Secrets of Successful Screenwriters 1
 
  • #7 Discipline

One of the greatest qualities all successful writers share is discipline. Discipline is the ability to impose a strict routine unto yourself and stick to it. The discipline to be the boss of yourself. To face the blank page and to write, to create, to imagine.

Discipline requires mental fortitude to keep on track, to work even when you don’t feel like it, and to deliver quality results with no one looking over your shoulder.

Discipline is the ability to look at your own work objectively and know when you need to expect more and demand more from yourself. It is the ability to push yourself towards higher levels of excellence and not finish until you’ve exceeded your own expectations.


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Is there a “Best-Time” to enter a Screenplay Competition?

by Arik Cohen

When it comes to the best time to visit a buffet, there are two competing philosophies:  1) You want to go when it’s not busy.  This way when a good dish comes out, such as delicious crab legs, you don’t have to fight a swarm of guests all trying to grab at it, and possibly leave with only one skinny leg on your plate.  2) You want to go to a buffet when it is busy.  When it’s busy, that means the buffet is in constant turnaround.  Platters are being emptied quickly, so they’re being refilled with fresh foods at a rapid pace.  You might have to battle for the crab legs, but you know the crab legs will always be fresh.   

Is it better to be one of a few or one of many?

Last year the Fresh Voices screenplay competition had over 1400 entries.  That’s 1400 different stories, 1400 different adventures, and (at least) 1400 different lead characters. 

No one judge has to read all 1400 by themselves (the first round consists of a group of judges tackling the ever-growing stack of submissions as an organized unit), but each judge reads a large chunk of them.  Assuming an average page count of 110 per script, I personally probably read close to 50,000 pages during my most recent season judging the Fresh Voices Competition.


Skye Emerson’s CHALLENGER Wins Fresh Voices Grand Prize Award

Grand Prize Winner Reef Challenger

HOLLYWOOD, CA.            4/11/19

Women reigned victorious at the 2018-19 Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition this week with both the Drama and Family Film Categories being dominated by a group of talented, all-star, female writers. Leading them all, it was Skye Emerson’s historical drama, CHALLENGER, that wowed the jury and took home the Grand Prize Award. Additionally, the screenplay received two Spotlight Awards: Best Role Written for A Female Lead and the Fresh Voices Culture & Heritage Award.


5 Screenplays Worth Writing

Written by Arik Cohen

Aspiring screenwriters share a big dream: Selling a screenplay.  That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it?  It’s with that in mind that most put pen to paper – or more likely put fingers to keyboard.  As such, writing a screenplay that’s un-filmable seems like a fool’s errand.  Why would you write a screenplay that no studio would want to purchase?  Well because it’s sometimes these screenplays that get attention and become your calling card to the industry. The following are five types of un-filmable, not-likely-to-get-purchased screenplays that are still worth writing!



Zeitgeist. Chasing Trends in Hollywood

By Arik Cohen

When the Twilight movies turned 13-year-old girls into the sort of franchise-obsessed herds typically reserved for teenage superhero fanboys, it sparked a vampire trend that is just now, years later, beginning to fade.  We saw a hit franchise (Twilight), other vampire films (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Vampire Academy), as well as hit TV shows (True Blood, The Vampire Diaries).  It also spurred a hunt for the next big young adult series, with Lionsgate eclipsing Twilight with The Hunger Games.  Although maligned by most critics and filmgoers over the age of 15, Twilight spurred a trend.  If someone was sitting on a vampire spec, it was a great time to get it out there.

But what if you didn’t have a vampire spec?  What if you weren’t that sort of writer?  What if you writing about Vampires would be like Eminem recording a country album? Should you still do it? Should you follow the trend? Do you chase a zeitgeist?

The short answer is “no.”  The long answer is “probably not.” 

The popular thinking is that trends ebb and flow, so why spend time trying to surf it?  By the time you write that great vampire spec, the vampire money grab may well be over.  Now you’re stuck with a script that’s no longer “in” and not even something you liked to begin with.  Plus writing a script solely to follow the business trend is inherently lacking in passion.  In the battle between art and commerce, this would be commerce storming the beaches of art’s Normandy.  And we’re writers damn it, we’re artistic, we’re in it for the stories, not for corporate satisfaction.

I have a difficult time finding fault in this logic.  We are in it for the stories.  We are in it for the art.  But I’d like to play devil’s advocate here, because this is Hollywood so even the devil has an agent.



The Subjectivity of Judging Screenplays

By Arik Cohen

"Hey judge, what do you look for in a winning script?"

So here's the inside scoop: There's a secret checklist.  It's ten points, and we go through your script and see if it has the ten elements.  Elements such as "A character named Jake" and "The word 'gregarious' on page 63."  If you have all ten, you make it to the next round!

I wish.  I totally wish.

How easy it would be if it was mathematical.  How simple it would be if this was not subjective at all.  I could go through ten scripts in an hour and then spend the rest of the day laid out on Venice Beach sipping a Pina Colada.  But it is very subjective.  And that's what's great about it and why I do it.  I love movies, I love screenplays, and I love subjectivity.

So "What do you look for in a winning script?" might not be the right way to phrase the question.  "What qualities do winning scripts tend to have?" might be better. And although there aren't specific elements that I require every script to have, there are a few things I -- and most readers -- tend to gravitate towards:


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