Photo via Go Into the Story.

Dialogue is a necessary evil, according to legendary director Fred Zinnemann, and writers of spec scripts should print that out and tack it up over their monitors.

It is the polar opposite of telling your story visually. So why do you need it at all? As director Kelly Reichardt famously said in this article: ”The lies are in the dialogue, the truth is in the visuals.”

Dialogue has a purpose. It’s there to create a layer of meaning entirely separate from the action.

  • Don’t tell it if we can see it. If it’s happening, and we can see it, no one needs to describe it in dialogue. Lots of explanatory dialogue means you haven’t thought of a way to put that information into illustrative action.
  • Less information, information later. It’s a problem with spec scripts—the telling first, then showing. This turns up in conversations about what’s going to happen next. Get rid of them entirely. We don’t want to live every moment twice.
  • Fall in love with subtext. Characters doing is better than characters talking. But they have to talk sometimes, and on those occasions, it’s best to make a party out of it. Lean in to the characters’ voices. Create conflict in those conversations by giving characters different agendas. If they don’t have conflicting agendas, there is no evidence that their conversation belongs in the script.

Exposition in dialogue can easily break the back of your script. If your story absolutely cannot be told visually, it’s probably not a screenplay at all.


Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.


Alice Guy-Blaché (image: Wikipedia Commons).

New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) has announced the grantees of this year’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF). Founded in 1995 by NYWIFT in conjunction with The Museum of Modern Art, the fund is the only program dedicated to preserving the cultural legacy of women in the industry.

The 2014 WFPF grantees are:

Since its inception, the fund has provided financial support for the preservation of over 100 short and feature films. It awards cash grants, as well as in-kind post-production services generously provided by Cineric Inc., to preserve or restore films in which women have played a significant creative role.

The WFPF is supported by Cineric Inc., Kodak, The New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Council, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Film Foundation, and individual donors.

Learn more about the WFPF and how you can help save films made by women.

The Last of Robin Hood star Susan Sarandon discusses, well…everything. 

The percentage of women on film crews is only 23% (in 2013, less than 2% of directors were women!), but thank you again, Tina Fey

Terry Press named President of CBS Films. 

Did Fox Sports demote reporter Pam Oliver because of female ageism? 

Suggestions to help women achieve peak performance in meetings

"I don’t think there’s a magic bullet answer," Universal Pictures Chairwoman Donna Langley on Hollywood’s gender issue. 

Women in Animation launches a very important mentorship program.



Image by Paola Peralta, via Wikimedia Commons.

It was by default that I played the role of social media manager for the weekly PBS program I produced. I was the youngest person in a very small production office, after all. But as someone who loves new apps and technology, I enjoyed posting regular updates and strategizing what might be fun for our web and mobile visitors. 

One comment I’ve heard repeatedly from my fellow film and TV professionals is, “I have a Facebook/Twitter account, but I’m not sure what to do with it.” And for some of us, it can be difficult to figure out how to establish a social media presence when your news feed is filled with friends’ food-porn photos and Grumpy Cat memes. But social media is a free marketing tool, albeit a more engaging and immediately gratifying one, and you need to think of it as such. With over 255 million monthly active Twitter users and over one billion users on Facebook, social media should certainly be a part of your outreach strategy.

But your approach ought to be more than simply creating an account on your platform of choice. So where do you begin? These starter points may not be as entertaining as a Buzzfeed list, but I promise they will be packed with info!

  • Who are you tweeting for? Is it for a TV personality? The television program or film itself? Or are you tweeting as a director/producer? Let who you are inform your tone (ideally, a colloquial and conversational one), what you post, and how much. For example, if you are posting for a TV personality, as I did, you can find out what they are reading in the papers and share that on their Facebook or Twitter feed.

  • Consider your platforms. Not all social media platforms will work for you, and if you’re having trouble generating content on a particular platform, chances are you won’t make meaningful contributions to it. Do you want to share lots of behind-the-scenes photos and stills? Instagram is a great way to get them out. Looking to post updates on your project that are longer than 140 characters? Consider a Tumblr account. Since we produced a financial news program with long-form interviews, I skipped out on a Pinterest account because it didn’t seem natural to have boards of outdated stock charts or photos of past guests.

  • Who is your audience? What they want to see and what they’re likely to share should also inform your approach on each social media platform. For example, the program I produced was distributed on PBS, where audiences are generally 50 and older. It made sense to be on Facebook, where I noticed my older relatives signing up. In trying to connect to financial advisors, a wider-ranging age group, I started a Twitter account for the show as well. If you’re targeting a younger demographic, make sure you’re on Instagram.

  • Who is managing your social media? Will one person or multiple people contribute to your social media efforts? (This also ties into whether you’re tweeting for a person or for a product.) If you have a team working on your social media campaign, delegate tasks to gain a wider variety of content—your PA could take Vine videos on set, for instance—but ensure that everyone maintains a consistent look and voice across platforms. In marketing-speak, it’s called cohesive brand messaging. And for that matter, if you have an actual marketing team that you’ve employed for your project (lucky you!), make sure they are in the loop about your social media efforts.

In the next post of this three-part series, we’ll tackle the types of posts and strategies you can use once you’ve set up your accounts. Happy posting!


Teresa is a freelance broadcast and content producer who loves tackling social media management.

Keep up to date with all things NYWIFT by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. And join the conversation by using the hashtag #NYWIFT.


Photo via Go Into the Story.

Here’s a great magic trick. A magician carries a dollhouse onstage and places it on a table. He says it’s a haunted dollhouse. Every time he takes the cloth away after barely an instant, the haunted dollhouse has produced a fire in the fireplace or a bloody doll massacre or a creepy steaming tea set. Then the poltergeist takes over—right in front of you.

Of course there are no levers or cables from the outside. It’s just a plain old dollhouse carried in from the wings, placed on an empty table, with no one underneath or behind it.

It’s a really easy trick, a literal child could do it, but if you know how it works when you see it, it’s no fun at all.

A spec script that makes a point of establishing all its facts before it starts on the drama is no fun either.

  • Be confident. Your showmanship is critical. Your style, your scenework, your presentation. How you set up to reveal. All showmanship.
  • Invent. If you’re going to saw a lady in half, don’t do it the same old way. Keep the reader guessing by proving you don’t already have another lady in the box who’s wearing the same shoes.
  • Withhold. Withholding facts turns mundane things into mysteries. Work hard to cover up the secrets in your script; show how they manifest before you explain them for maximum curiosity.

Front-loading your script with exposition is the same as revealing the very petite contortionist hidden in the dollhouse attic before you do the trick.


Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

The spectacular Broadway singer and actress Elaine Stritch.

Patricia Arquette really enjoyed her 12 years of Boyhood.

Marvel Comics addresses superhero gender disparity. Thor will be female!

Leighton Meester is not a “tart” in Broadway’s Of Mice & Men

ABC will address diversity with Cristela, and NBC will showcase more women in next season’s lineup. 

Robin Wright portrays her most revealing role yet in The Congress.  

"I’m not ashamed." Ousted New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson continues to inspire.

Being “difficult to work with” was never Katherine Heigl’s intention. 

Deadline reminders: Hamptons International Film Festival (7/24), Fox Mentoring Program (7/28).


Oscar winner Jane Campion is one of the most talented contemporary, female directors who sadly hasn’t come out with a new film in awhile. That she decided to make a detective miniseries is fascinating. But don’t expect the typical crime procedural. Top of the Lake is an interesting, moody character study of  life in the outback, anchored by the brilliant Elisabeth Moss. It was a relief to find a piece populated with women of all different shapes and sizes who do not look like they just walked off the runway. More interesting was the relationships between the men and women and the women’s relationships to each other. I’ve only seen the first episode, but I can’t wait to watch the rest. Top of the Lake is available on Netflix.



Photo via Go Into the Story.

There are scripts about people doing things and there are scripts about people talking about things.

One of them has a much better chance of making it past the first round of readers in a competition.

  • Visualize the beat. What is the visual information in the scene? Do your characters talk about how poor they are, or do they steal food from a neighbor, creating conflict that acts as an escalation?
  • Put the bear in the room and lock all the doors. Is your protagonist likely to engage in conversations about this situation, reflect on the past in flashbacks…or start fighting for her life? A bear in the room dispenses with the necessity for lots of explaining.
  • Talk is easy. Actions are hard. They require more thought, more talent, more skill to devise. Action depends on decisive characters, even if the decisions are hasty and ill-advised.

Dialogue crutches weak scenes along, sucking down pacing and conflict like a storm drain. Information is never as dramatic as action.


Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

Seeing: that not much has changed: Women make up only 26% of the Primetime Emmy nominees, the same number as last year.

Glad to hear: that the new version of BBC’s Danger Mouse will be have more female characters.

Really like: Lauren Greenfield’s video, Always #LikeAGirl, for Always brand. It challenges the sexist expression which implies that doing something “like a girl” means to do it weakly or not as well. It has over 35,000,000 views. 

Terry Lawler is NYWIFT’s Executive Director. Tune in every Tuesday for her picks.

This past month I had the opportunity to travel to Machu Picchu. Wow! Did that trip turn my vibration, my reality, my thoughts on their head.

As time slows down for a bit this summer, I encourage you to inspire your soul. Do something extraordinarily out of the ordinary that will make this summer one to remember.  

Live your life. Be an interesting actor. Give yourself experiences that inspire your creative work as well as something to talk about other than who you know or what your working on. Your soul will thank you for it!


It. Is. Emmy. Season! The full list of female nominees—plus, snubs and surprises

Amanda de Cadenet announces her new talk show Undone on Lifetime. 

It’s official: Everything at The View is coming up Rosie (O’Donnell) and they’re looking for new producers.

Love or hate ‘em, script notes are invaluable for screenwriting success. 

New Oscar rulings will disqualify some documentaries from nomination.

Producer Marti Noxon is set to bring author Gillian Flynn’s first novel to TV.

Goodbye, Eileen Ford.



Locations are an important part of your prep as a filmmaker. The places you choose can either enhance or potentially harm the production value of your project. The process to find locations can be daunting especially on a full-length feature film, so it’s imperative that you have a plan.

Breaking down the script is the first step in location prep. The location person’s job is to go through the script and create a spreadsheet of the following information:

  • Name of the scripted location for each scene
  • Location address: To ensure it’s a realistic and workable commute.
  • Interior/exterior: Does the scene happen inside and/or outside on the street, a field, a beach?
  • Day/night: Note this because it could restrict shooting if locations are not available at night.
  • Script notes: Are there stunts? Are there SFX? 
  • Permit: Do we need special permission to shoot (e..g, a park, subway, beach). What are the fees?
  • TCD request: In NYC you can request TCD (NYPD Movie/TV Unit) if you need to close streets, do car chases, etc.
  • Holding requirements: Where will the crew set up Wardrobe, HMU, Catering, and so on?

The breakdown serves as a master plan for the location person (this could be you if it’s a smaller project). Most experienced location professionals have an online database of locations that they can access to show the creative team (Producer, Director, DP) before they schedule a scout, which avoids riding around in a van and wasting time and money.

I would advise that before the creative team looks at the pictures of proposed locations that your location person “clears” the space. Here are the criteria for clearing a space:

  • Available for the dates the project shoots
  • Fits within the project’s budget 
  • Film-friendly aka can tolerate film crews in its location

After the creative team decides on locations from the online database, a preliminary scout is scheduled by the Assistant Director (AD). The purpose of the preliminary scout is to see if the locations work for the vision of the project while honoring the budget. Typically the Producer, Director, DP, AD and Line Producer (LP/UPM) will attend.

Once you have locations that will work for the creative team and budget, the AD schedules a tech scout. This scout includes everyone from the preliminary scout in addition to the technical department heads (Gaffer, Key Grip, Sound, Production Designer, etc.). Its purpose is to give everyone a chance to discuss the challenges and expenses for each department that will be incurred at each location, to make sure everyone on the team can deliver the creative vision within the time and budget of the shoot.

After the tech scout, locations can start to be locked. The AD requires the location availability so she or he can coordinate that with the actors’ availability to lock a shooting schedule. There is a delicate balance between the location person, LP, and AD because every step in locking locations has to be in alignment with the budget (LP), schedule (AD) and availability (location person).

Hiring Tip
Choose a location person with experience at your budget level and who knows the area. If you have to hire a less experienced location person with limited knowledge of the permitting area and procedures, make sure your LP/UPM has experience with locations (most indie LPs know how to do this).

Now that we have a place to shoot, check back for a follow-up post about what’s need on set so you can start rolling the camera! 


Looking forward to watching: Oprah’s Master Class: Vanessa Williams, directed by NYWIFT board member Annetta Marion. Premieres this Sunday, July 13, 10 pm on OWN TV.

Glad to see: that Thelma & Louise was included in THR’s top 100 films of all time, one of only a handful of female-centric films on the list. No films directed by women made it.

Encouraged by: new diversity guidelines adopted by the British Film Institute for projects seeking funding from the BFI Film Fund, which will ensure diversity across gender, race, class, sexual orientation and disabilitiy. The guidelines use a “three-ticks” approach to qualify productions. 

Terry Lawler is NYWIFT’s Executive Director. Tune in every Tuesday (usually!) for her picks.


Photo via Go Into the Story.

A spec script with a real hook jumps right out of the pile.

It’s the difference between an indestructible cyborg from the future relentlessly attempting to murder Sarah Connor and Sarah Connor, for instance, getting a message from the future that she should start taking self-defense classes while she waits for a man named Kyle to find her.

They’re both basically the same story, same people, same world, same themes, but one has the right hook and one is an early draft that starts after the midpoint.

  • The right hook has distance. When pairing your protag with their problem, build in a big chasm. Put as much distance as possible between them and the likelihood that they will succeed.
  • The right hook is sharply in focus. One person, one problem that must be faced head on.
  • The right hook is personal. The stakes have to be relatable to earn investment from the reader. Real pain is necessary for real catharsis.

The right hook turns your spec into a knockout.


Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

Tammy star Melissa McCarthy is laughing all the way to the bank.

#HireTheseWomen seems to be making an impact. Fox announces an initiative to increase the presence of women directors. 

Amazon and Final Draft seek original material; BitchFlicks needs writers. 

Screenwriting query tips to help your material get noticed.   

Want to relax between auditions? Here’s a list of NYC actor hangouts.  

Tilda Swinton did a fun Reddit AMA, but didn’t confirm or deny she’s not David Bowie.

One woman was invited to join the Academy as a director. One.