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.
Earlier this year I was a screener for the Santa Cruz Film Festival. I had to watch a truckload of crap… most of it was crap, frankly. Being a screener (or a screenplay reader) is a real eye opener, really… because most of it is crap. But I found a few gems, and I thought I’d get around to sharing them with you. Not all of them made it into the fest (not for lack of quality or vision, more for programming reasons) but I still think you should know about these films.
SCION Written and Directed by Michael Rosetti
Deep in an abandoned factory lives Scion; lonely and crippled, he hobbles along, trying to create a companion. When a mysterious man stumbles into the factory Scion eagerly follows him and the two develop an odd relationship, ultimately changing Scion’s insulated existence forever. Creation and destruction are bound together in a story of the search for meaning and existence.
I was stunned by Scion. At only 12 minutes long, and with only a single line of dialogue, Scion is a beautiful movie with delicate performances. Shot on 35mm by Greg Mitnick, Scion’s urban grunge post-apocalyptic setting is filmed with the light and composition of a Vermeer.
Recently, somewhere in Hollywood, somebody got taken for a ride (no surprise).
They got so upset about it that they decided to start an organization dedicated to bringing film industry scammers to justice; hanging them out to dry where everyone could see them and be warned about them by listing their names, and businesses, and misdeeds.
Is this a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not. Posting the names of known scammers could be helpful, I suppose, if they’ve been found guilty of a crime. But what makes a scam? Sometimes, indie filmmakers are just dumb (would naive be nicer?) and don’t do their due diligence on people who just don’t have the resources or expertise to do what they promise to do. Or sometimes well meaning producers just aren’t able to finish their project, so that “credit and copy” never make it to all those folks who volunteered their time. That’s not a scam.
Now in this case, it indeed looks like a scam. The guy is allegedly pitching himself as representing companies he’s not associated with (though he was once). And he is allegedly representing that he has connections that he apparently does not. But as near as I can tell, the guy has NOT been charged with or convicted of any crime.
Nevertheless, the site invites people to post their own stories about being scammed, and has posted claims from victims alleging that the scammer “apparently own a company called Central Films (Central Film Company) and has an office at the Lot studios in West Hollywood, California”. This claim isn’t true — Central Film Company was also a victim of this scammer and has severed all ties with him — but it’s getting repeated elsewhere and Central Film Company has now had to defend itself against this on numerous websites. In this case the site is apparently hurting innocent victims in its fervor to play scam cop.
That alone should be enough to bug me. But here’s what bugs me.
What the hell? Are you old enough to know that the “hollywood blacklist” was a dark and evil period in the history of the U.S.? No? Let me educate you, son.
Once upon a long time ago, Hollywood (and the U.S. Government) went through a rabbit hole of paranoia and wound up in a witch hunt called The Hollywood Blacklist. It was an institutionalized unAmerican effort hinged on fear, racism and nationalism that destroyed careers, lives and relationships.
“The Hollywood blacklist—more precisely the entertainment industry blacklist, into which it expanded—was the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or associations, real or suspected. Artists were barred from work on the basis of their alleged membership in or sympathy toward the American Communist Party, involvement in liberal or humanitarian political causes that enforcers of the blacklist associated with communism, and/or refusal to assist federal investigations into Communist Party activities…”
I’m happy to say that by and large we’ve thankfully left this black mark of American history in the past (efforts of delusionals like Michele Bachmann notwithstanding).
So the idea of anyone resurrecting this term, from WITHIN THE INDUSTRY in particular, for a new site that seeks to “warn” people about the “misdeeds” or “omissions” or very possibly “innocent failures” of others within the industry based even in part on unverified or uncorroborated hearsay really irks me.
Now look. I get it. The Hollywood film industry is infamous for being filled with nefarious characters prepared to steal your script (unscrupulous producers), steal your money (unscrupulous distributors), steal your virginity (unscrupulous agents) or steal your soul (unscrupulous culture).
And the indie filmmaking community has perhaps more than its fair share of scammers, looking to trade on the hopes and dreams of every small timer with a handicam who thinks if he can just find the right person to fund, produce or distribute his unique vision he’ll be the next Spielberg/Coppola/Coen.
So we ought to watch out for each other, sure. But we also have to watch out for ourselves. You have to be vigilant. You have to be smart. You have to educate yourself.
In the end, although this whole thing seems well intentioned, I’m not certain I like the unverifiable nature of the site, or the apparent visceral vengeance that seems to drive it. That seems like an irresponsible place to be coming from when doing this kind of thinig.
If they don’t start taking more care in what they do, I hope they at least change the name. That’s a period in Hollywood and U.S. history that I for one don’t need to have revisited.
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.
If you read my first post on Enigma, you know that I was impressed by the trailer and excerpts, but had two primary issues: I was unimpressed with the animated googly-eyed monkey (put me into painful Lost In Space flashbacks), and I wasn’t sure why one would spend 40K on making something too long for a short but too short to distribute as a feature. Otherwise, I thought the production looked solid and bigger than its budget.
In a darkly comic homage to “Alien” and “The Thing”, the cast and crew of an adult film, stranded in a blizzard, must band together against a mysterious and deadly alien, which has possessed the actor with the biggest part–Ron Jeremy (naturally). Now, with the monster on a killing spree, the race is on to trap and destroy it before there are more victims of its peculiar skills.
Starring Amber Benson (“Buffy The Vampire Slayer”), Charles Napier (“Silence of the Lambs”, “Rambo”) and introducing Ron Jeremy
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.