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Cut To The F*cking Chase | Mommy, What’s a Logline?

Dammit!  You’re a screenwriter.  A newbie screenwriter, but a screenwriter nonetheless.  You have an amazing idea that you think will make a funny movie.  Who wouldn’t want to plunk down $12.75+ to see a film about the time you and your friends woke up stranded in Mexico with no money, no ID, no cell phones, and an 80 year old stripper handcuffed to your wrist?

As soon as you make it back to the states, you rush to your computer to pound out your wild Mexican escapades.  One week later, you type “The End,” then email the script to a production company.  You rock!  They’ll love it, right?  Not so fast grasshopper.

A production company doesn’t want your script right off the bat.  Why the hell not, you say?  Well, it’s the dreaded “we don’t accept unsolicited scripts” thing, meaning you need to be represented by an agent, reputable manager (not your cousin Pookie), or entertainment attorney (definitely not your cousin Vinny) who will submit the script on your behalf.  This protects the production company from getting sued by you if your story is similar to a project they already have on their development slate that gets produced at a later time.  Trust me, this happens all the time.  You aren’t the only one who wrote about being stranded in Mexico shackled to stripper granny.

So, what’s an unrepresented neophyte screenwriter to do?  Glad you asked.  You send in a logline and synopsis.  More on synopses another time.

I receive countless calls everyday from screenwriters who want to submit their scripts.  If I had a dollar for each time I’m asked, “What’s a logline” I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this blog post.  I’d be basking in the sun in the French Riviera, snacking on caviar and sipping Dom Perignon.

As a newbie, it’s okay to be unacquainted with a logline.  But, it’s NOT okay to not know what a logline is AND submit your script to a production company.  And by all means, never tell a production company you don’t know the definition of a logline.  Fake like you know, then hit Google as soon as you hang up the phone.  Not knowing means you are not at the proper writing level where you need to be to play in the big leagues.

So, What Is This Thing Called a Logline?  

A logline is a one-sentence summary of what your story is about.

Some people say it can be written in two sentences.  I say get ‘er done in one.  It’s cleaner.  Sharper.  And it’s the standard.  A logline involves your story’s:

  • Protagonist – The lead character who the story is about.
  • Goal – The thing the lead character wants?
  • Obstacle – The person or thing that’s keeping the main character from achieving her goal.

Here’s some examples of loglines I came up with quickly.  See if you can guess the movie or TV show.

  1. An African prince heads to America to find true love before his parents force him into a miserable arranged marriage.
  1. A renowned surgeon who was framed for his wife’s murder is on a bus headed for prison, but when it crashes he escapes to search for the real killer while the marshal is hot on his trail.
  1. Five aspiring rappers caught up in a world of violence, drugs, and police brutality must use their talents to escape before they succumb to the inevitable:  jail or death.
  1. A crisis management expert rescues high-powered movers and shakers from ruin as she bends the law to keep her own sinful activities a secret.
  1. A music industry mogul with a fatal disease must keep his illness a secret until his company goes public on the stock market and he figures out which one of his sons will take over after he dies.

Answers:

  1. Coming to America, 2.  The Fugitive, 3.  Straight Outta Compton, 4.  Scandal, 5.  Empire.

Um, That Ain’t No Logline

A lot of new screenwriters often mistake taglines for loglines.  They are not the same thing.  Taglines are marketing tools used to lure moviegoers into the theatres.  They’re those short catchy sentences you see on movie posters.  Loglines are not seen outside of the screenwriting world.  They are used to entice a producer, agent, or studio to request and read your script.

Here’s some examples of taglines that I grabbed from IMDB.com:

Coming to America:  This summer, Prince Akeem discovers America.

The Fugitive:  A murdered wife.  A one-armed man.  An obsessed detective.  The chase begins.

Straight Outta Compton:  The world’s most dangerous times created the world’s most dangerous group.

Scandal:  The secret is out.

Empire:  Welcome to the Lyons den.

See the difference?  A tagline is an advertisement.  A logline is a story summary.

So, before you click send on that email to Hollywood, go back to the drawing board and write a logline that will make them beg for your script.

If you’d like to know more about loglines and need help writing one, stay tuned for my upcoming logline consultation service.

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A Gift Deferred

When I was a kid, I thought I would be a lawyer.  Not that I really knew what that meant at the time.  I was around five years old when some adult told me lawyers make a lot of money, so that’s what I should be.  That’s the worse thing that could have been said to me.  If only that person would have talked to me about following my passion…

As a kid, I had a natural attraction to words and stories.  I loved books and made good grades in English class without much effort.  My favorite school activities were book fairs and weekly trips to the library.  However, being a writer wasn’t something I thought about.

During my teenager years, I started writing short stories, poems and song lyrics, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties when I started having a serious desire to be a writer.  I wanted to write novels like Zora Neale Hurston, Terri McMillian, and Jackie Collins.  Still, I did nothing about it. I continued to write short stories, poems, and song lyrics for my own pleasure, but I never really shared them with anybody; just a couple of friends.

It wasn’t until I had to declare a major in college when I finally knew that I wanted to be a professional writer.  It was an indirect decision though.  I was a music connoisseur and wanted to work in the music business as an Artist and Repertoire representative.  I know.  I was all over the place.  Anyway, at the time there was no such thing as majoring in the business side of music.  Schools only offered music degrees to musicians or people who wanted to teach music.  So, I picked the closest thing to the music business: Radio, Television and Film.

In one of the classes, we had to learn how to write television commercials.  I quickly got the hang of it.  That was all it took.  The screenwriting bug bit me.  I spent years learning the craft.  The journey has been long due to a nasty habit of procrastination, but I’m finally at the stage where I’m ready to cross into the professional arena.  I think I would have arrived at this stage when I was younger had I received encouragement as a child.  I’m not blaming anyone.  Back then, being a writer wasn’t thought of as a viable career.  Still, a little direction would have been golden.  Good thing it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

The next time I find myself with the opportunity to encourage a young person about their future, I’ll make it a point to let them know it’s okay to go for the gold as long as it involves their passion.

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Cut To The F*cking Chase | How to Get Hollywood to Take Your Call

Someone called my office to submit a project.  I explained our script submission process to the caller and gave her my email address.  She sent a logline and synopsis five minutes later.  Cool beans, right?  That should have been the end of it, right?  Of course not.  That would be too much like right.  The caller called back to tell me that she already submitted a logline back in September of 2014.  Okay, my bad.  I didn’t get to it.  I let her know I wasn’t aware of her previous submission, but I’d be sure to take a look at what she just sent to me.  She reiterated the fact that she sent it back in September.  Um, was she looking for an apology?  Obviously, we didn’t get to it.

Maybe fifteen minutes later, another person called asking to submit a project.  I gave her the same instructions as the previous caller.  She informed me that she was at lunch at the moment and asked if I would mind texting her my email address.  Uh . . . YEAH I mind.

First of all, it is not the company’s job to put in work in order to read your stuff.  Secondly, as if I want some stranger having my cell phone number!  Her request was very unprofessional.  Why couldn’t she wait until she was in a proper setting where she could break out pen and paper to take dictation of my email address?  Was she under some kind of duress to call that very minute?  Like, did somebody have a gun to her head?  She easily could have waited to make the call at a time when she was better prepared.  It would have saved her from looking unprofessional and amateurish.

Most people in Hollywood wouldn’t have put up with that kind of foolishness.  They would have told her to call back when she had her shit together.  I tend to be on the nicer side of the fence.  I was kind enough to ask for her email address so that I could shoot her an email, then she would be able to get my email address that way.  I wrote down her email address with the intention to email her.  Eventually.  The manner in which she approached the company didn’t incite me to email her quick, fast, and in a hurry.  I would have gotten around to it.  Eventually.  Lucky for her, she called back later that day to get my email address.

I warn you, don’t conduct yourself like these callers.  You will annoy the hell out of us and land yourself on the “Do Not Read” list.

Here’s how to get Hollywood to take your phone call:

  1. BE CONFIDENT

Don’t call there stuttering and “um-ing” all over the place.  Speak in a calm, self-assured manner.  Know what the hell you’re talking about or earn an Oscar pretending like you do.  If you’re told to submit a logline and you don’t know what a logline is, don’t be all, “What’s a logline?” That’s a red flag.  The person on the other end of the phone line is thinking, if you don’t know what a logline is, chances are you don’t have a grasp on screenwriting yet.  That won’t make them eager to read your script.  Google is your friend.  Use it.

  1. BE PROFESSIONAL

Scene for Blog Post

So, that happened.  Like, in real life.  Minus the atom splitting request.  But, yeah.  Really, dude?  A ‘lil sumthin’ sumthin’?  And what would that be?  Have a purpose when calling.  Are you calling to find out about the submission process?  Are you calling to get an email address?  If so, have a pen and paper ready to write down information.  Make sure you’re in a quiet environment.  Nobody wants to hear your loud television or barking dogs in the background.

  1. BE PATIENT

Don’t call with an attitude because the company hasn’t gotten back to you about the script you sent months ago.  In this business, it’s normal not to get a response from a production company, agency or studio.  The correct thing to do is to follow up with the company after a reasonable amount of time.  The turnaround time is usually around six to eight weeks, but it varies with each company.   If the company has more submissions than they can handle, the wait time can be even longer.  At the end of the eight weeks (or whatever they tell you), feel free to follow up. If they still haven’t read your submission, don’t get an attitude.  That will only get you put on the dreaded “Do Not Read” list.

Wait about a month to follow up again.  That’s a good amount of time that keeps you from being annoying.  If they still haven’t read your script, don’t take it personally.  They aren’t ignoring you.  They have piles upon piles of scripts waiting to be read.  Chances are they don’t have a large enough staff to read the scripts in a timely manner.  If they tell you they’re going to read your stuff, they will.  Eventually.  Be patient.  Don’t be an angry stalker.  It’s not a good look.

So, that’s the trick.  Act like you have good sense when calling Hollywood and they’ll take your call and read your stuff.  Eventually.  LOL 😉

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Out On the Town | WriteGirl Book Launch Party

“Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen.” ~www.WriteGirl.org

I don’t remember how I came to know out about WriteGirl.  Most likely, I received some kind of email about it or saw something about it on Facebook.  What ever way it came to me, I’m just happy it did.  I’d been on a constant search for an organization involved in helping girls with reading and writing.  I’ve also been looking for networking opportunities with other writers.  Well, my search was over when I read the about page on WriteGirl’s website:

WriteGirlLogo

WriteGirl — a creative writing organization founded in 2001 in Los Angeles — teams together girls ages 14 – 18 with professional women writers through workshops, readings, publications and mentoring relationships to help the girls gain communication skills and build confidence.  WriteGirl gives young ladies the freedom to express themselves through writing poetry, essays, song lyrics, short stories, and screenplays.  WriteGirl was honored by First Lady Michelle Obama with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award and was named the 2010 – 2011 California Nonprofit of the Year.

After reading that, I was sold.  I decided at that moment that I wanted to become a volunteer and mentor.  I quickly downloaded the application and completed it.  I also signed up for their newsletter which led me to an email about their Book Launch Party held on Saturday, June 27th at the Writers Guild of America Theatre (WGA) in Beverly Hills.  The event was hosted by Keren Taylor, Founder and Executive Director of WriteGirl; and Clare Sera, a screenwriter and actress.  Special guests included actors, Doniella Artese, the first major black character on Mad Men (AMC); Melora Hardin, Transparent (Amazon Prime); Mo Collins, Parks and Recreation (NBC); and the only dude to grace the stage, Shawn Carter Peterson, Pitch Perfect 2 (Universal Pictures).

City of Angels

WriteGirl Book

The party was in celebration of WriteGirl’s 14th anthology, Emotional Map of Los Angeles.  Almost 200 women and girls contributed poems and essays on topics such as the death of a loved one, dreams, bullying, police brutality, and experiences of being residents of Los Angeles.  The event kicked off with the girls taking to the stage five at a time where they each recited a short poem or essay excerpt.  Some girls shared their writing processes and tips on how to be a better writer.  The best tip was, “Write down your dreams.  They might become a best seller one day.”  One 14 year old girl shared how she writes while lying on the floor at 2:00am when “all distractions are asleep.”  I found myself wondering how she manages to get up for school in the morning.  But, I get it.  When the urge to write calls, you must answer.

Express Yourself

WriteGirl Stage

We, the audience, got the chance to express our feelings too.  We were handed a stack of index cards and was encouraged to write down any feelings the readings evoked.  The index cards were collected, read aloud, and taped on the walls and stage.  The multi-colored cards created a confetti-like appearance in the room, which I’m sure made the girls feel appreciated.  People wrote down words such as inspired, angry, and motivated.  I scribbled the word “powerful” in response to a girl’s gripping poem about police brutality and social injustice surrounding the Ferguson unrest, and the Freddie Gray and Eric Garner cases.

During intermission, we were treated with healthy dishes from Sharkey’s.  We munched on salad, chicken and tofu burritos, chips and salsa; and sipped on Hubert’s Lemonade, the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted in my life.

After lunch we returned to the theatre for the second round of readings.  Maybe they should have saved the food for last because my belly was full and I was ready for a nap.  The theatre seats didn’t help either.  Usually, most venues have stiff seats jammed together, which makes for an uncomfortable experience for a tall girl like myself.  Well, I had no sardine issues at the WGA theatre.  The seats are plush and built for comfort.  I had plenty of room to stretch my long limbs.

WriteGirl alums who were on summer break from their perspective colleges also participated in the show.  Each one shared words of advice with the younger girls about what to expect from college life.  “Stay focused even though lots of things will be coming at you,” one student advised.

The affair ended on a sweet note with a dessert reception with delicious frozen yogurt from Yogurtland and an array of cookies.  My kind of way to end an evening!

Tell me, what did you do this past weekend?  Did you paint the town red?

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Out On the Town | Produced By Conference 2015

Recently, I attended the Producers Guild of America’s (PGA) Produced By Conference (PBC) held on the historic Paramount Pictures studio lot in Hollywood.  The annual event is created by producers for producers to provide the opportunity to network with and learn from the most established and successful filmmakers, writers, and show runners in Hollywood.

My PBC Pass Final

At $1,099 for non-members and $375 for PGA members, the conference is a bit pricey.  However, the wealth of knowledge gained and access to the movers and shakers of the industry is well worth the price of admission.  I must divulge that I did not pay to get in.  That made my pocketbook happy.  I attended as a guest of my boss Tracey Edmonds who’s a PGA board member and PBC co-chair.

This was my third time attending the conference.  I truly enjoy it because being around thousands of like-minded people in one area does wonders for getting the creative juices flowing.  I love the energy of the up-and-coming producers who bustle from panel to panel eager for that morsel of insight that will catapult them into superstar producer status.

Upon check-in, attendees received a goodie bag filled with promotional items such as notepads, pens, and snacks from sponsors.  The lunch spread was magnificent and there was plenty of food to go around.  The price of admission included lunch with a choice of sandwiches and salads, chips, cookies, and a piece of fruit.  It didn’t stop there though.  Vendors were peppered throughout the lot offering up free all-you-can-eat goodies such as mouth-watering Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Don Francisco’s coffee, tea, and Kind snack bars.  I had the privilege of having lunch in the Speakers Lounge, a VIP room where only panelists and special guests are given access.  We were served special treats like Sprinkles cupcakes and cookies, fresh fruit, cheese and crackers, and an array of fresh squeezed juices.

  • Can We Talk?

The highlight of the conference was the “Conversations With…” series featuring in-depth conversations with producers such as Tyler Perry, Reese Witherspoon, Bruna Papandrea, Eva Longoria, and Kevin Smith.  Attendees received loads of useful advice from the producers.  In Conversation With:  Reese Witherspoon & Bruna Papandrea, moderated by Will Packer (Ride Along, Think Like a Man; Founder, Will Packer Productions), Reese encouraged young girls to intern and volunteer on film and TV sets in order to get their foot in the door and represent as a female in a male dominated industry.

Reese Panel XX

In Conversation With:  Tyler Perry, moderated by Ava DuVernay (Selma, Founder, AFFRM), Tyler talked about his introduction to Hollywood and experiences as a newbie.  He was very candid about not having a clue about how the system worked, which led him to do things his way and was all the better for it.  “If it feels right. I follow it,” Perry explained.  I admire his work ethic.

Tyler Perry Sign Final

  • Panel Discussions

The PBC also includes various panel discussions dealing with topics such as production, distribution, and branding.  In the panel, All Things Producing: Ask the Pros, moderated by Vance Van Petten (Nat’l Exec Dir, PGA), working producers such as Tracey Edmonds (Jumping The Broom, Deion’s Family Playbook) and Lori McCreary (Invictus, Madam Secretary; President, PGA) spoke about the hard work required to take a project from script to screen in the midst of an industry that is quick to say “no.”  All of the producers agreed that it requires a deep passion for the project to keep you motivated during the long journey it takes to get a project seen by audiences.  Other panelist included Ian Bruce (World War Z, Transformers franchise), John Heinsen (CEO/Exec Producer, Bunnygraph Entertainment), Stu Levy (Priest, Pray for Japan), and Gary Lucchesi (The Lincoln Lawyer; President, PGA).

  • Up Close and Personal

Tracey's Mentoring Table Final

For an additional $100 attendees could secure a spot at the Mentoring Roundtables.  This session gave attendees a close intimate chat with a producer of their choice.  Approximately eight mentees “sit at the feet” of their mentor for 60 minutes and learn first hand what it takes to be a successful producer.  They have the opportunity to ask as many questions as they want as long as they don’t try to pitch their own project.  The PBC highly frowns upon pitching because they want to provide a relaxed environment where the established producers can share information without being propositioned.  Producer Tracey Edmonds took her mentees through the start to finish process of bringing the film Jumping the Broom to theatres which involved everything from casting the lead actors to picking out the wardrobe for the female characters.  She also revealed how she primarily picks projects that relate to her personally.  For instance, she identifies strongly with the character Terri in Soul Food who’s the one the family relies upon financially.

Tracey's Mentor Table Final 2

  • Guilty Pleasures

For those with an idea for a reality show, the Unscripted and Uncensored:  Meet the Buyers of Non-Scripted TV panel, moderated by Hayma “Screech” Washington (Amazing Race), provided behind-the-scenes information on what producers look for in reality shows.  Susanne Daniels, (President of Programming, MTV) looks for break through content that will resonate with the audience while providing a fresh take on an existing genre.  Lauren Gellert (WEtv) looks for authentic relationships between characters, whereas Bruce Robertson (Rich Kids of Beverly Hills) looks for a clean and clear show format.

  • The Anatomy of a Hit TV Show

One of the panels that closed out the conference was 360 Profile:  Empire, moderated by Pete Hammond (Chief Film Critic & Awards Columnist, Deadline Hollywood).  Show creator Lee Daniels and his team of writers and producers discussed their surprise hit show, Empire (Fox), a story about a former rapper turned record company mogul (Terrence Howard) who has to choose one of his three sons to run the business after he succumbs to a secret fatal illness.  Lee and his team explored the series from every angle, including building storylines, casting, dealing with network notes, branding and marketing, and connecting with the show’s audience via social media.

Lee Daniels and Team

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the conference was the Creating Meaningful Brand Partnerships to Enhance Your Content panel.  No shade toward the panelists, but I didn’t find the information useful.  The panelist discussed how producers can connect with brands to support and enhance their projects in areas such as advertising and social media outreach.  I was expecting the panelist to cover the topic as it relates to new media and how to generate money in the fledgling platform.  The energy of the panel was low, so I ducked out early.

  • The Icing on the Cake

But, wait there’s more!  Even though I attended some amazing panels, networked with great people, and ate some delicious free food, none of that topped meeting Matthew Del Negro who plays Cyrus Beene’s love interest on Scandal!  When I spotted him, I couldn’t put my finger on how I knew him.  All I knew was that he looked very familiar.  Then it dawned on me.  Duh.  Scandal.  He’s quite handsome and very tall.  Ladies, he’s 6’4”!  He walked past me on his way out of the Speakers Lounge.  No way was I letting him escape without saying hello.  After all, I hadn’t met anybody from my favorite show of all time in person yet.  “Hi!  You’re from Scandal, huh,” I gushed.  I know I had the biggest cheesiest smile on my face.  Matthew stopped and assured me that I was right.  I told him what a great job he’s been doing on the show.  He thanked me, asked my name, and shook my hand.  How cool is that?  Handsome AND nice.  I would have asked for a picture, but he was on his way out and I didn’t want to hold him up.  It must have been in the cards to get that picture I desired because I ran into him again later.  As you can see, he was more than happy to take the picture!

Matthew Del Negro Final

Needless to say, I enjoyed the PBC.  It was a weekend packed full of knowledge and networking.  I look forward to attending next year.

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My Top 5 Screenwriters

# 1  SHONDA RHIMES | The Queen of Hearts

Best known for:  Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

My favorite work:  Scandal

scandal promo

Why I admire Shonda:

I admire Shonda’s writing because she writes about love in an antisentimatic way.  You gets no cuddles with Ms. Rhimes.  Instead of a character telling another that they are important to them or are the only friend they have, the character will say, “You’re my person.”  That’s what Christina told Meredith in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy when she needed to provide an emergency contact person in order to schedule an abortion:

Cristina: The clinic has a policy.  They wouldn’t let me confirm my appointment unless I designated an emergency contact person.  Someone to be there in case and…to you know help me home after.  Anyway, I put your name down, that’s why I told you I’m pregnant.  You’re my person.

Meredith: I am?

Cristina: Yeah, you are.  Whatever.

Meredith: Whatever.

Cristina: He dumped me. [Meredith hugs Cristina] You realize this constitutes hugging?

Meredith: Shut up, I’m your person.

Even when Meredith shows a moment of tenderness with a hug, she tells Christina to shut up when she protests.  Very funny.

On Scandal, the entire show is based on everybody’s love for Olivia.  It may be warped, twisted love, but love nonetheless.  On any given day, Fitz is willing to give up the presidency or go to war for her.  They both do dangerous, irrational, stupid things for each other in the name of love.  You won’t find their type of love described on a Hallmark card.  It’s raw, dark, and by any means necessary.

Olivia and Fitz

Daddy Pope loves her so much that he basically stalks her and kills for her in order to keep her safe.  Same for Mama Pope.  Same for Jake, Huck, and Quinn.  Their loyalty for her is unwavering because they love her.  Abby and David lie and cheat for her.  Cyrus, her male BFF, always takes her back after she does something to jeopardize the White House.  Even creepy ass Tom thinks she has a “face that launched a thousand ships.”  Yes, Shonda is the queen of the love story, but she isn’t going to give it to you “Leave It to Beaver” style.

#2  NANCY MEYERS | The Ultimate Girl Power


nancy_meyers 4

Best known for:  Father of the Bride, Something’s Gotta Give, Private Benjamin

My favorite work:  Something’s Gotta Give

somethings gotta give 3

Why I admire Nancy:

Meyers’ films are all about grown ass women living their lives, doing their own thing.  Her characters are usually over the age of 35, which I love because, seriously, Hollywood seems to think all the world wants to see is 20 year olds bouncing around on the screen.  Nancy’s female characters have it together overall, but learn they are lacking in a certain area.  They set out to fix the flaw and wind up learning a lot about themselves that they never knew.  Now, that’s girl power!

#3  DAVID SIMON | The Realist

david simon 2

Best know for:  The Wire, NYPD Blue, Treme

My favorite work:  The Wire

The Wire

Why I admire Simon:

When you watch a David Simon project, you get sucked into the world he created and you don’t want to leave.  He makes you feel like the characters are your friends and family members.  That crooked politician or drug dealer could easily be your loved one.  You feel like you’ve walked the streets of the neighborhood in the story because he paints such a vivid picture of the way of life in the city.  The characters communicate the way real people speak; yet the dialogue still manages to be full of subtext.  It’s relatable because it’s lean and mean, no fluff.

This can be seen in my favorite scene from The Wire.  Detectives Moreland and McNulty run ballistics at a crime scene.  Each time they figure out a clue, they utter, “Fuck me.”  Each time they say it there’s a different meaning behind it.  How Simon managed to give two words multiple meanings is pure genius.  And that’s some fine acting too.

#4  AARON SORKIN | The Wordsmith

aaron-sorkin

Best known for:  The Social Network, The West Wing, A Few Good Men

My favorite work:  The West Wing

west-wing-banner

Why I admire Sorkin:

Aaah, the king of dialogue.  Sorkin’s dialogue makes me drool.  You learn a thing or two from his words because they’re packed full of knowledge and wisdom.  Those marathon monologues are like a symphony.  I think Aaron influenced Shonda when she created Scandal.  Sorkin’s dialogue keeps you on your toes too because you have to pay close attention to the rapid-fire pace of the characters’ words.  Blink and you’ll miss an important piece of information that either reveals character or is a set up for some scenario later in the episode.

#5  BEAU WILLIMON | Mr. Personality

Beau Willimon

Best known for:  House of Cards, The Ides of March

My favorite work:  House of Cards

house-of-cards

Why I admire Beau:

When I saw House of Cards for the first time, my mouth dropped open within the first minute of the premiere episode.  Willimon has a way of letting the viewers know what type of person the character is immediately.  He does this by showing the character’s trait through action.  In Season 1, Chapter 1, Congressman Frank Underwood goes to the aid of a dog that has just been hit by a car.  Frank breaks the fourth wall and tells the viewer there are two kinds of pain:  the kind that makes you stronger and the useless kind that makes you suffer.  He has no patience for useless things and demonstrates that philosophy by putting the poor dog out of its misery by suffocating it.  BOOM!  Beau doesn’t bullshit around.

There are other writers that I admire, but the above are my top 5.  Rhimes, Simon, Sorkin, and Willimon are my uber favorites because they create anti-heroes with major flaws who you love anyway.  That’s my kind of writing!

Additional favorites:

Matthew Weiner | Mad Men

Mara Brock Akil | Girlfriends

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Scandal: Season 4 Episode 20 | First Lady Sings the Blues

“Now, you, scared man with glasses, we flip him over.  Now, right now.  He scream.  We flip anyway.” ~Shady Doctor

It’s a Christmas miracle!  Jake is alive!  Thank you baby Jesus.  From the looks of the previous episode, Jake was deader than a doornail.  Thank God Huck decided that Jake was “warm enough” then proceeded to jackhammer his fist down on Jake’s chest, jumpstarting his heart.  I was going to be highly disappointed if Jake died.  I would have been pissed at Shonda.  She already took McDreamy, but Jake too?  That would have been all out cruelty.  So, I’m happy she let him breathe.  And I’m happy I don’t have to be mad at her.  She’s my favorite writer after all, so I don’t know how that would have worked.  It wouldn’t.  She’s a god.  I bow down.  Okay, let me stop drooling over her.  It’s getting a little creepy.

The first few minutes of the episode gave me LIFE when Quinn walked into the conference room of OPA and found Jake spread eagle on the table bleeding like a hog at the butcher shop.  On reflex, she whipped out that gun in slow motion badassery.  I was like, “Quinn, you betta do it bitch!”  She was ready to SET. IT. OFF!  It’s amazing to see her transformation from a jittery little puppy to a badass assassin.  Talk about a character arc!  Huck took her under his wing and created a monster.

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Olivia and the rest of the gang rush to OPA to find Jake hanging on by a thread.  Charlie calls in some shady doctor to work a miracle, only the miracle can’t be paid for with money.  Shady Doctor wants Olivia to rescue his friend, a former Russian assassin (Assassin Granny as I call her), from being pulled back into the spy game by some KGB dude after many years of civilian life as a wife, mother and grandmother.  Olivia wants no parts of helping an assassin, but Shady Doctor threatens to bounce, leaving Jake to die.  Olivia agrees, then goes on a warpath to find Daddy Pope and kill him for what he did to Jake.  Livy girl, you already tried that several times and look how that turned out.  You will never get the upper hand on your daddy and you know it.  He told you pointblank, “What have I always told you, Olivia?  Against me, you will never win.”  So, you may as well sit down somewhere, girl.

So, Shady Doctor manages to piece Jake back together.  Later, when he gains consciousness, he finds a breathing tube in his throat, his arms strapped to the bed rail, and Russell, the man who gutted him like a pig lying on the slab next to him.  Ooooh shit!  How did Russell get there you say?  Daddy Pope.  FLASHBACK:  Russell shows up to Daddy Pope’s house with the nerve to tell him that he failed to locate Olivia and crew.  He politely puts down his drink, pulls out his pistol, and shoots Russell in the arm.  He hands him a handkerchief, then goes back to sipping on his brown liquor.  That Daddy Pope is a cold piece.  But, I love it!

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This is a Man’s World

“Sir, don’t you think a man would be better?  I know.  I hate myself for saying that.  I threw up in my mouth a little bit for saying that.” ~Abby

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Over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Mellie finds herself down in the dumps about America’s lack of support for her run for Senate.  Hence, the title of the episode, First Lady Sings the Blues.  Clever title.  For those of you who live under a rock, Lady Sings the Blues is a movie where Diana Ross portrays troubled Blues singer, Billie Holiday.  Phenomenal movie.  Get into it.

Former Vice President Sally Langston takes Mellie’s misfortune as an opportunity to tell her talk show audience how poor her approval rating is and how abandoning her job as the First Lady is an insult to the people of Virginia.  Millie wants to go on Sally’s show and go toe-to-toe with her, but campaign manager Elizabeth advises against it because she’ll look defensive.  Fitz asks Abby for her advise since she’s the next best thing to Olivia’s stellar problem solving.

Abby suggests that Mellie distance herself from Fitz politically, but even more important, they need to find out if running for Senate while married to a sitting president is illegal as Sally suggests.  She learns from David that it’s indeed legal “because no one ever imagined that a woman would ever get an idea in her pretty little head to run for office.”  In this case, Mellie should be thanking her lucky stars for misogyny.  Abby reluctantly suggests that a man should go on Sally’s show to defend feminism because the audience will turn the channel if they see a woman defending it.  She suggests Cyrus as the guinea pig.  Cyrus is like, “hell naw” because he’s against Mellie’s run for Senate.  Fitz gets in his face and demands that he get on board.  Needless to say, Cyrus goes on the show to defend Mellie all the while faking the funk, which Sally picks up on right away.  She accuses him of not truly supporting Mellie because he really feels he’s more deserving of that seat in the Senate.  I can’t stand Sally’s hypocritical, Sarah Palin-like ass, but I think she’s right on this one.

Desperate Times Calls for Desperate Measures

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Unfortunately, Cyrus’ appearance on Sally’s show makes things worse for Mellie.  America still thinks a First Lady shouldn’t be allowed to run for Senate.  On top of that Fitz’s approval rating has dropped further.  Poor Mellie.  She’s circling the drain fast.  Elizabeth suggests telling America that Mellie and Fitz’s marriage is over to get rid of the conflict of interest.  Everybody looks at her like, . . . the f*ck?  Fitz brings in the heavy artillery, by calling Olivia.  She pretends like she’s not going to help him, but she knows she can’t resist him even if it means helping her lover’s wife win an election.  Their conversation is strained, but the ever-present passion and longing between those two is coming through the phone lines strong.  Oh, how I wanted them to have a “one minute” moment.  Yes, I’m #TeamFitz.  What of it?

After learning that Daddy Pope is most likely behind Russell getting shot, Olivia offers up Daddy Pope’s phone number to the KGB Dude if he calls off his mission to turn Assassin Granny back into a killer.  She tells him he’ll be a hero in Russia if he’s thee one and only person who was able to eliminate the world’s most powerful man.  He bites.  Worse decision of his life.  Olivia discovers him in the trunk of her car with a bullet to the head after she fled from Assassin Granny’s house on account of finding her and the grand babies lying lifeless on the couch with matching bullet wounds.  Dear Daddy Pope strikes again.

The whirlwind episode wraps up with another badass girl power moment when Olivia takes Russell back to her boudoir, straddles him, and tells him to close his eyes.  Russell thinks he’s going to get some hot poon tang, but what he gets is the cold barrel of a Glock against his cranium.  Olivia did that!  It was reminiscent of the scene in Harlem Nights when Dominique La Rue (Jazmine Guy) straddled Quick (Eddie Murphy) and pulled a gun from under the pillow.  Only she wasn’t badass like Livy.  She squeezed the trigger, but nothing came out.  Quick whipped out his gun and blew her away.  No such fate for Olivia Pope.  She handled hers like a BAWSE!

Being the smart cookie that she is, she caught on to Russell when she realized he was the only person who could have told Daddy Pope about the Russians.  He tried to play dumb, but Livy wasn’t having it.  She put a kung-fu grip on his wounded arm (which made him cry out like a little bitch) and demanded him to tell her about Foxtail.  I want to know too.  Whatever it is, Daddy Pope is involved, so you know it won’t be a day at the beach.

What kind of death and destruction do you think Daddy Pope has up his sleeve this time?  God help us all. . .

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Cut To The F*cking Chase | How to Get Hollywood to Read Your Script

. . . ACTION!

Okay, so you finally grew the balls to call a production company to ask if you can send them your script.  Good for you!  Now, here’s how not to eff it up.  Find out their submission policy and . . . DO. WHAT. THEY. TELL. YOU. TO. DO.  If they tell you to submit a logline, then send them a logline ONLY.  Don’t throw in your script, cast wish list (you’re not the decider here), budget, and soundtrack suggestions (nobody cares about soundtracks anymore) all packaged in a pretty blue presentation folder that you eagerly bounced down to Staples to pick out thinking it would make the production company buy your script.  No.  It will not.

Different production companies have different policies.  One may want a logline, another may want a synopsis.  You may even stumble upon that rare unicorn of a production company that will allow you to submit your script without having an agent.  Whatever their submission policy is, adhere to it.  Why?  Because they have their particular policies for a reason.  For example, one company may only want a logline because they receive tons of submissions and don’t have time (maybe due to lack of manpower) to read a bunch of full-length scripts.

A logline saves the reader a lot of time.  It immediately tells the reader what the story and character are about.  It also lets the reader know if the writer has any skills.  If your logline sucks hard, there’s a 99% chance that your whole script sucks even harder because if you haven’t mastered how to write a logline, you haven’t mastered how to crank out 100 pages that somebody other than your mommy would want to read.  Production companies ain’t got time for that!

Just work on your logline.  Make it sing and then send it in, but follow the rules and save your little presentation folder for school or something.  You will only piss off the reader on account of her having to shuffle through all of that extra crap.  And when you piss off a reader, your script goes in the trash and you get placed on the “do not read anything from this person EVER” list.  It’s basically like an airline “no fly” list minus the terrorist.  In other words, you’re screwed.  Yes, the punishment seems petty and mean, but it is what it is.  “Life is pain.  You just get used to it” (Charly Baltimore, The Long Kiss Goodnight).

. . . CUT!

Tell me, have you ever submitted something to a production company, agent or studio?  What happened?  Spill the tea in the comments section.

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CUT TO THE F*CKING CHASE | HOW TO KEEP HOLLYWOOD FROM TOSSING YOUR SCRIPT

Dear Fellow Screenwriters,

I know you are excited when you get permission to submit a script to a production company or studio. They’re going to flip open that script, be blown away by your writing, and call you up to ask if they can buy it for one million dollars, right? Of course!  So don’t blow it by sending crazy looking packages like this.

Crazy Package

It literally took me 3 minutes to open this package.  I had to whip out a box cutter and put my back into it.  The last thing you want to do is make it difficult to read your script.  Why?  Readers are swamped with mile high piles of scripts waiting to be read.  If they fee like they have to break into Ft. Knox in order to read a script, guess where it’s going.  The TRASH!

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Sealed with tape and INDUSTRIAL staples.

I didn’t throw this script away though.  I don’t do that because as a fellow screenwriter, I have a heart and wouldn’t want anybody to throw my script away without reading it.  But, I was annoyed and tossed it to the side to read whenever I can get to it.  Most readers aren’t as nice as I am though.  Your script will be in the can before it’s in the can.  Get it?  No?  Sorry, I write drama, not comedy.