What are you waiting for?

Yes, this could be yours (megaphone optional)

As much as I wax poetic about decades gone by, I’m incredibly glad I live in the Digital Age. You probably are too.  How else would you be reading this if it weren’t for the Internet?

Modern technology has made it possible for a screenwriter to not have to live in Los Angeles in order to have a career. Sure, you may have to to go there for meetings, but you can literally write anywhere you want.  And you can do even more than that.

Another benefit has become that you can get people to notice you and your work via an online presence, or as my incredibly-talented marketing-savvy wife would say, “create your own brand”.  You think you’ve got what it takes?  Let’s see it in action.  Put it out there for the world to see. Cliched as it sounds, the possibilities really are endless.

Most likely you’re reading this on a computer that has an abundance of tools at your disposal to produce your own material. You can make something in any number of forms – a short, a web series, etc.  You can post it on YouTube, submit it to Funny or Die, even use it as a work sample or calling card.

If people like it, they’ll let you know.  If that’s the case, chances are they’ll also want to see what else you’ve got.  Why not build up your own arsenal of product?

Undergoing a project like this also gives you something else a lot of people may not have: experience. You think it’s easy to put together a 15-minute film?  Getting the story done is just the beginning. Now you’ve got a zillion other things to worry about. Do you have the necessary equipment?  Where are you going to film?  Can you find the right actors?  Do you need more light?  The list feels endless, but the upside is that you will know what it’s like to be more than ‘just a writer’.

Don’t worry if your first efforts aren’t high-quality. Like the first draft of a script, most likely it will suck. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and more often than not, you’ll learn from your mistakes. Nobody does a phenomenal job their first time out. Like every other skill, the more you do it, the better you’ll get and the easier it will get.

The Internet makes for an incredibly even playing field, but it’s up to you to put yourself into the game.

Counterattacking those 3 dreaded words

Writing the script was easy compared to getting past this

“No unsolicited submissions.”

Just thinking about them fills me with dread. Yet another obstacle to conquer.

Granted, this phrase was practically everywhere in the HCD section on production companies (the library didn’t have the Representation book). Figure maybe 1 out of every 150-175 companies were open to receiving, so it’s a safe bet they’re constantly getting bombarded with submissions. It’s enough to make a lesser writer throw up their arms and say “This is never going to work!”  I’ll still follow through with that select few and see if anything happens, but this is no time to throw a pity party.

The underlying theme for this stage has become “There HAS to be a way,” and thanks to living in the digital age, the most powerful tool in my arsenal is literally at my fingertips. And yours too.

Chances are you can find what you seek online if you’re willing to work at it.  I’ve been scouring websites, forums, etc. for suggestions about where to post my script for potential interested parties. There’ve been a few that seem to have potential. Some charge a small fee, some are free. It’s up to you to decide which works best for your needs. You might be hesitant to spend a couple of bucks, but isn’t it worth it if it gets you that much closer to reaching that goal?

Sure, this whole process is a crapshoot, but I’ve got nothing to lose and would rather keep plugging away than give up.

But I’m also confident about the quality of my script and am equally confident there’s somebody out there who will like it enough to want to do something about it. In the meantime, I’ll keep on doing what I’ve been doing – writing, researching and hoping for the best.

Patience and meticulousness required

Obviously, a lot of effort went into creating this. See how it paid off?

You think writing a screenplay is hard? Well, it is. But that’s just the first step of the process.  Getting it out there is an even harder hill to climb.

I’ve got a what I consider to be pretty good query letter put together, but will utilize a little more professional feedback to give it that extra ‘oomph’. While consulting various forums, websites and the like, the general consensus is as follows: show the strength of your writing ability with a finely-crafted logline, a minimal amount of words about you and a maximum amount of professionalism.  This thing has to make somebody stop in their tracks and immediately think, “I HAVE to read this script!”

That’s the first part of what I’ve been working on.  The second part is proving to be quite the challenge: who to send this letter to.

I’m taking the scientific approach to this and doing my homework to find out who would be the most receptive to reading my script. Since it falls into the fantasy-adventure genre, I don’t want to look like an amateur and approach a place that does something completely different, such as horror or indie drama. It makes me look bad and wastes their time. Again – maximum amount of professionalism.

Digging through thousands of listings of agents, managers and production companies is proving to be the biggest hurdle. The last time I did this, I had the benefit of using the Hollywood Creative and Representation Directories, but I’m not sure if the publisher is still around. It may be time for another trip to the always-helpful public library and see if the latest editions are available.

Part of my brain is saying “Quit stalling and get moving! There’s no time to lose!” Then the rational part kicks in and says, “Would you rather get it done fast or professionally?”

I’ll take option number two.

Movie of the Moment – THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I’ll write about this next time, but for now – not as good as THE DARK KNIGHT, but still pretty enjoyable.

Ambition, expectations and that sort of thing

Great satisfaction comes from checking off each item

I want to write the next STAR WARS.

By which I mean I want to write an entertaining epic that appeals to all ages and results in an appreciation that lasts much longer than anyone anticipated. 35 years later and still going strong? Incredible!

I want to write the next RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

By which I mean I want to write a thrilling adventure that grabs you from the start, never lets go and takes you on the cinematic equivalent of the most intense roller coaster ride ever.

I want to write the next BACK TO THE FUTURE.

By which I mean I want to write a smart comedy that deftly handles one of the most complicated subjects out there, has a perfectly bulletproof script and is a textbook example of setup and payoff.

What else do these films have in common?  Sure, each was a box office smash. That would be nice too. High-quality sequels? Also a plus. But it all comes down to an original story that really entertains. Something the movie-going public hasn’t seen before and will remember long after they leave the theatre.

Difficult? Sure.

Impossible? Not necessarily.

Worth pursuing? Absolutely.

Two roads, one objective

I have to go this way AND that way

What an odd sensation.

Part of me is focusing on beginning the post-script-is-done phase. Composing a kickass query letter. Researching which agents and/or managers would be most receptive to reading my script.  Looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish.

The other part is all about starting work on the next script. Even though most of the initial outline is finished, it still feels like the proverbial blank slate, bursting with potential. Weird as it may sound, I’m really excited about this. I mentally visualize how the story plays out via scenes and sequences, and if I can make it read as cool as it looks in my head, then this thing is going to be all kinds of awesome.

You always hear “write what you know”, but how often do you hear “write what you love”? I’m crazy for a good western and am equally gaga over a solid adventure, so why not take my favorite parts of both and put ’em together in an original, sprawling epic that clocks in at around 2 hours?

That’s the plan for this script. I haven’t been very good about meeting self-imposed deadlines, so I won’t set anything definite. But I’m a lot further along in terms of development now than I have been with previous scripts, and my writing skills feel stronger, so I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to have a solid draft relatively soon.

As is usually the case, there will be days where my mood/outlook is decidedly negative, so I’m just going to sit back for a moment, take a deep breath and enjoy this feeling of sheer euphoria while it lasts.