Su-City Pictures East, LLC

Screenplay & Film Consulting By Susan Kouguell

Month: April 2014




“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Who else but Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind could have said this memorable line?

Characters’ voices must be distinctive and not interchangeable with other characters. Readers must be able to identify who is speaking without needing to look at character headings. Always make every word count; sometimes less is more and the less said can prove more poignant.

Ten Top Tips to Writing Good Dialogue

1. Dialogue must clearly convey emotions, attitudes, strengths, vulnerabilities, goals, and so on, while revealing the details of your plot and advancing your narrative.

2. Every word of dialogue must be true to your character. Always consider your characters’ behaviors and motivations when they speak.

3. Consider silences and pauses your characters might use, or another character’s interruptions, to further convey tensions, actions, moods, and emotions.

4. In real life, most people do not always speak with flawless grammar in complete, formal sentences. Dialogue must not sound wooden or stilted.

5. To make your characters’ dialogue more identifiable consider using contractions, colloquialisms, slang, and so on, when true to your characters.

To read more:

Susan’s The Script Lab article: The Pros, Cons, and Tips about Screenplay Competitions

The Pros, Cons, and Tips about Screenplay Competitions

Whether your goal is to sell your script to Hollywood or to have your work considered for production by an independent film company, getting your screenplay read and into the right hands is just one step of the journey to seeing your vision on the silver screen.  There is no right or wrong way to embark on this voyage — it all depends on you as a writer (your style, your voice), your screenplay, perseverance and luck.  What is an absolute — and there are no shortcuts to this — you must only submit your screenplay when it is absolutely the best it can be.  Submitting a draft that is not truly ready to be considered is a sure way to get rejected.

Winning or placing as a finalist in a screenplay competition is a good way to open the doors to the film industry.  Getting your writing recognized and drawing attention to you as a writer is imperative in this highly competitive field.  However — you must be realistic and examine the pros and cons of what you are (literally) about to enter. Some contest winners receive interest from the film industry, which has helped them to launch their careers, while others receive little or no attention from winning.  Sometimes it is just the luck of the draw, but you can take some control into your own hands.

There are hundreds of script competitions — and it seems more and more each day — that offer a variety of enticements to attract screenwriters.

Be discriminating and do your research:

·      Submit to a contest that is respected by the industry and has been around for several years. The more established the contest, the more attention you’ll get if you win or place as a finalist.

·      Reputable script competitions must have judges who work in the film industry otherwise there is no point in entering.

·      Find out what types of prizes the contests are offering and make sure these are legitimate. These offerings can include agent representation, meetings with film industry folks, announcements in the trades, and prize money.

In my experience as a screenplay competition judge and when I interviewed colleagues for my books (The Savvy Screenwriter and Savvy Characters Sell Screenplays!), the consensus is that judges are not necessarily looking for scripts that have the potential to be blockbusters or even have commercial appeal; they are looking for the best written screenplay. Specifically, judges look for scripts that are well-crafted and attention-grabbing, demonstrate a strong and unique voice and writing style, and a screenplay without formatting errors, typos, or grammatical mistakes.


1.     Always register your screenplay with the Writers Guild of America before submitting it to a contest.

2.     Submit to contests that are the right fit for your project, such as. genre and subject matter.

To read more:






Susan’s Script Lab article: Rejected: Top 10 Screenwriting Pet Peeves


Rejected: Top 10 Screenwriting Pet Peeves

Why Your Script is Getting Rejected

There are many reasons why a script is rejected by industry folks — often the script is just not a match for the company in terms of budget or genre, or it’s not a fit for what the producer or director is seeking at that very moment.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of luck.  But sometimes, well very often, if not most of the time, it’s because screenwriters are not taking the needed time to fine-tune their scripts and submitting screenplays before they are truly ready to be considered for production.

Here are ten universal pet peeves from film industry executives and story analysts, with whom I have interviewed for various screenwriting and film publications, and for my book The Savvy Screenwriter: How to Sell Your Screenplay (and Yourself) Without Selling Out!  This list is in no particular order — however I do admit that I share all these pet peeves with my colleagues.

Screenwriting Pet Peeves

1.     Incorrect industry screenplay formatting loudly demonstrates to the reader that the screenwriter is an amateur, and doesn’t have respect for his or her work — or for the reader’s time.

2.     Inclusion of camera angles.  Directors do not want to be told how to shoot their movie. Period.

3.     Overuse and/or unnecessary usage of voiceovers, dream sequences, and flashbacks.  This is a red flag for story analysts because these devices are often included when the writer does not know how to craft a screenplay.

4.     Typos, grammatical errors, photocopying lines, smudges, coffee stains, and blank and/or missing pages.  This type of carelessness and sloppiness is a clear strike against the writer.

To read more:




Ask the Screenplay Doctor: Submitting Your Screenplay Etiquette

Pointers for good etiquette for submitting your script.


When I began writing this Ask the Screenplay Doctor monthly column about four years ago, the editors had noted that this is not a column where writers can post their loglines synopses of projects, or submit queries – or even their screenplays. I know how challenging it is to get your query, synopsis, and scripts read and considered, but you are wasting your effort by sending them to someone who doesn’t want them. If you want to post those, feel free to do that through the Screenplays Available/Wanted page on

Of course, if you need advice about screenwriting, the business of screenwriting, then by all means, email me your question — but leave out the logine, treatment, or script.  So, with this reminder, here is some advice on this topic.

Top Five Pointers for Submitting your Project

  1. Confirm that the company you are querying is indeed accepting unsolicited material. (Unsolicited is defined as work that is not submitted by an agent, manager, or entertainment attorney.)
  2. Follow the company’s submission rules. For example: If a company requests only a one-page synopsis, send them only a one-page synopsis.  Nothing more.
  3. Only submit your logline, synopsis and/or script to companies who have requested it. When you submit work to a company that is not seeking unsolicited material, your work will be rejected. You are wasting your time and you are wasting the time of the person to whom you have submitted your unrequested work.
  4. Research the companies, film executives, and agents to confirm the spelling of their names and their titles. Film industry folks don’t appreciate seeing their names misspelled.  Executives’ titles frequently change — the industry person who is there today may not be there tomorrow.  The Hollywood Creative Directory and IMDBPro are two suggested sources (among others) to find extensive contact information for film executives, production companies and studios.
  5. Never submit a logline, query letter, synopsis, and/or script that has not been proofread. For screenplays, it is critical that you follow industry standard format.

To read more of my column:

Susan’s Screenwriter’s Utopia Top Treatment Tips article


What is a treatment?

A treatment is a detailed overview of a script idea or screenplay, which is used as a marketing tool for both spec and for-hire screenwriters to sell their project. While treatments and synopses are both marketing tools to sell a screenplay or script idea, there are differences. A synopsis is generally one-page only and includes only the main plot points or your screenplay, while a  treatment is a more comprehensive and detailed overview of your script.

Do you really need to write a treatment?

It depends on the scenario.  It’s not really necessary to write a treatment unless it assists you in fleshing out your ideas and developing your screenplay. Studios, production companies and/or industry folks might request you submit a treatment to them after you pitch an idea and they are interested in your project.  They will tell you approximately how many pages to write for the treatment.

Top Ten Treatment Tips

  1. Your goal is to entice and excite the executive to want to see this treatment made into a movie. This also means that your writing talent and distinct voice shines through.
  2. Write your treatment in prose form and in the present tense.
  3. Make sure that you consistently follow the conventions of your script’s genre.
  4. Follow your main character’s journey and the major plot points. Indicate your protagonist’s goal and the major obstacles in his or her path, including the antagonist.
  5. Include dialogue snippets (using quotation marks) only when absolutely necessary to highlight a poignant or critical moment of your script.
  6. Your treatment should be a clear and accurate reflection of your script idea and/or screenplay.

To read more go to: