Genre: Independent/Romantic Comedy
Premise: A Texas Lottery fraud investigator investigates a woman who has won the lottery three times, which amounts to septillion-to-one odds.
About: The hottest spec in town right now is Septillion to One. The quirky story has Alexander Payne circling and as soon as you get Payne onboard, you’re in the Oscar discussion. Which means the script will probably get someone like George Clooney for the lead, and I’m guessing Olivia Wilde for the co-lead. But what about our writers? Well, the writing team consists of Adam Perlman, who wrote on Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, and Graham Sack, who doesn’t have a writing credit to his name. Sack was a child actor, however, known for such movies as Dunston Checks In and Miracle Child.
Writers: Adam R. Perlman & Graham Sack
Details: 119 pages


Many people equate selling a screenplay to winning the lottery. They point out all the scripts registered by the WGA each year and how only 75 of them sell, or something ridiculous like that. The truth is, the odds aren’t as bad as you think. I mean, how many screenplays are really written each year? Maybe 100,000? If 75 of those sell, those odds are a hell of a lot better than septillion to one.

Plus, unlike the lottery, skill factors into the equation. You can game the system with a couple of hacks, dramatically increasing your odds. Writing in one of Hollywood’s favored spec genres increases your odds. Making your main character a male between the ages of 30-50 increases your odds. A high concept increases your odds. If you’ve added enough of these hacks, and you’ve put a lot of time and effort into the craft, your odds of selling a spec aren’t that ridiculous at all.

For whatever reason though, despite KNOWING these hacks, tons of writers ignore them, pushing the odds out of their favor. Doing so will never skew the odds as bad as septillion to one. But they will keep you from becoming the next Septillion to One.

Texas State Lottery Investigator Clark Hauser is a stickler for the rules. And when I say stickler, I mean he went after his own step-father for taking bribes. Of course, that was back when Clark worked for the FBI and his step-father worked for Congress. And it was because his step-father worked for Congress that he was able to pull some favors and get Clark fired for coming after him.

Now Clark is stuck in the miserable position of working for the Texas State Lottery. And to add insult to injury, his step-father has primary custody over his daughter, Megan. Not only that, but Step Daddy wants sole custody. There’s nothing Clark can do for this girl anymore, he points out. If his daughter’s going to flourish, she’s going to need Grandpa’s money.

But Clark’s luck is changing. When the Texas Lottery starts vetting its past winners to find a poster-worthy candidate to sell a flashy new lottery drawing, Clark becomes aware of Joy Taylor’s story. Joy has won THREE lotteries in three different states. The odds of that happening are so astronomical, Clark knows she’s cheating. All he has to do is prove the scam, and his job prospects will go through the roof.

Despite Clark clearly liking Joy, he has always been, and will always be, about the rules. And even as their friendship grows, Clark continues to accumulate evidence that will help him prove that Joy’s a sham. The problem is, nothing he finds sticks. And if Joy is guilty, she seems to be the most casual most unworried suspect in the world. Could it be that Joy truly is the luckiest person in the world? Or is there something more sinister going on here?


Scene construction is one of those quick ways for me to determine whether I’m dealing with an amateur or a pro. If a scene is constructed in such a way that indicates an understanding of the craft, I know I’m in for a good read. If there is no form whatsoever in a scene – just people talking, babbling on endlessly without a point – I know I’m about to check into the Boredasaurus Hotel.

So when Clark first comes to question Joy about her amazing luck, the scene takes place during a bingo game, with Joy as the presenter. Therefore, Clark is forced to ask Joy questions WHILE she calls out numbers to the crowd. It’s little things like this – an element that’s agitating the conversation – that tell me I’m dealing with a pro. You never want to make things easy on your characters, even conversations. This choice may seem insignificant to the uninitiated. But it tells me I have a real writer on my hands.

We have the basics taken care of as well. Clark’s boss wants to use Joy as the poster-girl for the upcoming mega-lottery draw in a week. Clark knows that if Joy’s a fraud, she’s going to destroy the public’s trust in the lottery. So he makes it his goal to find out her scam before the lottery has the opportunity to embarrass itself. There’s your “U” in GSU. One week to prove she’s a cheater.

If the script has an Achilles heel, it might be Clark himself. The guy is super annoying. He’s such a stickler for the rules that you feel like if you ever had to spend five minutes with the man, you’d shoot yourself in the face. I mean who likes sticklers? That quality is almost universally saved for the villain (think Ed Rooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

So what do they do to cancel our hatred out and actually make us root for the guy? They start by giving Clark a daughter who he loves more than anything. It’s hard to dislike dads who will do anything for their daughters. I mean Clark is willing to give up every penny he has to send his talented daughter to the best music school in the country. Audiences absolutely LOVE selfless people. They love people who help others. And they love dads who put their kids first.

The writers also create a villain who’s way more of an asshole than the hero is annoying. The step-dad here tells Clark he’ll pay for Megan (the daughter) to go to the elite school, but only if Clark gives him full custody. He also regularly reminds Clark how pathetic he is and how far he’s fallen. Kind of makes you forget about the whole stickler issue.

I’ve seen the “make your hero more likable by making the bad guy more hateable” approach used to great effect. They actually do it a lot in the reality show, Survivor.

I’ll notice, for example, that I don’t particularly like one of the contestants. But as soon as the show builds up a villain who bullies that contestant? I can’t root for that character enough. The show is so aware of this secret power that when their big villains get voted off the show, they use clever editing and selective scenes to create ANOTHER villain out of the remaining contestants, just so it builds up support for the remaining players.

Finally, if you want to study how character flaws work in screenplays, find this script and read it. “Septillion” puts heavy emphasis on Clark’s obsession with the rules (his flaw). That’s what he needs to overcome to grow as a person. (spoilers) So the end of the script puts him in a position where he can either continue to follow the rules (and in the process screw over Joy) or loosen up (let Joy get away with it). It’s a little heavy-handed and on-the-nose but it’s this over-the-top quality that helps you see how arcing works. A great character arc is yet another script hack you can use to increase the odds of winning the spec lottery.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Child custody is one of the most effective emotional plotlines you can add to your screenplay. If you create a situation where your main character doesn’t have primary child custody, and over the course of the screenplay make it more and more likely that he’ll lose custody, that’s almost guaranteed to pull a reader in. No one wants to see a parent who loves their child lose that child. So know that this subplot can be used to great effect to emotionally manipulate and pull a reader in.

  • S.C.

    On odds of selling a screenplay vs. odds of winning the lottery…

    … agree, skill comes into it. 95% of screenplays (I’m being generous, it’s probably more) are bilge. Derivative, illegal, banal, sloppy.

    So, out 100,000 screenplays each year, probably only a few thousand are any good.

    Only a few hundred are really good.*

    And just under a hundred sell.

    So the odds – if you’re a talented screenwriter who’s writing stuff that might actually sell – are more like 4/1.

    And if you write more than one script a year, your odds increase more.

    Connections help, but all the best connections mean nothing if your screenplays read like they were written by a 14-year old.

    Don’t give up. Ignore the naysayers. Write a great script and SELL IT!!!

    * and commercially viable.

    • Nicholas J

      It’s easy to see the 100,000 number (though I think that’s way overshooting it) and be scared off, but when you realize the high majority of those are mostly incomprehensible, it doesn’t seem so daunting. 4/1 is way too optimistic though. I’d say your odds are that good of getting some exposure if you write a script like you said, but with actually selling one there are so many different factors involved other than strictly quality.

      • S.C.

        Yeah, I think mathematics and screenwriting don’t always mix!

        I would forget the odds – 4/1 or 10/1 or whatever – and just focus on the fact that, like you say, most screenplays are probably incomprehensible messes, so you’re not competing against those scripts, but they do rather clutter up “the system”.

        I dispute this idea that are hundreds of truly wonderful screenplays out there that don’t sell even though the movies made from them would win a million Oscars and single-handedly save Hollywood from bankruptcy.

        Institutions such as The Black List, Amazon, Nicholl Fellowship, and this very website give opportunity for people to showcase these truly wonderful scripts, these billion-dollar wonders.

        Doesn’t happen.

        Oh, there are some quirky, oddball scripts, but not many have broad appeal. A screenplay that is funny and/or exciting, dramatic with a clever but easy-to-follow story – you know, like every other successful screenplay.

        No, I stick by what I say – you need a screenplay that is both QUALITY and COMMERCIALLY VIABLE. Screenplays that are the former are rare, screenplays that are the latter – in my opinion, and somewhat inexplicably – even rarer (I have a few theories on that).

        Screenplays that are both quality AND commercially viable are very rare indeed. They’re the ones that sell.

        • MWire

          Isn’t that what the Scriptshadow 250 Screenwriting Contest is supposed to be all about? Find a script that can actually be made into a movie?

          • S.C.


            Scriptshadow 250 is going to kick The Black List up its fee-charging arse!

          • klmn

            Only Carson knows.

      • Howie428

        For me both of you are being wildly optimistic with your numbers. The lottery ticket comparison only makes sense when you allow for both the fact that not all the tickets are equal, and the extra fact that the ticket buyers are not equally placed.

        Indeed, when most of us buy a ticket, i.e. write a script, the lottery company has no record of the purchase having been made and actively avoids finding out about it.

        If your number comes up, i.e. they want exactly what you’ve written, there would be no way for you to know and no way for them to award you your prize. The only way you could win would be to smooze with people who work for the lottery company. Only if they like you will they attempt to get the company to acknowledge that you’ve even bought a ticket.

        A more accurate analogy would be a raffle, where the tombola sits across a well-guarded bridge on an island surrounded by crocodile infested waters. The people on the island are free to deposit their tickets into the tombola whenever they like. Everyone else either has to nepotism their way across the bridge, swim with the crocodiles, or throw their ticket up into the wind and hope it either miraculously lands inside the tombola or is caught by someone on the island who is kind enough to put it in for you.

        So when they draw the hundred winners each year the island residents have pretty good odds and win the vast majority of the prizes. Those not living on the island face odds of lottery magnitude.

        • S.C.

          Like I said, don’t get TOO hung up on the numbers – it’s just for fun.

          Scriptshadow 250 – not surrounded by angry crocodiles. Anyone can enter. Winner gets optioned, no questions asked. An option is pretty much a sale (most times you read script get sold, take the number give – if they give one – and do about 5%. That’s how much they’ve REALLY been paid).

          Let’s imagine there’s a screenwriter who lives in Los Angeles, has a few connections (nothing spectacular, but – you know – he’s worked for some people, his friend knows someone, etc.).

          He’s written a script that is both COMPETENTLY written (maybe not groundbreaking, but a fast, easy read with no mistakes) and has a reasonably COMMERCIAL premise well-executed.

          Good example: OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN.

          In fact, he has a couple of such scripts and he’s working on another, plus a TV pilot.

          What are their chances of selling a script?

          I’d say 50/50, the other half representing the X factor, for example is another script with the same premise came along. But even if he didn’t sell, such a writer could still get meetings, maybe even paid work.

          But such writers – in the right place, with the talent, and a SALEABLE script – are rare.

          Key point: competent writing AND commercial appeal. The former is not universal but not uncommon, but the latter is much rarer. A lot of people can’t come up with original, populist ideas (and stories to match). There, I said it.

          Why? Partly, I think, because people tend to do the same things, watch the same movies, read the same books, the result of which is people tend to write the same scripts. Hard to tell most scripts apart.

          Another problem is that many writers don’t rate stories and the inspiration behind them as being as important as fancy description and “clever” dialogue (usually amounting to characters trading insult humor back-and-forth).

          • Howie428

            I’d agree that it makes sense to focus on “saleable” as a big target for screenwriters. I also agree that jazzy dialogue and showy writing are often a big part of the smoke and mirrors that many writers deploy.

            Of course, the sixty-four thousand dollar question is how do you define “saleable” and who is making that call?

            Using the word saleable could be considered a bit of a cheat since it self-defines what succeeds… If it sold, it was saleable.

            I’ve come to use the word “viable” as being the quality that I believe needs to be achieved. Not just viable in a commercial sense, also viable in practically makeable sense, and viable in a does the story function from beginning to end sense.

            To achieve that standard the script has to be readable, which requires craft. The basic ingredients have to have been considered and delivered on, structure and character being the big ones.

            The weird thing is that when you say “viable” is your standard, that sounds like a low bar, and it actually is lower than people tend to think.

            Readers love to focus on the bells, whistles, and frills. Often they flip out with excitement over that stuff, or they ding something that hasn’t delivered on them. My experience is that most readers are not attuned to the question of whether a script presents a viable movie.

            I have a baseball analogy for it… An umpire might not like the pitcher’s action, may believe the batter should have blasted that one out the park, might be cursed by distractions from the crowd and from their personal life, but when it’s all summed up the dude has to call balls and strikes, and call them well.

            When screenplays are judged the big question should be, “Is it a strike?”

            The detail is fixable, and whether or not it sells and hits with an audience is stab-in-the-dark speculation. Readers should learn to spot strikes, and if they see one call “Strike!”

            Any viable script deserves to be considered. Unfortunately, that’s not how things play out.

          • S.C.

            I like viable, and I really dig what you’re saying, because – yeah – it’s kinda stupid to keep saying commercial and saleable as if these are fixed things. Off the top of my head, things that might make a script more market-friendly:

            * Something different – but not bizarre.

            * Strong title that connects with content of story or just looks good on theater marquee.

            * Poster image, like the tattooed lady yesterday.

            * Torn from the headlines (more for TV than feature – for feature you need to PREDICT what will be in the headlines – so Ebola for TV, overpopulation (perhaps) for feature).

            * Star roles (no star wants to play a schlemiel).

            * Popular genres: Action and comedy.

            * Possibly popular genres: Drama, fantasy, romantic comedy, science fiction, thriller.

            * Less-popular genres: Horror (with a few exceptions, mostly low BO returns).

            * Genres best avoided: Musicals an westerns (expensive and with low BO returns).

            Not thorough, but it’ll do for now. More on this another day, perhaps.

  • Nicholas J

    What is an Olivia Wilde and where can I get one?

    • klmn

      Maybe you can get the inflatable version.

      Try an adult video store. Or Amazon.

    • drifting in space

      I’ve been looking for this elusive creature for quite some time. Still haven’t found one…

  • Mike.H

    Great Review! I’d like to read it. Please send: MAY1MSG at GMAIL DOT COM. Thanks!

    • S.C.


      • drifting in space

        Can you send it to: driftinginscripts at gmail dot com


        • S.C.


      • Walla

        Hi S.C.

        Would love to read it too. Thanks so much! bjkfromla at gmail dot com

        • S.C.


  • Dan B

    Where’s the Ass picture today? Thought we had a theme going this week. Could have used a caption like “Will Clark CRACK this case??”

    • klmn

      No picture, but here’s the soundtrack – courtesy of Chick Willis.

      • Mike.H

        Stoop down baby, aka deleted soundtrack from PULP FICTION.

        • klmn

          Didn’t know that.

  • Randy Williams

    Found this on co-writer Graham Sack

    Graham is also the co-author of “The Morgan Principle,” which won 1st
    place in the 2011 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Competition and
    was a top 30 semifinalist for the Nicholl Fellowship.

    Graham holds a BA from Harvard College, an MA from Columbia University, and an MSc from the London School of Economics.

    • S.C.

      Now there’s two things about that:

      1st place.
      Top 30 semifinalist for the Nicholl Fellowship.

      A lot of people will boast that their script is a semifinalist at Nicholl, and if it’s your first script then good on ya. But semifinalist means one of about 375 scripts. Not THAT impressive.

      Top 30? 1st place? Impressive. No wonder he’s done well.

      • walker

        Semifinalists in the Nicholl Fellowships are typically the top 2% of entries, which would be more like 150 scripts. Your 5% figure is applies to quarterfinalists. I must say you make quite a lot of pronouncements in these comment threads for a guy who can’t even check a simple fact like that.

        • S.C.

          So, the only mistake I made was saying semi instead of quarter. Everything else I said stands. Being a quarter-finallist isn’t THAT impressive.

          Wow, you really are quite a nasty piece of work. I usually wish people the best of luck, but I’m gonna go the opposite way. Your sole contribution to today’s discussion is to correct ONE WORD.

          Well done.

          I’m going to bed.

          • walker

            Call it a formatting issue. Maybe you should throttle back the underlining and all-caps if you can’t be bothered to be accurate. And really I wasn’t correcting a single word, which is just a reductive defense that you retreated to once you realized you were wrong. What I was emphasizing was your casual relationship to the facts and your supercilious attitude.

        • Citizen M

          That is a remarkably ungracious comment towards someone who has been a benefactor to this site in terms of supplying scripts unavailable to most of us (and whose comments are mostly pertinent and on point).

  • brenkilco

    Another indy featuring a sad sack/ anal retentive protag finding love or at least some human connection with a member of the opposite sex in quirky circumstances. Not really my thing though I’m sure Payne and a top notch cast will make it watchable. But just how somebody could scam the lottery four times is really interesting. Googled around. A certain Joan Ginther has won the Texas lottery four times. No allegations of illegality have been substantiated. But since Ms. Ginther is a Stamford PHD and recognized math genius an intellectual cottage industry has sprung up detailing theories about all the possible methods she might have used to game the games. Probably a movie in it. Betting it’s not this one.

    • pmlove

      Wasn’t hers some sort of tax avoidance mechanism too though – she was just buying tickets to offset paying tax on her winnings? She bought in volume (if I recall my cottage-reading correctly) too.

      Not sure how that relates to this script – whether Joy only bought occasionally. I’m curious to know how the scam in the script is explained (assuming it is a scam).

      • brenkilco

        From the little I’ve read her legal tactics involved buying in Texas which has higher payouts and also announces periodically the number of prizes left so that like a card counter waiting until the shoe is nearly empty to bet she could improve her odds. Also choosing a game with lots of smaller prizes so that the net cost to her of all the tickets she bought- and she bought a lot of tickets -could be reduced. And she did further limit her outlay by tax deductions for her gambling losses. None of this, of course, guaranteed she would win. And so the speculation continues that there was much more to her method.

  • S.C.


  • Nicholas J

    …so you’re saying there’s a chance.

  • S.C.


    • Javier Eliezer Otero

      Be kind and share it with me, please. javierotero26 at hotmail.

      • S.C.


    • andyjaxfl

      Can I get a copy as well? amuller33 at ol’ gmail.

      Thank you!

      • S.C.


        • Hephaestus

          S.C., thanks an octillion in advance, if you could…
          mcnivenpip at aol dot com

  • S.C.


    • littletree

      Would love to read, too! ematsueda at gmail — thanks so much!!

      • S.C.


  • S.C.

    Sent Setptillion… but don’t have The Bounty, yet.

    • Buddy

      Hey man, can you send me this one please ?
      buddy255 at voila dot fr
      thanks !!!

      • S.C.


  • S.C.


  • S.C.


  • S.C.

    OT: I feel very, very old:

    (Incidentally, did you know that the final draft of She’s All That was by M. Night Shyamalan?).

  • Somersby

    I’d like to get a copy of this as well if someone is kind enough to do me a solid…:-) Thanks in advance.
    anvil [at] total [dot] net

  • IgorWasTaken

    Writers Perlman and Sack. It’s the first time I’ve seen a script where I really identify with the writing style.

    They do a few asides in the action. They use bold and italics and even bold-underlined in non-standard ways that just simply work on the page.

  • Ninjaneer

    OT: A regular of the Go Into The Story screenwriting blog has just sold his pitch that he’ll be writing with David Goyer. The premise sounds really interesting and the writer sounds like he’s put a lot of effort into learning the craft:

    • Poe_Serling

      Thanks for posting this article, Ninjaneer-

      “Actor turned screenwriter Christian Contreras… just came to Hollywood a couple of weeks ago with an idea he wanted to write. He signed with WME and Grandview Entertainment, and Goyer heard the pitch late last week and set it up with Warner Bros that night.”

      At first, it sounds like a true overnight success story. Then, like Ninjaneer mentioned, you find out all the time and effort that the writer put in to get himself into this enviable position.

      “I have breakfast, take a shower and get dressed like I’m going to school. Then I sit down at my computer – 5 days a week – for each subject area. The 1 screenplay-a-week I read is from one of the 2-movies-a-week I watch. Reading the Evolution of Filmmaking and Film Criticism has made me better understand the nuances of the form, a film’s place in the zeitgeist, and innumerable other things I can’t articulate.”

      • Ninjaneer

        I loved Newton before but now I like him even better. What a fascinating guy. Thanks for the info.

    • S.C.

      One slight negative response, but not really…

      … be careful of copying someone else’s path to success. What worked for Christian might not work for you, and you could end up discovering your own path to success (or your own voice, etc.) but simply ending like a bunch of other people.

      So if you want to read one screenplay a week but only watch two movies a week (?! Is that NEW movies or does that include re-watching old ones? That’s what I do.) and reading The Evolution of Filmmaking and Film Criticism (wtf?), don’t expect your screenwriting to suddenly shoot up overnight.

      And what if you to bat not shower? And what if…, etc.

      Just saying. Nice story. Find your own path.

      • Ninjaneer

        He said he also does the 1-2-7-14 plan,
        read 1 script a week
        watch two movies
        write 7 pages per day
        spend 14 hours per week on story prep

        In addition he’s also participating in a screenwriting community, as well as taken multiple screenwriting classes. He also did the GITS Deep Focus program, which if you did thoroughly would be a pretty decent education.

        Sure everyone will have a different path but they take hard work, which it looks like this guy did :)

        • S_P_1

          I can’t speak for everyone but binge watching tends to be the preferred method of watching tv or movies. Only one show do I attempt to watch on a regular weekly basis (AMC’s TWD). I infrequently read scripts professional or amateur as not to have a reason to further procrastinate on my own scripts. I write in bursts some sessions are more productive than others. Story prep and outlining is strictly for Scott Crawford. :)

          • S.C.

            I’ll assume the last sentence was a joke and that you DO prep your story, even if it’s not the same way I do.

          • S_P_1

            I wrote 100 jokes or funny scenes for my next feature comedy. I also jointly wrote 2 tv bibles for an joint tv pilot script. Soo your message got through loud and clear. I’ve also written several shorts from pure inspiration. The complexity of the concept dictates the thoroughness of the outline for me.
            And YES you are correct about knowing where you’re going storywise in advance, it does save time.

          • S.C.

            100 jokes! Good going. I’ve read scripts with less than a dozen jokes in the whole script.

            Keep up the hard work!

          • S.C.

            100 jokes! Good going. I’ve read scripts with less than a dozen jokes in the whole script.

            Keep up the hard work.

        • S.C.

          Well the guy’s called Scott so I like him for that.

          Agree on the hard work, defo. Not gonna argue on story prep, not sure how you do 7 pages at the same time unless working on two scripts at the same time.

          Not sure I would follow such a regimented regime. Kinda sucks the fun out of it. How about:

          Read a screenplay a week… OK. Try to read scripts that are more like the stuff you want to write.

          Read novels, short stories, see plays when you can – basically, different kinds of writing/storytelling.

          Watch the news, keep up on the latest trends, technology, etc. (ideas you can use in your scripts).

          Watch as many movies as you like, whatever and whenever you like (no movie Nazis here). Try to watch movies that are more like the stuff you want to write (promotes individuality).

          Watch the most popular TV shows, even the ones you don’t like – they’re free, most of them.

          Before picking an idea/concept for your script, make sure you have more than two-dozen ideas to choose from (so at least it’s in the % of ideas you’ve had).

          Spend at LEAST two-three weeks planning and prepping your script, breaking the story down into sequences or chapters, making sure you have enough story to fill a whole script, preferably ending in an outline of the 60-70 scenes (feature) you think you NEED to write.

          Write your first draft in less than four weeks, working from an outline, getting it done rather than getting it right.

          Rewrite and polish your script to a high standard.

          Submit to AOW for evaluation by your peers.

          Rewrite the script taking in mind the notes you get.

          Submit to Scriptshadow 250 and win!

          What do you reckon?

          • Ninjaneer

            Wish I could do 10 upvotes for your comment about having at least two dozen ideas before picking the one to write.

            I’d guess that is were most writers go wrong. Having a crap-ton of ideas/concepts really frees you up to be more objective of your idea you pick and less precious about letting any particular idea go.

          • Bifferspice

            i go in phases, and it’s definitely governed by the project that’s occupying my mind 24/7 at that time.

            i buy and watch as many classic films in the genre i’m going to be writing in (and that genre changes with each project – i don’t subscribe to always writing in the same genre. it’s not an idea that appeals to me at all).

            i read factual books/articles/sites about all areas that occur to me, whether they’ll be in the screenplay or just help me understand that world a bit better.

            i write notes and ideas on a new text document every day, and keep an overarching story document that gets gradually filled out more and more as the ideas keep coming.

            once a storyline has begun to take shape, i create an excel spreadsheet with a line for each scene, and an estimated page count. then i can shuffle them around as much as i like. and i do that a lot. i have recently tried to actually write action and dialogue in my daily note files to the point that they can sometimes just be copied and pasted into the script once it starts going.

            i only write the actual thing once i can’t put it off any longer, and the story is bulging in my head so much i want to get some of it down so i can stop trying to picture it so damn clearly. the actual script-writing part only comes at the end, once i have it all pretty figured out as clearly as i can. so most of my time, i don’t write pages. i only do that in a concentrated burst at the end of the process, and i try and do it in four to six weeks. then i have a break until another project starts calling me.

            it works for me, because i like the scriptwriting part least. it’s stressful and difficult. the planning and imagining and scribbling and research and daydreaming is the best bit, and so i take as long as i like doing that and love every minute of it.

  • Brooks

    Can I get a copy too?


    Thank you!

    • S.C.


      • JakeBarnes12

        Any chance of peeking at this?

        cardinallemoine74 at yahoo dot com

        • S.C.

          Sent! Popular script…

          • JakeBarnes12

            Thanks, man!!

  • S_P_1


    The second script I wrote I knew it was garbage from early on. I eventually stopped working on it when I got tired of making up shit page to page.
    I recently saw an interview with the legendary bass guitar musician Marcus Miller. He briefly mentioned how some bass players want to be a big fish in a small pond. Essentially only doing enough to impress the people in your circle. I think the same applies to screenwriting. Some writers are content with getting accolades from their peers. No matter how many writers register their scripts only a small percentage truly believe they will forge a career as a screenwriter.
    Your true competition is the small percentage of writers who are dedicated and pursue their goals. The statistical odds aren’t the obstacle its your mindset and will to exceed over all others.

    • S.C.

      Your true competition is the small percentage of writers who are dedicated and pursue their goals.

      Can someone else upvote this for me, ’cause I’m not allowed too.

      I agree 100%, and you articulate it better than I do; too many people think that if they can just type 20,000 of anything in the right format, and with a few nice bits of writing here and there, then that’s enough.

      Or they write someone they know isn’t good… but tell you it can be made on a low-budget.

      Low-budget script or low-ambition script?

      Your idea, your big idea, needs to be different. It needs to stand out.

      Your plotting needs to be tight, real tight. No five-page dialogue scenes about NOTHING.

      No typos, no grammatical errors, no(t too many) unfilmmables, no continuous action.

      If it’s a comedy, it should be funny. If it’s a horror, it should be scary.

      And a few more things I’ve probably forgotten.

      Great post, S_P_1!

      • Ninjaneer

        I like your phrase “Low Ambition Script”.

        I hear all the time that people try to write as many scripts as they can to get better. Which could be good or actually could be bad.

        Practicing the wrong thing over and over again not only doesn’t build your proper technique muscle but it reinforces bad habits.

        Practicing your golf swing the proper way for 30 minutes every couple days is extraordinarily better than practicing the wrong, lazy technique 3 hours a day.

        You’re better off to have a few scripts, where you work hard and smart, putting the time, prep and deep thought into it along with learning the craft than doing a dozen half-assed low ambition scripts.

        • S_P_1

          You’re better off to have a few scripts, where you work hard and smart, putting the time, prep and deep thought into it along with learning the craft than doing a dozen half-assed low ambition scripts.
          I agree.

      • Midnight Luck

        I got your back.
        I upvoted it for you.

        Not that I don’t want my vote to count for me as well.
        I wanted to upvote it myself, so
        I guess I need to ask if someone else would please

        upvote S_P_1’s post for me?

    • Kirk Diggler

      Well, judging by what I’ve seen of the circle jerk that goes on at some peer review websites, I’m inclined to agree.

  • S.C.


  • S.C.


  • Buddy

    OT : 10 Screenwriting tips from…NIGHTCRAWLER
    ** Spoilers ** inside

    1. present your hero with an action whom immediately tells us who he is :
    in his presentation scene, Lou is stealing, lies to the security guard ans assaults him. We know now that Lou is ready to do ANYTHING for a couple of bucks.

    2. Hide your exposition :
    Lou tries to “sell himself” to the construction manager. This allows us to have information about him, without being heavy.

    3. Alert Inc / Inc:
    The inc / inc is often a negative information for the hero, yet here is rather positive since Lou discovers that people are paid to film car accidents. But this discovery is offset by negative information for Lou: there is no work for him. Witch means for him (and us) = this is not gonna be easy !

    4. Beginning of Act 2:
    is the moment when the hero embarks 100% in the quest for his goal. here, Lou wants to compete with companies that film car accidents. So the break in act2 takes place when Lou decides to recruit an employee: rick. Now he runs his own company !

    5. Conflict Alert:
    As he needs help, Lou recruits Rick. These two are still opposed because Lou is willing to risk his life for a scoop, unlike Rick who knows that it’s not worth it. These two are never agree on anything!

    6. midpoint shift:
    Rene Russo puts pressure on Lou (“give me what you promised me!”).
    After that, Lou sabotages Bill Paxton truck to eliminate competition. Now Lou is a killer !

    7. antagonist alert:
    in stories where the hero is “bad”, you need an antagonist on top of it so that we empathize with the hero, despite his actions.
    As in the godfather, Michael & Don Corleone are opposed to Solozzo who’s is the “real” villain. Here the real antagonist is rene russo : she pushes Lou to do bad things.

    8. Stakes Alert:
    after the midpoint stakes rises when Lou films the drug dealers leaving the fancy house where they killed a familly. Lou films their license plate but he keeps this information for him, telling nothing to Rene russo or the police. This will be the plot of the second part of the film.

    9. In the movies where the hero is a “bad guy”, the “all is lost” plot point at 75min is reversed. Here it is not the lower point for Lou, but one of its highest points: Lou threatens Rene Russo to sell his videos to other channels and negotiate more exposure for his company.

    10. Ending: show how your hero has evolved.
    The film ends with Lou who now runs his own company and has employees and gears : he’s at the exact opposite of where we found him in the beginning.

    • Kirk Diggler

      Regarding NUMBER 2 – how many people would still say that exposition is exposition and that’ it’s all bad? I’ve seen it enough times on AOW, where someone will comment ‘such and such’ scene is an exposition dump. Exposition has to exist, there is almost no way around it. My rule, as long as one character in the scene is in the dark as to what’s being said than you have a good excuse to ‘explain’ things, just don’t overdo it. People wrongfully call out writers for their exposition no matter what form it takes and I believe that’s wrong.

      The no. 2 scene itself barely qualifies as what we typically call ‘exposition’ any way.

      • S.C.

        Some of MY favorite “briefing” scenes (at least what I could find on the internet). See what you think:

    • davejc

      Good comment Buddy. But you left out the most important tip from Nightcrawler which is:

      Base your story on a classic film without being overtly derivative like Ace In The Hole, like Dan Gilroy did with Nightcrawler.

      • Buddy

        didn’t knew that !
        thank you !

        • davejc

          Don’t thank me. Thank my daughter. I loved the script. Loved the movie, but didn’t make the connection. She said, “Daddy, this is just like Ace In The Hole.”

          An she was right.

      • S.C.

        Don’t be afraid to copy a great movie but change the details.

        Most of last year’s Black List scripts were “rip offs” of DEMON SEED and SINK THE BISMARCK and others.

    • LV426

      Nice list.

      I loved Nightcrawler.

    • Midnight Luck

      Nightcrawler was a Revelation.
      So interesting.
      So different.
      So cool.

      We need more inventive scripts and movies like this.

      Makes me wonder what Southpaw will be like, as Jake is very good at choosing strange yet interesting projects. From Donnie Darko to Enemy to Nightcrawler.

    • lesbiancannibal

      How did this not win best original screenplay? I love his how-to-get-ahead-in-business/self-help book speech patterns – he’s not just an anti-hero, he’s like an anti-character, intentionally a not quite fully-formed human being.

  • S.C.


  • S.C.

    Sent??????? Hope so.

  • andyjaxfl

    Twenty pages and I’m intrigued. It’s odd to see two characters described with references to iconic characters from other movies: Clark Kent and John Huston from Chinatown. It’s not a complaint, it’s just… weird.

  • LV426

    I’d love a copy as well as yesterday’s Blind Spot if anyone has that too.

    craig johns 79 at gmail dot com

    • S.C.


      • LV426

        Thanks again!

        • iamfutureshock

          can you pass along the favor? iamfutureshock at gmail

  • S.C.


  • S.C.


  • S.C.


  • S.C.

    Well, with one exception, I’ve had a great time discussing things with you guys, but it’s gone midnight here in England, so I better get some sleep. Here’s part one of a wonderful documentary about how Hollywood used to be. Oh! how simpler things were then:

  • Poe_Serling

    Okay, brenkilco, you pretty much sucked the air out of how I envisioned the project…

    NEWTON: Gravity Man. Tagline: The World’s First Super Hero! Defeating the bad guys and defying the odds with both feet firmly planted the ground.

    • brenkilco

      First he invented physics!

      Now he’s defying physics!

      Channing Tatum IS Newton.

      • LV426

        Is there time travel, robots, and spaceships?

        Newton teams up with Ben Franklin to save the world from immortal demigods that manipulate the masses from the shadows.

        The big twist – Isaac Newton is actually Isaac Asimov!!!

  • fragglewriter

    Great tip. I read about this script the other day on Variety and Deadline. I had to Google the story as I couldn’t believe it’s real. I think that might be something that spec writers should consider. Take a news headline and create a Spec. I’m not sure how much of it you would shave to change around so you won’t get sued, but it would be a great exercise.

    Also, if anyone has the script, please send to fragglewriter at yahoo dot com

    Thanks. Much appreciated.

    • drifting in space

      This is actually what I did with the story I’m working on now.

      Also how American Beauty originally was conceived. Inspired by a true story.

      • fragglewriter

        How are you doing it? Are you changing it around to not get sued? Does the person have any claim to the material since it’s in public view?

        I never liked American Beauty so I can’t understand the hoopla surrounding it. What part of it was based on a real life experience?

  • klmn

    Yes, and he invented the cookie.

  • drifting in space

    This script is a decent read. I was hoping for more and it’s about 25 pages too long. I started checking the page count at 60. I was only half way and I was irritated I had more to go.

    That being said, it wasn’t awful picturing Olivia Wilde the whole time I was reading. :)

    • drifting in space

      Finished. Ending was cute, albeit heavy handed. All goes to show you…

      Writing a competent story with fleshed out (ish) characters and very few errors puts you ahead of the game. I can see why this is hot right now, just may not be for everyone.

  • LV426

    Newton, the original nerd.

  • Midnight Luck

    For all the pervs ;) out there who are missing out on SS “Ass” week

    here you go….

    • Linkthis83

      I’m pretty sure you meant to post the pic below. It’s okay…it’s an honest mistake.


      • Midnight Luck

        Not a mistake.
        I did find that one.
        I was just trying to keep SS in the PG-13 range.;)
        Plus it was a video not an image and it wouldn’t upload.

        I am sure the readers will be much more thankful for your image.

        • Linkthis83

          Haha. I was being facetious by saying you had made a mistake.

          • Midnight Luck

            yes, i know.
            I was kidding about your kidding, as well.

  • Midnight Luck

    This script reminds me of the movie IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU where a waitress receives a million (multi million?) dollar tip from a Police Officer she serves (Nick Cage) when he promises her half his ticket, should it be a winner, because he had no money on him at the time to tip her.

    It was taken from a newspaper article and was based on a true story. However it was redone so much that it wasn’t considered to really be based on the story anymore, only a few of the situations were based on what happened.

  • Javier Eliezer Otero

    There’s nothing romantic about this script, but holy shit, what awesome story!!! This is just a Dramedy, a great Dramedy!

    [xx] Impressive!

  • lesbiancannibal

    You make me make a phoney phone call to Edward Rooney?