Thursday, November 12, 2009

Screenwriting

"The challenge of screenwriting is to say much in little and then take half of that little out and still preserve an effect of leisure and natural movement.” – Raymond Chandler

Before getting to the subject of screenwriting, I’d like to start off by thanking Sharon Galligar Chance for posting such a nice review of The Ride. You can check out the review, plus many others, at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews.

Like many other of the authors I know, I allow myself to occasionally daydream about seeing my book adapted to the big screen. Or, for that matter, I’d be happy with a made-for-TV version. I haven’t pursued this dream because I found the idea of writing a screenplay daunting.

Unlike book manuscripts, screenplays have some precise guidelines. For instance one page of a standard layout (Courier 12 point) for a script is equal to one minute of screen time. Therefore, screenplays need to be between 100 and 120 pages. Action must be written in the present tense; characters names capitalized and centered on the page; and directions on how to deliver a line needs to be in parenthesis.

While at the Florida Writers Association conference, I attended the workshop Get Your Screenplay Noticed in Hollywood led by Chantelle Osman, founder of A Twist of Karma Entertainment, a production and development company. When she mentioned that a book does not necessarily have to be in screenplay format to be submitted, my ears perked up. In fact, she said many places prefer the book over a screenplay because they have their own staff of screenplay writers.

The submission process seems very similar to how you go about submitting manuscripts to agents and publishers—you research the companies to find out what sort of screenplays they want and only submit what they are looking for. Your submission should include a cover letter, synopsis and the script or book.

I’ve used the Internet Movie Database (IMBD) to look up answers to crosswords, but Chantelle suggested buying the pro account which gives you information on producers and agents. There is also a classified section for scripts wanted.

I went to IMBD Pro. For $12.95 you get access to information on 80,000 people and 30,000 companies in the business. When I checked, the site offered a 14 day free trial.

A few of her other suggestions were:

Register your work with the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) before sending it anywhere. Some producers insist that writers be a member of the WGA, but low budget producers may not require membership.

Limit your submissions to five or fewer at a time. The reasoning, according to Chantelle, is that Hollywood talks and if producers think everyone has a copy of the same book/screenplay in their possession, they lose interest.

Last but not least, if your search for a producer does result in an offer, have an agent or entertainment lawyer to review everything. She heavily stressed the word “everything.”

I haven’t started the submission process yet, but now that I know I can submit the book instead of the screenplay, I do plan to give it a try at a future date—hopefully sooner rather than later. Have you ever submitted a book/screenplay to producers or a production company? Do you have any advice to offer?

COMING ATTRACTION:

Be sure to drop by on Monday, when Julie Lomoe, author of Eldercide and the Bipolar Murders, will be my guest. Julie is in the midst of whirlwind of a book blog tour. Though I’m not sure of her topic, I am positive that whatever she decides to write will be very interesting, so you won’t want to miss it. In the meantime, to find out more about Julie, check out her blog Julie Lomoe’s Musings Mysterioso.

Thanks for stopping by.


Tags: Raymond Chandler, The Ride, Sharon Chance, Florida Writers Association, Chantelle Osman, Writers Guild, IMBD, screenwriting, screenplay, Julie Lomoe, A Twist of Karma Entertainment

12 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

These sound like good tips, Jane. I haven't tried screenwriting, although I know a couple of folks who do it. I think for me it would be a challenging transition.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love the IMDB! Favorite movie spot. Now I know what I could use the IMDB Pro for and I'm excited. Thanks, Jane!

And I remember a panel discussion of screenwriters, many of whom who book authors, and they all stated never write your own screenplay.

Joanne said...

I don't think I'd ever tackle parlaying my ms into screenplay form, and can understand how film companies might want to handle that themselves, if the book interests them. But still, what a nice window of opportunity to get our work out there.

julielomoe said...

Thanks for the tantalizing preview, Jane. As your guest on Monday, I'm going to write something about authors and personality traits, specifically introversion and extroversion. I think lots of us tend to be introverts, so how do we handle the demands of marketing? Personally, I'm doing more and more of it online - so I won't have to go out and meet anybody! (Just kidding - I enjoy both, sometimes.)

Julie Lomoe's Musings Mysterioso
http://julielomoe.wordpress.com

Tamika: said...

Great post Jane!

I always wondered how books transformed into the big screen.

Karen Walker said...

Best of luck to you, Jane. Screenwriting is not something I will attempt any time soon.
Karen

Helen Ginger said...

I haven't submitted to a producer, but have friends who have. It's a really long and difficult road, it seems to me. I hope you do well and that you'll keep us up on your progress.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I have several friends who are screenwriters. I've written plays, but not screenplays. Maybe someday...

Elspeth

Galen Kindley--Author said...

Wow, Jane, what a great and informative post. I never had a clue about any of this stuff, figuring elves or faires created screenplays in SP heaven and that was that. Please, do keep us posted on your progress. Good job and best of luck!! Nice post.

Galen.

The Old Silly said...

Interesting post and info, Jane. Screenwriting is an entirely different animal, for sure. Looking forward to Julie's feature post, too. :)

Marvin D Wilson

Jen Chandler said...

Wonderful information, Jane. I have toyed with the idea of writing a screenplay. It's years down the road, but I'll definitly remember this information!

Hapy weekend,
Jen

Carol Kilgore said...

I've never even thought about trying a screenplay. I think it's one of those things that would give me way more stress than pleasure.

Good luck!

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world