Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 207 - 2011 Year in Review

It still seems hard to believe, but 2011 is coming to a close very quickly. Even more surprising to me, is that the close of this year marks my fourth full year of Writing Week entries. Absolutely incredible; that means that I've been seriously pursuing the wring for about five years since I left NYU (I began the Writing Weeks a year after graduating). In those years, I've managed to achieve many things, some small, some a little more monumental. My final Writing Week of 2011 seems a great opportunity to look back on this year and see where 2011 brought me that 2010 hadn't.

When 2010 ended, I had an agent at UTA, a lawyer, a manager, and a team of two producers working together as independents shopping around my post-Apocalyptic script. Since then, the spec market has done little in terms of rebounding from a slump - at least, that is, in terms of any immediate benefit to me. I still have the representation team and the duo of active producers, but the script remains unsold. We're still pursuing the feature film route, but the team has decided to add another option and have begun exploring setting the  project up for television, as well. So far, no one has jumped on it yet, but we're hoping that some of the showrunners and talent freed up by end of the year cancellations will come on board sometime next month. 

By mid year, I was getting a little nervous about my lack of new material. My agent was told I could produce a couple scripts a year - an ambitious promise no matter how long a writer's been in the industry, I think - and I had (have) yet to make good on that. I devoted a good few months to a Medieval revenge spec, but after two drafts - only one of which my manager saw - my manager decided that was not the right direction to go at the moment. Period pieces can be a tough sale, and this one just wasn't quite clicking yet. Rather than devote more time to it, I decided to shelve it for the moment and approach another.

Back to the drawing board I went. I tossed a couple ideas out to the writers group, but none really got me too excited. Jon and I then came up with one we wanted to collaborate on, and though we got some good excitement about it from my manager, the amount of work we were going to have to do to get it to a place where it would be viable exceeded our ability to also work on other projects independently. More importantly, though, we were going to have to compromise on a couple key points about it, which we both liked, and we were not prepared to do that yet. 

Finally, I came up with a new idea that I liked, the group liked, and which the manager also liked; this is my demon thriller. I did a barebones two page synopsis of it, which raised a lot of questions about the script (for both me and my manager). At present, I haven't done much more work on it, which - you don't have to say it - is no bueno. That's the chore for this break, but I've yet to really dig into it. Don't ask me why.

Other than that, I'm putting more ideas down on paper for potential graphic novels, a field that my manager might help me break into. Again, like the above demon idea, that's about all they are. An idea. So, I have to get cracking on those, too.

My writing year might not have been the most eventful, but the year itself was pretty good, for the most part, which leads to my growth as a writer. I was - and still am - getting restless at work. I told my boss, and after much deliberation, she let me take the summer to work remotely. I did some domestic traveling and took an international trip (not on company time), which was a great recharger. I'm still unsure how much longer I will be in New York. It might be a few months; it might be a year and a few months. If I do decide to stay, I'll set out to make my (quite possibly) final year in the city a big one - big, New York year as one would imagine life in New York is displayed in movies and on tv. 

Who knows where I'll wind up at the end of 2012, but I'm determined to go as far as I can in my writing during the year. I hope you'll continue to join me for the ride.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Logline Central - The World is Ending

Logline Central is an irregular segment that takes a deeper look at loglines of scripts or projects that have just been purchased, as listed on DoneDealPro.

The Mayas aren't the only ones who seem to predict that the world is coming to an end. A glance at the following five loglines indicates that Hollywood (and novelists) seems to think it's about to be over soon, too. (Full disclosure - I sincerely wish my post-Apocalyptic spec was among these and can only hope that these acquisitions represent a new trend toward end-of-the-world scripts, which will boost chances for the sale of mine.)

Title: Eden
Logline: Set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is on the brink of extinction and the robots that were created to serve humans have turned against them, a teenage girl struggles to fight the Fallen and help her friends find safety. She must choose between a boy she has always trusted and one who holds the secrets to her past. Writer: Keary Taylor (author)Genre: Science Fiction Action Thriller More: Novel. Mark Morgan, Kami Garcia, Brett Hudson and Michael
Title: Wither
Logline: Set in a future, the world is in a state of panic due to a failed effort to create a perfect race that's left women with a lifespan of 20 years while men die at 25. A kidnapped girl attempts to escape from a forced polygamous marriage designed to keep the population from dying out. Writer: Lauren DeStefano (author)
Genre: Science Fiction Fantasy
More: Novel, which is the first of three in a series. Prospect Park's Jeff Kwatinetz & Rob Carliner and Violet's Aly & AJ Michalka will produce.
Title: Rosa
Logline: Set in a post-apocalyptic world where all natural life has disappeared, Rosa, a cyborg deployed from the Kernel project, mankind’s last attempt to restore the earth’s ecosystem, learns that she is not the only entity that has awakened and must fight for her survival.
Genre: Science Fiction Action
More: To be based on the short film by Jesus Orellana. Genre's Simon Kinberg will produce and I AM's Scott Glassgold & Raymond Brothers will produce. Orellana will direct. No writer is attached as yet.
Title: Break My Heart 1000 Times
Logline: Set nine years after an apocalyptic event that killed millions and left the world inhabited by ghosts, a teen girl attempts to navigate through ordinary life as she’s haunted by the ghosts of her dead father and a teen boy she never met but who might hold the key to changing everything.
Writer: Jason Fuchs
Genre: Teen Supernatural Thriller More: Assignment. To be adapted from the Daniel Waters novel that will be published by Hyperion Books. Gold Circle's Paul Brooks will produce.
Title: The Last First Time
Logline: A college student learns the world will end and sets out on a quest to lose his virginity before it does.
Writer: Jason Fuchs
Genre: Comedy
More: Option. David Brooks and Dan Clifton will produce. Jason Fuchs will also star.
So, what's your take? A lot sound pretty similar, no? I'll admit, I think I like the two attributed to Jason Fuchs the most. (Is that a type on Done Deal's part? Beats me.) 

Eden sounds pretty hackneyed at this point. Robots and humans at war. Yadda yadda yadda. Might be a great execution, but based on those few sentences alone, I don't see anything special or new. Sure, it's a book. Fine. Maybe a great one even. But I haven't read it, and so far, I'm unimpressed.

Wither - yay! Teenage girls as protagonists! Eh, for whatever reason, this one just doesn't grab me. They die young, but they're beautiful or perfect, etc. Didn't Justin Timberlake just do something like this? And the girl is trying to escape a marriage, which would save mankind? Take one for the team, sister.

Rosa; shouldn't this one really be called Eden or Wither? Both titles seem more appropriate, given the subject matter. I'll admit I glossed over this one, too, until I reread the part about reviving the ecosystem. That's kind of cool. But I refer you back to the Eden analysis: robots (or cyborgs, whatever) and humans. Pass.

Break My Heart 1000 Times is probably my favorite of the group. For one, it's a post-Apocalyptic world, but it's as fully inhabited as one before the world comes to an end. Everyone who died (presumably) is still lingering as a ghost. So, theoretically, we won't get the typical post-Apocalyptic stereotypes - the roving bands, the loner men and women on a mission, the heroic parents trying to keep it all together. Talk of "holding the key" or "changing things forever" always makes me a little wary, but my interest is definitely piqued by this one.

The Last First Time - bet that one seems like a surprise favorite to you. What I like about it is that it takes a tried and true story (the virginal young man trying to do away with his V-card) and places it in a new setting (Armageddon). Something about it generates a sense of promise in the premise for me. It might suck. I certainly don't need to see a dude hump a pie as an asteroid races toward Earth. And I hope they don't skimp out and make it a "close call" situation in the end where the planet isn't destroyed. But I just like the idea. "The world is ending. I need to get laid before I die." Who can't relate. Amiright?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 206 - Reassured

Though this week did not see a lot of writing from me - I'm still working on the paintings I reference last week, which have been a great artistic outpouring, but not so productive in terms of writing - I was able to achieve two primary things in it. Both of them relate to my manager.

For one, I was able to speak with him about my demon thriller project. All in all, he liked the idea, but he had some big questions about it. Unfortunately, those are some of the very same questions I still have on it, which I know I have yet to answer. When I submitted the synopsis to him, it was still pretty loosely detailed, even at two pages long. That said, I should have been able to answer more of his questions about the rules of the world when we spoke than I did. All I had planned out was on the page. That was my (rookie) mistake. Even though the outline was barebones, I should have been able to discuss the project in greater detail with him when we talked a couple weeks later. 

Many of his questions were on the rudimentary rules regulating the characters' interactions and abilities, especially since there's an obvious paranormal element involved. The nature of the outline and action also raised some questions as to what the overall tone of the piece would be. At one point, t gets very sci-fi, and I can see where his concern that it might be a divergence from the rest of the piece would be. Suffice it to say, I have my work cut out for me over the holiday week ahead.

The main question I have for my manager, though, and point that I was quite happy to address, was what - if anything - I had missed out on by not being in LA. Recently, I've been beginning to doubt my decision to remain in New York, especially when my script is (slowly) circulating. When we spoke, I flat out asked my manager if I had missed potentially major opportunities and meetings by being on the east coast when my post-Apocalyptic spec first made the rounds in Hollywood. He emphatically said, "no. You missed the chance to shake a couple hands, but we can get you all of those meetings next time you're out here. And there aren't really any (writing) jobs to be had at the moment (for younger writers), so you didn't miss out on any work, either." 

Whether that statement is true or not - and whether you agree with it or not - the effect was one of pure relief. In short, he told me that I didn't have to come to LA until it was time; that time had not yet passed, and neither did my opportunity to break in. 2012 can still be my year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011 Screenwriting Black List Revealed

It's that time of year! No, not Santa and presents. Rather, it's the release of the annual Black List - Hollywood's ranking of over 300 film executives favorite scripts written in or attributed to 2011, which have yet to begin principle photography. 

In the earlier history of the Black List, this is where unproduced scripts by more commonly unknown or nascent writers were discovered. From their appearance on the list, a writer would gain recognition, representation, and - ideally - a sale and, hopefully, a production. Now, it has the likes of Quentin Tarantino. (OK, I'll back off; not all the writers on it are nearly as recognizable names as he is. Still, his presence on the list corrupts its purpose for me a bit.) Either way, kudos to all the writers whose talents earned them a spot on the 2011 Black List!

You can view it here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 205 - Which Notes to Heed

Receiving feedback (or criticism, notes, input, thoughts, whatever else you want to call it) on a piece of writing can be hard. It's great when someone absolutely loves what you're doing, but be wary of such glowing feedback. The last thing you want when trying to shore up your piece is a misleading, gushing but disingenuous response. Rather, it is all the more common to receive notes that are far less than wholly flattering. At times, they can be downright difficult to hear and ingest. That's why a thick skin is one of the most important tools in a writer's arsenal.

Fortunately, when I submitted the synopsis for my demon thriller to the League recently, their responses didn't necessitate the densest of hides. However, the feedback that I got raised some interesting (internal) questions, the primary one being "when should I pay close attention to a note, and when is it more opinion-based?" By that, I mean, say someone hates my protagonist; he's not supposed to be likable, and I achieve that. But they still flat out do not like him. Well, if other people enjoy not liking him and enjoy the story despite his off-putting personality, that's one thing. But if the entire writers group loathed my protagonist to such a degree that they abandoned the plot and didn't bother to focus on the material... well, that's another thing all together.

Take, as another example, my idea. It involves demons and souls. A character is supposed to be corrupted at a certain point. One of the group members felt adamantly about the fact that her corruption did not equate to sin in his mind. He fell off-board with it there and then, and very firmly believed that I was doing a disservice by posing it as I was. Well, maybe that was a larger theological debate than the script engendered. However, another Leaguer had the exact same reaction. Then, too, did a third.

When certain notes reappear again and again, it's time to take notice of them. I might disagree with the point they're making, but the fact of the matter is, three of the five people who I showed it to brought up the corruption without prompting, and they found it detracted from their reading experience, because they so disagreed with it. Even if I don't see it the way they do, I have to recognize where they're coming from. As a writer, I don't want to alienate my readers. A common readers' problem becomes my problem. Other things might be up to opinion, but something so agreed upon is a big, flashing warning sign. 

"Change this now, or be faced with changing it later once the project is in script state. Worse, be faced with a pass because you never bothered to change it at all."

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 204 - A Resolution

As we come into the final month of the year, already at full-steam, I can't help but to look backward - and forward. Even though it is only December 5th, and the time for New Years plans is almost a full month away, I make myself a resolution.

2012 will be my year.
  • In 2012, I will push myself to write more than I did in 2011.
  • I will break the streak of little to no productivity that began in August, or earlier.
  • I will not only generate scripts, but I will generate market-ready scripts. 
  • I will broaden my horizons to include more creative outlets: painting, learning the harmonica, whittling, whatever else might come up; I will pursue it. 
  • The moment I begin to feel that I'm stagnating, I will change things up, shake up my surroundings.
  • This includes my job.
  • I will travel even more than I did in 2011. 
  • I will see the world, for how else can I write about it?
  • I will attempt a play for the first time in a few years. 
  • I might get on stage and act again, if the opportunity presents itself. 
  • While my post-Apocalyptic spec is still circulating around Hollywood - albeit more for consideration for television than for film now - I will not sit on my hands idly.
  • I will seek out resources.
  • I will seek out resources for others, as well.
  • I will read more scripts.
  • I will watch more movies than I did in 2011, which has been a particularly slow year.
  • If I decide to stay in New York for the entirety of 2012, I will make it a year to remember, filled with glamorous views of the city, nights spent at museums, restaurants, and galleries. I will fully embrace this city for a year, before I leave it perhaps forever.
  • If I do leave, I will leave and not look back.
  • I will not permit myself to dwell too much on what if - what if I moved to LA a couple years ago? What if I move there now? What if I had pursued a different career all along?
  • I will temper myself and my emotions, and when I feel myself starting to sag, I will do an about-face and imbue my life with something or someone new. 
  • I will seriously pursue a relationship (the absence of which, at times, consumes as much of my mental power as y creative output does). 
  • I will not be immobile, nor will I permit myself to backtrack. 
  • I will give 2012 my all and see what comes of it.
And if nothing does?

Ask me in a year.