How This Writer Eventually Laughed off a Blacklist 2, Got Told He Was a “Bad Writer”, Never Made It past the Quarter Finals & Still Optioned a Goddamned Feature Script

I’ve finally optioned a feature script. It’s taken six years to get to this point and it’s been tough, really tough. How does it feel? It feels amazing. It’s a whole new level of validation. It feels like the start of something rather than living in purgatory. But I don’t want to make this about myself. I know many of you are finding it tough too, so I wanted to put something together explaining how I think I got here and what really matters when it comes to screenwriting.

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The Perks Of Being An Artist

Something strange happened to me this year. My screenwriting life took a shift in a new direction. A producer reached out to me about optioning one of my features and is now working hard to secure the financing needed to green-light the project. This is a strange new world to me and, being the the kind of person who lives in perpetual state of anxiety, one which is filled with inner conflict and paranoia. I should be happy, ecstatic even, and I was for a few weeks before resuming my normal state of melancholy.

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My Name’s CJ Walley, and I’m a Writerholic

Before we get into this, I want you to sit down and be prepared for a bittersweet ending. You see, this isn’t one of those blog posts where I encourage every writer to keep fighting, this is a heartfelt and open case for why I may have to quit.

As some of you may already know, I’ve been spending the past five and half years battling a deep depression that nearly cost me everything. Worry not. I’m in a pretty happy place now, but have been putting on a brave face for a long, long time while I’ve been cheerleading others to keep fighting. I don’t think I’m special in this regard and believe there’s many out there in my previous situation, some of whom who will be even worse than I ever was.Continue reading

Permission vs Validation

Which script should you write next? Would people want to read it? Is the idea bad? Do you have the skills needed? Are you really just wasting your time… and life?

Look, I don’t know a single aspiring screenwriter who doesn’t have those questions running through their mind all the time. Creative pursuits are, by their nature, a massive mind-fuck. It gets even tougher when you tie success with money, fame, and respect. You worry. You fret. You judge yourself. You let other people judge you. It’s hard not to default to one of three chains of thought; “I can do this.”, “don’t know if I’m any good”, or “I should quit”

I want to help reframe our thinking. As some of you know, I think personal well-being is critical to creatives. A toxic mind can result in toxic actions and ultimate toxic material. We have to be our own best friends and champions and not fall into the trap of believing applause is our only key to survival.Continue reading

Hollywood or Bust – Why we need to stop California Dreamin’

We’ve all heard it, within every screenwriting community:

You have to grow a thick skin to survive this industry!

This industry is desperate for high quality scripts!

It takes years to break into this industry?

This industry.

What does your screenwriting dream look like? Is it red carpets and strobing flash bulbs outside the Dolby Theatre? Is it hustling through the studios of Burbank, script in one hand and coffee in the other as you pace your way onto set? Is it running into your heroes and talking the night away on Sunset strip? Is it shielding your eyes from the sun as you write on your balcony, taking a lingering moment to gaze up at the old Hollywoodland sign and drawing a contented smile?Continue reading

My Turn & Burn Story Structure Has Made The Story Structure Countdown

In my first couple of years writing, when reflecting on my first few scripts, one of by biggest weaknesses I identified was my understanding story structure. I just couldn’t get my head around it. It was like trying to learn a new language, with a new alphabet… and with a few more phonetics thrown in too.

Chatting in the Stage 32 Screenwriting Lounge gave me chance to connect with some really accomplished writers who passed on craft advice and recommended books to read. Well, I studied like crazy and reflected for months. I eventually got my head around it all and started looking at different story structures. Around then, someone shared this amazing countdown of all the different story structures out there by Greg Miller. It’s a list I’ve frequently shared with other writers as evidence all story structures are really different viewpoints on the same concept – here it is

Since then, I couldn’t stop thinking about structure and how to make it easier for someone else to get their head around. How to create a template that I myself could easily follow and reflect upon. I developed a new system called Turn & Burn – named after the five simple act themes Yearn, Turn, Burn, Learn, Earn – I guess it works, since I have optioned in the region of 20 scripts since.

Well today, just in fact, I learned that Turn & Burn is now included on that very list I first read and have shared so eagerly since.

So I’ve Created A Free Script Hosting Website; Script Revolution

While going into year five of writing this year, it really began to hit me just how tough the filmmaking world is for 99.9% of people. More and more walls seem to be being built around breaking in by people who then stand by the gate expecting payment from others to get through. That’s not cool. I’ve also become more and more inspired by the likes of Richard “RB” Botto (Stage 32), Don Boose (Simply Scripts), Janet Goodman-Clarke (Simply Scripts: Shooting The Shorts), and Anthony Cawood (Creator of the free “You’ve Finished the Damned Script — Now What?” guides) who have created or helped create platforms for creatives to be discovered without the need for upfront payment. There are many others who inspire me too, but too many to list, you know who you are. You are truly the good guys. I want to be a part of that. I want to do something now rather than dream of doing something if I manage to break in, because I’ve come to the accept the latter may never actually happen.

For some time now, I’ve been grumbling that creating and running a dedicated script listing site isn’t as expensive as some make out. I feel that having to pay up to $25 per month per script is nothing short of ridiculous. There are creatives out there who need that money to survive — I know, I’ve been there.

Well, four weeks ago, I decided to bite the bullet and build something. I have to admit it’s been harder than I thought, working on this project between work and writing, but I finished the first release last weekend.

Script Revolution is a script hosting website offering many of the features of the top script directories for free. Screenwriters can add and manage as many script listings as they want for zero cost. Filmmakers can browse the script listings as much as they need without charge. Inspired by the efforts of SimplyScripts, which has helped so many writers and filmmakers find one-another, Script Revolution hopes to bring another avenue of opportunity.

Once signed up, members can upload short, tv, web series, or movie scripts and add a variety of tags which help describe the nature of the material — we’re not just talking genre here, we’re talking budget, story structure, lead role genders, writer style, and much more. Filmmakers can then search the database using those filters to find exactly the type of script they are looking for. That’s the thing you see, the ethos at Script Revolution is all about discovery rather than promotion.

Listings are all random so there’s nobody paying their way to the top, soliciting votes, or using any tricks to get ahead of others. Readers don’t need to sign up to anything and don’t have to be part of an exclusive club to access scripts. They can also bookmark all the scripts they like the look of ready to come back and read at a later date and follow their favourite writers. There’s no clique or elitism here — all scripts and all readers are considered equal.

Script detail pages also include the writer’s bio with links to their social media accounts and a contact form that sends messages direct to their email — very useful for those who only want to upload their loglines and handle read requests themselves. In addition to that, all the writer’s other scripts are also listed.

If someone loves your writing, they are exposed to all your writing. This ultimately means writers can build up their own profile pages, with a link they can share, introducing themselves, providing their contact details, and listing their scripts ready to read.

Everyone is welcome to join the revolution:

Writing Women As A Man

I love writing female characters. I’m compelled to, my imagination conjures up women when I dream up scenes, I care more when my protagonists are female, and I feel more emotionally connected when writing about women. Continue reading