For once, writing suspicions were not confirmed!

In his column in the Monclair Patch, Peter Gerstenzang wrote about all the junk mail he’s received lately. He says,

Admittedly, some of these come-ons are tempting. Like the email from a place called “Screenwriting U” which guarantees that, in six online classes, I’ll learn to write a really funny comedy script. Or, barring that, something perfect for Adam Sandler. ‘S.U.’ also claims that “90” producers will read the finished screenplay I ultimately hand in. In other words, 90 more producers than read “New Year’s Eve” before it got the go-ahead. And yes, it’s making the University of Phoenix’s Degree in Screenwriting look more and more appealing.

Ninety producers. Oh boy, that set the old alarm bells ringing, so I took a little trip over to and found the “New 10 Commandments of Writing Screenplays.” Actually, most of them were the old commandments of screenwriting, like “Entertain us…or it’s over!” Also “turn cliches into fresh ideas,” I seem to remember hearing that before. But, to be fair, at least they were all reasonable.

I came prepared to scoff but actually their courses seem pretty good and have had the endorsement of a number of publications. I didn’t spot the 90 producers reference, either, but they’ve probably had that many producers read one script or another, they’re not promising that each script will be read by that number.

There are a lot of scam artists who tell new writers they can get their material read by “important producers.” If you ask them to name a few, they say it’s all confidential. Ask them whether their previous students or clients have had success and they’ll name movies you never heard of–possibly because they don’t exist. Or, in America, they may say “they were produced for the European market,” knowing that few people, if any, will ever check further.

In the case of Screenwriting U, fortunately, suspicions were not confirmed, but in general you do have to be careful. I’ve been a sucker, er, a trusting soul, way too often myself, so this warning comes not from generic cynicism but from painful experience! The bottom line: ask questions, lots of questions. Scamsters don’t like that and all but the very best will give themselves away under persistent questioning.