Monday, October 20, 2014

Trying My Hand at Stand-up Comedy

To celebrate my 40th birthday I stepped on stage to do something I’d spent hours and hours thinking about but struggled to find the confidence to do earlier: stand up comedy.

For a little under two years, I’ve been performing improv comedy with The Sacramento Comedy Spot's Wednesday night training team so one would think I would have worked out all my jitters. But as anyone in the comedy world can tell you, the disciplines are different. Improv (within a structure) you make up the entire show.

Telling people you do improv comedy is a lot like telling someone the Midwest you’re a Vegan not a Vegetarian.

People are much more familiar with and less forgiving with stand up. It’s simple you stand on stage and be funny. I’ve always thought of myself as a funny guy and been told as such. Over the years, I perfected my comedic timing for training sessions, classes, and such. I’m the king of witty quips, but could I be funny on demand?

For about as long as I’ve been doing improv I’m been eyeing the stand up guys. They’re nerds, just the same as the improv performers, but few people did both. I figured my brain was under enough stress learning one, why may its worse doing both. So between my film projects, work and other obligations I never got around to taking the Comedy spot's class on stand up, but I was tucking away bits I thought were funny.

So rather than wait my turn at open mics like all starting comics do, I invited everyone I know to come see me and a few other people perform during a comedy spot “Test Kitchen” slot.

Here is my second time on stage doing stand-up:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Film about exotic dance trial needs an image

Which of these three are best represent "Pink?"

Having never been a screenwriter before maybe I don’t know any better, but when I finish something I burn to see it made. That’s the point, right.

With that in mind I’m going to American Film Market in Santa Monica Nov. 5-12 to sell or develop my feature screenplay “Pink.

Logline: A free-speech-loving exotic dancer battles a small-town sheriff and bares it all to convince a jury that her "bottomless" dance is art worthy of protection in this sexy courtroom comedy based on an actual 1969 case.

Here’s where you come in. The super talented graphic artist Val Mina has offered up three great ideas for an illustration. The illustration will be used on the web, but most importantly right now will be the image on our “leave behind” materials given to distributors, agents, producers, money men, casting directors and the like.

  1. In one the judge's robes become the theater curtains, as a girl dances on stage.
  2. Instead of lady justice we have a judge peeking under the blindfold to get peek at the lady dancing on one of the scales.
  3. Classic. On possible variation would be to have sheriff between the legs rather than the judge.

Give us your thoughts.

I had previously begun laying the groundwork for a photo shoot and video tease also be used to market the film, but in the interest of time that will wait until after November. Thanks again for your support in this endeavor.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Despite fears, ticket secured to big film event

Matchbook from the Pink Pussy Kat Club
And with a click I’m going to Hollywood.

Well, going to Santa Monica for what’s billed at one of the top film conferences in the world.

If you’re new to the blog, I’m a longtime newspaper writer with the bold ambition of turning his first feature-length screenplay into a film. That’s why three days before my 40th Birthday hit “purchase” on a $500 ticket.

I’ve produced a couple shorts, but this will be, by far, my most significant film project.
Going to this thing kinda terrifies me.
My brief experience in film has taught me that Hollywood isn’t built to absorb ideas from outsiders.
It’s hard to sell a script, until you have an agent. And its hard to get an agent, until you’ve sold a script.

I’ve tried from afar. But to date, none of the 30 odd email queries I’ve sent have been met by a positive response. That’s to be expected I’m told.
Going to the conference is a chance to take matters in my own hands. Here is the wiki description of the event:

The American Film Market (AFM) is a film industry event held each year at the beginning of November in Santa Monica, California. About 8,000 people attend the eight day event to network and to sell, finance and acquire films. Participants come from more than 70 countries and include acquisition and development executives, agents, attorneys, directors, distributors, festival directors, financiers, film commissioners, producers, writers, etc. Founded in 1981, the AFM quickly became one of the premier global marketplaces for the film business, where unlike a film festival, production and distribution deals are the main focus of the participants.

Event marketing materials point out that whole films have come together at AFM, but I bet they had an agent to schedule those meetings. Not that I hadn’t been working hard already on moving the script and film forward, but knowing that in a month I’ll have a golden opportunity to make a contact that can catapult this project forward is invigorating. I worry I won’t have the money to put my best foot forward, but I’ll do the best I can.

Between now and then I’ll perfect my pitch, study the players, and develop “leave behind” materials that keeps my screenplay “Pink” on their minds.

If you’re just coming to this blog its high time I tell you what the film is about:

Logline: A free-speech-loving exotic dancer battles a small-town sheriff and bares it all to convince a jury that her "bottomless" dance is art worthy of protection in this sexy courtroom comedy based on an actual 1969 case.

Membership card from Pink Pussy Kat
It’s a story I learned about through my occupation as a newspaper reporter. The fact that the club was in Orangevale the community where I grew up only fueled my interest. Now I want to bring this story to the big screen for all of Sacramento. I’m hoping people will support me and rally to this cause.

I could use help reading my business plan, giving me feedback on my pitch, crafting my leave behind materials and finding a place to crash.
I’m so thankful for all the people who have helped me get this far. I’d never have made it this far without your encouraging words, feedback and participation in table reads. A special thanks to all of the people who have tried to connect me with your Hollywood connections.

We’ve got a long way to go, but I’m confident will be much further down that road as a result of the conference. Help me break a leg.

Follow the movement on Facebook.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Burning Year Around

In a little over one week I’ll be heading to the desert for my sixth Burning Man.

The event, in it’s 28th year, is a week long arts, music and cultural festival in the Nevada Blackrock desert. It is characterized by three things: the harsh environment, participation and the feverishness of participants.
 I’m sure my list of three will be debated. Some would say drugs or the clothes or the music. Allow me to retort: The environment dictates the dress and is the main reason most people won’t come. Unlike concert festivals, Burning Man demands that
everyone participate and be part of the show. And that participation leads me to the next point: Burners are obsessed about talking about Burning Man.  
A non-burner co-worker recently compared burners to hovering parents.
But for good reason. There is a whole lot to prepared for: feeding yourself for a week, costumes, travel etc. However, the main reason many burners can’t stop talking about Burning Man is to a certain extent they never left. The random collection of peaceful, art, music and fun-loving tribes is easily more alluring than the work-a-day world with bits a fun sprinkled in between budget meetings.
But also many of us have been in project mode almost since we left. Here’s a sampling of some of the things my campmates have been working on:

- Tractor is the queen of playa clothes gifting. She spent 100s of hours making tutus, miniskirts and booty shorts for the people she’s never met. She enjoys nothing more than helping a new burner out of their khakis.

- Boosh in addition to other projects built the Pantzooka. We’ll playful save those afflicted with the urge to shirtcock. Yes, shirtcockers are men who rocks a t-shirt with their bit exposed. Here is the commercial I made with my non-burner engineer and artist for use on the on-site radio station. The station streams on the Internet at

-Princess Fussy Pants, with Scout and her craftsman, built the Burner Pen Pal Project. The attractive, functional setup allows burners to safely exchange off-playa addresses for letter exchanges and a website for people to share those experiences.  Here is the radio spot.

- Uncle Bob is the king of camp construction. He’s built lamps, expanded the bar, built high-bar tables, redesigned our shower and has generally been working like a mad man to ensure everyone is comfortable and the camp functions.

- Captain America is racing to complete a kegerator for camp.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Getting script to Hollywood a challenge

Getting a script to Hollywood is harder than one might think.

By Hollywood I mean anyone that matters in the Los Angeles film making industry. Technically, you just mail it or email it there right? Wrong. You first have to get someone to accept it. Sending it unrequested is considered very bad form. So task one is getting someone to agree to read it.

The problem is the people at the big studios don’t accept unsolicited screenplays. So even if you scoop an agent’s email address off IMDBpro you’ll often told to politely to buzz off. At this point, I’ve only sent off a handful of emails to agent types.

The traditional, a-be-it longshot, means to get the script to Hollywood is through an agent or through winning in screenwriting competition. I’ve entered several screenwriting contests and will bring readers up to date on that soon.

In addition to stocking agents, I’m compiling lists directors, producers and actors who might be right for the movie. Of course, I started with people who’ve done stuff I like.

I’m not going after the titans of the industry but people who have done something that was really good but weren’t blockbusters. The thinking is maybe the right project, my film Pink, we could make a blockbuster.

By any respect, I’ve only just begun.

Some screenwriter/bloggers talk about strafing the landscape with hundreds of emails in hopes of nibbles. Am I cocky or arrogant or just dumb for thinking I don’t want some “B” list director messing up my film. Shit, I’m not even a “D” list screenwriter. I should be happy that the team from “Step Up: Volume Six” want to option my screenplay. Not that they do or there is even such a movie yet.

You email and wait. There is lots of waiting at this stage of the game. Part of me want to start writing other projects I have stirring in my brain, but I’m afraid if I stop giving Pink my full attention it will die an unceremonious death.

The waiting is maddening. I try to be cool about it. But it quietly burns at ya. You spent months of your life breathing life into this story now you desperately want someone else to care about it as much as you.

I’m trying to take advantage of whatever personal relationships I have that could help my get it to Hollywood. But even when your script is coming recommended it doesn’t mean that person has time to read it right away. The people in a position to make your movie are already making a movies so they have very little time.

I’m told myself repeatedly to stop worrying about it until after Burning Man. If you’re unfamiliar with Burning Man read this, (I don’t want to get side tracked during this post).

But try as I might I keep thinking there is more to be done. Another seed to plant before the desert. I’ve love to find myself smoking a peace pipe with Wes Anderson or some other big time director, but you can’t approach Burning Man with an agenda. It will provide what it will provide.  

Short of manifesting funding, a cast or a viable director while at Burning Man, my plan once I return to civilization is to seek out the people on the fringe of Hollywood. People who might not be able to greenlight a project, but whom producers with the means of making thing happen listen when they say “you ought to read this.”

I’m open to crowdsourcing the development of this project. If you’ve got connections, strategies of ideas feel free to share them in the comments at email me at majorfletcher (at)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

30 minutes a day to success

Thirty minutes a day.
That is my challenge. 
No, not exercising silly. 
Film hustling.
That's my big takeaway from Gary W. Goldstein's book "Conquering Hollywood:" If you want to go from being a good screenwriter to being a successful screenwriter, spend 30 minutes a day networking and building relationships with people that can help you be a Hollywood success.
The book -- which I did as an audio book -- assumes you're already a polished screenwriter. That's a huge assumption, but as he points out there are plenty of books about the craft of writing. His book is about the behaviors and techniques needed to be a successful Hollywood screenwriter.  
It deals with networking, creating a database of people you want to meet, cataloging contacts, pitching a movie, working a room and building relationships. But if you forget everything else and just enacted his 30 minute suggestion you'd be well on your way. 
The pessimist would say, "I'm not in Hollywood so how can I meet people at Hollywood parties."
I'd love to be eating cocktail weenies with Denzel and Hallie too, but it doesn't mean you can't start until you get there. 
To get from here to there, you join the local professional organizations, attend the local film festivals, yes both, you use social media as a networking tool, you attend conferences and when your film marketing tools are sharpened you to reach out to the agents, producers and managers in a position to help your career along.  
For me this focused on my goal of seeing "Pink" playing on movie screens across the country and beyond. 
Logline: A free-speech-loving exotic dancer battles a small-town sheriff and bares it all to convince a jury that her "bottomless" dance is art worthy of protection in this sexy courtroom dramatic comedy based on an actual 1969 case.
If seeing it to be big screen is the mountain before me, I've reached a fast moving river to be traversed before the serious climbing begins.
It's the "Is It Done Yet" Phase. 
I've work-shopped it with my CFAA screenwriting group, I've fanangled a table read, I've sought input from locals who have experience in screenwriting. 
I'm now considering whether I should seek professional "coverage." Coverage are notes provided by people who used to be a front line script screener for production companies. They read your script and tell you what to fix. It seems like a bit of a crap shoot to me. How do I know my reader and I like the same movies? But the big question I suppose is: It this good enough that you'd send it to your boss.
What one doesn't want is to burn bridges with Hollywood types because you're sending out a script that doesn't meet an acceptable level. When studios pass on your script they are not going to send you a nice note explaining why.
That is where the script consultants come in. So is $300 a reasonable expense? 
Another other way to determine whether people think your script is any good is to submit and win scriptwriting contests. 
To that end, I entered the International Screenwriter's Association's "Emerging Screenwriters" Contest and and Cinequest Film Festival's screenwriting contest.
I won't be waiting idly by waiting for the results, but do wish me luck.