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.
Tuche.
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 www.bmir.org.



-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) gmail.com.

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.

   

Monday, July 7, 2014

Article offers insight on equity crowdfudning


While largely untested, the next big thing in film financing appears to be equity crowdfunding. Kickstarter and indiegogo allow people to give you money for your project. Equity crowdfunding aims to help find people to actually buy into the profit sharing from the distribution of the film. This wasn't legal until recently, that's why this all so uncharted.

Here entertainment attorney Richard Jefferson, who blogs at lawyersrock.com offers a rundown of his top 5 equity crowdfunding sites.
In my last couple posts, I have discussed the ins and outs of equity-based crowdfunding here and here, and discussed conducting fundraising through online portals.
I did a lot of research and shared first hand experiences in putting together these articles for you and came across some great information out there. With all of the sites on the internet offering help, I thought I’d share my short list of equity crowdfunding sites that are known to be pretty solid.
The following are good fundraising sites for entertainment projects (again, these are for equity crowdfunding sites…NOT donation-based crowdfunding sites likekickstarterindiegogo or rockethub).
Here is a link to the article.

I joined slated.com over the weekend, although I wasn't sure it was time yet, just so I could poke around. My first impression is that its well-designed, but new filmmakers are going to be irked by the system of deciding how much juice you as and individual and your project has.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Distribution Diaries: Supremacy’s Director Shares the Strategy That Got Him the Deal



It's exciting to see Sacramento raised filmmaker Deon Taylor finding a way to make things happen. He talk about how he got distribution deal for his new film "Supremacy" in the blog FilmIndependent.org. Here is open:
Supremacy, the intense psychological drama directed by Deon Taylor that screened last month in the LA Muse section of the Los Angeles Film Festival, has been picked up by Well Go USA for US distribution. Shot on 16 mm, the film stars Danny Glover, and  tells the harrowing true story of a white supremacist who, right after being released from prison, kills a police officer and then takes a black family hostage. Here, Taylor shares his Festival strategy and approach to finding distribution.
Distribution Diaries: Supremacy’s Director Shares the Strategy That Got Him the Deal

The most interesting portion of this article was the tactical decision that they would only show the film to potential distributors in a theatrical screening, as opposed to sending them a DVD for them to watch on a small screen and possibly distracted. In his case it seemed like absolutely the right decision, although I suspect some companies were turned off by having to seek out a screening.

The other interesting point was the statement from the film-maker Taylor about it being important to fight to get your film in festivals. It suggest I have much to learn about the behind-the-scenes of major film festival.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Five more drafts: You must be crazy

"Five more drafts? Are you kidding me?"
That's what I'm saying in my mind as I get notes on "Pink," my first feature length screenplay.
I'm already thinking about pitching Hollywood types and he says five more drafts. An array of emotions rush through me: disregard the notes, you'll never finish, I guess I'll stay in debt a little longer.
I bite my tongue.
" 'Little Miss Sunshine' went through 99 drafts," I'm told as encouragement.
Why does everyone know that? It's meant to help writers through the slogs of rewrites, edits and updates, but to me its just depressing.
Clearly, I've never been through anything like this.
My last page 1 story for the newspaper changed little before publication.
Five more drafts, really.
Does that mean I won't be done in time for "Pitch Fest" at the Screenwriters World Conference in August?
Unless you've got a well-connected agent, doing what I'm attempting to do requires not only a great script, but the marketing moxie to get it into people's hands. There is no point in writing a killer script, if nobody is going to see it. As such, in the weeks of lag time while I've been waiting for feedback on my masterpiece version 4, I put on my producers cap and started percolating marketing ideas, talking to potential investors and putting things in motion.
The Sunday evening conversation capped what had already been a huge week for Pink.
On Monday, evening a group of 15 actors read the script aloud (a table read) to help me listen to the story to see what working and what's not.
Then on Tuesday, the CFAA advanced writers group "workshopped" the script dissecting it for character development, flow, engagement, clarity, the whole nine-yards.
Both of these processes are well worth your time, for anyone who thinks they have a completed script.
I left both of those engagements with substantial notes on areas the script could improve but also the reassurance we're on the right path.
Let me not leave the impression the CFAA notes were all roses either. They offered serious reasoned notes, but suggested there was significant work to be done.
By Thursday, I've processed those notes and had some idea of what needed to be done.
But Sunday, I was like the hiker who just realized there are a more switch backs and a stream to traverse before the mountain assent begins.
Sometimes its hard to find the traction I need. Here is the partial blog post I started Wednesday:
The road before me is enormous.
So enormous sometimes its hard to know what to do first.
Should I spend time on the script tonight? Should I have gone to The Comedy Spot to watch my old Harold improv performers? Should I get back to the marketing/business plan?
For the record, home from work, I spent an hour flipping around between EPSN, Anthony Bourdain's Part Unknown, and a brief stop to see what's on Access Sacramento before spending a good hour and half re-reading "Producer-to-Producer" by Maureen Ryan.
Now, here I am writing a blog post. 
After the phone call Sunday I was trapped in a vortex. I wanted to think about something else, but Pink, the notes and what comes next was all I could think about. I watched "Olympus Has Fallen" to cleanse my mind. Still not ready to move on I watched "Lovelace," the biopic on "Deep Throat" actress Linda Lovelace. I didn't love how they told the story but it's a powerful and enjoyable film. Like Pink, Lovelace is a sexy period piece that says a lot about repression. After looking up its box officer numbers, I added it to my list of comparable movies.
That night as I lied down for bed trying not to think about my film, the answers in forms of new scenes that play to the same theme and bring the secondary characters into tighter focus jumped into my head and started dancing.
Fuck five rewrites. I can do this in three.