Career Advice from 5 Produced InkTip Writers
I spoke with five of our screenwriters whose careers took off with InkTip: BD Young, Jupiter M. Makins, Dwain Worrell, Jake Helgren, and John Porter. They generously chatted about their experiences in the industry, their writing habits, the pros and cons of representation, and much more. Find out more about the people behind InkTip successes!
Jupiter M. Makins is an award-winning filmmaker and published novelist. She joined InkTip in 2010. Her script Unknown Caller was discovered through InkTip, produced by DV3 Productions, and had a theatrical release in 2015. She also wrote, produced, and directed Bigfoot and the Burtons, which won her Best Female Filmmaker award at the Action On Film Festival. Her book The Lamplighter’s Daughter, the first book in the Legend of Linova series, has been picked up by Morgan James Publishing and has interest from a producer for adaptation into a children’s TV series.
BD Young has had over 14 films, including Marriage of Lies produced by Cartel Picture for Lifetime, made from either scripts found through InkTip or hires do to connections from InkTip. He has been with InkTip since the beginning and had his first success through InkTip in 2003 when his script Love for Rent was sold. Since then he has continued to work in the industry as a writer and added producer to his credits with the films Bond of Silence and Imaginary Friend, starring Lacy Chabert (Party of Five, Mean Girls) and Ethan Embry (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, Eagle Eye).
Dwain Worrell has been a writer with InkTip since 2009. He wrote specs in China for nearly a decade before getting recognition for his script The Wall, starring John Cena and Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) in 2014. His script Operator, starring Luke Goss (Hellboy II: The Golden Army), Mischa Barton (The O.C.), and Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) was produced by DV3 Productions after Dwain submitted it as a query through InkTip’s newsletter.
John Porter has been a member of InkTip for 11 years, securing four hire opportunities, optioning a feature, and selling numerous short scripts. He started screenwriting in the mid-1990s when he and his brother decided to write the script Sparks and Light about their great-great-grandfather Isaac J. Sparks, who received the family ranch from the Mexican government, and Allen B. Light, Isaac’s friend and the first black resident of Santa Barbara.
Jake Helgren is an award-winning screenwriter, producer and director. In 2007 he joined InkTip, where his romcom Finding Mr. Wright was discovered and accepted into PhillyQFest, where it was compared to “the screwball comedies of Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.” He went on to write teen horror titles Bloody Homecoming and Varsity Blood, the latter being Helgren’s directorial debut. He has since written several films for TV such as Lifetime’s Suicide Note, Honeymoon From Hell, 10 Year Reunion, and The Good Nanny – all of which he produced and directed. He also wrote STARZ/Anchor Bay’s A Belle for Christmas (Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson) and produced G It’s Entertainment’s All She Wishes starring Calum Worthy of Autin & Ally.
Chris: All of you have been with InkTip for a number of years. How has your experience been so far?
Jupiter M. Makins: Amazing! I’ve sold scripts and made great connections with industry professionals.
BD Young: Fantastic. InkTip has been the consistent source of contacts and projects for me. It’s reliable and always there. Unlike those bloody agents.
Dwain Worrell: It’s been great. My first American film was produced through InkTip. I’ve also met producers who eventually became friends and contacts.
John Porter: It has been wonderful, both with filmmakers and especially with the InkTip staff.
BD Young: Now, this may come off as a paid advertisement, but it’s not. Sure, I’m dying for Jerrol to have me over for a mai tai, but InkTip really does a fantastic job. It is a selfless service whose sole purpose is to get writer’s gigs and scripts produced. I can’t say enough about how well it works. Other than – I’ve had over 40 options, assignments, etc. through InkTip. Not kidding. That many. It works. Simple as that. And, Jerrol, call me. Mai tais by your pool.
Jake Helgren: I have had a wonderful experience with InkTip. They played a major role in getting me into the business. I had two different singular films produced by producers I met through InkTip, both of which were amazing experiences and I still keep in touch with those producers. I also had a number of features produced by a producing partner, Elizabeth, who I also met through InkTip, and not only was it a great experience which taught me just about everything I know about the business, but it also turned into a lifelong friendship.
Chris: John and Jupiter, you were both recently hired through InkTip. Congrats! What is the most valuable asset a writer should have when working for hire?
John Porter: The willingness to listen to the person who has hired him, the willingness to consider changes the person suggests, and if he strongly disagrees with those changes, the willingness to say so and to say why.
Jupiter M. Makins: A good attitude. If you’re selling your script, you have to accept that the producer is buying the right to make changes as he/she feels will make it better for sale. It’s important to be flexible and easy to work with through the changes rather than stubborn to your story. If you want to make it your way, then don’t sell it. Make it yourself; if you’re selling it, be open to opinions that are not yours.
Chris: How do you get through writer’s block?
Jake Helgren: Commitment. Coffee. Self-imposed deadlines.
BD Young: It’s never been an issue for me. I don’t get a sense of writer’s block, just procrastination at times. If anything, a script I’m writing can bore me and I don’t want to work on it. But that’s a good sign. It means if I’m bored – good God what will readers think!
Jupiter M. Makins: I never get writer’s block. I write a story I’m excited to tell. I outline the story first so when I sit down it’s like connecting the dots – or more accurately, the plot points.
Dwain Worrell: Sometimes I go out for a long walk. Exercise, watching a good movie or TV series, all good methods. Just need to get my mind off of the problem for a while.
John Porter: Adapt something – a story, a novel, a song – even if I don’t own the rights.
Chris: You are all experienced writers. How do you know when your script is ready to show to producers?
Dwain Worrell: It’s an instinct for me. It’s when I read through the script without stopping and saying, “I need to change this,” or “maybe I should do this.” It’s hard to describe, but it’s when I “feel” it is in perfect shape.
John Porter: When I’ve done everything I can do with it. But I’m always relieved when I remember that if a producer likes the script, he may suggest changes, so the version I submit probably won’t be the final one anyway.
BD Young: It’s never ready. I always take the approach that it will improve as I get notes and get closer to production, so I never approach it as being ready. If I have nailed the concept and made a readable project, then I’m happy to show it and see what happens. But I always see it as a work in progress.
Jake Helgren: These days I am contracted before I start writing a script, but before I had development deals handed to me I would know that my script was ready to show producers when I could read the entire thing and see the movie play out scene by scene in my head from start to finish.
Jupiter M. Makins: I have a process. I write and do two read throughs for edits then I put the script aside for a week so I can come back with fresh eyes. Then I proofread over and over until I’ve read through without making a change. That’s when I consider it ready to show.
Chris: Now that you are produced, how do you write scripts differently?
Jake Helgren: I still write every script as if it could be my last; they’re just a bit easier to write as time goes on.
BD Young: I feel more at ease, I think. I got produced quickly a number of years ago, then went through a spell of no produced projects. But it build confidence and a sense of ability t do this in a crazy business.
Dwain Worrell: Yes, confidence. I don’t worry about format or how did other writer’s do it. I write it the way I feel like it should be done.
Jupiter M. Makins: My process hasn’t changed. I am a commercial script writer. I like to look at trends or what is lacking the market as to what genre to write next. But one thing I do is finish! So many writers start, the start another, and never have anything done.
Chris: Dwain, you wrote the one-location script The Wall starring John Cena and Aaron Taylor Johnson and directed by Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity). How did you overcome the writing obstacle with a limited location and the nagging desire writers feel to add more locations?
Dwain Worrell: I found it easier. So, so freeing to have one location. I love character studies and writing with one to two characters in mind made that so much easier.
Chris: Jupiter, you produced and directed your own script. What obstacles do screenwriters hurdle when directing their own material?
Jupiter M. Makins: There is only my vision, unlike when I sell a script it gets another perspective. It’s good to have a brainstorm with others to get feedback, so when directing your own script you can have a bigger perspective.
Chris: As a female writer, how do you break through stereotypes in the industry?
Jupiter M. Makins: I don’t play into them, and I don’t only write scripts that read like a woman wrote it or are written just for the women demographic. I believe the script should make the reader get so into the story that it doesn’t matter who wrote it, it’s just a good story they want to make.
Chris: BD, you’re a producer now! What challenges do screenwriters face when making the transition from writing to producing?
BD Young: I pay myself more. Seriously though, I give myself great notes. And then more pay. And that said, I think it makes you a better writer. I segued into producing slowly and have learned a lot about what it takes to make the picture happen. I can adjust my writing to suit the project in terms of budget. I’ve worked with some fantastic producers who have shown me a whole new side to the craft of writing. So, I don’t think it is so much a challenge as an opportunity.
Chris: Jake, you started on InkTip as a screenwriter. You now have over ten producing and directing credits from your connection you made on InkTip. You’re living the screenwriter’s dream! How did you make that transition?
Jake Helgren: Being onset and learning how films are made, made all the difference in me transitioning from just writing to writing, producing, and directing.
Chris: What advice do you have for the writer who is holding out for the large studio to call them about a sale of their first script?
Dwain Worrell: Don’t. In the very beginning, you should be looking for credit.
Jake Helgren: Don’t wait for that call. It may never come. Forge your own path in this business however that may be—by becoming a PA, by going to workshops, by posting scripts on InkTip, and any other number of means people have used to find success. Then hopefully, some day that call will come, but if it doesn’t, you’ll have found your own way.
John Porter: I’d suggest that he also list the script on the InkTip site. If the studio does call, the writer can sell the script; if the studio doesn’t call, someone else may offer to buy it.
Jupiter M. Makins: My advice is to start being a writer. If you have only one script in you to sell that you have to hold out for, then you’re not a writer. Write. Sell. Get produced. And do it as often as you can. That is what the big studios are holding out for – a writer that’s the goose, not the golden egg. The goose lays more golden eggs. An egg can crack.
BD Young: I know way too many writers who are like that. And sure, some will get that big hit but most won’t. If you are serious about being a writer – a working writer – you need to write and pitch. The reason studio sales make the news is because they don’t happen all that often.
Chris: Who here is represented?
Dwain Worrell: I’m repped at CAA. Getting repped at a major agency is crucial. That’s where you get the meetings, they put you in front of people to get jobs. They have the keys to the industry. Most important step of my career.
John Porter: I’m not.
BD Young: I was but became very disenchanted. I found I was funneling work to my agent and getting nothing in return. So, I took the leap and left my agent. Not to say I wouldn’t hook up with an agent or manager again, but I think it needs to be a two way street. I should be getting work as well as brining it in.
Jupiter M. Makins: No. I need to get representation. It’s on my list of things to do. I guess that’s my other challenge being a writer, director, producer – creating new projects, finishing old ones, getting things off the ground. So much to do with only two hands and one head!
Jake Helgren: I was represented by a management company at one time. My old manager is still a good friend and an amazing guy, but right now I’m sorta just marching to the beat of my own drum. I have a distribution company I have an amazing partnership with these days, though, as well as a new producing partner, and I love making movies with these people!!
Chris: Dwain, with both of your scripts – Operator (through InkTip) and The Wall (through Amazon Studios) – discovered non-traditionally, what advice do you have for writers who don’t think such avenues work?
Dwain Worrell: Think outside of the box. You don’t have connections. Don’t try to force it in front of agents; they’re not interested unless you have heat. You get hear by getting stuff produced without them.
Chris: How important is networking?
John Porter: Very important. But you don’t need to belong to a writers group or go to places where filmmakers go. Instead, you can list shorts and features on the InkTip site. Sooner or later, someone will request a script, which may not sell, but which may lead to assignments.
BD Young: Okay, if there is good food and free booze. But overrated. I think it’s a balance of networking, meeting people, but also to keep writing and knocking out scripts. Keep in mind, I’m a long form guy. I don’t do episodic at this time. Getting into a writer’s room is usually about contacts.
Jupiter M. Makins: Networking is very important to everyone including screenwriters. Your net worth is equal to your network. Increase the value of your network in the industry as often as you can. It takes a large community of filmmakers to get a script from page to screen and it takes some powerful people to greenlight a script with financing. If you don’t know at least a dozen people with the power to get your script made your net worth is poor and you need to keep networking and building relationships.
Dwain Worrell: I think it is important. Opportunities arise from knowing more people in the industry.
Jake Helgren: I think networking is extremely important. It’s a big business, but also incredibly small. No one forgets anything, especially if you’re amazing or difficult. Don’t be difficult. Be amazing.
Chris: John, Jupiter, and BD, none of you live in Hollywood. How has living outside of Los Angeles impacted your career – for better or worse?
John Porter: If you live in Hollywood, you can meeting filmmakers who also live there. If you belong to InkTip, you can meet filmmakers who live throughout the world.
BD Young: For better. I’m not caught up in the game. I get to fly in and do a pitch and then get out. I think it keeps me sane and keeps me writing. There is no issue whatsoever with not living there. Just be ready to go when needed.
Jupiter M. Makins: I live in Canada. InkTip makes it easier to connect to more people increasing the potential of a sale. Canada is a very small market. If I could network in Los Angeles I’m sure the mountain I’m climbing wouldn’t be so high. But that’s okay, I have endurance. Onward and upward!
Chris: What service do you find invaluable on InkTip?
John Porter: The short index, the feature listings, and the newsletter, and perhaps most important of all, the advice of the staff.
BD Young: The turn-down service. And the chocolate on my pillow. Divine. I really like the newsletter. It makes my Thursday.
Jupiter M. Makins: Being able to post my script for sale and get it out through the magazine. InkTip takes the “who” wants to buy my script out of the equation. The “who” will find you. It’s a great networking tool!
Jake Helgren: I had the best success with the Preferred Newsletter. That’s how I created the relationships I did back in the day that got me started.
Dwain Worrell: When you’re an outsider, you know no one and nothing. There is this chasm between you and the industry. InkTip provides a bridge.
Chris: What made you decide to use InkTip?
BD Young: I needed a way to market myself and my scripts because I didn’t get down to L.A. much. But even with more regular trips to L.A., InkTip is still the go-to place for me. I’ve tried other sites, but this one really is the one to beat. Also, connections to producers I couldn’t otherwise get. Sure, you can’t play at the studio level all the time through InkTip, but that’s not what this is all about. I have had some great studio contacts and assignments from InkTip. InkTip will always give me a chance to get my scripts read and either get me assignments or get something made. It’s better than any agent in terms of working for you and your project.
Jupiter M. Makins: I don’t have an agent. InkTip gives me a means to sell to those looking to buy scripts without having to know them personally. It’s not just a computerized application. There are people on the other end who check in, help promote me, and don’t see me as a number but rather that my success is their success. It’s great to have support and people rooting for you.
Dwain Worrell: Well, I’m a hustler. If there was a way to get my work out there, I used it. I’ve used them all. But that being said, InkTip is only one of two of these hustles that actually worked.
John Porter: When I read an interview with Jerrol LeBaron, I saw that he was decent and honorable. When I looked at the InkTip site, I saw the company was too. And when I saw the successes archived through InkTip, I saw that the company was also effective. [I enjoy] the advice and encouragement offered by the staff, and the possibility of a pleasant surprise every day. It doesn’t happen every day, but on any day I could receive an email from a filmmaker in any country on Earth requesting a script.
Jake Helgren: It was recommended to me by someone … It’s my go-to recommendation.
Chris: Thank you all so much for your time and insight into screenwriting and the film industry. One last question, what is next for you?
Jupiter M. Makins: So much! I have a bunch of written scripts. I’d like to direct one and sell the others. I’m also working on two series which I believe are such brilliant concepts (they’re two new and different ways of telling stories visually). I also have a big budget script that I have the outline to, which was given to me in a dream. I held off on writing it because it’s a big studio screenplay but I think it’s time I take a bigger step … get an agent and expand my reach.
Dwain Worrell: A little TV, a new show to be released next year. Can’t say much else beyond that.
Jake Helgren: I am writing my next thriller which will shoot in December, and then after that it looks like I might have a new Christmas movie in the works hopefully soon after!
John Porter: I’ll continue to write screenplays, continue to list them on InkTip, and – God willing – continue to feed cattle on my family’s ranch.
BD Young: Dinner. It’s 6pm.
By Chris Cookson
Follow Chris at Novel2Screen.net & on Twitter at ACCooksonWriter