Take Your Screenplay All The Way -- Constructive Coverage From A Nicholl Fellow

I've gotten to know dozens of writers who've achieved success.  Major contest wins.  Options. Paid writing assignments.  One thing these writers have in common is this:

They’ve all revised their screenplays based on constructive feedback. 

The key word here is “constructive”.  The feedback you get from the industry is often harsh and unreasoned.  You hear things like, “It just doesn’t work.”  

That’s not helpful.   You need the kind of feedback that recognizes potential.  The kind of feedback that usually comes from other writers.

In 2004, I won a Nicholl Fellowship.  Since then I’ve worked with numerous Hollywood producers and executives, including the Oscar-winning producer of the film Crash.

I will tell you this:  Before I got quality feedback from experienced writers, I got nowhere.  After I sought out that feedback, everything changed.

Unfortunately, not everybody has access to writers who know what they’re doing.  Free coverage-swapping websites usually get you the random suggestions of anonymous newbies.  And most pay-for-coverage sites rely on undisclosed readers with unknown credentials.

I'm not anonymous.  I will personally read your script and thoroughly respond to it.  I won’t tick boxes on a formulaic coverage sheet.  I’ll offer my supportive and constructive ideas, to help you write what you set out to create – the kind of story that wins contests and gets you paid.  

Sincerely,

Doug Davidson
todoug@optonline.net


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Script Coverage Chronicles – April 2019: Learn From My Pitch Meeting Mistakes

We all learn from our missteps.  These are the lessons we never forget.  So to save you the trouble of making all your own mistakes, here are three of my own fumbles made during meetings with producers and studio execs. 

One – Don’t Forget To Read Your Audience

I remember pitching to two young producers at Red Wagon.  The two producers were very “mainstream” corporate types – nothing artsy about them.  But I decided to pitch an oddball indie project I wanted to do.  Neither of the two was taken with the idea, and one of them thought it was “gross”. 

The lesson here: Know your audience.  Take a few minutes to get to know the producers you’re meeting before launching into a pitch.  A lot of producers/execs like to share their favorite movies with writers.  That’s an easy way to learn their preferences. Have pitches in multiple genres ready to go, and then take the time to listen and choose the pitch best suited to hit home in the room.

Two – Don’t Forget To Support Your Argument

I was pitching an idea called Alien Baby.  The idea of the project was that an Earth couple adopts a baby from outer space. In my pitch, I told a producer that all the things that are hard about raising children were a thousand times harder with an alien baby.  And then I said something like: All the things that are great about raising kids, it’s even bigger and more emotional in the movie.  The producer’s reaction was flat.  He said, “I guess I’ll have to take your word for it,” and then he asked to hear about something else.

The lesson here: Don’t pitch in vague terms about how great or funny or emotional your screenplay is.  Unless you’ve already written a bona fide Hollywood hit, you need to provide specific details.  You need to prove your script is what you say it is.  You need to support your argument.  And do it from the get go, before the person you’re pitching asks to hear about “something else.”

Three – Don’t Be Anywhere Near Late

This one hurts to recall.

I had my one and only meeting at Disney.  Disney has an in-house writing program, and my agents were able to convince them to give me a shot at it.  

I wasn’t actually late, but I got lost on the way, and I cut it too close.  I was really frazzled by the time I got through the doors.  I probably looked a mess.  I felt like a mess.  And the meeting just didn’t go as well as it could have.  

I pitched an idea about snowmen having to cross the equator, and the exec brushed it off quickly, saying they already had a “snowman” story in development.  I don’t know for sure, but this might be the project that turned into Frozen.  Or maybe the exec just wanted a polite excuse to blow me off.  It may not have mattered at all, but I’ll never know if it could have gone better if I’d had the time to get myself together.

The lesson here: Give yourself as much extra travel time as necessary to make sure you’re never ever even close to late.