Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Reps: How to Take Notes

Weeks ago, I had the great fortune to meet a rep who agreed to read my script and I filled you in on how best to follow up with a rep.

As promised, I'm now giving you the skinny on How to Take Notes from a Rep:

1) The Phone Call -- After a few pleasantly persistent emails checking in on the script, the rep responded: He read the script and he would call me later this week.

When a rep is going to call you, have your phone on, fully-charged, and stick to areas with good signal. You can't afford to miss a call from a rep. And when he/she does call, there's...

2) A Brief Exchange of Pleasantries. How are you? Congrats on that thing in the trades. Why thank you, etc. You need to show you care. If you want this guy to be your rep, care enough to start building a professional relationship with that person.

3) The Trick Question. After the chit-chat, the rep will inevitably start by saying a few nice things about your script and then ask very carefully:
"Now, if you don't mind, I have a few notes on your script, but only if you want to hear them, because if you think your script is in a good place and you're not looking for any notes, then I totally understand and support your decision..."
This is a test! The rep here is trying to gauge how well you take notes as a professional screenwriter. Hollywood is a collaborative industry where you will be writing for not just an audience but agents, managers, development executives, studio executives, producers, actors, etc., and if you want a long career as a writer, you will have to write and rewrite scripts that will excite all of those people to sign on to your script and make it into a movie.

In short, the answer is: "Yes, I'd love to hear your notes. Hold on, let me get a pen and paper."

4) Write Everything Down -- For me, the rep had a lot of page-by-page notes. For example, "On page 34, Tiffany beats up the bad guys with karate-like punches and kicks... since she's a runaway, wouldn't she fight in a more street brawler style?"

This guy talked fast, so I wrote down as much as I could, jotting down the appropriate page numbers by each note so I could go over them later. Also, it's good to have a copy of the script open so you can follow along and know exactly what scene the rep's talking about.

5) Respond With Courtesy -- This rep has put his/her personal time into reading your script, coming up with notes, writing them down, and preparing for this call. Do the right thing and show your appreciation for each and every note with professional courtesy.

If the rep gives you a good note, say that, and thank them. I lucked into only getting good notes and said so with every note.

If it's a bad note, DO NOT disagree with the rep. Prepare an appropriately neutral response, such as "Interesting. I hadn't thought of that before. Let me take another look at that."

5) Have Questions Ready -- If you don't understand a note, then ask! "So you didn't think this was a credible character decision?" "Is that because you think that subplot was unclear?" Asking these questions also shows you hear and appreciate the rep's feedback.

Also, look for the notes that the rep didn't give you. For example, the rep only gave me page-by-page notes, so I asked if he had any general notes -- and he gave me some good pointers on the overall character arcs for the script.

6) The Next Draft -- Wrap up the call with thanking the rep for all the notes and when would the rep like to see another pass on the script reflecting his/her notes.

The rep told me, "Whenever you can get it to me. Whenever you feel like it. Take your time."

This is also a trick! Another test! The rep here is gauging your professionalism to see how long it takes you to do a solid, typos-free, industry-ready rewrite. So how long should that take?

Two weeks. No more. Suck it up, lose sleep, and put all your time and effort into rewriting your script and emailing it back to the rep in two weeks or less. If you want to impress this rep, prove you're worthy to sign as a client, then you better show that you are ready to work.

But the most important lesson from this call is...

7) Take the Damn Notes -- As you rewrite your script in those two weeks, you must take every single note the rep gave you and incorporate it into your next draft. Even if you don't fully understand the note. Even if you disagree. Just do it.

Put these notes into perspective: this rep has read hundreds of scripts, scripts that have made millions at the box office and scripts that never got made... not all reps can articulate their notes clearly, but every good rep has a gut instinct for what makes a saleable script work.

Again, this is a collaborative industry, and if you want to prove to this rep that you are a professional, then it's your job to prove that you can take notes and improve your script.

In short, your job as a writer is to look at every note and ask, "What if it's brilliant?" and work at it until you find the note underneath the note that will genuinely improve your screenplay.

That's all for now, folks! And speaking of rewrites, time to crawl back into my writer-cave.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Official Selection at Lady Filmmakers! Finalist at Page!

What a fantastic week!

I just got back from the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival only to find out that Another Life made Official Selection at our 12th Film Festival, the Lady Filmmakers Film Festival -- and that my screenplay Furious Angels made Finalist at the Page International Screenwriting Awards!

The Lady Filmmakers Film Festival celebrates the cinematic achievements of women in glamorous Beverly Hills! Not just for ladies, the festival will host an exciting weekend packed with movies, music, panels, and parties, all with talented filmmakers and talent-seeking industry veterans in attendance.

At long last, all of our L.A.-based fans can see Another Life on the silver screen!

We play at the prestigious WGA Theatre in Beverly Hills (135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210) some time from Friday, Oct. 14 through Sunday, Oct. 16, our showtime TBD.

I'd like to take a moment to thank our lady filmmakers: lead actress Tracy Coogan; producers Liz Manashil, Mitsuyo Miyazaki, Min Zhang; editor Beth Moody; production designer Jill Blackledge; casting director Cheryl Faye; make-up artist Mara Rouse; sound designers Rebecca Chan and Kari Barber; and costume designer Sarah Springer -- without your amazing talent and hard work, Another Life simply would not be the amazing film it is today.

I will certainly be in attendance at the festival in Beverly Hills -- and hope to see you all there! I'll slip you more details on the fest's exciting developments as they come...

And, oh yes, more on The PAGE International Screenwriting Awards!

A quick refresher: the PAGE Awards was established by an alliance of Hollywood producers, agents, and development execs to discover the most exciting new scripts by up-and-coming writers from across the country and around the world -- with loads of Success Stories.

And making Finalist means that a panel of Hollywood literary agents, managers, and development execs rated my work as one of the Top 10 action screenplays submitted!

Win or lose, it looks like talent-seeking Hollywood folks enjoy my work!

Just when I thought things were slowing back down, I am so awed and grateful for all the love and support from friends, family, and fans that keeps Another Life and my writing marching onward to bigger and better things. Thank you all!

Oh, yes, and as for the Agent story -- my script has been passed along from the Agent to a colleague who's considering working with me -- so keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Playing this Friday!

Just a few days away -- Another Life plays at the Big Bear Lake Film Festival this Friday, Sept. 16th at 12 noon at Village Theaters North (602 Pine Knot Avenue, Big Bear Lake, CA)!

I'm really looking forward to this festival -- and you should too! Here's why:

1) Named one of MovieMaker Magazine's Top 25 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival will host an exciting weekend jam-packed with gala parties, panels, showcases, and more -- just 2 hours out of Los Angeles!

You also might get a chance to meet veteran "that-guy" actor Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day, Memento), Oscar-winning Composer Michael Giacchino (Up, Ratatouille), and award-winning cinematographer John Bailey (Ground Hog Day, Mishima) at the Opening Night Gala!

Why believe me? Check out this cool Film Festival Trailer:



2) Another Life also screens with Twelve, a romantic drama about a successful real estate agent who, against all logic and advice, travels to Italy to find the one girl he could never let go... his first love. Check out the website here and trailer below:



3) Another Life also screens with The Right Turn, a coming of age comedy about the trials of dating. An insecure high school boy takes a girl out on a date and couldn't seal the deal with a kiss. Frustrated, he powers on the GPS which mysteriously does more than guide him home. Check out the website here and trailer below:



4) Another Life also screens with Hero, a touching drama about a 12-year-old girl raised by an alcoholic mother in a poor neighborhood who loses everything, asking a question: "Will there be a hero when you need one?" Check out the website and trailer here.

5) Another Life also screens with The Death of Toys, a comedy about ten year-old Seth who wants to give up his toys, but his work-numbed mother Lily needs the spark of their playtime more than he does. Her insistence that he keep the toys leads to some unexpected places. Check out the website here.

Five reasons to go. Three days away. Just one ticket to buy...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Top 10 Reasons To Go

Another Life screens at the Big Bear Lake Film Festival in 11 days on Friday, September 16th at 12 noon at the Village Theaters North in Big Bear Lake, CA.

This is a fun but decisive moment in our festival circuit -- it might very well be our last festival! -- so please come out and support!

Wait... Why should you go?

Let me tell you The Top 10 Reasons:

1) Named one of MovieMaker Magazine's Top 25 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee, the Big Bear Lake International Film Festival will host an exciting weekend jam-packed with gala parties, panels, showcases, and more -- just 2 hours out of Los Angeles!

2) The Media Tells You To:
the Inland Empire has this to say about Another Life.

3) Another Life was called "one of the best independent short films" by Hollywire.

4) Another Life won the Gold for Best Dramatic Original Short at the Houston International Film Festival and the Award of Merit at the Accolade Competition.

5) Another Life must be well-written since I recently made the Second-Round at the Austin Screenwriting Competition, Quarter-Finalist at the Big Bear Lake Screenwriting Competition, Semi-Finalist at the Page International Screenwriting Awards (ongoing).

6) Another Life also screens with Twelve, a romantic drama about a successful real estate agent who, against all logic and advice, travels to Italy to find the one girl he could never let go... his first love. Check out the website here and trailer below:



7) Another Life also screens with The Right Turn, a coming of age comedy about the trials of dating. An insecure high school boy takes a girl out on a date and couldn't seal the deal with a kiss. Frustrated, he powers on the GPS which mysteriously does more than guide him home. Check out the website here and trailer below:



8) Another Life also screens with Hero, a touching drama about a 12-year-old girl raised by an alcoholic mother in a poor neighborhood who loses everything, asking a question: "Will there be a hero when you need one?" Check out the website and trailer here.

9) Another Life also screens with The Death of Toys, a comedy about ten year-old Seth who wants to give up his toys, but his work-numbed mother Lily needs the spark of their playtime more than he does. Her insistence that he keep the toys leads to some unexpected places. Check out the website here.

10) Last but not least, if you stick around after the screening for Another Life, you might get a chance to meet veteran "that-guy" actor Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day, Memento), Oscar-winning Composer Michael Giacchino (Up, Ratatouille), and award-winning cinematographer John Bailey (Ground Hog Day, Mishima) at the Opening Night Gala!

Seriously, how can you miss out on all this good stuff in just one day?

Your tickets are waiting for you...