This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 003: An Interview With Script Doctor Eric. Click here to listen or watch the original Podcast.
[Text on screen: Selling Your Screenplay.com with Ashley Scott Meyers]
Ashley: Welcome to the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley
Scott Meyers, Screenwriter and Blogger over at SellingYourScreenplay.com.
In this episode, I’m going to be talking with produced screenwriter and
script analyst, script Doctor Eric. He’s read hundreds of scripts over the
course of his career. And he also offers up some nuggets of advice. He’s
also read scripts for agents and gives us some tips on how to get your
material read by them.
As always, if you find this episode of value, please help me out by giving
a review on iTunes. I really do want to improve this podcast so some honest
and constructive feedback is very much appreciated.
If you’re watching this episode on YouTube or another online channel,
please like it and share it with your friends, and comment on it.
I want to give a shout-out to a few people who did leave me nice reviews on
iTunes. Thank you to RDM, Cleode [SP], ZanetaP [SP], Ryan Crole [SP],
JKLMR123, Wingdiz [SP] and Ginger Shine. They left me a nice review on
iTunes and I really do appreciate it.
And over at YouTube, Todd Spradlin [SP] and Fiona Kurnagagen [SP] left me
some comments and some very kind words.
So, I really do appreciate those people just taking a moment to give me a
comment. So, again, if you find this podcast helpful, please do just leave
a comment. I’m going to read all the comments so it can really help shape
the future of this podcast. So, thanks again.
A couple of quick notes: Any websites or links that I mention in the
podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I will also publish a
transcript with every episode, in case you’d rather read the show, instead
of listen to it.
You can find all the links and the show notes of the transcript at my blog,
and that’s SellingYourScreenplay.com/podcast. And just look for episode
three. And as I said, all the links and the transcript and the show notes
will all be there.
Also, if you want my free guide, “How To Sell Your Screenplay in Five
Weeks”, you can pick that up by going to SellingYourScreenplay.com/guide.
It’s completely free. You just put in your email address and I’ll send you
a new lesson once per week for five weeks, along with a bunch of bonus
I teach a whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide, how
to write a professional logline and query letter, how to find agents and
managers and producers who are looking for material. It really is
everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. So just go to
SellingYourScreenplay.com/guide if you’d like to check that out.
Couple quick notes on what I’m working on. As I mentioned last month, I was
gearing up to send out an email and fax blast on my one-location female
protagonist thriller script. I ended up sending the blast out on September
9th. So it’s now been two or three weeks.
As I mentioned, I have a huge list of producers, probably around 5,000
people in my database. I’ve got dozens of script requests from the blast
and now I’m starting to field some of the responses from people who have
read the script.
So far, I have one producer who may be interested in producing it on a
very, very low budget. So I’ve got to consider if this is something that I
really want to do. Overall though, people seem very positive with the
After reading the script, I’ve had a bunch of people check out my website
and request other scripts that I have listed. So that’s a good sign. At
least they like the writing enough to look at some of my other material. As
I mentioned too, I’ve written several thriller screenplays that are kind of
similar in tone and scope to this script. There are quite a few other
There are two or three other scripts on my website that are actually quite
similar. I’m hoping to find, even if this particular script doesn’t get
optioned, it might lead to another option on one of these other scripts.
One big takeaway from the blast is how important the concept is to getting
script requests from cold query letters. In June this year, which was just
three months ago, I did a blast for a baseball comedy that I wrote.
Compared to this recent blast, which is, as I said, a one-location thriller
screenplay, I’ve gotten probably a third more responses from this script
than from the baseball comedy. And a lot of the responses from the baseball
comedy was, it doesn’t play overseas; baseball’s not big overseas.
So it just really goes to show how important the concept is, in terms of
how many script requests you’re going to get. I think this really is a good
demonstration of that because I think one-location thriller script is
highly marketable. I think a baseball comedy script is much, much less
I think that basically bears out in the results I got from this blast. So
keep that in mind as you’re starting to work on your next script. What
concepts are more marketable than others because at the end of the day, the
more script requests you can get from a blast, the better chances you have
of actually optioning that script.
Just further, the query letters that I sent out were basically the same. My
credits have not changed much since June. They haven’t changed at all since
June. I basically list my credits and then I pitch the specific logline.
So the only real difference in the query letters is the actual logline, the
actual pitch for the script, because the rest of the query letter is
basically the same which is me basically listing my credentials. And that
So, really keep this in mind as you start to come up with new ideas. Think
about your concept and think about if you really think it’s a marketable
So now, let’s get into the main segment, which is an interview with Script
Doctor Eric. A couple of quick notes about this interview, I’m still kind
of new with podcasting and interviewing, and I actually recorded it via
Skype. We were both on Skype. I actually had a video portion where I was
trying to record the video as well as the audio.
But for whatever reason, I made a mistake and only was able to record the
audio. So I apologize for that. If you’re watching this on YouTube there’s
not really that much to see but if you’re just watching on iTunes it’s not
going to make a difference.
But hopefully in the future, my interviews will have a video portion to
them. Anyways, here’s the interview. I hope you enjoy it and get something
out of it.
Ashley: OK. Welcome Eric, to the October episode of ‘Selling Your
Screenplay Podcast’. Thanks for coming on.
Eric: Hey, thanks for having me. I actually appreciate it.
Ashley: I thought to start, we would just try and get a little bit of
an overview of your background; how you got into screenwriting, being a
script consultant and just your experience in the industry.
Eric: Yeah. No problem. The question was, how I got started in
screenwriting or how I got the first one sold or-
Ashley: Yeah! Yeah! Let’s just start. Take a step all the way back. How
did you first get into the business? What was your first job in the
business that actually led up to selling a script? And how did you decide
to become a script consultant?
Eric: Yeah. When I first graduated from UCLA, many years ago, I first
got into the industry just by . . . I interned at a talent agency before I
graduated and then when I graduated, they hired me on. I worked there for
about a year. I made a lot of nice contacts. One of the contacts, well a
few of the contacts were literary agents.
While I was there, I was mostly a receptionist and then I was assistant for
a talent agent. But I was still reading scripts because I had been writing
scripts even before that. I knew I wanted to do screenwriting. I was
working all these other jobs but I would go to the literary agents and I
would ask them, “Hey do you need anything read” and just read stuff for
free, over and over again.
You know, just give them my opinion, because they all have stacks of
scripts just this high, this high. You know, they have their pile that they
have to read or they have to get a really, really trusted opinion. And then
they have these huge, huge stacks. So they’re always looking for people to
read, especially for free. So they were happy to have my help.
Ashley: Where do these scripts come from? You mention they have a stack
that they have to read and a stack that maybe they’ll eventually get to.
Where do most of those scripts come from? How do you get in the stack of
scripts that they have to read?
Eric: In my experience, and maybe you have a different experience
with agents or producers, there’s always things that are pressing for them.
Like, they have a few scripts that they need to get back to. It’s their
client’s script or it’s someone real important that they’re trying to work
with or whatever. And they have a deadline or someone they’re responsible
They also have scripts of friends of friends who give them scripts that
they’re trying to read and they’ll eventually get back to that person. Then
they also have just submitted scripts, scripts that maybe caught their eye
through a query letter or a distant recommendation that they have a little
less obligation to read but would like to read someday.
Or the person contacts them once a month and they probably should read it
eventually. My experience, like most people who are out there who are
trying to, if they’re looking for new clients or anything like that then,
they do have these huge, huge piles of things they may never get to.
Ashley: Yeah. Sure. Sure. So yeah, continue with your story. You’re
working as a talent agent and reading scripts.
Eric: Right. Assistant to a talent agency. You know assistants do a
lot of the work so basically I was a talent agent. Yeah, so it’s reading
scripts and then I decided, you know what, I’m kind of losing my soul
working for a talent agency and I want to be a writer.
I wrote other things too at the time besides just screenplays, just
creative writing and would read a lot. And so I quit the agency to just
write on the side and work odd jobs. But I knew I loved screenwriting. I
knew I wanted to continue on that path.
A couple of the agents that still worked there and then soon left that
agency, because I had connections with them still, they still wanted me to
read for them. I would still read for them, just freelance. They would hire
me on. Their companies would hire me on. Other people I knew there would
want me to read so they would throw me a script here and there.
You know, the tough thing about being a reader, especially a reader when
you’re starting out at that level, is the work is very inconsistent. So you
don’t know when you’re going to get a script.
But when you’re in your early 20s and you read a script for $50 bucks,
you’re like, “Wow, that’s $50 bucks, you know? I read a script and I gave
feedback. That’s amazing. I can’t believe I’m getting paid $50 bucks to
read a script.” But then you realize, if you’re trying to make that a full
time living that, wow, this is going to be really really hard.
Ashley: Sure. Sure.
Eric: …to make script reading, you know, freelance reading, a full
time living, job.
Ashley: Sure. Sure. At some point during all this you wrote a script
and were able to sell it. Maybe give us a little history about that. How
did you meet the producers? How did you get that script into production?
Eric: Basically I was living the life of working, I had part time
jobs, and then writing. I had a writing partner at the time. We had had
some success just getting a few meetings here and there, just from
submitting query letters, which I’m sure we can talk about, and through
friends of friends and that sort of thing.
These were producers that he met actually, at a party. My writing partner
and I were writing a script together, and he met these producers at a party
who made low budget movies, and he said, “Hey we’re writing a low budget
movie.” He told them about it and they’re like, “Well, that’s OK.” He’s
like, “Well we’ve got other ideas.” They’re like, “Great, we’d love to hear
He said “OK, my writing partner and I will get back to you next week.”
Basically he came to me and he said, “Hey, you got any ideas for a low
budget script?” I said, “Oh, I guess we got a week to come up with
something.” Basically I went through my old stack of ideas for scripts. You
know, the notes you have of, what I will write in the future.
I found a few that I’m like OK, they’re looking for single location, only a
few actors. OK. What can fit that mold? I had like three or four ideas. I
pitched it to my writing partner and we went back and forth on how to
improve that pitch.
Then we pitched it to those guys and they really liked one of the ideas. We
sent them some samples for writing. They loved our samples. So they’re
like, yeah we love this idea, and we want you to write it, so we’re going
to pay you to write this script. Then it turned into a movie.
Ashley: Nice. They actually paid you before you had written the script.
Eric: No. They paid after.
Ashley: OK. OK.
Eric: We signed a contract and everything, on delivery of “X” draft
and we’d get paid “X” amount.
Ashley: OK. Cool. Nice. And how do you think the movie turned out, in
Eric: I mean, it’s a good lesson. You know, it’s the first one. I
feel like it’s a good lesson in what happens with low budget movies. There
was, just briefly, [laughs], I thought that a surprise the acting was
really good. Because when you’re writing for a low budget company and
they’re like, oh, we’re making this movie for $100,000 and we’re not really
paying these actors much.
So you’re thinking like, “Oh God, while you’re writing the script, what
lines can I deliver that these actors won’t mess up?” So you want
everything to be clear but not hokey. Beyond just trying to tell a good
story, you’re walking this fine line of like, “OK . You know, make it easy.
Make it easy for everyone. Just get this clear thing.”
So, that said, there were a lot of great things that were delivered. There
were some key things that they left out of the script that the director or
whatever decided to leave out. We’re like, you know, the script was
barebones. Those key elements were kind of important.
Beyond that, the other thing though I have to say that really took our
movie from a movie that you could be like, oh that was not bad, it was a
decent low budget movie to this is a rough watch, which honestly I really
feel like maybe I’m a little hard on because I envision it in my head as
something a little better.
I don’t really recommend it. I don’t carry it around with me. None of my
friends have seen it. [Lawrence] I think of friends the only one that’s
seen it. I really consider it a rough watch. The main reason though
actually is sound.
Their sound mix and their background music, sometimes overpowers the scene
to the point where you’re not sure if the actors are hearing the music.
It’s kind of mood music. It’s like these moody strings and things.
You’re like, do the actors hear that or . . . Because it’s basically three
people trapped in a box and they don’t know why, sort of thing. Weird
things are happening. It’s kind of key that the music and the sound effects
are very clear. So to me, that messes a lot of things up.
Ashley: OK, well if anybody does want to check it out, is it available
on Amazon or streaming or iTunes or anything like that?
Eric: It’s available at my house on a DVD.
Ashley: Fair enough.
Eric: I don’t know. If you search for . . . If you dug enough online,
you could probably find out. I’m not issuing a challenge to say go find it
out there. If you have internet, you’ll probably be able to find it. It was
released in a small run, I think, in Europe. I’ve seen our IMDb reviews.
It’s all like from the UK. I think it was out on video there.
Ashley: What’s the name of it?
Eric: It’s called ‘Shadow Play’.
Ashley: OK. OK. Well, we’ll keep an eye out for it. How did you move
into, I guess, just starting your own script consultant business?
Eric: At one point I decided,’ OK the screenwriting thing is actually
OK’ and we got the momentum started. But I wanted a better part time job. I
decided to go to grad school to have that part time job that leads to
something in the future. So I went to grad school. While I was in grad
school I met my current wife, who’s in business.
I say current like as if I had past wives, right? I met the woman who would
become my one and only wife, in grad school. She was in business. She
wasn’t in grad school with me. So, we would talk about business things.
It got me started like, you know, I was still reading scripts part time for
the agent that I mainly read for, and some other small things. And I was
still going to grad school and still writing on my own. But I thought, at
one point when I was reading for that agent, I was talking to his clients,
I’d give him the client notes, and the agent didn’t pay me very much to
read for him, right?
I was talking to the client and the client was like, “Wow, Eric, your
notes, I paid a script consultant hundreds of dollars and your notes are
just as good as his, if not better.” I’m like, wait a second, I should be
going directly to screenwriters themselves and helping them out. So that’s
where I got the idea. And then I started realizing . . .
Then I started, established the website back in, I think it was 2007, end
of 2007, beginning of 2008. And then just started reaching out to people,
seeing who’s out there if they need help on their scripts. You know, just
trying to get it started and trying to spread good word of mouth, get good
feedback, and just helping people directly, since I had been doing this, at
that point, for maybe eight years.
With my own screenwriting experience, I think it offers a slightly
different take on it versus a lot of people who haven’t, you know,
producers or agents or assistants who haven’t written scripts themselves.
Ashley: Sure. Sure. In all of your years, how many scripts would you
estimate you’ve actually read?
Eric: I tried to calculate that one time. I would say around 50
scripts a year, some of the years I read 100 scripts. I don’t know. I just
say like over 1000 or thousands, because I lost track. Like, do you count
actually the ones you read half way through?
Ashley: It’s a half, yeah. What are some just common mistakes? I mean,
there must be some similarities in problems that you see from new writers.
I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of new writers listening to our podcast.
Maybe you can give just a couple of quick tips to new writers, just common
mistakes that you see over and over again, things that they can avoid.
Eric: The basic thing of just getting the structure down, which I’m
sure you talked about a little bit, or most screenwriting podcasts talk
about, is you don’t want glaring things to distinguish your script. You
want to express yourself through the writing and through the story and the
You’re not going to be able to, as they say, reinvent the wheel through new
formatting. You know, Quentin Tarantino style or having a picture on the
front or changing out, you know, you don’t want interior, you want to say
like, something else with a slug line. No, no, no.
If you’re just starting out, just nail the basics. Nail the slug line.
Nail the description. And do that as good as you can because people aren’t
going to think like, “Oh this person’s being very creative”, which you may
be being creative with it. In a creative sense, that’s fine.
But in a sense of, you want people to take it seriously then you just have
to nail the established format, you know, the general established format.
Would you say that’s kind of along the lines of what you tell people?
Ashley: Yeah. I would say so. I think a lot of new screenwriters, and
when you said structure, I thought you were going to go more into the three
act structure, the Blake Snyder beat sheet, and I would actually say that
that is very important. I think, if you structure your screenplay well, it
almost can’t be terrible.
If you have your three act structure, your character arcs, you hit those
Blake Snyder beat sheets, it may not be great, but it can’t be terrible.
Whereas if you don’t have good structure, it almost can’t be good. There
are scripts that don’t have good structure that are good, certainly there
are some examples. But it’s really an uphill battle. You’ve got to be like
a really great writer to be able to write a script that doesn’t have sort
of a conventional structure that’s actually good.
My advice is always, just exactly sort of what you’re saying is, really try
and nail the basics before you go out there and try and reinvent the wheel
in terms of structure. I’m talking about more conventional stuff, as I
said, like the three act structure, really understanding Blake Snyder’s
[SP] beat sheet; the low points, the high points, the catalyst, when those
moments should happen, and making sure that they do happen.
Eric: I totally agree with you on that. I would even back it up a
moment. Like you say, what do you tell first time screenwriters or whatnot.
Even to get to the point where someone’s going to read past a few pages of
your script you know, 5, 10, 20 pages.
Like, you’ve got to nail just the basics of what a screenplay is. I think I
read the transcript of your second podcast, where you talk about when you
were starting out, of just nailing those, understanding what a screenplay
is. You know?
And really just understanding the format. IF you don’t understand that,
then you aren’t going to get past anything.
Ashley: But you’re talking about just almost like formatting, the nuts
and bolts of that. So, give us a couple of tips. How do you recommend
somebody nail those things and get that stuff down?
Eric: Just read a few screenplays. Just have those in front of you
when you’re writing the format, when you’re typing it out on Final Draft.
Use a professional screenwriting program. Because if you’re not willing to
spend money on a professional screenwriting program, maximum $200, then
really how much are you committed to, even if you consider this a hobby?
What hobby are you not willing to spend a couple hundred dollars on? Right?
I mean, that’s just the starting up. I deal with a lot of people who are
like, no I don’t want to spend any money. Or you hear like, Craig Mazin
[SP] says, “People like that say, screenwriting should be free, you don’t
have to spend any money.”
It’s like, “No, you’re going to have to spend some money.” Like anything.
If you want to get good at it, if you want to look professional, you have
to spend money doing it. One of the things that’s going to immediately make
you look professional is a professional screenwriting program.
Ashley: And you’re talking basically like Final Draft.
Eric: Final Draft or Movie Magic. Yeah. One of those, either one of
Ashley: Those will take care of like, 99% of any formatting issues.
Just those alone will pretty much fix that.
Eric: But also not having huge paragraphs, like huge blocks of
paragraphs. I still see this, like more than five lines of description I
would say. More than five lines of dialog at once. It’s OK occasionally,
but if I open up a script and it’s just huge, huge . . . I’m looking at the
screen here. I’m making signs on the screen with my hands so I can see it.
Like, if you just have a chunk of description and then chunk of dialog and
then chunk of description then it’s just like, you haven’t read a lot of
screenplays because you know that those have to be short. They have to be
literally three or four lines maximum, so people can read these things
You can tell just by glancing at a script. You got to nail that sort of
thing too. I think I told you before this at the podcast is that one of the
things I tell people right now, because I’m not reading a lot of scripts,
I’m not helping out people directly right at this moment, is I just tell
them, look, read scripts, get out there and get your hands on as many
scripts as you can and just read those.
Ashley: I guess another good question I would have would be, what are
some screenplays that you specifically would recommend people read? I mean,
there’s some writers out there like Shane Black [SP]. You mentioned Quentin
Tarantino. These guys have a real style and pizazz. One of the things that
I’ve seen is, certainly Shane Black in the late ’90s when I was coming into
Hollywood and reading scripts, everybody was copying his style. The problem
is, they didn’t have his . . . it felt like, sort of, a knock off.
It felt like they were trying to copy somebody’s style as opposed to
actually come up with a style of their own. And it felt a little bit
stilted, overwritten. I wonder if there are some writers out there that are
maybe good examples for people to read when they’re starting out.
Eric: I would say no. You don’t have to read any of these big people.
You don’t have to read . . . I would not even think about style, especially
if you’re just starting out. If you’re starting out . . . This is another
conversation of like how you want to catch people’s attention but, just
nailing the basics. Read things like “Meet The Parents”, which is just a
very solid comedy.
I think that Ben Stiller, you know, Hambert, Humbert, I forget the guy’s
name. But you have just solid writers on these things. I would just read
screenplays, even screenplays on the Blacklist, or especially screenplays
on the Blacklist out there, that are unproduced screenplays that are being
passed around Hollywood that are kind of the current style of how people
tell a story, or the structure, or the format.
Just read these. Don’t try to copy any style. Don’t get attached to any one
person or anything like that. Just try to get a sense of what a screenplay
is and what people are reading and how they are being disseminated in the
Hollywood world and what people expect when they pick up yours because they
expect one of this type of thing. So just get a sense.
It’s hard to even nail down to say copy this person or read this script,
but I’m just like, just read. If you want to be a screenwriter and you’re
not reading at least one screenplay a week, then you’re not you know . . .
If you haven’t done that in the past . . . If you’ve read hundreds of
screenplays already, I’m not talking to you.
But if you haven’t, if he’s like, I’ve read a couple screenplays and I’ll
do some screenwriting. OK you’ve read a couple? You need to start reading
one a week, at the very minimum. You need to have read hundreds of
screenplays. I could look at a few . . . I’ve seen a lot of houses . . .
People say, I’ve seen movies, I can probably write a screenplay. Look at
all those bad movies. I could write something. Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of
houses too, but I don’t think I could like, design a house, right? I’d have
to look at blueprints. I’d have to study blueprints. How they do it. Oh,
this is a blueprint. Oh, this is how they do it. Oh, OK, I see how they
draw the lines.
That’s what you need to do even if you’ve seen a ton of movies. Even if
I’ve seen you know, millions of houses. You still need to figure out how
they construct these things.
Ashley: Sure. Sure. So the takeaway there is read gazillions of
Eric: Well, at least once a week. Is that too much to ask?
Ashley: No. I totally hear you. I just, on my blog,
SellingYourScreenplay.com/library, I have actually posted hundreds of
screenplays. I’ve created my own screenplay library. So anybody listening
to this just go there. It’s all free. They’re all on PDF format. You can
download them. You can read them on your Kindle or your iPad or your iPhone
or your computer or whatever. I think that’s solid advice.
One of the questions, and I’m sure you get this too, is, I get tons of
people, new writers especially, and they’re always asking, how do I get an
agent? How can I find an agent? Do you have any specific tips since you’ve
been on the inside of an agency? How do these agents find new writers? And
what are some general tips about getting an agent, finding an agent and
getting your script read by an agent?
Eric: When people ask me that question I say, just give your script
to my friend Ashley Meyers.
He’ll get you an agent.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. If it was only that easy. I wish I could
get everybody an agent.
Eric: Maybe that’s why you’re getting all those questions.
Eric: You really have a great system. I like your system on your
website, Selling Your Screenplay, of the query letter system, because that
is like you say on there, sometimes it can be a numbers game. I feel like
that is definitely one legitimate and very solid way to go about
I assume you’re asking about other ways because you could talk about the
query system all day right? Otherwise, just from working there, you do get
query letters from people and it’s tough because then you do weed through
them. I’ve read far more query letters than I’ve read screenplays because
that’s also what I did for agents and agencies. It’s a tough road to take.
A better way to get your script read by an agent, beyond a query letter . .
. Well first, let me just say one thing about query letters, is that if you
write a solid query letter or with you or whoever, you really want it to be
read by a certain person, like a certain production company or production
agency, because they really make your type of movie. I would be persistent.
And maybe you disagree with this message, but I would just call and ask
them, “Hey have you read my query letter?” Because then they will have to
read it and respond to you somehow. And they don’t get that many people
working for agencies. You honestly, for the amount of query letters you
get, let’s say you get 50 query letters a day for the average agency, for
that amount maybe you get one or two phone calls about query letters.
So that ratio, that’s going to set you apart already. If you are
professional and you do act professional, you don’t try to piss them off or
anything like that. You’re just very polite, “Hey–
Ashley: But to be clear, you’re suggesting that you mail, email or fax
a query letter and then a week later, two days later, you follow up with a
phone call and say, “Hey did you see my query letter?”
Eric: Yeah. Follow it up like you’re any professional. You know?
Like, “Hey, I really like your company. You guys made such and such, and
such and such. I hear you’re looking for “X” type of film. I sent you a
query letter about a week ago. I’m wondering if you got a chance to take a
look at it?” You know? They’ll probably say, “Oh no, what’s your name?”
But then they realize, wait a second, this person’s going to follow up
until I actually read their letter or get back to them. So that’s one way I
think, if you know a specific place that you want to go to with something.
If you just want to get anybody then definitely your method is an awesome
way to go.
The other way, and I think you mention this too, that, living in LA you do
get a lot of people who work for the entertainment industry. It’s about
creating a fan base for your own writing. Like, for my writing, I’m sure
for your writing too, if you wanted to, you could hand it to people and
have them hand it to an agent, or their manager or a friend of a friend or
whatnot. Just being here, working in the industry, you start to know
If you actively go out, and actually, actively go out and network, then
you’ll know way more people. There will always be more people to hand your
stuff to. And once you start showing people your writing, and once people
start liking your writing, which they should if you’re good, right? Then
If you’re an assistant and you’re just coming up, you want to have a great
script in your hand and say, hey my friend wrote this. Let’s get this made.
They want to be that person behind that project. The whole myth of like, no
one wants to read any screenplays in Hollywood, I feel like that’s way
People really, actually, deep down do want to find something good. They
really do. They wouldn’t be doing it if deep down they didn’t think there
was some kind of diamond in the rough. There’s just so much rough.
Eric: They’re so jaded, you know? They’ll put you off. They’ll put
you off. You have to be persistent and you have to push through. That’s
what I would say.
Ashley: That’s excellent advice. OK. One other thing that I find with
new writers, and I’d be curious to hear your take on this, is a lot of new
writers feel like if they can get an agent, all of a sudden it’s smooth
sailing and they’re just going to zip right to that A-level screenwriter.
I’d be curious to hear your take on that, again, working inside the agency.
What percentage of the writers that were represented were actually making a
living as a writer?
Eric: Most of the writers that were making a living at it were on TV,
were TV writers. Because feature writers, even if you sell a script for
$100,000 or $200,000, think of all the people you have to pay first of all;
10% to the agent, 15% to your manager, 5% to your attorney. That’s before
or after taxes which is going to take another 40-50% on $100,000 paycheck.
So you think, “Well I sold a script for $100,000, smooth sailing.” You
know? Great stuff. You just immediately lost 30% to your representation,
let alone half the taxes. So what, you’re coming out with $30,000? That’s
going to set you, in LA? You can live for six months?
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah. But even more, I’m curious to hear, what percentage
of the writers had not sold anything in years. And how many TV writers did
they represent and what percentage of those TV writers were actually on a
show and making a living? Because just going to a coffee shop in LA you run
into people, “Oh yeah I’m a writer”, and they haven’t worked in ten years.
And that’s a very common thing.
They have representation, good representation, but for whatever reason . .
I feel like people put too much faith in, “Oh if I could just get an agent,
everything will be smooth sailing.” I wish it was that simple but sadly,
that’s not always the case.
Eric: I feel like that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about
being a screenwriter, about Hollywood. Especially at the lower or midlevel,
or even upper midlevel areas, is that once you get an agent you’re set. You
know, once you get a manager, you’re set. No. That’s just the beginning.
The people who I know who have been successful, even when they get an
agent, even when they get a manager, they just know that’s a stepping
stone. And they’re still out there writing like crazy, pushing their work.
You know? Writing and pushing. They know the agent or manager isn’t going
to do anything for them. I mean, they’re going to help with the deal and
But ultimately, it’s up to the person who’s writing who’s going to be able
to create something that’s going to be able to go out there and also help
them to network. In my experience, it’s by far not the end of the road.
It’s just the beginning of the road.
If you get an agent or manager, here’s what it indicated, it indicates that
you’re on the right path. It should be a sign. It should be like, OK, this
is a sign that actually I am a solid screenwriter and that I am good at
this, I am better than 98% of the other people out there.
However, you still have thousands of people to compete against. It’s just a
sign and you should say, great got that sign, now it’s time to keep
Ashley: OK. I just want to maybe give you a chance to . . . Are you
still doing script consulting? And if people want to contact you, what’s a
good way to do that?
Eric: People can always contact me at [email protected], go
to my website which is obviously ScriptDoctorEric.com. Right now though,
I’m working on something else right now, something secretive. But I did
kind of, I don’t know if I told you this but, I sort of temporarily have
passed the reigns of ScriptDoctorEric.com to Joey, our good friend Script
Doctor Joey [SP]. You know Joey from the writers group.
Ashley: Yeah. Sure. Sure.
Eric: She’s one of the best screenwriters I know, to be honest. And
one of the best note-givers I know. So, I had no problem recommending her
to people. She’s been a reader . . . So if you go to ScriptDoctorEric.com,
Joey can give you notes. Script Doctor Joey will completely help you out if
you’re looking for feedback on your script it’s about $100 bucks for a
feature, $75 if you’re doing TV.
She’s really good with TV, $60 for a pilot. Go to ScriptDoctorEric.com and
check it out. Hopefully I will be returning there soon. I’m always on
Twitter too, and Facebook. So hopefully I’ll be returning and updating the
website more frequently. But I appreciate you having me on. And thanks for
coming on script cast back in the day.
Ashley: Yeah. Sure. Sure. It’s fun. We’ve had a good relationship. It
all started too, just with a cold email you sent me.
Slowly, over the years, we’ve gotten to know each other better. I
appreciate your coming on too today Eric. So thank you very much. I will
link to everything that you just mentioned. I’ll link to your blog, your
Twitter account, your Facebook page in the show notes, so people can find
you there. So, thank you Eric.
Ashley: There are a couple key takeaways from the interview that I just
want to emphasize. He mentions his writing partner meeting a producer at a
party. If you listen to my podcasts or read my blog, you know I’m a big
proponent to moving to Los Angeles, and this is a clear example of why it’s
It’s highly unlikely that you’re going to run into a low budget producer at
a party anywhere in the world except LA. Also, finding a good writing
partner is going to be much more difficult outside of LA. In LA, there are
so many writers that your pool of potential writing partners is much
Also when he said he read over 1,000 screenplays, I think that’s something
to really consider. That’s a lot of reading. But that’s the sort of effort
it takes to be a professional. I’m like Eric, I’m a big proponent of
spending a few bucks and buying Final Draft. It really will take care of
99% of your formatting issues.
I get a ton of questions about screenplay formatting issues and really,
Final Draft will take care of 99% of those. I also think it’s interesting
that Eric didn’t want to rattle off a bunch of specific screenplays that he
thought you should read. It’s a point well taken.
You should really be reading so many screenplays that there isn’t any point
to naming a few specific ones. To name a few specific screenplays would be
to really cheapen the whole thing because you should be reading tons. I
think he said once per week, and I think that’s a really ideal amount. If
you want to be a screenwriter, go out and get some screenplays and start
He also mentioned the Blacklist. I’m sure many of you have heard of that
but it’s an annual list of supposedly the best unproduced screenplays in
Hollywood. It’s voted on by industry professionals. It’s become very
prestigious to have your screenplay listed on the Blacklist. If you want to
know more about that, I will link to their official website in the show
You can usually find the screenplays that are on this Blacklist, you can
usually find the screenplays by doing a couple of Google searches. If you
want to read some of them just search for the title of the screenplay.
Often times, not always but often times, you can find the actual screenplay
and read it. And they are great examples of screenplays to read because
it’s basically insiders
A lot of them don’t end up getting produced. A lot of them do get produced.
But a lot of them don’t. It’s interesting to read screenplays that are
highly regarded in the industry, and kind of get a feel for what those are
and why they’re good.
Also I mentioned in the interview that I’ve launched my own screenplay
library. You can find that at SellingYourScreenplay.com/library. I have
hundreds of screenplays in PDF format. It’s all free. You just go there,
click around, I have everything alphabetized and you can just download PDF
scripts and read them at your leisure. So, that’s a good resource if you’re
wondering where to find screenplays.
I just want to take a quick moment to talk about some of the other services
I offer at SellingYourScreenplay.com. Each month I run an online class.
Last month was the first class, and it was about choosing a marketable
I recorded the class and have posted it inside the screenwriting forum that
I run. I feel like this is the single biggest mistake that new
screenwriters make. They’ll write an entire screenplay based on a concept
that isn’t marketable.
If you feel like you need some help in figuring out how to create
marketable concepts, check out that class. Go to
SellingYourScreenplaySelect.com to learn more about this.
This month I’m going to be running an online class about everything you
need to do before you start actually writing. Most new screenwriters start
writing their screenplay way too soon. Screenplays are all about planning
If you lay the proper groundwork before you begin writing your screenplay,
you’re likely to have a much easier time writing your screenplay. And
you’re likely to end up with a much better screenplay.
If you’d like to learn more about this class, go to
I just want to talk about what’s going to be in next month’s episode. I’m
going to be answering one of the most common questions that I get. It goes
something like this: If you were starting out today and had no contacts in
the industry, what would you do to jumpstart your career?
In in next month’s episode, I’m going to give you a quick step-by-step
guide to getting your first few credits as a screenwriter. In this day and
age, it’s never been easier. It’s never been easier than it is right now to
get a credit, because production costs have fallen so much. Keep an eye out
for that next month.
In this episode’s “Writing Words” section, I just want to share a little
story that will hopefully inspire you and help you with your own writing.
After I started this blog a few years ago, I went to Blog World Expo in Las
Vegas. It’s just a blogging convention, all about blogging. And there’s a
bunch of sessions and classes and stuff to hopefully help you with running
your own blog.
One of the sessions that I went to was called something like, “An Hour
with Big Money Bloggers”. The people on the panel were all people earning
tens of thousands of dollars per month from their blogs. The three guys on
the panel were a guy named Jeremy ShoeMoney Schoemaker [SP], John Chow and
another guy named Brian Clark who runs Copyblogger.
In the blogging world, these guys are real celebrities and there was a
packed house. I mean, there had to have been 200-300 people at the session.
The session was basically people in the audience asking questions. And then
the panel would answer the questions.
There was a ton of really detailed technical questions. You know, stuff
like, what plugins you should use for your blog, tricks to increase your
Twitter following. It became pretty clear that the people in the audience
were looking for some sort of magic bullet. They were hoping to make a lot
of money from their blogs. They were hoping that these guys could give them
some sort of secret sauce that just would allow them to make tons of money.
Finally, I think it was John Chow, he said that he had blogged for two or
three years before he started earning any money from his blog. He knew how
many posts he had written over the course of that two or three years. It
was something like 2.6 per day for three years. It was like 1,000 posts
before he had actually made any money.
Then he asked people in the audience if anyone had been consistently
blogging for that many years, and had that many posts, and wasn’t making
any money from their blog. There was literally, nobody raised their hand.
This was kind of a real revelation to me. All of a sudden it dawned on me
that the secret to success is that there is no secret.
I kind of feel like these bloggers sometimes, running my screenwriting
blog. I get a ton of questions from people and I often feel like a lot of
the questions really don’t matter. And people should really just worry
about the big picture.
So, what are the big things that I think people should concentrate on?
First, I think people should look at this screenwriting journey as a sort
of a five year plan. Don’t get too caught up in the moment, and just
realize it’s going to take many years. Let’s just say it’s going to take
five years, for the sake of this argument. So the main things you should
concentrate are just exactly what Script Doctor Eric said in the interview,
reading a lot of scripts. That’s a huge component to being a good
screenwriter, is just sitting down and reading scripts.
The other obviously big component to being a good screenwriter, is writing.
I think if you’re working a full time job and have a family, hopefully you
can find, at minimum, one hour per day, four days per week. So that’s
basically four hours per week. And it doesn’t have to be precisely four
hours a week. But I think the consistency will help you improve.
Just trying to find some specific time that you’re free and you can spend
an hour really getting down to business and writing. Hopefully, you’re
thinking about your script all day so, when you actually do sit down to
write, it’s actually really productive time.
You’ve already thought through some of the scenes. You’ve already thought
through some of the choices you’re going to make. So after five years of
that, you should probably have five to eight completed screenplays, of just
consistently writing four hours a week.
The other component, so you’ve got reading a lot of scripts, writing a lot
of scripts, the next component obviously, is the marketing. I do want to
just be careful about the example I just gave about blogging. Blogging, by
design, is marketing. Just by blogging, you are actually doing some
marketing, whether you know it or not, because the search engines find your
blog, they index it and they find you traffic.
I mean, that’s marketing. With screenwriting, the marketing is not built
into the act of writing. So you’ve got to go out and actively market your
screenplays. And that’s really what my blog is all about. I’m not going to
go into the specific tactics of what you should be doing. I go into that a
lot on my blog and certainly will spend a lot of time on this podcast.
But suffice it to say, that after a year or two of consistently writing for
four hours a week, you should have maybe three to four completed
screenplays that you think are halfway decent. And at that point, I think
it’s time to really start dividing your time and spend half your time
writing and half your time marketing.
So, that’s really it. That is, to me, really exactly what John Chow
basically said. It’s like, just sit down and do the work and write. Read a
lot of screenplays, write a lot of screenplays and market the screenplays
you have. Just concentrate on those three things and don’t get caught up in
Any of these little formatting issues, questions about query letters, all
these things, they will literally answer themselves after you’ve gotten out
there and just done it. Send out query letters. See what the response is.
Talk to producers. Read scripts.
All of a sudden, all of these questions that you have, and you feel sort of
insecure, you don’t know if you’re doing it right, what’s going to happen,
all those questions will start to evaporate if you just get out and do it.
Don’t worry about these little minutiae of what you need to do. Just start
doing it. You’re going to make some mistakes. That’s part of the process.
You’re going to make some horrendous mistakes. When I started out, I was
sending out stuff that should definitely not have been sent out.
The key here is, and what I kind of want the takeaway from this to be, is
that I don’t have any sort of secret knowledge that I can share with you
that’s going to all of a sudden make you a successful screenwriter. It’s
just really about getting out there and doing it for yourself.
I mean, there’s no screenwriter, there’s no screenwriting book, there’s no
screenwriting podcast that has the secret answer. I hope that you’re not
listening to this podcast during a time that you could and should be
actually writing. I mean, podcasts are great and screenwriting books are
I definitely think they should be sort of a part of your overall strategy,
but that’s like the icing. It’s not the cake. This podcast is not the cake.
It’s just the icing. The cake is the reading screenplays, the writing
screenplays and the marketing of the screenplays.
I mean, I listen to a ton of podcasts, but I listen to them when I go for a
walk or when I’m in my car driving, and I really couldn’t be doing anything
I want to offer a challenge here to the readers. I’d like to hear from
anyone who’s done all the things that I just mentioned, reading
screenplays, writing screenplays and marketing screenplays, and has done it
for five years and has not had any success. Just send me an email and tell
me what you’ve done and tell me you haven’t had any success.
My guess is I won’t have any emails of someone saying this. But if you do,
if you’re that person that’s done all three of these things and you’ve done
it consistently for five years and still haven’t had any success, by all
means send me an email. I’d certainly like to talk to you.
What I’m trying to sort of lay out here is that, it’s really that simple.
There’s no shortcut. There’s no secret sauce. There’s no secret thing that
you’re missing. It’s really just about putting your head down and doing the
I want to be clear about one thing. I have met many people over the years
that have written scripts for more than five years. They have written
dozens of scripts and they have not found success. But generally, when I
get to talking to them, what the issue is, is they have not spent the time
marketing their scripts. All they’ve done is just sat down and just write
This is not, ‘do two out of three things and you’ll have success’. You’ve
got to do all three of these things. That’s all you have to do, but you’ve
got to all three of them. It’s not about just doing two of them and hoping
that the third one takes care of itself.
So, once again, if you are that person that has done these things, just
send me an email. I would really like to talk to you. I’d be happy to try
and help you. Because I really think if you’re consistently doing these
things for five years, you will find some success. If you haven’t done all
these things for five years, just make that your mission day by day, week
by week and month by month. Just keep plodding along. Your efforts will
slowly add up. Don’t let trivial questions get you off track. Just put them
out of your mind.
When I started out, I didn’t know what I was doing or how to write a
screenplay or how to write a query letter. But you know what, I just sent
out terrible query letters and I sent out terrible screenplays. But I got
better and I learned. And that’s the key. Don’t worry about making
mistakes. We all make mistakes. I still make plenty of mistakes, some of
them pretty huge.
As I mentioned earlier in this podcast, after more than a decade of writing
screenplays, I wrote a baseball comedy and now I can see that it’s going to
be very difficult to get it produced no matter how good the script is. But
I learned from it.
Now I spend a lot more time really considering the concept of the spec
scripts that I’m going to write. Don’t look for shortcuts and magic
bullets. The magic is in the slow, unglamorous process of reading and
writing and marketing a little bit every day.
So thank you for listening to the podcast. Hopefully you’ll listen again.
Thank you and goodbye.