Wrapped up the latest draft of the animated fantasy-comedy earlier this week and sent it to a few readers.
Notes have begun trickling in.
Overall responses: very positive, but could still use some tweaking. Points were awarded for creativity, originality, dialogue, and the jokes.
I appreciate all of those very much.
But…it can still be better.
I’d estimate it’s maybe one to two drafts away from being where it needs to. Waiting for a few more notes to come in before diving into that.
What’s also helped is that a lot of the changes don’t seem to be of a major overhaul type, but I suspect it won’t be a few minor changes here and there either. Somewhere in that nebulous middle.
It’s been quite encouraging how fast and effectively things are playing out for this one. It’s taken a while to get to this point, but all the time spent writing, rewriting and constantly trying to make previous scripts better are yielding the desired results for this one in a more timely manner.
Another thing that’s different about this time around is that confidence levels were already pretty high about the script, and getting comments about what still needs work hasn’t diminished them. Many times in the past I would get notes and think what a terrible writer I must have been, which was not the case.
I’m quite psyched about this one, and can’t wait to get back to work on it.
Encouragement from K and more than a few members of the screenwriting community reminded me of several very important things:
First – CONTESTS ARE ENTIRELY SUBJECTIVE. Sometimes your script clicks with readers, sometimes it doesn’t.
Second – CONTEST SUCCESS IS NOT A GUARANTEE FOR INDUSTRY SUCCESS. You can claim the top prize, but that doesn’t mean you should quit your day job. The road to an ongoing career is long, twisty, and loaded with uncertainty.
Third – THEY ACTUALLY MAKE FILMS FROM SCRIPTS THAT HAVEN’T DONE WELL IN CONTESTS. If a producer likes your script and wants to get it made, they’re not going to be as worried about how it placed in a contest.
Fourth (and this one really hit home for me) – SCREENWRITERS SHOULD NOT LIVE BY CONTESTS ALONE. Doing well in a contest is a potential boost to help you establish a career, but that’s it – potential. It’s only one of numerous paths.
As was pointed out to me, I may not have done well in contests, but I should also consider:
-I’m currently writing the script for a microbudget feature. The producer really likes how it’s all coming along, and has been completely ego-free since we began.
-I self-published 3 books about screenwriting this year (a great gift for screenwriters, yourself, or both. I got a kid in college, so anything helps).
-I continue to be the co-host of a podcast that’s all about writing. Fortunately, both my co-host and I know A LOT of writers, so there’s always somebody interesting to interview.
-I got to be on the other end of the microphone by being interviewed on a few screenwriting podcasts.
-I took part in a few panels about screenwriting at a writing conference, which led to being invited to give a lecture about screenwriting next month. (more on that another time)
-I still get the occasional email asking me to give script notes. It might take me a little longer to get to it than expected, but I enjoy doing it, and the writers seem to really appreciate what I have to say.
-there’s been progress, albeit the really slow kind, in making my short film. I was hoping to film it before the year was over, but looks like early next year might be more realistic. It’ll happen yet.
So my losing streak in contests may continue, I’ve got a decent number of other irons in the proverbial fire. And a few other fires, for that matter.
Hope you have an excellent pre-Halloween weekend. I will happily lay claim to any leftover plain M&Ms and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that manage to stay out of the grubby little hands of trick-or-treaters.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being interviewed on the Telling The Show podcast to talk about networking as it relates to screenwriters.
Over the course of the discussion came this question: in pre-COVID times, it wasn’t uncommon for a writer to have a business card. Does a writer still need one?
I thought it was a great question, and had to really think about it.
My initial thought is probably not, especially due to how most networking is now done online, and most writers have their phone with them, so contact – or at least reaching out – can be practically instantaneous.
What good is having a card to hand out when you’re practically isolated and there’s nobody around to hand it to? These days you’re more likely to connect with somebody via a social media platform, so you’ll probably do everything via email and/or texting in order to set up meeting one-on-one.
A lot of writers now have a strong online presence – websites, blogs, an account on Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, etc., so it’s significantly easier to get in touch with somebody to strike up a conversation, or at least establish a professional relationship.
Keeping that in mind, in-person interaction is slowly coming back, so if we get to the point where you show up at a venue where you don’t know anybody, and then have some nice conversations with people, would you want to have a card to hand out, or be comfortable asking for their email address?
There are exceptions, of course. A majority of writers tend to be on the introverted side, so dealing with a real live person can be somewhat intimidating. This makes online networking easier for some people. Somebody quiet and shy in person might be more involved or outgoing on a Zoom call or on Twitter.
Just as an example, I recently tweeted a compliment to the hosts of another screenwriting podcast regarding the interview they did with a high-profile manager (I also included the manager in the tweet). Both hosts and the manager liked it, and another writer friend of mine added in his two cents, leading to a brief discussion among all of them.
I didn’t do it because I was trying to suck up to the hosts or hope the manager would offer to read something; it was because I liked what I’d heard, and wanted to let them know that. Would I have achieved the same results if this had been done in person? I’m going to go with “slightly maybe, but probably not to the same extent”.
Online interaction is one of the things I encourage for writers seeking to expand their network. Nobody’s going to get to know you if you hang back and stay quiet. Become involved. Join conversations. Just make sure to be polite, civil and respectful.
There are forums and group chats to take part in, as well as lots of screenwriting groups on Facebook. I find the smaller ones to be better because the members tend to be more experienced, more mature, and of a more rational temperament.
Networking and interacting has really changed, especially over the past few years. But one thing remains the same: online or in person, business card or no, be the kind of person you’d want to know.
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
Chris Mancini is a Writer, Director, Comedian, Author, Producer, Podcaster, and Parent, which also makes him very tired. He has also written, directed and produced on everything from soap operas to parenting books to horror films, which are all more closely related than you think.
A strong advocate of podcasting, Chris was the co-founder of the COMEDY FILM NERDS podcast, and is currently working on is scripted horror anthology podcast CONVERSATIONS FROM THE ABYSS. Chris was also one of the founders of the Los Angeles Podcast Festival.
What’s the last thing you read or watched you thought was incredibly well-written?
The two extremes would be Avengers: Endgame, because it was the culmination of years of storytelling, and Paddleton because it was a small two actor character piece that just sucked you in. The relationship and the drama of the two leads and their interaction was incredibly engaging. Mark Duplass and Ray Romano did an amazing job.
Were you always a writer, or was it something you eventually discovered you had a knack for?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 16. I submitted short stories to magazines. Yes, that was a thing. Ironically, I got published first with non-fiction. I was a journalist for a local newspaper for a while (also a thing), starting at age 18.
What are some of your favorite comics and/or webcomics?
I really enjoy Hellboy. I also like anything by Neil Gaiman, and grew up on a healthy dose of Spider-Man and Daredevil. I actually remember when Spider-Man first got his black costume. It was an alien symbiote that came out of some weird machine during Secret Wars. I remember not being happy because I always liked the red and blue one. But you get over these things. I am also reading a lot of kids’ comics with my son, like Cardboard and Amulet which I am really enjoying.
How’d you get your start writing comics?
I kind of made it happen on my own. I’ve always wanted to write comics, and I had a story I thought would be perfect for the medium. I met Mark Waid through a mutual friend and podcast fan and he championed it. So I found an artist I loved and kickstarted it. I was able to fund it thanks to the generosity of the fans and then Starburns Press picked it up. I am very happy to be over there, and I think it’s a great fit for the book. I just got my first offer for a short piece in their next comics anthology. My first comics writing assignment! I’m hoping for many, many more. I would love to write more comics.
A lot of people hear the term “comic book writer”, but don’t really know what the job entails. How would you describe it?
Interestingly, since I have a background in indie film what you’re really doing as a comic book writer is writing and directing. You’re writing the script but also describing the action, pacing, and what goes in each panel. Basically you’re storyboarding like you would for a film. In indie film you have to wear a lot of hats, but with comic book writing you’re not just writing some abstract script. You’re describing each panel and basically directing the book. That’s why it’s so important to have a great artist to be paired with like I was with Fernando Pinto. Eventually you develop a shorthand and it gets quicker.
What inspired you to write your graphic novel Long Ago And Far Away? What was your process for writing it?
I’ve always loved fantasy stories, and growing up was a sucker for the stories about kids from our world who go into a fantasy world to save the day, like The Chronicles of Narnia. But I always thought about what would happen when those kids come back to our world and become adults. How would it have affected them? And then what if they had to go back into that world as an adult? The process was very, very long. I had the story a few years ago and it was in and out of development at various companies as an animated show, etc. But it never moved forward. But it was the kind of story that stays with you, and insists on being told. We all have stories like that; ones that won’t let you go. So I thought that a comic book would be a great way to tell the story. And I wouldn’t have to worry about there not being enough money for computer effects.
LAAFA was funded via crowdfunding. With a lot of comics creators taking that route to self-publish, is it something you’d recommend, and what are some tips you’d offer?
I recommend anyone who wants to create to just get out there and make it happen, any way you can. If someone buys your idea or hires you, great. But more often than not we have to greenlight ourselves. So if you’re a filmmaker, make a short film. If you’re a novelist, self-publish. If you want to make a comic, you need to raise enough money to pay the artist and make the book. But it can be done. Just know that crowdfunding is a full time job for that window of raising money. Don’t just think you can put a project up and money will magically appear. You have to promote, get endorsements from other artists, and also promote. Did I mention promoting?
You’ve also had experience writing for film, both narrative and documentary. How do you compare writing for the screen to the comics page?
I really, really, love it. It’s like filmmaking with an unlimited budget. No one comes back and says “we don’t have the budget to blow up Manhattan” in a comic book. If it can be drawn, it can be in the story. As far as story goes, film story progression and storyboarding can be really instrumental in writing for comics and guiding your panels.
A key component of writing (and not just for comics) is to make the stories and characters relatable. What sort of approaches do you take to accomplish that?
Characters we create often have traits of ourselves or people we know in them. That grounds them and keeps them believable. Even when it’s a supervillain, there’s a relatable trait you can give him or her. I always try to figure out what kind of character they are by how they would react in certain situations. Character reactions can convey lots of information about a character. As far as the story goes, keep the story progression organic. It should only have crazy twists in it if you were slowly leading up to them all along. The best narrative twists are the ones the audience didn’t see coming, but in hindsight were justified from the very beginning.
What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?
Write what you know.
Make the story personal, regardless of the genre or scope of the story.
Get help from other writers, and help them in return.
Don’t write for free for millionaires. If someone is serious about your work, they’ll make a deal with you.
Don’t neglect your body. Take time to exercise and unplug. It will help your mind focus and clear your head, which will improve your writing.
I really want to focus on writing right now, so I’m taking a break from stand-up, but may return to it at some point.. While I do the Comedy Film Nerds Podcast with Graham Elwood every week, I also have a scripted horror anthology podcast called Conversations From the Abyss that just finished its second season. I’m also hoping to get my next comic project going called Rise of the Kung Fu Dragon Master with the same team. It’s a martial arts/fantasy/comedy about a small time crook in Los Angeles who gets mixed up in a perennial battle between good and evil from ancient China. I also have various TV and film projects I’m developing and hoping to get into production.
How can people find out more about you and your wide body of work?
My website has links to my books and movies, including Ear Buds: The Podcasting Documentary. There are also links to the podcasts and my demo reel.
Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?
Peach. ‘nuff said.
Here’s an episode of the Comedy Film Nerds podcast where Chris goes into an extensive recounting of his experience with his film Asylum. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for aspiring filmmakers, plus it’s just an extremely entertaining tale. Well worth the listen.