Sunday, January 27, 2008


Do you believe in beginner's luck? It amazes me that some first-time screenwriters hit it big, win Oscars and say screenwriting is no biggie. Wow. How come the rest of us take the classes, read all the books, write the scripts, go through agent after agent like bad dates, and only get nibbles of success, if we're lucky? But we carry on just the same. The dream lives on.

Look at Diablo Cody this year. She's nominated for an Oscar for her original screenplay JUNO.
She told Oprah that writing her Oscar-nominated script was, you guessed it, no biggie. Oprah, who owns a production company, looked incredulous. How could it be that easy for a newcomer to write JUNO?! Diablo Cody (cool name huh, but not her real name) said "The movie's only 91 minutes long. How hard could it be?" Damn.

One of the best scripts that I've read -- and movie that I've seen -- is "Thelma & Louise". This Oscar winning script was written by Callie Khouri. I admire her a lot. That script is solid, excellently structured and contains two of some of the best female characters ever to grace the big screen. It was Callie Khouri's first script. She nailed it, baby. The idea came to her as she drove into her driveway -- "two women go on a crime spree across the country". Piece of cake. No problem. Let me just bang out an Oscar worthy draft right now.

Okay and let's not even discuss Ben Affleck and Matt Damon's first-timer success with their original script "Good Will Hunting" and the gold statue.

Now do all these writers REALLY bang out that Oscar worthy script that easily or does it get developed into an Oscar worthy script by numerous execs and producers? Who knows. The hype and myth sell mags and books for us starving screenwriters. It gives us all hope. It also makes some of us green with envy. Is your script better than some of theirs? Did they just have better contacts? A better agent? Did the planets line up for them?

I like to think they did it on their own -- that they wrote the scripts the way they claim they have -- these fortunate writers. And if they didn't, well, let them still take credit and the glory. How many writers get to do that in their lifetime? Not many.

Now get back to your desk and bang out that Oscar-worthy draft.

Hey, it's no biggie.

Janet Lawler
Astoria, New York

Monday, January 14, 2008

Writer's Strike and Your Vote

A friend of mine lives and works occassionally writing for television. She's always been active with the WGA, West. She commented to me recently that she's never seen writers so united as now. They're organized, pumped and determined to stand their ground. It's about time in my opinion.

I hope the strike gets resolved soon. Imagine the Oscars being canceled or READ on TV. Good heavens -- how boring would that be! Almost as bad as those long winded speeches where producers thank their wives and tell their kids that "you can go to sleep now, Bobby and Kimmy" while clutching their Oscar.

I'm almost done with my new script outline. I have this system of writing pages and pages of notes, keywords, slang and then consolidating it into acts. It's coming along well. I wish I could think of a better title, but it's a working one for now. Soon I'll start breaking down the scenes and sequences -- and then soon enough the dialogue. I'm seeing the characters and finding their voices, to steal a Hillary Clinton term.

How exciting is the '08 presidential election going to be? I just hope We The People stay as united as the WGA writers are right now on the picket lines. Don't buy the media hype on any candidate. Pay attention, do your own research, and don't listen to those knucklehead TV guys who exaggerate constantly to get ratings. Tim Russert, Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper, and Chris Matthews need to all take a chill pill. They're not reporting -- just hyping -- thus swaying -- and for once, the American people didn't fall for it.


Saturday, January 05, 2008


I'm beginning a new spec script and outlining it. Some writers don't like to work from an outline. I find it helpful for the first draft or two. I use it simply as a reference. I'm not rigid about it. I find it helpful to write "notes" before I start a script -- little phrases, key scenes, character quirks, slang, etc. Then I put them in groups -- so if I need slang to fit within my narrative or dialogue, I have a list to choose from. I did this when I wrote the softball spec script and needed various sports terms and catch phrases.

I also think it's helpful, for me, to break the Three Act structure up so I see visually where I'm going from one act into another. Simple beats. I don't get crazy over it. But I do find that it's important to lay the ground work -- to me, it's like anything that you're starting from scratch -- cooking, baking, building a piece of furniture, anything you create -- it saves time if you know where you're headed. The final result may still surprise you, but an outline helps to get you on your way like a map.

Even with maps, we still get lost -- too bad they haven't created a GPS for scriptwriting. Not yet anyway. I'm sure some Hollywood guru is working on it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Wishing you the best of everything in this New Year of '08. I hope you find the focus and energy to meet all your goals. Yesterday I was able to break through a major story block and find my way again which will lead to putting seat in the chair and writing another draft of my spec script.

Keep dreaming, keep writing!