How to Turn Your Story in To a Movie
Bruce Edwin is CEO of the A-list firm Starpower Management LLC, publisher of The Hollywood Sentinel, and producer of motion picture. His services, based on his years of expertise and success in the music and film industry are sought out and used by some of the most powerful companies and stars in entertainment. This ongoing article, a precursor to his upcoming book series, is his way of giving back to writers, models, actors and bands, with free education--that in its totality and with its unabashed honesty- cannot not be found anywhere else--free.
One of the biggest stars of our time, Will Smith has succeeded year after year, not only due to his great talent as an actor and handsome look, but also to his rational approach to life, his unstoppable determination to get things done he intends to do, and his positive mental attitude.
Often times when I tell people I meet for the first time what I do for a living, their eyes light up. If they have no experience in the entertainment industry or how it works--or often even if they do, they often go on to tell me about their son or daughter or relative who is so cute or so talented that I just have to see. Or, they try to start to tell me about this great story they've been keeping that they just know will be a blockbuster. Little do most know, everyone has cute kids--to them, and everyone has great ideas for a movie--in their own belief. What Hollywood wants however, and will accept, is a much different story.
So, let's say you just finished your first novel, or, you have simply this great story idea, and you just know that it will be a great movie that will make you and anyone you touch millions of dollars. What do you do? These following points are not the entirety of what you can or should do, as that would take a book--which I am writing--but, it is a good start, and should be of great help to you if you do not already know. So, here it is.
1, Create the Screenplay
A, Find a Screenwriter. If you have no book, or even if you do, it is a good idea to get a screenplay version of your story. You can get books on screenwriting, and write it yourself, or, find a decent screenwriter and pay them to write it for you. If you don't write it yourself, you should get an attorney to handle contracts between you and the writer, so you don't get screwed over. While you are at that, you want to have some one else check things out for you with the attorney to make sure they're both not screwing you over. On second thought, you just might be better if you are new in town, on writing that beast yourself.
B, Write the Script Yourself. There are plenty of books out there on how to write a screenplay, and, as my former Screenwriting instructor from Columbia College of Chicago told our class of aspiring screenwriters, "You do not have to go to college to be a screenwriter, or even take a class in order to learn how." Granted, this guy had gotten axed by Disney, and seemed to love to complain about Disney and our school itself, so I never placed much merit in his advice, however, this time, he was correct. There is also screenwriting software out there, which I have never liked to use, and these programs will not make you a good screenwriter, but, one may at least help you with the format if you don't know it and if you like computer software programs, it may be good for you.
The average screenplay is at around 90 to 120 pages, with the idea that one page averages about one minute of screen time. Individuals like Peter Jackson and a few others of course, throw this rule out the window, with their movies stretching three hours long or more. Until you are even near this level of success, stick to the standard.
C. Create a Treatment or Synopsis. If you have neither a script or a book, you should have at least a treatment or a synopsis. A treatment is around forty pages long, and can often simply be what is called the first act of a screenplay.
The synopsis should be one page long and not longer, and should simply summarize the main idea of the story, and ideally including the main plots of the first, second, and third act. It should also include the logline, which is around an approximately two sentence or less description of the story, which makes it sound interesting to read--or in the ideal case--see. This is generally, but not always the line used to pitch the movie.
D, Avoid Just a Pitch. Contrary to the idea of one selling an idea for a movie on a pitch alone--with no story to back it up--yes, it can and has happened, however, this is very risky, as the idea can be stolen far too easily. The person you pitch the idea to may not steal it, but someone they tell it to that they tell it to that they tell it to might, and they may know a writer who writes it before you do, and then, have fun winning that one in court if it actually gets made. So, have it written down.
2, Copyright Always. Every stage of anything you submit for consideration to a producer, agent, manager, attorney, or anyone, should be copyrighted. If you create a new re-write, and submit a new draft with significant changes or new unique content, the new draft should also be copyrighted. The longer the content of that which you submit and copyright, the better, because the longer a copyrighted work is, the more enforceable it is. For example, if I write about how the cow jumped over the moon, and only write a few more lines about it, and copyright that, then that is not that much legal protection. However, if I write a first act about the cow, her name, her designer jewelry she wears as a gift from the children next door, what meadow she feeds in, how her children were taken captive to be bred for slaughter, and how she met a very kind gentleman who funded the next independent moon rover, who invited her to travel to the moon and start training with some jumping lessons, then, I would have more legal protection. Never send anything out or discuss anything unless it is copyrighted. Be careful who you do share with once you do.
3, Get a Literary Agent or Manager. Having a script is not a must have, but it is a good idea. If you have a book, you can use the book to shop for a movie deal. The best way to do this--with a book or a script--is to get a literary agent or manager that handles writers, and works with Hollywood for the purpose of getting books turned in to films. you could try and shop it yourself, directly to producers, but your chances of success with that may be about as good as getting struck by lightning. I don't recommend either. Get a lit agent instead, who knows the industry. Here too, you may want to have an entertainment attorney that you are working with, so you don't get screwed over, or at least get one when you are ready to ink a deal with a producer, director, or production company, and sign your baby away.
4, Create a "paper trail." This means, document all you do in writing. If you send out a script to an agent or manager or production company, if you are fortunate enough to have them to look at it, make sure you have some proof that you sent it to them, to protect the story legally, in addition to your copyright.
5, Some may have questions on WGA registration. Copyrights are superior to WGA, as copyrights are federal, and the WGA is not, and so a copyright is all that is needed for legal protection.
6, Face Reality and Know the Facts. Produce It Yourself, or, Lose Your Power. The fact is, most first time screenwriters that have never sold a script and had a screenplay turned in to a major motion picture, do not stay on board the deal as a final decision maker. Usually, a second, and even third screenwriter will come along and rewrite much of what you have created once your script is sold. If you are a novelist, the same is true there as well. Even if you are a very established novelist, but have no experience as a screenwriter, the movie industry will generally want an experienced screenwriter to come along and clean things up a bit, to fit more into the element of either a spec script or a shooting script. It is the job of a screenwriter to write a spec script, not a shooting script by the way, unless you are directing or are hiring the director. In other words, the writer generally does not call the shots, figuratively, unless they are majorly established and powerful, and also producing. And, a writer--no matter how powerful, does not call the shots at all literally, unless they are the director, so don't try writing them--we want a spec only, not a shooting script. Now, if you can not deal with losing power over your story and running the risk of it all being changed and you possibly not even getting credit, then, you have one of two options; Either decide you want to produce it yourself, and learn how to do that, or, decide that the movie business is not for you, and get out of it.
7, Some of you may now want to know how to get a writers agent or manager, and some others of you may want to know, how do you produce your own story, that is, how do you become a producer? This too, you can read later this year in my book.
The following is point twenty two from the next issue of The Hollywood Sentinel, that I am giving you here now, early, because it is so important, and needs repeated, again and again.
22. Don't trash talk stars!
Don't be one of those people who goes on gossip tabloid sites or social media, and posts hateful things about stars, or who wastes their life complaining about them to others. I recall one day when a client I had started getting so angry in my office that Kristen Stewart was a star and she wasn't. She argued with me about her talent, and insisted how she was hotter and more talented than Kristen--she wasn't, and how that should have been her, not Kristen who was famous, and how Kristen didn't deserve it. That mindset is so childish and stupid and foolish. For one, Kristen Stewart has been working in the industry since she was a little girl, and worked her way up, and secondly, even if this wanna-be actress was more talented and pretty, and also had a mom who was a casting director--which was not the case, being jealous of others success will get you no where. This girl couldn't act to save her life, had never even attended an acting class, yet, thought that she was more entitled to fame and fortune than a stranger she had never even met.
Putting attention on fear--fear of not being good enough, fear of never making it, and hate--hatred of others success, hatred of stars, jealousy that they have what you want and they have more and you don't, will lead to more and more misery. Progress and abundance and success comes from building, not from tearing down.
The universe delivers to us what we put our attention on, and if we put our attention on fear, hate, envy, and jealousy, then we will get more of that back in our life in the form of things to fear, things we hate, things that make us jealous, lack, and misery. However, if we put our minds on love, acceptance, gratitude, and success, then we will get that back.
Stop trying to tear down the rich and famous, and either honor them, or ignore them if you want, but don't live a life of hatred and jealousy--that is totally lame. I recently saw one post of a geeky girl laughing how she looked younger (and presumably better) than Britney Spears. She didn't look younger or better. Most in the industry will not want to deal with a hater, or a jealous person. They are not pleasant to be around, so don't be one!
The other reason not to trash talk stars--aside from you don't know them, and it's the wrong thing to do, is, the person you may want to work with could actually give you a chance of working in a film or on a record with them. I once had a client who said how he literally hated a certain company--for political reasons. The film I was working on at the time had a sponsorship from the company, and I had him there to meet a casting director for the film. After telling us about his rant against the company, he was told, OK, forget it, you're not getting considered for this job, since you hate this company. When 'Twilight' castings came up, the girl described above would have been a perfect fit for some of the vampire clan roles. But of course, I was not about to have her considered, and didn't. She continued with her frustration about Hollywood, and like so many, disappeared, just as did the guy described above.
I once had an actress tell me how she hated a certain celebrity. She got filled with a passionate rage about her hatred of this certain female, yet had no logical reason for it. My conclusion was that she was a closet lesbian and secretly wanted to be with her. Regardless, I told her how my company was actually dealing with her office--which I was. She was shocked, and began trying to back pedal and ended up confessing to me how she kind of really liked her, and that she was hot, but that she found her annoying and she was very jealous of her. Go figure.
If you must, pretend that the Kevin Bacon game is real--it actually is, and everyone in Hollywood is connected to someone who is connected to someone who is eventually down the line--connected to someone you may be talking about. So keep it clean, keep it cool, and keep it positive if you have anything to say about someone. And if you don't, well then, as the line goes, if you don't have something good to say about someone, then just don't say anything at all.
I hope this has helped many of you. As always, if you have any questions, I invite you to contact me here on the front page of this site, or call my office at 310-226-7176.
This content is ©2013, Bruce Edwin / The Hollywood Sentinel, all world rights reserved.