The Quest Initiative: 55 days and counting!

March 26th, 2013 by

There’s a lot of exciting things happening at GITS in the next 2 months:

* I continue with my year-long commitment: 1 interview per week. What better way to learn the craft of screenwriting than from insights provided by established professional writers and those who have recently succeeded breaking into the business?

* Starting April 1st, the 4th annual A Story Idea Each Day for a Month series. 30 stories ripped from the headlines. My gift to you to use as you see fit.

* May 16 will mark the 5th anniversary of this blog’s launch. Do you realize I have not missed a single day posting here in that time, averaging over 5 items per day? What shall we do to celebrate?

* I will be looking for a GITS intern. More on that soon.

But perhaps the most exciting item is this: The return of The Quest Initiative. For background, go here and here. In brief, The Quest is an intensive 24-week online screenwriting workshop offered on a private one-on-one basis to individual writers through Screenwriting Master Class. For more information on The Quest, go here.

The Quest Initiative is my attempt to create an alternate path for writers outside Hollywood into the business. Starting May 20th, I will start accepting logline submissions from writers who qualify [see details below] for the opportunity to work with me in this unique workshop for free. That’s right, I am looking for up to 4 writers, talented, motivated, passionate writers armed with a killer story concept who I will mentor for 24 weeks… and they don’t have to spend even one dime. Here are some details:

The workshop consists of three stages:

Core [8 weeks]: Participants learn essential screenwriting principles covering Plot, Concept, Character, Style, Dialogue, Scene, Theme, Time. There are 6 written lectures each week which post daily, then a writing exercise due Sunday to put the theory into practice. I wrote all 48 lectures amounting to over 250 pages of in-depth content and believe it to represent a new, cutting edge way to think about screenwriting.

The approach presented in Core is unique in these respects:

Coherent: Rather than a writer being forced to pick a bit of screenwriting theory from this guru or that, this educational resource or that, the Core content comes from a specific perspective – my own – based on over 25 years experience as a screenwriter and over 10 years as an educator. Every concept presented in Core is tied together by an overall philosophy about screenwriting, writing and creativity.

Comprehensive: The content presented in Core provides writers all the knowledge they need to have to be able to write a professional quality screenplay.

Character-based: Whereas so much of the conversation about screenwriting is focused on structure [and by 'structure' most people mean 'plot'], Core presents an approach that begins and ends with character. In my view, this is not only the best way for a writer to craft unique, compelling, and entertaining multidimensional characters, it’s also the most effective – and frankly logical – way to find your story’s plot.

For 8 weeks in Core, participants in The Quest are immersed in screenwriting theory. At the end of that time, they put their understanding of those essential principles to work writing an original screenplay of their own.

Prep [6 weeks]: Starting with an original concept, participants in The Quest develop it through a series of 6 weekly lectures and writing assignments, each building upon the other until they end up with a thorough outline of their story.

I have been teaching Prep at SMC since we launched in January 2011 and the course has proved to be extremely popular. It picks up on the theory laid out in Core and runs with it in a workshop environment. The six weeks lay out like this:

The first two weeks are about exploration, starting with the Protagonist and a series of key questions to help define some of the narrative’s fundamental elements, then a full week’s worth of brainstorming, three different ways to prompt the writer’s creativity and engage the story.

The next two weeks are about wrangling the narrative, the primary Plotline points that provide the spine of the plot, and the movements of the Themeline, the story’s emotional plot.

The final two weeks are about crafting the structure, scene by scene, sequence by sequence, subplot by subplot until the participant has a detailed outline.

Armed with their outline, the writer can approach the page-writing part of the process with confidence, primed to type FADE IN and go.

Pages [10 weeks]: Using their outline as a guide, participants pound out script pages through a series of 10 weekly lectures and writing assignments. Averaging about 10-15 pages per week, by the end of The Quest the writer has a complete first draft of their original screenplay.

Here, too, the process is founded on the principles presented in Core and put into use in Prep, all reflecting a character-based approach to screenwriting.

As noted, The Quest is a workshop and that means:

* Weekly writing exercises and assignments

* Detailed feedback on all exercises, assignments, and script pages

* Regular teleconferences

What you need to know about “The Quest Initiative”

Cost: Free.

How many participants: Up to 4.

Who may apply: Any aspiring screenwriter who is not a member of the WGA or equivalent professional writing organization. Writers do not have to live in Los Angeles, and may be located in the United States or internationally based. Writers may be any age, gender, race, etc.

When will the workshop run: July 14-December 28, 2012.

How will I determine who gets accepted: There are three key standards. (1) Story concept: I am looking for strong story concepts that I believe when executed as a script can get set up as projects in Hollywood. In other words, I am almost exclusively interested in commercial high concepts. I will make exceptions if the story elements make me think the project is a marketable one, but the concept has to be extremely strong if it is not high concept. (2) Writing ability: I will ask applicants who make it past the first cut to send me a sample of their writing, as well as a detailed description of their background as a writer and a statement about why they want to be a screenwriter. (3) Personal interview: I will have a one-on-one conversation with applicants who make it past the next cut in order to assemble a group I feel will be compatible with each other.

How do you apply: A simple email with the word “Quest” in the subject line, then a logline of your story in the text. That is all I want, nothing else. “Quest”. Logline.

When may you apply: I will be accepting loglines from May 20 through June 8, 2013. You may send them to me at: GITSblog at gmail dot com.

NOTE: I WILL NOT BE ACCEPTING ANY LOGLINE SUBMISSIONS BEFORE TUESDAY, MAY 20, 2013. PLEASE RESPECT THIS SCHEDULE! IF YOU SEND ME A LOGLINE BEFORE MAY 20, IT WILL GO INTO MY TRASH!

If you are selected as one of The Quest participants, you must be willing to do the following three things:

1. You have to commit yourself fully to the workshop. That means active participation in constructive criticism and feedback, all writing exercises and assignments, and most importantly pledge you will finish the first draft of your original screenplay.

2. You have to write a weekly journal entry about your experiences in the workshop. As part of The Quest Initiative, I will be doing something akin to reality programming in that each week, I will post something on GITS about the group’s progress including excerpts from your journals. This is a great way for the GITS community to track how you are doing, something of what you are learning, see the ups and downs of the writing process, and so on.

3. If you write a script I believe has strong marketable potential, I have the right to attach myself as an executive producer. At that point, I will take you on into rewrites and we will officially be in producer-to-writer mode. Once your script is finished, I will take the lead in getting it to managers and agents, and try to get the project set up and you established in Hollywood.

Each Tuesday in this time slot for the next 7 weeks, I will be reminding you about The Quest Initiative, answering your questions, and revealing more details. Here is something new this year:

You may only submit three [3] loglines!

Last year some folks sent me dozens of loglines. As a result, I ended up reviewing over 3500 loglines. An overwhelming majority of them were not – in my opinion – commercially viable.

So if you are serious about wanting to have a chance to participate in The Quest, I encourage you — with extreme prejudice! — to raise your game. Give me your best shot. That means you have to set the bar high for what you submit to me. You need to ask: Is this really a movie? Can this story concept compete with what is currently out in theaters? Is this something I think Scott will respond to?

Action. Comedy. Thriller. Those are my three top choices in genres. Drama, Family, Horror are also in the mix. But your best shot at making the cut is to think ACT: Action, Comedy, Thriller.

Next week, I will talk more about genres and what I’m looking for. As I say that, the fact is if you submit an absolute killer story concept that is not an ACT genre, chances are I will be interested as I was with a couple I selected for last year’s Quest Initiative.

By the way of the eight original Questers from 2012, I am presently working with 7 of them to get their scripts into shape to take to market.

So 55 days and counting. Are you generating story concepts? Are you thinking strong commercial movies? Are you working with Action, Action Comedy, Action Thriller, Thriller, Horror Thriller, Drama Comedy, Drama Thriller, Family? Are you crafting your loglines?

Up to 4 writers will have what I believe to be an incredible opportunity, not only to write an original screenplay aided by other writers and myself, but also a chance to learn how to think and write like a professional. Because my goal with writers who go through The Quest is to educate and train them so they have the best shot possible not only at breaking into the business, but succeeding month after month, year after year. That’s one of my guiding principles with The Quest: solid screenwriting theory matched with solid screenwriting practice.

55 days and counting. What are you doing to prepare for The Quest Initiative?

If you have any questions, please post them in comments.

Onward and upward!

9 thoughts on “The Quest Initiative: 55 days and counting!

  1. Dean Scott says:

    My loglines are in development already :D

  2. Despina says:

    officially: this will be worse than a kid waiting for Christmas.

    unofficially: i’m so excited, i wet my pants.

  3. April Austin says:

    Great to hear more details about the Quest and thank you for narrowing it down to 3 loglines! I was reviewing my loglines yesterday for this opportunity and having a limit puts the pressure on me to submit my very best. Thank you again for offering this opportunity!

  4. April Austin says:

    Question for you Scott:

    When submitting our loglines will we be able to list the genre as well?

    1. Scott says:

      In a perfect world, a logline will indicate or at least imply the genre, but not always. So yes, you may include the genre, especially if it is not entirely clear from the logline itself.

  5. TheQuietAct says:

    At this point, I love a good Quest.

  6. Scott,

    What about Science Fiction-Action entries? Will you allow those? And film adaptations if we can secure the rights – are they welcome also?

    1. I had the same question.

      I’m presuming that small case sci-fi in the vein of a Repo Man or Signs is ok, but a Matrix style effects fest or Galactica style space opera, not so much.

      1. Scott says:

        Re science fiction: Personally I love the genre, but will only consider big idea / low budget science fiction as you suggest, pliny. Good examples would be Moon or Passengers, or obviously something like E.T. Again: big idea / not big budget.

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