill", "JFK", "Nixon" and "Capone" work because the subject matter revolves around people that most contest judges have at least heard of.
"Gladiator" works because it sums up a characteristic of a group of people in the ancient world. This also works in the title "The Last Samurai", because the movie is about a dying breed of warriors.
Movies such as "Michael Clayton" have done well despite a title that tells little to nothing about the subject matter. Having an A-List director and actor involved with the project make all of the above suggestions moot.
However, there was a script that I read while judging one contest, that revolved around two men who were constantly involved in petty thefts, while working their way up to a bigger score. The title was the name of the two main characters, something along the lines of "Tim and Bob". As the story progressed, it seemed that if the title somehow incorporated the nickname of Boston, where the story takes place, it would pack more punch. Perhaps "Beantown Bob" or something that at least alludes to the city where the story takes place.
If the contest judge can come up with a more appropriate title for you work, it suggests that the writer doesn't have a solid grasp on their screenplay. While a good title won't necessarily make or break a screenplay, and cleverly worded title can make your script more memorable. Garnering good attention can be the difference between winning a contest or being another semi-finalist in the recycling bin.
Do you find that your ideas languish in your mind without actually taking form on paper? How do you decide which script idea to work on in time for the next screenwriting contest? Follow these Three Simple Steps to figure out Which Script You Should Write Next.
About Sean Hinchey:
Sean Hinchey has been a script consultant for International Creative Management (ICM), Miracle Entertainment, Nash Entertainment, and Viviano Entertainment. He's also read the preliminary drafts of Michael Crichton's best-selling novels, State of Fear and Next and has performed extensive research for the stage plays and screenplays of writer/director Floyd Mutrux (American Hot Wax, Million Dollar Quartet).
Sean's expertise has made him a highly sought after judge for such prestigious screenwriting contests such as: The Big Break Contest, The Miramax Open Door Contest, Artists and Writer's Contest, Energy Contest, Smart Contest and The Chills and Thrills Contest. Throughout his career, Sean has read over two thousand scripts, giving him an insight into what it takes to become the winner of a screenwriting contest.
Three of Sean's screenplays have been optioned and one was a finalist in the Film in Arizona Screenwriting Competition. He won an award for his first non-fiction book, Backpacking Through Divorce.
Drawing from these experiences, he's written a book, 39 Ways to Win a Screenwriting Contest & The Nine Mistakes New Writers Make, set for publication this year.