#WRITERSLIFE – My Gigs: November

A breakdown of my monthly collaborations as a writer for hire.

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The goal here is to inspire my fellow artists who continually struggle against the grain. We’re all cursed to express ourselves, whether it be with our music, painting, writing, or photography. You’re not alone. For those interested in a glimpse inside a writer’s life… Welcome in!

This is for the editors out there who want to publish their own book. This is for the professional readers who provide coverage but really want to produce their own screenplay. This is for freelance copy-writers who are itching to tell their own story or create fantastic new worlds.

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I root for the underdog – as an artist, that’s what you are. Getting paid to write is one thing, getting published or produced is another, creating well-known properties is the dream. While I haven’t broken through into mainstream success by any means, I hope to inspire others pursuing similar dreams. This pursuit could apply to any dreamer.

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As a writer, determined to pay the bills while also developing my own voice, freelance gigs provide a multi-layered opportunity to collaborate and help bring someone else’s vision to life – be it expanding their synopsis, outlining their idea, writing a treatment, or writing their script / novel.

Ghost writing provides a lot of amazing opportunities, especially if you remove ego from the equation. It can be rather rewarding on multiple levels. * Many of the properties I’m involved with are in this sort of anonymous capacity; therefore, project titles and certain specifics will not be included below. Out of respect, productions in development are also not listed until press release. 

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Many writers may have got so close to their screenplay getting made, but somewhere along the way the deal unravels or the production stalls. They know how hard it is to actually see their work on screen, even on a low-budget indie level. Try dipping your toes into collaboration. It may open some doors… however small that gap may be.

In short, I can’t stop creating, so I’m going to keep pushing forward. You should too.

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I’d love to hear from you so we could inspire each other.
If you are interested in writing (or dabble in a completely different art form) please comment below. 

Now, let’s dig in….


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SCI-FI HORROR

Horror in space, inspired by films like ALIEN. Centered around a resupply mission to Mars.

GIG: Initially provided Coverage, which lead to an Outline, which lead to writing the Screenplay. Credited.

WHO? Indie company. Low-budget. Currently: Production Meetings.

WHAT? A sci-fi focused tale of horror. Although aimed to please b-movie fans, the producers take this story seriously. Characters are focused on just as much as the action, thrills, and scares. There’s also a lot of mystery to enjoy along with some horror movie violence.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Cracking the story was a challenge, especially with a week to deliver the completed project. With the screenplay nearly complete, a super twist ending hit me, which required a lot of restructuring. Trusting my instincts as a super nerd of the sub-genre, I went for it. A lot of extra pages at the deadline was a result. It was worth it. The twist was well-received. The producer knows what they want and seems to be a super fan as well. I was surprised how much they cared about character and story, when it seems like the genre would normally dismiss such qualities. There are even a few thematic elements and interpretive moments. As an audience member, I like to play catch up to figure out what’s going on. I tried to balance that effect. I’m impressed by the attitude to defy genre limitations. I’m really looking forward to watching this one. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed until the moment the flick is released. This was another amazing opportunity.

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MUSICAL DRAMA: PLAY

A songwriter struggles to believe himself. Feeling lost after his relationship ends, he must learn to trust his voice within and take a risk.

GIG: Play Outline based on artist’s songs. Hired to write play. Credited.

WHO? Private Client. Musician.

WHAT? When is a musical not a musical? When it’s a play about a songwriter. Songs are used to express the inner world as well. Visually, the play breaks a few rules of the format, experimenting with cinematic techniques. Sad at times, but not depressing. It’s ultimately uplifting and inspirational. Songs help embellish themes as well as explore character. Could be really special.

BEHIND THE SCENES: I received the songs one at a time on my computer, as my own little private concert. It was a fantastic intimate experience.

TIP: Show vs tell is still essential to plays. Who wants to watch talking heads the whole time? Experiment while staying realistic with budget/stage restraints. Don’t limit yourself while writing. Break rules to make something new.

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TEEN FANTASY COMEDY

Teen hates cartoon-themed amusement park vacation. He ends up finding secret access to a fantastic world where he relates more to the cartoon villains than the heroes.

GIG: Feature Film Outline.

WHO? Private client.

WHAT? A great concept with some exciting possibilities. Aiming for a teen audience. Raunchy animation mixed with live action. There are endless opportunities for adventure, but nailing the heart beating underneath is the challenging part. Experimenting with cliches while being a part of them is like walking a tight rope, but it’s also  a lot of fun.

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VAMPIRE MYSTERY

A psychologist debates his own sanity as he recollects his experience with a patient who thinks he’s a vampire. Slowly, psychological dread seeps in.

GIG: Edit Book.

WHO? Private Client.

WHAT? A realistic approach to the supernatural. Focused on character and drama. The writer has a talented voice, with some strong flavour in their prose. Although, this story centers around a vampire, it is balanced rather well, with the supernatural elements limited to the background. The spotlight is aimed on what it feels like to encounter the unreal, especially as a trained intellect.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Sometimes, as an editor, you get raveled up in the fiction. It’s almost unbearable to wait for the next pages. From an entertainment point of view, it’s like waiting months for the next episode of your favourite show instead of a week. As an editor, that is a rare but very special form of torture.

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80s ACTION HERO vs THE UNDEAD

An 80s action hero stars in this Western about killing a whole bunch of Zombies to protect a village from contaminated waters due to early industry.

GIG: Feature Film Outline.

WHO? Private client.

WHAT? Totally nutso concept. I’m not mentioning the 80s hero’s name, but really any name would get the same idea across. This is a b-movie guilty pleasure. Envisioned as an adult cartoon, this script had no rules. While logic still exists, fun overrides all. I’m curious how the client develops the screenplay and how they approach the actual filming (ie: live action, animation, hybrid?).

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TWISTY MYSTERY

A day at the beach results in a rather unexpected discovery.

GIG: Coverage. Short film.

WHO? Private client. Repeat business.

WHAT? A TWILIGHT ZONE vibing concept bends the rules. Some strong comedy and satire accompanies the more fantastic elements. Has potential to expand into feature length.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Providing coverage can be a lot of fun. For me, I provide page-by-page in-depth analysis from a storytelling and entertainment point of view. Sometimes writers want someone else’s opinion on their work. Coverage gives a lot more feedback than a simple, “It was good. I liked this part…” As a writer myself, I want to know what the audience thinks, but I also want to know what works. I try and provide constructive criticism with this in mind.

TIP: Often, if you take the time to add recommendations on how things could change, you may end up getting the call to outline the script or write it yourself.

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CONTEMPORARY REMAKE OF A CULT CLASSIC DRAMA

A single mother raises her army of children, but finds time to take a chance with love. It seems like society is against her, making it hard for her to provide for her family without breaking any rules.

GIG: Feature Film Outline.

WHO? Private client. Pitching to Shonda Rhimes.

WHAT? This was a challenge to modernize. The original film still holds up rather well. Several social issues are explored. While delivering a lot of drama, there is also a lot of laughter. Focused on character, this is a film that should get people’s blood boiling while also being entertained.

TIP: When approaching a remake, outline the original material by story beats. Also, keep note of specific stand-out moments you can homage or directly reference. Select a scene or two that exemplifies the theme and root yourself in it. Later, when outlining you can connect the dots with the original’s outline whenever you feel you lose focus.

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FANTASY ADVENTURE

An anime-vibing fantasy with clans and magical beasts. Full of fun cliches that should satisfy the desired demographic.

GIG: Edit book.

WHO? Private Client.

WHAT? A mythology rich world is hard to keep track of, even just as an editor. My hats off to writers of this genre. World-building is a daunting task in a world where anything can happen. Action-based, this fun story always moves forwards with its over-arcing quest. Lots of characters are a challenge to keep track of, but it increases the chances of the audience relating to someone.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Even if a certain genre isn’t your favourite, you owe it to the writer to imagine what they see. Your task as an editor is to make sure the artist’s vision comes through. It’s not always about correcting grammar, it’s also about adding missing ingredients and embellishing moments. If you’re stepping into fantasy, be prepared for the heavy lifting of knowing dozens of characters and dozens of creatures.

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CUBAN THRILLER

A crime-based adult thriller set in Cuba. A man unwillingly gets involved in political violence and must prove his innocence.

GIG: Feature Film Outline.

WHO? Private Client. Indie Filmmaker.

WHAT? An intriguing and risky narrative frames the familiar genre in a compelling way. I had fun outlining a mystery with political and social issues. To me, this feels like a James Elroy kind of thriller with unusual characters.

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ACTION DRAMA

Adult approach to an action thriller. Focused on character, the mystery somehow involves the events of 9/11. Aiming for an older action lead.

GIG: Pitching My Own Original Screenplay.

WHO? Indie Producers. $30 million budget.

WHAT? Trying to avoid controversy, this story focuses on noble heroism. It doesn’t paint religion in a negative light. The film’s aim is to inspire hope. Edgy action and intriguing mystery fuels the thriller elements, but the character’s relationships play a central factor. Could be really special.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Producer was hoping to commission a screenplay. I had one of my own already written in the same genre. I pitched it. He asked for pages, liked them, and we talked about the production. Now, I am anticipating an upcoming meeting and hoping to sell my script for the screen. May lead to another collaboration. Producer has a team assembled and hopes to film on a lower budget. * The screenplay was initially part of a 2-week challenge on a popular website for amateur writers.

TIP: Keep your old scripts. You never know when they may come in handy. Push old drafts through another rewrite after some time has passed to help create distance. Prepare for the future. If you ever connect with a producer, they may want to read something else. They may like your style but not the story you sent. They may want a package deal. Be prepared for the worst (aka no after no) but also be prepared for the best. What if they like your script and want another? Stranger things have happened.

EXTRA TIP: Write more low-budget scripts! Focus on what can made by an independent producer as you are more likely to have contact with them.

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RAUNCHY COMEDY

Seniors who were once very much in love, feel the spark fading. Unexpectedly, they turn to violence to rekindle the relationship.

GIG: Initially, coverage on a short film. Then, hired for Feature Film Outline.

WHO? Private client. Repeat business.

WHAT? R-rated and raunchy, this black comedy aims for the jugular. Can two opposing factors exist in one film? IE: Biting satire, bleak laughs, shocking violence alongside romance and heart-felt emotion. It’s a tough balance. The Coens have mastered it, but I’m still developing. A lot of work goes into comedy.

TIP: When writing comedy, keep notes on several punchlines for each given situation. Try to dismiss any obvious jokes. You want the audience to be along for the ride, but not tuning out because they know what every laugh will be. Find another way to make the same point, and still satisfy the audience expectation. Don’t look to sitcoms for inspiration!

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GROUNDED FANTASY

Fantasy light. GAME OF THRONES vibing, but quest/journey based.

GIG: Novel. Initially provided Edit & Coverage for several chapters. Commissioned to outline the rest of the novel. Then, hired to ghost write the rest of the novel.

WHO? Private client.

WHAT? Writing in a genre my folks would read is rather rewarding. I really enjoy collaborating on an adult drama with a focus on character while also being part of a larger fantasy world. The grounded approach is really compelling.

BEHIND THE SCENES: Working with someone else’s characters was an incredible opportunity. It was a challenge to master the original author’s voice, but this allowed for experimentation with prose. With writing novels rather than screenplays, internal thoughts can be explored. The narrative can hop through time while a character remembers or feels certain emotions. While more options add more complications, switching between writing screenplays and novels is very freeing.

TIP: Feeling writer’s block? Switch up your writing style. Imagine the scene as a movie if you’re writing a book. When screenwriting, imagine the internal monologue. Bounce these styles of one another to get the ball rolling and see the ‘scene’ from a new perspective.

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CHILDREN EDUTAINMENT: SCI-FI COMEDY

A young boy and his robot crack mysteries of the universe. Goofy sci-fi concepts are centered around episodic lessons.

GIG: Animated Series. 8 Episodes (30 Minutes). Outlines & Screenplays. Credited.

WHO? New Indie Production Company. New Channel. Will be available on YouTube.

WHAT? While the series is aimed at younger children, there are laughs for adults (and college campus ‘kids’). This was a blast to write! Creating adventures that will be fun, but also have a strong message, was a challenge that was worth it. I can’t wait to see these characters brought to life! I’m curious how production designs some of the more outlandish elements and how crazy the animation will get on certain episodes. Stay tuned for more once the project nears completion.

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BEHIND THE SCENES: Inspiration time. This was a job posting that 100s of writers quickly applied for. The initial phase required expanding upon 2 random unconnected sentences to create a full episode. The challenge for me was finding a way to embellish the lesson (which was hinted at) with an exciting adventure. I also focused on making the (adult) reader laugh and have fun while learning a lesson for a child. I wrote my sample script immeaditely after receiving the reply. In a few hours, the episode was finished (22 pages or so).

After submitting, I had to wait a couple of weeks as my sample worked its way from initial reader, to producer’s reader, to executive producer / show-runner, to studio. Each phase whittled the numbers down until I was in the Final 6. While I may have wanted to revise my script over and over, even after handing it in, I think the quick impression helped. More scripts would come in, but the early stand-outs probably stuck out in the reader’s mind, lasting through more phases. Maybe they knew I could write quick? That said, it’s hard to not rewrite scenes and send back another draft, which you think may be better.

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After the elation of accepting the gig, came the pressure of delivering on it. Each episode needed to be outlined and approved before the episodes were written. 10 days were given for each episode. I was very pleased to continue to write the rest of the season, contributing 8 episodes overall.

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Now, comes the limbo. Where I wait to see what happens next. Even though it’s a small company, I’m contractually obliged to travel and do press; however, I don’t think it will come to that. Even with my first big chance with a small chance, I’m staying grounded. I’m waiting until I see it to get really excited. Even then, who knows how it turns out.

Hey, writers out there! You, with anxiety about every single level of production, you are not alone. As one part of the large team (that starts the project alone), it’s hard to sit back and watch from the bench as the game unfolds. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there that feels this. It’s like that aforementioned urge to rewrite what’s already handed in.

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For those interested in writing, be prepared for each step of the process. Also, take satisfaction from each step along the way: from applying for the gig, to making the sample, to surviving the cuts, to writing, to waiting and hoping – it all comes full circle.

TIP: Trust your initial instincts (training them to automatically dismiss your first idea for every situation) and be confident in the draft you send. Don’t second guess yourself. Doubting what you’re writing will stop you from writing.


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What do you think?

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#AmWriting
#WritersLife
Onwards & Upwards

11 thoughts on “#WRITERSLIFE – My Gigs: November

    1. Thanks for the kind words. I hope the family show is ready soon. They have to animate each episode for that one, but I’ve seen some character designs and it looks like it will be ‘cute’. It’s aimed at a young audience. As you can see, I work in a variety of genres, so I think some of my other stuff may be more appetizing. Stay tuned for more. Fingers crossed, with my credited work, I will post links to the finished features / tv shows.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What a fantastic post, Dan! First, I applaud your accomplishments and thank you for sharing your projects. I’m really impressed and jealous ;).
    I don’t know how you went about becoming a ghost writer, but I’m curious, if you care to share.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for all the kind words, Cindy. I remember one of your posts about the pursuit of writing. It was one of the tipping points that helped push me to focus towards creatively expressing myself. You expressed a lot my same feelings.

      Editing led me to ghost writing initially. I was able to find more opportunities by joining a freelance writing service. At first, I tried one where the user applies to the job, then I found one where the user seeks you out (which proved to be a lot less work… and stress). One gig then led to another. Now (indie) producers see my client reviews (which added up) and contact me. I’m lucky to have great experiences with each collaborator, leaving me fantastic comments, and (so far, all) 5 star reviews. Oh… Having samples really helps after you pitch your take on their concept. Luckily, I previously wrote in every genre.

      If you’re interested in giving ghost writing a try I could point you in a more specific direction by email or Twitter message or something. It is really rewarding to help develop other people’s ideas and help their vision come across. Probably feels much like being a teacher 😉

      Once again, thanks for your encouragement and compliments over the past!

      Liked by 1 person

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