Monday, July 21, 2008

Your Screenplay Sucks!

How many times have we heard that? But this time it’s different.

Your Screenplay Sucks is the name of a new book by William M. Akers. Actually its whole title is, Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great. (ISBN 978-1-932907-45-2 Go to

There are so many books out there on screenwriting these days it’s hard to tell the good ones from the bad. This is one of the good ones. William Akers walks you through so many common mistakes that all writers make, not just first timers. Akers book talks to the novice writer and the experienced one. He has information for people who want to make Hollywood films, and for Independents. In his book it all comes down to the same thing, having a good story and telling it well.

Here is one passage I found extremely interesting.

“You are asking upwards of $100,000 for said work. You’re asking someone to spend from $100,000 to $100,000,000 to produce something you just made up. You need to get this stuff right. You need scene description that sings. You need to have lively minor characters. You need to run your spellcheck. Like that. What I'm telling you is simple to execute. It has nothing to do with talent or mythic story structure or round characters. I'm not telling you “how to write a great script.” There are plenty of good books for that. What I am giving you are guidelines to make sure the reader keeps reading.

I once sat next to a producer on a plane and watched her read six pages and put a script down. That writer spent months and months on his script but, for some reason, blew his chance by page six. Probably for a long list of reasons”

In William Akers world it doesn’t matter what kind of a film you are writing and what you intend to do with it, you need to make it original and interesting.

Akers wants us to tell good stories, whether we sell them to Hollywood, or make them ourselves.

He understands the writing process because he is a writer. Akers has written and sold scripts, and he teaches writing and filmmaking at Vanderbilt University. He teaches the craft of writing every day. He knows what works, and what doesn’t. But the best part is that over they years William has seen people make the same mistakes over and over. He takes those common mistakes and he addresses them.

Among the 100 things in this book are:

You picked the wrong main character! We have no rooting interest in your hero! Your Bad Guy isn’t great! Your characters do stupid things to move the story forward, a.k.a., they do stuff because you make them! You don’t have enough tension! You haven’t cut the first or last lines from as many scenes as possible! You have Q & A dialogue! Too many of your characters have names! And, You haven't cut as many “thes” and “thats” as possible!

Akers doesn’t just point these out and tell you to do them; he goes in to great detail telling us why we need to make these changes. Then he spends time giving us examples of movies that have followed these rules. And he doesn’t use obscure foreign films or independent films that we’ve never heard of. He uses examples of movies we are all familiar with. He breaks it all down so that we can see why these writers did what they did and how it helped the story.

It is a known fact that in Hollywood, readers have to read entire scripts (they’re supposed to anyway), but producers and executives are looking for excuses to put your script down. If they can put it down before they finish it, then they don’t have to think about making it. I lived in LA long enough to know that no executive ever gets fired for saying “NO!” They get fired for saying yes. They say yes to a movie and it doesn’t do well at the box office, they’re fired. We all know the story of Verna Fields at Universal rejecting George Lucas’ script for Star Wars. And as the legend goes, she was promoted.

William offers insight in to the way readers, producers, and executives look at screenplays. He helps you avoid mistakes that would make these people put your scripts down without finishing them.

This book is am amazing resource for any writer and to top it all off, it’s funny! Akers has a great sense of humor. In addition to learning, I was laughing. He has an engaging writing style and although he takes his subject seriously, you can tell he doesn’t take himself seriously. He has fun with this book. He also reprints things from the web, certain scripts, and he recounts conversations with other writers and filmmakers. What were they thinking when they were working on something? What were the problems they encountered and how did they over come them?

Ultimately William gets you to think about the writing process, and he makes you take a hard look at anything that you’ve written and see what you could have done to improve it. I have written quite a few screenplays and made a few of them in to films, and I found myself learning new things with ever page turn, or being reminded of things I was taught so many years ago.

Akers wants to help you write something great from your title page to the end. He spends quite a few pages talking about titles, the very first thing people see when they read your screenplay.

“You haven’t spent enough time thinking up a fantastic title!

Is your title a good title or a stupid title? Does it give no hint about your story? Is it a title no one will understand and no one will care about? Is it so weird that it's going to be off-putting? Is it the main character’s name? Is it hard to pronounce or spell?

If you have a less-than-stellar title, change it.”

It is rare that I enjoy a book from cover to cover, let alone a book about writing. I blasted through this book and I’m keeping it next to my computer, the easier to look at when I am writing. I don’t want to give anyone else the opportunity to tell me “Your Screenplay Sucks!”

If you don’t believe me that this is a good book, maybe you’ll believe these people…

"A book about screenwriting that reads like a good screenplay. It is so full of great stories, examples and advice that I couldn't put it down." - - Tom Schulman, Academy Award winning Screenwriter: Dead Poets Society, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, What About Bob?

If you want a pat-you-on-the-back, feel good book on writing, read Chicken Soup For The Writer’s Soul. If you want the sucker-punch-you-in-your-throat, down and dirty truth about screenwriting for Hollywood, read Your Screenplay Sucks!. - - Linda McCullough, Columbia College Chicago

“Don’t take it personal, your screenplay does SUCK. Almost all screenplays suck until you beat them into shape. William M. Akers’s book is an excellent guide through the pitfalls and easy mistakes that first time screenwriters face. His advice is honest and simple. He will make your screenplay suck less... As long as you’re willing to do the work.” - - Larry Karaszewski, writer: Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man On The Moon

You can order Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great. (ISBN 978-1-932907-45-2) through Akers website,

In my opinion, it’s a great fucking book!

Other stuff.

Internet Special!!!!

Go to and check out my films. Between now and August 1st, 2008 if you order any 2 of my DVDs I will send you my Sound Work Book for free! If you want to know about the three types of microphones or what the most important element in Sound Design is then you need this book. It is crammed full of tips on Sound for films. Order any 2 DVDs and you get my knowledge and sound tips for free. Two DVDs will set you back $20 + $10 shipping and handling and for that you get the Sound Work Book (a $10 value) for free. Now that’s a deal!

And just a reminder, I am available to consult on your films.

What do you get out of the deal? You get the best value and advice in making your film. No matter what stage you’re in. I’ve been in the business for 25 years, working on everything from animation to live action, Independent features, Real Independent features, Hollywood studio stuff, and documentaries. If you check out my bio and filmography ( you’ll see I’ve worked on award winning films, and films that never got distribution.

I will look at your work honestly and objectively. If there are problems, I’ll point them out, in a constructive way. No one wants to hear, “This sucks!” My goal is to guide you through the process, so that you can see what the problems are, and we’ll come up with ways to fix them. Check out (

My Masters Class, Making the Extreme Low Budget Film has been re-scheduled for August 18th thru September 5th in Franklin, Indiana. Check out for more information as it becomes available.

Oh and Your Angry Filmmaker tip?

Buy William Akers book, Your Screenplay Sucks! Trust me, it’s worth it.

As always,

Talk later,


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