A local screenwriting group headed by theatrical director, writer and actor Bob Scott was curious to find out just how many talented writers we have in the Burgh. "Hollywood's best-kept secret" has been out for a while: Our city's varied topography, talent pool and appealing tax credits continue to attract filmmakers. In the past two years we've hosted features like Unstoppable, Won't Back Down and The Dark Night.
Filmmakers may come and go. But Pittsburgh stays. So what about our own? Is the film boom influencing us?
Curious and eager to bring attention to our talent, Scott and the Carnegie Screenwriters (CSW) asked the public to submit screenplays, with one condition: The work must have either advanced to the final rounds of a nationally recognized screenwriting competition or been optioned by a production company.
Once again, Pittsburgh surprised us — and not with Terrible Towel lingerie.
The group received 26 feature-length scripts.
"We weren't sure what to expect," says Scott. "Some members of our group have scripts that have been optioned or have won or placed well in contests. We didn't know how many other area writers might be out there who qualified. I was hoping for a dozen. We received more than twice that."
And what's inspiring all this work?
"We received a lot of romantic comedies ... surprisingly, more from male writers than female," Bob says. In Thirty, for example, Ben Castiac is dangerously close to his next birthday. After reuniting with his old girlfriend Kate, he tries to win her back before turning 30.
"Other than that we had a nice mix of sci-fi, thrillers, dramas and historical fiction," Scott adds.
In what CSW calls "a different kind of environmental disaster movie," The Whiskey Mower tells the story of a man trying to develop the first hydrogen-powered lawnmower who instead creates one that manufactures whiskey, becoming wildly successful for all the wrong reasons.
CSW is now working to get these scripts in front of industry players. Scott says that several film and TV producers have already expressed an interest in reviewing the list.
However, Scott, the CSW and the screenwriters know that matching each screenplay with the right agent or producer won't be easy.
As for the 26 writers who submitted work, Scott says: "Now it's just a matter of waiting to hear from someone. After that, it's between the writer and the interested party. You have to be persistent and have a very thick skin. All artists face rejection. It can never be taken personally and we learn what we can from rejection notices, critiques and script coverage."
Scott's advice for other aspiring screenwriter: "Learn about script structure, formatting, plot, creating characters, dialogue," he says. "Take classes. Read the books. Start with Syd Field's book Screenplay. It covers all of the basics. Buy a copy of The Screenwriter's Bible, by David Trottier. Read magazines such as Script and Creative Screenwriting. Read anything by William Goldman. Look for the stories inside you that are clamoring to be told. Write, then rewrite. Just don't stop writing."
Bob Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.