write club screenplay challenge

WriteClub_squareThere’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.

THE FIRST CHALLENGE has been posted today, September 1st 2009.

This should be good fun. Pass the word around…

no nicholl for you!

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.

Maybe they’ll be ripe next year.

coen brothers "a serious man" trailer and script

The trailer for the Coen Brothers new film “A Serious Man” has been released…

and the script is available at their site (pdf).

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.

</mancrush>

selling a screenplay? make a trailer first.

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.

Just thought you’d like to know.

making the short list in the john august scene writing challenge

scene_challengeA 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.

There were 145 entries for the Superheroic Scene Challenge, and some of them were looooong. Printed out, they totaled 406 pages. Going side-by-side shrunk it to a still-ridiculous 203. Continue reading making the short list in the john august scene writing challenge

tweet the meat

tweet-the-meatYup, the Tweet The Meat submission I sold ran today. I promised I’d let ya know.

It’s right here.

Or here:

The kettle screamed. “Tea time,” she chirped, steaming pot in gloved hand. “Sugar?” He couldn’t answer with the funnel taped in his mouth.

Lemme know what ya think.

how do you get an agent?

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?

on strong women characters

strong_womanGiven the positive response to the female characters in Faeries, I’ve been giving some thought to the issue of writing strong women characters. As a man, I’m often told that it’s not possible for me to do so.

It is true that Lacey, the young girl in Rocket Summer, is probably the least complex character in the script (and that has been pointed out by some readers). But it’s also true that she is the glue for that group of dysfunctional friends… a caretaker, a realist, and a “person of interest” for a pair of boys with very fucked up home lives, one of whom lost his mother at a young age.

Unfortunately, to some, that makes her “stereotypical”… a character whose only job it is to fulfill the traditional “female” roles of mother, lover, nurturer. Me, I take exception to the word “only”. It’s important stuff. And she’s conflicted about it in the process, and seems to be setting aside some of her own desires to take on that role. For me, that’s a strong, flawed, and thus interesting female character.

Some people are never satisfied. Continue reading on strong women characters

grampa: prodco request

grampa was a superhero movie posterYup, it’s true.

We’ve already got one script being considered by a reputable production company. Now we”ve got two irons in the fire.

Grampa Was A Superhero is being looked at by a production company in the Midwest… East… Southeast… Hell, I don’t know. Where’s Tennessee?

Anyway, the producer has a string of recognizable titles with a string of recognizable talents and a string of partnerships with a bushel of recognizable networks and… well, you get the idea.

Interestingly, this inquiry came to us mere hours after tweaking the logline and synopsis ever so slightly on InkTip. Correlation is not causation, but it makes one wonder. Hmmm. (That’s me, wondering.)

All the same caveats apply here as they do for the Faeries connection. No chicken counting prior to hatching. Likely as not nothing comes of it. But it’s the momentum that counts… nothing makes you more confident than knowing someone thought enough of your logline or synopsis to say “Sure, I’ll read that.”

Well, maybe a check.

But other than that, nothing.

I’m highly confident that one day soon we’ll look back at our naive excitement here and think “Ah, yes, those were the days, when a mere considerate nod from a mid-size prodco would make us swoon!”

But until then, I’ll take my jollies where I can, and savor the slightest attention.

Everyone who cares at all about us, cross your fingers. And tell a friend.

And join us on Facebook! Faeries page, Grampa page, Rocket Summer page.

Faeries: prodco request

faeries-posterA minor new development in the ongoing story of our feature horror script “Faeries“.

Thanks to a lead from InkTip, the logline and synopsis were submitted to a Canadian production company with some solid success in the creature feature genre. They’ve asked to read the script, which in our book is a success. Obviously no decision has been made (we’ll post when we have a reply) but here’s why it’s already a success:

Previously on InkTip, we had posted our other feature script “Grampa Was A Superhero“. The script has been available through the site for nearly a year, and the logline has been reviewed over a hundred times. More than 10 percent of those viewers have clicked on through to the synopsis (a conversion rate we sense is good, but plan on talking with InkTip to learn more). Of those, one prodco (Ice Cube’s “Cube Vision Productions” of Are We There Yet fame) has viewed the entire script but apparently chosen to pass. So it’s still available, if you’re looking for a fun family comedy road movie (Home Alone meets Wild Hogs).

Similarly, Rocket Summer has had some success, being optioned for a total of two years (it’s now available again if anybody needs a great coming-of-age story in the vein of Stand By Me, October Sky and Breaking Away). But its conversion rate on InkTip was poor.

We see the request for Faeries as a success not because we expect a sale or option to come out of it (that would be great though – written in 125 hours, optioned within a month of completion… great ROI) but because it shows that this logline and synopsis are working for us better than those for the other scripts. Sure, it could mean a lot of other things too, like Faeries is simply a more commercial, genre specific project (true) with a simpler hook and more straightforward storyline (also true). But we’re definitely motivated to refine the synopses and loglines for the other scripts in short order, as we’re learning more and more every day.