Adam Levenberg, Author of “The Starter Screenplay”

Adam Levenberg is a former development executive who consults on feature film projects for top producers, actors, and screenwriters.  His first book, The Starter Screenplay — the ultimate resource to help you determine “what should I write next?” is available now at

“Does the world really need another screenwriting book?” That’s what I would say whenever someone suggested I write my own.

It took a while before I realized that the perspective I’d gained between my time as an executive and spending 1,000+ hours talking with unrepresented screenwriters revealed a wealth of new information, observations, and educational approaches that are already being put into action in screenwriting courses across the country.

Cover of The Starter Screenplay
Cover of “The Starter Screenplay”

New writers need to know the template that professional writers use to brainstorm and create concepts, as well as how to navigate the industry. Save the Cat! accomplishes this in terms of structure. The Starter Screenplay covers everything else.

Here are a few of the topics covered in the book:

Keeping It Simple

The same guys behind The People vs. Larry Flynt first wrote Problem Child 1 & 2. And Bill Condon wrote Candyman 2 before winning an Academy Award for Chicago. Even George Lucas wrote and directed the most popular teen comedy of all time before moving on to Star Wars.

New screenwriters (and that’s anyone who has yet to make a studio sale or land a huge agent; contest wins or a pile of specs don’t count) should focus on proving their creativity with scene work, not creating a new universe where the story takes place. Save The Matrix until you’re an expert, show off your talent with a contained thriller like Bound or a clever genre piece such as Assassins.

Screenwriters make their greatest leaps when they snag a great agent, manager, or producer to help develop their specs — whether the script sells or not, the education you’ll walk away with from that development process is yours forever.

The Starter Screenplay contains “The Ten Commandments” of a Starter Concept that will get you on the right track. Many of these points are the same criteria used to determine if a hot new book will make a strong feature film adaptation. I’ve also included 17 categories of projects that new screenwriters should avoid all together until you have an agent.

Interacting with Hollywood

How do you know if a company really liked your script or was blowing you off? What three questions should you ask a manager to determine if he or she is a player or a wannabe? And how can you tell if an agency can sell your script? The answers to these questions are different in 2010-2011 than they were even five years ago.

If you’ve ever been asked to do work on a screenplay under a free option, did you get it in writing that you would control all the rewrites after the option expired?

Hollywood is a tricky place and those working inside tend to forget outsiders don’t know the specific customs and etiquette of this closed industry. I’ve even included an entire page about how to follow up and leave a message so you don’t piss anyone off.

Navigating the Fringe Industry

There are incredible educational benefits available in the Fringe Industry of contests, conferences, and consultants, but they are few and far between. Proceed with caution and knowledge, and you can use this realm to your advantage as opposed to getting your pockets picked.

What should you ask a consultant before hiring them? And what does a contest win mean in terms of your career advancement?

A Fresh Approach

I love Save the Cat! because it’s a fast, easy read that presents everything a writer needs to know about cinematic structure. How do I know this? Because I’ve read specs delivered by writers who already have a shelf full of screenwriting books and see the vast improvements made once they read STC! and use the BS2 to outline before jumping into a rewrite or new concept.

In crafting The Starter Screenplay, I hope I’ve created a companion piece that can be taught along with Blake Snyder’s work to provide as much insight as possible for new writers. I’m excited that many college courses will be doing just that during the next semester and I’m looking forward to the feedback from students across the country as well as from readers of Let me know what you think!

Next week: Guest blog “Get Discovered!” by Cindy McCreery