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Saturday, October 25, 2008

What Mama Knows

Not all comments sent to the Rouge Wave get published. Some are hostile, weird, lengthy and elliptical. So sorry you occasional angry, weird or elliptical commenters - I read what you have to say, I do, but not everything is appropriate. Someone sent in a LONG, detailed list of questions for Hilary; some of the questions were oddly personal and loaded. I think it's fair to say that Hilary just had her mind blown and she is exhausted and very busy following up on all her meetings this week. So she doesn't have time for a boatload of weird questions. Someone, apparently a Brit, sent in a comment on the blog post about proofreading, that I should "stop whinging on my clients".

Tell you what, Apparently British Commenter who must be new to the Rouge Wave - the difference between me and say another person who runs a script coverage service or a screenwriting competition, is that I am the real deal. I do not hide behind a polished veneer of mysterious corporate-ness, I talk about what is really going on from where I sit and offer insights into what is going on behind the scenes. The Script Department has a huge clientele; MOST of our clients do proofread and do try their best and handle notes very well. But a few do not. We have far too many clients for any one person to go oh GOD, she was talking about ME and of course, being that one cannot be a dumb bunny and do what I do, I always use composite examples that have a lesson to be learned for you Rouge Wavers. Most of the time, I am preaching to the choir; of course you should proofread, everybody knows that. Of course one or two or four typos is not going to ruin your script, of course pros have typos too. This is just common sense.

In every service application for TSD, clients are asked what their experience and goals are. Some say THIS IS A VERY ROUGH FIRST DRAFT, I just want to know where the story can be strengthened. Others say, I'm close to sending this out and I want to know how well this will fare in the spec world. If we are told that the script is a very rough draft, we will not worry as much about typos, etc. We'll point them out but we understand this is an early draft, clearly not ready for prime time. You would be surprised how many scripts that are described in the latter category are also full of format and language errors.

There are script coverage services who claim to "scout" your work if it receives a "consider" from the reader. This scouting (and I know, first-hand) involves sending an impersonal email to a list of contacts with nothing more than your logline. When I check in with my contacts about a script that I love, I get on the phone with my contacts or better yet, take them to lunch. I just had lunch with a very cool, very eager young development exec yesterday and gave him four scripts to read. I take my business very personally. It's my baby, my reputation and my passion. So I don't hide behind corporate ownership or public bs. I don't have the stomach for it. Oddly, I can tell it like it is in a fairly nice way, too.

I see all kinds of things from my clientele. I see great ideas executed poorly, I see poor ideas executed poorly and I see everything in-between. I see writers who work very hard and are as professional as can be, I see writers who are already established, I see temperamental writers who just don't get it and I see everything in-between. If you like, I can cease sharing my insights and just write about general screenwriting tips or I can share with you what I deal with. One thing I have learned is that the more insight a writer has into the business end of screenwriting, the more advantage that writer has. Of course, I do have a line - I would never name a writer or a script, I would never name a manager I recently dealt with who was a sumb*tch about something (he has a great reputation, normally). If I have lunch with an industry exec who shares something negative with me about someone you'd all know - I would not share that. That actually happened yesterday. Not your business. So, I share as much as I can appropriately share and I share what I think is instructive. I share what I wish I had known when I was first starting out in this confusing world of screenwriting and entertainment. I try to stay positive but I'm sorry, if noting that a particular script I got was literally sans punctuation is "whinging" then I will whinge away, yes. Because that is just ludicrous. You want the truth, nicely put? Or do you want a bunch of cupcake frosting that leads you nowhere? I don't know of another script coverage business of the magnitude of The Script Department that bothers to blog six days a week about what's going on within the business in general and within my business. Someone commented recently, that scripts should be short and to the point and that I should take a cue from that and shorten my blog posts. Again - six days a week and nobody pays mama to do that. There will come a time when I will not be able to keep up with the Rouge Wave - some pretty huge (and exciting) changes are afoot for The Script Department for 2009. I am not at liberty to talk about it yet but it's pretty cool. I am happiest when I am really in knee-deep with my business and what's going on. I may not have that luxury in the future. For now, I like to share what's going on because I wish someone had done that for me ten years ago.

Sorry to be a bit cranky today - I am off to help coach writers as they pitch at the Fade In Pitch Fest today and tomorrow. Mama works hard and I tell it like it is - nicely, with some cupcake sprinkles on top. I can't please everyone. Sorry, Long List of Questions of Hilary Guy. That was too much and not all of it was your business.

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tc said...

Be whatever you need to be (grumpy, witty, sharp, etc) just keep blogging! Forget the whiners there are plenty of us who are grateful for EVERY word you share. This is golden. This you cannot get from books, this you cannot ask executives because you'll look inexperienced, this you cannot get straight up from friends. Breaking in is a big catch 22 and your wisdom pushes us harder to find a way and to be ready if we do, your enthusiasm lifts us when we're discouraged, and your humor keeps us laughing in the midst of all the insanity. I don't about anyone else, but I read Rogue Wave as I sit down to write and it never fails to inspire. So thank you, times 10, with a cupcake.
Now get back to work.

DougJ said...

Complaining about the content on a blog is a bit like complaining about the food at a dinner party: rude and probably hurtful. Actually, make that a soup kitchen, because you(the reader) weren't invited. You just showed up, looking to be informed and entertained.

Unfortunately, the comments section of a blog creates an immediate method of feedback that apparently some don't feel requires the same degree of editing and self-censure that an in person interaction would require.

As for complaints about the constructive feedback you provide here, I think it comes down to there are a lot of aspiring writers who just don't want to know. They want kudos and recognition but not criticism.

I once attended a table read for works in progress and an attendee had just come back from a professional printer with a box of copies of his script, beautifully bound. He obviously felt he was finished with the script but for some reason had taken it to this meeting asking for feedback. He seemed confused and put off when it wasn't all positive.

Julie, I know most of us appreciate The Rouge Wave and all of the time and creativity you put into it. Don't let the negativity that comes with putting yourself out there get you down.

Racicot said...

Google has 'Google Goggles:'

for those that shouldn't trust their first impulse when writing to someone else...

We should employ our own internal tools to achieve the same when commenting on others blogs. I've been guilty of it. And our British friend is obviously guilty of his own whinging concerning his (WRONGLY) perceived whinge on your part.

Chris said...

Illegitimi non carborundum!

Seth Fortin said...

I second TC's emotion. Your stories about writers who end up frustrating their readers remind me not to alienate the people who would probably like to make my show, if only I would give them a reason. And with that very clausy sentence, I salute you.

NYCWriter said...


This is the best blog on screenwriting out there bar none. It is part of my morning read -- and you're in pretty good company -- the NY Times, LA Times, Variety, Huffington Post, Washington Post and Drudge.

I shudder to think of the day that your words of wisdom go missing.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Your blog is like coffee, I can't go though the day without. You're addictive! It feels like you're speaking to me and to me only. That takes talent, Julie.

Luzid said...

I've never seen Julie practice anything but honesty and professionalism while also offering encouragement where it's warranted. I'd hate to lose this blog thanks to jealous whining.

That's what it is - some are jealous of Hilary, and I suspect that the level of acrimony in their comments is directly correlated to the level of desperation felt. The worse one's chances of breaking in (and the more one knows it inside, even if it's laughed off), the more pathetically stalkerish one becomes.

TRW is a valuable resource, and a few here would be wise not to f*ck it up for everyone based on their neediness. This isn't a place to troll for friends-you-can-exploit, ask for your unsolicited (and if the glad-handing posts are any indication, poorly-written) scripts to be read, or act petulant when you don't get the greased-skids helping hand to which you feel entitled.

Julie puts up with a lot, and with smiling grace. I hope TRW continues for as long as she enjoys producing it! : )

(PS: Julie, wouldn't it be sweet if Pilar, another honest consultant like yourself, also blogged? I love her podcast, but half an hour a week isn't enough! A tag-team of the both of you would rock so hard.)

meg said...

Love, love, love this blog because I appreciate getting the personal, in-the-trenches view you share.

I've always been curious as to what happens in a person's life so to cause him to think it's ok to impose on a complete stranger without any indication that would be welcomed?

I've seen comments on other writing blogs where people would ask for stuff that the rest of us are busting our buns to earn or at least pay for.

My impression is that in this business one aspect (not mentioned often in screenwriting books) is that the powers that make the decisions have to want to work with you. If you think it's appropriate to impose on a complete stranger and you're not getting positive vibes from people very often seriously consider whether your people skills need some work.

Christian M. Howell said...

Wow, it's amazing the trends I see on all the blogs I regularly frequent.

Too many writers think this is the lottery but it's not. It's a professional career that demands the most out of you.

I don't believe any screenwriters have succeeded through luck, but hard work, research, networking and good writing always find their way.

You can't please everyone but you also can't stop trying. Take that criticism and write with it in mind.

It's better to get those readers on your side. I wouldn't say you should do everything unless it seems reasonable to you to keep it as the story you wrote, but there has to be something valuable if they stay in business.

I do feel for you. It is frustrating when people want something for nothing. I hope if nothing else I seem studious and willing to listen.