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By Matthew Wade Reynolds.

Robert Flaxman

It’s a situation all too familiar – the hard work of writing the script is done, now for the tricky task of getting it read.

Friends and family are too nice. Agents too busy. And producers don’t know what they want until after someone else gets it. (“How about a talking car ?” “Can you make the killer more likable?”)

As one veteran manager put it recently, “First-time writers should truly consider paying to have their scripts read.”

He wasn’t being cynical. We pay for doctors and mechanics – why not professional script analysts? For first-timers and old pros alike, getting that first read may be worth shelling out a few bucks.

Creative Screenwriting was lucky enough to speak with one of the leading script consultants in Los Angeles, Robert Flaxman, whose Deep Feedback consulting service has been relied upon by writers for more than 17 years.

What is your approach to analyzing a screenplay?

It’s what I would call a common sense approach. I play the part of an audience watching a film, and I try to play the part of a reader, a hundred fictitious readers. I say to myself as I’m reading a script – “How could any reader with a modicum of intelligence misinterpret what you intended?” And I find out what you intended as we go through your script, stopping at those places which might be confusing to a reader.

Is your background in writing or filmmaking?

My background is in filmmaking. The last thing I ever intended to do was be a screenplay consultant. After I graduated (from the University of Michigan) I worked professionally as a film editor and started making my own short subjects which played at festivals. One day someone very innocently came to me and asked if I would look at a script. After I’d studied it I spent about three or four hours doing deep feedback – before I knew what deep feedback was . A month afterward someone else came to me, and then someone else. And I was doing this for nothing.

Something tells me it’s not for nothing now. So how does it work?

If someone hasn’t worked with me before, I suggest they do the demo. First I have a phone conversation with a client, before they send anything. They need to give me a call. I like to see what kind of experience they have in terms of screenwriting. I want to find out the genre, what film or films are similar to their scripts.

They send me the first 15 pages of their script – because that’s what hits the studio reader – and I go over it with the same fine-toothed comb that I use for an entire script, and I take up to an hour and a half, which is more than what most people do with an entire script, which is what I understand anyway.

This works well if you have a similar perspective but one of you prefers to write, or has more time to write, and the second author is content to let that person lead the direction of the book.

This is different to working with a ghostwriter ; you’re not ‘handing over’ the writing to someone else and taking all the credit.It’s important that you both approach this as ajoint project and that you value the input of the other person, even if it feels as if one is giving more of their time or expertise.

The win-win is youressential foundation or any collaboration will ultimately fail.

Pros : You can work to your respective strengths and make something new that would not otherwise have existed.

I’ve done this with training courses , working with someone who has more expertise than I do , and bringingmy skills and experience with contentcreation, training and marketing. It’s worked well and has led to long-term collaborations in my case.

Cons : One person can feel as if they are doing more of the work and this can lead to an unequal relationship. Remember back to those shared values and the win-win? You don’t have to make the profit share50:50, but you do have to make it fair and make it feel fair for both parties.

How to make it work for you : Make a commitment to honest and open discussion and be especially sensitive to whether your collaborator and co-author feels they are getting everythingthey expect from the project.

Ideally you should both get out more than you putin — that’s what collabroation is about after all!

The numbers don’t have to add up exactly like this but one of my criteria for doing ashared projectis that the whole is worthmore than the sum of the parts, so for a 50:50 split of the effort, I like to imagine we’re getting a 60:60 share of the rewards.

Simply put, it’s worth more to (each of) you to do the project together than it is to do it alone.

The third, and final way (and my least favourite if I have to be honest) is to make it a true collaboration, and to contribute equally (more or less) to all stages and all parts of the process.

This can appear the more equitable model — both in terms of work and in terms of reward — and it’s th emost likely to make the book seamless from a reader perspective.

You might find it willbe moreeffort, however, to work like this, and I’m not convinced the additional input creates a better quality end-product . In some cases, I actually think it reduces thequality of the book because of the inevitable trade-offs and compromises you make along the way.

Think about your favourite comedy duo — if they were exact clones, something would be lost and you would not be as engaged in the show. They play off each other and it’s likely to be their differences that keep your attention — not their similarities.

In this tutorial we’ll introduce Placeholders, and we’re also going to show how you can make your own HTML templates CMS-ready.


You can use HTML templates to customise the look of your website, define Placeholders to mark sections for managed content and use special tags to generate menus and more.

You can define multiple templates, with different layouts or built-in components, and choose them for each page as required. A page’s template can be switched for another at any time.

You’ll find the site’s templates in mysite/templates .

If you didn’t change the automatically-created home page’s template, it’s fullwidth.html , the first one listed in the project’s CMS_TEMPLATES tuple:

Placeholders are an easy way to define sections in an HTML template that will be filled with content from the database when the page is rendered. This content is edited using django CMS’s frontend editing mechanism, using Django template tags.

fullwidth.html contains a single placeholder, {% placeholder "content" %} .

You’ll also see {% load cms_tags %} in that file - cms_tags is the required template tag library.

If you’re not already familiar with Django template tags, you can find out more in the Django documentation .

Add a couple of new placeholders, {% placeholder "feature" %} and {% placeholder "splashbox" %} to the template’s HTML structure. You can add them anywhere, for example:

If you switch to Structure mode, you’ll see the new placeholders available for use.

The content of the placeholders we’ve encountered so far is different for every page. Sometimes though you’ll want to have a section on your website which should be the same on every single page, such as a footer block.

You could hard-code your footer into the template, but it would be nicer to be able to manage it through the CMS. This is what static placeholders are for.

static placeholders

Static placeholders are an easy way to display the same content on multiple locations on your website. Static placeholders act almost like normal placeholders, except for the fact that once a static placeholder is created and you added content to it, it will be saved globally. Even when you remove the static placeholders from a template, you can reuse them later.

So let’s add a footer to all our pages. Since we want our footer on every single page, we should add it to our base template ( mysite/templates/base.html ). Place it at the bottom of the HTML <body> :

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