The Gatekeeper

how to (not) make it in hollywood

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Anonymous asked: I have a question that may or may not have an easy answer: When writing a script and you have a scene that will be played at a fast pace, how do you write that in the script? I was reading A Clockwork Orange script and the scene where Alex is fucking two girls is written normal. There's no term used to describe the fast pace that's portrayed in the film.

There isn’t a specific screenwriting term for a faster pace, as far as I know.

The pacing of a film and stylistic scenes like this would usually be up to the director. A good rule for writers is to let the director direct, just as you would let the actors act. You shouldn’t pepper your dialogue with too much emotional direction or punctuation, and you shouldn’t overwrite the action either.

(An exception is animation scripts, where being more explicit with the action details and “directing on the page” is more useful and expected.)

However, there are no hard and fast rules for this. If you wish to insert notes and explanations that a particular scene should be faster-paced than others, that is certainly acceptable. As with any writing, try to be consistent in your style. If you are describing it from a particular character’s point of view (for instance if your character is high on drugs or something), that would probably make it easier to describe a suddenly faster sequence in an organic way.

Writing itself can convey the pacing and tone. You can utilize smash cuts, ALL CAPS, exclamation points! etc to inject excitement into your writing. The Goldman Technique of spacing out a short paragraph across a whole page for action sequences is a good example of this sort of thing (though these days you probably don’t need all the CUT TO slugs).

And of course, read lots of scripts to see how other writers do it. You’ll find the best writers can convey a lot with their own personal style. Looking to Clockwork Orange for a certain type of a style is a great start, though it might be a bit dated to do all your screenplay learning from. Check out Drew’s Script-o-Rama for tons of other screenplays if you haven’t already.

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seminar on finding agents and managers

The Writers Store is hosting a seminar on finding agents and managers. The copy they sent out struck a chord, as I have encountered so many of the people it describes:

Screenwriters are often so eager to secure an agent or manager that they lose focus on the fact that they have to be worthy of one. Not to mention, many do not have a clear understanding as to which representative might actually be in a position and willing to help facilitate the next step in their career.

Rare is the writer who embarks upon a full-length screenplay without at least having an idea of what a thematically satisfying ending might be. Yet everyday, writers of all levels and talents inundate literary representatives with zero concept of their end game. This is so common that it has become an unflattering stereotype.

Successful movies are marketed with laser-like focus on the demographics of their target audience, yet aspiring screenwriters too often machine gun out mass query letters and e-mails, only to suffer disappointment when their response ratio is so dreary.

To learn more about the seminar, check out the Writers Store.

Filed under screenwriting screenwriters writing scripts agents managers agent literary agent screenwriting agent screenplay

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this is not a logline

LOGLINE: The psycho gang leader is a heartless prick. Popsicle ain’t sweet. The Kid’s got the Shit Gene. And Boog’s crazy. When they collide at a crossroads… grab some more popcorn, pull your face off the screen. I know it’s fun. Sure you’re on the edge of your seat. But, no, you can’t be part of the action. And, no, the theatre did not give you laughing gas. Get a grip.

YOU get a grip!

Filed under logline screenplay screenwriting query queries get a grip

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two pages long and this doesn’t even tell me what the script is about


What would happen if Rose, Goldman, Allen, Blake, Schulberg and Towne had never been read?


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Midnight in Paris, Dances with Wolves, On the Waterfront and Chinatown would be in the landfill – Gone With the Wind


1)      More than a foot in the door

2)      My script to be read

3)      A cordial relationship with an agent

4)      My screenplay REDACTED to be purchased.

And down-the-pike, a solid director to be hired, our movie to be made and – going for the gusto – Oscar nominations.

That’s all.

REDACTED has already been an adventure for me. It’s fresh, original. I believe it has the potential, the characters, dialogue, story and emotion to be a success.

I hope I’m right. In my mind, I am.

Filed under what is this script about yes I'm sure you're as good as Goldman screenplay screenwriting screenplays query queries

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things to never say in your query letter

I have just finished my first screenplay.

Most of the time when I see this phrase, I roll my eyes and immediately pass.

But I saw this in a letter today and for the first time ever, it broke my heart. Before this sentence appeared, the query was strong and the script sounded very good, and then my spirits plummetted.

If I wasn’t sifting through crazy amounts of queries a day and managing of pile of scripts to read so big it gives me hives to even look at it, I would have requested this manuscript anyway. As it is I will have to pass.


Two reasons. When you say it’s your FIRST screenplay you are very succinctly saying you have no experience in film. This isn’t a dealbreaker at all, but it’s also not a great thing to say right away. It’s like blurting out that you’re a virgin on a first date and that you REALLY want to lose it. It’s just awkward. It makes me hesitate to work with you, as I’d hesitate to take some hapless adult’s virginity for fear of disappointing them or discovering they’re some stalkery weirdo. Something like that is best left for when you know each other a little better.

When you say you JUST finished a screenplay, you’re saying you haven’t let it ferment, rewritten it, gotten coverage from a professional or even feedback from a friend. I imagine a typo-ridden Final Draft document sitting open, plot holes still gaping, whole scenes “to be written” that you have forgotten about. Don’t send your screenplay out until it is polished, polished, polished.

The two of these elements together is a perfect storm. Even if your query is fantastically amazing, some agents only want to work with writers who have produced credits (actually, most agents probably feel this way). They don’t want to work with newbies. They don’t want to do any hand holding. Would you?

I would say the only instance this sentence is appropriate is if you are already a working director, actor, etc. “I have been director of photography on four features but this is the first screenplay I have written” is acceptable, but if it were me I’d still leave the first out of it.

If you have no credits and no experience, it doesn’t have to be a handicap. Don’t mention it. Just leave it out. If you went to film school, or have produced plays, or have been published in prose or poetry, it might be worth mentioning. At the end of the day, however, the only thing that matters is the story and the strength of your writing. Whatever else you mention runs the risk of detracting from your story and your chances, unless those things are solid film industry credits.

Keep it simple, stupid. Story, story, story.

Filed under things to never say in your query letter screenplay screenwriting agents query queries keep it simple stupid

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don’t ignore guidelines

I don’t have a computer.

I don’t have email.

I only have a hard copy.

None of these things are my problem, toots.

If you can’t follow our guidelines I won’t read your script. It’s no skin off my back as I have a pile of 100+ other scripts to read anyway, and all of those writers could be bothered to actually invest in their career. Do you think we want to do business with someone who uses a typewriter, doesn’t have access to a computer and can’t be reached by email?

It’s 2012, toots. Get it together.

Filed under screenwriting screenwriter submissions it's 2012 how do you not even have a hotmail or something i don't have time to listen to you read your screenplay over the phone come onnow come on now