Screenwriter Coach Gives Valuable “Insider” Knowledge

by Taylor Altier

Sometimes it takes a mythologist in a toga to make someone into a writer.

At least that’s how it happened for Dr. Marilyn Horowitz, who is known for dusting off tossed-aside scripts in writers’ desk drawers and making them market-ready to put on the silver screen. I spoke to this NYU Film School graduate recently about the do’s and don’t’s of script writing. She shared with me her struggles as a writer and how she turned them into a series of “how-to” books.

While at NYU,  Marilyn made short films and wrote a novel that was eventually opted as a screenplay. This task – plus a visit in her dreams from Joseph Campbell in a toga – is what made her a writer.

The project to adapt her novel into a screenplay proved a hard one. And the production company told her that if she could not pull the script together, they were going to give it away to someone else. Marilyn was, as many writers would be, terrified of this happening and realized something had to be done.

The outcome of the dream featuring Joseph Campbell – an American mythologist, writer, and lecturer – was a “map” in developing her screenplay’s story … but focused on character first. She discovered a way to work through the hero’s journey and develop a perfect character that the audience could automatically identify with.

From this “map,” she created the Horowitz System. This system, employed in all three of her interactive books, will take your screenplay from its roughest draft to a work-world, ready-to-sell script.

Marilyn says her books are designed in a specific order to accomplish this goal.

  1. The 4 Magic Questions of Screenwriting
  2. How to Write a Screenplay in 10 Weeks
  3. How to Sell Your Screenplay in 30 Days Using New Media, utilizing a day-by-day marketing plan

Marilyn says, however, “DO NOT do any of this marketing stuff [in How to Sell Your Screenplay in 30 Days] until you KNOW that your screenplay is excellent.”

Find this out by giving your script to professors, entering into contests or paying around $50 for professional readers to give you what’s called coverage, or an analysis and grading of your script. And, by some rule of consensus, if more than 2 or 3 people agree on one thing, then you know it’s something you have to go back and fix.  You can also know your script is silver screen-ready if you follow the handed-down steps in the first part of her book How to Sell Your Screenplay  in 30 Days.

Her marketing plan consists of a calendar and a checklist of things to do every day for a month. It should take no longer than an hour and Marilyn promises that, by the end, you will have a better knowledge of your screenplay in all aspects, not just the selling and marketing.

Just always remember that we are writers. We write to write for the joy of writing, not to make pitches and be our own PR’s, as Marilyn told me. It is important to be knowledgeable about marketing, but write because you’re enjoying it. If you aren’t interested and connected with your story and your characters, nobody else will be, either.

You can buy Marilyn’s books at:

I do know that I myself am attempting Marilyn’s method by using How to Sell Your Screenplay in 30 Days Using New Media. The calendar looks fun, organized, and simplistic enough that I would question: why wouldn’t you want to try it?


Ohioana connects literature adventurers with historical poet

by Taylor Altier

In an effort to connect Columbus readers with the literature history of Ohio, the Ohioana Library has launched an adventure series titled “On the Road,” which takes participants on a journey throughout Ohio to some of the historical places where famous Ohio writers got their start. The tour is from April through December.

I spoke with David Weaver, the Development Director at the Ohioana Library, to discuss the first stop on the road: Dayton. On April 13th, those who have registered will embark on what Ohioana calls “A Poetic Friendship,” which explores the close relationship between Ohio poet Paul Laurence Dunbar and aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Each stop has a guided tour to present the sites and information to the group, as well as a guest speaker. On the trip to Dayton, African American poet Herbert Woodward Martin will recreate the passion and rhythm of Dunbar’s poetry in a reading.

When asked about previous tours Ohioana has done, David spoke of their “trial” tour last summer to the Playhouse Square in Cleveland. The turnout was great and the trip was one to never forget. So they decided to put on a whole series this summer, and the first trip to Dayton is already booked!

For a complete list and to register for the tours, visit

Also, don’t forget to attend The Ohioana Book Festival Weekend beginning May 10th!

OSU professors trained by Apple on iTunes U

By Taylor Altier

As if they didn’t control enough of our lives as it is. For those of you who are diehard PC fans, Please Consider switching over to the Apple market. It will be well worth your while … and it will eventually take over the world of technology anyway so … what better time.

As you look at the stuff you hold dearest to you, a few of those probably include your iPhone … then your iPod (if you didn’t merge that with your phone already), then your MacBook Pro … then your iPad … then your iPad Mini … I could go on forever.

But those are the things you spend the most time on. So why not use that time on those devices to – I don’t know, let’s say – learn.

iTunes University is launching itself full-force as an online platform for college courses. These are fully-engaged, fully online courses for which you can earn college credit, provided the professor allows it. Disclaimer: You can only access the iTunes U courses on an iPad. Weird.

I spoke with three professors who attended the highly secretive and incredibly classified Apple Headquarters to learn how to do just this. Of these professors were Nicole Kraft, Clinical Assistant Professor in the School of Communication; Dr. Cynthia Dassler, Instructor and Curator of Plans in the OSU Herbarium; and Cynthia Selfe, Humanities Distinguished Professor in the Department of English.

A large topic in our discussion revolved around the idea that technology has become such an important part of our lives and we have no choice but to keep up with it, as it is and will always be a part of the future. But how does that conflict with the traditional classroom, face-to-face setting? What kind of learning elements are we missing out on by moving everything to the iPad?

Check out the interview for these instructors’ advantages and disadvantages: Direct link and iTunes U link


Talking about the Star and the Snowman

“I think there’s something here for a feature,” was all it took for director John Whitney to take his original short from 2000 and kickstart it into production almost 12 years later for a feature film called The Star and the Snowman.

Director John Whitney

Director John Whitney

On February 18, I had the pleasure to speak with the four very talented filmmakers, Whitney included, who just this last week reached their budgeting goal of $8000 to start this film. They plan to begin filming before the winter is over.

Whitney, director and creator of the short film on which the longer film is based, joined with screenwriter Bill Farmer, producer and actor Dino Tripodis, and producer Phil Garrett to share their backgrounds with me as well as plans for the the pre-production of the independent film.

This being Writers Talk, and me being an aspiring screenwriter myself, what I really wanted to focus on was what it takes to bring a story to life, both on paper and visually.

Image of Bill Farmer

Screenwriter Bill Farmer

Bill Farmer, who has written Hollywood screenplays including Jonah Hex, describes his writing methods. “You say, ‘okay, here’s where the story’s going,’ but then there’s that sort of … what I call the magic of the writing where other things present themselves as you start creating the characters and they start having a voice of their own. The characters invent themselves.”

When asking how I can possibly break into this business, I always get the same answers: “be assertive” and “get as much experience as possible” and the incredibly popular “it’s all about who you know.”

Image of Phil Garrett

Producer Phil Garrett

But interviewing with people like John, Dino, Phil, and Bill, I got to delve deeper into the motivation behind the actions; the reason why we all fight for the same position.

“You sacrifice for the things that you love to do,” says Dino Tripodis, who started in stand-up comedy, moved to radio hosting and is now producing and acting. “It doesn’t really seem like that much if you put it into perspective until you’re actually doing it … the things that you love.”


Image of Taylor Altier and Dino Tripodis

Taylor Altier with Actor/Producer Dino Tripodis

You can check out their interview with me or their movie page on IMDB or Kickstarter before and while the film is shooting.




-Taylor Altier

Image of Tayor Altier

Sports Blogger Dave Ferguson Talks Lance Armstrong

In a January interview with Oprah, Lance Armstrong, winner of seven consecutive Tour de France titles, admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs while competing.

Image of Dave Ferguson

Sports Blogger Dave Ferguson

Sports fundamentalist, blogger and radio show host Dave Ferguson weighed in on the scandal during a recent interview with Writers Talk.

“Lance basically had no other alternative (other than to come clean),” said Ferguson.

Many prior members of Armstrong’s cycling team had admitted to using banned substances and openly told media Armstrong was part of the doping scheme as well.

In 2012, after denying allegations made by team members, Armstrong was stripped of his seven titles.

As for Armstrong’s personal future and his cycling career, Ferguson thinks the cyclist will be just fine.

“He’s a highly competitive individual,” said Ferguson, “He still wishes to compete.”

A triathlon competition is said to be in the works for the star cyclist.

What do you think? Should Armstrong cease and desist, or boot and rally?

For the complete Dave Ferguson interview visit:

OSU students script the City of Columbus Martin Luther King Day Celebration

OSU student scriptwriters

OSU student scriptwriters

By Claire Nusbaum

On Monday, January 21st, over 1000 theater-goers attended the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Celebration to watch two OSU students’ months of preparation unfold on the stage. Meg Stentz and Sierra Swanson (above) members of the OSU professional writing minor, co-wrote the script for the celebration, along with Dan Willis, the event’s performance director.

Although the program’s theme was “Guided by Faith,” in an interview with OSU’s Writers Talk, Dan Willis said, “We’re not talking about just the religious faith that the whole movement had, but also the humanistic faith that people had—their faith in humanity, their faith in community, and their faith in themselves.” Willis revealed that the program featured content from Dr. King’s famous The Birmingham Letters, as well as his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.”
It was “a great experience to write collaboratively,” said Stentz. But the process had its challenges as well. As Stentz said, “we took forever finding a concept, and so on week six, when Dan said, ‘Alright, let’s choose this guy,’ I was like, ‘Hallelujah,’ and went into the hallway and cried.”
For the three scenes in the play, Stentz and Swanson wrote the first and third scenes individually, but wrote the second scene in conjunction. “Working with people who necessarily don’t share your ideas,” was one of the most challenging aspects of the internship, according to Swanson.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration took place on Monday, January 21st, 2013, 6-7 pm at Veteran’s Memorial in Columbus. OSU students and faculty were invited to enjoy the free event, which included music from the Jazz Arts Academy, dances performed by the BalletMet, and songs sung by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mass Children’s Choir. A free bus transported students to and from the event. The full Writers Talk interview is available on iTunes and on YouTube.

Members of the 2011 BalletMet at MLK Jr Celebration

Members of the 2011 BalletMet at MLK Jr Celebration

Member of 2012 MLK Jazz academy

Member of 2012 MLK Jazz academy

Exclamation point abuse

Exclamation Point Abuse: Most people don’t think about it. But below you can see the tragic impact of it. This writer needs your help. Won’t you contribute to the Writers Talk Fund for the Overly Excited and help us rid the world of exclamation point abuse?

[actual email received at Writers Talk HQ]

Hi Folks!

Author XX is one of the most respected historians and journalists writing today!! He was Editor at YY. You may know him from his frequent appearances as a commentator on TV and radio. Or you may recognize his name as the bestselling author of works such as ZZZ!!

XX has an important new book out that provides a vivid & compelling inside view of AA in a way never seen before! It’s a perfect feature to all your coverage!

XX is sparking reconsideration of AA!! And shows AA!

Please let me know if you’d like to book an interview!!