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Saturday, October 20, 2018

Considerations for having a writing partner – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

Taking a quick break for the outlining sequence for a moment, as Rick Hansberry, my writing partner for “According to Plan”, “The Journeyers” and now “Lake Regret” provides some thoughts around whether you should consider a writing partner for one of your projects.  Listen up, guys, Rick is a sage when it comes to this stuff!

His thoughts on maybe why you DON’T co-write with someone:

“Generally, use thesetwo writers as guidelines, if you’re considering co-writing with someone. Everyone’s situation is different and these are by no means universal but intended to help those that have never co-written a screenplay with someone and are trying to evaluate if it will suit them. In reverse order of consideration:

5. Do not co-write to ‘learn.’ Before attempting to write a screenplay, be sure to read hundreds of them. Literally. They’re on-line and in books. There’s no excuse to not have read countless screenplays to understand, format, structure and the nuances of the craft. Your experience level may vary but never co-write your first screenplay. Learn the craft, then apply it.

4. Do not co-write to ‘coast.’ Sure, having a writing partner makes it easier to advance pages and attack revisions but there should always be a balance. A co-writer is a co-creator and there should always be a back-and-forth, give-and-take. If you tend to be lazy about writing, do not co-write to have someone to procrastinate with, rather treat him or her like an exercise or dieting partner — Push them through tough stretches – Hold them accountable and expect the same back. You’ll both win in the end.

3. Do not co-write for the ‘credit.’ If you’re looking to hitch your wagon to someone so you can finally say you’ve had something ‘produced’ or ‘optioned’ you’re doing it for the wrong reasons and it’ll show. Just about any produced writer (yes, I can say that my work has been ‘optioned,’ ‘bought,’ and ‘produced’ but I won’t say I speak for all) will tell you that there’s a certain amount of luck and having the right script at the right time in this business. They’ll also most likely share that there’s countless dozens of scripts by writers that haven’t sold anything or had anything produced that have more than one script that totally blows them away. Know in your heart of hearts that a good script doesn’t always get bought or produced and own it for what it is.

2. Do not co-write if you’re the type of person that doesn’t argue well or holds grudges. Just like every screenplay needs conflict, so do writers. Having a strength like structure or dialogue is fine but ultimately you have to bring your complete game to every script and so does your co-writer and inevitably there will be times when you disagree about a character, a joke in dialogue, a scene, or an ending. If you can’t argue for it and lose and be okay with it, then don’t waste the other person’s time. Creativity inherently wounds egos because no one loves everything. Accept going in that you’ll lose some battles and win some and the script will be better for it but if you hold a grudge — it’ll show in future exchanges and the script will suffer for it.

1. Do not co-write if you can’t accept a subordinate role sometimes. This is a rule to follow for relationships and marriages and careers in general. Let others take credit. Have enough self-esteem to know that your contribution to a project is valuable and it’s not all about you. One of my many hats is to work as a paralegal in a law firm. In many instances, I do the lawyers work for them (at a cheaper billable rate) and they simply review it and often present it to the client as their own — and that has to be okay with you. You have to accept that we all have different roles and times to shine. If you know you’re not the type of person that needs to be recognized or given credit or put on a pedestal, do not co-write but also — unless you’re producing and directing your own films, do not pursue screenwriting. In the film industry, even after the script is optioned or purchased and everyone loves it — it’ll be changed by countless others involved in the production. Have the internal fortitude to know that you’re not the chain, just a link.”

Next time, Rick will chime in with the 5 rules in favor of co-writing.  Stay tuned — and if you’re enjoying this blog, follow and share with your friends!

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The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Outline – Act 1 – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

In the previous post we talked about our method of outlining, which is to fall somewhere between the full-blown, no stone left unturned outline, and “we know the beginning and the end, let’s just write and see what happens” outline.  We have a generally good idea of where we wanted to go with it, and so we needed to do a broad brush painting of each act.

Pretty much 95% of the screenplays out there are in three acts.  You’ll see all these guidelines and screenwriting books that you must have three acts — it’s the way everyone does it.  The first act needs to be about 30 pages, they say, the second act about 40, and the final act around 25, give or take.  But if that doesn’t work for you, fine.  Write what works for you.  My only thing is that your story works, and you write it well.

If you are working in the three act structure, then the first act is for world-building.  We learn about the characters, what relationships they have, and the world in which they exist.  You also will typically will have what is known as the “inciting incident”, which pushes the protagonist into his or her story for the rest of the film.

With “Lake Regret” we will probably be following the three act structure, and so we need to do a little world building in the first draft of our outline.

We know we have our script set at a lake house, and we know a high school graduation party is going on throughout the film, so we have to start with getting our protagonist to the party, and introducing the main players (both the heroes and the villains) that will be driving the story.

We came up with five main characters and a couple of supporting characters to revolve the story around:

— Jimmy “Jinx” McCarthy,  our main protagonist.  Jinx is the kid that everyone used to like at his school, but ever since an accident caused the death of another student, he feels like he’s been shunned at the school, which may or may or not be imagined by Jinx.  He’s created a world in which he feels like everyone’s against him, and is determined to leave this small town he’s grown up in forever now that he’s graduated.

— Ellie Burton, Jinx’s friend and someone that Jinx has had a crush on for years.  She’s tried to build him up during his difficult time, but he’s still in a dark place.  Despite the crush Jinx has on her, she may have eyes for someone else.

— Tate Oliver, the person who knows Jinx better than anyone.  When he learns Jinx is trying to leave forever, he tries to be the voice of reason, and caution. But does Tate have an ulterior motive in keeping Jinx around?

— Hunter Callahan, who was a friend and football teammate of the student who died, and who is seeking revenge on Jinx.  The question is how far he will take that revenge.

— Cassie Wilbanks, an attractive student that flirts with Jinx throughout the party and may sabotage any chance of a relationship between Jinx and Ellie.

Now that we’ve outlined our main characters, we need them to start interacting.  Stay tuned to see where we take them…

 

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The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Outlining for the script, how I hate it (but oh how I need it) – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

So before we delve into today’s post, just a bit of horn tootin for both Rick and me. Rick recently had another short film completed, “Missed Stop”, which will be hitting the festival circuits in the near future. I have a short script, “Last Rites”, that is set to be filmed in California over the Labor Day weekend, and so I hope to see a finished cut before the end of the year. Always great to see how the words you’ve written are interpreted by the director, the cinematographer, and the cast.

But getting those words to the script are always paramount to the writer, and how they get there varies from writer to writer.

There are those writers who need to have every beat in the story crafted out, the story blocked out to the greatest extent possible, characters fully described and the protagonists main arc perfectly delineated. Once they have all that then they can finally sit down and type out FADE IN and craft their script in accordance with their outline. I can’t do that. I just can’t. If that works for you and that’s the only way you can tell your story, then by all means, go for it. To me, it’s a little bit of paint by number writing, because you’re going through each scene and you’re writing based exactly on what’s in that outline without any room for maneuvering lest you sabotage the rest of the outline.

Then there are the writers who sit down at the computer with only a general idea in their heads about the story and the characters and just start typing. In their mind they want to see where the characters take the story — which is a bit of a fake out. The writer is the one driving the characters, so the writer still is the one making up the story on the fly. To those writers who can pull that off, I tip my cap to you and secretly loathe you, because that’s not how I can do it.

I think both Rick and I are somewhere in the middle group. We’ll look at each act, prepare a general, but not overly detailed, synopsis of each act, and then work from that. This allows us room to deviate from the big picture as the spirit moves us without having to go back and revamp the entire outline. It gives more flexibility to operate, and I feel, to be more creative overall.

I encourage anyone preparing to write a script to work with whatever gets you motivated to sit down and start writing. Do what works for you, and not because you read it in a book or because someone told you that it HAD to be done a certain way to be successful. Most of the people telling you that haven’t had any success to speak of.

That said, it’s time to start outlining. Let’s see where our outline takes us on our trip to Lake Regret.

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The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Little Bit of History – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

So, before we get into today’s topic, I wanted to share a little background about Rick and me and how we started writing together.  I mean, you can obviously take the shortcut route and just read about us on our Writers page, but that’s the Reader’s Digest version.

We both were writing short film scripts for submission to a peer-review site called Movie Poet (R.I.P. to this great site), where every month a different topic was presented for you to write short script of up to five pages (and no more).   It had a very dedicated following and there were some extremely talented writers on that site.  I still run across some of these writers on other sites now, primarily Simply Scripts, another great peer review site (and free!).

One day — April 13, 2013, to be exact — I got an email from Rick asking me to read a series of two page scripts he had written.  This was to be the first of 1,316 emails (to date) that we have exchanged about scripts and other related matters (gmail does save every email you’ve ever written, I’ve discovered).

I gave him some feedback, he thanked me and that was that, or so I thought.  After a few months break, we connected again and I helped him with some notes and story ideas on his feature “Taking the Reins” (FYI, producers, this is a great script — ask Rick for a read!).  Then, in January, 2014, we committed to writing a feature together from scratch, and out of that came a great feature script (in my total unbiased opinion) called “According to Plan.”  It took about four months and when we finished, we sent it around, got a couple of reviews on the Black List, and put it on Simply Scripts (it’s still there, by the way, if you want to read it) but I thought it was one of those scripts where we thought we had written this great script (we had), but like 99% of most scripts written, it was destined to collect dust in the interwebs of history. Or so we thought.

Fast forward two years, after we’d been working on a lot of different projects — I had a short film produced and had been working with a director on a rewrite of one of his scripts; Rick had two feature films and two short films produced — he’s always been such a slacker — I received an email from a producer in L.A. who wanted to produce “According to Plan.”  He paid us to option the film and after some discussion, he decided he wanted to turn it into something completely different, much to our chagrin. Rick and I wound up writing an entirely new script out of it, called “The Journeyers,” and the producer is trying to find a director to helm the project.  We’ll see where it goes, but the option is still with him.  I could write an entire blog just on the process with that film, but it definitely gave me the idea for writing the blog for this script.

Rick and I have learned a lot about each other during the collaboration process, and the interesting thing is: we’ve never met in person.  He lives in Pennsylvania, and I’m in Texas.  We swear up and down we’re going to meet up someday, but life, as it always does, seems to get in the way.   We have similar backgrounds, both of us have experience, past and current, as DJ’s, we both have experience in the legal world, we’re both into fantasy sports.  So we come from a common place and a shared background, and it has made for a great collaboration.

What I’ve learned in writing with Rick is that we each bring different gifts and talents to the table.  He very much wears his producer’s hat and likes to think about the cost of everything that goes into the script; I’m more big idea guy and like to think about story, damn the costs.  Rick is pragmatic and I’m whimsical.  Rick does great subtext; I wouldn’t know subtext if it bit me in the nether regions.  Somehow we make it all work.

All that is to provide you with a couple of disagreements we had right off the bat, before we even started outlining for the script.  When I first thought about this piece, I envisioned this great opening where our protagonists enter to this great 70’s song from King Harvest called “Dancing in the Moonlight.”  Then I thought about other songs from the 70’s that would fit perfectly into certain sequences.  This needs to be a period piece, I thought.  Like “Dazed and Confused” (only better!).  Rick’s response: Uh, no.  Okay, he didn’t say it exactly that way, it was more like this:

“I don’t think it’s advisable. I’ve been watching postings for scripts and I never see anyone looking for ‘period pieces.’ Probably because they’re expensive to film and continuity is a bitch with what was and was not available — plus some youngish audiences will not know or appreciate ‘how’ things were. It works for adult drama series because they get an older audience.”

Okay. I get it. Pragmatism 1, Dreamers, 0.  I’ll get you next time, Pragmatic Rick!

Actually, I didn’t.  Next idea was the use of flashbacks to help tell the story.  I also envisioned an accident happening in one particular way.  Rick wasn’t necessarily keen on the idea. His response:

“Really, I’ve been trying to stay away from flashbacks. Not even from a producer’s standpoint of expense etc. I just find it ‘too easy’ — like you’re telling the audience to ‘pay attention, there’s a reason we’re interrupting the action to show you this.’ I like the challenge of a nuanced approach. Anyway, hack away and we’ll go back and forth. Nothing is carved in stone.”

A ha!  I’ll take that as a “maybe” and we’ll call it a draw!  Pragmatism 1.5, Dreamers .5!

We’ll hammer it all out, I promise.  And I’m going to get a victory for all of dreamers here soon!  Meanwhile, the outline is underway and we’ll bring you up to speed on how that is coming along in the next few posts.

_________________________

The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, September 22, 2018

We’ve got a logline – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

We have a logline.  We think.  At least a first draft of one.

Loglines are a pain in the ass to write. I’ll be the first to admit that, and some of the best writers I know stink I writing them.  Loglines require you to be concise and to basically come up with an overview to your entire movie usually in a single sentence.  But they are helpful to quickly explain to someone the essence of your movie.  If they get bored with that simple explanation, or don’t understand it, then it’s a pretty good sign you’d better go back to the drawing board.  Here’s a quick article on writing a good logline that might be worth reading: How to Write the Perfect Logline

For “Lake Regret,” we wanted to convey the sadly ironic situation that our protagonist found himself in, and create empathy for what he was going through so that you would pull for him from beginning to end.

I’m going to leave the logline here for you to read, and ask yourself whether you would want to read this script.  If so, why?  If not, what is it that doesn’t appeal to you?  This is the sixth or seventh draft of the logline, and we’re willing to write seven or eight more, but your feedback can help us refine it further.

LOGLINE – LAKE REGRET
A high school senior who accidentally caused the death of a popular student tries to deal with the emotional fall out at a lake house graduation party, and at the same time cut ties with the small town he desperately wants to leave behind.

In our next post, we’ll start pulling back some more of the curtain about developing the storyline, and how a couple of guys who collaborate so well still can get into disagreements over the tone and direction of the script.

Bookmark this site and keep reading!  Hope to hear from you!

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The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Concept Starts to Take Shape – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

In the last post, we talked about how Rick and I started out in planning our script.  and how it was going to be set around a lake house.  I asked, what’s so interesting about that?

Here’s Rick: “I’ve always been inspired by ‘little movies.’ Tales of the everyman. Things we’ve all been through and can relate to. One of my earliest ‘all-time favorite’ movies was “Diner” by Barry Levinson. I didn’t grow up in the 50’s and I’m not from Baltimore but those characters — the nuances of a tight group of friends from high school and college resonated with me. I saw glimpses of each part of my own group in each of them. I tried to replicate those types of friends in my holiday short, “Branches.” It’s that kind of connection to the everyman that drew me to this particular project. Our lives are filled with friends and influences and there’s life-lessons in the everyday events of our lives that shape our connections to friends. I wanted to create something that was completely relatable on a human scale. Not with special effects or wild action stunts but with scenes where people could equate an experience from their own lives and feel empathy for the way it changes the course of fate.”

Rick nails it.  I too wanted to tell a story that resonated, that made you feel something.  So in this case, we came up with a story of a high school senior that has done something he feels has made him a pariah in the small town in which he grew up, and desperately wants to escape, forever.  But there are forces at work that may keep him tied to this place, and such a thought is unbearable to him.  This irony is what we hope will make the story compelling to those who read the script and (hopefully!) watch it unfold on the screen.  In the next few posts, we’ll share the logline and how we’re proceeding through the outlining process, and how we’ve already had to compromise on a couple of areas of disagreement with the storyline.

We hope you’re enjoying this blog, and please feel free to share with your friends and fellow writers!

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The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Original Script Sunday - post author Don

Over on the Original Scripts page are sixteen original scripts for your reading pleasure.

and

Submit to The Lab at the Athena Film Festival

The Athena IRIS Screenwriting Lab is designed for female writers who have not yet had a feature-length fictional script produced. The lab is a two day intensive devoted to script development.

Screenplays must include one or more strong female characters in a leadership role at the center of the story and must be feature-length narratives.

Submissions are open September 6-November 7th, after which eight to ten finalists will be chosen by a committee. Four winners will be notified in January 2019.

Visit: Film Freeway to submit.

Any current (as of 9/7/2018 ) member of the discussion board who meets the criteria and submits to this will be reimbursed the cost of the submission ($65) by SimplyScripts. Just forward the submission confirmation email to webmaster @ simplyscripts.com.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

It starts with a concept – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

Every movie script ever written started with an idea or a concept.  They’re not the same thing, by the way.  An idea is just a short fragment of the larger picture.  “Guys capture ghosts” is an idea for “Ghostbusters”, but beyond that, it doesn’t tell you what the story is about. “A girl gets transported by a tornado to a magical land, but the only way to return home is to kill a wicked witch” is more of a concept (and turned out to be a great movie!).  This article, if you’re interested in the differences, gives you more details about what constitutes an idea and what makes up a concept: The Ten Greatest Movie Concepts of All Time.

In this case, Rick Hansberry and I shared ideas and concepts, and in some cases, full outlines, to try and land on a story that we would both buy into.  After some back and forth, we settled on what we have started calling “Lake Regret.”

“Lake Regret” started as an idea I had a few months back.  It was a crazy idea, one that would probably be laughed out of any pitch session.  Basically, I wondered if you could create a movie that could be filmed entirely in one day.  Craziness, I know, but it arose from a second viewing of “Birdman”, the Michael Keaton film. The original thought was, could you come up with a script that could be filmed in one continuous shot in one location, almost like you were watching a play.  The trick would be in making it interesting enough that it would hold your attention, as well as not be entirely dialogue driven.  Some other factors playing into my idea were doing something on a shoestring budget — i.e., it I had to film it myself, could I make it happen easily and quickly (I can hear you all vigorously shaking your head “NO, YOU CAN’T”).

With that as my guideline, I started generating places where this could happen.  I had some general locales I played with — a courtroom, a radio station, a bowling alley, and then I settled on a house, looking out over a this beautiful lake.  Nice, peaceful and picture perfect, located in a small town where parents would love to raise their kids.

Hold on, you say, what’s so interesting about that?  Well, that’s a post for another day. Read the link above, and in the next post, we’ll talk about how Rick and I are going to try and find something compelling in this little part of the world.

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The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Original Script Sunday has come… - post author Don

… on a Sunday!

Over on the Original Scripts page are twenty five original scripts for your reading pleasure.

If you have a chance and are interested in the screenwriting and marketing process, take a look at LakeRegretMovie.com wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry’s screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script.

– Don

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