How To Wright A Screenplay Into A Movie After You Write

Example of screenplay formatting.

Image via Wikipedia

Prior to producing my own movies, I worked for a producer in NYC. And I want to take a moment and apologize for never responding to your query letters. I have no excuse for it, other than I was busy paying my dues.

At that time, most of my 12 to 14 hour days were spent fetching coffee, running errands and writing coverage on the priority material that came from agents. So given the fast paced grind of the development office, your query letter probably got put on my stack. And that stack probably ended up in a filing cabinet. And? Well…

Listen. If you’re an ambitious writer, I’m going to tell you a secret. There is no better feeling in the world than the day you stop sending query letters and instead, you start producing your own work. For years and years, you have dreamed about seeing your work on the big screen. You know you’re good. So why ask for permission?

Now I know this can be a scary transition. So I want to provide you with five tips to make your journey from Screenwriter to super-hyphenate a little easier.

1. Have a well defined logline. Seriously. Most first time writer director types settle for a simple character driven story. But the story is always confusing. So here is the test, if you can’t explain your story with a log line, something is off. Fix the log line now. You’ll need it for your marketing later.
2. Everything in your screenplay costs money. So if your passion project is too expensive, write something based on locations in your neighborhood. Your true genius will come from your ability to tell a compelling story, not by how many expensive Special FX you can pack into your movie.
3. Ice, Snow, Rain, Sun, dogs, lighting bolts and children have always been a challenge to predict. If you include any of these elements in your story, I guarantee that setups that should only take minutes will take days. Avoid these elements if possible.
4. As soon as you decide to produce and possibly direct your movie, hire a seasoned Production Manager to work with you. They will read your script. They will tell you that your movie is going to cost way more than you think and they will help you alter the story to meet your budget constraints. Managing the budget is their job. Respect it. Then ask your PM if they know a great 1st AD. (They will!)
5. Hire a GREAT First Assistant Director. Not some film school kid either. Pay the money. Build a relationship. The First AD will be the general of your production. They will build off the Production Manager’s budget and schedule the movie. The 1st AD keeps the production on time.

These steps will provide you with a good starting point. Once you have your script, PM and your 1st AD, you will find that your project will start to gain momentum. Finish your feature and people will start sending you query letters. I guarantee it.

For more information on writing movie scripts that YOU produce, check out:

Learn Filmmaking Without The Fluff

As a filmmaker, you may start your career learning how to fetch coffee.

As a filmmaker, one of your first jobs might be fetching coffee. Image via Wikipedia

When I was first starting my filmmaking career, I thought long and hard about the prospect of film school. At the time, I figured a degree from one of the top film schools would increase my odds of garnering success. Now, after having worked in the game for awhile, I can honestly tell you that very few people, if any, have asked me where I went to film school.

Here are 5 Filmmaking Tips So You Can Learn Filmmaking Without The Fluff:

  1. Your Film School Degree Will Collect Dust: Nobody cares where you went to school. They just care if you can contribute value to their professional lives and their movie projects. (By the way, I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to college. I’m just saying that unless you plan on becoming a film professor – get a degree in business.)
  2. Learn How To Sell: In the film business, people with sales skills can write their own ticket. Start learning how to sell.
  3. Your Material Rules: Control good material and you’ll have something to sell. What is good material? Great screenplays. Seriously most screenplays suck. If you’re confused about this one, refer back to #2
  4. Be Nice To Everyone: The PA fetching coffee today will control your job tomorrow. (Or one day, in addition to making movies, he might just own one of the most prolific filmmaking website in the world.)
  5. Don’t Ask Permission: I say this over and over, but many of you are still knocking on doors, hoping that somebody will discover you. Don’t do that. Unless you have GREAT MATERIAL, that everybody wants, chances are nobody cares about your movie project more than you.

Anyway – If you like these tips and want more of them, I am giving away my latest book for free. I do this because it helps you avoid all my silly filmmaking mistakes. And it helps me promote myself. To claim your free Filmmaking Book, go here:

If you like this filmmaking stuff, make sure you tell your friends that Los Angeles based indie producer, Jason Brubaker gives away some great filmmaking stuff!

Never burn a bridge in the movie biz!

Dear Jason,

I’m very sorry. I know you’ve been calling about the money we owe you for [MOVIE PROJECT X]. We have been incredibly busy as you can imagine – we recently upgraded our editing suite (you should come over and check out our facility – it’s awesome!) But anyway, I know we are a few months behind with those checks. If it’s OK with you, give us a call after the holiday (we are headed to Key West for the fourth. Have you been there? It’s amazing!) And I promise we can discuss payment. Maybe we can settle on half the money we owe you? Anyway, I’m sure we can work it out.

Robert Rip Off
– – –

I know the above scenario seems pretty far out there. But this sort of thing happens in the movie business more than you know. And no matter what side of the deal you’re on (I assume you will be honorable in all your dealings) – whenever this happens relationships end. Bridges get burnt. Here are some tips I’ve learned through the years:

1. Don’t do business with people who you wouldn’t want to introduce to your mother.
2. Get everything (EVERYTHING) in writing. Even among friends. Especially among friends.
3. Always honor your word. If you make an honest mistake, work to rectify it immediately!
4. Plan for the best, but always ask yourself – what is the worst that can happen? Then plan for that!
5. In filmmaking as in life, treat everyone with respect. The man fetching coffee today, controls the money tomorrow.

Lazy People in Hollywood

I’ve been working on a new project – and it’s surprising to me how some people are incredibly nice, hard working, responsible and smart. Yet, I’m equally surprised by the amount of people who are lazy and not-so-responsible.

The other night a friend of a friend of a friend kept telling me how upset he was that someone stole his movie idea. The story had something to do with space and time travel and a villain… I don’t remember. I asked him if he actually wrote a script, or if it was just an idea. He told me it was just an idea. Said he thinks someone overheard him at the local coffee shop.

The thing is, I stopped listening. I’m a nice enough guy. But I get frustrated when people come up with movie ideas and simply expect some Hollywood executive to magically appear and pay for ideas. I’m not saying it can’t happen (I actually know a filmmaker who was given over a million dollars to make a feature, based on the strength of his short movie) – But I’m saying this. If you aren’t preparing yourself for lucky opportunities every day – by actually completing projects, and honing your career skills (writer, director, etc) then please don’t complain.

Everybody has ideas. Few people control the rights to completed screenplays.

Tips for Film and Video Freelance Work

Brown cup of coffee
Image via Wikipedia

When I was starting out, I had to beg for every film and video job I could find. My first jobs consisted of fetching coffee and doing some non-union grip and gaffer work. These days I have a pretty good network of friends who can help me find film and video jobs when necessary. Some of you have asked for tips how to meet friends and get jobs. So I’ll give you a little recap.

5 Tips for breaking into the film business (production):

1. Depending on where you live, contact your state for a film guide. Most of the film guides have contact information for professionals. Send a quick email to professionals already doing your ideal work and ask for advice. Be nice. Avoid spelling mistakes.

2. Get involved in your local film community. These people usually know if someone is producing a project. Find out if you can fetch coffee on the project.

3. When you get your job, show up 1/2 hour early and find your contact. Usually it’s a Key PA or an AD, depending on project size.

4. Smile! Smile! Smile! No matter how crazy your day feels, if you carry yourself with enthusiasm, it has a funny way of making everyone around you feel good.

5. In the event you can’t take a job (and I mention this one a lot), make sure you say you are already booked with another job. Do not give specific details on what you’re actually doing (like vacation, etc).