Monday, March 23, 2015

13 Things I think I learned at Santa Rosa Story Expo

Committed to keeping my foot on the gas in turning my screenplay Pink into a feature film, I attended three-day weekend storytellers expo in Santa Rosa.
What the Storytellers Expo lacked in star power, communication and polish, it made up for in intimacy. There is not one reason any attendee should have left feeling like their questions were not answered by real writers, publishers, script consultants, or producers.
It's wasn't cheap, but you'd pay four times that much for the same offerings online.
The following are 13 thoughts, lessons or reflections from the two days of classes and day of pitching Pink at Storytellers Expo produced by the Santa Rosa-based "Northern California Writers" group:

  1. The Sacramento film community would be smart to shift some instruction towards writing for television and web series. 
  2. Breakdown episodes of television shows I liked, then follow the formula to write a spec episode.  
  3. I'm well ahead of the curve in term of branding, social media and the business of film.
  4. Re-read/edit scripts with different lenses: think like director, actor, producer
  5. People love the true story/premise of Pink.
  6. Write your first logline at the idea stage. 
  7. Thanks for the instruction on how to write a film query letters, but what's the point if agents don't read them? 
  8. Tension = hope v. fear.
  9. Seek rising and falling tension through each mini movie. 
  10. Author Dale Brown spent a lot of time in Sacramento and is a nice dude.
  11. Practice funny by jotting down one funny thing a day. 
  12. In packaging start with directors and talent with production companies.
  13. In seeking agents and production partners, look to those judging screenplay contests, those are the people open to finding material in unusual places. 

When Sunday's pitch session came, I was at ease and confident. Participants stood in line for five minutes of one-on-one time with the assorted (8) book and film experts.
Making the best of meetings means setting reasonable expectations of learning something, building rapport, and achieving a small "ask."
And while I wish script consultants would use their connections more liberally to help non-clients,  I totally understand the folly of their ways. All of the pitch recipients were willing active listeners who surely would have benefited those at the early stages or those with a polished project.
Now time to email Pink to a Los Angeles studio.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Producer appearance as guest to burlesque show

Call it the lifecycle of the writer/producer.
For the better part of a year, I spent nights and weekends turning down invitations so I could spend more time sequestered to my keyboard.
Now with the pendulum swung toward producer, I'm in the streets trying to network my script into existence.
Last night, plunked in the front row a burlesque show with two lovely legends of the craft on either side of me made up for several of those sunny Saturdays I gave up to write my screenplay "Pink."

To my right was Miss Cherry Malone, a world champion burlesque performer. To my left Miss Petty (O'Ferrell) Russell, who performed across America from the 1950s to 1970s.
The Golden Poppy Revue is a production of Miss Vivienne Fuego.

Performers included:
Legend Isis Starr, "The Goddess of Burlesque" (SF)
Sugar Cheeks-Burlesque
Jenna Jezebel
Violet Ruthless
Dahlia D'Vine
Casaba Meloune
Bella Blue-Eyes
Torch Song Singer Roxy Vox
Swing dance performance by Felicia & Ramses
Sideshow performer Ryan Dile
Comedy by "Sacramento's Sweetheart", Steph Garcia,

A video posted by Ed Fletcher (@perpetualf) on

Monday, February 23, 2015

Burlesque legend Angel Walker talks taking it off

Burlesque Legend Angel Walker, better known as Satan's Angel, has lived such an incredible life that hours into a conversation she still finds new ways to shock you.
From San Francisco's North Beach to the world's stage, her story is the subject of the documentary "Satan's Angel: The Queen of Fire Tassels."
In hopes of better understanding my screenplay "Pink" and Orangevale's "Pink Pussy Kat," I reached out to Ms. Walker.
The result was a delightful conversation about burlesque, go-go, striptease and exotic dancing in the late 60s and early 70s.
She could not tell me much about the Pink Pussy Kat or the dancer at the center of the trial Susanne Haines, but that's not to say there wasn't much to learn from that unguarded spark plug of a woman. Here's a piece of our conversation:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Film reseach trip ends exotic avoidance

I wonder sometimes what people think about a guy who would devote years of his life writing a screenplay and producing a movie about a strip club.
 "Some big perv."
Fact is, until last night, I hadn't been to a strip club for at least five years -- including the entire time writing "Pink."
For those new to the blog, "Pink" is my sexy dramatic comedy about Sacramento's 1969 "bottomless" stripper trial. The indecency trial became a national story when the judge decided in order for the jury to determine whether the dance violated community standards they'd have to see it. The girls won the trial but the government changed the law making it a health code violation to consume alcoholic beverages in establishments that allow full nudity.
So what's a guy who doesn't care for spending money on exotic dancers doing writing a screenplay about exotic dancers? The short answer is because it a local story that needed to be told. When you strip everything else away its a story about free expression dressed up in late 60s attire.
Think "American Hustle" meets "People vs. Larry Flynt."
Most of my research came from old fraying newspaper clips. I didn’t set out to write a strip club screenplay. It started as a short term project and has steadily grown.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a prude (though "Blue Lagon" was too much for me went I saw it as a boy). I’ve been to strip clubs and enjoy seeing women naked as much as the next guy, probably a little more. The bulk of my strip club experience came from Bourbon Street excursions during college and the rush of bachelor parties one endures in their early 30s.
But I could never justify expending money on the experience.
More than the money, the transactional relationship bothers me.
While I firmly believe performers should have the right to dance naked in exchange for money, I much prefer nudity without compensation.
Pink can be a beautiful movie that makes audiences laugh, causes a modest arousal, says something about art, freedom and culture -- and makes money.
So for the sake of research I, joined by a female friend, went to Gold Club Centerfolds. After an absence of half a decade, the adult establishment seemed remarkably the same in all its soft skin and curvaceous glory.
I'll spare you the details (good and bad) other than to note I drank hot tea, a legacy of the "Pink Pussy Kat" decision.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Judge me: I'm a burner

After 22 years of driving, I just unceremoniously put my first bumper sticker on my vehicle.

It says, "BRC."

I've always been somewhat judgmental of bumper stickers people. I suppose were supposed to be judgmental. The vehicle make, model and customization say much about the driver, but nothing like bumper sticker.

My status as a working journalist rules out political bumper stickers, but my disfavor of them runs deeper. That was until I found myself wanting to chat up everyone I see with any bumper sticker related to Burning Man.

So I guess I'm a burner.

This summer will be my seventh (in a row). The registration for the ticket general sale ends at noon (PST) Saturday, Feb. 14.

Burning Man is best described as week-long experimental city held annually in the Nevada "Black Rock" desert.  "Black Rock City" is a colloquium for this free-form blend of madness, excess, and brilliance.

It's grown from humble roots to a gathering of 70,000 people from around the world. Groups of people band together to provide the coffee shops, lecture halls, art galleries, recreation centers, bars and night clubs of this temporary city where (almost) everything is free.

Drunk and debauchery, sure. "Orgy dome," sure. (But there is probably one in your town too.)

But more than a description of this adult playland -- from jungle gyms to a roller rink -- to me Burning Man is about the ethos and the inspiration sparked by a week of being unplugged with collection of the world's best doers, dreamers, makers, and creatives.

The freedom from the digitally connected world provides a refreshing mindfulness. The absence of work talk allows the creative brain to flourish.

It's a place where hugs are plentiful and conversations are meaningful.

Each year, I come away with a new project to bring back the desert and the energy to recommit to personal projects.
It's an energy that I'd love to see more to in everyday life.

So yeah go ahead a judge me. I'm a Burner.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Taking script notes from strangers

Request for opening pages of script triggers rewriting rush

For an unpublished screenwriter: "Is it done?" is the question that looms, never quite answered.
I've spent months cautiously getting feedback from progressively critical/expert sources. In the last year,  to prepare "Pink" for the prime time its undergone four official rewrites, been table read with real actors twice and workshopped by my screenwriter's group.

But even as I shook a man's hand assuring him, "It's ready" during my time at AFM, I knew I wasn't sure.

Screenwriter Ed Fletcher
I don't think I'll ever be sure until a Hollywood player says: "I'll make that movie with you."

For those new to this blog, I'm talking about my feature length dramatic comedy "Pink," which is based on a 1969 strip club indecency trial.

In my fantasy version of my "How it Happened Story," I befriend a Hollywood white knight. My aging B-player would then introduce me to the right people -- an agent, a business-minded money guy and a gal to get me to all the right parties.

That hasn't happened yet. Instead, I've turned to strangers for screenwriting advice. Not street-corner strangers, rather the screenwriting contest feedback stranger.

For an extra fee, many screenwriting contests will provide detailed feedback. The catch is you're not given any information about the source of the feedback.

Script feedback emails are something you sit down for.

The words can send you into a funk or to the moon with excitement. Since January, I've received notes from the Screencraft Fellowship, Beverly Hill Screenplay Contest, BlueCat Screenwriting Contest and The Blacklist.

Three of the emails sent me into a full-day of happy dancing.

One, I could barely finish. I set it aside with the others for processing once there were time and enough data decide what needed to be done. I've considered hiring a script consultant, but kept putting it off out of a combination of poverty, pride, naivete and indecision.

The feedback notes come weeks or even months before the final decision on contest winners are announced. Awaiting the results of the contest was a good enough reason as any to procrastinate on addressing issues raised by the mysterious readers. If Pink placed, I'd soon have plenty of real people asking to read it, I had decided.

But then the email.

On Friday, a major independent film player, responding to my pitch submission, asked to read the first 10 pages. I didn't think much of For $30 a pop, film or television writers can send a video to Hollywood studios and talent management companies. I skeptically bought three submissions in late January. The first rejection came within three hours of submission. The third company has yet to respond.

The email asking for the pages was a lovely am inbox surprise. I sent off the pages as quick as my fingers could carry me. Then I promptly told the world. Each like of the facebook post was like a warm welcoming pat on my shoulder.

But then came Saturday. Saturday is when I decided as soon as Monday the company could ask for the full script and by the end of the day my script could be in the hands of the pre-screening intern.
My fate my soon by in the hands of a junior employee hoping to impress his or her boss with their keen discerning eye.

Suddenly, now was the time to settle into the chair and ignore social media long enough to re-acquire the characters voices, get back into screenwriter mode and fix any obvious issues. As I poured over each word of their analysis, I struggled to picture the author in my head. Are they old, young? Do I listen to the more critical voice or say forget her? Why do I even think it is her? (cus I'm sexist.)

Sunday, my wave of panicked self-doubt subsided.

No art is perfect and while surely the story and the script will continue to be refined, I'm confident it's close enough warrant collaboration toward a shared vision.

The Monday agenda: hire a script consultant.