Tag Archives: screenwriting

G.A. Pitchfest Pt. 3 – So What Happens at a PitchFest?

The pitchfests I have been to were a cross between pitching and speed dating.

You line up for the company you want to pitch to and when you get into the room, a bell goes off, giving you 5 minutes to find your table and make your pitch. When the five minute bell goes off, you leave so the next person can sit down.

cartoon director

Some of the newbies at The G.A. PitchFest were concerned about those five minutes. The thing is, if you have your pitch down tight, it shouldn’t take you more than a minute or two (genres are usually faster/easier to pitch, drama takes a bit more time). That means you can take 30 seconds to introduce yourself at the beginning and get comfortable, and take some questions at the end.

Tell what your story is about… not everything that happens in it (that takes too long). You can’t tell the story as well as your script can. The key is to get them intrigued enough to read it and find out for themselves.

When you’re done they’ll either want to see it or they won’t. If they don’t, let it go and move on. So what if you thought your story was perfect for them, they didn’t.

If they do want to see it you generally leave a one sheet, not the actual script, and contact them later. If you think about it, it makes sense. If they take 60 pitches that day and want 10-15 scripts, well, that’s a lot of scripts to be lugging around. I never print off scripts for pitchfests, only one-sheets.

There are some pitchfests where you pay PER appointment/pitch. I don’t recommend these. For instance, I paid $250 for G.A. and got to pitch to 12 companies, my friend pitched to 14. So let’s say $250 / 13 pitches = less than $20 per pitch. You’d pay more than twice that amount if you paid per individual pitch.



Make sure the people taking the pitches are actual DECISION MAKERS, not assistants of decisions makers, but people who are actually a step along the way to getting the film made. One of my complaints about G.A. was that I pitched to two assistants. One looked so uncomfortable I felt sorry for him. It seemed like he’d been in the industry for 2 weeks. I had absolutely no confidence in his ability to pitch my story to his higher ups.

This doesn’t mean that assistants aren’t valuable or able to suss out good stories. It really depends upon the assistant. If an executive has had an assistant working with her for 5 years and this person has been involved in development, that’s great. But it’s really hard to tell that from a profile. So just be aware.

If you read the profiles, it SHOULD tell you what the person’s position is. Look for terms like President, Director of Development, Development Executive.

Make sure the festival will give you a PRINTED BOOK of all the company/DM profiles. This year at G.A. they decided to cut corners and give out CD’s with the information and you could pay for a book if you wanted them. I’m sure they meant well, but it was not a good move. Having a printed book with you is VITAL because you can make notes in the margins and can do some quick changing if a line is too long or a company doesn’t show.

The Great American Pitchfest in Los Angeles last month had about 115 companies available to take pitches for one day. Supposedly the Hollywood Pitchfest has 200 over 2 days. The Hollywood Pitchfest is more expensive and they claim to ONLY have DM’s, no assistants. Perhaps next year I’ll try them.

The thing is, you can only pitch so many times whether there are 50, 100, or 200 DM’s. I pitched 12 times in 6.5 hours and there were usually 3 or 4 people ahead of me in line. That means the there was a good ratio or participants to DM’s.

PitchMarket West (happening this November in Vancouver, BC) will have far fewer DM’s, but the same ratio, meaning you’ll never have to stand in line for more than 15-20 mins (unless it’s a HUGELY popular company like Dimension or Miramax Films, which happens). I decided not to stand in long lines, but go for the numbers.

BTW – I am co-producing PitchMarket West, so if you have any questions, let me know.

More pitching DO’s:

RESEARCH the company you are pitching. Sometimes at pitchfests you don’t get all the information regarding a company until the last minute. Even so, do the best you can to look up the company on-line so you can learn something about them (i.e. tone, audience, budget). Then make sure you READ the profile they turned in for the pitchfest. They may have just completed 5 action films but are now looking for comedy.You’ll look pretty dumb if you don’t know this and it’s right there in their profile.

PRACTICE your pitch. I hate doing this. Most writers do. But it helps, it really does. Over the days before we pitched, my friend and I would take turns pitching to each other and asking helpful questions.

The most difficult question I got at G.A. was “So how is this story different than all the others?” (I was pitching a fantasy adventure). It sounds like an easy question to answer, but it’s not. Practice.

And have fun.

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Filed under film biz, industry poop, screenwriting, tv biz

G.A. Pitchfest Part 2

The Do’s, Don’ts, Myths, Facts (around the industry, pitchfests, and pitching)

This post is a collection of things heard straight from the pros mouths and from my own observations of what I consider “bad behavior” – meaning things that will  make you annoying and appear difficult or amateur.

The last thing you want to do is appear difficult to work with or ignorant of the industry. I don’t care how good your script is, if people decide off the bat that you are going to be a pain in the ass, you’ll never get your brilliant script read. You are asking them to invest precious time, energy, and money in your project, working with you for many months, even years… if you don’t sell yourself first, you certainly won’t sell your script.

reel scrpt

… pester executives / decision makers at networking parties. The first thing out of your mouth when you meet someone at an industry event should not be a pitch. How do you know you even want to work with this person if you don’t get to know them?
… carry the DVD of a movie you made around with you trying to show it to everyone you meet.
… go to a pitchfest if you are not a serious screenwriter. Serious screenwriters have more than one script and many more in their heads. Serious screenwriters have spent time on their craft. They know how to edit and they know how to take criticism. They understand that filmmaking is a collaborative process. If you aren’t in it for the long haul (and it is a haul), you’ll be wasting everyone’s time.

reel scrpt


-NO ONE IS GOING TO STEAL YOUR IDEA. If you are afraid to pitch to an executive because you think they’re going to steal your idea you need to get over it. First off, they are professionals. If they got caught stealing ideas, their reputations would suffer. But even more practical than that… the portion of the budget that goes into the script/writing is minimal. It makes more financial sense for them to buy your idea from you than risk going to court.

(BTW – When I was teaching a screenwriting course, one of my students didn’t want to share her story with the rest of the class because she thought they might steal it. First of all, if you took that idea and gave it to 10 people, they’d end up with 10 different scripts. Second, after they wrote it, they’d have to spend months/years polishing it and pitching it and somehow get someone to produce it (where it would be changed again). Sounds like a lot of effort to me towards someone else’s idea. But also – you’ll never get the feedback you need if you don’t share your script.)

-Whoever has said your script won’t get read/made if over 100 pages is misinformed. Keeping it tight is a must (i.e. 130 page scripts tend to put people off), but if it’s a tight script at 115 pages, and it’s a great script of course, people won’t care. A great script is a great script.

-Big agencies are not always better. They could be too big for you. They might not have the time to really work with you. They are really looking for the NEXT BIG SCRIPT. You may be better off with a boutique agency.

reel scrpt


-Network!  Get to know people and get to know the people that you know. You don’t have to know a lot of executives to get assistance in the industry. Start with the people you know already. If you have a friend who is an assistant director, take them out to lunch and ask them for advice. People are suprisingly more helpful than you might think. You just need to ask.

-Take chances and be flexible!  Don’t be married to your ideas (could the protagonist be the magician rather than the orphan?) or with your vision of what your career looks like. If someone asks you to write a commercial for a petstore and you think this is beneath you, you could be missing the opportunity to make a good impression on people who might offer you more work.

-Love what you write. Whether high concept or art film, it’s going to be with you for a long while. Everyone can smell inauthenticity in a script written simply because you thought you were following some formula for a blockbuster.

-Enter reputable contests. Although not the “golden key” to production, they will get you noticed and management companies do care. BE CAREFUL of scammy contests with no professional merit or valuable offering for the winner. The Reel Breakthrough panelists all mentioned Cinestory, Fade In, and the Nicholl Fellowship. One panelist said she entered a contest and didn’t win, but one of the judges optioned her script.


Filed under contests, film biz, industry poop, random poop, screenwriting, serious play

G.A. Pitchfest Part 1

There’s so much to tell about the Great American Pitchfest that I need to break my posts down into bite-size nuggets.

Right off the top I have to say the whole thing is worth the price of admission. If you are serious about screenwriting and ready to take yourself to the next level, it is definitely the place to be. If nothing else, it will give you a crash course in pitch practice, something that every screenwriter must learn to do (no matter how much we detest it).

(I have only been to the FTX Pitchfest in Vancouver and to this one, but there is also the Hollywood Pitch Festival in August, which is even larger)

Saturday consisted of FREE workshops and panels that anyone could attend, even if they weren’t signed up to pitch on Sunday. I’ve attended so many workshops and panels on screenwriting that much of the material was redundant. But for those who have been writing in a vacuum, there was a great deal of value.

There were workshops aimed towards writing such as “megahit movie climaxes,” “mastering the creative process,” “writing great endings,” and Dara Marks “Inside Story” workshop on personal themes. There were also workshops on how to pitch, how to network, legal tips, and working with agents.

There were panels of action movie screenwriters, comedy screenwriters, executives giving advice on what they’re looking for in a pitch, and my favourite panel: Reel Breakthroughs.

Reel Breakthroughs was a panel of screenwriters who were just a step or two ahead of us, the ones who had recently gotten feature scripts optioned/bought. I liked it because it was very authentic and encouraging. It was personal stories from people I could relate to. The message to me was simply keep doing what I’m doing. There is no one way to make it, you just have to persevere and ride the ups and downs. They had taken courses, entered the right contests, and networked. (hands down they all said the CINESTORY and FADE IN contests were the most useful)

And of course, they kept writing… and writing… and writing.

(UP NEXT: do’s, don’ts, myths, and facts)


Filed under contests, film biz, industry poop, screenwriting, serious play


americanTomorrow morning I’m off to the Banff World Television Festival. When I return, I’ll have one back day in Vancouver before I leave for the Great American PitchFest in Los Angeles.

It’s going to be a week long pitch-o-rama.

I’ve never been to either of these and I’m pretty excited. I’ve been writing for years… but I haven’t really done enough networking/schmoozing/pitching. I know how important it is in this business and I tell my students that all the time. So, here I go.

I won’t promise to live-blog the event, but I will send updates when possible. :-)

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Filed under film biz, industry poop, screenwriting

Screenplay – the dilemma (iv)

One of the things I was agonizing about early on was that my current story lacked a solid dilemma.  In his book Writing a Great Movie, Jeff Kitchen defines dilemma as “two equally painful choices.”


Say you have to make the choice of losing your girlfriend or being fired from a job that you detest. Not much of a dilemma. They don’t hold equal emotional weight. But what if you had to choose between taking care of your wife as her Alzhiemers grows worse by the day or sending her to a care facility that allows no visiters for the first 30 days… and you’ve never been away from her in your 40 years of marriage?

This happens to be one of the dilemmas in Away From Her. How can the husband not see his wife for 30 days in the twighlight of their years together… but how can he continue to care for her when she can’t even find her way home any more?

A dilemma should make you feel completely stuck until life finally gets to the point where you are forced to make a decision. You can’t sit on the fence forever.

AND, even if you personally think the choice would be easy for you, you have to create your character in such a way that the audience understands how difficult this decision is for him or her.

In my story The Van Goes, mom and son have been living out of a camper van. Originally, she had been forced to live in a camper van out of circumstances and because she was trying to make it as an artist. When it becomes impossible for her 15 year old son to live with her this way, she has to choose: get a real job and apartment or no longer live with her son. It wasn’t compelling enough. Her choice wasn’t enough of a dilemma AND there was no way for us to sympathize with her if she chose to stay in the van.

After I wrote my LOGLINE, I realized that it’s all in the way I present her as a character. I have to create her so that it IS a true dilemma for her. I did this by making living out of the van her CHOICE after her son was born. She’s a hippie, a bit of a renegade, techno-weary, and this is her lifestyle. She knows nothing else, and she wouldn’t fit in…

and neither does her son when he tries to become a normal teenager. But more on that later.

The point is that now, even though I may not agree with her lifestyle choice, I can completely understand how after 15 years of traveling around working odd physical jobs and never owning a cell phone might make it difficult to settle down in one place and fit in to society.


Filed under screenplay: the exercise, writing exercises

Blake Snyder’s Logline Contest

And speaking of Blake Snyder and loglines… he’s having a contest on his blog. The deadline is Feb 18.

The idea is that you have to change one letter in the title of a famous movie, and write the logline for that film.

For Example:

GONE WITH THE WINE — Scarlett “Merlot” O’Hara is a southern belle and lightweight drinker, whose fierce ambition to save her ante-bellum home changes to a mumbled “fiddle-dee-dee” whenever she has more than one glass of “Tara-ble” table wine.

One of his readers named Gary has come up with some good ones:

Nightmare on Elf Street – A killer is targeting the happy helpers of the North Pole threatening to kill Christmas. Ho, ho horror.


The Fridges of Madison County – When called to fix an ice maker a Maytag repairman falls in love with a married woman.

Here are my entries:

Four young hogs make a pact to sew their wild oats before they become breakfast sausages.

A hunter is pursued by Yakuza after he stumbles across a pile of heroin and Japanese cash.


Filed under contests, funny poop

Screenplay – laying it down (iii)

The first time I redid my kitchen floors I read the instructions on how to lay linoleum tiles and all the measuring of the room and penciling the lines to fit the tiles into just sounded like too much work to me. I thought, hell, I’ll just lay them out. They’re square; it will be fine. As I glued them down, they started to wander a bit. Eventually I had to cut away pieces to make them fit. It probably added a great deal of time and tedium (not to mention a great deal of frustration).

~ ~ ~

I always recommend that my students do plenty of pre-work before they sit down to write their screenplay. This thinking on the page (and out loud) helps to flesh out the story, the structure, the characters, and a lot more. There are quite a few books on screenwriting, and in every one they’ll tell you the same thing. Knowing what you’re writing about, what the key turning points are, and what the players are all about is tantamount to measuring out that kitchen floor before you lay the tiles.

After I chose which story I was going to write, all I could think of was that I didn’t even have a fully-formed idea. It was just an opening scene that had gotten stuck in my head. I didn’t know about the story. I didn’t know exactly what the conflict was, what the dilemma was, if there was a ticking clock, and what my protagonist’s goal was…. so I started my writing exercises using the start lines I’ve posted in previous posts.

After two weeks,  I still wasn’t feeling it. It wasn’t gelling. I couldn’t SEE the story, which is vital to me.

So I decided to get back to basics.

In Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat, he says not to do anything else until you’ve written the “one-line,” otherwise known as your logline. Screenwriters are notoriously nervous about writing loglines. They’d rather have dental surgery. I mean, how can you reduce your entire story to one measly sentence?

The thing is that the root idea of your story should be simple and basic… and strong so that you can build your story from it. It sharpens your story into a clear point… And you’ll know when you get it right, because a big light will go on in your head. BINGO!

So I sat down to do just that. And in a moment of inspiration, a logline emerged, and I knew exactly what my story was about:

The Van Goes

A free-spirited woman must choose between her gypsy lifestyle and the son who has grown too old to live with her in their camper van.

As soon as I wrote this down… the heavens opened and the muses poured golden sunshine upon me… I could SEE my characters. The protagonist (the mother) popped almost fully-formed into my head. I knew this woman, and I knew the relationship she had with her son, and I knew that relationship was about to change.

Take a moment during your pre-exercises this week and write down your logline. You may have to do it several times. For me, the key is in the MUST part… what MUST your character do, what choice MUST she make, and what will be the consequences for doing this thing or making this choice.


Filed under screenplay: the exercise, writing exercises

Screenplay – the s(t)uck (ii)

So, I had a streak of things happen that could be considered sucky. My short film was declined from its 3rd festival, our team didn’t get the NSI drama prize (we were short-listed, but didn’t win), and I got two rejection letters.

Taken one at a time, I could easily shrug them off and move on. However, this was in the space of a week when I was already feeling pretty wobbly about the quit-your-full-time-job-and-become-a-full-time-writer thing.

The producer for our NSI project wrote the director and myself to say “Congratulations!” and I thought, Oh, no, she misread the letter NSI sent to us. She thinks we’ve won.

But no, she was congratulating us on being short-listed out of 200 applicants. Yeah, but isn’t that suckier? To be so close and then not chosen in the end. At least that was my attitude yesterday; today’s a new day. (and the semi-colon is my favourite form of punctuation)

The thing is I have a choice. I can choose to feel sorry for myself, or I can choose to take another step forward. Which one serves my purpose? Sometimes I DO actually choose to be down for a day. The difference is I make it a conscious choice. I say, you know what? I feel like staying in my pajamas all day eating popcorn and being sad. I just experience it, have a good time, and move on. In the end, it connects me with my humanness, which always inspires me, ultimately, to create.

Don’t pile guilt on top of being sad and pitiful, you’ll hurt your brain. Celebrate the mess that you are. I laugh when I cry all the time. (Baby has learned not to freak out when this happens.)

And as my badass friend Lisa says, The alternative is not an option. What, I’m going to go back to my SSJ (soul-sucking job)?

So today, I move forward. One thing is enough. One idea, one lightbulb, one connection…


1) Set your first meeting with one of your “team members”. Decide and commit to your regular basis check-in, whether it’s by phone or in person. I think in person is better. Tell them what you’re working on.

2) Get a timer. I use an old Pillsbury Doughboy Kitchen Timer. It’s sole purpose is to time writing exercises. My students tease me, but I think they secretly covet it. I am a big fan of timed writing.

3) As many days as you can this week, do the following exercise. Commit to those days. Pick something doable for your schedule. Pick 3 days and if you do more you’re a star. I’ve decided to do it every morning for 7 days straight simply because I need to be that hard core with myself right now to get back into the flow.

STEP ONE – Set timer for 5 minutes
Using the start line I want to tell this story because… start your timer and finish the sentence. Keep writing the phrase and finishing each sentence (like a list) until a scene “jump starts” your muse. Then dive in and spontaneously riff from there and avoid punctuation from then on. Keep these sentences long. Keep that pen moving the whole time, if you fumble and stall, write I want to tell this story because… and keep going)


I want to tell this story because I need to do it for myself right now. I want to tell this story because I have so many ideas I need to pick one. I want to tell this story because I think everyone can relate to Chelle how she has given up on herself because we’re always doing that and they don’t stand up for their creative selves. And even though Chelle is staying true to her art she’s not staying true to her own success and we shouldn’t have to give up on anything to be the Truth of who we are…etc.

STEP TWO – Set timer for 7 minutes
When your timer goes off, go the the MIDDLE of that piece of writing and pull out a sentence. Set your timer for SEVEN minutes. Use the line you just pulled from your own writing as your start line. If you get stuck, just write I want to tell this story because… and go from there. You can always go back to listing / short sentences. Remember not to stop or edit. Just keep writing.

You can do more long sentences or, as in the example below, I use the “chaining” method taught to me by the infamous Jack and Bob, in which the last word of a sentence is repeated as the first word in the next sentence. You can try that for fun and see how it goes. Some people really like where it takes their writing.


Poop or get off the pot has become my new motto and it’s got to become Chelle’s. Chelle’s daughter Violet says, “mom, sometimes you just gotta poop or get off the pot.” Pot like the one Chelle attaches to the back of their van so she can plant a sunflower. Sunflowers are her favourite flower and she misses her gardening. Gardening is the only reason she thinks it might be nice to have a home. Home for her seed collection and for the twins’ pet rat… etc.

Step ThreeSet your timer for 10 minutes
Repeat the above process: go to the middle, pick that line, write. THIS TIME set your timer for TEN minutes. It is important that the time grows longer as you go to get deeper into the work. If your writing time is limited, try 3-5-7 minutes instead.

This exercise is very good at getting you unstuck, I’m telling you. I was resisting any kind of writing on The Van Goes and when I did this exercise I had 3 pieces of new information about my story. That’s exciting.

Additional startlines (for Step One) to keep you busy:

This is a story about… (always an effective one)
In this story, my protagonist learns to/that…

My protagonist’s deepest wound is…
My protagonist’s greatest fear is that…
My protagonist’s most treasured possession is…

4) This is also a good time to do any research you might need to do for your character and story. I need to research different types of camper vans, sizes and styles,  and what one can fit inside. I also need to research names for the Van Gogh kids and decide whether I want to name them after artists or if that would be too much.

Have fun with it! I’m not sure how often I’ll post chapters of the screenplay saga, at least once a week.


Filed under screenplay: the exercise, weekend workout, writing exercises

Screenplay: the exorcism (i)

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

~Kahlil Gibran

I turned 40 last year and decided it was time to get my poop in a group. Pull it out, as they say in Australia.

I had allowed my life to get kidnapped by work that wasn’t serving my passion and purpose. It was depleting my energy and spirit. I desperately needed to get back to my creative writing and the daily habit of it… I had to extract myself from my 7 days-per-week job. But then what? I hadn’t written anything new in a year (other than a few poems). I was frozen. I thought I had forgotten how to start something new or edit anything old.

Years of personal development have convinced me that I’m the only thing standing in my way… yet I still stand in my way. (well, duh, eating popcorn for dinner isn’t good for me, but if left to my own devices, that’s what I’d do)

What I failed to realize was that even though I was standing in my own way, it didn’t mean I couldn’t ask for help in pushing myself out of the way. I didn’t have to do it alone. It’s so easy to “suffer” through it all alone, because then I can be right. I can be a victim of circumstance and say See? This is the reason I can’t succeed… I’m stuck at this job and I don’t have any time because… blah, blah, blah.

I needed a little cosmic bitch-slapping.

So I started asking for help. Major help.

I read Pronoia, A New Earth, Love Made Visible, works by Pema Chodron and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and Anne of Green Gables. I cast soul cards and recorded dreams, I enlisted my friends, had psychic surgery and bio energy sessions, called the entities, angels, ancestors, and avatars. The big guns… Buddha, Krishna, Christ, Gaia (and Madam Pele when I was in Hawaii)… and a tonne of small furry animals as well.

One of my human helpers was the amazing Alanna Fero, who literally wrote the book on how to do what you love to do: Love Made Visible. I was armed, energized, and ready to dive in head first. Alanna helped me successfully resign from my soul-eating job and transition into something that better supported my writing life and my sanity.

…and still I resisted doing the thing I professed to love to do the most.

One day I was telling her all about how I had gone from one job to the other and it was still a bit crazy and although this job was way better than the old one and I was so grateful and now I had less stress and more time to work on the house and blah and blah but I just couldn’t focus on my writing right now except little blog posts and maybe I can start next month…

She said, There are 11,000 reasons why it can’t be done and none of them are true.

Darn. That’s what happens when you enlist helpers to really help you. They don’t let you get away with anything.

If anyone had said that to a much younger me, I would have gotten self-righteous and indignant. Now I know what real support, love, and compassion look like. One of my favourite lines from a lecture by Allen Ginsberg is I never learned so much as when I shut up and listened.

(BTW – If you tell your friends all the reasons it can’t be done and they nod and concur and tell you their own woes, then they are not supporting you.)

Alanna asked me how many script ideas I had. I laughed and told her, Enough for several lifetimes. She told me to pick one and start by Feb 1st.

So here I go, and you can come too. Whether you’re working on a screenplay or novel or something else entirely, the following exercises will help. This week is about pre-work to writing the thing. This is to get you ready to do the thing you profess to love to do the most. (And if you’re already one of those keeners who works on their novel every morning from 5:30 AM – 7:30 AM without fail, you may still be amused.)

Always remember the universe is on your side. Once you make a commitment to something with passion and persistence, everyone and everything will jump in to support you. That’s pronoia!


1) Find a support system, a team of people who’ve got your back. You meet on a regular basis. They can be individuals, a small group, a paid professional.They hold you to your commitments and keep you on purpose.

I meet every week with two friends to go over challenges, successes, new goals, and support needed from each other. I just hooked up with another writer to meet once a month to critique and brainstorm. And I’ve got Alanna, who I’ve scheduled a total of 12 sessions with. Hiring a professional (life coach, career coach, etc) can be affective because they have no emotional attachment to you or your situation.

2) Take a long walk alone. Let your mind wander. Allow all your ideas and stories and characters and images float around in your brain. Decide on your next project before you get home. Make a mental commitment that when everything else seems more interesting and easier, you will stick with that project. Tell everyone on your team what you’re working on.

I took a walk this week and decided to work on a script of mine called The Van Goes. I call it my “Lttle Miss Sunshine.”

3) Buy a notebook and a bunch of your favoutie pens. This notebook is your brainstorming and exercise book for your story. Write the name of your story on the cover. Carry it with you everywhere. Any time you have 5 minutes (on the bus, waiting for a friend, etc), write your ideas down in it (I’ve suggested some start lines below). Do not edit, do not cross out, just write without stopping.

You can use the startlines below, write character lists (names, ages, descriptions, etc.), or write down what I call “moments.” That’s when a scene hits me and I’m not sure when it goes in the story, but I want to write it down. Scene when Chelle overhears Max getting a girl’s cell phone number and she feels like a bad mom because she can’t afford to get the family a cell phone.

4) Pull a page out of your notebook and write a letter to yourself that you will not open until you are done with your screenplay, novel, story, etc. In the letter congratulate yourself and give suggestions of how to celebrate. Tell yourself you knew you could do it, etc. If this seems cheesy, it totally is. But sometimes we forget to celebrate our successes and just keep going. Your team will also help you celebrate.


If you find yourself stuck in front of a blank page, here are a few start lines you can try. Remember, write quickly without stopping and without editing. If you run out of things to say, write blah, blah, blah, i can’t think of anything to write about my character Susie because I’ve never known anyone like her… etc.

Also, I use conjunctions to connect ideas and use very little punctuation… keeps things flowing.

This is a story about… (forgiveness, forbidden love, jealousy, revenge…)

Before this story began, my protagonist…

When this story begins, my protagonist…

More than anything, my protagonist wants…

By the end of the story, my protagonist has learned…

What if… (always a good one, just lists when you get stuck on an answer… what if the twins find a kitten? what if Max wants a job? what if her father dies? and then when you strike something that resonates, riff on that for a while… Oh, yeah, Max not only wants a job, he wants to be emancipated and move in with this girlfriend…)

Feel free to mention the project you’ll be working on in the comments. Saying it out loud keeps you more committed to it.


Filed under screenplay: the exercise, weekend workout, writing exercises