Improving Your Screenplay’s Characterization

By Advice, Screenwriting 101

Characterization is important. Script readers consider strong characterization as one of the single most important traits of a good screenplay. Your characters are typically judged based on their authenticity, uniqueness, and story arc. A common mistake that beginner screenwriters make is to focus on the plot of their script; however if you focus on creating great characters first, then your story’s conflict and plot will flow naturally from your characters authentic needs and desires. 

How can you improve the characterization in your screenplay?

 

1. Make Their Introductions Matter

Always show, never tell. Don’t tell the reader that a character is shy. Show their shyness through an interaction with another character. 

Let’s look at the protagonist’s introduction in Charlie Kaufman’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: 

The platform across the tracks is empty. As an almost empty train pulls up to that platform, one of the suited men breaks out of the crowd, lurches up the stairs two at a time, hurries across the overpass and down the stairs to the other side, just as the empty train stops. The doors open and the man gets on that train.

As the empty train pulls from the station, the man watches the crowd of commuters through the train’s dirty window. We see his face for the first time. This is Joel Barish.      

Joel’s actions tell you everything you need to know about him before his physical characteristics are even described in the next paragraph. He breaks away from the mundane workday in desperation.

An added bonus is that his actions are a visual representation of the overall plot and directly reflect the premise of removing a strand of memories from one’s busy brain. 

Here’s a great blog post from our partners at ScreenCraft: 

100 Examples of How to Introduce Characters in Your Screenplay

 

2. Develop Their Backstory

A character’s story begins long before we meet them on the page, so it’s good to develop their backstories during the brainstorming process to create well rounded characters. Think of their backstory as the iceberg below the surface, even if the only hints of their backstory on the page are just the tip of the iceberg. 

When tackling your screenplay, try not to slow the reader down with a block of exposition describing past events that are not directly pertinent to the story. 

When Johnny Cash is introduced in Walk the Line, screenwriters Gill Dennis and James Mangold use a single detail that foreshadows Johnny’s past.  

A MAN IN BLACK (37) OUT OF BREATH, LEANS ON A TABLE SAW. 

His face etched with hard living. His brow wet. His eyes dark, staring at— A FEROCIOUS SAW BLADE. Jagged teeth gleam.

Being a biopic, Johnny Cash’s past is later revealed, but this brief description epitomizes his character’s backstory with a single image. The saw blade foreshadows the inciting incident that ultimately drives young Johnny off his farm and into stardom.

Practice character development with this great exercise from our partners at The Script Lab

 

3. Find Their Defining Feature

What makes your character relatable? 

Why should a reader care about their story?

A great tool for finding your character’s defining feature is the Enneagram of Personality. 

The Enneagram Institute, created by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson in 1997, helped establish these nine basic personality types.

  1. The Reformer – Rational, Idealistic, Self-Controlled, Purposeful
  2. The Helper – Caring, Generous, Possessive
  3. The Achiever – Driven, Excelling, Image Forward
  4. The Individualist – Sensitive, Withdrawn, Temperamental
  5. The Investigator – Intense, Cerebral, Perceptive, Isolated
  6. The Loyalist – Committed, Responsible, Suspicious
  7. The Enthusiast – Fun-loving, Spontaneous, Scattered
  8. The Challenger – Dominating, Decisive, Confrontational
  9. The Peacemaker – Easygoing, Reassuring, Agreeable

This tool is especially helpful when developing supporting characters. 

How do your supporting characters compliment your main character? 

Each supporting character serves a function for the protagonist — that’s why they’re called supporting characters. Whether it’s the bully that threatens to meet our hero at the playground after school, or the quirky friend who provides comic relief and advice. 

They are an integral part of your protagonist’s story. What is their purpose?

 

5. Make Their Character Flaw Count

How does your character’s flaw prevent them from conquering their conflict? 

How does it steer them away from their main goal? 

Often, the character’s main flaw is the obstacle they need to overcome in order to defeat their antagonist or accomplish their goal. Their major flaw should tie into the plot and be relevant to the character’s journey.

In When Harry Met Sally, Harry has a hard time committing to a relationship. As soon as things get serious, he bails. After making love to Sally, he returns to his flaw as a defense mechanism and jeopardizes their relationship. He has to overcome this flaw or lose the love of his life. 

 

6. Make Their Motivation & Goal Clear

Why is your character doing what they are doing? 

What are the stakes?

In the film Apocalypto, Jaguar Paw saves his family from Mayan raiders by lowering them into a pit. They’re temporarily safe, but if he doesn’t return they won’t survive. He’s taken captive and must escape certain death in the city, survive his pursuers, and beat a ticking clock scenario in order to save his family. 

His pregnant wife and young child are his motivators. They inspire him to rise when he hits his low point. Every character should have a clearly defined goal.

 

7. Map Out Their Character Arc

Characters can’t remain stagnant. They need to overcome their flaws to reach their full potential. 

Whether your character achieves their goal or falls short, they will change in some way. Even if they revert back to their main flaw, they would have learned something about themselves. 

A character shouldn’t be the same at the end of the story as they were in the beginning.

Download the ScreenCraft’s newest eBook for free! 

Exploring the 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey

 

8. Find Inspiration in Real People

The goal for every character is to make them feel real. With this in mind, sometimes reality is where you can find the best traits to use for your characters. 

Think of the people in your life who stand out in your memories — whether for good or bad. You don’t have to use their names but you should definitely use their mannerisms.

What makes them stand out? 

Why do you remember them? 

Some of the best characters are the characters you already know in real life.

__

Over the course of the rewriting process, your characters will continue to evolve. You’ll get to know them better and have more of an understanding behind their motivations.

The more you learn about your characters, the more depth they gain. The goal is to create memorable characters that readers will never forget.

You’re well on your way.

If you want to find more ways to improve characterization in your screenplays, search this Coverfly blog, as well as our partner websites for related screenwriting articles:  The Script Lab or  ScreenCraft.


Kevin Nelson is a writer and director based in New York City, baby. He has written and produced critically acclaimed short films and music videos with incredibly talented artists, worked with anti-human trafficking organizations in Nepal, and would rather be in nature right now. Check out his Coverfly profile, see more madness on Instagram or follow his work on https://www.kevinpatricknelson.com


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Writing a Riveting Logline for Your Screenplay

By Advice

A lot depends on your logline.

A logline is a brief (usually one sentence) summary that states your story’s central conflict, conveys the genre, and often reveals dramatic irony.

A logline is the first impression a reader will have of your story, so it should be considered an extension of your screenplay, not a separate entity. The goal of a good logline is to hook a reader with a single sentence so that they need to crack open your script. It’s the cover art for your project, a movie poster strategically composed of words that draws an audience closer to your script. 

How does a writer even approach condensing 90-120 pages into just one or two sentences? 

It’s not an easy feat, but it is an essential skill that all writers need to develop.

The logline is a one or two sentence paragraph composed of 25-50 words that clearly defines the characters, concept, conflict, plot, theme, and genre of your story. It’s common for all of these elements to get jumbled up in a writer’s head after working on them for so long.

Luckily, there is a general consensus on the four main elements that make up a strong logline. These elements are interchangeable and can be reordered in order to elicit stronger reactions depending on their content. We’ll explore more on that later. 

For now, let’s check out the general format of a great logline.

PROTAGONIST +  PROTAGONIST GOAL/ACTION + CENTRAL CONFLICT/IRONY

Let’s look a little closer at this formula with the logline for Jaws:

“A police chief with a phobia of open water battles a killer shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.”

1. Protagonist

The main character is the driver of your story, thus your logline. 

Unless the character is based on a historical/public figure, it’s best to leave out the name of your protagonist and find creative adjectives to bring the character to life. 

The description of the police chief’s phobia reveals the flaw that the protagonist must overcome in order to conquer the central conflict/antagonist. This adds layers to the character before the reader ever starts on page one.

2. Protagonist Goal/Action

The protagonist’s goal is the driving force or engine behind every story. What action must the main character take in order to achieve that goal?

In the case of Jaws, the police chief must hunt down the shark before more people are killed due to bureaucratic negligence. 

3. Central Conflict/Irony 

What is your character up against? 

The central conflict and antagonist should be well defined by both the inciting incident and the protagonist’s goal. The antagonist is the foundation of the character’s plight and the reason behind the inciting incident. And if there’s dramatic irony in your logline, all the better! 

Both the shark and the greedy town council are the obstacles our protagonist must overcome in order to return the beach community to any semblance of normalcy. The dramatic irony, of course, is that the protagonist has a phobia of open water, and to achieve his goal, must battle a shark out on the open ocean. 

Ways to Improve Your Logline

1. Careful Use of Syntax and Diction

Syntax

The order in which you place the elements of your logline can lead to different effects on the reader. A writer should try to introduce the character with a strong lead, followed by the engrossing conflict of the story, then leave an impactful final statement. 

The logline for The Surveillance of Ordinary Things by Susan Brunig is a great example of how a writer can lead the reader through different emotions to arrive at a satisfying finish. 

“A middle-aged, suburban housewife in the midst of a dark, existential crisis decides to run away and end it all. But when she stumbles upon an unplugged community of creative misfits, she rediscovers the artist she once was.”

Brunig introduces the character and conflict right off the back with great adjectives to build up her protagonist’s backstory. The serious subject matter leaves the reader low at the midway point, only to lift their spirits again with the positivity found in her renewal.

Diction

The words you use matter. The less words you use, the more weight each one carries. By using an active voice, a writer can engage with the audience rather than merely explaining to the audience. Active adjectives and verbs can increase the stakes and pull a reader in.

The logline for Brian Kazmarck’s Emergent is succinct and provides the reader with everything they need to know before heading into the story by using sharp words that jump right into the action.

“A brilliant programmer gets embroiled in a bizarre and dangerous love triangle between a co-worker who saved her life and an artificial intelligence that nearly killed her.”

2. Throw in Some Stakes

Drive home the severity of the central conflict by ramping up the tension. You can build on the inciting incident by introducing a character or situation that makes it harder for the protagonist to carry out their goal. We saw it with the greedy town council in the Jaws logline.

We also see it done well with Gil Seltzer’s The Delivery:

“A Jordanian history professor turned radicalized terrorist is tasked with delivering a car bomb from Dallas to New York City. His cover – an unwitting 12-year old boy who joins him for the tenuous drive through the American heartland.”

The introduction of the 12-year old boy into the equation ups the stakes of the professor’s journey and will ultimately lead to some tough internal conflict.

3. Elicit Questions With a Statement

It’s important to lead the reader by creating questions in their mind that can only be answered by reading the screenplay. Consider it a little inception tactic used by writers. By planting certain pieces of information regarding the protagonist’s journey into the logline, a writer can use it as leverage in making the reader want more.  

Ernestina Juarez’s Labyrinth of Destiny shows how strong wording can lure a reader into the story by forcing them to ask multiple questions through the use of a statement.

“Ulysses Grant’s experience of love and death as a young officer in the Mexican-American War influences an important decision he makes as the commanding general of the Union Army during the Civil War.”

What were the experiences? How did they influence him? What important decision did he make? Instilling these questions into a reader’s mind will make them want to know more, and there’s only one way to find out.

4. Sprinkle in a Little Irony 

Dramatic irony is irresistible. The simplest definition of dramatic irony is when the audience understands something that the characters do not. It can come about when two opposing and/or conflicting forces meet and depend on each other. In The Silence of the Lambs, a detective seeks out the help of a serial killer. A diametric concept provokes interest.

We can look at the logline for Robert Axelrod’s Tucked as a great use of irony:

“After being excommunicated from the Hasidic community, a mother works to regain custody of her children and adapt to secular life while working at a wig shop run by a black Muslim drag queen.”

This logline juxtaposes characters from two very different walks of life, and places them in a compromising situation. The contradictory elements influence the protagonist’s main goal and thwart a reader’s expectations — creating an element of intrigue that can’t be ignored. 

5. Add a Twist

It’s important to end your logline with a solid finishing statement. It’s the cliffhanger or the button that impels a reader to seek more. 

Aaron McCann’s Big Red waits until the right moment to reveal the true nature of the story.

“A desperate mission to colonize Mars goes horribly wrong after a freak accident involving freakish mutants leaves only two sole survivors: a pair of moronic reality show contestants who are going through the world’s worst break-up.”

The logline begins with a horror/sci-fi lean, only to flip the script with the reveal of the characters. The twist sets up the genre much in the same way as the punchline of a joke. We go into the script expecting hilarity and surprises. 

Things to Be Cautious Of

  1. Contest Wins — Writers might feel the need to tout their accomplishments in the logline. While you should advertise your successes, we’d recommend that you save that sort of info for your writer bio. Let your Coverfly Score speak for itself.
  2. One Long Paragraph — If you haven’t been able to break 100 pages down to one or two sentences, yet still find yourself with a short synopsis made up of several lines — keep chipping away. You’re getting close. Keep it as short as possible.

Loglines are every writer’s secret weapon and a difficult craft to master. They open doors, create opportunities, and are a vital component to every writer’s skill set.

How will you craft your screenplay’s calling card?

 


Kevin Nelson is a writer and director based in New York City, baby. He has written and produced critically acclaimed short films and music videos with incredibly talented artists, worked with anti-human trafficking organizations in Nepal, and would rather be in nature right now. Check out his Coverfly profile, see more madness on Instagram or follow his work on https://www.kevinpatricknelson.com


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Managing Expectations: Lessons From a Former Screenplay Competition Director

By Contests, Success Stories

Once upon a time before becoming a literary manager, I was the Director of Script Competitions at Austin Film Festival and I was fortunate to interact with countless wonderful writers – reading their scripts, sharing in their excitement if they advanced, connecting them to industry professionals, and perhaps seeing them get one step closer to making their dreams come true. Seeing all the hope that screenplay competitions can provide led me to pursue management as a way to further help writers thrive in the real COMPETITION presented in Hollywood. And, as in the nature of that word, many will enter and few will win. As a former screenplay competition director turned literary manager, I am here to share some key lessons I’ve observed from being on both sides that could be helpful to writers looking to competitions as a way to launch a writing career.

LESSON #1: KNOW WHERE TO SUBMIT

Before shelling out money on entry fees, do your due diligence and review the program’s track record and see if what they’re offering is worthwhile for you. The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting is widely considered the gold standard – they receive more feature script submissions than any other program so keep that in mind before submitting but a win there provides invaluable widespread industry attention. Similarly regarded is Austin Film Festival (yes, I’m biased but also a true believer) which is, along with the Nicholl, one of the longest running OG screenplay competitions around and has the added incentive of providing advancing writers special opportunities at their Writers Conference. And I would undoubtedly vouch for ScreenCraft‘s programs, which has an a la carte menu of genre-specific writing competitions to enter throughout the year and has a great track record with writers. To help with your research, check out Coverfly.com (you’re here!) and Moviebytes.com as it has perhaps the most comprehensive listing of screenplay competitions out there with reviews and ratings.

LESSON #2: WINNING/PLACING DOESN’T GUARANTEE ANYTHING

Well, aside from the guaranteed prize amount which you also might be guaranteed to pay tax for, there is no guarantee that winning a competition will land you your dream manager or sell your script. Competitions are invested in the success of their top writers, so take full advantage of the opportunities they provide but that can only go so far. Ultimately, you’re steering the ship and it’s really about the work YOU do with leveraging your win/placement. What that recognition represents at the very least is that you’ve been vetted and have people who can vouch for you. If you’re inbox isn’t blowing up with requests to read your script, it’s up to you to put yourself out there and strike while the iron is hot. Send query e-mails to promote your recognition if you need to but be smart about whom you send them to and how you write them. Even winning is still the result of the subjective opinion from a set group of individuals so not everyone may end up vibing with your winning script so it’s important to be prepared for the inevitable question of “what else you got???” which brings us to…

LESSON #3: YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR NEXT SCRIPT

You may have received recognition from a major competition but, if that script is the only thing of note you can share, it’s likely going to be a red flag for a rep. Talent, consistency, and longevity are traits of successful professional writers. Winning a competition gives you a great platform but it’s not the main stage just yet – it’s more of a dress rehearsal to see if you have the mettle to be a working writer and consistently generate material. Even if you’re in the middle of writing your follow-up script and not ready to share it just yet, at least be ready to talk about it as well as your slate of ideas for new projects.

LESSON #4: BE SMART AND KNOW YOUR WORTH

I have seen many writers sign with the first and only manager that reached out to them after a top placement without even doing their due diligence. Not all managers are created equal so ask questions and make sure the person is a perfect match for you creatively. You need to find the right creative partner who understands your voice and will always have your best interests in mind. If you only received interest from one manager and that person isn’t a right fit, don’t settle. It’s like dating so would you really want to get married after the first date? As one of my colleagues always says, “Be hungry, not thirsty.” Just be smart about it.

It’s also important to know your worth, who you are as a writer, and what you bring to the table. It really is essential to recognize what your unique super power is among many other talented writers because, at the end of the day, that is what reps are also going to be asking themselves about you. The better you know yourself as a storyteller, the easier it will be for you to know who the right rep is for you.

There are endless lessons to be learned and as William Goldman once said, “Nobody knows anything.” As frustrating as that may sound, it’s also incredibly freeing to know you can set your own path. What may or may not have worked for another writer may not even apply to you. Ultimately, it’s always going to be about trying, not giving up, and learning as much as you can along the way. Because after all, you can’t win if you don’t submit.

 

Matt Dy is a Literary Manager at Lit Entertainment Group. Formerly Matt ran the Austin Film Festival’s Screenwriting Competition. Lit Entertainment was founded by manager-producer Adam Kolbrenner who produced the Oscar-nominated film, Prisoners, for Warner Bros/Alcon Entertainment, written by Lit client Aaron Guzikowski. Lit Entertainment’s next film is Fox’s Free Guy, along with Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter. The film, starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by Shawn Levy, is an original spec from Lit client Matt Lieberman.

Announcing our Second Virtual Live Read!

By Announcements

We are excited to announce our next performance of the Coverfly Virtual Table Read Series in partnership with The Storytellers Conservatory! Join us this Friday April 10th at 4pm PST (7pm EST) on the Coverfly Facebook page here: facebook.com/coverfly

At 4pm PST on Friday you’ll see our Facebook Live video of the virtual table read with professional SAG/AFTRA actors of a very funny comedy feature screenplay selected from hundreds of free applications. Learn more about our free Extras here.

We have selected DIRTY WATER DOGS by Terrie Viani, a comedy feature screenplay that follows a down-on-her-luck street vendor in New York who tries to rig a lottery for a hot new spot in the Central Park Zoo.

For any questions, please email support@coverfly.com. See you there!

We’re excited to announce that our last virtual live read resulted in the writer signing with a literary manager:

Congrats to screenwriter Jacob Wehrman!

“Coverfly proved to be a powerful resource. Opportunities like Coverfly’s Pitch Week and the Live Read series can get your work in front of actors, directors, and producers– for free. I feel that Coverfly has my back by vetting every contest, and they add serious value by offering those no-cost extra opportunities.” – Jacob Wehrman

Jacob Wehrman signed with a literary manager after his script was performed by a cast of actors for Coverfly’s Virtual Live Read!

Read more about Jacob’s story here.

5 Tips for Crafting Your Perfect Writer Bio

By Screenwriting 101

Putting the entirety of your life’s works, experiences, and accomplishments into a few sentences can be a daunting task even for the most talented writer, and one filled with lots of uncertainty. What do I include? What do I leave out? Should I be brief but not too brief? Do they care where I went to school?

Writing a bio– like writing– is more of an art than a science. We’re here to help you hone this art, and write bios that best showcase yourself to the industry.  Recently, we reached out to our network of literary reps who provided kernels of wisdom to guide you in writing your best bio.

1. Share your unique voice and perspective

“Focus on what makes you unique.” – Cassie Duffy, Kaplan-Perrone

“How would you pitch yourself on why you NEED to be hired?” – Audrey Knox, Cartel

When writing a bio, many writers feel a need to mention general information about their hometown, where they went to school, or why Reservoir Dogs is their favorite movie. The problem is, that info is true for thousands if not tens of thousands of other writers. When including info, really focus on what perspective or characteristics you have that set you apart from the crowd.  Be weary of putting your educational highlights, especially if you went to a common writing school (“…everyone’s gone to USC”).

2. Connect with them and make them smile

“Be funny. And if you can’t be funny;  have style.” – Harris Kauffman, Storyboard

Get creative with the writing– you are a writer after all. If you’re a comedy writer, your bio should definitely include a joke or two. If you’re more on the drama side, your bio definitely shouldn’t make anyone cry, but it should display some of the writing craft you’re asking this person to read more of. Avoid anything standardized at all costs.

3. Keep it short

“Only include information that matters.” – Derrick Eppich, Empirical Evidence

If your bio is longer than 3-4 sentences, cut cut cut.  This is an elevator pitch about yourself, not an autobiographical book.  Imagine you’re speaking your bio, word for word, to a manager, agent, or producer.  How long would you make it before you’ve lost their attention, or worse, they interrupt you to get on with it?  You have even less time to make an impact on your bio. The sweet spot is three sentences and between 300-400 characters following the structure of: recent accomplishment or development, overview of your career, and something that sets you apart.

4. Hook them from the beginning

“Put the most recent and most impressive stuff first.” – Audrey Knox, Cartel

When writing their bios, many writers feel a need to start at the beginning and work their way to the present.  Just like a great script, you need to hook your audience at the very beginning, otherwise they toss the script. Start with the most impactful items first. Andlike a resume, you should start with the most recent, relevant, and impressive experience at the top. 

5. Reference your industry knowledge

“Showcase your industry mentorships and referrals.” – Cassie Duffy, Kaplan Perrone

Managers and agents need the assurance that you know the business, and that you’re going to represent them well in meetings and other business situations.  If you have industry experience, definitely include that in your bio. If not, any industry creator, professional, or mentors will go a long way in legitimizing and validating your work. 

A few examples:

To help you write a compelling bio, here are some inspirational bios, and some lackluster bios.  Note: we’ve edited these from actual bios so as not to call-out individual writers.

Great Bios:

Interesting Career History

Samantha’s journey into professional writing started as an aide for a notorious politician during a scandal. Seeing the power of story to affect change, she enrolled at AFI film school. Her directorial debut short film THE SKYLINE is currently available on Amazon and her pilot THE DOLPHIN placed in the top 15% for Nicholl just last month.

The Accolades Bio

Starting as a plucky young assistant for Werner Herzog, Evan was integral in developing several features and series for his company. He utilized his co-producer credit as a springboard to write his short STALKER, which has been featured on Vice, Amazon, and Quibi. He is currently an assistant in the writer’s room for the Fox series, THE BOOK OF ESTHER.

 

The Witty Bio

Molded by his small, North Dakota  hometown and all the opportunity that it offered — none — Jonas’s passion for writing spawned from a desire to entertain — himself, first and foremost.. After accumulating a diverse and extensive body of work at The University of Minnesota, he headed to Los Angeles, where he is currently working as a writer’s PA on TNT’s WRESTLING IS REAL.

 

Please avoid Bios like these:

The Generic Info Bio

I was born in Southeast Michigan and graduated from Michigan State with a bachelors in Communication. I moved to Los Angeles five years ago and currently work in sales. I write in my free time and would like to be staffed on a network show.

 

The Irrelevant Personal Taste Bio

I have been a screenwriter ever since I fell in love with Raiders of the Lost Ark. I now specialize in Spielbergian action projects and love to tell stories of underdogs overcoming unconquerable odds.

 

The Long-Winded Bio

Born on the majestic enchanting shores of Hollywood California, I was the second of three children to an accountant and a school teacher. My grandfather, also an accountant, would sit me on his knee by the fireside of my parent’s Cape Cod style cottage and tell me bedtime stories that left me with a sense of wonder and a desire to create stories of my own. After graduating high school with mostly A’s and B’s, I went north to a state university where I majored in English after switching from Business. I learned lots and partied equally as much, but knew that once I was finished, I had to return to Los Angeles in order to pursue my writing career. My first feature placed as a quarterfinalist in Austin, ScreenCraft, PAGE, BlueCat, Slamdance, and the Oklahoma Film Festival, while my pilot placed as a semifinalist in Austin, Nicholl, Script Pipeline, Tracking Board, and Scriptapalooza. I am now currently developing my third feature and looking for producers that specialize in broad comedy social thrillers. Links to my Facebook, Twitter, website, and portfolio below.  You can believe me when I say: I have stories that rival my grandfather’s.

 

Oh, and it should go without saying, but…

“Don’t lie!” – Everyone

Being a writer and being self-conscious goes hand in hand. It may be tempting to fill a bio with embellishments or half-truths to make your body of work sound impressive but DON’T DO IT. While you want to put your best foot forward, any rep will be able to see through it and you might end up burning a bridge instead of simply getting a pass. 

Ready? Get started perfecting your Bio on your Coverfly Profile now! 

Announcing our First Virtual Live Read!

By Announcements

We are excited to announce the inaugural performance of the Coverfly Virtual Table Read Series in partnership with The Storytellers Conservatory! Coverfly’s monthly Live Table Read was previously an in-person performance with professional actors in Los Angeles. In light of the recent coronavirus quarantines, we’re switching them to virtual live-streamed video events – and the good news is that this allows for more people to join virtually!

Join us this Friday March 27th at 5pm PST through this link here — no sign up required. The virtual hangout will open ten minutes prior to the performance. Performers will appear on screen but all are welcome to watch! Closed captioning available for hearing impaired.

We have selected CRAWLSPACE by Jacob Wehrman, a thriller feature that follows struggling plumber who is trapped by criminals fleeing a murder scene. The screenplay was chosen by the Coverfly team after Jacob applied for the Live Read program.

Want to see your screenplay performed live by professional actors? You could have the chance to invite friends, family, colleagues, producers, and managers to an exclusive event celebrating you and your work. Connect and collaborate with working industry pros to improve your material. Coverfly’s monthly Live Reads are free, and accepting applications here!

For any questions, please email support@coverfly.com. See you there!

Coverfly Pitch Week: My Journey to Getting Signed

By Contests, Screenwriting 101

I’m LeLe Park, and I’m a screenwriter who went from being un-repped to being repped in just over a year.  

It was October 2018; my ego was firmly against the wall of “no, thanks.”  I didn’t know where to go next. I was fully prepared to hunt the globe for talent representation, permanently.  I’d written my drama series pilot and poured all my emotional octane into it and physically pushed myself — sleeping only 3-4 hours a night for over a year.   Now, I was running on fumes.   

Then one day a friend-of-a-friend suggested I compete to stir up some legitimacy around my efforts. After gaining the traction I’d hoped for from competing, Coverfly’s Pitch Week selected me in their new opportunity offering!   

Part of the reason I was exceptionally excited was because Coverfly is so unique.  Its efforts to ensure that competitions and festivals are both credible and following best practices is truly a credit to its care for the participants and the reality that new writers can be preyed upon.  Coverfly’s also so well-respected and trusted that it cuts right through the concerns of even accomplished writers.  Add to it a platform as tidy and concise as this one: creating its own Pitch Week and harvesting through its massive database of talent… it organically lends a selected writer credibility, opportunity, and recognition worth noting.  

Are you a writer with a few completed screenplays under your belt?
Apply to Coverfly Pitch Week for FREE to connect with agents, managers and producers.

When I was notified I’d made Coverfly’s Pitch Week, there was a sliver of hope that representation was near!  This mythical unobtainable marker in a writer’s journey is ripe with such a variance of avenues and conditions… and now it was possible.  The ability to possibly be in front of talent management and producers in the hopes of connecting or becoming represented, that’s always enticing!  It’s hard enough to get signed as a writer when you live in Los Angeles full-time.  For me, a working mother of two small boys going between LA-and-Chicago and new to the process — it felt as fanciful as it did unlikely.  

A calendar invite was sent my way and days later the online meeting began.  I was ready to answer questions about my lead character’s journey, ready to discuss my vision, was excited to discuss character development and hopes for the project.   But, then the first question was, “So, can you tell me about yourself and how you got here?”  

The moment that question came out, I started blathering.  I was fumbling through it like the kid who hadn’t wanted to catch the ball, and I was just hoping I didn’t mess it up so bad that I’d blown the opportunity.  I realized I need to be completely comfortable answering questions. Having great answers is lovely but how they’re answered is just as important.  I had to embrace sharing my journey and how my projects had marinated  — a teachable moment brought my way, thanks to Coverfly’s Pitch Week.  

Despite my blathering and worry,  I was selected and signed by Eric Borja at Alldayeveryday!

From that point on, my manager and I spent time building a “two-pager” for my drama series, The Bliss Killer.  We spent time retooling and better preparing me for wider discussions about the project — to speak about my show’s message, genesis, and trajectory — the benefits of signing with someone who enjoys developing writers!  Even today, we’re still discussing, fine-tuning, and preparing materials for my drama series and soon will be preparing my other projects as I currently wrap my limited series, Night vs Day and have begun sharing my latest feature film, Visceral Fatherland.

Having a manager has opened doors.  It’s allowed me to participate in query submissions that widely prefer receiving materials from a manger/agent.  And it’s added validity to my abilities as a fresh member to the community.  I still work my hustle and focus on listening and connecting to those that carry more experience.  I look for opportunities to ask for help from advocates of my projects — and that’s also part of the process of working with a talent manager — they’re there for you, but you still have to be there for yourself.  They’re the additional engine to your hustle, not the end of your hustle.

Coverfly’s Pitch Week brought me to another level; first by selecting me, then by creating the opportunity to be seen and heard by a talent manager who enjoys writer development, and from there lifting my credibility game once signed by the manager.

If you have the opportunity to submit your work for consideration via Coverfly’s Pitch Week, I highly recommend it… you never know what the game-changer will be.


LeLe Park is a Chicago based screenwriter. Her original pilot “The Bliss Killer” has won/placed in over 40 competitions including Screencraft, Final Draft, Scriptation Showcase, Cinequest, Script Summit, and Shore Scripts. Her short screenplay, “ACHE”, has won/placed in 30 screenwriting competitions including Austin Film Festival, Oaxaca Film festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIFF), and The Richmond International Film Festival. She was “staff pick” at ScriptD, a guest speaker at Bucknell University, and pitch choice at Coverfly. She recently finished her highly-anticipated feature script, “Visceral Fatherland” and is currently wrapping up her second feature “Topt” and her limited series “Night vs Day”. She is represented by Eric Borja at Alldayeveryday (Los Angeles). https://lelepark05.wixsite.com/lelepark

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Calling All Writers! Weekly Screenwriting Contest Roundup — 1/13/20

By Contests

Screenwriting competitions are tried and true when it comes to planting a foot firmly in the appropriate door. Here are five of the hottest contests that are wrapping up soon.


JANUARY 15 — CINESTORY FEATURE RETREAT AND FELLOWSHIP COMPETITION — Early Deadline — $60


JANUARY 19 — PAGE INTERNATIONAL SCREENWRITING AWARDS — Early Deadline — $40+


JANUARY 20 — APPLICATION FOR STOWE STORY LABS NARRATIVE LABS AND WRITERS’ RETREATS, FELLOWSHIPS AND PARTIAL SCHOLARSHIPS — Regular Deadline — $45


JANUARY 21 — CREATIVE SCREENWRITING UNIQUE VOICES SCREENPLAY COMPETITION — Early Deadline — $29


JANUARY 31 — SCREENCRAFT SCREENWRITING FELLOWSHIP — Regular Deadline — $69


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Calling All Writers! Weekly Screenwriting Contest Roundup — 1/6/20

By Contests

Screenwriting competitions are tried and true when it comes to planting a foot firmly in the appropriate door. Here are five of the hottest contests that are wrapping up soon.


JANUARY 9 — LAUNCH PAD MANUSCRIPT COMPETITION — Final Deadline — $95


JANUARY 10 — NANTUCKET FILM FESTIVAL SHOWTIME®TONY COX SCREENPLAY COMPETITION — Regular Deadline — $65


JANUARY 15 — FILM PIPELINE SCREENPLAY COMPETITION — Exclusive Deadline — $20

 


JANUARY 15 — CINESTORY FEATURE RETREAT AND FELLOWSHIP COMPETITION — Early Deadline — $60


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Screenwriting 101: How to Get an Agent

By Contests, Screenwriting 101

It takes a lot of effort, time and possibly even a good amount of sweat and tears to write a kick-ass screenplay. Some of us have been at it for years. There are plenty of classes and books to help you along the way as you craft your story for the screen, but the one thing most people don’t mention is what to do after you have a screenplay that’s ready for the marketplace. 

Screenplays are products and to sell one, you need a literary agent. Some writers get by with just lawyers, but if you’re a new writer, you’ll likely want to start by getting a manager. A manager who believes in you will be able to refer you to agents with whom they have relationships. Agents, on the other hand, are most useful when you’re at the point where studios and/or producers are interested in one of your screenplays and can negotiate a deal. Most industry professionals recommend getting both a manager and an agent to set up your career with the best odds of success. 

If you don’t have any of the above, the first thing you’ll want to do on your quest for an agent is to get your screenplay read by industry professionals. Here are the best ways we’ve determined to get your script in front of Hollywood eyeballs and move your career to the next level. 

1. Make Query Phone Calls

It used to be common to send query letters, then emails. Finding an agent’s assistant’s email address is easy and there’s very little stress clicking the send button. But it’s just as easy to find that assistant’s office phone number, too. Very few people make phone calls anymore so this is a chance for you to stand out. Most likely, you won’t be able to get the assistant on the phone your first try so try a few times (1:00 PM to 2:00 PM PST is the industry standard lunch break, so avoid calling then).

If you do get them on the phone or are forced to leave a message, the secret is expressing your passion for your project while sounding like a sane adult. If you can make an argument as to why the story in your screenplay is the most gripping, relevant or funniest story of the year, you may get some interest. If you’re leaving a message, leave your phone number AND your email address, as they are more likely to email you back. But be smart about who you contact. If you know a manager represents primarily comedy writers, there’s no need to waste your time calling them about your post-apocalyptic sci-fi epic.

2. Attend Screenwriting Conferences and Summits

Some of the better conferences like Story Expo (held in New York and Los Angeles six months apart), Toronto Screenwriting Conference and ScreenCraft Writers Summit, invite successful screenwriters, literary agents and managers to give talks and be available to answer questions. These events are set in a much more casual environment than most industry events, so the odds of walking up and introducing yourself to a literary manager at one of the social mixes are in your favor.

3. Send Your Script to Screenwriting Competitions

Most of us have heard stories about doors opening for a screenwriter after winning a screenwriting competition. At the very least, many managers will request to read the winning script and that’s a good thing. But do your homework. Screenwriting competitions can get expensive so you need to target the competitions you enter. The likelihood of a raunchy comedy winning the Nicholl competition is pretty low, so send them your best dramatic screenplay. If you write horror, focus on The Bloodlist. Austin Film Festival has a great competition and their conference is very writer-friendly. There are several good competitions out there that can open doors for new writers.

4. Go to Film Festivals

Even if you don’t live in Los Angeles or New York, you can still go to film festivals like Sundance, Slamdance or South by Southwest and meet other filmmakers, producers, agents and managers. Bring a stack of postcards or business cards that have the name of your screenplay or web series, the logline, your website/blog and your email address. 

5. Get a Job as an Assistant 

If you’re in Los Angeles or New York, or even some of the cities where a lot of filming takes place like Vancouver or Atlanta, there are plenty of film companies and production studios looking to hire that amazing assistant. It’s a great way to learn the business and to make contacts. If you’re nice, professional and helpful, someone will certainly be willing to read your script. 

6. Stunt Marketing

What is stunt marketing? It’s promoting your script in a clever way that hasn’t been done before. Billy Domineau wrote a Seinfeld spec called “Twin Towers” about 9/11 that went viral and landed him a job on Family Guy. Henry C. King purchased billboards near Sony in Culver City and in Studio City near Universal Studios directing anyone interested to look up his script on blcklst.com. These methods are unconventional so do your research before spending any money.

Here is the Writers Guild of America’s list of accredited agents. Be sure to let us know if you have any success!


ShaneeEdwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards


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