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.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Production dream has turned me into cyberstalker

Once you start talking about producing your script: people start asking “Who do you see in it?”

It’s a logical question.

I think what they’re really asking is what do these characters look and sound like.

What I always hear though is: “Are you crazy or bat shit crazy?”

Until quite recently I didn’t have a ready response. Just a couple months ago I was still wondering whether I could finish this thing. Now I’m supposed by brash enough to suppose known Hollywood actors would want to be in my film?

Do I play is stay modest or go big and say Jennifer Lawrence?

I’ve never fixated on stars. I was always more interested in who wrote the story and how the production came together.

But now with the dream of putting my film into production, I’ve turned into a celebrity cyberstalker.
I’m making lists. And thanks to IMDBPro its easy to look up their agent.

I make lots of lists these days.

I'm now busily adding to my list of agents, producers, directors and actors who might help move my film along.

It’s already changed the way I watch movies. Suddenly actors aren’t just distant beings I never have to worry about meeting to possible creative collaborators.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Spec script no longer king in Hollywood, but not only route to success



I have to admit I have visions of sugar plumbs dancing in my head.

Here I am with a script still in the revision mode and I'm thinking about what a reasonable offer from a Hollywood studio would be. Having read (or listened to) Joe Eszterhas' book "Hollywood Animal," I figured might have a distorted view of the spec market. Esterhas went from journalist to one of the hottest writers in Hollywood mostly by selling spec scripts like Basic Instinct. He fetched $2 million for Showgirls.

This informative 2013 Vanity Fair article chronicles the ups and downs of the spec script market. A speculative script is the work of a screenwriter telling an original story not commissioned by a studio. The cold hard fact is the very few sell. According to the article, 119 were sold in 2011 followed by 96 sold in 2012.

Here is a pretty clear explanation why studios have gravitated towards tested products with built-in audiences. 
The new math isn’t complicated: pay a screenwriter $1 million for an untested, unknown idea or squeeze a movie out of an existing product with built-in branding. As a result, “developing from I.P.”—intellectual property, i.e., books, comics, video games, old movies, TV series, toys—“has become de rigueur rather than waiting for a spec to come in,” says Langley. “The focus shifted from original ideas to hedging your bets,” notes Moore. Or, as Shane Black says, “there’s only the careful choice of a product that goes through committee. It’s: how can we make movies that we absolutely know won’t lose any money?” As it happens, Black is currently directing the third installment of the billion-dollar Iron Man franchise, due for release this spring. Read the full article. 
It's the kinda thing that might drive someone towards sharp objects, but I give it no mind. The article focus on the major studios. What it doesn't address is the ability of indie producers to circumvent the studios. Developments in that realm give me the confidence my little screenplay will eventually light up movie screens even if those screens happen to fit in your pocket.