Friday, December 31, 2010

Make It Tough!

I was going through some past dated blogs by other screenwriters the other day and found this one from Will Akers blog called (like his book) Your Screenplay Sucks!  This is so true. Read on wonderful reader!

Make It Tough For ‘Em!

March 9, 2010

Never GIVE your characters anything.

Make them earn it. Make them fight for EVERYTHING. Every single little thing… if it’s easy for them to get, then the story is boring.

Go through your script and list everything your hero gets. The boy’s phone number. The key to the hotel room. The location of the hidden safe. The cure for cancer. Whatev. Anything they get, look at it, and see if you can make it more difficult for them to get…

Make them earn everything. Make them sweat to get it.

If your hero just gets stuff cause he’s cute, then we don’t feel he deserves it. Just like Robert Redford, when he was auditioning for the lead in THE GRADUATE. The director asked him what it was like not to score with a girl… and Redford said, “What do you mean?” Redford never had to worry about a girl telling him “No.” so he didn’t get the part. Nichols cast a guy who would have to earn Katharine Ross, and we believed his story.

Look at every single event in your story and see if your hero has to struggle to get what you give him (or her!). If it’s easy, you’ve got a weak moment… and you can fix it!

Words of wisdom from Will Akers.  I suggest you heed his advice! :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Last Word

One of the best things I've learned as a screenwriter is to put the most important word at the END of sentence. 

THAT is where the punch is!

For instance:

I had written a line of dialogue where a naughty merc stated:  "I'd kill my mother for that kind of money."

Rewritten it became:  "For that kind of money, I'd kill my mother."

See? It shocks you... the brain works to put the sentence together and the last word is the final piece of the puzzle. 

One of the best examples I have ever seen was written by Louis L'Amour. (My nod to Will Akers for the quote.) Tell me what YOU think about it.

“I just pointed my rifle at him … and let him have the big one right through the third button on his shirt. If he ever figured to sew that particular button on again he was going to have to scrape it off his backbone.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Make Some Short Films!!!

If you are a screenwriter, then you should be filming some short films.

Will Akers told me to start filming short films after I had completed his exciting and always entertaining screenwriting class. He told me it would make me a better writer to understand what a camera can or can't do, and what a director will have to put up with some of the crazy shots I saw in my head.

I heeded his magnificent wisdom and here I sit. A blogger, screenwriter and director of another short film that we will be filming in one week. I have a full crew, a full cast, and a full plate.  I'm learning more in one semester than I have in my life. Besides writing, of course. :)

Something that will help as well... HELPING out a crew member on someone else's film. That will teach you a lot too.

A while back I blogged on MUSICA CAMPESINA, a movie I worked on with Chilean director Alberto Fuguet. I started off as a P.A. and then got promoted to Line Producer. How?  I just did what everyone else didn't. I got noticed and have gotten street credit that I'm a hard worker.  Not to mention that the film has been submitted to Sundance and should it get in will be AWESOME to have producer credit on my resume!

See the trailer here:

You don't have to stay in one arena if you're a writer. Get out there! Meet folks! Just in my short time on campus, I've met and worked with people who are now in LA.  So, they are CONTACTS that I have now. Contacts that I can send a script to. Contacts that, should I ever move to the coast, could help me get jobs. Contacts who can help me make independent films of scripts that I wrote.

How could I have met them if I stayed inside writing ALL the time and never made a movie?

Are you afraid of what people will think? Don't be. YOU are the artist. The writer. The director.  It's YOUR dream.

Are you going to let someone else determine if you reach it or not???

Not me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Use Your Gift!

Writing is a craft.

Some say a skill. I think that's a little obtuse. Skill means it can be learned.  Craft means it can be felt and expressed. At least to me that is.

Writing is a gift.

Some of us have it, and some of us... don't.

I received a script yesterday from a very talented and I believe gifted writer. She asked me to peruse it and tell her what I thought.  And I did.

I don't lie. What good am I to you if I don't tell you the truth about your writing?

Luckily, "Heinzy" is a great writer, with fresh ideas.  Her script was easy to read and well thought out. She had a compelling and thought provoking story. And I loved it.

A couple of things were "off" like changing from present to past tenses (writers always have to be on their toes for that), and using the word IS. 

If you see the word IS in your script (not during dialogue of course) then it is probably followed by a verb ending in ING, which makes your story have passive voice.  Agents, producers, readers, etc., HATE passive voice.  However, I personally, overlooked that for the sheer intelligence and brilliant story line she had woven.

So, way to go, Heinzy!  You have a great talent, wonderful ideas, and I can't wait to see your stuff get made!

Now for the rest of you...

What are YOU doing to chase down your dreams?

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I'm not sure if anyone has been following this on the news about the recent documented sightings of the UFO's that have been seen in the U.S., China, etc. All of the sightings are similar.

News report on recent sighting in El Paso, TX

Now, when it comes to this, I'm such a skeptic. I held out for YEARS about crop circles and wouldn't you know it, someone came forward and admitted they did it. And they showed how. I don't know if they were telling the truth. I'm just saying I'm a skeptic.

But with this, I'm a little enamoured. Not because of the possibility of life outside of Earth, or the possible answer to a Bible prophecy. And then there's that part of me, deep down that secretly hopes if they ARE aliens, they don't REALLY do anal probes.

I'm interested to see what movies come out of this.

You know it'll happen. Writers everywhere are watching these stories, talking with people in the area of the sightings, and making notes.  And it'll hit theaters before 2012 to ensure we have mass panic and cult suicides.

So, while part of me is thinking this is an Orsen Welles' thing (it's rather profound to have it all over the world), part of me is thinking, "Man, who's gonna write the story first?"

Will it be you?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Adaptation... A Moment In Time

When working on an adaptation, you will have to prepare yourselves that the story will change.

It’s inevitable.

Remember the story of Pinnochio? Jiminy Cricket and all that real boy stuff? Well, in the true story, Pinnochio KILLS the cricket! And on purpose, too! It wasn’t during a cheerful musical moment. Now ask yourself why Walt Disney didn’t put that in his now classic animated movie?

I’m currently writing and rewriting an adaptation from a short story with some students. It’s the longest short story I’ve heard of, and has several stories within the story. How can we get all of that into ten pages for a ten minute short?

We can’t.

We must ADAPT.

We read the story and saw that the main strain, the main truth through the story was that our hero was a habitual liar. Bam! Now our story is about a habitual liar. From here, we pick our favorite scenes and push the story forward. We lose the fact that the hero has an uncle with Down’s Syndrome. Did it move the story forward? No. Cut it. Did it matter that her false boyfriend went to Dartmouth? No. Cut it.

An adaptation is different than a creation of a script. It’s like you have a puzzle box full random of pieces. Some of them fit and some don’t and it’s up to you to figure it all out to make a picture people can see.

And when adapting a SHORT film (as we are):

It’s all about a moment.

Once you find the truth of the story, focus on the one moment that moves you. That’s all you have time to show. One moment.

And that is a FAR cry from an entire story, isn’t it?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Student Film Fun

I’m currently in the process of making a short film. An adaptation.

My crew are students.

Some of them have never had anything to do with a movie in their lives. **pops an aspirin**

This will be an interesting road to go down.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Honing Your Craft... and a little Matt Damon

Hello my wonderful fans and readers!

My tribe of munchkins are now in school, so my life MAY become a bit quieter now… (insert insane laughter here).

Anyhoo… since I’m a writer, I figured I would share with you another way to become awesome.  Or at least prove to yourself that you need to take classes OR find another route of prospective employment. (I’m not trying to be harsh, believe me).

Go online to Drew’s Scriptorama. You can google it. From there, download a script. Not a script that says First Draft, because I can assure you it is almost NOTHING like the movie.
Print it out, but don’t read it. Seriously. Don’t.

Then, rent the movie.

As the movie plays, have your laptop or whatever with you.  Pause the movie.

Here’s the fun part:

Write a script for what you saw.

For instance, if you are watching the movie, THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, you would possibly watch the first two minutes and write what you saw. (I’d watch the whole movie first though, because it is an amazingly fun ride).

So, you would something like write:


JASON BOURNE runs to a pharmacy.

And then pick up from there. After you have about a page or two done, pull out the script that you printed. Compare. You will be flabbergasted at how different they are.


We are JASON BOURNE and we’re running down an alley.


BLUE LIGHTS -- from the distance -- strobing through the night -- rushing toward us -- POLICE CARS -- three of them - - SIRENS HOWLING as they bear down -- closer -- faster -- until they whip past the alley...

That’s a little big more descriptive than Jason Bourne runs to a pharmacy, isn’t it?

Try it! I started with more laid back films, but as I progressed in my writing and writing hardcore action flicks, this has really come in handy.

You may find that you are missing information that your script NEEDS. You may find that you are giving too much boring information:

SUSIE (blonde, scantily clad, 23) sets down her coffee before dialing her cell phone.


SUSIE (blonde, scantily clad, 23) dials her cell.

It’s amazing what you can learn about the craft and yourself. Plus, you get to see a movie!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

In Memory Of Blake Snyder

If you don't know who Blake Snyder is, you're probably not serious about screenwriting. His Save The Cat! books have been screenwriting bibles to folk.

I've never met Blake. I've never spoken to him. Never spotted him across a room and was too shy to speak to him. Yet I'm a product of him.

You see, my mentor, Will Akers, met Blake one day and the two formed a friendship. Out of that friendship, a book was created, but not only that, a bond between the two. Blake cheered Will on and taught him a lot of great stuff that Will, in turn, has passed on to me... and countless classes before me.

It's been one year since Blake's passing.  It's strange. I remember the tweets, the Facebook posts, all saying Rest In Peace and what not. I remember reading Tracey Jackson's tear jerker of a blog as she told why she would miss him so.

As a tribute to Blake Snyder, I have copied the following from Will's blog, Your Screenplay Sucks! It can be found at If you'd like a great blog to follow, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, here's hearing from William M. Akers:

Blake Snyder

August 4, 2010

I miss him.

It has been a year. I’m sitting here in my office sweating because I have to turn on the air conditioning and because I worry I won’t write the right thing about Blake.

What a prince among men. That cliche certainly fits.

He is 100% responsible for the existence of this blog because he is 100% responsible for the existence of my book. When I got the idea for a book on screenwriting, he encouraged me and said he’d tell his publisher. They agreed to publish it and here we are.

Blake was long on encouragement.

I miss that a lot.

Anyway, I miss him. I miss his advice. I miss his voice. I miss his loyalty and his kind nature. I miss his smile and I desperately miss his friendship.

Boy, do I miss that.

We Miss You, Blake.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Checklist of Champions

I was recently given a checklist from Will Akers. This checklist was written by Jeanette Winterson and is very good for aspiring screenwriters... and practiced produced screenwriters, too. Like Will!

I wanted to share it with you because it's just so good.

1. Do your work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.

2. Never stop when you're stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Don't stop altogether.

3. Love what you do.

4. Be honest with yourself. If you're not good, accept it. If the work you're doing is no good, accept it.

5. Don't hold on to poor work. If it was bad when it went in the drawer, it will be just as bad when it comes out.

6. Take no notice of anyone you don't respect.

7. Take no notice of anyone with a gender agenda. A lot of men still think that women lack imagination of the fiery kind.

8. Be ambitious for the work and not the reward.

9. Trust your creativity.

10. Enjoy this work!

Hi again, it's Screenwriter Chic.  I would like to touch base on a few things.

You must write everyday. Not as a chore, but as a work out. An Olympic champion can't just skip a few work outs and then expect to win the gold. They have to stay finely tuned. Same for the writer.

If you're stuck, and I've been there before... I suggest the following. Take a sheet of paper and write the characters name (or type it, whatever) and make a list of the first thing that comes to mind. It's very freeing.

Bonnie Spailsenberg
She could:
learn to shoot
be abducted by aliens
have a baby
go back to school
sell bottled water

It doesn't matter how silly or weird it becomes, because only you will see it. And it can spark some truly wonderful ideas. Everyone say thank you to John Truby for this exercise.

You MUST love what you do. If you don't, and you consider this work, well, you'll probably be miserable.

If you can't seem to "get it" and you're work stinks, like Ms. Winterson said, maybe you should walk away. It's not that you don't have talent. It could be that your talent is elsewhere, like directing. Writing is hard and not everyone can do it.

Seriously, don't hold on to poor work. I've gutted scripts and reworked them only to gut them again. If I've written a scene that I love, but it doesn't push the movie forward, it gets cut. Actually, I put it in a file on my computer because I may actually use that scene, but for a different script. That's the fun part of my job.

The taking no notice of anyone you don't respect is HUGE. Say you have Daddy issues. All your life you have just wanted to please him. You write a touching story about a dog who saves the world by flying to space on a giant hot dog and in the process discovers who his father is. By the end of the movie Papa Dog has accepted Astro Dog and told him he's proud of him. Fade Out.  And what do you do? You let Daddy read it. He hates is. No guns, no sex, no swearing, you name it. And you're crushed. You throw the next Pixar gem in the trash because of what Daddy says. Unless he's a producer, director, or screenwriter, don't do that! He has no idea what it's like to 1. write a screenplay and 2. get it made. Surround yourself with people you can trust and respect.  I personally, have my script read and reread by folks. My 'club' consists of Jill, who is a smart screenwriter with great insight. Kristy, who will read it from an 'audience' point of view and show me where she gets confused. If she gets confused, a reader will get confused. I can't have that.   Then Ann, who is my editing queen. She locates all the grammar mistakes that spell check missed. Again, she tells me if my scenes are confusing. Once it looks okay to me, I'll hand it over to Will. From there, it comes back, bathed in red ink and I start the rewrite. The point is, all of these people I respect highly, and all help me form this work into something that could possibly wind up on the coveting silver screen.  And none of them kiss my butt. If they don't like something, they tell me.

Take no notice of anyone you don't repect. You can love Daddy and respect him as Daddy, but he doesn't determine if your script is made or not. Shrug and walk away.

The gender agenda is huge. I recently set a query to an agent. He wrote back and said, "Not interested... women don't write like that."  I can't wait for my stuff to get made and I'm going to track him down one day. Poo on narrow minded folk. Break molds!

Being ambitious for the work and not the reward, trusting your creativity and enjoying it all is totally up to you. I write because I love it. I come up with stories and get them out. It's a fun puzzle piecing for me.

Anyhow, dear fans, I hope this helps you.

Good luck!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Drama is Action

Thanks to you, my wonderful readers, for your patience as I grieved (and still do so) the passing of my sister, Tracey. If I know Tracey at all, she’d be severely upset with me for not posting another blog entry sooner, and about screenwriting. SO! Here you go!

I read in a fantabulous book called “Essentials of Screenwriting” by Richard Walter that “drama is action.”

“Well, duh!” you say. But let me ask you. How many times have you seen a bunch of characters sitting around talking about nothing that advances your movie plot? It’s the lull in the movie where folks go to the bathroom and get more popcorn. Or worse.

If you have a script with that kind of scene in it, cut it out NOW. If you’re going to have a scene with people gabbing, it better darn well advance your plot. You can’t be precious about your script. By that I mean, if you write a kickin’ dialogue that you love; it really doesn’t help your plot but you still keep it in there. Why? Because you like it.

It’s not what you like that will sell your screenplay.

Your plot must always be moving, always be pushing ahead. By doing so, your reader will gladly follow and that is exactly what you want.

Again from the book mentioned above, the author states (and quite accurately):

“Screenwriters are required, therefore, to determine for each scene the action that most effectively advances the story and expands the characters and also to craft the ideal setting for that action.”

As a screenwriter, we can’t hope the reader will ‘understand’ what we’re hoping to convey. We must show them. Readers don’t have time to try and decipher. That’s what the grand round circular file is for, and I really don’t think that was the action, the drama, you wanted for your script, now was it?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I Miss My Sister

I wanted to take a moment to share about my sister, Tracey Michelle.

She passed away on Thursday. She was 34. It wasn't fair and it sure as hell wasn't planned. She had kidney failure, brought on by lupus and other ailments. The doctors said she wouldn't make it past 30. She planned on living forever. I planned on her doing the same.

As I write this, numb from the shock, the eulogy I had to give, and the realization that my Christmases will be bittersweet for the rest of my life I wanted to say that Tracey was the best damn sister anyone could ever have. She loved my kids like they were her own. If I set a rule, buddy, that was it. She was on board with upholding it until she heard otherwise.

Tracey was a memory maker. She lit up my life, even when she broke her foot on Halloween in our storm drain. Only she could have found that in all the leaves.  I spent her last birthday with her. She cried when I took a picture of her with my daughter. She said that we were the best family and that she cherished us.  She would send me random texts telling me what a great "sis" I was. I would do the same, but she was so much better at it than me.

She was my cheerleader.  When I decided to begin screenwriting, she was one of my elite few that I would share ideas with. She wasn't afraid to tell me if she'd go and see it or not. She helped me. My children adored her.

She was a champion. She faced horrible odds with her health and she never complained. She would get tired, but she never asked, "Why did this happen to me?" I never once heard her say it wasn't fair. Which I don't think it was. Not in the slightest.  Even at her sickest she would still make time for all of us. We would have parties and movie nights. My daughter would visit and they would have girly days.

Because of seizures, Tracey couldn't see movies. I would have to see them for her and then tell her if they were good to rent.  We'd grab a blanket, turn the lights off, and share popcorn and watch (and sometimes mock) the ones she'd rent. I will forever miss that.

I found out that my sweet sister had passed from my husband. He's a paramedic and heard the call go out on the radio. He asked me to call to see if Tracey was okay, which, I did, seeing as she was only ten minutes away from me. She didn't answer the phone. Someone did. I didn't recognize the voice. They told me that Tracey was gone.

My heart shattered.

For the next 48 hours I was a blubbering mess. I'd be fine for a half hour maybe, and then the grief would crash over me like a wave and I'd lose it. I told my kids, but, it just never sank in...

... until the funeral.

When my kids, my daughter especially, saw her in her casket, it was all over. My precious thirteen year old daughter with her first real experience with death. At first she tried to be tough, but once the tears started, she sobbed the entire funeral. Why not? It was her aunt that was gone from her life. Her aunt who'd take her shopping, and out to eat, and have the girly days with. I'd say our family was devastated, but that's too light a word for one to wrap their head around the pain we all felt seeing her, cold, posed, and surrounded by satin and flowers.

Today I buried my sister, Tracey Michelle. I gave the eulogy and slaughtered it with gasps, tears, and high pitch squeaks that no human should emit in times of pain.

But I wanted all of you to know, my readers and fans, that Tracey Michelle was once credit away from graduating college. She was going to be a sign language interpreter for the deaf.

She helped out the Special Olympics Bowling Teams every year. She'd plan her life around those days.

She loved helping people and loving people.

She was full of life and oozed with love.

She battled kidney failure, lupus, autoimmune disorder, and countless other ailments but always put others first. I watched her body swell from steroids and medicines her doctors tried as they attempted to save her.

She taught me what selflessness was all about.

I always thought I'd have more time with her, that she'd be in a hospital and I'd get a last goodbye in. But I guess if life wasn't fair to her, why should I expect it to be fair to me?  I don't know what I did to deserve to have her in my life, but I thank God she was in it. Forever a bright spot, she's taken a part of my heart with her to Heaven. I pray we have mansions side by side.

I know this is a screenwriting blog, but I wanted you to know that the world lost a precious gem, a jewel, on July 1st.

And it was my sister, Tracey Michelle Barrow.

Tracey Michelle Barrow
Nov. 10, 1975 - July 1, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reversal Rollercoaster Ride!

Ever seen a movie and thought: This is SOOOOOOOOOOO mundane? You can tell where every scene heads and you can predict the outcome? Can we say BORING?!?!? I hate movies like that! UGH!

The screenwriter probably is very good at what he does. The problem is REVERSAL.

A reversal is that part of the scene where you go, “Oh my GOD! I never saw that coming!”

A great reversal is in THE DEPARTED. Leonardo Di Caprio’s character has worked and worked on nailing the bad guy, Matt Damon. He finally has him in his control and they’re on an elevator. When the elevator door opens, BAM! Leo’s shot in the head! I don’t know about you, but I NEVER could have predicted that! And I love the movie for that. It completely changed the tone of the movie! And, if that wasn’t enough…here comes another reversal…Matt Damon’s friend is the one that saved him. Matt thanks him and BAM! He shoots his friend! If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s highly recommended. By little ol’ me.

Reversals add a depth to your script. It shows you aren’t contained in a pretty little box and you actually think outside it. You have innovative, new, and unique ideas.

Have you ever seen Shutter Island? Another FANTASTIC example of reversal…all the way to the very last scene. Amazing! And one of my favorite movies of all time, now.

Look at it this way: the more twists on a rollercoaster, the better the ride, right? Same thing here. Your audience, your reader, has committed to spend time on your “ride”. Give them the twists, turns, and drops that make a ride so great! Make it worth their while! Because…

…if the reader loves the ride, your chances are much better for your script to find its way into the hands who can hook up with your vision, see the movie posters, the taglines, the merchandise, and hot dog! You’re off and running!

Reversals. Your script needs them. It’s what separates a good script from a great one.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Got A Pat On The Back!

As you all should know, Will Akers, author of Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways To Make It Great, is my mentor. I continue to help him on projects, and he in turn, helps me on mine.

Recently, I outlined a new screenplay I'm working on. I believe it's a fresh idea, but I needed some help on opening it. I had a lot of fade ins and outs at the beginning and consulted him on how to write it.

"Email me your pages," he said.

I did. 

The next day, this showed up on his blog:
(Reprinted with permission from Will)

a little research is good…

June 19, 2010

Be specific, but be specific in the right way.

A student of mine, who is a very good writer… probably because she is a very good writer, not because she’s a student of mine, wrote this…


Meg completes her run ticket.

Do you know what a “run ticket” is? I do not. Do you think Meg knows what it is? I bet she does. This is a marvelous example of knowing what you’re writing about… but not letting the research get in the way. We read that sentence, have no idea what “run ticket” is, but we also get the sense, mostly via osmosis, that it is the CORRECT thing, and that it fits and is meet and right and good and just and all that stuff.

Good on ya, Marti!

Conversely, I recently critiqued a screenplay… and I have no idea who wrote it, or what it was about… One of the marvelous services I provide as screenplay critic is a leaky brain, one from which knowledge and memory of your story trickles with the setting sun. I read. I crit. I forget. So, if you want me to crit again, it’s like I am reading for the first time. I’m like a bee. I have a three day memory.

Anyway, this writer was writing some sort of WALL STREET type business script. The writer obviously was not a Wall Street business type, because the scene description, instead of some perfectly perfect description of a Wall Street woman hard at work, would say “Alice works on some papers.” That shouted for Lassie like little Timmy in the well, “Get me outta here!”

Every time the writer would take us to the office, there would be bland references to the work being done. “They work hard.” “Everyone is busy.” Stuff like that.

Not: “Meg completes her run ticket.”

THAT is a fantastic sentence, and it TOTALLY makes me buy that the writer knows what she’s writing about, and it calmed me down and urged me forward, secure in the knowledge that I was in the hands of Someone Who Knows, instead of Someone Who Hopes I Won’t Notice.

**Wow! Thanks for the pat on the back, Will! Considering it comes from one of the most objective voices in screenplay critquing, and from a seasoned actual screenwriter with movies that have been made, I'm truly honored.  ~Marti AKA ScreenwriterChic**
You can order Will's book (HIGHLY recommended and such an easy read) at
And I'm sure it's on Amazon as well.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Hello Readers!

I'm not to the breaking point of exhaustion yet, but I fear I'm headed in that direction. FIRST DATE is clipping along at a nice speed, even though I had to reshoot over an hours worth of film yesterday.

"Why would you reshoot, Screenwriter Chic?" I hear you ask.

Well, because we set up so fast no one caught that the bedspread in a shot was turned over. And yes, it was quite noticeable? How could I have missed that? Lack of sleep? Because the actor had the giggles and I was just trying to pull a performance out of him that didn't include bursting into laughter? Perhaps...

Could I have left it? Yeah, but if I slack on the little stuff, I'll want to slack on the big stuff.

We had a great time, however, and the Lunns were ever so gracious to allow us to film in their home. They were wonderful. Their two dogs, Diesel and Romeo were superb. Diesel was shy but Romeo is in a few shots. He's a big sweetie.

My children have taken it upon themselves to take along OUR camcorder to make themselves a documentary about the filming of FIRST DATE. Hilarious. I can say right now that I do NOT appreciate the paparazzi. Especially when I'm on the toilet!

And since this blog is about getting my work into Hollywood, I will give you an update. My action script, RUNNING WILDE is in Tinsel Town, hopefully getting read. It's been there for a week now. I am forcing myself to 1. not go crazy with anticipation and 2. call, email, tweet, or write him. I'll keep you updated! 

Keep me in your thoughts, prayers, mantras, chants, whatever!
Sean reviews a shot of his mad acting skills.


Thursday, June 10, 2010


You know what reeks of amateurs? Work riddled with type-o's.
I've been cleaning out old emails and I found one that I had written to my staff. (Yes, I have a staff, no it's not that kind).

I wanted to share it with you, since I had to eat humble pie and admit I actually sent an email with an error in it. Horrible. And, before you ask, yes, I DID have to send out the email. Why? To squelch rumors. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Read on, dear fan! And see how important it is to proofread! And yes, this IS an actual email I sent out.

Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 9:44 AM
To: All Staff

Subject: amendment

Okay Girls,

This is an amendment to my email I sent out earlier.

I want to make it very clear that I did have a type-o and that Patti had mice rice on her SHELF. NOT her SELF.

I hope this corrects any problems that could have been misconstrued.

So, to make it clear: Patti is NOT infested with MICE on her person. It's her shelf that they apparently like to hang out on. NOT Patti.

Patti is not a friend to rodents, as my hedgehog can attest. Patti does not have mice on her or anywhere in her clothing. Patti, as a person, is completely 100% mice free.

Therefore, Patti will NOT be exterminated, nor will we call an exterminator to check her out. I hope this clears everything up.

Should you have any questions about the matter, feel free to ask me.


Your Loving Boss

See what I mean? How embarassing! PROOFREAD!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Update On FIRST DATE & life in general. It's Good.

Swinging by to let you, my faithful followers, that I am doing well!

As you know, I’m shooting another short film that I’ve written, this time NOT in a twenty four hour period on severe lack of sleep. I think I’ve determined that I’m a time Nazi. I finished three days of shooting in ONE day, which gives me TONS of room for reshoots if I don’t like what I see in the editing suite.

Yes, once again, my kiddos are my guinea pigs, but they are doing quite nicely and giving authentic performances. Plus, they are having fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about? They enjoy helping me on my projects. I enjoy the family time. For me, it’s a win win situation. I’ll keep you updated!

On another note, during my one day of shooting, I took a four hour break to attend the Nashville Screenwriter’s Conference (thanks to my friend Jill and her phone call reminding me)! I am SO glad that I did!

I heard some great words of wisdom from Jeff Lowell (Hotel for Dogs, show runner for Spin City): “In television, you should write so you can be doing the dishes and HEAR everything and know EXACTLY what’s going on. In movies, you should be able to be on a plane, not purchase the earphones and SEE it and know exactly what’s going on.”

That is SO true! I’ve never thought of it that way, but now, I’ll never forget.

The highlight for me, however, was getting to finally meet Derek Haas. Remember him? He wrote WANTED, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS 2, 3:10 TO YUMA, to name a few. (He also wrote CATCH THAT KID which my youngest loves). For those of you who don’t know the story, my screenwriting class had a conference call with him last fall. From there, I found him on Facebook and we became friends. We banter back and forth and I teased him about coming to Nashville and told him that I’d bring him a cupcake. His response was that it had to be cinnamon, his favorite spice. That was six months ago.

So there I am, sitting with Jill, watching the end of a panel. Everyone leaves and there is Derek in the back of the room chatting with someone. He heads to the main chair and I call to him, introduce myself which receives a hearty reaction and I offer him the cupcakes. He gleefully takes them and is floored to discover that they’re cinnamon. I beam with pride at my accomplishment. I’ve made his day. Everyone around me (other than Jill) scoffs, believing this to be a putrid attempt at bribery.

I don’t care.

I’ve met someone whose writing I esteem highly, whom I consider a "real" friend now. We’ll continue to banter on Facebook.

And, when all is said and done, whose name do YOU think he remembered from the conference?
Marti, Derek, & Jill

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Be Prepared For Anything!

This Friday I begin shooting another short film. A real one, not shot and edited within 24 hours for a competition.

What have I gotten myself into????

Every weekend in June I will be consumed in this new project. So if you don't hear from me for a while, I have not abandoned you, precious fans... I'm merely exhausted and probably collapsed in a puddle of my own drool as my body tries to recover from stress and lack of sleep.

Ah, stress. That brings me to my the point of this blog... be prepared for anything!

This project has been rolling around in my pea brain for a good many months and thanks to the graciousness of the powers that be, all equipment is on loan without a penny paid. Yeah! I have a shooting schedule prepared and a list of things for my Production Assistant. Who bailed.

It wasn't her fault, there were a lot of factors involved and family goings ons that caused her to cease her service to me. It was her family also, who was graciously allowing me to film in their wonderful home. It was her mom who was going to a role in the film. In fact, I had rewritten the script so her little sister could be in it too! So my PA bails and guess what?

No house, no actress, no little sister actress,  no Production Assistant. 


In a screenplay, this would be known as the "All Is Lost Moment".


And then, the hero finds the strength to go and gives an award winning speech:

Shall I be discouraged at this HUGE GINORMOUS mountain in my way? Heck NO! Mountains are made to be climbed!

I shall press on... the shooting will go as scheduled. I have a Production Coordinator, Michael. He is chomping at the bit to show his worth. My advice to him? Snag a Production Assistant and get ready! I have never micro managed, so I'm leaving it to him to find the actress and site.

I'm revising the script as I go. Welcome to filming. If you think you're done when you type Fade Out, or when your agent says he'll shop it, or when the producer says he loves it, or when the studio buys it, you're wrong. There's always a rewrite dangling just a breath away!

Be prepared and don't melt. You're being watched at all times.

If I freak out over a short film, what will I do if I'm directing something huge in Hollywood? (Which I WILL do one day, mark my words).

Every day is an adventure. Be prepared! Roll with it. Put out fires. Solve problems. LIVE!!!

Later sweet fans! One more pic for ya...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Memorable Characters Take Memorable Writing

To create memorable characters, I’d like to make a suggestion.

Keep a journal of overheard dialogue. Gasp! ScreenwriterChic, are you telling me to eavesdrop? Yep! I’m not saying stalk anyone, but you can grasp different rhythms, different accents when you eavesdrop. No one wants to hear characters that all sound like you. Each character must have a distinct voice. Each character must be different.

One of my favorite lines from a movie is, “Yeah. You blend.” It’s from MY COUSIN VINNY, written by Dale Launer (whom I have had the privilege of speaking with… but about RUTHLESS PEOPLE). I love this line so much that I posted it as a status on Facebook the other day.

You’d be surprised the reception it had! For three pages, people posted their favorite lines from the movie. Which tells me it was great writing.

When you make your character, each one MUST have their own voice. Lisa didn’t sound a THING like Vinny (of course she was female!) They both had thick New York accents, but her rhythm, her speech pattern was different. Her ideas were different. Her focus was different, which crafted her character. By the time Marisa Tomei got a hold of the part, it was just finishing touches that were needed.

Each character had a distinct voice. You could tell each character was DRAMATICALLY different.

“Are you mockin’ me in that outfit?”

“Mrs. Reilly. And only Mrs. Reilly!”

“A doe eyed little de-uh!”

“I don’t know! I’m a fast cook, I guess!”

“Same make and model tire!”

“Aidin’ and abettin’!”

“Maybe the laws of physics cease to exist on your stove! Were these magic grits?”

“Ladies and gentlemen of the j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-jury.”

“Seb’n bushes!”

“The two what?”
“Did you say, Utes?”
Oh, excuse me, Your Honor. The two youths.”

Can you see these characters? The diversity adds so much depth to the story, a reality to it, if you will, and every scene becomes memorable. So much so that Marisa Tomei walked away with an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Make your characters memorable. They will make or break your script, and ultimately, your movie.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Confusion = Bad

When you write a script, you are writing it for the READER. The reader is not the producer or the director, your mom or your dad. The reader is the one who holds the power. Why? Because they give coverage on your script with the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ to move it along TO the producer or director.


Yes, it’s an actual job. It’s thankless and overwhelming and time consuming. I know this will be a shocker, but they WILL toss your script into the doomed circular file if:

1.) they get confused
2.) they hate your script or
3.) your script isn’t properly formatted

Don’t blame me, I don’t make the rules! I’m going to break this down in the next few blogs for you. So, let’s take Number 1.

How can a reader get confused?

Besides a poorly constructed script, I’m going to focus on the most recent and one of the most pertinent errors to cause confusion in a script: NAMES.

I recently read a man’s script which was pretty good, however, he had three characters that all started with the same first letter. To make matters worse, he had a dialogue with all three of them. I was completely lost and if I wasn’t critiquing it for the guy the script would have been deep sixed. It was extremely hard to follow.

Jesse, Jessup, and Justice.

Sweet Lord, people. Don’t give your characters the same first letter. You have an entire alphabet at your disposal. Please use it. There are baby names books that can help if you get stuck!

Another note: try to change the syllables of the names.

Your goal is to make it as easy as possible for the reader to intake the information, keep up as they speed read, and give you a good mark. Don’t have Bob and Tom. Have Bobby and Tom. Or Bob and Tommy. Bonnie and Annie should become Bonnie and Ann. Make it easy.

Don’t have rhyming characters. Kelly and Shelly. Mindy and Cindy. Craig and Greg.

Let me try to break it down a bit better for you.

Imagine an office. Desk. Fluorescent lights. Office supplies. Starbucks.

Now imagine the desk with stacks upon stacks of 110-115 page scripts. You can’t see the office supplies. You can’t see the desk. There are scripts in stacks on the floor. Two things can be made out in this room. The chair and the rather large wastebasket. And your script is in the stack.

The reader picks up a script. Not one with an embellished covering or title page. Those reek of amateurism and are immediately tossed into the dream eating can. She looks at the title page. If it looks good, she flips it open.

A reader will know by page 10 whether he or she will continue. It’s not that he or she doesn’t like you. It’s not that he or she doesn’t like your idea. It’s the fact that he or she has to understand what you’re trying to say. What takes us an hour or so to read will take them thirty minutes. They’re speed reading demons!

Why wouldn’t you want to make it easy for them? If you make it easy for them, you make it easy for them to give you great coverage and move your script along.

“Now, hold on a minute!” you say. “I’ve seen movies where there are rhyming names, and people start with the same first letter!”

Yes, that’s true. Most of those movies were written by the producers or already had money behind them.

Let’s take Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse for example.
Two of the characters names are Jacob and Jasper. I have heard countless people get Jacob and Jasper confused. Even more so with the folks who read the book. Did it hinder the success of the movies? Nope! But Stephenie Meyer was approached to make her book into a movie and had a screenwriter adapt her work. This wasn’t a script she sent in.

You can do what you want. Take my advice or leave it, it’s up to you. I’m just trying to give you some insight to offer you the best possible chance to get your work up on that coveted silver screen.

Why make it harder for the reader?

Why make it harder for yourself?

Friday, May 14, 2010

There's A Method To My Madness!


There’s nothing more exhilarating than typing FADE OUT, sitting back, and letting out that sigh that says, “I’m done with this one!” It’s a great feeling of accomplishment. I pat myself on the back for ten seconds and then print it out.

“Oh! You shop it around?” you ask.


I’m going to share with you my method of making a kick butt screenplay.

First, write the darn thing! You’re not a writer if all you do is complain that someone stole your idea and you’ve not written a lick about it. Write it!

Then, find yourself a group of people who will not kiss your butt, yet are supportive in your endeavor.

I happen to be surrounded by people who love my ideas and I’m constantly bouncing ideas off of them. When their eyes light up and they exclaim, “I would SO go see that!” I start making rough outlines.

By rough outline, I mean I take a beat sheet and give my idea a small amount of framing. Then, I start fleshing it out a bit. I ask people what outcomes would be better, what twists would be cool… the point is, I get a free focus group on what people want to see. I write the script. I let people read the script.

“What confuses you about the plot?” I’ll ask. “Can you see everything I’ve written?” If the answer is no, I tackle that section. If they are confused, I know I need to work on setting things up earlier.

I enjoy this part of the writing because this is where I really get to “meet” my characters.

Melissa Scrivner, a writer on the hit series CSI: Miami stated in an earlier interview, “I feel like on the first draft, the characters don’t speak to you until you go through the pain of rewrites. Then they become real to you.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I’ve recently completed a script. I’ve been working on it close to a year. I don’t even know how many rewrites I’ve already done on it. My main character, in the first draft, was calculating, cold, and could kick some serious tail. Action packed, yes, but there was nothing human about her. At all. It was through the rewrites that I found out why she did what she did and why she was who she was. She revealed her humanity to me, not me forcing humanity on her. The character became a breathing person on my pages. Strange to say, but it’s true. And right now, on my pages, she’s in her truest form. A director will see her differently. A producer will see her differently. The actress will see the character differently. And I’ll have to let her go and be who they want her to be. I'm okay with that.

I wrote this for me.

That doesn’t mean I throw what people tell me out the window. The people I have who read my stuff critique it. They know what to look for. They show me grammatical errors and mistakes. I’m glad to have them around! If they say that something confuses them, then it will confuse the READER and that’s who I need to be on my side!

I do not use flowery description. That screams you’re an amateur if you do. Precise. Short. Words. Bingo.

I have to say, I’m a blessed woman to have the people around me that I do. They read my drafts, lines of dialogue, scene descriptions… and willingly! What a great group of people I know! And the best part, is that when I say, “Gut it!” or “Bathe it in blood!” (Meaning red ink, of course!) They do. They know my feelings aren’t going to be hurt. I want to know what is wrong. I don’t want to send out something that is not professional. If you don’t have that kind of support and you want critiques, feel free to shoot me an email. If I have time, I’ll do it.

Just don’t act like Raul. (check him out on a few posts past).

Different people have different methods. Don't be afraid to try! What method works best for you?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Just Slug Away!

Let’s talk slug lines.

For beginners that read this blog, a slug line is that one scene description in one line:


That’s a slug line. But it’s not terribly descriptive, is it? You want to get as much information across to your reader has humanly possible in that one line. Make the slug line work for you!


Now, you know four things:
1. The scene takes place in an office
2. The scene takes place in MY office
3. My office is empty.
4. It’s daytime.

That gives out a lot of information. Which is a great thing! I read one guy’s script that said:


Well, what does that mean? Is it a shooting range? A cattle range? A range in Kansas is WAY different than a range in Colorado. Help the reader out!


Gives a better description of where you are, doesn’t it?

Slug lines are your friend. They’ll work for you if you let them. Which brings me to NAKED slug lines. Ever heard of those?

Naked slug lines are slug lines that have no description under them at all.


              Hand me that there shovel, Curly.

What? There’s a shovel? What is going on? You don’t want to confuse the reader! So… always have your slug line follow with some sort of description. It can even be two words.


Busy. Crowded.

Annabelle prepares the deposit.

So, now you know that you’re in an old musty bank (because new banks aren’t musty) and it’s a busy day in there. The slug line has set the stage for you to then tell us what Annabelle is doing. You get a better feel of her surroundings and is the framework of that scene.

You’ve used the slug line to work for you AND you’ve probably saved two or three lines of writing thanks to your precise writing skills…two or three lines that can now be used on your witty dialogue!

Great job, Slugger!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Don't Cheat The Audience!

When it came to theaters, I was like, “Oooooh…interesting!”

But then I heard reviews. And I decided to save my money and wait until THE LOVELY BONES came out on Netflix. Which I did. I saw it last night.

Now, I want to offer a disclaimer here. I have not read the book. So, I have nothing to compare with the movie. And this is not a movie review. When I see something in a movie that is the writer’s fault, I simply WANT to point it out to HELP all of you future Oscar winners out there.

I agree with critics and I’ll tell you why.

While I cannot say enough about Saoirse Ronan’s spectacular performance as Susie Salmon (like the fish), I can see why people turned up their noses at what could have been a great movie. And let it be known, I did like the movie. I didn’t like the ending.

I’ll tell you why.

For the entire movie, we see Susie’s killer plodding along. For the entire movie we see Susie’s family in shambles. Susie’s caught in the “in-between”. She watches her family. She’s close with her father. Her mother can’t stand the fact that her daughter was murdered and leaves for a bit. Their grandmother comes to help out. Susie’s murder was a horrific event that toppled this poor family. To make matters worse, no one ever found the body. Just a hat and a large amount of blood. I could think of nothing worse to happen.

There was an enormous set up throughout the movie.

Act 1 established Susie as a bright, sweet girl who had dreams and crushes like the rest of us. She was at odds with her mom about wearing knitted gifts and close with her father as was shown in the model boat scene. She’s a very trusting little girl and is lured into a bad situation.

Act 2. Enter Susie’s new world of the in between. Sometimes she’s happy, sometimes she’s sad, or angry. Meanwhile, the killer rolls a charm of a dollhouse in his hand. He took it from Susie’s bracelet. We see him fidget with it throughout the movie. He’s interested in Susie’s younger sister, Lindsey, now. While he is plotting her demise, Susie’s father, wracked with grief, attempts to find who murdered his daughter. It drives the mother to the breaking point, and she leaves. The grandmother comes to help with the family. Susie watches from the in between as Lindsey gets her first kiss. We see the heartbreak of all that has been lost. We really want this killer to suffer. What a bad man!


After awhile, Lindsey gets a feeling of who the killer is. The father develops a roll of Susie’s film and he remembers the strange neighbor who, ironically, paints his flowers red. The dad has a conversation with the killer. Susie watches and gives Dad a sign. Dad chases the killer into the killer’s home. The police speak to Dad and explain that no charges will be pressed. Guess what the killer has rolling around in his hand? Susie’s charm! We hate the killer even more. He’s mocking this poor father. He said that he was sorry for his loss! The nerve of that guy!

Let’s go to Act 3. Lindsey has had enough of this. She sneaks into the killer’s house, finds damning evidence, and barely escapes. HA! Take THAT Killer! Now he’s on the run! Or is he?

Susie watches him load up her body (which is stuffed into a safe) and heads to a sinkhole.

And here is when the movie loses EVERYONE.

The killer rolls the safe end on end. Susie possesses a girl who took her boyfriend after the murder. Instead of screaming, “HEY! There’s a body in that safe!!!!” What does she do? She gets her first kiss from the boyfriend. Granted, that was sweet. But Susie seems to be the type that hates to watch her family suffer. It seems that it would be out of character for her. Meanwhile, the killer rolls her body into the sinkhole and it’s consumed by water. No one will ever find her! So, we feel like that was stupid. Maybe we could have gotten over that every little girl wants a magical first kiss. Maybe. There’s room to wiggle. A LITTLE. VERY little.

So, the writer has lost some of the folks. Let’s move on and see why people were so upset with this movie, why they felt so cheated.

Police swarm the killer’s house. He’s obviously gone. The only closure the parents have is that the killer was a neighbor. No body to bury. No face to face with the killer. No mom screaming, “How could you?!?!” No justice.

Outside a diner, the killer, still fiddling with Susie’s charm, attempts offer a girl a ride home. An icicle falls, and he topples over a ledge.


The audience was completely cheated!!!

The set up was so great throughout the movie. We WANTED the killer to get caught; we WANTED to see the parents and family have closure. We WANTED to see Susie’s body returned to her parents. For Susie to have HER closure with her parents. And it’s not so much what we WANTED to see, it’s what we, the audience NEEDED to see. While there was a little voice over tying everything in together, it was a horrible ending to a beautiful film.

Why tease with a charm that won’t be used later in the film? If you, as a writer, do that, there has to be some sort of closure for that as well.

Now granted, this was based on a book. Perhaps the resolution in the book was better. They have more time to get things across in novels. This movie was apparently difficult to write for, since it had three, count ‘em THREE, screenwriters. You would think of the three, someone would understand what the audience wants to see. I know the book may have ended one way and the book is probably better, but it’s the screenwriter’s job to ADAPT the book.

So, if you have learned nothing from this rant, learn this: DO NOT EVER EVER EVER CHEAT THE AUDIENCE.

If they’ve put in the time to follow characters on a journey, don’t let them down.

And Saoirse Ronan: Should you ever read this. I became your fan watching this movie.