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Ian’s L.A. Diary, Tuesday March 3rd 2020 – meeting Impossible Dream Entertainment

Ian’s L.A. Diary, Tuesday March 3rd 2020 – meeting Impossible Dream Entertainment

To give a picture of how we engage with industry and pitch our winners’ scripts, our Director Ian Kennedy is sharing a week of his L.A. diary with us. He’s got meetings with major producers, organisations and other industry professionals to share with us, plus images from the scene.


So, you know that moment where you’ve done a LOT of preparation for something, but you know that even more could turn out to have been necessary. Do you know all your script storylines inside out? Their focal characters, dynamics, loglines, suggested directors and leads casting? Their USPs and their writers’ credentials? Not easy with a slate as big and varied as ours. And what about the people you’re meeting? Have you seen all their work and press? Not easy when it’s a big company who make a lot of productions and have been doing it for many years.

So, you can do all the preparation you can, and still never feel like it’s quite enough. So you get up early and you practice your pitches some more, because you might need to fall back on one you weren’t expecting to, if they like or don’t like something for reasons your research could never have told you.

And then your meeting starts and everyone’s great with you and you realise that you and your team already got everything important in place by going about things the way you did long before the meeting was confirmed.

So that’s how today’s meetings have felt.

Doing our best over many years to be the best we can and do the most we can for our clients means that there are great people out there with goodwill for us, who help us in return, and the mutual trust we build up means that people you’ve never met who are successful and in demand are still ready and game for you to meet them and chat about what you do, because a mutual friend already vouched for you so they trust you not to waste their time.

Of course you’re also there to help them with their own priorities, they’re not going to indulge you and if you make a false step it’ll still count against you. But if you approach things positively, helpfully, professionally and try to always add value, then everyone can win at the same time.

That’s the backdrop to this morning’s meeting with Impossible Dream Entertainment, where Yvette Yates and Shaun Redick (pictured with me here, among the posters of their triumphant recent productions BLACKKKLANSMAN and GET OUT) and we spent an hour finding synergies between their slate and what we do at WriteMovies and TalentScout International Management, discussing our projects and theirs, and where we and they could potentially add the most value for each other.

I want all writers who submit to WriteMovies to know that we not only have the means to, but we actually promise to, put our winners’ scripts to producers who can make these scripts happen, and to do everything we can to make your script and pitch ready to get the result you’re looking for, when that happens. Sure, nothing happens instantly – I believe it takes a lifetime’s work to be an overnight success – but if you succeed with us, you will get exposure to successful industry producers who really are looking seriously at your pitch.

And who knows, I might have even better news for you soon. Thanks hugely to Yvette, Shaun, and Kathryn Nawrocki for vouching for us to them, and our founder Alex Ross for making this business and still putting us into the right conversations with the right mix of enthusiasm, readiness and wariness. It’s a challenge we relish and enjoy every day. Thanks also to everyone who entrusts us with their script so that, if we believe we can take it forward, we get to pursue that with everything we can.

Another string to this bow is my goal of growing our LA team this week to increase our presence on the ground here. Adding another seasoned head who knows how to get things done around here is never a bad idea in a business like ours. So I also really enjoyed today meeting another producer with a track record of getting things done, who’d expressed an interest in that. We’ve all got war stories from the ups and downs of our line of work. It’s great to grow our network with people who’ve made things happen, and if we can find that synergy and start making things happen together, then everyone can win. That’s how I like to do business, and the more contexts I do business in, the more I recognize that it’s really all about people finding the people they most want to work with to achieve their goals.

A final word about today goes to my Uber driver as I left the first meeting, who had just come from auditioning for Nickelodeon where he said his audition got a standing ovation. He told me he and his brother had already made a successful indie movie and were underway with another that has a strong social conscience and some powerful substance. Sure, that was just talk and anybody here can be full of it, but he was great company and I’d like to think he’ll go places (that don’t need him to keep an Uber job). We exchanged contact details because hey, who knows where the next great opportunity is coming from.

Here’s to making people’s dreams happen.

Ian’s L.A. diary, March 2nd 2020 – preparing for a big pitching opportunity and growing the WriteMovies team

Ian’s L.A. diary, March 2nd 2020 – preparing for a big pitching opportunity and growing the WriteMovies team

To give a picture of how we engage with industry and pitch our winners’ scripts, our Director Ian Kennedy is sharing a week of his L.A. diary with us. He’s got meetings with major producers, organisations and other industry professionals to share with us, plus images from the scene.


MONDAY

Ian Kennedy and Kathryn Nawrocki

With Kathryn Nawrocki at the historic Culver Hotel

A lovely warmer to our week began over the weekend with a meal at the historic Culver Hotel (lots of fun industry connections, especially from THE WIZARD OF OZ, Charlie Chaplin and John Wayne) with Kathryn Nawrocki, a former WriteMovies winner who has been a great support for us over the years. As well as setting us up for a meeting with producers of acclaimed recent hits, she gave some really thoughtful contributions to our slate of scripts and how we’re currently presenting them. Huge thanks to her for her kindness, connections and positivity!

The start of the week is a great chance to check in on upcoming meetings, firm up the details and logistics, and rearrange any that need it – people are busy here so confirmed meetings often still get reshuffled! Amazing how much time that can take up when you’ve got a lot of other appointments and locations to juggle with, but it’s the info you need first so you can know your schedule and what else is going to be possible. Learning to keep communications brief and clear is key, and it’s what everyone expects from you as well.

Next up, a check on where we’re at with our planning and preparations. First bit of that is reaffirming our goals for the week, our priorities and focus. It’s way too easy to be a head-down worker, get straight into the little jobs that are ongoing or waiting in your inbox, and lose the bigger picture. For me, this week is about affirming an ongoing presence here in L.A. that is highly visible to the industry and to achieve the kind of conversations that will lead to our scripts getting optioned and produced. To make that happen, it goes without saying we should go into all meetings prepared and crystal clear about the people we’re meeting and their work, us and our relevant scripts, and what we’re looking to achieve.

It’s easy to only look at things in terms of yourself and what you’re trying to achieve – but nearly always, it’s only by helping someone else achieve what they’re trying to, that you’ll achieve a deal that works. So you have to get a feel for the slate, priorities and values of the people you’re talking to, and use your human intelligence and networks to get the info you need. Of course, we’ve been pooling our team knowledge and colleagues and networks to do just that for a long time before any of this week’s meetings were confirmed.

So while I’m doing the above I’m liaising with our team to firm up the sharpest, clearest pitches possible as we confirm the most suitable of our scripts for the upcoming meetings. Every new thought or bit of research can change our approach to this and the reference points that will be the best to use, so this kind of thing I like to manage as an ongoing conversation, keeping a short summary of the things I need to memorize in an accessible location as I do.

Standard Hotel

Many Hollywood hotels have varied spaces that can be great for meetings, like The Standard’s pool area here. The lobby and restaurant there both have good spaces to bring people as well – we were one of several industry meetings taking place casually in those spaces today.

We’ve been given huge amounts of great tips and insights over the years so it’s important to process that into easy-to-access summaries and checklists too. So easy to miss the one crucial thing that could make or break an opportunity. For example: “So what’s your ‘big trailer moment’ in this story?”

Meanwhile, a top priority early this week is interviewing candidates to be a new voice on the ground in LA for us. Today that process started very promisingly. Quietly optimistic that we can get someone with the right skills and credentials in place by the end of this week – watch this space!

 

IN TUESDAY’S L.A. DIARY…

Find out how Ian gets on in his next meeting with acclaimed producers, and further interviews to join the WriteMovies team!

Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest – One Week Extension!

Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest – One Week Extension!

Parting is such sweet sorrow… and we can’t bear to say goodbye to our Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest just yet. So as a result, we’ve decided to give this contest a one week extension!

You’ve now got until Sunday March 8th to submit, giving yourself a chance to win great prizes from us here at WriteMovies – not to mention the prestige of becoming one of our winners!

We’ve talked enough about what the contest prizes are in our newsletters and articles – but if you need a reminder, there’s $2000 up for grabs for our Grand Prize winner, plus a year of free script development and guaranteed pitching to industry for our top three scripts!

Our Director, Ian Kennedy, will be sharing some of his Hollywood/LA diary with us over the next few weeks, with news of meetings at major studios and with elite producers, giving you insight into what goes on behind the scenes at WriteMovies. Make sure you don’t miss out, so you know how we present our winners to industry.

And in the meantime, put yourself in the best possible position by entering our contest! The window of opportunity is still open… for the moment. Click here to submit by Sunday March 8th for your chance to win the WriteMovies Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest!

Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest – One Week Extension!

Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest – One Week to Go!

Have you entered the WriteMovies Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest yet? If not, you’d better move fast – there’s just one week to go until the final deadline, which is coming up this Sunday 1st March!

It’s always easy to miss a deadline, especially when you want your script to be as good as it can get. You get stuck into the editing, polishing every last scene right down to the smallest word – and the next thing you know, you’ve missed your chance. The deadline has passed!

That’s why we always make sure to let you know when one is coming up. The Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest has been a great one for us so far, especially with the inclusion of our latest genre prize – the Romance and Comedy Award 2020 – and we’re eager to see what else you’ve got for us. Make sure you get those scripts in!

With a $2000 Grand Prize on the line, plus free script development, guaranteed pitching to industry, and InkTip prizes for our top three scripts, there’s plenty to be won. We’re already looking forward to working with our next batch of winners. And who knows, one of them could be you…

Click here to visit the main contest page and submit your script to the Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest. Remember, you’ve only got until Sunday March 1st!

Rom-Com Award 2020: Our favorite comedy films

Rom-Com Award 2020: Our favorite comedy films

Last week we celebrated Valentine’s Day with a list of our favorite romance films that all writers should watch – and now, with our Rom-Com Award recently finished, we’re doing the same for comedy!

As with the last list, this isn’t comprehensive and we don’t necessarily think these are the best comedy films. They’re just our favorites, and we think that there’s lots to learn for writers by watching them…


1. MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL
A month ago today we lost a comedy legend with the death of Terry Jones. He and the other members of Monty Python may have produced the most outrage with LIFE OF BRIAN, but they produced the most laughs with their tale about King Arthur and his bumbling knights (both directed and co-written by Jones). MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL might not have a traditional structure – instead resembling a series of sketches – but it’s a great lesson in how to spin surreal situations into jokes. And, you know, how to just be really, really silly.

2. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Wes Anderson’s films might not be for everyone, but if there’s one we could recommend, it’s this one. The winner of four Oscars (and nominated for a further five including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay), this madcap story about murder and a missing painting is packed with a zany kind of energy. Funny but also poignant, it walks the difficult line between comedy and drama by offsetting its quirkiness with a big dose of charm.

3. SHAUN OF THE DEAD
Zombie-horror has often had a sense of humor (just take a look at THE EVIL DEAD), but this offering from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost takes it to another level. There are so many smart moments in here that it’s impossible to list them all out, but at the heart of all the comedy is the most fact that the protagonists have the worst possible response to a zombie apocalypse: to head down the local pub and wait for the whole thing to blow over.

4. GHOSTBUSTERS
First zombies, now ghosts – it turns out that a lot of things that are usually scary can often be funny too! Even 36 years later, GHOSTBUSTERS is still a treat for the eyes with its colorful special effects, and as one of the first films to blend comedy with science-fiction and horror elements, paved the way for other genre-bending films to follow. Plus, who can resist the charm of a film where the final battle is against a giant man made of marshmallow?

5. AIRPLANE!
Who needs a plot when the jokes are this good? AIRPLANE! doesn’t have much in the way of a story, but for anyone looking to learn how to make people laugh, this is the absolute paragon. With nonstop jokes from start to finish, some of them were bound to land – even if we’re not sure if the plane will do the same. Rarely have words been used so effectively in the pursuit of humor!

SPECIAL MENTION: ANYTHING SO BAD IT’S GOOD
Some films are funny for all the right reasons… and some are funny for all the wrong ones. Here’s a shoutout to all the films that went wrong somewhere and made us laugh without meaning to.

So there you have it – our favorite comedy films that we think every writer should watch. Let us know what you think the best comedy films around are – drop us a line on Twitter or Facebook!

Rom-Com Award 2020: Our favorite comedy films

L.A. Industry Pitching tips! An ‘Inside Guide’ for Outsiders – Part 2

To give a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes at WriteMovies and TalentScout International Management, our Director of World Wide Development Ian Kennedy is sharing a week of his Hollywood/LA Diary with us at the start of March.

Expect news of meetings at major studios and with Elite producers, screenwriters and other adventures in Hollywood, plus a string of fresh images of iconic Hollywood locations.

In the meantime, we’ve brought together two of our Elite Mentors and a former WriteMovies winner living in LA to share their L.A. industry pitching tips. Here are our Elite Mentor Bobby Lee Darby’s tips about meeting preparations and pitching tips…


MEETING PREPARATIONS, AND PITCHING TIPS

“Go into each meeting to pitch 1-2 projects in particular. Be passionate and knowledgeable about the people you’re meeting. Be positive – the industry is built on positive people talking B.S. – and avoid saying you didn’t like any movie because there’s a high chance the person you’re meeting knew someone important in it.

“Watch the productions by the people you’re meeting, and massage their egos by complimenting them, and don’t talk about movies that failed. Keep your pitches quite brief and focused on what the project is about, how you see it, and the cast you’d have in mind: 5-6 minutes is enough – show what the big concept is and why is it exciting.

“Strong female roles (and directors even) are a good call, but remember that the Margot Robbies of this world will be booked up for years ahead and very expensive – Kaya Scodelario (CRAWL) is the kind of actor who’s on the rise and sets a good level for producers to have in mind. Knowing your audience is important; CHARLIE’S ANGELS underperformed maybe due to franchise fatigue but in general you tell the same stories as before as long as you’re doing it differently.

“If you’re pitching, say “It’s a [GENRE AND THEME IN A COUPLE OF WORDS, eg ‘survival thriller’] with a [KEY CHARACTER ROLES AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP] who (have to…) [EXPLAIN THE ONGOING SCENARIO, AND THE ARC THAT THEIR RELATIONSHIP GOES ON AS A RESULT].

“Producers really care about the characters in the pitching, so they can envisage the film – though they’re often focused on other things during the script notes stages later. Don’t go in with a high-brow approach or concept, keep everything in layman’s terms: nail the central characters and their relationships and journey fast. Be able to say “On page 25 this happens, that kicks us into Act 2 and really drives the story, at the midpoint they…” etc, and show the big moment of catharsis audiences will get at the end, for example “we have to accept that they are going to die, but then we get a cathartic moment when they discover a way to survive” – it’s a really good word to use explicitly. Producers and executives have all read Save the Cat (often only that!), that’s the shared reference point they use, so know it well.

“Have an understanding of budget going into meetings: under $1m is a good spot, and $5m budgets can be common. There’s no point arguing when producers tell you to cut certain action scenes to reduce the budget, because they’re the people who you need to get your movie made – instead your job is to make their bad ideas into good ones. So always see their point of view, and show it before you present any counter-arguments: “I can see why you’re asking me to put a shark in this movie, but what if it was something about why she’s afraid of going in the water?”

“You have to pick your battles carefully. You should incorporate the big notes you’re given, you can maybe get away with dropping some of the smaller crappy ones by the time of the second meeting. If you succeed in the first meeting, the next step is to provide them with a synopsis or treatment which says what is Act 1, Act 2 etc – they like really detailed treatments of 10-15 pages of snappy short paragraphs and plenty of indicative dialogue, potentially they pass this up the chain for considering budgets at that point (and maybe for getting internal signoffs to take things further).

“Alternatively of course you can give the script if it’s ready and was written on spec already. The WGA go ballistic if they hear that you’ve worked unpaid, and you should avoid doing that, so provide a maximum of one treatment before the option deal is made (you’ll probably have something in good shape already before the first meeting anyway, on spec).

“Meetings do have a low hitrate of leading to options, but you only need one person to like what you’re proposing.”


See Bobby’s other L.A. industry pitching tips – and tips for Europe and the UK – HERE! And find out more about what he can do for you as an Elite Mentor HERE.

Find out more about Alex Ross HERE and about our other Elite Mentors HERE.

And see Part 1 of our L.A. Industry Pitching tips HERE!

Rom-Com Award 2020: Our favorite comedy films

Happy Valentine’s Day! – Our favorite romance films

Valentine’s Day is the day to celebrate all things romantic – including movies! And with our first ever Romance and Comedy Award closing just last week, this seemed like the perfect time for us to put together a small list of our favorite romantic films that we think all writers should watch.

The list isn’t intended to be comprehensive, and these aren’t categorically the best the genre has to offer! But they are our favorites, and there are important lessons for writers to learn from all of them this Valentine’s Day…


1. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO
David Lean was on a roll by the time he came to make DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, having just made BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA – and it shows. The bleak wastes of Russia make for a beautiful backdrop, but center stage is a sweeping love story that carries us through the brutality of the country’s political turmoil of the early 20th century. This film is the very definition of the term “epic”. At over three hours long, it shows that if you make the human elements of your story strong enough, it’s still enough to keep an audience engaged for however long.

2. ROMEO + JULIET
There was no way we could compile this list without mentioning the original pair of star-crossed lovers – it was just a question of which version! Special mention goes to the 1968 version, but it’s Baz Luhrmann’s modern re-imagining which gets our vote. The beginning of the film is too hectic, but once the lovers meet it becomes a sumptuous, tragic tale full of stolen moments and forbidden love.The original script was written by some guy called Shakespeare, who seems to have been pretty good at his job: he fills the story with passion, jokes, despair, tragedy and revenge all in one go.

3. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Memories of a failed romance can be painful – and that’s why Joel and Clementine choose to have theirs erased in Charlie Kaufman’s Oscar-winning script. Like much of Kaufman’s work, it’s a mind-bending concept (literally, in this case), but it’s also a touching exploration of love, loss, and the nature of heartache. Jim Carrey turns in a surprisingly subtle and understated performance that suits him, while Kate Winslet picked up her fourth Oscar nomination for hers, but ultimately it’s the script that powers this beautifully poignant film.

4. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
The first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is either a film about Stockholm Syndrome or how true love looks beyond mere appearances – but we choose to believe the latter. With fantastic animation, catchy songs, and a tale as old as time, this is the perfect example of how to tell a fairytale romance. Just don’t get us started on the live-action remake, which turned the Beast into a jerk and featured a bit too much auto-tune.

5. HER
Okay, so here’s a bit of a strange one: a man falls in love with the operating system on his computer – and it falls in love with him in return. Another winner of the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, writer-director Spike Jonze takes his unique premise and weaves a touching story about the nature of human relationships… despite one half of the central relationship not being human. But then, that’s part of the reason why it works. It’s an insightful look into the psychology and emotion of love, demonstrating both its vulnerability and its boundlessness.


SPECIAL MENTION: TITANIC
James Cameron’s epic is the gold standard for a lot of people, even if it’s a bit overwrought in our opinion. Its impact and technical achievements can’t be ignored, though.

SPECIAL MENTION: 4 minutes of UP
The “Married Life” segment of Pixar’s UP brings all but the hardiest to tears, charting the entire marriage of Carl and Ellie without a single word being said. Frankly, we’d have included it in our list if it were a film in its own right, but since it’s just a small part of one, it’ll have to make do with a special mention instead.


So there you have it – our favorite romance films. We don’t claim that they’re the best, but they’re the ones that have touched us the most and we think that all writers can learn something from them!

What are your favorite romance films that you’ll be watching this Valentine’s Day? What would make your list? Let us know by getting in touch on Twitter or Facebook!