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Friday, November 2, 2007

One Sheets and Strikes

by Andrew Zinnes

Well, Wavers - there's a strike. It's official. The walk out is tentatively scheduled for Monday. What does this mean to most of us? Not much in the short and medium term. It means that we need to keep writing.

In fact, while manning The Script Whisperer booth at the
Creative Screenwriting Expo a few writers came up to
us and asked a really good question. They wanted to
know what a good one sheet synopsis of your script
should contain and how it differs from other things
like loglines and coverage synopsis.

Coverage synopsis, the kind that production companies
generate, are more or less a beat by beat description
of your plot. There is generally nothing very creative
about them and they are not supposed to elicit a tone
or mood. It is merely so that someone could read it
and know your plot.

Loglines are a two to three sentence summary of your
plot that convey the genre, basic story line and
what's at stake. This has sometimes been referred to
as an "elevator pitch" meaning you can get on an
elevator with someone on the first floor and by the
time they get off the elevator you have told them your
pitch and they solicit the script.

A one-sheet synopsis is more akin to what is referred
to as a "cocktail party pitch." The idea being that
you would be at a party and be able to bend their ear
for 3-5 minutes about your project. Funnily, if you
read one page of single spaced text on a letter sized
piece of paper, it would take you about 3-5 minutes to
get through it. But what should it contain?

The one sheet should be a big tease. It should whet an
executive's appetite for your script and have them
begging to take it. A good way to structure it is by
acts so three paragraphs long. The first paragraph
should introduce the world, the main characters and
what's at stake and take you to the Act 1 break - a
tease in itself! Paragraph two is Act 2 so mention the
obstacles that your lead character will face
especially if there are any big trailer moments or set
pieces - execs love that stuff. And then give them the
Act 2 break where all seems lost for our hero. The
last paragraph, Act 3, is where you really wink at
them. Tell them how your lead will get off the floor
and try to make things work. But never, ever, ever,
tell them the ending. Hopefully, by this time they
will be so intrigued they will have to know what
happened and want your script.

The other thing to remember is your genre. If your
script is a horror project, then you want to write the
one sheet with as many creepy and eerie things as
possible. And also use scary words to describe things.
If it's a romantic comedy, play up the big lovey dovey
moments. Action - make it exciting. But don't dwell on
too many details for that will slow down the pace of
the read and that is not what you want here. Speed is

Now on the business side, if someone solicits your
script you can get this huge rush of adrenaline and at
the same time, fear. It's exciting to think that
something might happen but at the same time you might
start wondering if your script is good enough. By all
means, take a look through your project and see if you
can polish it a bit, but don't take any longer than
two weeks or so to get it to them. It's unprofessional
otherwise. And also producers have a huge pile of
scripts to get through and they will forgot yours
quickly. When you do send it off, you are more than
within your right to follow up with them to see that
they got it and after a few weeks whether they read
it. If they haven't, keep following up. Strike or no strike,
you want your material on top of the pile when it ends. Gotta be a
squeaky wheel in this business. Good luck, everyone!

Rouge Wave faithful in the Seattle/Vancouver
area: Script Whisperer Andrew Zinnes is taking his
Documentary Film Makers Course north of the border for
the first time in Vancouver at the FTX West
conference. He's also doing a seminar on screenwriting
in Hollywood for those outside of la-la land. Dates
are November 15-16, 2007 for the doc course, November
17 for the screenwriting seminar. Go to FTX West
for more info or to sign up. See you

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IM Anonymous said...

Well, my advice is never, never, NEVER! give a producer the chance to say "no" to a script they haven't read. Any form of a "one sheet, synopsis, etc. etc. etc." gives them just that and is a real no-no in my book.

But that's me.

IM Anonymous said...

And I'd like to add (for all of those fine folks considering submitting scripts at this time) that the WGAw considers such behavior a not-so-good-idea:

13. Rules pertaining to non-members

The Guild does not have the authority to discipline non-members for strike breaking and/or
scab writing. However, the Guild can and will bar that writer from future Guild membership.
This policy has been strictly enforced in the past and has resulted in convincing many
would-be strike breakers to refrain from seriously harming the Guild and its members during
a strike. Therefore, it is important for you to report to the Guild the name of any non-member
whom you believe has performed any writing services for a struck company and as much
information as possible about the non-member's services.

Listen, we all know how tough it is to break into this industry. And, yeah, that's great coming from somebody who is actually in the WGAw, but I'm here to tell you that if was the same stance I took the last time time there was a strike and I was exactly where you are now: on the outside looking in.

Sometimes taking a stand against a wrong means believing in yourself so much that you refuse to take advantage of a bad situation even seems to benefit you at the time.

Maybe you'll get your coveted shot at fame and fortune now, but you'll like yourself so much better if you wait until after all this is settled. And your future career is worth the wait.

Meanwhile, when I'm not on the picket line, if you see me at around (say at Starbucks or someplace), stop and say hi and I'll be glad to sit and talk.

Julie Gray said...

IM, I will be first in line to take you up on a Starbucks chat but which Starbucks? And when? And which guy in which baseball cap? It's like a heroes journey you're sending me on here!

IM Anonymous said...

Without making it toooooooo easy, I'll just say my regular Starbucks , is frequented by actors and writers (many of which tend to be in the Tv field), and is just around the corner from a pizza shop. Additionally, the cross street locations both start with the same letter of the alphabet.

As for me: I dress like a homeless guy, wear dark glasses--because I'm really light sensitive, even if it's cloudy outside--wear a baseball cap from either of my two fav public radio stations or from UCLA or from CBS sports. I'm always at an outside table (near the glass entry door) slouched in my seat with my dog laying next to me on the ground. And like a certain actor recently profiled in our local paper, drink Chai exclusively. Iced. And, one more thing, while everyone there recognizes me, they only refer to me as, "...the man in the baseball cap" or by not by name, just by initial.

Easy, huh?

Hope to see you soon.

Julie Gray said...

Oh for god's sake - it's like a needle in a haystack! I am WAY easier to find - WAY easier. I wear one of those subway sandwich suits, you know? With the buns and all?

IM Anonymous said...

and here i thought I saw you on Thursday [across the street from Starbucks] wearing a tiger suit. You (or who I thought was you) kept prowling the sidewalk, pacing first south for about 15 yards in one direction and then turning to go in the opposite direction another 15 yards past the original starting point. This went on for about twenty minutes and then the Tiger disappeared with another dark-haired girl in a Gap store (oops, another location hint) and about five minutes later the dark haired girl came out with another strawberry blond/red haired girl, who was carrying the tiger suit.

I could've sworn that tiger was you.

Julie Gray said...

DAMN IT, I'm busted!!

IM Anonymous said...

Nothing stays secret in this town for long.