4 Books Every Journalist Should Read

Dateline NBC Correspondent Josh Mankiewicz returns to the T.Lo Club for our continuing series of book recommendations from respected writers. Today, he gives us his list of books that every journalist should read and why.

"4 Books Every Journalist Should Read" by Josh Mankiewicz


**Josh Mankiewicz is a Dateline correspondent based in Los Angeles. He began reporting for Dateline in February 1995, and since then, he has contributed a mix of breaking news stories, news analysis, investigative reports and clever features to the broadcast. (Bio courtesy of NBC) To connect with Josh, you can find him on Twitter


This is a reprint of a post originally published on November 20, 2013.

Review of Inktip, a service for screenwriters

The following is an updated version of a post published on July 23, 2014. For the original post, click here.

I hate the idea that succeeding as an artist can often be a "pay to play" endeavor, meaning that you have to fork over a fee to get in the game; but unfortunately, the reality is that often times you do have to pay money to get noticed. 

One website that I've tried in my pursuit of getting noticed as a screenwriter is InkTip. For a fee, the site allows writers to upload their scripts so that production companies, producers, or representatives can browse for scripts that fit their need. When listing, the writer uploads a treatment, logline, information about awards or the writer's resume, and script data such as genre and budget. One session lasts six months and per script the service costs $65. However, if you upload multiple scripts or sign up for an automatic renewal, you will receive a discount.

I was referred to the site years ago by an indie producer I knew. He made a movie for less than $20,000, and I asked him how he found his writer. He told me he looked for scripts through Inktip, and that as a producer, he didn't have to pay a fee.  Learning that the writer pays a fee but not the company made me think that maybe this site would provide some value to me as a writer. There probably wouldn't be a ton of scripts because of the fee, but there were probably a ton of companies, producers, and representatives because the site was free to them and easy to use.

I uploaded the manuscript for my novel Hell's Gamethe features scripts for my family drama The Physicist, my USC thesis, Sexual Panda and the Reluctant Hipster, and my thriller Madness; and all the loglines and treatments that the website requiredWhen I saw the price tag, I admit that my eyes bugged out, but I was tired of querying nearly sixty agents or managers with little to no response so I reasoned that uploading to Inktip was like paying a convenience fee.

As each day passed, I was surprised to see that someone was checking out at least one of my listings. Inktip has a fascinatingly addictive system which shows you who looked at your listing and what they looked at. I saw that Hell's Game and Madness were often checked out, but no one ever looked at The Physicist or Sexual Panda and the Reluctant Hipster. Seeing that lack of response was humbling for me. "Okay," I thought. "I really do have to accept that if my script doesn't have a super catchy logline then no one is going to give a shit."

In the course of six months, Hell's Game and Madness moved beyond the logline and treatment phase, and a few companies actually downloaded the entire script. When a company reaches the download phase, Inktip then provides you, the writer, with the company's contact information. They also provide a caveat which paraphrased is "Don't stalk these people."Although I finally had enough of the company's information to contact them, I didn't, but I did Google the names to see who was reading my work. I was actually pretty impressed with those names' credentials, but I also figured that if they weren't contacting me after reading my work, then they were probably not interested. 

After my listings expired, I chose not to renew because of the cost, but I was satisfied with the service and if I had new material I would upload again. In my mind, it didn't make sense to keep paying money to advertise something that no one really seemed to want. However, Inktip does have a great free weekly newsletter, which I recommend every screenwriter sign up for. The newsletter obviously is trying to get you to pay for a listing, but it also has a few script requests such as the one below taken from the newsletter blasted out June 26, 2014:
1) Infra-Red Films - Seeking Family-Friendly Animal Scripts
We are looking for completed, feature-length family-friendly comedy or drama scripts with stories involving an animal, especially if it's a dog or a horse. Submissions need be for material that is suitable for a broad television audience.

Budget will not exceed $5million. Only Non-WGA writers should submit.

Our credits include "Border Run," which was shot from a script we discovered through InkTip.

To submit to this lead, please go to:
http://www.inktippro.com/leads/

Enter your email address.

Copy/Paste this code: j2e7rsynkm
After giving a few free leads, the newsletter then lists additional script requests where the submission information is hidden unless you pay a fee for a service they call the preferred newsletter. Additionally, Inktip also offers for a fee a listing in a magazine that they send out to companies. 

Read this before you enter a screenplay contest!

This is a short selection from an amazing interview with screenwriter Lydia Mulvey, who is a screenplay contest veteran having placed in the finals of the PAGE Screenwriting Contest and having won the BBC Sharps Contest. To read the entire interview, click here.

Advice to any aspiring screenwriters about screenplay contests by Lydia Mulvey 
  • Be selective. Choose your contests wisely. There are a lot of scam contests there. Aim to enter the more prestigious contests such as the Nicholl, Austin, PAGE etc.
  • Be ready. Don't submit a sub-par script. You must feel happy with your work. Forget any "that'll do" attitude. It won't do. It really won't. Screenwriting contests are open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee. Readers have a lot of chaff to cut through before they get to the tasty wheat grains. Make sure your script is tasty wheat grain.
  • Submit your script, then forget about it. Seriously. You have to wait MONTHS before you hear back on contests. You'll drive yourself mad if you keep obsessing about it. So keep busy. Work on another script. Get a body of work behind you.
  • Don't treat screenplay contests as the be-all and end-all of everything. They are just one way into the industry. And even if you win, they are not guaranteed to open the door. So keep submitting elsewhere, keep making connections, keep networking. You don't win a screenplay contest and automatically earn a million dollars a script. You just don't.
This is a reprint from my blog. The original was published July 25, 2014.