I reach out to people and offer to help where I can.
Alex Bloom is the founder of Script Reader Pro, a screenplay consultancy made up of working Hollywood writers, speakers, and consultants that offer actionable script coverage, mentorships, and a hands-on screenwriting course.
Alex decided to set up his own script consultancy after becoming disillusioned with the often vague and misleading feedback he received on his own screenplays — like “Let the story breathe” and “Your protagonist needs to be more likable”.
He lives with his wife who’s German and secretly wishes they could return to Munich, and his favorite filmmaker is Woody Allen.
Where did the idea for Script Reader Pro come from?
I was an aspiring screenwriter and had sent off screenplays to quite a few script coverage services looking for feedback. Often what I received back, though, was less than impressive. I had one reader spend the entire “Structure” section of the report talking about how my script was too short. (It was 89 pages.) Another reader spent half a page commenting on the fact my title was missing a comma.
Overall, I found many of the notes I received were of the vague “Make the dialogue more punchy” or “Just trust your story” variety, which offers little help to someone attempting to learn the craft of screenwriting. So that’s where the idea to found Script Reader Pro came from — I wanted to create a script consultancy that specialized in actionable feedback, and techniques writers could put into practice on their scripts straight away rather than just hearing a bunch of cliches and hazy generalities about their story.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Yoga. Shower. Breakfast. Work, work and more work. I generally start working on the business around 9:30 am, and clock off around 18:30 with an hour off for lunch. It can be an unhealthy lifestyle being sat at a desk or on a couch all day staring at a screen and so that’s why I let my wife talk me into doing half an hour of yoga every morning. I have to admit I do feel a lot better for it, though.
I’ve found the best way I can be productive is to turn off all distractions. So off goes the phone, email, and distracting websites. I have an app installed on my browser called WasteNoTime (www.bumblebeesystems.com/wastenotime/) which blocks all those pesky sites you can’t help checking during the day. Otherwise, I’d be clicking on things like “10 Things You Didn’t Know Were Killing You In Your Own Home” and before you know it there’s another half an hour gone.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I usually do a fair bit of research on an idea first to see if it’s doable. Then it’s just a case of getting stuck in and sitting down to write, creating the pages on the site, contacting influencers and promoting online.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The way anyone can make a movie — all you need is an iPhone. There are absolutely no excuses anymore for budding filmmakers to not get out there and start making movies.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Using Trello! It’s a website arranged a bit like a series of index cards which enables you to arrange tasks in columns for different projects, highlight, drag and drop and include other team members in on jobs as well. I don’t know where I’d be without it to be honest.
I also try to focus on one task at a time. I like to start the day with one or two big tasks that I need to get done and then just focus on that for the entire day, working for blocks of two or three hours at a time. I like to arrange all the tasks on Trello and order from “Urgent” to “Important” to “Do Whenever” and focus on only the most important ones — those that will actively move the business forward. That almost always means tasks that involve reaching out to people or creating new content or products, rather than nit-picky tasks like adjusting the size of the font on a website.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was once an assistant manager of an independent movie theater on a low wage and basically treated like an idiot by the owner. It forced me to focus more on writing, and so I saved up as much as I could, quit and moved to Los Angeles.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
How much time have you got? I’d definitely start connecting with other webmasters, writers, producers, actors, and managers earlier than I did. I’d pay for a decent looking website, rather than using a free WordPress theme. Not necessarily a whole bunch of money, but even a paid theme for $80 looks more professional. And I’d have started an email newsletter sooner than I did too. Email is such a powerful way of building an audience and an army of fans and so I’d definitely get on board with that quicker than I did. Things can seem like a lot of work, but instead of procrastinating I wish I’d just got on with it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Back up your website and all your computers, desktops, laptops etc. I use a service called BackBlaze that backs up my Mac automatically for a small fee every month. Store everything remotely on cloud-based services like DropBox and on external hard drives. (I’ve heard that drives over 2TB can become unstable so I tend to use 1TB ones, stored in different locations.) It’s worth it to me because this is my livelihood, and so if I lose everything or get hacked, I’m pretty much destitute.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I reach out to people and offer to help where I can. I don’t ask for money in return but just try to help people, whether that’s connecting other people with each other, reading something short they’ve written, or giving advice on their screenwriting questions. You’ll find that by doing this, doors will start to open as people remember you and start returning favors.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Many years ago I set up a “missed encounters” website for people who fall in love at first sight on the street but don’t do anything about it. The idea was that on the website you’d be able to input details about the time and place of the encounter and the person you liked, find them on the system and send them a message. The problem was the whole concept depended on both parties knowing about the website and entering their details, which hardly ever happened and so that site was something of a waste of time and money. I didn’t exactly overcome it as I closed down the website, but it did teach me a great deal about setting up a business so it wasn’t all a complete waste of time.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
At weddings, it would be good if there was a way of collecting all the photos everyone takes during the day in one place. Everyone has their own cellphones and cameras, and then days later you have to ask everyone to send photos by email, probably missing out on many along the way. So it’d be great if there was a device of some sort at the venue that uploads everyone’s pictures in one place at the end of the day. I’m sure there’s a patent waiting for something like this, but maybe it’s been done already, I’m not sure.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I just spent $100 actually on a flight to Minneapolis to go see where Prince grew up and lived. I’ve been before but many years ago so I’m really looking forward to it — checking out his high school, First Avenue, Paisley Park, etc. I was a big fan and can’t believe he’s gone.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
My favorites are Trello, Backblaze, WasteNoTime and DropBox, but I guess OptimizePress is also up there. It’s a great website building program that enables you to create professional looking sites easily using drag and drop. It’s a lot cheaper than LeadPages which many entrepreneurs swear by, but I don’t like the idea of paying on a monthly basis. OptimizePress just has a one off fee and then you’re good to go, and it could do most of the things LeadPages can anyway.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I think the book that’s had the biggest influence on me as an entrepreneur has been The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau (chrisguillebeau.com/). He’s a guy who started working for himself from his early twenties, left to volunteer for a few years in Africa, and then started traveling with the aim of visiting every country in the world. He completed his quest a couple of years ago and the book is really inspiring. It’s not all about his travels but more of a general manifesto on how you should go about building the kind of life you want and financial freedom.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
On the entrepreneurial side of things, as well as Chris Guillebeau, I’d say Pat Flynn and Carl King, author of So, You’re a Creative Genius? Now What?
As far as screenwriting goes my favorite books are My Story Can Beat Up Your Story by Jeffrey Alan Schechter (mystorycanbeatupyourstory.com), The Sequence Approach by Paul Joseph Gulino (paulgulino.com), and Your Screenplay Sucks!: 100 Ways to Make It Great by William M. Akers ). They’re all a bit more practical and straightforward, rather than the vague Syd Field approach or the verbose Robert McKee one.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.