Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Halloween

The SoCal Film Group makes all kinds of short films... this one was made as part of a Halloween Contest put on by American Movie Classic channel, and they managed to be chosen as one of the winners. The movie was broadcast on TV as part of their Halloween special. I talked about it in my Expo horror class, because it puts the protag in a situation where he's very vulnerable, tnen adds horror.

Directed by Steve Nichols Smith
Written by Danny Grossman
Starring Steve Barr

- Bill

Monday, October 29, 2007

Saw You At Expo!

I survived Expo! Actually, this Expo was easy for me thanks to two things:

1) Last year, every other class was in the other hotel, so I was constantly running from hotel to hotel. And constantly setting up. And constantly dealing with small rooms. And constantly dealing with bad a/c.

This year I was in the exact same room for all of my classes. No running. I set up once, never had to dig through my bag for my notes - they were already out. And being in one room also helped my CD sales - I dragged a table from the front of the room to the back and laid out my CDs. Last year, they were in my bag and I had to dig them out... plus, nobody really knew they were in my bag, so I hardly sold any.

The downside of being in one room all day - you never get out. I usually run over with my classes - they’re supposed to be 90 minutes and they often end up closer to 110. The last one on Sunday went *way* over, because there was nothing else on the schedule. The problem is, class is over and people have those individual questions they want to ask, which is okay, but I’m not getting a real break between classes. And I’m usually talking when I’m not talking... which makes the voice really ragged on that last class on Sunday. But I’d rather be in the same room all day than have to run to the next class. The other thing that really helped was...

2) Emily from WHITE BOARD MARKERS was my assistant. I owe her a million thanks. Originally the plan was to get her in as my assistant just to get her in. She was a volunteer for the Expo last year, and this year Expo wanted volunteers to work full time for 2 days with no time to go to any of the events. That sucks. I figured she’d get in free, and maybe spend a few minutes helping me here and there, then have the run of the Expo... but it didn’t work out that way. What happened is, there were almost no volunteers this year, so Emily ended up working full time 2 days for me with no time to go to any of the events. And she didn’t complain. And she sold my CDs as if her life depended on it... which meant I actually sold out of almost everything!

So, Emily is the greatest person in the world.


So I picked up my badge and lanyard on Friday, so that I could get into the Networking Party that night and drink. There’s a greenroom upstairs where the drinks are free to speakers, but if all of the guest speakers and guests of honor are upstairs drinking, who the hell is there downstairs to network with? I always think that part of my “job” at events like this is to talk to the folks who paid to be there.

I check out the greenroom, basically looking for the handout with the hotel room maps and class room assignments. Hang out and talk with some folks, including Guest Of Honor Tina Anderson (WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE starring Lorenz Tate) and a guy I talked with at Austin a couple of years ago who has since won the Disney Fellowship (I think) and is on staff on a TV show now. That’s cool when someone you talked to a couple of years ago is trying to break in... and now they have broken in and is a working pro. It’s so difficult to break in, that when someone not only breaks in, but is a success story, that proves good writing pays off.

I left the greenroom when the Networking Party began, went downstairs and paid for my beers.

Last week I was at the Final Draft Big Break Party that had loud music you could not talk over, and now I’m at Expo where they have obnoxious stand up comics so loud you can not talk over them. You have to scream to be heard, and that’s not good on the throat if you have to speak all day the next two days.

As I’m sipping my beer, this guy comes up to me and just pitches his script. I try to ask him why he’s pitching to me, but he just keeps going. When he finishes, he asks what I thought. I, um, am polite and probably a little evasive. Then he says, “So, you wouldn’t be interested?” “No. I have my own projects,” I reply.

As soon as he lives, some other guy comes up and pitches me *his* script*. I’m polite to him, too... but after the fourth or fifth person pitches me their script, I’m wondering what kind of networking party this is... did someone encourage these folks to just pitch their scripts to other people at the party? Is that in the program I haven’t looked at yet?

When the next person starts pitching me, I try to stop him... but he just keeps going. I keep trying to stop him, he talks over me. When he finishes, I ask why everyone is pitching to me. “Well, you’re a producer, right?” “Wrong. I’m a screenwriter.” “But you *are* here to hear pitches.” “No... I’m teaching classes.” “But your lanyard is red, teachers have green lanyards.” Okay, now this is all making sense... sort of... they gave me the wrong colored lanyard and people think I’m part of the pitch fest.

I’m so glad I’m *not* here to hear pitches, because this last guy who pitched me had the worst pitch I have ever heard in my entire life... and I’ve heard some really awful ones. It’s like he took the top three Google search things for the day and tried to combine them into the most topical script ever written. No heart. No soul. Not even a story.

Eventually they turn up the lights and kick us out... kicking out the bad comics, too.

A group of us ends up in the hotel bar, until they turn up the lights and kick us out.


I’m staying at the hotel. No way I’m going to fight traffic on the 405 every morning, then try to teach a class. I’d rather roll out of bed, shower, take the elevator down and teach my class. This also allows me to hang out after the networking parties instead of zooming home just to sleep for a while and then have to zoom back to the Expo.

Saturday I have 4 classes - basically 8 hours of teaching. The full day. The night before I bought a couple of bottles of water from the Liquor store near the hotel (the hotel’s water is almost as expensive as their beer). I brought some instant coffee packets in case of emergency... and the Starbucks line was so long in the morning (imagine 2,000 writers awake before 9 am... and one Starbucks) - I used the instant coffee to make a bottle of iced coffee. Got to my room and set up. Did a full day of classes. Got sidetracked and didn’t have dinner... then went to the Networking Party.

So, the guy with the awful pitch comes up to me and does the pitch all over again. The same pitch. Word for word. I keep trying to stop him - remind him that I have the wrong color lanyard - but he will not stop his pitch. When he finishes, I go through the exact same conversation we had the night before.

They turn up the lights, I go back up to my room... I really need to sleep, I’m exhausted.

But this is Halloween weekend (sort of) and the people in the room next to me are having a loud party that doesn’t end until 4am. I catch half a night of sleep, get up to teach classes... but my instant coffee packets are gone, and the Starbucks line is snaking around the hotel lobby a few times. But I have great luck this day - my “stalker” Matt is close to the front of the line and I offer to buy his coffee if he’ll order mine. I get my coffee, make it to my room and do 2 classes... then there’s a break and the closing ceremonies begin. I sit on a chair in the lobby, half asleep... waiting for Fun Joel’s annual Bloggers Meeting.


Every Year Fun Joel organizes a meeting in the hotel’s sports bar of all the screenwriting bloggers in town for the Expo. I meet Red Right Hand, spent a lot of time talking to Rouge Wave, and talk to all kinds of other people. Emily (White Board Markers) talks about her short film, which sounds cool, and Joel manages to say nothing about his recent trip to Africa. Man, I want to know all of the details! Guess I’ll have to read about it in his blog.

Eventually, I realize I’ve been drinking all weekend and not doing much sleeping, and I’d better head home. I take a final trip through the hotel to pick up any postcards still on the tables, go upstairs to the greenroom and hang out for a while *not* drinking, but talking to Heather Hale who did *12* classes over 4 days! They asked what she wanted to teach, she sent a list of 12 potential classes, they put all 12 on the schedule! I felt like a wimp - I only did half the classes she did! I said goodbye to Bill, the new owner of the Expo, who is a nice guy and did a pretty good job considering this was his first time running the Expo... then I headed home.

Thanks to everyone who took one of my classes, and if you have a question about the class or a comment, you can click *here* and post it along with any class discussion.

- Bill

PS: The guy I talked to on Sunday - man, I wish I could remember your name - you’re an animal lover and disagree with me on THE RING.... e-mail me!

Friday, October 26, 2007

I'm At Expo....

The Screenwriting Expo is on now. 3,000 - 4,000 screenwriters from all over the world at one event... along with pretty much all of the famous screenwriters in Hollywood. Oh, and I’ll be there, too.

Last year I taught 6 classes, which was a pain in the butt because all of the classes were at the other hotel. Before, when it was at the Convention Center, I might have to dash from one room to the next, but at the two airport hotels you have to dash down the street. There’s a shuttle, but it’s always just left. So I get to do a lot of running at Expo.

The plan for this year was to do 4 new classes and two old standbys. I had done two of the new classes at the Raindance Film Fest in 2006... just before last year’s Expo. The other two new classes were in the works at that time. Two reasons for doing new classes: Hey, *you* don’t want to go to the same old class, and I have audio versions of some of the old classes available, so I’d rather do something new.

But the Expo is under new management, and due to a glitch they had to go to press with the catalogue before they got my new classes... and went with the old ones.

Okay, here is my problem in a nutshell: If you took McKee’s class in 2000 and then again in 2007... it’s word-for-word the same class. He has it memorized. I hate that. I want to try to add something new all the time. The reason why the big 2 day class now has 5 different versions is so that if you were to take the class again, even though the underlying information is basically the same, you’d get a different perspective and different examples and now different film clips illustrating the points. I worry that someone who took the class before will take it again and feel like they didn’t get anything out of it the second time.

So, the big plan was to completely rework all 6 classes, starting with the Naked Character Class, which I thought had some problems last year. The problem was - I have, like, a million pages on character development (actually, well over 2 books worth) and when I set up my class notes, I duplicated some information. That had me stumbling a little bit trying to revise the class as I was teaching it.

So I did an inventory of all of my character articles, I wrote a logline kind of thing for each article on a 3x5 card, and I figured out what the class was supposed to be like... Then all I had to do was organize those 3x5s then organize the articles, then cut out any duplicate info from each individual article, then print a version for me to use in the class. Well, that was the plan. Unfortunately, it’s boring work. So... The 3x5s are still waiting for me to put them in order. Instead, I did a little more work on SLEEPER and wrote a couple of magazine articles and a couple of new Script Tips. I avoid writing by writing something else.

The other 5 classes were going to get new material - I outlined new articles for each... and I’m bringing those outlines with me. Never got around to writing the new material, but maybe I can incorporate it on the fly. That kind of depends on the amount of sleep I get and the amount of caffeine in my blood.

This may sound like I’m a lazy bastard, but the weeks leading up to Expo when I was supposed to do all of this stuff became really crowded. The staff of Script Magazine met for dinner and drinks, to discuss the course for the magazine. I ended up having more drinks than planned - I had put all the info into my phone’s calendar, and purposely put the time of the dinner a half hour early, to remind me to get my butt over the hill. The dinner was at Cat & Fiddle, a cool bar & restaurant with California-British cuisine. Huh? Well, they have fish & chips and other Brit food, plus designer burgers and things that require someone to sun dry a tomato. There’s patio dining, plus a large indoor section... and even dart boards. And they serve Guinness on tap. Well, I look at my phone, see the time of the event, and arrive a half hour before when I had it listed on my phone. That’s a full hour before the actual dinner... but I thought it was just a half hour. So I had some of that Guinness on tap. And then some more. And then I wondered where everyone was, and had another Guinness. By the time people arrived close to an hour later, I’d had 4 Guinness (or Guinnii). And I had a few more with dinner.

The weird thing is - I was fine. I think the tension of all of these deadlines and problems and, well, the fact that I need to sell a script and we’re about to go into a strike, just balanced out the beer.

Anyway, we had an interesting discussion of what we can do to make the magazine better next year - new features and new focus on the writing part of screenwriting.

And a few days later, I went to the Final Draft Big Break Party in this nightclub in Hollywood. Loud music. Disco lights. Screenwriters. Which of those things does not belong? Oliver Stone was the guest of honor and was supposed to make an inspiring speech... he ended up just saying “Be inspired!” They gave out awards to the top 3 screenwriters in the contest, and the cool thing is - pro screenwriter judges each spoke about how much they loved this writer’s script before they presented the award. So Ray Gideon (STAND BY ME) gave an award, Bruce Feirstien (GOLDENEYE) gave and award and Antoine Fisher gave an award. I wanted to track down Bruce afterwards, we have a friend in common... but he got swept outside and I lost him. Antoine was standing about 5 feet away from me. Oliver Stone was probably long gone. Lots of people I know, some I don’t know. A woman gave me a hug and said hello... I *think* I know her from a message board. My friend Robin was there, and we talked for a while. I talked with Michael Taab about the strike vote - while we were trying to hear each other over the loud music, they were counting ballots down at the WGA. I joked they should have a live counter on the video monitor behind the bar like on election night.

Then, Sunday, I went to ScreamFest horror movie festival to see my friend Anthony’s new film HEADLESS, which you can all watch on Saturday night on the Sci Fi Channel. I actually raced to get there, was running late, and when I got to the ticket window there were two guys in front of me tring to decide what movie they wanted to see... at the head of the line! They finally figured it out, I bought my ticket and ran upstairs... just as the movie was about to begin. Afterwards, there was a Q&A, and after that everyone was hanging out in the lobby. The next film at the festival was produced by a guy I know, Morris Ruskin, and he asked me if I was there for his movie... Um, no. He asked me if I was going to stay for his movie.... Um, I’m kind of with these guys, and we may go someplace after the film. Then he walked away. I feel like I pissed him off, but I can’t be everywhere. And I shouldn’t even be here... I should be working on those Expo classes.

After that I was in panic mode over the post cards for a while, but they were delivered without problem. I also had other things to do to prepare for Expo. Somewhere on the list was buy new shoes. My shoes are at that perfect place - completely broken in... and that means they’re kind of scuffed up and ugly. Time for new shoes. I haven’t gotten around to that, yet, so I may be at Expo in my scuffed up old shoes. Probably better than nice new shoes if I’m going to spend a lot of time running between hotels.

So the classes may be the same this year as last year. Sorry. Next year, 4 new classes... maybe even 6 new classes.

See you at Expo!

PS: If you aren’t coming to Expo, you can still take some of my classes... on CD. I’m taking $2 off on my CDs for this Expo weekend only. Click below for more info:

CDs On Sale!

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Establishing relationships, using a couple of horror films (‘tis the season).

Yesterday’s Dinner: Anderson’s Split Pea Soup & a fresh Western onion bagel at home while organizing stuff for Expo.

MOVIES: HEADLINESS - um, a friend made it... I can’t really talk about it objectively. 7 white kids who all look alike and act alike and seem to be interchangeable are on their way to a Halloween party, take a short cut, van breaks down... in Headless Horseman country. Then they lose their heads one-by-one. Anthony told me one of the big problems making the film is that Sci Fi Channel has all of these rules. No more than 40% of the script can take place at night. And they actually analyze the script and if it’s 41% night, make you change it! No brothers and sisters, No dogs, No alligators, No hallway scenes, No... well, the list goes on and on. My guess is that the things on the list can be traced back to some film that sucked. Well, that film with the brother & sister sucked - so no more brothers & sisters in Sci Fi Channel movies! All of this stuff makes for one strange film. Anthony inherited the script, which had all kinds of problems, and he tried to fix them. I don’t think they got fixed. But that brings up another question - why is Sci Fi Channel buying scripts that suck this bad in the first place? Seriously. There are much much better scripts out there. I’ve read them. There are much much better writers out there - you write better than this crap. Sci Fi Channel movies will *always* be crap unless they start looking for better scripts.

MOVIES: WE OWN THE NIGHT. I liked the idea of two brothers on opposite sides of the law, reminded me of MANHATTAN MELODRAMA from the 1930s. But this film was bland. Unemotional. And when there was some big emotional scene, the *audience* didn’t feel anything. That was due to the choices by writer-director. They never establish that these brothers care about each other - or have ever cared about each other. So when one gets in big trouble and the other suddenly shows emotions about his brother... we wonder where all of those emotions came from. All they had to do was show us that these two were once close, but drifted apart. Establish that they once loved each other. Okay, they’re brothers, so maybe we’re just supposed to assume that... but I didn’t. So when one brother suddenly has this big emotional scene, it just rings false. You have to establish this stuff! Hey, all it takes are a couple of photos of the two of them as teenagers, arms around each other. Give each brother that same photo. Make the relationship between the brothers the center of the story. Instead, we have kind of a bland, gritty, cop movie. A car chase that tries to be FRENCH CONNECTION in the rain, but ends up kind of blah. Good to see Tony Musante on screen again.

DVDS: DOUBLE INDEMNITY again... and the relationship between Robinson and McMurray really is amazing in the film. It shows you how a simple thing like lighting someone’s cigar can be used to symbolize a friendship.

PAGES: Are you kidding me? A couple of new magazine articles. Nothing on the script (except some touch up work).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nothing But Brown Skies

You may have heard we have a couple of wildfires here in California. There might have been something on the news about it. Mel Gibson and James Cameron and many other famous people were forced to evacuate their expensive Malibu homes... yes, they are technically homeless now. There are a dozen wildfires burning all over SoCal - and the day before the Malibu fire started we had a “red flag warning” - high fire danger. What that means is that it’s hot, it’s dry, and it’s windy. The Malibu fire was caused by downed power lines...

We’ve had freakin’ gale force winds down here!

A couple of days ago I was sitting in Starbucks, watching the *metal* outdoor furniture blow away. Chairs, tables... blowing toward the parking lot. People were diving out of the way. Some security guards grabbed some of the stuff before any cars were damaged. People were having trouble walking. Hats and toupees were flying!

So, I come home after a hard day of splitting infinitives and...

My block is dark. In fact, several blocks are dark.

It’s strange to see part of a city with no lights at all. No street lights, no stop lights, no lights in windows, no store lights.... nothing but darkness. You think Los Angeles drivers have no idea what they’re doing in daylight? Wait until the traffic lights go out.

This also sucks, because I had been working on battery in Starbucks and my ;aptop is now dead... and the plan was to finish this article for Script at home. Well, that’s not going to happen. I also planned on doing some work on my Expo classes, and that isn’t going to happen either. The good news is, I spot a power company truck down the street doing something. My guess is the wind blew down a power pole, and they were working on it. That means it would probably be fixed by morning. How many cars would smash into each other while the traffic lights were dark?

I make it into the parking lot without getting hit and use what little moonlight there is to find my way to my front door... where my body blocks the key hole and I have to get the key in by touch. I open the door - and it is absolutely black within. Great! A chance to break a leg.

I have a big heavy duty flashlight under my bed - earthquake preparedness. During the big Northridge quake, I was living in Van Nuys (close to Northridge) and my building was quaked. It happened in the middle of the night, and knocked out the power. I found clothes and shoes by feeling around, and walked out of my 2nd story apartment, picking the stairway I never use... which was good, because the stairway I usually use was *gone*. I could have been killed... so now I keep a flashlight nearby.

Well, the problem was getting to the flashlight using only the light from my open front door. The further I get from the door, the more absolute the darkness. By the time I get to my bed, it’s pitch black. I feel around under the bed, hand coating with dust bunnies, and find the flashlight. Click it on, and everything is okay.

There’s this cool little film written and directed by David Koepp, who wrote the first SPIDER-MAN and almsot every other big Hollywood blockbuster, that takes place in Sacramento, CA during a power outage. All power, all TV, all radio, everything... dead. Food rotting in freezers. People go to the store for supplies... and the cash registers don’t work (they’re all electric, now). So people begin looting stores. Nice people, good people, honest people... looting. Hey, they would pay if they could, but the need this stuff *now*, no time to wait until the power returns... if it ever returns.

When darkness falls, people grab guns to protect their property from looters. And it doesn’t take long for flare ups, arguments, fights to break out. Eventually people get shot. After the world descends into chaos.... the lights come back on.

So I’m hoping the power guys get this thing fixed pretty soon.

For now, I have no TV and I don’t want to kill the flashlight battery by leaving it on. Problem is, it isn’t late enough to go to sleep... That’s when I remember that I own a portable DVD player - a Christmas gift from my parents last year. I had ran down the battery the last time I used it... but *the night before* I had plugged it in to recharge the battery. Hey! I had a DVD player! I also have hundreds of DVDs, including DOUBLE INDEMNITY double disk, brand new still in the shrink wrap. Okay, I would turn off the flashlight, turn on the DVD player, crawl into bed and watch a great Billy Wilder movie. I wish I could sip hot cocoa, too... but that would require power. So I had some grape juice.

I watched the film on the 7 inch screen, getting sleepy...

When the film ended, I was ready to fall asleep... but the power came on. I had flipped the light switch just inside the front door, so I got out of bed to turn it off...

And realized that I had left my front door open.

Could have been worse. I could have woke up the next morning and walked in to discover the open front door in my underpants with my neighbors walking down the hallway.

The fires are far away, but the smoke is right here. Everything is hazy, and they're warning us to stay indoors and try not to breathe any of this crap. The sunsets are orange, and even the moon is orange. Kind of pretty... but hard on the lungs.

I hope all of you who live in areas affected by the fires are safe, and your homes are okay. And I hope Mel Gibson and James Cameron aren’t wandering the streets with shopping carts full of their stuff.

- Bill

Friday, October 19, 2007

Why Me?

A couple of months ago, I realized that the postcards I made for last Expo were almost gone and I hated the design... so I decided to redesign the cards and get some printed for Expo. I gave myself plenty of time, because the last design was a rush job. These cards are nothing special - but Expo has thousands of screenwriters, and my hits have been falling off lately. This would be a great way to get the word out that I have a free script tip every day, and maybe increase my website traffic.

Card designs were sent to a printer on the East Coast with good rates and nice samples. Cards were printed, and to be delivered by UPS ground. I should have had them within 5 days...

But when I checked the tracking page online the day after Columbus Day (about a week after they shipped) I discovered that UPS had made an attempt to deliver to my biz address on Columbus Day... and since it was closed, they sent the cards back to the sender that same day. No second attempt at delivery. No door tag. Nothing.

According to their tracking page, the cards arrived in LA on Monday (Columbus Day), they made one attempt to deliver, then by 9pm that same day (Columbus Day) they were on a truck to the sender.

So, I called UPS. Asked why they didn’t attempt a delivery on a non-holiday? Why they were shipped back the same day?

They said: We don’t deliver to Military Bases.

This confused me, because the nearest military base has got to be at least 40 miles away.

After a great deal of time convincing them that the address was not a military base, I asked - you know, even if it was a military base, why ship it back to the sender on the same day? Why not hold it for a couple of days and door tag it? Well, policy is to ship it back - to make sure the package is promptly delivered. I brought it to their attention that if the package had been delivered, I’d have it. They asked what I wanted them to do, and I said: Deliver the package that is addressed to me. This got me bumped up to a supervisor.

After giving her the tracking number, she tells me that package has been delivered... to the original shipper.

So, I said all of the same stuff. The supervisor admits that a mistake was made, someone ticked the Military Base box by mistake. (I wonder how often that box gets ticked when the driver is running behind and just wants to get rid of a package?) They said they will cover the costs of reshipping - the sender just needs to reship the package and then fill out some refund forms and....

I asked why the shipper should fill out any forms - they didn’t tick the wrong box. She tells me that the package has been delivered - completed - and that we need to start from scratch. I ask if they have a category called UNDELIVERED or MISDELIVERED? She says “No, only DELIVERED.” At this point, I’m probably becoming a jerk... but I’m holding my temper and remaining calm. I’m just trying to figure out how to solve this problem within the rules of their system. So I ask if the package can be retrieved for a second delivery attempt? She tells me someone will call me back within an hour.

Two hours later, I call them again. Go through all of this all over again with new people. And they say again “Someone will call you within an hour.”

Two hours later, my phone actually rings. It’s someone who is going to resolve my problem! I explain everything again... and they tell me they don’t deliver to military bases... and I have to convince them this isn’t a military base, and they say they will take care of it. Problem solved!


A week later, nothing has happened.

So I call, and go through all of the same stuff with new people again, who all tell me they don’t deliver to military bases, and eventually I get to a supervisor who tells me they have a note that it has been taken care of. I say that’s nice, but do they have a note that says where my package is? No. They have no info that it was ever retrieved and reshipped, or that the anything was done other that the person in charge saying that they have taken care of it. There is no “not taken care of” problems at UPS.

Nice, but I don’t have my package and I want it.

“Well, we don’t deliver to military bases.”

Okay, there was a moment where I almost went UPStal. Instead I remained calm and asked how I am supposed to get my stuff. They said - the printer will have to reship it and fill out a form for the refund...

Fine. I call the printer. I explain what happened. They try to track down the returned package - can not find it. Swell. But they will reprint the cards for free and reship them. UPS Ground. I should have them within 5 days of when they are printed.... and my big fear is that they will arrive on the Monday *after* Expo. I will have thousands of postcards and no one to give them to.

And I’m just waiting for them to get shipped back to the sender because UPS doesn’t ship to military bases....

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: A new one about 30 DAYS OF NIGHT and Vampires.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Brocolli Beef @ CityWok.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Accidental Experiment

A while back I posted about the new spec script I had started, SLEEPER AGENT, and over that weekend I posted a link to a pdf of the rough draft opening of the screenplay. At the end of the weekend I removed the link...

I figured a few people would get a chance to read the opening of the script... about a dozen people e-mailed me about it or mentioned it in replies.

Without any announcement, I continued to add rough draft pages to that same URL address. Not on a regular basis, every once in a while I’d add a bunch of fresh pages. And a handful of people noticed, and have sent me e-mails. This has been kind of interesting.

Harlan Ellison once wrote a short story in a bookstore window. You could walk past the bookstore and watch him work.

I think this has been an interesting accidental experiment, and I think sometime in the future I will do the experiment on purpose. Next time I land an assignment, or have a new spec that I plan on writing on a self-imposed deadline, I think I may let you guys look over my shoulder. I may post my pages for the day somewhere on my website.

Might be fun.

- Bill


TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: When people Blow Up (Tuesday was a new tip about the WGA strike - hope you remembered to check the Tip Of The Day and didn't miss it.)
Yesterday’s Dinner: BBQ Pork & brown rice at CityWok.
Pages: Preparing for my Expo Classes - trying to figure out a new version of the Naked Character class.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Thing I Hate Most...

Some people hate when they are halfway through a new script and read in the trades that someone has just sold a script with a similar idea for big bucks... making their script into a retread... a seeming rip-off.

*I* hate when someone sells a script for big bucks that has a similar idea to... a film of mine that has been sitting on the shelves at Blockbuster for 3 years.

My script GRID RUNNERS was the story of a cop in the future trained in a VR simulator against the mega-villain Dante... and when Dante is cloned into reality, the cop must face the one opponent he knows he can not beat. A producer liked the script, thought it might make a great big budget theatrical. He had a connection at Paramount, so we had a meeting. The guy at Paramount told us sci-fi was dead at Paramount, except for STAR TREK movies. So the project got set up as an HBO World Premiere Movie and I was paid, well, okay money. Sci Fi Entertainment Magazine came out on set, wrote an article (I was even mentioned!) and a couple of months after that issue hit the news stands... Paramount bought this script called VIRTUOSITY for a whole bunch of money.

VIRTUOSITY was the story of a cop in the future who trained in a VR simulator against a mega-villain named SID... and when SID is made real by nanotechnology, the cop must face the one opponent he knows he can not beat.

Produced by Paramount, by the way.

The same thing happened on NIGHT HUNTER - three years before BLADE but with many of the same *scenes*. And I mean the same scenes. Vampires in a rave? Vampires having a meeting around an executive board table? Vampire hunter rides a motorcycle? Vampire hunter uses cool weapons and uses martial arts?

Back in 1992 I wrote (and registered with WGA) this 30 page treatment called SPLICERS about gene splicing dogs and scorpions to create the ultimate tunnel dog / weapon. I scripted it about 7 years ago, with the dog-scorpions designed to go after Osama Bin Laden (hiding in a cave somewhere). Since then, I've had all kinds of producers read the script. At one point, it was almost made. Another time it landed me an assignment. There is one D-gal in town who loves it, and tries to get everyone she works for to make it.

Now, from today's Hollywood Reporter...

"Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody have been cast in "Splice," a science fiction thriller being directed by Vincenzo Natali. The story explores a dark vision of the world of genetic engineering in which two young scientists (Polley and Brody) become superstars by splicing different animal DNA to create fantastical new creatures. Production is slated to begin in November in Toronto."

Can't wait to see it in the cinema.

- Bill

Yesterday’s Dinner: Salad at Fuddruckers.
MOVIES: Saw THE KINGDOM... and wished it had more investigation. It was always too easy to find the clues. When Chris Cooper finds a clue, it leads *directly* to a suspect. Later in the film, a major clue is *literally* handed to Jennifer Garner at a crime scene by a bad guy. Kind of an "I did it!" moment. Lots of stuff that was too easy. And I hate shaky cam. There will be a post on that.
DVD: Watched HARD BOILED again - a great John Woo film. Real characters. Real moments... and babies.
Pages: Only a couple of pages on SLEEPER when I'm supposed to be doing *more* than 5 pages to make up for a couple of days.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


All of my sales, all of my produced films... no agent or manager was involved in any of those deals. My career is based on query letters and people passing my scripts around town because they liked them. Basically, every sale is the result of some accident - a script left somewhere gets passed around town for *3 years* and ends up at Paramount... and they *buy it*! Since firing the world’s worst agent when I came to town, I haven’t had another agent. I had a manager for a short period of time, and sold nothing. I always wonder what kind of career I’d have if I had some sort of representation. Someone *trying* to sell my scripts... and someone who could get them to the right places.

So, every few years I decide to try to find an agent or manager.

And after a short period of time I get so frustrated, my head almost explodes.

My recent frustration: I don’t really believe in referrals. I think that turns the biz into who you know rather than what you know, and results in crappy scripts written by Tom Cruise’s poolboy getting made while really great scripts from someone who doesn’t have connections becoming landfill. There was a time when it was all about the scripts, and agents were the screeners. They discovered the talent. Now, agents don’t want to discover talent, they want someone to bring it to them.

I know all kinds of people in the biz, I never ask them for a referral.

Maybe I should... but part of me thinks that a guy who continues to sell scripts that get made into films (bad films, but still films) shouldn’t need someone else to vouch for them. I can pour a sack full of DVDs with my name on them onto any agent’s desk. Surely I’m past the point where I might be a one trick pony or someone who got lucky once and sold something. This may make me sound egotistical, but I think my movies should be my reference. And I think agents and managers should just sign me.

But that doesn’t seem to be how it works.

So, I asked one person I know - on the other side of the desk - to refer me to a manager. And that manager eventually got back to me and asked me to send him a script. And when I sent it, nothing happened. So I talked to the manager, and he said “Are you still writing?” Which I tried not to take as an insult. He requested a second script. I sent a second script from my stockpile of virgin scripts that no one has ever read... well, these two aren’t virgins anymore... and I never heard from him again... I *did* send him an e-mail when I had 2 films on the Top Ten DVD Charts a couple of weeks later. I also looked up his client list, and he has two people who have each sold one script to a cable net... um, I think I got that beat. Now, maybe the two scripts *he requested* weren’t things he thought he could sell - but he picked ‘em! He looked over the list of virgin scripts and selected the two loglines he liked best. So if he didn’t like the *concepts* that was his fault. Well, that leaves the writing... I may not be Steve Zaillian, but I can put together a sentence or two... and *the people who buy scripts* like my scripts. And I’ve read many many scripts from writers represented by major agencies... that suck. Obviously, they had a referral. I can’t figure out this manager’s problem.

I’m so pissed off, I send out a stack of query letters to other agents and managers - even some big ones. I’m gonna show this guy! I’m gonna sign with a big agency! Weeks later - no responses to any of those queries. I might as well have thrown them directly into the trash, rather than mail them to an agency where an assistant threw them into the trash. No chance to show that freakin’ manager that he missed out on signing me.

Due to the small world we work in, I actually bump into this manager a couple of weeks ago, and ask what happened. He says he hadn’t read *the* script from me. I said “That’s nice, but since you read the last script, I’ve had meetings all over town on other projects” - in fact, we had bumped into each other as a result of a meeting. He says that maybe he needs to read another script in order to decide. I say, fine - I’ll send you another list of scripts, pick one. I send him the list... and haven’t heard back from him.

Now, I think I’m better off without this guy... but WTF?

This gets me frustrated. I can sell a script that gets made by Sony, but I can’t seem to get a really low level manager to sign me. Can someone explain this to me?

And this is the reason why I don’t have an agent or manager - because at this point I usually say Ef It! And stop the agent quest and set something up with a producer somewhere. Why sit on this stockpile of virgin high concept scripts when I can sell them?

Add to this - all of that chumming I did a while back has me playing phone tag with the producer. He actually called me one day to tell me that he’d call me on Tuesday. That made no sense to me - you have me on the phone *now*, why not tell me what you’re gonna tell me? Tuesday, no phone call. A week later, I call him... get his secretary (he’s in a meeting). He calls me a couple of days later - goes to voice mail. Back and forth. End result? Well, nothing that I know of... but today’s Tuesday, so maybe he’ll call. He never said *which* Tuesday - and there are 52 of them every year.

After a while, you wonder why you go to all of the trouble. Sure, I like writing. Sure, I’m writing for me. But it’s nice to have someone read this stuff sometimes. Especially the people who request it. Most of my stockpiled scripts have been read by no one... and I forget that I’ve written them! I seriously forgot that I had written one of the scripts - it’s a tree that fell in the forest and nobody heard it.

If I write a script and no one reads it, does the script really exist?

I mean, why am I even writing a new spec? No one’s gonna read it!

I’m sure that all of you know exactly what I’m feeling. You feel it. In fact, you think I’m just whining right now, because I’ve had all kinds of scripts read by all kinds of people... and nobody’s read your scripts at all. Look, I feel your pain! I know what that is like. I know that I have no room to complain... But complaining is free, so I’m going to do as much of it as I can!

Eventually I realized that this frustration was pointless. If I don’t write new specs, I have *no chance* of anything happening. If I don’t keep turning out new work, I’ll never get another meeting or sell another script. All of this is frustration is just wasting time. Time for another Dr Phil moment where I realized you gotta stop complaining and actually do something. I need to get off my ever-growing-ass and get some pages written.

So I did that.

Somebody, probably Preston Sturges, said that if his career goes to hell he can just sit down and write his way out of it. Think about that. We’re probably in the only business where you can just make up some crazy story... and that crazy story might sell! You never know what crazy story will sell and what crazy story is just a crazy story. But every crazy story may be the one. You can really write yourself out of trouble. Your career stalls - write a spec script! Sometimes Fry’s Electronics sells a ream of paper for 99 cents - you can change your entire life by writing some crazy story and printing it out... and still have 390 pieces of paper left over!

And Friday the phone rang - one of the agents I sent a query letter to would like to read a script. And even if this agency doesn’t sign me, someone will, right? I have to learn to be less frustrated and keep plugging away until someone signs me... and they will.

Good thing I didn't send out all of those virgin specs to producers...

- Bill

Yesterday’s Dinner: Pork Fried Rice @ CityWok.
DVD: Watched DEATH WISH again as background for a new script tip comparing DEATH SENTENCE (the sequel) to THE BRAVE ONE (the rip-off).
Pages: No pages on SLEEPER, I had to do an magazine article for MovieScope... and stand in line at the post office. But I did some notes on the next scene and hope to do an extra page a day to get this sucker finished by the end of the week.
eXTReMe Tracker