1 st May 2010©®
Nicholas Newman interviews Julia Gray Hollywood script writing consultant

" Hollywood today is regarded as the Mecca of the world film industry, yet it is generally less well known that nearly a billion cinema tickets were sold in Europe alone in the past year. Amongst the Hollywood blockbusters to hit our screens in recent months have included ‘Avatar’ and more recently the ‘Prince of Persia’, though both films were made with European film expertise and finance."

By: Nicholas Newman

Julia Gray, Hollywood script writing consultant and CEO of the ‘Scriptwriting Department’, brought these little known facts, to my attention. I met her for lunch with Julia at Oxford’s historic Ashmolean museum rooftop restaurant. She was due to give a one-day film script writing workshop in the town. The Ashmolean museum is a favourite haunt of Oxford’s intelligentsia and artists, such as Colin Dexter and Richard Dawkins.

About the job

Julie Gray observed: ‘hard work and intelligence alone is not enough, by itself, to become a successful writer, you need to be well organised, trained and a good communicator!’

Despite the exaggerated claims that we are living in an increasingly visual age, the printed word still matters. Your favourite movie, play, television or radio programme still depend on scripts written by the unsung heroes of the movie business. Your favourite action hero or heroine would be literally speechless without the dedication and hard work of scriptwriters.

About Julie Gray and the business

In Hollywood, writers are increasingly turning to script writing consultant Julie Gray of ‘The Script Department’ for advice, guidance and mentoring, by this attractive American with a sparkling personality. Outside Hollywood, aspiring enthusiastic scriptwriters have been attending her scripting workshops worldwide including ones in Oxford and Bristol. In addition, she has been an active participant in the Afghanistan women’s writing project in Kabul.

Julie is not only a consultant that advises aspiring scriptwriters into turning good ideas into commercial scripts that Hollywood’s film companies will at least seriously consider, she is also the person to go and see if you want to learn about the serious business of script writing. Since she started her script writing consultancy in 2008, her business has doubled in size and Julie, has diversified into other areas of the film business. These include running script-writing courses, writing an upcoming book and a film production company.

Her blog and pod casts on the business are increasingly sought after by leading industry decision makers.
As a scriptwriter and consultant, she has been involved in numerous horror, action and family films. 'Scriptwriting in Hollywood is an undervalued art by the industry,' Julie admits. She continues 'Gone are the days when scriptwriters turned into multi millionaires.' Julie suggests: ‘we are seeing a return, to the old studio system. Increasingly, we are seeing the rise of boutique film studios with small budgets producing movies like ‘District 9’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ dominating the scene, as the industry seeks to control costs.’

What surprises her about the industry is that many aspiring writers are ignorant about the true realities of the business and seem to think the glamour about the film business is the reality. Julie Gray states: ‘The fact is Hollywood is basically concerned with the business of making money. Currently, too many films are losing money; everyone is looking for a new formula for success and there is a fear of failure that haunts the industry. That is why the industry is increasingly trying to play it safe; and it is not surprising we are seeing increasingly bland films or remakes of previously successful films like ‘Robin Hood’ and the ‘Clash of the Titans’.’

Julie admits: ‘another problem is that the industry has run out of truly original ideas.’ The industry has raided the works of many European writers for ideas for plots for films. Industry executives accept that a truly original successful script is as likely as a hole in one for golfers. Increasingly, they are looking for some new approach to an old idea. It is not surprising we are seeing the return of sword and sandals movies like ‘Gladiator’, ‘Troy’, ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘Centurion’.

‘Advice for young scriptwriters’

Julie observes: ‘Most aspiring script writers think all they have to do is write a script based on their divorce, love affair or military experience and it will be immediately accepted.’ Writers have to be inventive as in the case of ‘Intolerable Cruelty’, ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘Hurt Locker’. Scriptwriters need to remember that the film industry will not take you seriously unless you have written at least ten scripts.

An average film, of 90 minutes, will consist of 90 to 100 pages of A4. Every day the Hollywood film production offices of United Artists, MGM, Warner, Sony etc., receive at least a lorry load of unsolicited scripts. What will disappoint many aspiring writers is that only one in every hundred scripts will be looked at because the script is not in the prescribed industry format. Further reasons for rejection include issues of grammar, spelling, lack of structure, failure to follow the basic tenants of dramatic writing and lack of originality.

Advice for aspiring European writers

Julie Gray advises aspiring European writers: ‘ that the template for American films is quicker paced than the European model and that European writers are well advised to emulate the American format and structural paradigm if they wish to make a splash in the US with their coveted European perspective and voice.’

New book

Julie Gray’s new book ‘Just Effing Entertain Me’ (Michael Wiese Publishing), based on her award winning blog by the same name due to be published in the spring of 2011, and it is packed full with her professional experiences and practical advice in layman’s language about how to break into Hollywood and produce commercial scripts that will entertain future audiences.

Screen writing consultant Julie Gray mentors, teaches and also gives notes to screenwriters trying to break into Hollywood. For further information http://www.justeffing.com/








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