Screenwriting : Why you should avoid everybody speaking of "amateur" screenwriting by Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Why you should avoid everybody speaking of "amateur" screenwriting

Why you should avoid everybody speaking of "amateur" screenwriting: 

Because that's the hallmark of every fake or bad professionals. No true professional will speak about what an "amateur" does or looks like for one simple reason: the only thing that matters is the story.

Let's be clear. There are only 2 reasons why people use the word "amateur" about other people:

1. They need to feel themselves better than they actually are,

2. They want to sell you something and talking about what an "amateur" does or doesn't is just a way to tell you "you are an amateur and I am a professional / an insider / a gatekeeper / the one who will give you the key of success, so give me your money and I'll teach you what you must do or be", which is a lie.

They are thousands. Four come out every time you kick a pebble.

Actually, 99 percent of these people never wrote a single script up to the end of the first draft. At most they read tons of screenplays for a few bucks among other jobs to earn a living.

So they focus on nitpicking details: the use of "cont." or not in formating, all the storytelling stuff you should avoid to use like alternative structures, flasbacks or flashforwards, the use of adjectives and adverbs, the use of passive verbs... They recomand you the use of subtext, caracters' arc... although only a few could find and explain subtext or characters' arcs into a script, and even less could show you some ways to use them.

The only reason why these people always give you the "why" of rules but never teach you the "how" is because they just don't master the "how". And that's a shame. Because these are wonderful tools that every good writer uses to make their stories better. 

Would you learn playing violin with somebody who doesn't play violin? [ ] Yes [ ] No

At best, they could tell you when you make a bum note. But as they'll never be able to teach you how to play it right, they'll just teach you how to avoid playing it, which means not to play most of the music you could.

So if you meet some of those people, don't let them trick you. You are probably worth better than them.

Chad Stroman

I agree with what you are saying, to a point. However I think the analogy of learning to play violin from someone who doesn't play is a little bit off.

I think using the same imagery, it's more a case of would you or could you learn to play the violin from someone who is not a concert violinist?

I would more compare a not produced screenwriter to someone who can play the violin but isn't being paid as a member of an orchestra. Lots of people learn violin and piano from amateur pianists and violinists. Some even pay for lessons from those amateurs.

You just gotta learn to recognize who can teach you the skills and who cannot.

Dan MaxXx

Where do writers in Europe go for script coverage?

Dan Guardino

Wasn't this posted before now?

Steve Cleary

Spoken like a true amateur! Just kidding :^}

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Dan Maxx- If the writers in Europe need coverage they can always look up many sources in NYC!!!

Pamela Bolinder

Laura, thank you! Your comment made me bust my gut!

Doug Nelson

Dan M... That's a good question. Why would I, an American writer writing for the American market seek notes/coverage from a consultant (script doctor) in the Europe or Asian market. And likewise why would a European writer seek notes from an American script doctor/consultant? Makes no sense to me.

Dan MaxXx

Doug Nelson I’m looking for an expert in Bollywood movies. Is there a Bollywood Robert McKee-type for hire?

Tony S.

It's deja vu all over again. - Yogi Berra -

Pamela Bolinder

Jean-Marie, I'm reading your script and focusing on the story. It's really good. I can easily visualize the establishing shot and the two children talking. Dialogue is spot on. I think you are taking a beating from script readers due to what you mentioned "nitpicking details: the use of "cont." or not in formatting, ..." Dan MaxXx is helping you out by asking is there script coverage in Europe? Are you at the mercy of getting coverage here?

Pamela Bolinder

Jean-Marie, let's say you write perfect English and format perfectly. You still may still hit a wall and get ripped by a script reader. I can't tell you how many conversations I have had with people in the industry (writers, producers, cinematographers, etc.) who get script notes or coverage and are hitting walls. Script readers can't get their scripts optioned. I would advise reading posts and continue to learn about your craft. I make copious notes on information pertinent to my craft. Hey, you have an impressively long list of awards! A good amount of wins and finalist - good job!!

Pamela Bolinder

I do not like the winner vs loser mentality.

Dan MaxXx

Yogi Berra was a HOF baseball player. It means he was better than average at his craft. Many here don’t or can’t even get an industry job.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

We have great readers and analists in France. No need to come to the US. But getting feedback from as many people as you can is a good thing, especially when you write in a language which is not your native one. Don't worry about me. I'm 63 and I'm used to get ripped or to get round walls ahaha!

This topic is not about me. BTW I already have an industry job.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

To be frank, I hired a consultant in America once - I mean a well known and respected one, organizing well rated contests - but it was just to see what benefit I could get from that stuff for my writing. It was a disaster ahaha!

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

The best advices I ever got went from contests' coverage either from big ones which focus a bit too much on academic things like formating... or from local and regional ones where the readers react more like the audience, being more or less gripped to your paper as the story flows in their mind.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

And it's cheap ahaha!

Dan Guardino

From reading what you have been saying here you seem to be okay when someone offering feedback on your story versus those who focus more on formatting issues. I am first a screenwriter who loves to tell stories and like you have done a number of adaptation because I loved the books I adapted or a producer hired me to adapt one they loved. So I agree story is king and how you tell it is extremely important.

However formatting is also important because it is a way to show people in the business that you know the business and you how to write for it. Since a lot of screenplays that get made were writing on assignment that is important because people don't go around hiring too many screenwriters that can't or decide on their own they don't want to follow the modern so-called formatting rules.

I don't give feedback or get it but I would assume a screenwriter would probably benefit more if someone pointed out problems with their screenplay and not just whether or not they just liked the story. I am just a self-taught hack and this is just my own personal opinion on this subject. so this is just my opinion. Again, I don't get feedback from anyone but if I was going to pay for it I would check the person out before handing over any money. I am not cheap but I hate wasting time because I only have so much talent and time and not enough of either one it seems.

Tony S.

Readers for reputable coverage firms (there are about 12) sign agreements to follow the company guidelines which cover everything from grammar (with specific examples), spelling and formatting to story and dialogue. These companies also furnish a coverage template with between ten and twenty areas to score. The reader must fill them in completely. All this is done to maintain consistency between clients (same goes with competition scoring).

Readers of the aforementioned companies are also tasked with being objective. Their coverage is checked by the owner or senior reader who decides whether it passes to the client or goes back to the reader for edits. And the coverage must be written in proper English.

Therefore, it's theoretically possible for a good story to get a PASS for non-story issues while the reader simultaneously commends the strengths of the story, dialogue, etc. It's not an either-or proposition.

If a reader isn't pointing out formatting issues, typos, grammatical errors as agreed to with the firm, as well as story strengths and weaknesses, then the professional reader - one being paid - is not doing their job. There are writers who make up punctuation (. . ,), confuse commas with periods or don't know whether to use lie or lay. The writers should know all thses things before sending a script to someone who sees manufactured punctuation and tosses the script after ten pages, if that long.

Further, it's not that easy to get one of these jobs. These firms have a reputation to uphold and vet readers extensively by requiring samples, usually writing a sample for the firm and references are checked. Some even require the reader pass a test.

If a writer wishes to diverge from norms they are welcome to do just that. However, it's a truism that scripts with multiple non-story issues usually have serious story issues as well. Screenwriting is a complete task encompassing a few disciplines - including the craft of writing and formatting well.

Readers should be, and many are, on the writer's side. If you don't feel that from your coverage then move on to someone else.

Dan Guardino

Tony. I agree with you and Laura but I think the OP and correct me if I am wrong, was talking about Script Consultants and other people that do coverage for a fee. I didn't think he was talking about Readers who work for for producers, studios or agents and managers who analyze screenplays to determine if they are worthy of further development or production. Some people like myself will never submit a screenplay that I think will have to get past a reader because I don't like wasting my time.

Dan MaxXx

I was a reader at age 19 for Golan/Gobus (Cannon Group); 0 guidelines. It is just reading. How hard is it to read? We never discussed format in our coverage reports. But I never worked for a coverage company; that’s a new hustle business invented by the internet & writing websites. That’s not making movies.

The only coverage that matters is by prod companies, agencies, producers and everyone keeps their own scorecard. Real Coverage is useless to writers; they are for bosses.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Tony S. could you give us the names of these coverage firms please?

Dan Guardino

Tony S. Jean-Marie responded so maybe I was wrong. I was pretty confused what he meant when he said "professionals" who he was talking about. All I can say is I am sorry if I had it wrong.

Tony S.

Also confused. Well, the perspectives are covered nonetheless - studio personnel or coverage firm. Highly paid consultants a la Linda Seger, Michael Hague and Doug Wood are a different animal but very much akin to a coverage firm with a slightly different goal and cost a lot more $$$.

"It is just reading" is why there are a lot of disgruntled writers out there who receive crap feedback.

Tony S.

As an ancillary, anyone who believes in the Nicholl competition, or has it as a goal, will find what they look for and their reader guidelines intriguing. As well, these guidelines are widely accepted.

http://reelauthors.com/screenplay-coverage/how-to-win-a-Nicholl-Fellowsh...

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Can't reach the link (404 Not found). Could you verify please?

Pamela Bolinder

Tony - you're a gem!

Pamela Bolinder

This turns out to be an excellent post! I jotted-down many notes. Thank you so much, everyone!

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Here is what you can find on Oscars.org/Nicholl : http://www.oscars.org/nicholl/about

Just read the rules and judging criteria.

Other official links:

http://www.oscars.org/sites/oscars/files/2018_faq.pdf (read Format and presentation)

http://www.oscars.org/nicholl/screenwriting-resources (Formatting tips)

http://www.oscars.org/sites/oscars/files/scriptsample.pdf (formatting sample)

I bet that they would not disqualify any script meeting these expectations fo two reasons:

1. they are honest people

2. they could be exposed to judicial proceedings.

Pamela Bolinder

Jean-Marie, try it again. It worked for me. Or, Google, How to Win a Nicholl Fellowship.

Tony S.

Thank you, Miss P. :)

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Got it. So what?

Years ago, I posted on Stage32 a Word template based on Nicholl's sample for people who can't afford Final Draft or whose language is not supported by Final Draft:

https://www.stage32.com/profile/189892/Screenplay/Word-screenplay-templa...

Dan Guardino

Tony. Thank you. I thought I was the only one here who was confused. Sometimes it takes me a while to figure crap out so maybe it is a good thing I never got into the screenwriting consulting business. I am sure I would be one of those that gave an aspiring screenwriter crappy feedback.

Tony S.

Good for you. Maybe the Legion of Honor is in your future.

This whole debacle is like trying to find a needle in a haystack in a smoke-filled room with no light.

Doug Nelson

Why should I listen to someone who tells me what I SHOULD avoid?

Chad Stroman

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat Good idea putting that together for those who don't have access to a screenwriting program.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Thank you Doug Nelson We're on the same track. Why should I listen/learn from somebody who tells/teaches me what I should avoid, especially when that's lies and expensive.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

About formating: the ONLY things any spec writer should take care of to polish their format when entering a contest or submitting a script, aka the "INDUSTRY STANDARD", are gathered in the NICHOLL'S FORMAT GUIDE you can find here:

http://www.oscars.org/sites/oscars/files/scriptsample.pdf

No more, no less. That's EXHAUSTIVE, UP TO DATE and TOTALLY FREE. Using this 12 pages guide, anybody can perfectly format their spec scripts avoiding any pitfall like the abuse of parentethicals, etc.

Anybody who tells you that's not enough is just nitpicking, and most of the time, that's also a way to get some money from you.

I also put it in the Loglines section:

https://www.stage32.com/sites/stage32.com/files/assets/screenplay/189892...

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

BTW, your Logline and your Query Letter or One-Page-Pitch are far more important than superfluous details of formatting. But even there, most of the people who ask you money to write or polish them for you are at most able to write a pretty good logline, provided they read your script enterely.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

To finish with, Dan MaxXx tells the truth saying that industry companies don't care about format in their coverage. Most of them make coverage either about scripts, treatments, synopses or novels. Distributors make also coverage about videos. And the only coverage that matters to pass the gatekeepers is their own.

In most of these companies, readers can't give a "Recommand" by themselves. They must call the bosses to get their approval.

Bellow a link to a 100 pages compilation of guidelines and samples of coverage from Alliance Atlantis, AMG, Artisan Entertainment, Endeavor, HBO, and New Regency.

Nowhere the formating of scripts is at issue.

However it's clear that no script will fall in the hands of any reader if it doesn't look like being written in the basic "industry standard" (courrier 12, margins, scene headings)

https://www.stage32.com/profile/189892/Screenplay/Coverage-instructions-...

Dan MaxXx

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat I didn’t say companies don’t care about format. I said as a Reader I never discussed format because all the scripts came from agencies- repped writers. They’ve been eyeballed & approved by their people before I read them. I didn’t read scripts off the streets - unsolicited scripts go straight into the trash.

It was just understood everyone working in the movie business knows formatting. It wasn’t my job as a Reader to tell professional writers how to format.

I don’t know what readers do at coverage firms. Never worked for them. I worked in the movie making business. Not the coverage business.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hi Dan MaxXx ,

The compilation I posted is from movie business companies and it confirms what you said above: readers are not asked about format. Which doesn't mean that that question is not handled before they get scripts. That's what I wanted to say.

You are our only industry reader here.

Did you read only scripts by already optioned or produced writers or also by newbies (I mean already repped newbies of course?)

And could you confirm that the Nicholl's sample matches what you read please?

Thanks.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hi Laura Scheiner,

Glad to read that.

I format my scripts following the Nicholl's sample and I never had a problem with that in any of the about 70 contests I entered, whatever their scale and signifiance. At the beginning, I even was under the Nicholl's standard.

So it seems like that's mostly a problem when submitting to coverage/consultation/doctoring right?

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Or is it just a topic for blogs and networks?

Dan MaxXx

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat l read lots of tv writers transitioning to features, optioned screenwriters.

A-List screenwriters scripts go directly to bosses.

It was a different era when I read. Pre-internet boom. Folks were using AOL email and dial-up connections.

That nicholls sample script looks basic. I can’t explain it but you can tell a pro script from a beginner. Script feels different. You can sense Voice and Point of View from pro writers. The script can still suck but it’s an easy read, easy to write coverage.

It’s like Porn. You know it when you see it.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Got it.

So what's the reason why so many people in the outside business focus on superfluous rules of formating instead of helping aspiring writers to improve their crafting and telling? Seems like being a waste of time and energy?

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Thanks Dan MaxXx, but I was focusing only on the use of formatting rules in the Nicholl's sample, not on the literary quality of the story of April and Joe. So on the format level, how does it look like?

Pamela Bolinder

So, who is to blame for bad movies? Two nights ago, I sat by this perfect stranger at the movies... she leaned over and said, "this is a dumb movie." I said, "yeah." The "story" was boring. I wonder if that script received a recommend?

Tony S.

Which movie?

Pamela Bolinder

Tony, Nice try, bucko (borrowing one of your words). I'm not saying. You missed the point.

Dan Guardino

I think formatting is important. I was employed as a Staff Writer and a Script Consultant to work on production screenplays for different production companies. I seriously doubt I would have been hired if I didn't show them that I knew how to properly format a screenplay. I know story is king but formatting is a close second.

Pamela Bolinder

Having a command of English and screenplay formatting does not mean you are a gifted storyteller.

Tony S.

Pamela Bolinder I got point and I asked what it was. Maybe save the rest of us cash.

Pamela Bolinder

My phone number is listed in my bio if you want to know - call me. I have A LOT to say about it. I went to a Park City theater. A lightning storm took out the sound. We all sat there for 25 minutes watching it like a silent movie. People started talking about the acting and many other things. No one was motivated to stay to see if they could fix it.

Pamela Bolinder

Laura, you make, yet, another good point. Maybe there are other people who may love it. It was not the man behind me, he was talking about how he did not like the "scribbling" on the movie. I didn't like that either. I've seen that "scribbling" on a map but not on the cast while acting in a movie. There is a happy ending! We all get to go back and see the movie of our choice. =)

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hi Dan Guardino

Yes, format matters a lot, at least in the American system* ; but would you say that Nicholl's rules are not enough?

*(that's not so true in Europe actually and that's why many great movies from Africa, Middle East and Asia can be done and shine in international festivals)

Pierre Langenegger

Formatting is NOT superfluous, couldn't agree more Laura. I've lost count how many poorly formatted scripts I've read. Years back I gave notes to one writer and told him he needed to format his script properly if he wanted to get anywhere but he was adamant that formatting was irrelevant and it was up to the director to work out the format and if the producer can't see the story in his words then that's the problem of the producer. I tried to convince him otherwise but he wouldn't buy it. Our conversation didn't get much further. People underestimate the value of correct formatting.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hi Pierre Langenegger

I agree up to a point of course, as I just said above. But I ask you the same question as to Dan:

Would you say that Nicholl's rules are not enough?

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Anyway, no need to use formatting to have your stories turned into movies actually, provided they are good and well written, or at least commercially relevant. But that's only for skilled people of course.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hi Pam,

You made a great point: why is there so many duds and so few good movies?

Pierre Langenegger

Jean-Marie, I'm not sure what your question means when you ask if Nicholl's rules are not enough. In what regard?

Tony S.

Not that curious, P. I understand people are reluctant to not be controversial (like another post where the OP would not confirm Sam Carr's name).

Pamela Bolinder

T, Called your bluff.

Tony S.

LOL

Pamela Bolinder

Tony, be honest, how many recommends did you give, let's say, in the past year? Your bio says, "Screenwriting Competition Judge and for a number of other competitions

Reader providing feedback for LA and New York-based firms." Another writer pointed out that you are hyper-critical (my summary of what was said). To my earlier concern, I mean, point, could it be, many script readers (for whatever reason) are hyper-critical? Responses here to posts suggest similar personalities traits like being cynical and jaded. Not all, but, many. Aspiring writers who send their scripts in for coverage should not be verbally-flogged. The best notes I have received were suggestions and examples. Michael Hague does not come off cynical and jaded; hence, he is busy as a script consultant, offering objective notes that teach and inspire!

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hi Pierre Langenegger , hi Dan MaxXx ,

I 'll trie to be more explicite: provided everything else is OK, could a script formatted using only the Nicholl's guidelines fall in the hands of an industry reader please?

Tony S.

Damned if I know. LOL

Pamela Bolinder

Tony, in an earlier post you made (scroll up) you said, "Readers should be, and many are, on the writer's side. If you don't feel that from your coverage then move on to someone else." It cost $$$ to get coverage. When writers send in scripts to competitions they don't have the ability to "move on to someone else." Same thing with getting coverage. Writers do not know which reader (jaded or objective) will read and score their script. Beyond the story itself, we have to be concerned about that? This is all I have to say on the topic.

Tony S.

Okay. LOL

Dan MaxXx

tony, who are the 12 coverage firms ?

Tony S.

PM exactly what you need, the type of script and a budget for the services and I'll make a recommendation.

Dan MaxXx

Tony S. Not interested at services, just curious who they are

Pamela Bolinder

I was asked to provide a producer with a treatment. A logline for each scene. Is that a normal request? I tried to google samples but they vary a lot. THE SCREENWRITER'S BIBLE (pg.318) encourages 3 to 12 pages. Suggestions?

Tony S.

PM me.

Pamela Bolinder

Laura, thank you, we can always count on you for a reality check! I hope your posts motivate and not discourage other writers. Motivates me! Luv ya! =)

Dan Guardino

Jean-Marie. I don't ever enter screenplays in contests or festivals nor do I ever intend to so I don't know anything about Nicholl's rules.

Chad Stroman

Not sure if related but what I have seen reading tons and tons of really crappy screenplays (going on 20 years) and a few good ones here or there (not saying my crap don't stink either) is that those that were good were good in format, story, structure, etc. Meaning that it was clear the person who wrote it cared enough to master the various aspects of the art of screenwriting.

Those that were crappy, which is the vast majority, eventually all come down to a really B.S. excuse "but what about my story?" which in reality in almost every single case is really "I'm too lazy to master the tools of my craft and I want you to overlook my laziness and not hold it against me because I em entitled to have you only focus on what part I want you to of what I've written." That's B.S.

If you can't be bothered to master the tools of your craft (not speaking of anyone in particular or in this thread) then why in the hell should I waste my time reading what you wrote and trying to decipher what your intent is?

If that's a problem then just go and write a novel, claim it's a screenplay and have fun complaining why no one will take your novel...er...screenplay and make a movie from it and how everyone is trying to stifle your creativity, or hold you back, etc. and how you're trying to be unconventional and creative, etc.

If you really have a great story, then it should be wrapped in the best possible package available when you give it to someone and that package is called a "screenplay".

Don't take an Applebee's gift card, stick it in an envelope and hand it to me expecting me to think you've given me the best meal of my entire life and want me to say so. Take me to some fine dining restaurant WITH you, sit down and explain the options and what's good and what's not and let's enjoy the actual meal together. THEN you can claim you did the work even if at the end I didn't like certain parts of the meal or we have different tastes.

Too many people (I include myself) engage in the former and think they've done the latter, which they haven't.

I'll give an example unrelated to this board. I recently read a screenplay that was intended to be a mix between a documentary and drama (really it was a drama as there were no documentary elements in it, but I digress). It was only 24 pages long and could have been shorter than that because it employed INTERCUTS all over as TRANSITIONS. It also employed sluglines/scene headings as CAMERA SHOTS (ie. 'EXT. JOHN'S LEGS - DAY' followed by an action that said "It shows John's legs and pans up slowly, etc.") and unfortunately was also written in very poor English, not active voice, misused gerunds "John running into wall."

It was not an enjoyable read at all. It was brutal to read. It was a waste of my time when I could/should be writing or reading GOOD screenplays both professional or amateur. It "looked" like a screenplay but was not what I would consider a "screenplay".

What's the point of this rant? There is definite correlation between poor screenplay format and shitty screenplays in all other aspects (story, structure, voice, theme, etc.) WITH EXCEPTIONS. But those exceptions aren't the rule (I use that term in the broad usage sense, not a written rule sense) but still aim for mastery in both time spent and care taken. The minute you start asking someone to overlook something you don't care enough about to fix or make work, you've asked the reader to overlook you and basically said "I don't care enough about it, but you totally should!"

Every single insider (whose addressed reading specs) has opined in all the podcasts and interviews, etc. that in 100 or so screenplays MAYBE one or two are good and 98 to 99 others are BAD to varying degrees and for various reasons. That means it's extremely difficult to NOT expect to be reading crap in the majority of SPEC screenplays out there. And resources exist all over to make not having a mastery of the basics, an inexcusable reason and expectation to have of a reader.

Care enough about your story to do it service on the page. Mastery. And if you aren't a master of the craft, then don't expect to be treated like one or told you are one.

Jenna H

I love script writing. I would write everything in script form if I could. LOL. Many times as I'm watching a show I see the beats in my head (and yes, it drives me NUTS) I spend more heart choosing the perfect words for my characters than thinking about scene headings, parentheticals, transitions (which I barely use...) etc etc.......the rules....the easy stuff. To me, it is a craft. A skill. And it should be FUN! :D

Pamela Bolinder

THANK YOU, Laura.

John Iannucci

I left these post two days ago - we’re still on it - Egad. I guess this puts an end to the other thread on 3 acts. I thought everything had a beginning - middle - and an end. - this has no end.

Chad Stroman

John Iannucci "THANOS snaps his fingers. The End."

Ok. It's now over. For half of us at lea.......

David B. McEwan

We're all considered amateurs until we sell our first. That means that every great writer was once an amateur.

Doug Nelson

CUT. It's a wrap.

Chad Stroman

Doug Nelson Except for the after wrap party. Over here craft services!

Dash Riprock

What'd I miss?

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Bad ending. There is still at least one premise without a payoff:

-- What are these 12 famous "reputable coverage firms" --

Can't understand why that should remain undisclosed.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Unless they have something to hide?

Pierre Langenegger

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat I don't think that question can be answered with a simple yes or no. Obviously following Nicholl's guidelines (with a kick-ass script) will serve you well in the Nicholls, which in turn will also serve you well regarding attention from some producers, but simply following Nicholl's guidelines guarantees absolutely nothing. There are so many factors at play apart from just good formatting.

Story is king. Nail that and you can get away with some sloppy formatting but it's also not just story. Your script is a package and must contain story, pace, clarity, formatting, and many other aspects. It's a hell of a tough industry and the majority of novice writers (I didn't use amateur) simply don't realize that and don't get why they're not succeeding with their first script.

Dan Guardino

Thanks for making me hungry. Now I have to go fire up my BBQ.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Got it. Is that why so many movies suck ahaha?

No. Being serious, your comparison is interesting because 99 percent of "professional" cookers/restaurants deliver only crappy meals, while at least as many (in number, not in percentage) "amateur" cookers are actually great chefs. That's so true than in England and at least into 13 countries including the US, there is/was a cooking show called 'MasterChef.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

That 'formatting' stuff is something existing only in America and by contagion in English speaking countries acually.

In France, we use almost the same pattern... unless it's more flexible (E.G. any common font you like) and it's absolutely not an obligation at that stage of selection. We often read scirpts formatted like novels.

Bellow one page of a short I read today for the WeFilmGood patform. The author is an "amateur", which has not the same pejorative meaning than in America.

Obviously, he found a screenwriting tool online he doesn't master, so part of his descriptions have parenthetical margins while some dialogue have no character name above, scene headers are bold or not, and so on,

Howhever, his story is very good and his dialogues are great, funny and full of life. So what should we do? Drop it?

Well we're not in America, and we prefer eat a great meal in a paper plate with plastic cutlery than a crappy hamburger in a piece of china with silverware.

So we read the stuff and rated it, and we just asked him to make it proofread, and to fix the few weaknesses we found in the writing.

And as soon as it'll be done, we'll upload it on the platform.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Obviously, the guy I was talking about above already knows very well how to craft vivid situtations, action and dialogues. Maybe he already wrote novellas or novels? and/or he's gifted?

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Are your friends and relatives professional chefs, or non professional chefs?

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Laura Scheiner , How many great chefs would you say there are in LA?

Chefs from palaces and great restaurants (porcelain and silverware), + possibly from smaller restaurants famed for the quality of their menu (often a specialty by the chef.)

The first should be gathered in downtown, near the airport and probably in the studios area, while the second should be also there plus in vogue areas.

John Iannucci

My next script will be about a group of writers who stay on a thread so long they combust!

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hi Laura Scheiner ,

I did't want to digress but to dig deeper in your metaphor which is very interesting as analogy is one of the best ways to point things we can't see at the first glance.

I presume you woudn't think there are over 100 great professional chefs in LA and your friends would probably count themselves fewer than 50 right?

Here are the figures:

- There are about 12000 restaurants listed in LA not including Long Beach and Vernon, more than the half being fastfoods. 12000 professionals so.

I'd be very surprised if in a city of 4 millions people, there were not at least 12000 "amateurs" chefs whose skills are far above the average level of all those "professionals".

IMO, that's exactly the same in writing. A lot of people are actually very good writers/storytellers, although they don't publish anything, for multiple reasons:

- they like writing and they are gifted,

- they have to grip an audience or a class, to convince their customers / bosses for their job,

- they must get their children to sleep,

- etc.

All of them in their speciality perfectly know how to craft a story and there is only one recipe to do so: make your audience care.

And they are myriad. Just think that J.K. Rowling and Diablo Cody were among them until they decided to become "professionals". And they didn't need to go to school or to learn from any guru/consultant/doctor, as they already had years of experience as "amateurs". However they didn't know how to format a script.

Stephen King doesn't either but 22 of his stories were already turned into movies.

Actually, the world is filled with hidden talents while the Industry is mostly filled with mediocre ones.

The ONLY thing which is in favor of the second is ... they master formatting.

So making format the first step of selection is totally insane. That's so true that the industry itself is forced to find new material outside, picking everything it can in litterature and actuality... to make it "formatted" by insiders.

And that's the same about storytelling paradigms, thanks to Campbell and his heirs:

- Michael Haneke was forced to find producers in France and Austria tout make "Amour" (Best foreign movie at the Golden Globe & Oscars, Palme D'or at Cannes)

- Tom Hanks was forced to find producers in Germany to have Cloud Atlas made.

- etc.

Dan MaxXx

I am confused at your point or endgame Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat . There is no format conspiracy here in USA.

Pamela Bolinder

Laura! We all start somewhere at some level! Understanding of set-up and pay off is part of the learning process. I'm still trying to understand WHY we are comparing amateurs to professionals. Just like in any other field, you have the aspiring and the professional. Nelson, why don't you start a thread that agrees more with your interest. I'm looking forward to that thread!

Pamela Bolinder

Jean-Marie do you feel that your fellow creatives have satisfied your question?

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hi John Iannucci ,

Better rewrite the current one twice more before that ahaha!

Dan Guardino

There are probably more than 150,000 unsold feature film scrips floating around Hollywood on any given day. Out of those maybe between 50 to 100 will sell in any given year. For a spec to have any real chance of selling it has to be written as well as humanly possible. That is really the bottom line.

Tony S.

Yeah John Iannucci get busy. Now! ahaha :)

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

And to think that among these 150 000, 140 000 are probably better than the 350 crappy duds which are made in any given year ...

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

No Dan MaxXx , there is no conspiracy; just madness ahaha!

Dan MaxXx

So this whole thread is basically a rant on Americans and the industry which it seems you are desperate to join but can’t and you’re using format as your excuse.

Go make your own movies. Show us how it is done globally. Everybody talks the talk but very few actually make movies for a living

Michael L. Burris

I know I've said this harping but we all must achieve technical flawless eventually and a few times. Its a bitch; no other way to put it but we've all done it a few times. Clean, simple, flawless technically, reduced, good read. Then the odds are down to 1 in 1500. LOL! One of these days I'm going to get 1 to 1 odds I swear.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hi Dan MaxXx , I already produce movies in France and in the US based on well or not so well formatted (but good) scripts and I can afford producing my own scripts. The reason why I don't is just because these are still under the level I want them to be raised.

Hi Dan Guardino , you made a good point and every aspiring screenwriter can easily learn the lesson.

Here is where the new American cinema rises:

https://twitter.com/jimmycthatsme

https://twitter.com/OrnanaFilms

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

That's how these young guys get around the wall and bring fresh air in this industry: they help each other and do everything by themselves, working like mad, and they are gifted of course. They don't listen to anybody's paradigm and they do whatever they like. And the result is great!

One year ago, Jim Cummings "was a failed filmmaker" as he says himself, although he has more than 10 years of experience in making movies. on May 2018, Thunder Road premiered at Cannes in the Acid Selection and was rated by critics as the 4th best movie in the festival before the Palme d'Or. And this September, it will ace at Deauville.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1033120368813195264

Dan MaxXx

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat Ava durvenay said the same thing 10 years ago, so did everybody else who wanted to make movies for a living: Don’t wait for permission.

I am confused why you’re hellbent about format. You’re a professional. Hire a pro Editor to retype your script to a presentable screenplay.

Jim Cummings didn’t sit around waiting for permission

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Dan MaxXx , Ava Duvernay didn't sit around there waiting for permission either.

She was as right as Jim Cummings is doing her job by herself then. She's a great Lady.

As a coincidence, her best movie Selma was prenominatly produced by French (Pathé) and British (Cloud Eight, Ingenious) companies, while her big last one A Wrinkle In Time (Disney) flopped in spite of the great work she did behind the camera.

Then when speaking about my own scripts, I didn't mean about format. Everything is fine on that side of the stuff ahaha!

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Screenwriting formatting is just an evolution of old play formatting as it was used til WW2, just giving more place for descriptions.

The "courrier 12" font appeared when writers began to work with typewriters (you had no other choice then) and the margins were defined in a attempt to make 1 page of script equal to 1 minute of movie.

Those are the only things of some historical importance in formatting.

And then, not to mention that Courrier 12 is totally out of date, the margins don't work at all, as if being more or less true for a page mixing dialogue and action, a page filled with short dialogues may be less than 30 seconds long on screen while a page filled with action may be more than 2 minutes long.

These are just crappy rules that don't favor anything actually, and everything beyond that is just bullshit.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

I don't need more than 1 day to craft a better pattern, at least complying with the timing stuff and easy to read and anotate for anybody in the business.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

With all due respect, Laura Scheiner , everything is so approximative in this patern that the necessity of using a non-proportional font is just a bad joke.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Especially in dialogue which may count a very few words per line, so 1 excess letter makes the half of your line falling down to the next one ahaha!

Dan Guardino

Jean-Marie. The way people do things in the industry aren't going to change because you don't happen to like the way things are done.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Laura Scheiner ,

1. how can you say what one should match the best with the length of the movie if it were done?

2. adjust the size of the font,

3. try with Courier New. There should be less than half of one page for a 100 pages script.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Yes Dan Guardino , I perfectly know that but:

1. Hollywood ADORES making movies about things that won't ever change (Gerry Maguire,...)

2. What would you think about Boeing or GM if they designed their planes and their cars like they did 60 years ago?

3.That's just a way to say that a lot of people should be more flexible and less pedantic about all these things.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Courier New is the proportional version of Courier Laura Scheiner .

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

You're right Laura Scheiner , I apologize. That's a monotype. However, there are a lot of fonts easier to read than Courier that can match. Try Franklin Gothic Book, size 11 for example.

BTW, I don't intend to make Hollywood changing its paradigms alone ahaha. I just want to enlighten how idiotic these are.

Dan Guardino

Jean-Marie. I don’t tell people they should or shouldn’t be more flexible. I do sometimes suggest things that seemed to work for me but they don't have to do anything I suggest. I honestly have no clue what anyone has to do to have any success so they can do whatever they want and live with the results. I know that’s what I did. I read half a “how to book” when I started out and started writing screenplays. I never asked for or received any advice from anyone and I never got feedback from anyone either. Those seem to be the things you have problems with so maybe you shouldn't ever get feedback..

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hi Dan Guardino ,

All that is not about me. I have no personal problem with the business (I even make money in the business) for three reasons:

- I master formatting as well as every usual storytelling tools, plus some not so usual.

- I could afford the assitance of the most expensive helpers in the business, as well as the service of a ghost writer if I liked it.

- I could produce by myself any of my scripts.

My only problem with writing is personal: the lack of imagination. So movies made from my scripts wouldn't probably shine in festivals or make blockbusters LOL.

My purpose is just to prevent aspiring screenwriters to waste their time and money, and to be put down by so called "professionals".

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Seen from any other place in the world as soon as you got enough perspective, the Hollywood system is a very odd thing. Kind of a two headed hydra.

- On one side is a beautiful, crowned, little head: the top business made by great people doing great movies like Cameron, Spielberg, Anderson, Tarantino, Allen, Kaufman... who nurture the myth, or to use another metaphor the castle of Sleeping Beauty. Probably less than 1% of the business.

- on the other side is the rest; a big monstruous head. In the castle metaphor, a rough area outside the walls filled with swarming people who dream of entering the castle.

A big minority is the outside business; miscellaneous crew or limousine driver or just dreamer by day, agent or producer or script doctor by night, providing bad service if any to the next through their little workshops.

The remaining ones are the rookies, the green horns attracted by the myth and whose money allows the previous to earn a living. Among all these guys, a very few knights will rise above the pack like Ava Duvernay or Jim Cummings, while the others will throw in the towel or join the previous.

That's kind of the same thing in other countries of course, but what is specific to Hollywood is the excessiveness of that outside-the-walls thing. In the end, all the money spent in this business is lost for making movies. The Seventh Art doesn't deserve that.

Dan Guardino

Well good luck with that. I don’t think you are going to prevent aspiring screenwriters not to waste their time and money. Since that is your only goal I will not be participating in this discussion anymore.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

I forgot some people: the little minority of honest and wise people in every entertainment specialties who struggle to make good movies done and to really help others going forward. I dare to count myself among them, as well as some of the people who made their input to this post, including you, Laura Scheiner

Pamela Bolinder

Jean-Marie, thank you for your contributions here. I jotted down a lot of useful notes from this thread.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

AUTOPILOT

Sir, orders are: “Do not return to

Earth”.

CAPTAIN

But life is sustainable now! Look at this

plant, green and growing! It’s living

proof he was wrong.

AUTOPILOT

Irrelevant, Captain.

CAPTAIN

What?! It’s completely relevant!

(points out to space)

Out there is our home! Home, Auto! And

it’s in trouble! I can’t just sit here

and...and...do nothing! That’s all I’ve

done! That’s all anyone on this blasted

ship has ever done...NOTHING!!

AUTOPILOT

On the Axiom you will survive.

CAPTAIN

I DON’T WANT TO SURVIVE! I WANT TO LIVE!

AUTOPILOT

Must follow my directive.

CAPTAIN

DAAAARGH!!

(wall-e)

Dan Guardino

Now I am really lost.

John Iannucci

Dan - maybe you can find me and we can navigate out of this twilight dimension together. lol

Dan Guardino

John. I am completely baffled myself.

Chad Stroman

You have now entered...

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

--

Pamela Bolinder

Jean-Marie, what does that mean?

Chad Stroman

Pamela Bolinder It means "Don't Feed the Trolls". :(

Dan Guardino

I didn't know there were any trolls here.

John Iannucci

Yeah, but I’m an “Amateur” troll so according to the post everybody should avoid me. Lol

Pamela Bolinder

Can we define "troll"? Also, what is the world record for most posts to a thread?

John Iannucci

Jean is the baberuth there! A record that will never be caught!

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