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009 – Ivy Box | The 365 Go Get H.E.R.S. Guide

In this episode, I chat with Ivy Box author of The 365 Go Get H.E.R.S. Guide and former cast member of BET’s College Hill Interns. Ivy shares business tips for women and men, and reveals what it’s like to be on a reality show.

Follow Ivy on Instagram and Twitter at @msivybox and visit her website at www.msivybox.com.

Follow WordyGirl Entertainment on Instagram and Twiter at @wordygirlent.  Visit our website at www.wordygirlent.com

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008 – Tracey Edmonds | Anatomy of Producing a Film

Check out my first one-on-one interview on the podcast! I chat with Television & Film Executive Producer Tracey Edmonds about the duties of a producer, her upcoming projects, and her advice to aspiring producers.

Follow Tracey on Instagram & Twitter at @traceyeedmonds and on her health, wellness & lifestyle website AlrightNow.com

Follow me on Instagram & Twitter at @wordygirlent and on my website at wordygirlent.com

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007 – Queen Sugar S3 E306 | Delicate and Strangely Made

In this episode, I recap and review Queen Sugar S3 E306 | Delicate and Strangely Made. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter: @wordygirlent Check out my blog at https://bit.ly/2tyzP8u

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005 – Ocean’s Eight

This week guest co-host, Lavetta Cannon joins me for a review of Ocean’s Eight starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Ann Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, and Akwafina. Check out Lavetta’s podcast Notorious Women at https://apple.co/2MUZtNJ Follow WordyGirl Entertainment on IG & Twitter: @wordygirlent Visit our website at https://bit.ly/2tyzP8u

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Writing Process | Story Development

Why do I always pick writing projects that are so challenging? I must like torturing myself. I’m a masochist. Yeah. That’s it. Don’t get me wrong. I love the story development process. It’s just a big beast to tackle. For me, it’s the hardest part of screenwriting and the most time consuming. I’d rather get down to crafting the script and rewriting. Those are the areas where I get to play!

My current screenplay is a one-hour pilot which I’m having a tough time getting it off the ground because the characters, world, and subject matter are complicated. My main character is an attorney who deals with racial discrimination cases. I have no clue as to how the legal system works, so I have to do a lot of research, which includes Googling law websites like FindLaw, watching mock trials on YouTube, and studying TV shows like The Good Wife. I’m trying to get my research done as fast as possible because I don’t want to get lost in research when I could be spending that precious time writing. However, I need to know the basics of the legal system to ensure that the story makes sense.

Initially, I designed my storyline to center around a different case each week, but then I decided to stretch the pilot storyline throughout the entire series, which required everything to be re-worked in a major way. Sigh… . This isn’t going to be easy. I have to figure out how to do it and keep it interesting. So, I’ve been studying two TV shows that do this successfully: House of Cards and American Crime. I’ve already watched each episode of House of Cards a million times, but now I’m re-watching and taking notes on the steps Frank Underwood takes to reach his goal of being the president of the United States, the obstacles he faces, and how he gets around them.

It’s been challenging to craft my story, but I’m up for the challenge.

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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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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 | 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.