Friday, November 16, 2012


Imagine seeing your films up there on the big screen.  Imagine buying a beautiful home in Santa Monica or Brentwood.  Imagine dating starlets or handsome actors, having dinner and drinks with producers, studio executives, agents and managers.  All of the intelligent and creative people that will become part of your exciting life are really terrific.  How wonderful it could be for you!  That's the good news.


If you are writing your first or second or even your third screenplay, I want you to stop right now.
Before you go any further, you need to ask yourself some serious questions and if you can't come up with the right answers you might just as well go back to watching TV or playing golf, or trying to get a real job or education.

Here's what you need to find out about yourself and your motivations and dreams:

1.  Why are you writing a script?  If the answer is not that you have a burning desire to be a great writer and you absolutely have a calling to write for the screen, then give it up now.

2.  Do you understand the sacrifices you will have to make to become a success?  You will probably lose friends who will find you boring, too much of a dreamer and/or never available.  This may also include the end of your current love affair.  Your family with think you are nuts too.  You will be spending your money on film festivals, writing classes, a better computer, Final Draft programs, a better copier, reams and reams of paper, writing consultants, contests, travel and hotel bills for events and more writing classes.  There goes the new clothes, the movies, the fun stuff you used to do.  If you have a job, all of the rest of your time must go to writing and learning the craft of writing.  If you don't have a job, you will be broke.

3.  Are you willing to accept a great deal of emotional battering?  Your family will love your scripts but professionals will hate them.  Writing consultants will find a millions things wrong with your script, story mavens will not even tell you they are turning you down.  You will simply never hear from them while you are sitting by the phone waiting for them to call.  People will tell you that you have a great project then you won't be able to reach them again......ever.  You will finally realize that your first and second scripts are horrible which will embarrass you and leave you bereft for some time.

4.  Are you young enough and determined enough to spend years as a failure without ever knowing whether you will eventually be a success?  This is a tough one.

5.  Are you willing to live with the fact that there are a million reasons for people to turn down you material and very few reasons to say "Yes"?

These are only a handful of serious questions about your future.  Please believe me when I tell you that they are all true.  You will not find any way around them.  Even if you have relatives in the business that won't mean you will be a success.  Getting in the door is not staying in the door.

If you've quit reading this because it depresses had better get a grip.  The film business is not for sissy's.   Of course if you do make it, the rewards are fantastic. 

Read "MIND YOUR BUSINESS:  A Hollywood Literary Agent's Guide To Your Writing Career" to find out  what you really need to know about having a writing career. (, the Writers Store, local book stores or email me for a signed copy at:

Thursday, October 11, 2012


I worry about you.  That's right, I worry about writers all the time.  Throughout my years as an agent, personal manager and writer's consultant I've seen so many smart and capable writers defeat themselves.  You keep shooting yourself in the foot so that you can not make it in your chosen field.  Why in the world do you do that?  Do you know that you're doing it?  These questions plague me.

Look......we all know that being and becoming a professional writer is hard.  There are two opposing facets to the process.  Both of these arenas are difficult.  There's the creative process AND the business process.  Most people are good at one, but not the other.  Here's a clue:  You can learn!  There are plenty of places to get the information you need.  You're a grown-up, so do your homework and make it happen for yourself.  As my grandfather used to say; "Nothing is impossible".

How many times have you ignored the following advice?

1.  Write many scripts before trying to get an agent.
2.  If you want to sell screenplays to major studios, move to Hollywood.
3.  Join a writer's group.
4.  Make sure your projects are written without grammatical and syntax errors.
5.  Use a professional consultant.
6.  Get a consultation NOT coverage. (Learn the difference)
7.  Read, read, read.
8.  See old and new movies.
9.  Read a few of the most popular books on screenwriting.
10. Learn how to network and socialize in your field.
11. Play nice with others.
12. Use the buddy system.
13. Be polite and thank people for helping or advising you.

Now, is that so hard? 

Thursday, July 5, 2012


          You’ve taken the classes and seminars on writing.  You’ve tried comedy, action and one sci-fi thriller.  You probably think they are better than they are. But, none of them are as great as you thought they would be.  You went to a couple of pitch fests, maybe you even managed to talk a production company exec into reading one of your projects.  This is usually followed by a huge silence.  Well, let’s see, the next move was to send query letters to agents.  Again, you are greeted by the huge silence.  It’s very hard to understand what has happened.  You tell yourself and all of your friends and family that you’ve done everything right.  What’s wrong with Hollywood?  Those people are terrible.  They don’t know a good thing when they see it.  Why are you being ignored? 
          The answers to these and other questions you may have are not very complicated.  Without realizing it you have made a lot of big mistakes. Most new writers manage to glean a bit of good advice from teachers and lecturers and some of the screenwriting books they have read.  Unfortunately, the information is too broad based and non-specific.  It’s also possible that, like most people you only hear what you want to hear. 
          The following are hard and fast rules that you need to know and to follow in order to have a successful career in mainstream television and films:
1.     Your writing samples are crucial.  If you want a career you must have a minimum of three (3) great samples, IN THE SAME GENRE. 
2.    Never write sequels to your own scripts or of any previously produced films.
3.    Never write outside the box.  Keep your sample in the mainstream.  Stay within the tried and true three (3) act structure.  Do not try to reinvent the wheel.
4.    If you choose a bona fide Script Consultant, listen to their advice and follow it.  Do not simply change consultants if you don’t hear what you want to hear.  They are paid to find the problems in your projects.  Follow their advice.
5.    Live in the greater Los Angeles area.  You can certainly wait until you have the requisite amount of great samples, but after that you must move to L.A.  No one wants to represent or buy a script from a good writer who lives out of town.  This is absolute.
6.    If you are lucky enough to get someone to read your material, you must follow-up with them.  Wait a couple of weeks, and then send an email to ask if they’ve had a chance to look at your script.  Make friends with the assistants to get information and help.
7.    Never be cloying, argumentative, verbally abusive, angry or petulant.
8.    Connect with other writers through seminars, WGA programs and writer’s groups.   Keep in touch with them, meet for coffee share information.
9.    Understand that anytime you go to a seminar you should consider the speaker to be a new contact.  Follow up with a quick thank you note right after the lecture.  Tell them a little about yourself and your project.  Ask if they will read it.  Keep in touch with them occasionally.
10.Never pitch a project that isn’t ready to be read by a professional.
11.If you are lucky enough to get someone to agree to look at one of your projects, you must have it in their hands within two (2) days.
12.Above all, hang in there and don’t quit.  Tenacity in Hollywood is extremely well rewarded both creatively and financially.

Michele Wallerstein is a Script Consultant, a former agent and the author of “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career”.
For a consultation call me at:  818 501 2826

Saturday, May 19, 2012


          Four days ago I moderated a discussion group for a group of fifteen new writers.  The guests we interviewed were agents and managers from very prestigious companies.  The event was held in an elegant room at a gorgeous hotel in the heart of Beverly Hills.  We took a lunch break at a nearby restaurant where I sat with the group and answered questions and gave advice to them on their writing careers.  The day lasted four and a half hours and I was not paid to do this.  It was exhausting and draining for me.  I had to be “on” all day.  It’s like a performance.
          If you are wondering why I am rambling on about this I will explain.  New screenwriters everywhere are dying to get into the business of the Hollywood studio system and to sell their movies.  They constantly complain that the doors are closed to them and that they can’t get past the gatekeepers.  After having been introduced to my group as a former agent and current script consultant these folks asked all kinds of questions and got honest, down-to-earth answers from me.  I brought my business cards as well as some of my book; “MIND YOUR BUSINESS:  A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career”.  Four people bought my book and a few took my cards.  As I mentioned, it is now four days later and not one of the group has sent a thank you note to me.  Perhaps it sounds silly or egotistical to you……but it is an egregious error on their part.   They had spent those hours with someone who was open to them, who has spent thirty years in the business of Hollywood and who could and would willingly help them with their careers.  A thank you note is a way to insure a new contact, continue a connection, form a friendship and get a way into the business they need. This is the heart of networking.
          I even explained this to them by way of suggesting they write to the guest speakers. It couldn’t have been made clearer to them.
          The world is speeding along.  Days fly by.  People connect via email and FB and Twitter.  In Hollywood the connections are much more personal.  There are breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks meetings.  It is face time.  There are Hollywood parties and gatherings.  Every deal is based on relationships.
          When someone extends a hand, grab it with all you’ve got.  It may be the life and career saver that you need.

Monday, April 2, 2012


What do you expect from a professional consultation on your screenplays?
            If you want someone to tell you how great your project is then don’t come to me.  My job is to help you make your script better……much better.  If you simply want to hear wonderful comments on your writing, then give it to your relatives.  They will love your work.  They also love you. On the other hand, I haven’t got a clue whether you are the dearest person in the world or evil incarnate.  I only know you via your writing.  Give that some thought.  Obviously what I am saying is that I don’t have any other agenda other than making you a better writer, making your material marketable and helping you learn for your future work.  How bad is that?
            For 25 years I worked in Hollywood as a professional literary agent.  I’ve represented hundreds of writers and read thousands of scripts.  I’ve sold innumerable movies, TV movies, and TV series.  I’ve helped my clients improve their writing and watched them grow into bankable, rich and successful people.  The “good” clients listened to me.  The “bad” clients faded into oblivion.
            The point is that you must have a fairly thick skin to be a pro.  You need to hear what’s wrong with your work as well as what’s right.  Try to step back emotionally when you receive feedback from your consultant.  You need to work on really understanding what we are saying and know that we are saying it to help you.
            You are paying good money for good advice.  Make sure you vet anyone you are considering as a consultant.  Know the difference between a consultation and coverage.  Go to for information about the background of your choices.  There are a lot of people out there who have no idea how to help you.  Make sure you hire a pro. 
            Get serious about your writing career and spend the money to get your writing into shape. If you don’t do this, you will wander around aimlessly for years and years.  It’s a terrible limbo.
            If you are interested in improving your writing, email me for a consultation at: and for heaven’s sake, read my book:  MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career” at or email me for a signed copy.
            I guess you could call this article my way of showing you tough love.  Writing for the screen is a calling at not an avocation.  You are working alone in a vacuum so much of the time that it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.  I wish you well.

Friday, March 30, 2012


MICHELE WALLERSTEIN THE WRITER'S CONSULTANT & THE AUTHOR OF "MIND YOUR BUSINESS": BIG vs SMALL: The way I see it you have three choices as a screenwriter.  You can write simply for your own entertainment, which is indeed a very odd choi...


The way I see it you have three choices as a screenwriter.  You can write simply for your own entertainment, which is indeed a very odd choice.  You can write to sell or, which is a wonderful dream, or you can write to get into the business of writing professionally.

If you choose the third option you have some huge choices to make.  The first one is whether you want to writer for mainstream motion pictures or whether you like the idea of being one of those maverick type independently financed filmmakers.  Big decision, but not written in stone.  It's one of those things that let you slide from one goal to another. 

As a member of LinkedIn I answer lots of questions posed by new writers on the site.  Often I've found that I am answering questions as if all of the writers want to write for the Hollywood studio world, when in reality they seem to want to make little indies.  I spent my 25 years as a Hollywood literary agent so my viewpoint is always there.  I've been trying to understand the mindset of someone trying to make low-budget pictures.  This is hard for me. 

Why would writers set their sites so low?  Why would anyone want to make pictures that can only be cast with C- actors and director wannabes?  People on LinkedIn post questions about packaging A list actors to their little films.  What could they be thinking????????   These actors would NEVER even see their scripts,  their agents and managers would never let that happen.  One of my first clients was a young out-of-work actor named Kurt Russell.  He had been a huge child/young-adult star that was now in the throes of no man's land.  Later he once again became a huge star.  I remember him telling a mutual friend that he had three stacks of screenplays on his desk.  One was a stack of films that already had financing attached that would net him millions of dollars.  Another one was of scripts proffered by high level relationship people and the third was a stack by the wannabe new writers that somehow got to him.  He admitted that he would never read the third stack.

I guess what I'm trying to say is:  why not go for the gold?  If your want to do something try to make it big.  Not because you will make more money (although this is quite true), but because if you get into the bigs eventually you will be able to make the movies that you want to make, and make them the way you want them.

Learn to write better, be patient, have the hero on every page, make the budget big, place the locale in a big or small US city, write in a recognizable genre, make us love the main characters, keep the plot simple and the characters complex. 

If you do it right you will have those doors swing open to you.  Hell, they'll send a car to pick you up.
They might not option your scripts but they will hire you to write something else.  It's a wonderful experience for you.

Go the the's out there.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Be prepared. That’s the best advice I can give to new writers. Be prepared to be rewritten, overruled, ignored and even forgotten. It’s a tough business that you are knocking yourself out to get into. It’s also rewarding, exciting, fun and eventually financially amazing. If you are ready to accept all of the above, then, by all means, get those fingers flying on your computer and aim your sites on Hollywood.
If you know what to expect, you’ll make better choices and have less concerns. Here’s the skinny on what will happen when you finally write the right screenplay that garners you an offer from a major production company:
1. The company will ask for a free option. “Oh, no”, you will say to your agent, “I thought they would offer me money”. Your agent will have to explain that producers don’t pay option fees unless the writer is BIG, EXPERIENCED and someone that the studios are dying to get. Producers are not the people who pay for options. Studios pay for options. If you have a good agent they will have submitted your screenplay to producers prior to studios. This way the studio people will know that a particular production company will be attached to see to it that a good film is made. Studios often have agreements with production companies. This means that they want to make movies with those producers. So, what this means is there is now a good script and a good production company. The option period that your agent will give the producer will allow them the time to: (a) Take the project to a star and/or director and (b) Present the project to their studio.
2. There will be a contract, negotiated by your agent, wherein it will state that X amount of dollars will be paid to you in the event a studio (or an independent third party financier) wants to move forward with the project. The deal will divide up the payments to you as installments (steps) for rewrites, polishes, production bonuses, and a purchase price. These steps are not promised to you. They only occur if and when they are required by the studio. The contract will be transferred to the studio in its entirety. This means that whatever the producer promised you in their contract must be accepted by the studio. The studio will now be responsible for paying you the option price as well as whatever other fees have been spelled out in the initial agreement. Just like in any other business, the folks with the money have all the power.
3. When you have agreed to the contract you will probably get the chance to do the first rewrite on your screenplay. Please note that I said “probably”. First you will have meetings with the producer(s), their assistants, their development executives and possibly a studio executive or two. If you are good in the meetings (see Chapter 21, in my book, “MIND YOUR BUSINESS: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career”) you will begin the rewrite.
4. Once you turn in that first rewrite things begin to get tricky. Inevitably there will be requests for more rewrites. The question as to who will do these next rewrites is up to the studio and producers. You and your agent will have no say in this decision. If you read your contract carefully you will note that further rewrites by you are “optional”. This means that the studio has the right to either hire you or someone else to do those rewrites. All new writers have this in their contracts. There is no getting around it.
5. Try as you might, you will never be able to second guess what these studio executives will decide nor why they will make those particular decisions. You will probably never know why another writer is hired to rewrite you. They won’t tell your agent and they certainly won’t tell you. There are innumerable scenarios that may occur. The studio may owe another writer for a different project that didn’t go forward, or the producer has a friend that they want to give some work to, or, over lunch, the studio executive mentioned your project to another writer who came up with ideas that the executive loved, or there was some other situation that has arisen. It’s a moot point, so move ahead and work on your next project.
6. Remember that your purchase price and production bonus are often tied to your on-screen credit. In the event you share that screen credit with other writers, your fees will be diminished. The screen credit will be determined by an impartial panel at the Writers Guild of America.
My final comments are for you to simply do the best job you can and keep moving forward. If you are responsible, agreeable, creative and clever, you will eventually have more power and decision making choices. Remember that this is the beginning of your writing career and that, like other industries, you will find that your status will improve with each new project.