Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sleeping Through Sickness

Hey everyone, sorry for the lack of updates. I've been under the weather and have been dealing with some minor medical issues, but I am recovering from this mini crisis, so I will be back within a day or two. We've got a lot to talk about! Until then you can have a look at my recommended reading list or you can hit a subscribe button, leave a comment or write an e-mail. I'm a sucka for computer love...lol.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pitching Your Screenplay

screenplayLet's talk about the art of pitching everyone. But before we can get to the specifics, let's try to understand what a Producer's job entails. Thus giving us, the Author, a better understanding on how this business works.

- Producing is a largely collaborative process that requires a broad ability to exercise and facilitate all aspects of the industry. One must have the sensibility and creative instinct of a writer and director, while having a polarizing view of material that you often find with Network executives... and eventually the viewer. A Producer will first focus on identifying or creating material that falls within any mandate given by any of their executive buyers at a variety of Network of distribution outlets. That material may come in the form of a hi-concept short pitch, a spec screenplay, a manuscript or novel for adaptation, a news article that will become the subject of a story to be developed, and treatments or synopsis' of original concepts for development.

On to the pitch:

- Pitching a movie or television idea in Hollywood is murder. A screenwriter walks into a room and has 15 seconds to tell what may be a feature-length story to a bunch of grown-ups who listen to stories all day long, told by the world’s most talented storytellers. While the screenwriter talks, the grown-ups check their e-mail, their stocks and their makeup. And when it’s all over, the screenwriter can only hope that the grown-ups will hand over a suitcase full of money and send the writer home to write it all down.

Wow, scary description, right? Why the hell would I want to get myself into that position? Well, a huge portion of being a successful anything in this town is attributed to your ability to fake your way to the top. Essentially we all need to work on our communication skills. Here's a more detailed description on the art of pitching. Feel free to skip this portion and wait for the next post, where we'll talk about pitching resources, I.E. Pitch Seminars, online services, etc.

A pitch is an animated summation of a script with emphasis on the main characters, the conflict, and the genre. When pitching a script, you use this summation to persuade industry professionals to option the work (purchase it for consideration).

Pitches come in two forms: the two-minute pitch, also known as the teaser, and the story pitch,before you contact industry personnel. You never know when you'll be called upon to sell your story or how you'll be asked to sell it. which is traditionally 10 to 20 minutes in length, though the shorter the better. You absolutely must have both types of pitches prepared

The teaser pitch

The teaser pitch is a short pitch. Traditionally, you get three sentences to hook listeners into the premise, the genre, and the scope of your film. When crafting this pitch, pay particular attention to what you think they might be listening for. Producers probably want to know the following details:

  • How the film might be cast
  • How much it will cost to make
  • How they'll market it
  • What films it resembles

If you follow those requests, your first sentence introduces the characters, the next sentence illustrates their conflict, and the final sentence leaves listeners wanting more. The conflict generally suggests the film's genre, but if not, consider alluding to that in the final sentence as well.

Here are some examples:

  • Europe, 1912. Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater enjoy a secret and passionate romance after they meet on a ship chartered toward New York. That ships happens to be the Titanic.
  • Jessica Stein has met and refused virtually every man in New York City. Maybe it's time she looked for a woman. (Kissing Jessica Stein)
  • Northern England, 1984. Young Billy Elliot, the son of a poor local miner, decides to start training for a career. In ballet. (Billy Elliot)

These examples suggest the skeleton of a short pitch. You might use them at the onset of a meeting to rope listeners into a more detailed explanation, or perhaps insert more details in between these sentences. In any case, practice your pitch at home with a stopwatch. Never exceed two minutes — try to do it in one, if you can. If you maintain the three to five page limitation, timing shouldn't be a problem; you'll finish in well under two minutes. If executives want to know more, they'll ask. Be animated, enthusiastic, and concise. Movie trailers are good examples of this kind of pitch; so are the blurbs on the back of video and DVD boxes.

Some writers craft a teaser pitch for stories that they haven't written yet, in case they're asked what other material they're working on. It never hurts to have two or three teasers on hand, in case you're asked to do the same.

The story pitch

The story pitch is much longer than the teaser pitch, but try to keep it under ten minutes, if possible. People in the industry keep long and frantic hours, which naturally affects their attention spans. If you ramble on or get off-track, they're likely to start planning their next meeting before you're done. Some writers use note cards to help them through this pitch. That's perfectly acceptable, but don't rely on them. Reference the notes occasionally, but keep your focus up and on your listeners. If you practice pitching your story several times before the session, you should have it pretty well burned into your memory, so keeping your eyes on your listeners and off your notes won't be hard.

The story pitch starts with your hook or your logline, and then you run down the rest of the story. Be sure to illustrate those universal elements — the heroes, their goals, the conflict, what's at risk and why they're fighting to save it, any pivotal events or emotional turning points, and the conclusion.

Because you're giving a longer pitch, you have more chances to go astray. Here are a few things to avoid right away:

  • Don't compare your film to others too much. It used to be common practice to depict a script through a combination of two existing films. (It's When Harry Met Sally in Waterworld, or it's Goonies meets The Field of Dreams.) Know what your film shares with others, but keep the comparisons brief.
  • Don't ever compare your script to box-office disasters. No one wants to make another Ishtar.
  • Avoid listing action in chronological order — tell them a story instead.
  • Avoid depicting too many subplots or details. Concentrate on two or three characters and pivotal events, or the pitch will quickly become convoluted.
  • Don't keep pitching if they express disinterest, and (on the bright side) don't keep pitching after they agree to consider it.
  • Don't mention actors that you have in mind. Describe the characters, so that your listeners will envision them.
  • Never lie about the story or its hype. Producers discover false information quickly.

As with any sale, personality is paramount. If you're enthusiastic, they will be, too. If you're charming and witty, they'll remember you even if they can't accept the script. And never express desperation. There's always some other way to generate interest. Pitching scares some writers to death. If you're one of those frightened few, do something about it. Acting classes are a great way to build confidence in your presentation, as are courses in public speaking. Or, if you'd rather, practice in front of friends and family. See whether they'd want to purchase the script based on your description.

After you've typed up both pitches and are comfortable delivering them, you're ready to search for an agent and/or a producer.

RESOURCES: wordplayer.com, pitching for dummies, tvwritersvault.com

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Monday, September 15, 2008

What the Flurge is Going on Here?!

flurgeI picked up a new word today: Flurge.

FLURGE v. A cross between flush and purge "I flurged the wax from my ears." Related searches: flurg, flirge, flerge, flerg, flerj flirj Related searches: flurge, flurg, flirge, flerge, flerj.

I was watching SNL last night and thus discovered a new word that I can so happily butcher into my vocabulary cluster-*uck.

flurge on snl

The word flurge is obviously fun to say but let's face it; the meaning blows. So let's come up with some new definitions, let's just hope that people catch on.

1. FLURGE: A sudden gesture usually executed unexpectedly and intended to scare the crap out of your significant other.
Inflected Form(s): Flurged, Flurging.

2. FLURGE: Expletive slang for having intercourse in public.
Inflected Form(s): Flurged, Flurging.

3. FLURGE: "Your meaning here" - Go ahead, comment a new definition.


In other news, more relevant to the topic of this blog: Tomorrow I have an interview with a production company in Beverly Hills about an editing position, hopefully this will take me out of my extreme financial situation...not counting on it though. Also will be seeing Choke.

Well, I need to brush up some film school knowledge, don't want to look like an idiot during my interview. Wish me luck because I hate being poor.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Upcoming: Exclusive Review of the Film "Choke"

chokeThis coming Monday, I will be lucky enough to attend a screening of the latest Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club, Survivor, Invisible Monsters) adapted novel "Choke".

I'm well excited not only to see this film, but to meet writer/director/actor Clark Gregg and actor Sam Rockwell. Sam is a phenomenal talent, you might remember him opposite of Nick Cage in "Matchstick Men" or more recently opposite Brad Pitt in "The Assassination of Jesse James". Both are incredible movies.

Speaking of Mr. Rockwell, I just finished watching "Snow Angels" with my film school buddy Jason Baxter. This is a must see - it just hit the shelves so think about picking it up the next time you're looking for a good dvd to watch. Snow Angels has that sticky effect, it's been a hours since I've seen it, yet I'm still thinking about that ending...wow!

So, that's about it for now. Gonna hit the sack. Will be posting my review of Choke Tuesday morning - so look out for that. Also will be posting The Slackmistress interview pretty soon and a handful of fresh articles about screenwriting and filmmaking, so stay tuned.

Here is the trailer for Choke...courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tasty Goody Blog Time - Best of Posts pt.2

If there was a water-cooler in the blogosphere office, this is would be the scuzzlebutt. Don't know what that actually means but I saw it in the "The Office" quoted in a relevant joke. Think it means the topic of discussion - or - could a fictional creature "South Park" created.

ScuzzlebuttAnyhow, here are some interesting posts from some pretty nifty bloggers.

fadein.wordpress.com | 5 Things the VMAs Had in Common With the RNC
"I feel dumb for having watched either. I feel even dumber for having watched both." Classic.

girlfromthenorthcountry.wordpress.com | On Being Good Enough
Very well written and personal blog about the pressure of following your dreams and how sometimes it seems; we may be following something bigger then we expected. Highly recommended and a fantastic read. I feel like this all the time Ann.

johnaugust.com | How to handle a phone meeting
Informative article teaching us how to properly pitch a script idea to an agent, exec or producer over the phone. Nice article here because I'm horrible over the phone, sometimes I need other people to act as my assistant just to get through the initial "How how are you doing?" weird.

themovieblog.com | New Quantum Of Solace Trailer
Must see for any James Bond fan. Much darker then Casino Royale, I have high hopes for this film. Check out the trailer and see for yourself.

doubledingbat.com | Violin
Looking for a new movie to see? Well, go rent Violin. I've seen this movie a while back and it was quite moving. Beautiful visuals!

Notes from the Underdog | Screenwriting Tip Countdown #8: Don't Write For Trends
I can't agree more.

silentbobspeaks.com | “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” Red AND Green Band Trailers and (Canadian) Poster
About time f***ing time.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"FlickrMania" the Third

having_fun_at_the_clubHow's it going folks? Tonight I'm happy to bring you the third installment of the ever so fascinating "Flickrmania" series. This is where you get to see another side of me, essentially a more visual presentation of my work.

Also, I get to kick back and open the photo album...in other words; I'm too lazy at the moment to formulate enough words together for an engaging blog entry, so here's a bunch of photos to keep you interested. HAHA.

Right...just jerking the chain, ladies and sirs. Caring is sharing, so here's another look into my life as an artist. Hope you enjoy and thanks for showing up.
- The photos posted below are samples from the most generalized portfolios in my collection, meaning that these works are not meant to showcase a certain style or classification; it's just all in good fun. -

ashlee simpson before fameNot mine but I love dunks. Night!!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Watch Entourage and True Blood Now!

Hello friends. Here with a quick update.

Tonight HBO debuted the season 5 premiere of Entourage along with Alan Ball's latest; True Blood.

Both shows came out swinging. Being a fan of Entourage, I was instantly excited to Vince and crew back on the air. I can remember watching the first season, stuck at home thinking; "When am I going to get my shot?". Well, nothings changed, I'm still wondering about that shot, but the show is more then entertaining so I guess this is how I'll live out my shallow fantasies for the meanwhile.

True Blood was a true surprise. I was not a fan of the trailers and the promos so I was expecting something less then stellar, needless to say I was wrong. The show is intriguing and highly sensual, which operates in this dark, twisted but often funny world. Alan Ball's use of metaphoric meanings and subtext can be found all over the place, which in this case is a good thing.

If you're into new television shows and if you like Entourage; then I highly suggest watching both of these now, and in fact because you are so much cooler then I am, I will include links to download both of the premieres below. Ya know, just in case all of you loyal HBO subscribers forgot to set the TIVO.

True Blood S01E01 HDTV XviD-0TV - Entourage S05E01 DIRFIX HDTV XviD-0TV

Another late night update brought to you by: insomnia. Be back tomorrow kids.

Please rate my blog here at blogged.com spread the love : )

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

How to Sell a Spec Script: A Marketplace on Fire!

screenplaySo you’ve written your first, second or maybe even your third screenplay, and by now you’re sitting around feeling accomplished, the weight has been lifted, you start to feel lighter and suddenly you float on to a wave of confidence perpetuating your consciences into thinking that; you’ve just finished writing a great story and it’s about time somebody reads it.

The good news is; you’re right. Initially you will always be entitled to your self-righteousness that is of course until somebody begs to differ, but you know this…you’re a spec writer with all the original ideas. Now, here’s the bad news: nobody in Hollywood cares about spec scripts anymore. Well, that’s not entirely true, there are people still genuinely interested in finding fresh material, grant it if the screenplay is being represented by a third party. Sad to say, if you’re on the opposite side of the fence, the ratio is rather unfavorable until you find someone to rep you. Finding an agent or a manger is a daunting task, which might possibly scare you into believe negative stereotypes regarding green screenwriters. Green is a term they use in the business to identify those with little or no experience.

Just in case you haven’t the slightest clue of what a spec script is -or- what warrants a script to be considered spec, then please allow me to explain.

A spec script is a "speculative" screenplay, one that the Variety slanguage dictionary defines as being shopped or sold on the open market, as opposed to one commissioned by a studio or production company. In other words, an original script with nobody attached is considered a speculative property until a legitimate producer signs on thus making the project live.

*** The importance of representation *** source: wikipedia

The process of going out with a spec script can be an extremely tense and nerve-wracking one for a writer. If the writer has an agent, the agent will identify a number of prospective buyers who may range from small independent producers to executives working in the major studios, and attempt to build up heat under the script. The script is sent out simultaneously to all the prospective buyers, usually to be read over the weekend, in the hope of attracting a bidding war.

Sounds like a headache, right? I would know, I’m experiencing these scenarios first-hand and at the moment it’s stressful but there is light at the end of that tunnel. Luckily we are at a time where spec scripts are becoming hot commodities, first time writers are suddenly striking million dollar deals with top notch studios and production companies are signing writers left and right, trying their best to stock up on material for whatever preemptive strike maybe coming next. My advice, read the trades. You’ll need to better associate yourself with the business before going in head first, personally, I’ll do whatever it takes to better the odds. Every little bit helps.

So, what triggered the feeding frenzy? Well, it’s complicated. A few major studios have closed shop (New Line) including specialty production companies such as Warner Independent, sad to say because I enjoyed their release catalog but basically the heavyweight buyers are stepping in to fill the gaps. There are more reasoning factors in play here but let’s focus on the good parts of this article rather then the politics.

Okay, well how do I get a piece of the action? Well first and foremost, you’ll need a great script and as I stated earlier, you are always entitled to your own self-righteousness; just make sure you truly believe it. Now, you’ll need to focus on finding an agent or a manager who will help promote you as a viable screenwriter. Here’s the irony; most agencies won’t accept your submission without another form of representation or some type of referral behind it, leaving the inexperienced with very little choices. The other day I was talking to an assistant for one of the bigger agencies in Hollywood, and I was trying to get the name of the person in charge of handling new clients, (never send out query letters addressed to: whom it may concern) instead I was forwarded to a handful of different agencies that may be, in fact: better suited for my needs. So, let’s talk about these options.

screenwriter working

Obviously the big firms such as ICM, CAA, UTA, William Morris and Endeavor function on the; don’t call us, we’ll call you method. I mean it’s logical, think about how many people are trying to be screenwriters and in turn how many of them are legitimately talented. They wouldn’t be exclusive if everybody was able to get in. Now there are smaller boutique agencies that have the power of bigger firms, just with smaller offices. Don’t expect a white-on-white Bentley as a signing bonus either, i.e. Mark Wahlberg. These particular agencies are run by working professionals with uber amounts of experience looking for a more intimate setting. They also accept first-person query letters and since you’ve made it this far, I’ll give you the name of two reputable sources you should seek out now: Benderspink and the KSGB Agency. The others you can find on your own steam or you can catch me in an e-mail and I might oblige.

Next, you’ll want to ready your introduction via a query letter which is, usually a one-page description of your film, with a very short biography carefully intertwined within that description. There is a phenomenal article on the subject of breaking the ice located here at www.wordplayer.com including letter samples and everything else you need to do to prepare yourself. Wordplayer is a column heavy website dedicated to the art of screenwriting - written by Terry Rossio (Academy Award ®-nominated writer of Shrek and Pirates of The Caribbean 1, 2 & 3).

Of course, there are other ways to get your script read. Most of these tactics belong to the unorthodox fair, you can always jump some producer’s fence and leave your screenplay at their door which might be illegal -or- you can start a website and write a ton of material about screenwriting, hoping that someone might take notice of your work. I prefer the second choice, obviously. Either way, there’s work to be done! Pick up the trades, browse the internet for screenwriting groups, attend seminars, write, be prolific, be self-sufficient, write some more, start a website, and most of all be happy or at least look happy; when performing all of the above.

The marketplace won’t be on fire for long, “I think this year is unique because of the strike” says Jake Wagner, Energy Entertainment. “I see this going strong through the summer as well. And fall is typically a time where there’s a lot of spec buying going on, so I see it continuing throughout the rest of the year” says Wagner. Well, let’s hope so.

In other news, my blog posts have turned 50! I guess when I hit 100, I'll have a party with punch and pie. Everyone is invited. Any questions for The Slackmistress? Please send em' over.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mini Update and "Disaster Movie" Review: Some Ole Bullsh*t!

So, how was everyone's Labor Day? Hopefully more eventful then mine. Didn't do much, but I guess that's the whole point of Labor Day. Anyhow I ate too much then watched The Dark Knight for the 12th time. I scrapped a bunch of plans because I didn't feel like breaking out the informal swim attire.

Well, it's back to work - gonna sit down and prepare some query letters then prep some future interview material and hopefully come back around tonight with another blog post: "How to Sell a Spec Script" and why now is the time to do so! Good news for the underdog. Stay posted...


Alright, on to the funniest thing I've seen all day. The wonderful guys at Spill.com have uploaded somewhat of a genius review on the new Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer fiasco "Disaster Movie" you already know what I thought of "Meet The Spartans" so no need for an introduction.

Watch this review...it's funnier then the actual movie.
IMPORTANT: (click on the movies tab in the upper left hand corner and choose Disaster Movie Review)

Favorite quote: "This movie must of been shot in 'shi*-a-scope' with a sh*ty script" All in all "Disaster Movie" is pure bullsh*t.

disaster movie sucks

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