The Ultimate Screenwriting Tips
From InkTip Founder Jerrol LeBaron
By Eric Weintraub
Jerrol LeBaron is the founder of InkTip, an online service that helps screenwriters connect with producers with the intent of making a film together. Since the company began in 2000, filmmakers have produced over two hundred feature length films, (last year alone thirty-eight films were shot), and dozens of screenwriters have gained representation. Jerrol has also produced a number of his own films. I was interested in the man behind the company, how Jerrol came to form InkTip and how he pursues his own independent projects. We sat down to discuss his life’s work and his passions.
HOW DID INKTIP FORM?
InkTip started as a company called Writer’s Script Network. Jerrol conceived the company as a way for screenwriters to post their screenplays online so prospective producers would have an easy way to access content. He had written his own screenplay and had a difficult time getting it read. He felt more screenwriters would have a chance at success if they had an easier way connecting with the producers. He discovered another company working under a similar name, so he switched the name to InkTip and hasn't looked back.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD SCRIPT?
For Jerrol what makes a good script is simply that it reads well. You sit down, you get in, you get out. There’s no fat. Bad scripts, for him, plod along. However he did recognize this as a matter of taste. He knew there were many people out there who might find the beauty in a slower paced story. Jerrol references westerns and sci-fi films as his favorite films, citing Tombstone and Blade Runner from each respective genre.
HOW THE BUSINESS WORKS
Neither Jerrol nor his employees ever read an InkTip script. They've helped get so many movies produced because they don't bring a bias to the material. They allow the producers to judge the scripts based on their own needs and tastes. InkTip requires writers to fill out a questionnaire and a short synopsis when they post their script, which helps producers discover their dream project.
Jerrol cited an example that underscored why he felt his method worked. A few years ago, a producer friend urged him to take a script off his site, feeling it wasn’t up to the site’s standard and “was ruining the credibility of his company.” Jerrol did not take the script down and a few days later, an agent read the same script and offered the writer representation. It goes to show that one man’s Razzie is another man’s Oscar.
SUGGESTIONS FOR WRITERS
Jerrol says that having a good screenplay is important, but it isn’t enough. You must be able to work with people. He explained that even if a screenplay might be perfect, the writer must still understand that changes may be made down the road. For example, if a screenwriter gets his $300 million space opera produced, and the studio needs him to write in a scene that appeals to foreign markets, he must collaborate with them to make the scene work in the film.
JERROL’S OWN FILMS
Jerrol’s move into producing his own projects did not stem from the success of his clients, but from his own passion to communicate as a social activist. As an activist, he realized a lot of people weren’t pleased with their politicians and he wanted to make a movie about it. He made the documentary Fools on the Hill to discuss this problem. The film follows one man’s attempt to require politicians to read the bills they passed, a law not currently required in the U.S. He hired Jed Rigney, one of his star writers at InkTip to come on as the film’s writer/director. He knew Jed would be the right person to film the material.
Next, Jerrol got involved with a comedic film called Nowhere Girl. This film was a passion project of Jed Rigney’s. After the completion of Fools on the Hill, Jed told Jerrol about the script: the story of a broken hearted boy who meets a girl that turns his life around. Jerrol knew people who would invest money in the film. He pulled the funds together and helped Jed realize his vision.
Jerrol wants to further innovate InkTip. Up till now, writers have sent off their screenplays to producers and not heard word for weeks or months. To make the screenwriter not feel like they’re throwing their labor of love into a black hole, he now wants to install a tracking system for InkTip writers. The tracking system would let writers know how far into their script a particular producer got. If they log on and see a producer read 15 pages six weeks ago and never picked it up again, they can assume the rejection and not waste time. However, if they realize their script has sat by the wayside, it would give them the proper excuse to contact the producer and give them a friendly reminder.
Jerrol LeBaron is an entrepreneurial man with an innovative vision. He is not only a champion for film, but for finding new ways to help aspiring screenwriters, and for using his own talent to make powerful documentaries that ask for social reform.
For more information about InkTip or how to submit your script, visit their website here.