Screenwriter’s Resource Guide *
The Best of the Best
VARIETY; Highly Reccomended/ "Required" Reading.
"The Bible of Show Business"; There is both a weekly and daily version, the daily version now available in the New York Metro region. Covers Films, Television, Theater, Publishing, Interactive, Music, Reviews, Festivals, Opinion pieces, Gossip, etc. Anything and everything having to do with the Entertainment Industry. As a producer once told me, "If you’re not reading Variety, you’re just not serious about the Entertainment Industry". Subscription is a substantial savings off the newsstand price & covers various special editions such as the AFM, MIFED, Cannes, etc. If you can only afford one, go with the Weekly edition. PO Box 6400, Torrance, CA. 90028. Phone/Fax: (805) 495-5447.
The Hollywood Reporter - covers much the same territory, the daily version now available at some of the larger book stores in the area such as Borders.
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Please note: While the following periodicals don’t exactly fall under the ‘best of’ category, they are still useful in terms of feature length articles, solely dedicated to screenwriting, and offer a certain ‘behind the scenes’ selling point, so with that caveat;
6404 Hollywood Blvd, Ste 415
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tele. (213) 957-1405
Fax (212) 957-1406
This slick, bi-monthly publication covers just what it says. Contains commentaries on the scripts behind new movies, as well as interviews, advice columns, lists of recent script sales, and various "theme" issues. Like the Hollywood Scriptwriter, some of the advice columns occasionally have a tendency to talk down to the readership, and it’s a somewhat heavy cover price - $6.95 - for approx. 75 pages, but subscription rate is 40% off newsstand price and you’ll usually find at least one or two articles of interest.
5638 Sweet Air Road
Baldwin, MD 21013-9009
Tele.: 410.592.3466 - fax; 410.592.8062
Along the lines of Creative Screenwriting, this glossy, bi monthly is heavy on interviews with screenwriters, advice columns, festival information, with various "theme" issues - but also has a bit too much filler in it’s 65 or so pages for it’s hefty cover price.
289 S. Robertson Blvd. Suite 465
Beverly Hills, CA 90211-2834
Another slick looking entry into the Hollywood publications game. It bills itself as "The First Word In Film" but sometimes resembles more of a cross of PREMIERE & VANITY FAIR with a distressing emphasis on quantity & quality graphics over quality and quantity of content. Very "trendy" oriented and because it’s not a monthly, many reviews and "news’ is of films that have already come and gone. Occasionally interesting articles may be enough of a reason to look into it though.
Please Note: Prices on these publications are subject to change (i.e., go up). These are just some of the more notable publications. Going on line is your best source for current information.
The Best of the Best
BOOKS ON SCREENWRITING
Never has there been so many books on screenwriting been available in the last thirty years as now. The choice of titles is almost a bit overwhelming with each one seemingly offering to be the ‘only complete book’ you’ll ever need to tackle this topic. Of course, no one book can hope to cover everything you’ll need to know, and thankfully, in the last few years, authors have apparently begun, as indicated by the titles alone, to thankfully begin to narrow their focus to specific areas of screenwriting. Realize that every author has their specific approach and opinions.
Paraphrasing the words of the legendary Kung Fu master Bruce Lee "Learn everything. Absorb what is useful. Discard what is useless. Include what is specifically yours". While he was talking about martial arts, the same could apply to screenwriting.
BOOKS ABOUT THE INDUSTRY
ADVENTURES IN THE SCREEN TRADE
by William Goldman
Yes, the same man who gave us "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid", "All The Presidents Men" (and the now most over quoted phrase in Hollywood ;"Nobody Knows Anything!") still has, though it was written over a decade ago, the best personal memoir on what it’s like to be a major player in Hollywood’s how stakes screenwriting game. He names names and expresses opinions - and when you’re finished, if you don’t throw up your hands in exasperation, you’ll possibly might feel a bit better, knowing that even a ‘name’ screenwriter such as Goldman has had his ups & downs. A classic and as pertinent now as ever.
SCREENWRITING "HOW TO" BOOKS
by Syd Field
Love him or hate him, Syd Field wasn’t the first one to write a how to book about Screenwriting, but he was most certainly the first successful one, and paved the way for those who followed. While he has numerous other books, these are undoubtedly his best known and succinctly describe the basic ingredients of plot, character, structure, dialog, etc. A good a place as any for the beginner (and pro) to start.
MAKING A GOOD SCRIPT GREAT
by Linda Seger
Samuel French Books
Internationally known writer & script consultant, after Syd Field, probably the one name that crops up most repeatedly when writers are asked what their favorite or most influential book on screenwriting is. You might want to read this after reading Field’s book. Covers Character Development and other aspects of screenwriting along with samples from the movie "Witness". Available in most book stores.
BEST GENERAL BOOK ABOUT THE MOVIE INDUSTRY
by Mark Litwak
While not about Screenwriting per se, this decade old book, recently re-issued, still remains one of the best overall books about the Motion Picture Industries. Reading it, you’ll begin to see how one piece of the puzzle relates to the overall picture. Without bromides, Litwak makes extensive use of hard hitting interviews & quotes to really capture the ‘feel’ as well as the facts behind what makes Hollywood run. Be warned though, this is not an uplifting book - still, forewarned is forearmed.
BEST RESOURCE BOOKS
No contest. The ones you want (and will need) are the
1.HOLLYWOOD AGENTS & MANAGERS DIRECTORY
2.HOLLYWOOD CREATIVE DIRECTORY
3000 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 2525
Santa Monica, CA 90404
Tele.; 800 -81500503
1. Complete listings of agents, both WGA & non-WGA nationwide, with addresses, phone, fax numbers, and email addresses.
2. Complete listings for production companies & studios, with names, addresses, and cross indexed. Both publications are updated throughout the year and are now available on-line. Please keep in mind, that many agents & agencies frequently change personnel, addresses, merge with other agencies, or just plain go out of business, so if you do not opt for the on-line edition, be aware that information in this area can quickly become dated.
BEST BOOK ON LEGAL ASPECTS OF SCREENWRITING
Again, no contest.
THE SCREENWRITER’S LEGAL GUIDE 2nd Ed.
By Stephen F. Breimer, Esq.
Allworth Press. www.allworth.com
There are other books ("Clause by Clause", "The Writer Got Screwed!" ) but buy this book BEFORE you sit down & negotiate that contract. It explains in understandable terms, to the layman, all those boring mumbo jumbo clauses & legal pitfalls that you thought your agent would protect you from (until you found out that you may need someone to protect you from your agent!) when it comes time to sign on the dotted line. Perhaps one can’t avoid a dry tone when it comes to contracts, but Breimer does a better job than any one I’ve read to date, and gives you the studios point of view - without taking sides.
BEST BOOK ON SELLING YOUR SCREENPLAY
Is called, not coincidentally
SELLING YOUR SCREENPLAY
by Cynthia Whitcomb
While her background is mainly in Television, Whitcomb’s common sense advice can be equally applied to motion pictures as well. This is strictly about marketing your screenplay, and as such, was the first, and still remains the best single book on the topic. I only take exception to three pieces of her advice, and those are
Re: 1. Your cover letter. It’s this writer/reader’s personal opinion, based on experience, that the description of your screenplay should be separate from your cover letter - i.e., do not try and include both on the same page.
Also, 2. Do NOT rely solely on the Agency Listings provided by the WGA - it does not provide you with enough information - and enough complaints have been noted through the years by countless writers, that many of those agents who are listed, do not accept screenplays or new clients, even though they are listed as such.
And finally 3. The WGA is a registration service and as such, does NOT provide copyright protection for your work. Copyright your work, and then if you subsequently want to also register it with the WGA, then do so.
Beyond those points, everything else she says is relevant.
BEST PLACES TO ACTUALLY OBTAIN SCRIPTS
8033 Sunset Blvd. Suite 1500
Hollywood, CA 90046
There’s probably no better way to learn how to write successful scripts than reading successful scripts. Script City isn’t the only purveyor of screenplays, but they’re the biggest and their extensive catalog includes TV scripts as well as storyboards, souvenirs, posters, etc. Their list includes unproduced scripts as well as TV pilots. They usually run specials (buy two, get one free). Be aware however of a couple of points; sometimes they can be notoriously slow in shipping.
Note: because so many screenplays have now been published by publishing houses in paperback form, (which often include photographs, and screenplay lengths that do not correspond to the originals), make sure if what you are ordering is the screenplay - or a ‘publishers’ version’ of the screenplay. Also, when ordering, see if you can find out what specific draft of a script you’re ordering (say "Chinatown’). It can make all the difference in the world.
PS: When in New York City you might also want to try Hollywood Legends in the Village.
BEST PLACES IN METRO AREA FOR BOOKS ON SCREENWRITING
Unfortunately here, we’re not talking about Westchester. If we’re talking about "browsing" a large selection, actually thumbing through the books, you’ll have to go into the city. So;
The Drama Bookshop
723 7th Ave, New York. 10019
Make sure you don’t walk past this hole-in-the-wall exterior location off Times Square. Take the elevator past the guard downstairs. Mainly geared to Theater, there’s a good selection of screenwriting books in the back on the left hand side. The staff of actors - uh, I mean, sales clerks, are very friendly and helpful.
Good selection of books on screenwriting, motion pictures, etc.
Gotham Book Mart
41 West 47th St.
A good selection of Theater as well as screenwriting books, memorabilia and some out-of-print books you’ll find nowhere else. Helpful staff. A landmark of sorts in NYC.
Don’t forget Westchester. Borders Books in White Plains has a very helpful staff & carry a good selection of magazines & books on Screenwriting - however note: the screenwriting books are listed under "Reference" and are NOT with the Film Books. Barnes & Noble, depending on which location, has a fair selection of books on Screenwriting at any given time.
BEST SCRIPTWRITING SOFTWARE
Toss up. At some time one may have had a few features ‘advantage’ over the other, but in this competitive field, no one can stay too far ahead or behind for long. Disregard all those glowing reviews in the back of magazines & on line. At this point, (late 1999), all the dedicated screenwriting software programs out there (Final Draft, MovieMagic Screenwriter, ScriptThing, Scriptware, etc.) have their supporters & are pretty much equal in terms of features and pricing. They’re all available as DOS, Windows & MAC versions and all let you write your script with the minimum amount of fuss. So the difference may come down to the documentation and available support if you do run into trouble. All have demos that can be ordered or downloaded for free.
While there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of websites dedicated to Screenwriting and Motion Pictures in general, for our purposes, you only need one "DONE DEAL" It’s a one stop starting point for everything a screenwriter could want and then some. You can reach it at: www.scriptsales.com. What makes "Done Deal" so valuable, is their links to OTHER websites.
Done Deal is set up in a very logical, accessible, clear manner. Very much an on-line magazine, it has sections devoted to Q&A, Festivals, News, Contests, etc. One of it’s most interesting (or least depending on your POV) sections, is it’s ScriptSales Section which lists recent script sales by the day, week, month, etc., and also has an archival section of sales. So if you want to feel inspired (or perhaps frustrated), you can see what screenplay was recently sold by whom to whom, by which agency, for how much, all along with a short plot synopsis and sometimes miscellaneous comments.
Via Done Deal’s hyperlinks, you are always only a few clicks away from ordering software, books, services, magazines, etc.
*The preceding was taken from a pamphlet by Jonathan Kaplan from the November 2, 1999 ‘914’ meet on Screenwriting: The Business Side.