A savvy interview with lawyer turned screenwriter David H. Steinberg ("Slackers" and "American Pie 2") offers a healthy dose of reality to anyone interested in writing for the screen.
One of his most valuable tips points to a three-page section on character development in Lajos Egri's 1946 classic, "The Art of Dramatic Writing" that requires answers to questions such as "How tall is your character? What color eyes does he have? Where was he born?"
Steinberg says: "If you answer every one of these questions, your characters will be great. You have to be able to answer these even if it has nothing to do with your screenplay."
"I can tell you in 'Slackers' where these guys were born and what their characters are like. It has nothing to do with the script and it's not even in there, and you'd never know it. But I know the answers to all those questions. That's how you create three-dimensional characters. What does your character want? What does he need?"
Steinberg also offers an eye-opening perspective for those who think all you need to make it in the film business is a great idea for a movie.
"It's a myth that this industry runs on ideas. Ideas, even good ones, are a dime a dozen. This town runs on relationships and reputations for delivering good product. People are always saying, 'I want to sell my idea. I have a really good idea for a movie.' But ideas aren't worth anything. I heard some guy say once that he could come up with fifty good ideas for a movie in an hour, and it's probably true. You can come up with ideas all day long. Writing is about execution. Real writers make the idea work. They write the scenes, and the characters, and create drama and tension and comedy. And they use overlapping character arcs and subplots and subtext. That's the hard part."
The Steinberg interview appears on "Done Deal," a website which appears to have answers to every question an aspiring scriptwriter might have, from contracts to insider columns. It also offers a pay site, "Done Deal Pro," that for 24 bucks a year, lets you track on a daily basis script, book, treatment, pitch sales and options made in Hollywood each day. Its monthly newsletter is a freebie.