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Chicago Screenwriters Network (CSN) is a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you do at meetings?
CSN meetings are held the second Sunday of every month at 6:00 p.m. The first half hour is typically spent ordering dinner and networking; the meeting proper begins at 6:30 pm, with announcements and organization business first (usually 15 minutes or less), followed by the guest speaker. Guest speakers generally talk for an hour or so, on a topic relating to the craft and/or business of screenwriting, followed by Q&A. The meetings end officially end after Q&A (roughly 8:00pm), though attendees tend to linger afterwards to chat with the speaker and each other.

I don’t live in Chicago, can I still join?
Membership is optional and open to anyone who wants to attend our monthly meetings. Realistically, this means that most members are from the Chicago metropolitan area; nevertheless, attendees occasionally come in from neighboring states (Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa) and beyond.  Wherever you’re from, you’re welcome at CSN!

You ask for a donation ($5.00 in advance, $10.00 at the door) to attend meetings – what is that money used for?
Our single biggest expense is technology, which includes everything from maintaining our website to social networking to the email system we use to communicate with our members; other expenses include incidentals for our meetings (photocopies, speaker meals, VCR rental, etc.), the costs for maintaining our 501(c)(3) corporate status (annual filings with the Illinois Secretary of State; tax preparation fees; etc.), and general costs of doing business (which all businesses have, even us nonprofits). CSN has no paid staff.

Do you pay guest speakers?
No, but we do buy them dinner!  CSN has at times paid speakers to appear at our meetings; however, the present incarnation of the CSN board of directors (most of whom joined the board in late autumn 2014) is exploring other ways of enticing speakers to make presentations and share their wisdom & experience with CSN members.

I had to miss a meeting I really wanted to go to – are audio or videotapes of the speakers available?
Unfortunately, we do not have an audio/video archive of past meetings.  The board of directors is devising a plan for recording meetings and sharing them through our web site and/or YouTube.  In the meantime, if you must miss a meeting you are particularly interested in, ask someone else in the group to take notes for you or record it (video or audio-only) on their phone.  We’re a networking group – use the network!

How does the script feedback program work?
Any screenwriters who would like to solicit feedback from CSN peers on works-in-progress are given an opportunity to make an announcement at the beginning of the monthly meeting.  Writers should bring printed copies of the script or else make arrangements to email digital files (.pdf is ideal) to those who volunteer to critique their work. CSN’s past practice is for the writer and readers to meet on site prior to the next month’s meeting, one hour (or more) before the 6:00pm meeting start time; however, the writer and readers can make whatever arrangements are most convenient — meeting elsewhere, on another date, or simply communicating via phone or email.

Formatting and Finding Industry Contacts

Why do I need dedicated screenwriting software?
So you don’t have to worry about getting all those tedious script formatting details right and can concentrate on the creative stuff.

What screenwriting software should I buy?
Screenwriting programs all offer similar features, selecting one is largely a matter of deciding which interface you prefer. One of the most popular stand-alone script formatting programs is Final Draft:
Final Draft, Inc. 
16000 Ventura Blvd., Suite 800, Encino, CA 91436
Sales/Customer Service – (800) 231-4055
Technical Support – (818) 995-2911
www.finaldraft.com

Final Draft is available in both PC and Mac versions, and downloadable demos for both platforms are available from the website listed above.

Where can I find addresses and phone numbers for producers and agents?
IMDB Pro is a pretty good place to start: the professional version of IMDB can be accessed for $150/yr. (as of Dec. 2014) or $19.99/mo. for month-to-month billing.

What is proper screenplay format?
Remember what we said above (#1 & #2) about using screenwriting software? Final Draft has all the bells & whistles, but there are other applications that will do the job just fine — Celtx, Scrivener, Highland, to name a few.  You can even set up the requisite margins in a Word template that would be perfectly acceptable for writing your script.

For more information on margins and other formatting tips, check out the Oscars.org web site’s Nicholl Fellowship / Screenwriting Resources (look for the “Formatting Tips” tab), which also features Greg Beal’s definitive 12-page sample script, which contains all the info on margins, formatting, etc. that you’ll need to get by. For further screenplay formatting considerations, Dave Trottier’s book, The Screenwriter’s Bible is an excellent resource.

Lastly, formatting is arguably the least difficult aspect of screenwriting:  the basic principles have been in place for almost a century, and they haven’t changed much in all those years. Mastering the basics of screenplay format should take about, oh, 15 minutes.  So don’t get too hung up on formatting worries: your bigger concern is devising a great story, well-told, that you put on the page through straightforward application of standard formatting guidelines.

Other Questions?

Please submit questions to info@ChicagoScreenwriters.org