Mountain today, speedbump tomorrow

Yeah, it kind of felt like that
Yeah, it kind of felt like that

Well, the first round of Nicholl emails went out yesterday to inform everybody as to whether or not they were among the 372 (out of 7,251) who made it to the quarterfinals.

Regrettably, I wasn’t one of them. But there was a bit of a silver lining, too.

“A little bit of good news: your script scored well, placing among the top 15% of all entries. Possibly read three times, your script was appreciated by two readers. Its numerical placement was within script 728 to 1106 out of 7,251 entries.”

Not too shabby. Best of luck to those continuing on!

So things didn’t work out for me this time. It stings a little right now, but it ain’t the end of the world. I’m not about to stop trying and dive into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to drown my sorrows.

There was a great tweet from 2003 finalist Ronson Page later in the day: “Hollywood has many, many, many doors. Only one has to open.”  There are other contests, next year’s Nicholl, etc.

This script got me a manager, so I’ve got nothing to complain about.

If anything, it makes me want to work harder and write even more. Finish the first draft of the western spec. Jump into the rewrite of my mystery.

We’re writers. It’s what we do.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see my work advance in the Nicholl, but it’s not the only way in.

And I definitely plan on getting in.

Still undecided about the ice cream, though.

And how did YOU do with your Nicholl script(s)?

Diverting your attention in a forward manner

Look closely and you'll see a lot of potential out there
Can you see all the potential out there?

I’ve been in contact with a few writers over the past couple of days, and several have mentioned their anticipation/nervousness over the pending announcement of the quarterfinalists in this year’s Nicholl competition.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been occasionally thinking about it as well.

And it doesn’t help that the folks at the contest have been posting positive anonymous reader comments on Facebook over the past few months. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably read them and thought, “Whoa, that HAS to be my script!” or at least “This could be interpreted in such a way that it vaguely applies to my script.”

I think the number of entries this year was somewhere in the 7200 range, or probably higher. So maybe it is about your script, or maybe not.

The point is: There’s nothing you can do about it now. It’s out of your hands, and obsessing about it won’t do you any good.

Apart from just stepping away (or even actually going outside, where the fresh air will do you good), the best way you can counteract all this hand-wringing is to redirect your focus. Channel all that nervous energy into something more constructive, writing-wise.

How about getting your script ready for upcoming competitions? (Just Effing‘s absolutely final deadline is August 15th, TrackingB‘s late entry deadline is September 28th, and PAGE International will start accepting entries for 2014 in December.)

Or maybe take a closer look at those notes on your recent draft and see what you can do with them, or dig up that killer story concept you came up with a few months ago and fleshing it out a little.

It really doesn’t matter what you do, but it’s important you do something. Your work will be further along than it is now, which always works in your favor.

No matter what your plan is, set yourself up in your ideal writing conditions and have at it.

Devilishly handsome? Sure. But lovely…?

One Lovely Blog

You never know who’s reading your stuff.

Such is the case with this blog. All I know about my readers is how many there are and where they’re reading me, geographically speaking.

So it was a very pleasant surprise to get a message from The Novice Screenwriter: “I really enjoy your blog (and might I add your great sense of humor:) and I just wanted to let you know that I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog award.

In the words of the Cowardly Lion, “Shucks, folks. I’m speechless.”

One of my earlier bosses in radio stressed the importance of PIE. Not the world-changing, life-affirming dessert  (which, granted, is very important), but how your performance should always be Professional, Informative and Entertaining. That’s an acronym I’ve tried to adhere to in all forms of my media output, including this blog, which is why I’m flattered to get this kind of recognition.

And apparently there are rules/guidelines for this as well:

1. Add the “One Lovely Blog” image to your post
2. Share seven things about you
3. Pass the award on to seven nominees
4. Thank the person who nominated you
5. Inform the nominees by posting on their blogs

Thanks to Aarthi at The Novice Screenwriter for the nomination. When somebody tells me they heard me doing traffic on the radio, I always say “It’s nice to know somebody’s listening.” So in this case, it’s nice to know somebody’s reading.

Seven Facts you may or may not know about me:
-I’m the youngest of 5 in a typical Jewish-American family. And by “typical”, I mean there’s a doctor, a lawyer, and the one in showbiz.

-I was born and raised in the great state of New Jersey. The southern half, where there are no accents.

-My wife and I saw HEATHERS on our first date. We’ve been together ever since.

-I really enjoy cooking and baking. One of my specialties is pecan pie from scratch – crust and everything. A friend with strong roots in Georgia was practically orgasmic over it, which must mean something.

-I like to run half-marathons, averaging about 4 a year. My pace is around 9 minutes a mile, with the goal to someday break the 1:55 time limit. The idea of doing a full marathon is intriguing, yet very intimidating.

-I collect comic books, but have never attended Comic-Con in San Diego. Someday I will. In fact, the dream is to be there while The Movie I Wrote is being promoted (with a panel in Hall H and everything!).

-I didn’t go to school for screenwriting. Everything I’ve learned comes from reading books and scripts, watching and studying movies, attending a handful of seminars, and most of all, writing and rewriting.

Here are the seven blogs I heartily recommend:
My Blank Page – good nuts and bolts advice from a working screenwriter
Just Effing Entertain Me – practical advice for writers and a high-profile script competition (hurry! final deadline is Aug 15)
Sex in a Sub – an extremely prolific writer plus fantastic analysis of Hitchcock films
Sprinting to Fade Out – great info for aspiring writers (regrettably on hold for now, but worth checking the archives)
News from ME – a wide variety of topics from a veteran writer-director who works in TV, cartoons and comics
Scott Tipton’s Comics 101 – got a question about comics? More info than you could possibly imagine, especially if you’re a fan of ROM: SPACE KNIGHT
Comedy Film Nerds – actually a podcast about movies, but extremely hilarious, entertaining, informative and very NSFW

I have no idea if there’s an actual award connected with this, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m just happy to be nominated, and will practice my “forced smile to mask my internal pain” look just in case it’s not my name if a winner is ever announced.

The value of face-to-face time

Coffee makes for a good 3rd part of this equation
Coffee makes for a good 3rd part of this equation

A few weeks ago, I’d read a post on Done Deal Pro from a writer who’d gone to Los Angeles to attend a Writers Guild function, but was now back home in the Bay Area.

Since I’m always looking to expand my network of fellow writers, especially ones that could be considered local, I contacted him and asked if he’d be interested in meeting.

Fortunately, he was. Coffee at the Ferry Building.

Since most of this summer has involved V being at work with me, she and I worked our way from my office to our designated meeting place.

I handed her my phone so she could play video games while Justin Sloan and I sat down to talk.

We exchanged backgrounds and career developments. He was especially intrigued about my results using the Black List.

Unfortunately, Justin had to get back to work so we had to cut things short, but he asked if he could read my script, and I offered to give feedback on his.  He also asked if he could send me some questions for his blog Bay Area Screenwriters. You can read those here, and I’ve added a link to it over on the blogroll.

It was great not only talking about writing, but also discussing the assorted experiences we’ve each had in relation to writing. Contests, writing groups, etc.

This is one of those experiences that can’t be duplicated via an online forum or instant messaging. Having an actual conversation with someone will hopefully be fulfilling for both parties.

So send those emails, set up those coffee chats, get out there and talk to people.

-Movie of the Moment: PACIFIC RIM (2013). What happened? This was supposed to be the big hit of the summer. No such luck. Instead, we got great special effects weighed down with forgettable characters and horrible dialogue. (Can’t people come up with something better than “Let’s do this!”?)

I will give del Toro and Beacham credit for coming up with an original story, but feel bad it was so poorly executed. There was no way this could lived up to all the hype. Scott Pilgrim, anyone?

Some notable disappointments: the Russian and Chinese pilots/robots were treated as throwaway characters, and were dispatched with way too quickly.
-the Australian guy with a huge chip on his shoulder seemed straight out of a studio note. “This guy should be a real asshole, but give him a dog so he’s semi-likeable.”
-the trailers featured most of the robot-monster action, leaving little to surprise us during the actual movie.

-THE LAST STARFIGHTER (1984). Hadn’t seen this in years.  Also watched it with V because I thought she might like it – she did. There are elements similar to DREAMSHIP. Not exactly the same, but definitely there.

The story by itself still holds up, even though the rest feels a little clunky, and Robert Preston’s fast-talking Harold Hill-type character always brightens up whatever scene he’s in.

Watching this on an HD screen makes it that much more obvious you’re looking at a film set, and the special effects, cutting-edge at the time, seem quaintly dated.

Getting around the mental roadblock

This might take some figuring out

Wouldn’t you know it? There I am, being all productive and cranking out pages, when I suddenly decide “There’s got to be a better/shorter way to do this sequence,” and out it goes.

All I need to do now is compress the purpose of that sequence into one, maybe two scenes, and my machine-like output can continue.

Ah, if it were only that easy.  Arm-in-arm with Elvis, my creativeness has apparently left the building.

Sucks, doesn’t it?

I don’t hate writer’s block. I loathe it. I despise it.  My dislike for it burns with the intensity of a thousand suns all on the verge going supernova. The frustration of wanting to write something, but not being able to.

If there was a valuable ceramic piece within my reach, it would definitely be flung at the opposite wall.

And to make things worse, I know how this part starts and ends; it’s all the stuff that happens in the middle that’s giving me so much trouble.

But there’s not much to be accomplished with all this bitching, moaning and overall kvetching.

This requires taking a step back, a few deep breaths, patience and clear-headedness.  I’ve worked my way through this type of situation before (sometimes even with better-than-expected results), and hopefully this time will not be an exception.

But I still don’t like when this happens.

-Movie of the Moment – ffolkes (aka NORTH SEA HIJACK) (1979). A tight, compact thriller reminiscent of DIE HARD, even though this one came almost a decade earlier, and the main character (portrayed by having-a-ball Roger Moore) is a misogynistic, sociopathic cat-loving jerk who of course is the best at what he does, which is training commandos.

I vaguely remember seeing this on TV way back when and obviously it stuck with me. When I saw that it was on Netflix streaming, I made a point of rewatching it to see if it held up.

Apart from some cheesy guitar riffs here and there, absolutely. Nothing too fancy and maybe a little predictable at times, but still smart, gripping and intense. With a running time of 1:48, this thing really moves.

A sure sign of the times – this was rated PG! I honestly thought it would have been an R (since PG-13 wasn’t around yet). A shocking revelation at first, but there’s not that much actual violence in it; it’s the subject matter that makes the difference. Can you imagine a movie about terrorists holding a multi-billion-dollar oil platform hostage being released now with a PG rating?


Definitely worth seeing.