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Friday, January 30, 2015

How I Sold the First Screenplay I Ever Wrote – Repost from CHIPSTREET - posted by wonkavite

How I Sold the First Screenplay I Ever Wrote

You wanna write screenplays?  Seriously?  Hopefully for a living?  Well, one thing you’ve got to do is perfect your art. Write. Rewrite.  And keep plugging away… nonstop. Keep polishing your craft until it shines!

…and be open to lessons learned from those who’ve been in the trenches, and blazed the same trail that you seek.  STS is happy to be reposting a series of articles from ChipStreet.  Folks, this is a terrific website – we recommend that you check it out in more depth!  (Original article available here: http://chipstreet.com/2013/05/21/how-i-sold-the-very-first-screenplay-i-ever-wrote/)

About Chip: Chip Street is an IMDB credited indie screenwriter, director, and art director. His short films have screened at festivals, and his feature screenplays have been optioned and sold. He is a screenplay analyst, competition finalist, screenplay judge for a major industry competition, screener for an International film festival, founder of Write Club Screenplay Challenge, and a respected blogger on the art and business of screenwriting. He’s been published or cited by The BlueCat Competition Newsletter, Script Magazine, JohnAugust.com, Bleeding Cool, NoFilmSchool, ScriptTips and IndieWire.com.

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How I sold the very first screenplay I ever wrote – and how you can avoid the same fate

Originally posted on May 21, 2013 by Chip Street

I write a lot of screenplays. They say you’ll never sell your very first screenplay. Hear how I sold mine, step by step and learn why you probably shouldn’t do exactly what I did.

They say you won’t sell your first screenplay.

Or your second.

Or third, or fourth, or fifth… that it’ll take years of practice to arrive at a screenplay that’s worth reading, much less worth buying.

But I did… I sold the very first screenplay I ever wrote.

Sort of.

Here’s what I did right, and wrong …

I started wrong and badly

I started writing Rocket Summer in 2002. I’d never written a screenplay… not a short, a trailer, nothing. All my previous writing experience was Literary… short stories, poetry, a few one act plays. None of which had ever been published or produced.

That’s fine. Everyone has a first screenplay.

The first version of Rocket Summer was terrible. I know that now… filled with too many parentheticals, too much expository dialogue, and over-written left margin (description), right down to the shoes characters wore, and the colors of their shirts. Every (pause) (smile) (angry) (happy). And it was too long (partly because it had too many parentheticals, too much dialogue, and way too much description).

Again, that’s fine. Everyone’s first screenplay sucks – even if they don’t know it.

I rewrote it

So I rewrote it. The more I learned about what goes into a great screenplay, the more I realized I had to change. I cut scenes. I conflated characters. I stripped my description to the bare minimum.

That’s good. Everyone should rewrite their bad first screenplay, so they can see how their changes make things better.

I didn’t get notes

Not from anyone that mattered. Friends are okay. Family is okay. Even other aspiring screenwriters are okay. But none of them know what a real reader knows… none of them can give you the hard truth from a professional point of view that you really, really need.

That’s bad.

I rewrote it over and over and over and…

So, IN THE ABSENCE OF PROFESSIONAL FEEDBACK OR GUIDANCE, I rewrote it again. And again. And again. Not because anybody was paying me to. Not because I’d gotten great advice.

Because I couldn’t move on. I wanted to make this story perfect. I didn’t want to find another story that needed telling.

Maybe, just maybe, I was afraid that if I couldn’t get this story right, I shouldn’t waste my time on any other screenplays. That failure with Rocket Summer meant failure as a writer.

I rewrote it a dozen times or more. I wasted YEARS making changes that became more minor, more minuscule and less important, when I should have been honing my skills on new stories and growing a bigger portfolio and finding my voice and genre.

And that, likewise, is just bad.

I wrote, produced and directed a short

In the midst of all this, I co-wrote, produced and directed a short, Whatever It Takes. I even did the storyboards, and handled props and wardrobe. I had zero experience on set, and had no idea what I was doing. But I learned — fast and hard — how overly-specific description and story problems at the script stage can make it hard on the art department, the actors, and the director, to find the good story buried in the badness.

Getting real production experience, at any level, will open your eyes to the relationship between what you write and how that turns into a movie. And how, really, at the point of production, your anguished choice between “sits” and “sat” doesn’t really matter.

This is good.

I worked on a feature

I parlayed that experience into a gig working under a production designer friend. I art directed a feature length film, Fat Rose and Squeaky.

I worked my ass off, 12 hours a day, six days a week.

I watched how lighting worked. I watched how directors work. I chatted with the scripty, and wardrobe, and observed everything and anyone I could. My learning curve was a straight line pointing up and to the right.

I did whatever anyone asked me to do, and I did it with a smile.

Because half of working in movies is being reliable. The other half is being a team player.

The third half is building relationships.

And that’s all good.

I said yes

Somewhere along the line my production designer friend had mentioned to the producer that I had a script.

The producer asked for the script.

I gladly handed it over.

Right now, some of you are saying “See! It’s who you know! You got your script to a producer because you had an inside track!”

And you’re kind of right.

I paved my own inside track

But understand this: I paved that inside track.

I said yes to producing that short, even though I didn’t know what I was doing.

I said yes to the art direction job, even though it was way over my head.

I said yes whenever anyone needed anything from me.

I said yes to whatever I needed to do to make that little film look as fantastic as I possibly could.

I made my friend look good to the producer, so the producer trusted him when he recommended my script.

And this is good.

I didn’t bug the producer

The producer was busy putting his movie to bed, setting up distribution, and all the other stuff a producer does.

And he didn’t get back to me right away.

I didn’t follow up, I didn’t ask if he’d read my screenplay yet.

I waited patiently.

And that’s good.

I let go of my story

The producer eventually got back to me.

And here’s what he said.

“I love your story. But I think I can sell it better if the kids are younger, and it’s aimed at a tween audience. Can you make them 13 instead of 19?”

I said yes again.

I worked for free

I don’t always recommend this part, but I agreed to rewrite the screenplay with younger kids (and all that it entailed, from concerned parents to figuring out transportation issues when they can’t drive).

Before the option was signed.

But he liked what he saw, and he optioned the screenplay for a year.

I did more free rewrites while under option, to appease his various potential investors.

And he extended the option another 6 months.

Then I said NO … and worse

For whatever reason, he let the option run out.

When he finally offered to buy the screenplay, he wanted to pay me less than the option agreement had stipulated; the economy had tanked, and he couldn’t raise the budget he wanted to raise. But he still wanted my screenplay.

By then I’d gotten exhausted with the free rewrites, and felt like my story deserved better.

I thought that maybe, if I’d stuck to my original story vision, we’d have had better luck.

So I said no.

In fact, I also let him know how irritated I’d gotten with the constant edits, and kind of burned my bridge.

This is bad.

Even if I’d wanted to hang on to the screenplay, there was no reason to burn the bridge. Because, as I’d learned earlier, maintaining good professional relationships leads to trust and referrals.

But I did it anyway.

I killed my momentum

But nothing happened with Rocket Summer. Lots of people looked at it, but nobody wanted to option it. It had become too specific to that one producer’s vision, and I didn’t have the energy to continue to work on it any more.

So instead of a sale, I had a stale property that I wasn’t motivated or inspired by any more.

And that’s bad.

I wrote more screenplays

I finally got around to writing more screenplays, along with doing more production work.

Grampa Was A Superhero was optioned via InkTip, and in development for two years (I’ve got it back now).

Faeries was a finalist in the Shriekfest Screenplay Competition, and is now under option and in development.

I learned a lot more about writing, and built more relationships.

This is good.

I said yes again

One day, years later, that same producer called me.

He asked if Rocket Summer was still available, and explained that he’d since had success funding, producing, and distributing a number of small titles, and was confident that he could finally pull Rocket Summer together.

We had a frank conversation, and healed our wounds, and talked about how the story had been on his mind all these years, and how badly he wanted to make it the way it should be made.

If I would just make one change.

Make all the boy characters girls, and all the girl characters boys. Because he was sure a female tween hero would be an easier sell.

Crazy, right?

I said yes.

Why I said yes

Firstly, after ten years, it was time to let this story go. I have many more screenplays, stories, and books to write, and Rocket Summer had sublet space in my head (and co-opted my creative energy) for long enough.

Plus, although I’d since added multiple options and a number of other production credits to my resume, it’s important to have a sale.

And lastly, saying YES, in my experience, leads to more good things than saying NO.

So I rewrote the story one last time. He gave me a great deal of creative freedom.

And I sold the very first screenplay I ever wrote.

It wasn’t really my first screenplay

So here’s the thing.

Technically, although I can say I sold the first screenplay I ever wrote, I’d rewritten it so many times that it was no longer really the first screenplay I ever wrote.

I’d done all that “write a second, third, and fourth screenplay” business, ALL ON THE SAME SCREENPLAY.

It took me ten years and two dozen rewrites to sell my first screenplay, the equivalent of writing a half dozen or more screenplays, and I only had one screenplay to show for it.

I could have quite a few more screenplays in my portfolio now, had I done things differently.

And maybe, just maybe, I’d have sold a different screenplay years earlier, had I done things differently, and not let Rocket Summer become an obsession.

I’m happy I sold Rocket Summer. The producers are awesome people, they really love the story, and I hope you get to see it sometime soon.

But I might do things differently if I had it to do again.

Where things are now

After all that, the producer, Stan Harris, sadly passed away in a terrible motorcycle accident just months later.

But his producing partners are still committed to the project, and are working on raising the funds.

We’re hopeful for a 2015 production start.

In the meantime, as I’d negotiated retaining the Literary rights, I’ve written a novelization of Rocket Summer which is now selling well on Amazon, BN, and elsewhere.

So what should you get from all this?

You do not have time to write everything you want to write. Life is always shorter than you want it to be. If you have many stories in you, don’t hesitate. Pick one, and get started.

Know when to quit. Don’t let one screenplay take over your life. You really do need lots of them, both to become a better writer, and to prove to others that you’re capable of doing it more than once. And there truly is a point of diminishing return on your investment of time. Put it away, and come back to it another time. Do not leave your other stories untried.

You’re not as good as you think you are yet. You will be blind to your screenplay’s shortcomings. That’s a fact. Your friends and family will not be honest with you. And other wannabe screenwriters know as little as you do. So when you think it’s as good as you can make it, show it to someone else who actually knows what they’re talking about so they can show you how it’s not. You will be a better writer for it.

Worry about writing more, and writing better will come. You can’t write more good stuff if you don’t write more.

Pave your own inside track. Yes, it’s who you know. But you determine who you know, and how good those relationships are. If you don’t have the connections you need, find a way to make them. You can start with:

Always have your yes ready. Say yes to opportunity, say yes to things that challenge you, say yes to people who need your help. Even if you’re not sure what you have to offer. It will make you a better person, and probably a better writer.

Screenwriting is not filmmaking. Your screenplay is just a piece of a complicated process. Get any production experience you can. It will make you a better writer, and help you with paving your inside track. And it’s a crapload of fun.

 

 

 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Brian Butterworth’s Bedroom – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite

Laptop-Shorts

Brian Butterworth’s Bedroom

Brian Butterworth wants to see the eclipse. But his mom has to work, and he’s got to find a way to see it by himself.

One of the great things about childhood is its sense of wonder. That everything is possible, with fantastical playmates around each corner. There’s something to be said for scripts that bring back that fleeting feeling… if only for a little while.

Though sickly, Brian Butterworth hasn’t lost his sense of wonder. As the script opens, 8 year old Brian lies in bed, staring up at glow in the dark ceiling stars. A solar eclipse is on the way. And starstruck Brian can’t wait. Something (a pet?) patters across the floor – but hides when Brian’s mom enters the room.

She’s got awful news. She has to work; the family’s finances depend on it. So she can’t bring Brian to the eclipse. He’ll have to wait for the next one (however many decades that would be.) Though disappointed, Brian doesn’t complain. He’s a good boy, after all. And he has his unseen companion to keep him company.

The next day finds Brian lying in a field. He watches the eclipse with his unnamed pet… awestruck by the rare sight. That night, Brian’s mother visits his room. She offers to take Brian out to the garden to look at the stars. It’s least she can do.

When she helps Brian out of bed, a surprising secret is revealed; one that raises a million questions. For childhood holds many mysteries. Some which need not be explained.

A unique tale that audiences will remember for a long time, BB is a sweet story with just two characters – and just the right dose of magic.

About the writer: Born and raised in England, Sally Meyer has had three screenplays filmed. Her personal website is Poppypro.com, IMDB Credits available here.

Pages: 4

Budget: Minimal.  A bedroom and a field are all you need. (And a tiny bit of post for the eclipse.)

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It’s Not the Heat – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite

It’s Not the Heat

Obediah Thigpen refuses to run his air conditioner despite the oppressive heat wave assaulting his town. It’s this kinda heat that can make a person crazy.

Horror comes in a rainbow of flavors – different ones for every taste. There’s gothic horror. Ghost stories. Creature features. Torture porn. Then there’s that type of one-two-punch visual horror that’s always effective… especially for the medium known as ‘shorts’. It builds tension over a few pages – then lashes out with deadly speed.

Written by talented scribe Kirk White, It’s Not the Heat is that variety: set in a rural house that has hopefully seen better days. ‘Cause now, it’s barely better than a dump – trash and spilled food everywhere. But 90 year old Obediah and his wife Inez still live inside. Despite the stifling heat. When the script opens, it’s 103. And Obediah’s on a tear. You see, the maid left after one of his racist tirades. Obediah picks through the mess himself, bickering with his wife as he dodders on. In his day, servants had more respect. No, he won’t turn on the air conditioner. What is he made of – money? But Inez insists on some help. Someone’s got to give her a bath. And braid her hair. The argument escalates quickly. Leading toward… Disaster? Tragedy. Maybe. To find out, you’ll have to read this one for yourself. Warning: not for the squeamish. Or anyone’s who’s had a heavy lunch…

Horror directors take note: It’s Not the Heat is a script come true. One location. One actor. And an ending that’ll stick with your audiences for some time…

About the Writer: Kirk White is an independent film maker, web sen”sation” and figure of note in the world of global logistics.  He is currently in pre-production on his second feature, The Soul Garden, which will basically be the art-house version of Re-Animator.  If you’re into that sort of thing, or just love movies with no fear…no limit…no budget,  check out www.quitefilm.com for all the juicy goodness. Kirk can be emailed at quitefilm “AT” gmail.

Pages: 6

Budget: Very moderate. One old actor – a ramshackle house. And a touch of gooey FX.

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved.

The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, January 26, 2015

April – Official Trailer #2 – From California Balloon Films - posted by Don

A young man from the future arrives in present day intent on unravelling the mystery of his mother’s suicide. A shut-in from a dystopian future, he falls in with a group of friends as they embark on a night of fun, violence, adventure, and romance through the streets and alleys of the city.

From Writer/Director Chris Shalom, the writer of the award-winning horror / thriller ‘TRUTH’

California Balloon Films is a Canadian independent production and distribution company whose goal is to create smart, sometimes silly, and (somewhat) polished genre films that tell important stories.

They believe strongly in the democratizing power of the internet, and have built their free-to-watch distribution model on the idea that easy distribution for our company should mean easy consumption for our viewers. View Callifornia Balloons entire film library.

Like them on Facebook
Check out their Official Site

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Original Script Sunday for January 25th - posted by Don

Over on the Unproduced Scripts page we have 45 original, unproduced scripts for your reading pleasure.

– Don

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Congratulations to Michael O’Farrell – Raspberry Ale Optioned!! - posted by wonkavite

Please join STS in a round of applause to Michael O’Farrell, whose horror short, Raspberry Ale, has  been optioned to Justin Smith Productions! Another of his shorts, No Time Left, has just come under option as well (no review for that one, sadly.  It was grabbed before it reached publication date.)

Want to contact Michael and see what else he has available? Ring him up at Michael.ofarrell “AT” knology DOT net!

 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cracks – Short Script Review (Available for Production) - posted by wonkavite

Laptop-Shorts

Cracks

A dedicated psychiatrist attempts to help a troubled young man who believes he is dead.

What’s real, and what’s illusion? That question’s made for some freaky-a$$ (and lucrative) films over the years. Jacob’s Ladder. Magic. Donny Darko. Fight Club. Bend reality in interesting ways, and you’ll have audiences eating out of your hand. After all, when you can’t even trust your own senses, things can get… interesting.

Take poor Johnny, for instance. Shiftless, twenty-something and confused. He’s been seeing a shrink recently. A total of six visits when the script opens.

His problem? Well, his memory’s not so good anymore. But there IS one other teeny tiny detail. Johnny thinks he’s dead.

Fortunately, there’s a convenient solution in Johnny’s twisted world. Don’t look anyone in the eye, and everything will be okay.

But that damned doctor won’t stop asking questions. And Johnny’s starting to remember – dark and bloody flashes of things.

What’s real and what’s a trick of the mind? You’ll never know ‘til you head down the rabbit hole. But warning’s are in order here: once you do, it’s real hard to stop falling….

Deceptively simple, Cracks is one of those shorts that builds tension as it goes. It’s like hiding your face behind your hands at a scary movie. ‘Cause you gotta peek. Sometime.

About the writer: I’ve been writing for about five years now. I always loved it but  managed to get constantly side-tracked by silly things like: finding a real job, getting married, having kids, a mortgage… I finally decided to stop making excuses (not completely) and write “for real”. I’ve made it to the quarter-finals of the Nicholls Fellowship, the semi-finals of the Screencraft Fellowship and the finals of the Industry Insider competition featuring Sheldon Turner. I’m still pretty wet behind the ears, but for the first time in a long time, I actually refer to myself  as a writer. I can always be reached at kostak “AT” kostak.com

Pages: 10

Budget: Minor. Two main characters, and a room (mostly you just see the floor.) Some effects will be needed for the flashback scenes, but can be tweaked in post.

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved.

The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Despair is as Simple as a Phone Call filmed as Pro Kopf – Watch the full movie - posted by Don

In 2007, Michel wrote a screenplay that was subsequently picked up, filmed and sent out on the festival circuit as Pro Kopf. The full short is now available to watch online via Vimeo.

Read the original screenplay Despair Is As Simple As A Phone Call (5 pages in pdf format) by Michel J. Duthin

One great moment of solitude or “Happiness is as simple as a phone call” antithesis. (short, drama)


PRO KOPF (short film) from Sascha Zimmermann on Vimeo.


Martin is an executive working away from home who makes a phone call home at a very bad time. Martin’s call to his wife is picked up by the maid who is put in a difficult position due to an indiscretion by Martin’s wife with another man. Once the truth is out Martin has one thing on his mind, murder and he’s willing to pay. But will the maid do what he wants and kill the cheating wife and her lover?

Discuss on the discussion board.

Blessed – Short Script Review (Optioned!) - posted by The Merrows

Laptop-Shorts

Blessed

An old man’s given the gift of ultimate knowledge.  With no way to communicate it…

George Fry, 94, has been given a gift of sorts. You see, he knows everything.

Everything.

He knows the weather worldwide. Past, present and future. He understands every language. He knows who ate what for breakfast this morning. Or who the orderly hit on before coming to work.

He knows far more significant things, too. For example: who will live, and who will die. Exactly. To the second. He knows when and where the next earthquake’s coming. And the next tsunami. He knows how to cure cancer. And how to end world hunger.

“Why God did this to me, I don’t guess I know.” George ponders. “I’ve never been specially good or bad.”

But it doesn’t really matter. As the Bible says, “The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away.” And that holds true for George, too. Because he was given his amazing gift at the exact moment he suffered a stroke and lost the ability to communicate. Try as he might, his words of warning are lost as soon as they leave his lips – interpreted as the incessant, meaningless babble of an elderly stroke victim. No one listens. No one hears.

Except for George’s 18-year old grandson, Paul. Visiting one afternoon, Paul accidentally hears George predict the exact time and magnitude of the next earthquake. And later that day – it happens!

Paul rushes back to visit George, video camera in hand. But time is short. And his grandpa’s old and frail. Will he be in time…? Who cares what happens to an old man, anyway…?

Poetically written by Erich Von Heeder, Blessed dances on the edge of pathos; wrapped in human tragedy. Did we mention, it’s also easily shot? Everything a seropis indie director could ask for….

About the writer: A humble denizen of Seattle  talented writer Erich VonHeeder can be reached at erich_vonheeder “AT” yahoo

Pages: 5

Budget: Very low. A nursing home setting, a few extras – and you’re done. Oh – and an actor that’s great with voiceovers.

About the reviewers: Scott & Paula Merrow are a husband and wife screenwriting team. Since 2006, they’ve written over 50 short screenplays, several of which have been produced. They tend toward family-friendly scripts, but they’ve written a little bit of everything: horror, fantasy, sci-fi, comedy,… the whole nine yards. They’re reachable at scott-paula “AT” comcast.net

READ THE SCRIPT HERE – AND DON’T FORGET TO COMMENT!!

FOR YET MORE SCRIPTS AVAILABLE FOR PRODUCTION:

PLEASE SEARCH SIMPLYSCRIPTS.COM 

OR THE BLOG VERSION OF STS HERE.

All screenplays are copyrighted to their respective authors. All rights reserved. The screenplays may not be used without the expressed written permission of the author.

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