Chip and Sean,
Your screenplay has been selected as a semi-finalist in the 2009 Shriekfest Screenplay competition. Congratulations on making it this far. The judges are currently in the process of selecting the finalists for the festival. We will be contacting everyone sometime this coming week. Thank you for your patience.
Don’t know if we get laurels for it, but I’ll take it anyway. Not bad for a script we wrote in 6 weeks, huh?
Hyperion Hyperbole, you say? I think not. Hyperion investigates issues of humanity and society alongside the best of Gibson, but without the (sometimes) overly conscious punk edge that can make classic cyberpunk “too uber-cool for school”.
It creates mysterious worlds, frightening mythologies and psychological challenges for its characters, and its readers, like very little else.
It is far and away more Literary in the most fundamental sense than any of the fetishism of scientific specificity that mires the Clarkes and Asimovs and yes, occasionally, even the Heinleins of Golden Age scifi.
And its foundation in classical Literature (Hyperion is clearly modeled on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales) makes it all the more rich for those with an awareness and appreciation for it (and merely having a character quote Shakespeare from time to time – hello, ST:TNG – is not the same thing).
The Hyperion Cantos is easily on par with such watershed works of scifi as Herbert’s Dune (which has yet to have a proper theatrical interpretation, though I liked the miniseries just fine), or Card’s Ender series (which is also in development with Warner Brothers)… and in many ways, most clearly stylistically, it surpasses them. And while a few scifi films have been based on the works of P.K. Dick – one of them even good (Bladerunner) – Dick’s books have dubious Literary value at best but rather are merely good ideas poorly executed.
The trick is, in the end, Hyperion is a fractured travelogue, a collection of campfire tales shared by a group of travelers quietly working their way across a dangerous planet as a war rages in space above them. The stories are intense, and fantastic, and heart wrenching, and personal. And the war, for the most part, remains in the sky as an occasional light show, reminding the group of the importance of their mission. The book has very little to do with the 3-D trickery, unfolding automotive robots and blood-thirsty aliens of typical contemporary Hollywood scifi.
But it’s this unique, sensitive, artful brilliance that will make the film profound and timeless, so long as the source is respected.
It’s being adapted by Trevor Sands, whose work I’m unfamiliar with but who seems to have written exactly one produced short and one produced feature (note to self: get feature produced).
There’s a new blog in town… Write Club Screenplay Challenge is a simple little blog that sets up mini-challenges for screenwriters. It’s like one of those 48-hour filmmaker’s challenges, but you don’t have to make a whole movie. You just have to write it.
The site is designed to offer motivation to get writers to write; it allows for socializing with, and feedback from, your peers; and it’s good fun.
Write Club was inspired by the John August website. Although John is a busy busy man, he occasionally finds time to offer his blog readers a “scene challenge” — wherein John sets up parameters, and invites readers to post “entries”. Similarly, Write Club will set up new challenges, with professional “referees” who will not only define the challenges, but judge the results, choosing a winner and a few close seconds.
Did I mention? Both scripts were turned down by the Nicholl.
I was heartbroken.
Well, no, not really. But a little disappointed. It does feel good to be in the majority, though. From the Nicholl:
With a record number of entries and a readily apparent increase in quality, this year’s Nicholl Fellowships was more competitive than in any previous year. Now that scores have been tallied for all 6,380 entries, we have to inform too many writers of scripts featuring compelling stories, intriguing characters and excellent craft that they have not advanced into the next round. Regrettably, Grampa Was A Superhero was not one of the 321 entries selected as a Quarterfinalist in the 2009 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.
You should realize that while we strive to make the evaluation of screenplays as objective a process as possible, it is inherently both a personal and an extremely subjective matter. A lack of success here may not have any bearing on your reception in the marketplace where a sale is the ultimate measure of success. I’ll even venture a prediction: several non-advancing writers will become professional screenwriters in the near future.
To tell you a little about the process: each script was read once. After receiving an initial positive evaluation, over 2,700 scripts garnered a second read. Just under 800 scripts were read a third time. Each read resulted in a numerical score being awarded. Scores for each entrant’s script were totaled, and the Quarterfinalists were selected on the basis of highest scores.
Since then I talked to a friend who talked to an L.A. reader, who said:
Yeah, Nicholl. We’ve met finalists before. Nothing seems to happen for them. They’re in the same boat. Good script, looking for work…
Then talked to another good friend who has quarterfinaled in the Nicholl twice. His comment (to paraphrase):
Yeah, it didn’t do anything for me. Maybe ten requests to see the scripts, nothing came of it, here I am.
Me, I’m so glad I couldn’t reach those grapes. They look so sour.
Liz Maccie, studio reader, has a nice list of professional insights over at the BOSI site…
About two and a half years ago, I got the wonderful opportunity to become a “reader” for a studio, think mouse house. I continue to work for them under a freelance status and absolutely love my job.
Being a reader means you literally read materials such as scripts, novels, and teleplays. Then you write up “coverage,” entailing a synopsis of the plot as well as an analysis of the story elements.
Finally, you either recommend the piece for further consideration or pass on the material. All in all, it is a fantastic fun job that has made me, hands down, a better writer, simply because absorbing stories on a daily basis has helped sharpen my tools for defining story.
After reading literally hundreds of scripts, here are some tid-bits that may be of value to you on your journey to becoming a produced writer.
God I love these guys. Big, sloppy fawning unmitigated man-love these guys.
When you look at a list of their projects — Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men, and Burn After Reading (and that’s not all of them) — it’s just stunning. I mean holy shit. They’re not just good movies. They’re not just really good movies. They’re experimental, brave, complicated, unique, and varied. They’re almost all brilliant in some aspect of the word, and certainly none are “average”.
My writing partner and I had a conversation many years ago, that went something like “Would you rather be Isaac Asimov and write 200 or more mediocre books, or Kurt Vonnegut, and write far fewer really amazing and challenging books?”
We both answered “Vonnegut” (and that answer of course assumes you’re capable of writing like Vonnegut).
The Coen Brothers are my screenwriting Vonneguts. They’ve got the goods. They are what I aspire to be. Just once.
Opinions vary on the value of shooting a trailer for your unsold screenplay. I’ve heard some folks (John Brown) state that it can’t hurt, and might help, the sale. I’ve heard other folks say it’s a waste of time.
If you fall in the first camp and think a trailer might be the thing for you, but don’t have the resources to do it yourself, I stumbled across Movie Trailer Makers, a team of filmmaking pros who specialize in kickass trailers of unproduced screenplays.
Movie Trailer Makers produce fast and affordable movie trailers and teasers for screenwriters & film studios. Just send us your script and we’ll take care of the rest.
We have a team of international film makers with the talent, experience and resources to turn your script into a professional and entertaining movie trailer.
Our team are real movie directors who have worked on dozens of feature films, documentaries and TV series. We know what Hollywood are looking for and will help present your script accordingly.
And their reel is really impressive. There’s no doubt they can deliver the goods. But at what cost?
We’ve been thinking about making a trailer for our screenplay “Faeries” so I sent them a synopsis, just to get an idea of price. The reply was “…a typical non-animated trailer produced by us costs between $5K-$8K.” Well, that might be worthwhile for some, but for this project at least I can think of better ways to put 8-10K to work… shooting a short, jump starting a feature, fixing my car…
Which isn’t to say the service is not worthwhile. It’s just to say it’s too rich for my blood right now.
A few days ago, John August announced his latest scene writing challenge. It’s kind of like one of those 24-hour filmmaking challenges, except you don’t have to actually make a movie… just write one. And not even a whole movie… just a scene or sequence. Simple, right?
John has done these a few times before. Each one garners more and more responses, from more and more good writers.
This is a great read, particularly as I’m just undertaking this next step myself (trying to find an agent or manager).
Part of the question I’m struggling with is whether it’s better at this point in my (nascent) career to go for agency or management… I haven’t quite decided on that yet.
But nevertheless, good essays on either process are always helpful.
This one, by Daniel Petrie, Jr. (BEVERLY HILLS COP, THE BIG EASY, SHOOT TO KILL, TURNER & HOOCH, TOY SOLDIERS, and IN THE ARMY NOW) includes not only his insights but those of a panel of agents from CAA, ICM, UTA and others. And in general, the consensus is that the old “query letter and SASE” path just isn’t what works anymore.
Let me assert that in twenty years of paid, professional experience in the motion picture industry (true, I include my summer as a movie theater usher to reach that figure) I have never heard the terms ‘query letter’ or ‘SASE’ used by another paid professional.
I’m not saying letters like that never work. Just that they almost never work. But wait — even if the odds are a million to one against, am I saying you shouldn’t even try? Yes. I am saying that. There is a better way. It’s more difficult, but better.
Check it out. It should both empower and intimidate you. But then, challenge is the father of all perseverance, yes?