Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Dear Film Friends,

I often get asked by screenwriters about best practices for working with a film producer or literary manager -- I've served as the former for nearly two decades and was the latter for eight years in a previous life. With so much interest in this subject, I decided to write an article on the topic, which Funds for Writers recently published on their website. As such, I thought I would also include it here on my blog for those who might have missed it. I hope it provides all you up-and-coming writers with some real insights as you work your way up the Hollywood ladder.

Cheers,

Mark


Best Practices for Working with a Producer,
Agent or Manager in Film & TV

By Mark Heidelberger

Producers. Agents. Managers. Oh my! As a writer looking to make a living in the world of entertainment, these sometimes enigmatic creatures will be an integral part of your journey from unproduced novice to sought-after scribe du jour. Learning to work with them in a way that proves mutually beneficial means creating a winning environment for both sides, creatively and economically. (That’s why we call it “show business” and not “show show.”) And while no step-by-step guidebook exists for doing this because no two individuals are alike, I can suggest a handful of best practices that neophyte writers should keep in mind as they find themselves seeking these useful and often necessary allies.

First off, let’s clarify some basic definitions of each role so we know exactly who we’re talking about.

Producer – The chief visionary of a production who hires a writer to create a story or buys and develops her already written story with the ultimate intention of filming it for mass consumption.

Agent – A commission-based representative who is solely responsible for seeking out and procuring work for the writer or selling the writer’s material.

Manager – A commission-based representative who is tasked with guiding a writer’s career choices, developing her work for presentation to producers, coordinating her other representatives such as agents and lawyers, and facilitating opportunities, but not actively selling the work as an agent would.

Collectively, we’ll call them PAMs.

Get a Referral

Not only do most PAMs dislike being pitched without an invitation, especially by a stranger, they flat out refuse to even read or listen. Such pitching is called unsolicited and it’s frowned upon, not only because most PAMs are already inundated with material, but because it’s a legal liability. Hollywood is a relationship town, plain and simple, so getting a referral from someone the PAMs already know and trust is a universally accepted method for soliciting their attention.

Be Clear on the Deal Terms

PAMs who recognize your talent and want to work with you can feel rewarding, but don’t let that excitement cloud your judgment. Negotiate terms you can live with, get it in writing and have those terms reviewed by an expert who can verify that they are, at minimum, in line with industry standards. If the terms are not satisfactory to you, don’t be afraid to walk away. Anyone offering you terms outside of industry standards probably aren’t legitimate anyway.

Trust the Process

Respected PAMs achieved their status through years of experience, and while their methods may at times seem unconventional, trust that they bring knowledge of the industry that has been, until now, obscured from you. This isn’t to suggest you take a passive approach, but simply to accept guidance from those who have been around the business far longer than you.

Communication is King

Create a fluid system of communication from the outset. Establish the best method of contact, a regular schedule for corresponding, and what the goal of your collaboration will be. Clarify on a regular basis what you expect from your representative or what the producer expects from you. Moreover, respect their time and skill just as you want yours respected. Stand up for yourself without being combative. And pick your battles carefully.

Manage Expectations

Entertainment is one of the most competitive career landscapes in the world. “Overnight success” stories never happen overnight; they’re the result of years of unseen toiling in trenches. Accept the fact that you’ll always have to do a lot of legwork yourself, even with a PAM in your corner, and that most projects still never see the light of day. Failure is part of the process. That said, getting one in every 10 projects made means you’re a success even by jaded Hollywood standards.

Have an Exit Strategy

Sometimes your relationship with a PAM will go south, perhaps over creative differences, personality clashes, egos, money, whatever. Keep this in mind from the beginning and always make sure you have a contractual way out if the relationship sours. The worst position is to be stuck with a PAM who’s a drain instead of a buoy for your creative talent.

Saturday, October 5, 2019


Dear Cinephiles,

Last year, I was invited to serve as a film writer and critic for a new upstart online publication. Unfortunately, the company went under before it had a chance to publish my first piece -- an advanced look at 2018's biggest summer tentpoles. Recently though, I was combing through some of my old writing for a portfolio I'm putting together and I came across this little gem. I was pleasantly surprised with how well it turned out and found myself a little disappointed that it never got in front of the readership that it was supposed to. So, alas, I decided to resurrect it here on my own blog just in case anyone was interested in taking a stroll down Tinseltown's memory lane. (Yeah, I know it's only been a year, but a lot can happen in such a short time!) Anyway, without further ado, here is my 900-word write-up on last year's heftiest blockbusters! Enjoy!

Mark

Pumped Up: A Look at This Summer’s Tentpole Films
By Mark Heidelberger

Each year, Hollywood works feverishly to up the ante on the scope and scale of its summer blockbusters, all in hopes of conjuring the next billion-dollar success story. Stars are bigger. Locations are bigger. Visual effects, bigger. Budget, way bigger. And that trend doesn’t appear to be abating with 2018’s crop. Nor does Tinseltown seem to be straying from the tried-and-true tradition of piggy-backing on the coattails of its most lucrative franchises.

Enter the $100-billion gorilla in the room, Disney, with not one but two post-Memorial Day Goliaths set to bash their way through theaters this summer. First to screens is The Incredibles 2, follow-up to the Mouse House’s hugely successful animated 2004 original about a family of superheroes relegated to suburban banality after the government puts the kibosh on their crime-fighting escapades. Produced by Pixar Studios, the kid-friendly sequel is scheduled for wide release on June 15th and is on track for a mega-sized opening of $140 million. At CinemaCon in April, Disney’s global distribution honcho Cathleen Taff noted the teaser trailer had been viewed a record-setting 113 million times in the first 24 hours of release and that awareness of the film was tracking at a remarkable 96%, with 61% of those surveyed expressing “definite interest.” The sequel picks up where the first film left off as the super-family struggles to resume normal lives. Wife Helen (voiced by Holly Hunter) campaigns for the reinstatement of superheroes to active duty while husband Bob (aka Mr. Incredible, voiced by Craig T. Nelson) plays stay-at-home dad. Most of the original cast is back, including Samuel L. Jackson as ally Frozone, while Bob Odenkirk makes his franchise debut as new villain Screenslaver, a mysterious media mogul who manipulates the populace through hypnotic messaging. Director Brad Bird also returns to the helm.

For those more into stegosauruses than super-villains, Universal Studios is roaring back with another installment in its second-highest grossing franchise (sorry dinophiles, but Fast & Furious still holds the top title by a cool $100 million or so) as the highly anticipated Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom claws its way onto screens June 22nd. Eschewing the previous installment’s genetic-tampering-gone-bad premise, Kingdom takes place on the now-abandoned Isla Nublar three years after the destruction of the theme park and finds co-heroes Owen and Claire racing against time to save the remaining dinosaurs from extinction as the island’s volcano begins erupting. Joining returning stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are character actors Ted Levine and James Cromwell along with franchise alum Jeff Goldblum reprising his role as dry-witted mathematician Ian Malcolm. Replacing Colin Trevorrow in the director’s chair is J.A. Bayona, who exploded onto the scene in 2012 with Naomi Watts/Ewan McGregor-starrer The Impossible. As for Michael Crichton’s beloved brainchild, which has been regaling audiences for a quarter-century now, there are no signs of tapering, with Jurassic World 3 already announced for 2021 and Kingdom posting an almost unheard-of 99% “want to see” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

And lest the studios squander the adrenalized momentum they’ve built up through Independence Day weekend, Disney will be releasing its second foray into summer box office madness on July 6th with live-action superhero sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp. This latest nugget from the ever-expanding Marvel universe, nestled between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, sees Paul Rudd return as the titular, pest-sized protagonist as he seeks to balance home and work life while under house arrest. However, he quickly finds himself pulled into an urgent mission by the doe-eyed Hope van Dyne (played by Evangeline Lilly), who joins him as alter-ego The Wasp on a quest to defeat a powerful new force while simultaneously uncovering buried secrets about their past. The Peyton Reed-directed flick boasts a star-laden cast (several of whom are returning from the original) that also includes Judy Greer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins, Michael Douglas, and Hannah John-Kamen as ruthless archvillain Ghost. But expect a targeted marketing deluge to be the real star in turning this tiny hero into a box office giant.

Not to be outdone, Paramount wades into the testosterone-fueled cinematic arena by giving IMF point-man Ethan Hunt a sixth adventure in its stalwart series, Mission: Impossible, to be released nationwide on July 27th. Subtitled Fallout, the Christopher McQuarrie-helmed actioner sees Tom Cruise’s iconic character return in a clock-crunching quest to avert a global catastrophe while being hunted by dangerous assassins (what’s new?) as well as former CIA allies who question his motives. However, the studio is keeping plot details tightly under wraps for fear of fanboys spreading twist spoilers. Starring alongside Cruise is long-time confrere Ving Rhames reprising his role as Luther Stickell as well as Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Wes Bentley, Vanessa Kirby, Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett. This fresh installment marks a handful of firsts for the Mission movies, including McQuarrie as the first director to return for a second outing and the film being the first in the series to get the RealD 3D and IMAX 3D treatment. While Fallout is on track for a franchise-best domestic opening of $60-plus million, only time will tell whether the filmmakers managed to reinvent the storyline enough to ultimately ensure that this Mission doesn’t fail.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

I know a lot of you screenwriters out there struggle with generating story ideas that will sell. It's certainly not an easy hurdle to jump. That's why I recently wrote the below article, published at Funds for Writers, that is meant to provide some guidance on the topic. Hopefully it will serve as inspiration...


Generating Bankable Story Ideas for Film and Television

Mark Heidelberger / 2019-07-06
So, you’ve finally decided to try your hand at screenwriting. You’ve read Syd Field’s Screenplay cover to cover. You’ve bought the latest version of Final Draft. You’ve set aside time each night to write three pages knowing that in a month you’ll have a first draft of your 90-page opus. You’re pumped! There’s just one small problem. You have no idea what to write. I mean, you know what topics you’re passionate about, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a sellable screenplay… does it? Where and how does one generate those great story ideas that make it from script to screen? The good news is there’s no magic formula, no hidden secret, no play-by-play instruction book. However, there are a few practical methods that working screenwriters will tell you have often produced results.
Look at What’s Hot
Critics often pan Tinseltown for its plethora of derivative works. But there’s a very simple reason why the same kinds of movies and TV shows get made over and over: they work. If audiences keep tuning in, why stop? Look at the type of content that’s doing well with audiences right now and how long it’s been that way. If it’s been a few years with no signs of abating, there’s a good chance producers want more of it. Figure out what hot content you enjoy and then come up with your unique spin on it.
Consult an Expert
Experts are everywhere. Producers, script consultants, distribution execs, sales agents. And while they may not have a crystal ball, their position in the industry means they likely see what’s selling and what’s making money. Moreover, they’re often desperate for writers willing to eschew personal passions in favor of writing what’s marketable. So, where do you find these experts? Attend networking events, film markets and festivals, join a professional writers’ group, or ask friends who have connections.
Open a Newspaper
Some of the best ideas hide in plain sight. Newspapers, magazines, and blogs are rife with human interest stories and current events that might make for strong movies or TV shows. How do you know which ones? First, look at how popular the story is. Have you seen it in numerous publications? Is it a front-pager? Has it been getting tons of hits? And second, is real drama there? Real adversity? Something that’s almost too amazing to believe? If readers are responding, audiences probably will, too.
It Really Is Who You Know
Movie-goers love true stories. And while newspapers are filled with them, it may be challenging for a frosh screenwriter to secure a subject’s life rights without significant money involved. (A true story is essentially worthless to a screenwriter without a life rights option in place.) Instead, look at people you know who have highly peculiar, unique, or exceptional life stories. They may just be the hidden gem you’ve been searching for, and they’re more likely to option their life rights to you for cheap.
Adapt Preexisting Material
The Academy doesn’t offer a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for nothing. Preexisting material is fertile ground for new story ideas. And it doesn’t have to be some book on the New York Times bestseller list either. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a book at all. Novellas, short stories, poems, comic books, graphic novels, blogs, even advice columns have all found second lives as movies or TV shows. Consider whether the material is topical and relevant to today’s audience, and you may just have a winner on your hands.
Partner Up
Producers who are having trouble finding specific types of material may be willing to partner with you if you write on spec. Both sides put in sweat equity – you write the material, and they guide the process, develop the material, and eventually shop it. If it gets sold, everyone gets paid. If the producers can at least offer basic story direction or lay out their investor’s parameters, you can start by brainstorming dozens of loglines (one-sentence story concepts) and see which, if any, sparks their interest.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Effects of Prosumer Technology on Content Creation


The Effects of Prosumer Technology
on Content Creation

By Mark Heidelberger

Prosumerism is driving a new revolution in the world of content creation. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, films in production jumped 73% worldwide between 2005 and 2015 – from just over 5,500 films to more than 9,500 – despite the consolidation of major motion picture studios and a systematic reduction of their slates. However, there’s more telling evidence that’s not buried in some statistic. Simply look at how expansive the content marketplace has become and, simultaneously, how accessible it is to those outside the studio system. Prosumer technology has afforded new and emerging independent filmmakers an opportunity that heretofore didn’t exist for them: telling their stories in a professional-looking way and then selling them to a global audience without the aid of a studio. That intersectionality of marketplace expansion and accessibility, driven by consumers’ insatiable appetite for content, has ignited a creative renaissance.

What exactly is prosumer content creation?

In his book “The Third Wave,” businessman and futurist Alvin Toffler defined prosumers as those who had a hand in creating some of the goods or services that they themselves were consuming. Whether manufacturing their own clothes, furniture, mobile apps or motion pictures, the prosumer movement is driven by consumers eager to participate in creating those items that affect their lives. As the industrial age gave way to the digital age, pioneering media companies began to realize advances in tech could afford industry outsiders access to professional-grade hardware and software that was previously out of reach. Without digitization, such a transformation could never have occurred at scale in such a short amount of time. In the last 20 years, the entertainment industry has witnessed the literal adoption of prosumer technology in every facet of the content creation chain, from development to distribution.

Development

Visionaries like Marc Madnick and Ben Cahan realized as early as 1990 that the entertainment industry would benefit from a word-processing program that formatted screenplays to fit industry-standard guidelines. Alas, Final Draft was born. But more importantly, it was made available to the masses, giving novice writers access to scriptwriting formulae that had previously been obscured. Similar software soon followed suit along with scheduling and budgeting programs like Movie Magic and Showbiz, allowing amateur filmmakers the ability to easily draft a blueprint for their films that echoed the big studio format. Such programs have been wildly successful. According to research by Philip Kotler at Northwestern University, “Advancing technology, especially in computers and telecommunications, will tempt [people] to use their time in [new] ways… People will want to play a larger role in designing or producing certain goods and services they consume.”

Production and Post

Workflow software like StudioBinder, Gorilla and Scenechronize emerged to offer neophyte producers a comprehensive suite of fully integrated, cloud-based management tools, from call sheet templates to schedule-sharing to customizable shot lists. And post wasn’t far behind. Avid’s Pro Tools, Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Adobe Creative Suite allowed for high-quality audio mixing, audio editing, video editing and visual effects creation by filmmakers working on home computers. But digitization didn’t just manifest in the form of more accessible software. At the turn of the century, companies like Sony, Arri and RED were laying the groundwork for cost-effective digital cameras that would send Kodak, the world’s largest manufacturer of motion picture film, into bankruptcy by 2012. Six-figure Panavision film cameras monopolized by the majors were no longer the only game in town.

Marketing and Distribution

The proliferation of quality independent content meant a greater need for ways to disseminate it. Platforms like Amazon, iTunes and Youtube gave amateur artists ways to not only display their work, but also monetize it. Gamechangers like FilmHub materialized soon after, bringing the entire film distribution process online so that filmmakers could stream their content on multiple platforms in more than 100 markets worldwide without the onerous costs demanded by traditional distributors. According to the MPAA, theatrical box office decreased by two percent in 2017 while consumer spending on home entertainment increased 11 percent, driven almost solely by the growth of digital platforms. It therefore stands to reason that independent content creators, whose work is primarily found on such platforms, are a major contributor to that growth.

The Bottom Line

The propagation of prosumer technology will continue to drive the mass creation of content outside the studio system for the foreseeable future, especially in newer areas like AR, VR and interactive where digital innovation is hyper-prevalent. Moreover, burgeoning young adopters of prosumer tech will begin to eschew pricey film schools and instead seek out high-quality educational resources via blogs, YouTube, online masterclasses and the like, which not only allows them to keep current on technological advances in content development, production and distribution, but better embodies the very spirit of democratization driving the prosumer movement. “One of the major growth markets spurred by prosumption will be the instruction market,” says Kotler. “More people will want to acquire skills for producing their own goods and services.” As such, prosumer technology clearly offers an opportunity for greater artist empowerment.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Hey all, just thought I'd share this little ditty I wrote for Funds for Writers about a producer's mindset as he or she is reading your screenplay. What does a producer look for? What makes him tick? What turns him off? My hope is that it will provide fledgling writers out there with a few things to consider that they may not have otherwise -- things that will put them in a better position to succeed. In some ways, the best writers are able to put on their "producer caps" when they need to in order to make their work more palatable to those who are actually in a position to get it made! See what you think. Note also the link at the end of the article to a Film Courage interview I did on the same subject...



How Film Producers Analyze Your Screenplay

Mark Heidelberger / 2019-03-15

When an actor reads a script, he’ll think about how to approach his character, his motivation, his arc. When a cinematographer reads that same script, he’s thinking about lighting, camera angles, and what cinematic style to employ. The art director thinks about how to use design principles and visual techniques, while the editor assesses how everything will cut together.
But what about the producer? After all, she’s the creative gatekeeper who has committed to bringing all these people together to turn your script into a movie. What does she look for? In short, everything. (Albeit from a macro level.) Because if she doesn’t understand what the script needs, how will she assemble the right team for it? Moreover, how will she find its audience? Below are six main areas that a good producer will consider when reviewing your script.
Story
The producer wants fleshed-out characters, dramatic tension, coherent theme, and appropriate narrative structure. These are the underpinnings of viable cinematic storytelling. The story should resonate with your target demographic – whether through comedy, drama or thrills – ultimately offering a two-hour journey that encourages the willing suspension of disbelief. Bottom line, you can take a great story and make a so-so movie, but you’ll never turn a so-so story into a great movie.
Budget
Producers are not only the film’s creative shepherds but also its fiscal ones. They’re responsible for deciding how much the film should cost and then securing that amount from investors. They also maintain a fiduciary duty to make choices that will benefit those investors. Smaller stories that require over-the-top set pieces or excessive visual effects might turn what would otherwise be a greenlight into a pass. Similarly, material with a low-budget feel might turn off a producer seeking something with wide theatrical appeal.
Cast
The right cast is almost indispensable to selling a film, so it’s no great mystery why producers rarely read a script without thinking about who would play key roles. Think about known actors whose look, style and personality might best befit the characters and let that inform your writing. The producer may ask you who you see playing those characters. Just make sure the actors you pick have a decent track record of starring in successful films.
Execution & Logistics
At the end of the day, remember that the producer is tasked with turning your words into images. That means finding the right locations, hiring the best crew, securing vendors, determining a feasible schedule, and doing it all in a way that protects the integrity of both the story and budget. If she sees a workable path for bringing your script to screen within the budget parameters, she’s more likely to take a chance on it.
Marketing
Loving a script is not enough. The producer wants to know that others will love it, too. Those people will make up the movie’s audience. As she reads, she’ll be thinking about how to grab the audience’s attention before they ever buy a ticket, from posters (how will the stars look on it?) to trailers (are there some good action-oriented set piece moments?) to awards potential (can I parlay a win at Cannes into an Oscar?). Considering such things in the scripting stage yourself might make your material more marketable.
Distribution
A feature film is ultimately a product. Making it is only the first step. Releasing it to an audience is the rest. The producer thinks about which distributors, sales agents, and platforms will find the story appealing, whether it be a made-for-TV movie, an international blockbuster, or a small Spanish-language indie for the Latin streaming market. Elements like scope, scale, plot, tone, genre, cast type, and marketability factor into this decision, so your understanding of such things help you better craft material.
Summary
These six elements are critical to how a producer analyzes a screenplay, but they don’t operate in a vacuum. They all relate and affect each other. For instance, story and budget will affect the level of cast you can attract, while all three will affect logistics. Cast and budget will affect the marketing plan, and so on. As such, multi-hyphenates like writer-producers who actually produce some of their own material are in the best position to consider another producer’s mindset when writing future scripts.
For further insights, here is part of an interview I did with Film Courage on this topic:
https://youtu.be/PAz-hW_Vym0

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Optioning Your Screenplay to a Producer

Hey all!

Happy Sunday! I'm sitting at my computer desk sipping my tea, light streaming in through the windows, enjoying a little peace and solitude. It just feels like one of those days where it's great to be alive. It also feels like one of those days to share some helpful advice with up-and-coming filmmakers who might be trying to get their first script off the ground. I often get asked a lot about optioning material -- how it works, what to know, things to watch out for, how much and how long to option the material for, and so forth. To address all of those questions in a comprehensive manner, I wrote this little ditty below, which was first published last month at Funds for Writers. It also includes a link to an actual agreement template I use when optioning material. Check it out and hopefully it will give you some insights into the process. In the meantime, I'm just going to go back to enjoying this beautiful day :)

Cheers,

Mark



Optioning Your Screenplay to a Producer

Mark Heidelberger / 2019-02-02

Congratulations! Not only did you finish writing your 120-page cinematic opus, but you have a motion picture producer interested in bringing it to the silver screen. You’re ready to sell. Ready to see your name on the back of a director’s chair. Ready to chow down on craft service while Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams deliver your prose… But wait, not so fast. What’s this agreement the producer’s handed you? An option? He’s not buying it? What does this mean? Well, let’s break it down…
What is an option exactly?
An option agreement is an industry-standard document that interested producers give writers when they’re not quite ready to buy the script, but don’t want anyone else to buy it either. Maybe they don’t have enough money yet, aren’t sure they can get it made or don’t know what the budget will be (and the budget often determines the writer’s fee). An option simply gives the producer the exclusive right to purchase the material at any time during the term of the agreement. Here’s a sample option for reference: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kpiuHbB6zUJhm1FDUq__4OrB6LeaJ25QnJvF2fM_Vrw/edit?usp=sharing
What do I need to have in place before optioning my script?
First, make sure the script has been registered with the Library of Congress’ Copyright Office. This is crucial for your protection and necessary for the producer to prove chain of title to the eventual studio or distributor that picks up the film. Information on copyright registration can be found here: https://www.copyright.gov/registration/performing-arts/index.html. For added protection, you can also register it with the WGA. Lastly, if the story is based on a real-life person, make sure you’ve acquired their life rights.
How long should the option term be?
Options can last however long you and the producer deem appropriate. Just remember that no one else can buy the script while that producer holds the option, so it may depend on your level of trust or how badly you want to work with him. One or two years is a fairly standard initial term, and it’s not unusual to have a one-year extended term triggered by the payment of an additional fee and written notice from the producer of his intention to renew.
How much money should I ask for?
Again, there’s no right or wrong answer here. Options can be as low as one dollar or as high as $10,000. As long as there’s consideration – something of value going from you to the producer and vice versa – the option is valid. The size of the fee will likely be based on the stature of the producer and how big the expected purchase price will be, but for a typical indie, $500 to $1,000 is common for the initial term. You might also negotiate a percentage (say 5-10%) of the expected purchase price. However, remember that the initial option fee is usually applied against the purchase price; so, if the producer pays a $2,000 option fee and the final purchase price is $20,000, he only owes another $18,000 to buy the script outright.
What other elements should be part of the option?
You certainly want the producer to lay out terms for exercising the option, including the purchase price, your writer’s credit, the notification procedure and exactly what rights he’s acquiring (just the film rights or also sequels, television, and other ancillaries). The compensation details are perhaps the most crucial though and should reference bonuses, backend participation and, if appropriate, fees for sequels, spin-offs and remakes. If the final purchase price can’t be determined yet because the budget is still undecided, ask for a percentage of the budget with a floor (i.e., 2% of the budget with a minimum of $20,000).
What are those short-form documents at the end?
The short form option and short form assignment are standard addendum to any option. The short form option, which states the deal between the parties in the simplest terms, is recorded with the copyright office by the producer so that outside parties know the material has been optioned. The short form assignment, also recorded with the copyright office, lets all parties know that the producer is the new owner of your material upon his exercising of the option. Proof that these documents have been recorded is also necessary for verifying the chain of title.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

7 Ways Entertainment Writers Can Maximize Their Online Presence

I have had a pretty prolific, ongoing relationship with the Funds for Writers website, creating content for them that's intended to benefit anyone writing for film, television or other media. One of my recent articles featured ways for writers to boost their presence on the web. I try to provide tangible and practical insights that can be of real value for people. Check out the article below...


7 Ways Entertainment Writers Can Maximize Their Online Presence

Mark Heidelberger / 2019-02-22

Writing a noteworthy feature film or television script is challenging enough, but as an up-and-comer, standing out in a crowded marketplace might be even harder. Tinseltown is chock full of novice scribes angling for a shot at the spotlight, creating fierce competition as everyone jockeys for attention from a limited group of agents, managers, and producers. With all this, it may seem hard to find a good friend in the entertainment business, but the internet can certainly be one if you know how to leverage it.
1. Blogging Creates Belonging
A solid first start is creating your own blog or website. Blogger by Google is 100% free to use with a blogspot.com sub-domain and offers reasonably-priced upgrade options. Additionally, free website builders like Wix, Weebly and Site123 offer the chance for a professional-looking page with equally affordable hosting fees available. Once created, use it to write regularly about your endeavors, from new projects to contest wins to your latest Hollywood party-hopping adventure. Over time, it will create exposure and ensure people have a place to reach you.
2. Social Media: No Longer Optional
Get on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But don’t just tweet or post about successes on your personal page. Follow others in your field. Join filmmaking groups. Use the platforms to network with producers, directors and other writers, seek collaborations and work opportunities, share important resources and get invited to events. Yes, it’s difficult to speak highly of yourself in such settings without coming off as pretentious, but until you have an agent or manager doing it for you, the next best thing is to generate the support of an online community who can help by sharing your posts.
3. Those Mysterious Spec Script Marketplaces
Several reputable marketplaces exist where writers can showcase speculative material for potential buyers. Some of the most prominent include Inktip, Spec Scout and The Black List. The former allows you to list any treatment and/or script for a nominal fee while the latter two sell analysis services that result in high-scoring scripts being promoted online. Indie producers seeking affordable and often specific material from writers will check these sites. (Side note: Writer-producers who are seeking financing can also list their projects on Slated if they can get admitted to the site.)
​​​​​​​
4. A Little Competition Never Hurt
Screenplay competitions are a viable way to generate online buzz so long as you perform well in them. The top finishers in well-respected contests like Nicholl, Final Draft, and Scriptapalooza – usually quarterfinalist level and above – will be mentioned on their websites and in various online promotional materials. Script Pipeline, going a step further, offers finalists in their competition both development assistance and online circulation of the material to a network of producers, agents, and managers.
5. All Publicity’s Good Publicity
Seek out opportunities for free publicity in online trade magazines, screenwriter blogs, and entertainment podcasts. Find an angle that makes your material or personal story unique and pitch those site proprietors on why they should give you a platform. No good at pitching? Well, you’ll need to work on it because it’s an essential skill for writers in Hollywood. But in the meantime, hire an affordable short-term publicist like October Coast to help you find such opportunities.
6. Shoot Something!
Not all online exposure has to be written. Writing for the screen is just the first step in the process of creating a much more layered audio-visual product. Shoot a scene from your script yourself to share on YouTube or Vimeo as a way to show your scripting skills in practice. Better yet, see if you can convince an indie filmmaker to shoot a short or do a web series based on your material. Once you have any sort of produced credit, you can submit to have a profile on IMDB, perhaps the most referenced online resource there is in entertainment.
7. Be Down with the Cause
Consider ways your material might be able to attract the attention of partner groups like charities, non-profits or other special interests. For instance, if your script features a lead with autism, you might be able to attract the support of autism foundations that can help provide online exposure for the story. Material that is inspirational, purpose-driven or based on a true-life figure is often the best fit for this.