Monday, July 28, 2008

48 Hours of Coffee

I'm doing it. Why not?

The 48 Hour Film Project.

Get an assignment Friday night, then write, shoot and post a four- to seven-minute film, to be judged in competition Sunday night.

I'll write/direct/produce, and we've put together a crew of 12 plus a post team.

Interestingly, I'm more nervous about writing than directing.

Should be insane.

And fun.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The D Line's a Mother Effin' P.I.M.P.

It's been a hell of a good couple of weeks, I must say.

Just found out I'm one of the 20 finalists in the Script Pimp competition. So cool!

Check it out:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

BlueCat Feedback

Pat over at The Ruckus posted the feedback he received on his quarterfinalist script Union and asked me to do the same.

So here is the feedback on The D Line:

What I Liked:

Your beginning immediately captures my attention, partly due to your ability to write really beautiful action--there is a nice flow and rhythm to it, and you evoke vivid and emotional images with a relatively few number of words, and setting up your characters, story, and themes in entirely visual means. Not only are you a fine storyteller, but your style as a writer is beautiful and expressive and captivating. Very nicely done. There's a sense of authenticity in your script when it comes to the black Harlem community setting that is really exceptional--it feels very real, and very honest (as someone who lived in Harlem for awhile that may or may not give some validity to my comment). The children's dialogue in particular has a very truthful ring to it--it has an honest texture to it that I love, and you have a great ear for how people talk and what they talk about. Your script really shines when it comes to details like the way the kids talk, or the alphabet game the mother and daughter play on the subway, or the "Make-a-Katie," or the moment when Michael decides to help the couple carry their wardrobe into their new apartment; these moments are really beautiful and really priceless and all give further authenticity and beauty to your story and characters. All your characters also feel very real and believable and interesting, and you deal with a fairly large ensemble of major players seemingly effortlessly, knowing just when and how to weave in and out of each story, which in itself is a huge accomplishment. Your script reminds me a lot of David Gordon Green's film "George Washington" in the way it observes these people with both compassion and objectivity, and this comes through these fine, telling details you include. Your script is really engaging and moving and wonderfully structured--I love that it doesn't feel too rigidly structured or plot heavy, but you follow your characters and the whole story feels very organic even as it's ultimately very dramatically and emotionally satisfying.

What Could Be Improved:

Most of the major problems I had with your script were formatting issues. You've got a number of camera and editing specifications that aren't appropriate for a screenplay--these would come later in a shooting script. Some of your sluglines are also improperly formatted--you can change those like "INT. MICHAEL'S APARTMENT: LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS" to just "INT. LIVING ROOM - CONTINUOUS". Sometimes you tell us, rather than showing us information in the script--in the first scene with Caroline, you tell us that she makes Michael breakfast every day. This helps the reader, but an audience member in the theatre won't get this information unless there is some visual cue or piece of dialogue that suggests this is an everyday event. Another example is on page 15, when you say "Moses recognizes him as TITO." Your dialogue is interesting, but some moments read unnaturally for me--you almost always communicate the right information and the right amount of information, but the words you use don't always sound right. I'd focus on tinkering the dialogue and reading it aloud in some scenes--some of the early exchanges between Michael and Caroline in particular don't work for me. They feel a little too on the nose; maybe you could give them something specific to talk about that show us the the bigger picture of their relationship. I really like when you use a lot of subtext in the dialogue and leave some things unsaid--I think you could do that even more often and it would be very effective. The priest character didn't have the same authenticity for me that so strongly pervades the rest of your screenplay; his character and dialogue felt more like how a writer would imagine a priest acting and talking rather than an actual living, breathing character, and he didn't seem to totally gel with the rest of your script, rather, he seemed like a convenient means of dealing with some of the issues and ideas you want to tackle.a One nitpicky note--using Michael Powell as your protagonist's name was a distraction for me. I wasn't sure if it was an intentional homage to the British director (a favorite filmmaker of mine) or if it was coincidental, but it distracted me, and, if it was intentional, felt unnecessary and very out of place.

Overall, thoughtful feedback that I appreciate. Notes are funny. Always interesting to see what resonates with whom -- and what pisses who off.

This reader is spot on about the sluglines. A lot of them are indeed clumsy. S/he is also right that the priest is a bit thin.

S/he doesn't like my action-that-can't-be-seen, but I've posted about why I do that before and won't bore you again. S/he likes the loose-ish structure, when a few others I sent it to felt it was perhaps too loose. S/he thinks some of the exchanges are too on-the-nose; another trusted reader felt I needed to be a little more overt.

Like I said, notes are funny. Good or bad. You just have to use them appropriately.

By the way, I have no idea who the British director Michael Powell is. I should watch more movies.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Writing Music

Out of curiosity - and needing a distraction break from writing - I just clicked on the most played playlist on my iTunes here at work.

Turns out this is what I mostly listen to (at least at work) while I'm writing:

How 'bout you?

Monday, July 07, 2008


Just saw this in Variety – an article called Record Wages for Writers.

“Earnings for writers rose 4% to a record $943 million in the fiscal year ended March 31, reflecting accelerated work on feature scripts. Feature work jumped nearly 16% to $502.5 million as studios stockpiled, but TV earnings were hit by the strike, sliding 6.8% to $437.3 million.”

So that’s good news – writers made more money.

Here are some more sobering stats:

“The number of writers employed declined in both categories – off 1.1% in TV to 3,215 and 2.6% in features to 1,899.”

That’s just over 5000 guild writers working in TV and film. In all of America. Total.

So we spec monkeys, all 14 gazillion of us, we need to remember how unlikely it will be for us to hit it. Not to give up hope – no way – but to have some realistic expectations, and use the long odds as an inspiration to write even better. Yes, keep working your ass off. And yes, have a Plan B. And don't kill yourself if you don't get in the club.

My brother has the right mindset. He recently completed his first novel and last week sent out 25 query letters to literary agents. So far, 10 no thanks responses. Which, this morning on the phone, he chuckled at.

It’s hard. Keep trying. And laugh.

Oh, here’s another interesting bit:

“Only 100 of the 150 films projected to start principal photography this year had actually done so.”

So even when you’ve been greenlit, it’s not a done deal. Dear old Greg knows this firsthand.

And this:

“The median average annual earnings for members edged down 0.7% to $60,009 over the four-year period ending with 2007.”

60K median. And that factors in the multi-million-dollar scribes out there. So a lot of people aren’t making much more than their daycare providers.

But really what does this tell us?

We’re an unshakable lot. We are august (and not just John). We have balls, whether we’re boys or girls. We know there’s no chance in hell we’re gonna make it.

But dammit, we’re gonna try.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Well hey.

How about that.

The D Line made it into the quarterfinals at BlueCat.

I’m no mathematician, but from a glance it looks like about 15% of the “more than 2700” scripts entered made it.

I’m not expecting producers to be scrambling to set up meetings with me and a bidding war to begin, but I won’t pretend to be so cool that I wasn’t excited to see my script listed.

Feels good to have made the first cut of my first screenplay competition.

Might use this as an opportunity to check in with the contacts I've sent it to, see if there's been any movement on it.

And it motivates me to hustle along on this action script – which actually has been going along pretty well the last few days during lunchtime writing sessions…