Anonymous asked: Do you write with a specific actor or actress in mind when developing a script? I'm working on one now where I can only see one particular actor playing the role, which is not how I typically work.

I “mindcast” the major roles when I can; that is, I decide what famous actors would be best suited for the roles I’m writing. You might be surprised how helpful that is in writing the dialog. Movie stars each have a particular voice, despite the variety of the parts they play. And it helps to mention my choices in my script; i.e. “a Johnny Depp type.” Many of the people who read my scripts are even less imaginative than me, and this sort of shorthand puts an instant picture in their collective head. 

So go ahead and mindcast. But don’t expect to get that man or woman to play the role. And if you get anyone to play the role, be prepared to rewrite. 

Hope this helps. 

binomialdistribution asked: Hi there I'm really interested in filmmaking and I'm actually doing film studies as an IGCSE(high school diploma) subject. I sadly can't take film for IB(college aka year 12-13 british system) because I replaced one of my art subjects with a science. I know this is all a lot and probably very boring but I was wondering if I could still get into film school if I wanted having done film at IGCSE and not in IB?

You certainly can get into film school, if you’re talking about the United States. It’s a question of what type of film school. There’s everything from online classes open to anyone, to private trade schools that don’t necessarily offer academic credit but prepare you for the world of film production, and credit-bearing colleges and universities that offer entire schools of film studies. Any one of these might  accept you. Some ask only for money. Other demand you go through an application process. I teach at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, reputed to be one of the premier film schools in the country. It’s private, expensive, hard to get into and demanding. But UCLA is a public university with an equally famous film studies school. It’s also hard to get into, but somewhat cheaper and possibly easier to be accepted since it’s public (I honestly don’t know). Then there’s the Los Angeles Film School, more like the trade variety I mentioned above. 

It’s like getting into any other type of school: your academics must be at least sound, preferably outstanding, and you must jump through the many-hooped process of American college application. 

Now, if you’re talking about film school anywhere else in the world, sadly I can not help you. I’m strictly red, white & blue! 

Hope this helps. Feel free to follow up. 


thedxrkknight asked: Hello, Mr. Schulman! It's an honor to get to send you a message. I'll definitely be trying to be in constant contact with you and I'll beleaguer you with questions and comments [I hope you won't mind too much]. 1a) How'd you first get into the screenwriting world? 1b) Did you have an agent? 2) You wouldn't read scripts of ours and comment on them, would you?

Yes, Knight, is is an honor to query me. Kneel down! Down, I say! ;)

In answer to your question, the story of my introduction to screenwriting is a long and (I think) fun one that can not be retold in this space purposed for education. In sum, I was a journalist, interviewed a celebrity whom I respected very much, and later asked him if I could pitch him some material. He generously assented, I sold something and soon thereafter made the transition from journalism to screenwriting (TV and film). As far you are concerned, I think the lessons are two: studying writing — and type of real writing — is fine preparation for writing movies and television. And much success can be put down to good fortune and the kindness of strangers. 

I did not have an agent for that first sale, but that’s common. The first sale can often be thought of as a “waiver,” an exception that gets you through the door. If you can sell even one thing, agents will be more or less interested in representing you. They want a piece of the action. 

I read and comment on scripts as part of my job. I teach at the University of Southern California and on webinars through The Writers Store. Anyone who wants personal attention on a particular piece of work can hire me to critique his or her treatment, pitch or script. But it’s not cheap :)  and requires your signing a disclaimer that allows me to read your work without fear of lawsuit. Hollywood’s a fun place. 

Hope this helps. Feel free to follow up. 


Can I Theft-Proof My Ideas?

Richard asked: I want to pitch my screenplay idea. How do I protect it from being stolen? 

There are three things to remember when it comes to protecting your intellectual property:
1. Your idea is automatically copyrighted when you create it. Be sure to indicate the year, name, copyright and the © symbol on your document.

2. You can register your idea with the Writers Guild of America, even if you are not a member. There is a fee. This does not guarantee protection of your document, but is helpful in court should you wind up there. Try

3. You cannot completely protect your ideas and pitch them at the same time. If you burn your idea, or lock it in your drawer and let no eye rest upon it, no one will ever steal it. But if you walk into a room of strangers and tell them all about it, you are taking the risk that one or more of them is unscrupulous and will steal it. This happens. But in my experience it happens rarely, and there’s no way to eliminate the risk. The best defense is to have a reputable agent who would listen to you if you complained of theft. The culprit, if he or she is part of a legitimate entertainment company, would then risk being cut off from any further business with clients of your agency.

Do your best to sell your ideas and don’t over-worry about them being stolen. People are generally willing to pay for good stuff.

Good luck!


Anonymous asked: How do you write a relationship between young teens that're about 12/13? Because I may want to develop a relationship between two kids. Also, kinda like a comforting friendship romance thing, and yet its hard. Any advice?

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that teenagers are… people! Yes, as shocking as that sounds, they belong to the same species as you and I. Even at that early age, people have a lot of the same wants and needs, especially in relationships. The fact that teenagers are seen as young by older people doesn’t change this, and writing a movie from that point of view comes across only as condescending and out of touch. The big difference is in voices. Teenagers typically don’t have the rich vocabulary with which to express their feelings, nor the experience to compare it against. First love feels omnipotent, infinite. First break ups feel lethal, excruciating.  Combine that with elevated hormone levels and you simply have to turn up the volume. Remember, Romeo and Juliet were actually teenagers, and look how that turned out. 

If you’d like to know more about how to capture teenage voices, write back. 

Hope this helps. 


patchworkbat asked: Hi there! I was wondering if there was a scriptwriting software that's better than Celtx. I've been using that for awhile for a couple of scripts but it's really clunky and I was just wondering if there was something else or what other people use.

Indeed there is something else. There are many something elses. Scriptwriting software is a mini industry unto itself, especially in the United States. 

Without going into lengthy reviews of many brands of script formatting software, let me just mention a few of the majors and ask you to hunt down their websites and try their trial versions for yourself. 

First, I haven’t that much experience with Celtx but the little I have had tells me that its chief advantage is that it is free. Many of the college students I teach use Celtx and I’m pretty sure that’s the overwhelming reason. I find it clunky too. 

On the other end of the spectrum is Final Draft, the most popular such software in the world. It’s the standard in Hollywood, which makes it entrenched. However, I have always found it buggy and overpriced. 

Overall my favorite is Movie Magic Screenwriter. It’s more intuitive, powerful, and incorporates a clever sidebar that allows you to build an outline before you start the script proper. 

Movie Outline 3, written in the UK, is another good choice for the same reasons. 

Unfortunately these programs are not cheap. They do offer some student discounts. There are other choices; a little digging will reveal them. If you want to start out very cheaply and have an iPad or Android tablet, there are choices there too, but I’d suggest a separate hardware keyboard. Typing a 120-page script on glass is only for the most stout of fingers. 

If you have additional questions, feel free to follow up. 

Anonymous asked: I'm writing a scene which involves a man scolding his son, and I need to include it, but no matter how many times I rewrite it I just can't get the right dialogue and I really hate it!! What should I do?

It’s tough to offer specific advice when I know so little about the project, but off the top I’d say to treat this as a case of writers block. First ask yourself if, despite your statement that you “need” to include it, if you really do need it. Maybe it’s the plot of the scene that you need, so that a character could simply fill us in on the scolding in a single line of dialog in another scene. Or maybe it’s the feeling between the father and son you really need, which you can accomplish with silence as one glares at the other in a subway car. You get the idea. 

But if you really, really do need the full scene, with its characters, arc, and dialog, then put it down for a while. Write around it. Live your life. Believe me, the right side of your brain will continue to work on it and you may well have an eureka moment. Give it time. 

When you do return to the scene, turn it upside down, inside out, backwards and every which way but loose. Maybe the son should scold the father! Maybe a third person does the scolding and the father merely agrees. Maybe it’s a scene about something entirely different, seemingly calm, and it’s only in the subtext of the scene that we see how angry these two are and what the complaint is all about. 

When you use phrases like “just can’t get” it and “I really hate it,” then your intuition is telling you something. The scene either needs to go, or be reimagined. Hold onto nothing. Free your mind. Ask advice of trusted friends. And be patient with yourself. Writing is hard. 

Hope this helps. 

Anonymous asked: Hello! I was writing a running chase scene and I wanted to tell the character's thoughts during that time but I don't want to do it through a voice over, what are some ways of getting the audience to know the character's thoughts? Thanks!

Hm, aside from voiceover, if you literally mean communicating the character’s thoughts, I think any method is kind of a cheat. One of the main points of movie writing is to show a character’s action, and let the smart audience infer his thoughts from it. If you can do that successfully you’ll be well on your way to creating a memorable screenplay. Of course you can aid this cause by using dialog earlier to set up the character’s mindset. If you want to go unorthodox, consider outlandish tricks like running text across the screen. Oliver Stone hosed his characters down with text in “Natural Born Killers.” I don’t think it worked, but than again, I don’t care for Oliver Stone. Good luck. 

dannygoffey asked: Hi, I've been writing a novel for a while, but the whole time I was planning it I imagined it as a film. I've suddenly decided part way through writing it that I'd prefer to write it as a screenplay, but I have no idea where to start. Will I need to go back and re-structure and plan the whole thing? Thanks!

Yes. There’s a reason not every writer — or most, or even many — can successfully transition between prose forms. And there’s a reason that adapting novels to the big screen is an art and craft in itself. Screenwriting, the subject of this blog, is a different beast than authoring a novel, or writing ad copy, or composing a poem. Of course these art forms overlap, but scriptwriting in particular is so visual by nature, so heavily structured, so saturated with commerce, so collaborative almost from the get-go, that you need to wipe the slate, change position to the filmmaker’s point of view, and begin again. Keep your characters, at least at first. Keep your plot. But ask yourself what you want a movie to say, what thematic elements are appropriate for a film, how you will show these elements without the ability to easily sink into the character’s thoughts, and start to outline. You may find that it’s a relatively simple matter of restructuring and reformatting, but I wouldn’t be surprised if changing media translates into real substantive changes in the number or kind of characters, the story beats, and so on. So start by defining that one essential thing your story is ABOUT, hold onto that for dear life, and be willing to strangle every other baby you’ve birthed in its crib. Hope this helps, feel free to follow up, and good luck. 

Anonymous asked: How do I meet people who will help me get to my ultimate goal of becoming a television writer?

I would concentrate more on meeting your writer’s voice than meeting industry connections. But I understand the value of networking, although  even after all these years I’m not sure of the right way to do it, or even if there is one. I will say that if you do not live in Los Angeles, you should start by moving there. The potential serendipity is just to great to neglect, and the odds of meeting someone “connected” in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania are short. Once there, the more show business-related functions, coffee klatches and festivals you can attend the better, as long as you are not sacrificing writing time. All of this is in service of getting an agent, which theoretically should make networking unnecessary (“theoretically” being the operative word). All that said, there’s nothing that makes and cements good connections like good writing that shows an ability to generate money. Good luck!