Thursday, June 29, 2006

Triple Digits

The heat out here is killing me. The dog is sleeping in the bathroom, and I'm stuck inside, typing. Producing on days like this is so much better -- I go to the beach with a script and my cell phone, call some poor hapless writer and give him notes on the third act. Invite him out for Mojitos when the pages are finished.... Mmm, the good old days.

Anyway, my self-imposed purgatory yielded two completed shorts, and a good chunk of second act for my feature, so I'm going to dive back in this weekend. I'm doing a "polish" on an indie film for a friend (for free, of course, cuz why would I want to work for money???) tomorrow -- all the free frappuccinos I can suck down and an a/c'd office for the weekend. Heaven.

The agent emailed me Wednesday to ask if I thought I'd be done with the samples I'm working on sooner (sooner!! Is he NUTS??!!) and a writer-friend emailed me to say that she is almost done with hers (we started at the same time). So, now I'm cutting myself off from the internet as well in the name of sanity.

Last thing: I'm going to wrap up the agent posts by talking about actually submitting to agents, approaches that work, and how to do good follow-up (i.e. do NOT follow my example and submit before you are REASONABLY SURE you can turn in the other samples without having a nervous breakdown).

OK, last last thing: I heard back from a studio friend of mine regarding the director's sample for my producing project. Too commercial to be indie, too indie to be commercial, but intriguing enough for a read of the feature. Hmmm, that's what I was afraid of/hoping for. Sometimes a filmmaker's natural inclination is to tell stories that are, at best, small indie films and their visual style lends itself to bigger budgeted commercial films. That's fine when you have a bigger budgeted commercial script, but when you are trying to get a small specialty label on the hook with your itty bitty movie idea, you really want them to feel like they are getting in on the ground floor of the next Chris Nolan. For me, as a producer, it means I've got to now find: an actor who feels like a "big" commercial actor who can hold the center of an indie film (meaning he can actually act) at a "price" that won't bankrupt me and make all my work add up to $1.50 an hour.

Enough with the stalling, I'm going to click my ruby slippers get back to Kansas and finish writing. Pray for me.....

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Typing My Fingers Off

Hey guys, it's nuts over here. I met with an agent last week, and now I have to rush to finish these new samples so that I can hand them over. I SHOULDN'T BE POSTING AT ALL THIS WEEK. So, if you see another post from me, feel free to heap shame and guilt into the comment box. I should be typing my fingers off 24/7 until I'm done.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Pretty Please??

It's always good to get first hand information from someone who has been out there hoofing it. Will Dixon posted this comment in regards to the post about multi-hyphenating oneself.

The hyphenate is a tough one - in my experience, especially in LA,
people/agents/producers didn't really want to deal with mid-level
hyphenates...they seemed to want to keep it simple..."you're a (insert title "director/writer/producer/actor/etc." here) - and I can sell you/think of you that way. I had directed a fair bit of Canadian tv when I moved to LA, but I had also just come off writing/story dept. of several series. A spec script I wrote was what the agent read that eventually signed me. And though she knew I directed and promised to also pursue that avenue (my preference), she generally always thought of me as a tv writer and usually introduced me to producers/shows as such. It was the easiest cleanest sell it seemed. As far as newbie's, I definitely agree...pick one and stick with it for starters. Although what you do when its five years later and you want to expand your label as it were, and the difficulties encountered then...well, that's a story for another time.
As I see it, a big part of the issue is that agents are specialized. Literary agents handle writing clients, talent agents handle actors, and director's agents...usually only handle directors or actors. It's rare to find a director's agent who also handles writers, and most writer-directors are handled primarily by a literary agent, and though you may end up with a directing agent on your "team," that person won't want to ruffle too many feathers by keeping you busy directing, if the lit agent wants you on your back pounding out pages. It just isn't done. Aside from these turf wars, there are very few writer-directors who are able to keep a real career rolling because writing is such a time-consuming art and so is directing. If you are purely directing you can afford to have multiple projects in development at a time. If you are writing, guess what? You'll be happy if you have time to eat, shower, and see daylight all in the same week. I know several writer-directors who have become very "big" names in this town, and the road was long and fraught with danger, and in each case they had a manager/producer type pushing them.


I just got off the phone with a director friend of mine who was complaining that his agents only call him because his movie was greenlit three weeks ago.

"They love you internally." I told him, since I spoke with a friend at his agency last week and she was all glow-y about him. He went on and on about how they thought he was funny, and he's good in a room and blah blah blah. "No," I said, "they love you because you're in production."

"Not on a movie they got me."

"But that's the purest kind of love," I replied. "It's untainted by any work on their part. How can you not love a guy who pays you 10% for nothing?"

And that is the truth about Hollywood....

Anyway, let's hope Mr. Dixon graces us with his story about trying to change horses mid-stream (and I hope someone out there caught that WAG THE DOG reference -- if you didn't cuz you haven't seen the film, get to the video store and watch it right now). Head over to his new blog and pelt him with requests for a war story or two. But don't say I said for you to, make him feel like it was your idea.... Pretty please?

The Multi-Hyphenate

Here's a good one I thought I'd share from the comments section -- thanks Anonymous! I know I do not have my name plastered all over the site (and if you find it out, please keep it to yourself and don't post it on the internet), but that's because then I wouldn't be getting anymore premiere invites, and all my exec and agent friends would start treating me like Dick Cheney at a gun range. I do encourage you to share your names, comments, war stories, and suggestions with one another. This is a collaborative art, and (fingers-crossed) the readership here is getting bigger every day which means you have a nice shot of connecting with some other filmmakers.

OK, onto the comment:

Should a writer-director "market" himself in Hollywood as a director rather than
a writer? It just seems if you have a script and tell everyone you want to
direct it, they laugh at you. But if you have a short and show people a script
you want to direct, they consider it.

First things first, you are not a writer-director unless you are doing both. This sort of goes back to very first post on the blog: The Verb of Movies. As a filmmaker you are defined by what you are doing. If you're just talking about it, you ain't doing it. So, if you have a short film (it should be in the same genre or the same type/style as the feature) of a script you wrote, then you can lay claim to the title writer-director. If you are writing and only plan to direct something, I'd hold off until you finish it and don't share your aspirations with assholes who laugh at them out of their own insecurity and insensitivity. Plenty of people will fuck you over on purpose, might as well stay away from any psyche damaging poseurs until then.

P.S. Looking for new reps right now, so the posting may get light. I'm still planning one more to wrap up all this agent/manager business, but if you have questions write 'em up and hit send.

News from the Front

Just came back from a premiere in Westwood. Good show, nice food, tons of people talking to me, at me and over me. My ears are still ringing. I don't normally go out to events like this anymore. When I was an exec there were like 4 a week I had to go to, and I hated that plastered smile, these pumps are killing me, please stop pitching me your stupid idea feeling. This time I went in blue jeans and a black sweater that I later remembered had a huge bleach hole eaten into the cuff.... Hee hee. Of course I didn't remember this until I saw it as I was shaking the hand of someone very high up at the studio that financed the show. Oh well, I'm trying to get jobs writing, not costume designing, right?

Anyway, I thought I'd post about an interesting conversation I had with a woman who runs an A-list (mostly) actor's company. She sold a one-line pitch to a studio I'm very familiar with and can't get them to move on hiring her writer. The hold-up centers around a few things that are happening in the business right now. One of them I mentioned in an earlier post -- studios want to see recent samples. If you are a working writer that means something that is already under contract, and 9 times out of 10 that script is under wraps on pain of death. Now, when I was an exec I got scripts that were under wraps all the time. I read SUPERMAN RETURNS, BATMAN BEGINS, SPIDERMAN, but I didn't tell folks I'd read them. I'd venture to say that I wouldn't have mentioned it to anybody unless I knew they were going to take that information to their grave. The writers on the those projects were sort of screwed, because there were definitely occasions when the head of the studio would hire my writers sight unseen, but on the bigger budget projects (meaning my movies where the writer's fee was going to go over $500,000), I had to have a sample.

Another reason this happens with increasing frequency is a function of the double and triple booking of writers by their reps. If you are lucky enough to have a studio fall in love with you, often your agent will try to force a blind deal or a multi-picture commitment. This sounds like a good thing (and money always has that ring of happiness to it, doesn't it?) but the net effect can be an overworked writer dancing to the off-key story tunes emanating from the head of the studio. It also can lead to a writer secretly taking projects at other studios and double-booking their own double-booked time. Greedy bastards.

So, what does this mean?

It means that even when you are working on a regular basis, you must keep a current sample that is either not under contract or that you are free to send out. And I mean current, current. The writers my producer friend mentioned tonight were all A-list players who'd phoned in one too many drafts and were no longer considered to be reliable writers thus fucking it up for everyone else.

*Sigh* If it ain't one thing it's another.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Inserting Foot In Door

If you've been reading the blog religiously (ah, I like that sound, the Church of the Film Diva....), you know that I've been circling this topic since I started. There is no one way to get representation. Sometimes you'll luck out and have a personal connection to an agent, sometimes you'll get a job that will lead you to an agent, and sometimes you'll just write a kick-ass spec and end up living in Malibu with a three-picture deal at WB. Stranger things have happened.

One of the most important things you'll need is material. Feel free to look back on a couple posts about networking, and spec'ing. The type of material will be slightly different depending on what you do.

For writers: 2-3 full-length features; 2-3 treatments; 2-3 outlines; 5-7 pitchable ideas. At least one of the features should be your best foot forward. The other two can be a little rough around the edges so long as they have the entire emotional arc told, and there is no subtext or exposition sticking out (like a person with their skeleton exposed, that would be pretty gross). The treatments should be developed enough that you can go to a beat sheet/outline level within 3-5 days. The outlines should be ready for scripting immediately with the idea that you can develop at least one of them into a full-length feature within 30 days. The pitchable ideas should be thought out enough to go to treatment within a week, outline within 2 weeks, and script shortly thereafter.

For directors: 1 feature; or 2-3 narrative shorts; or 1 kick-ass visual piece no shorter than 10 minutes and 1 narrative piece that shows you know how to work with actors; or 3-5 music videos or commercials with something visually innovative that is also narrative (think of the Prodigy SMACK MY BITCH UP video by Jonas Ackerlund); or something really freaking funny like Chuck Stone's TRUE short which later became the Budweiser TRUE ads and now has everyone in America saying WASSSSSUPPPP! ). The most important thing a director brings to the table along with their sample film is a sense of story, a sense of visual story-telling, the ability to manage a project (i.e. know where the money needs to be spent in a story, and always be reaching to bring more value to the screen for the money you have) and clear grasp of why you are telling the story you are telling. You should be able to pitch out the scenes you will be shooting in a way that lets people see the film with you. Also, you should be looking for feature-length material to set up if you do get a shot. This can be material you find on your own, material you find through a producer, or best case scenario, material you find with a name-brand actor who loves your short-material/indie film work and wants to get you in at a studio.

For Actors: A reel with scenes that show you know how to navigate your way through a scene, that showcases your emotional apparatus, and that have relatively high production values (at least high enough that folks aren't waiting for a boom to drop into frame, and can focus on your acting).

For producers: Yes, producers have agents, too. In fact, although I think the practice is heinous, most working producers are representated by agencies so that they can get spec material and to help ease the packaging process on their internal material. I am not repped as a producer (but I don't really produce very much anymore), however, my producing partner on the indie I'm developing is repped by a Big Three agency and we'll be using them as much as possible to get the film made, even though it will likely cost us 20% of our fees.

If you have time, re-read the post about Demos and really think how all of the above materials represent you, your creative abilities, and the types of jobs your agent would be able to send you out for. If you want to work in comedy, have all comedy samples, if you want to work in drama, all dramas. Action films, same thing. If you love cop movies, go for it (this market is much smaller, however).

A lot of folks have said to me, "I do everything" or "I don't want to be pidgeon-holed." My answer to that is: That's an uptown problem. You'll be lucky to get any kind of agent and any kind of job, so stop tripping and pick a genre, get your place in line, then start thinking about how you're going to get out there and show folks what else you are made of. If you've been doing your homework, you've sat down and written out a plan for yourself. You already know who you want to work with, what they are doing, and you are just waiting for an opportunity to get to those people with your work.

Once you have this entire material package together (and it shouldn't take you more than 18 months to do all this), sit your butt down, grab a Hollywood Creative Directory and start looking for agents. My favorite method is to look at artists who have a similar style and find out who reps them. Fan out from there. Then, query letter, cold-call, and network your way into a read. Take seriously any feedback you get. Regardless of whether you feel the person's opinions are valid, something turned them off. They may not be educated enough to share the particulars of it with you, but something didn't work. Take a temperature reading on how your spec is doing, if it's mostly cold, pull it back in and work on it more. Talk to the folks who have read it and let them know you appreciated their feedback, you're addressing their concerns and ask if they would consider re-reading it.

It helps to start with managers. Since they will read material in a less finished state, you have more shots at getting a script up to par before it goes to an agent whose main criteria is "Can I sell this?" If you are fortunate enough to be getting notice because of contests or personal referrals make sure you create a rapport that is outside of the quality of your sample. Half of the game is getting people to root for you, to want to get you work, and to show that you will be "good in a room".

Have at it in the comments section. I hope you all feel encouraged to share war stories there with one another. This business is entirely experiential, so as much as I write about how it has worked, the actual living it part can feel really really different. I try to respond to comments as much as I can, but if nudge me if you feel neglected.

I'm pooped and I need to draft the fishing boat short I started yesterday. That one is going really well, and now makes me only want to write if I can get professionally trained actors to read for me.

Monday, June 19, 2006


I just read this LAT article about why Hollywood is so White (since when did Jewish people become White, anyway? I hate to make the "I went to gym with a black guy" argument here, but all of my Jewish friends identify as such and insist they are not White). Anyway, my head almost exploded when I read this nonsense below.

What the studio executives won't say, at least on the record, is that
it isn't easy to attract minority talent to the studio system. This is in
part because studios are an incredibly insular world, but also because
minorities don't necessarily see the job of studio employee as such an enviable goal
in an era where the real action is in new technology, hip-hop and other more entrepreneurial, ownership-oriented arenas.Much of the creative energy today is on the outside of corporate systems, not the inside. "John isn't going to put on a suit and go to the office," says Shmuger, adding with a laugh, "He knows he has a better job than me."

This speaks more to Shmuger's (and the reporter's) idea of what a "black" executive would be like than it does to the issue at hand. There are literally thousands of college-educated, professional degree holding (MFA, MBA, JD, PhD-types) minorities (read: non-White) folks who want to work in the industry as executives, agents, managers and attorneys. The reason so few succeed is a cultural divide that is fueled by the segregated lives these ignorant fools live. I can't even get into this much more or I will call up Patrick and Marc and scream on their dumb asses. I feel compelled to share this ridiculous white-washing (pun intended) of reality with whoever reads this blog, because if I ever hear about one of you doing an interview in which you imply that non-White folks would rather sing and dance their way to riches and power, I will personally come for you. And it won't be this nice.

OK, nice-Diva will be back in the morning....

Agents and The Shark Sub

I hope you had a chance to read the FindLaw article I mentioned yesterday, since I will be short-handing a bit here in order to get to the really interesting stuff. I don't get too many emails from directors, so I'm mostly going to focus on writing. If you are a director and you have questions, comments, observations or kibbitzes have at it you know where....

Agents spend years networking and gathering information about executives, filmmakers, deals, and perks. The main function of their job is to find deals and make them. That's it. If in the course of that they can set you up on a meeting with someone who may hire you at a later date, great. When you hear stories about assistants "rolling" calls with their bosses, it's because the volume of information an agent has to absorb and capitalize on is tremendous. To handle this flow, every agency has staff meetings that guide these activities and act as information sharing sessions in which a quick wit, good intel, and a good memory can make or break an agent. Knowing that you are in for potential public humiliation at least a few times a week keeps folks on their toes.

This information gathering is also one of the main reasons why studio executives generally come out of the agency world (or are "blessed" by a particular agent). Studios do not share details of their deal making with one another unless they absolutely have to, but agencies, if they've been doing their job, know what is going on at every studio in town. They also have a broader knowledge of which executives at which companies have talent relationships, good scripts, or are plainly friends of the agency.

Into this walks the baby writer....

Most agents hate breaking new talent. It's brutal work, lots of phone calls, sweet-talking, follow-ups and, mostly, rejection. In the economy of Hollywood, a new writer/director/actor with an exposed, but unsold spec, short film, or commercial reel is like buying a nickel's worth of gas -- it won't get the agent, or the agency very far. (This is where it gets tricky when you are starting out and really need representation and work. You need to get the material out there, but you have to be at least slightly discriminating because the more folks who have read it and DO NOTHING, the less value the property has in and of itself. Now, I'm not advocating that you get all precious with your material. It needs to see the light of day, go through the evil heinous coverage process and all that. I am saying that when you are out there looking for representation, keep in mind that you are working a game of diminishing returns on every spec. Unless that spec gets good coverage, good word of mouth -- which will give it legs and that long shelf life that can get a writer work for years. But we'll get into this part later.)

So, every signing is an act of faith, and an agent may have to spend time convincing his/her colleagues that you are worth the time and effort s/he will be expending on your behalf. This will be a constant battle at most places, so every script you turn in could get you "fired" by your agency if it's deemed unmarketable. As money gets tighter around town, agency "purges" happen more frequently. Writers need to keep churning out material, at least every 6-8 months, to stay in the game.

Agents do sign people they believe in, however, so even it if ends up feeling like you've got the Great Santini repping you, know that when he's fighting for you, he's fighting hard, and probably dirty.

Tomorrow I'm posting about getting an agent, the spec'ing process, and the best ways to make contact. I'll probably also post a bit about managers, since increasingly, this is the way most writers get into the game.

And finally, The Shark Sub.... Yesterday, I went out to Redondo Beach (very beautiful, perfect weather) and went on a stinky fishing/deep sea salvage boat. I freaking loved it! My producer and I went with the lead actor and the director. We had to take a zodiac out to the boat, which had me smiling like an idiot. The producer can't swim so she basically dug her nails into my leg the entire ride over while I reassured her that I could drag her back to shore in case of an emergency. Of course, the boys thought it was funny to tell her the fat, lazy, sunbathing sea lions were aggressive and might "play" with us by tipping the boat over.

Once we clambered over the side of this ugly fireplug of a boat (no ladders) we saw a giant shark covered with a net. The Shark Sub. There was also a shark-diving cage and a giant winch for lifting said items. Between that, the engine room that was the size of my bathroom, but housed an engine that filled it wall-to-wall, the dive locker, and climbing up and down the hatch ladders I was in heaven! Very cinematic. Geesh, I'm such a cheap date.... :-)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Higher and Higher

OK, the best advice I have for you all right now -- do not EVER EVER EVER paint in triple degree heat. I mean, like, seriously. The fumes will overcome you and when you wake from the nap, you will feel really really hungover and scared that some vital brain function has been lost.... Not that I know this from personal experience or nothing.... Anywho, just saying.

I have a location scout for the short film I'm writing for my friend (the other one ended up getting post-poned), so I will be in Redondo Beach today, on the water, suffering for my art. The dog doesn't get to come which makes me feel really guilty, but also a little relieved because he hates the water and is afraid of sand and the sound of the ocean. Throw him in a snow drift and he's the happiest mutt you've ever seen, but one sniff of the Pacific and he's in my lap, shaking, trying to climb onto my shoulder. Not good for his pedicure or my hair.

For homework I'm sending you all over to FindLaw's article about agents and managers. It's a great little piece that's geared more for musicians than filmmakers, but we'll talk about the differences, too. If you've never been there, FindLaw is also a great site for legal opinions, to research laws, and occasionally you can find specific case information (for those of you spec'ing legal/police type stuff it's a gold mine).

Another great place to visit is the ATA website. If you are approached about representation then you can research there. All the reputable firms are members. Also, the state of California requires all agents to be licensed and you can verify that an agency is here.

Now, close your internet browser and get back to work.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


The agent posts will start tomorrow. This is my big year to finish things, so in that spirit, last night I finished an outline I've been working on since March, finished the rewriting of my short (I'm going to start reading it in like 10 minutes, so I may be back...), and wrote 5 pages in a feature I've been meaning to finish since last summer. It's on and popping over here in FilmDivaLand....

Anyway, Chris, in answer to your question: I will cover the when to sign issue but probably not until next Tuesday. In the meantime, If you have more than 2-3 samples and haven't sent them out yet, you are overprepared.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sleeping With The Enemy

Signing with an agency is a little bit like having a pimp. Actually, it's a lot like having a pimp, especially if you need the agent more than the agent needs you. Managing that relationship so that you get the most out of it is just as important as signing with the agent in the first place.

I'm preparing another one of my little mini-series, so please bear with me because I need to pull together a couple of things (like my short and that guest room which is now covered in plastic and primer). I think it will be in 3 parts. The first one will be about the function of the agent/manager, the second one will be about how to get an agent/manager, and the third one will be about what to do once you have signed (or been hip-pocketed which is not necessarily a bad or good thing as long as you run your writing career like the Fortune 50 business it is).

I'm also planning posts on pacing (in a cut as opposed to on the page, but I'll talk about that a bit, as well), common story terms used in development and in those screenwriting books (like whatever the hell "rising action" is supposed to help you do), effective character introductions, and what to look for when you are screen-testing actors. If anyone is interested, I've been toying with creating a section that would have different approaches for drafting screenplays to help people with different writing styles learn the form. I've been flipping through a bunch of screenwriting books and I have to say, the actual how-to portions pale in comparison to the amount of "it-oughta-look-like." Sort of like someone trying to show you how to build a car by taking you for a joyride, then laying all the pieces out on a big tarp and yelling "Go!"

The dog is stalking me, so I have to get my ass in gear and head to the dog park before it gets ugly. He keeps jumping up on my leg and trying to kiss me. And he's not a lovey dovey kind of dog so it's creeping me out.

BTW, do not EVER buy dog food made from fish. For obvious reasons. Yuck.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Specs, Specs, Specs and more Specs

It's summer, folks. Town is officially on vacation. There are still folks doing business here and there, movies are still coming out and all that, but the hardcore work of purchasing and developing movies has slowed waaaaaaay down. This means you need to be writing your ass off and getting your spec polished up for the first weekend after Labor Day which is one of the best spec weeks of the year. Folks are eager to read, they know they are going to get some time off for the Jewish High Holidays in the fall, and they need to justify their existence.

I am getting my producing projects ready for financiers. My plan is to submit to casting directors this month, get a good cast list together, visit agents starting in August (folks are bored and more prone to speculation), and then send the script in for attachments and start doing the rounds of financiers and distributors by September with my little package. I'm out to a casting director right now, but since I know I'm not ready to send it out anywhere I haven't pushed yet.

The important thing to remember during this packaging process is that "Town" is a moving target. I want the best actor for the piece who also isn't in actor-jail. Meaning, I don't need to get Johnny Depp to sign on to raise the $6-8 million I need for my film, but if I sign on Skeet Ulrich I probably will have to make the movie for $500,000. If you chase after someone just because you imagine (or are told) that a particular studio has them at the top of their casting "wish list" than you will end up making somebody else's movie and not your own. There is a time to draw the line, but short of someone who hasn't made a decent movie in 2 decades, or who audiences actively shy away from, a solid actor in a part that works for them is the best of all worlds.

I'm going to be doing some advance work with execs at distributors like Fox Searchlight and Warner Independent and Focus, introducing them to the work of my filmmaker (the short I blogged about last week). I call this "seeding" and do it no more than 3 months in advance of submitting. I like to give people at least 8 weeks to read and 4-6 weeks to watch something. As an exec, I aspired to get my turnaround down to 3 weeks, but reality and exhausation would push low-priority stuff to the back of the pile. The good thing is that there are two piles: one for tapes/dvds and one for scripts. I'd usually watch a short or two and read my scripts, then once or twice a week I'd watch an indie feature at least through the end of the first act. I also had a roomie who was a VP at another studio and a close friend who was a VP at a third studio and the average between the three of us was about 3 months to completely put a submission to bed.

Keep pushing. If you have a spec that's nearing the end of its life and you aren't hip deep in the next project you are behind the curve. If you are producing a spec that's going out, make sure you've got 18 months worth of savings or a good day job cuz you probably won't get paid before then in the best case scenario, if you are directing and you are attached to a spec that's about to go out be as social as possible, and if you have an actor attached to the project chat them and be friendly -- the strength of that relationship is what will get you through the making of the film.

In more personal news, I painted my bathroom this weekend and am going to paint the guest room today. I know, I should have finished the rewrite on my short script so I could send it out.... *Sigh* I ordered the Final Draft 7.1.2 udpate for myself and they had to mail it to me, and I couldn't find my latest copy of my script, and the formatting EXPLODED and I had to retype the damn thing and my dog HAD to go to the dog park, and...and...and.... Not buying it either, huh? OK, my new thing is to set a page amount per day for myself, no more Mrs. Nice Guy! Happy writing every body. If anyone wants to send a word of encouragement my way, or just one swift kick, it would be welcome!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Swapping Favors

I mentioned to a friend of mine that I will be directing my very own short film sometime later this summer (or fall, depending on my cashflow!). She's a producer (no aspirations to write, direct, act or become a manager) so we had a great discussion about how I can get it done. She brought up a ton of very specific no-budget issues, and then called me back three days later to ask me if I would write a short for a friend of hers. We talked about a couple of ideas and I pitched one which is actually a scene from a feature I wrote the treatment for a couple of years ago. Long and short: we're location scouting on Saturday. What the hell is wrong with me? Don't I have enough to do already???!!! Goodness.

Anywho, I got all excited because the filmmaker has an actor who I really dig, free equipment and a commercial fishing boat down in San Pedro Harbor. Now, if you ever meet me you will laugh your ass off, because despite my urbane appearance I am always put myself in these outrageous situations for the sake of "experience." I've been to bomb-scenes with news crews waiting to see if anything blew up, met with DEA agents, been on the scene of a gang shootout while the bullets were flying.... You get the picture. Like a good producer, my friend knew the way to my heart: A hot guy and a dangerous, dirty location. What girl could resist that? :-)

Aside from an extra 50 hours worth of work (yes, I really do estimate how many hours I would spend on a project, just like an attorney) I'm using this to get a nice little sample (not really something that will get me a job, but when I was an exec I read shorts if I was on the fence about a new writer, but didn't have time to read a longer sample to see if it was worth a meeting), and to road-test my friend as a producer. If I like the way she works on this one, think that we would work well together when I'm directing (I anticipate being emotionally high-maintenance and she's pretty no-nonsense) then I may ask her to produce my short when I've finished the script.

In the meantime, I'm nearly done with the third draft of the short and will be sending it out by the weekend to various interested parties. Then I'm going to get back to work on my other writing project (book, script) and take my dog to the dang dog park for five hours so he can leave me alone!!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

You Got ?'s, I Got Comments....

My dog is driving me nuts this morning so I'm not going to put up a long post. Just a few responses that I thought other folks might get some value out of as well. Feel free to have at it with your own free advice in the comments section...

I have a question for you. How can I find individuals with shorts that the may want produced?
Anyone who writes or wants to direct has a short or an idea for a short. If you want to produce one, first decide exactly what you mean by that -- do you plan to fund it? Is your idea to take someone else's money and manage it? Do you want to do a no-budget short to test your nerve and problem solving skills? Once you know this, then put an ad out on craigslist and your local film school/college, make the rounds of community theater groups and talk to folks who are involved in filmmaking in your area. You ought to scare up way more submissions than you ever thought you'd find. Then you figure out what your criteria are for the type of filmmaker you want to work with, what your agenda is with the short film (e.g. to gain experience, to go film festivals, as a platform to convince financiers you can handle a project, to meet new filmmakers, etc.) and where you can sign up for some meditation classes so you don't go crazy before you finish the film.

I was wondering if you could explain what made your friend's short film and his screenplay so good. What about his work piqued the interest of managers and agents? How did it stand out from the plethora of shorts and scripts floating around?
OK, this actually probably merits a long post, but I don't have time -- my dog is howling at the front door as I type this. Jerk. Anyway, the long and short of this answer is that the work shows that the filmmaker is in tune with the internal emotional motivators of his characters, is able to express that in the writing, and the visuals tell the emotional story. He's also an excellent musician, so the music in the short film was way above average which helped.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

More Notes Talk

I am back home after a marathon 8-hour notes session with the writer/director of my producing project. We acted out each and every scene in the film (and let me tell you, I am NO actor) and talked about all the stuff I blog about here. One thing that came up over and over and over was subtext. At some points in this draft of the script, he has actors saying things that are rightfully meant to serve as subtext inside the screenplay.

In early drafts of your work, that's OK, if you have a good reader, somebody who knows that eventually those bits of the subconscious will be stuffed right back where they belong. It's important that at some point, however, you go back through (like we did today) and re-read the script looking for action, blocking, and business that reveal character, clarify motive, establish stakes and set up behavior that will pay off later in the script. It's OK if it takes you many passes to get to this point. The early drafts are meant for you to spew every idea that you have about the story, every idea for every scene, follow your characters in every direction you need to in order to find the STORY. Once that is done, then edit, polish and revise until you have something that represents the best version you are capable of writing. That kind of work is unmistakable. A great example of the interplay between text and subtext is that famous french toast scene in KRAMER V. KRAMER. I won't detail it here (unless someone emails me desperate for it), but it's worth watching it to refresh your memory.

On a related note, the writer-director held a screening of his latest short. It played really well to the 60+ folks who showed up for it, he got some strong interest from a couple of managers (and about 10 agents showed up thanks to a friend of his who is repped at one of the Big Three agencies). Long story short, on the strength of this short and his writing sample (the script that we are working on) it looks like he might get the rights to do a remake -- all of which means yours truly may well get another producing project.

My own short is going pretty well. I finished my first draft of the script and now I'm going back through it and fleshing out some of the character conflicts and seeing how my "pre-visualizations" impact the way I'm telling the story. The next step is to give it to a few writer friends and one actor friend, then I'll give it to the producer I want to work with and once I have the draft polished, I'll send it off to my reps for safe-keeping and in case they can find me some work with it (doubtful, but they should have anything that might get me some work, right?) .

And my book project has ground to a halt once again. I got passed on by a friend of mine, but at least he called and offered to take me out to lunch.... Never turn down free sushi... I think I read that somewhere.... ;-)