Day 18: Will's Wrant
Yes, I know rant is spelled incorrectly in the title. I did that on purpose. But I'm not going to explain why; you'll just have to figure it out on your own. Sort of like the way Marilyn Horowitz wants you to figure out her method of selling a screenplay in her webinar Sell a Screenplay in 30 Days Using New Media. This is the first of three webinars I purchased as part of a package from The Writer's Store on Breaking into Hollywood. All I can really say about this webinar is that it was good I waited several days before taping my review. I was pretty heated about the whole thing right after I watched it, and I'm sure my comments would have been a lot snarkier than they ended up being.
I always approach webinars and seminars cautiously. It always seems they are less educational than they purport and are really just marketing tools for the facilitator to sell their book. In this case, it is Ms Horowitz's book, also titled Sell Your Screenplay in 30 Days Using New Media. The webinar is offered as part of a package with two other webinars and a pdf copy of the The Screenwriting Directory for $49.99. The cost of the individual webinars is $79. Considering The Screenwriting Directory can be bought on sale at $19.99, the effective price of each seminar is only $10. Saving $69 on each webinar sounds too good to be true, or is it a case of you get what you pay for?
The first red flag went up after a quick search online revealed no screenplays sold by Ms Horowitz. I think it's kind of important to have that credential if you are going to convince me your book/webinar is legitimate. Ms Horowitz may have sold some screenplays, but they simply have not been produced. That's not her fault; she has done her job. She wrote it and sold it. Now it is up to the producer to get the movie made. To her credit, Ms Horowitz does make this claim late in the webinar and mentions that several of her students have also sold screenplays using her method. But there is no evidence of this. She doesn't name the students or their screenplays or even name her own screenplays. In fact, on her IMBD page, Ms Horowitz only has only one writing credit and that is as a script consultant. Not a great recommendation for a webinar purporting to teach you how to sell you own screenplay. However, Ms Horowitz's creds are bolstered a bit by her tenure at NYU as an Assistant Adjunct Professor, and she is the founder of the Horowitz Center for Screenwriting.
Unfortunately, the webinar is about as bland and generic as you could find. It offers such tidbits as the need for a pitch, synopsis and query letter, all traditional methods of marketing, not the vaunted new media teased in the title of the webinar. But, if you want to know what a pitch, synopsis and query letter are. . .you need to buy the book. And there it is: the marketing pitch disguised as an educational forum. To Ms Horowitz's credit, the first book pitch doesn't come until 30 minutes into the webinar, but we get them regularly there after.
The first 30 minutes is mostly a convoluted mishmash of marketing basics such as identifying who you are. You are the screenwriter. What is it you are trying to sell? You are trying to sell a screenplay. There are other great nuggets of information directing you to find out how other successful screenwriters sold their screenplays. Without giving any specifics on how to do that, my guess would be to put in a couple of calls and see if maybe Shane Black or Aaron Sorkin will give you the secrets to their success over the phone. Ms Horowitz goes on to say that in order to be a successful screenwriter one must develop an effective strategy for success. What is that effective strategy? I don't know. Ms Horowitz was not completely forthcoming with details on that matter.
For much of the first hour of this one-hour webinar, Ms Horowitz talks about traditional marketing plans and campaigns and the need for targeting people who might be in the market for a screenplay without ever discussing how to find these people or how to contact them. That this webinar package includes the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory, however, might give you a clue. But what much of this New Media webinar is really missing is a discussion of New Media. About 45 minutes into the webinar, Ms Horowitz does admit to not knowing what a hastag was. She says the first time she heard this term she thought it had something to do with illicit drug activity. This is meant as a joke, of course, but if you're selling a webinar (and a book) about using New Media to market your screenplay, you probably shouldn't tell your audience you don't know what a hashtag is. And you really shouldn't refer to it as 'pound symbol' thereafter. You don't pound symbol on Twitter, you hashtag.
Finally, at 56 minutes into the one-hour webinar, we get our first real discussion of New Media. We learn we should start a FaceBook page, sign up for LinkedIn and do some Twittering. She doesn't explain why or what we should be doing (I assume it's in the book) with those various platforms, but does say we should be posting something everyday. The one example of a post is to say something like "I wrote a page today." If you were trying to sell the screenplay, I would hope you already have it written. She then offers a look at two weeks of her 4-week plan to sell a screenplay. If you want to see the other two weeks, buy the book. The first week of that plan calls for traditional marketing methods, though what those are is left unsaid. I suppose they're in the book as well. The second week begins to incorporate New Media methods such as posting that you wrote a page. Any other specifics are, I guess, also in the book.
To sum it all up, Ms Horowitz and the Writer's Store are offering a webinar on selling your screenplay in 30 days with New Media, but offer virtually no discussion of New Media until the last 4 minutes of the webinar and with no specifics included. Is the webinar worth the original $79 offering? Absolutely not, especially considering all the unstated specifics are supposedly in the book, which can be had for less than half the price at $30. Is the webinar worth the $10 it actually cost as part of the package? If you were an absolute newbie who had no concept of how to market a screenplay, it might give you a jumping off place to start looking up things like pitch, logline or query letter. But as far as following through on the promise of its title, even at $10, this webinar is more of a scaminar.