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Old 02-20-2019, 10:22 PM   #1
Tom Kuhl
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Default "Great Concept" Now What?

I received feedback from two different analysts at WeScreenplay saying my script will be highly marketable with the right changes. One, a writer on Saving Hope for a season, had such a visceral response that her notes included exclamation points and smiley emojis; I've never seen that much excitement for anything I've submitted for coverage before.

I've been down a similar road before with a different script that an analyst liked, but not as much as the WeScreenplay analysts like this script. I spent a lot of $$$ and re-wrote obsessively, chasing a recommend or consider from the analyst that never materialized and ended up shelving that script out of frustration and moving on.

I don't have a lot of money this time and I'm wondering if I should save up and get notes from a consultant on DDP, try my luck on The Black List, or query managers to help with development as "concept is king" and I appear to have a good one.
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Old 02-21-2019, 09:36 AM   #2
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Default Re: "Great Concept" Now What?

SCREENPLAY CONTESTS (Careful, 72% of Them Are Scams. The Best 10 Are…)

Read the section entitled: “72% of SCRIPT CONTESTS SUCK & 28% OF SCRIPT CONTESTS ARE OK-to-GREAT.” Read it to the end. They delve into a discussion of similar services as those for whom you’ve already fallen prey.

Yes, by all means, use any of the DDPro peeps to critique your screenplay. Coverage services listed on the first four ‘Stickies’ under “Sites, Services, Software, & Supplies” provide professional feedback. Their services have passed muster by review of the Omniscient Ones (Talosians) who moderate this site.

Also, regardless of positive feedback or not, keep writing. You can only improve by doing so. So write for writing’s sake, not for the lure and promise of fame or fortune. If and when you write well, good things will come to you, the best of which is the satisfaction that you’ll derive from the knowledge that you have written well.

Last edited by TigerFang : 02-21-2019 at 04:23 PM.
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Old 02-21-2019, 12:30 PM   #3
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Default Re: "Great Concept" Now What?

okay, so my first question is did the writer from Saving Hope give you a recommend? because if she didn't, it smells like bull$hit. a ploy to get to drop more greenbacks.

and honestly, to me, and this is only my opinion, it feels unprofessional that a paid reader is using emojis in a document intended as a professional expression their abilities to dissect a screenplay.

if i received that in a review i paid for, i'd be like wtf?

couple thoughts...

i don't know where you are in your skillset, so take that into consideration. if you are already writing at the pro level, just ignore below.

it takes a lot of work and an understanding that you MUST set your pride, ego and arrogance aside.

yes, if feels amazing to have someone say something positive or even exceptional about your writing, but that isn't what you need to hear. smile for a second. be grateful for the flattery, then set is aside.

your job as a writer is to write well, so just consider the good stuff as "your doing that part of your job well."

what you need to hear, and that means a willingness to LISTEN, is what is inherently wrong with your script ie: structure, story, characterizations, dialogue, descriptions, commerciality...

you need to understand the underlying meaning of critical notes as they are a symptom that something is amiss. and the person giving the note may not always understand what the problem is, so you have to be able to evaluate what it means before you decide whether to take action.

notes can sometimes come from confusion or a lack of CLARITY. so, if someone is confused, they might misinterpret your intentions. you have to be brutally honest with yourself if you want to advance your writing. it can sometimes be a really simple fix.

and sometimes it's not.

what is dangerous? taking a single review and blindly applying their suggestions with a rewrite. not suggesting you've done this, simply offering a caution to anybody listening. you have to determine--

1) what the note means
2) what is the note behind the note?
3) does it make sense to you? do you understand the weakness they are identifying ?
4) do you agree with it?
5) plan your attack to address it if you do agree with it?

do not defend your writing. you've asked someone to give you their opinion (paid or not paid). be gracious. thank them. you don't have to agree with them and you do not have to execute the note.

what you might want/need to do is explain what your intention was to better determine what the note means.

not that it matters, but i've never heard of WeScreenplay.

personally, i use the Black List for my reviews. i will soon have two scripts ready and will try them out again. i know people may have had issues with consistent feedback, so i'll have to see how it's evolved.

the two options agreements that i received (neither did i sign) were both because of the Black List scores.

the Black List notes are terse. they are not designed to address every problem in the script. only major strengths, weaknesses and prospects, that's it. ratings determine how likely they are to recommend the script based on their experience.

the thing is, the industry uses it. so, if you do well on the site, you could get a good hit.

the people on this board that provide evaluating services are well respected.

you want to know what's wrong with your screenplay, so after your ego takes that first hit when you read notes, step back, take a breath and dig your heels in, because you have to learn to take notes, digest them, and address them quickly. this whole business is based on rewriting.

and two final things to remember-- it's one person's opinion. reviews are subjective. based on personal biases, preferences, likes, dislikes, prejudices...
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Old 02-21-2019, 08:21 PM   #4
harbak
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Default Re: "Great Concept" Now What?

Have you had any unpaid peers review the material? That's where I would start. I love to get 4-5 eyes on something and see how many agree on what did, and didn't, work. If I get 3-4 opinions echoing something I pay attention. If they don't LOVE it, it's not worth querying, just rewriting.
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Old 02-23-2019, 01:24 PM   #5
Tom Kuhl
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Default Re: "Great Concept" Now What?

Thanks everyone for the advice.

To give you some background, I've been screenwriting for about 15 years. I was on DDP for a while circa 2005 having written one or two not so good screenplays. Not too long after I went to film school, earning an associate's degree in screenwriting from a community college in my area. While there I wrote my first marketable screenplay. After graduating I continued to re-write that screenplay, assuming it would be what got me "in". I worked with a ScriptShark analyst who was a former studio reader for a while and at one point he believed the script was a few weeks away from selling, but then there was just something wrong that neither of us could identify so I did a stupid thing and went for cheap coverage, buying three sets of notes for something like $60. Two of the coverages were on par with what the ScriptShark analyst had been saying; but the third from a "former TV exec" just ripped the screenplay apart. My confidence shaken, I did another stupid thing and stopped writing.

I forget exactly what caused me to start screenwriting again, but thankfully I did. To give myself structure, I enrolled in ScreenwritingU's ProSeries (I know ScreenwritingU is a bad word to some folks on here; frankly I'm ambivalent about the "school" but that's for a different thread) and wrote a new story. To keep from repeating past mistakes, I searched the forums here and had a few of the vetted consultants, EvilRbt was one, read the new story. The verdict: good, but not great. Because it really wasn't a sellable spec (it was a period piece set in 1890), I put that on the shelf as well and joined ScreenwritingU's Master Class where I wrote my current script, garnering those two positive sets of notes on the concept.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TigerFang View Post
Read the section entitled: “72% of SCRIPT CONTESTS SUCK & 28% OF SCRIPT CONTESTS ARE OK-to-GREAT.” Read it to the end. They delve into a discussion of similar services as those for whom you’ve already fallen prey.
Thanks for sharing. This a great explanation of contests.

I should point out that WeScreenplay's feature contest despite a $75 entrance fee provides an evaluation in exchange for it and offers a $1000 cash grand prize, making it "OK" by Dov's standards. It should also be noted that WeScreenplay uses Coverfly analysts, the same analysts used by #9 and #4 on Dov's list of best script contests.

Quote:
Originally Posted by finalact4 View Post
okay, so my first question is did the writer from Saving Hope give you a recommend? because if she didn't, it smells like bull$hit. a ploy to get to drop more greenbacks.
Could be, she passed.To verify this isn't confirmation bias, I'll at the very least get comments from a vetted reader here. The major drawback from the WeScreenplay coverage I purchased is that although it's from a produced writer, to my knowledge she has no development experience.

I will say her coverage didn't end with a sales pitch to come back for more, just encouragement to keep writing. Also,I had a feeling I knew who she was when I looked at the credits for Saving Hope so took a chance and asked if I could quote her by name when marketing and she said yes without asking for a dime. I honestly feel she loves the concept, the story just isn't there yet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by harbak View Post
Have you had any unpaid peers review the material? That's where I would start. I love to get 4-5 eyes on something and see how many agree on what did, and didn't, work. If I get 3-4 opinions echoing something I pay attention. If they don't LOVE it, it's not worth querying, just rewriting.
I did get coverage from three members of my ScreenwritingU Master Class. One liked it, one would have liked it if it didn't have scenes involving a strip club and one had a visceral response very similar to the WeScreenplay analyst's.

Thanks again to everyone for the advice! I'll post when I hear from a reader with development experience.
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Old 02-23-2019, 11:47 PM   #6
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Default Re: "Great Concept" Now What?

It seems like you're spending a lot of money on learning how to write, when you really should be saving your money and just writing. No set of notes will turn you into a great writer or make your concept salable. You have to be able to do those things yourself.

Beyond that, you're investing these people with way too much power. A failed studio reader (Script Shark pays a lot less than studios) tells you something is good, and you hire three more reviewers. A former tv exec (again, if they're reading for a living, it tells you what you need to know about their career) tells you it's bad, and you give up.

My advice is to find a circle of friends who are screenwriters and pass scripts to each other for notes. I'm sure you could find some people here, or even in the online classes you've paid for.

But even before that... spend more time writing. Watch every great film in the genre you're writing, read the scripts, then tackle your own. Write five more. Then five more. All of that is free and will help you a million times more than throwing money at people on the bottom rung of the industry.

I'm a junkie golfer, and I see this all the time. There are people who throw thousands of dollars at a new swing trainer and new clubs and three day camps with famous pros etc etc etc.. But as Ben Hogan said, "the secret is in the dirt." Meaning, the person who stands out and swings the club ten thousand times will beat someone who throws money and not sweat at the problem.
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Old 02-24-2019, 01:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: "Great Concept" Now What?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
It seems like you're spending a lot of money on learning how to write, when you really should be saving your money and just writing. No set of notes will turn you into a great writer or make your concept salable. You have to be able to do those things yourself.

Beyond that, you're investing these people with way too much power. A failed studio reader (Script Shark pays a lot less than studios) tells you something is good, and you hire three more reviewers. A former tv exec (again, if they're reading for a living, it tells you what you need to know about their career) tells you it's bad, and you give up.

My advice is to find a circle of friends who are screenwriters and pass scripts to each other for notes. I'm sure you could find some people here, or even in the online classes you've paid for.

But even before that... spend more time writing. Watch every great film in the genre you're writing, read the scripts, then tackle your own. Write five more. Then five more. All of that is free and will help you a million times more than throwing money at people on the bottom rung of the industry.

I'm a junkie golfer, and I see this all the time. There are people who throw thousands of dollars at a new swing trainer and new clubs and three day camps with famous pros etc etc etc.. But as Ben Hogan said, "the secret is in the dirt." Meaning, the person who stands out and swings the club ten thousand times will beat someone who throws money and not sweat at the problem.
Tom, this is better advice than ANY you could pay for. Read it ten times, then take it to heart. There's not a single false thing there.
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Old 02-24-2019, 03:16 AM   #8
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Default Re: "Great Concept" Now What?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
It seems like you're spending a lot of money on learning how to write, when you really should be saving your money and just writing. No set of notes will turn you into a great writer or make your concept salable. You have to be able to do those things yourself.

Beyond that, you're investing these people with way too much power. A failed studio reader (Script Shark pays a lot less than studios) tells you something is good, and you hire three more reviewers. A former tv exec (again, if they're reading for a living, it tells you what you need to know about their career) tells you it's bad, and you give up.

My advice is to find a circle of friends who are screenwriters and pass scripts to each other for notes. I'm sure you could find some people here, or even in the online classes you've paid for.

But even before that... spend more time writing. Watch every great film in the genre you're writing, read the scripts, then tackle your own. Write five more. Then five more. All of that is free and will help you a million times more than throwing money at people on the bottom rung of the industry.

I'm a junkie golfer, and I see this all the time. There are people who throw thousands of dollars at a new swing trainer and new clubs and three day camps with famous pros etc etc etc.. But as Ben Hogan said, "the secret is in the dirt." Meaning, the person who stands out and swings the club ten thousand times will beat someone who throws money and not sweat at the problem.
YIKES! Sounds like way too much work. Isn't there someone around who has written easy to follow formulas with oodles of step-by-step rules? (Or maybe we could get more than one, so we can debate, for weeks, whether or not the inciting incident should be on page ten and a half, or on page eleven.)

Yes, that grinding noise is an ax, and this isn't addressed to you, personally, Tom. But holy, hopping crawdads, too many writers squeeze on too tight to way too little. It's sad to see a writer hang on, for dear life, to a script they wrote ten years ago, got some interest at the time, but didn't work out.

You wrote a script some people liked, but nobody bit on it? Good for you. I can practically guarantee that the more scripts you write the shabbier that one will look. After ten or so, it might even look like crap.

Words are free and they don't get p*ssed off when you abuse them. I often put a couple hundred of them together, rearrange them, substitute them, bring in a new one, throw out an old one and switch them back again. And after getting them just the way I want them, I'll decide I don't care for the whole bunch and delete them all.

I fold, spindle and mutilate them. Often I'll invent one and use it in a context that's understood. Words put up with me, because they know, deep down, that I respect them. I put a lot of effort into using the right ones in the right places.

I've been doing it for around fifty-seven years, right after my dad taught me to read and write, when I was five. I've written fiction just about every day since then. I have boxes of things I wrote. To entertain myself I'll sometimes read stuff I wrote when I was a teenager and usually think -- what an idiot. Rarely I'll think -- hey this kid was pretty good.

I consider myself a successful writer. I've never really tried to sell anything, but most of the best things in my life were achieved because I could write. When I was a kid, I won goodies in writing contests. When I was fifteen, I lectured a Montana judge about the law -- he laughed -- but admitted I was right. I met my wife in my early twenties because she read what I wrote, laughed herself sick and wanted to meet me. Well, it didn't take me long drive from Idaho to Nebraska to meet her. We got married in 1981 and she's still beautiful. My brother and I wrote a motion that forced an antagonistic judge to admit a Nebraska law was unconstitutional. I've written technical manuals and user guides, as part of my job(s) for the last thirty years. I've gotten work and got promoted at work because I could write. In my late teens a girl would offer to work for me, if I'd go write something for her. So I'd write stupid stories for two or three hours while she worked. Hey, I got paid to write, after all.

So, I guess it's a little hard for me to understand ten-million rewrites and the constant polishing of a turd, when people don't get too excited about a script. Write a better one. I grew a thick skin early in life -- that comes with doing a lot of writing. "You think it sucks -- he thinks it sucks -- she thinks it sucks -- it must suck -- time to move on to the next one. Thanks for letting me know." (By the way -- after winning or placing high in a few shorts contests, I'm still surprised by what hits and what fails.)

The more you write in screenplay format, the more you think in screenplay format. Not to be too whiny, but we occasionally have our own free script writing contests on this forum and "dpaterso" has to practically beg for entries. Eight freakin' pages maximum length! Usually around a month to write an entry and people can't get their entries done on time? WTF?! It tells me people don't write enough. I'm not claiming they're great, but if I have to, I can write an eight-page script in a little more than an hour. And some of these guys want to write for TV? Good luck with that.

When I do take more time, it's usually to play around with new tricks. Some seem to work, others drop like a lead balloon. The point is -- these "free" screenplay contests are a perfect playground. In my opinion people need to use them, try some things out and loosen up a little bit.

END OF RANT
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Last edited by StoryWriter : 02-24-2019 at 03:32 AM.
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Old 02-24-2019, 12:54 PM   #9
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Default Re: "Great Concept" Now What?

Sorry about that. About once a year my fingers escape and spaz on the keyboard. Bad fingers! Bad BAD fingers!
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Old 02-24-2019, 04:58 PM   #10
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Default Re: "Great Concept" Now What?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Kuhl View Post
I'm wondering if I should save up and get notes from a consultant on DDP, try my luck on The Black List, or query managers to help with development as "concept is king" and I appear to have a good one.
Tom, tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems like your predicament is that according to the feedback that you’ve been receiving, you strongly believe that your concept is a winner, but also because of feedback you believe “the story just isn’t there yet.”

So, you’re contemplating on proceeding with three options and you would like the DD members’ opinions on these options which are the following:

1. Hire one of the DD members who does screenplay consultations.

2. Enter it on The Black List.

3. Query managers to help with development because as you say, “‘concept is king’ and I appear to have a good one.”

Script consultants’ option: There are strong professional readers, but you’ve already been through this option and you also say at this time money is tight, so I suggest not to proceed with this option.

The Black List option: I suggest for a writer to use this route as one of the possibilities for when they’re in the marketing phase. I don’t suggest for a writer to use this site for feedback. The site’s main purpose/intention is to connect writers’ scripts with industry people.

Query managers’ option: Tom, you believe managers will be okay getting a weak/flawed script because “concept is king,” where they would be so thankful in having the opportunity to be attached to this great concept they wouldn’t mind putting in the work to get it at a professional level.

First, “concept is king” of the query letter only. When it comes to sealing the deal (sale, representation, assignments) with industry people, i.e., agents, managers, producers, etc. -- STORY IS KING.

Managers understand there may be some work on a script before sending it out into the marketplace, but they’re not into having to hold a writer’s hand to get a strong screenplay. They expect a writer to deliver time and time again. Sending them a weak/flawed script and expecting them to hold your hand to get it up to a professional level demonstrates to them that you’re not going to be able to deliver.

So, Tom, since I knocked down all your stated options, you must be wondering if I have any suggestions on how you should proceed, and yes, I do.

There are experienced writers who can give as strong notes as professional readers, but you’d have to put in the time and energy to swap reviews. And because of this time and energy expenditure, don’t agree to swap reviews with all comers because the quality of your feedback will diminish if there are too many reviews for you to do. Limit the swap reviews to three, or five max if you have the time and energy.

You may ask for volunteer reviewers but because they’re volunteering their time and energy don’t expect a detailed and thorough review. They may just mention one, or more of the major elements that they’ve found a problem with, which is great, but I suggest to supplement volunteer reviewers with committed swap reviewers in order to “see” the full and true picture of your story.

You’ll rewrite and rewrite until the problems are solved.

If it looks like the problems are not solvable for whatever reason, such as, maybe you’re missing a creative element that at this time you and no one else can pinpoint, your level of craft isn’t there yet, etc., shelf the project and move on to something else.

Jeff Lowell suggested: “Watch every great film in the genre you’re writing, read the scripts, then tackle your own.”

This is sound advice. This is what I do. I study film in the genre I’m writing at that time. It’s not to copy/steal character, dialogue, theme, etc. It’s to study its structure, tone, pacing, etc. To see how it all came together where it was a commercial success.

Also, at times you’ll find scenes, dialogue, etc. that’s exactly the same that’s in your script. I’ve had this happen to me where I had to change things in order to make my script fresh.

If, or when the problems are solved, then you’re ready to market the screenplay. Enter it in one, or more of the top screenwriting competitions, such as, Nicholl, Austin, Page. If you advance, send off query letters with the mention of the advancement. If you didn’t advance, but you have a high concept logline, still send off your query.

Enter it on The Black List. Enter it in Imagine Impact. If there’s a seminar with a studio development executive, or producer who possess credits in the same genre, attend the seminars. Normally these individuals wouldn’t accept queries, but as a courtesy to those individuals who attended the seminar they would agree to accept coded/identity queries.

Meanwhile, while you’re marketing one script, be working on another.

From your posts, you seem to obsess on one script longer than you should: “After graduating I continued to re-write that screenplay, assuming it would be what got me ‘in’”; “I spent a lot of $$$ and re-wrote obsessively, chasing a recommend or consider from the analyst that never materialized…”

It’s important to write scripts. Not only for the practical experienced to make oneself a stronger writer, but also to have a volume of work because you never know which script is going to be that right one at the right time for that right person.
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