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#scriptchat
Apr 26th, 2016 by paul peditto

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I am a technophobe.

I am one of the 7% who does not own a cellphone.

I have never sent a text message.

I don’t play video games, I don’t know the names of YouTube stars. I most certainly do not care what’s trending.

But live long enough, you might try everything once.

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Remember the Twilight Zone episode A Thing About Machines? Bartlett Finchley, a guy who loathes and despises technology, gets chased down the stairs by an electric razor, chased out of the house by a TV that won’t turn off, and gets himself drowned by a car with no driver.

Well, that’s me.

My computer and I wage daily war, be it the sound shutting off for no reason, Java-based websites leaving me weird messages about me being compromised, cable cords not working, adapters not working, TV remotes blowing up, website issues, blahblahblah…

When my Columbia Millennials ask me how THE FUCK I’ve never sent a text message in my life I tell them constant communication is highly overrated.

I am obviously not a Twitter guy. Nothing about that mode of communication comes naturally to me. Sure, I have a Script Gods account that has somehow managed to accumulate a few hundred followers, but it’s not like I’m TRYING. I post exactly once a week. I do it mostly because it’s how people communicate nowadays. You run a business, you get on Twitter and tweet, and tweet, and tweet. It’s expected, and I do it. But I don’t have to like it.

All this to say that I’m surprised to announce that I’m going to be on ScriptChat this Sunday at 7pm Chicago time. My editor at Script Magazine, Jeanne Bowerman, asked me to be on and your humble narrator, the technophobe, for whatever goofy reason, said WTF, let’s do it.

ScriptChat is one of the best webcasts out there. We’ll be talking all things micro-budget, both writing and producing. If you’re about to shoot a short film, a web series, a low-budget feature–they’ll be something in those 60 minutes of discussion for you. Least I think there will be… (insert red-faced emojis).

If only for curiosity’s sake, come check out a latter-day Bartlett Finchley as he adds his voice to the cultural din of the TwitterVerse.

#scriptchat. Sunday 7pm. See ya there!

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Best Blogs: IndieWire
Apr 17th, 2016 by paul peditto

 

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Good Reader, while I aim to inspire you with personal content each and every week, some weeks the well runs dry. Like Luis Guzman told Al Pacino in Carlito’s Way after watching him get shot: “Sometimes it just bes that way, Pappi.”

Looking for a creative kickstart, I usually go to a handful of websites. Top 5 among them, and a site I’m sure you’ve already checked out, is IndieWire.

What’s impressive about this site is the sheer breadth of learning contained within. For free. Funny how that’s just assumed these days. I’m ancient enough not to take for granted the learning to be had here. I spent a good 12-hours on the site this week and didn’t even scratch it. Let me highlight some of the posts that I think might be beneficial for you.

If you go to the site you’ll find the tabs at the top with some can’t miss options. A definite can’t miss is the Press Play video archive. Everything from video essays on Ridley Scott to the 100 Greatest Moments of Film Editing to the video essays of Nelson Carvajal, a pal of mine who lives here in Chicago.

Their News area has fully comprehensive up-to-date interviews, Acquisitions reports, Box Office news and the latest from both TV and Film.

Here are some specific links that might interest you:

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  • WHOLE LOTTA APPS!

Looking for essential iPhone screenwriting apps? Look no further than here. Great list of seven apps to help organize and streamline the writing process.

How about once you raise the money to shoot your movie? Some essential apps that help with pre-production can be found right here.

Lastly, six key apps for filmmakers who find themselves between productions. As the sorriest of us know, this “between time” can last up to 10 years, so use these apps to while away the down time. Beats whistling Dixie!

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  • MUSIC LICENSING

You learn damn quick while teaching to never bluff an 18-year old. Own up to ignorance. I’ve never dealt with acquiring music rights for any production I’ve been involved with, which is why I found this article really useful on the basics of music licensing. From the article:

“The most important thing to know is that there are two rights to every song. There is the person who wrote the song (who holds the publisher rights, a.k.a. sync rights) and the person who recorded it (who holds the master rights). To use this piece of music you need permission from both entities. You can listen to a song like “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix but you may not know that the writer is Bob Dylan. To determine who owns the rights to songs, the websites ascap.com and bmi.com are extremely helpful.

Once you’ve determined who owns the publishing and the master, you must contact them separately and ask for permission to use the song. This can get tricky when there are a lot of songwriters involved. Katy Perry’s song “California Gurls,” for instance, has five publishers. Therefore, if you wanted to clear this tune you would need approval from all five of the writers and on top of that you would need approval from Katy Perry. If one of them says no, then unfortunately you can’t use the song.”

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  • POST-PRODUCTION PITFALLS

Back in ’98 when we gave up “Final Cut” rights of Jane Doe to our distributor for $150,000 production money, the inevitable outcome was your humble narrator completely deballed in the post-production process by the Powers-That-Be. This took the form of producer Niki Nikita(not her name) sitting with the editing making all the calls with me, legally bound as director to be in the same room, on a couch behind them, like a lost peanut M & M. On occasion, say every two hours, Niki would look back and ask, “How’s that look to you, Paul?” No wonder I break out in hives at thoughts of the post-production process. Articles like this help me get over the phobia. From the article:

“I’ve worked with so many people whose first movies never get finished.” By bringing in a post-production supervisor early on, filmmakers can know what to expect when they arrive at the editing bay, how long they should take to finish the film, and how much they should expect to spend.

“The truth of the matter is whether you spend $100 million or $100,000, the process is the same,” said (Nancy) Kirhoffer. “In that same vein, if someone is going to pay $15 to see your movie in the theater, they don’t care that you only had $100,000. They only want to make sure it’s worth their $15, and there’s an expectation that the film is going to sound a certain way, and it’s going to look a certain way, and you can’t get over that fact. It has to sound good.”

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  • NEW ALEX COX PROJECTS!

Am I the only one who has Syd And Nancy on their Top 100 movies? Directed by Alex Cox with a punk sensibility you find in all his other stuff(Straight To Hell, Repo Man) the Taxi Cab scene at the end always brings a tear. What do you expect from an old punk who set down in London for the first time in December, 1978. The Clash just released Give ‘Em Enough Rope and Syd was still alive. Old fart shit, right? I don’t even bother asking my Millennials at Columbia if they know Alex Cox, probably 2 in 12 will raise a hand.

But it was though IndieWire, in this article, that I discovered that Alex Cox has a couple new projects on the boil. The first, already funded at over $100,000 called Bill The Galactic Hero. The second, looking for funding, is a cool project called Tombstone Rashomon.

Coming from an adjunct screenwriting teacher, there’s something comforting about learning that Alex Cox is teaching screenwriting himself at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It’s an outrage– How can Alex Cox, director of Syd and Nancy be TEACHING?! When you hear talk about the death of the mid-level budgeted Indie, look no further than here. Alex Cox is crowdfunding 200K movies because he wants to stay in the game, and Hollywood hasn’t been calling. Does that knee-cap him and force him out? Hell no. The remarkable part about this article is his optimism:

“$200,000 is very small amount of money to make a movie, but we’ll do it,” he said. “The blessing of working on a very low budget is you get to do what you want, you get to work with the actors and the crew you want to work with. It’s very liberating.”

He said working in indie film has improved compared to just five or six years ago. “The independent thing kind of got taken over by the studios because they created their own fake independent companies like Focus Features, which were really just branches of Universal, but they took over that independent sector,” he said, “If you ever see a film with John Cusack in it, you know it’s a studio film.”

Cox added that “it’s been a very hard time for indie filmmakers until we discovered crowdfunding.”

Thanks to Indiewire for turning me on to this Alex Cox project, and all the other learning. Great resource.

The Syd Field Question
Apr 11th, 2016 by paul peditto

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According to his New York Times obituary, when Syd Field died in 2013, the license plate on his BMW read “PLOT PNT”– his contribution to Humanity.

Syd has influenced millions, including myself. I was one of the legion to read his book Screenplay, to outline my scripts using index cards, to learn about his “paradigm” and “plot points”, to know my ending before I even started writing page 1.

Quoting from the obituary: “The term “plot point” appeared in The New York Times fewer than 10 times during the century or so before 1979. Since then, it has appeared more than 200 times.

It happens that 1979 was the year Syd Field published “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting,” a book that over the next three decades became widely regarded as the “bible” of screenwriting, the paperback enabler of Hollywood dreams.”

He’s one of those Script Gods that helped inspire this site, though I doubt my little blog actually aided in his demise.

My love affair and falling out of love with Syd Field and his methodology can be found in a new article up on Script Magazine. You can find it here.

Union, Yes!
Mar 28th, 2016 by paul peditto

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Never a Writer’s Guild member, always pro-Union. Peditto, why are you writing about something you know not? It’s true, the Union I’m in is not the WGA. It’s PFAC, meaning part-time faculty, serving the lowly Adjunct teachers of Columbia College-Chicago. The fact that I’m not one of the chosen few of the 2015 WGA doesn’t preclude me from noticing a trend or two. I’m thinking, Good Reader, this might be of interest to you too… before we get to these, you might want to check out the WGA Writer’s Report which gives you an overview of current conditions.

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  • DANCING THE ONE-STEP

Let’s start with this disquieting little tidbit from Variety about the proliferation of one-step deals. Sure, the article is from 2010, but you can bet this nasty trend didn’t go away with the Recession. What’s a one-step deal? From the article:

“Rewrite gigs are a gold mine for the top tier of scribes, but for many other writers, a twist on an old motto rings true: Will work for free.

For writers who have sold a script or landed an assignment, studios have gone from making deals that included a traditional first draft, two sets of revisions and a polish to what are called “one-step” deals. It’s essentially payment for that first draft, with fees for additional work left to be determined.

In a landscape of waning producing deals and fewer pictures in the pipeline, writers say it’s become especially difficult to insist on getting paid for rewrites — even if they end up doing more than a dozen drafts. Their fear: not getting a next assignment.

“Jobs have become so few and far between that writers are willing to keep on writing until they’ve gotten it to the finish line,” says one manager, who, like many, declined to be identified for fear of antagonizing studio execs. “When a writer really wants to be the writer on a project, they’re willing to take a lot of abuse. One of mine did 70 different rewrites on a franchise film.”

70!

You can imagine a younger writer getting squeezed in this environment, not wanting to come off as a Diva, wanting to keep getting considered for assignments, keep getting paid. The squeeze is on.

“When I came up in the business, there was an understanding of what producers would feel was appropriate to ask of writers in terms of a courtesy pass that would take a reasonable amount of time. But that’s all gone out the window,” says Petrie, whose credits include “Beverly Hills Cop” and “The Big Easy.”

Younger and less experienced writers are more susceptible, particularly on projects with multiple producers.

One scribe, who’s been on the staff of two TV series and has a feature going into production this month, said she felt like a “rented mule” on her first gig. “There were 13 rewrites because the producers didn’t know what they wanted,” she recalls. “I was killing myself, and my agent finally demanded that I stop.”

The bottom line is that with studios making fewer movies and cutting back on producing deals, even writers with a proven track record are having to work on spec and generate their own work.

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  • PAPER TEAMS

This Deadline.com article is from 2014 and proves the money guys are still up to plenty of shenanigans. What the hell is a paper team? From the article:

“Always looking for the crooked angle, some unscrupulous film and TV companies have found a way to hire two writers for the price of one. Taking advantage of young, mostly inexperienced writers, these companies pair them up to form what’s called “paper teams” – two writers who are forced to work together for half the pay. Even some older experienced writers have caved to the companies’ demands that they work as a team. It’s a violation of the WGA’s contract…”

Y’think?! How do they expect to get away with this? Easy. The landscape hasn’t changed from the 2010 article. Paranoia and fear are rampant, it takes cujones to call bullshit when they’re paying you $5,000 or $10,000 a week. Not that I wouldn’t know what it feels like to get paid at that rate. I do know I’m not enough of a poker player to call a bluff with those stakes(especially when it’s likely not a bluff at all). I’d crumble and say yeah, sure, I’ll work for half-price, as so many are seeming to do.

“’That’s the scam — to get two writers for the price of one,’ a guild source told Deadline. “It’s one of those areas that in hard times, writers, in economic self-interest, will say, ‘I need a job so bad, I’ll take it even if it’s half-scale.’ It’s been going on as long as unscrupulous producers have been taking advantage of hard-pressed writers.”

The practice has been a dirty little secret for a while, employed mostly in cable but also on some broadcast series, agents say. It could bring together strangers who might or might not be compatible as writing partners. ‘It’s a way for a show to get as many people in the writers room as possible (for the budget),’ a TV lit agent said.”

 

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  • BBC PAYING 2 POUND AN HOUR?

This article looks like it’s from The Onion. Alas, it’s for real. A world-class organization like the BBC is paying its scriptwriters the equivalent of a couple bucks an hour. These “shadow schemes ” are described here:

“The BBC is paying writers working on potential scripts for soaps such as EastEnders, Holby City and Casualty as little as the equivalent of £2 an hour, according to the head of the writers’ union.

Bernie Corbett, the general secretary of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, has written a letter to BBC director general Tony Hall calling for scriptwriters on so-called “shadow schemes” for long-running TV series to be paid the minimum wage.

Writers working on these schemes are paid a single script fee of £1,000 and are required to produce up to three drafts of a trial script over a three-month period, according to Corbett. There is no guarantee of a commission at the end of the scheme.

Corbett said that the rate of pay works out at about £2.38 an hour; the national minimum wage is £6.70, the London living wage is £9.15.”

How do you know if you’re meant to be one of these bloodsuckers? Look in the mirror after paying a writer less than the national minimum wage…

You good with what you see?

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Video Smorgasbord
Mar 21st, 2016 by paul peditto

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In my recent check of Internet resources I found a ton of useful videos. These aren’t connected by any subjects other than screenwriting or movie-making, but I thought they might be of interest to you.  Like they say on ESPN, “let’s go to the videotape!”

  • HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: DRAMA WRITER’S ROUNDTABLE

Another killer series comes from Hollywood Reporter. Go to their YouTube channel and you’ll find all the Playlist interviews they offer, including conversations with top Reality Showrunners, Comedy Actor and Actress Roundtables, and the Dramatic Writer’s Roundtable where this video appears. It’s another ridiculous nearly two-hour free resource to hear Beau Willimon from House Of Cards and a half-dozen other showrunners talk about the process of writing for television. Check it out…

  • NEW YORK TIMES SERIES: ANATOMY OF A SCENE

Elmore Leonard recently died. He left behind an incredible legacy of books and movies, many of which are on display here in this quick two-minute video made by the New York Times. Finding this, I came across a really amazing series, also from the New York Times, called Anatomy Of A Scene. This is a director narrating a memorable scene from a movie of choice and a quick scan of examples shows scenes from movies as large as Man Of Steel  and as low-budget as Fruitvale Station. Great resource to get into the mind of major directors and see how some of the great scenes you love came together. I’ll include the opening scene from The Place Beyond The Pines with commentary by the director here:

  • ACADEMY ORIGINALS: DUSTIN LANCE BLACK

Creative Spark is one of the Channels for the Academy Originals brand, found here. There are twenty interviews with working writers who reveal their process. And while it’s one thing to hear Peditto prattle on about his micro-budget experiences, it is PERHAPS of more value to hear how the guy who won the Oscar for Milk researches and outlines his projects. Dustin Lance Black is that guy and this video shows that Syd Field did not live in vain. Long live Carding Out.

 

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