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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Want Access? Ask Larry Meistrich!

I recently learned about Larry Meistrich's most recent film venture, NEHST Studios. For those unfamiliar with Meistrich (and you should be familiar with him), he founded The Shooting Gallery, and has produced nearly 100 films, including Laws of Gravity, Sling Blade, You Can Count on Me and Belly. I spoke with Meistrich recently to learn more about his new venture, which should be of interest to most of my readers.

Following the shuttering of The Shooting Gallery's doors in 2001, Meistrich started Film Movement, a subscription DVD of the month club featuring foreign and independent productions. He eventually sold out his stake in the successful company and launched Nehst along with some colleagues he'd previously worked with in other capacities. (The name, by the way, is pronounced "Next," and is the Old English spelling of that word.)

I wanted to know why he and his partners started Nehst. What does Nehst offer that is unique? The answer came down to one word: access.

"There are 3 parts to the filmmaking system right now," says Meistrich. "With traditional production and distribution in place, the third part is access. Hollywood is using the same 200 people for everything, and if you’re not represented and you’re not one of those 200, it is hard to get in and have your ideas read. So the films that Hollywood is making are a lot blander than they could be."

To overcome this problem and tap into the vast pool of talented people with no ability to get their work seen, Nehst has an open pitching policy, and has created a process by which anyone can easily pitch their ideas to the company. There are multiple ways to do this, including virtual pitching online at their website PitchNehst.com, weekly one-on-one pitch sessions every Tuesday, and periodic full-day pitch sessions. They even hold weekend-long movie boot camps that teach the "reality of filmmaking, not just the theory." These weekends culminate in a pitching session.

The one-on-one pitches are held alternately at NYC's Four Seasons Hotel and in Edgewater, NJ, which means if you are one of my readers from the Northeast you have particularly good access. Registration is on the Pitch Nehst site, and scheduling is handled over the phone.

The full-day pitch events are scheduled for various locations around the country, with a schedule also available on the website. In them, they spend the first half of the day teaching participants the skills needed to pitch effectively, then spend the second half of the day listening to open pitches from those who are interested in doing so. Meistrich says there is no need to be scared of such events. "We’re not American Idol. We don’t embarrass anyone, and we don’t say yes or no right then. If we’re interested, we contact people afterwards to tell them directly."

So far, Nehst has held about 5 such pitch days, each capped at 60 people. Meistrich has been amazed at the quality of pitches they've heard. He says on average 30-50% of the pitches they hear in a given day are good enough for them to follow up for a read. At one recent pitch day in Sacramento, that number was closer to 80%.

Another benefit to pitching Nehst is that the equal access opportunity extends to the vetting process. They do not use readers for the projects that are submitted. While this means turnaround time is slower, it also means that each piece is read by the executives who make the final decisions.

And the process seems to be working well for parties on both sides of the production equation. The company was started in March, and has already purchased (or in one case optioned) 10 projects -- 6 features and 4 web series. Considering his past, I asked Meistrich if he was looking exclusively for indie style works. He was quick to point out that he's produced projects of a wide variety in the past, and they are looking for equally diverse properties at Nehst.

"We’re just looking to fund good ideas. They could be for film, web series, TV series, whatever."

Meistrich says they are "particularly looking for writers." So far, they have stuck with the original writers on the features for rewrites. But since the TV/web series have often come in from non-writers, they will need to staff the projects with writers. He encourages screenwriters to bring in completed spec screenplays, pitches or writing samples for consideration as a writer for hire.

Among the web series they are developing is an irreverent cooking show aimed at college students, called Cook U. Meistrich described the positive reaction the show received from an agent at William Morris Agency. She had to agree when Meistrich pointed out that series creator Rafi Marcus never would have gotten past the WMA switchboard had he not brought the project to Nehst.

"The Bruce Beresford, Annette Bening, Jessica Biel picture for $10 million is easy to make." But the established players won't listen to ideas from people like Marcus, or James Eschricht and John Infantino, creators of Dribble Kick Throw. The latter project is one of Nehst's highest profile projects, and is described as The Little Rascals with sports.

Among the projects they've bought, there is a traditional indie, comedy, horror, animated, documentary, and a "crazy action film." The web series came in as TV pitches, and will be made with full production value, ready to move to TV should the opportunity present itself. But the company embraces full web technology, and its initial plans are to air these series on a self-branded website, supported by advertiser dollars. They have partnered with a major advertising agency (to be announced shortly) to bring the top brands in the world in as sponsors.

Some of the projects came in from people inside of the industry who still lacked representation or the proper access, while others came from complete unknowns. People from out of nowhere who had no real aspirations of working in the industry and just had a good idea.

"We’ll take pitches from everybody," explains Meistrich. "We have a somewhat onerous agreement so we don’t get sued. And there is a slight fee of $10, which helps to weed out the total crazies. Plus it helps create a more manageable number of people."

But that "onerous agreement" is more to protect themselves than to shortchange the works' creators. Purchase deals are negotiated independent to that pitch agreement. And Nehst has even helped connect some of their writers with representation.

Nehst's production level aims at making projects in the $2-50 million range. Quite the range, but not unlimited. The one option (as opposed to purchase) deal they made was for a film with a budget around $150 million, for which they will be seeking co-financing. So where has the funding come from? Private investors. And Meistrich and Nehst plan a major announcement to coincide with the upcoming Toronto Film Festival, publicizing the amount they've raised. Meistrich kept mum on the amount, but referred to it as a "big number."

Nehst is also seeking completed films to distribute. They've already picked up two such films, and are negotiating for another. They will looking to make more such deals at Toronto. The company is also keeping an open mind regarding distribution channels. Properties may get a theatrical release, go straight to DVD, or be released on cable or for direct download, depending on the specific project.

In addition to PitchNehst.com, the company is using other self-created web outlets to get the word out. They do their casting via screentest.biz, which is currently listing casting calls for two features, two web series and a TV series.

One of the most common complaints developing writers have is about the difficulties of breaking down doors to take their first steps. Larry Meistrich and Nehst Studios have lowered this barrier to entry significantly. Now all you have to do is create something good and hope they find it worth their while!

(Hat tip to new friend Dave McCrea for the heads up about Nehst!)

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Discount for Screenwriting Expo

As promised previously, I have a discount code for you all to use for the upcoming Screenwriting Expo in October. The discount code will get you $10 off the registration fee between now and September 14th, or $30 off after that. So for best rates, register before September 14th and use the code; fees will be $64.95 for a regular registration and $289.95 for a Gold Pass.

To use the code, click HERE. After choosing which of the two options you'd like and clicking on the "Register Now" button, insert the code 2007Expo_Haber in the Coupon Code slot. Then hit "Apply Coupon."

Once again, here is my course schedule for the event:

Joel Haber (Rated a star speaker in 2005, 2006)

Thursday, October 25
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Writing to be Read Course Level: ALL
Course Description: You already know that format errors and poor grammar mark your screenplay as amateurish, turning off any script reader to whom it is assigned. Professional script analyst and screenwriter Joel Haber draws on his experience to examine specific examples of screenplays that were rejected, taking your understanding of the reader's thought process to a higher level. If you can get past what might annoy a reader and really get into his or her head, you can learn how to give your screenplay a better chance of garnering that coveted RECOMMEND rating!
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Thursday, October 25
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Verbalizing the Visual Moved from Thurs at 9 a.m. Course Level: ADV
Course Description: While you may write witty dialogue, how do you fare with long, active passages in which little dialogue is uttered? Professional screenwriter and script analyst Joel Haber examines excerpts from the screenplays of well known movies to highlight the techniques that help to create the evocative descriptions that can enliven chases, fights, physical comedy and even sex scenes.
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Thursday, October 25
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

Effective Use of Flashbacks and Voiceovers Course Level: ADV
Course Description: Flashbacks and voiceovers are much-maligned storytelling devices, and there are few ways to make your script look more amateurish than through their misuse. However, when used effectively, they can go a long way to creating a mood, adding suspense or surprise, or simply telling your story in a unique way. Professional screenwriter and script analyst Joel Haber highlights ways these tools can be used to positive effect, using excerpts from well known films as illustration.
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Friday, October 26
9:00 AM - 10:30 AM

Verbalizing the Visual: Scene Creation Workshop Moved from Thurs at 3 p.m. Course Level: ADV
Course Description: In this workshop follow-up to his Verbalizing the Visual seminar, professional screenwriter and script analyst Joel Haber will work with students to put the techniques into effect. Participants will create scenes from scratch, which we will then review collectively to examine the application of the Verbalizing the Visual techniques. Please note: this workshop is designed for those participants who have already attended the Verbalizing the Visual seminar, at this Expo or in previous years.
Buy Now More InformationMore Information...

As it gets a little closer, I'll also offer up some of my picks/suggestions for other seminars and events. Hope to see you all there!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

DVD Movie Review: Dreams on Spec

A few people around the Scribosphere have mentioned the new doc Dreams on Spec (by Daniel Snyder), and I've watched it and want to give a brief review. For those who don't know, the film is a look at three of the thousands of people who each year write screenplays on spec, hoping to make the move from developing amateur to working professional. In other words, it is about people like most of us.

Spoilers ahead (but hey, it is a documentary, so what do you expect?!)

The film is good -- generally well-made and interesting with moments that are entertaining, moving and/or interesting. And while it never truly answers the question it poses (i.e. What drives so many people to write spec screenplays when the sheer numbers make the odds of success seem ridiculous?), it still offers some minor insights. The film follows three writers who (fortuitously or by design) basically end up in each of the three ways that they logically could. One gains some measure of success, one quits, and one perseveres and continues writing, despite rejection.

The decisions each makes, and the tribulations they each face (both professionally and personally) should be familiar to most of us, and the film is thus relatable. At the same time, while it might shed some light on the psyche of the writer to those who are unfamiliar, there will be little new in this film for most of us. For the bulk of the film, most of the people reading this blog will be nodding their heads knowingly, rather than thinking deeper thoughts or learning new things about the spec screenwriting life.

Still, there are some things in Dreams on Spec that should be good for even our crowd, despite the lack of unfamiliar material. Firstly, it is nice to be able to watch these people, and see bits of ourselves in there. It makes us feel that we're not alone in our struggles (much the same way that reading the various blogs of our Scribosphere community do). It can sometimes be heartening when you know that other people are sharing the same struggles that you are.

But perhaps the best part for us developing writers is that Snyder has intercut the three screenwriters' stories with interviews of well-known and successful screenwriters. Among others, the filmmakers interviewed Gary Ross, Nora Ephron, Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski, James L. Brooks and Steven de Souza. Amongst the most interesting was Dennis Palumbo, a former screenwriter and current therapist who specializes in writers and other industry types. He adds an interesting insight into the writer's mind.

Probably most poignant, and unfortunately least surprising, is that the writer who calls it quits after struggling too long and facing too much rejection is the one who has the most external cards stacked against her. She is a Black woman, and she also seems to focus on the slightly more indie side of things. But sadly, she also seems like she might be the most talented (hard to tell since we never read or hear much of their scripts), or at least the one with the best balance of the commercial and artistic. Furthermore, she came from a job working for a production company, where she presumably had learned the business and craft better (as I know I have from my work). Thus, her despair is that much more moving when it hits.

Also interesting is the continued struggles and compromises faced by the "successful" one of the three. Even with his film moving towards production, he still faces numerous hurdles both annoying and (at times) insulting, all for the cause of getting a film made.

Ultimately, Dreams on Spec is not a great or groundbreaking film, but a good one worth watching. This is true both for the myriad other spec screenwriters of the world, and for anyone who is curious about what drives us. And while it might never fully answer this question, it still might add to an understanding of where our minds are, collectively speaking.

Update: Alex Epstein posted his review of the film yesterday, but I hadn't read it yet. You should go read it HERE. He raises some points that I felt uncomfortable saying, but he's right. One of the reasons that so many spec writers struggle for so long without finding success is that many of them simply are bad writers. Not all. But many.

So the idea is that if a writer writes screenplays for a certain amount of time (and I'm not saying I know how long that is, though as one of Alex' commenters suggests, 10 years is a good starting point for the discussion) and still finds no success, (s)he should likely call it quits, because (s)he is likely lacking the necessary skills/talent. Certainly there are some writers who call it quits too early, and that shows they lacked the perseverance to succeed. And others do persevere, and finally do find success after much longer. But most of that latter category probably found some minor measures of success along the way rather than just pure rejections.

Most likely, it all comes down to how you define your own progress and success. But if you work for long enough and you fail to meet those definitions, you certainly need to ply yourself with a good dose of reality.

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Change Those Sidebar Links

Yet another active member of the Scribosphere has moved from promising amateur screenwriter to the pro ranks. So if you have your links separated (as some do) between the pros and the others, you all can move his link to a new category.

Please join me in congratulating my virtual friend, Joshua James!

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Screenwriters Save the World!

Or at least save some trees. Which, I suppose, is one way to start saving the world as well, no?

My old friend Tamara (we've known each other since around 5th grade or so) has started a grass roots campaign to try to save some paper, and thus some trees. Called Change the Margins, the initiative has lofty goals that will require very little from any one of us. Think of it as environmentalism for the lazy man (or woman).

The idea is, if we all change our word processors to have narrower margins (the suggestion is .75" instead of the typical 1.25 inches per side), every document we print will consume less paper, and thus contribute to fewer trees killed worldwide. Admittedly, any one of us will have little effect on this issue, but if enough people make this change, the collective global impact could be substantial.

One goal the campaign has set, which could increase the impact of this measure is to try to persuade Microsoft to change the default margin settings on MS Word. There is a petition up at the site, and I hope you'll consider signing it, as I already have.

Now, it's true that screenplays have very rigid formatting guidelines, and most of us don't have the option of altering them when we submit our scripts. (I did, however, once encounter a script that had been submitted from a production company to the larger company, for which I was working. It contained a form note on the bottom of the title page that said that as an environmentally conscious company, they submit all screenplays printed double-sided. Nice!) Still, I did want to at least suggest a few changes that we, as screenwriters can make to contribute (in addition to changing the margins for our non-script documents).

I don't know about you, but I'm the type of writer who writes on the computer, but tends to do a lot of my editing on paper. After I finish a draft, I typically print it out and mark it up by hand. Well, those printed pages don't have to waste as much paper as they might.

One option you have is to change your settings so that you print 2 pages per sheet, instead of one. They will be printed side by side on the page, held with the long side of the page running along the top, instead of top to bottom. Thus, you are using half as much paper. And if you then go and print on both sides of the page, you are actually using 1/4 the paper you would have! It is true that the font size prints much smaller, but it isn't tiny, and your eyes adjust relatively quickly. And even if you still can't adjust to 2 pages per side, printing double sided should be standard for draft copies.

Another option is something that my parents have been doing for a long time. They have a stack of "dirty paper" by the printer. This is paper that they may have brought home from the office, or previously printed drafts on. The paper has stuff already printed on one side, but it is stuff that isn't important. The paper would have normally been thrown out. Instead, they use it to print drafts on the other, "clean" side. I've done this as well, and I highly recommend it for drafts, or other "unimportant" work pages.

It is easy for writers to close themselves up in their rooms and forget about the world outside. These have been a few simple steps we can all take to reverse that, and help save the world instead.

(And kudos to you, Tamara!)

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Expo 6 Announcement

Astute screenwriters out there may have noticed that the schedules for Screenwriting Expo 6 have been posted. I was waiting to post about this, because there was a drop of tweaking I needed to do with my schedule, but now that that has been accomplished, I'm pleased to announce that I will once again be presenting seminars at this year's Screenwriting Expo.

To recap my previous involvement, I first attended Expo as a participant in 2004 (Expo 3). I enjoyed it immensely and learned a lot, as well as meeting lots of great people, and making contacts, etc. In the following two years, I presented the same two seminars at Expos 4 and 5. I am honored to have been named a "Star Speaker" for both of those years, meaning that my seminars were rated very highly by those who attended them.

At this upcoming Expo, on October 24-28, 2007, I will be expanding my presentations. I will be again presenting the two seminars I've given previously: "Writing to be Read" and "Verbalizing the Visual." In the former, I review specific scripts that I have given a PASS rating, as a reader, and explore the complex reasons they received that rating, in the hope of helping you get into a reader's mind. In "Verbalizing the Visual" I go through excerpts of well-known scripts to highlight scenes that were primarily visual in nature, and learn numerous techniques by which the screenwriters translated those visual scenes into verbal descriptions. This seminar in particular has been a very popular one for me in years past.

The two new seminars I will be adding this year build on those. One is a "Verbalizing the Visual Workshop" for those who have taken the first seminar. In it, we will create scenes from scratch, using the techniques we've learned. Then we will review them as a group. The other is called "Effective Use of Flashbacks and Voiceovers." In that seminar I will approach these two oft-maligned tools, looking at numerous screenplay and video excerpts that used these techniques well or poorly, identifying the differences.

Complete descriptions of all my seminars can be found here.

I would love to see many of you at those seminars! I'm also planning to throw yet another "Expo Scribosphere Gathering" which I hope will be better attended than last year's drinkfest. As it gets closer, I'll get details out to you. Let me know if you're interested in joining! It is also possible that I might have some other things going on during Expo, but I'll fill you all in if and when I know more.

Be aware that registration prices for Expo go up significantly ($50) after September 14th. But I'll also say that I'm hoping to get a discount code for y'all in the not too distant future.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Happy Bukday Week!

I've always appreciated when fans of a dead artist remember him (or her) on his birthday, rather than on the day of his death. I'm well-known as a Deadhead, and I loved the fact that we choose to remember Jerry on August 1st, his birthday, rather than a week later on August 9th, the day he died.

Well, tomorrow is the birthday of another great but dead 20th Century drunk, err, artist -- Charles Bukowski. And though he is the type of (alcoholic) character who might appreciate being remembered on the day of his death (March 9, 1994), I'll still be thinking of him during this time. And in fact, some people have organized a Bukday Week celebration in honor of Buk's b-day.

I've been a fan of Buk's work for a while, and always got a kick out of his thinly-veiled self-references. For screenwriters and film fans, I highly recommend watching or rewatching Barfly. The first time I saw this film, I enjoyed it, but I saw it purely as a drama. But the second time I watched it, I realized how funny it is too, and how there is a true dark comedy buried in this autobiographical piece. The film also contains two top-notch performances (Faye Dunaway and Mickey Rourke, both giving what I consider amongst their best performances on screen), as well as a favorite line of mine. When the art critic from the magazine finds him leaving his bar, she asks him, "Who are you?" to confirm that he is Bukowski (or Chinaski, actually). To which Chinaski responds, "Ahhhhh, the eternal question..."

Now, for those who would like to take their Bukday celebration a step further, I'd also recommend reading Buk's novel Hollywood. In it, you'll find Bukowski's thinly-veiled retelling of his life while writing Barfly, itself a thinly-veiled retelling of his earlier life. How's that for post-modern self-reference?

If that's not enough of a celebration, you can drink some whiskey (and by some, I mean a bottle or three), and pass out in a pool of your own vomit. Though it might be easier to take advantage of some of the events around L.A. (if you're in town here). LAist has a few listed here. Anyone feel like trekking downtown with me tonight?

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Who Art Thou?

A recent search landed someone on this former post of mine. And just as it followed up on this prior post, I would again like to reprise the question.

So, who are you? Tell me something about yourselves. This will be a nice way to see who is still here (or back) after my year-long lag in regular posting.

First time around I asked you to
Drop a comment with your name (or pseudonym if you're feeling secretive), some of your writing background if you have it, where you live, and anything else that seems pertinent. Fave films or genres? Birthday (don't expect presents)? Favorite cut of beef?
The second time it was
If you responded the first time around (click that link above to check), no need to comment again here, unless you want to update us! It also might be fun to reread that and see how your life may have changed since then.

But for those who didn't respond then, I'd love it if you spoke up now. Give us a name or pseudonym. What is your favorite drink? What is the most embarrassing thing you've ever written? Any distinguishing scars or features? Tell us whatever you think we should know! As I said then, this is your post.

Okay, so if you didn't comment previously, I'd love it if you commented now. And if you have, feel free to update us. Answer any of the above questions, or something else. Who was your first kiss? Tell us about that time you were arrested. Or that other time. Whatever you want.

After all, this is your post!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Brief Review: Californication

I was sent a review copy of the new Showtime series Californication. And since the show premieres tomorrow night, I figured I should throw up a quick review today.

Minor spoilers follow.

The main reason the PR firm sent me a copy is because the show stars David Duchovny as a writer, and they felt that it might be of interest to my readership -- you. So I'll look at it from that angle. I will, of course, preface this with my usual disclaimer that I really don't know TV. Film is my game. That being said...

I enjoyed the show overall, and would say it is good, but certainly not great. There are some fun little twists and surprising moments, and there was at least one scene in which I honestly laughed out loud. At the same time, the show is not nearly as original as it could be. In particular, one scene in which Duchovny's character basically knocks down another character he's just met by describing every detail of her life in obnoxious detail is overly familiar. I was really hoping for a new twist on that scene, but it never came. The relationship that Duchovny has with his ex and his daughter are also largely familiar, though it does feature a few moments of originality.

In terms of portraying the writer's life on screen, sure it is nice to see. I mean, any coverage is going to be better than none, and though his life is by no means standard for the writer's life, there are some aspects that ring true. And there are at least a few moments in which we see how he thinks as a writer. But if you are looking for a realistic portrait of the average writer, this ain't it. Of course, if it were, it probably wouldn't be a particularly watchable or enjoying show!

Californication certainly lives up to its name (at least in this pilot episode). Unlike so many other shows or movies that are named after a popular song but for no obvious reason, this one seems logical (though it bears no direct connection to the Chili Peppers tune). It is obviously set in California and it feature well more than its share of fornication. In this one episode, Duchovny's character has intercourse with at least 3 women, gets a blow job from another (in an envelope-pushing opening scene) and finds a naked woman in his bed, with whom he has previously slept. And while in that sense alone it may be a less than realistic portrayal of many writers, it certainly makes the show enjoyable!

Is Californication a groundbreaking show that does new things for the genre? Not really. But is it enjoyable? Sure. And nice to see some decent acting. Duchovny is generally good, and I'm happy to see Natascha McElhone making her way further into the American screen scene! I've always liked her.


Friday, August 10, 2007

A Few Random Things...

In the spirit of catching up, here are a few random things that I wanted to get onto the blog at some point over the past couple of weeks.

To the person who landed on my blog by searching for "The Two Jakes" spoiler, I believe the answer to your question is Robert Towne. With all due respect to the man who created one of my favorite movies ever -- Chinatown -- this sequel was so poorly conceived that I can only blame Towne, who wrote this follow-up as well. Thus, the only possible spoiler of The Two Jakes had to be Towne himself. Look, no question Towne is one of the all-time greats, but it can also be somewhat heartening to see that even the best screenwriters sometimes write bad films. Another example would be the brilliant Charlie Kaufman's horrendous Human Nature.

And while we're on the inspirational side of things, here's a great quote I found in this month's scr(i)pt magazine (with The Simpsons Movie on the cover). In an article about the new Harry Potter movie, there was a quote from screenwriter Michael Goldenberg. He was talking about a screenwriting book he had read, and couldn't even remember what book it was. But the line that stuck in his head was that despite the odds against success as a Hollywood screenwriter, "Of all successful screenwriters, 100 percent have at one point never sold a script." Puts things into perspective, no?

What else? One more brief item, for now. I am long overdue to update the links in my sidebar. I will certainly be eliminating some of those (some don't work or are now defunct). I will be adding others in as well. But I've always been about focus rather than volume, with this blog. And thus, I've never included links to every blog around the Scribosphere. I hope this doesn't offend anyone, if I don't include them.

But my point in saying this is that over the past 2+ years that I've been doing this thing, the number and type of screenwriting blogs has exploded beyond what I assume anyone imagined it would. I certainly don't even know them all, let alone read them all. Who has the time? Still, I'm really proud to have been among the "early adopters" within this group, and though I may have lost some of my readers over the time that I blogged infrequently and was working regularly, I'm glad that I've gotten back into a groove now (more or less) and am slowly winning some of you back.

I have also gotten back to reading a number of blogs regularly, via RSS feeds. That's something that dropped off while I was working at the "day job." So now, if you think I may have overlooked your blog, and should consider adding it into my links, please either send me an email or post something in the comments here. As a guideline, I tend to include blogs that are primarily focused on screenwriting, and have a specific angle or tone that speaks to me and/or offers something unique. So yeah, that's that. I already know a number of links that are sorely missing, but let me know. I'll review them, and update in a few weeks!

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Safari Picture Update #3

Long overdue on this, both as a post regarding the Untitled Safari Picture, as well as just overdue on posting in general. Been very busy the last few weeks. Combination of work on the film, other work, friends in from out of town, enjoying life, etc. But let me give a brief update on the film project, and I'll leave some of the other things for one or more other posts.

When I last updated you, I had sent over the second draft of the treatment. I'm pleased to announce that that also translated into them sending over the first installment of my pay for this project. So now I can truly say that I am a professional screenwriter, having received payment for screenwriting work. So update those sidebar links, those of you who separate us into amateurs and pros! ;-)

I've put most of that money away for the time being, but I did treat myself to one pleasure. I finally purchased an iPod! For those who are curious, I chose the 4gb nano, and yes, I got the (PRODUCT)RED one. (By the way, I'd say this is as good a time as any for me to plug the (RED) campaign to those who aren't familiar. Bottom line -- spend the same money you would on the same products, and the companies send a portion of their profits to The Global Fund, helping fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Thus, appropriate that I use some proceeds from my Africa script to give back an albeit tiny amount to that continent.)

Anyway, a few days after I sent the script over to the producers we had a phone meeting and started discussing it in more generic terms. But then we scheduled another phone meeting in which we would go over the treatment in a point-by-point fashion. That meeting took place last week on Wednesday, and ended up lasting five hours. Wow, that was a tiring and draining meeting, but well worth it, I think. We did get a lot done, discussing various specific points and the overall direction of the piece.

And while there was lots of good stuff in there, and what seemed to be a bit more solidity than in the first draft, we realized that what is still lacks is a single spine, so to speak. It is still basically an ensemble film, but the various aspects seem more disjointed than in even the standard such piece. So we stepped back a bit and focused on the core of the film, which we agreed was the safari experience and the animals themselves. The reason there seemed to be so much disjointedness is that the various animal scenes were too disconnected from one another. And it was this realization that has shaped the direction of my work this past week.

I have been doing some intensive research on a number of the different animals that are currently in the film, or may be likely to be put in during a later version of the treatment. The idea will basically be to create almost character bios, of sorts, for these creatures. I had already done a good amount of research on these animals, and nearly everything I had included was something that I had seen or read and that actually happened. But these separate scenes still lacked the overriding understanding of how these animals actually live and operate on a daily basis. So that's where I'm at right now.

Once I've completed my research on these various animals, then I'll go back and take another pass at the treatment and try to unifying the disparate elements. And hopefully that will be enough to ready me for the next step along this journey.

In other, related news, the trip to Botswana has been pushed back. We originally had planned to take the trip this month some time. But various scheduling conflicts pushed it back. Still not booked, but the likelihood is that I will either be down in South Africa and Botswana in the middle of September or the very beginning of October.

And in the interim (assuming I progress enough on this treatment), I may help the writer on one of the producers' other projects, which would be another job and experience. He has written a lot of stuff, and has a lot of knowledge of the subject matter he's writing about, but he hasn't really written a screenplay before. So I would be helping him get his writing onto the page properly. Could be very interesting! We'll see what happens with that.

By the way, if any of you are experts on the habits of large African mammals -- predators, ungulates, etc. -- drop me a line!

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