What Do Executives Want in Your First 10 Pages?

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When an executive cracks open your screenplay, you only have one shot at making a lasting first impression. There’s no better way to learn exactly how to do that than to crawl inside the minds of executives at Screenwriters University‘s Executive One-On-One: The First 10 Pages Bootcamp.

Meet our bootcamp executives:

For the last ten years, Steve Longi has served as Vice President of Permut Presentations, Inc, a company run by prolific film & television producer David Permut. During that time, he oversaw the production, development, marketing and release of Permut’s entire slate. Mr. Longi began working with Permut on the 1997 breakout hit “Face/Off” starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. It was one of the top ten highest grossing films of 1997. Since that time he has developed over one hundred feature film, television, and theatrical stage projects, and produced nine movies including Dimension Film’s “Youth in Revolt,” starring Michael Cera, Justin Long, Ray Liotta, and Zach Galifianakis He also produced the critically acclaimed telefilm “Prayers for Bobby” for Lifetime Television. The film has won numerous awards, including a GLAAD Best Picture and was nominated for two Emmy’s including a Best Actress for Sigourney Weaver. It was one of the highest rated cable movies in the history of the Lifetime Cable Network. Longi’s other feature credits include: the action-comedy “Double Take” for Disney; “Dysfunktional Family” for Miramax; “Local Color” with Armin Mueller Stahl; a documentary about legendary songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman who wrote music for Walt Disney entitled “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story;” and “Charlie Bartlett” with Anton Yelchin, Kat Dennings, Hope Davis, and Robert Downey Jr.

Seth Nagel is a Manager/Producer at Code Entertainment, where he represents writers, directors and actors. Prior to joining Code, Seth partnered with Brett Carducci to launch Aligned Entertainment, a management, and production company located in Westwood, California. While Seth is no longer part of Aligned, it continues to exist and thrive today. Beginning in 2010, Seth co-produced the first two seasons of the Cinemax series “Femme Fatales,” which were recently released on DVD by EOne During his time at Aligned Entertainment, Seth set up “Deep Blue Sea 2” at Warner Premiere. Prior to starting Aligned Entertainment, Seth founded Lafayette Drive Entertainment, a production and consulting company with several projects still in active development, including an adaptation of Georgette Heyer’s classic novel, “The Grand Sophy,”currently at BBC FIlms, the comedy “Roadies” and the martial-arts comedy, “This Time Its Percival.” Seth also co-produced “Laid to Rest,” which stars Lena Heady and was released in April 2009 by Anchor Bay.

Lucy Mukerjee-Brown is an established Development Executive with a reputation for having a discerning eye for material. She has Produced 20 feature films across all genres and is a voting member of the Producers Guild of America. She sits on the Programming and Selection Committees of several prominent Film Festivals, and is passionate about working alongside Writers and Directors to facilitate the storytelling process. Lucy is currently the Vice President of Development for Cinelou Films, a new slate of prestige pictures that marks the collaboration of Courtney Solomon and Mark Canton. Cinelou’s first feature CAKE starring Jennifer Aniston is currently in Post, and their next production THE YELLOW BIRDS was just announced at Cannes.

Script chatted with two of our executives, Seth Nagel and Steve Longi, to get a sneak peek at the valuable advice they’ll offer.  Here are his responses:

When reading scripts, how much do you learn about the overall piece in the first ten pages?

Nagel: I would hope to learn a fair amount of where the script is heading in the first 10. Who are some of our main characters and what journey will they be taking us on. I can almost always tell in the first 10 pages if I’m going to like a script and sometimes in as little as five.

Longi: Sometimes I know after three pages, sometimes it takes more than that.

What are you most looking for in the first ten pages of a screenplay?

Nagel: First, I want to see the writer has current format down and the script is not riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes. I want a script that flows and I can get into easily. Finally, I know it’s a cliché but I’m really just really want a great voice, unique characters and interesting situations. Or just make me laugh!

Longi: A point of view that the story is being told from. An original “voice” in the writing. A writing style that is not verbose.

Descriptions that make a character come alive (and include an age or approximate age). A story that “hooks” me and gives me a reason to keep watching. Surprises and not cliches. No typos. Concise exposition. A good title.

What are the most common problems that you see in the first ten pages from screenwriters?

Nagel: Usually when I read a screenplay, I’ll at least know a logline prior to reading it and will agree to read it based on that logline. Too often, the first 10 pages won’t reflect what was originally pitched to me, so write what you’ve pitched or give a very clear indication that you are heading in that direction. Too often, writers will fill the first ten pages with too much backstory, too much description and really hurt the flow of the script. These pages are so important because if the reader is not hooked, too often they will only read the first 30/last ten. This is another reason to make sure the idea you pitch is what you’re actually writing.

Longi: The opposite of what I describe above: Typos, overwriting, long blocks of exposition, bad titles, no age given or a character. I see these all of the time and they do not indicate to me that the writer is taking his craft seriously, the same way I do.

This is your second boot camp with Screenwriter’s University, what was your favorite part of the last Executive One-on-One Boot Camp?

Nagel: I loved doing the last boot camp. There were some terrific First 10 Pages and I just loved the interaction with the writers and helping them improve their work. With one of the participants, we were even able to make major adjustments during the actual live session that I know will greatly help in writing the remainder of the script.

Longi: The one-on-one interactions. Helping people see how they can help themselves. Finding some good material.

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