Writing a script can be an extremely daunting task - especially when almost every project starts with words on paper. Sure, once production starts, it can really make a script come to life on screen, but all productions are led by the script and knowing how to craft a really incredible one is a sought-after skill.
Membership Executive Daniel Tabuena-Frolli at InkTip shares a really unique insight into screenwriting. He currently works with producers to help them find the scripts and screenwriters they need and knows a thing or two about what sort of scripts and writers producers are looking for and how writers can make their screenplays more attractive to potential producers.
PH: Tell us a bit more about your position at InkTip and what inspired you to work in the field.
Daniel Tabuena-Frolli: I'm a Membership Executive here at InkTip, which means it's my job to help producers, directors, agents, and managers find whatever they might need — whether it's a specific kind of script, a new client to add to their roster, or a writer to hire for an existing project.
I majored in screenwriting at USC's film school, so I know firsthand just how tricky it can be to navigate the business. I still write in my spare time, but I count myself lucky to have found such a stable career in support of the industry I love.
PH: Screenwriting is obviously an art. What are some of the key components of a really good script?
Daniel Tabuena-Frolli: I think what elevates a script is a strong sense of personality, which doesn't necessarily mean you have to master every technical aspect of screenwriting. However, it does require knowing your own unique combination of strengths and weaknesses and playing to them.
In this way, screenwriting is both an art and a craft. It's a journey of self-discovery, but it's also a learned skill which requires practice and exercise like any other. There's no magic formula for a great script, and you can't wait for "The Muse" to inspire you -- just do the work, and it will show!
PH: What types of scripts are attractive to producers? And how do you help other scriptwriters craft better scripts?
Daniel Tabuena-Frolli: It never hurts your chances to write a script which will be affordable to make. Usually this means limited cast, locations, and VFX. Producers tend to be more business-minded than directors, and so these practicalities will go a long way when pitching to them.
That being said, it all depends on the producer. For instance, they may have access to film in an abandoned hospital, so they're looking for scripts with a similar setting. Or they may be working with an actor or actress who plays a particular character type, etc.
For this reason, I wouldn't worry too much about anticipating the needs of producers or the marketability of any given script. If that sounds discouraging, think of it this way: No matter what you've written, there's probably somebody out there looking for it right now!
That's exactly why we have our InkTip newsletter. Every week, we post leads from producers who are looking for scripts or writers. We also have articles and other resources on our site to help writers pitch their material so that, when the opportunity arrives, they're ready for it.
PH: Do you have a few favorite scripts that you've seen come across your desk? What were they and what stood out about them?
Daniel Tabuena-Frolli: As a rule, we don't recommend any specific scripts here at InkTip. We want to give all of our writers an equal opportunity. However, my personal favorites have been those which demonstrate that sense of personality I mentioned earlier.
Often this personality is reflected in the voice of the protagonist, but even in scripts without much dialogue, a good writer can imbue their action descriptions with a distinct style that really makes it leap off the page.
For instance, I recently read a fantastic period drama from two amateur writers who work as archaeologists by day. They'd clearly done a lot of research, and their passion for that era was obvious in the fascinating details they provided.
PH: For those just getting started, what advice would you offer?
Daniel Tabuena-Frolli: Reading a lot of screenplays will help, of course. But don't just read the scripts of famous writer/directors who can do whatever they want. Read spec scripts that have had to be pitched and sold on their own merits, not the filmmaker's name.
I've also noticed that new writers are often afraid to talk about their ideas for fear of someone stealing them. As someone who reads literally hundreds of loglines every week, I can tell you that clever concepts are a dime a dozen. What matters is how you execute them, and if you're doing your job right, it will be in a unique style which no one can replicate.
To that end, you should always be eager to pitch your scripts to anyone who will listen. Opportunities can come from anywhere, and vocalizing your ideas can also really help in honing your story.
PH: Can you talk about some of the films made through InkTip?
Daniel Tabuena-Frolli: All of us here at InkTip were excited when "Gangster Land" hit theaters last year. Among other names, the film stars Milo Gibson (Mel Gibson's son, who was also in "Hacksaw Ridge"). Lauren De Normandie, the film's producer who originally found the script on InkTip, has been with us for years. It's been really rewarding to watch her develop longstanding relationships with several of our writers.
Personally, I'm also anticipating the release of a film called "Centigrade" written by Daley Nixon, which was recently discovered on InkTip by Manhattan Productions. It's a contained thriller (remember what I said about limited locations and cast?) and they've just announced that Kelsey Grammar has been attached. As a fan of "Frasier," this grabbed my attention right away!
PH: Anything else you'd like to add?
Daniel Tabuena-Frolli: As many writers can tell you, the difference between page 0 and page 1 is enormous, perhaps even greater than the difference between page 1 and 100. Likewise, it's hard to underestimate the difference between having no credits and seeing your first film made. This is often the biggest hurdle in a screenwriter's career.
I think the reason InkTip has been around so long (almost twenty years now!) is that we're results-driven. We've been getting at least twenty films made every year for the last decade. Next year we hope to break 400 in total! We're always announcing new successes through InkTip. We like to be loud about it, because we can. A lot of similar services out there aren't as transparent about their success stories, simply because they don't have as many.
Of course, it's not just about the statistics. What excites me the most is that we're democratizing the development process. With InkTip, it doesn't matter who you know. We're here to make those connections for you so that you can stick to what you do best — writing!