Yes, I know, your competition entry is unique and took months of blood and tears, but I've read hundreds, if not thousands, and I see the same problems time and time again.
So, bear with me. See if any of these could possibly apply to you.
1. Your treatment doesn't match your script
There's too much about the beginning, too little about the middle, and almost nothing of the end.
The first page and a half of your two page competition treatment correspond to the opening 30 minutes - with the second act taking up a third of a page and the ending crammed into a sentence at the end. Does this ring a bell?
We all know how difficult it is to explain all that stuff you need to know at the start... so, don't.
We actually don't need all that information. Tell us the story - in proportion. A quarter of the treatment should equal a quarter of the film. It's tough, I know. But that's the job.
(Of course it could be that your script really does spend an hour and a half setting things up, in which case, boy, have you got problems!)
2. Your protagonist doesn't drive the story
Your treatment is so busy telling me all the awful things that happen to her, that your protagonist never gets round to doing anything for herself. Her actions, if they exist, are reactions.
Your protagonist must take the story by the scruff of its neck, and make things happen. She must decide on a goal and go for it.
I don't care if it's thriller action like Gravity or gentle indie romance like Juno, she has to drive the story forwards by her own actions.
3. The basic premise or pitch of the treatment/script is flawed
This is the biggie. The most common fault with the competition entries I see, and most difficult. You can sometimes fix the other two, if the idea behind the treatment is strong to begin with. But if the premise is weak, there's nothing there.
Most competition treatments have one good idea, maybe one-and-a-half, but a great premise needs at least two good ideas, maybe three. Often, those ideas are there, half developed in the writer's mind, but need to be brought out.
As a competition judge, I can only go by what you write. If the ideas aren't on the page, I can't guess at them. It's a shame. I'm sure many treatments and scripts could be great, if the premise had been developed more clearly.
Get your entries ready for the Euroscript Screen Story Competition 2014
If you win the Euroscript Screenwriting Competition you'll get three full script reports (usually running to 10-15 pages) on three drafts of your screenplay and as many meetings, telephone conversations and as much email correspondence as you need with your Script Editor. This intensive script development programme has one goal: to get your screenplay ready for market. Deadline for entries 31st March.
See full details of the Euroscript Screen Story Competition 2014
And if you want to fix your premise/pitch...
...I'm running a weekend workshop on selling and pitching to help you develop the best premise for your treatments and scripts. You get two days of practical information on what producers and agents want to see and how to approach them for the best results. Plus intensive work on your individual premise/pitch with personal feedback. January 25-26 - there are a few places left.
Find out more about the Complete Selling and Pitching Weekend now.
Last year I had a little rant to our friends at Women in Film and Television about the dearth of nominations for women at the major Awards ceremonies (read here). It is with enormous frustration that I’m having to repost this article, as for the second year running at BAFTA, there is not a single female Screenwriter nominated (for Adapted OR Original Screenplay).
Also, there is no female Cinematographer.
Or any female Composers.
And shockingly, no female Director.
The rest of the 2014 BAFTA nominations breaks down like this:
There is ONE female Editor (Scorsese’s regular collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker for “The Wolf of Wall Street”)
Of 21 nominees from the teams working in the Special Visual Effects category, only 2 are women: that works out to 9.5%
Of 23 nominees from the teams working in Sound Design, 3 are women: 13%
And women make up just 5 of the 17 nominees recognised as producers in the Best Film category: 29%
There is ONE all-female Producer team of Clio Barnard and Tracy O’Riordan nominated for Outstanding British Film, for their superlative “A Selfish Giant”, versus THREE all-male Producer teams in the same category of 6 films. However, it is overwhelmingly this category that remains the most mixed, with some 7 women out of the total 23 nominees working in Producer teams: a staggering 30%.
While this weekend's Golden Globes doesn't include the same number of technical awards as BAFTA, there is little difference in either the Directing or Screenplay categories, with no women recognised at all.
This does make me ponder on a much laughed about, though perhaps worryingly accurate notion that came up in numerous conversations with friends last year… Whether the reason that women end up in Producer roles is because it is the hardest job out of them all, requiring the most amount of hours / dedication / money / patience, taking the most flak from every direction, and frequently getting the least recognition? In other words, like being a mum to around 200 children for a year or so!
While I don’t believe gender pre-disposes anyone to a type of behaviour, I do believe women have been socialised to facilitate creativity, rather than to assert their own voices lest we be seen as “pushy”, “bossy”, “obsessive” or “controlling”. Is it easier then, to support the “dynamic”, “dedicated”, “inspired” work of a male peer than be tarnished with derogatory labels?
Whatever the psychology behind this continuing lack of equal representation across the categories in Awards ceremonies, we must recognise that these are oversights. Women make up 52% of the population, and are working in all areas of film. They must be rewarded and respected. Of course the business is mercenary and driven by profits, and 2013 stats have proven that strong, diverse and inspirational female characters onscreen are big money-makers at the box office. For real and lasting change in the industry the incredible female talent that exists behind the cameras must now be given a chance to shine.
For more about the onscreen representations of women in 2013, here is my recent article on Huffington Post.
Booking is also open to (female and male) writers wishing to enrol on my Writing Female Characters workshop on 29th January.
There's a simple yet major mistake that many writers make when they pitch their scripts, and it immediately brands them as amateur. It's a simple mistake, and simple to rectify, though it may take some deep thought and a careful review of your script.
They miss out the end. I don't mean the end of the movie (or TV drama). I mean the end of the pitch.
Finding the end of your pitch
This may seem peverse, as most pitches are far too long. I'm not saying you need to make your pitch longer. Far from it. It still needs to be one sentence - two at the most. But it needs the hook that comes at the end.
Take this pitch: It's an action-SciFi story about a wimpish young woman, who has to escape from an indesctructible homicidal robot to save the future of the human race. (The Terminator)
Or this: It's a comedy about an actor, who's so bolshie that the only way he can get a job is disguised as a woman. (Tootsie)
Both of these pitches are good... as far as they go. But there's something missing.
A pitch with a twist
A professional pitch for cinema or TV has a twist. A little hook that completes the pitch by telling you about the character journey. And ideally does it with a pinch of irony.
The irony of The Terminator is Sarah Connor's character arc - from wimp to heroine. So much so that she becomes able to kill the killing machine.
So, the pitch with the twist becomes: It's an action-SciFi story about a wimpish young woman, who has to escape from an indesctructible homicidal robot to save the future of the human race, by becoming a killing machine herself.
The irony in Tootsie is expressed in a line near the end of the movie, which would fit perfectly into the pitch: It's a comedy about an actor, who's so bolshie that the only way he can get a job is disguised as a woman - and finds he's a better man as a woman than he ever was as a man.
Look at your pitches. Do they have that twist that hooks people in and makes them want to know more?
If you like this post, you can find more on pitching on my screenwriting blog.
And at Euroscript, I run a masterclass on selling and pitching scripts, where you can learn more pitching tricks, and take part in two packed days of information on how to sell your TV and cinema script, with pitching practice and individual feedback.
Money's always short, but successful writers and film-makers know it's vital to invest in their scriptwriting careers.
The prices for our high-quality script seminars are kept as low as possible, yet we don't want to turn anyone away just because they're short of cash.
So we've listed some of the ways you can get help from us at very little cost - or in some cases free.
Free script promotion
The very best scripts that come through our development and training receive free promotion to our contacts in the film and TV industry - production companies and agents.
Our tutors are always on the look-out for scripts to promote and will approach you about your work if we feel it qualifies.
Plus we'll help you publicise the successes you've had after using any of our services.
Tell us about those successes - large and small... The sale you made, or the pitch that went well. The script you finished... or even the draft you finally got round to starting...
We'll put it up on our website and help blow your trumpet for you!
Online scriptwriting information and free events
We send you regular free scriptwritng tips and articles with useful information and techniques.
If you are not already a subscriber join here for free.
And in the real (non-digital) world we also run regular free events with invited guests from the film and TV industry.
Here you can network, meet high profile industry players, pitch, ask questions and share experiences with fellow writers, directors and producers.
More information on free events and booking
Free scriptwriting workshops
Charles Harris always has 1-2 free places available for volunteers on each of his ScreenLab trainings.
You can help with the running of the seminar and will normally be able to take part in all of the training.
Each of the courses covers a crucial area that scriptwriters and filmmakers need to master:
Workshops coming up:
Complete Selling and Pitching Weekend - January 25-26
Complete Treatments - February 22
The Mental Game for Writing Success - March 22-23
If any of these interest you, email him with your details and a contact phone number.
More info on all workshops and trainings coming up
Half price scriptwriting workshops
In all Euroscript's trainings you work intensively on the skills you need and on aspects of your own projects.
And as writers progress, some ask to come back to the same training with a different project so that they can work on the new project with the same intensity.
If you want to do this on a ScreenLab course you won't have to pay out the same money over again. You can book repeat trainings and bring new projects and scripts to Charles' ScreenLab courses at half the current price.
This is an unconditional offer and you can come back with as many new projects as you wish.
Check out the details of ScreenLab courses
Earlybird and reductions for multiple bookings
This year, we've introduced Early Bird discounts of up to 25% on selected courses.
Check on our scriptwriting courses to see which offer Early Bird discounts
Plus, book more than one ScreenLab, or book ScreenLab trainings for more than one person, and get a special price.
This discount currently applies to all our ScreenLab courses as listed above - on application - depending on availability of places.
Email Charles to discuss your discount
And finally, almost all Euroscript workshops offer a lower concessionary price to members of selected affiliated organisations. Click on the Concession Rate button to book.
There's no excuse not to invest in your career!
Our best wishes for a fruitful, creative and financially successful year.
THE ONLY PLACE TO TALK ABOUT THE CRAFT OF SCRIPTWRITING.