Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Spec Pilots

I"m posting this here from a forum I belong to, so don't contact me contact the person's email below:

Award-winning producer looking for cable-type tv specs. Sexy, quirky, and/or unique stories that can't play on Network tv. Please send short log lines to me - I'm vetting these for the producer. Thanks, Chris

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Interview with Script Consultant Mina Zaher - Part 2

And now, what the writer should expect from the reader, and a bit more. But before the conclusion, I want to thank Mina for taking the time to do this interview. Generous people like Mina make having a blog fun and informative.
And you can reach Mina here:

Now, Part 2:

What should the writer expect from the consultant?

The writer should expect objectivity from the consultant. It doesn’t matter whether the consultant likes horror or hates comedy. The consultant’s job is to work in the best interest of the story. Personal opinions should be left at the door.

I know you are in the UK but is the UK so different from the US in scripts? Does that make any difference when a writer is looking for a consultant?

I don’t there is a difference with film. Films should have a universal appeal and a good story is a good story. There was no question from Braven Films, which is based in New York that I couldn’t read for them because I was based in London.

However, it might be different with television because British television and US television have different structures and practices, such as the spec script process. UK writers are encouraged not to write scripts from existing shows.

Do you offer the script a PASS, CONSIDER, or RECOMMEND?

I don’t because I don’t think it’s fair at the script’s early stage to judge the script. Also, script reading is so subjective. I can’t predict how one producer or agent will react to the script; I wouldn’t want to. My job would be to help make the writer make their story and characters the strongest they can.

Is there something you think screenwriters should know before submitting a script to you or any reader for consultation?

When the writer looks for a consultant they need to understand that the reader may not provide the magic answer for their script. A good consultant however will allow the writer to see that there are possibilities in their stories and characters; that solutions are possible, even if the writer can’t see them immediately.

I know when you read my RomCom, you seemed to know as much if not more about US features than I did. I thought this was great. Would it be the same for TV?

I do watch more films than television admittedly and so try to see as much as I can. With television, I don’t see everything but I do try to watch the good stuff. Battlestar Galactica is in my top three ever and I’m a huge fan of Gossip Girl. The other two television dramas in my top three are Traffik and The Wire.

When you give notes, what areas do you usually discuss? I ask this because I had a consultant who wouldn’t even discuss my dialogue, and I consider that a very important part of the writing.

Seriously? Wow.

I attempt a logline first. This will help the writer see how the consultant has interpreted their script. Sometimes the story the writer thinks they have written isn’t the one that’s on the page. The logline will help the writer see where their script is focused.

Narrative, structure, characters and dialogue are key elements that I would cover. I would acknowledge how these elements work and also look at the areas for development. If I do highlight an area that needs developing, I would suggest possible solutions that the writer could consider or use to reach another solution.

The script’s genre will also be covered. In the same vein as the logline, it’s important for the writer to see which genre the consultant sees on the page. For example, is the comedy actually a drama? Is the thriller really a horror?

The tone and pacing of the script will also be addressed. These are crucial elements of the script, which are sometimes overlooked.

Finally, I will add AOB to my notes just in case there are other issues that need to be addressed. I might also use this section to suggest scripts to read or titles to watch that could help the writer with their script.

How can a screenwriter know that the reader is legit? There are so many people who claim to be qualified to take a writer’s money.

Totally. You can’t beat word of mouth. Though what works for one writer may not work for another writer. Companies ask readers for sample reports so I don’t see why an individual couldn’t do the same.

What would you like potential screenwriting customers to know that isn’t on your blog?
Reading is crucial to writing. You can learn craft from books and courses but reading scripts and novels will teach you how to tell a great story.
Also, just write. I know this advice may sound tired but it’s true. Writing is a craft like any other and as my piano teacher used to say practice makes perfect. Whether you’re a dancer, a musician or a writer, you have to practice. It’s that simple. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Interview with Script Consultant Mina Zaher - Part 1

One of the big questions from new screenwriters is, Who can read my script and tell me if I'm doing this right?
This is where the script consultant comes in. Now in the case of Hollywood, and many other writing endeavors, there are people who are qualified to read and consult and worth the money, and then there are people putting out a shingle so they can make money off a desperate writer.
I've noticed many "script doctors" don't even reveal their full names, or the actual production companies they worked for. Here is the skinny from someone not afraid to reveal her experience.
So to help navigate the waters of the script consultant seas, I'd like to introduce you to Mina Zaher. In full disclosure, Mina is one of the co-founders of Twitter's Scriptchat along with me and three other talented writers, Jeanne Bowerman, Kim Garland and Zac Sanford.
Instead of telling you about Mina's qualifications, I decided to interview her and let her tell you about what to look for in a script consultant, and why she's worth the money you'll spend when she reads your script... Without further ado, I bring you part 1 of the Script Consultant:

How long have you been reading scripts, and in what capacity?

The first time I read a script was 20 years ago when I was babysitting for Bruce Beresford. I remember him handing me a script and telling me that if I wanted to write then I needed to read.

Years later, I managed to get work experience as a script reader at Hey Day Films. My test script was Heart by Jimmy McGovern and I remember Tanya Seghatchian asking me if I knew who the writer was. I didn’t and Tanya had to explain that he was one of the most prolific writers in the country.

The irony was that my first job in the industry was at The Agency (London) Ltd., a literary agency that represented Jimmy McGovern. I started off as a junior assistant, which meant working on reception, photocopying and binding scripts, as well as helping the other literary assistants. During this time, I read as many scripts as I could. The storage room had scripts from some of the best writers this country has ever produced; from Simon Ashdown to Andrew Davies; from Russell T. Davies to Paula Milne; and from Kevin Elyot to Ashley Pharaoh. I also read a lot of unsolicited work that came through the door.

Several months later, I was promoted to Literary Assistant during which time I read clients’ scripts. Writers liked to call up and discuss their latest draft and I would have to talk to Development Executives and Producers about the clients’ work, sometimes recommending a client’s best sample script.

After The Agency, I read for Clerkenwell Films in my capacity as Development Assistant. My notes would go to the Head of Development and Executive producer as they developed scripts to submit to broadcasters and financiers. I also read scripts in my job to seek new talent to introduce to the company.

From Clerkenwell Films, I went freelance as a script reader and script editor. I read for companies such as Working Title Television, Festival Films and Television and RDF and edited for Hewland International and Freemantle Media. I freelanced for a few years and decided to take time out to pursue a Doctorate in Film and Psychoanalysis, only to give it up and pursue my dream by doing an MA in Screenwriting at London College of Communication.

The basis for the MA was workshopping and so for two years, I was involved in reading at least five scripts every few weeks to provide feedback in small groups. These were two very intense years.

Most recently I have read for Braven Films and Writer’s Avenue. My capacity as Associate Director and Producer for Writer’s Avenue involves me working with the literary team to find plays, which we will showcase as part of the First Twenty Minutes competition that Writer’s Avenue runs.

What do you think a writer should look for when hunting for a consultant to read their script?

Experience is key. This is one of the reasons why I decided to offer my services on a professional level. I used to read scripts for free but then realized that there were a lot of people doing the odd weekend course and charging writers for feedback. I wanted to give writers an affordable option from an experienced reader.

There’s a skill to giving feedback as well as analyzing a script from an objective viewpoint. It took me years to understand why a script worked and why it didn’t. In my earlier years as a reader, I didn’t need to break down these technicalities; I just had to say if the script worked or if the writer had potential.

Giving feedback is very different. The consultant needs to identify the elements of the script that don’t work as well the elements that do work; and then reach into their tool box to provide logical suggestions that could help the writer fix their script problems. I learnt this skill from my days working in development as well as during my MA.

Catch Mina here:

In part 2 Mina talks about what the writer should expect from the reader. See part 2 on February 17, 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Not Related to Screenwriting, but fun What Is The Main Ingredient of WD - 40?

The following is for entertainment only, certainly not researched by me:

'Water Displacement #40'. The product began from a search  for a rust preventative solvent and degreaser to protect missile  parts.  WD-40 was created in 1953 by three technicians at the San Diego Rocket Chemical Company.  Its name comes from the project that  was to find a 'water displacement' compound..  They were successful  with the fortieth formulation, thus WD-40.
  The Convair Company  bought it in bulk to protect their atlas missile parts.
Ken East (one of the original founders) says there is nothing in WD-40 that would hurt you... 
When you read the 'shower door' part, try  it.  It's the first thing that has ever cleaned that spotty shower  door.  If yours is plastic, it works just as well as glass.   It's a miracle!  Then try it on your stove top ...  Viola!   It's now shinier than it's ever been.  You'll be amazed.

 1.   Protects silver from tarnishing.
    2.   Removes road tar and grime from cars.
    3.   Cleans and lubricates guitar strings.
    4.   Gives floors that 'just-waxed' sheen without making them  slippery.
    5..   Keeps flies off cows.
    6.   Restores and cleans chalkboards.
    7.   Removes lipstick stains.
    8..   Loosens stubborn zippers.
    9.   Untangles jewelry chains.
    10.   Removes stains from stainless steel sinks.
    11.   Removes dirt and grime from the barbecue grill.
    12.   Keeps ceramic/terra cotta garden pots from  oxidizing.
    13.   Removes tomato stains from clothing.
    14.   Keeps glass shower doors free of water spots.
    15.   Camouflages scratches in ceramic and marble  floors.
    16.   Keeps scissors working smoothly..
    17.   Lubricates noisy door hinges on vehicles and doors in  homes.
    18.   It removes black scuff marks from the kitchen floor!  Use WD-40 for  those nasty tar and scuff marks on flooring.  It doesn't seem to  harm the finish and you won't have to scrub nearly as hard to get  them off.  Just remember to open some windows if you have a lot of  marks.
    19.   Bug guts will eat away the finish on your car if not removed quickly!    Use WD-40!
    20.   Gives a children's playground gym slide a shine for a super fast  slide.
    21.   Lubricates gear shift and mower deck lever for ease of handling on riding  mowers...
    22..   Rids kids rocking chairs and swings of squeaky  noises.
    23.   Lubricates tracks in sticking home windows and makes them easier to  open..
    24.   Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and  close.
    25.   Restores and cleans padded leather dashboards in vehicles, as well as  vinyl bumpers.
    26.   Restores and cleans roof racks on vehicles.
    27.   Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans
    28.   Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles for easy  handling.
    29.   Lubricates fan belts on washers and dryers and keeps them running  smoothly.
    30.   Keeps rust from forming on saws and saw blades, and other  tools.
    31.   Removes splattered grease on stove.
    32.   Keeps bathroom mirror from fogging.
    33.   Lubricates prosthetic limbs.
    34.   Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the  smell).
    35.   Removes all traces of duct tape.
    36.   Folks even spray it on their arms, hands, and knees to relieve arthritis  pain.
    37.     Florida 's favorite use is: 'cleans and removes love bugs from grills and  bumpers.'
    38.   The favorite use in the state of New York , WD-40 protects the Statue of  Liberty from the elements.
    39.   WD-40 attracts fish.  Spray a little on live bait or lures and you will be catching the big one in no time.  Also, it's a lot cheaper than the chemical attractants  that are made for just that purpose.  Keep in mind though, using  some chemical laced baits or lures for fishing are not allowed in  some states.
    40.   Use it for fire ant bites..  It takes the sting away immediately and  stops the itch.
    41.   WD-40 is great for removing crayon from walls.  Spray on the mark and  wipe with a clean rag.
    42.   Also, if you've discovered that your teenage daughter has washed and dried  a tube of lipstick with a load of laundry, satur ate the lipstick  spots with WD-40 and rewash.  Presto!  The lipstick is  gone!
    43.   If you sprayed WD-40 on the distributor cap, it would displace the  moisture and allow the car to start.

   P.S.  The basic ingredient is FISH OIL.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rewrite by Paul Chitlik

I used to panic when rewrite time came after typing Fade Out. Then I stumbled upon Rewrite. I've read this book several times, highlighted it extensively, and even taken notes from the highlights. Now I have the main points in an Excel spreadsheet and know exactly how and where to start my rewrites. Chitlik covers clarifying structure and story for impact, developing character, ramping up the conflict, beats, scenes, sequences, secondary characters, active descriptions, action and much more. I'll share one tip that's really helped me. It may be obvious to some, but it really changed how I look at my script. TO DO: go through entire script and read only protagonist's dialogue, then go through again and read only antagonist's dialogue, you can also do this with secondary characters if you like. By the time I'm done, I've made at least 6-10 passes on my script. This is my go to book.

What a Difference a Day Makes - Scriptchat Meetup

I just returned from Los Angeles last week. I was there for a trade show for my jewelry line (, but I was in town early so we planned a meet up.
As the co-founder of Scriptchat on Twitter, we put the word out on the Scriptchat Facebook site and on Twitter that we'd be having a get-together at the Formosa Cafe.
And on the night of the meetup we had approximately 20 people attend. It was great fun, and I got to meet the people behind the Twitter names. See pics below.
Anyway, I had been sort on the fence about a project I was working on, and had planned to talk to one of the great guys at the meetup, Jon. We had a great conversation, but there were just so many people there it was hard to get much done. In meeting up with the people at the Formosa Cafe, I learned a lot about writing for TV, and I got some interest in making my project come to life. I'm hoping it all works out and three great minds can make a great film. After that night I was once again jazzed about my project. And I still am, even if other parts of my life aren't so jazzy at the moment.