Dream big, work small-ish

Small beginnings can have big endings
Small beginnings can result in big endings

Last week, I had the good fortune of having a “getting to know you” lunch with a working writer I’d connected with via Done Deal Pro.

We discussed numerous things, almost of all which were about our writing. Hearing about another writer’s experiences never gets old, especially one that’s had some success.

As our time started to wrap up, he offered to read one of my scripts. “But,” he added, “don’t send me any big-budget tentpoles. There are six people who could actually make those happen, and I don’t know any of them. On the other hand, there are about three thousand who can work with a small, low-budget script, and I know a lot of them.”

As much as I wanted to send him one of those big-budget tentpoles, I decided it was better to go with an older one that would be considered small budget and only has a few locations. (Since it was an older script, I added that my skills have improved since then)

Another point he made was that there are a lot of writing assignments available (TV movies, small indie films, etc), and a small script could show you’ve got the chops to handle this kind of work. He admitted it may not be the most glamorous, but I totally understood when he talked about the thrill in seeing his name with a “Written By” credit on TV.

As much as I enjoy writing the stuff I do, just about all of it does fall into the big-budget tentpole category.  I’m not an established writer, which makes it that much harder to move forward with it. Having a manager helps, but it’s still an uphill climb.

It’s smart to take this kind of realistic approach. You may love working on that effects-heavy epic extravaganza, but don’t count out the potential of that low-key dramedy you haven’t looked at in years. A little touch-up work may be all it needs.

It never hurts to have more scripts in your arsenal of material, and a smaller one may end up being the one that gets things started.

The writing gods are testing me. Again.

I got an email from the person who had me ‘rewrite’ their script last month.

They want to know if I could look at the latest draft and ‘make any necessary changes,’ but ‘without drastically changing the direction of the story.’

Now, I’m always up for a good project, but the last I saw, this script really needed a lot of work.  Basically, a page one rewrite was in order.

That was a month ago, so I don’t know how much progress, if any, has been made on subsequent drafts. I’m happy to help out, but if I see that none of my suggestions have been implemented, I may have to be a little more harsh in my critiquing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting I’m the end-all and be-all when it comes to screenwriting.  I just think I have a pretty firm grasp on the basics, or at least a little more than some.

Such as knowing who the main character is supposed to be.  Things like that.

Just to be on the safe side, I sent them the plot point breakdown sheet I always use. Hopefully they’ll apply it to their script with positive results.

It’ll be interesting to see how this works out.

The only downside to helping somebody else is less time for my own stuff.  I haven’t been able to do anything on DREAMSHIP in at least a week, maybe more, and it’s driving me crazy.

But I’m not scheduled to work any extra hours this week, which gives me some more time to work on their script and mine.  But I’m also in the process of lining up some freelance (non-script) writing projects, so that also takes away from working on my stuff.

Somehow, I will work my way through all of this and come out triumphant (and possibly well-compensated).  At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

No Movie of the Moment. I’ve been too frikkin’ busy.

So long, rules!

One of the first things I learned about screenwriting was when something had to happen.

Page 3 is statement of theme.  Page 10 is your inciting incident, and so on and so on.

I mention this because today was about reinforcing what I already have for the first act.  I opted to start with my thrilling opening sequence.  All I had written down was ‘rousing action sequence,’ which really doesn’t grab you.  So I jotted down some notes about what I wanted to happen and got to work.

After a few false starts, it started to come together.  I keep going back to RAIDERS, with Indy and Alfred Molina in the temple, followed by the escaping-the-natives/introducing-Belloq sequence.  So much info and detail about each character in a space of minutes. Incredible!  Could I pull off the same feat?  Maybe.

It’s a little different when your main character is a train engineer.  What can they do besides drive a train?  One of many things I had to figure out.  But then the mental reminder that this is still the first outline, so things will change down the line.  But for now, she can drive a train and is pretty good with a gun.

As I worked on ramping up the conflict, I couldn’t help but notice that this was growing well beyond the original 3-page limit I had set up.  It was reaching at least 6.  Possibly 7.  And all of that would really mess up having the inciting incident on page 10.  Yikes!

But the more I thought about it, the less it mattered.  I was trying to have a thrilling introduction to my main character (plus her sidekick), and if it went beyond 3 pages, then so be it.

I’m also trying to figure out how to end the whole sequence.  I have a pretty good idea of what it will be.  It’s working out the details that’s the hard part.

-Something somebody at the writing group said last week also struck a nerve, and I’m really glad I wrote it down:  What’s at stake if Lucy fails?

This has been bothering me ever since.  What WILL happen?

What I have now under the ‘what she wants’ label is: to catch the real thieves.  Which is okay, but seems like it should be bigger.  Something a lot of people can relate to.

Again, working out the details is pain in the butt.

No Movie of the Moment tonight, but we did watch the original DEATH RACE 2000 the other night.  Wow, was that cheesy.  Once you suspend disbelief about everything going on, there are some funny moments.  Unfortunately those were few and far between.

As K pointed out, it was more interesting during the race and less when they were off the road.  Interesting early performance from Stallone.

All things being equal, we may put the Jason Statham-starring one on our Netflix queue.  For purely academic curiosity, of course.

So much for that

The Bollywood project is now officially kaput.

I bear no malice towards the person who originally posted the listing, but I seriously question their thought process.

I’m not sure if they thought it was about the money, which it really wasn’t.

To me, the big problem was that this person wanted somebody to write a first draft, which they (them, not me) would then rewrite several times until it met with their approval.

Well, if that’s your plan, why not just write it yourself?  Wouldn’t that be easier?

I also had a big problem with this whole story thing.  All you’re working off of was a dinky one-paragraph description of the story, which is supposed to be changed into a 120-page/2-hour script.  Given time to develop a story, I suppose it’s possible, but it would really help if the writer knew something about Bollywood stories.

Which I don’t.

Which is why I kept asking for more of an outline, as well as the opportunity to meet with this person and find out exactly what was expected of me/the writer.

Neither happened.

I can’t help but wonder how similar this could be to what happens in H’wood.  Except there you at least have a better understanding of genres, so piecing a story together wouldn’t seem so…insurmountable.

I wrote back saying I didn’t think I was a good fit for this, wished them luck and signed off.

So of course, this morning I’m checking out craigslist, and lo and behold, there’s the listing again!

120 pages in English, screen credit only.  But it was posted 15 minutes BEFORE I sent my ‘resignation’ email.  Hmmm.

Surprisingly, somebody responded to it on the listings page saying what a bullshit offer this was, and that screen credit was basically worthless.  Pretty harsh, but I’m inclined to agree.

Later this morning, the listing changed to offer a $300 payment, which the angry responder says doesn’t change anything.  They even threatened to keep trash-talking the poster.

I’m tempted to post something explaining some of the story behind all of this, but don’t know if I would come across as trying to get some kind of revenge, which I’m really not.

I understand what this person wants, but don’t understand why they can’t do it themselves.  If they have a story and are familiar with what’s expected in it, why look for outside help?

I’m also thinking I should take this opportunity to step back from responding to every comparable writing gig that pops up and restart working on my own stuff.

That would probably be a good idea.

I even toyed with jumping back into BABY LIKES JAZZ, spitting out a first draft and seeing what happens.

Could be fun.

Progress?

So I signed an agreement with this guy at a local small college who’s taking a film class.  To sum it up, I’ve got my work cut out for me.

To say this is going to be an uphill battle is putting it mildly.  There are so many things he needs to learn.  And this is just after an initial glance at his pages.

Oy.

And it appears that I may have the Bollywood gig after all.  The person is slow in responding to emails, but seems interested in working with me. Today they asked about meeting later in the week, and I said when I was available.  I’ve yet to hear back.  We’ll see how this works out.

So getting back to the title of this post…

On one hand, it’s fantastic that I’m working so much on script-based stuff.  It’s like I’m getting the experience I need to move ahead, career-wise.

But on the other hand, I’ve been quite lax about getting my own stuff done.  I don’t like that.  But the whole keeping busy thing kind of offsets it.

I know I’ll get my own stuff done, but doing all this other work feels necessary.

There’s also that little fantasy about the people I’m working with spreading word about me, which eventually leads to real screenwriting work.  This will be staying in the realm of fantasy for the time being.

And since I’m on the subject of writing gigs, I’m a little surprised but also not surprised that some of the others have yet to respond.  The webseries, for example.  I suppose I consider it just common courtesy to at least write back to people saying “job’s filled,” rather than just leaving it open-ended.

Then again, this is craigslist, which is not exactly a shining example of reliabiity and trustworthiness.

But for now, I’ll take what I can get and build from there.

Good things are coming.  And I’m going to be ready.

No Movie of the Moment tonight, but I did watch BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD earlier today.  It was good, even with Judd Winick writing it.  Different voices for all the characters, and some pretty good animation.  I gotta admit, there were some cool fanboy moments in it.  The next one – BATMAN/SUPERMAN: APOCALYPSE looks pretty cool.  That came out today, but I’ll probably see it in a month or two.

I can’t remember if I mentioned it, but last week I watched YOO-HOO MRS. GOLDBERG, a documentary about Gertrude Berg, the true first woman of radio and TV.  That was really good.