for the Big Screen

(c) 1998 by Robynn Clairday
All Rights Reserved -- Contact the author for reprint rights.

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for the Big Screen

(c) 1998 by Robynn Clairday
All Rights Reserved -- Contact the author for reprint rights.

It all started with a writers' conference. A young screenwriter/producer from an independent studio gave a rousing speech about how lucrative writing for the film industry was. And they were receptive to new talent, he added. At one point, I stood up and asked if it was possible to "sell" a
manuscript as opposed to a script (since I'd never tried this format before).

He said yes, and I was off and running. What a surprise to find actual producers interested in reading my stuff. Marc Lorber of Phoenix Pictures (formerly of Hallmark Entertainment) was one of them. I'd found him in the industry bible, the Hollywood Creative Directory. An online free trial subscription is offered. "I had a Novel, NOT a Script"

Initially, I emailed him my synopsis with a note attached letting him know I had a novel to submit (not a script); I also included my publishing credits. I kept it simple; I simply wrote:

He immediately asked for the manuscript.  Afterwards, he emailed me that he'd read it and had some suggestions to make, if I was interested. I instantly let him know I was very eager to listen and learn. I had chosen Mr. Lorber because the bio in the Hollywood Creative Directory depicted him as someone open to new ideas and new writers.  My decision had certainly paid off.

It's also wise to be prepared to make your "pitch" on the phone. Sometimes, when you're asking development people for their fax number, they'll ask you to describe your script. Be ready and be brave!

Another thing that helps is to understand the industry rules; a writer should register her work with the Writer's Guild of America (to protect herself) and be ready to sign a release form (which protects the production company).

After reading my manuscript, Mr. Lorber emailed a critique back that was more than enlightening-  -it was revolutionary! He then asked me to rewrite it as a script. He sort of liked my novel, which helped ignite his interest, but he was also a very nice person willing to reach out to someone new to his field. I tried to be as courteous as possible and exhibited a willingness to take criticism.

First, he discussed the motivation of my villain. In his eyes, she was at times erratic and inconsistent, even though her behavior made perfect sense to me. However, it certainly didn't to an "outsider". The light bulb went off.

While I'd spotted this problem in others' writing, I'd never noticed it in my own. My characters always seemed real to me, because I know them so intimately. But that doesn't mean a thing. They also have to come across as "real" and believable to readers and all other audiences.

Most of his comments related to characterization; I had to make them more solid, more clear. He asked for more "back story" and more of an understanding of who my main characters were and why they did what they did.  My readers/viewers needed to see this. What motivates them? Why would they get involved in this plot and react the way they do? I knew the answers to these questions, but needed to show it more thoroughly through dialogue, action and setting.

This made me see my other works in a new light. Instead of looking at my characters as a beloved "parent" would, I needed to eye them with the coldness and distance of a stranger. It was time to pull them out of the shadows and give them the dimension they deserved.

Mr. Lorber didn't buy my script, but he was encouraging and said I could submit my future works to him. My script was an improvement but not quite "there".

More important, I could now drag my writing to an entire new level.  Three producers are now reviewing my revised screenplay, and recently I found the international publisher Roussan on the (Don't Page), eager to read my new and improved middle reader fantasy!

I feel very strongly that persistence, a willingness to learn and a passion to succeed all contributed to my success.  I know that Mr. Lorber's helpful critique has paid off munificiently -- and will continue to pay off in the future as well.

The End

Robynn has a home page up - - "I have a new Writing Central page, which I'm adding to. I'm going to put up my favorite writing links, which will include Talewins. I'm also including a Tips from the Pros page (interviews with editors, agents, authors) and info on book packaging markets. I hope to help a lot of writers. If you'd like to contribute your tips to the Pros page, please let me know!"


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