Happy Monday, everyone! This week I have the pleasure of introducing a screenwriter to give you a solid dose of Monday Motivation. If you have ever heard me speak, you know I am all about doing the work. And I will say this, Christi Corbett is the epitome of, do the work.
She is largely a self-taught screenwriter who took the initiative to seek out books, other screenplays, and the Stage 32 Writers' Room to hone her craft. The results speak for themselves. She is dedicated to telling compelling stories and I am so proud of her success. This story makes me especially happy.
My name is Christi Corbett, and I’m an award-winning author of four novels. I’m also a newbie screenwriter who just signed an option agreement with Higher Purpose Entertainment for my first script, an adaptation of my third novel. I’ll be the official screenwriter for the project as well.
I graduated from Western Washington University with a degree in Communications, and a minor in video production. I then got a job as evening news editor for a CBS affiliate in Green Bay, Wisconsin. After a while, I moved back home to the Seattle area to get married. I then worked on a few indie films, but ultimately decided to take a job as a TV commercial writer/producer in the Creative Services Department for a CBS affiliate in Duluth, Minnesota.
During this time, I worked on my debut novel, Along the Way Home.
A lot of work went into revising that book into something worthwhile, and that book is how I learned three very important lessons that have served me well over the years:
Never be afraid to admit you were wrong.
Never be afraid to admit you don’t know something.
Never give up on your dreams.
I spent years learning the craft of how to write a book, and revised it more times than I can remember.
Trees Fear Me
And then, once I’d made it the best story I knew how, nobody wanted it. It was 2012, at the height of the 50 Shades of Grey craze, and my book had no sex. But I never gave up, and finally, over SIXTY REJECTIONS later, I found a publisher.
Along the Way Home was released in June of 2013. The book that nobody wanted hit #1 on several Amazon Top 100 lists the week it released, stayed on those same lists for several months after, and went on to win a RONE Award and a Laramie Award.
I wrote the sequel, Tainted Dreams, which released two years later in 2015. My third book, A Mountain Man’s Redemption, released the same year. My fourth book, Retribution Road, released in 2018.
I love writing books, and am on track to release two more this year, but something in the back of my head was always reminding me of the fun times I had working in television and film production.
Then, I heard the magical phrase, “Existing IP”. Of which I happened to have four!
I went to the Stage 32 website, where I’d been a member since 2012, and in late June of 2018 I found a producer who I thought would be perfect for the script. I signed up for my first pitch, and then spent the next week perfecting it using the suggestions provided by Stage 32. And success, at the end of the pitch he requested the script!
Except I had no script to send. (Yes, I violated the pitching rules, but it wasn’t like I was pitching only an idea with nothing to back it up, I had IP! I had a book! *shakes head at newbie-ness*)
He was still interested, and requested I send him the book. I explained I would be willing to also write the script, and would immediately get started on an adaptation.
I bought a “how to” manual on script formatting, made a Word document of my third book, A Mountain Man’s Redemption, then spent July and August of 2018 doing my best to learn script formatting.
End result: a terrible, but finished, script. Which was then sent, and eventually rejected, by the producer I’d pitched.
So now I had a terrible, bloated first draft, rife with things I now know would make actors and directors toss it in the trash. And it already had one rejection.
At this point, I realized that while I knew a lot about writing a book, I knew nothing about writing a movie. So I headed back over to Stage 32.
From August of 2018 to February 8, 2019 I revised the entire script five more times, using information gained from twenty-four Stage 32 webinars and webcasts. (The majority of these were free!)
I am one of the original members of the Stage 32 Writers' Room, which has endless amounts of screenwriting information and weekly presentations on a variety of topics. I’ve watched at least half of them.
I read a lot of the Stage 32 blog posts that relate to the “business” of movies, especially the screenwriting ones. (These are free!)
On my fourth draft—when I knew enough to know that I would benefit from a professional opinion on what I’d done so far—I worked with Danny Manus, of NoBullScript Consulting, on formatting, structure, and character development.
In addition, I read several scripts. I picked movies I was familiar with so I could compare the script to what I knew made it to the screen. (The Revenant, The Boy Next Door, Speed, Greenbook, and Enough)
By now, I’d completed my fifth draft, and I’d gotten it as good as I could. I needed input from a pro. I got coverage on my updated script from another producer. She had GREAT feedback and suggestions on how to improve areas where I struggled. She also clarified that the main reason she was passing was because the inspirational/Christian genre wasn’t her specialty, but did offer me a “revise and resend”. In other words, once I fixed the areas she deemed troublesome, she’d send it on to a producer she knew who was looking for inspirational/Christian storylines.
I got to work, again.
Once I had my sixth draft completed, I was surfing Stage 32 for something writing-related and I stumbled across a story about Brad Wilson of Higher Purpose Entertainment, who’d signed a writer from Stage 32. And his focus was inspirational/Christian scripts! Even better, when I’d worked with Danny Manus earlier he’d suggested Brad as someone to consider working with.
I figured I’d have Brad give me coverage on my latest draft before I sent it to my “revise and resubmit” producer. So on February 8, 2019 I sent off my script. To my surprise, in late March I learned Brad liked my script and me as a writer, and he’d requested a meeting!
(Side note to anyone considering the value of obtaining coverage through Stage 32: The notes I received were very thorough, Brad had several specific suggestions for improvement, and his nutshell and his comments on my concept and originality showed he’d done an in-depth read)
Brad preferred using the phone over Skype so on April 8th we had our first phone call. He explained more about the changes he’d recommended (I was still struggling with writing exposition like a novelist and giving too much character directions), and I asked him every question I could fathom for ways to improve. At the end of the call, to my stunned disbelief, he scheduled another call for the following week.
I spent the entire week using what he’d told me to hone my script to what I hoped was perfection, known now as my 7th draft, and unsure what to expect with the next phone call. I sent him the draft, and then waited.
From April 15, 2019 to May 14, 2019 we shared weekly phone calls, and I created yet another draft based upon Brad’s feedback. I don’t want to get into too much detail about those conversations, but I will say that it’s an amazing feeling when someone understands your script, and is excited about the possibilities.
Brad ultimately sent me an option agreement on May 5th!
After getting the option contract, I called my husband, my mom, and then sent Rich “RB” Botto, Founder and CEO of Stage 32, a long-winded and overly-excited “Thank you!” message.
Here’s an excerpt:
I learned so much from this site, and am grateful for all the opportunities the webinars/webcasts, pitch sessions, and coverage gave me to improve my horrible first draft of my adaptation of my novel into what landed me the option. I know this wouldn't have happened without Stage 32.
Example: earlier in the optioning process I was asked to send out a logline, and I was able to simply copy/paste/send it right away, because I'd gone through a logline/pitch session webinar and had already gotten feedback and done the work to make it interesting, as well as industry-standard format. So I was prepared, and knew it was ready to send when I was asked.
RB immediately replied back, sharing both his congratulations and specific suggestions on what should be included in the contract. One of which my entertainment lawyer hadn’t even considered, so I was very grateful.
I’ve since heard from Jason Mirch, Director of Script Services for Stage 32, who also expressed his congratulations, and Amanda Toney, the Managing Director at Stage 32, did the same during a webinar that same week.
I sincerely appreciate the staff of Stage 32!
So I want to wrap this up by showing how those three things I mentioned earlier came in handy during the “horrible script to optioned script” process.
Never be afraid to say you were wrong.
When I made my first pitch, I made a HUGE mistake—not making sure that my Skype name was correct and that my account was current. As a result, I wasn’t reachable during my pitch time. I sent a frantic email to Nick Assunto, Script Services with Stage 32, taking full responsibility for my failure and apologizing for wasting everyone’s time. To my surprise, they both agreed to reschedule. Thanks again, Nick!
Never be afraid to admit you don’t know something.
First, know that I always become as educated as I possibly can about a topic BEFORE I ask questions, because I never want to waste someone’s time on a problem Google can handle.
Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to speak with knowledgeable people about my script, I’ve been determined to learn all I could. And if I don’t understand an answer, I ask for clarification.
I also come into these chats with a list of specific questions. Anything from “Do you have a suggestion for how to format an action line on page 37?” to “Did the character arc for my female lead make sense, and if not, can you recommend three ways to fix it?”.
I figure it’s always better to come across as someone who is eager to learn than someone who simply nods in agreement, but isn’t able to execute what they’re told.
Never give up on your dreams.
If you want to be a screenwriter, an actor, a director, an editor, a stuntman/woman, a makeup artist, a producer, a wizardinchargeofallthings, go for it! BUT, you have to go for it in a way that leads to accomplishments, and that means you have to be willing to learn everything you possibly can about your chosen dream.
You can’t do nothing and expect opportunity to come knocking. As RB likes to say, you have to “Put in the work!”. To me, that means to learn as much as possible to ensure that you’re traveling the right path for your dreams.
And Stage 32 can definitely be a huge part of that path. Be it networking and chatting in the lounges, or taking advantage of all the educational services, make sure to get the most from every opportunity that comes your way.
I did, and now I get to add the word “screenwriter” to my bio.
And I’m still learning. Since signing the option I’ve watched three more webinars/webcasts, and I’m signed up for another one at the end of May.
I thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings, and welcome any questions you have.
Christi Corbett, winner of the 2014 RONE Award for Best American Historical novel and the 2014 Laramie Award, lives in a small town in Oregon with her husband and their twin children. The home's location holds a special place in her writing life; it stands just six hundred feet from the original Applegate Trail and the view from her back door is a hill travelers looked upon years ago as they explored the Oregon Territory and beyond.
Connect with Christi:
Stage 32: stage32.com/profile/45326
Facebook at Christi Corbett-Author
Twitter at @ChristiCorbett
Instagram at @ChristiCorbett
Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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