Sunday, April 26, 2009

Writers on the Storm 4 Ready for Launch!

Hey, kiddles! It's me, Portia, and I am back for another year here running this crazy party we call Writers on the Storm. WOTS is sponsored by Coverage Ink and Writers Boot Camp, along with 20 other companies!

This year we have out best-ever prize package. We worked hard to bring in a lot of great companies into the mix. As of now we've got over $27,500 cash and prizes, including our 10 grand cash prize to the winner. Plus this year everyone in the top 10 finish in the money, and our top 50 (that would be the semifinalists) all get subscriptions to Moviemaker magazine. And of course, our entry fee is still $40 ($75 for two submissions of the same script) or free if you enter the contest through Coverage Ink.

We launch sometime on 4/27. Not sure exactly when -- basically when our web guy finishes testing all the submission forms and all that techie stuff. Don't worry, we run for three months so y'all have plenty of time to get in!

One more thing. We're ecstatic to bring you this bit of news: Writers on the Storm honorable mention Dale Shuen, writer of the hot comedy spec THE BRYCE LEE STORY, has been generating all sorts of interest with this script. He's been hip-pocketed by a well-known manager, and his script has generated meetings and a bunch of companies interested in him as a writer as a result of his placement in WOTS and our marketing efforts. Kick butt, Dale! For more on our contest winners please visit the WINNERS page at

Let's see what you all got for me!

Lova ya!

Portia Jefferson
Writers on the Storm 4 Coordinator

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


by Jim Cirile

Here's a note we tend to give a lot here at Coverage, Ink: read your script aloud. As writers, we tend to isolate. We toil in our little stalactite-encrusted caves, hearing the screenplay only within our heads. Dialogue may seem fine, nay, even brilliant, on the page. But unless you're in a writing class or a writer's group, you may not ever hear your words spoken aloud.

See, something interesting happens when a screenplay is performed. Suddenly, passages that were fine moments ago may now seem lugubrious or awkward; speeches that looked eloquent and incisive on paper might seem overwrought or expository when spoken. Fortunately, the solutions to these issues are often immediately apparent. Right away you know what cuts to make, what dialogue needs to be finessed. It's a fantastic development tool.

Enter A new service founded by Lorena David, Mark Roberts, Mark David and Michael Lawrence, will actually perform your screenplay for you. Such a brilliantly obvious idea, I can't believe no one had thought of this before. We chatted with cofounder Mark Roberts and got the lowdown on what they do. Check 'em out at


Jim Cirile: I love that you guys ('s partners) have 8 first names--Lorena David, Mark Roberts, Mark David and Michael Lawrence. Tell us about how and when you guys came to found Whose idea was it?

Mark Roberts: Lorena came up with the idea of recording scenes and listening to them for analysis. She would hand me recorded scenes for my drive home. It was a great way to make use of my drive time. I would listen, get home, and send notes based on the recording. It was the best set of notes I have given and it immediately made the project better. A little over a year ago we decided to raise a little money and launch

JC: Can you give us an idea exactly how works?

MR: uses real, professional readers along with picky sound editors to create your iScript quickly and with the highest quality (as high as an audio book). You go to our site, place your order, tell us any specific directions and then upload a file of your script. After we make your iScript, we send you an e-mail with the link and instructions of how to download your iScript. You can then put it on your mp3 player, burn a CD or send other people the recording through your download page.

JC: Very cool. I'm always telling people it's amazing how dialogue that looks fine on the page may sound awkward or unnatural when read aloud.

MR: Analysis is one way is a very useful tool. It's a great way to examine the pacing, dialogue and characters in your script. Not all writers have the time to set up a table read for themselves. clients don't like to waste time. They order their iScript and in two days are listening and getting right back to work. When you hear your writing read back to you by a professional reader, you instantly know if your dialogue is working or not.

There are a lot of writers that are so happy with the iScript of their screenplay that they send it out with the PDF and give people the option of reading or listening.

JC: Who are the performers? You have the option of selecting one or more voices, right? MR: One thing we realized early on is not just anyone can be an iScript reader. We interviewed and auditioned hundreds to find our readers. The goal of an iScript reader is to make every character and conversation sound as natural and real as possible. gives you the option of having one reader or two. It's up to the writer. A two-reader iScript is great because you can get a female and male reader so each gender is represented.

JC: Okay, what do you guys do when you get to a section where the dialogue is especially clunky or full of typos--just soldier through as best you can? Do you sometimes correct grammar or edit as you perform?

MR: Our readers are instructed to correct any obvious errors and make note of the corrections. We try not to correct too much. So far it has not been an issue. But we also offer proofreading and text editing services, which have mostly been used so far when writers do not use English as their first language.

JC: In my writing group, we read scripts aloud, and I've noticed that the material's reception can be influenced by the performance -- specifically, a poor or clunky performance can wound a good script, and an enthusiastic one can brighten a weak one. Do you guys just go for a flat read, or do you, say, amp it up a bit in action sequences for example?

MR: iScript allows you to give some direction when ordering your script. For example, you can ask for your script to be read flat or you can tell us about the characters; e.g., my main character sounds like Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. Readers don't impersonate other actors but it gives them an idea of how to read a character. Direction from the writer helps a lot. Our goal is to make each script sound as good as it can so writers can use it to analyze and especially help sell their script.

JC: What's the most surprising thing you've had happen since launching iScript?

MR: A producer ordered an iScript of the film he was producing and gave people the option of listening or reading or both. I thought that was a great use of an iScript.

JC: What sort of reactions have you gotten so far? I see a lot of raves on your site, but I imagine there are some people who may be shocked upon hearing their script performed for the first time, right?

MR: We have had nothing but good reviews, but I'm sure you're right there are no doubt lots of writers shocked at hearing their script read for the first time.

JC: Thanks, Mark. Sounds like a cool service!

MR: Hearing is Believing. Ordering an iScript can get you one step closer to selling your screenplay and ultimately having it made. You are giving investors, agents and producers the option of reading or listening. That’s powerful.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Interview: WOTS winner John Dummer

“In the summer of 1969, an awkward teen is befriended by a reclusive old fisherman who may just be keeping an interplanetary secret...”

"The Moonbeam Fisherman” enchanted our entire team this year. Algonquin, Illinois-based screenwriter John Dummer took home the check for 10 grand… then buckled in for a couple months of solid development. We caught up with John to say, “you rock!,” and also just to introduce him to you guys.

Jim Cirile: Congrats again on winning WOTS, John. Tell us a little bit about your background as a writer.

John Dummer: I've been writing as long as I can remember -- short stories, song lyrics, sketch comedy -- but there's something special about telling a story visually and creating a world. In my head there's this wide screen just begging to be filled, and a bucket of imaginary popcorn already half-empty (damn I love that salty popcorn). I've been fortunate to have some wonderful screenwriting teachers along the way, including the late, great Mimi Roth at USC. Working with you on the rewrite in the last couple months has been a terrific experience. Nobody has ever made me feel better about killing my babies and making that creative leap of faith that will take the script to the next level.

JC: Thanks! Can you tell everyone a little about “The Moonbeam Fisherman"?

JD: It's a nostalgic fish tale about a troubled teen befriended by an old fisherman who may or may not be from another world. It's about dealing with loss, and the human gift for escaping a too-painful reality by fleeing into a fiction. It's also fun, because that's life -- painful, silly, and sublime.

The story was inspired by an experience I had with my mother a few years ago. She was confined to a wheelchair with congestive heart failure, and one day I took her for a walk and entertained her with the story of a half-finished script I was working on. Weeks later, out of the blue, she asked me how the story ended. I smiled and said, "I guess you'll have to wait and see." I was scrambling like mad to put together an ending on the morning she died. “The Moonbeam Fisherman” completes that conversation.

JC: So what's been happening with the script? In addition to WOTS, it was top ten for Slamdance this year also, right?

JD: Yep. Slamdance came first, so exciting was topped by thrilling.

JC: How do you feel about the whole Writers on the Storm experience? Did it meet your expectations? And what we can improve?

JD: I feel like I got paid $10,000 to take a masters class in screenwriting. Actually it's better than that because I received one-on-one mentoring with you. "Draft and a polish" doesn't begin to describe the thoughtful, in-depth guidance. You’re great with story and have a real nose for the market, which is something writers often lose sight of, consigned as we are to whatever lonely cubbyhole in our head we write from.

JC: John, you are a poet in screenwriter’s garb. What's happening with the script now?

JD: Having completed the rewrite, we're just now getting it out to agents, managers and producers. I hear a lot lately about how folks are flocking to the theaters for cinematic comfort food, so maybe our timing is right.

JC: What advice would you give to other writers hoping to be in your shoes this time next year? Anything you'd like to say to your peers, or any shout-outs?

JD: I never seem to be able to let a script go, even after I start sending it out to contests. Because WOTS came a little later in the contest season, it got the benefit of a more polished script. I'm sure every screenwriter is tired of hearing "write the best script possible," but that's the best advice I can give. Again, part of that is getting feedback from others, and being open enough to let them help you see a whole new set of possibilities. And then work very hard to fully integrate those new ideas, because it takes conscious effort to let go of the old stuff even after it's long gone from the page. (Shout-outs? What's the reach of your newsletter? Fire up the moonbeam gizmo and I'll give a shout-out to Millie and Mimi, my two moms.)

JC: Writers need to be careful of possible scams. You've entered a bunch of contests. Any candid views on the whole process -- disappointments, companies who didn't deliver on what was promised?

JD: I've made the semifinals of the Nicholl Fellowships a few times, which was exciting at the time but did not do for me what WOTS and you have done for me, which is to make me a better writer. Winning a contest is a long shot. Selling any given script, even if you win a contest, is a long shot. Money and prizes come and go, trust me. Investing in those things that make you a better writer -- classes, feedback from whatever source, butt-time in the chair, writing, writing, and more writing -- is what will make you a success in the long run.