Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jim Cirile's Rep Report - Now on "Hollywood + Vine"

So okay, the two major screenwriting magazines have left the building. That leaves room for the little guys, the upstarts, the youngbloods. And so it is that we proudly present to you: "Hollywood + Vine." 

This new digital magazine (also available in hard copy) is 40 pages packed with fun and useful info for aspiring creatives in Hollywood. Best of all (ha ha) Hollywood + Vine features a new column by yours truly -- "The Rep Report."  In the tradition of my old Agent's Hot Sheet column for Creative Screenwriting, The Rep Report will bring you interviews with the top literary agents and managers in town and give you the skinny on what the heck it is they're looking for and how to get their attention.

And speaking of the youngbloods, that's exactly what my first column is about. Meet two young, crazy-hard-working assistants from a major agency, both on the agent track. "Assistants? Why should I care?," you ask? Because both of them are on the agent track and are building their client lists as we speak. These are EXACTLY the types of people you want to get in with.

So come aboard this awesome (and free!) magazine. Visit

--Jim C.

AGENT'S HOT SHEET - Know When to Fold 'Em

Comes a time in every writer’s career when throwing in the towel seems like the move. But sometimes hanging in there just a little longer can make all the difference in the world. Just ask Jeff Maguire.

By Jim Cirile

We’ve all been there. You spend months, years maybe, on a piece of material, and it fails to get any traction… just like the last one. And the one before that. Every rejection like another pound on a weight belt dragging the writer down. And it’s not just writers struggling to break in -- happens to established writers, too. Even after you land your first deal, the struggle doesn’t end there, folks. I chatted with our panelists -- and a special guest star -- about how writers handle the vicissitudes of the business and when or if you should call it a day.

The ‘80s were tough for Jeff Maguire (The Gridiron Gang.) While he’d found some early success with Victory (“the Stallone soccer movie which I was completely rewritten on,” he says) and landed a few small sales and rewrites, he was still working odd jobs and plunging further and further into credit card debt. As the legend goes, after 12 years in the trenches, he was about ready to pull the plug. He and his wife were discussing moving back to New Hampshire. Then, on the very day the Department of Water and Power was going to disconnect him for nonpayment, a bidding war broke out over his spec In the Line of Fire, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“That’s all pretty true,” laughs Maguire, who recalls he was finally starting to get some real interest when the ’88 strike hit. “One of the companies that had wanted to hire me went out of business, and another company decided not to develop (my idea.) I ran up credit card debt, and I’d taken out strike loans from the Guild, and that’s what I was burdened with from ’88 through ’91.” Enter producer Jeff Apple (The Recruit,) who had an idea about a Secret Service agent who lost Kennedy and wants to redeem himself. “He thought if I did a good job with it, he could get it set up.” In September of ’91, Apple brought the script to CAA. “They tried to attach their stars -- Robert Redford, Michael Douglas I think was there,” recalls Maguire. “And it kind of wallowed for about six months. (Meanwhile my wife and I) were going deeper and deeper in debt. By March of ’92, I was on a first-name basis with the guys from the credit card companies. They’d be calling, ‘Hey, it’s Mike over at NorWest Capital. Did you ever hear from Robert Redford?’ They knew all the details, because I was telling them, hey, if this sells, I’ll be able to pay you guys, no problem.”

Then a friend slipped In the Line of Fire to UTA agent and cofounder Jeremy Zimmer. “CAA actually got angry,” Maguire says, “because they said, ‘Hey, we were trying to sell this!’ But they wouldn’t return my calls.” Zimmer wisely decided to forgo attachments and simply sent out the spec. “We got the first real offer on April 1st, and then it sold I think on April 3rd. The ironic thing was, CAA had sent it to Ron Howard (Imagine.) Imagine was looking desperately for a vehicle for Tom Cruise. They sat us down and said, instead of going with the character the way he is now, (what about) making him a younger agent? And I said, but then you’d lose the whole Kennedy backstory.” Maguire then had to break the news to his wife he’d turned down a $150,000 deal. “She said she’d rather live in a shack,” he laughs. (Note to Jeff: sounds like a keeper.) Maguire also feared Zimmer would be angry. “He said, ‘A 28-year-old actor? That’s a great idea,’ and I thought, oh, crap,” recalls Maguire. “And then he said, ‘Better yet, how about we make it an 8-year-old agent? We’ll get Macaulay Culkin to play the role. Those assholes.’ And it was the following Wednesday that we got the first concrete bid.” The day In the Line of Fire sold, Maguire’s wife had to sell a blouse he’d given her as a birthday present so they’d have the cash to go out and celebrate.

“Those are those Cinderella stories that you really love,” says UTA agent Julien Thuan. “I have a client who had a very similar story. He had been knocking on the door for years and years, and no one answered. And then one day he wrote a script that really resonated with people in a way the other scripts had not, and it radically changed his life from being somebody who had really struggled to someone very desirable with the ability to make a living as a writer.” It took Thuan’s client a decade. “I think you should always give yourself ten years,” agrees manager Jake Wagner. “Those stories in the trades always sound like an overnight sensation, but when you dig deep, it’s always someone who has been laboring away for years and years.”

Maguire’s story has become iconic and inspirational, something we writers remind ourselves of when the going gets tough. But keeping in mind the odds, and your own skill level, are important too. “If you’re a writer and you’ve sent out queries and never heard anything back,” says Wagner, “or if you have a sample that friends in the industry have slipped to people, and you never heard anything back, and this is not only with your first script, but your second and third and on and on, that speaks for itself. Trust me, people in the industry find the good material. If you’ve been at it for a while and still not a single meeting, I would start to think twice.”

Maguire notes that after he did finally break in, at every meeting, execs would say to him, “Where have you been all this time? How come we’ve never heard of you?” Maguire’s response to them should make us all think:

“I wasn’t that good.”

“Interesting," says Thuan, marveling at Maguire’s humility. “All writers improve if they really work on their craft. The voice remains intact, but they hone the craft as they unlock the secrets of screenwriting. I think an aspect of that is true -- he improved, and then they paid attention." But he also attributes a lot of that to good old fashioned luck. "As a brand-new writer, if you don’t know anybody, you’re lucky to get people to read your material. Each step of the way you improve your chances. Once you find good representation, or once you build a good network, you minimize the luck factor. But at the beginning, a lot of luck’s involved.” Wagner agrees, “Every script you write, you’re going to get better. As a writer trying to get noticed, I would suggest write something, try to get it out there. If you don’t get any bites, move on to the next one. Always be writing something new. The writers that are stuck on that one script that still nobody has noticed, that’s going to be doom and gloom.” 

Still, many of us get burnt out, fed up with the rejection, not to mention lack of income, that accompanies the long, harrowing trek to breaking in -- which, by the way, continues after you break in, too. “It happens sometimes with very talented people,” notes Thuan. “It’s a tough business. There are very few writers who can write something original and have it sell every single time, or sell a pitch every single time. After a while, that can become a bit draining. They might retire or decide they want to do something else because they get too frustrated with the business.”

The Arlook Group's Richard Arlook says thinks it’s obvious when it makes sense to convince a writer on the edge when they still have some life left in their career, “And it’s pretty obvious when they don’t. The fact is, the older you get, the harder it is. Every year, there’s new, young execs. If you’re somebody who went to film school wanting to be a producer, and you finally get that position where you can hire a writer, you’re generally going to want to work with someone from your generation. That doesn’t mean that the person who’s 50 or 60 or whatever isn’t talented or a great guy, but if you have to make a decision, you’re going with the person you have a relationship with.”

So when you feel like you’re getting nowhere, and you’re ready to throw in the towel on making it as a writer, remember Jeff Maguire. But also recall that Maguire was actually getting at least a little attention before In the Line of Fire. That part of the legend people tend to leave out. “When I meet people who’ve been doing it for 12 years, and they’ve never had anybody say, ‘This is good work,’ I would think, well, maybe you should just take that as a hint. You’re in the wrong line,” Maguire observes.

And also keep in mind there are plenty of other creative outlets for your creativity. “You have to be realistic about what the market wants and doesn’t want,” says Thuan. You can watch movies, see who releases them and know very quickly what they will and won’t make. There are lots of different ways to practice your art form, be it with prose, theater, etc. Perhaps the medium doesn’t work for you. I think people have to be honest with themselves. In a business like the movie business where stakes are high and people make staggering amounts of money, you’re going to have to make compromises. It requires a real understanding of that business. If it doesn’t work, then maybe you can write in another medium.”

Great American Pitchfest THIS WEEKEND - plus amazing offer!

This weekend (6/1 to 6/3) the Great American Pitchfest returns to the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel. Over 120 companies, from big boys like Davis, Atlas and Thruline, to little indies looking for very niche material. A veritable cornucopia of opportunity! As usual, Coverage Ink will be there, and we will be giving away our Spec Format + Style Guide 2012 (a $3.95 value.) So stop by and say hello!

GAPF's Bob Schultz has blessed us with a stupendously cool last-minute offer. But before I tell you about it, I want to share with you a call I had with a Coverage Ink client last week.

So I was chatting this this fellow, a writer with no small amount of talent and several scripts under his belt, and he mentioned how frustrated he was that he sends out query after query and never hears back from anyone. He had gotten coverage from CI and another company which came back pretty good, and he said his query was pretty tight. I asked if he had ever attended a pitch event, and he said, "Nah, I'm not really into that." This gave me pause.

Now I know these events are not exactly cheap, but money wasn't the issue in this fellow's case. What it comes down to is, he simply doesn't want to put himself in in the position of having to meet people face-to-face and pitch them his ideas. Far easier, and more comfortable, to do everything via e-mail, indeed.

My response was something of a cliche: "Man, I hate to say it, but you've got to be in it to win it."

Look, I totally get it. It can be a nerve-frazzling to go into a room filled with industry types. To sit down across the table from a company rep and know you've got five minutes to impress them.  We creative types much prefer the lovely solitude of our dank hermit caves. Selling ourselves and our material with a snappy, concise, and compelling presentation? Not so much.

Signe Olynyk and Bob Schultz give us the 411 on GAPF 9. Click here to watch!
But here's the thing. I hate it too, but I have forced myself to do it repeatedly. And in so doing I have met some of my best industry connex.  So let me make this as clear as I can: there is simply no better way to broadcast yourself and your concept to the industry than by attending a pitch event. Psych yourself up, practice your pitches, get your confidence on, and bring it. If you want to be a professional writer, you need accept that at some point, you're going to meet with producers. So find a way to tamp down your writerly insecurities and neuroses for a day. Sign up and go pitch.  When you walk out of there at the end of the day, having met with dozens of industry people and maybe opened a few doors that would not have been opened otherwise, you will be justifiably proud. If I can do it, you can!

Great American Pitchfest has been doing this for nine years now and to say they are a well-oiled machine is an understatement. The top-rated Pitchfest in my 2010 "Rating the Pitchfests" article for Script magazine (as voted on by readers,) GAPF does an amazing job of bringing in top-quality buyers and keeping the lines short. Expect to meet 20-25 companies or more in one day. Try getting that from query letters. Not to mention, you get their incredible GAPF Company Guide, featuring in-depth interviews with all the buyers. This booklet will become your go-to industry contact list for the next year.

But the truly amazing thing is, while the pitch event is on Sunday (which you have to pay to attend,) Saturday is an entire day of FREE seminars from some of the leaders in screenwriting education (see their "Jam-Packed Schedule of Awesomeness" right here), plus a live interview with writer Rhett Reese (Zombieland, Monsters Inc.) Last year, literally thousands of writers packed the Burbank Marriott Hotel to avail themselves of this incredible deal. Watch GAPF founders Bob and Signe tell you about it right here.

Now about that special offer -- this one is a corker -- Buy a Bronze pass, and get a free ticket to the Great American Pitchfest Executive Luncheon (a $75 value). Okay, wait up, this is not just a free lunch. This is extra time with the buyers -- crucial hobnob time. It's not just about impressing execs with your material -- it's about showing them you're a cool and easy-to-get-along-with person. Having a little hang time with them outside the pitching floor could be crucial.

I hope I have impressed upon you all what a killer deal this is. To claim your free executive luncheon, e-mail Bob Schultz ( after you buy your pass and he will make sure the ticket is included in your package.

We will be at GAPF all day Saturday at the Coverage Ink booth. Come see us then, but make sure to return Sunday for the main event -- and come ready to do some damage. The time is now. This is your opportunity. Great American Pitchfest is back, baby!

-- Jim C.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Coverage Ink Announces New Writing Tournament

Fans of the CS Open and Cyberspace Open: get ready to be happy. Coverage Ink is bringing back the concept with our new Snap Judgment Writing Tournament. Details are still being worked out, but we expect to launch this August.

For ten years, we ran the unique and exciting CS Open (later the Cyberspace Open) writing tournaments for Creative Screenwriting. We gave writers a tricky scene prompt and a short amount of time to write their best interpretation of that as a scene or scene unit (under 5 pages). CI readers selected the top 100, and then after a second round, the top 3. Winners were chosen via online voting.

As most of you probably know, financial difficulties forced Creative Screenwriting to shutter last year.

The new Snap Judgment Writing Tournament is inspired by the Cyberspace Open but is not affiliated with Creative Screenwriting. We are pleased to be able to bring back our favorite tournament concept -- as well as add in some Coverage Ink special sauce. Some things will remain the same: the tournament will be online, the scene prompts dastardly. The top three scenes will again be performed by actors and put up on YouTube for the world to vote on. But this time, in addition, the winner will work with Coverage ink to develop a fully realized short film, pilot, or feature film screenplay based on the winning scene. We will then alert the industry.

One other improvement is not really a change at all: rather like the original CS Open, you will be able to enter the tournament up to four times (and write four separate scenes based on four different prompts.) And as with Coverage Ink's Writers on the Storm Screenplay Competition, entry to Snap Judgment is FREE with any screenplay submission to Coverage Ink during the contest period (dates to be announced.)

The brainchild of Creative Screenwriting founder Erik Bauer, The CS Open began as a live writing tournament at the annual Screenwriting Expo. We gave participants 90 minutes to write their best interpretation of a scene prompt we gave them on the spot. The top three scenes were then performed live at the Expo closing ceremonies, where the audience voted on the winners. Over 5,000 writers wrote tens of thousands of scenes, each one read and evaluated by the Coverage Ink team. Those scenes have resulted in dozens of produced short films and helped launch the career of 2004 winner Bob DeRosa, who went on to write Killers and is now writing on White Collar.

In 2009, the tournament was renamed the Cyberspace Open and moved online, where many more writers from around the world could participate via the internet (and not have to hand-write the scenes like in the live event.) Instead of performing the scenes live at the Expo closing ceremonies, the top three scenes were videotaped and posted online for everyone to vote on.

We couldn't be more thrilled to be launching the Snap Judgment Writing Tournament. We are confident this one-of-a-kind experience -- being forced to write quickly and write well, under the gun -- could be just the adrenaline jolt your writing needs. The Snap Judgment Writing Tournament -- coming soon from Coverage Ink, the Industry Experts.

-- Jim C.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Coverage Ink/Writers on the Storm April 2012 Newsletter

May, 2012

1) Three Ways to Bring the SIZZLE!
2) Shorties- News Blips for Writers
3) Man on a Mission: InkTip's Gato Scatena
4) Steve Kaire's Screenwriting 20 Questions


Three Ways to Bring the Sizzle!

We are wordsmiths. What does that mean exactly? Literally, it means we take words and mold them into usable forms, like another kind of smith may do with a refined moonstone and iron ingots to make Elven armor (sorry, been playing too much Skyrim lately.) But I have noticed one area where we wordsmiths tend to slack, and that is: the SIZZLE.

We can all write. All of us know how to compose a sentence, a paragraph, a scene. But oftentimes we forget the art of refinement -- of bringing showmanship, panache, je ne sais quoi, to the presentation. Too often, we'll craft some description or dialogue, and without really thinking twice about it or really scrutinizing it, we'll leave it be and move along. Thing about screenwriting, though: that ain't good enough. Sure, you could likely get away with that in a book. You have a lot more latitude -- more pages to explore secondary characters and subplots, and most crucially, more patience from the the reader. Hell, Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, could spend a page and a half describing a tablecloth and it would be compelling. Try that in a screenplay, however, and you are dead meat.  

And so, here are three quick (but not necessarily easy) things that you should do to make your writing leap off the page:

1) Edit Mercilessly! This may be the single easiest thing to say, yet the hardest thing to get writers to do. Why? Because it requires examining what you've written with an editor's eye. It means you must fall out of love with your prose and instead, view it as a garden overrun with weeds and snails. Watch my 6-minute video on this very topic, Writer, Edit Thyself, right here.

2) Choose Wisely. Lazy word choices plague many a script. For example: "Sarah walks to the table." Really? You're a writer. Can't you find a snappier way to say that? "Walk" is an uninspired verb choice that tells us nothing other than the movement. But what if Sarah were to slouch her way to the table? Shimmy? Sashay? Bounce? Zip? Strut? Slink? Slither? Ooze? Undulate? Skitter? Stagger, swish, launch, meander? I think you all get the idea. So just like editing, get into the habit of scrutinizing your specific word choices as well. Is there a better, cooler, more dynamic way to say what you're trying to say? "Rodrigo falls to the ground." Yawn. How about " Rodrigo eats pavement"? Yes!

3) Break it up. Tell me if this sounds familiar: the person who reads your script completely misses something that was clearly in the script. Did the reader skim? Maybe. Or it could be that even though the key kernel of information was indeed in the screenplay, it was buried. Long paragraphs are for books, not screenplays. You always have to assume the people reading your screenplay have A.D.D. You need to do everything you can to seize them by the throat. Parcel out your information in small bites, and if it's important, use slug lines to call attention to it. F'rinstance:
Connie backs away from her pink Jetta, jaw agape. She shakes her head in disbelief. Looks back to Brian, who opens his hands, also stunned. The Jetta's locks suddenly close. The car begins to drive away all by itself.  Connie runs after it but as she catches up, the car rolls over her toe. Connie yelps and the Jetta rolls away, swishing it's antenna as if to say "buh-bye!"
Okay, there was a lot of info packed into that paragraph. You think the average agent's assistant is really going to trudge through that? Hell no. It looks like work, so they're gonna skim. But now suppose you do this:
Connie backs away from her pink Jetta, jaw agape, shaking her head in disbelief. 

She looks back to Brian, who opens his hands, also stunned. 


Suddenly snap closed.  The car drives away all by itself


Gasps, runs after it.  But as she catches up --


The Jetta crunches over it.  

                 Aah!  Damn it!

The Jetta putt-putts away, swishing its antenna as if to say "buh-bye!"
So what we did there was break it down, make it more digestible and cinematic.  All the important actions got their own slugline. In this way we are directing the action without telling the director where to place the camera, a neat trick indeed. We also fixed the typo (remember, "it's" is NEVER possessive, but rather, is only a contraction of IT IS. The possessive version is simply "its.") The downside of this style is, of course, it takes up way more space. Which brings us full-circle to #1: Edit mercilessly!

Now it's not intuitive to do any of this. It takes a lot of practice. But if you want to break in, you need more than just competency. You need to bring the sizzle! (Oh, yeah, and have some great connex.)


What's up? Buncha stuff, thanks for asking! First, we've pushed back our Writers on the Storm contest. It now runs from 9/24 through 12/31/12. Peep the deets below. We've got some news on the state of the biz, both features and TV, another edition of Steve Kaire's highly entertaining 20 Questions, an interview with InkTip's Gato Scatena and more!

And hey, remember, guys, if any of you ever feel stuck or just need some advice, just write me at We're all in this together.

Onward and downward!

Jim Cirile
Founder, Coverage Ink
Writers on the Storm

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Continue on to Shorties - News Blips for Writers

SHORTIES -- News Blips for Writers

WRITERS ON THE STORM 2012 POSTPONED. Say it ain't so! Oh, but it is, Virginia. Why did we do this? Well, to be honest, because putting on a contest the scale of WOTS is a huge amount of work, and we need to be concentrating on other things in the short term. But fear not: Writers on the Storm will return 9/24 and run through the end of the year. And we are putting together some pretty damn good prizes this year as well, such as: coffee with Lynn Hendee, producer of Ender's Game, which stars Harrison Ford and is shooting now, and a consultation/meeting with 2011 Nicholl Fellows (that means they won, guys) Tianna Langham and Chris Bessounian (and we'll have an interview with them next month as well.) So use this time to polish, polish, polish and polish again. Remember: winning a contest is not like entering the lottery. It's not random. It's about the quality of the script. If your script is a pass when you send it in for coverage, it ain't gonna win a contest. It's that simple. So invest in yourself and do the heavy lifting required to really deliver on those screenplays.  

WOTS 2011 UPDATE. The new start date for Writers on the Storm 2012 is 9/24, and it ends 12/31. That gives all of y'all time to go back and rewrite act 2! Come on, you know you need to :)  Now if you are wondering what's up with last year's winners, we only finally started sending them out a few weeks ago and are still waiting to hear back from many companies. Most excitingly, top management company The Arlook Group responded positively to our runner-up script A SHIP THROUGH FIRE by John Winn Miller. They're reading a follow-up script from Mr. Miller now. We also have some very exciting possibilities on our winning script WRIGHT OR WRONG, by Glenn Sanders and Brooks Elms, that we can't talk about yet, but if it happens will be pretty amazing. More news as it develops! -- Portia Jefferson, Writers on the Storm Contest Coordinator

REJECTED PITCHES = BRILLIANCE. Take five and treat yourself to some of the funniest shorts on YouTube, courtesy of the razor-sharp comic wits at Teen Wheels TV. To date they have posted four episodes of their "Rejected Pitches" series, which feature top directors being shot down by a trio of moronic executives. So far they've taken on E.T., Back to the Future, Look Who's Talking, and best of all, The Shining. So the next time you have a meeting with a producer who is a pure dope, you'll think back on these videos and smile! Check out their YouTube page right here.

BELOW ZERO ICES THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT. Kudos to writer/producers Bob Schultz and Signe Olynyk. Their indie horror film Below Zero (directed by Justin Thomas Ostenson) has been owning the festival circuit. Just pay a quick visit to the film's website and check out all those laurels, including Best Horror Movie from American International Film Festival. Edward Furlong (T2) stars as a screenwriter who locks himself in a slaughterhouse freezer to overcome his writer's block! When horror vet Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) enters the picture, you can pretty much figure out what happens next... Next up, they're shooting Bob's zombie movie I-15, which was one of the best scripts Coverage Ink read last year. Exciting times for this young, hot team! And by the way, if their names sound familiar, you've probably met Bob and Signe at their annual Great American Pitchfest. Speaking of which, the Pitchfest will be back June 1-3 at the Burbank Marriott, so get your tickets now! Stop by and visit us at the Coverage Ink booth while you're there.

SPEC MARKET FURY! It is smokin' hot out there right now for pitches. An astonishing 13 were set up last month, almost double last year's number. That's indicative of the overall health and confidence of the biz -- when people get worried, the first thing they stop buying are pitches. So this is great news indeed (note: don't think you can hop on that bandwagon. Selling pitches is reserved only for name screenwriters with juice.) On the spec side, a nice little $3 million sale always injects a jolt of life into the marketplace. James Vanderbilt's White House Down shook down Sony for the big bucks, no doubt because he wrote this summer's Spidey reboot which is getting positive buzz, despite the fact that the Spidey suit looks like it was cut from a Spalding basketball. Overall, the spec market is slightly more voracious than last year (17 specs were sold in March,) but WAY better than the horrifically awful 2009 and 2010. In short: the market is hotter than it has been in a long time. It's a freakin' great time to be a writer! Now go get your piece.

THE SAD, SAD STATE OF THE TV MOVIE. Have you ever wondered why there are, like, no MOWs and TV movies at all anymore, versus ten years ago? We sure as hell did, so we put that question to TV movie producer Steve Kennedy (Saving Jessica Lynch) from Daniel Paulson Prods. According to Steve, several factors have conspired to more or less crush the venerable Movie of the Week. The first is, the networks decided that it's more profitable to have a smaller audience that returns week after week for a show, than it is to have a big audience that only turns out once. Never mind that original television movies can be resold as DVDs and so forth; they're just not that interested. Secondly, TV movies cost way more money to produce than, say, a 3-hour The Bachelorette pile of vapidity. Even cable, once a bastion of original movies, has greatly reduced their output. Showtime used to make 30 movies a year. But then they realized they could create successful original series like Dexter instead. Nowadays your chances of getting HBO or Showtime to greenlight your original movie are pretty much nil. That leaves Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Lifetime and Hallmark, who are doing quite well, thank you very much, making flicks for their niche audiences. But the days of the MOW as we know it... gone.

SCRIPT PIPELINE EXTENDED DEADLINE 5/4! Our pals at Script Pipeline put on one hell of a contest. In fact, it's one of only five that we at Coverage Ink recommend as well worth the entry fee. Their winners have had some amazing success in the past. And now, the 10th Annual Script Pipeline Screenwriting and TV Writing Competition 2012 is ending imminently (like, Friday May 4th!) If you haven't entered yet, what are you waiting for? These guys are the only contest to our knowledge, other than the Nicholl Fellowship, who have had a previous winner (2008's Evan Dougherty) go A-list. Dougherty's 2008 script Snow White and the Huntsman was huge major studio spec sale ($3 million!) and is now a major motion picture starring Chris Hemsworth, Kristin Stewart and Charlize Theron. Will you be next? Cruise on down the Pipeline and enter that script now. Hurry, time is almost up!

THE SAD, SAD SAGA OF MEL GIBSON. This one is almost painful to write. If you're a subscriber to, you no doubt have heard/read the transcription of actor/director Mel Gibson's latest rant. (If you do not subscribe to TheWrap, you may have no idea, since Variety ignored it, not wanting to acknowledge they'd been scooped -- even after the story had been picked up by the US corporate media.) The short version is, Gibson went on a tear at his Costa Rica home, railing out guest Joe Eszterhas (Showgirls) and  screaming like a freakin' maniac about anything and everything, including losing his looks, in front of all his guests and their families (including Braveheart screenwriter Randall Wallace.) Gibson made some particularly vitriolic comments about his ex and generally just frickin' lost it. Now we've all been watching Gibson self-destruct publicly for years, of course, so this is no surprise. What is amazing however is that through it all, he continues to do great work. He was sublime in The Beaver, about a dad with mental issues who can only communicate through a puppet; his new movie Get the Gringo was passed over for US release despite universal superlative reviews. Ezsterhas said that he released the recordings his son made of Gibson's rant so that hopefully Mel would get the professional help he needs. Amen to that.

NOT TO "B" OUTDONE: TRACKING B CONTEST BEGINS 6/1. You didn't think we'd mention the five contests Coverage Ink recommends as worth the entry fee without telling you the others, did ya? Here they are, in no particular order: The Nicholl Fellowship, Scriptapalooza, Script Pipeline, Writers on the Storm, and... Tracking B. Who, what? Amazingly, after years of unparalleled success stories, many screenwriters still have no idea who these guys are. The Tracking B contest is an "insider" contest run by, well, The Insider, the mysterious industry figure behind, the real-life industry tracking board subscribed to by every major producer, agent and manager. To tell you about all the writers who have been signed, sold and gotten work after winning or placing in Tracking B would take the entire length of this column (you can just buzz over to their site and check it out for yourself.) Their annual feature screenwriting contest opens 6/1, so calendar it now and enter early before the prices rise. Trust us on this, this is a must-enter contest! Not to mention every writer who enters two scripts gets a free subscription to, which is an invaluable source of critical intelligence for writers. Head on over to and discover for yourself just what you're missing!

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MAN ON A MISSION - InkTip's Gato Scatena

Gato Scatena is passionate about what he does. He has a vision for a future where and the InkTip Pitch Summit become the industry's #1 talent farm. And from the looks of things, he may just pull it off. The 30-year-old from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, has put his UC Santa Cruz film and digital media degree to good use as Vice President of InkTip and President of InkTip Summit Events. In 2010, he and InkTip President Jerrol LeBaron set out to rethink the screenplay pitch festival. The result: the InkTip Pitch Summit, which raises the bar by greatly increasing the number of executives attending and maximizing the number of pitches writers can make (now averaging over 40.) We caught up with Gato, knee-deep in planning Pitch Summit IV (September 21 and 22, 2012 – discount tickets are on sale now) to find out exactly how InkTip connects so many writers and executives.

by Jim Cirile

Jim Cirile (JC): Hi, Gato! Appreciate your time. What was the genesis of the InkTip Pitch Summit?

Gato Scatena
Gato Scatena (GS): Thanks, Jim. Jerrol (LeBaron, InkTip founder) had been wanting to do some kind of an event that was primarily focused on the executives that we cater to, because there are a good number of executives out there who are still pretty old-school, and they prefer face-to-face meetings. A large percentage of those types of people tend to be in the upper echelon of producing anyway, more studio-level guys. Second to that, we were approached by a couple of other pitching events, trying to get us to sponsor them. I started attending events and sending my staff. If we sponsor something, we’ve got to be able to vouch for it.  Jerrol and I came to the same conclusion, that there was a big gap between claims and actual performance. So we set out to find a way to do an event that would actually yield results. We weren’t going to execute anything unless we knew that we could exceed expectations of our target audience.

JC: You guys changed the paradigm pretty effectively, with the key innovation being pitching to three execs at a time, not just one.

GS: Thanks, yeah, I thought that was my idea, but Jerrol swears it was his (laughs.) Statistically, we had to bring roughly three times as many executives to our Summit compared to the next most populated pitching event, which brings about 100, in order to get movies produced. There are several advantages to this.

JC: Obviously, the first is simple math: the more people you can pitch your script to, the more potential connections you can make.

GS: Right. And there are other advantages as well. If you sit down and you’ve got three executives there, you can have two of them who are bored -- maybe they’ve been having a rough day, they’re not in the mood -- but all it takes is one guy who might be interested (in the pitch) and asks just the right question from a producer’s point of view. All of a sudden, it starts this conversation where one or two of the other executives want to get involved. It’s an obvious social dynamic that we all know can occur, but to put it into this format was a new thing. The other important reason behind it was statistics. We simply had to fit more producers in order to ensure that we were going to have movies produced off the very first Summit, which we did. As far as I know, to this date we are the only pitching event with confirmed movies produced. A nice little cherry on top was that at all these other events, it’s really easy for executives to get fatigued as the day goes on. We found that by adding extra executives to the table, they’re keeping one another awake by talking to each other throughout the day.

JC: So what’s the trick to getting over 300 executives to show up?

GS: The primary trick -- and I love it -- is that we’re We work with these executives 365 days a year. They subscribe to the executive newsletters; we’re in constant contact with them. We have an entire department over here, the entertainment pro department, and all they do is make sure that the producers are finding exactly what they’re looking for, whether it’s scripts or writers. We have a really good rapport with all these executives. So we have sort of an advantage there. The scariest change that we made vis-à-vis other pitching events was that we weren’t going to offer any sort of stipend or payment for executives to attend. We felt that by offering money to attend, number one, it’s going to send the wrong message.

Scatena with InkTip founder Jerrol LeBaron.
Number two, I know a lot of them offer $100 stipends. $100 just isn’t enough to attract an executive that you actually want there. So then you’re just kind of putting fans in the stands. And three, there was this precedent set by all the other events. If you’re an executive, you know you can find material through us. We’ve got over 150 (produced features.) If you’re looking, we want you to come and help you find good stuff. If you’re not looking, we’re not going to incentivize you to fake it.  That said, every executive that attends does cost us $150 to $200-plus for food, beverage, parking and so forth. 

 JC: At the Pitch Summit I attended, I saw all the execs hobnobbing before the event started. That’s got to be a huge perk for them as well.

GS: One result that we didn’t plan for is that executives love coming to the Summit now because of their networking opportunities. That has led to more options, sales and movies produced. These guys start talking to each other, and they find ways to make certain deals work.

JC: Pitch Summit III went buttery smooth last month. You guys obviously put a lot of effort into listening to the feedback from attendees of previous Summits.

GS: This last one just ran insanely smooth. But the thing that makes Jerrol and I the most proud is that we were advertising that every writer was going to be able to pitch 35, and for us to breach 40 pitches per writer on average was great. This was the first time where we didn’t really have any complaints. From here on out, it’s smaller things. For example, after meeting so many executives -- at other events you’re meeting about 12 people face to face. At Summit III, I believe the average number of companies pitched was 42. It gets a little hairy trying to keep track of everybody that you’ve met. So one note we got was, “If you guys could find a way to make it easier to follow up with them, that’d be awesome.” So we’re wrestling with either using different nameplates or having cards available at every table for the writers to just grab.

JC: And how about results?

GS: The majority of our writers were getting requests from over 50% of the companies they were pitching. All in all, we’re just doing a great job on one, attracting serious writers, and two, we’re getting into a really sweet spot in terms of attracting the right executives. A lot of material is getting optioned through us at this point. Movies are getting produced. That’s what we’re here to do. We’ve got another eight options and writers repped that have been confirmed from this last Summit last month. We actually had for or five options that happened on the spot, at the event. We’re trying to knock it out of the park on the next one and continue to up our success rate.

JC: Thanks so much for the peek behind the curtain, Gato!


InkTip Pitch Summit IV is September 21st and 22nd at the Burbank Marriott. Tickets are available now Hurry! Super Saver deadline is Friday, May 18th. Register now and save up to $95 on your passes. 

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More Screenwriting 20 Questions with Steve Kaire

Steve Kaire

Ready for another round of 20 Questions with the High Concept King? Steve Kaire once again tests your mettle. 15 or better correct is a great score!

True or False:

1) Producers have a call-back list of 50 people per day.

False. Their call-back list is often over 200 people per day.

2) Production companies generally read your material in 2 to 3 weeks time.

False. It’s often around 2 to 3 months.

3) Partner pitching is permissible with one partner pitching one part, the other pitching the other.

That’s true.

4) Good dialogue uses full, complete sentences.

False.Good dialogue uses phrases and short sentences and accurately reflects the way people actually speak.

5) The easiest way to structure a screenplay is viewing a similar movie and structuring your script the same way.


6) You should expect brutal criticism of your screenplay from a studio reader.

True. Rumor has it that they’re often frustrated writers themselves. If you've ever received coverage from a studio, you're probably still licking your wounds. Good coverage services like Coverage Ink however specialize in presenting notes in an empowering, not belittling, way.

7) There’s no easy way to find out who’s buying what.

False. Many websites list what’s being sold and to whom.

8) The Great American Pitchfest and InkTip Pitch Summit are the two biggest pitch festivals in the country, both chock full of opportunities for writers.


9) Sometimes writing about what you know makes you too close to the material to be objective.

That’s true.

10) A query letter is typically two to three pages long.

That’s false. A query letter should never be longer than one page and should be as brief and snappy and compelling as possible.

11) There is more money available to invest in independent films now than ever before.

That is true.

12) The most important element in a letter of introduction is the person who referred you to that company or agent.

That’s true. If you have the name of a person who referred you, list it in the first paragraph.

13) No one in the industry really cares about screenplay contests.

Not true. While most big name agencies and production companies couldn't care less, some do, and many small to medium-sized companies will read the winners of a few notable contests.

14) A slam dunk is a compelling, high concept premise that is universally recognized as being a winner.


15) During a pitch session, you should first tell the listener how you got the idea of creating your story.

False. This is another big misconception. You have limited time to give your pitch and the listener doesn’t care how you created it.

16) A fish out of water story is an example of a brainstorming technique.

That’s true.

17) It isn’t permissible to e-mail your script to interested parties who requested to read it.

False. Many companies and agents now prefer online submissions to having all those stacked scripts in their office. Ask the company which is their preferred method of submission.

18) Unlike agents who charge a flat 10%, managers can charge any percentage of a client’s earnings that are agreed to.

That’s true. While many literary managers charge 10%, some charge 15% -- and some celebrity managers charge up to 50% of their client’s earnings.

19) When you use a framing technique, or mash-up (example: It’s “Apollo 13” meets “Die Hard,”) it should come at the end of your pitch.

False.Framing techniques should be used before you pitch your logline to prepare the listener for what type of story you’re about to pitch.

20) All well-written screenplays should contain a main character who goes through a character arc.

True. Virtually every script has one of its characters undergo a positive change by the end of the movie. Notable exceptions are horror movies and action heroes, such as the James Bond character and Popeye Doyle in “The French Connection.”


How did you all do? If you got every one right, then pat yourself on the back and go get 'em, tiger. If you knew several, then way to go! If many of these stumped you, definitely start reading the trades regularly. Becoming a savvy student of the biz is key to making it as a writer in TV or film. Keep up the good work, and I'll see you all back here in 30.

Steve Kaire ( is a Screenwriter/Pitchman who’s sold 8 projects to the major studios without representation. His top-rated CD, “High Concept--How to Create, Pitch and Sell to Hollywood” is available on his website along with original articles and national screenwriting contests.

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