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Archive for the Category "My Experiences"

292 Days! May 22

calendar

Time Flies

292 Days. That’s how long it’s been since my last post. Yikes. So where the hell have I been and what have I been doing?

Writing.

As much as I love this blog, it occurred to me a while back, that I didn’t want to be a successful blogger. I wanted to be a successful screenwriter/filmmaker. So it was time to adjust my priorities.

Let’s see how things have panned out so far. In the last 292 days I’ve:

  • Had one script place in the semi-finals of Blue Cat
  • Had another script optioned
  • Had my latest script place in the top 25 (semi-finals) of the Tracking-Board.com’s Launch Pad competition (fingers crossed for the finals)
  • Learned how to use Adobe After Effects
  • Wrote a martial arts action movie that’s in pre-production in Thailand (paid assignment)
  • Wrote a short film, that I’m directing in a few weeks

In a nutshell, things  have been gaining momentum.

My Demon Girlfriend

I’m really excited about the last item I mentioned. The short I’m directing is called My Demon Girlfriend, and it’s a funny little script that may be the start of a web series, and will allow me to showcase my new special effects skills.

I’ll post updates as things progress on the production. I will also be writing other articles about screenwriting, movies and television, that I feel need to be discussed — I’ll just be posting them less frequently.

Bottom line is — I’m back! So stay tuned.

Did you miss me? Or were you happy to have less noise to distract you from your screenwriting career?

The Great American PitchFest 2012 Jun 06

Great American PitchFest Adventures

The Great American PitchFest 2012Thanks to Ben Cahan, and his Talentville contest, I won a free pass to this past weekend’s Great American PitchFest (GAPF)! I was thrilled because the event is always so well put together and truly one of the best ways to get face-time with people who can help you get your movie made.

If you’ve never been to GAPF before, it’s basically speed dating — but with Producers, Directors, Managers and Agents. You pay one flat fee that allows you to have 5 minute meetings with as many people as you can see during the course of the day.

Some of the bigger companies have longer lines, so you have to weigh the benefit of waiting a half an hour to see one key person, versus maximizing your time, and meeting with multiple people. So depending on your predilections you’ll end up pitching between 10 and 20 times during the day.

This year the PitchFest offered its Saturday screenwriting classes and panel discussions for free! That means, even if you didn’t buy a ticket for the PitchFest, you could still come down and learn some new things — all for no charge. If you missed it, keep that in mind for next year, if they do it again.

Miscellanea

Here are some of my random experiences from this year’s Great American PitchFest.

Bob and Signe

The Great American PitchFest is run by two special people — Signe Olynyk and Bob Schultz. During their “Making the Most of…” orientation on Saturday night, I noticed something quite interesting about them. They genuinely cared about making your experience at PitchFest the best it could be.

The Starter Screenplay

One of my writer friends introduced me to a guy named Adam Levenberg, who was selling his screenwriting book — The Starter Screenplay — at a separate kiosk. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I devour screenwriting books like chocolate. And not all chocolate is created equal.

After talking with Adam (a current Hollywood Executive) for a few minutes, I knew I had to buy his book. I’m only a few chapters in, but I already know it’s one of the best books out there. I’ll post some nuggets from it in the coming days.

Scene Writing Challenge

The lunch break at PitchFest is crazy long — like an hour and a half or something. So what’s a writer to do after he’s stuffed his face? Write!

The Script-A-Thon was sponsoring the PitchFest’s annual scene writing challenge. You had to hand-write a scene up to 5 pages long, while using the following line of dialogue: “If I’d known you were going to be this easy, I wouldn’t have worn these shoes.” You also had to use this object in a creative way: Pineapple.

I’m proud to say that my scene won!

The best part is that I got to learn all about the Script-A-Thon 30 day screenwriting marathon and competition. If you haven’t signed up for it yet, I highly recommend you do so. The chances of winning are much better than in many other contests, and the caliber of judges is impressive.

Some Great Free Classes

Here are the free sessions I attended. They were all excellent.

  • Let’s Sell Your Script – Panel Discussion
  • Screenplay Competitions – How to Win, Why Enter & How They Can Change Your Life
  • An Interview with Screenwriter Rhett Reese (Zombieland, Monsters Inc., GI Joe Retaliation)
  • How to Triple Your Contacts & Get Powerful People Reading Your Scripts

I’ll be posting individual write-ups on these sessions in the coming days.

Surprise Meetings

I got to meet some terrific screenwriters this year. You know who you are!

  • There’s the woman who I struck up a conversation with in line, only to hilariously find out she’s one of my clients.
  • There’s the NASA team member who’s decided to make a run at screenwriting a little later in life.
  • There’s the pitching prodigy who’s appeared on Jay Leno, and is a little nuts — but in a good way.
  • There’s the funny group of guys who were making off-the-cuff comments about the Michael Jackson impersonator who was pitching a movie — in full costume. One guy said, “Is he pitching a ghost movie?” Another guy said, “I thought he was pitching a children’s movie.”

The Pitching

My pitches went very well… for the most part. As I had different scripts to pitch — depending on the person I was pitching to — I felt a little bit schizophrenic at times. But it was a great challenge.

The one thing I learned, is that it really pays to make a connection with the person across the table from you, before launching into your pitch. Every time I sat down and forced myself to ignore the pressure of the time constraint, the pitch went extremely well. Hopefully I’ll have some good news to report on that front soon.

How was your PitchFest experience?

Modern Family Horror Movie Goes Viral! Jan 01

Expectations Exceeded

Modern Family HorrorWhen I posted this extended Modern Family horror trailer spoof, I was hoping that, over a year or so, the video would maaaaybe receive 50,000 views.

Much to my surprise and delight, the video exceeded that number in just 3 days, and over the holidays!! BuzzFeed first picked it up, and then it spread from there.

Surreal Moments

There have been some really cool moments over the last few days:

3. The video appears in The Huffington Post
When an article about your video appears in The Huffington Post, you know you’ve touched upon something that has struck a chord outside your own little world.

2. While surfing IMDB, I see a news story about it
Last night, while visiting IMDB.com, I glanced down and noticed the top related news story was an article about the video! Of course, I was on The Bad Seed movie page, so I guess that makes sense… but still — wicked cool!

1. Ariel Winter tweets about the video — twice!
It was hugely rewarding (and relieving) to see that Ariel Winter, the brilliant young actress who plays Alex Dunphy, got a big kick out of the video. Here’s one of her tweets:

Ariel Winter tweets about "Modern Family" horror movie trailer spoof

“WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY???!!!!!!” – Phil Dunphy

So why did I make this video? What was the inspiration?

  • I love Modern Family!
  • Genre-bending and re-cut videos are hilarious. I was especially inspired by this video for Sleepless in Seattle.
  • I’ve always enjoyed movies about clever, evil kids (e.g. Macaulay Culkin, The Good Son / Isabelle Fuhrman, Orphan).
  • I was surprised Dexter didn’t go in this direction… yet. I mean seriously, look at Astor. That girl has darkness in her.
  • I was impressed by the acting of Ariel Winter. How does she have that much poise and confidence? When I was that age, I couldn’t even look an adult in the eyes.
  • Let’s face it, Alex only needed a strategic nudge or two to make it work.
  • Thought it would be fun to figure out the puzzle and put it together. It was!
  • It gets something entertaining out there right now for people to see. I love screenwriting, but it takes years for the fruits of your labor to pay off.
  • I thought the material was really interesting. We’ve seen evil kids before, and even smart evil kids. But a psychopathic child genius? Never. So I’m currently working on a feature film treatment! I’m excited about it, because I’m tellin’ ya, the the ending of my story gives The Usual Suspects a run for its money.

Thanks!

The overwhelmingly positive responses to the video have been incredibly flattering, humbling and very, very much appreciated. Thank you everyone!!!

Wishing all my Scriptwrecked readers (and my new Modern Family Horror Movie fans) all the best for the New Year! Let’s make sure 2012 is killer!

Stay tuned for my next video project… and of course more great content about screenwriting and movies.

Previously:

Modern Family as a Horror Movie [Video]


Screenwriting Expo 2011 – Pitching Tips Pt. 1 Sep 23

Pitching TipsPitching Tips

The Golden Pitch Festival

The Screenwriting Expo hosts something called the Golden Pitch Festival. You have to pay extra for it, even if you have an Expo Gold Pass, but being able to pitch is worth its weight in… well you know.

If you’re an unrepresented writer, it’s the easiest way to get face-time with the people who can actually help you get your movie made, give you representation, or hire you for a writing job.

The following pitching tips come from my own experiences (both pitching and public speaking), and from the training seminars I’ve taken.

I’ve decided to split this article into 3 parts, starting with:

Before you get to the Pitch Festival…

Pitching Tip #1: Make sure you have a logline

A logline consists of one or two sentences (one is better) that captures the premise of your script in the most compelling way.

If you don’t have a logline for your script, it probably means either A) your script is unfocused, or B) you haven’t been writing long enough to understand its importance.

Both are red flags to producers and managers.

Pitching Tip #2: Make sure you have a one-sheet

A one-sheet is something that you can leave behind when your pitch is complete. At minimum, it should have the title, genre, logline, a brief synopsis, and your contact information on it.

Optional items:

  • A catchy tagline for your movie
  • Loglines from other scripts you have completed (I don’t personally put these on there as I feel they dilute the focus of the current script I’m trying to sell)
  • A very brief bio (if you have experience relevant to your script, or have won some awards, or have a Master’s Degree in Screenwriting from USC, etc.)
  • A terrific quote from a respected industry reader or someone recognizable in the industry about your script
  • Hire a graphic designer to create a professional and memorable one-sheet for you on nice paper/cardstock

And remember, make sure you spell everything correctly! I met a woman at the Expo who had been handing out one-sheets with a misspelling in her title for several days.

Pitching Tip #3: Figure out the structure of your pitch

Yes, your pitch should have a rough structure. It should be something like this:

  • Genre your script falls into (e.g. Action, Comedy, Action-Comedy, Thriller, Pscyhological Thriller, etc.)
  • Time period of your story (only necessary if it doesn’t take place in the present or if the title begs the question)
  • Primary location(s) of your story
  • Title, then Logline; OR Logline, then Title (often times the Title can serve as the “punchline” to the logline, so make sure you have a good one)
  • Additional info to drive home the concept. For example: “It’s a modern day take on The Legend of Zelda.” Or “It’s Taken but with a brother and sister, instead of a father and daughter.” (That actually sounds pretty good)
  • High level story beats (notice I didn’t say “plot”). This will be the “meat” of your pitch.

The reason you don’t just launch into the story beats is because you want to orient the producer/manager as quickly as possible, and provide a context, to the world of your story.

Pitching Tip #4: Make sure you practice your pitch

We all have varying speaking abilities. Some people seem to have been born with the gift of gab (Quentin Tarantino), the rest of us have to work at it. Regardless of where you fall on the scale, you need to spend some time practicing your pitch.

Some of the best practice can come from just chatting up your friends about your script. Don’t tell them you’re pitching it to them, because it immediately sets up a weird dynamic. Just say, “Hey, have I told you about my latest script?”

Then try to sell them on it. Pay attention to what they respond to, and what they don’t, then incorporate the good stuff into your final pitch.

Pitching Tip #5: Make sure you time your pitch

Whether you practice your final pitch in front of other people, or just rehearse it quietly to yourself, you absolutely need to time it with a stopwatch. Yes, a STOPWATCH! If you don’t time your pitch out in advance, you WILL run out of time (5 minutes).

I wouldn’t recommend filling up the entire 5 minutes either. Remember, pitching is interactive and “in the wild.” Crazy stuff will happen that will chew up your time unexpectedly. And you will almost certainly be interrupted by the producer or manager with questions or comments.

It’s best to plan for a pitch that’s around 3 minutes. 4 minutes  tops! That way you can go into your pitch relaxed and not worry about the seconds ticking away.

Pitching Tip #6: Study up!

Pilar Alessandra has a great interview with the pundit of pitch-prep, Danny Manus. You can check out that podcast here.

If you have several months before your next opportunity to pitch, why not join a Toastmasters International club in your area? I’ve seen it work wonders for people who were previously crippled by the idea of pitching or public speaking.

Any other pre-arrival pitching tips you’d add?

Next Edition: Pitching Tips Part 2 — When you get to the Pitch Festival…


Previous Screenwriting Expo 2011 Posts:

First Impressions
How do you get a Manager?
Top 20 Agent Tips

Screenwriting Expo 2011 – Top 20 Agent Tips Sep 21

Top 20 Tips from AgentsAgents

Another post in the continuing saga of my experiences at the Screenwriting Expo this past weekend…

Today I’m excited to relay some excellent advice and industry insight from some Agents whose sessions I attended:

  • Victoria Wisdom, former partner at BWK
  • Emile Gladstone, ICM
  • Bob Hohman, Gersh

Just like my friend Michele Wallerstein, the first thing you notice about a successful Agent is that they’re all extremely high functioning and assertive. If you ever have an opportunity to meet with an Agent, make sure you’ve had a full night’s sleep, a double shot of Espresso, and are firing on all cylinders… or you simply won’t be able to keep up.

Wisdom (her real name), has a commanding presence that makes you sit up and pay attention.

Gladstone looks like Peter Parker, has an I.Q. that’s obviously north of 140, and is probably Kaiser Soze.

Hohman (the least intimidating of the bunch), made a joke in passing about his being a savant. (He probably wasn’t joking.)

After searching for some web links, I found Wisdom’s web site. I also found a great article/interview by Jim Cirile (who hosted one of the panel discussions) that features Gladstone. Be sure to read through these two sources for some of the same tips that were offered during their Screenwriting Expo sessions.

And now, without further ado, I present…

The Top 20 Agents Tips

Note: The following insights are my interpretations of what the Agents said. Any errors or omissions are purely my own.

Victoria Wisdom:

  1. The commercial market for films is about 70% overseas, and 30% for U.S. and Canada. That means you need to think about whether or not your movie will “travel well” — because the ones that do are the most likely to get made. Get global; write a story that’s universally understood.
  2. It’s dangerous to follow trends as a benchmark for deciding what movie to write next. However, if you’re trying to sell a script, it pays to reference current script sales and how they are relevant to your movie.
  3. Pitch the concept, not the plot. Pitch the concept in such a way that the story sells itself. Hollywood is very template-based. That’s why coming up with a concept that’s the “same, but different” is so important; something that can be summarized in a quick pithy line that Producers/Execs can understand. For example, the quick sell for The Bourne Identity is: “James Bond with amnesia.” Source Code is: “Groundhog Day with a sci-fi twist.”
  4. Do your homework on three things: 1) What are studios buying? 2) What are they making? 3) What was successful?

Emile Gladstone:

  1. Packaging (attaching an actor or director to your movie) is good for getting a movie sold, but not necessarily for getting a movie made.
  2. Often you’ll have to do multiple drafts of a script, simply to appease the Actors, Producers, Directors, Executives, etc…. knowing full well that some of these drafts will never see the light of day.
  3. If you’re a writer that wants any semblance of control, you should write a TV pilot. In TV, writers are the “directors” (i.e. they have the creative control). Film, is a director’s medium.
  4. If you want to sell a script, figure out which production companies are making the movies that are most like yours, then get in touch with the lowest Creative Executive on the totem pole, and try to get them to read it.
  5. Best selling scripts: Tentpole, High Concept, Genre-bending
  6. These days Hollywood uses a “P & L” (Profit and Loss) risk assessment to determine whether or not a movie can be made. He cited an example of a movie that the studio wants to make, has an A-list actor attached, but that they can’t get made because it doesn’t satisfy the risk profile.

Bob Hohman:

  1. The number one job of an Agent is to explain showbusiness to the client. (i.e. What Hollywood is buying, what just sold two weeks ago that’s exactly the same concept as yours, why you shouldn’t write that period piece, etc.)
  2. You need more than one script to show that you’re a writer.
  3. You’re in the business of making things up. Don’t write strictly personal stories that are only powerful because they happened to you.
  4. Don’t write your script alone and think you’re done. Generate fans of your work. Managers, Producers — they are all friends to help you write your screenplay and get it sold.
  5. TV is more concerned about a compelling idea than a script. Often networks won’t even read a script before they start developing. TV loves development (opposite of movies).
  6. For writing assignments, there’s no work in the middle pay bracket right now. So A-List writers are working and C-List writers are working.
  7. Aspiring screenwriters should have jobs with zero responsibility, while they’re trying to establish themselves. Save your brainpower for your screenplay.
  8. Always exceed expectations (e.g. If you’re given 10 days for a rewrite, get it done in 8).
  9. Unlike film, Cable channels will buy a pitch from someone who’s not famous. They’ll just pair them with an established showrunner.
  10. Most of his clientele who are making money are in their 50’s. Alvin Sargent is 83 years old and gainfully employed. It may be a youth-driven industry, but really it’s all about your energy.

Did you attend any of the Agent sessions? What was the best advice you heard?

Tomorrow’s Edition: Pitching Advice and Horror Stories


Previous Screenwriting Expo 2011 Posts:

First Impressions
How do you get a Manager?

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