What’s in your peritia scripturae*?

This is just the resume pile. You should see the submitted spec script room.

An acquaintance recently told me about a small production company seeking material, and they (the acquaintance) thought one of my scripts might be a good match for it.

“Great!” I responded. “What do they need?”

“Your synopsis (with a logline), along with your writing resume. If they like what they see, they’ll ask for the script.”

Hold on one second. I had the synopsis, but a writing resume? Never heard of that before, let alone including it with the script material. Did such a thing even exist? What would it even look like? Was this some new trend of which I was unaware?

Apparently they do exist, but based on my experience and research, it sounds like being asked to provide one happens very, very rarely.

You’re probably thinking “Couldn’t they just look you up on IMDB Pro?” They could, but that doesn’t contain all my relevant details and information.

But this place wanted a resume, so I had to put one together. What to put on it?

I looked up what I could for “writer’s resume”, but got a lot of non-screenwriting-related information and examples. This resulted in a lot of tinkering around and adapting the best I could.

It all boils down to listing all of your screenwriting and screenwriting-related experience, along with any applicable accomplishments. Many writers with a personal website or blog have a page featuring some kind of version of it.

I wasn’t a produced writer, except for a writing credit on somebody else’s film school short, so I could mention that. Plus some material I’d written and filmed years ago as part of a freelance assignment which at last check was still available on YouTube.

Some of my scripts have won awards in reputable competitions. I listed the titles and their assorted results.

I included being a reader for a few screenwriting contests. (True!)

Oh yeah. THIS BLOG. Been going strong for years, plus a few accolades along the way. This triggered the realization that I could use some other screenwriting-related materials I’d written.

Turns out I had a somewhat decent amount of material to work with.

A little editing and revising, and off it went, along with the one-pager.

Unfortunately, the prodco passed. Not because of my lack of experience, but the script “just wasn’t what they were looking for.” No big surprise and no big deal.

But now I have a writer’s resume, which I keep updated. Chances are nobody’ll ever ask for it again, but I’m glad I put it together and have it ready to go. Just in case. Stranger things have happened.

There’s no doubt that some follow-up thoughts and comments to this will be of a “this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard” nature. And in some ways, I totally agree. But I chalk it up to just adding another tool to your arsenal of self-marketing materials. It took all of 15-20 minutes to put it together, so no harm done.

Normally, this would be the end of the post, but part of the reason I wrote about this is there are always writers on assorted online forums seeking feedback from other writers, and they get a lot of volunteers eager to offer up their two cents.

While it’s great that somebody’s so willing to help you out, what if their level of experience isn’t similar to yours? What if you’ve written ten scripts, and they’ve written two? Or still working on their first one? How much value would you give their notes?

It’s not a bad thing to ask somebody about their writing experience. It’s also not the best idea to ask a bunch of strangers to give you notes. You’re much better off building and developing strong professional relationships. Most seasoned writers don’t seem to have a problem discussing their experience.

So the next time somebody you’re not too familiar with says they’d be more than happy to give you notes on your script, don’t feel bad asking them how much experience they’ve had.

Or you could even ask to see their writing resume.

*Latin for “writing experience”.

O, the joy of a southernly jaunt

gable colbert
Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to this

The suitcase is put away. The dirty clothes laundered. The thank-you notes sent.

All the result following your humble blogger’s recent trip to the land of potential future employment, aka Los Angeles, which continues to yield results and, hopefully, keep on doing so.

“Los Angeles? How in the world did that come that about?” you may ask, and probably just did.

I was invited. At the behest of a new media company (as in “new media” i.e. online content, not “a media company that is new”) called AfterBuzz TV that produces a myriad of programs about an even wider variety of topics – all entertainment-based.

This one in particular is called The Unproduced Table Read. As the title implies, after finding a heretofore unproduced script they deem appropriate, they assemble members of their core group of actors and do a table read of the script – first as livestream video, then viewable on Youtube. Following the read, there’s a brief q&a with the writer. Sometimes the writer’s there in person, or if they can’t make it in, done via Skype.

Seeing as how the City of Angels is an hour-long plane ride away, I opted to attend.

They’d found my fantasy-swashbuckler in the archives of the Black List website and thought it fit the bill. The producer contacted me earlier this year, and after some informative back-and-forth emails, it was all set.

Seizing the opportunity of being in town, I also went about setting up meetings of both personal and professional natures. Although the scheduling didn’t work out with a couple of potential representatives, I was able to have some very productive conversations with some exceptionally talented professional contacts.

Networking, people. Establish and maintain those contacts! SO worth it.

But getting back to the table read. It was great. And fun. The actors did a fantastic job, and as a bonus – they really, really liked the script on several levels. I’m quite thrilled with how it turned out.

Was it worth doing? I’d say so, and not just because it got an enthusiastic reception from the people involved. It’s probably a little early to see if it’ll contribute to the career-building aspect, but it definitely makes for a strong marketing tool.

If you ever get the chance for a table read to be done for one of your scripts, take it. You can even put it together yourself. It’s a great way to evaluate the material, plus the actors might provide some unexpected insight. All you need is a workable space and the ability and willingness to feed your performers.

While talking afterwards with the show’s producer and some of the actors, somebody asked what other scripts I had. I mentioned the western. “We haven’t done one of those,” was the reply. Thus raises the possibility of a return trip. Time will tell.

What’s stopping you?

The ultimate DIY project (film division)

I had the recent pleasure of connecting with a screenwriter who’s working on a feature script, but is also investigating the logistics of developing a short out of it, which includes them having begun connecting with other writers and filmmakers in their area.

I thought that was a great idea, and tossed out the suggestion that maybe they try to make it themselves, as in “just you”. Especially now that most smartphones can double as camera equipment, and film editing software is easily accessible (if not already installed on your computer).

They’d considered this, adding “But I’m just not tech-savvy”.

But you can learn.

If you’re reading this, you’re more than likely interested in screenwriting and/or filmmaking. When you first started out, it’s probably a dead-on certainty that your early works were awful, right?  Looking at some of my first scripts makes me cringe from how bad they are.

But we kept at it, learning and improving along the way. How does your most recent effort compare to that first one? Worlds apart, I’d imagine. You try something, you make mistakes, you learn from those mistakes, and try again.

There’s no reason you couldn’t apply the same logic to making your own short. Sure, there’s a lot more to it than simply pointing your phone and hitting ‘record’, but you gotta start somewhere.

Give it a go and write yourself a short script. Nothing fancy (but do try to make it a good sample of the genre). Anywhere from one to five minutes, spread out over one, possibly two scenes. Two characters, three at best. Try to keep it limited to one location.

Now look at it from the filmmaker’s perspective. Could you feasibly make this yourself? Like how a first draft of a script reads, the end result will not be pretty. At first, you’ll be thrilled at having done it. Then reality sets in and the flaws become that much more obvious.

But you will have done it. A short film, written and produced by YOU.

What you do with it now is up to you. Hopefully, you’ll embrace the learning experience and know what not to do the next time around.

My friend mentioned that once the short got made, which it sounds like they are very intent on making happen one way or another, plans are already being discussed about next steps, which included posting it on YouTube and/or submitting it to some film festivals.

Even though our conversation was solely via email, there was a certain tone to their words that indicated they were quite psyched about jumping into this new venture. I wished them the best of luck and asked to be kept updated as to their progress.

I think they’re off to a pretty good start.

Gun the engine, pop the clutch and let ‘er go!

Ah, the car chase. A film staple. And a fantastic opportunity for the writer to really let their imagination run wild.

Mine started with the short description in the outline “Chase! (2-3 scenes)”.

I knew how it was going to start, and how it was going to end. It was all that stuff in the middle I had to figure out.

Despite the story’s fantasy-like setting, I’ve made a point of trying to keep things as realistic as possible where applicable. This falls into that category.  No crazy cg effects or unbelievable stunts; just simple, basic and peppered with mad driving skills.

“But there’s only so much you can do with a chase scene,” you may think. And in some ways you’d be right, except there are countless ways to make things happen.

Break it down to the simplest elements – somebody’s trying to get away, somebody’s trying to stop them, and there are going to be obstacles in each one’s way.

The challenge is to think up ways for both to go about achieving their goal, as well as what can stop or prevent that from happening.

It’s not just about having a chase just for the hell of it or something that looks cool, but what makes the most sense and what fits in, plot-wise. Is there a way to make it feel it really belongs there and is connected to other parts of the story? If it means adding a little something to a previous scene, so be it.

Need a little inspiration? Go to YouTube and type in ‘car chase in movies’, or check out William Martell’s blog, which always includes a classic chase in the Thursday posts.

Most of all – please, please, please avoid tired cliches like the plate glass window, the fruit cart, the baby carriage and the large construction vehicle.

Hard-workin’ guy

Real quick script update: Got to page 3. Like what I have so far. Nice feedback from fellow writer/other remaining member of previous writing group.  I really need to relax and have fun while I write; helps make it an easier experience.

I can officially add a new work thing to my resume: on-camera personality.

There was a listing on craigslist around the end of May looking for screenwriters.  I applied and got an offer to come in for an interview.

Turns out it had nothing to do with screenwriting whatsoever.  They’re a small startup looking to provide short narrated videos; such potential subjects are Top 5 lists, real estate listings, the SPCA and so on.  The writing would be putting together the scripts; about 10-20 a week. A lot of work for not much pay, but I didn’t mind.

I had asked about the narration and was asked if I wanted to audition.  Sure; why not?  It could have gone better – I was faster than the teleprompter, but kept a good attitude.

Two weeks pass and I hear nothing.  Ah well. Back to combing the internets. Then I get an email congratulating me on being selected as one of their on-camera narrators!

Boy, they must have thought my writing really sucked.

A date to film some samples was arranged.  I ride out to the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. One I had heard of, but never been to.

Their studio is a converted basement in a house. Very low-tech, but work is work.

It takes me a while to get used to the iPad-based teleprompter, but it goes well.  I also learn that this is considered my second audition, and that the writing has been put on hold for now.

After that first day, I hadn’t heard anything from them for almost two weeks. I dash off a quick-yet-tactful email asking what’s going on, but hear nothing.

Is it over before it began?

Yesterday, I get an email saying my payment for the previous session had gone through. Literally five minutes later, the producer calls, asking if I’m available to come in today for another session. You bet!

I wasn’t n my A-game today. Lots of flubs, but easily corrected.

When it’s a wrap, I ask if I passed the latest round of auditions.  Most definitely is the response.  I also learn that one of my writing samples is the highest-viewed video for their YouTube channel.  (I offer no explanation for the guy reading it) My on-camera one – okay, but there’s me in all my dorkiness.

But that’s okay.  This is occasional, semi-steady work that can only yield positive results.

-Movie of the Moment – finished IP MAN. Loved it. Phenomenal martial arts sequences, complete with several jaw-dropping moments.  Slightly more inclined to watch the sequel.

-Regarding Netflix price gouge/increase. Understandable, but 60 percent?  Couldn’t 20 or 25 worked?  We’re opting for the 1-disk/streaming combo. I suspect we’ll be watching a lot more on streaming in the coming months.