Tips for Screenwriting With a Partner

84GOP2OAKRScreenwriting is a journey which can be difficult, challenging, long and, at times, lonely. Yet, if you’re a writer, you’ve already come to terms with that. For many creatives (visual, musical or otherwise) working alone is a method born from habit, and in other instances it is a practice which allows individuals to exercise and develop a given skill, and explore it without judgment. Nevertheless, once that muscle has been worked out, sharing it with others becomes more natural, less fearful and potentially helpful.

Of course, not everyone enjoys working publicly or in partnership with others. For some, solitude allows them space to fully express an idea without distraction. Indeed many examples of amazing work have come as a result of working solo. However, the same could be said for working in partnership with someone else or a group of individuals. Take the latest Star Wars film, for example. Though the original franchise was written alone by the series creator George Lucas, the most recent film–the largest in the franchise’s history and one of the biggest movies of all time–was a collaboration between the director J.J. Abrams, long-time partner Lawrence Kasdan and Toy Story 3’s Michael Arndt. In fact, of the seven films, only 3 have been written by Lucas alone.

Like all partnerships, writing along with someone provides an opportunity for different perspectives, fresh ideas, and immediate feedback. No two people are the same, and while this may take some getting used to if working with others is a new venture, the process could be a learning experience, if nothing else. Still, it’s important to go about collaboration wisely and correctly to ensure that the attempt is not in vain.

First things first, one has to select a partner whom they trust and with whom they can be completely comfortable. The creative journey calls for an environment that allows the creator to be free. If you find yourself holding back thoughts or opinions for fear hurting your partner’s feelings or appearing a certain way, that is not the right partner for you. Find someone with whom you can be natural, which will create a situation in which each of you complement one another instead of being a hinderance.

Secondly, communicate early and often. Again, remember that no two people are the same. You may think the both of you understand the plot or certain conflicts the same way, but it’s important to check-in with the other person (a few times) to be absolutely sure. One of the worst things that can happen, especially if each you decide to work remotely, is to end up with to different movies or a conflicting one. Communication, though slightly more time consuming, should not be discounted; it makes all the difference.

Likewise, when it comes to discussing terms, everything should be expressed clearly and decided upon before the undertaking begins. Even if the partner with whom you’re working is a friend or family, every person should see the endeavor as professional; otherwise, why bother? If you’ve never created an agreement, don’t worry. The Writers Guild of America has a handy, non-intimidating one available to the public on their website.

Note that partnerships are not required nor standard for writing a screenplay. They are merely a tool for heightening creativity and the likelihood of a good story. The most important take away is to choose a partner and/or project that’s most beneficial for all involved, and to approach the process professionally but comfortably. And may the force with be with you!

How to Use Wordweight to Your Advantage

Word Weight Image“Wordweight,” as I call it, is the amount of black ink relative to the white of the page it’s printed on. When deciding how to print your work, there’s a common expression that’s a good rule of thumb to follow: “more white than black.”

When a pile of scripts lands on the desk of a reader or a producer’s assistant, it’s their job to read through the seemingly endless pile of words, providing coverage notes for the producer to look over. Those notes are what determine if the producer will take an interest in the script and decide to read it in full.

When readers approach this daunting pile, they generally decide what to read first based on genre, title, and first impression. This first impression is made by simply flipping through the pages to get a feel of the wordweight of the script.

In a normally formatted screenplay, you can have as many as 250-300 words per page. After indentations and dialogue, it will resemble more of an epic speech than an actual script. At this density, your script looks like a LOT of work to read. Chances are the person flipping through will think to themselves, “I’ll save that one for later..”

Your goal is to target 150-180 words per page. At this wordweight, the readers eyes can relax and take in the text with greater ease. Even though the word count of the entire script hasn’t changed, it will seem like a faster read, which will make it more enjoyable for the poor person who reads through these things day in and day out.

Once you’ve reformatted your script, you’ll experience the secondary benefit of this rule: a new perspective for assessing your own word economy. You’ll notice long sentences (especially those describing actions) standing out, and they can and should be simplified. With fresh eyes, you’ll be able to go back and make your script a lean, mean story machine.

After you’ve approached your scripts this way a couple of times, you’ll find all of them losing their wordweight, becoming sleeker and sexier. And hopefully, you’ll be getting more attention from the producers you’ve been dying to work with.

Find the Right Screenwriting Role for You

Geno Scala gives tips on the best ways for your find an excellent screenwriting opportunity.Sometimes, finding a credible, potential screenwriting job can be difficult. Writers often find themselves falling victim to scams, or paying to receive newsletters with possible leads when there are free alternatives available, like The Script Mentor.

To help you find potential, credible, paying leads when searching for screenwriting jobs or considering submitting to a script search, we developed a list of top ten tips to help you find the best:

The source is key!

Don’t just give away your intellectual property for free! Know who you’re dealing with. Sites like Craigslist offer a whole bunch of job listings from anonymous sources with a lack of “security checks”–but don’t let that shy you away, some of them are real opportunities. Send a letter of introduction letting the client know you have a screenplay that may suit their needs and/or an official resume before giving it all away.

What’s the catch?

Like the aforementioned job “newsletters”, a lot of potential leads are only in the business to rip you off for information that is available for free elsewhere. And if that lead comes from a source encouraging you to buy additional job leads, RUN! Ninety-nine percent of the time, job newsletters advertise “new” jobs that are actually just cut-and-pasted ads from outside sources, disguising it as something else, or posting already-filled positions lifted from other, free, job sites. Avoid them at all costs. If you’re required to pay for a membership, or any additional costs, don’t do it. You’re getting duped.

Location, location, location!

The law isn’t always the same when it comes to protecting intellectual property in every country, so know where your client is based out of. There is virtually nothing stopping a director or producer from taking your script and creating a project without you ever knowing if the laws of their location deems it legal. When this is the case, consider a non-disclosure agreement to protect yourself and your script.


Internet scams are so popular because of the sheer lack of humanity in an email exchange. Tone can easily be misinterpreted in an email, and watching out for “catfish” (someone pretending to be something that they’re not) is something we all need to do, in all avenues of life. But especially in securing a screenwriting job, try Skyping, FaceTiming, or simply talking on the telephone to help put any feelings of hesitancy of who you’re dealing with at ease.

Do your homework

If client information is revealed early on (think: information in the initial ad, email signatures) research it as much as possible. Check out their website(s), affiliated social media accounts, and any articles mentioning the client. If you can’t find anything, chances are you’re probably not going to get paid that promised $10k for your final draft.

Get your money

If you’ve got a resume to be proud of–produced projects, awards, placement in substantials contests–you should never have to write for free. And while you should take into consideration that producers and directors advertising through sites like Craigslist or Mandy are also taking a risk, albeit not as large a risk as you, watch out for yourself. If potential clients disclose the amount they’re willing to pay for your work, request 50 percent upfront and 50 percent after completion of the final draft.

Avoid false promises

Scams often throw around words and phrases like “Oscars,” “Emmys,” or “millions of dollars!” to make their advertisements more attractive. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case, and often these people aren’t living in the real world. Is it impossible? No. But a film that sourced its screenwriter from a Craigslist ad offering $500 for the finished project most likely won’t garner the attention project’s need for The Academy to take notice.

Back-end agreements

If payments are advertised as back-end agreements, beware. While it’s up to your discretion, you’re most likely going to end up working for free. If you just want to get your work out there, go for it.

Leaps of faith

It’s the goal for all writers to get paid for their work, but sometimes opportunities come around that are difficult to pass up. Don’t overlook them just because the compensation is less-than desirable. If there’s a significant amount of potential in the project, with plans to enter it into many film festivals, it may be an amazing project you’re proud to be apart of. Plus, often awesome opportunities that don’t pay, or don’t pay as much as you’d like, lead to more lucrative opportunities.

Be weary

You never really know who’s waiting on the other side of a job listing, so be respectful, but don’t put yourself in a sketchy situation. If you aren’t comfortable with a certain arrangement or feel like it’s too-good-to-be-true, remember you have the control to say no or pull out at your discretion. You might have to kiss a lot of frogs before landing the perfect screenwriting job.