Wednesday, September 27, 2017

And You May Find Yourself Living in a Shotgun Shack

Not that long ago the high school daughter of a colleague wanted to interview me for an English class.  She came to the office, and she and I talked a long time, and later she wrote something called "The Life and Mind of a Murderer" which began like this:

They walk down the street with you. They are your neighbors. You buy groceries at the same store. From a young age they have always had different fascinations than other kids. As adults they seemed a little too interested in other adults. They seem to be going through their life just like anyone else, but they are different. These people are movie writers.

Just now another hopeful, a young potential screenwriter in Illinois, asked to do an email interview with me for a high school class.  Always eager to help those who may one day put me out on an ice floe, here is what I wrote back.  Maybe something here can help you, loyal reader, as well.

1.  How long have you been in the industry? I sold my first screenplay in 1999.  It was an action movie called PLAYER IN THE GAME that never got made, but it opened the door to sell more after that.

2. How is Success in your position measured and rewarded?  I think the industry in general rewards on box office, sales through physical media and digital platforms, and reviews; but for me, seeing a project get made, and then get distribution, is a good measure of success.

3. What made you interested in the job in the first place?  I have always been interested in storytelling; I drew my own comics until I realized I wasn’t good enough to draw professionally, wrote plays until I sort of hit a wall in getting those out there, and switched to screenwriting because of a lifelong interest in filmmaking, but realizing that living in rural Indiana it would be hard to be involved in other aspects of it besides the writing.  I think that last part has changed somewhat with easier access to technology and distribution platforms than once existed.

4. How could I start getting into the film industry?  Watch and learn from watching movies and reading screenplays, join an AV club in your school, or if there isn’t one join some Facebook groups and other online groups that feature people with your same interests.  Study film, telecommunications, or even communications or English in college.  Go to film festivals and movie conventions to meet people that want to do the same thing you do.  When you can, beg, buy, borrow some equipment so you can learn editing and shooting and begin to learn the language of filmmaking.

5. Explain to me what the job involves day-to-day?  Being committed to working when there are other things pulling you away, like watching TV, hanging out, whatever.  Being able to develop and nurture the brand that is yourself through fostering relationships with people in the industry, online and elsewhere.  Really working on craft, because most of it is craft and only a small part of it is waiting for the muse to happen.

6. How would you describe the ideal person for this job?  You have to love movies and understand and appreciate the history of movies.  Loving reading to learn more about the world and loving writing in general.

7. How long are the hours daily for this profession?  I have a day job, so the hours are whatever I can squeeze in; getting up early, working on my laptop during lunch, getting some writing time in after dinner, giving up weekends when deadlines are close.

8. What are the troubles and issues you face in the job?  If I wanted to be bigger than I am, geography would be an issue; however I have been pretty successful staying in rural Indiana, selling close to I think 40 screenplays over the years, so I really don’t want to move.  You have to work with legitimate people to make sure you get paid and get proper credit for your work.

9. Are you grateful for getting into the industry?  Yes, it’s neat to go to a video store and see your movie, or to be in a theater when people watch it.  Many, many people try over a long period of time and don’t get that satisfaction.

10. What are some equipment and tools I need to start my first movie?  On the writing side, I recommend the free screenwriting software CeltX or Trelby.  On the movie-making side, whatever you can get your hands on to learn how everything is supposed to work.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Newton Got Beaned by the Apple Good

This blog post first appeared in my secret e-newsletter I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP, which wouldn't be a secret to you if you subscribed in my sidebar to the right.

A few days early, I finished my goal of writing three screenplays in six weeks, a feat I never thought I could master.  The scripts for the first first two, code-named KRASNIKOV and SEQUENCE SIX, have already been approved by the producer and are ready to roll on.  The last one, THE HORRIBLE ASP, I boomed out to director Mark Polonia this morning after ten days of feverish writing, getting up early and working through lunch hours and working late at night, and I hope to hear about it soon.

I wrote them so fast I don't think they could be any crazier, with demonic possession, time travel, alien invasions, telepathic sharks, zombies, creepy dolls, haunted houses, mad scientists, cavemen, crazy cat ladies, and of course caged women forced to fight for their freedom.  And a bunch of stuff I can't remember right this second.

If you think that last one was a riff on a movie I watched over, and over again, on late-night cable, LUST FOR FREEDOM, suffice to say I have waited a lifetime for this opportunity.  But what I am really riffing on, and what inspired me, was the work of b-movie director Thomas Carr, who in 1950 used a small troupe of aging western stars and shot six cowboy movies in 30 days using some pretty interesting methods that have not, to my knowledge, been replicated before or since.  I think this achievement deserves wider recognition, and have been such an advocate for Mr. Carr's work that I convinced Mark Polonia to buy these movies off of Amazon and see it for himself.  And, with my birthday money, I just did the same thing as a little present to myself for driving myself bats (and probably my wife) getting these done in time.

I actually deposited most of my birthday money like a good homeowner who wants new linoleum, but I also bought SUBURRA by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo, which just came out in paperback from World Noir a couple of weeks ago.  I have had my eye on this one for a while, having seen the Italian film version of the novel as well as hearing about the Netflix series coming out soon.  It is a noir that takes place in the suburban area of Rome called Ostia (which I have visited via rail a number of times).  Eager to dive into the book, and report back.  Especially now that I have a little time on my hands.

Speaking of time on my hands, I did finish WESTWORLD, and liked it okay.  Every time it got a little overheated it would be a little philosophical again, and then veer back, and then veer back again.  But worth watching.

Thanks for hanging in there.  More news soon.