Gerald Hanks Filmography

Monday, October 10, 2022

Story Into Screenplay Interview with William Akers, Author of “Your Screenplay Sucks”


William Akers has taught screenwriting for over thirty years. He is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America. He has written feature scripts and TV episodes for Universal, Disney, MGM, and Paramount.

I recently got the chance to talk to him about his wonderful book, Your Screenplay Sucks: 100 Ways to Make It Great.

Story Into Screenplay (SIS): Before we get started, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Out of the hundred mistakes you mention in the book, I've probably made about ninety-seven of them!
William Akers (WA): I'm sure you got the three most important ones right, so good for you! 

SIS: How did you get started in screenwriting?
WA: I originally wanted to be a cartoonist for newspaper comic strips. As the idea of a story strip vanished, I got into screenwriting because it used a similar format: a story told within a frame.
I went to USC Film School and met someone who introduced me to a producer. That introduction led to me getting an agent and landing some writing assignments from the studios.
From there, I shifted from writing to teaching. I moved back to Nashville and taught at Belmont University for a few years.

SIS: What inspired you to write the book?
WA: The book came about because I was invited to speak at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. I knew I needed to give the students a handout to follow the lesson.
The handout came from notes I had developed from fifteen years of teaching. It ended up being about a hundred pages long, so I thought, "This could be a book."
I remember the saying, "Write the book you need to have." I kept seeing the same mistakes over and over, so I knew it was a book my students and clients needed to have.

SIS: Out of the hundred mistakes you mention in the book, which ones do you see the most often?
WA: The mistake I see most often comes from writers who include too much detail in their descriptions. You've gotta cut stuff out!
The script has to be easy to read. When you put too many words on a page, the reader will want to quit reading. 
I remember visiting a producer's office and as I was waiting, I counted the number of screenplays on the shelves.
I counted over 1,400 scripts! Each of those scripts came from a writer with representation. Only a handful could ever get made.

SIS: What is the smallest mistake you've seen that can cause the most damage to a script's chances?
WA: That's a diabolical question! One small mistake I frequently see involves parentheticals. Writers often use them too much or put them in the wrong places.
For instance, writing action in parentheticals when they should go in the action lines. When you misuse something so simple, it signals to the reader that your writing lacks attention to detail.
Even the title can make or break whether a script hooks a reader. If a reader has to spend the entire weekend reading scripts, they'll go for the one with a catchy title first.

SIS: You also mention the mistakes that writers make when it comes to professional behavior. What's the biggest mistake you see from writers in that area?
WA: In a word: paranoia. When a writer asks a reader to sign an NDA, this signals to the reader that the writer is going to be a problem to work with.
First off, producers and studios stealing ideas from unknown writers are practically unheard of. It's usually cheaper to pay the writer than to steal the idea and face a legal battle later.
Also, even if the writer's idea gets stolen, producers and studios have floors full of lawyers who can fight back.
A writer's best hope is to throw their scripts out to anyone willing to read them and not be afraid of someone stealing their ideas. It's okay to BE paranoid, but it's not okay to ACT paranoid.

SIS: Your book came out in 2008. What changes would you make for a 2022-23 edition?
WA: I'm in the process of creating an updated version now. I have a massive three-ring binder I've labeled, "Your Screenplay STILL Sucks" that's still a work in progress.
The biggest changes I've noticed have come from the increased number of buyers for content. The streaming services are all looking for the next hit that can bring in subscribers.
Most of these services are looking for series rather than features. The ideal model is a limited series of three seasons with eight to twelve episodes per season that viewers can binge-watch.
However, you still need a great story. All the elements that relate to concepts, characters, plot, structure, and dialogue haven't changed.

SIS: What advice would you give to writers who are looking for a coach or mentor to guide them through the screenwriting process?
WA: Find someone you can trust. Don't let them string you along and keep you paying for advice that doesn't help you.
Also, find someone who can give constructive notes and who knows about the business. If you can trust them enough to pay them, listen to their advice, and don't get defensive.
I remember a friend telling me about how he approached William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, The Princess Bride) and asked him to review his son's script.
Goldman agreed to meet the young man at a coffee shop and discuss his script. Every time Goldman had a note, the young man argued with him. When Goldman had finished with Act I, he pushed the script back to the young man and told him, "Everything else is fine."
This should serve as a lesson to young writers: don't get defensive about notes, especially when it comes from a writer with two Oscars on his shelf!

SIS: How would writers reach out to you with any questions?
WA: You can check out my blog at You can also email me at wma(at)yourscreenplaysucks(dot)com.

Get your copy of Your Screenplay Sucks through Amazon or directly through the publisher at Michael Wiese Productions.

Schedule your FREE consultation with an award-winning screenwriter and experienced contest judge by contacting Story Into Screenplay.
You can fill in the form on this page or email us directly at storyintoscreenplayblog(at)gmail(dot)com. You can also send a direct message through our Facebook page.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Screenwriting Advice: When September Ends

"Well, nobody cares, well, nobody cares.

Does anyone care if nobody cares?" - Green Day, "Homecoming" (2004)

So you've written a screenplay. 

It could be a deeply personal story about a tragic experience that shaped your outlook on life from that moment until now.

It could be a story that you've worked on for years, sweated over every page, bled over every word, until you thought it was perfect.

It could be a story that allowed you to bare your soul on the page and let out all the negative emotions you've kept inside your entire adult life.

It could be a story that delivers a vital message about the injustices in the world and how you, as a brave writer, have crafted these characters who stand up and speak truth to power.

For all of you courageous souls who have poured your heart, mind, body, and soul into your screenplays, I have two words for you.

Nobody. Cares.

Not your family. Not your friends. Not your writers' group. Not your writing teacher. Not your favorite movie star, for whom you specifically wrote the lead role. 

Certainly not anyone who has to read your deeply heartfelt story as part of their job. 

Not that production company intern. They're too worried about getting their own scripts on their boss's desk.

Not that contest judge. They're too busy slogging through hundreds of bad scripts as they try to find the one gem that makes their job worthwhile.

Not even that professional script consultant you admire. (HINT HINT) Sure, they care about making you a better writer. They care about helping you understand the process. But they don't care about YOUR story the way that YOU do.

The bad news is: Nobody cares.

The good news is: Nobody cares…until you MAKE them care.

How do you MAKE them care?

I'm glad you asked.

"Eddie Felson : You're some piece of work... You're also a natural character.

"Vincent Lauria : [to Carmen]  You see? I been tellin' her that. I got natural character.

"Eddie Felson : That's not what I said, kid. I said you *are* a natural character; you're an incredible flake." - "The Color of Money" (1986)

You MAKE them care about your story by MAKING them care about your characters.

If they don't care about your characters, all the beautiful writing, all the cathartic experiences, and all the sermonizing about the world's ills won't make them care about your story.

If you can get them to care about a walking tree that says its name over and over again, then you can get them to care about anything.

If you can get them to fall in love with a green-skinned, pointy-eared, black-eyed baby that doesn't even speak, then you can get them to follow you anywhere.

If you can get them to empathize with toys, cars, robots, ghosts, and insects, then you can play with their heartstrings like Jimi Hendrix on a Stratocaster.

The biggest mistake that writers make with their characters isn't that they don't deliver stirring speeches or wring a tear from a glass eye.

Your characters can be humans, aliens, animals, or machines. They can even be (literal) sock puppets.

What they can't be is (literary) sock puppets.

You can't write them as stand-ins for your family, your beliefs, or your traumas.

You have to write your characters like roles that actors want to play. 

You have to write your characters that viewers want to watch succeed or root for to fail.

You have to write characters that have unique goals and universal needs.

"You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you." - Carly Simon, "You're So Vain" (1972)

As much as I hate to break this to you, your screenplay shouldn't be about you.

It can reflect your experiences, but the reader doesn't need to see those experiences in excruciating detail.

It can convey your beliefs, but the script is not your sermon, nor is the reader your congregation.

It can serve as therapy, but the reader is not your therapist.

Your screenplay isn't ABOUT you because it isn't FOR you.

It's for the intern who has to decide if their boss should give it a look.

It's for the contest judge who has to determine if it could win a cash prize.

It's for the producers who have to find investors willing to put in millions of dollars to get it made.

It's for that struggling actor looking for a breakout role to launch their career.

It's for the crew members who get up early and put in long hours on the set every day during production.

It's for the post-production team who struggles to turn raw footage into spun gold.

Your job is to get all of these people to care about your characters enough to risk their jobs to turn your written blueprint into a finished product.

Most of all, it's for the viewer who wants to go on an emotional ride for an hour or two.

Until then…nobody cares.

"Won't you please, please help me?" - The Beatles, "Help!" (1965)

If you want to learn how to make these people care about your script, Story Into Screenplay can help.

If you have a script and want a professional evaluation from an experienced screenplay contest judge, Story Into Screenplay can help.

If you have a script and want one-on-one sessions to get it in the best shape possible, Story Into Screenplay can help.

If you have an idea and want guidance to turn that idea into a professional-level script, Story Into Screenplay can help.

You can book a FREE* 30-minute consulting session with Story Into Screenplay by filling in the form on this page or by emailing storyintoscreenplayblog[at]gmail[dot]com. You can also send a direct message through our Facebook page.

You can also check out the Story Into Screenplay YouTube channel to see interviews with some of the top story consultants in the business.

Gerald Hanks will also be at the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriting Conference from Friday, October 28, to Sunday, October 30. Email or DM for details.

Monday, August 22, 2022

"Where Have You Been?"

As a way to get back to the way things were in the Before Times(™), I thought I would post a new entry into this long-neglected space.

Just because I haven't been posting here doesn't mean I haven't been busy elsewhere. These other commitments have prevented me from giving this space the attention it deserves.

As for my "day job", I have been reading scripts for Coverfly and the Austin Film Festival. If you plan on attending AFF, drop me a line (storyintoscreenplayblogATgmailDOTcom) and we can talk about your project while we watch the Astros (hopefully) win Games 1 and 2 of the World Series! 

I've also carved out time to develop my first half-hour comedy pilot. Jobber is about a young aspiring pro wrestler whose dreams of superstardom in the world's biggest promotion collide with the reality of his new position as an "enhancement talent".

Since my Kairos Prize win last year, my wonderful manager has been taking my projects to some top-name producers and streamers. If I had permission to drop some names, you would likely recognize someone who had seen my work.

I've also been working with a wide array of clients on their scripts. While I'm not at liberty to discuss the details of any specific project, most of them involve adaptations of true stories, a subject I covered in a previous post.

I've also been expanding my VOTE Method presentation to live seminars. I've presented these quick, one-hour lessons at the Comicpalooza convention, the Houston Media Source (VIDEO LINK), and the Scriptwriters Houston group meeting.

While my attention in recent months has strayed away from generating words on paper (or on-screen), those efforts have gone toward my YouTube channel (LINK). I have posted several interviews with some of the leading script consultants in which we discuss their experiences within the industry, advice for aspiring writers, and hints on what to look for in a mentor.

Over the last ten years, I've been a produced screenwriter, an optioned screenwriter, a paid screenwriter, a contest-winning screenwriter, and now a "repped" screenwriter.

I've also been a film critic, a screenplay contest judge, a story analyst, a public speaker, a private consultant, and (on rare occasions) a top-flight screenwriting blogger.

As for the future, I am always looking for new avenues to help people turn their stories into screenplays. One of those avenues has been this blog, which I have neglected for far too long.

While I enjoy the interviews and the speaking gigs, I recognize that writers need to write, regardless of whether that writing involves screenplays, blog posts, or grocery lists.

My goal for the rest of this year involves putting out a new post each week (published on Friday) that reflects my thoughts on films, TV, or anything else related to the craft of screenwriting.

If you have any suggestions for future posts on subjects I haven't covered, drop me a line at the address listed above or fill out the form on this page. Also, please like and follow Story Into Screenplay on Facebook. While I will post long-form articles here, I also post short remarks and event updates on the FB page. 

I will also work on offering my VOTE Method lessons as online classes available by subscription or by one-time purchase. While the blog posts and live seminars scratch the surface of what this process can do, the additional lessons go deeper into showing the potential of how this approach can help you attract agents, actors, and audiences to your project.

As this "glorious summer" winds down, I want to ensure that it doesn't lead to a "winter of discontent" for my fellow writers. From now until the start of the Austin Film Festival, Story Into Screenplay will offer a FREE 30-minute one-on-one Zoom call for anyone in the US or Canada interested in developing their screenplay.

To schedule your session, email storyintoscreenplayblogATgmailDOTcom or fill in the form on this page with your name, your availability, and the title and logline for your project. If you're not sure how to create a logline, check out my post on how to use the VOTE Method to craft the ideal logline

Anyone who signs up for their FREE one-on-one call also qualifies for a discount on their script analysis reports and one-on-one consultation sessions. 

Don't put your dreams off until 2023. Let's get your script into shape before this year closes out. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Story Into Screenplay Review: An Evening with Neil Gaiman

Most writers consider themselves fortunate if they get to hear advice on writing from one of their idols. In my case, I've now benefitted from listening to two masters of their craft.

In the summer of 2014, I got the chance to hear from the late great Stan Lee at Houston's Comicpalooza convention. 

This weekend, I got to see the still-great Neil Gaiman at Houston's Jones Hall for the Performing Arts.

"Shadows", "Saucers", "Bananas" and an "Orange"

In an era where big-budget superhero blockbusters draw record numbers of eyeballs, much of the audience likely found it refreshing to hear a single person on a bare stage stand at a podium and read aloud from their novels, poetry, and short stories.

Gaiman shared several of his reading selections, including:

"Professor Bananas": An experiment involving cherries, lemonade, and grass clippings makes its subject grow so large that he can wear the universe as an overcoat.

"The Price": An injured black cat brings the family who takes him in an entirely different type of bad luck.

"Watching from the Shadows": Gaiman relates his lifelong love affair with Batman. He dedicated the reading to the late Batman artist Neal Adams.

"Orange": A teenage girl must answer a questionnaire about how an alien presence has taken over her sister's body through a unique self-tanning lotion.

"The Day the Saucers Came": A young lover misses out on multiple apocalyptic events as they wait by the phone.

"Click-clack the Rattlebag": A young man gets caught up in a "bedtime story" from his girlfriend's eight-year-old brother. 

The Ocean, Omens, and Odd

He told the story of how he struggled for years to get The Sandman audio drama off the ground. When the programs launched on Audible, Act I and Act II became the top two fastest-selling audio dramas in the platform's history, outperforming the "Harry Potter" series.

He related how he teared up at a rehearsal for the stage adaptation of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. He noted how the premiere performance brought both he and his wife to tears, along with his surprise at how it affected the Daily Telegraph drama critic sitting next to them.

Gaiman also talked about his collaboration with the late Sir Terry Pratchett on his novel Good Omens. He related that he took his inspiration for the best-selling book (and eventual hit TV series) from numerous elements, including the Christopher Marlowe play The Jew of Malta and the 1976 supernatural horror film The Omen.

While many of his novels leave room for sequels, he claims that he gets "too distracted" to follow through on the subsequent stories. However, he mentioned the sequel to his 1996 best-seller Neverwhere, the 2021 release The Seven Sisters, and an eventual sequel to his children's book Odd and the Frost Giants.

Fountain Pens and Vocal Care

As for his personal habits, he prefers using fountain pens and notebooks to typewriters or computer software. When Moleskine went to a cheaper grade of paper several years ago, he switched to Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks to ensure that the fountain pen ink wouldn't leak through to the other side of the page.

A short story collection by fellow legendary British comics writer Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Batman: The Killing Joke) sits on his nightstand.

He doesn't have a vocal care routine, even after reading aloud for two hours a night through seventeen cities in less than thirty days. (NOTE: If anyone could give him advice on taking care of his voice, it would be his wife, singer/songwriter Amanda Palmer.)

Writing Advice

As for his screenwriting career, he said that he turned in four episodes of Season One and the opening episode of Season Two for the TV adaptation of his novel American Gods. After that, the showrunners "did what they did" to his scripts.

He also offered some helpful advice for aspiring writers. For instance, when choosing whether to write for yourself or for the audience, you should write for yourself. If the writing fulfills you as a writer, it should also connect with the audience as a listener. If the writer doesn't find fulfillment in the writing process, the audience won't get what they need out of reading it.

One of the biggest takeaways for writers occurred when he stated his belief that creators should favor consistency over perfection. 

Gaiman remarked how he had admired colorist Steve Whittaker's work on Alan Moore's V for Vendetta and that he wanted Whittaker for The Sandman. However, Whittaker's relentless perfectionism prevented him from turning in the finished pages on time, so Robbie Busch handled the coloring duties for the first story arc, "Preludes and Nocturnes".

Gaiman used this example to illustrate how the pursuit of perfection can inhibit actual progress, both professionally and creatively. He stressed that artists should "keep moving forward" if they want to grow in their craft.


If you're a screenwriter who wants to "keep moving forward" with your scripts, Story Into Screenplay can help.

Story Into Screenplay offers screenplay evaluations, rewriting services, and one-on-one consultations with an award-winning screenwriter and experienced screenplay contest judge.

For more information, contact us at storyintoscreenplayblog(at)gmail(dot)com or fill in the form on this page.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Interview with Pilar Alessandra, Author of "The Coffee Break Screenwriter"

Pilar Alessandra is the director of the instructional writing program On The Page,® host of the On the Page Podcast and a highly sought-after speaker and script consultant who’s trained writers at Disney, DreamWorks, ABC, the AFM and around the world. 

She is also the author of The Coffee Break Screenwriter and The Coffee Break Screenwriter Breaks the Rules

Pilar’s greatest accomplishment is the success of her students. They’ve worked on TV shows such as House of the Dragon, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, Homeland, Dear White People, Grey’s Anatomy, Silicon Valley, and The Chi and have sold feature films and pitches to Netflix, Sony, Warner Bros. and other major studios. 

For more information about Pilar, her classes, consultations, book and podcast, go to


You mention in the book that you started as a “sandwich girl” who read a friend's script and your career took off from there.

For people who may not be familiar with your work, can you tell everyone how you got started in coaching screenwriters?

That's a bit of "spin" on my part to show writers how to logline the more interesting parts of their life. It took a bit longer, of course! But, yes, I was overeducated and underemployed when I started reading scripts for a friend. 

Those coverage samples turned into a job at Amblin, a senior story analyst position at DreamWorks, and inspired the writing tools that became the basis for my classes and books.

Since so many aspiring writers complain that they don't have time to write, can you talk about how this issue inspired you to write your book?

I came to realize that, for busier writers with jobs and kids, my class was a key part of their weekly writing time. So, after teaching a writing tool, I’d tell them they have ten minutes to try it out on their own story. 

I was shocked to see the high quality of work they turned out when they just had ten minutes of focused writing time. From that, the idea of “The Coffee Break Screenwriter” was born. 

Sometimes it’s not about finding the time; it’s about getting rid of the distractions and doing one focused thing.

One aspect that lets your book stand out involves how it allows the reader to sketch out the story as they read.

Most screenwriting books lecture the reader about character or structure and may have exercises at the end of each chapter, but your book lets the reader start working on vital aspects of their story almost immediately.

What led you to take this approach?

All of my classes are “learn while doing.” I’ve seen great results so the book is designed in the same way. I also encourage readers to skip over what isn’t working for them and keep moving on to what does. A screenplay or pilot will still be the end result.  

Many of the projects that your clients have worked on have topped the box office rankings and the TV ratings.

What do you feel is the biggest piece of advice that you've offered to your clients that has led to so many of them enjoying such successful careers?

Be open on the page and in person. Sometimes the story takes hold as you write. Sometimes a chance meeting opens doors. 

Another wonderful aspect of the book involves how you present each step of the writing process and break it down into steps that most writers can complete in ten minutes or less.

Do you see the tasks outlined here as more of a tool for writers to manage their time?

Or does it go deeper than that, such as giving writers the tools to overcome their excuses for not writing?

I'm hoping it's both. It also depends on the writer's needs when reading it. 

Some find freedom in cracking open the book at any point and getting something done on their script whether it's an outline, rewrite, or a pitch. Others like to go step-by-step until they're finished.

At the end of the book, you ask some of your students what they should do if they have only ten minutes to improve any aspect of their writing or their career.

If I turn these questions around on you:

What advice would you give writers on how they could use ten minutes to improve a scene?

What’s the key, emotional action line that shows what’s really going on in the scene? If it’s not there, write it. If there’s too much emotional noise, edit it.

What advice would you give writers on how they could use ten minutes to improve a sequence?

Try a "genre pass." Your sequence of scenes may be an effectively moving story, but is there also a major scare or laugh or romantic moment in there that leans into the genre, mood, or tone?

What advice would you give writers on how they could use ten minutes to improve their script?

Edit. Take ten minutes at a time to eliminate long set-ups in the scene or come in a little later into the dialogue. Try this ten minutes at a time in places where it’s needed and you’ll have a tighter, more readable script.

What advice would you give writers on how they could use ten minutes to improve their careers?

Take ten minutes to tell someone how much you value their work. It’s a start to a professional relationship that doesn’t begin with an ask.

In your career as a script consultant, you've worked with numerous writers to help them achieve some fantastic results.

For screenwriters looking for coaches or consultants, what advice would you give them on what to look for in a coach?

A good coach or consultant understands the intentions of your project and helps you meet them through story and execution. If they don’t seem to “get” your work, use a “comp” (a comparative project) to express the kind of show or feature you’re going for. If they still don’t understand your intention or just shoot it down, they may not be the right fit for you.


Special Thanks to Pilar Alessandra for her time and to Ken Lee at Michael Wiese Productions for providing a review copy of The Coffee Break Screenwriter.

Story Into Screenplay offers script analysis and one-on-one consultations with clients in various stages of the screenwriting process.

For more information, fill in the form on this page or email storyintoscreenplayblog(at)gmail(dot)com.

You can also follow the Story Into Screenplay Facebook page to find more interviews, movie reviews, and screenwriting advice.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Interview with Weiko Lin, author of “Crazy Screenwriting Secrets”

I recently had the opportunity to interview award-winning screenwriter and instructor Weiko Lin about his excellent book, Crazy Screenwriting Secrets: How to Capture a Global Audience.

Professor Lin has been a writer, director, producer, and is currently a tenured associate professor of screenwriting at Emerson College in Boston. 

He has also been a Fulbright Senior Specialist, received a Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award, and placed in the finals of the Academy Nicholl Fellowship contest.

In this interview, he discusses how a young boy from Taiwan became a sought-after screenwriter, how stories once aimed at a niche audience have gained widespread acceptance, and how the best screenplays resemble a fine dining experience.


For people who may not be familiar with your work, can you tell everyone how you got started in screenwriting and what inspired you to write the book?

I was born in Taiwan and immigrated to LA when I was 8. 

I graduated with a degree in English Creative Writing from UCLA. I continued at my alma mater in the MFA screenwriting program. I also received a Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award and was a finalist in the Nicholl Fellowship. That's how I got the managers I still work with today. 

Shortly after, I sold my first feature pitch and wrote projects for companies including the digital studios of Turner, Disney, Ivanhoe Pictures/SK Global (producer of "Crazy Rich Asians"), Don Mischer Productions, Wanda, and many more. 

I wrote the original story for and produced a Chinese language romance film titled "100 DAYS", which is now available on Amazon Prime. That film premiered at the Hawai'i International Film Festival and was released theatrically in Taiwan. 

The seed for this book came out of the accessibility of diverse content and our hunger to connect to stories that reflect the world we live in today. I hope this book can inspire more global and diverse creators.   

In the book, you compare the process of screenwriting to that of cooking. You compare a story outline to a recipe, the characters to ingredients, and the act structure to each course of a gourmet meal.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers on how to apply this approach when they write their scripts?

It's just another approach of beginning, middle, and end. I believe we consume stories like how we consume food. The key is narrative construction in movies should feel organic, not chaotic or random. 

Most fine dining restaurants have a specific way in which they present their food: appetizers, sides, drinks, and so on. Each one is designed to support the one main course. The desserts are often sweet and satisfying. Even the alcohol you pair with it would be a port. 

The movie experience should be just as satisfying to the audience as a fine meal is to the diner.

Speaking of approaches, another part of the book talks about the relationships between writers and agents, managers, and attorneys. One of the biggest questions that rookie writers ask is, “How do I get an agent or manager?”

For writers who don't live in LA or NY, what advice would you give these writers on how to approach getting representation?

Most importantly, make sure you have solid material ready to show: one strong feature sample and one strong TV sample that are similar in tone. You should also have one very personal sample that may not easily get made, but one in which the story comes from the most authentic, personal depth and perspective that only you can express. 

Competitions are a good way in – but you should be selective about which ones you spend your money and time on. These contests should be reputable and prominent competitions with past winners achieving results in attaining legitimate representation. 

Queries can be overwhelming, especially since managers and agents get a ton of them via emails. You should do some investigating and find assistants or newly promoted agents/managers with whom you might share a connection, such as going to the same university or coming from the same town. This common bond should ensure that the blind queries aren't so out of nowhere. 

Speaking of representation, you also mention how scripts that deal with different types of audiences have found success. You mention Brokeback Mountain, Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, Slumdog Millionaire, Moonlight, and a host of others.

How has the success of these films changed the opportunities available to aspiring writers from under-represented groups?

With streaming platforms and big box office success of typically underrepresented narratives and characters, there are more avenues to make movies with hyper-specific points of view. In these cases, a typical, expensive theatrical release might otherwise not be an option. These films used universal emotions to connect beyond a specific audience – they moved a mass audience. 

Since the latest edition of your book came out in 2019, a few things have changed since then. In your book, you mentioned Netflix and other streaming services. 

How do you think the growth of streaming services has changed the game for aspiring screenwriters?

Streaming services have certainly opened more opportunities to create content. There are more avenues for specific stories to be told that might have been challenging before with limited platforms. 

Even more so, if aspiring screenwriters know or are familiar with another language and culture, that might even create more mediums where your stories can live. 

Of course, one of the reasons that the streamers have found a bigger audience has been COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns.

How do you think the COVID pandemic and the subsequent waves of openings and lockdowns have changed the market for new screenwriters?

I'm no expert on this, but audiences will always crave the theater-going experience. I know I do. But perhaps during this time where we had to consume content on streamers, the streamers have amassed a more accurate sense of what the audiences are watching. 

For screenwriters who are looking for coaches or consultants, what advice would you give them on what to look for in a coach?

The key is having the same taste. That goes a long way because then both of you are invested in bringing this story to life that you both hope to see. 


You can pick up your copy of Crazy Screenwriting Secrets on Amazon or at Michael Wiese Productions.

Story Into Screenplay offers script evaluations and one-on-one consulting sessions from professional screenplay analyst and award-winning screenwriter Gerald Hanks.

For more information, contact Story Into Screenplay at storyintoscreenplayblog(at)gmail(dot)com or send a direct message through the SIS Facebook page.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Screenwriting with the VOTE Method: National Champion$

With the college football bowl season winding down and the CFP National Championship on the horizon, the new film National Champion$ examines the issues surrounding the "student-athlete" model and how it impacts the big-money world of college football.

NOTE: The purpose of this review does not involve evaluating the story, direction, or performances in the film.

Instead, the purpose involves illustrating how a screenplay by Adam Mervis (21 Bridges, The Last Days of Capitalism) could apply the VOTE Method as a tool for character development.

This post contains some MILD SPOILERS for the film.



LeMarcus James (Stephan James) must choose between playing in the college football national championship game or fighting for the rights of his fellow players.

Victory: What does he want?

LeMarcus wants to lead a player boycott of the College Football Championship Game to protest their unfair working conditions.

Obstacles: What stands between him and his Victory?

  • He could lose his final opportunity to win a national championship.
  • He risks his status as the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, which could net him millions of dollars.
  • The billion-dollar machinery of the NCAA and their member conferences come down on him.
  • A ruthless private investigator threatens to reveal dirt about his past.

Tactics: What actions does he take to overcome the Obstacles and gain his Victory?

  • He gives speeches to win over his teammates and his opponents.
  • He goes to the media and illustrates the inequities between the rich coaches and the poor players.
  • He hides from his coaches and moves to different hotels.
  • He confronts the investigator and his coach over their hypocrisy.

Emotion: What emotional need drives him to pursue his Victory?

LeMarcus needs to find a way to support Emmett Sunday, his best friend and teammate, who suffered a life-changing injury and will never make the pros.


LeMarcus's teammate and best friend Emmett Sunday (Alexander Ludwig) faces the end of his football career without any hopes of making it into the NFL.

Victory: What does he want?

Emmett wants to support his family after his college football career ends.

Obstacles: What stands between him and his Victory?

  • His numerous injuries prevent him from starting an NFL career.
  • His time spent in games and practices prevented him from getting a quality education.
  • His stand with LeMarcus could get him blacklisted for any future football jobs.

Tactics: What actions does he take to overcome the Obstacles and gain his Victory?

  • He supports LeMarcus in his efforts to improve the standing of college football players.
  • He helps LeMarcus develop his media strategies.
  • He hides LeMarcus's movements from their coaches.

Emotion: What emotional need drives him to pursue his Victory?

He needs to make a difference for the players who will come after him and experience the same hardships.



Missouri Wolves head coach James Lazor (J.K. Simmons) has the opportunity to win his first National Championship – but only if his star QB shows up for the game.

Victory: What does he want?

Coach Lazor wants to find his star player and win the National Championship game.

Obstacles: What stands between him and his Victory?

  • LeMarcus keeps changing his location.
  • Several players join LeMarcus's strike.
  • His wife leaves him for a professor.
  • College football executives breathe down his neck to get LeMarcus on the field.

Tactics: What actions does he take to overcome the Obstacles and gain his Victory?

  • He sends his coaches on a manhunt to find his QB.
  • He gives an inspirational speech to his remaining players.
  • He gives a press conference to address LeMarcus's terms.

Emotion: What emotional need drives him to pursue his Victory?

He needs to win the championship to justify the long hours spent coaching and the loss of his marriage.


Private investigator Katherine Poe (Uzo Aduba) works with the NCAA as a "fixer" to solve issues that the white male establishment wants to keep out of the public eye.

Victory: What does she want?

Katherine wants to find LeMarcus and save her job with the NCAA.

Obstacles: What stands between her and her Victory?

  • LeMarcus's public statements interfere with her subtle approach.
  • His frequent movements send her on a wild goose chase.
  • Her bosses underestimate her capabilities.

Tactics: What actions does she take to overcome the Obstacles and gain her Victory?

  • She exposes LeMarcus's drunken actions at a college party that led to a COVID outbreak on campus.
  • She threatens to expose his part in a bar fight that led to a man's death.
  • She tries to find his half-brother, who could expose more secrets about LeMarcus's past.

Emotion: What emotional need drives her to pursue the Victory?

She needs to prevent the threat that LeMarcus's strike presents to the non-revenue college sports that allowed her to get an education.

National Champion$ is now available on Prime Video, Google Play, the iTunes store, and most major on-demand platforms. 


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