Even If You Love Writing Screenplays….

If you enjoy writing, and you also enjoy watching movies, writing screenplays feels like a perfect fit. It allows you to be involved in the entertainment industry, even when circumstances make it difficult for you to work directly for a film company. There are, however, some good reasons you should keep working on other other projects as well.

One downside to writing screenplays is that it limits how many people will discover that you’re a writer. Let’s say that you write a great screenplay, and after an online search, you find ten production companies willing to consider screenplays submitted directly from writers. If those companies don’t buy or option your screenplays, it may be that only ten people know that you write. Unfortunately, if it’s rejected by script readers, the ten people who now know you’re a writer, may not be directors or producers.

You can also enter screenwriting contests, but make sure you take the time to find out who will see your screenplay. In some cases, your screenplay will only be read by directors, producers and agents If your screenplay is one of the finalists, out of hundreds of entries. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it to pay the entry fee, for the possibility that it will be seen by someone who can help your career.

The dilemma is that you could be a gifted writer, but very few people know that you write. One way to overcome that obstacle is to write short stories. You can submit short stories to magazines, print anthologies, and literary journals (print and online.) Being published raises your profile as a writer, and you can include in your Bio, that you write screenplays. If talent agents or directors read your short story, they’ll know that you’re a talented writer AND you write screenplays.

Another way to raise your profile as a screenwriter, is to write articles and essays about writing and film, with the goal of establishing yourself as an industry expert. As always, include the fact you write screenplays in the Author’s Bio. Since a script reader or director may read hundreds of screenplays with similar themes, wouldn’t it be useful if they recognized your name?

I recently tried to raise to raise my profile as a writer, by starting a Youtube channel. I hope you find the video I’ve posted, “What If You’re A Really Good Writer?” amusing, despite the fact it’s a cringe-worthy early attempt.

Keep writing, the world needs to hear your voice, your passion!

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper http://www.jpaulcooper.ca


Is Your Idea Original Enough?

Many film companies won’t read a screenplay unless it is submitted by a talent agent or lawyer. If, however, you do find a film company that agrees to read one of your screenplays, they usually won’t read it unless you first sign a Release Agreement. One of the clauses in the Release Agreement will require you to acknowledge that someone working for the film company, or perhaps another writer like yourself, may have already submitted a concept that is similar. No matter how original you think your idea is, there may be other writers working on stories with very similar themes.

However, just because other writers may have similar concepts, shouldn’t discourage you from developing your story ideas. Consider these facts: White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen were both movies about an attack on the White House, and they were both released in 2013. Despite the fact Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 were both series about space stations, and they appealed to the same demographic, between 1993 and 1998, they were on television at the same time.

Although The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins books, is the best known story about teens fighting to the death, it wasn’t the first one. The first Hunger Games movie was released in 2012. The Japanese movie Battle Royale, based on the novel by Koushun Takami, was released twelve years earlier in 2000.

So, how do you distinguish your story concepts from other writers? Characters: Gandolph in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies are both powerful, charismatic wizards, but they have very different personalities. Setting: Dragons are used in The Hobbit trilogy, the Harry Potter movies and The Game of Thrones series, but the worlds in which they live are unique. Dialogue: What accents will your characters have? Will they sound like they’re reading from a dictionary, or will they use slang?

You should do your best to avoid copying another writer’s work; some of the worst B movies ever made were the result of a Director trying to copy a blockbuster. There are, however, many variations on a theme. The Twilight Saga movies and the Blade trilogy both concern vampires, but they approach the subject from very different perspectives.

Here’s the key point to remember: It’s the writer’s voice and how he or she approaches a subject that makes a story unique.

The only question is: What are you going to write today?

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Fascinating Trivia For Writers

The next time you’re looking at a book in a library or bookstore, or you’ve just watched a movie trailer, visit the Internet Movie Database and find out who the writers are. You’ll discover….

Actors Write Screenplays: Tom Hanks stars in the WWII drama, Greyhound (2020), and he also wrote the screenplay. It’s an adaptation of the novel The Good Shepherd by C.S. Forester.

It isn’t unusual for two movies to be based on the same source material: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) are both based on the novel, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by John Godey.

Sometimes writers adapt their own work: Aaron Sorkin wrote a successful Broadway play, A Few Good Men. He then wrote the screenplay for the movie A Few Good Men, which was released in 1992.

Narrative Non-Fiction books are popular with Directors and Producers looking for source material: Narrative Non-Fiction books present the facts, but describe the people and places surrounding events, so it feels as if you’re reading a novel. Ben Mezrich, Erik Larson, and Stephan Talty are examples of Narrative Non-Fiction writers finding success in the film industry.

The title of the source material may not be the same as the movie title: Some of the best examples are in the science fiction genre. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is based on the short story The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clark. Blade Runner (1982) is based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

One movie is all it takes: Once one book, play or short story you’ve written has been adapted for a movie, everything you write is immediately considered potential source material. Consider the Internet Movie Database listings for Philip K. Dick and Ben Mezrich; their careers are excellent examples.

Do you have a story idea that’s been rattling in your brain like marbles in a tin can? Perhaps today you should take some time to write. You’ll never know the full potential of your storytelling talent, until you start.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper

Rolling The Dice

As I’m writing this blog post, an independent film company is considering one of my screenplays. I have no idea how many other movie scripts they’re reading. For all I know, they may be looking at hundreds of screenplays by more talented writers.   It’s easy to talk yourself out of submitting your writing, just by thinking about how tough the competitions is, but that isn’t fair to you or your potential readers.

If you say to yourself, I’ll never be able to write like Suzanne Collins, or J.K. Rowling, the only answer I can think of is, “Good.” Why would anyone want to read a book by a writer who is just copying a famous writer’s style, when they can enjoy the unique voice of another writer? Although I think The Hunger Games and Harry Potter series were both very well written, I love reading books by new writers (or at least new to me), and immersing myself in the worlds they create. The series I’m reading now is The Expanse series by James S.A. Carey, and before that, the Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve.

Is your writing good enough? That’s a difficult question to answer, because writers can have perfect spelling and grammar, yet no one reads their books. What one reader considers a cliche, might be considered appropriate for the situation by anther reader. When I read The Meg by Steve Alten I thought it had too many cliches, but it was a bestseller, and it was adapted as a movie as well.

It’s really about style. My wife didn’t enjoy reading The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, she found his detailed description of every rock and shrub irritating, just too much detail. I didn’t finish reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis because it didn’t include enough detail for me to enjoy the story.

You, the writer, have a choice to make. There’s no guarantee the book you submit to an editor, or self-publish, will be a bestseller; but it may be. It’s likely that some readers won’t appreciate your writing style, but even the most popular books are disliked by a portion of the people who read them. Whether you choose traditional publishing, or self-publish, the only way to discover how much potential you have as a writer, is to keep submitting material; and roll the dice.

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper




You’ve Been Busy!

Come on, you can admit it; you dream of walking the red carpet, and accepting an award to thunderous applause. What you may not have considered, is that if you’re writing a short story or novel, you’re already creating a movie in your mind. And what’s really amazing, you’re the whole crew.  

First of all, you’re the Screenwriter, because the story idea originates with you. There’s no movie without a script. And, since you’re the person who initiated the process and are responsible for it’s completion, you’re also the Producer.

Another major decision is where the film will be shot. Because you, as the writer, is making that choice, you’re the Location Manager. Whether it’s being filmed at an outside location or inside a studio, someone has to make sure everything is in place to create the correct atmosphere for the scene being filmed. You’re responsible for what’s revealed to your readers, so you’re also the Set Director

Aren’t stressed-out enough by your hectic schedule?  When you make yourself a sandwich and brew a cup of coffee, you become the Caterer. If you’ve ever been on a film set, you know that the individuals who make sure Actors and Background Performers are ready when filming starts, are the Production Assistants. The voice in your head, telling you to get back the keyboard and keep writing, that’s you, the Production Assistant.

And last, but not least, someone has to bring all the elements together, and take control of the story. That’s you, the Director. So, if you ever find yourself exhausted after spending a couple of hours writing, now you know why….You’ve been busy! 

Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper