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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Can You Just Hand Us A Few Pages?

Hey all, been burning the candles at both ends. So, all right Eleanor, jeez, here's my next post. And it's not going to be the one about editing and condensing, that comes next, but this one is foremost in my thoughts as it's a regular question that comes to writers, one that everyone will be hit with at some point and one that I was asked recently.

"Can we just have a few pages on that?"

It comes after your pitch, after you're brilliant in the room and they want to capture some of that and carry it on. So they're going to ask you for free work, because they can't keep it all in their head when they have to pitch it to - a director, a producer, their boss, their chairman, whatever they can just say "here".

This will usually be qualified impossibly, by the way with :"don't do too much work on it, just include everything in the pitch, so that someone could understand it and see the movie if they weren't familiar with it." I love that one, really cracks me up. You mean - a SCREENPLAY?

No, they literally mean two pages. And they're not kidding. It's like asking someone to describe the taste of chocolate, but just write down the recipe and don't use any declarative language.

Well, don't do it.

Managers and Agents might even council you to do it, as they just want you to get the job you want and feel you're showing a ready to work attitude.

But in the end, there are two reasons why it's not a good idea.

The union says don't do it. And if you're literally trying to capture on paper the sparkle of a pitch, it more than likely will be list of reasons executives can look at and say no to.

So, what do you say when you're asked this? It's easy.

You say you'd love to. But that you feel it's impossible to capture the excitement and everything that "you" responded to in such a short document. If you hate saying no, you just said it by looking out for the other guy. And, if you don't mind saying no, you can just say "no".


Blogger Eleanor said...

I guess I need to start cultivating one of them there virtues...

Or not. ;-)
I'm going to go read through your archives for a bit.
Inspiring stuff!

Saturday, January 28, 2006  
Anonymous pd boy said...

Speaking about "a few pages," when you design an outline or treatment, how do you keep it in the required 2, 3 or 10 pages (assuming of course, that producers are paying for your work or alternatively, this is for your own spec)?

I find that when I've been asked for a treatment, 2, 3 and 10 pages just ain't enough. How do I hit the dramatic points of each act in such a minimal amount of pages?

After all, there's (in most cases) a three act structure. A lot of stuff should be happening between p.1 and p. 100 of your screenplay and I just don't see a way of putting it all into such a small amount of space.

I heard an interview with Kevin Smith where he shared that he wrote an eighty page treatment for his "Superman Lives" script. And the execs kinda looked at him like: "you crazy?"

Suffice to say they wanted a four page treamtment.

Four pages? For Superman?

To me, this is the most frustrating part of developing a script.

I mean, even for my own specs, I always do an outline and it runs about 30 pages (or more)!

How do we turn our 30 page treatment into the "few pages" that producers will inevitably ask of us???

Thanks for the candid feedback! Your posts are worth so much to the aspiring and the semi-experienced writers out there! Thanks, from all of us!

Saturday, January 28, 2006  
Blogger Milehimama said...

Here's a trick:
Change font size to 3. Single space. Use footnotes to explain subplots and don't include footnotes in the page count (but do attach them.) Voila! 30 page treatment is now 2 inches long! Of course, it's not user friendly, but that never stopped the Commodore 64's of the world... hmm, maybe not the best example.

Sunday, January 29, 2006  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

When you say "The union says don't do it," what exactly do you mean? Could you clarify? What precisely does the Union say not to do?

Thanks Phil!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006  

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