Any screenwriters/ wannabe screenwriters in the house?


SERIOUSART, early thirties, sits at his antiquated computer, typing.

He stops, leans back in his chair and re-reads what he just wrote.

His face shows his disgust.

                                      I hate me.

Quits the writing program. Connects to the internet.

THE STRAIGHT DOPE web page comes up.


Wonder if there’s any other Dopers going through the same frustration I am…

Types in the message box. Tries in vain to format the message to look more script-like. Frustrated, he hits the submit button…


1992-djf has great idea. Write screenplay for a new “Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, the great short story by James Thurber, since the first movie back in the late 40’s stunk. Even Thurber did not like it.

Fast forward to 2003 after djf has written, given up, written, obsessed, and finally given up on it. ( although he does have a great opening)

                          TV Entertainment Geek on channel 5         
     "Jim Carrey and Steven Spielberg will collaborate on
    "Secret Life of Walter Mitty" to begin filming soon.

                       At least I have good ideas.


I’ve completed three screenplays and I continue sending them to contests. Have gotten some good notes on one of them but nothing more yet.

waiting for the sucky finale of BUFFY so I can tell everyone how much better I’d make it just like I did with SEINFELD and XENA

Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but what could you have done for the Star Wars prequels? Hmm? :wink:

Inspiration is divine, but when the gods are bein’ stingy, you just gotta grind it out.

I could have done a lot with the Star Wars prequels. My dog crapping on my computer keyboard could have done better with the Star Wars prequels.

I’ve got a lot of RTF friends, and there’s always talk of getting together and making a movie over the summers. Unfortunately, it hardly ever pans out. I did a sketch comedy show for a while, and every so often, my friend Harriss and I pull off something small, and have written a few animated shorts, but overall, nothing has come about big time.

But this summer…

I tried my hand at writting a zombie film, but so far, I get stuck as to why these people would be trapped where they are (I wanted to have it in a hospital. I’ve got some good ideas, but again, what’s preventing the main characters from just up and leaving the hospital, I don’t know).

So, for those out there, what have you written, and if you could actually make and produce a big movie, what would you want it to be about? I seem to recall a movie coming out similar to this idea, but I came up with it years ago. You know how in those “The Devil’s coming and the End of the World will be here soon” movies, where it’s all up to one guy to fend off Armageddon? (ie. End of Days). Well, in the movie, the guy always wins, but what if he failed? And what if this pit to Hell popped up in the middle of, say, New York, and was slowly growing across the continent. And what if you were a yokle in, say, Arkansas, and you had a week till this wave of demonic death came and swallowed up your little town. What would you do? How would people react? I’d like to do a movie about that, but in a lighthearted, comical way. Of course, the ending would be bleak and creepy, but I think it’d be interesting to examine what would go threw people’s heads when facing something that terrifying and unstopable from heading their way (unlike those asteroid movies where there’s always a chance for survival).

What have I written? Well, I’m on about my 5th draft of my first screenplay. And I’ve got many more to go before it’ll be worth anything. We’ll see what I do with it from there.
Also looking into taking some more on-line screenwriting classes, if only to impose deadlines on myself.

how are you guys learning the craft? Books? Classes? Do we have any actual professional film folks in our midst?

And El Elvis, your doomsday idea sounds interesting, but for dramitic purposes, you might want to give your characters some real motivation to accomplish/ do something. If not to save the planet, maybe one of your yokels wants to lose his or her virginity (Or something less trite). Or, if you want to keep it episodic, maybe it’s a series of shorts about people trying to accomplish that one last thing before their untimely demise.

Just a thought.

The best advise I heard during film school…“Don’t get it right, get it written”.

The biggest obstacle in writing (And I’m the guiltiest) is the feeling of needing to get what is there perfect before you continue. This is very unproductive as it will never be “perfect” because you haven’t finished the end yet. I can’t count how many times I had to throw away great scenes because they didn’t fit the bigger picture.

I guess I’m an aspiring screenwriter. I write for a shelter magazine for a living (even though I know nothing about interior design) and am the film columnist for a local arts magazine (which reminds me–I’m past my deadline for an article on a film festival! Ack!). I also do some music reviews and whatever the hell else I can get people to pay me for. I decided to try my hand at screenwriting because of a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, the effect of which was “people don’t write books anymore, they describe the movies they see in their heads.” This struck a chord for me because I realized that all my fiction and poetry was just like that–descriptions of movies. I have completed four screenplays and am working on two more right now. I have been involved in three ultra-low budget digital film projects, two of which actually resulted ( or will soon result) in movies getting made! Unfortunately, the one I co-wrote was the one that didn’t get made.

Here’s the rundown on my scripts:

  1. Earl: The Mild Apocalypse A slacker college student and his freak friends involuntarily become involved in a shadow world of conspiracy and anti-conspiracy conspiracies when he is accidentally mailed information detailing extensive secret government contact with aliens. Hilarity ensues. Features a deranged superhero named Colonel Bat Guano, named for the character in Dr. Strangelove, and an attempt by the Coca Cola company to sell mind-control soft drinks to aliens. Also features the old documentary-within-a-movie routine which was a result of watching Man Bites Dog several times while writing the script.

  2. Pot The thinking man’s stoner comedy. A collection of true (and mostly true) stories concerning everybody’s favorite demon weed told in Arabian Nights style by dopers in the back room of a house party (a sitution many folks familiar with the subject matter have been in). I attempted to explore all aspects of the culture, good and bad, as well as the impact of the drug war. Some stories are told in flashback form with voice over, some are told as conventional scenes without voice over, and some of them are just a guy sitting in a smoke-filled room telling the story. The script is designed to be shot digitally on a low, low budget, and with any luck I can actually make it.

  3. The Bright and Hollow Sky It started out as a lark. I was watching Treasure of the Sierra Madre with my SO and said “You know, you could set this in the asteroid belt.” She said she thought that sounded interesting, so I spent three months writing it as sort of an exercise. I stripped away all of the Western aspects and made it science fiction, so now down-on-their-luck asteroid miners find the big score and go insane with paranoia on the trip home. I tried to make it hard science fiction, so no artificial gravity, death rays, etc. and transit time between the asteriods and Mars (where the story begins) is months. The intended subtext was a critque of the dot com boom and crash. Everybody who has read it says its good, and one friend thinks I should try and sell it to the SciFi channel, since they’re producing original scripts now. Working title: Gold Diggin’ Space Motherfuckers.

  4. Dirt Track A classic film noir, with a femme fatale, insurance fraud, faked death, double and triple crosses, set in rural East Tennessee among NASCAR-wannabe dirt track racers. The plot is way, way too complex to go into in any detail. This one’s about half done right now.

  5. Post-Apocalyptic Blues This one’s still in the notes and rough outline stage, but the one-line pitch is “A cross between Wall Street, Apocalyse Now and Mad Max with a little Catch 22 thrown in for good measure.” Told non-linearly, it’s set in and around the siege of Portland, which takes place in the near-future when two super-large corporations actually go to war with each other.

Sorry if I spouted off at length, but I get excited. To answer seriousart’s questions, I took lots of film and writing classes in school and read some books on my own, including McKee’s (in)famous Story. When I saw Adaptation, I laughed out loud when Donald brandished the book–I have exactly the same edition, with the same dust jacket, as Donald. It really put my life in perspective! But I think the best preparation is just watching a lot of movies.

I would love to start some kind of Doper script exchange, if anyone’s interested. I’m always interested in reading scripts.

Hey, seriousart, thanks for the idea, I really like the collection of shorts concept.

I’m the same way. And I read once that what you write will be unrecognizable to you once the producers and the director get thru with it anyway.

El Elvis Rojo - I forget, did you watch Uzumaki yet? Not quite the end of the world, but it sure as hell sucks to be stuck in that small Japanese town. Might be a good starting place for ya.

And as for me, I’m working on an over-the-top anime-in-live-action samurai screenplay. It’ll probably never get made, but along “writing the movie in my head” it’s a whole lotta fun to write. :smiley:

I make my living as a screenwriter (and, occasionally as well, director). My writing partner and I are currently on page 108 of our latest spec (and we’re only at the second plot point – oh my friggin’ god is it too long!). I think this is about out 22nd screenplay, of which we’ve made money on perhaps… erm, I think 15 of them, through spec sales and assignments. I’d have to go back and count. Number of those that have actually been filmed… 3. Of THOSE, the number of ones you’re likely to have seen… most likely none of them, but you never know. It’s a tough business, no question about it.

Oh, we’ve also written a few short films (and made one of them… check out my web link below), and somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 cartoons for Disney and DIC, in our past.

Feel free to ask me questions about the business or what have you, if you want.

Jeez, considering the skill with which most Dopers write, I assumed everybody on this site were procrastinating screenwriters. In fact, I didn’t want to start any streams on SDMB with the intent of research for fear somebody will want to take some of my ideas.

The above being said, considering the hefty amount of junk that gets produced, I think I’m giving too much credit to screenwriters. A pretty high-on-the-totem-pole producer once told me, “Telling me you have a great script is like telling me you have really great lottery ticket numbers.” It can be that kind of a crapshoot.

I am a screenwriter who, ahem, sometimes procrastinates. Many ideas, most of which, not to sound egotistical, are stellar. But it’s not about the idea–it’s what one does with it. I’m currently working a story about two roommates who don’t get along. It’s at the bottom of the list of “great ideas,” but one that seems appropriate to write for now.

I went to school for it, learned very little (nobody’s fault, just the situation, really), read a lot of books, then started working as a script typist (data input) at Warner Bros. Once input this really odd script that seemed pretty bewildering from a logic standpoint (we input in 10-page blocks, so you didn’t always get to see a complete version) and required special effects that weren’t even possible at the time. It was about some guy named Neo who was a computer hacker or something. Anyhow, the nightly (graveyard) process of typing somebody’s work for hours on end, while torturous, really trained me to grasp script action/description and timing. But lemme tell ya, there is a TON of vanilla out there that gets bought, one lame action script after another.

But I think the best way to become a screenwriter, outside of reading some screenwriting books to get a handle on a few things, is just to write. But I wouldn’t try to incorporate what screenwriting manuals provide in a first draft–it’s enough to make you go nuts. Use them for rewrites or when you’re stuck. Go see “Adaptation”; with the exception of a Q and A with Bruce Joel Rubin (“Ghost”) at an expo, “Adaptation” provides me with more insight than any book I’d read or interview I’d seen (“Story” by Robert McKee was pretty remarkable, though, but a bit rigid).

Okay, I’m done.

They’re buying lame action scripts? Awesome! :smiley:

I have one full script. Unfortunately, it is really three unfinished scripts that togethr amke about one completed script. Now if I could find a way to link a story about a loner being stalked by a psycho, a guy obsessed with his best friend’s girlfriend, and a guy trying desparately to discover his past so he can save his own life, I might have a full script.


Maybe Cisco is worried we may steal one of his ideas? :wink:

Cisco is the master of the art of subtext.