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There is a valuable lesson for aspiring writers in McCanlies' success: when you risk nothing, you gain nothing. McCanlies, Lazarus, and other successful screenwriters embroil themselves in chances, write creatively, experiment with different ideas, and raise their characters' stakes.
SUBMIT YOUR SCRIPT LIKE A PRO Once you have written an interesting, well-organized screenplay you need to submit your script neatly and according to studio standards. Lazarus warns his UCLA students about several technical errors in script presentation that annoy studio readers. Follow these guidelines:
1) A feature length screenplay should be longer than 95 pages and shorter than 125 pages when you submit it for studio consideration.
2) Don't include a synopsis or character biographies with your script as it gives studio readers an excuse not to review whole screenplay.
3) Don't put scene numbers on your script until it is sold. This is a rule of game; readers find scene numbers distracting and use them as an excuse to dub a screenplay "amateur" and unworthy of further consideration.
4) Studio readers prefer to receive scripts bound with circular metal brads. Using folders and binders hog office space and interns may discard scripts unintentionally during spring cleaning.
5) Finally, use one of many screenwriting programs to help format your script, such as Movie Magic Screenwriter, Final Draft or Script Wizard. You can find discounted deals at MasterFreelancer.com (http://www.MasterFreelancer.com), StoryScribe.com (http://www.StoryScribe.com), and Wizards4Word.com (http://www.wizards4word.com).
Make sure you proofread your script several times before submitting a script for Hollywood review. Busy studio readers will not peruse screenplays riddled with basic errors like confusing "it's" with "its" and using "are" when you mean "our." Use a program like Style Writer (found at http://www.StyleWriter-USA.com) to remedy such embarrassing grammar mistakes. When you're ready to submit your script, grab a Hollywood Creative Directory (found at http://www.storyscribe.com/mgbooks.html) to find markets for your script.
THINK SUCCESS AND BE A SUCCESS Remember to take risks with plot and character development, and follow studio standards for script submissions. Studying resources like "Secrets of Film Writing" by Tom Lazarus, "How Not to Write a Screenplay" by Denny Martin Flinn, "Crafty Screenwriting" by Alex Epstein, and "Alternative Scriptwriting" by Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush can be helpful for aspiring writers. Developing strong writing skills takes time, a willingness to learn, and perseverance. Writers who constantly improve their skills and experiment with new ideas will succeed.
Brian Konradt is a freelance writer and founder of FreelanceWriting.com (http://www.freelancewriting.com), a free web site to help writers master the business and creative sides of freelance writing; he also is founder of BookCatcher.com (http://www.bookcatcher.com), a free website to help authors promote their books.