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Advice > Screenwriting Questions & Advice

Every script writer has a burning screenwriting question waiting to be answered. The Gatekeeper is here to answer that call with screenwriting help that can be used by screenwriters, scriptwriters, directors, playwrights, filmmakers, and writers of all genres. Looking for more? Check out the featured tips on screenwriting, expert writing advice, and screenwriting books to help further expand any writer's writing skills.

Winning Spec Scripts

Our Reader Allen Ventura from Springfield, IL writes: I am a professional writer who has recently turned his hand to screenwriting. Can you give me the insider's view of "spec scripts?" Is this a sound way to proceed or are there better ways to g...

Read more... | Published: 02/15/04 | by Richard Walter

Hang Out With Writers To Succeed!

Our Reader Mark McC from Canyon Country (not too near Hollywood), CA writes: Coming to L.A. has not at all been what I expected. I've tried to follow the experts' advice, like get a job in a production company , but that was impossible. My borin...

Read more... | Published: 02/01/04 | by Richard Walter

Quirky or Plain Crazy - Where Do I Draw the Line for My Character?

Lynn, a Writer/Producer from Palm Springs, CA Asks : In your book REEL PEOPLE you talk a lot about characters that seem to be quite disturbed. Can the theories of personality types apply to characters that are just quirky or eccentric rather than ...

Read more... | Published: 01/05/04 | by Howard Gluss

Capturing the Reel Racist - A Debate

A Reader Asks: I have read your book REEL PEOPLE on developing psychologically sound characters. I am working on a character who has to transition from being somewhat of a racist into being a full-blown racist with murderous intentions. Can you g...

Read more... | Published: 10/12/03 | by Howard Gluss

I Want My Rights Back!

A Reader Asks: I sold a five-year option to my screenplay three years ago, and it appears that we're going nowhere with the company that bought it. I recently "pitched" my story to a well-heeled friend in the film business, and he showed interest,...

Read more... | Published: 07/31/03 | by Larry Zerner ESQ

Taking the Leap to Playwriting

Our Reader Asks: I'm currently doing research for a creative nonfiction book but the more I delve into the subject and characters, the more I feel it should be written as a stage play rather than a book. It has a fascinating story, a strong femal...

Read more... | Published: 07/04/03 | by Jonathan Dorf

Do I Need to Obtain Rights to Portray the Ex?

A Reader Asks: I have the rights to do a screenplay on the life of a person, but how do you handle the rights to include other people in life, like an ex-wife and others who may be important to the story. Do you need get their rights also? Larr...

Read more... | Published: 06/20/03 | by Larry Zerner ESQ

Can Sinatra Get Me Into Trouble?

Patrice from Los Angeles asks: I'm currently writing a screenplay that I'll be directing myself in about 10 months. I would like to use a Frank Sinatra look-alike to sing 3 ORIGINAL songs in the STYLE of Sinatra. Is that a copyright violation? Do ...

Read more... | Published: 05/12/03 | by Larry Zerner ESQ

Action vs. Dialogue

Question: The first five pages of my script contain a lot more movement than speech. Because of this, it's exceeding the one-page-per minute rule . It just seems to take me more pages to describe action than it does for dialogue. Is this a common...

Read more... | Published: 02/14/03 | by Jeffrey Alan Schechter

Are Sequels Fair Game?

I am interested in writing a sequel to someone else's movie. I was wondering, do I need permission from the original filmmakers, or can I just write the screenplay and market it as one of my own spec scripts? Margaret C., Far Hills, NJ Dina Appl...

Read more... | Published: 02/04/03 | by Dina Appleton

Who'll be Reading my Script?

Question: Can you tell me what the process is once I've submitted my screenplay to a production company? Where does it go once it's been delivered? Who reads it first, who next, and what exactly happens to my script next? Leticia R., Toronto, Ont....

Read more... | Published: 01/17/03 | by Larry Brody

An Agent, An Agent, My Kingdom for an Agent

Question from Chris Van: I write to you from Johannesburg, South Africa. I have finally completed my screenplay after a six-year haul. Thanks to Writers Store I have used many of your publications on my path to success. I have a powerful email lo...

Read more... | Published: 01/03/03 | by Howard Meibach

How can a great 'non-formula story' get past the Gatekeeper?

Question: How can a great 'non-formula story' get past the gatekeeper? Marisa D'Vari responds: Great question, Stuart. My personal feeling is that several recent events and the national tragedy will pave the way for more personal films. Realize t...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Marisa D'Vari

How DOES a Story Analyst become a Story Analyst?

Question: How does a story analyst become a Story Analyst? Is it worth developing a relationship with a Story Analyst? How crucial can knowing a Story Analyst be to a screenwriters career? Thanks! Marisa D'Vari responds: 'Knowing anyone' in Holly...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Marisa D'Vari

How can I protect my script in the USA?

From a writer living in Turkey:... Question: How can I protect my script in the USA? I mean how can I take the 'all rights reserved' for my script? I am afraid to (have my script) copied and stolen!! What is the best way to protect my script? Ma...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Marisa D'Vari

What is a Query?

Question: What is a query? I have treatments -- is that the same thing? Author Christopher Wehner responds: A query is a communication between a screenwriter and any industry professional, including agents, producers or executives. It can take pl...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Christopher Wehner

Who will buy my Television Script?

Question: I have written a screenplay, which was a Finalist in a respectable contest. I think it would be good for television. While I know how to reach feature producers, agents, etc., I'm not sure how to contact places like Lifetime, Fox Family,...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Hans Tobeason

What's going on in Episodic Television Writing?

The Show Bible: The show bible is created by the creator(s), and usually after the pilot episode has been written. Staff vs. Freelance Writers: It would be very unusual for the creator(s) to write every episode of a series, though it does happen....

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Hans Tobeason

What are the Rules of Adaptation?

Question from Gloria in KS: I would be interested in reading about the process of taking a book that is not your own through the screenwriting process and into a movie format. I understand how to get it into a workable and enjoyable screenplay for...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Linda Seger

My Work has International Appeal! What now?

Question from Nancy in ND: What is the foreign market like for screenwriters? How does a screenwriter approach foreign directors and production companies? Is there a book that talks about the overseas film industry? I'm a business writer who publ...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Karl Iglesias

How do I Format Simultaneous Dialogue?

A Reader's Script Formatting Question: How does a writer denote in a spec screenplay the fact that a character has a double identity and is known to individual characters under two separate identities? Example: a character is known as 'BILL' to o...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by David Trottier

Is Film School Really Necessary?

Question: How valuable/important is film school? I am graduating college in one year, and I want to go into film. Skip Press responds: It's one thing to aspire to write films or act in them, and quite another to know how they are made. Smart writ...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Skip Press

How Much Description is Too Much?

Our reader Sara asks: As a new writer trying to get a handle on what is SEEN ONLY, I find getting my character's feelings and objectives across ... challenging. How much latitude can be taken in such descriptions? What about adjectives and adverbs...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Jeffrey Alan Schechter

What's the Scoop on Writing Contests?

Dear Gatekeeper: Would you recommend entering a screenwriting contest? I have a script I would like to submit, and would appreciate some feedback on what they have to offer and any other advice on contests you can give me. Thank you. Janice, Wash...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Larry Brody

Can I Keep the Rights to my Characters' Images?

Duane Eaders of WA asks: Is it possible to retain the rights to your characters -- names, appearance, etc. -- once you have sold your screenplay? For example, what if you have developed a character/person/creature that you intend to expand into a ...

Read more... | Published: 12/31/01 | by Dina Appleton