Monday, March 31, 2008


I'm reading "The Devil's Guide to Hollywood" by famous and infamous screenwriter Joe Eszterhas. It's a friggin' riot. I got it from the NYC Public library -- hey, I've given Mr. E enough of my hard earned money over the years seeing his many films like "Basic Instinct" and "Jagged Edge", not to mention "Flashdance"!

I saw "Flashdance" so many times when it came out that I probably funded Mr. E's 401K plan. That movie was my female Rocky -- and when Jennifer Beals (excellent now in The L Word) flew through the air in that leotard (or at least her body double) she signified all my passions for life -- and THAT famous wonderful, movie line that her boyfriend says to her when she's about to quit dancing... "When you give up your dream, you die."... well, Mr. E wrote that line... or co-wrote it... anyway, I love that line and the movie. So hats off to Mr. E (even if he did also write Showgirls).

Mr. E says in his book that it's NOT necessary to live in L.A. to be a working screenwriter. In fact, he rules against it -- says you'll lose your voice there. With the Internet and emails, and electronic script submissions, you can sell from a cave in Afghanistan these days (that's my take not his) but it may be slower dial up.

So check out this book. It's funny, scary, helpful and the best thing is I didn't pay a dime for it.
Whoohoo. Go to your local library and give Amazon and B&N a rest, people. Save a tree.


Friday, March 28, 2008


So recently I had a great chat with someone about screenwriting contests.

So now I'm curious, all you screenwriters out there -- how many screenwriting contests have you entered? How much $ have you spent on entry fees, xerox copies (before online submissions) and stamps? How many contests did you win? How many notified you that you won? Or lost?

How many didn't cash your entry checks? NOT ONE, huh? Not surprising. It's a racket some of these contests. So enter with your eyes wide open.

I think the top major screenwriting contests are fine and inspiring. But, have you noticed how many gazillion contests are out there now? Where does all that money go that these contests accumulate from hungry writers? Who is reading all these scripts? Do they actually read them? Do they read each and every one that costs us sometimes $75 a pop to submit online or do they just read the synopsis and press delete? Rejection City. (Insert Suze Orman here saying "De-nied! De-nied! You are sooooo denied!")

I've placed in my fair share of contests. I made it to the Finals of the New Century Writer's Awards in 2000 for my spec script "Brutal Pattern". This was the same script that was once optioned by Mike Farrell for Anne Heche (read earlier blog post for full story). Now I would have NEVER known that I made it into the Finals. Do you know how I found out? A male co-worker Googled me and my name and script title came up on the Finals list. So HE told ME.
No way, I said. Get out of here. "Google yourself" he demanded. Now this was around 2001 or so and I had NO IDEA what that meant. Google-my-what? "Come here, ya tech nerd, I'll show you." And he did. There I was. Janet Lawler "Brutal Pattern" A finalist in a contest. Hey, that's my name. My script. How cool was that?! I never win anything (except for Final Draft software once for getting Oscar Trivia right!).

So I ask you all again -- how many writing contests have you entered? Have you ever won? Maybe you won a contest and don't even know it.

Go Google yourself.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I just finished reading a decent new book called "The Screenwriting Formula: Why It Works and How to Use It" by Rob Tobin. It's a short read and very helpful. Tobin claims to have read over 5,000 screenplays working in Hollywood so he knows what eventually works and doesn't when it comes to writing and selling your work. I know, I know... we all want to break the rules and be innovative... but 99% of the movies we see on the screen follow a formula... whether it's making a cheesecake or building a new house... certain elements must go into it. And let's face it, we all know when a movie is working and when it's lost.

Tobin's 7 Basic Elements for writing a solid script are:

Your Hero
Your Hero's Character Flaw
Enabling Circumstances
The Opponent
The Hero's Ally
The Life Changing Event

Look at your favorite movies. Can you identify these 7 basic elements? One of my favorites that I reference a lot is ROCKY. That script/movie has all of the above and does it to perfection in my opinion. That is a rock solid story (pardon the pun).

But also a comedy like MY COUSIN VINNY works with the above elements. What better Hero's Ally is there than Marisa Tomei?? When her boyfriend/lawyer Vinny (the hero) accuses her of being a hostile witness on the stand, she replies , "You think I'm hostile now wait until tonight." Well, no wonder Marisa T. won the Oscar -- between that line and the "my clock's ticking" --she stole that movie and it was a very good movie overall.

So enjoy the book.

A friend of mine who love going to the movies is complaining that Hollywood is missing the mark. She hasn't gone in weeks and weeks to the movies. She says the movies are boring or a waste of time. Is Hollywood missing the mark? Is that why the Oscars were so poorly rated this year? Where are the great filmmakers and writers? And not just the usual suspects... where is the undiscovered talent hiding?

Hollywood needs new blood if you ask me -- and new writers -- and new producers -- and new directors -- and new talent. It's like what's going on in the political world... think we all want change even on the big screen.