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Let Writer/Producer Richard Kahan Explain the Importance of Script Notes

Let Writer/Producer Richard Kahan Explain the Importance of Script Notes

By About Coverfly, Interview

Screenwriters, like all artists, are always looking for ways to improve their work. One of the best ways to do this is by getting script notes from someone who not only knows a good screenplay when they see one but who also knows the film industry.

Producer, writer, and actor Richard Kahan (Beacon 23, Outlander) is one of the high-level industry professionals that offers coverage through Coverfly Industry-Direct Notes. Coverfly recently got the chance to speak with him about the benefits of getting feedback on your script from a fellow screenwriter, as well as the importance of being a part of a writing community.

Check out the interview below and continue on to read our favorite takeaways.

Don't Be Afraid of Receiving Script Notes

First and foremost, be open to feedback. It can be difficult to hear negative things about your work, but it's important to remember that the goal is to make your screenplay the best it can be.

Kahan says:

I think it's very natural to have that immediate reaction of like, "Oh, no, no! Don't change." If you don't care about what you're writing, you wouldn't have that reaction. So, I think that speaks to passion. And that's totally normal — I get that; everyone I know gets that. That being said, you know, your mind works differently than mine. Your life experience is different than mine. That's the beauty. In a TV writers room, when it's working well, it should be — everyone has different ages, different ethnicities, different backgrounds, different life experiences. You bring that to the page.

No screenplay is perfect and having other people read it, especially a professional, will open your eyes to its real potential. It's better to have a flawed screenplay that you're willing to revise than a "perfect" one that no one will ever read.

Should You Get Script Notes from a Fellow Screenwriter?

When writers consider receiving script notes, they naturally think of script consultants and professional script readers to send their work to. But, should they send their scripts to fellow screenwriters? Yes. Why? Because they not only understand story structure, character development, and other story elements but also the arduous experience of sitting down and actually crafting a story from a blank page. Kahan explains:

Working with other writers and getting notes from other writers, I think you're gonna get specificity. And that makes the job easier. Again, not to say the managers and execs can't give great notes, but I think when you are used to sitting down at the typewriter and bleeding, as the saying goes, you know — you're in it, you know what that's like — you're gonna give actionable notes.

The Value of Being in a Writing Community

There are many reasons to be a part of a writing community. For one, it can provide you with support and motivation when you need it most. Additionally, being part of a community can provide you with valuable feedback on your work so you can improve your craft and become a better writer. Kahan shares his experience of working with his own community of writers:

It's hugely valuable...to have that core group...especially when you're working in features, because you don't have that in a writers room. So to have that, from just a technical note standpoint, is huge. It's also networking...it's that support system. It's that group that can give you notes that you trust that you know have a different lived experience than you. 

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GET SCRIPT NOTES FROM RICHARD KAHAN!

New to Coverfly: WGA Verification

By Announcements

Get verified today and stay tuned for future perks for guild members.

Since early 2022, Coverfly has been allowing writers to verify their Writers Guild of America (WGA) membership. This allows industry professionals to search for WGA writers and allows writers to promote their accomplishments. After evaluating the verification method as well as talking to many of our users, Coverfly is pleased to announce that we have modified the WGA verification process to make it much simpler. The new process improves security and usability, and gives users the flexibility to add a few additional guilds to their profiles!

Previously, we were verifying WGA memberships by requiring users to upload images of their WGA member cards or membership IDs. We recognized that this required information that not all members wanted to provide or had convenient access to. The new verification process is safe and secure and much simpler

How Does It Work?

First, go to your settings page and find the "Are you a member of any guilds?" section.

Whether you’re signing up for Coverfly for the first time or going into your user settings to add your membership, it's as simple as designating that you are part of the WGA East or WGA West, and then depending on your selection, providing the link to your WGA public profile from the WGA Member directory.  It looks something like this:

https://directories.wga.org/member/firstnamelastname/

New to Coverfly: WGA Verification

You can find your listing in the WGA "Find a Writer" directory by searching your name on the WGA directory.

Since we are asking for your public profile that is available to anyone on the internet, we do need to validate that you are the person listed in the URL above. We are asking you to upload an image/PDF of a letter/email from the WGA, or your WGA membership card. Please remove any and all sensitive information.

Once we determine your membership status (which may take 24-48 hours) your profile will include a “Verified WGA Member” badge. 

New to Coverfly: WGA Verification_badge

 

 

Additionally, industry professionals can find you by searching for WGA members!

Along with the new process, we have also added some additional guilds (with the plan to add more in the future) that can be included in your profile if you belong to them and decide to include them.
the updated process.

Try it out now!

How Coverfly Writer Billie Bates Broke In With 'Spirit Halloween'

How Coverfly Writer Billie Bates Broke In With 'Spirit Halloween'

By Advice, Success Stories

Just in time for the spookiest time of year, Spirit Halloween: The Movie has officially hit theaters. The supernatural horror film was written by Coverfly writer Billie Bates, but hers is not your typical story of Hollywood success.

Born in Australia, the Colorado-based writer broke in without a manager after racking up a whopping 24 listed accolades on Coverfly. She's the perfect example of a writer who used Coverfly as it's designed — submitting to, placing in, and leveraging a variety of programs and competitions until she got her foot in the door. Perhaps the most normal part of Billie Bates' path to success is the amount of time, effort, and sheer force of will it took to get her to where she is today!

We caught up with Billie to talk about her journey to success and how she approaches her writing.

Coverfly: Where are you from originally, and did you have a career before you started writing?

Billie Bates: I grew up in Australia. I had multiple careers and traveled extensively before pursuing writing, which I think has been the most valuable thing for me as a writer outside of learning the craft.  

CF: When did you decide to pursue writing as a career, and what was your ultimate goal

BB: I was based out of London for a few years, and Chic Lit was having its heyday. It was the type of breezy poolside read I was devouring on work trips, so it made sense that if I wanted to write, I’d write what I know and combine the glamorous world of private aviation and the chic lit genre. I took a few online courses, then wrote and self-published a book. It was terrible — I’m not a novelist by any stretch — but the target audience liked it enough and felt it would make a fun movie. That led me to read my first screenplay and purchase my first screenwriting books and software. I was instantly obsessed and had found my calling. 

"Spirit Halloween was my 6th script in my 5th year of screenwriting, but it took five more years to get traction, go through development, and finally make it to the screen."

CF: How did programs and competitions help you get started and progress?

BB: I won the family category at Nashville Film Festival in 2018 with Spirit Halloween, which led to a few cold-call read requests. One request led to a shopping agreement offer with a known director interested, which I declined, and another led to a paid option, which I took. 

My other option around the same time came via Coverfly Pitch Week. It wasn’t even one of the scripts I was pitching, but Jonny Patterson of Confluential was looking for rom-coms; I remembered I had one gathering dust; he asked to read it, loved it, and optioned it. 

How Coverfly Writer Billie Bates Broke In With 'Spirit Halloween'_'Spirit Halloween'

'Spirit Halloween'

CF: You have some raunchy comedies. How did you approach writing a family film? 

BB: Raunchy comedies are my after-dark streaming indulgence, but most of the theatrical releases I've seen in the past decade have been movies I take my kids to. I've learned what works and what doesn't in family films based on their response and my own enjoyment.   

CF: How do you approach vacillating between genres and tone in general? 

BB: I feel the need to vomit out something edgier after being in a tamer space for a few months. I'm a writer with rich life experiences; I'd feel incomplete if I only tapped one of my creative wells!

"Anything that whispers at you on the page will scream at you from the screen."

CF: Any advice for writers struggling with self-doubt? 

BB: Settle in and embrace the journey. You'll hear people say it takes 7-10 scripts or 7-10 years to make it, and I'd have to agree. Spirit Halloween was my 6th script in my 5th year of screenwriting, but it took five more years to get traction, go through development, and finally make it to the screen. 

So write, get your work out there every way possible, and write some more. With so many streaming platforms out there now, content is king. Continually adding to your repertoire will increase the likelihood of having something someone somewhere wants.

CF: Any advice for breaking in from somewhere other than LA?

BB: You need a good work ethic, a non-abrasive personality, one outstanding script, or, preferably, a handful of competently executed scripts; you can share that from anywhere in the world. 

Also, don’t get hung up on finding a manager; get hung up on having a good amount of quality scripts and pitching them. When you have a career to manage, the manager will come.

How Coverfly Writer Billie Bates Broke In With 'Spirit Halloween'_Christopher Lloyd in 'Spirit Halloween'

Christopher Lloyd in 'Spirit Halloween'

CF: Did the script for Spirit Halloween change or evolve over the course of development? 

BB: Early drafts of the script had quite a complex mythology regarding the spirit and the steps needed to put it to rest. At the request of the company that optioned it, I wrote most of it out for budgetary reasons. When Particular Crowd partnered with Strike Back Studios and Hideout Pictures and David Poag came on board to direct, I was able to add back in a streamlined version. I think it's tighter for it and suits the younger-skewing audience better than the original.

CF: What was it like seeing your writing on its feet produced? 

BB: As far as direction, aesthetic, and tone, I couldn't be happier with how seamless David's interpretation was from the page to the screen. 

I'll say this, though, anything that whispers at you on the page will scream at you from the screen. If you think a line of dialogue is serviceable but not great on the page, you'll likely hate it in surround sound!

CF: Any other projects coming up? 

BB: I have a small Christmas film in post coming out in December, and I have a few other assignments in various stages of development. We're also hoping for an announcement from Confluential on The Bait in the coming months. The script has a fantastic director attached — Oran Zegman — who recently released her feature debut, HONOR SOCIETY, with Paramount+. So stay tuned for more on that.


A special thanks to Billie Bates for taking the time to share her story with us.

Spirit Halloween: The Movie is now in select theaters and will be released on VOD on October 11th.

Check out more Success Stories on Coverfly!

Stand-Up Comedian Abby Govindan on How to Write Relatable Comedy

Stand-Up Comedian Abby Govindan on How to Write Relatable Comedy

By Interview

What does it take to be a great comedy writer? Just ask stand-up comedian Abby Govindan. 

 

Houston-native Abby Govindan is a writer and stand-up comedian whose career is taking off like a rocket. Since making her comedic debut at Caroline's on Broadway in New York City in 2017, she's gone viral online, performed all over the country, and has opened for some of the biggest names in stand-up, including Hasan Minhaj, Daniel Sloss, and Russell Peters.

Coverfly had the pleasure of sitting down with Abby to learn about her comedy career, the evolution of her comedy, and how she writes relatable jokes. Check out our interview below!

Learn more about Abby by heading over to her website. Also, if you're interested in seeing her show, be sure to check out her tour dates.

Writer Spotlight - Tamra Teig

Writer Spotlight: Tamra Teig

By Success Article

Tamra is a multiple award-winning screenwriter, including Slamdance, PAGE Silver, Stowe Story Lab, and other highly-ranked competitions, including Austin and Nicholl Quarterfinalist (top 5% of 7812 scripts).

We sat down to talk with her about her screenplay Chokepoint, a story about a work-obsessed senator who is taken hostage on a ship hijacked by high-tech pirates, asking about its commercial and cultural relevancy, what it was like pitching her idea, and how her 25-year experience as a journalist helped her write such an incredible tale.

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CF: You signed with a manager a week after being highlighted in the Coverfly Newsletter. What was it like?

TT: It was a very pleasant surprise! I think it was because I did the hard work of building a portfolio and working to gain positive attention for my scripts to position myself as well as possible—then I benefited from the exposure and credibility Coverfly gave me.

Coverfly: What are your favorite elements of Chokepoint? What do you feel makes it commercially and culturally relevant?

Tamra Teig: I think the fact that the scenarios in Chokepoint are plausible makes it more interesting. There’s a big appetite for stories based on true events. It’s kind of crazy that after I finished my script, two big events happened in the news that are in my story: the first scene in my script actually happened in real life: an oil tanker was attacked in a chokepoint. Then a few months ago, a container ship got stuck in the Suez Canal for six days, (another important global shipping corridor) at a global cost of $1 billion. Now it’s common knowledge that major shipping corridors have global economic impact.

Besides the authenticity of the story, my other favorite element of the story is my characters are more representative of our culture: all roles can be non-Caucasian, the protagonist is a 50-year-old, Latina-biracial female, and is not a typical action hero—she has no special ex-CIA or Navy SEAL skills, she’s just smart, strong and resourceful. Two other leads are over 65, another is over 40, and a main supporting role is LGBTQ+ female. All roles meet every test for writing diverse roles: Bechdel, Duvernay, Waithe, Villalobos, Ko, Peirce, Villarreal, and Landau. For writers who don’t know what these tests are, I suggest you Google them--and be mindful of them when you’re creating characters.

Whether it’s a financier, producer, manager or other busy exec, they need to immediately be able to see the story is unique and high-concept—meaning they can grasp the whole movie through your logline.

CF: How did Pitch Week create momentum for your career and do you think it helped facilitate your career and deal with production companies or signing with a manager?

TT: Before I even got to the stage of being selected in Pitch Week, I spent countless hours writing a number of projects, getting coverage on them to improve them as much as possible, then submitting them to various script competitions on Coverfly. I now have three scripts in the top 1% on the platform. After being a participant in Pitch Week, and almost a year of Chokepoint placing highly in multiple competitions, I was contacted by manager Jon Brown, of Ensemble Entertainment, and just signed with him.

CF: Tell us about the pitch. What kinds of things did you focus on? What was your strategy for making it appealing to financiers?

TT: The first job is to come up with a really compelling logline. I find it one of the most challenging tasks of writing a screenplay, and it’s one of the most crucial. No matter how little time you have to talk to an exec, they’ll always first ask: “What’s it about?” You need to have a sentence or two that is concise and sets up the situation and the stakes clearly.  You need to have it down cold, and you need to say it with confidence, energy and enthusiasm, if you want to get them interested. The goal of your logline is to get someone to ask for the script, or at least ask another question. Whether it’s a financier, producer, manager or other busy exec, they need to immediately be able to see the story is unique and high-concept—meaning they can grasp the whole movie through your logline. The wider the appeal, the more marketable the project—and the greater the potential ROI.

It’s important to focus on the big hooks of the story, not try to cram in all the details. Instead, it’s important to set up the tone and world, introduce the protagonist and antagonist and the conflict in an intriguing way, highlight the major act turns, and to a quick summary of how it ends, making the protagonists arc clear.

As a journalist, I was trained to write concisely and vividly, which was great training for screenwriting and pitching.

CF: You have 25 years of experience as a journalist -- you started writing scripts later on in your career. How have these things helped or hindered you as a screenwriter?

TT: As a journalist, I was trained to write concisely and vividly, which was great training for screenwriting and pitching. You answer who, what, where, when and why in the first paragraph of every article, which is basically how a pitch is structured. I’ve also been a marketing consultant all that time, so I try to write stories with universal appeal and evaluate each new script idea by how marketable I think it is. It’s also an asset to have more life experiences to write about—I was married for a long time, raised three kids, moved a lot, traveled extensively internationally, and even lived in another country. I have an incredibly rich and unique set of life experiences to draw from. Also, because I’m starting my screenwriting career so late in life, I am super focused and driven; I don’t have any time to waste. I took advantage of the pandemic to be uber-productive: from December to now I: was hired and just completed a full-length feature, I wrote an international hour drama pilot with a book author; I did a full rewrite of multi-award-winning indie script The Fall, that I co-wrote and am producing partner on, receiving notes from an A-list director; and, I just got a Stowe Story Lab fellowship for my half-hour dramedy series Dog Mom, which is based on my personal experiences during Covid. I’m very fortunate that I love writing and I can devote myself to my passion—I’ve been writing 10-12 or more hours a day and am continuously learning how to improve my writing.

CF: How do you think having a manager will make an impact on your screenwriting career and what next steps have you discussed?

TT: I feel like signing with a manager is like a “golden ticket.” There are tens of thousands of scripts floating around, and the industry doesn’t take “unsolicited manuscripts.” There’s a huge barrier to entry. Even though I feel confident networking and trying to make my own connections, it’s daunting trying to make your mark, especially since the last year of normal in-person meetings and festivals being shut down. I’ve been pitching through platforms like Roadmap Writers and Stage 32, but it’s a numbers game, and it also comes down to economics. Now I have a mentor, who has a whole network of high-level executives and decades of experience, to champion my scripts and fast-track my career.

Jon has already gotten one of my scripts to an agent and is starting outreach to A-list directors on another. Compared to my original trajectory, I have no doubt that he is going to make things happen relatively quickly. I’m really excited about what the future holds, and very grateful for the part Coverfly played.