Monday, December 29, 2014

Repost: Neophyte producer learns the film craft

In conjunction with the New Year's Day launch "Dance Step of Death" on the free video platform Viemo, I'm reposting an August 2012 piece I wrote for The Sacramento Bee reflecting on producing my first short film. Producing a film is a magical headache. I learned a great deal from doing this zombie comedy and much more since. 

Neophyte producer learns the film craft

BYLINE: Ed Fletcher;

LENGTH: 693 words

The first tangible step toward my comedic short film, "Dance Step of Death," took place in February over pizza at east Sacramento's One Speed, but the idea of producing my own film was hatched a year earlier.

I'd had adolescent film stirrings, first with my dad's old 8 mm camera and later with Super 8, but I packed away those ideas in favor of more practical pursuits.

In 2011, that itch came back.

After taking a screenwriting class at Access Sacramento, I sheepishly submitted my first short script for consideration in the A Place Called Sacramento Film Festival. The festival – in which they escort selected scripts through the production process – can be a godsend for first-time producers.

In hindsight, I'm glad my short was rejected.

A year later, I was again spending Saturday mornings in the uncomfortable classroom chairs at Access Sacramento, this time enrolled in a film production class. This time, I felt was ready for Access Sacramento's A Place Called Sacramento Film Festival.

Again I was rejected by the submission jury (something about too many zombie entries).

But a funny thing happened on the way to rejection. I had already met AK Long, who enthusiastically agreed to direct the film. We'd started to craft a funding plan, and he'd started the storyboards.

So on the fateful day of rejection, we decided to press on and enter the movie elsewhere. Within a day, I had a tentative agreement with Nathan Schemel, executive director of the Sacramento Film and Music Festival, to show "Dance Step of Death" at the festival, which opens Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

The only problem: We only had 11 weeks.

Producing a film is a little like putting together a football team for one game. Thankfully, Long, a recent UC Davis graduate, brought his own connections and a team of people who were involved in his earlier projects. In the subsequent weeks, people from his network and mine joined as others dropped out.

The job of the producer is largely to rent the kitchen, buy the ingredients, then get out of the director's way until it's time to sell the soup.

In film terms, that means finding a script (easy enough – I wrote it), finding the locations, securing the talent, finding a way to pay for everything and distributing the film.

A co-worker at The Bee asked me how I found the time. I reminded him that I don't have kids. I woke up most mornings between 6 and 7 a.m. and worked for three hours or so, firing off emails and making plans. I'd meet with Long once or twice a week after work and I followed the schedule.

Producing a movie tests your networks. My network rose to the challenge. You never know what people will say "yes" to until you ask.

The process was not without stumbles, stressful evenings and the generalized anxiety that comes with having to trust that all the various team members you've assembled will perform the job they've agreed to do – for free.

Stressful, yes, but the process was magical.

It's one thing to write about three wannabe superheroes and their efforts to look into a police coverup, and quite another to see the characters take shape first in drawings, then in real costumes and finally as local actors performing the words you put to page.

Now, I'm ready for one more magical moment: seeing it on the big screen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Should media use hacked Sony e-mails?

How do you feel about the juicy Hollywood tidbits being reported by media outlets as a result of Sony Pictures being hacked? I for one am conflicted.

In a nutshell the Hollywood, pop culture and mainstream press are reporting stories using documents possibly likely stolen by the North Korean government. From quips about President Obama to how much Kevin Hart gets paid for tweets the leaks have led to one embarrassment after another for Sony.

The screening of the movie "The Interview' amid in the face of threats is whole 'nother matter.

As a general rule the press is willing to use stolen documents if the news value of the story warrants it. In many instances, I’m not sure the value of the story, say one reveling Sony execs think Adam Sandler is an a-hole, meets any reasonable standard.

But at the same time, as someone interesting in film, the leaks provide candor seldom shared with the outside world. Largely in the name of protecting the commercial interest in the movie, Hollywood types rarely air their grievances publicly. So in effect we never see how the soup gets made or that the chief was replaced mid-meal.

Brad Pitt, Aaron Sorkin and Seth Rogan have been critical of the media's use of the hacked emails and now Sony has threaten to sue twitter over hacked tweets.  

Yesterday’s Gawker post about a reply-all chain argument about the Gaza Strip, featuring Russell Simmons, sent to Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, and Ryan Seacrest is a prime example.

What do I really care? And yet there I was clicking away. It’s like sneaking peek at the pretty girl changing clothes behind your back. You’re not supposed to look, but it so hard to resist.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

10 Things I Learned from American Film Market

Screenwriter and producer Ed Fletcher delivers his pitch for "Pink" at the 2014 American Film Market as pitch expert and forum moderator Stephanie Palmer looks on.

By Ed Fletcher

Armed with a stack of business cards, some new pink ties and a four-day pass ($500), I recently attended American Film Market in Santa Monica, one of the world’s largest film markets, to develop or sell my screenplay Pink. For more information on Pink, a sexy dramatic comedy based on Sacramento’s 1969 bottomless stripper trial, read my blog or find us on Facebook. What follows is a rundown of things I learned or reconfirmed from attending American Film Market for the first time and as someone new to film.

  1. Hollywood is not about openness or inclusion. It’s a meritocracy based on your ability to make them money. That’s not an indictment, just real talk.
  2. In the film world there are creative types and business types. AFM is more for the business types. It ain’t called a market for nothing.
  3. There is little demand for comedies, dramas, sports movies or urban movies overseas. As a result, there are an exorbitant number of low budget thrillers, action movies and beast/zombie movies being made and marketed. 
  4. Getting on stage at the Pitch Conference can make you interesting to all the other filmmakers in the room, but since heavy hitters were in the their temporary sales offices blocks away, you’re still a nobody to them. 
  5. Just because somebody retweets you doesn’t mean you’re somebody to them.  
  6. Having a good pitch is one thing, but have it packaged (name director or talent signed on) and you’re cookin’. I wasn’t cooking.
  7. Wearing a Pink tie everyday was a great idea. Who forgets the Black guy, wearing a pink tie, and talking about a screenplay named Pink?  
  8. Cell phones are a security blanket for people afraid to be alone. It’s hard to spark up a conversation when people are checking their security blanket.
  9. The Producer Forums are popular: Get there early. Disregard this if you have a confirmed “producers” credit and can skip the line. 
  10. Despite the new ways to network through social media, nothing beats spending time in the lobby bar in terms of making connections.

The event offers a bevy of high level forums on the film business.
The rooms of two Santa Monica hotels are turned into temporary film offices.
Ed Fletcher posing for a picture at American Film Market 2014.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Time to Say "Geronimo" and Take Film Leap

When I was a little kid and even into adolescence, I loved to take risks.
In those days of perfect knees, I jumped from roofs, moving trucks and once from one moving speed boat to another. I thought nothing of taking a ski jump within weeks of learning to ski.
Like most people, as the years moved along I found myself taking fewer risks.
I ski with the goal of not falling. I keep the cruise control set at 75 mph as to not get a ticket. And I’ve sought comfort in my work environment.
On one hand, comfort and safety is a beautiful thing in this troubled economic climate. But on the other hand, it can be constricting and confining when your heart wants to soar.
Illustration by Val Mina
The instability of the journalism industry pushed me to do something I should have been doing all along: taking risks.
A three years, ago I started screenwriting and performing improv. Two days before my 40th birthday I hosted a comedy show and performed stand up.
Now I’m on my way to Santa Monica for the American Film Market conference in hopes of selling my screenplay or packaging it as an independent film.
Here's the logline for those new to this blog: A free-speech loving exotic dancer battles a small-town sheriff and bares it all to prove her "bottomless" dance is art worthy of protection in this sexy dramatic comedy based on a real 1969 case.
I’m characterizing it as a risk, but is it really?
Based on my submitted video pitch, I’ll already by pitching the script during the pitch session, so at worst I bomb the pitch, but salvage the weekend by taking notes at some very valuable forums and meeting a distributor interested in the film once its a completed.
But how likely is that? I’ve been a rally commissioner, scout camp leader, improv performer, television host, stand up comedian, and “the Voice” at Burning Man.
The upside: I nail the pitch, meet Jennifer Lawrence’s agent Jeremy Plager in the lobby bar, we get hammered, end up back at her place, she challenges to a beer chugging contest, loses and agrees to star in my film.
Here is to taking risks that arn’t too risky.

Like Pink Film on Facebook and follow @edfletcher on twitter for reports from the road. Hell I might even Instagram some famous people if my battery survives. 

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.


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 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 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 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.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I'm going to make a film

I’m taking a break from my sink full of dirty dishes to declare that I intend on making a movie.
Readers of this blog -- all 15 of you -- should know that I’ve recently completed writing my first feature-length screenplay.
I heartily accept your congratulations on how far I’ve come -- it’s already represents my longest sustained effort in any single endeavor -- but there is a big difference between a completed screenplay and a script that’s turned into a movie.
I shall complete the latter.
It consumes me. Six thoughts out of 10 are about next steps towards making it happens. I read. I plot. I youtube knowledge. And I try attempt to resist letting it dominate every conversation with friends.
Just this week, I’ve been corralling actors for a “table read” of the script, started planning a marketing photo shoot, talked to two potential investors, and convinced the companion video game.
I’m as serious as a heart attack.
For those new to the blog, I’ll end the suspense. The title is “Pink” or maybe “Pink Pussy Kat.” (Offer your thoughts in the comment field)
Here what the back of the box reads: 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.
I heard about the case from a newsroom old timer and dove into the newspaper clips. I’m surprised to see this there is no Wikipedia entry on this as the case or the bar. My surprise is heightened by the fact that the government’s loss is was the impetus for the revision in California law governing adult entertainment that still stands today.
There are two possible paths towards realizing this vision of getting the movie made. One is Hollywood. The other is as an Independent Film.
I will exhaust all reasonable efforts to see it made as a Hollywood film.
This is a premise that has sizzle. There is a reason it was a national story back in ‘69. Judges don’t take jury’s to strip clubs every day. As Earl Warren Jr. put it the jury would have a better look at the evidence by actually watching the dance.
This is American Hustle meets People Vs. Larry Flint meets Flashdance.
I intend on submitting it to a cross section of screenwriting competitions to help it gain visibility. I’ll cold call, stock and harass agents in an attempt to get representation. I’ll exploit personal connection to make this happen.
But knowing what little I know about Hollywood, I know that may not be enough.
That’s why I almost hope I’ll be presented with the challenge fully-realizing Perpetual F Entertainment and producing Pink as an Independent Film.
Between crowdfunding, live event fundraisers, angel investors and pre-funding distribution deals, I think it possible to finance the film at the level to warrant broad distribution.
All that to say, with the right network this is within reach.
I’ve been a newspaper man the last 14 years, but I have a track record as a doer.
Two quick stories before I go back to the dishes.
During my waning days as student body president of my high school an opportunity presented itself to open a student store. So during my spare time between school work sports, theater, and other student leadership duties I got the space allocated, got a contractor to make building modifications, and ordered product. The store still stands.
In college, as editor-in-chief we decided to pick up our newsroom and move it to New Orleans to produce three extra daily editions during my school’s big football game the Bayou Classic.
This new challenge will be the maximum test of my skills and I’m ready for it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Film progress continues, optimistic on prospects, marketing feedback sought

Ed Fletcher (left) takes an elevator selfie with writer/director Graham Streeter
and supporters of his 2014 psychological thriller Unpeaceable

Progress continues on Fletcher screenplay

Screenwriting takes patience. More patience than is required for most journalists. I’m now on what I’m calling version four for of my feature length screenplay "Pink." I’m humble enough to accept that major changes could lie ahead, but I’m feeling good enough about it that if George Clooney asked for a copy of it while we were in an elevator I’d hand it to him without reservations.
The screen writing panelists at the 2014 Sacramento International Film Festival
 included Lew Hunter and Richard Broadhurst. 

I’m actively looking for more feedback so if you want to read it holler. I’m not actively sending it to agents, producers or talent yet. That comes soon. I hope. I envision another month of feedback, including a table read before I begin exerting myself seeing if the script has a Hollywood ending.

That will including sending it to screenwriting contests and festivals (for a fee).

The good news though, after attending the Sacramento International Film Festival earlier this month, I’m convinced I could get the movie made locally as an indie film, should my dreams of a Hollywood paycheck not materialize.

The Sacramento International Film Festival doesn’t have the glitz, prestige, or attendance of more prominent film festivals. The upshot of that: meeting the filmmakers there to talk about their work was easy. You can just chat them up after the screening or in the bar afterwards.

True fact: Film festivals should be judged solely their after parties.  

Those bar conversations, gems learned from Q and A sessions and a better understanding of the cost of producing successful indies leads me to believe this can be done.

A little help from you, if you have two minutes. Please take a moment at help me pick a logline for my movie.

From Wikipedia: log line or logline is a brief summary of a television programfilm, or motion picture often providing both a synopsis of the program's plot, and an emotional "hook" to stimulate interest.

Update on Goldie film 

Team Golide was extremely excited about the film we put together for the Sac International's 48 hour challenge. The film received the "Audience Choice" award, but we knew we had more film than we were able to show within the 7-minute time limit. The film has been reedited and an original score is being composed.
Team Goldie at the Sacramento International Film Festival. Goldie won
 the Audience Choice award in the 48 hour film challenge.  It's currently being
reediting for broader release. 
We hope to submit it to festival in the coming months. A modern twist on a storybook classic, Goldie is a dramatic short about a girl trying find her way after making a big life change. I'm the writer and a producer on this project. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

48-hour film project comes out gold

Sacramento may not have a wealth of big budget Hollywood films being produced by it does have its share of films being produced as part of a film challenge. After several years of deciding I'm too busy and/or unskilled to contribute, I showed up at the cast and crew call for the Sacramento International Film Festival's 48-hour film challenge and offered to write something for somebody.

I hooked up with Matt Gilliam, who liked my idea of putting a modern twist on the children's classic "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." With Pam Finney's help, we began assembling our cast and crew and refining the script. Matt, Pam, Greg Marker and Gwen Conklin each made contributions to the script.

The 7-minute film is one of more than a dozen that will screen April 26 the opening night of the Sacramento International Film Festival. The show starts at 12:30 p.m. at the Crocker Art Gallery.

Here is a look at how it came together:

And a look at a trailer:

I even wrote the lyrics for a song to accompany the movie. A buddy from high school took my words and ran with it producing this pretty cool song.

Sacramento Film Challenges
Sponsor organization: Sacramento International Film Festival
Important dates: 7 p.m. today – cast and crew call at the Studio Center, 915 Fee Drive; April 4 - challenge starts; April 26 - films screened
Sponsor organization: Access Sacramento
Important dates: April 11 – script deadline; May 28 – cast and crew call; Oct. 5 – films screened
Sponsor organization: Sacramento Horror Film Festival
Important date: May 3 – films due
Name: “Sac Music Seen” / 10x10 Filmmaker Challenge
Sponsor organization: Sacramento Film and Music Festival
Important dates: April 4 – music submissions due; July 20 – videos due

Read more here:

Monday, March 31, 2014

Account supports ruthless depiction of "Big" John Misterly

Carol Doda
As a journalist solidly into my second decade at the craft, it only made sense that I’d lean on a true story to easy my way into screenwriting.
Writing a historical fiction is like journalism, except you get to color in the details, I figured.

After taking my first weekend screenwriting class three years ago, in February (2014) completed my first feature length script. I’m a admittedly a little stir crazy as I share my baby seeking refinement.
It’s hard to tell how long the road before me is. It’s next to impossible for a Hollywood outsider to sell their script. It’s hard enough to get it read. Should I try to secure the money to produce it myself, it means many long nights juggling my play job and my newspaper job.

So it was with mixed feelings I scheduled a meeting with former Sacramento County Undersheriff Larry Stamm, someone with intimate knowledge of my subject matter and whose recollections might force a major rewrite.

“Pink,” my screenplay about the 1969 trial over all-nude dancing at the Pink Pussy Kat beer bar in Orangevale, started as a small project. My 2011 screenwriting class at Access Sacramento encouraged people to write a 10-page script for submission into it “Place Called Sacramento Film Festival.” Without a better idea, I turned to the newspaper archives about this intriguing trial. Using the newspaper stories as my guild post, I constructed a story to fill the middle, imagining the dialogue and what happened around the court dates.

I submitted the script. It was rejected.

My explanation at the time was it was too sexy for the “family friendly” contest. That may be true, but it was also true there was little character depth to the 10-minute version. Undoubtedly, that’s a tough bar for any 10-minute film. Without the constraints of a 10-minute requirement, the script  quickly  grew to 17 pages as I added by everything it was missing before.

Pink wasn’t a full-time obsession. I wrote and produced my short zombie comedy “Dance Step of Death” in 2012 and stayed busy with my other projects, including performing improv.

New project and ideas would manifest, but I kept returning to “Pink.” I interviewed two of the reporters who covered the trial and it grew to 27 pages. At 27 pages, the characters were really starting to take shape. I showed it to a few people, three of which urged me to develop it to feature length.

At feature length, it has the potential to make money. As as short, there is no even remote chance of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. However, getting the movie made as a full-length movie is dramatically more complicated than my happy little short.

I pressed on.
As I went along, I found myself struggling over the facts. The trial became a national story after the judge Earl Warren Jr. ruled the jury needed to see the dance to determine whether it violated community standards and included testimony from the famous San Francisco stripper Carol Doda. Despite its notoriety at the time, very little exists about it in accessible online archives. That fact is worth noting in this age where it often seems anything worth knowing has a wikipedia entry.

I found a few newspaper clippings, one radio story, and a reference to it in Doda’s wikipedia page, but there was little else. I couldn’t find the two stars of the drama -- Susanna Haines and Sheila Brandenson. The district attorney that handled it was dead, as was the the club’s owner Leonard Glancy.

In the absence of the gritty details, as the script grew from 27 pages to its current 116 page feature length form it was clear I needed to make some choices. The way I figured it, make a compelling story even it that means condensing a timeline, inventing a backstory and making a villain.

That villain is Sheriff John Misterly.

I knew some things about Misterly. It’s well documented he set out and succeeded in running the biker groups out of the county. The phrase most often associated with Misterly was “son-of-a-bitch.” While I didn’t have the specific facts, like whether he personally threatened people, it seemed in keeping with what I did know. I typed and slept on things, then typed some more. Scene by scene things fell into place, until I was happen. I sat on it a week to make sure I didn’t wake up with a new scene that had to be inserted.
On Feb. 15 I declared my script done, minus the scores of rewrites that lay in store. I set out getting the script proofread and started polishing.

Then without warning Sacramento Historical Society Member Dave Reingold contacted me about my script. He too had an interest in this bit of history for a project he working on about the history of Burlesque. The chapter on the Pink Pussy Kat trial is a big of an addendum to his work. Among his gifts was contact information for Larry Stamm, who was a detective during the Pink Pussy Kat’ legal entanglement.
It was then with excitement and trepidation that I arranged to meet Stamm. Would new information force me into a major rewrite? This effort was already my longest sustained writing project and I’m admittedly dieing for the fame and fortune that comes with a hit movie.

I’m happy to report that John Misterly in real life is just as bullying as in my based on real events fiction.
Stamm explained that just as “Big John” ran off the biker gangs, he was dead set on getting the adult clubs out of his community as well.
Stamm said officers were under standing order to make their presence felt at the adult establishments when there wasn’t something else pressing to be done. That included asking to see their alcohol license, checking patron’s ids, checking for code violations and giving people leaving a sobriety test.

“It was a time where people who were in the money saw an opportunity to come to cowboy town Sacramento and turn it into a big city,” said Stamm, of the influence of San Francisco culture and proliferation of adult clubs in the county.
Stamm didn’t have all the answers, while he was a detective and said he’d been there 10 to 20 times, he was not on the unit tasked with shutting it and the others down. I asked whether there was any history between Big John and Leonard Glancy, the owner.

“If there was any conversation, it was Misterly telling him to get the hell out of our community,” Stamm said.

He did nice colorful details that do come with working for the man. He mentioned it practice of chewing on cigars, his driving a big black Chrysler, and his Martini lunches.
But more than the details he offered a better understanding of Big John’s motivation and drive. I went away knowing the more fine tuning of the character is in store, but thanks to Stamm Big John will be richer fuller, more contextualized villain.