Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How I spent my Christmas vacation

You'd think I didn't post in the last week because of the holiday stuff, and there was a lot of that. I baked everything this year, so there was a lot of kitchen time.

But the main reason I didn't post anything for the past week is because I was too busy writing.

There's this book, see, that I love more than any other book. It's a project I want very badly that has gone around and around Hollywood for many years and never gotten the green light because nobody has ever been able to crack the script. Word is, the project is completely dead. They stopped trying.

And no, this has nothing to do with Wonder Woman. And I'm not going to say what the project is for a very good reason.

Anyhow, I just finished a script and sent it to Manager for notes, which I won't get back until after the holiday. In the meantime I have nothing to work on. I had planned to make a Youtube video, but before I started that, I got a wild hair up my ass to write the treatment for this adaptation. I thought, you never know - what if I get the chance to meet with the producers who own the rights to this thing - I should be prepared to throw my pitch at them. So I took two days and cranked out ten pages.

And they were ten very good pages.

Turns out, I've loved the book so long and read it so many times that I didn't really need to think too much about what I'd change and remove and add. Apparently I've already done all that in my head over time. So the pages just flowed onto the page without much filtering from my conscious mind.

Then I sat and looked at my treatment and I thought, well, what the hell, why don't I just plunk down a couple of pages of the opening scene, since that's so clear in my head. What can it hurt?

I sat down in front of the computer to write two pages. An hour and a half later, I had 11 pages.

Then I said, hey, I'm gonna keep going. I wrote more pages the next day. Then I said hey, I'm gonna write it before Hollywood comes back. After New Year's the town starts up again and I'm going to have a rewrite, maybe more meetings, maybe another spec to write, and then there will be no time for this project. But maybe - just maybe - if I finish it and it's good, we can take it to the producers who own the rights. And maybe - just maybe - if they see a finished script that blows them away, they'll bring this project back to life. Dream achieved.

It's not out of the question.

If it doesn't go anywhere, what did I lose? I wrote a project I'd been wanting to write since I learned what screenwriting was, and I spent two weeks doing it. So to me, a no lose situation.

And that's what I've been doing. I wrote 13 pages one day, 19 the next, and I've been going up and up in daily page count until today, when I hit my all-time record of 26 pages. I started this last Thursday and took two days off for Christmas. So that's 5 days of writing and 77 pages. And I'm gonna be honest - they're good pages. I haven't had to skip scenes like I usually do, or put in placeholders and figure out how to solve the problem later.

It helps that I didn't write the story. I don't have to spend any time wondering if the story is fucking stupid, which is always something that stalls me out a bit. I also know this story very well, so well that I wrote the entire treatment from memory.

I hope to get the first draft down by Monday at the latest.

This is just one of those times that comes along very rarely in your writing life, when you know what you have to do and you do the fuck out of it.

I highly recommend it.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hit List / Black List 2012

It's list season!
Not long ago we had a Young and Hungry List, a list of writers who are new on the scene and show a lot of potential.

In October we had the Blood List, a list of great specs from this year that had blood all over them. And by that I think they mean horror and thriller. I'm still not 100% sure what the Blood List is because it's not just horror. But I know that it's never going to apply to me, so I don't pay it much mind.

Monday is the big one - the Black List. Not to be confused with BL 3.0, the website where you can upload your script, the original Black List was created when producer Franklin Leonard sent around an email to just about everyone he knew in the Industry asking what scripts they liked the most this year. He compiled the results into a list, and pretty soon it became a thing. So the Black List is the papa bear of lists. If you're on it, that puts you on a new level. It means your script was one of the most passed around works of the year. It's the ultimate in validation that doesn't involve your film actually being made. Because I think all of us would ten times rather have the movie actually made than have the script be on any kind of list. But I digress.

Here's the 2012 Black List.*

Friday, the Hit List came out. What the hell is the difference between the Hit List and the Black List, you may ask? The Hit List is all specs. So while the Black List may have studio assignments, sequels, etc, the Hit List is only scripts written by a writer hoping for a sale or an option. You're more likely to get new writers on this list, and you're less likely to have to compete with Aaron Sorkin. BUT many of these scripts will also appear on the Black List.

Here is the link to the 2012 Hit List**. Enjoy!

*I am not on it.
**I am on it.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Writer's Lab - a community worth checking out

Screenwriters need a community. Writing is such a solitary activity that it's tough to have an objective view of your work. It also gets a bit lonely. I happen to be a big fan of joining communities, if not forever, then to see what they have to offer. I've left a few writing groups in my day. I've left a few websites too. I've stuck with Done Deal, this blog, and I am all over Twitter. In fact, I feel like I've made friends through all three of those online sources. Who would have thought you could make friends via Twitter?

The point is, even if you're not a social butterfly, you need to network with other writers. You need reliable note givers, and people who understand what you're going through,  and  people who can answer questions or make recommendations. But mostly, you need reliable notegivers. Not your mom.

So I thought that today I'd highlight a community you may not have heard of. Robert Dillonw (rdlln on Twitter) has often mentioned his online screenwriting group, and I thought it deserved some attention, especially from those of you who are out-of-towners. I asked Robert to do a guest post explaining what his Writer's Lab is. And just to clarify, because it sounds like a bit of an ad, it's completely free. This is an online community, not a company trying to sell you anything. I am not a member, but I love the idea. It is only accessible via private invitation, so your work is more protected.

So here you go. I cede the floor to Robert:

If you’re serious about becoming a better screenwriter then you know how valuable feedback is. While there’s no substitute for live, in person writing groups - they’re not always possible. Enter, the Writers’ Lab.

The Writers’ Lab is a private blog I created where you can post as many pages as often or infrequently as you like. Others can then critique your work in the comments. In addition to the home page (where pages are posted) there is a forum to introduce yourself and discuss all things screenwriting related. You can also use the blog to form your own smaller, more intensive writing groups or to find a writing partner.

I’d like to thank Emily for this opportunity to tell you a little bit about the lab. Please  contact me if you’d like an invite. Here’s what some members have to say:

I think that Writers' Lab is a great chance for writers (and aspiring writers) to share opinions and tips on each others material. It's been very difficult for me to find anything else on the internet. I'm Italian and I make huge efforts to write in English in order to have more chances in the international industry. When I finish a script, I'm in love with my story and my characters but I do know that the first draft (and probably even the next 8!) is crap. And I don't need my mum's opinion, neither my best friend's one. I need an objective opinion from another writer. Someone who can tell me if my structure works, if my characters have an appropriate arch or if it's terribly boring, too much slow or something. And the more he'll be frank and hard, the better will be my rewriting. Re-writing is a sort of catharsis. Isn't it? Everything becomes clearer, draft by draft. And it's the essence of writing itself. But to do it, as I just said, we need a critical reader. Writers helping other writers is a great resource and Writers' Lab is exactly this.
- Francesca     Gajo

The Writers Lab is a place that has the potential to grow into an invaluable and resourceful place for all scriptwriters looking for guidance, feedback, advice and of course like-minded friends who are also working towards breaking into the industry.

I have only been a member for a short time, and I have already made friends with approachable and talented people, and gained superb and well mannered feedback for a number of scripts that I am working on.  My friendships with such people have continued to grow outside of the Lab, and this has been the greatest benefit for me, as trusted readers are something that all writers need.

The Writers Lab is friendly, well run, informative, educational and above all else it’s run by the people, for the people.

It is not pretentious, daunting, or self-applauding and everything I have gained from it has been from sincere, candid and affable people on a similar journey to my own.  I love it, and am very grateful to feel like a part or something that will hopefully continue to grow.

    - Paul Holbrook