Er…they’re all “ready”. I think. I think I misheard that last part. I’m saying: I do not believe any of the Selected Ten have perished.

OK, let me talk about me for a second first, because honestly that’s my favorite thing to do:

When it came down to it, I’m actually glad I didn’t write a spec in the period of time the Selected Ten did. I know my next couple of specs backwards and forwards already, and they’re concepts, worlds and stories I’m intimately familiar with in one way or another. I feel like I would have blown through them quickly and not had much to offer publicly as a result.

But what ended up happening, as you know, is that I worked on a script that was commissioned from a pitch. And while I was (and still am) confident in my grasp on the story, the characters and the things I wanted to say within them (and where the comedy should come from, perhaps most importantly), it’s also been a (somewhat) frustrating challenge at times. The script involves locations and music and a whole SOCIETY, in essence, that need to be characters themselves in the film. And yeah, it’s a PG-13 studio comedy. This isn’t deep, important shit by any means – but there are elements that need to be respected and not be treated lazily. As such, this is the most research I’ve ever done for a script. And as I’m not a musically-inclined person, especially in a business sense, the behind-the-scenes machinations were tough to nail down and get comfortable with. At the end of the day, I personally NEED this movie to be authentic as much as possible. And when that authenticity isn’t originating from within me…I mean, shit, that’s tough.

So I’ve struggled. But it’s been a good struggle, a learning struggle, a struggle that I’d welcome with open arms any time I write from now on. And I bring this up not *just* because I like talking about myself – although, again, that’s most of the drive here – but because I think it made me appreciate even more that the Selected Ten were going through the same much of the time. And that made this project not only a relatable one as per myself to the Ten, but one in which the commiseration actually aided me as I wrote along. Was I guiding them…or were they guiding me?

(HOLY SHIT I’ve always wanted to type that and mean it and yes it feels just as good and as smarmy as I thought it would, and now I’m a Lifetime movie and I CANNOT BE STOPPED.)

And that’s what I want to thank the Selected Ten for the most – for the learning experience. In every facet, every single week, I learned something. And I empathized. And I sympathized. And I remembered. And goddamn, it was great.

When I first dreamt up this experiment, I thought I’d be thrilled if even seven out of ten finished a script and had the sack to upload it to the Black List. As it turned out, ALL TEN FUCKING OWNED IT. I am so proud. I am so unbelievably proud. And I can’t wait to read their scripts.

Luckily, I don’t have to. And neither do you. Because here are their final updates, complete with the loglines of their scripts and where you can find them on The Black List. Seek them out. I have a feeling there are some real gems in here.

To the Selected Ten: Way to go. Seriously. You absolutely destroyed this process – each in your own way – more completely and more professionally that I could have ever hoped. I’m honored to have helped in any small way to have ushered you through this process.

And so here are their last hurrahs, in their own words, unsubjected to my petty mewlings:


“Being part of the Six Week Spec challenge has been the best thing that’s happened to me since I took up screenwriting. It shook me out of the rut of procrastination I’ve been stuck in for a long time, and I’ve shown that I can write, in a short space of time,  a real script with a real beginning, middle and end. I’m ready to get on with my next project, and I feel freshly-scrubbed and like a middle-aged slightly overweight eager Beaver.

I’ve also – and this feels just as important – been brought into contact with some really great new people, and the world seems to have opened up a bit wider.

Seeing my script up there on the Black List is a thrill, and whatever happens from here, the last six weeks have made me feel like I do actually have a place in the race.”


“When a game of soldiers goes horribly wrong, a cowardly dreamer has to fight to save the life of his friend – and what’s left of his reputation.”



“Wow, what a ride! First up, I want to thank Geoff for choosing me to be part of this. Seeing as this has all been done in conjunction with The Black List, here’s the (not paid for) evaluation of my #SixWeekSpec experience, enjoy.

Era: The beginning of… (urgh, gross)
Location: Twitter…lots of Twitter
Budget: Cheap. Very cheap.
Genre: Balls out funny.
Logline: An aspiring screenwriter gets selected to take part in a writing experiment, and proceeds to write something he thinks is hilarious.
Surprises: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting the other writers who were either selected or joining along at home. That’s been the best part of the whole experience, meeting all these great writers who are full of vim and vigour. 
What I’ve learnt: I’m on the right track, but I’m not there yet. I’m totally cool with that. This is going to be a long haul, but I know I’ll get there eventually. I’ve learned I’m a good writer, and I know I will get better.
Prospects: In six weeks I’ve written a script that was better than my last. I’ve written a script that has promise, and that I’m excited to get back into. I’ve written a script I think others will enjoy, so click below and check it out.
That’s that then. I hope you’ve enjoyed the updates. Look out for a new draft of INTELLIGENCE -1 later this year. In the mean time, get in touch via Twitter (@Lou_Bennett).”
“Two desk bound intelligence analysts are thrown into a world of underground tabletop gaming, online shooters, and cosplay, as they try to avert a terrorist attack.”
“I was sure I wouldn’t get chosen to be a part of the six-week challenge.  Wrong. 

Then I was sure I’d never want anyone to read the result.  Wrong again.   
I’m kind of great at being wrong. (Maybe the best at it…I don’t know for sure. Even if I did, what’re the odds I’d be right?) But anyway, combine that with my other two super powers–having a high school education and making a so-so vegetarian lasagna–and how the fuck am I not a successful millionaire yet?? 
In all seriousness, I couldn’t be happier with this whole experience.  And I can’t thank Geoff enough for including me.  
I learned so much. Particularly that working to a deadline isn’t the narrow ledge I thought it would be.  It was just scary enough to force me into some creative places. The same way pretending the floor is lava forces me into furniture jumps I would never attempt otherwise. Even my procrastination upped its game in the form of next-level housework.  
No joke you guys–Martha Stewart could eat a dick off my light switch covers right now… 
I also discovered the euphoria that comes when characters start bolting forward, unprompted. One second you’re digging your spurs in–the next it’s all you can do to hang on to the reigns.  Not even Charlie Sheen drunk in a Taco Bell drive thru knows THAT kind of bliss.  
Note to self:  Congratulations. This is the kind of fundamental shit that happens when you give your characters actual motivations like you’re supposed to, you mozzarella-crammed duncepit. 
See? Learning all the time. If that doesn’t fill you with enough confidence to invest yourself in 94 pages of my brain dribbles then…tough tits for me I guess.  But I did it! I wrote a thing! It’s called NAILED IT and it’s on The Black List now and I’d love for everyone to read it even though (loony bin scream)!”
“A wannabe house flipper struggles to transform the ‘dump’ she bought at a foreclosure auction when the handyman she recruits has an ulterior motive and a secret–he’s the home’s previous owner.
“Okay, so, despite all the stress and self-doubt that’s occurred over the last six weeks, this has been the most AMAZING journey and I was very lucky to be a part of it. For the rest of my life, I get to say that the first ‘gig’ I got after college was getting to write an entire screenplay in six weeks with a bunch of really awesome writers from literally all over the globe. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Even for a gig that paid me in actual money.

When I first stumbled across this opportunity, I was a WILDLY insecure recent college grad with really no sense of direction. I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know anyone in the industry and I didn’t know anyone else who aspired to do this. And then BAM. This happened. And now I know all you guys.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a WILDLY insecure recent college grad. And I don’t know what’s going to happen after this. But I’m excited to find out.
After reading last week’s updates, it made me happy to find out that Geoff dubbed me the one who’s perhaps had the most invaluable experience here. (OKAY FINE YOU CAUGHT ME. I admit I had to think for a while what ‘invaluable’ actually meant. I kept double guessing myself and eventually just had to look it up for confirmation. Let’s all agree it’s a tricky fucking word.) But after understanding, I was so excited that this was a vibe I somehow gave off especially after being so whiny and full of self-doubt most of the time. Because this is EXACTLY what this experience has been for me. Let me count the ways…
1. This is the first time any creative writing of mine has had a deadline. I hated it. I still hate it. BUT I can go the rest of my life saying I wrote a 128 page screenplay (that was at one point 142 pages) in a month and a half. And on a more practical note, if I am one day blessed with the opportunity to write professionally, most if not all of my writing will have deadlines to meet. So I’ve (sorta) learned how to suck it up and just deal, because that’s life.
2. I set up my Twitter account a few weeks before the Six Week Spec started. I had, like, twenty followers. Maybe. Now I have almost 100, and pretty much ALL of them are writers I’ve been virtually connected to through this. Every time I need to be reminded that I’m not alone in this whole writing thing I can just hop on Twitter and there they all are. Having the same experiences I am. And it’s the coolest thing, really.
3. The past six weeks I spent more time on a computer than I ever did in college. It made me realize my vision’s gotten worse. So I got new glasses. I can see clearly now. The astigmatism’s gone. (Sorry.)
4. Speaking of computers, I’m writing my next script by hand. And then probably hiring someone to type it for me. It seems nuts, but one day I was so tired of staring at Microsoft Word that I said ‘fuck this shit’ and wrote out an entire scene by hand. I loved it. Something about writing manually made me more conscious and thoughtful of what I was saying. I was much more quick to realize if something was good or not. I feel like a grandma but whatever.
5. I really feel like I’ve learned to have more confidence in my writing. Which is nuts, because I rarely ever said anything nice about anything I wrote. But the boost in confidence is there somewhere. It obviously still needs a lot of work, but I think this opportunity has helped more than even I realize sometimes.
6-999. All the other ways this experience has been invaluable to me that I don’t have time to list because this update is due in 11 minutes.

1000. And last but not least… Geoff and the other Selected Ten. I don’t think I’m exaggerating at all when I say you are some of the coolest cats I’ve ever met. I know I haven’t actually met any of you, but just going through this process with you guys makes me feel like I don’t really have to meet you in person to know you. Because we all just did so much cool stuff together. (That being said, I still want to meet all of you. Anyone going to be in the Mexico, Missouri area anytime soon?!) Seriously, y’all are awesome. And some of you are so naturally, effortlessly funny I just want to puke and then throw in the towel I used to clean it up. And Geoff, thanks for thinking I deserved to be in their (and your) company. Seriously.


Anyways, my script is (at the moment) titled WHERE WE BEGAN. It follows two 20-something-year-old lifelong friends (Lena and Luke) who had a recent falling out as they travel to their hometown for a funeral together. Essentially, the road trip forces them to sort of come to terms with this friendship that’s felt forced upon them their entire lives (their parents were friends since before they were born). That’s a decent synopsis I guess. I’m honestly not brave enough to make it public on The Black List, but if anyone is interested in reading it, let me know on Twitter (@anirishwhiskey) or through email [dmcneil2(at)illinois(dot)edu]. I’m happy to send it to you guys.”

(Please contact Delaney directly if you’d like to read the script.)
“I’m still not at all happy with my script, but I looked in my writing directories for the shorts I have written and I usually do 9-12 full drafts before they go into production. So expecting that a first draft, that is 10 times as long, would be ready for the Black List is just ludicrous. I’m still looking forward to the feedback from the readers though. It’s going to be fascinating to see if we agree on its strengths and weaknesses, and on my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. I’m ready for it to be harsh. Everything I’ve done has blossomed under criticism. So bring it.As exhausting and terrifying as the whole process was I’ve emerged mostly invigorated. I’m no longer afraid. I have a drawer full of
feature ideas that I now know I can bring to life. Maybe clumsily and naively at first, but that’s OK. I have many writing years left in me.
@MysteryCr8tve said that it took over 15 years of solid writing to write something he wasn’t embarrassed by, and I found that strangely
Thanks to Geoff for taking a chance on a nerdy mum from the other side of the world. You’ve unleashed a feature screenwriting beast for which
the world is unlikely to thank you.My fellow writers: I’ve written mostly comedies in the past, and you guys make me feel like a hack. I’ve learned so much about punchy writing just from your updates and bios. Your scripts must be spectacular (yeah, give it up me). I feel like the worst house on the best street, but we all know that’s the smartest place to be. I can’t wait to see where you all go next. I’ll be watching you as best I can from darkest Tasmania, and when I make it to LA next year I’ll be trawling through your trash for discarded manuscripts. Guess that actually means breaking into your computers these days. Oooo, I can do that from here.”
(Claire has chosen to not make details of her script or the script itself public at this time.)
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned during the past six weeks, and a lot of it is small stuff that just made the writing process easier: taking the time to outline, writing even when every word I can think of is stupid, re-outlining the whole thing after finishing a draft… blah, blah, blah. Also, to be honest, I realized when I was at about pg 120 that I hadn’t thought of the words “Three Act Structure” in weeks. And whatever I read from Save the Cat at the start of this experiment, I have since completely forgotten. I think what’s going to end up happening is that my own formula will appear as I continue to write. ‘Cause using someone else’s certainly doesn’t seem to work for me. The most important thing that I got from this thing is the reassurance that I actually like writing. It’s the thing for me. It feels like what I am supposed to wake up and do every day. I’ve never written so much in so little time, and the feeling of accomplishment is definitely worth the struggle it took to get there. Special shout out to Delaney who answered my panicky ‘IS THIS RLLY HARD FOR YOU TOO?’ emails with similar anxiety. It was nice to commiserate over the process. 

I guess that was the awesome thing about this little experiment: we were all kind of overwhelmed, and anxious and freaking out about writing a script in six weeks, but we were in it together. Feeling like the world was ending, and then reading that someone else was having a similar crisis was hugely helpful. Especially for someone like me, who tends to retreat further and further from the outside world when I’m having writing problems. 

**Also I’m amazed at how funny some peoples’ updates were (Jerren/ Jesse: Hi) in the middle of this process. By the time I sat down to write my update each week, the most creative thing I could come up with was something along the lines of: “Writting iz hAAard”. 

THANK YOU Geoff, for letting be a part of this, and for checking in with me when my updates began to get shorter and more panicky. I really appreciate that you took the time to encourage and reach out to writers, even though you’re a busy guy and no one asked you to do this. That’s so cool. 

Can’t wait to read everyone’s scripts!”


“After her first novel crashes and burns, Meryl Oberst moves back home to write novel #2, but the only writing inspiration she can find is from the idiots who work with her at her new job in the book shop her parents own.”

“My entire household, spanning continents, breathed a sigh of relief when this project was done. My poor husband certainly did. He expressed profound relief and begged me not to take on anymore nutty deadlines. Don’t have the heart to tell him that if I’m ever successful, this will pretty much be everyday all day.My body and soul and heart have just exhaled. Feel profoundly tired. Tried to nap but just lay there thinking odd thoughts, listening to the humidifier, watched the light flickering.Nutty. Wow yes. It’s been nutty.People care. I can’t ever say that people don’t care about my writing ever again. People definitely care. And this is huge.

I started out this year pretty much wondering whether I should pack it in. I’d been through a few grueling rewrites on another project. A painful fourth draft, a comedy pass which should have been fun and was a little bit. Though preparing it felt like an enema.

And then I submitted to Sundance Labs. All through that process wondering whether it was really worth it. What’s the point? Should I give up this screenwriting malarkey? Go back to corporate communications? Wouldn’t be so bad would it? But it would be. Corporate communications almost killed me. But that was then. I’m older. I have more control over my emotions. God, I sound Vulcan.

In any event, I entered Sundance Labs. Tripped around the world to see my family who asked me predictably, “what I was doing with my life” I’m glad to know that it’s not just a ‘brown’ thing and it’s not just a ‘writer’ thing. Young people on the edge have been pushed over by elderly relatives all over the world.

Also uploaded my script to the Black List fully expecting a 2 or 3.

I came back. I’d gotten a 7 from the Black List. Not bad right?

And some weeks later, a lot of weeks later, as I was prepping another project, Sundance Labs wrote back.

Saying, ‘We’re pleased to inform you….’ I couldn’t tell you what the rest of the email said because my brain stopped working.

I think it took me a full 3 hours to become functional again. And about 17 calls to my husband who, of course, was in a low-signal area.

This was a big deal.

In a week, I rewrote the blasted script AGAIN. Lord knows I’ve never worked that hard on a script in my life. But I know now I’m capable of it Alhamdulillah.

And then somewhere in that week (yeah, in that very same week), Geoff selected me as one of the ten who will simply walk into Mordor. WTH?

Friends on Twitter broke it to me this time. My face just froze into that face from the Scream.

But I took a week or three to outline something I wasn’t planning on writing till oh, maybe next year or the year after. A crazy Egyptologist and alien two-hander story. Looking back, my feet up, a cup of tea here, I think I’m crazy. But I think it’s a good kind of crazy.

Yeah, I abandoned (for now) the project I had actually done some prep on and went with another project entirely. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And I actually think it was, thank God. Or at least I’m sticking to my guns now I’ve fired them.

So I outlined as best as I could. Which it turned wasn’t that good. But still I asked my characters a few questions, beated out the script, did some very preliminary research (I wouldn’t be surprised if I receive hate mail and bricks through my window from irate Egyptologists – no, it’s not that bad. I’m a drama queen) and wrote a first draft.

Fifty-six pages it was. It was really hard to write too. Because I knew as far as screenplays go, it was pretty bad. This much I knew.

But still even so, it was enormously helpful. I figured out the emotional arc in a lot of the scenes, though it still needed some significant cleaning up.

I guess I discovered that I love love love outlining. Especially after hearing how much work Damian put into his outline and feeling JEALOUS. Who would have thought an outline could make me feel jealous?

I went back through my script. I read it 3-4 times. Seeing that it was only 56 pages, that wasn’t that hard. But essentially I familiarized myself with the structure as it is.

I then went through and figured out what I’d learned about my characters from each scene. Okay, they are acting in a certain way. Why?

I wouldn’t let it go until I got an answer that seemed sincere.

I forced them to open up to me. Well, at least my main two characters. With the others, I have much work to do, especially the more significant supporting characters.

Once I figured I’d learned what I could from this iteration, I dove into the outline again. I fleshed it out. And added a first Act which I had omitted at the beginning, thinking the audience wouldn’t need it – they ALWAYS need a first act in sci-fi.

That added a good thirty pages to my total. And that page count continued to tick up as I wrote thereafter.

I found myself getting terrifically bored with my writing. There’s a few stock words and phrases I use. ‘Nonplussed’, ‘suddenly’, ‘scuttled’.

I like my ellipses too….

But still I wrote.

I’ve never done out and out philosophical discussions in a screenplay before. Sure, there’s philosophical battles being fought in the sub-text, but never in the text-text. This was a gamble. I wonder if it turned out any good. But I guess all art is a gamble.

I wonder also if anyone will care as much about my work as they have in the past few months. I sincerely hope so.

I hope I am worthy of such caring. And it’s my job I think in the coming months to really up my game, get better and learn from the greats.

This is my fourth script project (counting the first which was too embarrassingly bad to show anyone). Since it occurred in such a compressed time frame (8-9 weeks in total), all my normal reactions to the various stages of screenwriting came into sharp relief.

At first, it felt like going on a really big water-slide. Yeah, sure you might die. But you might also have the time of your life.

Then came the really hard part. Facing up to the fact that this thing has some kinks that’ll need sorting out. That’s disappointing but not necessarily bad. Mistakes can always be fixed as long as the script hasn’t been sent to Harvey Weinstein (I don’t think he’d be interested in my non-Oscar-winning-genre film anyway).

Tiredness sets in and the usual questions begin to present themselves. ‘What’s the point? Nobody cares. I’m the only person that cares about this silly story.’

My husband says he can set his watch by when in a project I start to ask those questions. He even parrotted them back to me.

Other more deep-rooted concerns also presented themselves later as tiredness really began to set in. I found myself caught up in the Islam wars between Maher and Affleck and Reza Aslan too. Flurries of articles on my Facebook and Twitter. Intellectual and not-so-intellectual responses. This is around the time I start to wonder whether I should pay attention to the world a little more. To politics. Whether I should give my community a hand.

But as I’ve read the arguments back and forth and back and forth – people have been talking about this since September 11th, since probably before the Internet as well. It’s just the Internet has made these conversations front and center in our lives i.e. Muslim lives. 

I’ve decided something (though I might wake up tomorrow and change my mind). This politics crap is too complicated for me. There are much smarter people who can dissect these arguments up the wazoo and write brilliantly worded 2000-word features about them. Not me. Me, I write screenplays.

It frustrates me that however many articles have been and will be written, there’ll always be more demanded. But this is a fight that needs to be fought I guess. But not by me. I can’t do it. My rather gentle polite heart can’t take it.

How am I going to fight Islamophobia? Writing screenplays with Muslim characters being human. Even if nobody EVER reads them or cares. Even if nobody is ever interested in making them into a movie. I owe it to my progeny to try. This is terrifying to me but I think it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

I’m going to be asking myself, ‘Do I have anything better to do?’ If the answer continues to be no, I will continue to screen-write. That sounds pretty simple.

And I’m going to be a nice person too. Yeah, this is my fight. This is my world. Being a decent person is simple. Smiling at your friends, feeding a hungry child, picking up somebody when they’re down – that’s what decent people do. Politics is not so simple.

Screenwriting is simple too really. Just write an effing good story (pardon my French). I’ll let the really smart people take care of the politics.

And well, all of that aside, I finished my screenplay. I’m dog tired now and it’s done.

I’m going to take a while. Rest. Read other people’s screenplays, especially of the Selected Ten. Review. Recuperate. Eat right. Exercise. Stay out of the sun. However long I need to take (but no longer than two weeks).

By then, I should have an idea whether this project has any momentum. I might choose then to use the last 2 months of the year, plus early next year to rewrite this script. Or something else.

My in-laws are down in December. Big life changes are on the horizon. I’m not going to lose my momentum but I don’t want to burn out either. We’ll see how this goes. As usual, as my husband says, cross that bridge when we come to it.”

“When a misfit Egyptologist is trapped inside a pyramid with an alien, she and the alien plot to ‘improve’ the world, not realizing the alien is in love with her and has less benign plans.”
“What a dizzying six week roller coaster ride this was. 

It started off strong, like a majestic stallion stampeding across the New Mexico plains. Then that stallion crossed the border into Arizona and some obscure anti-horse laws lead to that horse being imprisoned for an awkward two weeks because, you know, Arizona. Then a heroic lawyer, played by RDJ, stood up against that tyranny, and our horse was free to gallop his tired ass all the way to Tijuana for some much deserved R and R.
I think I have my next spec all lined up. 
Am I happy with what I created? Decently. Am I happy with what I created in only six weeks? Absolutely. No matter what this anonymous jury of evaluators over at the Black List say, it’ll all be under the context of having been done in six weeks, for better of for worse. 
Best of all? This was a ton of fun. Nothing could rival the joy of writing a kickass scene and just feeling it. Printing off this script and feeling its weight, its depth, those beautiful, straight edges, the way the black text contrasts with the white paper, how soft it is…
In short, this challenge told me not only what I needed to hear, but thankfully what I wanted to hear. This is possible. And not only is it possible, but it’s fucking fun. And though there will always be swamps to slog through, at least those swamps are in my mind, and not literal, or infested with misquotes, crocs, and tarantulas. 
To all you following around, thanks for reading. To my fellow challengers, congratulations, and to our patron saint Geoff, thank you. 
If you’re an industry professional reading this, go download my script, NUMBER ONE FANS, on the Blacklist. Then go through my Facebook friend list and hire/promote all my friends. Also, as you can see, I have a great horse script in the works, so give me a call next. 
Until next time, Internet!”
“When each of their highly-ranked teams lose in the first round of the playoffs, four extremely obsessive football fans band together to uncover a game-rigging conspiracy.”
The last six weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. Six weeks ago, I was moving from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, looking for a job and a place to live. Since September 1, I have been living at home in Ojai, but I have been fortunate enough to become the Head Lacrosse Coach at Calabasas High School as well as Coach to 11 year-olds in the Los Angeles Mavericks Lacrosse program. Lacrosse has always been a passion of mine, but this is somewhat perfect for my writing schedule as I tend to do my best writing in the mornings.

The premise of my story was an idea that I had just come up with, days before I submitted my entry to the #SixWeekSpec challenge. I have a number of other spec script ideas (last count, 17 one pagers) but this one grabbed hold of me and just wouldn’t let go. The idea wasn’t revolutionary, but it was interesting: a teenager wants to do graffiti legally so he earns enough money to rent a dilapidated billboard and, thus, experiences the trials and tribulations of growing up from the billboard platform. Now I expanded on that concept, including some drama with a gang, a love interest, family dynamics, and racial issues into a feature length drama/thriller. Sounds kinda fun, right? I think so.
Historically speaking, a majority of my screenplays are action (description) heavy. I tend to have more scenes than pages in the screenplay. This is because I am a far more visual writer, often writing my scripts with the perspective of an editor. I may not be able to make the scenes I write on my own, but I can certainly envision them on a movie screen. 
One issue that arises due to this descriptive approach is the proclivity to have my dialogue come up relatively thin across a number of different scenes. This is bad because the conversations tend to come out shallow and we find ourselves visiting the same locations over and over. In an attempt to curb this, I found myself consolidating multiple conversations into one scene’s dialogue. I convinced myself that it’s possible to talk about topics A, B, and C over the course of one meal, not just A or B. So, with longer, more in-depth scenes, I finally brought the scene count under the page count… only by a few though.
After the third draft of this script, I met with professional screenwriter John August. Without going too deeply into the plot of the screenplay itself, John did suggest that (because “The Billboard” is essentially it’s own character in this film and a setting in which I thought was unique) perhaps this film could fall into the genre of scripts that occur in a single location. I liked the idea… what if my main character was forced to stay on the billboard?
That was when I saved the entire script as a new screenplay and went through cutting and consolidating the script toward my main character climbing up to the billboard and staying up there for the second and third acts. At the end of that revision, I had cut nearly forty pages from my script. In an attempt to fill some of that in, I created scenes that helped build drama and move the story to the billboard’s platform, but with just a few days to go until the script was due, I decided it was too late for a full rewrite.
It was time to merge the stories. I trimmed off the excess scenes, streamlining our attention to on (and around) the billboard. I took the new scenes that I had written in the other draft and incorporated them into my latest version of the original script. It felt much more technical than creative. The draft that is uploaded to the Black List is the fourth draft of LOVE & KRYLON I completed in the six weeks allotted.
I can’t explain how much I enjoyed this challenge. I have to admit that I knew I would be successful in completing a feature length screenplay, but what I didn’t know was how much I was going to learn about myself and my writing process while doing it. I learned that I know the writing process that works best for me, from outlining the story on my iPhone to highlighting scene summaries in Final Draft and hand editing my scripts before scanning them. I learned that near the end of my writing process, I become more mercurial, scared that I wasted all that time by writing a story that goes nowhere. The fear is real in my process, but the more structure I give to my story before the FADE OUT, the less fearful I become while going back through it again.
I am eternally thankful for this opportunity for so many reasons. I have been working hard to prepare myself for success as a professional writer, and I believe this opportunity has allowed me to demonstrate that in a public venue. But perhaps more importantly, I became friends with a group of other aspiring writers, known as ‘The Selected Ten.’ We asked a lot of questions of each other, made a lot of jokes, (we haven’t met up for drinks yet but that’ll change), and in the end, we challenged the electrical-meat-mass inside our heads to write a film in 45 days… 
…and we did.”
“Teenage graffiti artist Ryder Fall takes his art to new heights when gang violence, law enforcement, love and Krylon threaten everything he lives for.”
“Ah. The ‘what we learned’ time has come. Honestly, there’s NO END to the shit that we learned on this. More than our combined years of schooling. More than growing up in the streets. Riff-raff, street rat, etc. (We did NOT learn to tone down our Disney’s Aladdin jokes). To avoid the emotional 65-page version we are tempted to unload, we’ll bullet point some of the more important lessons. We learned: – That deadlines are awesome. In the moment, that stress can be crippling, no doubt. But the fire it lit under us is hard to self-impose.– We can and will eat whatever amount of pizza is put in front of us.– We should not eat whatever amount of pizza is put in front of us because NAPS.

– The weekly updates from the other writers and the comments from Geoff were so affirming. It was nice to know there was someone else paying attention, frankly, and that there are other people out there to commiserate with. Unless that’s mad corny and you guys felt differently, in which case… *flash from a memory erasing device*.

– Intense appreciation of a good writing partner and pal. Six weeks ago, one of us would have strongly opposed using an Aladdin reference. But appreciating what the other brings to the writing should be done on a daily basis. Saying it out loud (or in an email or text) regularly is also essential. Livin’ that friendship liiiife.

– Jerren is a terribel speller (left that spelling of ‘terrible’ because PERFECT EXAMPLE) and Jesse’s great at proof-reading.

– Having only one (or two) VERY trusted readers is better than a plethora of only kinda-trusted ones. Look, not every group of pals shares the Ocean’s 11 chemistry. Find that one person that you want to impress, and if you do that, you know it’s up to your standards. For Jerren, it’s his fiancée Beth. For Jesse, it actually is Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and the rest of the Ocean’s gang.

During the writing, when the stress started to ramp up, we realized that we would look back really fondly on this whole thing. Not to be too precious, but it is amazing to us that this script now exists. It was an idea sitting in an email draft somewhere, not much more than some broad-stroke first impressions. Now it’s something we can read. We are very, very thankful to have been a part of this.

TO THE REST OF THE TEN: We know we said this in the non-public (gasp!) forum of email, but you guys are varied, interesting and amazing. Just rad as eff. It was sincerely humbling to write along with you guys.”


“When a retired vice cop becomes a high-school vice principal, it’s either the perfect job to put his violent past behind him or the perfect cover to work an elusive case.”
Now for the extra fun part: if YOU wrote a spec script along with the Selected Ten, I want to hear about it! Send a paragraph or two detailing your process/what you learned (the email, as always, an be found on my website) and the title and logline of your script. If you posted it to the Black List or there’s somewhere else on the Internet where it can be accessed, let me know. I’ll do an addendum to all this in a future post. WE’LL PIMP THAT SHIT OUT TO THE WORLD.
I’ll accept your emails until 31 October – that gives you a week.
(A MUST-READ NOTE: DO NOT SEND ME YOUR SCRIPT ITSELF. FOR ANY REASON. I will not read it. In fact, if you send your script, I will delete the email posthaste and you will not end up in the Update.)
To everyone who participated at home or just followed along as a learning experience…I can’t thank you enough for riding down this rambley road with us. It was a hell of a lot of fun to put on, and I hope you got as much out of it as I did.
And yes, I made up the word “rambley”.


Alright, so this week…LIFE gets in the way of a comprehensive update. That’s a new one. In any event, I am off the grid for a bit, BUT: here’s the penultimate #SixWeekSpec update as the Selected Ten raced to put the finishing touches on their scripts and get them submitted. As of the writing of this update, they had less than 8.5 hours to upload their completed screenplays to The Black List. Will they make it? WELL WILL THEY?

Stop yelling at me. This is MY blog, goddamnit.


“I’ve hit page 90. It’s a bloody miracle, but I have. I don’t seem to be getting beyond 90, because every time I add something new now I take something else away. But, hey, no one said it had to be 91 pages.

Over and over I hear about people overwriting and cutting back. I wish I had an excess of spellbinding material to kill. I just can’t see this ever being me, and perhaps it’s my place in the group to tell others like this that they’re not alone. Please tell me I’m not alone.

Once I had written all the scenes I had outlined I kinda got a bit stuck. It seemed too big a task to go through the whole thing. So I printed out a lovely satisfying stack of paper that I went through and marked everything that stuck in my throat. Somehow this used a different part of my brain – a part that wasn’t so exhausted.

I’ve still got a few things that don’t make sense. I’ve still got a bit that says they are saved by ‘something scientific’. But if I get knocked down by this thing that has made my husband ugly sick I will still have 90 pages to upload to the Black List.

Did I mention I wrote 90 pages?”

As I’m sure Claire will come to find, this is a very, very, very typical growing pain in transitioning from short films to feature scripts – feeling like you don’t have enough material. With each successive attempt at the longer form, you grow more and more comfortable with the structure and the pacing of features and inevitably make your way to the point where you have too many ideas as opposed to a couple too few. Regardless, I’m thrilled for Claire. Looks like she’s going to surprise even herself!



I typed those two words this morning: 6 weeks, 107 pages, lots of hard work and a few sleepless nights. I felt elated, but this evening I feel like crap.

Right now, I hate my script. I’ve read it through again, and wonder how I could have spent so much time turning in such shite.

But however my script is received, I will always be very proud of it. I think it’s better than my previous effort, and I did it from start to finish in 6 weeks. I feel like I’ve learned more in that time than in the last few years. The challenge has been a fantastic experience, it got me writing again instead of just dreaming about it, I’ve been introduced to some great new people and feel like my avocation has been given a real kick-start.

I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks playing my guitar, which I’ve missed very much, then I’m going to sit down and start my next writing project.

Meanwhile, I’m about to upload my script to the Black List – it’s called TOGETHER AS FOOLS – and anxiously await my evaluations. Good luck to my fellow #SixWeekSpec writers.”

“I hate this. Get it away from me.  It is awful. I hate it. I never want to see it again. I hate it. Fuck off, script! Let me know what you think as soon as possible.” Oh, I know this well. So many of us do. Welcome to the club, Damian.


“I can’t believe the six weeks are up. They went fast but–personally speaking–working to a deadline did wonders, and not just in terms of my productivity. The time limit put a vice grip on my insides, and I honestly think a little extra creativity got squeezed out along with all the anxiety, fear farts, etc. 

Now that I’ve uploaded my script to The Black List, I’m giving myself a new deadline. 
The best part about being incompetent is that I arguably have the opportunity to learn the most from the feedback process.  The worst part is that there’s a guaranteed motherfucking BLIZZARD of razor sharp insights headed my way.  I want them and I need them but I know embracing them is going to sting a little.  So here’s the plan…
I’m going to let them sting. I’ll indulge my insecurity.  I’ll binge on cheap wine and old seasons of the Real Housewives–relishing in the petty sense of control I get from knowing how things turn out for their future selves. (Good luck planning a $30,000 christening from your jail cell, dummy.)
But I’ll put a CLOCK on that shit.  After the evaluations come in, I’ll let myself have a few hours. An afternoon at most. Then it’s back to work and, you know, believing in myself and junk.”
How’s THAT for having the right attitude, eh? If you can’t develop thick skin as a writer, attempting to write professionally will eat you alive. You will collapse faster than Beyonce’s connection to reality. Which is what makes me so glad to hear this from Rachel. Also, Rachel sent me the best email I received the entire six weeks, and I will share that with you next week. I still laugh every time I think about it.
“Whoa. Last update. (We think?) (EDITOR’S NOTE: OH DON’T YOU WISH FELLAS.) So revising for us is usually like getting in a time machine and visiting our characters when we first met them. And we say, point blank to their fucking faces: ‘Oh, you’re pretty cool, but we know how you’d be way cooler.’ And then re-write that entry point to make them as cool then as they are at the ending. What’s weird with this project is that we haven’t changed our first scene, our protagonist’s introduction. It speaks volumes about knowing that this is what we wanted to write, and who we wanted to write about. Or, conversely, it speaks volumes about how little we changed as people while working on this.

Speaking directly to that: We’ve found that no matter what, over the course of writing, you yourself inevitably change. And you have to reconcile your current self with the one who started the project. You have to remember all those details and themes you were setting up at the time, and worry about if they changed or, if not, that you implemented them with clarity and intent. Surprisingly, we are still very confident that we got our thematic point across—in a general way—the first time through. Phew.

Yo, you guys, this is where shit gets real romantic (in a tasteful way, don’t worry). We only had one person read our draft/give us notes. This was a big call to make, but we knew if this particular reader was okay with it then we were in good shape. And this person is Jerren’s fiancé, his ‘ideal reader’. That’s a term Stephen King coined, referring to the person you most want to impress with your writing. This is either from his book ON WRITING or his other book KING’S KISSES, we can’t remember which. Either way, real romantic shit, Stephen, good job. That’s why you rival Nicholas Sparks in the romance category. She’s a writer and ex-film critic, so after she read it and generally liked it, we knew that this last few days were gonna be all about sleeping in, coasting, eating waffles, and not worrying about writing at all. J/K yeah right. We’re furiously reading, reading, reading, reading again. Cutting things and moving small pieces around. Making sure to get in all the small details that we may have forgotten. Also, eating waffles? In this gluten-free climate? Get outta here.

There’s been some big take-aways from this crazy project, ones that we will implement going forward. One of the biggest is that, because of the time constraint, we’ve forgone the typical ‘finish a draft, get notes, revise’ process in favor of revising each other’s work AS WE’VE BEEN GOING. The other big take-away is to stop having pillow fight breaks every hour on the hour. So we learned a lot. This whole thing has been (CURRENTLY IS) fun, exhilarating, panic-inducing, eye-opening, bloody, sweaty, teary, and awesome. Our best writing experience alone and together. It’s been a real blast.

(Yes that’s a compliment and an expression of immense gratitude to Geoff, but we didn’t want to get all sappy about it.)”

Out of all the Selected Tens, Jerren and Jesse were the two I thought were most “ready” out of the entire group. They’ve only gone so far as to reaffirm that with each update. So what I’m saying is: if someone doesn’t buy their script, I will hunt them down and set them on fire for making a fool of me.
“An update in two parts, part deux.

Part 1: Fuck yeah, this is a first draft!

This is probably the most coherent first draft of a feature I’ve ever written. The characters arcs are relatively clear, there are some jokes and bits I’m really excited about, and it has the best momentum of a script that I’ve ever written. That’s making me pretty excited, especially since its just a first draft, so the future drafts will be even better. But, unfortunately…

Part 2: Fuck, this is a first draft.

For every bit that works, there is another that doesn’t. The momentum stuff might be in my own head and the characters might not translate at all. I’m morbidly curious about what these pro readers will think, because this is script is far from being ready in any sense more than just technically being complete. Will they like it? Is Dan’s career over before it began? All this and more… sometime next week. Stay tuned! “

Interesting/exciting times for Dan, as he’s under the gun to get this in a place he feels good about in order to submit. Will he make it???? Also, newsflash: writers are terrified that their work isn’t good enough. Not sure if you ever heard that one before. Also, a black dildo-sized FUCK YOU DAN to Dan for that time a couple weeks back when Northwestern demolished Penn State on the football field. EVERYONE AT NORTHWESTERN IS A CUNT.
“Well it’s been quite a ride and it’s almost over. I’m not sure what to think about all of this. Other than this update feels much more vulnerable than usual.

I’m a good 20 pages (I think) from my ending, but I do know where I’m going and how and why I’m going to get there. For now, at least, it makes sense. I’d like to re-read before I submit, so that I’m sure it makes sense.

I’d like to make sure my scene transitions are good. Check for grammar and spelling, of course. And just say goodbye. That’s not such a bad thing, is it?

It looks like I’m going to hit that 90-page-mark this time. Relieved that I have a screenplay on my hands and not a short.

Yeah, my characters debate free will, love and possession, all the while making a religious pilgrimage. Yes, my knees are knocking together, but I’m glad I tried.

I suppose everyone has to say goodbye eventually. It’s much earlier than normal for me. Much like ripping off a Band-Aid. I’m going to have to just do it.

The excellent Scott Myers of Go Into The Story has noted that it takes about three screenplays to notice a pattern in the way we write. This screenplay has showed me a few things.

1. The first part of Act 2 always gives me trouble.

2. I love outlining.

3. Visual writing is not my strong suit.

4. Dialogue seems to be.

5. Love is a frequent theme.

And other insights that I will eventually make in a journal when I have a chance to think about it.

I’m overawed at how awesome the other people in this challenge are. John August actually agreed to meet Christopher. Jesse and Jerren are up to God knows what – building a nucleur bomb or writing a screenplay? Heaven knows but it usually sounds cool. Last update, Damian had an outline and now he has, what, 60 pages. WTH? Rachel is writing a home improvement comedy called ‘Nailed It’. That makes me cry, it’s so good. I wish I’d thought of it. With kids and a full-time job, Claire has probably written something totally hard-core and awesomely sci-fi – I’m so jealous! Chris has done everything under the sun. And now he’s writing screenplay. And Delaney and Emily are youthful and full of promise. And Dan writes for the Onion. Le sigh.

And man, oh well. I’m writing a sci-fi romantic comedy. Those are three of my favorite things. But do they belong together? By that same token, I should put my husband, kittens and Nutella together and see what happens.

In any case, there’s one more update after all of this is over. Is there? If there isn’t, I just want to say I love you all *sob*.”

This is one of my favorite updates of the whole thing. You can tell that, once her script is finished, Sabina will have left it ALL out there. And honestly: what more could you possibly ask for of a writer? Too often we just osmose (I don’t know if that’s a word, but fuck it) what we’ve learned from writing – never hurts to go back and actually examine it. Can only lead to a greater understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
“Last time I gave an update, I talked about considering a page one rewrite, geared toward one particular piece of my screenplay. So I went through and eliminated a number of seasons that had wandered away from that. I grabbed the ‘point’ of the scene and tried to figure out where else in the script I could put it. Instead of having this conversation at the dinner table, maybe they can have it in the back of a squad car? That kind of thing. Cutting, and rearranging, led to nearly forty pages being removed from my script.

I was very happy to dig in again, and find the content of those pages buried somewhere in the depths of my story, but that’s when the ‘notes’ started coming in. The few people that read my first draft enjoyed the relationships that I had just so painstakingly edited out. I then mentioned to them the major shift in my new script. They had questions, I had a few answers, but the obvious truth was that I had to find the Goldilocks of my stories, not too little, not too much, just right.

This past weekend I blasted off to the Bay Area to see my girlfriend, which normally means at least five hours in the car each way. As of lately, this has become my office, and where I do the real legwork. It’s like the ‘Shower Theory’, except in my car and I’m not naked. I think about the script, talk things out, scribble down ideas, just letting the story churn.

This time I tried something new. After I painstakingly added ‘voices’ to all of the characters in my script, I plugged my laptop into my car stereo and was “read” my script aloud while I drove through the state of California. It was fun to hear it being read aloud, even if it was with the generic computer-generated voices.

As for the remainder of this week, I am officially cutting myself off. I’m temporarily moving into a small house with no television or internet so I can focus on my writing and finish up strong.”

I love the Shower Theory. Even though I rarely come up with ideas in the shower (it’s usually, annoyingly, right before I fall asleep) I’ve heard this from too many writers to ignore its validity. In fact, on one episode of THE BROKEN PROJECTOR, screenwriter Brian Duffield mentioned that he sometimes takes half a dozen showers a day just to think through his script roadblocks. That’s amazing. Also, Chris reinforces the magic of hearing your script read aloud. I can’t wait to see where his script ends up (and I hope he explains in the final update the nature of the changes he made).
“So, I finished the thing some time last week, at a whopping 145 pages. Now I am just refusing to do anything but edit until it’s about forty pages thinner. Part of this process is cutting extraneous dialogue, but because I need to cut so very much, the other task is to take a look at the entire structure of the script and find places where I can cut entire scenes. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of being able to walk away from the script for a week or so, which would give me a more objective view of it.

I actually re-outlined it upon finishing – I made a chart of every scene, a brief sentence on the action of the scene, then made notes on what in the scene needs fixing. I find that this chart is easier to work with than my 145 pg document when I’m trying to find scenes that won’t be missed. I’ve cut it down ten pages, and it’s been a great lesson in writing economically.

The best thing about this last week, is re-reading the script in it’s entirety, and realizing that it’s not as bad as I thought it was. I actually like it. A week and a half ago I was fully planning on not letting anyone read it for a while. As I’m punching it up, and making everything more concise, it’s turning into something that I feel like I will eventually be very proud of.”

Re-outlining the script AFTER you’ve finished is something that I’m sure has been done before, but I’d never heard of a screenwriter working this way. It’s brilliant – and I think it gave Emily a way of stepping away from the script when she thought she didn’t have time to step away from it. I may well try this myself with my next script. See! Told you I was learning shit too!
“CONFESSION: I just got done writing my script. And I don’t mean with the edits and peer reviews and whatnot. I mean I just got done writing it, period.

For the record, most of it has been done for a while. But I had this chunk in the middle I was REFUSING to write because I thought it would suck, and I finally just got drunk and wrote it. (Yes, I’m drunk on a Monday afternoon. MY PARENTS ARE GOING TO BE SO PROUD WHEN THEY GET HOME.)

So now I finally have a FULL STORY with no holes in it. And about 48 hours to edit the shit out of it.

The reason why I ‘m just now writing those last scenes is because I thought that once I was done, I would have this complete product that I absolutely HATED. And I didn’t want to feel that way about something I worked so hard to put together.

But here’s the good news… I DON’T ACTUALLY HATE IT.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t particularly like it either. I know that, even after working pretty much nonstop the next two days, I’ll be turning in something I’m not totally happy with. I know my script will be something really, really neat someday. Just not today. Or tomorrow. Or the next day. And I’m finally okay with that.

In other words, I feel the same way about my script as I do about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Or Zach Braff. None are particularly off-putting, but there’s nothing all that fucking great about them either.”

Delaney, predictably, has the right attitude: prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Again, I have a sneaking suspicion her script is better than she’s giving it credit for. But even if this is a total whiff for her…I feel like she, out of everyone, had perhaps the most invaluable experience these last two months. And what’s that gotten her? Drunk on a Monday afternoon. I couldn’t be more elated that this is potentially my lasting impact on her life.
“Wow, from sending in updates early, to needing to be chased up. I feel like Richard from THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF. If you’ve not seen Bake Off, it’s the most British thing on TV. Forget DOWNTON, hell, forget SHERLOCK; you want to get on that #GBBO shit.

My last couple of updates haven’t really explained what I’ve actually been up to. These past few weeks have been interesting for me. I’ve had numerous reads and feedback and notes from friends. I’ve got a hefty stack of 3×5 note cards with changes that I’ve put through. I’ve done all things I wanted to do, and understandably I’m bricking it.

Here is some full disclosure on your ass. Because I wrote it so quickly, and have done a fair amount of rewriting, and have had a lot of feedback; I’m now in the position where I have less to hide behind once I get my feedback returned. Yes, I only had six weeks, but my biggest fear now is borne out of the fact that I’m really pleased with what I’ve written.

So what happens if it’s shit?

I wish I could say, ‘It’s all part of the process, to help me grow and develop…’ and I know it is. But, right now I’m too close to it, too emotional. Whatever happens, I’m proud of myself for doing this, and getting it done. Who knows what comes next, but as long as I take it onboard, and keep writing, that’s all that matters.”

The wait. The interminable wait. In the industry, so often the chorus is, “Hey, we need this draft now!” And then you wait eight weeks for them to get you notes. In the meantime, you sweat your nipples off waiting to find out if  you nailed it for failed it. Louis is going through that right now, albeit on a different level. Hang in there, Louis. That’s what you get for being a fucking overachiever.
One last update to go, plus titles/loglines/links to the Selected Ten scripts! Also: I’ll be doing a special blog post at the end of next week to ask those of you who wrote at home for your own titles/loglines/script links, so look out for that announcement 🙂


So…this hasn’t worked out exactly like I wanted it to. From my end.

I’m still working on the script I pitched a while back. Thankfully, I’m working with people who have been in favor of giving me the time I’ve needed to get it right. And I think I am getting it right. It feels that way, even as I’m enveloped by that inevitable sense of dread that comes with being ready to hand it off. “Egads,” I says to myself, I says, “you don’t really expect them to find this smart and funny and worthy of production, do you?” You shut up, Geoffbrain!

Feels like this one is taking me an unusually long amount of time for two main reasons:

1. It’s set in Korea, a country I knew very little about, tangibly, before embarking on this process. In that, this is the most research I’ve ever done for a script, because the concept is steeped not only in the current pop culture of the country but in how that culture evolved – and from whence it evolved. And it’s important, to me at least, that this come through in the script so that Seoul isn’t *just* a backdrop or *just* a location. I’m not trying for detail-laden accuracy.  I am, however, trying for as much AUTHENTICITY as I can get in this first draft. Because it’s the key to the story and the characters. So there’s an extra layer to this particular script, and the danger I run into in NOT nailing it at the outset is people reading it and going, “What are you, some kind of racist?” I mean, I AM, but I don’t want them to know that. That’d be disadvantageous.

So I’ve probably spent more time on this than I should have, but I want to be comfortable that I’ve done the story justice when I hand it in, basically.

2. The concept we’re dealing with is a well-tread, highly tropey one. It’s been done before, make no mistake about it. And I don’t want to try to hide from that – in fact, there’s some comedy to be mined from the tropes alone. But in order to pull that off, I have to go several steps further than I normally would in other concepts. Having cliches and expectations isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s basically unavoidable at this point. But to look anything like you’re not just humping and repurposing the work of a thousand others, you have to push that much harder to make it GOOD. To do it BETTER.

And with that in mind, I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself to be different and take chances. This is harder than it seems. Because I am largely stupid.

But also, I’m fighting the absolute worst habit I’ve developed as a professional screenwriter – too often, I catch myself writing something and then second-guessing what I’ve just written because I know I’m going to get a note about it. That mindset has been CRIPPLING to me on this particular project, and it’s only in the last two weeks or so I feel I’ve really let it go and gotten back to writing instinctually. It’s been a great feeling, but it’s also led me to go back through the script with a fine-tooth comb and be honest with myself about where I can push jokes further (without leaving PG-13 territory) or where I can turn the story on its head a bit more. And I think this is always a goal of mine, but I definitely lost sight of it at the outset of this one. Thankfully, I realized as much before it was too late. And thank God for that. Even though I don’t believe in Him. Can’t hurt to offer gratitude just in case.

So that’s me. That’s where I’m coming from. However, as I know none of you give a fuck, here’s where the Selected Ten are – and BTW, a mere WEEK from today, they submit their scripts to the Black List:


“Hi, everybody. Our initial plan was to bang out a first draft in three weeks so we’d have another three weeks to rewrite. Which, in retrospect: LOL forever. This weekend, after combining all our pages to see where we actually stood, we found we had two acts complete (third act in constant state of near-completion), totaling 165 PAGES. It took 10 minutes to print out. Two acts.

This discovery, to quote Abraham Lincoln on his death bed, ‘Sucked a million butts.’

It was discouraging for a minute. But then we remembered, ‘Oh yeah, this is what we ALWAYS do.’ It’s all in the over-writing for us, then we parse through and dig out the good stuff. We spent all of Sunday tearing through it page by page. We scaled everything–plot, character, theme–back to its base to find out how we can streamline it. We removed extraneous story lines wholesale, and braided other story lines together. We trimmed a full 50 pages, without even getting into cosmetic changes or dialogue edits. We felt good.

Heading into this week, we set up a very clear blueprint for what Act 2 needs during rewrite, which Jesse is tackling now. Meanwhile, Jerren is pressing forward into climax territory (cool sentence!). We’re feeling excited and tired. Since this challenge began, Jerren has only taken one day off from writing and Jesse has gotten three haircuts.”

Weird how, in the final days of needing to get a piece of writing done, you have more revelations about what it ISN’T than what it IS. Personally, I’m a big proponent – as I’ve mentioned time and again – of having too much content as opposed to not enough. The issue, then, becomes a careful game of chess: what to cut, what to keep, and how culling or saving reshapes the narrative, if at all. Worst part of this step is losing stuff that you love that just doesn’t fit. Best part is using that stuff in another script later.


“I’ve now been writing the screenplay for a week. Writing it from a fully-constructed story, where I already know exactly what happens in each scene, is a fantastic experience.

The characters can finally speak to each other, after all this building and structuring, and it gives life to their interactions. Sounds a bit poncey, I know, but it’s a buzz hearing them talk to each other and seeing it play out in my head. It’s going down at quite a lick, too: I’m at page 60.

I can’t really say this is my first draft. I did a lot of writing and rewriting/restructuring in the weeks before I ever started on the screenplay, and during that process I came up with more than 1 version of the story. The final draft of that composition, is the story I’m working from now. There will be no major re-writes now; the story is as I want it to be.

I expect to type FADE OUT by the end of this week, which will give me 10 days to polish and tweak. I hope to be able to fit in at least a couple of days off during that time, so that I can some back to it with at least a small amount of perspective.

Some days I think what I have is good, other days I don’t. My last script was a stinker, yet at the time I thought it was great. You never can tell.”

Damian is the perfect example of one of the things that I believe so much about screenwriting, and why I think screenwriting books are total bullshit: there’s no one right way to do this. Damian and I couldn’t possibly approach writing any differently, and yet here he is, 60 pages in after a week and on his way to having, essentially, a second draft done. You gotta find what works for you, not copy what’s worked for someone else. Damian is also equipped with the right attitude: you never can tell, which is why it’s ESSENTIAL that you always be open to criticism.


“I want to start this week by saying a few things about the other writers. *Spoiler alert* I hate them. Jokes.

I was talking to Claire on Twitter, and I realised how lucky I’ve been with how much time I’ve been able to carve out compared to others. I’m not one of those people who say ‘you can always find time, if you want it, if you’re driven enough’. If you can make extra time for yourself, good for you, don’t be a penis about it. I don’t have kids, or family in this country. I have a lot less to contend with. Basically, I’m saying, regardless of how far you are in this process, seriously, well done. You’re wicked. You rule.

So, this week’s update.

There is an artist called Bortusk Leer. My wife and I love his work, and are lucky to have a number of his pieces. When you google them, which obviously you will now, they’re nutso. They’re these amazingly colourful monsters, they make me smile every time I see them. Why mention this?

There is a director called Romain Gavras. If you’ve not seen his MIA music videos or Adidas commercials, get on that. His videos leave me wide-eyed like a loon every time I watch them. For the rewrites, I’m blazing out pretty much any song from a Romain Gavras video. Why mention this?

When I think about why I write, I think about the films I love, I think about Bortusk and Romain. My favourite films still make me grin ear-to-ear. I want to write stories like that. Whenever someone reads this script I hope it will make them laugh, and cheer, and smile. What’s the point otherwise?”

One of the most frequent questions I get from other/aspiring writers is, “What kind of music do you write to?” And it feels like everyone has some kind of muse in that regard, and often it’s scores/soundtracks to their favorite movies. And that makes a lot of sense to me on one level. And then on another it totally doesn’t, because I never listen to music when I’m writing. Never have, no desire to try. If I’m listening to music I’d prefer to engage with it on some level rather than have it become white noise or a synched part of the process. But I feel I’m WAY in the minority. I’m interested in what other writers get out of this, because it’s a totally alien concept to me.


“I finished hand editing my script and just a few days ago, I finished applying the edits and notes. My script grew by twenty pages and I cleaned up many of the loose ends and trails I left along the way. When I was finished, I sent the script to a group of my ‘trusted friends’ and took a deep breath.

That’s when the panic set in. I was terrified that I had just spent five weeks writing a script that doesn’t really tell a story. It just starts, some things happen, and then something else happens, and then it’s over. Boo hoo. I was terrified that I had just written 97 pages of nonsense and I had completely blown the opportunity I was given with this project. I had to step away.

One of my professional heroes is the screenwriter John August (if you haven’t heard of him, or ‘Scriptnotes’, you need to look him up ASAP). He was gracious enough to meet with me over a cup of coffee to talk about the life of a professional screenwriter, broadway, etc. In addition to being a phenomenal screenwriter and app designer, he’s also a very nice human being. Inspirational across the board.

He asked me about my spec and I told him a bit about the characters and the plot. He made a major suggestion that nearly turns my script on it’s head, but at the same time, if done well, it could conceivably be the only way to get it made. It’s risky (and the same risk is also being taken by another writer in this challenge) but it’s so unique that it could actually work out well.

So… with less than two weeks remaining, I’m considering a Page One rewrite. Maybe not starting from scratch, but crafting the story in the direction of playing head-on into the unique situation by embracing it as the only possibility… or place. It’s this, or else.

Boy, do I have a lot of work to do.”

Verrrrrrrrrrry interesting update from Chris this week, and I’ll tell you what: it takes balls to do what he’s doing. Next couple of weeks should be insanely interesting for him. I’m going to resist commenting any more in favor of waiting to see how this works out for him. EXCITING THOUGH.


“It’s been a strange week. A lot of real life drama pulling focus from my make-believe comedy. My characters have gone quiet and I don’t know if it’s because they think I’ve done them justice or–much more likely–because they can’t be bothered to compete with all the other noise in my head.

I also had a mini freak out over my title, which I’ve had (and loved) since the very beginning. But I’m not the sharpest skewer in the fondue set, so something pretty obvious escaped me until fucking YESTERDAY.

My story centers around a DIY disaster of damn near lethal proportions. It’s a two-hander with a male and a female protagonist who have opposing personalities, motives, definitions of “sobriety”, everything. Sort of like if The Odd Couple tried to flip The Money Pit, only in this case Felix has a vagina and Oscar is lying about his identity.

Anyway, there’s hammers! And fuck ups! Endless fuck ups. So of course the title is Nailed It….

Yeah. I’m less than two weeks away from submitting my very amateur script to The Black List with the words “‘NAILED IT’ on the cover. I might as well just add ‘By Kanye West’…

Yesterday I realized this. Yesterday. Then I sob-chuckled and slowly rotated around and around in my office chair until my dogs exchanged a look and both left the room.”

I’m THE WORST at titles. GOING THE DISTANCE wasn’t one I picked – the exec whose life it was based on had it as an idea from before I even started writing. I used to stress like crazy over that shit, and then I just gave up and most stuff goes out now as “UNTITLED LATULIPPE COMEDY”. Fuck it. That in mind, Rachel, keep your title. No one is going to mistake you for being conceited based on the title of your script, and I think a more likely scenario is that you get some good subliminal vibes from it. If it means anything, I like it quite a bit based on your premise.


“It’s really weird how on September 30th I would look at a calendar and go, ‘Man, look at all that time I have left.’ Now I look at a calendar and go, ‘Fuuuuuuuuck.’ It’s not that I won’t finish. I’m definitely going to finish. I’m probably 10 pages away from a coherent first draft, but from there comes the rewrites. Which houses the biggest challenge of screenwriting for me: rewrites.

How do I know a rewrite is better than the original? Much of the time I usually know either way, but sometimes I honestly have no idea. There are times where I write something awesome over something shitty and I feel like a genius, but at times I feel like I’m just spinning my tires and writing for the sake of rewriting. This is a question I’ve posed to a bunch of my former teachers and I never got a definitive answer. Is it a gut thing?

Jesus, what a humorless update. I usually make sure to inject some jokes into these. But I’ve had a scorcher of a headache the past week.

Oh, actually, I know a great place to find some humor. In about two weeks! In my script! On the Black List! T-minus fourteen days! Get your download buttons ready! (It’s all about marketing, folks!)”

Ah yes, another paradox – when rewriting goes from being necessary to you actually fucking up your script. And in reality, at this stage of the game, you are done rewriting when: you feel like you’re done rewriting. There’s absolutely no reason for force yourself to keep tweaking shit when you have the sense that you’ve done what you needed to do. Overthinking ruins just as many scripts as bad ideas and lack of talent. In fact, overthinking and overwriting is exactly why so many movies become disasters – the group decision that MORE tinkering is always better than less. At a certain stage, this becomes a violent spiral of diminishing returns. If you’ve addressed all your notes and you’re happy with what you’ve got, stop. It’s time to turn it in.


“I’m almost 32 pages into my second draft which is good but not great I guess. Still behind on my quotas but that’s okay. Getting into the juicy Second Act soon which should be all kinds of fun.

As usual, I’m thinking all kinds of negative thoughts about my First Act. It’s too long. It’s too bloated. It’s too boring. Nothing much is happening. The characters are cliche. The story is cliche. My life is cliche.

I’m going to defer judgement on my story – and by extension, myself – till after I get this draft done.

Only 2 more weeks to go! OMG!

I can hit that deadline like William Tell and that apple. I can do this. Right?


From writing this, I realize that I don’t know enough to make this screenplay good.

This may well have action elements too. Which means it’s gotta be leaner, smarter, more punchy. Which means my scene description needs to be better. Right now, it’s blasted boring. My style hasn’t evolved much lately and I need to do something about that.

Read a ton of scripts, I think.

Also because of the time pressure, I’m wondering whether I’m falling naturally into cliché. I’m trying not to , but goshdarn it, it’s so tempting and easy.

Another thing I’ve thought of that is super-exciting. Most movies are about a ‘hero’s journey’. My hero’s journey might actually be a pilgrimage.

Which opens up all kinds of research questions. Why do people take pilgrimages? What is the spiritual significance?

Gosh, I love theme. But it doesn’t always present itself at once. In fact, it often presents itself quite late in the game. When character, story, jokes, beats and arcs are all firmly in place. Which is a shame. But still it’s fun to play around with these ideas for the time being.

Getting up to the end of that First Act. I can do this right? Yeah. I can.”

Man, is there ever a lot going on in that Sabinabrain or what? Rather than unpacking and analyzing this update, I’m just going to let it be and let Sabina crack on without trying to add content to an already-cluttered-yet-firing-on-all-cylinders mind. In doing that, though, I want to say this: I like the way she thinks.


“We’re getting to the hairy end now and I’m hitting a different kind of low point. I’m no longer afraid I won’t make the deadline. I will have over 90 pages with words I wrote on them. I don’t want to sell myself too short on that. I’ve never written a script this long before and I did it during a time where I was working full-time and I had other challenges, such as my husband going away and leaving me as a single mum for 8 days. He also works a lot of nights and weekends so I very rarely have more than a couple of hours to write each day. So yay me.

As for the script itself I am still grooming my vomit draft into something that reads. In that initial draft all the characters basically talk like me, so I am working hard on giving each character their own voice. I’m also searching for a way of describing the action that is engaging and attention grabbing, but doesn’t sound like I’m trying too hard. In the shorts I have written I have only needed to convince directors that it will make an interesting film, but I haven’t been too worried about trying to convince them that I am a great writer. I’m not sure that I am.

This is all leaving me with a serious case of imposter syndrome. So you’ve written a script. Who cares? What makes you think any one would
want to read it? Let alone Hollywood types who read professional scripts every day? On top of that productive internal monologue I am
questioning why I haven’t written something more important, or funny, or worthy, or weird.

But I have gotten over a major blockage for me during this process, and for that I will be eternally grateful. I am capable of writing a feature script. One day I might even write a good one.”

Methinks Claire is being a bit hard on herself, and I hope she realizes so having read all the other updates. Most writers go through the same insecurities and feelings of artistic ineptitude that she is. And I think it says a lot about Claire that she’s recognized something in her writing that I and MANY other writers struggle with in perpetuity: realizing when your characters all sound the same (I have yet to confirm that we all developed this tendency from watching Kevin Smith movies). It’s a really though habit to break, but if you can at least recognize that you’re doing it, you can fix it with relative ease. Always important to watch out for.


“Eh. My script is kind of dumb. And then I saw Skeleton Twins and read the script for Whiplash and thought, ‘Why can’t I write THAT?’

It sucks that to become a good writer you have to go through years of mediocre writing. It sucks that I know I am currently in those years and I just have to deal with it and keep trying. It’s that time when you’re taste doesn’t match your skill level yet – that’s what I’ve learned from Ira Glass. Here’s this quote of his that I remind myself of every day:

Don’t have much of an update, it feels like about six hours have elapsed since last week’s update. This end date is sneaking up on me… Ah.”

Again, I think Emily’s just being hard on herself, and again, I hope she’s reading these updates from the others so she knows that she’s not at all alone in these fears. And it’s worth mentioning: worrying about being mediocre is one thing. But unless you put your work out there and get feedback from people who know what they’re talking about, it becomes nothing more than an excuse to stop growing. You should at least get confirmation that you need to grow; hell, you might even surprise yourself about where you are. In other words, DO NOT GIVE UP EMILY OR I SWEAR I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND CUT YOU.


“I think the best way to explain how I feel about the Six Week Spec process right now is to say that I don’t really know how I feel about it anymore. One minute I think, ‘Okay, this doesn’t totally blow.’ Then the next I’m thinking, ‘Yeah, okay, this totally fucking blows.’

I think I need to just stop thinking for a while.

One perk recently is that, when people ask me what I’m writing about, I’m answering with more and more confidence. At the beginning, I’d say things like, ‘Well, it’s kind of about so and so and goes something like this but I don’t know.’ Now, it’s more like, ‘Here’s my idea, here’s the full fledged plot, here’s what I’m going for.’ So that’s exciting.

So again, I really like my story. But I’m still struggling to really like the way I’m writing it. It seems to be an issue that’s plaguing all of us.”

This is not a knock on Delaney or Emily or any of the younger writers in the Selected Ten at all, but more of an observation that makes sense: the younger writers seem to be having more issues with confidence and trusting themselves than the older ones. And like I said, that’s hardly counterintuitive; those of us who’ve had more time on this planet have had more time, practically, to develop and trust our voices. And it’s scary as shit when you’re just starting, when you may or not be struggling to figure out how you fit into the world and what your place is in this universal conveyor belt. The only possibly-helpful advice I can offer is this: embrace that. In the right context, that curiosity can be turned into an incredible sense of wonder and can ask some really brilliant questions. It’s great to recognize that you’re not “there” yet, so the best you can do is take hold of it and run with it and see where it takes you. Just because you haven’t figured it all out yet doesn’t mean this time of your life is invalid. Couldn’t be further from the truth.


The reactions from these writers…they couldn’t have turned out any better if I’d paid experienced writers to write them. These weekly updates have turned into everything I’ve wanted you guys to see about the writing process. I hope they’ve been equally as valuable to those of you following along.