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Friday, September 15, 2017

Interviews: Lisa DeVita, writer of Peelers. - posted by Anthony Cawood

If you’ve not seen it… Peelers is a fun filled horror film set in a strip club, more details here.

I was lucky enough to catch up with the writer recently and Lisa Devita was good enough to spend some time answering all my dumb questions and her answers are insightful, entertaining and often hilarious – thanks Lisa!

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on how you got into screenwriting?

I was coming upon the last semester of my tenure at university… decision time… what do I want to do with my life once I must leave the sanctuary of school?  I was at a loss as to what to do with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in English. My choices were to become a school teacher or get a job at a video store. I wasn’t very keen on either and then it hit me… all my life I’ve been a storyteller. I majored in English because I loved reading stories and I loved writing them. As a kid I’d spend hours in front of the mirror, not doing my hair and trying on makeup, but acting out plays, doing stand-up comedy and hosting variety shows. Just before I graduated I finally woke up and saw the answer that had been sitting right in front of me the whole time, I was just too wrapped up in university life to see it. But I wasn’t sure what type of writing I wanted to do so I enrolled in two courses that were quite different to see which one appealed: Copywriting and Screenwriting. The Copywriting class was interesting and fun but I didn’t like the whole consumerist angle to it and the storytelling aspect was kinda limited to an ADHD audience. The Screenwriting class however, grabbed me hook, line and sinker. I fell in love with every aspect… the character development, the dialogue, setting the scene, the hero’s journey, the plot twists, learning the lesson. All of it had me at “hello.”  The next day, I applied to Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film & Television program and have never looked back.

Q: Peelers is your first IMDB credit for Writing, but you have a number of credits in Editorial capacities – what did these entail?

I worked in Post Production mainly as a coordinator helping to streamline the editorial process. I loved it. Post Production is amazing to behold how it all comes together. I also worked in research and story development on a Factual TV series called “Vanity Insanity” that delved into the world of plastic surgery… very interesting and scary stuff. It was an amazing experience as I got to work in the area I’m most interested in (Story Development). I also worked in Clearances. Worst. Job. Ever. You’re basically asking permission to use someone’s likeness in a show, or a logo, or some footage, and nine times out of ten the answer is either “NO” or “what are you going to do for me?”  Although the best answer I ever got (from an actor whose likeness we wanted to use) was a 2-page, single-spaced essay on how the work I was doing (in this case clearances on a documentary on vampires in film) was the work of the devil and if I only chose to follow Christ, that my life would be better for it. I still have the letter. It’s gold. Either way, I’m not one to ask for permission, it’s just not in my nature. So I quit very soon after.

Q: Was this experience useful to your screenwriting?

I would say this experience was far more useful in the world of office politics and learning how the whole process of TV making happens, and how building and nurturing relationships is essential. But the number one thing I learned that has been the most important lesson and carries me through my filmmaking career to this day, is that no matter what happens, if your lead actor drops out at the last minute, or your camera gear isn’t working on set, or the caterer doesn’t show up, that there is ALWAYS a way to get it (your shooting day) done. You just have to have hustle and creative chutzpah, but there is a way. It was the producer of the factual TV series we were working on who taught me that, Laura Watson. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago from breast cancer, but I’ve never forgotten that lesson (and watched her implement it on multiple occasions). In fact, we dedicated Peelers to her memory because there’s no way we could’ve made the film without remembering her lesson.

Q: Did you write anything else prior to Peelers, Shorts or Features?

Yes, I’ve written a couple of features and many, many shorts. I love shorts. I find them so easy to write. All you need is one great idea, or a great twist. I know they’re not the best way to try and make a living (unless you’re Pixar) but I still love writing them.

Q: And Peelers, was that spec or commission?

It was on commission. I’m supposed to get a dollar for the script (still haven’t seen it though). Such is the reality of indie filmmaking.

Q: How did you hook up with Seve (Peelers Director)?

Sevé’s sales agent on Skew (his first feature film) suggested he make another horror film because they’re easier to sell in the indie market. His only two requirements were that it have more blood and more nudity. And while I’m all for nudity (who isn’t?), Sevé didn’t want to make a film with gratuitous boob shots. So he thought: where can a film take place in which nudity is the norm?  And the location for Peelers was born. At this time we were both working at one of the biggest production houses in Vancouver, BC within the post production department (he was a colorist and I was a post production coordinator). We had played baseball together a few times outside of work and therefore Sevé knew that I was working on my own screenplays, so he pitched me the idea of writing a horror script that takes place in a strip club. I used to live in Las Vegas so I had lots of source material and so I jumped at the chance to write the script. In fact, the story for Peelers was inspired by a crazy incident that happened to me while at a strip club in Las Vegas. But I’ll have to save that story for another time… Anyway, we both have the same sense of humor and we worked really well together so it turned out to be an amazing director-writer partnership where one person is a little nuts (the writer) and the other person reels it in and edits for structure and focus (the director).

Q: Did you have to change the script much to get the film made?

The basic concept for the story didn’t change but definitely a lot of the kills did. In my initial drafts I had some crazy kills that would’ve involved some pretty high tech special effects (or highly skilled visual effects) both of which we did not have access to and when Sevé read them in my script he kindly reminded me that we didn’t have a $25 million dollar budget, so it was back to the drawing board for many kill scenes. Basically, we discussed which kills we wanted to keep the most and spend our budget on. I was allowed to keep two or three, but the rest had to be “finessed” into indie budget standards in order for us to shoot.

Q: Peelers is proper old school exploitation, how much fun was it to write?

A ton of fun!  As most of my friends and family can attest, I’m a teenage boy trapped in a woman’s body. I love crossing the line, pushing the envelope. I love potty humor and boobs. I have no filter and so this is how I approached the screenplay. Of course this is where Sevé makes for such a great creative partner – he encourages me to write sans filter on the first go-round, just get everything out there on paper, but then he sees the big picture (and the budget) so he’s a pro at knowing what to keep, what needs finessing and what needs to go. Sure I fight for my favorite stuff to stay in the picture; sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but in the end, I trust Sevé and it’s always a learning process. The ending for example (I won’t give it away) Sevé and I debated a long time whether to keep it or not. We worried that people might think we went too far and end up hating the entire movie because of it. But in this overly politically-correct world, I’m always looking to offend, so we decided to keep it. And I’m glad we did because people go nuts for it. Audiences scream with devilish glee at it. And then turn around and say, “I can’t believe you went there.”  And that’s my aim as a writer (well, one of my aims). I definitely was a champion for more humor in the script and Sevé wanted more of a serious tone, so those moments in the film that are cheesy and goofy and sick and twisted are my doing and the more pensive, somber moments have gone through the “Sevé edit.”  In the end, I think we got the balance just right. We’ve had so many reviewers write that we got the mix of gore and humor bang on, which is so great to hear especially after months of back and forth deliberation wondering if we went too far down either end of the dark/dreary or ridiculous/cheesy spectrum.

Q: And you were also involved in the film’s production as a Producer, what exactly did this entail? 

Producer = Do every role that you don’t have crew for (for indie filmmakers anyway). All you have to do is watch the credits roll at the end of Peelers and you’ll see mine and Sevé’s name on there at least 20 times (and of course there’s lots of stuff we didn’t bother taking credit for). And most of the roles I took on, I had zero experience in. But you learn pretty quickly, because if you don’t, there’s no movie. To this day (three years after production) I still have plantar fasciitis and achilles tendonitis from being on my feet all day, everyday during production. I refer to them as my battle scars. I worked extensively in acquiring sponsorship and music for the soundtrack, set design and construction, costumes, prop acquisition and rentals, location scouting, craft services and first aid to name a few. I was even a half naked body double. It was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my whole life. And I did it without pay. And I loved it. Sure there were tough times. But at the end of it all, it was truly amazing to take it all in and say, “Look at what we did!”  Truly unbelievable.

Q: And how was the film funded, it wasn’t through poker winnings was it?

No poker winnings involved this time, haha, although it was seriously considered. And that’s no exaggeration… as indie filmmakers, you honestly consider EVERY possible way to raise funds for your film and since I’m pretty consistent at coming out ahead when I play, we toyed with the idea of me going to Vegas for a few months to “raise” money. Ultimately, we decided against it, as it was too time-consuming and not as cost effective as we imagined. We funded the film however, through all of our own money that we saved up from working our asses off at our paid jobs, lots and lots of favors, begging, loving parents, and Kickstarter. Although I wouldn’t do Kickstarter again. It’s much more bother than it’s worth.

Q: You’ve been on the road touring festivals with Seve/Peelers, fun or grind?

Although I’m definitely a “glass-is-half-full” kinda person, if I’m being totally honest, I’d have to say it was more grind than fun. Don’t get me wrong, some festivals are great. For example, A Night of Horror Festival in Australia was amazing, but that’s because it’s run by an amazing guy (who has become a good friend now). The Julienne Dubuque Fest is also incredible too. Also, run by an amazing woman. But most festivals are a total waste of time and money. It is truly the people running the show who make or break a festival and most are definitely broken. After our festival run I was totally burnt out and despondent from the overall experience. I will definitely be much more selective when choosing which festivals to attend in the future.

Q: And where are you with Peelers now, distribution all sorted and festivals finished?

Distribution is continually ongoing but so far we have distribution in Canada, USA and overseas. Festivals are done now, although we occasionally get asked to screen at various venues and conventions still. We even screened at a Drive-in in Shelbyville, Indiana this year!  Very cool.

Q: And where can we see Peelers?

We are now all over the USA… RedBox, VOD, iTunes, Amazon.com, etc. Many foreign countries are picking us up and Canada is slowly coming along… I know that we are on VOD now. More to come…

Q: There are a ton of people out there who offer coverage services, notes, feedback and position themselves as gurus etc, what is your view on such services?

I’m sure those services are great if you can afford them, but I think the best script doctors are the ones who love stories, and yes, that’s probably most everyone, but that’s because I believe storytelling is an innate gift in all of us, some of us just practice it more often than others. My brother and sister for example are excellent script doctors. My sister is a book worm, and I give her my scripts to read all the time. I trust her because she knows instantly what works and what doesn’t, she has a great sense for pacing and flow in a story and yet she’s never been to film school or taken a course in screenwriting. My brother has seen every movie out there. He can tell you exactly what’s wrong with Star Wars Episode 3 before you even think about it. So I trust his input implicitly. You watch enough movies and read enough books, you know how a story is supposed to work, even if you’ve never written one yourself. Besides, the professional script doctors I’ve met are jaded, bitter and don’t have the time to watch movies or read books. I’d rather give my script to someone who wants to help me find the magic, not someone who wants to see me burn in hell, hahaha.

Q: What are your thoughts on the business side of screenwriting, getting your scripts ‘out there’ and networking to make connections?

I know networking is essential in order to make connections, in order to get your work out there, in order to get discovered, in order to make a living off of writing, and so on and so forth, but I just loathe it. I live inside my head, I don’t want to go out into the real world and make small talk. Besides, no one wants to talk to the writer (even though writers are the most interesting of the bunch!)  But alas, if I want my work to be discovered, it is what I must do. And so, in between my writing and my drawing and my reading and my daydreaming, I plan on getting out there… I even got Larry King’s book on small talk entitled: “How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.”  It really is an amazing book, very helpful. I’ll be testing it out at an industry party soon. After a few drinks of course.

Q: If you’ve used services/sites like Inktip, SimplyScripts, The Blacklist, what’s your view on this type of model for screenwriters to get their scripts seen, and hopefully picked up?

I haven’t used these services yet but I’m definitely up for doing so one day when I become that proud parent who has a baby script I’d like to show off to others. I don’t know any screenwriters personally who’ve found success with any of these services, but I’ve read the loglines on The Blacklist website and some of them are great, so I’m sure, or at least I hope, these screenplays will get picked up.

Q: What are your thoughts on screenwriting competitions, entered any yourself, any success?

I think they’re all a scam. Just a way to make starving artists starve even more. I’d only enter a competition if the fee was waived. The fees are just way too high on the majority of competitions and only a very select few are worthy of your time. Similar to festivals.

Q: You worked for the World Series of Poker and I believe you play a bit too, what’s the highest level/buy in you’ve played at?

While I was working for the WSOP I was allowed to enter the Media-Celebrity event since I was part of the media. It takes place halfway through the World Series tournament and there are approximately 500 entrants. The buy-in is taken care of for you and your final table winnings (if you make it) are donated to the charity of your choice. It was an absolute blast. A few times I was down to my last chips, in serious danger of busting out, but I miraculously built up my stash each time. Celebs at my table at different points in time during the tournament included Jennifer Tilly (she’s very good, very aggressive player), Dick Van Patten and his son Vince Van Patten, Shannon Elizabeth and even the legendary Ron Jeremy (what an entourage he had… ) Amazingly, I actually made it to the final table and busted out in seventh place overall! Because of this, I’m listed on Card Player’s website (which in the poker world is a big honor, haha).

Q: How did you get into poker?

I was living in Las Vegas at the time and I’d always been intrigued by the game. I love games in general as I’m highly competitive. So one day, my boyfriend at the time taught me how to play. After a few home study sessions he surprised me on my birthday with a night out at a live poker table in a real casino. I started with 40 dollars at a 1-2 table. I was SO nervous. Each time the dealer called action on me I could barely hear him over the deafening thudding of my heartbeat. Whenever I placed a bet my hands shook uncontrollably, I could barely hold the chips without dropping them. I don’t know if anyone else noticed this but my boyfriend sure did, telling me it was so obvious. To this day my hands still shake whenever I have good cards, so friends and family always look for this (my poker “tell”) and avoid playing against me when they see it. I’m still working on learning to control it. Anyway, two hours later, I had made $200 so we decided to leave on a high, nothing too greedy since it was my first time. I was absolutely hooked on the game from that day forward. It was a great birthday.

Q: What projects are you working on now and when can next expect to see your name on the credits?

I’m all over the map at the moment. I’ve written a sci-fi novel (first draft) that is in desperate need of a re-write (but I’m excited to do so). I’ve also finished a family-comedy feature film script (quite the departure from a stripper horror). And I’m currently working on a dark comedy.

Q: You write fiction and factual too, how do you find it swapping between disciplines?

I find it much harder to write factual, and a bore, I can’t help but embellish. I’m not a fan of reality.

Q: What’s the best and worst screenwriting advice you’ve been given?

Best advice:  “You can’t be afraid to look dumb, especially when writing comedy. You have to get through all the dumb stuff in order to get to the gold.”

Worst advice:  “Write only what you know.”

Now for a few ‘getting to know Lisa’ questions

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite script, if they’re different.

Well, I have a Top Ten List of favorite films of course, but my top 3 are:  The Natural, The Power of One and The Hangover. My favorite script however is Midnight Run by George Gallo. It is near perfect in every way. I never get sick of it.

Q: Favourite author and book? 

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. It blew my mind. I didn’t want it to end.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?

A Moscow Mule.

Q: Favourite food?

Steak. And cheese. And ice cream. And burgers. Let’s just sum this up and say “COW” is my favorite food and everything that comes from cow. Butter too. Butter makes everything better.

Q: Fave type of poker? Favourite player?

7-card stud, hands-down. The “Old Gentlemen’s Game” as they call it. That’s the game I first learned to play at a casino. But with the rise in popularity of Texas Hold’em, it is near impossible to find a 7-card stud game anywhere these days. So I had to eventually learn Texas Hold’em. And while I do enjoy it, I much prefer 7-card stud. Texas Hold’em is mostly balls and luck. But 7-card stud is a thinking game of patience and strategy and timing. That’s probably why you’ll only see old men playing it. And me. Favorite poker player:  Jesus aka Chris Ferguson. I love his calm, quiet demeanor. He was so cool and unassuming. And a brilliant player. No loud showboating like Phil Hellmuth or Mike “The Mouth” Matusow. For the record, neither of those guys shut up. Ever. I was there and witnessed this first-hand at the WSOP. Oh and also, Doyle “Dolly” Brunson is another favorite. He is a sweetheart. A true southern gentleman and so fun to watch play. It’s as if he can read minds.

Q: Any other interests and passions?

I’m an avid comic book collector/fan. And not just now because Marvel has usurped the world of film, but I’ve been a fan since I was a kid, back in the day when they made fun of you for reading comics. I’m also a HUGE baseball fan. Which is why Peelers has a prevalent baseball theme throughout. I loved interweaving the baseball element throughout the film. The same reason I love 7-card stud poker applies to why baseball is my favorite sport. It’s a thinking sport; replete with drama, poetry, tension, failure, joy, accomplishment, retribution. All the elements that make a great story. It is definitely the writer’s sport. As the saying goes: “Baseball is only boring to boring minds.”  I totally agree.

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters of SimplyScripts?

Write on. And never. Ever. Give. Up.

Thanks again Lisa.


Check out Peelers Official Website and IMDB
Stream it on Amazon Prime or iTunes or get the Blu-ray

About the reviewer: Anthony Cawood is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 4 short films produced and another 10 or so scripts optioned and/or purchased. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Interviews: Jerrol LeBaron, founder of InkTip. - posted by Anthony Cawood

Jerrol-Bio-lg Most screenwriters quickly discover that writing isn’t the only challenge they face… they’re also expected to ‘get their scripts out there’ and connect with Producers looking for material.

They also soon learn that this is a lot easier said than done!

So in my latest interview, I catch up with Jerrol LeBaron, the founder of InkTip, who has so far helped over 300 projects get started.

Jerrol has over 17 years experience and his answers cover a wealth of useful info for screenwriters everywhere.

 

Q: First up, how about a little bit of background on the man behind InkTip, how did you get into the industry?
I started off as an actor/writer. I had a script I was proud of and was determined to get it made, but I couldn’t get it to producers. What I saw was a gate. On the other side of the gate opening were producers, agents, and managers looking for scripts and writers. Trying to squeeze through the gate were writers like me wanting to gain representation, sell their scripts, or get hired. But getting the producers and reps to figure out which writers and scripts to let through the gate was maddening. Every now and then a few scripts or writers were able to squeeze through. So, I thought to myself, what if I build a website where writers could post their scripts and where producers and reps could log in and do searches for exactly what they were looking for?

Q: And did you ever get anywhere with that script (or any since)?
Nope. I realized I was better suited to help other writers get their scripts sold and produced and that’s what I’ve been focusing on. It’s very rewarding. I love helping producers find just what they need and helping writers move their careers forward. I’ve also reread my script and felt a little embarrassed.

Q: How would you describe InkTip to a new writer or producer?
It’s like matchmaking for filmmaking. Producers come to InkTip to find scripts and writers. Writers come to InkTip so they can sell their scripts or get hired by producers. We make it possible for them to access each other to get films made. We average 3-4 script options a week.

How it works is producers let us know what they need and we connect them with writers who have the types of projects they’re looking for through our secure online database. Producers visit InkTip.com and search for scripts and writers. They can search by a variety of categories and criteria and contact writers directly. Producers also put out calls for script submissions in our weekly Preferred Newsletter. We then send this out to our writers so they can pitch their completed scripts to producers, most of which don’t accept unsolicited queries.

We even out the playing field for writers. We make it possible for hundreds of producers to find them, no matter where they’re located. Our most popular service for writers is an InkTip Script Listing. Writers can post their loglines, synopses, scripts, and resumes in our secure online database. Producers then reach out to these writers to learn more about their scripts.

We’ve had writers from all over the U.S., the U.K., and around the world sell scripts on InkTip. Even if you are in L.A., getting scripts to producers without a rep or connections is very difficult. We make it possible for writers to reach producers directly and for producers to find new talent. InkTip is free for qualified producers. (Register here.) Writers can sign up here.

Q: You have over 315 success stories, what was it like with the first few? Validation? Getting a business going is always a labor of love. In fact, I lost most of my hair getting InkTip up and running! It was a lot of long days and late nights. When those first successes started rolling in and we were able to watch films that were made because we connected the writers and producers, it was amazing. It was exciting to see the result of the hard work we’d put in. I still get a thrill when I see a trailer for a film made through us. I miss my hair, but it was worth it.

Q: There are other players in the market these days, what do you think differentiates InkTip?
I’m proud to say that no one gets the kind of results we get. We’ve had more than 315 films made through people connecting on InkTip. In addition to that, there are hundreds of options, sales, and writers that found representation through InkTip. Producers come to us because they are seriously looking for scripts and writers. Writers use InkTip because they want to move their careers forward. We never pay producers to use the site or any of our services so the connections made through our site are genuine.

Q: People believe that InkTip’s producers are at the Indie end, with smaller budgets (relatively speaking), would this be fair?
We work with all types of producers. We do work with indie producers, but that’s not to say they’re all filming on small budgets. We also work with producers from large companies such as ABC, Anonymous Content, APA, CBS Films, HBO Films, ICM, Paradigm, Paramount Pictures, Hallmark Channel, FX, Universal, WME, Echo Lake, Zero Gravity, Bad Robot, 20th Century Fox, and more.

We focus on working with reputable producers who have proven they can make a film and who are open to working with writers who are repped or unrepped, have previous credits or not. Our producers are looking for quality scripts and to develop relationships with writers. Often what happens is that a producer and a writer develop a relationship and continue to collaborate. So while perhaps the first film they made had a small budget, their second is a bigger production. We’ve also had producers and writers develop relationships to the point where the writer will become a co-producer or even direct a film.

We’ve had scripts of a wide range of budgets bought and made through our site. Sometimes that’s a limited-location thriller, sometimes it’s a western with sprawling landscapes, or an action film with helicopter scenes and complicated stunts. You can see some of our films here.

Q: What advice do you have for writers to maximize their chances of getting noticed on InkTip?
It’s important for writers to be proactive and make their work available to producers and representatives. If producers can’t find you or your work, it’s impossible for them to contact you and for anything to happen. So first list your scripts on InkTip and submit to any call for entries in the Preferred Newsletter that your script is a good fit for. You have to get your scripts out there if they are going to get made.

Secondly, take the time to get your loglines and synopsis right. I can’t stress this enough. So many writers will spend months on their scripts and 30 minutes on their synopses. Producers read loglines and synopses first. You need to showcase your style and story in a way that producers will want to take the next step and read your script. Tweak and study how people respond to your logline. The more you improve your logline, the more producers will read your synopsis and then your script.

Be patient and persistent. Even overnight successes typically take years. It only seems overnight on the outside. Stay committed to writing and promoting your scripts and you can get your films made. I’ve seen it work literally hundreds of times.

Q: Can you give us a brief rundown of the paid services?
We have three paid services for writers: InkTip Script Listing, InkTip Magazine, and the InkTip Preferred Newsletter. These are all strong options to get your scripts read and yourself noticed as a writer.

Writers typically start with an InkTip Script Listing. They can post their scripts on InkTip’s secure online database so producers and reps can find them when they are looking for writers. Each InkTip Script Listing is made up of a logline, synopsis, and you have the option of uploading your script or a treatment. Writers include info such as budget, genre, cast size, resume etc. Producers can then search by these criteria to find projects that match their needs. Each InkTip Script Listing costs $60 for 4 months. It’s an affordable way to promote your scripts safely. You’ll also get a record of all the producers who have viewed your logline.

We also have InkTip Magazine. We send out our magazine to our full list of producers and representatives. Altogether a total of nearly 15,000 people receive this publication. For every script they have on InkTip, writers can publish their loglines in the magazine and reach even more producers.

Producers will come to InkTip with specific needs such as a grounded sci-fi thrillers or WWII scripts. We put out these exclusive calls for script submissions in our weekly InkTip Preferred Newsletter. The newsletter is sent out every Thursday and has 6-8 exclusive calls for script submissions from InkTip producers. There are often more than 8 calls for scripts included. It’s a great way to submit your scripts safely and directly to a production company at the exact moment they are looking for a script.

Q: And the free ones?
Registering for an InkTip account is free. Writers can register here and then get access to our logline lab, special discounts to enter contests and film festivals, and access to articles and how-to’s related to the industry.

We have a free weekly newsletter that anyone can sign up for. Subscribers get 1-2 script leads a week and they can submit their work to producers at no cost. You can also preview what’s in the Preferred Newsletter and if you see something you want to submit to, sign up and get immediate access to it.

Many writers have short scripts. All writers can promote their short scripts on InkTip for free. https://www.inktip.com/sa_short_script_listing.php

Q: You make sure you vet prospective producers before they are allowed access, why is that?
We work with companies and producers who are reputable. We connect our writers with producers and industry professionals who have the capability, experience, and connections to make a film. Our first priority is always making it possible for writers to get their scripts sold and find representation. A big part of that is making sure that the producers and reps we work with are credible. So we vet every InkTip producer. We also never pay producers to view scripts. We don’t pay because we don’t want anyone using InkTip under false pretenses. The producers who use our site are searching with the intention of making a film now and not for some other incentive.

Q: I’ve not accessed the site as a producer would, what do they see?
Producers log into the site and they’re able to search for scripts. They can narrow the search by genre, budget, locations, writer credits, and many other options. They then see a page with all of the scripts available that meet their criteria. They instantly see each script’s logline and writer’s name. They can then choose to read the synopsis, script, or contact the writer directly.

You can see a preview of the search page here.
You can see how scripts show up for producers here.

Q: There are a lot of people competing for aspiring screenwriter’s limited money, from guru’s, through coverage services, and a plethora of competitions. What makes InkTip a good investment?
It’s a low-cost way to make your scripts available to hundreds of producers. It’s a secure site, you always know who reads your scripts, and our strong track record speaks for itself

Q: Once a producer finds a script or a writer… what happens next?
The producer and writer make a deal. It might be a script option, buying the writer’s script or hiring the writer for an existing project. InkTip never takes a cut of the deal. The producer and writer are free to make the best deal for them without any interference from us.

Sometimes a producer will like a writer’s script and writing style, but the script is not the right fit at the moment. Often this leads to a relationship where they stay in touch and then down the line they might work together. This happened recently with If I Had Wings written by Michael Markus and Tim Stubinski and produced by Cynde Harmon. Cynde liked one of their scripts a few years back but wasn’t able to move forward with it at the time. She kept in touch with Markus and Tim who let her know what they were working on and she decided to produce one of their scripts. This happens a lot. Connecting with producers always has the possibility of leading to something later down the line.

Q: And what changes have you seen in the industry since you started 17 years ago?
So many changes! When I first started InkTip, the idea that producers could find scripts online was totally new. Now people are comfortable with it and it’s become common, which is great for writers. There are so many more films being made a year. With so many distribution platforms and companies, there are way more opportunities available for writers. It’s a good time to be writing and promoting your scripts.

This is an industry like any other. You gotta knock on a lot of doors to find the right place where your work can shine. Everything takes leg work. It’s about being consistent. One of my favorite quotes is from Benjamin Franklin, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” That has definitely been true for me. In the last 17 years, I’ve definitely seen how it’s now more possible than ever for writers to break in.

Q: Any advice in general for the aspiring screenwriters on Simply Scripts in terms of breaking in?
Be proactive. Get good at your craft, but don’t obsess about it being perfect. Put yourself and your work out there as much as possible. Follow up and always be professional.

Be positive. Writing can be so personal and it can be rough to handle rejection. If you can stay positive or at least neutral and not go down a road of negativity, it makes it so much easier for you to keep putting in the work. And that’s what helps you move your career forward.

 

Okay, now for some getting to know Jerrol questions…

Q: Fave movie?
I can’t choose just one. I really like Gone with the Wind, Outland, Matrix, and the Edge of Tomorrow.

Q: Best and worst screenwriting advice you’ve had.
Worst advice: Write a great script, and if it is truly great it will automatically get found and made. Your talent will get you through.
Best advice: The best way to NOT get your script made is to not let anybody read it. Believe in yourself and put yourself out there. Dedicate time to building your craft and dedicate as much time to promoting yourself as you do your writing.

Q: Fave food?
Nothing beats a great huevos rancheros!

Q: Fave drink?
Coke or vodka and Coke.

Q: Fave sport and team if applicable?
Basketball; Lakers

Q: Fave thing to do outside of InkTip and writing stuff?
Hanging out with friends and family. I also like woodworking. I used to work in construction and really enjoy building things. I recently redid my garage and it turned out great. I make all my friends and family admire it when they come over.

Q: Any final words of advice to the aspiring writers out there?
Work every week without fail on showcasing your scripts and skills, such as through networking, screenings, entering contests, query letters, follow-ups, etc. Take notes on what is and isn’t effective with your efforts and make improvements. For example, when writing query letters, figure out which one of your query letters works best and apply what you’ve learned moving forward. Do this for your loglines, your synopses, how you introduce yourself at events, etc. Pay attention to what works and doesn’t and act accordingly. Dedicate time to promoting yourself and your scripts and that’ll go a long way in making your career happen.

 

Thanks to Jerrol for being so generous with his time and providing such great answers.

About the reviewer: Anthony Cawood is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 4 short films produced and another 10 or so scripts optioned and/or purchased. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Brett Martin on Eclipse the Script podcast - posted by Don

Some good info here from Brett Martin on his screenwriting career on a fairly new screenwriting podcast Eclipse the Script. Brett also talks about his new script. Well worth the listen.

Shout outs:

Breanne Mattson
Pia Cook
Michael Kospiah
ScriptShadow

Scripts mentioned:

Red Sun – A double crossed thief and a honorable samurai form an uneasy alliance in order to recover a priceless stolen artifact and a fortune in gold. 101 pages (Western) pdf format Discuss this script on the Discussion Board

Zombie Playground – Children of cohabiting scientists must overcome their prejudices and battle junk food obsessed mutant zombies that take over their playground. 93 pages (Family, Adventure, Ensemble) pdf format Discuss this script on the Discussion Board

Clone Wife (early draft) – A scientist gets an unexpected second chance at first love when he clones his estranged wife. 96 pages (Romantic Comedy) pdf format Discuss this script on the Discussion Board

Clone Wife (later draft) – A lonely scientist gets an unexpected second chance at first love when he clones his estranged wife. 106 pages (Romantic Comedy) pdf format

Discuss this script on the Discussion Board

Widow’s Walk – A mother has just one night to confront the demons of her past and save her son. (Short, Horror) pdf format Discuss this script on the Discussion Board

Friday, May 12, 2017

How To Write & Pitch Binge Worthy TV Series Pilot Scripts & Treatments - posted by Scott Manville

Your 5 steps to writing and pitching TV show ideas that will captivate audiences and engage TV producers reading your scripts.

Scott ManvilleTV Writers Vault founder and producer Scott Manville (Relativity TV, Lifetime TV) shares with Simply Scripts advice on creating binge-worthy characters for TV and premises palatable enough to binge on:

When screenwriters labor to develop their movie scripts, conjuring “what if’s” and plot twists to fuel the story, it’s driven by a need to bring clever closure to the movie in under two hours. When writing a TV pilot script or pitch treatment, the story demands a whole spectrum of choices that must deliver longevity for the series. In our exciting landscape of binge-worthy TV series, think of it as taking your TV show idea and writing it as a 13 hour movie script with powerful and compelling plots, unlikely heroes, and ironic wrinkles in the story. When a TV Writer is creating and writing their pilot script, it’s not just what’s printed within those 30-50 pages that engages the reader and lands a deal. It begins with the power of the original idea for a TV series, and then fans out with every choice of character and story. From concept, to character, to clever twist…they all must drive the story to deliver longevity with escalating stakes, and a heightened reality within the world of your TV series.

How to write and pitch a TV showThe most exciting aspect of that challenge is that a creator writing TV scripts faces expectations from today’s audiences that force them to make extraordinary choices for plot and character. We’re in a golden age for storytelling in television, with hit series of unparalleled quality we used to only see in theatrical films. Even more exciting is that unlike film where early storylines and plot develop slowly, in television we’re dropped into a series as if it were the second act of a film, with plot and plight often hitting the ground running, pulling viewers in who eagerly give a willing suspension of disbelief, binge watching the series to see what happens next so they’ll better understand the protagonist and their plight. Take advantage of this as as a creator. You’re not just punching out TV scripts that are easily digested, and seem to work, or that sound clever. Make bold choices in every aspect of your writing.

Keep these 5 things in mind when writing your TV pilot script, or TV series idea. Each of these factors will fuel the other, as they’re all related, but you’ll want to be mindful of each.

5 Steps To Inspire Your Binge-Worthy TV Pilot Script:

1.  The Core Idea:

Knowing how to pitch a TV show means knowing how your original core idea fuels all aspects of the series.

The first and most important element in the process is conception. Creating that “Idea” that is the premise and plight for the main characters in your TV series. Choose the genre, subject, and world that hasn’t been explored yet, and establish the right components to create chemistry and conflict. Producers and viewers look for stories and worlds we haven’t seen before. Even within subjects we’re already familiar with, your core TV series idea must have some original hook that makes us want to experience that world and its characters. It’s all about the premise and plight. Look for social issues within the main character’s life that people can relate to today, but take it a step further by “flipping” the expected circumstances so the story and character’s have more dimension. Knowing how to pitch a TV show means knowing how your original core idea fuels all aspects of the series. When the premise and plight are highly original, the story writes itself to a large degree.

2.  Humanize The Characters:

Look for the contradiction in their behavior and create circumstances and scenes that fuel that.

The reason we love entertainment and story is because it helps us explore and witness the human condition. Great actors know how to make choices that bring characters to life. Their choice of reaction, behavior, clothing, props, movement, and all things unwritten are the choices they make to help communicate the person they’re playing. To every rhyme, there is a reason. As a screenwriter, the choices you make will bring your protagonist and story to life. Examine your characters as an actor would. Ask yourself what your characters life experiences are that drive their choices and actions that ultimately drive the story. When you know the roots of your characters, you’ll have truth that fuels your choice of storyline and scenarios. Look for the contradiction in their behavior and create circumstances and scenes that fuel that. Find the flaw in the hero, and the redeeming qualities in the antagonist. Know what they want versus what they need. When you understand your characters you can make strong choices, and the tapestry of your TV series is woven tighter and becomes more brilliant when examined from all sides.

3.  Create A Heightened Reality:

Viewers tune in because they want to experience a heightened reality- witnessing what is possible, instead of what is probable

As a screenwriter, the ability to write realistic and plausible scenes can easily lead to scenes and moments written that may be true to life, but are ultimately just boring filler. Viewers tune in because they want to experience a “heightened reality”, witnessing what is possible, instead of what is probable. Each of the other items mentioned feed right into this; The protagonist’s plight, the irony of their character, the core idea and premise for the series, and every choice of character and story you make. But the one thing to keep at the forefront of your mind when conceptualizing to fuel a heightened reality for story is the “imaginary what-if”; What if by unexpected circumstances the protagonist was forced to do something completely against their own moral fiber? What if the protagonist isn’t who you think they are? What if the villain becomes the unlikely hero? Look at the pivotal moments in your story and take them to the next level for a heightened reality. These are often the moments that define and reveal your characters.

4.  Intention & Obstacle:

Grab ’em by the throat, and never let ’em go.

The intention of each character, and the obstacles they face, is your story. In a TV pilot script this needs to unfold immediately. What your character wants, and the opposing force of what they’re up against, are the ingredients that fuel the conflict and create your scenes. Again, make strong and unexpected choices. This is the most important facet of your story and episode. When the protagonist’s intention is strong and born from an intensely personal cause, and the obstacle they face threatens their success or survival, then you have high stakes that will grab the emotions of the audience. Legendary screenwriter Billy Wilder once told Cameron Crowe about keeping the audience engaged- “Grab ‘em by the throat, and never let ‘em go.”

5.  The Reality of Resolution:

When you have specific resolution to the series in mind, then you’re able to make stronger, poetic choices within the earlier life of the series

One might think that having a definitive end to a series planned ahead of time would inhibit the life of the series. And some may argue that the life of a series should be able to go on and on. I argue that when you have a specific resolution to the series in mind, then you’re able to make stronger, poetic choices within the earlier life of the series that will both drive that agenda and create a better set-up that leads to a more powerful conclusion. It doesn’t have to be black and white, but knowing where the main protagonist will end up, will help you make stronger choices with all other elements in your story that lead us through the series.

Learn more about how to pitch a TV show pilot script, and visit Scott’s Blog for direct discussion of this and other aspects of writing and pitching for TV today.

 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Music in Film – How Important is It? - posted by John Montana

Making a short film, or any film for that matter can be a lot of amazing fun. Here is how I came up with and developed the sound and music in my most recent film called HUNGRY. Its a wicked little dark comedy skewering the rampant greed of shoppers at Christmas time.

 

video makerSo the way I work is that in the very beginning of preparing to shoot the film, when I am still writing the script actually, I start to listen to music that I like. I listen with the sole purpose of getting a feel for how this particular song will go with the film. I use each song that I like or think might go well and imagine how it will tell my story. Here is an example…in “HUNGRY”, the story takes place at Christmas. So I was constantly listening to holiday songs, wild versions, old-fashioned ones, newer versions. The one I came up with was of a child choir singing Carol Of The Bells. This song was important in setting up the beginning of the film in 3 ways:

  1. It is a beautiful innocent rendition of this song
  2. It lulls the audience into the sweetness of the Christmas season
  3. It also didn’t telegraph what was coming to the audience

I cannot tell you how important music or sound is in setting up your story or film. If you can do it right, then the whole film just falls into place. Another example of how much music played a part in my film is when the main character walks into the shop, the owner is listening to 1930’s jazz. The story’s background was that this woman has been alive for several hundreds of years, and this is her favorite music. Now you don’t actually see a 500 -year old woman on screen as that was just the back-story. But this music really helped the actress get the feel for what I wanted. And her performance made the film. Another instance of how important sound was for me, was in editing. My film is a horror film, and so I had a small creature. But because I was on a small budget, I couldn’t really afford to build a creature that could move in every way I wanted. So movement was limited. What I did tho, was to search a couple of free sound sites for sci-fi sounds, or dinosaur roars. It took me weeks to get it the way I wanted. In order for the creature to look realistic, I had to use different sounds for each 2-second piece of footage that had the little guy in it. Each different sound conveyed a different want and emotion in the creature. It was incredibly grueling and difficult work. But in the end, the sounds and music are what really helped this film. In my opinion! And when my main character was being eaten alive, sounds were so vitally important in conveying the horror of what was happening to him. And at the end of the film, when it is clear that the owner is in cahoots with the creature, or the creature is almost her mate, then the music that I put in at the end conveyed the craziness of this situation. So I put in this wild and crazy piece that makes me giggle whenever I hear it.

Here are some examples of the films that I made and how and why I used the sound/music for each of them.

  1. Needs Talking – I actually came up with the idea of this film because I can hear a train’s whistle in the distance from my current home. Hearing the train, I was hit with how lonely it sounded… and then the story came to me of a married woman being alone in her own home. And then leaving!
  2. A House Cleaning – This had the feel of an old 30’s mobster film for me, and I went looking for some music from that time period. I had 2 songs from public domain that I used… the first one being a lively jazz piece that slowly moved into a foreboding piece when it becomes clear to the audience that danger is approaching. I thought the music really helped the film.
  3. LATE – You know… I used the sounds of the airport to open this film. The hectic rushing to and fro at LAX and how the lead woman came rushing into focus. And then I used the fading of those loud and crazy sounds into silence to enter into old memories. And then the quiet of the hospital hallway and the hum of the elevator to convey her fear. As it is always quiet before the storm. And then I used the saddest music I have ever heard when she finds out her mom has died before she could say goodbye.
  4. The Chaser – This is a very eerie little story that I adapted into a short. I found some very strange screeching of metal sounds and high-pitched eerie music to open the film to show just how far the lead guy had to go to have this meeting. And the strangeness of the building.

Some of my favorite films have some great music in them as well.

  • LUCY – by Luc Besson
    This is the most recent film by the French director who brought us the beautiful and haunting film – “La Femme Nikita”. In LUCY, the use of music has really been amped up to make the horror of what is happening to Scarlett Johansson’s character. There is the slow low drumbeat of when she is waiting in the office lobby in the beginning that makes you squirm in anticipation of something really bad coming her way. Then there is her becoming super aware: She hears the minute sounds of creatures crawling and the sounds of radio waves as they go up out of peoples cell phones. There are way too many examples of  how he uses sound to enhance this film.
  • RED – The final film of the Three Colors Trilogy by Krzysztof Kielslowski.
    This is such a magical film and the music he used in it is beautiful and eerie. From sudden crashing cymbals to convey horror, to gentle intoxicating music for the “Fashion Show”, to again crashing doors for when the storm blows in. It is such a subtle and at the same time “in-your-face sound effects and music.
  • BLADE RUNNER – by Ridley Scott:
    For me… the music in this film is the most amazing sounds and music I have ever heard used in a film. From the weird lively beat by some kind of reed instrument (I’m guessing) when Deckard is walking thru the outdoor bazaar to the echoing music when he is in the great building of the Tyrell Corp. Even the weird futuristic music by Vangelis for the scene transitions are masterful. For me again… this movie is the perfect example of how important music and sound are to creating the world of the film you are making.
  • IRREVERSIBLE – by Gaspar Noe
    In this film, there is an undercurrent of bass that was purposely put into the soundtrack. The reason for this is because this low bass sound creates a feeling of nausea and confusion and dizziness for the  audience. I have no conclusive evidence of this, but if this was intentional, then it is a brilliant use of sound to affect the audience and bring them into the world of Monica Bellucci’s character and of the  world of rape.
  • WITNESS – by Peter Weir
    I cannot tell you how much I loved this film, for its power and simplicity of the storytelling. The arc that Harrison Ford’s character makes as a result of living with this Amish family for a while is why I love the acting business. When done correctly, it truly is wonderful to watch. There is a scene that beautifully shows the world of the Amish… it is the shot of the fields swaying in the breeze. The sound of the wind as it moves slowly thru the wheat or grass field is mesmerizing. In that one piece of film, you are instantly transported tot his place and the sound is so tranquil, that I could understand why some people choose to live this lifestyle. And that is ultimately what you strive for…for your audience to get   immersed into your world… if only for an hour or two.

short film ideas

In conclusion, if you are in preparation for a film shoot, or if you are already in editing, then I cannot stress the importance of taking your time and getting the music and sound right. If you have the right style of music that brings your audience into your film, and the right sound effects if you are shooting a horror film, then this will improve your odds of this being a successful film. If nothing else, it helps your audience into your film, and it help in keeping them there. If you don’t believe me, go and watch the movie Brooklyn.  The music in this film will bring you instantly into this world, and it keeps you there. Whether you like the movie or not!

About The Author:

John Montana is a video maker living in L.A. and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short films at No Title Production Films.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Interviews: Jose Prendes, on low budget filming and working with Asylum - posted by Anthony Cawood

Jose PrendesToday I'm sitting down with filmmaker Jose Prendes to discuss his films, his writing and the fascinating path he's taken... enjoy!

Q: Could you give me a little bit of background on how you got into screenwriting/film making?
I was an only child, and I lost my parents when I was five, so I was very lucky to find myself in the hands of my Godparents, who I came to see as my parents. My dad was a huge movie buff, and he never really set limits on anything I could watch, so banished away my loneliness by plunging into movies and books and things like that. I knew very early on that I wanted to be a part of the movie world. At first, I wanted to be an actor, and I dabble here and there, but I discovered a knack, and an unquenchable love, for writing, and realized that the real power behind a film was the writer/director, so I set my sites on that and haven't looked back since!

Q: You’ve been making films since 2001, The Monster Man been your first credited feature, which stars genre legends Linnea Quigley and Tom Savini how did that come about?
I had just finished film school and wanted to put my learning to the test, which is something that a lot of film school graduates fail to do. I decided to shoot a modest movie, on DV, with my friends as crew, and it ended up getting distribution, which blew my mind. It remains to this day my all time favorite filmmaking experience.

Q: You wrote, directed, produced and starred in The Monster Man, labour of love or only way to get it made?
Everything you make should be a labor of love, because in the end what is the point to any of it? I did all that because I wanted to do all that, and yes, I knew there was no other way
to get it made, and I wasn’t going to wait around for something to make my dreams come true, I was going to force them into reality myself. That’s sound advice for anyone who wants to be a filmmaker. If you can do it yourself, then do it yourself, it’s more rewarding.

Q: How did you go about funding it?
I had family loan me the money, and I was very grateful to them for that!

Q: Did your family get their loan back with interest?
No. No, they did not. But it was an investment in my future! A farm doesn’t usual pull a crop the first year.

Q: Your next work seems to be as a screenwriter on Song of the Vampire, how did that come about?
I got that because the female lead in MONSTER MAN, Denice Duff, was going to make that film her directorial debut, and she asked me to come on board and do a re-write to make it less goofy. It's funny, because MONSTER MAN is a comedy, but she had a feeling I could add something to it, and I tried my best. It was a fun project and I loved going to the New Orleans set and hanging with the crew. Good memories.

Q: A lot of writer/directors start out with short films, you jumped straight into features, did you try shorts?
I did try shorts, in film school. The truth is shorts are worthless in the commercial sense. They are great for practice and cutting your teeth on a set and figuring things out, but as a professional filmmaker, it does nothing for your career. Now, there are exceptions, and career’s have been started based off of shorts, but when you compare it to the amount of shorts that get forgotten the odds are astronomical. It’s a way better bet to make a feature, because then you can at least try for distribution. With a short, all you can do is play festivals, because no one buys shorts. I did shoot a short on 35mm in black and white, with an eye to incorporating it into a feature, which eventually became by second feature, CORPSES ARE FOREVER.

Q: Your next film, Corpses are Forever, you take on multiple hats again, do you enjoy the different roles?
Again, it was a case of no one is going to push this train down the track faster and harder than me, so I took all those jobs (and more that I didn’t credit myself for) with a glad heart because I was making my dreams come true. That film was bigger in scope, with 35mm cameras, and a larger cast, but I had a bigger crew, who kicked ass and we got it through. I got to work with the amazing Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon, Felissa Rose, and Linnea again, as well as the now-late icons Richard Lynch and Don Calfa. I also met my wife on that set, so it has very fond memories.

Q: There’s a gap of five or six years before your next work, what were you working on during that period?
I wasn’t able to afford another movie, so I busied myself writing novels, and scripts, and getting married, and moving to Los Angeles.

Q: Your next few films are as a writer, all genre fare, were these spec scripts or commissioned gigs?
Commission gigs, and the less said about these, the better.

Q: You’ve also worked in TV, with Veronique Von Venom and Rest for the Wicked (and others), what are the biggest differences to Film in your opinion?
Well, it’s not really TV, they were youtube shows. We shot them pretty much how we would shoot a film, so no real difference.

Q: Some of your more recent work has been writing for Asylum, how is it working for them and how did you break in?
Asylum distributed CORPSES ARE FOREVER, so that’s how I came to work for them. I’ll be honest, I can be rather frustrating at times, and I hate feeling like a typist, but they gave me a shot to make films, and I will forever be grateful to them for the opportunity.

Q: What’s your personal fave in the work with Asylum?
THE HAUNTING OF WHALEY HOUSE, hands down, because I got to write and direct that sucker, and got to cast with talented young actors and had an amazing crew, and we really got left alone to make our own movie, and people tell me that it doesn’t feel like the typical Asylum film. That’s probably why I wasn’t asked to direct again, and we went our separate ways.

Q: You wrote and directed the 2015 release Blood Brothers/The Divine Tragedies, what can you tell us about it?
It’s based on the Leopold and Loeb case of 1924, about two men who decide to pull off the perfect murder to prove their mastery over mankind with their intelligence. I took a David Lynch/David Cronenberg stab at the idea and turned it into this surreal story about serial killer brothers.

Q: Blood Brothers has a different tone to the Asylum work and some of your earlier projects, was this a conscious shift?
Blood Brothers was a different type of movie than CORPSES or WHALEY, and I knew it needed to have room to breath, so I left it decide for itself what it wanted to be. It was conscious up to a point, deciding on colors and music and aesthetic things like that, but for tone I look back at the script and what came out of there. Sometimes I don’t know what the characters are going to say or what is going to happen, and that’s exciting, that’s when the movie takes on a life of it’s own.

Q: Again you’ve managed to assemble a great genre cast, including Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, do you hire these specifically? If so why?
Casting was interesting for this one. I had the two brothers in mind since the beginning, and then we spent a few months tracking everyone down. I’ll be honest and say that we didn’t have anyone in mind for the roles of Barbara and Ken, but when they names came up it was as if the universe had delivered them to the movie, like they were always supposed to be a part of it. I love their work and they loved the script and the characters, so it was an easy slam dunk.

Q: Any amusing anecdotes about the famous (to genre fans) stars you’ve managed to work with over the years?
Nothing I can share. Hahaha!

Q: You have Unspeakable Horrors: The Plan 9 Conspiracy, coming up... it sounds fascinating and again the cast(?), part documentary I’m guessing?
It’s a documentary exploring the hidden meanings behind Ed Wood’s infamously “bad” movie PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. We get in a lot of trouble with the government over that, and I’m not sure how much I can saw about it before they com and arrest me. I was honored that folks like Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Fred Olen Ray, William Lustig, and others would join me in exposing the truth and hopefully redeeming Ed’s work. It will premier in London at the end of April, if MI-6 doesn’t shut us down.

Q: Any other projects in the works we should be looking out for?
I published a novel a few years back called SHARCANO, which was a direct response to SHARKNADO, but I wanted to tell that kind of story with no regard to budget or studio interference, so I wrote the most kick-ass, action packed version of a B-grade shark movie, and it’s done very well. People usually pick it up as a joke, and then they read it and realize it’s less like a Syfy Channel movie, and more like a Michael Chricton novel meet a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Anyway, the sequel will be coming out on 2017, hopefully, and it’s titled: SHARKS OF THE LIVING DEAD.
Also, I published my first two non-fiction books in 2016: THE HIGH-CONCEPT MASSACRE, featuring interviews with 13 genre screenwriters including Carl Gottlieb and S.S. Wilson, and THE ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK CAMPFIRE COMPANION, an episode guide/interview book about the beloved Nickelodeon tv series from the 90s. Both are available on Amazon, as well as SHARCANO.
Okay onto some writing specific questions...

Q: When it comes to feature scripts, how do you approach structure in your scripts? Do you follow any particular method?
I don’t like to worry about method, my concern is the story. Odds are if you’ve seen a ton of movies, you will know what structure is and what feels right, and if the structure makes sense or not, and if a story is solid, meaning it contains a beginning, middle, and end, then it has a perfect structure.

Q: There are a ton of people out there who offer coverage services, position themselves as gurus etc, what’s your view on such services?
Don’t do it. It’s pointless. Agents and managers don’t care about that. They are basically frustrated writers who want to leach off of you to make money. Trust your gut.

Q: What are your thoughts on the business side of screenwriting, getting your scripts ‘out there’ and networking to make connections?
Getting anyone to read your shit is the toughest part. I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences and some led to a rep, while most didn’t lead to anything. There is no hard and fast way in. I would suggest some prestigious festivals that tout the fact that agents read the winnings scripts, because even if you didn’t win there is a chance that someone who knows someone read your thing and loved it and wants to pass it on. I’ve just passed on scripts to folks, who have passed it on and on, and until something happens. I haven’t been able to shake anything loose for very long, but then again I realize I am not the commission guy. I tried it, and I didn’t like it, so I want to focus on making my own shit.

Q: If you’ve used services/sites like Inktip, SimplyScripts, The Blacklist, what’s your view on this type of model for screenwriters to get their scripts seen, and hopefully picked up?
Never used them.

Q: What’s the best and worse screenwriting advice you’ve been given?
Best and worst advice I got was: “quit”. It was the worst, because it’s so negative, but it was the best because it set that fire in my gut upon hearing it and I knew I wasn’t going to quit just to prove him wrong.

Now for a few ‘getting to know Jose questions

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite

script, if they’re different.
My favorite film is a tie between Jaws and It’s A Wonderful Life… very different, but very similar for the effect it had on me. Both of those films are brilliantly scripted.

Q: Favourite author and book?
Favorite author is Mark Twain, a kindred soul, and my favorite book is probably Tom Sawyer, or The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, I can’t decide.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?
Scotch. Any variety.

Q: Favourite food?
Hamburgers and fries. I’m a simple guy.

Q: Any other interests and passions?
I’m in a weird position where my hobby is a my career, so I have no side interested. However, I am putting on my own convention in June 2017. It’s called Kid Kon, and it will be the world’s first kid-centric pop culture convention. It’s a ton of work and planning, but like anything I endeavor in it is a labor of love.

Q: I believe you also run Kid Kon in Pasadena, what can you tell us about it and how’d it come about?
I’ve been wanting to put on a convention for a while, but never had a solid enough idea. As a father of two, I realized that there wasn’t anything that really spoke to the young fandom, it all seemed to be middle-aged guys, so I wanted to create something that was strictly geared to kids and the stuff they love. So Kid Kon was born!

Q: Any final thoughts for the screenwriters reading this?
One word: quit. 😉

Thanks to Jose for such an enlightening interview. Follow Jose on twitter @JosePrendes

About the interviewer: Anthony is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 2 Features optioned and over 30 Short scripts optioned, or purchased, including 8 filmed. Outside of his screenwriting career, he’s a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Interviews: Richard Uber, Producer, Editor and good guy. - posted by Anthony Cawood

Richard Uber has been in the entertainment industry for… well, as you’ll see, a mighty long time! He has produced and edited hundreds of hours of content in both Film and TV, met a plethora of fascinating people and was good enough to sit down for a chat with me…

 

Q: So, your first credit, at least according to IMDB, goes back to 1984 when you worked on some music videos… how did you get into the business?

I studied film at Iowa State in 1967-68 found out I had to wait 2+ years to take another film course.  Left school, went to work in a brokerage firm and got myself transferred to NYC where I quit and took the post production equivalent of a PA, a vault technician at a place called Preview Theatre which was where the MPAA screened their films. All for the amazing amount of $65 a week take home pay.  They also had 6 floors of film editorial rooms and I got assigned to work with those films that were working there.  I got to work on Alice’s Restaurant, The Arrangement by Eliza Kazan, Angel Levine, Boys in the Band, Frank Perry’s Last Summer, and the installation of the first Kem’s in America for Michael Waldeigh’s Woodstock.  I wanted to do more, so when worked slowed down I moved back home and went to Columbia College Chicago. Columbus was unique, the people who taught there were actually working in the industry.

I was very lucky, I worked my way through school by working the equipment cages for the still photography labs and the motion picture department. In 1971 Jim Bourgeois started teaching Sound Editing at Columbia College. He was an amazing teacher, and a great mentor. I stopped working at the school and worked for Jim, one month free, then became an assistant editor for pay, then a sound effects editor,  then a music editor, and finally a picture editor.  I was working on a NBC network series “Wild Kingdom” as the head sound effects editor at age 21.

In 1972 while a Junior at school I got my first National Emmy nomination for outstanding individual achievement in sound editing.  Needless to say, that was the end of my college education.  In 1973 I left Jim’s company and started my own.  We started out doing feature films,  local commercials, industrials, and progressed to doing national commercials, museum exhibitions, and special effects.  By 1975 we had a staff of 27, an office on Chicago’s Miracle Mile, and a lot of work on the west coast.  I had one client need me for 18 weeks in Los Angeles and loved it so much that I stayed there.  Eventually selling my share to my partners.

Living in LA, I edited numerous documentaries for NBC, ABC, and PBS. Some of these I was also working as an associate producer. There are 2 things that helped my career immensely,  I started working on music videos very early before MTV, and I was probably the 2nd or 3rd film editor to become an online editor, which meant i could master for broadcast my own work,  so I didn’t have to explain to another person exactly how to do this effect.

I actually have tons of credits before IMDB Lists them, and they don’t list music video credits that were broadcast, If they did that I would have a couple of hundred more credits. IMDB also ignores people who are in the studio system.  Check out my best friend Tim Clawson http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0165472/.
So many movies ignored.  There is no central authority for IMDB, it’s crowd sourced.

Q: You then seem to have moved into TV as an Editor, how did you break in and get regular work?

I got work usually from the people who knew me. Or someone saw something I edited and reached out to me to edit something for them.

How I cut commercials got me music videos.

Music videos plus documentaries got me tv shows.

All that plus the special effects I did got me feature work.

Like editing got me post supervision which led to producing work.

Q: You worked on projects for Pat Benatar, Madonna, and the Go-Gos to name a few… did you get to meet them as part of the process? Any good stories?

Yes, I met them all, and we were collaborators in the editing room. I was known as a collaborative editor, easy to get along with, and most importantly willing to try ideas not my own.

There are stories, but they remain in the edit bay…

With Toto on “Stranger in Town” We had to deliver that morning at 9am.  At 6am I’m sitting on a hay bale in the middle of the editing room,  doing Foley of dogs digging in the ground.  They thought if I was that crazy I had to keep working on their videos.  LOL

Q: You also did work with Orson Welles as a voiceover artist, how was it working with such a legend?

At the first time I was very nervous, until at the 3rd take I stopped him, told him I needed a smile at the end of the first sentence, and a slide down between 2 words in the 3rd sentence.  Once he knew that you knew what the hell you were doing he was a cupcake.  There was no way I would have led him off the cliff.  I enjoyed my time with him greatly.  When I explained how I recorded him, and how I used smpte time code as sprocket holes to auto assemble him onto a 24 track recorder (The first time it was ever done) He thought I was very clever and thus I ended up directing him on many commercials and film projects.  He was incredibly smart and regaled me with old stories during dinners at Ma Maison.

Q: Of the films/projects you worked on back then, which is your favourite and why?
I don’t know how to even answer that.  When I’m working on them they are at that time my very favorite of all time.

“The Power Pinch” an NBC primetime documentary about sexual harassment in the workplace.

“Ren and Stimpy” for the fun of putting it together.

Pat Benatar for “Stop Using Sex as a weapon” for pushing analog video as far as it could go.

Music Videos for changing the paradigm.

Q: You worked as an Editor and a Producer at Paramount for a number of years, what projects did you work on there?

Actually more time at Fox Studios.  I was the senior editor there.  I did the first digital cinema there.  Like Bryan Singer’s “X-men” Joel Shoemaker’s “Phone Booth” and “Tigerland”

Then NewsCorp (The parent company) asked me to help move the company to digital/HD.  I became the producer who was in charge of all the HDTV that was broadcast on the Fox Network  which included Episode 1 of Star Wars, and the first Dolby E broadcast.  I had to work on every Fox Film and have it in HD ready for air on the networks that bought it.  This represented 120+ million to Fix, so it had to be done even though the technology wasn’t even there to make it work.  Those who are on the leading edge of technology call it the bleeding edge….

Q: I believe you also worked as an Editor for Disney for a while, how was that? What are they like as an organisation to work for?

My other best friend Rob Wieland brought me over.  As an organization we called it mousewitch in a concentration camp way of speaking.  We also redid the Mouseketeers song, with M. I.C.    K.E.Y.    oh you SOB….   it was a job and not a fun one at that.  It is what made me decide to go out on my own again.

Q: You now work with Visceral Films, how did that come about?

Scott sent out a message for help and being in Cincinnati I answered it.  The rest is history.

Q: Who are the rest of the Visceral team?

Scott Wohlstein, CEO, writer, a serial entrepreneur like me.  He loves making movies, He comes from  much more restrained budgets than I do.

Devin Dietrich is a writer, and is in charge of Television projects.

We all come from different backgrounds which creates an amazing synergy

Q: Visceral Films ran a competition looking for a Horror script which a few of the SimplyScript’s writer’s entered, what prompted such a fairly usual approach?

We didn’t have any scripts that would work with the Land of Illusion and we wanted to see what other writers could come up with.  And we wanted to be aware of other writers.

Q: The scripts had to be set at the Land of Illusion Halloween theme park with the intention of filming there, how did that partnership/collaboration come about?

It’s simple.  I line produced a film there, knew the owner and the other key people and talked to my partners and we decided to do a co-production with Land of Illusion.

Q: How were the scripts evaluated, I imagine its a little different to how you’ve considered scripts in the past?

Totally different,  All the scripts were read by multiple people.  The top 15 or so were read by everyone involved in the decision making.  They were broken down and rated in different categories, including how easily it could be produced.  The metrics for each category were created and the cream rose to the top.  It was readily apparent which 3 were the top 3.

Q: Do you intend to use the competition approach again?

Yes, we found you.  I would love to find new writers, we are a writer-centric company,  but these projects need to be in production first. Our first responsibility is to our writers.

Q: As a producer how do you then go about financing such projects?

The 64 million dollar question, or 5 million dollar question, or 2 million dollar question.
We use Executive Producers who have worldwide contacts that pitch our films to investors who gave worked with them before.

In some cases we have an investor who will invest the last 50% as long as other investors have previously invested in films.

The other way is the Netflix way, we produce a film for 3.5 and we sell all rights for 10.  This only works with select people who have proven track records.

Q: Do you have an update on the optioned scripts?

Yes, the Brexit and Trump have had negative influences on our raising of capital.   Investors are cautious at the moment.  We expect a better reception to our projects in the 2nd quarter of 2017.

Q: What else have you got planned  Visceral Films.

There are a variety of projects on the horizon. Corporately because of Tax Credits we might be moving across the river to KY.

Q: What are your thoughts for aspiring screenwriters in terms of the best way to break in, or get their scripts seen by producers?

Keep entering contests,  keep collaborating with other writers.  I have a friend who got started in an entry level position at a literary agency. It is a catch 22 to get an agent.  Be wary of some agents that want money up front.  That is what the 10% of everything you do is for.  And keep writing.  Make sure you have the craft of screenwriting down perfect.  A non standard formatted script usually is sent to the circular file cabinet.  And don’t ever send unsolicited scripts to a company that doesn’t accept them.  You can get banned there and quickly around town.

Q: There are a ton of people out there who offer screenwriters coverage services, position themselves as guru’s etc, what your view on such services?

If you are really bad they might help.  They exist to make money for themselves, not the writers.

Q: What’s the best and worse film making advice you’ve been given?

The best,  Hire the best people you can afford for their position.  Step back and let them do their job. Run interference from the powers that be, so they can do their jobs.  And treat them like valued human beings.

The worst, It’s a tie
Digital will never be as good as analog.
and my favorite in 1987
“You should think about another career, you aren’t very good at this”. (just gotten 3 MTV nominations, and was going to Vancouver Canada to work on 3 series)

Now for a few ‘getting to know Richard questions

Q: What’s your favourite film? And favourite script, if they’re different?

Citizen Kane

Q: Favourite author and book?

Film book:    François Truffaut Hitchcock,a wonderful book about Hitchcock.
Joseph Mascelli: The 5 C’s of cinematography. (writers should read this)
I’m hard pressed to determine which is my favorite book.  My father was a book publisher, I was surrounded by 1000’s of books all my life.
Probably Doris Kerns Goodwin, Her boohs on Eleanor and FDR, and on Lincoln are amazing.

Q: Beer or Wine (or something else)? And which variety?

Wine, Reds,  Pinot Noir  Sonoma, in Oregon Oak.  ( 10 of us were partners in a Winery in Central California)

Q: Favourite food?

Thai Chicken and Beef Satay, Larb and other delights.

Q: Any other interests and passions?

Still Photography, Cooking

Q: Where do you live in? And what are your thoughts about moving to LA for a screenwriting career?

In California I live 70 miles  NW up the coast in San Buena Ventura.   In Cincinnati  I live in Over the Rhine (OTR) section just north of downtown in an 1860’s house my brother and I fully restored.

Moving to LA.  have enough money saved to survive a year.  It us very expensive to live there.  Try getting entry level jobs at production companies, or Literary agencies.  Keep at it, You will be rejected many many times.

Q: Any final thoughts for the aspiring screenwriters of ou there?

Keep at it.  You have selected a very hard career.  The rewards are worth it if you succeed.  Keep at it every day, and learn from each other.  You have made wonderful scripts, the main problem is getting them made.  Have a body of work you can show.  Good luck to all of you.


About the interviewer: Anthony is an award winning screenwriter from the UK with 2 Features optioned and over 30 Short scripts optioned, or purchased, including 8 filmed. Outside of his screenwriting career, he’s a published short story writer and movie reviewer. Links to his films and details of his scripts can be found at www.anthonycawood.co.uk.

Comment on this on Anthony’s Blog

Friday, January 6, 2017

Always Be Writing – by John Montana - posted by John Montana

Many times I hear writers say they are stuck or are in a writer’s slump, because no ideas are coming or they don’t know what to write. They want an original idea for a film or some writing project that nobody has ever seen before. They want the next great original idea that rocks the film world. Some of them will wait for years for that inspiration for the next great project that will bring them fame and glory.

Now… you might get angry with me for saying this, or you will probably vehemently disagree, but I don’t think this should be your goal. Of course it can be a dream that this happens, but most likely the story in some form has already been told before. Don’t sweat it!

Really, I’m not kidding with you. Don’t let it prevent you from writing. Just write… let the words just flow out of you. Edit it all later. Write gobble-dee-gook, write crap, write anything. Just! Write! You can worry about judging it after you are finished.

When you are done you can go back and create a story that will inspire you to make a film of it. Think of it this way… You are a sculptor starting with a huge block of stone. This is your “gobble-dee-gook”. Then begin to slowly carve away the stuff that you don’t need. Carefully reveal the story you want to tell. In the end you will have something that you will be excited about putting on film. So what I am trying say here, as succinctly as I can, is don’t be obsessed with telling an original story or have an idea that nobody has thought of before. Because ninety-nine times out of one hundred… it’s been done before.

I make short films. I enjoy shooting them and making them. But I am not under any illusion that these short films will make my career. I have two full feature scripts waiting to be done. I am using my shorts films to open doors and to gain experience on the set. Period! 99.99% of short films will never make money or be commercial. They are only a means to an end.

A short film is merely a “means to an end”, to get someone to ask you this: “Do you have any feature scripts that I can read?” To generate interest in you and what you have written. So here is a saying that I have come across many times… Always Be Writing.

Here is another way to look at this: Treat your writing, or other creative work, with the same kind of respect you have for your family doctor or dentist. Doctors and dentists have studied hard for years and treated their work with respect and care. So should you.

If you treat your writing with disdain and laziness, or as a lah-dee-dah creative artist that will get to it “when inspiration strikes”, then shame on you. Because all you are doing is confirming to society that artists are all flaky and emotionally high-strung…and that we are ultimately disposable as paper in an outhouse. And to quote a line from Bruce Willis in Robert Rodriguez’s “SIN CITY” – “There’s wrong, and then there’s wrong, and then there’s this”. And I don’t say this to be flippant, it’s just that artists are treated so badly, I want to stop this the best way I can.

Exercise: For the next three weeks, set your alarm clock early in the morning and spend ONLY 15 minutes each day writing!! Something…Anything…Just write! Don’t look at it and judge it as being either good or bad. That is not the exercise. The exercise is to try and create a HABIT of writing. Like you go to your job. It is an attempt on your part to train your body and mind for just 15 minutes each day to take your writing seriously and just write. And for those of you with the excuse “I don’t have time”… then here is another saying that I really love. TIME IS MADE, NOT FOUND! – You make the time by prioritizing it and writing. Simple as that!

About The Author: John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, Hungry has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short films at No Title Production Films.

Images courtesy John Montana

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Five Tips on Making a Short Film – by John Montana - posted by John Montana

Making a movie or a short film can be an extremely exciting and fun adventure. It is a ton of fun being on a set and shooting your own film. However, it can also be a complete nightmare, especially if you are not prepared or really have no idea on how to go about it. I have been making short films now for five years, and I have had some success at it. And I keep growing as a filmmaker, because no matter how many issues come up, I keep working at it. But for the most part, each film I have made has been very challenging because problems ALWAYS come up on a film set. It will be your job to navigate through these rocky times as it will most likely be your film. Don’t worry about it. If you learn how to stay calm and be focused on just solving these issues as they arise, you will have a great and rewarding experience. Following are five tips that I feel can smooth your way into filming. These tips address issues that I feel tripped me up several times and I want to share them with you, so you won’t make the same mistakes, because “Time Is Money”. If you remember this one thing, it will go a long way to keeping you on track and making a great film.

1. Be A Storyteller
The Bottom Line is this: The director is first and foremost a storyteller. You must have a cohesive, compelling story to tell. This is not a difficult thing to do, as everyone has at least one story to tell from their life. Whether it is a breakup, or a family trauma, or a secret desire… the list is endless. You have to trust that no matter how painful the story is, or how embarrassed you are of that story, it has been experienced before by someone else. This is not a bad thing… it means that we are all connected in many ways and that these stories are indeed universal. We all have a unique story to tell that many people will relate to and identify with.

2. Write Every Day
Many times I hear writers say they are stuck or are in a writer’s slump, because no ideas are coming or they don’t know what to write. They want an original idea for a film that nobody has ever seen before. They want the next great original idea that rocks the film world. Some of them will wait for years for that inspiration for the next great film. Now…you might get angry with me for saying this, or you will probably vehemently disagree, but I don’t think this should be your goal. Just write… let the words just flow out of you. Edit it all later. Write gobble-dee-gook, write crap, write anything. Just write. You can worry about judging it after you are finished. Think of it this way… A sculptor starts with a huge block of stone. This is your “gobble-dee-gook”. Then begin to slowly carve away the stuff that you don’t need. Carefully reveal the story you want to tell. In the end you will have something that you will be excited about putting on film.

3. Learn How To Communicate
Several directors I know have become very successful in their careers as filmmakers. They learned how to have some knowledge about every aspect of the process of filmmaking. They have learned how to speak the language of every person on their set, from costumes to the actors to the director of photography (D.P.) to the grip to the sound designer to the art director. What I am trying to say is this… I have almost totally screwed up a couple of my films because I didn’t communicate well enough with my crew. I wasn’t clear enough with a couple of my crew members of what I wanted, which then led them to do what they thought I wanted. It almost destroyed me and my film. Think of it this way. Everyone of your crew is an expert in their chosen field. You are being respectful of them, in turn they will do their best to give you what you are seeking. And that is called “Collaboration”. And good collaboration almost always leads to a great film.

4. Set Up Your Shot List Before Shooting
There are some directors who will storyboard every single shot on their shot list. Alfred Hitchcock was notorious for this, as he was also notorious for giving his actors very little freedom in their movements and portrayal of their characters. I don’t do this personally. I write out a complete shot list of every scene that I want to film. This is my process of making my shot lists:

I look at my script and write down the first scene and how I want to shoot it or how I want it to look on film. I normally start at the beginning and work my way through. I study the first scene over and over again. I look at the number of ways that I would like to shoot it. I will then write down the first set-up in regards to the camera angle and type of shot I want. Then I will choose another angle to shoot the same scene. I will then need to get coverage on these shots so that when I am editing, I have something to cut to for a reaction. And so when I have 4-5 different shots or set-ups for that first scene, I will then move on to the next scene and do it all over again. I find the act of setting up scenes is one of the most creative parts of the filmmaking process… for me anyways. There are so many options to choose from andso many different ways that you can tell your story. This part is where I go through all of my options and run the scene in my head and visually see how it plays out. Does it work? Or is there another, better way to do it?

What I am trying to say is this – ALWAYS finish your shot list before you get to your set. It will give you a road map of what you want, and how you will shoot your film. And, because you are so well prepared, you can easily replace or remove a shot that you don’t need. Or you will be inspired to get another shot…one you didn’t think of before. And when this happens, it always feels great.

5. Create a Real Environment
Creating a real world or environment for your actors or for the film is so important, that you will be surprised how easy filming is when you get this right. This is why I love shooting on real locations. The environment is real, as it is the world of the story. This is very helpful for your actors to believe the world they are in. Their imaginations must have something solid to grasp, in order to create believable characters. Wardrobe, lighting, their creativity all help in achieving truth in their performances. Now shooting on a sound stage is great as well, as long as you have the money to do it, or if your production is large enough where this is in your budget. I am at the stage where I go and rent locations as this is much cheaper and more time efficient. Even if you are on a soundstage you must not skimp on making the world as real and believable as you can.

So these are five important tips that every filmmaker should have addressed before shooting your film. If you take the time to prepare for your shoot correctly, when you actually get to the set, things will flow much more smoothly that if you were careless. Because if there is one thing you can always count on, is that there will be “challenges” that arise on the set. It is how well you deal with them that will make or break your film.

About The Author: John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, Hungry has been accepted into 27 film festivals all over the world. Watch his free online movies at No Title Production Films.

Images courtesy John Montana

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