The Small-Time Professional Screenwriter (STPS)

My article on The Black List in Creative Screenwriting

My article on The Black List in Creative Screenwriting is finally up.

Here’s an excerpt:

Launched in 2005, The Black List quickly became a Hollywood institution. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly reported:

‘In just four years, the Black List has become Hollywood’s equivalent of the Rookie of the Year award—a neon arrow pointing to the work of undiscovered or unappreciated writers. It has launched careers, been an increasingly important weapon in the battle to get great original screenplays made into great original films, and even become a crystal ball for the Oscars.’

Franklin Leonard, then a development executive at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, launched the list by asking nearly 100 movie execs about their favorite unproduced scripts from the past year. He then compiled the results and initially distributed the list anonymously. The voter pool has now grown to approximately 500, with more than 200 Black List screenplays becoming features.  Collectively, they’ve earned $16 billion at box offices worldwide, earned over 150 Oscar nominations and won 25 statues, including three of the last five Best Pictures and seven of the last 12 screenwriting Oscars.

However, as it turns out, few of the original Black List writers were truly “undiscovered,” since most of the scripts had already been sold and some were even in production.  Furthermore, most of the writers were represented by agents or managers, including heavy-hitters like Quentin Tarantino and then-rookies like Diablo Cody.



Diablo Cody: The 7 Things No One Tells You About Being a Top Screenwriter (plus mostly bad advice from Joe Eszterhas)

A fun list from Diablo Cody, if you’re ever in the enviable position of needing this advice.

This one is my favorite:

6. Everyone you know will suddenly aspire to be a screenwriter.I’ve never heard of a dozen people applying to dental school because their friend or family member became an orthodontist. But if you become a screenwriter and have success at it, at least five of your non-writing acquaintances will spontaneously decide to try writing a screenplay. And you know what? I don’t blame them. I genuinely believe I have the best job in the world, other than Katy Perry. Besides, it’s not like I know what the fuck I’m doing. Go ahead, guys! Take a crack at it!

On the other hand, here’s a mostly (IMHO) terrible list from Joe Eszterhas:  Joe Eszterhas’ 10 Golden Rules of Screenwriting.  I don’t know whether this explains why he was one of the top screenwriters in Hollywood for many years, or if it explains why he hasn’t had a movie made in the States since 1997.  This is the only point I agree with:

10. Don’t let the bastards get you down. If you can’t sell your script, or if you sell the script and they bring in another writer to butcher it, or if the director claims in interviews that he really wrote your script, or if the actors claim that they improvised all of your best lines, or if you’re left out of the press junket, simply sit down and write another script. And if the same thing happens to you on that one, write another and another and another and another, until you get one up there that’s your vision translated by the director to the big screen.


Guess which genre makes even more money than horror?

From the NY Times:

‘Earlier this week Forbes had an article on the return on investment on this summer’s films, noting that some have still not collected box office grosses that exceed their original production budgets. “R.I.P.D.,” for example, cost $130 million to make, but has earned shy of $50 million at the global box office, according to Box Office Mojo.

The horror movie “The Purge,” on the other hand, cost $3 million to make and has grossed nearly $80 million worldwide. That’s a box office return more than 26 times the original cost. The Forbes article then observed that “Horror films are definitely Hollywood’s best bet in terms of turning a profit.”’

It turns out that documentaries make even more money!  But the data is skewed because the study only takes into account movies that made at least $ 2 million — which rules out a lot of docs.

Action and adventure movies, despite their popularity, are last in terms of ROI.  Even behind westerns, ahem.  They make tons of money when they hit big, but most of them also cost tons of money, so it’s much harder to turn a profit.


You’ve Never Heard Of This Woman And She’s Basically The Most Important Person In Movie History

I just learned about this woman who made the first narrative film, ran a film studio, and made 1000 movies.

Alice Guy-Blaché was a woman of firsts. She did so many awesome things for movies and as you’ll see, just about no one has heard of her. That’s a travesty. The fact that this woman who made history was completely forgotten made me emotional for a full 8 minutes, much to the consternation of everyone around me.”  There’s a kickstarter campaign to make a documentary about her.

More about her here.

Gender flipping in Hollywood

From A Mighty Girl and Ms Magazine:

“This summer has been abysmal in terms of women playing leading roles in Hollywood blockbusters but, as Holly Derr writes in Ms. Magazine, “Jodi Foster has a leading role in the new action movie Elysium. How’d she score it? Foster makes a point of having her agent specifically seek out leading-man scripts that can be flipped. Her role in Elysium was originally written for a man.”

Role gender-swapping is rare, Derr maintains, due to the fact that “American storytelling is still driven by the assumption that is at the heart of the Western canon: The male experience is the universal human experience, whereas the female experience is specialized, driven by biological factors, the absence of which prevents men from being able to see themselves in female characters.”

Ultimately, Derr asserts “Gender-flipping introduces the possibility that women can represent the human experience, leading eventually to more parts written for women that do that. As more creators include women characters who are complex and universal, more people will realize that this makes entertainment better, not worse. Eventually, we won’t even be surprised by it.” – Ms. Magazine

About half my scripts have female leads and half have male leads, but they all have strong and interesting female characters.  Who would want to write (or read, or see) any other kind?