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Good Reader, welcome back to Script Gods Must Die and the Quixote-esque search for screenwriting knowledge! Spanning the globe to bring you the thrill of screenwriting victory and……oh wait, Millennials won’t get that reference:
The agony of defeat is always instructive. It’s also always funnier when it happens to the other guy. This coming from a guy with a tale or two of his own concerning abject defeat. I really liked this article from Slate by Stephen Harrigan about his reflections on a career writing B-Movies. Here’s a sample:
“I had already written the script so there was nothing for me to do on the set except sit in my special chair and eat red licorice from the craft services table while everyone around me was in urgent motion, often miserably trying to achieve some effect that I had thoughtlessly set down in my screen directions. “A raven lands on a rock” had cost me only a few keystrokes, but that mindless literary flourish translated into thousands of dollars of precious production time as a frustrated raven “wrangler” tried in take after take to make his trained bird hit its mark.
It began to dawn on me during the production of that movie that as much as I yearned to be part of the team, my real role was going to be that of lonely outlier. Screenwriters are less like actual filmmakers than like wedding planners: we work for months or even years making sure everything is ready, every detail is in place, but in the end it’s just not our party.”
From the ever great Indiewire comes another tale of woe. When it comes time to actually shoot your movie, sometimes greatness is just not meant to be. Or, as the final words of Detour instruct us: “Fate, or some mysterious Force, can put the finger on your or me, for no good reason at all.” Here’s such a case, a great article from Scott Beggs on the journey of Max La Bella and his project Demonic. This is what happens when a passion piece goes wrong.
“More than five years later, “Demonic” hasn’t hit theaters. La Bella recently posted a lengthy blog entry titled “The Downside of Up,” chronicling the aggravating ups and downs of the project — including two false starts, losing a director the day before shooting was supposed to commence, an abandoned release date plan meant to avoid a larger film (that ironically ended up not being released either) and a final kiss of domestic death in the form of a foreign release that got “Demonic” onto pirating sites within hours. It became an extended lesson in the high price of staying excited about what you love to do.
Filmmakers rarely talk about their failures, which is largely why La Bella’s screed is so fascinating. It’s also what makes it such a valuable lesson to those aspiring screenwriters and directors who think of getting an agent as crossing the finish line, the blissful delusion that getting past the gatekeepers is the ultimate goal. It’s important that La Bella shared a common story that isn’t commonly shared — his dream job didn’t morph into a nightmare so much as it got replaced by the day-to-day standard operating procedure of mini- and major studio filmmaking.”
Read the rest of this entry »
Onward with our Best Screenwriting Links series. It occurred to me looking over my archives that among the dozens of amazing websites out there giving away knowledge for free–check the Links page at www.donedealpro.com for about two hundred of them– among these are a handful of ridiculously strong sites that could be featured in and of themselves. No Film School is at the top of the list, and if you haven’t been there, well, to quote Gomer Pyle, “Shame, shame, shame!” Here’s a sampling of articles that might help you in your Quixote quest to slay your own filmmaking and screenwriting windmills in this year of our Lord 2015.
You’re moving toward the production phase of a micro-budget feature or short. How do you whip up the production documents you need without paying for expensive software? Here’s a free alternative, called Casper. From the NFS article: “Production reports, call sheets, time logs, and schedules are a very necessary aspect of a shoot’s organization. On smaller productions with a limited crew, you may be responsible for producing these documents yourself. Thanks to a developer called ThinkCrew, you now have access to a tool that makes creating these production docs that much easier. It’s called Casper, and it’s a totally free set of templates for Microsoft Office Excel designed for production management. Dynamic scripting under the hood means Casper automates the process for you, filling in relevant data across multiple documents as you input it. Read on to check out Casper, plus some videos breaking down this useful toolset.”
Yes, I admit it, I’ve never explored the grant route. Why is that? Well, I probably didn’t know where to look. When it comes time to finance my films, the notion of making a total spectacle of myself before friends, family, and potential investors dancing with my tin cup in hand BEGGING FOR MONEY is somehow more appealing. Or maybe it just struck me as the only way to do it. Knowledge is power– Maybe I’ll put away my Bojangles dance shoes next time and try to make money via the grant route, using this list compiled by No Film School. You should consider it too. Grants from February through June can be found here. Summer/Fall grants can be found here.
The internet is crammed with “list” posts— XYZ # of rules GUARANTEED to help you in your impossible dream. Virtually all are bullshit. This one appealed to me. Compiled by V Renee, it’s kinda out there, unconventional advice. How can’t you love bullet-point #5: “DO THINGS THAT EMBARRASS YOURSELF”– “This is probably one of my favorite things to do to help my creativity — and it’s simple. The title says it all. If you’re stuck on a scene — it’s not flowing well and the dialog feels contrived, then I suggest sitting in your bathtub for a while. Perhaps you should wear wigs and costumes when you’re stumped. I do interpretive dance (ironically,) practice my draw with toy revolvers, sing songs from HMS Pinafore and The Mikado (do I love comic operas or what?) — anything that jump starts my brain creatively is alright by me — even becoming El Espadachín while I write in my office (as demonstrated below.)
What all of these silly things do, at least for me, is cut any ties I have to my ego, pride, or shred of coolness I might’ve onee had, and allows me to approach my writing without the added pressure of writing “a great screenplay.” Plus, it’s fun.”
How many of you would pay cash money for a video me of me doing interpretive dance wearing a Gilbert and Sullivan wig? Hey, make me an offer!
Lastly, from the No Film School, this advice from the great John August website. Joining No Film School on the short list is this essential storehouse of screenwriting acumen by the guy who wrote Big Fish, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Frankenweenie, and many others. He just gives it away on his site, NOT grousing for consultancies, NOT looking to make a dime on you. There’s enough of interest on the John August site to keep a screenwriting nerd like myself bunked up for a month. I liked this infographic article on something common to all screenplays– How you actually go about writing a scene. How do you prepare? What is common to all great scenes? Here’s knowledge from a pro, a guy in the arena. For the article, go here.
Good Reader, not long ago I promised to open up the archive on the KILLER screenwriting articles I saved from 2014. This being a no-bullshit zone, I admit that there might be some mendacity in calling this a non-selfish act…
I’m working on distributing our micro-budget film Chat. We’re in post-production on Devolve, a web series about a stoner God starring the omniscient one himself, Chicago’s very own Rich Cotovsky. Also, pounding out articles for Script Magazine. Working on an adaptation of the novel Second Amendment. Lastly, finalizing a book coming out in May through Self-Counsel Press– The DIY Filmmaker, currently available for pre-sale on Amazon.
So, absent a cloning of your humble narrator, we’ll go this route. There is SO much good, free content online. I’m guessing you may have missed some of it. We’ll start with BASICS. Check it out:
Ok yeah, I’m starting out by cheating, this was written in 2012 by Danny Manus, but it’s a good starting point. Sure, some bullet-points on this reprinted list by L.A. Screenwriter put together seems self evident– the need for conflict/tension, an emotional goal, having the correct font, etc. Obviously if you’re going to be a pro you’re gonna want to dump that Celtx software for Final Draft. But this list is comprehensive and essential to making your script a clean, fast read. Check it out.
Many thanks to Craig Waddell for assembling this rock solid compilation of advice. Yeah yeah, it’s SO DRY! The whining becomes a wailing and gnashing of teeth of screenwriters when it comes down to actually incorporating the Elements-Of Style-proper-Queens-fucking-English! Has there been a single Screenwriting 1 or 2 class I’ve taught at Columbia College that I’ve not given Waddell’s first note about using Active Voice? And how about Rule 6 on Varying Sentence Patterns– think that might come in handy when writing those Action lines? Or Rule 7 about Choosing Words Carefully. Anyone who has ever done a consultancy with me knows I am an adverb and adjective HATER. Pick a better verb, you won’t need the damn adverb. Great advice here.
Recently, I posted quite a bit on the copyright process. It’s essential stuff, so for those of you who missed it here is the FAQ from the Copyright Office itself at www.copyright.gov. Also, an FAQ on Copyright in general, the basics all screenwriters need to know. If you have the money it’s best to do both, Copyright and register with the Writer’s Guild. If you can only go with one, go with the Copyright– far better legal protections.
Here’s a cool short video from Vimeo Video School that explains the roles of, yes, Who’s Who on a Movie Crew. It does so with some pretty cool animation. For all of you who skipped paying $500 a credit hour plus accrued interested to Columbia Film and Video Department, this is a worthwhile four minutes.
In the following weeks we’ll check out articles with a more advanced slant on the state of the biz. Meanwhile, never let the bastards tell you NO.
Stay warm, and don’t eat, or slip, on that yellow snow!
Good Reader, WTF! Five years? Where’d that go? Looks like I missed the Anniversary. December 9, 2009 was the first post here at Script Gods. Here’s a piece of it:
“You’ve written a script (or 10) and sent it (them) out to varying degrees of success. No breakthroughs, but there’s been “movement.” Or maybe you’ve had zero movement, and you’re pissed off. Any of the following scenarios sound familiar?
Can I tell you: The agent did respond.
Hollywood rejection sounds like this:
Silent. Economical. Perfect.
You keep waiting for news, hoping something will break. What the hell else are you gonna do? And this is the $64,000 question: What can you do about it?
How about controlling what you can control?
How about being proactive?
How about not waiting for the phone to ring?
How about making something happen.
But how? You’ve read all the books and blogs; you took classes and seminars; you went to the cattle-calls at Pitchfest, even shelled out $300 for Screenwriting Expo 5…
Consider today’s thought from the sales department:
A customer will do what they do, until the pain of doing it becomes unbearable.
Or this thought, from The Sage:
Lessons are taught until they are learned.
There is an angle, something you haven’t thought about yet. There is a way. When they told you at Pitchfest nobody is looking to buy your character-driven, deeply personal drama inspired from your very own Grampie and his days as a catfish noodler– what did you do? Did you crumble? Did you even finish the script? Welcome to Darwinism, Hollywood-style.
The Pitchfest finochio goes back to his gig at Smores, Buttcheek and Jones… and you? You toss in. You give up. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Writing is a pain in the ass. Not to mention the chances of your script turning into Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine are about as likely as you winning the Illinois Powerball Jackpot.
Object Lesson #1: If I can get my movie made, you can make yours.
That is my message to you, Good Reader.
You might be the genius in the crowd. You might not. Let’s find out. Read Script Gods Must Die. There will be learning here. Vamos!”
It’s been a good run.
Here’s what to look for in Year 6 at SGMD:
So, stay tuned. This has been a no bullshit zone for five years, and will again…
Let me leave you with these 24 Life Lessons from Werner Herzog. Nothing more needs to be said.
Go and do likewise, Good Reader!
Seasons greetings, oh ye Script Gods Must Die writers! I wish upon you all seasonal goodwill, Christmas cookies, reindeer bells and snowy nights, stressless shopping and travel, Mom’s lasagna and pizza fritas, jello molds and Ice Box cake, multiple viewings of Charley Brown’s Christmas and A Christmas Story. And, of course, THE BREAKTHROUGH in your writing for the year 2015…
What’s interesting–in the great galaxy of screenwriting information available to you, Good Reader–what’s interesting is that perspective isn’t often challenged. By perspective I mean stepping back and seeing the big picture. Awhile back, I tried to go there with a post on Screenwriting & Mortality. Why is it, exactly, do you write? And why screenplays?
When I punch SCREENWRITING into Google, what I get back for search numbers is “About 2,000,000 results“. In those millions of results are every movie script you ever saw or read. Every consultant’s website and every book written by every guru claiming they could make your writing better, claiming that employing such-and-such structural model will give you a better shot at getting into the Old School L.A. Country Club. Every subscriber website charging you for access to “industry professionals”, every screenwriting contest charging $50 or more in your hopes of making it to the semi-finals and maybe bagging an agent or manager–is found here, in this search.
If I’m sounding like Carl Sagan here it’s because I DID think of him. And the perspective he brought.
I mean…what the fuck…sure, fame and fortune would be great. It’s beats the alternative–which is the world imposing itself on you. No no no, no matter what, Good Reader, endeavor to impose your order on the world before the world imposes itself on you.
If that strikes you as philosophical mumbo-jumbo, then I ask you, have you ever asked yourself WHY you are writing? With all the desperation that surrounds the tens of thousands of writers pumping out tens of thousands of screenplays EVERY YEAR, why are you joining their ranks? Will your contribution mean anything in the grand, cosmococcic scheme of things?
Before you start writing today, take a peek at this. It might mess with your mind, and change your POV.
And have a wonderful holiday, dammit!