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Formatting Your Screenplay to Industry Standard

Having a properly formatted screenplay is almost as important as having a compelling story and dynamic characters. Why? Because a producer will never bother reading your script if it’s not formatted to perfection from page one. So, I’ve put together some simple rules for screenplay formatting. If you have a formatting question that isn’t answered in these pages, feel free to comment and I’ll get back to you.

Your title page should contain the title of your screenplay with ‘Written by Your Name’ beneath. Bottom left should have your contact information. If you wrote the script but someone else came up with the story, you should have a ‘Story by’ credit below your name.

The first page of your screenplay ALWAYS starts with ‘FADE IN:’. No page number.

As of page two you start having page numbers in the top right.

All screenplays end with ‘FADE OUT.” on the far right hand side of the page.

If you’re printing and mailing your screenplay, it should be bound with brass brads. (You can buy these at Staples.)

Happy writing!

Old Drunk Genius meets Innocent Teen Loser: How to Develop Dynamic Characters

Opposing Character Traits in Rick and Morty

Before you set out the write a series proposal, script, short story or even novel, the first thing you should be looking into (after deciding what you want to say and why) is what kind of characters are needed to tell the story. Time and time again literature has proven that the more diverse the cast and characters, the more easily conflict is developed and the more interested the readers or viewers will be. So, what’s the number one rule to developing interesting and dynamic characters? Opposing character traits. And Rick and Morty is the perfect animated television series to prove this.

Rick and Morty Character Map

Taking a look at the above character map, you will find that every single trait or value Morty possesses, Rick will reflect the exact opposite. For instance, Morty’s innocence contrasts with Rick’s corruptness. Rick’s bravery contrasts with Morty’s relentless fear. The complete incompatibility of these two characters is what makes for constant conflict and endless comedy. Not to mention, we are always able to get two sides to a story and see the dynamic situations through two very different lens.

The same can be done with the other characters in the show. In almost every way possible, Jerry is the complete opposite of Beth and Summer. This is why Jerry is often up against the two women of the house and why episodes with Jerry and Summer or Jerry and Beth are much more interesting and comedic than episodes that focused on a plot line with just Beth and Summer (who are too similar to create much conflict).

So, my message to all writers, new and seasoned, is before you get to typing, first create a character map and figure out exactly who your protagonist is. Then make sure you have another character (antagonist or buddy) who can oppose them in every way. This is bound to make your writing more interesting and your situations endless.

And don’t forget, if you have a short script, send it my way! Submissions are open and one amazing screenwriter will be declared winner at the end of every month and have their screenplay published on ScreenWriterFem. Happy writing.

Writers of Vancouver get ready for February

Hello Writers! With February coming fast, don’t forget to mark these important dates in your calendar. Here’s what you have to look forward to:

Saturday, February 2nd – Introductory Screenwriting

Join Michelle Muldoon on 1193 Grant Street for an extensive introductory screenwriting course. This events is for writers and filmmakers alike and will cover format, structure, plot, character development, budgeting and networking. The course instructor Michelle is a former board member of Women in Film and Television Vancouver and winner of Best Drama Screenplay Award in the 2008 AOF International Film Festival. Michelle is a singer/ songwriter and the creator of the Vancouver International Women in Film Screenplay Competition. If you’re looking to take a screenwriting course, this event gives you the chance to learn from the best.

Wednesday, February 6th – Sketch Level 2

This advanced writing intensive with Jackie Blackmore (professional actress and award-winning playwright) is to help comedic writers continue to develop their voice and sketch comedy ideas. Level 1 sketch writing is a prerequisite as this course is to help emerging comedy writers fine tune and polish their work. Starting on February 6th and ending March 13th students will brainstorm, generate, write and polish exceptional comedic sketches. If you’re looking to laugh while you write, this is the workshop to take.

Saturday, February 9th – Grant Writing for Artists

At the SpencerCreo Centre on February 9th, Mary Ann Anderson will be hosting the Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture Workshop Series: Grant Writing for Artists. This workshop is to help disabled artists find the funding they need to turn their writing passions into a tangible goal. Even if you’re not a disabled person, it’s a great event to attend to network and meet Mary Anne Anderson the founder of Little Dog Creative Consulting, which provides consultation and grant money to writing, research and arts. Check out Little Dog Creative Consulting website for grant deadlines.

Sunday, February 10th – Writer Interrupted

Join writer, editor and manuscript consultant Janet Fretter at Vancouver Harbour Centre for TWS Community Worshop: Writer Interrupted. This workshop is meant to refocus writers on their work as life can get busy and often the creative process is left behind. Janet will talk about the 5 R’s: Reframe, Regroup, Recalibrate, Reignite and Reinforce, to help writers make their goals, meet their deadline and overall keep writing. This is an interactive workshop where all you need is a pen and some incomplete work.

Monday, February 11th – Vancouver Flash Fiction

Vancouver Flash Fiction is a critique circle for Flash Fiction writers to help provide feedback and hone skill. Flash Fiction is defined as a story of no more than a thousand words (Which can be a difficult feat for even the most seasoned writers). The purpose of this group is to help people connect and share, so whether you’re a Flash Fiction pro or new to this craft, join this writers in Yaletown on Monday February 11th from 7:00-9:00pm.

Tuesday, February 12th – Empower Writing Tuesdays

Lead by Communication Classics, M. Marcel, this life-writing event at 268 Keefer Streer will focus on belonging and community. The interactive workshop will help ignite your creative mind and storytelling with a focus on inspirations within your community. From 6:00-6:30 Marcel will guild you through Creative Sparks, you will then move into Free Writing from 6:30-7:00, then finish off your evening with a Story Circle. Goodies and tea are included, don’t miss this amazing opportunity to meet like-minded writers and share your stories.

Saturday, February 16th – Real Vancouver Writers’ Series

The Real Vancouver Writers’ Series is hosted by Dina Del Bucchia (author of three poetry books and a finalist for the Bronwen Wallace Award) and Sean Cranbury (writer, web designer and communications consultant). The event will feature six writers at the Russian Hall on Campell Avenue. The writers will read some of their work and talk about fundraising for writers who need support. This incredible series will feature Ian Williams (his novel Reproduction), Farzana Doctor (her novel All Inclusive), Eve Leslie (her book Murder by Milkshake), Alex Leslie (his book We all need to Eat), Shazia Hafiz Ramji (her book Port of Being) and Brandi Bird (nominated for Indigenous Voices for Unpublished Poetic Piece)

Sunday, February 17th – Marlon James and the Creative Process

Marlon James is a Jamaican writer of three published novels: John Crow’s Devil, The Book of Night Women and A Brief History of Seven Kings. He is a winner of the Booker Prize and the American Book Award, as well as being nominated for countless other prestigious awards. On February 17th at Waterfront Theatre, Marlon will be talking to Ian Williams (author of Not Anyone’s Anything and assistant professor at UBC) about his creative process and his upcoming novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf. This is a great opportunity to meet other writers and gain inspiration.

Wednesday, February 20th – Darrel J. McLeod on Resilience in Storytelling

Cree writer from treaty eight territory in Northern Alberta, Darrel J. McLeod won the Governor General’s Award for his memoir Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age. Darrel works in international affairs for the Assembly of First Nations and has overcome many adversities as an gay aboriginal man with a transgender sibling. On February 20th at the Vancouver Public Library, Darrel will be talking about how real life experiences compel a writer even in fictitious stories. This is a great opportunity to gain insight on working your own life experiences into your writing.

Thursday, February 21st – Vancouver Screenwriters Meetup Group

Organized by Rene Claveau of Diegesis Productions and Jennifer Storm an award-winning writer, Vancouver Screenwriters Meetup Group is a community-based gathering to help screenwriters and filmmakers discuss, collaborate, network and pitch. Join them on the third Thursday of every month to share your experiences as a screenwriter.

So You’ve Finished Your Script… What Now?

You’ve written your script, received notes, did a rewrite, received more notes and did yet another rewrite. Then you sat down and polished it, cleaning up all grammar and spelling mistakes and checking to ensure all your formatting was perfect. So what now? There’s no producers knocking at your door saying they’re ready to option it. Here’s the next steps to help get your script to the screen.

Copyright It

Before you go sending your ideas off to anyone, it’s best you copyright it to help protect you and your ideas (and to act as proof that this is your idea!) I’m Canadian but unfortunately as of October 2018 the Writers Guild of Canada stopped accepting scripts registrations. However, I was able to register mine under Writer’s Guild America West. It costs around twenty dollars to register each script, but if you believe in your work then it’s definitely worth it. You’ll receive a document online and via mail with your name, the scripts name, and the script registration number. Hold onto this paper, you never know when you’ll need it.

Contests

A great way to receive professional feedback, win awards, get in touch with producers and have your script showcased it through festivals. Film Freeway is a used as a portal where legitimate festivals can receive your script (for a fee) and judge it against others. However, I find the best site for your contest searching needs is through MovieBytes.com. This site categorizes by upcoming dates, best feed back, and most prestigious to help you find the exact contest your looking for. I also recommend using your script to apply for internships with studios like ABC and Nickelodeon, who take on a new group of writers every year.

When you’re first entering, it’s best to find contests that will give you some sort of feedback. That way, whether you place or not, you have a better understanding of where your script is succeeding and where it is failing.

InkTip

So your script received positive coverage and placed as a finalist in a few festivals and still no one has contacted you. Don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal. The next step is to getting your script right in front of producers, and websites like InkTip allow for just that.

InkTip will require that your script has been registered. So here’s when you type in the registration number you received from the Writers Guild. Next you’ll add a logline, a synopsis, your resume and finally the beloved script. You’ll list your script under certain genres and BAM!- Producers will be looking at it in no time. And don’t worry, if you haven’t already hammered out a solid logline, InkTip has a logline generator and amazing staff to help you get it right.

InkTip is especially useful for low-budget, high concept horrors, thrillers and comedies, as that’s what Indie producers are generally on the hunt for. Producible and affordable.

Query Letters

You know a local producer with a repertoire of films that closely follow the script you’ve written and you’re just dying to pitch to them? The best thing to do is write them a query letter asking if you can pitch to them. Mention who you are, your background and maybe a little about your past filmography, but don’t give them details about your script. Simply ask if they’d be willing to hear your pitch. If they say ‘yes’, you may have to sign a submission release form that protects them on the off-chance they’re already producing something similar or nearly identical to what you’ve written. Once you’ve sent them the release form and your script, wait two weeks before contacting them again, that’s industry standard. If you receive a rejection, or they ignore your second email, do not bother them again.

Got questions? Leave a comment and I’d be glad to help!

I’m a Woman, Not a Lady

A new era of TV shows are breaking all the cliches in their portrayal of well-rounded women who appear as more than a pretty face with a ditzy mind and a clean mouth. It’s so refreshing to see women with agendas, opinions, and complete control of their body. These are the types of characters young girl’s should be seeing, especially when they tackle once ‘taboo’ subjects like abortion and sex. They don’t need a man’s opinion when it comes to their body.

Sex Education

This hilarious British rom-com follows Otis (Asa Butterfield) as he takes after his sex-therapist mother by joining forces with Maeve (Emma Mackey) to help fellow students with their sex lives. Although the show is a comedy, it manages to tackle incredibly real subjects, and breaks all the cliches when Maeve realizes she is pregnant and decides to have an abortion. She doesn’t consult anyone on the issue, but instead books the appointment and follows through. Upon getting to the clinic she meets a woman who’s been here one too many times and Maeve has a chance to see a dark mirror of herself. This is when most shows would have Maeve scared into keeping the child, but instead she follows through as the women comfort each other before and after the operation. The show doesn’t forget to dabble in the flip side of things, with protesters outside the clinic screaming about the sin of abortion, but the viewer gets a better sense, of the wonderful things happening inside the clinic. Maeve can barley support herself, let alone a child. But what does that matter anyway? A woman’s body is her own.

Workin’ Moms

This laugh-out-loud Canadian sitcom follows a group of women trying to balance work, fitness, relationships and a new born baby. Today’s women know they deserve the right to go back to work after having a child, but is it for the best? How do you prioritize? From missing her child’s first words to wondering if the baby will start becoming more attached to the Nanny than her, Kate Foster (Catherine Reitman) must undergo the journey of a modern day woman with child. From pumping breast milk in the bathroom to having no idea how to sing to a child, it quickly becomes obvious Kate is more comfortable at work than she is as a mom. Once a taboo subject, more and more women are becoming open with to their fears surrounding motherhood and whether that relates to you or not, it’s a great show to watch. Workin’ Moms will open your eyes to women striving to do it all and reminding the audience that it’s okay when you can’t. Something’s got to give.

This is Us

Used to your protagonist being a twig? You’re not the only one. The majority of American shows host a female lead with a slender or fit body type, when in reality over 30% of the American population is considered obese. It’s nice to have a character with struggles the audience can genuinely relate to. From weighing herself on the scale to fearing sex due to her appearance Kate (Chriss Metz) tackles the mental and physical stigmas of being fat. A truly under represented character as most shows use their heavier characters as comic relief. The truth is, you shouldn’t have to be funny to be heavier, and your weight should only be taken into consideration when it comes to your health. Never once does this show doubt Kate’s beauty, brains, and worth which is just one of the many reasons I recommend watching. Kate aside, the show also follows Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and her desire not to have children, even though her husband want them. Not often does TV tackle the social pressures put on women to be mothers the moment they’re married.

Derry Girls

Irish comedy with wit and heart, this show reminds the viewers that just because you’re a girl, doesn’t mean you’re a lady. From one foul-mouthed sixteen year old to the next, these girls verbally abuse one another from the get-go. Too often do we see boys threatening to beat each other up, it’s nice to see girls toss that threat around now and again. Not to mention it’s set in an all girl’s Catholic school, where the first boy ever has been brought in due to his British ‘fragility’. Breaking all the cliches their isn’t a fragile girl in the lot, let alone woman as the nuns crack down like drill sargents. If you’re looking for a taste of girl power, Derry Girls is the way to go.