It’s been over a week since my last blog. I would be lying if I said the break wasn’t nice. I want to thank everyone for allowing me to take some time off. I know I didn’t give you a fair warning before stopping. Allow me to apologize again.
I was hoping to provide a short update on what I have been doing. To put it simply, I have been writing up a storm. I’m back on schedule and finished a new draft of my American politics script. I’m feeling good, like this guy:
So I feel like I left you guys out to dry with my last blog. No warning or anyway to anticipate that I was slowing down on the number of posts. I’m sorry! Here is a gift to give you something to read while I’m gone: two of my favourite screenwriting blogs.
Having this extensive list (see what I did there?) of contacts gives The Black List some incredible insight into why certain scripts are made into films. Scott Myers shares those details in his blog posts. So if you are looking to sell your script and the business side of Hollywood this blog is for you.
If the first blog was all about the business of screenwriting, Flying Wrestler specializes in helping you craft the perfect script. It’s written by a Emmy and Golden Globe award winner, so you can be assured that he knows his stuff. All his posts are easy reads, mostly consisting of lists (like this one).
It’s true. There is only so many hours in the day, making it difficult to write both my blog posts and scripts. So I need to make a decision. Just like my decision to burn my hammer pants, this choice was easy: I need to spend more time writing screenplays. That means I need to slow down on the blog posts.
Don’t worry! Posts will still be posted, but they are just going to come less frequently. Hopefully, this change in pace will refresh my blog and make the content better than ever.
So this isn’t goodbye, but farewell for now. I’ll see you all later.
Today’s been a tough week. I thought I be able to write more, but something unexpected happened. Before I get into the gory details, let me set the mood with some context.
Whenever possible, I like working with another writer because we can bounce ideas off each other and come up with more creative solutions. I had a great relationship with one writing partner. Our skills complimented each other well, leading to some fantastic scripts that we even sold! This was us:
As the title suggests, the dam got demolished. We decided to stop working together on Tuesday. We came to this decision for a couple of reasons. Most notably, our work just didn’t feel fresh anymore. At the start of our relationship, we would have new and creative ideas almost everyday. It was a real adventure writing together.
Then over time those ideas became less frequent. Our work became safe, predictable and I can’t believe I’m saying this, boring.
So I had to make a change. Like a Band-Aid, I just had to rip it off and end our working relationship. However, people don’t tell you that it’s going to be so hard, which I guess is also like ripping off a Band-Aid.
“So I had to make a change. Like a band-aid, I just had to rip it off and end our working relationship. However, people don’t tell you that it’s going to be so hard, which I guess is also like ripping off a band-aid. “
From Tuesday onward I haven’t been able to write anything. Writer’s block is beating me down like this:
When convenient, I’m a man of my word. This is why I’m following-up from an earlier blog to share my experience using my new international approach to screenwriting. Here is how I failed.
I began by adapting my American politics script because the producer liked the overall concept. So instead of the protagonist being a U.S. Governor they are now the American Ambassador to the United Nations. It felt like the perfect change because the political beats of the story remain intact, but I can include Chinese characters.
After a few minutes of editing, my change felt more like I ate a month old sandwich – it seemed smart at first, but I soon realized I just made a terrible mistake. The problem was that I know nothing about the United Nations. This is my only exposure (shout out to Boutros Boutros Boutros Boutros Boutros Boutros Ghali):
So there is no way I could accurately capture the complexity of international affairs, especially if Disney Land finally gets statehood because Disney is an aggressive litigator and I can’t afford the lawsuit. All joking aside, not understanding the United Nations was a huge problem because it made my work feel disingenuous.
This was the entire problem with adapting my writing style. I have lived my entire life in North America. This has exposed me to limited life experiences, which makes it difficult for me to create relatable content for an international audience.
“I have lived my entire life in North America. This has exposed me to limited life experiences, which makes it difficult for me to create relatable content for an international audience.”
Most of my exposure to the outside world is from movies and TV. China to me is Jackie Chan movies. This is so terrible because Jackie Chan isn’t even Chinese! He is from Hong Kong. How I felt when I learned that:
As you can see, I need more exposure to the outside world. Until I booked my next trip to Shanghai, I’m going to stick to writing what I know: divisive American Politics and well-timed slapstick falls.
I just met with a producer! A small fry, but at least he’s on the menu. Our meeting was going well. He bought me lunch, which makes me happy because I didn’t have to suffer through a leftover stew. Then we got to my scripts.
He rejected most of my pitches, but he’s ears perked up about one of my House of Cards inspired stories. I gave him an beat sheet (free tip: I like to keep them on hand to help seal a deal). He looked through it quickly and said it was really good!
He gave the script one more read and passed on it. Shocked, I asked why his opinion changed. He told me the script lacked “international appeal” because it was set in America, had American characters and was about American politics.
I’ve been rejected enough times, but that’s a new excuse. It goes against my entire writing philosophy of putting story-first and trying to make the best movie. Now my execution of this philosophy may be as flawed as a wrestler (not nicknamed “The Rock”) trying to transition into movies, but my intentions are always pure.
So Hollywood has to release movies in China. Simple enough, right? Come on, you already know the answer. It’s not simple at all because the Chinese government restricts the number of foreign films allowed in the country. You better please the Chinese government if you want access to their market. Vox has a good explanation of how to do exactly that:
Not knowing this information burned me before, but now it is an opportunity to make my scripts more enticing to buyers. Moving forward, I’m going to include international and Chinese elements in all my scripts.
Need a location in my next action film? Shanghai it is! Need a foreign power as an enemy? The Netherlands haven’t done much for America lately. Hopefully these changes can help give me a leg up to sell my art in the business known as Hollywood.
I was out with some friends over the weekend. After a few drinks, we decided to make our way to a karaoke bar.
Inebriated enough to be confident in my singing skills, I proudly snatched the mic right away. As any budding American Idol would do, I picked the song of the summer: Can’t Stop that Feeling by Justin “ramen hair” Timberlake. As I belted out the lyrics, I thought I sounded pretty good – almost at the same level of JT. In reality, I sounded more like him:
I can’t sing. I’m tone-deaf. My career as a pop singer turned movie star will probably never happen. I made this realization after my friends banned me from singing.
Luckily, I have writing, I thought as I stumbled home from karaoke. Inspired, I wrote a terrifying scene where the recently revealed antagonist hunts the protagonist.
I awoke the next morning eager to read my work. I wish I didn’t because the scene was awful. The tone was completely off. My dialogue, for instance, did not match the feel of the scene. One line was: “Here’s Pedro!” You read that right. I just included a goofy parody of the Shining in my tense, nail-biting scene.
Tone or “feeling of the scene” is like the present you get your in-laws – it is almost impossible to get right, but brilliant when you do. I struggle with the tone every time I write.
I try not to keep my script monotone because that’s boring. At the same time, extreme shifts in tone cause unexpected hilarious “here’s Pedro” moments. It’s a balancing act and I am not graceful. I have so much respect (and jealously) for writers who can execute proper tone. They are the masters and I am this guy:
I’ve found that the only way to get tone right is to have someone else read your work. I then ask how the scene made them feel and hope it matches my desired tone. Spoiler: it often doesn’t. In those moments, I feel tone-deaf…again.
A little different blog today. Taking a break from the screenplay stories to share a thought about last night’s show.
Like many people, I spent Sunday evening watching (and live-tweeting #selfplug) the Oscars. 95% of it was a pretty standard, boring show. Then Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway stepped onto the stage to deliver the award of the evening, Best Picture.
After what we thought was some showmanship by Beatty, La La Land was announced as the winner! The La La Land crew and cast stormed the stage to accept their award. They were ecstatic! They were celebrating! Then this happened:
Whoops! Moonlight was actually the winner of Best Picture and #OscarFail was born. This moment was awkward, shocking and really sucks for La La Land if you know the campaigning process for the Oscars.
Let me explain. In theory, Best Picture should go to the best movie of the year. However, this isn’t the case because it is all done by voting and people can be swayed and wooed.
This is why Oscar campaigning is so important. To win an Oscar, a film’s producer and studio must run ads, set up free screenings and hold fancy parties, lunches, brunches and dinners. Their goal is to get their film seen and loved by Academy voters. The video below does a great job explaining the campaigning process:
As the video mentioned, Oscar campaigns are expensive. The 2017 Oscar campaigns cost between $3 to $10 million. That’s more than the budget for Moonlight ($1.5 million)! They’re also a grueling process, lasting up to a year because studios want to make sure their film is in the best position to take home the gold.
Clearly, Oscar campaigning is insane. So imagine being the team behind La La Land. You’ve spent all that time and money trying to raise your film above the competition. Then for one fleeting moment your dream became a reality. You succeeded! Then, well, this moment again:
In context, this moment really stings for La La Land, eh?
As someone who’s fashion-sense never left hammer pants, I don’t feel well-suited (gotta love puns) to comment on the red carpet. With that said, I do know movies! So expect witty banter, intrigue and shock as the actual award ceremony unfolds.
Feeling inspired, I booted up my almost decade old MacBook Pro and opened my screenplay software of choice, Final Draft. I was then off to the races. One scene, two scenes, three scenes done in an hour and a half! I was in the zone and flying through my script.
Then boop. My laptop shut off. I quickly pushed the on-button and my computer slowly rebooted. I felt as nervous as those people in the audience during the original Paranormal Activity trailer:
Clearly, I was too busy writing that I forgot to hit save. I guess this is the risk we take with technology. It can always fail us.
However, I’m not going to stop using a computer or Final Draft to write my scripts. Screenwriting is more than what you write, it’s how your write it. There is specific formatting that you must follow if you want your work to be sold.
“Screenwriting is more than what you write, it’s how your write it. There is specific formatting that you must follow if you want your work to be sold.”
In all honesty, it would difficult to create this formatting without specific software. So I need Final Draft, Celtx or some other screenwriting program. The computer though, maybe it’s time for a new one.