Monday, July 26, 2010

The Blurst of Times

This past week, there were 3 intensely anticipated, potentially life-changing events:
  1. Another Life's first real world screening
  2. my Hollywood Hotshot meeting
  3. our 3-Year Anniversary of Marriage
It was neither the best of times, nor the worst of times.

It has been the blurst of times.

1): Another Life screened with Film Independent at the W Hotel... with mixed success.

We were the first short film in the line-up, and since we were in Hollywood, lots of people showed up late, looking for seats during the most emotional scenes in the movie. The audience was quiet throughout the screening with polite smatterings of applause afterward...

I thought it bombed -- but we played to a packed house. Almost everyone stayed for the Q&A. And fifteen or so people stuck around to shake my hand and congratulate me.

Always a good day when strangers shake your hand and tell you they loved your movie!

2): Then there was the big Hollwood hotshot meeting. Two hotshots actually.

I prepared myself in every way possible. I put on my best clothes and my lucky red shoes. I memorized the loglines and pitches to all of my scripts. I made lists of my favorite movies and TV shows. Then I let all of that go so I could just go with the flow of conversation.

It was like getting ready for a first date, hoping for a break instead of a kiss.

And I got it.

In 3-4 weeks, we'll meet again, and depending on how I respond to their notes on my script, they'll take a professional interest in turning me into a working Hollywood screenwriter.

3): Then I had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad anniversary.

It started out beautifully. My wife and I went to Porto's -- where we had bought our wedding cake -- and had an early, romantic breakfast. We reminisced and were downright obnoxious.

Then we both had work. She had overtime that night. I had to help out on a shoot.

On the way to the shoot, my boss called, and instinctively, I picked up the phone. A policeman pulled me over and gave me a ticket for cell phone use.

After the shoot, I came home to find several film festival rejections in my inbox.

I was so furious I turned off my phone -- only to find out via facebook chat that my wife had been calling me for the past 45 minutes to get a ride home.

UGH.

But the next morning, I got up, had a lovely breakfast with my wife, sent Another Life out to another high-profile film festival, and went to work.

I have to stay focused that Another Life has screened well, and somewhere out there in Hollywood, there's two power players who believe in me. Also, my wife loves me :)

Take the bad with the good. After all, what's a writer without turmoil?

Now I got 3-4 weeks to prep one script for notes and finish another script as though my career depends on it. Because it does. Back into the coal mines...

Monday, July 19, 2010

To Write, or Not to Write...

Not really much of a question, is it?

Answer: Write. Much better than not writing.

But the life of the young, emerging writer is more than just sitting at home alone, writing a damn good script. What’s the point of writing a script if no one will ever read it?

Alternate answer: Self-promotion. “Ya gotta get out there, kid!”

For example, this past week has been intense at my boutique production company. I can’t say much (Non-Disclosure Agreement, anyone?) but I’ve been working long hours setting up complicated film shoots with lots of paperwork and assisting my boss on set.

I’m forging some key relationships that will help me break into the business – and this week is just as packed with intense, hands-on Hollywood fun:
  • Tuesday, Film Independent is screening Another Life at the W Hotel in Hollywood, and I’m invited to speak on a panel afterwards!
  • Wednesday, big Hollywood hotshot meeting! Wish me luck!
  • Thursday, three-year anniversary with the wife (most important thing this week)
So I was going to prepare for all these events this weekend, but my Mom begged me to finally take away all of my old boxes of childhood paraphernalia and store them myself.

And as I’m going through these memory-packed totems, I find my little Idea Box, filled with all of my most cherished story ideas from when I was a kid.

Then I found this gem, apparently right after I saw Glengarry Glenn Ross:
Always be writing.
No matter how long you’re at work, no matter how you schmooze the party, no matter how hard you self-promote, none of that matters unless you’re still writing.

After all, what’s the point of getting yourself “out there” if you don’t have a polished script or three to show for it?

So this week, I’ll be working long hours, going to my screening, big meeting, and anniversary shindigs, and writing a damn good script. How, you might ask?

Sleep is for normies. Caffeine is for writers.

Sweet dreams, dear readers. More news next week!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Case for Film School

The age-old question for the aspiring filmmaker is this:

Do I go to film school? Or do I just move out to L.A.?

I've asked this question at various Hollywood parties and on top insider blogs like Hollywood University, John August, and The Anonymous Production Assistant's Blog.

And the consensus is always the same: film school is a big waste of time and money.

Most point out the lack of recent successful film school grads: where's today's George Lucas? Today's Martin Scorsese? Hell, Steven Spielberg didn't even go to film school.

So when you finish film school, you're 3-4 years older, thousands of dollars in debt, and still unemployed because that job you interviewed for went to some Hollywood hotshot's nephew.

And when you go to industry panels, Hollywood's top directors, producers and executives say they never went to film school and neither should you.

"Just go out there, write some good material, meet some good people, and if you listen and learn, you can do anything you want in this town."

Right?

Wrong. They are all wrong.

If you want to break into this business TODAY, film school is your best chance.

Case in point:

I've been working for an emerging director at his boutique production company and we had a film shoot the other night.

To prepare for the shoot I had to do everything. And I mean everything:
  • I supervised and taped the casting sessions.
  • I organized and edited the casting tapes.
  • I scouted and locked filming locations.
  • I drafted contracts for actors, background, and location owners.
  • I found and hired essential crew members.
  • I made the call sheet, shooting schedule, and budget.
And while on set, I ran the shoot as the 1st A.D., I managed the actors and crew members like a producer, and I was even the 2nd Unit Cinematographer.

At the end of the night, my boss told me that it was one of the easiest shoots of his life.

To break into Hollywood, you need a broad range of filmmaking skills and experience that only film school can give you.

Maybe 10-20 years ago you could break in with just hard work, connections, and good taste. But in today's market, assistants are expected to get their hands dirty and do just about everything under the sun to get the job done, day after day.

Sure, my boss could've hired some hotshot's nephew instead of me -- but that nephew wouldn't have lasted if he didn't know editing, casting, producing, shooting, etc. inside and out.

Sure, you can make it in Hollywood without going to film school.

But here's the kicker: my boss not only appreciates my work, he's seen my short film Another Life, and he's recommending me as a director to anyone asking around.

Try doing all of that without film school.

Monday, July 5, 2010

You Get What You Need

Happy 4th of July, everyone! I hope you all had a blast. Pun intended.

So big news: last week, I was scheduled to meet with a super secret Hollywood VIP.

For a kind of meeting that could change my career.

I prepared my best answers to all their potential questions. I put on my coolest clothes and my lucky red shoes. I staged a mock meeting with my cat -- and I have to say, my cat thought I was very charming.

Tuesday night, they called me.

They confirmed the meeting.

They gave me directions.

They put me on hold for just a sec -- and then told me that they had to reschedule. And push back our meeting to several weeks later.

But that's Hollywood, baby :)

And it's a blessing in disguise too. I'm half-way through writing the final draft of a new feature script -- and if I write 3 pages a day, every day, until this meeting -- I'll finish the script just in time to send a copy to this Hollywood VIP.

"It's so crazy, it just might work!"

But then there's another twist: my current employer, the rising writer/director [UNDISCLOSED], apparently likes me so much that he wants me to stay on as his assistant even longer!

So I looked at my calendar and almost died: I will be working a full 8 hours a day and then coming home to write 3 pages a night. Every day. For the next four weeks straight.

I thought about giving up on my crazy writing scheme -- but then I'd come empty-handed to the big meeting.

I thought about asking for time off at work -- but at my boutique production company [UNDISCLOSED], I'm scouting locations and putting together pitches, which beats making copies for minimum wage.

And then it hit me. This is it. This is the dream life.

Working with a hot, new director by day. Writing a hot, new feature by night. I'm Peter Parker with Final Draft instead of a spidey suit.

Of course, I want to get paid gobs of money to work under a studio bigwig. Of course, I want gobs of time to write the perfect script.

But if I try sometimes, I might find... I get what I need.

And now, I must be off. Writer-senses tingling. Thwip!