Knew this wasn’t going to be easy

wile e coyote

Many, many years ago, while attending the Screenwriting Expo in the City of Angels, one of the seminars I went to featured an “industry professional” as a speaker. I put that term in quotes because I couldn’t tell you who it was or what they did. Maybe a writer-producer or something like that. It was good enough for the folks running the Expo.

There were probably 20 or 25 of us in the audience. This guy walked to the front of the room, and the first thing he said was, if you’ll pardon my paraphrasing:

“I don’t know who any of you are, how experienced you are, or how may scripts you’ve written, but I can guarantee that just about all of you will fail at this.”

Well, ain’t that an encouraging lead-in. Everything he said after that is pretty much a blur, because I found it to be…

Shocking? Most definitely.

Disheartening? Pretty much.

Accurate? Maybe. But he was speaking from his experience. No doubt he’d seen an endless stream of writers come through, give it their all, and despite their efforts, subsequently crash and burn.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that this was well before you could make a movie with your phone and a laptop. Resources and DIY filmmaking opportunities were much more limited than they are now.

His comments really struck a nerve. Is this what I, along with everybody else in the room, should think? Were we just wasting our time? Were our chances THAT small? Should we just give up and go home?

I couldn’t speak for anybody else, but I had a little more faith in myself than he did.

Like I said, I forgot everything after his opening – the sooner I got him out of my head the better – and gradually replaced it with a few thoughts of my own:

-Yes, this is a HUGE mountain to climb, let alone get to the top. Is that intimidating? Hell yes. Is it going to stop me from trying? Hell no. Much as it sucks, it’s better to try and fail than to give up entirely, so I’ll keep trying. As long as it takes.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to do so: I really like doing this, and even though I’ve endured my fair share of disappointments, I keep going – because I like the process of writing.

It’s taken me a long time to develop my skills just to get to this level, and I know there’s  room to keep improving. The challenge to myself and my writing abilities is one most welcome.

-Do I have a chance of eventually being able to call myself a professional writer? Hard to say. Some might say I already am, but that might be an individual matter of perspective. For me, until I see my name onscreen accompanied by “Story By…” or “Screenplay By…”, it doesn’t apply. my efforts will continue undaunted, unabated and undeterred.

Count me among the writers who are content to just be working. Sure, a huge paycheck would be great, but I’m also cool with writing a low-budget horror, or taking on an assignment, or doing an uncredited rewrite. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE WORK. The more I get to do it, the more I’ll enjoy it.

-For a long time, it was always “I need to find that somebody who says ‘yes’; somebody to open that door for me”, and to a certain extent, that still rings true. Getting representation, meeting with REAL industry people, and so forth.

But in the meantime, there’s absolutely nothing stopping me from making my own stuff. For the past few months, I’ve been dabbling with writing short scripts. Five to 10 pages, a handful of characters, one to two locations. Something that presents not only my writing skills, but also that I know how to tell a story in the most visual way possible.

Added bonus – a ridiculously short production time. It could be made over a few days (or a long weekend) with a minimal crew.

Feedback and notes from writing colleagues who’ve also made their own short films have been helpful and encouraging.

All of this, of course, will be a little more feasible once society slowly returns to “normal”. Until then, I’ve got plenty of time to prepare. Why not start creating our own opportunities?

-As much as I dream about all of these great things happening, I’m also a realist. I know that the journey to achieve this kind of success is a very, very long and tortuous one. Disappointment abounds.

I’ve no intention of giving up, no matter how frustrating things get. And there will be A LOT of frustration.

This is what I want to do, and despite all the negatives, I still enjoy doing it.

Thus the soldiering forward continues. Shoulder to the grindstone and all that…

A treasure trove of creative riches

smaug gif

With sheltering-in-place still a thing, this is a great opportunity to discover and enjoy some amazing works across a wide spectrum of mediums.

Settle in and take a look. There’s a lot to choose from today.

Added bonus – several of the featured creators have also been interviewed on this very blog, so a link to each of their Q&As is also provided.

Enjoy!

Marilyn Anderson
How To Live Like A Millionaire When You’re A Million Short – book
https://www.amazon.com/Live-MILLIONAIRE-Youre-Million-Short-ebook/dp/B06XWZFNRY/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8&fbclid=IwAR3GqZdJFtV8ftEqH6V3pc2NxpxJCS7TwWZSHaSPOS4P8TnlRF-jMGSh7so
AND
How To Beat A Bully – film
https://www.amazon.com/How-Beat-Bully-Pearce-Joza/dp/B016DMY16M?fbclid=IwAR0ery6kikBDlZDwfGXV62WGIVIc05lkAcq-1T0c6DiSwLaysHia9n5RhqQ

Steve Altes
Geeks & Greeks – graphic novel
https://www.amazon.com/Geeks-Greeks-Steve-Altes/dp/0996350446/?fbclid=IwAR2kgIue5ev9gE86QyOsUdTH6bIjZ07JyQpV2mnYEBF8tJT0N41jptpzdEU

Tracee Beebe
The Rise & Shine Show – motivational live video feed
https://www.facebook.com/RiseShineMorningShow/?hc_location=ufi

Q & A with Tracee Beebe

Gregory Blair
The Ritual (Part 1) – book
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005955G1Y?fbclid=IwAR0stm9XLgcs_m6yfHJVNnSZ2lskN3ICM8yAqTbXYuI7apD2NSlHHJz1pUg

Lois Buchter
Gerti’s War: A Journal of Life Inside the Wehrmacht – book
https://www.amazon.com/Gertis-War-Journal-Inside-Wehrmacht/dp/0997510846/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=gerti%27s%20war&qid=1590531435&sr=8-1&fbclid=IwAR2wGp8aRp4s2ZSPbiJya7WLpIb1H0nr3Cdze50a9kbADgxhpae7sFxnnMw

Geoffrey Calhoun
The Guide For Every Screenwriter: From Synopsis to Subplots: The Secrets of Screenwriting Revealed
https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Every-Screenwriter-Synopsis-Screenwriting-ebook/dp/B07R92L1N1/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=geoffrey+calhoun&qid=1590599973&sr=8-1

Q & A with Geoffrey Calhoun and one about the book

Howard Casner
The Starving Artists and Other Stories: Nine stories of sci-fi and the supernatural – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ?fbclid=IwAR1LKXLOuZ61r0wB2vl3N2RGO1qg4j4-CUTjJ_Pr3pUvaIiQNzIJbEHrkP4
AND
The Five Corporations And One True Church – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF?fbclid=IwAR1v1XvJ6ZeVv79i66EtG6lNOfutzAgMY_LkYM5OkZCQkGk3zPpjofuq3Hs

Q & A with Howard Casner

Steve Cleary
ManHeat – microbudget webseries
A screenwriter takes his filmmaking career into his own hands and started a microseries about action film cliches that’s seen a steady increase in production values
https://www.facebook.com/storbangfanpage/playlist/2385554318362169/

Brian Fitzpatrick
Mechcraft – YA book
Sci-fi nanotech thriller – “The Matrix meets Harry Potter”
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079HTG6C6?fbclid=IwAR1ElBGEPvlJ8y_s9GQaO501D9WTlUoENm8Nwews3zW0XXMo5IiLTY4mJR0

Clint Ford
Cope – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/149433111X/ref=cm_sw_r_em_apa_i_7deZEbAMMETKD?fbclid=IwAR3_0IrhUFAarQyE1h9gdJF6jg97J4iS2-Urrwip1Z-nsDmh5jOxOnQWk7Y

Jimmy George, Jamie Nash & Bob Rose
Writers/Blockbusters – screenwriting podcast
Examining blockbuster films through the lens of writing
https://thundergrunt.com/category/writersblockbusters/

Q & A with Jimmy George

Randy Gordon-Gaticahttps://www.instagram.com/rggatica/
The Magic Bomb – film
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/themagicbomb

Jay Harez
Collection of horror and thriller books
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jayharez?fbclid=IwAR0yuD_-jYBdbe01lUOaR2Icm28fJk8IVIHbrXxvqYIazgTgkT1PBMBSVsE

Phil Hawkins
Star Wars: Origins – short film
A critically acclaimed fanfilm that combines the worlds of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. The saga we know, the origins we don’t.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVSox0qApO4&feature=youtu.be

Jason Henderson
Young Captain Nemo book series
Jason recently signed a deal with Kinsane Entertainment to develop the books as an animated series, mobile games, consumer products and more for worldwide release.
Young Captain Nemo
https://www.amazon.com/Young-Captain-Nemo-Jason-Henderson/dp/1250173221/ref=sr_1_1crid=2M2M8J5BQYIQJ&dchild=1&keywords=young+captain+nemo&qid=1590698680&sprefix=yougn+captain%2Caps%2C200&sr=8-1
Quest For The Nautilus: Young Captain Nemo
https://www.amazon.com/Quest-Nautilus-Young-Captain-Nemo/dp/1250173248/ref=sr_1_2 crid=2M2M8J5BQYIQJ&dchild=1&keywords=young+captain+nemo&qid=1590699109&sprefix=yougn+captain%2Caps%2C200&sr=8-2

Brannon Hollingsworth
Silent Night, Lady White (Wyrdwar) – book
https://www.amazon.com/Silent-Night-Lady-White-Wyrdwar-ebook/dp/B0834GRN3L/

Ann Kimbrough
The 100 Script Challenge Journal: A Journal for Screenwriters
https://www.amazon.com/dp/153708318X/ref=cm_sw_r_em_apa_i_vYlZEbWAMCB9M?fbclid=IwAR0wRXKP2b5DoFHKPFHAF6dLOdnjzn_uYrCu3e_PzpHeTC4OpWOboIss0lE

Q & A with Ann Kimbrough (and her equally amazing writing partner James Moorer)

David Lake
Tears of Glass – thriller novel
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CHTF3HQ

Tracy Stone Lawson
Counteract: A YA Dystopia Thriller (The Resistance Series Book 1)
(first volume is a free download; whole series of 4 for $2.97)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07J5NS9F5/ref=nodl_?fbclid=IwAR3NeRR0-3Z_73bWfEg98qiWbtQQbzhVol9V_KVlSRhMrEMXnZaY4hEz6FU

Chris Mancini & Fernando Pinto
Rise of the Kung-Fu Dragon Master – graphic novel crowdfunding project
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/whitecatent/new-2020-rise-of-the-kung-fu-dragon-master-vol-1/description

Q & A with Chris Mancini

Ellen Matzer
Nurses on the Inside: Stories of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in NYC
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ellen-matzer/nurses-on-the-inside-stories-of-the-hivaids-epidem/

Alicia McClendon
Wing Chun – short film
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt228HohbOE&feature=youtu.be

Sean McDonough
Collection of horror books
https://www.amazon.com/Sean-McDonough/e/B07SJWGX6M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1?fbclid=IwAR3d5kRzKL9kjwaiBd0CDiDJ4UfshxGbtCRBqQXuhDjjGX1Xjj6lJeBj1MY

Jim Mercurio
The Craft of Scene Writing: Beat by Beat to a Better Script – screenwriting
https://www.amazon.com/Craft-Scene-Writing-Better-Script/dp/1610353307/?fbclid=IwAR0wRXKP2b5DoFHKPFHAF6dLOdnjzn_uYrCu3e_PzpHeTC4OpWOboIss0lE

Q & A with Jim Mercurio and one about the book 

Josh Mitchell
Stand By Me (Revisited) – song
https://soundcloud.com/mitchwickid/stand-by-me-revisited?fbclid=IwAR01kCtiU359sQZJ7mevOhf9gDgiKy3LTjlthm0-J7foXkB57Cw_pImDM6w

M. J. Moore
Mario Puzo: An American Writer’s Quest – biography
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mj-moore/mario-puzo/
https://www.amazon.com/Mario-Puzo-American-Writers-Quest/dp/1942762631?fbclid=IwAR1aTbdr7QqF6tE3tMb6tyuZ4gCXhZXWZ7yws1eWc39abQ8M9TLvusjY0Cc

Annie Morgan
Complicated: The Zephyr Collection: Book One
https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1393683932/?fbclid=IwAR2-6ILJb6VxvMg-JhH9xbkUeIJoZeELcMQ25d2vVHLhoyTJnr8oI9IJgDw

Jeff Neparstek
Borrowed Time – book
https://www.amazon.com/Borrowed-Time-Jeff-Naparstek-ebook/dp/B01AA9KDZW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1484175499&sr=8-2&keywords=Jeff%20Naparstek&fbclid=IwAR2n5iYy9jsgCDAi2ZjVcuKX1DUWddeVjJT6Z4OO5RxeStWN-KAVku2lA9k
AND
The Arab Messiah – book
https://www.amazon.com/Arab-Messiah-Jeff-Naparstek-ebook/dp/B01AAOHW5Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484175499&sr=8-1&keywords=Jeff%20Naparstek&fbclid=IwAR3UtO0g6kI68nh4sqU1a7VFjIFMqmQw5SLeWX-TojJyv_8WCfXM-XvvnmI

Robert People
A Walk On Mars – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1466458313?fbclid=IwAR3WFOvITpvhcAugwPXAx5hrYbXgFe1kQSoVDo4OLkWVnfo2_Ww0SVx2yxk
A Walk On Mars 2: Overtime – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1470187388?fbclid=IwAR0u-7rltbLP6m_KLG65GPU6ggiSuM_h6ta98qbanujKCbt43iCJtENFd8A
Blowing Through The Jasmine – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/148184573X?fbclid=IwAR12lBLXqWjL6W5aiz50UsMuwj9Gcexmmwz_vGdyPT_-nny6knTnAB1MHyY
Sellout– book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1729732372?fbclid=IwAR3JAT2k6n-HyUzByFIanRdeJL2mBRuy-hwZwTuDm06x2VEU-QDRs7POCyA
Sold Out – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/109928533X?fbclid=IwAR293eZo5oayPWXzo6DQjg7qZeCZTjZW_ZNgUnSnT0ZH1KGvfhxcewS4CYE
The Basics (And A Little More) Of Writing A Book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08924GD52?fbclid=IwAR3ZLgCHR0u7VAiVA5j5GcdgZ_iOIlrQneZWCL7JV82xEsV_d1G7xQUGU9I

Jackie Perez
Beachworld – sci-fi/horror short film – authorized adaptation of Stephen King short story of the same name
“Stranded crew on an alien planet covered in dunes. Locating their ship’s emergency beacon is their only hope, but when a salvage crew answers their distress signal, it’s already too late.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wd7HeWs0jVQ&feature=youtu.be

Hudson Phillips
After The Fall: A post-apocalyptic anthology inspired by the universe of This World Alone – book
https://www.amazon.com/After-Fall-post-apocalyptic-anthology-inspired/dp/B088VR6L87/ref=as_li_ss_tl?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=FNT09EKN4KWMYMRJPGPH&fbclid=IwAR2vHP5fmHHhEZt3U2F9tC2484s-BcFK84cVS7XmS2w95cx54y3mN6utYSU&linkCode=sl1&tag=styocaus0e-20&linkId=b93767ca505cf1c60c046621718768f7&language=en_US

Dr. Sapna Ramnani
Lockdown – a documentary in pre-production seeking contributors
https://eu.jotform.com/form/200975116787060

Renfield Rasputin
In Defense Of Our Good Name – short story
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CMMFKYW/ref=cm_sw_r_apa_i_rhbZEb3840CS1?fbclid=IwAR1x29n6ly37Yuvu4Egtx5pkYAO2Gkx7Clhjksn8-SMWwsSQmxdUesRDDDA

Bob Saenz
That’s Not The Way It Works: A no-nonsense guide to the craft and business of screenwriting
https://www.amazon.com/Thats-Not-Way-Works-screenwriting/dp/1734347910/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1575403713&sr=8-1&fbclid=IwAR0TRWlRzoxneFNgyuP22hqJRBeErgHy0fvpG6UqqnWE5hYe-W-A6niDbf0

Q & A with Bob Saenz

Roman Scott
Tone Poems and Nightmare Fuel – blog
https://tonepoemsandnightmarefuel.wordpress.com/

Travis Seppala
365: A Year of Screenwriting Tips
https://www.amazon.com/365-Year-Screenwriting-Travis-Seppala/dp/1725810972/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3AY6WYU9SKJLD&dchild=1&keywords=travis+seppala&qid=1590599648&sprefix=TRAVIS+SEPPALA%2Caps%2C205&sr=8-1

Q & A with Travis Seppala

Justin Sloan
Prime Evil
https://www.amazon.com/Prime-Evil-Justin-Sloan-ebook/dp/B087YKY5SV?fbclid=IwAR1l64MgNO_FOWlka2K2CEeF1rAsrp51LYvUvBq-gODBKXC2Ac92-d_XgYQ

Karelynn A. Spacek
Queen of Swords (A Stone Wielder’s Legacy Trilogy) – book
An epic journey revolving around a sunken island, and a new queen that prefers archery over politics.
https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Swords-Wielders-Legacy-Trilogy/dp/B086Y3ZWQF/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=9798630009722&linkCode=qs&qid=1589933088&s=books&sr=1-1

Dan Stout
The Carter Archives – book
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/3CA/the-carter-archives/?fbclid=IwAR2iisl3XP2kXPH1R4PXHe2LZfY21ORydTdLRbiIPf7MoDH7MkbxdjKDyRE

Chip Street
Rocket Summer – novel
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1480202622?fbclid=IwAR2i4B62oDUO-dCGkIPCk9Z4jPbYEJVfBcrsncvMCaS7OJR80x7Pv0P3Bg4
AND
21 Things You Need to Know About Screenplay Options: The Indie Screenwriter’s Guide to Protecting Yourself and Getting the Best Deal
https://www.amazon.com/Things-Need-About-Screenplay-Options-ebook/dp/B07J1L5QLB/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?ie=UTF8&fbclid=IwAR0TRWlRzoxneFNgyuP22hqJRBeErgHy0fvpG6UqqnWE5hYe-W-A6niDbf0

Timothy Trimblewww.timothytrimble.com
Air Born: Do You Dream of Flying? – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1536873292

Phyllis K. Twombly
The Martian Symbiont series
Been Blued – book 1
https://www.iuniverse.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/139113-Been-Blued
Martian Blues – book 2
https://www.iuniverse.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/139112-Martian-Blues
Martian Divides – book 3
https://www.iuniverse.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/146298-Martian-Divides

Larry Whatcott
Telepath – short film
https://vimeo.com/8395049?fbclid=IwAR2CLjjoaOjNNUf2pHM40_Rli8QPHr7Kx0njq7AkT7f6i97gt6SfTW942u0

Allison Chaney Whitmore
Forgot Me Not – book
https://www.amazon.com/Forget-Me-Not-Allison-Whitmore-ebook/dp/B01GL04FJO?fbclid=IwAR34qN_nGlFRQGh2nlX0ywzV0-jruUSPGyYvaoW16Tm3FQC8vSrO8ScFagg

Q & A with Alison Chaney Whitmore

Q & A with Jim Vines

Jim Vines

A Beast Is Born COVER (High Resolution) (COMPRESSED)

Jim Vines has been a screenwriter and script consultant for a number of years. His first produced film was THE PERFECT TENANT (2000). He has optioned several of his scripts and has also been commissioned to write or rewrite scripts for numerous producers. He has written a play (staged in 2009), a web series (2009), a book of interviews with screenwriters (2006), and “indie-published” his first novel in 2015. His latest book, A BEAST IS BORN, was released in 2019.

Jim, who was born in New York City but grew up in Los Angeles, and currently lives atop a hill that affords a truly inspirational view of the Hollywood sign.

What was the last thing you read/watched you considered to be extremely well-written?

I kinda hate to say this, but I don’t watch TV per se, so if you asked me to name two or three top TV shows, well, I probably couldn’t do it. But a few years ago, I thought MAD MEN was great. (I should point out the reason I don’t watch scripted TV is that I’m an avid watcher of documentaries and interview shows found on YouTube.) As for theatrical movies, I haven’t been to a new release in about eight years. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD got me back into a theater. I had high hopes for that one. All I’ll say is: I didn’t care for it.

I do a decent bit of reading and tend to go through a lot of biographies. A recent one was of Stanley Kubrick written by Vincent LoBrutto, which was pretty fascinating. I just did a re-read of Jack Kerouac’s excellent THE TOWN AND THE CITY. A few months ago I read Donna Tartt’s THE GOLDFINCH which I really enjoyed. I also finally read the Daniel Keyes novel FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON, which was pretty amazing. I just finished reading Anne Tyler’s rather poignant novel A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD and wrapped up the audio-book of the classic TRUE GRIT, written by Charles Portis (who passed away recently).

As you can probably ascertain by these titles, I’m drawn to stories about people and their plights, their struggles, where they’re trying to understand where they fit in with the rest of the world. This is what I find interesting.

How’d you get your start in the industry?

It was 1994 and I had been writing scripts with the intent to sell for four or five years. I knew this low-budget producer – she really liked a thriller script I’d written, so she optioned it. She never did get the script off the ground, but at least I knew my writing was solid enough to garner interest from producers. I kept sending scripts out. A couple of years later another opportunity came my way in the form of a script assignment from a budding producer who had read some of my work a year or so before. There was no up-front money but he was pretty certain he could sell the script to a production company where he had connections. So, I wrote the script (based on his story)—and he actually got it sold!

It was a bit of a roller-coaster ride for the next few years, but the script was eventually produced and the movie did quite well on the cable TV circuit. It played constantly on cable and broadcast stations here in the United States and also around the world (I know this because I’d received some pretty decent foreign royalty checks, which was nice). Having this credit on my resume made getting meetings, script assignments – everything from page one rewrites to doctoring scripts- and optioning original scripts a wee bit easier.

What do you consider the components of a good script?

You need to have interesting and/or compelling characters that people will feel something for. Even if it’s a bad guy, you have to give him (or her) at least a smidgen of humanity. Look at Hans Gruber in DIE HARD. Sure, he was a cold-blooded killer – but c’mon, he had such a great sense of humor! You should have a story that continually moves forward and doesn’t get bogged down. I can’t tell you how many novice scripts I’ve read where ten pages goes by and NOTHING happens. It’s just dialogue or superfluous actions that might seem cool or interesting while you’re writing it, but has virtually nothing to do with the story being told.

What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?

-Write screenplays because you love to write and love telling stories, not because you
think you’re gonna get rich and famous. (Quick, who won the Best Screenplay Oscar last
year?)

-Writing is work—and if you’re not willing to put your rear end in a chair and your
fingers on the keyboard on pretty much of a daily basis, you probably need to find
another career path.

-Rules were meant to be broken, but first know these rules before you break them.

-Rewriting is your friend.

-Formatting isn’t what makes a script sellable. Sure, you need to get it all looking nice and proper, but the actual words you put on those 100 pages—this is what you need to focus on.

-There is no one particular way to write a screenplay. Your job is to discover the method
that works best for YOU.

-Don’t rush things. Send your scripts out only when they’re ready. As they say, you only
have one chance to make a first impression. If you send an agent or producer a script
that’s still pretty rough, chances are they won’t want to read any of your future work.

It’s my opinion—and I’ve done over 200 critiques/evaluations—that about 99% of all
novice screenplays are nowhere near marketable shape, so please, don’t write your first
two or three screenplays intending to sell them; write them merely for the purposes of
learning the craft.

What was the inspiration/motivation for your book A BEAST IS BORN?

For a long time I’ve wanted to chronicle the writing, marketing, production, and afterlife of one of my projects. I just never got around to it. But as the marketing phase of my short horror SUSIE’S BEAST script ground on, I realized I had plenty to write about: all the ups and down, all the gut-punching disappointment. I had personal journal entries (I’ve kept a daily journal since 2004) and emails relating to SUSIE’S BEAST, so I figured it was now or never. I pieced it all together and—voilà—A BEAST IS BORN!

I don’t think most pre-pro (i.e., novice) screenwriters realize how long it can take for a script to finally end up in front of a camera. Whether you’re talking about a 15-page short (which is what SUSIE’S BEAST was) or a 120-page feature, the script-to-screen voyage can take years and years. Sadly, that’s the rule and not the exception. I wanted the reader of my book to get a sense of that journey.

It took 11 years for your script to be produced, which must have really tried your patience. What was it that made you keep going?

It’s not like SUSIE’S BEAST was my entire world. I had a lot going on a personal level. As for my writing life, I was working on my first novel, writing and producing a web series, and had been getting script assignments—so I was keeping busy. Aside from all that, I knew this was a solid script that absolutely had to get made.

What were some of the takeaways/lessons you learned from the whole experience?

I’m not sure I learned much of anything I didn’t already know, but it definitely reminded me that in order to be a screenwriter you need to have a certain doggedness and faith in your own writing. I also realized I might be a little too lenient with people, giving them too much time to get things done or make up their minds. If I hadn’t been so indulgent, I probably could’ve shaved a year or two off that 11-year timeline.

Despite everything you endured trying to get SUSIE’S BEAST made, is writing (and
potentially making) a short film something you’d recommend to writers?

Getting a short film made typically will not do a whole lot for a screenwriter’s career. If the finished film makes any kind of a splash at film festivals, it might do something for the director, the actors, maybe even the director of photography. But for the writer – well, hopefully they get a fun and creative experience. That’s pretty much all I wanted out of it. Luckily, that’s what I got! But having your name on a produced short – especially if it wins some awards – can’t do you too much harm. So, yeah, go for it!

You’ve also written another Hollywood-based book—your novel LUIGI’S CHINESE
DELICATESSEN. What was the inspiration for that?

I figured my first novel should be about something I knew, so I wrote about a young guy going to Hollywood with the dream of becoming a screenwriter. The story is loosely – very loosely – based on some experiences I’ve had in this town. As I’ve mentioned in previous interviews: “The book is 97% a work of fiction—and no, I’m not telling you which three-percent is true.” It’s a fun ride, it really is. One review referred to it as a “cautionary tale,” which I think is pretty accurate!

How can people find out more about you and your work?

A BEAST IS BORN is available on Amazon. Check out Jim Vines Presents which is my “creative page” on Facebook, and my screenwriting blog The Working Screenwriter.

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love & appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

This is a very silly question, but an excellent one. Let’s see…I’ll have to go with pecan. I love pecan pie. Pumpkin’s also pretty great, especially when it’s topped with whipped cream. But pecan pie on its own – sooooo good!

Assorted ends & odds

Woman Food Shopping
Nothing like a little variety – and at such reasonable prices

A lot of developments on several fronts around Maximum Z HQ this week. Don’t want to go into much detail, but among the highlights:

-outlined a horror-comedy short, and have now moved on to writing it. Seriously considering making it, so watch this space for further developments.

-working on the short, plus some inspiring and motivating comments from a few colleagues, makes me weigh the option of revising the horror-comedy spec I wrote last year. This would be done with the intent to lower the potential budget – smaller number of characters and locations. Defnitely doable.

-I’ve always been a fan of the The Flash TV show, and came up with a story idea I think would be fun to see. So, I’ve decided to attempt to write a spec episode about it. Since I’ve never written for TV before, this will be quite the learning experience.

-forgive the self-promotion, but my western took the top spot in its category for Creative Screenwriting’s Unique Voices contest. I’m quite thrilled, and even if it doesn’t take the grand prize, it’s still something I’m very proud of having accomplished.

-Here a few external items of note:

-There are lots of screenwriting retreats, but how about one at a 5-star game lodge in South Africa? Networking. Mentoring from industry professionals. A safari. All the details at scriptoafrica.com.

-Chris Gore of Film Threat has launched a crowdfunding campaign for his documentary project ATTACK OF THE DOC. If you were a fan of G4TV and/or Attack of the Show, this sounds right up your alley. Donate if you can!

-last, but not least. Yours truly is one-third of a trio of hosts of the new Creative Writing Life podcast, which offers up our thoughts on all sorts of writing and writing-related topics. Co-hosts include author/friend-of-the-blog Justin Sloan and author P.T. Hylton. As of this writing, it’s on Spotify, and we’re working on getting it onto iTunes. No matter what platform you use, feel free to give it a listen!

Hope you have a great weekend. Go write something.

Footing finally found

keaton wind

Well, that was fun.

After what seemed like endless attempts, I finally came up with what is hopefully a solid beginning for the sci-fi adventure spec. Or at least the first ten to twelve pages or so. If I haven’t grasped you in my yarn-spinning clutches by then and have you begging to turn the page, I’m in trouble.

But with all those previous drafts at hand, along with heeding the guideline that the events of the story need to KEEP PUSHING FORWARD, it all (slowly) came together.

And to make sure I wasn’t deceiving myself, or working with a “Eh. Good enough” mindset, I took a short break (to work on another script, of course). A quick perusal upon my return showed that, yep, it still works.

Finding the right beginning was truly the biggest obstacle. I wanted to really put this world on display, along with better establishing the main characters – primarily the hero and the villain, along with the supporting characters. Numerous options were explored, but none seemed to fully fulfill my requirements. The journey to find that solution was a long and frustrating one, and it was tough to not get annoyed.

But I held on and kept trying, over and over, finally hitting on a solution. Even though the rest of the story looms, I couldn’t have moved forward without reaching this point. Fortunately, most of it is pretty set in place, so hopefully it won’t take too long to work through it.

Quick addendum – during one of my moments of downtime working on this script, I saw several “scripts wanted” listings that were asking for low-budget horror. Last year I cranked out a first draft of a horror-comedy that wouldn’t be too tough to trim down the number of locations and characters so as to make it cheaper to produce. Figure it’s worth a try.

-Writer/filmmaker/friend-of-the-blog Venita Ozols-Graham has put together a crowdfunding campaign to produce a filme version of her award-winning psychological thriller short script WHO WANTS DESSERT? Donate if you can!