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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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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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