For screenwriters, navigating the shark-infested waters of the Hollywood system can be a daunting task. You never know what the producer or studio is looking for. How do you pitch your story properly? So many questions. I hope today’s guests can help guide you a bit through those waters.
Scott Myers has been a professional Hollywood screenwriter for over 30 years. Since selling his spec script K-9 in 1987, Scott has written 30 projects for every major Hollywood studio and broadcast network. His film writing credits include K-9 starring Jim Belushi, Alaska starring Vincent Kartheiser, and Trojan War starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.
From 2002–2010, Scott was an executive producer at Trailblazer Studios, a television production company. In 2002, he began teaching screenwriting in his spare time. He won the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program Outstanding Instructor Award in 2005 and for eight years taught in the Writing for Screen and Stage program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
He has hosted Go Into The Story, an amazing screenwriting website, since its launch on May 16, 2008, and is partnered with the Black List as its official screenwriting blog.
Scott breaks down the Hollywood system, talks about story and structure and just tells it how it really is in the business.
Enjoy my conversation with Scott Myers.
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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I like to welcome to the show Scott Myers, man, thank you so much for being on the show. Great to be here. I appreciate it, man. So how did you get into this crazy business we call the film industry.
Scott Myers 3:57
How do you secure this route? I was I was going to be an academic. I went to UVA undergraduate and Yale graduate school got a Master's of divinity degree at Yale, I was going to become a PhD and teach but my parents at the age of 14 Ill advisedly, bought me a guitar. And I started playing music. And by the time I got down to Yale, I talked to my friends and the dean and I said, you know, if I don't pursue this creative thing, and just become an academic, I think I'm going to really regret it. So they said take a year off and that became the rest of my life. I played music for seven years, I did stand up comedy for two years. Along the way I discovered screenwriting, I wrote a script called canine that sold the spec script in 1987, to universal and that's where it all started.
Alex Ferrari 4:44
Wow. And you never looked back since?
Scott Myers 4:47
Well, I've had various incarnations I was in LA for 15 years wrote 30 projects for every major studio and every broadcast network except for ABC. With my family, we decided for family reasons to Back east where I was from, and I took a position as a television producer basically heading up the creative development company part part of the company for for Blizzard studios. And then I then I started teaching as a side thing because people kept saying every time I do presentations, hey, you're really good at this. I started teaching at junk through university, North Carolina, and Chapel Hill, where we were living and also UCLA Extension writers program. And then I started my own online company with Tom Benedek. Rocha Kuhn is the first screenwriter I met in LA I call screenwriting masterclass. So I continue to do that. But now, I'm in Chicago at the School of Cinematic Arts at DePaul University and full time faculty here. And so I've transitioned into teaching I still write and still because of my blog and whatnot, actively involved in things in Hollywood, the entertainment business, but yeah, you know, just wearing a number of hats along the way,
Alex Ferrari 5:59
and eating a lot of great pizza in Chicago, I'm assuming.
Scott Myers 6:02
Yeah, pizza, and everything else.
Alex Ferrari 6:05
So good, man, the food there is amazing. It really is amazing. So um, one of my favorite films, going, one of my favorite films from the video store days when I worked at a video store was canine. And I want you to discuss a little bit about how that script was made, and what it did for your career.
Scott Myers 6:22
Well, I had one of those odd circumstances in life. I'm a big Joseph Campbell fan who discovered him in college and studied him in there at the University of Virginia and then later on at Yale and have read a bunch of stuff over the years. And this idea about follow your bliss, find that which, you know, excites you and enlivens you, that you have talent for and pursue that. And I'd always been a movie fan, my dad was in the Air Force, we moved around all over the place when you're living in mine at Air Force Base, North Dakota, and there's nothing to do. And you can go spend 50 cents at the movie theater and you know, watch movies all day long. That's what I did. So I was a huge movie fan. And as it happened one night I was doing stand up comedy in a club in Ventura, California. I gotten to know the owner, and one of the owners there. And he was going to the USC, Peter started producing program. And the script that he had, that he was going to use for his master's thesis had dropped out, it actually got optioned, and it just happened that day. We were talking that night. And he said, Well, I need a script. And he jokingly said to me, can you write a screenplay? I said, I can do that. Which has always been my attitude about creative things that I connect with. And I didn't know anything. He gave me three scripts, witness Back to the Future and breaking away. And Syd fields book, screenplay foundations of screenwriting. And so I wrote a script. And then I wrote another one. And then we wrote one together called canine, and that's based on actually a story we heard about a Ventura policeman, a canine policeman, who had been had a police dog partner who had been killed in the line of duty. And we met with this guy, and he was just like, weeping as he's showing us pictures of this. And we thought, well, that's an interesting idea for a movie, we wrote the script. And as I say, it's sold to universal, actually, a pre pre emptive buy for quick money. And that's where it all started. We didn't have representation. Just
Alex Ferrari 8:25
really, you didn't have any reps at the time you just were able to how did the universal find you?
Scott Myers 8:30
My partner was working as an assistant at 20th Century Fox. And this slipped the script in there and a winner for the weekend read and Scott Reuben was the head of production. And evidently, I've heard this from several people. You know, at the end of all these scripts he didn't like he slapped his hand on the table and said, I love this one. And it wound its way around town. That night. I didn't have an agent that day that night, I met Dan Hall said, Steve Stephen on my partner, and dam was just a junior agent at Bower Benedick, which later became UTA Dan's got his own management company called management but he was our first agent along with Peter Benedict and Marty Bower. And so that's how it started. And then we just ran it took a lot of meetings and often
Alex Ferrari 9:16
now there was another dog cop movie around that time. Is there is there any connection?
Scott Myers 9:22
Yeah. Turner and Hooch yeah at Disney. I you know we were players of the week we were in around a met everybody including the some an executive at Disney who said hey, we were thinking about suing you guys. And we had no idea what he was talking about. But there was this project Turner which was sitting in development hell there and you know, very typical I learned a good lesson in Hollywood how they operate this similar but different which is the the business ethos. They're so afraid to make anything Mm hmm. That they look for something that's similar to something that you know, was successful. Well, we went around and people were telling us guy you guys were genius. Men rent Tintin was the biggest star In the history of Hollywood near your resurrect him and thought about that at all, but I just nod my head and go Yeah, that's right. Yeah. So they looked at our script, Disney looked at our script that sold for a lot of money and they said, Well, hey, if universal thinks that a competent doc movie a comedy is a good idea, we should resurrect this thing, Turner and Hooch which they did. And so, there was this little competition between the two films, which would come up first and ours did and both movies you know, did well. Canine spawn two sequels. And Turner, which did business as well.
Alex Ferrari 10:32
Yes, they were both I used to recommend both of them at the video store at the if I were if one rented one. I'm like, you gotta watch canine as well, or devices that
Scott Myers 10:41
I that I probably made, I don't know. 25 cents or residual. So thanks, Alex.
Alex Ferrari 10:46
Anytime, sir. Anytime. I'm sure I've watched that movie a ton of times. I love that movie. I love James Belushi. He was in his the top of his power back then, during that time of his career, so thank you for making the movie sir.
Scott Myers 11:01
Made and you can't say that about a lot of projects.
Alex Ferrari 11:04
I mean, seriously. And I remember that hit the theater. It was a theatrical release. And it made if I remember it was it did very well. Both of them did very well. For the time, that's when Hollywood was making, you know, $8 million movies $10 million movies. You know,
Scott Myers 11:21
they don't do that. They don't do that much anymore. That whole middle areas dropped out. They do those big, big budget franchise things and the lower budget things, but it's up to the financers and other production companies make those you know, 10 million up movies.
Alex Ferrari 11:35
Exactly, exactly. Now, how do you how much research do you do when you when you're writing a script?
Scott Myers 11:42
Well, for example, a canine I actually spent time with the Ventura canine police. Then once the project got set up, went on some ride alongs with some of the LAPD. I did a lot of research. So yeah, I do a lot of research.
Alex Ferrari 11:58
Do you suggest that screenwriters when they're writing something to do as much research as humanly possible?
Scott Myers 12:03
Yes, up to a point it can it can become an excuse not to write. You know, I can't tell how many times I've you know, was when I was living in LA because you see screenwriters all the time and and aspiring screenwriters as well, and you say, Hey, how you doing? Oh, yeah, I'm working on the script projects were were to thing you know, set in Korea. Oh, great. See him six months later, how you doing? Yeah, I'm researching this project. And we're, we're to create Well, we're gonna start reading, I do think it's important to do research, you know, be smart about it. But you can get a lot of anecdotes, a lot of character development, a lot of inspirational things that can inspire scenes and whatnot, you need to hit that mark, that big, 25 cent word, the script has to have a sense of verisimilitude. It's got to feel real, it's not a documentary. But it's got to come across as authentic, you have to gain the confidence of the reader that you know what you're talking about. So to the degree that you, you know, have to do the research to get to that point. And yeah, it's research is important.
Alex Ferrari 12:59
Yeah. And if you walk into any Starbucks here in LA, everybody, you cannot walk cannot see a laptop without final draft on it.
Scott Myers 13:09
I came I when I left LA, I flew back there for a TV production thing that we were doing. And I came in really late at night. And I was walking up the courtyard to my hotel room. And I saw this, you know, the light of a computer shining on some guy's face, alone out there in the corner, and I said, I guarantee this guy's got Final Draft open, I just know it. And I walked past and sure enough, it's like, can't escape it. You know, it's like,
Alex Ferrari 13:38
when I got here, when I got here, but almost 10 years ago, I was I was shocked at it. There's not one coffee bean, not one Starbucks anywhere in Los Angeles at any time there is someone writing a script. And
Scott Myers 13:51
you know, that can be both good illuminating emotionally because you realize, oh, my gosh, everybody's like out there trying to do this or doing it. But it can also be inspiring in a, in a wicked sort of way. And that you realize that when you're not writing someone else is and so that that can put that sort of negative reinforcement to get your butt in the chair to actually write? Yeah, it's
Alex Ferrari 14:13
writing is a screenwriting is an extremely competitive sport. It's
Scott Myers 14:18
especially here in Hollywood. Yes, it's extremely competitive.
Alex Ferrari 14:22
Now, can you talk a little bit about the blacklist?
Scott Myers 14:27
Yes, the blacklist is to me and I think this would probably not be countered by many people. It's the most significant brand screenwriting brand in Hollywood. And I don't say this because I'm my blog go into the story is the official screenwriting blog of the blacklist, though I I love those people and Franklin Leonard is a friend and I've followed what they've done for years. But, you know, Franklin started this like 12 years ago when he was an executive Ursel and just sent around notes to people, you know, emails to friends. And going away for, you know, that December break, you know that everybody does for about a month, saying, Hey, can you recommend some of the best scripts that are out there right now that are not being produced. And he simply got their feedback, totaled up the numbers, created a PDF and send it out. And it became like this thing, it's evolved now to the point where in December, it's basically I think, the second Monday in December, they come up with the annual blacklist. That's a big deal. You know, for that two to three hour period of time, the entire development community in Hollywood is focused on what makes the blacklist that I've interviewed dozens of blacklist screenwriters, if their script makes the blacklist, if you're not represented, you can get represented most of the scripts are, you know, with writers who were represented, if if the project has been sitting and not moving forward, well, oftentimes, it gets it move forward there. There's talent now, that will only read material. If it's on the blacklist, for example, The Imitation Game, Benedict Cumberbatch read that script because it was a top blacklist script. I've read several actors who talk about how that essentially it's an imprimatur. The Blacklist is a good housekeeping seal of approval that the community is the development community saying this is a script worthy of your attention. So the blacklist is an important important brand, for screenwriters in Hollywood, and I can tell you that the every writer that I've interviewed who's made the blacklist, it's been a big boost to their career, as well as getting helping to get movies made.
Alex Ferrari 16:51
And a lot of the a lot of the scripts are on the blacklist sometimes are from what I've known, and from what I've read over the years is like some scripts are just they're not producible. Sometimes they're so good, or they're so out there, that they're wonderful scripts, but the Hollywood would just not take the chance on him. Does that happen often to
Scott Myers 17:08
that? I don't know. Often. I mean, that's, you know, just getting anything made is hard. And Hollywood, even if it comes with the, you know, the the kudos from the blacklist. Yeah, there have been certain projects, like there was a project about a comedy about Ronald Reagan being president who was, you know, suffering from essentially early, you know, or dementia. And that was looked like that was going to go forward. But then, you know, some people thought that was insensitive or whatnot, so that that got pulled. Ironically, you know, some of the more bizarre scripts. The I think the blacklist helps, for example, there was the script that, oh, gosh, the one about Michael Jackson's monkey? Yes. Yeah. Isaac Adams, I think wrote that Portland and it, you know, it's now it's getting made as a stop action, stop motion picture, right back to somebody or whatever call it. That technology with Dan Harmon is an executive producer. So bubbles was the name of the script. That was Michael Jackson stupid, like literally told from the perspective of bubbles during the crucial year and Michael Jackson's life. So that's
Alex Ferrari 18:20
genius. It's actually quite genius concept. Oh, it's
Scott Myers 18:23
fantastic. And of course, Isaac said, there was no way that he thought anything would happen with it. He just thought it was a funny idea. But there you go.
Alex Ferrari 18:29
It's kind of like what Charlie Kaufman does with his scripts, like, you know, Being John Malkovich, who, in the right mind thought that that ever get made. Right. But but it's genius. It was absolutely a brilliant script. Can you talk a little bit about from your perspective, your feeling on the way Hollywood is going today, and how it's so dramatically changed from the days of canine to the days of today. And obviously, a lot of big problems are happening at the box office, this year's one of the worst box offices in decades. If I'm not mistaken, I know that this Labor Day coming up, they said that this is going to be the worst Labor Day weekend in 25 years. So I want to hear your perspective on that if you can,
Scott Myers 19:13
well, it has changed considerably. So the underlying ethos of similar but different that we talked about earlier that I think is still pretty much in place. In fact, in some respects worse, it's almost like they Yeah, it's almost worse than that they're they're looking for things that are more similar than more different because that fear factor, the main changes, you know, some of them for the positive the digital technologies, which in some respects, at least, if you're a filmmaker is a major boon because you know, you don't need to buy film stock, you know, you can literally go out with a digital camera or even your iPhone, we saw that with tangerine, that movie, where you can go out and make a movie for next to nothing, you know, these micro budget films Ever burns makes and whatnot that you know, for $25,000 or even less, you can do that nowadays. On the other hand, because of digital technology, you've got CGI phenomenon. So that, you know, you can make these incredible spectacle movies. Unfortunately, that has tended to suck the air out of what used to be a mainstay of Hollywood filmmaking, which was a mid budget dramas, mid budget to action thrillers and whatnot. And so the studio's for whatever reason, I think they have some numbers to bear this out, though, that may be changing with this summer, because so many of the franchise movies have underperformed the box office, you know, they put their, their, their money into these franchise films. You know, I have this, you know that you've heard that theory of the four quadrant film, which is adult child, male, female, and my theory is that there's a new four quadrant theory franchise. See franchise, spectacle, nostalgia, and international. Those four things are really driving the marketplace right now. And so you've got this bifurcated approach that the studio the major studios have, which is expensive 250 202 100,000,200 and $50 million franchise movies. And then lower budget, genre type things, very middle, whatever is left of the middle, is really being handled by these financiers and production companies. There's probably still have many movies being made, maybe if maybe not as many necessarily as back in the 80s. But the major studios are not making anywhere Disney used to make like 3540 films a year. Yeah, exactly. Now they make you know, maybe 15.
Alex Ferrari 21:43
So that's one and that's a lot. And this, I mean, they they're probably the leader, I don't think because a lot of the big studios are like paramount for god sakes, they make like 234 You know, big, big movies a year. So it's it's changed dramatically.
Scott Myers 21:56
Yeah, well, that changes with each regime, like Warner Brothers for many years. Like I tracked spec scripts, deals. I've been tracking them since 1991. On my blog, I've got a database of over 2000 spec script deals. Since 1991. Your Warner Brothers,
Alex Ferrari 22:10
you're crazy man.
Scott Myers 22:12
I just, you know, I started doing it. Because that's when you're a screenwriter, you got to know what's selling, you know, and you got to if only to cover your ass to say, Oh, well, that project. So that was just like what I've got in this, I can't be doing that anymore. But just to also follow the trends. If you're looking at like what's in the movie theaters right now as being an example of what the buyers are buying. You're two to five years behind the trends. You know, you follow the spec script deals now in order to find out what the development community is interested in. Any house so I don't know where I was going with that forgot my train of thought. But
Alex Ferrari 22:47
how crazy yeah, how crazy. The mid the mid range? Things are?
Scott Myers 22:50
Oh, god. Yeah, the mid range. So so that, yeah, these financiers, so called financiers. You know, many of them sons and daughters of billionaires like Megan Ellison and David Ellison. And opponent productions. You know, they will step in, and they'll make some of these movies, you know, that we would typically see in the past the studios would have been doing, but the studios aren't. But we'll see. It'll be interesting. I'm not sure where they're, you know, maybe there's a bit of franchise fatigue. And the idea that they can just throw spectacle on the screen, by the way, Aristotle, that was the lowest, that was the least important thing in his list of things and poetic spectacles of the very bottom. And, you know, it's like, you have all the stuff on the screen, if there's no emotional resonance with the characters. You know, what's the what does it mean? Well, that is tended to play out. Okay, some of these movies that have done poorly domestically have done okay, internationally, which now is basically 70% of box office revenues. But, you know, they're getting more savvy about this. They're saying, hey, wait a minute, we want a good story, too. So I'm not so sure that we might see a little bit of a retrenchment where they start to make a few more movies and lower budget movies, the major studios, but we'll see.
Alex Ferrari 24:04
I mean, look at look at a movie like Deadpool, which is an anomaly. But that is a big studio movie, but it was made for $40 million and did not it was it was a complete against everything that the studios normally do. It's an R rated movie was a second tier third tier character. And Ryan Reynolds is you know, he's a star but he's not like he wasn't a Monster Monster star. either. You know that he's not a Tom Cruise or any of these kind of bigger stars. That would justify a big big movie like that. So it was really wonderful to see a movie like that not only get made but the shake up the industry because it outperformed pretty much. I think almost every comic book movie here they came out.
Scott Myers 24:50
Yeah, those writers that you know, that took him 10 years. Yeah, you know, because the thing Ryan Reynolds basically, you know, kept not stringing them along but supportive. In that project, because people were saying, who's going to go see an R rated superhero movie that's basically kind of winking at the genre.
Alex Ferrari 25:08
Right. And then the way they finally got it done is Ryan Reynolds, leaked, leaked some footage onto the internet and everyone went crazy.
Scott Myers 25:17
Yeah, same thing. Similar thing with a rival. You know, Eric Kaiser, I know, you know, he would go around town when he was having all these meetings. And they said, Well, what you know, after the end of the meeting, hey, what's your passion project? They whip out the short story by Ted Shane, story of your life, and said, like to do this, and they'd say, Oh, great. Well, what is it? Well, it's about these aliens. Oh, aliens. Oh, that's great. So yeah. And and so the hero, you know, it's like the big accident they Well, no, not really, the heroes a woman and she's a linguist. But she's linguists. And so but there's still a big action, you know, blowing up and no, actually the aliens just leave. You know, it's a linguist who salt. And they would just, you know, nobody was going to make this movie until, you know, some, some producers finally saw it. And you see it. It's a fantastic movie. It's done really well. It always takes there's, it takes one person to say yes. One person who's got cloud perhaps. Yeah. And you just try to find as a screenwriter, you try and find those people.
Alex Ferrari 26:11
Yes, it's Yeah. Good. Yeah. On paper that doesn't look, you know, it doesn't fit in all the boxes that a studio would be looking for.
Scott Myers 26:19
But like none of the boxes. Not even one. Not even science fiction. But you know, a female leader, drama linguist.
Alex Ferrari 26:31
Yeah, I know. It's it's it's no one no action. What? What didn't make any sense. I'm, you know, do you ever think that Hollywood is going to come around to original ideas and really start focusing on it because they might be riskier, but they, but these franchises that they keep bringing up, they're all from 80s 90s, and even 2000s. And that's what they keep recycling and they're even going deeper now into television. And, and you know, anything that's, you know, but there's a certain point where they're going to run out. They're gonna run out of I mean, they're redoing fantastic for again, they're rebooting it again, like Kai's just original. What do you think?
Scott Myers 27:16
Look, if you talk to, you know, most working screenwriters. Yeah, they all we all say the same thing, you know, which is, we'd love to see more original movies made. But the reality is, again, it's a fear based business. And right now, frankly, this nostalgia element is just
Alex Ferrari 27:34
huge. A stranger things and that kind of Yeah, it's and so
Scott Myers 27:38
I mean, like the perfect you know, what really drove this home to me was when I saw Jurassic World, you remember that the Spielberg gaze, you know, when they look up, right in Jurassic Park, when you first saw that, that was when they saw the dinosaurs for the first time in Jurassic World when you first saw that it's when they saw the park for the first time. So the Jurassic World was was it was a wash in the stallion, about the movie Jurassic Park is exhibited in the actual park itself. So I think we see that right now. And that's a major driver, frankly, even some, many blacklist scripts that do well, having a stylistic element of last year. The tops script was on Madonna, that she the year that she was a Blonde Ambition, which she was going to break out that year, the year before that was bubbles on Michael Jackson. Yesterday, a spec script sold. That was called Jack and Dick about the friendship the odd friendship between Jack Kennedy and Dick Nixon. We are also that's Yeah. So you see a lot of these black lists scripts that dramas are historically based dramas that evoke something of our past. And so I, you know, you can still do original movies, you know, involving Elijah. But this franchise type thing. Yeah, that's just completely all about repeating the same thing. Look, I have a running bet with some writers. How soon will Warner Brothers reboot Harry Potter?
Alex Ferrari 29:09
Yeah, I was wondering that myself, like, at a certain point, like, when are they going to do it again?
Scott Myers 29:14
You know, if they continue to have problems, you know, that which they are just shrinks the time before you because you know, they're going to do that.
Alex Ferrari 29:22
But I mean, well, I mean, they did it with the Hobbit, which was just God, like, Why No, they did learn that basically, the it's close to a reboot of Lord of the Rings as they could have made. But, you know, I was wondering, like, how long is it going to take my can they do it? Like, you know, it's Harry Potter. I mean, this is something that's never been done in the history of cinema.
Scott Myers 29:44
We'll see. I look it's it's an IP, they own it. It's, you know, universally loved. They'll have another generation that will come up and and have their version of Emma Watson and, you know, all the rest. I wouldn't, I wouldn't put part of it you know, they They're driven by obviously trying to make money. And
Alex Ferrari 30:04
we'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Scott Myers 30:15
But these things are all running cycles. You know, I, you know, I remember, obviously musician for many years and living in Aspen, Colorado, and which was great at the time, because there all these clubs where we could play, but then disco came along. And so a lot of these clubs turned, you know, turned into disco. And it was very depressing for, you know, you know, actual musicians because it wouldn't make as much money that way. But then what came along, you know, punk music came along, and GarageBand, the Dire Straits came along with Sultans of swing. And so that, you know, led in the whole Nirvana and all this. So these things run in cycles, and it's the same thing with movies. You know, there will always be filmmakers out there doing original content and with the digital technologies, you know, it's not that expensive to go out and, and do things like the Duplass brothers and whatnot, you know, we can make these movies that are character based, and they'll find their, you know, they'll find their mark, the big sick, perfect example, the big sick, no, I have a terrific, terrific movie, it's got like a 98 rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And it's an original film, and it's just touching and human and done great business. And so there's always room for that type of thing.
Alex Ferrari 31:31
Now, where agents and managers, How and when do you need to get one?
Scott Myers 31:38
How and when? Well, obviously, it's a benefit to get represented. You can't typically get material to producers and studios without being represented. Some people can have an entertainment lawyer and do it that way. How do you get a manager basically, or an agent? First of all, I think my advice to people is you focus on managers, managers are a different breed than agents agents are, you know, this is a real generalization and it varies from agency to agency and management management company. But as it was explained to me once by a manager, he said agents wear suits and managers wear blue jeans, which is an aggressive way to think about it agents are dealmakers largely, you know, that's their primary thing. Managers are more about nurturing the careers of, of writers and so they can spend a lot more time with writers, you know, actually developing material and whatnot. Again, it varies from manager to manager, they're much more likely to be open to unsolicited material, just email them very briefly, like Seth blockhead. He wrote, he wrote to Hannah, and he was in Vancouver, and he's just sent out an email to like 500 managers, a new spec script, girl trained to be an assassin interested. And he got like two responses and one of them became as manager and then that led to handle well, you can be a lot more targeted on that. You know, whatever project you've got, find guy IMDb Pro find 10 to 15 movies that are like yours in the same genre space. Identify the producers who are also managers. That's one of the reasons why agents become managers, because they can also be producers. And then find out their email addresses. Oftentimes, you can find them online or through Done Deal pro Twitter, that's Twitter, whatever. Yeah. And then they do a very simple thing, say, you know, I've got a spec script, like your movie. And then that's it that's in your subject line. And then you go into your text, just very briefly, here's a logline. Are you interested? I've known people who've gotten a lot of people actually gotten into the door that way, more traditional ways. You can go use the nickel fellowships in screenwriting, which is the most prestigious of those contests. There are other ones but that's the one that I've interviewed every new winner since 2012. And so, again, like the blacklist, that's one of those things that can change your life, you can get representation off and get a lot of work. The Blacklist has its website, by the way, I don't get paid by the blacklist. So I'm not getting a kickback here. But that but that's been very successful. It's like real time Hollywood, I think they're like over 3000 members of the Hollywood development community, that track it's probably their, their assistants who do this like on Monday morning and go through and just see what's up there. But you can from anywhere in the world upload a script, there, obviously have to pay money to have it hosted. You get it evaluated by their readers. But they've had I think five movies made off of scripts discovered off the blacklist website at this point five, and they've had hundreds of people get representation that way. So so there are you know, this is as difficult as it is and challenging as it is in some ways it's more competitive than ever. It's actually got more access to Hollywood, I think nowadays than it used to be it used to be, you had to know someone who was sisters was someone who slept with someone who worked in the business to get your material to someone who could actually read it and do something about it nowadays, there are these conduits into the system, you know, that don't require you to move to LA and become an assistant though that's a certainly a, you know, an intelligent thing to do if you're young and, and have the wherewithal to do that. But in terms of getting a manager, that's one way of doing it, you know, is literally, you do your research, find some movies that were like your script, and then source those, those manager producers and just email them. And the best of all worlds, you'd have three scripts in the same genre. And say, is that shows that you're, you've got an approach, you've got passion, you're persistent, you've got three projects, which they could potentially set up, or try and get, you know, writing assignments, for writing assignments or even get them optioned are sold. But But generally speaking, that's that's one way to do it.
Alex Ferrari 36:12
Now, can you talk a little bit about what writing assignments are open writing assignments?
Scott Myers 36:16
ows, that used to be a staple of the business. I mean, I did of the 30 projects that I have done in Hollywood, you know, when I was when I was out there actually vying for overriding sides. Now, I just wrote on spec, and if they like it, great, if not, and that used to be a staple of the business. I mean, I'd say that probably 20 to 22 of the projects I've written had been open writing assignments. The rest were pitches, respects, it's all open writing assignment is what it sounds like. It's a project that's at a studio or a production company, where they've either got a draft that was written by like a first writer, and they feel that it needs to work, or a draft that's been rewritten by a bunch of writers, which is often the case. And and they need someone to come in and fix it, you know, at a very fundamental way, a screenwriter in Hollywood is a problem solver. And so, executives and production executives will meet with you and say, Look, we know the script has problems, we don't know how to fix it. So your job as a screenwriter is to identify the problems, and then come in with suggestions. Here's how I would approach this. And in solving this, here's the story I would tell. And, you know, I'm reminded of the story of Forrest Gump. How, cuz I'd done some work with the producer discovered the book, when you find him and he told the story about how Tom Hanks and his passion project for Tom Hanks. And they'd had three als writers writing, adapting that that book, and had not nailed it. And then they finally brought in Eric Roth, and Eric read the scripts and read the book. And he said, I think I know what the problem is. There's no love story, Jenny, I guess it's not that big of a deal in the book. But what Eric identified was a problem. There's no emotional through line for that project. So that's a perfect example of an overriding aside where we came in and identify a problem. And then I mean, can you imagine Forrest Gump without the the forest? Jenny? Long story? No,
Alex Ferrari 38:23
of course not.
Scott Myers 38:25
So it's just amazing. The three a list writers didn't identify that, but Eric did. So overriding the problem is that there's just fewer projects getting made now. So there's fewer open writing assignments. And that's why you see something interesting nowadays, that working screenwriters, these are people who are like, maybe not a list, but a minus list or B list, screenwriters will spec scripts, you know, at least one a year will write a spec script, you know, at least one maybe even two a year, even while they're you know, they're actively involved in the business and getting work. Because the open writing assignment arena, you chase those things. I know a writer who for a year, chased over writing assignments, didn't land one thing and just said, Screw it, and then expect something and then, you know, in that in that setup, so that didn't used to be the case, you would write a spec script. And that was it. It was just to get you into the business nowadays that you know, the there are so few writing assignments available, that that market has shrunk, that you see a lot of working screenwriters who were continuing to write spec scripts. So do you
Alex Ferrari 39:30
find that a lot of screenwriters that normally did feature work are now going towards television and streaming platforms?
Scott Myers 39:38
Yes, that's absolutely the case. And there's an upside and the downside of that. Some upsides are its its employment. So that's one thing. The downside of that is it's not as much money and particularly the streaming services. The staffs are smaller the time pressure, the budgets are less. So you're doing a lot more work in some respects for a lot less money than if you were writing a screenplay that can vary from project to project, but, but it is employment. And it also offers writers an opportunity to do these 10 Episode chunks, eight episodes, 1213 episodes, these limited run series, they can just go in an knockout of a mini what you used to call a mini series. And they're done with it, you know, it's like a long story, or they can, you know, do like, oh, Holly did with Fargo, and you know, have a three series, three season series, you know, which means that he can go off and do the series and then go off and direct a movie to in the same year, because, you know, it's only 10 episodes or whatnot. So, that market has blown up, as you know, they talk about the second golden age of TV or PTP, you know, supposedly there are over 500 TV series on broadcast basic cable pay cable and streaming right now 500, which I think is like quadruple the amount that maybe there were like 10 years ago. Interesting thing is that there's a, it's, again, it's it's like this, there's so many things changing right now, on the one hand, you've got feature writers going over working in TV and bringing those feature sensibilities to TV. And in many respects, what we call TV now does feel like long movies and does have the cinematic quality of movies. On the other hand, we're seeing the flow of ideas from the TV side, entering into the film side, where you've got these writers rooms, you know, working on transformers at Paramount, or working on the horror movies at Universal, or working on DC Comics or Marvel. So there's this really interesting interplay. And frankly, I don't know that in 10 or 15 years, because everybody's, you know, people are actually watching Mad Max Fury Road on their iPhone, which, of course, I would think is insane. It is but you know, young people, you know, whatever, in 10 or 15 years, we may not call them movies, we may call them TV. I mean, I asked my students in the beginning every quarter say, so what are you watching? And they tell me what shows are watching and say how many of them watch on TV, and no one raises their hand. So why even call it TV if we're not even watching on TV?
Alex Ferrari 42:12
So I call it film, if you're not shooting on film,
Scott Myers 42:14
not shooting on film? You know, if you you know, what is it about, you know, the two hours, maybe they will, we're seeing a growth by the way of short films, the short film festivals are expanding. And short films is another way that you can break into Hollywood, you know, go out and make a five to 10 minute film, show your chops as a writer and as a filmmaker. So there's a lot of things in flux, it's a great time to be a content creator, that's one thing.
Alex Ferrari 42:41
Yeah, there's no doubt there's a lot more opportunity. But there's you got to put the work in. And that's something I always preach about, to everybody in the business that they got to work. And this is not going to be a one year thing, it's a 10 year plan, and you got to get ready for the long haul. Would you agree that
Scott Myers 42:55
that's exactly right. That's what I tell my university students here at DePaul, you know, who have interest in going out to Hollywood, we have a very, very successful program here. And in the LA quarter where they go out and typically their spring quarter last year as an undergraduate. You know, 90% of the people that come from our program, are actually working in the business. This is after several years out there. Now, some, some of them are in lower level, you know, Assistant type positions, or PA type things, but many of them are now working as writers and, you know, segwayed into production, executive positions and whatnot. But yeah, that's why I tell them, you've got to be able to put seven to 10 years, you know, and really, and part of that is not just about finding work, it's about growing up as a human being. You want to be a storyteller, you got to have stories to tell. And so you know, living life as a big part of
Alex Ferrari 43:50
it. As a guy that's, that's like, gold to my ears. It's It's so good to hear somebody else saying stuff like this, because I preach it all the time. You're right. You can't be a writer, you can't be a filmmaker unless you live, if not, your stuff becomes hacky. And it just, it's regurgitated stuff from what you've seen already, as opposed to trying to tell original stories of your experience on the planet.
Scott Myers 44:13
You know, that's one thing that we pride ourselves here at DePaul because we have a very diverse community of students and faculty administration. We we encourage our students to tell stories that come from their perspective backgrounds, the world right now. Perhaps never more than ever need stories about diverse, diverse people, amen. Different different cultures, different subcultures to put a human face on the other, so that we move past this sort of demonization and fear base about who the other is, but just recognize our shared humanity. And so that's something we're very, very much in favor of, and and encourage her at DePaul.
Alex Ferrari 44:56
Now, can you discuss a little bit about what the anatomy of a screening deal in Hollywood looks like? Well, it's changing. Everything else
Scott Myers 45:07
it used to be you would, you know, you'd get a deal like I did with canine where you, they acquire it, they have an acquisition price, then they give you a fee for, you know, first draft, and then you'd get a built in second draft a rewrite that was built into the contract. After the last Writers Guild strike 2007 2008, I think the studio's probably had this in mind before, but they use that to then do these single term deals, no, no guaranteed rewrite, which is a real problem. Because what happens is this, if you're only going to get one shot at a project, right, to go forward with it, you're gonna, you know, you get a call, well, you know, they like the draft, but if you could just make a couple of changes on it, you know, that, then they, they bump it up, you know, to the, to the food chain, you know, so basically go away, and now you're doing it and unpaid rewrite, you hand it back at a, you know, got just this one thing, if you can do this one thing. So now in your agents in the, you know, we're gonna say that same, pretty much the same thing do well, it's your choice, but you want to go in with your best foot forward, you know, wink, wink, nod nod. So that's been a problem. But the deal is, the deal is structured like you can, you know, you can make, you know, you can make a goodly amount of money from project to project, a lot of them. A lot of these deals you see trumpeted as a sale are actually options, which can be for as little as 10,000, or $5,000, or even less. So, it's not a lot of money. You know, I'd say maybe the typical deal, it's hard to say, you know, you get maybe 75,000, against 175,000, what that means that you're gonna get $75,000 compensation for the script and your writing services. Versus if it's 175,000, another $100,000. Should the movie get made? That's reducible by if you you're, you share credit, writing credit with someone else. But like, you know, in the old days, like canine sold for $750,000, you know, and there are scripts that do sell for that much money, but it's just very rare. But so when you see somebody say, Oh, it's a six figure deal, you have to be very careful about that. Because that six figures is almost assuredly talking about the back end stuff. It's like that, you know, that $80,000 against 200,000. So they're saying it's a six figure deal. We've seen a ton of that, but you're not guaranteed that money, you're only guaranteed the $80,000 You're also get net profit participation, which translates into $0. There's like hardly any movie that ever gets the net, because the studios have various sets of accounting books.
Alex Ferrari 47:48
And then Forrest Gump still hasn't made any money.
Scott Myers 47:51
Yeah, I will. Yeah. So well, you know, when they have gross profit, you know, like, Tom Hanks gets dollar one, you know, gross.
Alex Ferrari 47:59
What? Can you talk a little bit about the difference between net and gross for the audience? Okay, well, gross.
Scott Myers 48:03
And there's a bunch of different definitions of gross and this is a little bit beyond my purview. I just know this, you know, from my screen, right? I'm not an accountant or anything. There's these various definitions of gross, you know, dollar one, which is I think, you know, the one we're basically every penny, from the you know, that's being spent, that whoever that talent is, they're going to get a percentage of that from dollar one, then there's reduced gross and various definitions of gross. But basically, that's what you want, you want to get a gross profit participation deal, if you can get it, there are writers get that I would imagine, like, probably Sorkin gets it and some of the other a list writers who are very, very well established. But that's more along the lines of directors. And you know, top talent, top acting talent. Net is where they say, Okay, if we get the net profit, then you're going to get, you know, your percentage, two and a half, or 5%, or whatever it is. But you never reached that, because the studios will assign all sorts of costs to the production. So they'll create a production company for the production, then they lend the money to the production to produce the thing, and they charge interest on that loan. That interest goes back to the studio. And it's also it's also a cost to the production. So it's like really, really hard to get to that. I think perhaps My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a movie like that, which cost $5 million, and, you know, gross upwards to 300 million. Nia Vardalos probably, you know, saw some that dollars on that, but very aware.
Alex Ferrari 49:35
Yeah. So can you can you list off a few of the do's and the don'ts on the business side of screenwriting? Because I know that's a very mysterious thing, the business of screenwriting for screenwriters, everyone's always talking about the craft, but the business is not talked about that much.
Scott Myers 49:51
Well, on my blog, you know, I've got like 200 blog posts called the business of screenwriting. So as you go into the story.com, and read that I've got a whole slew of things there. Well, first thing is learn the craft and and you know that that's super important. You've got my mantra, right watch movies, read scripts write pages, you know, it's possible to learn what you need to do just by doing that. And reading scripts is the one area that people tend to fall down on, it's incredibly important to read scripts, not just the classic scripts, but current scripts scripts within the last five years that are done, you know, movie scripts and or blacklist scripts or nipple scripts. Because you're, you're learning the style sensibilities, and I'm just getting into the mindset of what people are responding to in Hollywood. But you need to learn your craft, you need to find your voice, you need to have an approach to story prep, and how you get through so that you're confident enough to know that when you sign that contract, you know, for $200,000, to write this project, you're going GA and you turn the page, it says script do in 10 weeks, and you know, your specter doesn't go up through your mouth, you know, you got to have the confidence to be able to do that. And so learning the craft is critical. But there's some basic don'ts, you know, don't be an asshole. And that's a bullet. That's a big one. People in Hollywood like to work with the people they like to work with. You know, I mean, it sounds kind of silly, but it's absolutely true. If it comes down to writer a or writer B, and writer B's an asshole, writer A is not. And they're both equal talents, you know, then they'll probably go with writer a, you know, everybody you meet as a potential networking opportunity. And I don't like the word networking so much. But I mean, it really is true, you got to develop a network, don't expect your agents and managers to land you, you know, gigs, a lot of times you'll land them just through the relationships you develop with production executives. So you know, nurture those, you know, follow up with an email or a call and say, Hey, I really enjoyed meeting I thought that was great and drop in, you know, every so often like two, three months and say, Hey, what's going on, you know, nurture those relationships, be kind to assistance. People, they are human beings just like you, you know, don't overlook them, when you're excited to go see that manager, that agent, that studio executive, the assistants are human beings. Moreover, they go up the food chain, and the person who has been assistant today will be a studio executive and could hire you tomorrow. But you know, just as a human being, you know, be kind to them, because they have very, very difficult jobs. And, you know, they they're worthy of respect. Do some research, you know, track down, who is who, in the studio, at the executive level with production companies know a certain amount about the business, you don't have to let it dictate what you write, but to know, and track via the trades, you know, variety, Hollywood Reporter deadline, the wrap, and stay in conversation with other writers about what's going on that screen that can be helpful, you have to determine what kind of writer you are. There are some writers who are very successful at chasing the market. You know, I mean, there's a lot of writers who say, Don't do that. But there are some writers who are like their action writers or the thriller writers and the science fiction writers. And they, they know what's out there, they know what's being developed, they try and forecast what will be the next thing that will sell. You know, so they're very, very specifically trying to write to genre space. There are other writers who are exactly the opposite. They just follow their creative instincts. And, and, you know, some writers can do both, but you need to think about what writer you want to be. Here's another tip, which is, find a genre space that you love, and are good at. Not to say you can't write across genres. But if you write three scripts in one genre, and have two treatments in that same genre, and you do what I told you to do earlier about reaching out to a manager, I don't know a manager alive who would look at your material given that a particularly if you have a good logline for that first project, you listen to them, because if you're in a genre, like this is your thing, I'm an action, right? I'm a thriller writer, you know, I'm a comedy, then that's how they put you up for writing assignments. That's how they market you. They brand you, frankly. And so you need to be well, sorry, go ahead. Yeah, they
Alex Ferrari 54:27
have to put you in the box. They have to it's it's an easier sell, as opposed to someone who's like, he's a comedy writer, but he also does drama, but he does his one action script and he does sci fi. But you're right. If you can be a specialist. That's what they're looking for.
Scott Myers 54:40
You get put on lists. You know, I got put on lists. I got put on animal lists. Comedy. I wrote a movie while after I wrote the dog movie. I wrote a movie about called what it is about, it's about a pig in a witness relocation program. Hamlet There was another What about frogs? There was a little frog. So I joke that I did movie I wrote movies about dogs, frogs and hogs, I mean, you know, they put you they, they assign these things to you. And if you're willing to do that, then that's your brand. And so you can do that for like seven years and make some good money, you know, all that, that that person is, you know, is a comedy guy or that woman is great with, you know, with drama, why not? Now, you can always write a spec and bust out of that. And it's not to say you can't write across genres I don't like Brian Duffield is very, very successful. And he writes just all sorts of different things. Sure. But generally speaking, when I talk to managers, they they prefer to have clients who settle on one genre. So those are some words of advice, I hope. Hope you found
Alex Ferrari 55:43
that helpful. Now, why hasn't Hamlet been made?
Scott Myers 55:47
Well, that was easy. We were set that was Dawn steel, and we had a director attached. And we were going we were in pre production, then babe came out, just completely blew up. Right? It was like nobody anticipated that that movie. And then that studio just got cold feet, you know that you think well, similar, but different. But I guess in that case, you know,
Alex Ferrari 56:13
it was too different. It was too similar or too difficult. So, because that sounds genius, I would have loved to watch that that canine as a double feature, I think would be good.
Scott Myers 56:22
Compared to witness reel. I mean, that's so classic, late 80s, early 90s. Right?
Alex Ferrari 56:26
Very much so. Yeah, I don't know. I don't know. Sure if that's that story flies today. But back then, Oh, my God, it would have been brilliant. Now, what should screenwriters deal? How should screenwriters deal with getting rewritten, which happens almost all the time? And it's a big deal?
Scott Myers 56:43
Almost all Yeah, I have a business a screenwriting post that I did where we went up for right my writing partner, I went for a writing assignment to rewrite a script that had been written by Ron bass
Alex Ferrari 56:58
of cheese, okay.
Scott Myers 57:00
remastered the most successful screenwriters in the history of Hollywood. Yes, yes. And so I sort of my partner said, Well, look, if we're up to rewrite him, you know, yeah, everybody gets rewritten. Everybody gets rewritten. You know, there was that story of Moneyball, where Steve Zaillian had written a draft of that, and you know, that that story's amazing how that movie got made? You know, considering the Soderbergh's turning in a draft and, and the different than what they were expected. And Brad Pitt's said, No, there's a movie here and I see it and then sailin wrote a draft. So I remember the story. He was in Rome with his family on vacation, his cell phone chirps and answers it says, Steve, this is Aaron Sorkin. I just wanted to call you let you know that I'm rewriting you on on Moneyball? Well, they ended up actually working parallel. But to get on that project, basically rewriting each other. And then Moneyball came out and it was a successful movie. Everybody gets through it know how to deal with it. Well, it hurts. You know, you don't want to get rewritten. You're the person being rewritten. You don't mind a little off color. Story do.
Alex Ferrari 58:12
off color is fine.
Scott Myers 58:14
Okay. So because we got rewritten on canine and when they when they said that we're gonna bring somebody else in, of course, they tell you, this is how much confidence we have in the project, we're actually bringing in someone to rewrite you. It's like,
Alex Ferrari 58:29
that's, that's so Hollywood. I can't even tell you how all these actually
Scott Myers 58:33
a compliment to your talent that we're bringing in somebody to rewrite you, you know. So anyhow, my agent, Marty Bowers said, Well, guys, you got F but you got F with a golden dick. So, you know, that's kind of the mindset, you just, you know, you you that's why you have multiple projects, going stack projects. That's what you can do as a writer. So you're writing this, you're rewriting another thing, you're developing another thing. So you give yourself 24 hours, go Taiwan on, you know, get hammered. Go talk to your friends, then wake up the next day and start on the next project.
Alex Ferrari 59:07
Do you know the story of the pretty women rewrite?
Scott Myers 59:11
Well, it was very dark dry.
Alex Ferrari 59:12
Yeah, yeah, it was Yeah. Yeah. Assuming you would that the six out it was called six grand or something like that. And, and the writer was super upset about him be rewritten. This is not my story. Yeah. And then of course, after I made, you know, a gazillion dollars, just like yeah, that was my I did that.
Scott Myers 59:26
Ended up with sole credit. So yeah. On the other side, if you are rewriting someone, it's become I think, I think writers have become more human nowadays. About that. It's a good thing to contact the person who rewriting and Eric Heizer. I talked to him about this, and he's his way of approaching it is look, they've handed me the keys to your car. And so I'm going to drive it for a while, but it's still your car. And I just wanted you to know and then you haven't given them an opportunity to talk about it. You know what their vision for it was and just be a decent human being, you know, that does take a certain amount of humanity, I guess, you know, courage and courage to call up a writer and say, you know, look, I'm rewriting you and I just want you know, to reach out to you. But I think that's a decent thing to do. And writers should be decent to each other. You know, if other peoples aren't going to be decent to us, at least writers can be
Alex Ferrari 1:00:27
right, because writers are historically one of the most beaten down professions in the business. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor.
And now back to the show.
Scott Myers 1:00:45
Yeah, ironically enough, and I think part of it is frankly, you know, beyond everything else that they can get away with it that writers tend to be, you know, kind of, can be cantankerous characters and whatnot. Part of it is frankly, they, they can't do what we do. Right? And that, that bothers them. They can't create something out of nothing, they can't problem solve like we can. And so there's, there's, that's some of the psychological subtext going on there. Historically,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:16
I've never heard I've never heard it put that way before. That makes perfect sense, actually. Yeah, it's
Scott Myers 1:01:21
like it goes back to that old line. I think Thalberg, you know, Irving Thalberg, the first grade Hollywood producer is meeting with the writers and had, you know, a love hate relationship with the writers. But he said, you know, what is it with the writers, you know, you think you're so special. It's just, you know, it's just a matter of putting down words. And one of the writers looked at me and said, Yeah, but to know which words
Alex Ferrari 1:01:49
No, now another question that I get asked a lot by screenwriters what's what should be a page count be of a standard Hollywood script?
Scott Myers 1:01:56
Well, you know, I'm not a big one for this is the so called screenwriting rules. In fact, on my blog, you can see, I actually have eight free ebooks now, blog stuff, I'm going to end up with 12 This year, nice, thanks to clay Mitchell and Trish Curtin for helping me edit those things. But one of them is so called screenwriting rules. And one of them is about, you know, page count. You know, stories are organic. And yeah, there are conventions and expectations, but there's no real rules. You know, you can actually have an act that goes into like, page 35. Yeah, you know, you've got to make sure that that needs 35 pages, but generally speaking, you're looking at 2025. Okay, page count, I think that there's been some shrinkage, frankly, you know, because people like things to move more quickly nowadays, because of YouTube and whatever. So what used to be like 120 page script, but say now, maybe, you know, we tend to see scripts, 200 510 pages, what used to be the end of Act One is Now oftentimes the middle of Act One, you know, so I would say, you know, again, if this is just a rule of thumb, and I hate to use that word, though, it just says a ballpark touchstone. You know, you want to write 100 page script, basically, there are certain readers that will think that a script maybe is underbaked undercooked, if it comes in at 90 pages or not, is something around like that. Now, that's not always the case. Because you may work with a production company that's very specifically working on a low budget movie, in which case, you know, 85 pages, or 90 pages for a horror film or whatever, comedy perfect, that could be fine. But if it's a studio thing, you know, if it's science fiction, you get a lot of world building, so maybe it's a little longer if it's an action movie with a lot of scene description and not much dialogue, maybe it's a little shorter. So I you know, 800 pages is probably a good page count, you know, I like 105. But, you know, everybody's got their thing.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:51
Got it. And then our screenwriting contest worth it.
Scott Myers 1:03:56
Well, to the people whose careers have the benefit, they would probably say yes, I mean, there's a bunch of them out there. There's the Austin Film Festival. There's tracking be this tracking board. There's Nicolas. Well, the nickel is legitimate. I mean, that's the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. I mean, that's been around for years. I mean, that's like got major people involved, you know, on that on that board and and you know, there's just a track record of those people who you know, when the nickel going on and doing well,
Alex Ferrari 1:04:29
well, even placing in the nickel, it gets you Yeah, you they sent
Scott Myers 1:04:33
out email blasts. I think from quarterfinals up, maybe semifinals up exactly the top 10 Absolutely. I know people who finished at the top 10 In fact, we had a DePaul student who finished in the top 10 And you know, God representation of that he's currently working as a screenwriter in Hollywood. So yeah, you know, I you have to understand bottom line. These contests are about them making money. You have to understand Bam, that, you know, they don't do this because they're, they're, you know, generous. If this is a money making operation, that's why they charge those fees. Okay? So just understand that, you know, do your due diligence. If you make sure you see, you know, some, check the results, you know, have people actually translated that they're getting gigs. Now you have to be careful. There's some really kind of hinky things got there. You know, people will say, you know, this deal, you know, so and so was a graduate of this, you know, online educational outfit, or, who is, who is, they'll say, an alumnus, alumnus of you know, what the minister they submitted their skirt to the competition, right? You know, they didn't actually learn anything, or this educational outfit, maybe they just gave them a bunch of PDFs, and the peer review of their kind of, but they'll say, this deal that they say, Well, what the deal is, is simply they just got representation, they get their management, though, there was no money, there's no deal. Don't even sign with a manager, you know, there's no contracts with managers. So you have to be very careful about what they, they, they claim, you know, their success rate is but you know, if you do due diligence, you'll find read interviews with writers, you know, a lot of them will talk about their experiences, you know, having tried contests, and, but if you really want to be safe, the nickel is the safest one, I think, probably the Austin film festivals, you know, maybe not as much cachet is the nickel, it definitely doesn't have as much cache, but then the other ones, you know, just be buyer beware, they're out to make money. You know, and some of them I guess, are more successful than others. But just the best thing you can do is just write the best script possible. And if you really want an honest, like, you know, unfiltered thing is the is the blacklist website because then that's the ultimate contest. You're actually having people who are in the business, you know, reading your material based on, you know, your logline and some evaluations as a direct line to to the buyer.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:06
Great, great advice. Now, I wanted you to I wanted to go into your insane blog, go into the story, I want you to talk a little bit about that blog and in what an insane resource it is for screenwriters.
Scott Myers 1:07:20
Well, it started in May 16 2008. And I blogged every day since so it's like 3300 consecutive days Jesus, the the inspiration for it was simply this, you know, back then. There weren't as many resources as there are now. And a lot of the stuff that was being trumpeted as you know, back then you see, actually people saying, you know, learn the secrets to writing a million dollar spec script, you know, from people who had never worked in Hollywood, and had a movie made shysters Yeah. And that was upsetting. You know, I mean, I had people in my online classes saying, I just feel completely ripped off and, or they show me notes that they got from a script consultant. And the notes were just complete, you know, Bs. And so I felt like, well, I worked in the business I, you know, I've had movies made, I've written dozens of projects, I've done TV and film, I've taught, you know, John Agus had a great as it has had, he's like, the grandfather of all this stuff. You know, he started his blog, I believe, in 2004. And it's an incredible resource. But what I didn't see was someone doing it every day. You know, like, someone who was following the news. Someone who's tracking spec script deals, someone is providing inspiration and information on a daily basis. It's just an extension of what I do naturally, as a writer, where I would just go through and look at the trades, follow the news, and I would read, I read poems, and I read, writing quotes for inspiration. And, you know, so that's how I started it is like a free resource. No advertisement never had an advertisement on my blog. So they don't have to feel like they're being you know, uploaded or trying to be perfect that phrase, but upsold. And to have this resort, and then ultimately, to build this, this mass of content, so that people could go and just, you know, look through it and find stuff on like every different subject. So there are now 23,000 posts on the blog. You know, I have six posts a day, you can get a daily summary, you know, sort of comes in your email, you do six
Alex Ferrari 1:09:25
posts a day. Yeah, it's it's
Scott Myers 1:09:27
like, again, I type really fast, I think really fast. I've gotten used to doing it. I'm like the perfect blogger for this type of thing. Like, for example, here's, here's a great example of something that emerged out of the blog. In November 2015, I'd had a project I was writing and something in the news happened that blew it up, just completely blew it up. I could no longer write that project because of what happened to the news. And I'd had a comedy that I've been sitting on for some time, and I got so frustrated. I said, Well, NaNoWriMo was no longer doing the script. frenzy, which they did, up until 2013, which was a script version of NaNoWriMo, where you're writing a novel in a month, just would be writing a script in a month. So I just invited people via my blog to join me. In November, I was going to write a zero draft, I said, I'm just going to write this thing from fade into fade out, you know, it's gonna be, it's gonna suck, but I'm just gonna put the words out. And I normally don't do that I normally work from an outlet, but I just wanted to try it. Well, I had over 1000 people respond to that. In fact, it created this thing called zero draft 30 challenge, zero draft 30 Challenge, which we now run twice a year. So starting on September 1, which is tomorrow, we're going to be reading the zero draft 32,017, September challenge. And every day on the blog, I'm going to post something there along with my other posts, about the challenge where people come and they talk about, you know, what they're writing. They'll provide some inspirational quotes or videos or whatnot. There's a Facebook group, the zero draft 30 Facebook group, which has got 2300 members, a terrific group of people very supportive, positive minded. We have a Twitter feed, hashtag zd, 30 script. And so this is something that's emerged now that twice a year, we I did to get people writing to write two spec scripts a year, you know, which is what you should be doing. And so that's something that's emerged from the blog, the blog has created all sorts of initiatives, and community outreach type of things. And it's been very since I had more traffic now than I've ever had site traffic.
Alex Ferrari 1:11:32
That's, that's amazing. Oh, well, I mean, I've, I've known about your site for a long time. And I before I ever opened up any film, hustle, I used to visit it all the time. And, and you just have such a wealth of information. It's, it's there's, I don't know of another resource out there that has so much for free,
Scott Myers 1:11:52
for free. It's all free. Now, lately, just one little anecdote about this. You know, I had a friend who's a writer, he said, Scott, why are you doing this, this is insane. Giving away all this content for free. Basically, every almost every night, almost every good thing that's happened to me professionally, has been because of that blog. Yeah, I am now more well connected in Hollywood than I ever was, when I lived two miles from 20th Century Fox, no more managers, more agents, more producers, more talent, more writers than I ever did when I was out there.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:26
And I will, I would say the exact same thing has happened to me ever since I launched indie film, hustle, the amount of connections, relationships, being able to sit down and talk to you for an hour, you know, without a blog, that's very difficult to to reach out to people of your caliber and, and just the relationships you've built over the time it is everything that's happened to me since I opened up any film hustle has been directly it's been generally directly because of the of the blog. So I understand 110%
Scott Myers 1:12:55
Yeah, your site is, you know, one of those sites that provides quality content, and those resources are great, you know, I think film schools not for everybody, I think, you know, a school like DePaul where they can literally go out and they're making movies in their freshman year because we've got three soundstages it's in a space where they shoot all the Chicago Fire Chicago and all that stuff. They've gotten incredible gear. But But film school is not for everybody. So you can put it together a version of it. You know, by using places like go into the story or your site and other sites. There's just a ton of free quality content. Just make sure you vet things and are looking for the quality of sites out there.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:35
Now I'm going to ask I'm gonna ask you last few questions which ask all of my guests so be prepared for your Oprah questions. I call these the Oprah questions. Okay. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to sell their first screenplay?
Scott Myers 1:13:52
Well, if it's only their first screenplay, they've written their first screenplay. I would say write two more. You know, don't try and sell your first screenplay. You, I can almost guarantee you that. After you've written three screenplays, you'll look at your first screenplay and go, Wow, I thought I'd written a really great script, but it's got some issues. So so, you know, and moreover, again, are you going to when you're signing the contract in the lawyer's office, that says this script is due in 10 weeks? Just, I tell this to my university students, you can just see them tense up. So you got to know you've got to have a confidence that you can do this. Now maybe after one script, like Diablo Cody did, would you know, you know, but she'd written she'd been a blogger for years and she'd written you know, a memoir. She was a writer. She's a born writer. You know, maybe some people can do it with one script, but my advice would be wait two more scripts.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:51
The best advice I've ever heard about screenwriting was given to me by Jim rules. Do you know Jim? Yeah. Jim said when you Get sit down. Write a Screenplay. When you're done with that screenplay, write a straight, don't edit it. Don't do anything. Just just write it straight. When you're done, put it in your dress in a drawer, start another screenplay, do the exact same process, put it in the drawer, do the third time, put it in the drawer now take that first script out and start rewriting it because now you're a better writer.
Scott Myers 1:15:20
That's great advice.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:21
Is that amazing? I thought that was brilliant.
Scott Myers 1:15:24
And he had the number three like me, too. So
Alex Ferrari 1:15:28
now, um, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or your career?
Scott Myers 1:15:34
Oh, that's, that's pretty easy. It's the hero with 1000 faces by Joseph Campbell. Great book. It's an academic book. I was shocked when I came to Hollywood and I saw it on the bookshelves of, you know, studio executives and producers like what is this academic book doing? And of course, I found out about George Lucas and Star Wars. But um, you know, I there, you know, because of Chris Vogler, his book The writers journey, which is an excellent book. At that, because, you know, the hero's journey, he reduced the 17 aspects of narrative that Campbell talked about, and he wrote the house faces to 12 to make it more amenable for screenwriting, you know, it's become a thing. And it kind of makes me kind of sad in a way because I've heard producers say this, in fact, I blogged about it, because I, somebody did this on a message board manager said, I hate the hero's journey. Why? Well, because it's all just this formulaic crap. Well, that's not what Joseph Campbell intended at all. And I'm sure that's not what Chris Vogler intended, it's what happened, you know, people tend to reduce this thing, trying to find some sort of paradigm, you know, Hatter and magic bullet, you know, that's not what Campbell had in mind at all. So I tend to approach the hero's journey, from more of a medic view, you know, the three the three stages, it, you know, separation initiation, return, the idea of transformation, that the whole point of the hero's journey is transformation, and that the message of the hero's journey is follow your bliss. And so, it works for me on two levels, as a writer, and storyteller, and as even being because there's, there is no more important message for a creative person than follow your bliss. I think it's the first thing I tell my students every quarter, and it's the last thing I tell them as we in every quarter, if you get nothing else from having worked with me in class, live with this idea. You know, it's it's a scary way to live. It's a it has ups and downs. But it is the most authentic way to live. If you're if you are aligned with what turns you on creatively, and you choose to pursue that with passion, and you have talent, and you have a voice and you think that you've got something you can say of worth to greater society and the world at large. Then you are set on a path that's going to bring you great satisfaction. Yes. Ups and downs. Yes, trials and tribulations. You're on our own hero's journey that way, but at least you have aligned yourself with something that you know is yours. Campbell had a say saying a paraphrase he said nothing more. There's nothing sadder than for someone to be spend their lives climbing the ladder to success, only to discover they've been on the wrong wall.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:25
Oh, wow. What an amazing quote.
Scott Myers 1:18:28
And that's the that's the antithesis of follow your bliss that someone did not follow. They followed somebody else's. Not their own,
Alex Ferrari 1:18:36
whether it be their parents or what society told them.
Scott Myers 1:18:39
Absolutely. Yeah, find out what you want to do. Find out what your pet find out what your rapture is your bliss. He was that.
Alex Ferrari 1:18:46
That was I didn't mean to drive too, but he was more of a philosopher, as well as an academic
Scott Myers 1:18:51
and a spiritualist. Yes. Yes. You know, he created his own. No, he taught at Sarah Lawrence University for 43 years. So it's college age. It was Yeah. I have a picture of the doorknob for his door from Sarah Lawrence College. Oh, it's my desk. I had someone who went to school there and found the door to his office. He had for a few years and took a picture. That's amazing. But yeah, he created it. He didn't get a PhD. There was no PhD in what he did he just read. People ask him Do you praise it? No, I read 10 hours a day. He read stories from all around the world and he noticed these similar dynamics, separation, initiation return Euro gets transferred, then Oh, yeah. Now I've got people with other faces. That's the most inspirational book
Alex Ferrari 1:19:38
now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life
Scott Myers 1:19:49
that's a good question. I'm, I guess I'm still learning it you know. You know, I it for a long time. I looked at my life and I thought, I've never failed. You know, I never even got like all the colleges and graduate schools I applied to, I never got rejected by any of them. And so for the longest time, I was just living this life, you know, and then selling a spec script for, you know, a lot of money and yeah, all right. Everything I did music, comedy, academics, screenwriting successful. You, you know, you learn the most about yourself, I think in life in general, when you fail. Yes. And that has been a lesson, you know, that I think it's been something that I've had to learn. And, and you have to have that understanding, ending to work in Hollywood, because you will, you are absolutely going to fail. And you're going to fail multiple times. And so you've got to be able to live with that and learn from that. So that's probably the most important lesson that I've struggled to come to grips with. It's not fun, obviously failing. And it's hard to determine from time to time, like, what lessons you can learn from it. But the one thing is universal, you just get up and you go back at it, you know, persistence. That's, you know, writer. Absolutely. If you fail, just get back up and go on to the next story.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:19
Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?
Scott Myers 1:21:21
Oh, that's easy. The apartment is absolutely my favorite movie of all time, personally. Well, it's my is my favorite Billy Wilder. And as a diamond, those are my favorite. Billy Walters, my favorite filmmaker. But I also love the Coen Brothers. And I also love Pixar. I'm a huge those three, it will keep our tickets to but
Alex Ferrari 1:21:46
yeah, well, I could talk for hours and Kubrick.
Scott Myers 1:21:49
You know, I'd be tempted to put up in there because I thought that was just brilliant. I be tempted to put there's a handful of, you know, Coen Brothers movie any and they're great Inside Llewyn Davis is an incredible movie, but, but I'll go with a couple more traditional ones. Dr. Strangelove, which is just the greatest satire ever, ever created, I think. And then I've got to include a maybe more of a, okay. At Silence of the Lambs. The silence the lambs is like the perfect for what I teach. It's like the perfect looking. It really is. And it was one of three movies to win all five of the major Academy Awards.
Alex Ferrari 1:22:29
And now it was insane. It's a horror. It's a horror movie. And that was, was it the wasn't the first one. I think that exorcist
Scott Myers 1:22:39
would hurt. Oh, The Exorcist. Um, I think it might have won something. Yeah. But yeah, it was. You know, I think back then in 1991 a qualified as a horror movie I don't know would necessarily right.
Alex Ferrari 1:22:54
But it was it was one of the it was the third film ever to win the all five.
Scott Myers 1:22:58
Why? Best Picture Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor Best Screenplay?
Alex Ferrari 1:23:03
Wow. It was an amazing film. Amazing. Now well, where can people find you sir?
Scott Myers 1:23:10
Well, if they're in Chicago,
Alex Ferrari 1:23:12
no, no, no, your personal home address online online.
Scott Myers 1:23:15
I can tell you a bar that I hang out. But no, they can find me go into the story.com that's you know, it's actually go into the story black dot blacklist or BLC K LS T dot LST calm but just go into the story. Which is the my blog. And then screenwriting masterclass, which is my online educational resource that I teach online. I've been doing it for years, I've had great success with my students, many of them have gone on to do very, very well with themselves. So there's that there's the zero draft 30 Facebook group, which I host, but basically, that just is those people. They're just great. And they constantly doing stuff. So those are three, three ways you can reach me.
Alex Ferrari 1:24:02
Scott, thank you so much for taking the time out. It's been a lengthy conversation. But I could ask I could ask you another 100 questions, but I know you're a busy man, you've got 15 blog posts to put out today.
Scott Myers 1:24:13
Actually, I do have another call right now. So it's a good time to answer.
Alex Ferrari 1:24:16
Scott thank you again so much my friend. Okay,
Scott Myers 1:24:19
great talking with you. And good luck with your your blogging.
Alex Ferrari 1:24:23
And Scott really did drop some great knowledge bombs on you guys. I really hope you got a lot out of that episode. I know I did. And I want to thank Scott again for doing the show and really just sharing so much great information with the tribe. So thank you, Scott. Once again. Now if you want links to anything we discussed in this episode, just head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash BPS 019. And if you haven't already, please head over to screenwriting podcast.com And leave us a good review leave a five star review. It really helps out the show. It's a young show to new show and every review helps us in the rankings and iTunes helps us get this information out to other screenwriters who need it. And by the way, happy July 4 to all of our listeners here in the United States. I hope you have a good fourth. Eat a lot. Enjoy some fireworks. And as always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.
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