Q&A w/Phillip Hardy about Hosting vs DIY

March 17, 2017

Phil Hardy

Phillip E. Hardy is a four-time optioned screenwriter who also runs The Script Gymnasium script consultancy. His work has recently been presented to Jay Roach, William Morris Endeavor, Tyler Perry Productions and A&E Network. He has placed and won at 45 film festivals and contests including Page International, Austin Film Festival, Cannes Screenplay, Shore Scripts, Screencraft, Beverly Hills Film Festival and Sunscreen Film Festival.

Today’s post stems from a discussion between Phillip and myself regarding the benefits and drawbacks of posting your script on a hosting site or taking a more proactive role and doing the work yourself.

You’ve had some experience with both handling your own material and hosting sites. Do you find one to be more effective than the other, or is it more of a case-by-case basis?

I’ve had varying degrees of success with different hosting sites. But it’s a total crapshoot, especially with paid hosting and pitching sites. One of my colleagues swears by Virtual Pitchfest (VPF). And, at 10 bucks a pop for a pitch, they look attractive to writers on a budget.  I’ve done ten pitches at VPF and though I received some very good feedback on one of my period piece dramas, nobody at that website has requested a script read.

When I first started out, I used Project Greenlight (PG), which was expensive and the responses I received were very sloppy and unprofessional. I did get one read request from a video game company. But I would never use PG again. I know of nobody who has scored with them.

Don’t ask me about the Black List. Okay, I’ll tell you. I hate them and everything they stand for. However, if you wish to pay their reviewers (frustrated writers with their own axe to grind) seventy five dollars a pop to review your script, then that’s the site for you.

International Screenwriter’s Association is fairly inexpensive for a premium listing. However, anyone that uses them can call themselves a producer or director. I’ve made several connections there but they led me nowhere and have netted no financial remuneration.

I’ve also hooked up with a few folks on Craigslist (CL), which can be a real pain and you have to answer a lot of adds to get any action. One of the best connections I made on CL was with one of the stars of the TNT show “Falling Skies”. So you never know who you’re talking to but you should vet them out before sending them your scripts.

I’ve had my best luck at Inktip, which allows you to list a script for four months at a price of sixty dollars for four months. Producers at Inkitp shop loglines and will read your summary or request a script read if they’re interested in your spec material. For example, I had multiple logline reads today and two of them read the synopsis as well. However, a lot of Inktip clients troll loglines and do little else. I’ve had a number of script downloads, which have also netted zippo. However, the Inktip Newsletter has been much more effective for me. The price is the same as the listing. The difference is you can pitch producers looking for specific genres and concepts. I’ve also written pitches for these clients, which led to a script option and three right-to-shop agreements with a producer that got my work into the hands of some big time production companies and cable networks. I’ve also bullshitted people and told them I had scripts I hadn’t written yet. And then banged them out in a week. This method is not for the faint of heart.

I’m sure most writers know that Amazon Studios has an open door policy about submitting television and feature screenplays. Unfortunately, that door leads to oblivion. And if you can locate one unproduced writer that has something produced by Amazon, I’ll buy you lunch at my local Sonic drive-thru. Several months back, I did some research on this and could find no unproduced writers who have made it out of development purgatory. And by unproduced, I mean you’ve never had a big budget movie made from one of your screenplays.

Lastly, I’ve used Stage 32 for paid pitch sessions and gotten script requests from four major players including Ridley Scott Productions and Good Fear Management. But if you do a written pitch, you better make sure your logline is catchy, your synopsis is clear and concise and you include the character arc for your protagonist.

The bottom line is use any means possible to get your work into the hands of people you are looking to make movies.

If you’re going the DIY route, what methods have worked for you?

Smack-talkin’, bold action has worked best for me. I hooked up with several producers looking for projects by telling them I had scripts already written about things they were looking for, including a story about Michael Rockefeller, who disappeared in the Papuan Islands more than fifty years ago. In this particular instance, the producer was advertising and I wrote a logline and synopsis in three hours and pitched it to the guy. He optioned the screenplay I wrote in six days.

In another instance, I did the same thing with another producer looking for an Angela Davis screenplay. However, when the producer asked me if I had a script, I said “sure, it’s sitting on the shelf with my screenplays about Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver.” He got the joke and we wound up working together on several different projects. The DIY Method should include whoring your wares at any given moment and making as many connections as you can. Also, make friends with writers like Paul Zeidman.

Never heard of him. Keeping that theme going, what do you recommend when it comes to using hosting sites?

Passive hosting sites where you don’t aggressively work the leads may be a waste of time. Just listing a script without supporting efforts offers little chance for anything happening to further your career.

What’s your opinion of hosting sites overall?

If you’re not living in Hollywood and getting meetings with producers, hosting sites, along with promoting yourself vigorously and IMHO, competing in film festivals and script contests to relentlessly build your brand, can be a very useful tool to get you access to producers and agents. As a direct result of hosting sites, I’ve had material read by A & E, History Channel, Emmett Furla, William Morris Endeavor, Jay Roach, Tyler Perry Productions, Ridley Scott Productions, Zero Gravity, Good Fear Management, Zane W. Levitt and many others.

After putting your script on a hosting site, what should you NOT do?

Don’t nag the contacts you make. Don’t be a pain in the ass if someone’s interested in your work.

As an experienced writer, what tips would you like to pass along?

-If you’re a delicate, sensitive woodland creature, then scriptwriting isn’t for you.

-Learn to suck up constant rejection. Never spend more than a few hours wallowing in rejection or failure. Remember, opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. With each setback, learn how to sally forth with renewed vigor.

-The best cure for rejection is writing; particularly if it’s better writing.

-Sometimes a script just sucks. Everyone thinks they have a great idea for a script. More often than not, they’re wrong. Sometimes a script just sucks, no matter how many times you rewrite it. Therefore, don’t attach yourself to any one effort too much. It may take writing fifty scripts before you find something that really resonates with readers.

-If you see writing scripts as a path to riches and fame, you may wish to consider other options.

-There ain’t no such thing as writers block. There are only writers that write and ones that don’t. Look at Bukowski. Drunk or sober, he did great work every day of his life.

-Writers who build relationships, maintain their humility and help their colleagues will do better than ones who don’t.

-If you keep losing script contests, then write better scripts until you win one.

-Read books, take classes, seminars, and good advice about scriptwriting and then march to your own creative drummer. If I listened to every asshole who told me I couldn’t do something, I’d never accomplish anything.

What are some absolute “Do NOTs”?

-Don’t tell anyone “this is my first script”. But don’t think you’ll set the world on fire by writing one script.

-Don’t write something because you think it will have commercial appeal. Write something you believe in.

-Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Endeavor to be an original.

-Don’t ever rest on your laurels. Keep writing until it becomes second nature AND you can produce even under the most adverse or stressful conditions. You may one day have a job that presents you with just that set of conditions.


Ask a Smilin’ Networking Machine Script Consultant!

December 31, 2014

Joey Tuccio

The latest in a series of interviews with script readers and consultants who would be worth your while to work with if you want to get your script in shape. Today’s spotlight is on Joey Tuccio of Roadmap Writers.

1. What’s the last thing you read/watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?

I was going to try to be fancy and say NIGHTCRAWLER or GONE GIRL but I really, really like the series BROAD CITY. Though I’m sure some of it is improvised, I get really inspired by writers that create their own content, which is exactly what these two girls did. And now they have their own show.

2. How’d you get your start reading scripts?

I used to read for a ton of production companies to get my foot in the door. Suggestion to all aspiring writers: INTERN!

3. Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?

You can be taught for sure.

4. What are the components of a good script?

Good question. There are so many variables, but it really comes down to characterization. Without that, the script has no heart and no connecting tissue. It all comes back to the character, which doesn’t necessarily mean the protagonist has to be the most complex character in the world. It just means the protagonist should be relatable, even if it connects with us in a dark way.

5. What are some of the most common mistakes you see?

Writers who think they’re ready before they are and jump in way too early. I’m an Italian New Yorker so I understand impatience, but you’ll spend more time trying to get traction if you rush. Take the craft seriously. An executive once said to me that most writers write as a hobby whether they know it or not. Don’t be that writer. An executive can smell it a mile away.

6. What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

Female characters that are just used as visual trophies. When a dad character calls his son “son”. When a writer clearly gets bored halfway through their script and starts to incorporate bizarre twists to make it seem more engaging.

7. What are the 3 most important rules every writer should know?

-Keep it simple. Have a throughline and stay on that track.

-Make sure you relate to the characters. Don’t write something just because you think an audience will love it. YOU have to love it.

-Make sure you proofread your work and have other people do so before you show anybody. Executives will pass if there are too many typos.

8. Have you ever read a script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”?  If so, could you give the logline?

Yes, but it’s a client’s, so I can’t say what it is, but I can say it was a low budget psychological contained horror that got him signed almost instantly.

9. How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?

There are 2 billion screenwriting contests out there. See what the prizes are and who the judges are. See who’s willing to attach their name to a contest before submitting. Too many times writers submit to contests just for the ego boost of placing, and nearly all the time it doesn’t mean anything besides just that. If you’re a writer, then you’re a business owner in your own right. Be a businessperson and be smart with the steps you take.

10. How can people get in touch with you to find out more about the services you provide?

Email me at joey@roadmapwriters.com.

11. Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

Pecan pie with vanilla ice cream!


Gimme a few seconds to catch my breath

March 5, 2013
I'll get back to work in a minute. Promise.

I’ll get back to work in a minute. Promise.

Hokey smokes, am I exhausted. But it’s a good exhausted because there’s just so darned much going on in my universe.

First and foremost, the churning-out of pages continues. It’s a good thing I know how to edit, because it’s really going to be necessary. Basically, my scene-to-page ratio is rapidly becoming misproportioned. A scene originally intended as half a page ends up being one, one and a quarter pages, so I’ll have to figure out how to cut it down to the absolute bare bones and make it, say, a quarter of a page. Challenging, yes, but doable.

In some ways, the transition from outline to pages at first seemed rash and premature. But since I think my writing is a lot stronger than it was before, it doesn’t bother me as much. As a result, I can crank out 1-2 pages a day with confidence, and be as equally confident that the inevitable editing phase will be just as effective.

What’s also cool is being able to write while V takes part in her many after-school activities.  I find a nice, quiet spot and type away. Productive and makes the time fly by. Even better if there’s free wifi (loves me that Pandora!).

-Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve become more active within the online community Stage 32, which connects all type of creative folks from around the world. I’ve made some great connections, including the sharing and critiquing of pages, as well as somebody who read my script and offered to forward it to an associate with a ‘highly recommend’ label attached.  Nice.

-I haven’t been able to run as much as I’d like to, but I make sure to get a good one in on weekends. This past Saturday, I did 12.44 miles in 1:50 and change, for a pace of about 8:45. It felt great, and boosted my hope of breaking 1:55 at the Oakland Half-marathon on March 24th.

Not sure if it’s my shoes or just me getting old, but lately my right heel has been getting really sore after I run. It seems to hit a few hours later, and originally lasted for about a day, but the length of time and intensity of pain have each been shrinking. My retired-doctor father says it’s bursitis. K thinks it’s the shoes, which are about a year old. Knowing me, it’s probably both.

-Movie of the Moment – GOON (2011) If you like hockey, you’re going to love this.  I don’t even remember if it was released in theatres, but it’s on Netflix streaming now. Seann William Scott plays completely against type and is very effective as a soft-spoken, nice guy thrust into the ragtag world of Canadian minor-league hockey.  A lot of fun, but knowing something about hockey will definitely increase your enjoyment.


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