Monday, June 27, 2011

I shall be podcasted

Script Doctor Eric runs a fantastic podcast called Scriptcast, where he and his buddy Matt discuss screenwriting and the Industry in a fun, casual atmosphere. For some reason, they'll be talking to ME tomorrow, Tuesday June 28.

I appear to have fooled them into thinking I have something to say. For all I know, we'll spend an hour discussing my adoration for Zombie Strippers.

But if you want to check it out, go here to subscribe or search for "Scriptcast" on Itunes. And even if you don't want to listen tomorrow, I encourage you to check it out in the future or listen to past episodes. It's a podcast for people like us, working from the sidelines to get into the big show.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Time to get organized

Grades are almost in and graduation is almost here, and I am completely ready to launch into my working vacation. The first thing I have to do is clean out my office. It's the room where we've shoved all our crap when we cleaned out other rooms, and right now it's a disaster. So I've set aside two days to clean out the office and put some stuff up on the walls so it's a perfect place to work. Since we moved in, I've just had a space carved out on the desk. No more. Now it's going to be a real office.

I have written on the sofa, the desk, in my classroom, at meetings, anywhere, really. I'm easily distracted by people watching, and I need a routine to get my brain in gear, so I've chosen a structured office setting for my work space. I have a nice paint color on the wall, but that's no good if I have to shove shit out of the way every time I want to put down my laptop.

I need to go to The Container Store and get some containers, is what I need. You cannot have too many organizing containers, I always say. Unless you're a hoarder. But I'm just tired of not being organized. It's distracting when I'm trying to write and I look over at a stack of shit that needs to be dealt with.

Anyway, what's your work space like?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Update on the great class zombie project

Since it became clear we had neither the resources nor the time to make a solid short film out of any of the scripts the kids wrote for their screenplay projects, I assigned it to them as a final exam. Each group was to take their script and somehow present their story to the class. They could make a video or a play or a comic book or a puppet show or anything in between.

First of all, the screenplay have been great. This started as a zombie project, so most of the kids did exactly that, although there were a couple of exceptions. So you'd think, given how many zombie stories are out there, that I'd see pretty much the same shit over and over. Not so. Sure, some of them went the traditional route of people being chased across the city. Some of those were well done, some not so much. But some totally surprised me. I had zombie love stories, intelligent zombie comedies, and one story that was supposed to be serious but the kid who wrote it was so unintentionally funny I laughed my way through the damn thing.

My favorite line: "Guy bites her skin off, which appears to have caught her off guard." Always a joyous surprise to laugh that hard when you're grading papers. She did not understand what I thought was so goddamn funny.

Anyway, today they started presenting their projects. One group used Photoshop to turn pictures they took into a comic book that they then showed in a PowerPoint presentation. That was super cool.

The best part of all this is how some of the kids who did the most amazing work on this thing were some of my laziest kids. It's like they came alive as soon as I showed them the literary value of film. Hopefully that will carry over into their classes next year and they'll realize that what they learned applies to all the stories, not matter what the genre.

I'm definitely doing this next year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Joshua James interview at Scriptshadow

Joshua James, whose screenplay Jones Party just received a positive review at Scriptshadow, did an interview today. It's full of great information from a guy in the trenches who works his ass off.

There are a couple of gems that I found myself nodding like crazy to as I read them:

I'd been given the following advice early on, and I should have heeded it but didn't, said advice being: It's better to have no representation than it is to have bad representation or the wrong representation.

I scoffed at this at the time, but now I can see that's indeed true. I should have stopped worrying about agents and focused harder on my work. If you write enough scripts that people love, you'll find the right people to represent you. 

Having been in a similar situation, I could not agree more. I have no regrets about walking away from a situation that didn't work (not a bad manager, just not the right one for me at that time), even if it means I had to start all over with the search.

And then he said this, about making time to write:

You have until the end of your life, but when is that? Fifty years. Ten? A week? Tomorrow? No one knows, right?

My friend Scott Myers has said, "Writing doesn't owe anyone a living" and that's so very true, so if you're doing it, do it because you love it, and try (this is hard) to write like there's no tomorrow. 

I feel guilty if I don't write for a long time.  Even if I'm not typing pages, I'm ALWAYS workshopping something in my head. In the shower, in the car, as I'm trying to fall asleep at night, any down time I have I spend working on my story because I don't want to waste anymore time than I already have.

It's a really good, informative interview, and he also has a great rant about passion that filled me with loving feelings. Check it out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Title selected

Titles are important. I've discovered that with Nice Girls Don't Kill, I don't have to say much else because the title speaks for itself. You know what that movie is, or at least you have an inkling. I've had scripts that didn't have such great titles - Salvage, Burnside, Jacking - but that one I knew was perfect. It's got a suggestion of humor, obvious irony, and it reflects perfectly the theme of my story, plus it implies violence.

From now on, I want all my titles to be that perfect. Yesterday I asked for suggestions, and thank you guys so much. Even though I ended up going with something completely different, it was those suggestions that sent me in the right direction. I needed something with the right tone - a bit of fun, a suggestion of mischief, something that implies a short time frame and a wedding. I ended up dropping the moon thing entirely because it always ended up sounding too dramatic. The wedding thing is what gave me fits. EVERY wedding cliche has already been used as a movie title. Shotgun Wedding would have been great if it hadn't been used by a 2006 Black List script. I had to be creative this time.

I finally figured it out in the car on the way home. It's not quite as perfect as Nice Girls Don't Kill, but I think it sets the right tone:

How My Wedding Dress Got So Dirty


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Title me, please

I'm having some trouble coming up with a cool title. I've been going over every possible permutation that reflects the script perfectly, so right now I'm on the verge of calling it "Action Thief Moon Thing," which is accurate but terrible. Right now I'm calling it "With a Rebel Yell" but nobody except the Beefcake seems to know what the fuck that means, which tells me something about why we are together but doesn't do so much for this script's publicity options.

I have a great title for my last thing and a great title for my next thing, but this thing is giving me fits.

So I'll see if you guys want to chime in with some possible titles based only on a few key words. Think of this as a brain exercise that benefits me.

Okay so here are the words:

Old enemies
Time limit
Fear of commitment

Okay make up some titles. I'll wait.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Matrix lesson plan

We spend a good part of our year at school preparing for standardized tests, so once the tests are over we get to do fun stuff. Since the kids have been working on screenplays, which turned out to be pretty awesome so far, I figured this week I'd show some clips from some of my favorite movies and talk about why they work.

The best lesson ended up revolving around The Matrix. I showed the subway battle with Agent Smith from the first film and explained why it works. Then I showed the playground fight with the billion Agent Smiths in the second movie and explained why it doesn't work.

In a nutshell, the first one has a plot. Neo doesn't believe he is special, but at the beginning of the fight he starts to wonder if he might be. Then he actually hurts Agent Smith and it pisses him off, so Agent Smith kicks his ass. And when you think Neo is about to give up, he stands and signals to Smith to bring it on, he's ready. But Smith is still stronger. And just when you think all is lost, Neo says he knows who he is. And he wins.

The fight in the playground Agent Smith talks and talks and talks and talks, then finally they fight. And Neo is never not winning. And then he beats them all up and flies away. It takes five whole minutes, which is super long in fight time. And no plot happens, just fighting.

If the first movie is about Neo accepting that he is special, that fight is very much about that. If the second movie is about Neo's fear that he can never live up to that image people have of him as a messiah, I guess the fight proves.... he is a messiah?

The kids all agreed completely. They found the second fight boring.

Then one kid goes "Miss, you're going to make us think when we go to the movies, aren't you?"

I nodded and smiled.

"But then we won't like the same movies anymore."

I laughed maniacally.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Good day bad day

So on the down side, the two producers/managers that have read my script have both said they love the writing, but aren't sure about the concept. I'm a little stumped on my current project because I'm not sure I have a full story, and I still have tons of papers to grade so I can't do any writing for a little while, which I guess doesn't matter since I'm still cracking my story.

On the upside, both producers/managers have said they love my writing and would read something else of mine. School is almost out so I'll have time to do nothing BUT write pretty soon. I think I'm just going to take the outline I've got and start chugging away at it, and I hope some of my issues solve themselves once I get cracking. If not, notes will do the trick. And today someone one of my friends said about The Beefcake that launched a screenplay idea that has consumed my brain all day.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

My Fraggle Rock movie

Some time ago, someone in a position of some influence suggested putting my name in the mix for the Fraggle Rock movie. Of course I realize now how ridiculous the odds would have been for me to have landed that job, but at the time I thought it sounded reasonable.

I loved Fraggle Rock. I don't think you can possibly understand how much I loved Fraggle Rock. I would stay up on the couch at my grandmother's house as a kid, completely glued to that television, refusing to go to bed because I wanted to watch more episodes of Fraggle Rock.

So when I heard I could somehow possible be THE writer to tackle Fraggle Rock the screenplay, of course I said NO. I didn't even hesitate.

Have you read what I write? Cuss words and violence, that's me. Strong women who like to beat ass because it's the only way they know how to express their feelings. I do not write about sharing and trash heaps. My Fraggle Rock movie would revolve around a bloody raid on the Gorgs to get revenge for the death of Wembly. And everybody'd be all pissed, and they'd carry little Fraggle guns, and Red would be a badass Muy Thai warrior who would push Gobo to the side when his leadership proved ineffective.

I'm pretty sure that's not what they're looking for. Sometimes I think back to that moment and wonder if I should have said yes, just throw my hat in there, what's the worst that could happen? I don't know, but I know they wouldn't have picked me.

Friday, June 03, 2011

My favorite spec scripts

I reorganized my files. First I fixed my own script files, giving each project its own sub-file so I can easily identify query letters, loglines, outlines, drafts, whatever has to do with that particular script; it's now all in the same file. I shoved all abandoned projects into their own folder, so now I don't have to cringe every time I pass by that project about a team of brothers who pull heists on nudie bars or whatever the hell that crappy thing was about.

Once I got done with that, I decided to tackle my collection of other scripts. I marked all the ones I've read so that I can easily see which scripts I haven't checked out yet, and I deleted some that I have downloaded more than once. I also simplified the titles.

It didn't take that long, and it really gave me a nice excuse to not grade papers.

As I cleaned up my files I reminisced about all the great scripts I've read. Of course there's Tonight, He Comes, which if you know me at all you know is my very favorite script ever. Then I saw Me and My Penis, which I'd forgotten about and enjoyed remembering ever so fondly. My Mother's Curse and Gravity are two of my other favorites. And who doesn't love Killing on Carnival Row?

There are so many scripts I still haven't read. I should have a few hours to myself this weekend when I should be grading papers. Sounds like an excellent time to read something.

So what should I read? What are your favorite specs of the last year or so?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Nice Girls Don't Kill Queries - round 3

Good lord, it's already Wednesday. What the hell.

I just got done with another query push. I did okay with my last one, but haven't heard back from everyone who's reading the script. I got one mixed response. (Liked it, didn't love it, send me your next one.) I plan to wait a little bit longer before I try any kind of follow-ups. I hate follow-ups, though. They sound so desperate.

Please, sir, have you read my little scripty script? Do you want to tell me how much you like it? PLEEEEEEEEASE!

So much of what we do feels like subtle - or not so subtle - grovelling.

So over the last three days I waded into boutiqueland. I went in alphabetical order through my list of managers. Before I picked only ones I'd heard something about; now I went deep into research mode and found out as much as I could about those little companies that chug along behind the scenes, getting things done quietly.

It takes work to find people who want what you've got. I'm big on fun, but some places push a long list of serious shit. A lot of firms are somewhat polarized - their scripts are all intense thrillers or ridiculous comedies. But then every now and then I found someone with a history of selling scripts like mine - fun and actiony, to the point of quirkiness.

I sent out about 20 queries this week. I got one request right away. Now I twiddle my thumbs and wait some more.