Monday, January 31, 2011


I am in the throes of my second career.  It is really quite amazing to me that I ever had one in the first place, much less two wonderful paths to follow.  Ever since I learned to read I've been fascinated by stories.  Ever since my first cartoon I've been in love with movies.  How lucky to have been able to spend so much of my life in the exciting and fulfilling world of entertainment.  I know that not everyone has been so blessed.  Many writers come to me who have spent most of their adult lives wishing that they could have been writers.  In the business of writing motion pictures it is never too late to start.  The hardest part is believing that it's possible.

After over 20 years as an agent, I quit that world and decided to become a script and novel consultant.  My husband looked at me askance and asked "Well, how can you just do that?"
I replied:  "I'll simply go to a stationers and have business cards made".  We both laughed and then sat down together to figure it out.  Thankfully my becoming a consultant was not difficult because it was a offshoot of the work I'd been doing for so long. 

 When one begins something from scratch at an advanced age (over 40) the most important thing to realize and accept is that you don't know how to do it.  We have years of life experiences and perhaps even have been extremely successful at our livelihoods, but writing for the film world is a different set of skills and must be learned as if you are in kindergarten.  You will still have to take classes, listen to lectures, practice and practice and practice the craft of writing.

My wonderful and brilliant grandfather once sternly admonished me to "Never say you can't do anything".  It was the best advice I have ever heard.  Now I say it to you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Getting a screenplay down on paper is difficult, there’s no doubt about
that. Yes, you search endlessly for that “different” story, for that unusual and fantastic arena that you are sure no one else has done or will do.
Writers often try to find and create unique situations that are so far out
That they bear little or no resemblance to real life or real people. Trying
to be unusual can be a trap for new writers as well as established pros.
Great screeenplays and films have legs. That means that people will
want to see the movie over and over again. They might want to bring
their friends, or rent the film on DVD, or purchase a copy to own.

The secret for writing a great screenplay is not in finding the rare
situation, it is in writing with the following high standards:

1. Character Arc - No one wants to stay with a film or screenplay if the
main character does not grow internally, does not learn something
important about him or herself and does not become a better, smarter or
move loveable person. Whether the film is BOOTY CALL or anything
by Jane Austin, you will notice the growth of the star character, and love them for it.

2. Underlying Theme: A great movie is not about the plot. It is about
what is going on underneath. It is about something emotionally
important or with a universal problem of great significance. Jim Carrey’s MASK is about the insecurities of all people. It is about the main character’s feelings of inadequacy’s and personal fears. You must find a way to touch something that can affect the collective and often
unconscious needs of people in general. Even the animated classic,
BAMBI, is about all of our fears of abandonment.

3. Dialogue: I believe that it was the great actress, Helen Hays who once said “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.” Nothing in a screenplay is as bad as boring dialogue. You must learn to write characters that speak with a unique voice. They must jump off of the page with personality, wit and exceptionally clever ways of saying things. Each character in the piece needs to have a distinct personal quality and voice.

4. Pacing: If your pacing is slow, or worse, if it is repetitive, you will
lose your reader in just a few pages. Keep the story moving forward like
a shark in the water, never stopping, never holding back or over analyzing itself.

5. Likeability of Main Characters: If the reader cares about the people
in the story, they will want to go forward with the script. Likeability is
more difficult to explain than it appears on its face. Sean Penn’s
character in the 1995 film, DEAD MAN WALKING, is an obnoxious
murderer. By the end of the movie, the audience understands him and
has some sympathy for the child that he was and the unhappy adult he

Certainly there are more facets to a good screenplay then the above
and those you will learn in film schools and books on the subject. The
professional looking format, the short exposition, etc. mean quite a bit.
However if you want to raise the standard of excellence in your writing, I suggest you concentrate heavily on seeing if the above 5 points are well covered in your next project. These 5 points will separate you from the crowd, they will turn a comedy, thriller, drama, family film or love storyinto a GREAT SCREENPLAY.
Web site:
Copyright 2009 Michele Wallerstein. Not be used without written permission from Author.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


OK, here's the thing.  If you don't see movies, you can't write them.  Now I don't mean that you won't be allowed to write.  The writing police won't come to your door and stop you, but you can't really write a great film if you don't know the past, current and future movies.  This is your research.  Don't think of yourself as just laying around watching old movies on TV.  You must do this to understand story, structure, character development and plotting.

You must check out the Calender section of the Sunday paper to see which production companies are making movies for which studios.  Find out the kind of movie these producers and studios seem to like to make.  If a movie comes out that is very, very, very similar to one that you are working on, move on to another project.  No whining allowed.  Just move on.

That's enough from me today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about the dire straits of the movie business.  All we seem to hear about is how the major studios aren't buying spec screenplays or developing projects or hiring writers.

I've lived with the gloom and doomsayers of Hollywood for 25 years and what I know is that movies are still being made in abundance.   There are even more outlets for film financing than ever before.  We have Television movies, studios movies (big, small, comedies, dramas, action, adventure, sci-fi, teen and pre-teen), independently financed films, short films, mini series, ad infinitum.

What Hollywood always wants are great writers.  Good writers are all around, but great writers are very hard to find.   Keep honing your craft.  Keep learning the business of writing and the art and passion of writing.  Keep trying to find an idea that a multitude of people all over the world will want to pay money to see.  It's possible.  It happens.  Maybe it will happen for you.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Don't forget to buy my book at:,, directly from me,, Barnes & Noble book stores, etc.


What is an agent?  What does an agent expect of a writer and what can a writer expect from an agent?  In MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent's Guide to Your Writing Career, author and former agent Michele Wallerstein answers all of these questions and much more!  Wallerstein gives screenwriters an inside look at navigating the rough waters of Tinsel Town!   Kathie Fong Yoneda -- Author of THE SCRIPT-SELLING GAME:  A Hollywood Insider's Look at Getting Your Script Sold and Produced

It's rare to be able to put an author's words into action as quickly as I have--I can already attest to the beauty of your advice!  Gary Sunshine, Writer @ HBO

A must-read for writers wanting to break into the business and a good reference for industry professionals. It's fun, honest and informative, with no frills, like Wallerstein herself.  Madeline DiMaggio, Writer/Producer/Consultant


MICHELE WALLERSTEIN THE WRITER'S CONSULTANT: Welcome To My World: "Hi: I'm creating this particular blog site to help writers navigate the rough waters of the movie, television and publishing businesse..."

Welcome To My World

Hi:  I'm creating this particular blog site to help writers navigate the rough waters of the movie, television and publishing businesses.  I'll always be interested in questions from writers and new film makers, and will answer them asap.  I'll let you know when I write new ezine articles for writers and when and where I will be presenting seminars. 

Let me know about any good movies that you've seen and why they are good movies. 

Here's a sample article that I've written regarding:  QUERY LETTERS:

Everyone talks about the importance of the query letter. It is important because it is the first introduction of you and your work to professionals in the entertainment business. We all know that first impressions are the ones that last.
Think about all of the things you want to accomplish with this one page. You want to motivate someone who is extremely busy to spend their time or the time of their employees, to read your screenplay. You want them to know that you are serious about your work. You want them to know that you have done due diligence in your writing work. You want them to think that there’s a chance that if they don’t read your script they will miss a great opportunity.
If your letter is sloppy, you’re out. If there are misspellings, you’re out. If your story idea is unclear, or too long, you’re out.
One morning, when I was still a literary agent, I was going through my mail, I read a simple query letter.  It was perfect. The writer told me a little bit about himself and added about two (2) paragraphs about his latest screenplay.  It was a fascinating idea about the discovery, in current day, of the Garden of Eden.  There were no misspellings, no grammatical errors, no cross-outs and no superfluous information.

I grabbed the phone, called the young man, and asked him to bring in the script.

I read the script the day that it arrived.  It was wonderful, creative, smart, interesting, very well formatted and professional.  It also had heart and amazing visual potential.  I phoned him before I even finished the script and made an appointment for him come in to meet with me the very next day.  At that point in his life he and his wife were selling their old CD’s to buy gas for their car.

We met and discussed his many, many other ideas and completed screenplays.  We signed contracts and I went to work.

Within a week my phone was ringing off the hook from production companies and studio executives who had heard about this script and wanted to read it.  They sent messengers day and night to pick it up.

Disney studios stepped up to the plate and I made a deal for this young writer, on his first sale, for $750,000.00 plus profits. 

Your query letter is your introduction.  It tells the reader who you are. 

Paying attention to what seem to be the small things in life can sometimes mean everything.
Here is a sample query letter that says it all and has a little “personality” to boot. Hope it helps:

John/Jane Doe
00000 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 99999
Email:_______ Phone:_________

March 1, 2010

Ms._________ _____________
Company Name _____________
Address ____________________
City & State_________________

Re:  “NAME OF SCREENPLAY” by   John/Jane Doe
Dear Ms.__________:
Hearing you speak at the ___________ __________ Writers Conference (Film Festival, etc.), I was very inspired by your remarks and your willingness to share information.

My background as a writer consists of studying screenwriting at UCLA, winning the _________ _________ Screenwriting contest and practicing the craft of writing since I was 10 years old. My spelling has improved, as well as my stories.

My orignal screenplay is a contemporary action/romance that tells the story of a young man and woman who meet and fall in love during a cataclysmic event that sets them on a course to preserve the United States as an independent country.

I will call you next week to see if you are interested in reading my script.
Joe/Jane Doe