Hello dear reader & dear listener – it is with great excitement I can announce that Murder Made Easy, the independent feature film written by yours truly is now available for purchase on blu-ray from major online retailers everywhere. It’s never been easier to pick up your copy of what Horror Society calls “American Psycho meets Clue.”
Murder Made Easy is a love letter to old fashioned murder mysteries made famous by Agatha Christie and a slew of other great writers. Film buffs will see homages to crime classics “Rope” & “Sleuth” among others – I don’t want to give too much away. It is a whodunnit after all. The logline is very simple – friends come over for dinner, one by one they get killed – by whom and why?
Since our world premiere at the Women In Horror Film Festival in the fall of 2017, we’ve been so fortunate to receive an outpouring of support from the independent horror community. It’s funny because Murder Made Easy *technically* isn’t a horror film – but those fans missed this kind of mystery and have embraced us in a way we are most grateful for.
Bringing any film to life is a back-breaking challenge which brings new challenges and obstacles each day. This appreciation of the process is why you won’t hear too much criticism of other films on these pages. Murder Made Easy was a true labor of love. Director David Palamaro had a clear vision and his passion for the material was infectious, driving us all through long, hard days until we reached this shore – a critically acclaimed film now available for people to enjoy.
Big thanks to our distributors ScreamTeam Releasing and MVD Entertainment Group for this widespread Blu-Ray Release.
“But, Tim, I don’t buy Blu-Rays. I only watching stuff through streaming.” That’s OK! Watch this space – more news on that coming soon.
And just in case you missed it on my front page, here’s the trailer. Thanks so much and please help spread the word! Independent film can’t survive without your help. Fight the good fight!
In this era of Wonder Woman, I figured this is a great time to throw out a quick plug to two of my favorite Wonder Women out here in Hollywood – Chelese Belmont & Shannan Leigh Reeve from Beleeve Entertainment. When I started this blog/podcast venture, I was hopeful that it would help my efforts to network with other industry pros. I’m delighted to say Chelese & Shannan were my first two connections and we remain great friends to this today.
When I first interviewed them way back in 2014, they were about to film the last scenes of their movie Penumbra. Those shoots and post-production later, Penumbra is a completed feature decorated with some laurels and it’s now available for sale. Penumbra takes a look at the impact drug addiction can have on all aspects of a family and I highly recommend it. In this era of vibrant independent film, brave stories are being told by all manner of artists. They may not have millions of dollars in PR behind them but these stories are out there. I hope this little plug continues to help shine a light on Beleeve Entertainment as they keep exploring brave stories that need to be told.
My original interview with Chelese & Shannan is here:
As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’ve not recorded any new episodes of the Handsome Timmy D Express since 2015. There is a very good reason for this. Several in fact. Beginning in January 2016, my screenwriting workload grew exponentially. Thanks in large part to several years worth of networking, some screenwriting awards and increased experience in writing of course, I was able to hook up and work with several independent producers and directors to write a myriad of projects currently in varying stages of development. In order to make sure I hit all my deadlines, some things had to go on the back burner and well, sadly, the podcast was one of them.
Starting and making this podcast was one of the very best decisions I’ve ever made as some the above opportunities were in fact a direct result of the connections I made doing the show. I enjoyed just about every single second of making every single episode. However, I’m a one-man operation without interns or staff so the challenges of making a top quality show became harder and harder. And I do NOT want to put out substandard product. Over the course of March through May, I tried to schedule several episodes but found my workload was such that I couldn’t make the time work. Editing, promotion, posting across social media outlets, copy etc, while all very very fun, can take up an entire workday and with several screenplays being juggled those hours become more precious. In fact, I was hoping to announce new shows in the fall but a movie shoot schedule pushed that back as well. Never say never, maybe I’ll record a new season of episodes in 2017. I’d love to be able to make it work, but at the end of the day I am a screenwriter, not a podcaster about screenwriting. I will still be blogging when I can various thoughts, quibbles and anecdotes from the world of writing when I can. And hopefully you’ll get to see one of these movies I’m writing sooner than later.
I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to every single person that listened. Based on the numbers of the various feed, many thousands of people, maybe even tens of thousands of people tuned in across over 90 countries. I would have been thrilled to hit 10 countries but to have someone from at least 90 countries tune in is almost impossible for me to comprehend. Thanks so much, everyone and the episodes are still archived on the site’s index for your listening pleasure. And quick-fun fact about podcasts, people are still discovering the show every day. I hope the information and insight offered by my guests remains timeless and helpful to all listening whenever and wherever they tune in.
Along those lines, my guests took time out of their busy schedule to appear on my podcast for free. This was a non-profit operation. No one was paid a single dollar to take part and I can assure, I didn’t make a single dollar from the show. All I could offer was getting the word about their projects. This was just about spreading information and generating buzz in the digital do-it-yourself age. I can’t express my gratitude enough to every guest who appeared: Matt The Cat, Megan Karasch, Mike Doto, Dan And Travis, Chelese Belmont & Shannan Leigh Reeve of Beleeve Entertainment, Brian Veys, Joe Lidster, AJ Feuerman, Arnold T Blumberg, Talia Harari, Stephen J Llorens, Chris Garcia, Rizelle Januk, Mike Sundy, Ron Greenfield, Stephen Scaia, Rick Dominicus, Gordy Hoffman, Tom Krajewski & Jen Muro, Tom Grey of Player Piano, Simone Bailly, M. Dal Walton III, Sammi Kat, Dan Mason, Rory LaPointe-Smith, Paul O’Brien, Jon Matthews, Crystal House, Kyle C Mumford, Ramon Hamilton, Travis Rust & Stacy Gueraseva, Chavo Guerrero, Simon Guerrier, Gregor Collins, Daphne Ashbrook, Chuck Slavin, Jennifer Sharp, Kyle Newmaster, Amy Reynolds and Elizabeth Lombino. These folk are all doing spectacular work to add to their sterling resumes and they have my best wishes for continued success.
I also have to thank John S Drew (who made the above photo), Dan Lackeye and Sean Reiser for linking to my show which provided a ton of new listeners. I did my best to plug their shows back and hope I was as helpful to them as they were to me.
Now, if you’re still looking for some great podcast to check out about the creative world for the upcoming holiday weekend or any weekend in particular, let me throw these options out there:
The closest thing to my podcast is “Making The Sausage” from fellow screenwriter and all-around top gent Nick Rheinwald-Jones. I had the good fortune of meeting Nick at the wonderful Austin Film Festival. Like myself, Nick found real industry pros to interview for his show about how the nuts & bolts of a creative profession works. He’s collected some great guests so far and there’s a lot of knowledge on his show: http://previously.tv/shows/making-the-sausage/
For some criticism and analysis of the latest happenings in the entertainment world, check out the Hollywood Picture News. Loren Erlanger and Ryan Thompson along with some special guests dive into every possible detail examining how and why things work in the ever-changing world of TV and movies: http://hollywoodpicturenews.com/
One of the good guys in the podcasting world is Kenny Mittleider. He’s one of the passionate and knowledge fans of all things “geek” out there and offers several podcasts covering it all: http://geekyfanboy.blogspot.com/
Don’t forget there’s still plenty of great podcasts on the network I was proud to be a part of, John S Drew’s Chronic Rift: http://www.chronicrift.com/ Including of course, the Dan & Travis show who are the first guys who put me on internet radio waaaay back when.
And if you’re just looking from some great old music to discover, you’ll never go wrong with Matt The Cat as he explores The Juke In The Back: http://www.jukeintheback.org/
Thanks again everyone. It’s uncertain world these days, as it is most days, so I hope it’s a safe and happy 4th of July Weekend. Keep fighting the good fight!
The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:
Writing music feels like voodoo to me so it’s with great pleasure I welcome composer Kyle Newmaster to the show. Kyle is a classically trained musician who studied jazz before turning his hand to movie soundtracks. A lifelong fan of the movies, Kyle has scored a variety of films including “Where Hope Grows”, “ABC’s Of Death 2”, “Something Wicked” and “The Myth Of The American Sleepover.” With “Star Wars” in the air, we also touch upon Kyle’s work on video games for the famous saga.
Kyle gives us a detailed rundown on how a movie score is completed, from those first notes on a piano all the way to orchestration. The process is not that different from that of screenwriting as we found many similarities in our discussion. Sometimes creative endeavors seem impossibly daunting but Kyle offers great insight on how to tackle them one step – or note – at a time. Enjoy:
For more on Kyle and his music, check out his website:
“When it’s over for a woman, it’s over. You’re not getting an appeal.” – Jack Nicholson
“No one wants your stuff” – William Goldman
“Everyone gets a lot of no’s. It’s almost always more no’s then yes’s.” – Vince Gilligan
If you’re a professional football player, you’re signing upto get tackled. Even the kickers take a fair share of brutal shots.
If you’re a boxer, you’re signing up to get punched in the face.
If you’re a screenwriter, you’re signing up to get rejected. A LOT.
There is no avoiding it. Think of your favorite screenwriter. Be it David Mamet, Aaron Sorkin, Paddy Chayefsky, et al, they’ve all heard the most four-lettered of all four letter words: “PASS”
Let’s not mince words, rejection sucks. It is one of the great fears in life up there with spiders and public speaking. And rightfully so. If one thinks of their most painful moments in life, it’s reasonable to guess some of those are directly because of rejection. It reduces grown adults to tears, it wrecks self-esteem, it jades optimism and can often send one down a self-destructive path.
So it is no wonder that when some people turn away from the creative life, “fear of rejection” is often a primary reason. The idea of pouring your blood, sweat and tears into something artistic only to get a “meh” or a “PASS” from either the audience or the gatekeepers is not, on paper, the best way to spend one’s days.
Over the past few years, I’ve been fortunate to have some success and create some in-roads. I’m in the process of signing with some representation as we speak. But I’ve also dealt with A LOT of rejection. In fact, some actors have told me they think screenwriters deal with more rejection than they do. That’s a scary stat, though not an insurmountable one.
Because one thing I’ve learned is entertainment industry rejection is a lot different from real-life rejection.
When someone doesn’t want to go out with you, it sucks. And a lot of times, the terms are not negotiable. There may be no physical attraction, the philosophies don’t mesh, you just don’t enjoy each other’s company etc. The internet is filled with ads about “how to trick people into going out with you” and fortunately, I’ve never had to use those so I can’t verify their results.(For the record, I remain dubious of those claims.)
If you’re an aspiring screenwriter and are scared of being rejected, let me assure you it is not like “I don’t like you anymore” or “I’m breaking up with you.” It’s still painful to get a pass on your script but it’s really not the same thing. Scripts being passed on are not a personal judgment and shouldn’t be taken as such.
“Your script doesn’t fit our slate” is very very different from “I hate you, wish I never met you and never want to see you again.” There’s a ton of reasons why a company (production or management) will reject your work that have nothing to do with the quality of the script.
*They don’t have room on their slate for your project.
*It wouldn’t be a good fit for the leads they have deals with.
*They may think it’s too risky for them.
*They may not know how to market it.
*They may not be able to afford it.
And there’s one thing every Screenwriter should say to a PASS – “Thank You.”
Seriously. Say Thank You.
First of all, no one owes you a read. No one owes you a yes. No one is waiting to bow down to the brilliance of your script. Everyone you’re pitching to has read a pile of scripts taller than Andre The Giant. No one owes you anything so the fact that they are taking a few minutes or an email or a phone call to hear your idea is a big deal. You don’t have to grovel or go into penitent-man-will-pass mode. But say Thank You. I open and close all of my pitches with “Thank You for listening to my pitch.” Time is the most valuable thing anyone has and showing the proper respect for one’s time will never hurt and only show you’re a professional.
Even if you get a pass, say Thank You.
Not everyone has the good graces to call and say “Sorry, we’re passing.” Some folks will just leave you hanging because they’re scared of hurting your feelings. (***Note to those folks: I suggest giving the bad medicine. It hurts, sure but it also tells us to look elsewhere instead of holding onto false hope.) If someone tells you they’re passing but you then respond like a professional, you’re now not dealing with rejection – you may have just made a new connection.
Being defensive doesn’t help anyone, least of all the screenwriter. Everyone knows you’re mad or hurt or upset about the Pass. Let me repeat that – EVERYONE knows you’re mad or hurt or upset about the Pass. You don’t have to tell them, it’s no secret. By all means, complain loudly over some libation to friends and loved ones. This is why God invented bars. But getting into a fight or being a smart-ass to the person passing only gets them to cross your name off of their list. Being a professional and being cool about it can get you in their rolodex. Because again – EVERY single screenwriter gets passed on. It’s how they respond to that pass that matters.
If you’re confused about why you got a pass, go ahead and ask. They may answer, they may not but if you’re open-minded and are receptive to their reasons, then your reputation only goes up. Hollywood is BIG business but it’s a small town. Falling outs, bad attitudes and unprofessional behavior are remembered.
Even I get defensive replies from writers if I say that I don’t have time to read their scripts or am not available for a collaboration. And it’s stunning and quite frankly, shameful. My schedule has been so busy lately, I’ve been unable to record any interviews for a while. For people to treat that or the producers and gatekeepers their pitching to with attitude is just downright selfish and rude.
It’s a cliché but it’s true – you will probably be seeing these people again and again. Let’s say a producer passes on you and you’re so indignant about the insult of the pass, you tell them to fuck off. You make a fresh start elsewhere and build up your screenwriting career. Years later you end up pitching the head of let’s say Universal for a big, big money show. In walks that producer you told to fuck off. They pass on your pitch – AGAIN – and your “fuck off” has gotten you nothing. Seriously, save the bitching for the bar. Sleep it off and get back to grind after the coffee washes away the hangover.
It’s Not You, It’s Them: For real. Production companies and management firms are looking to make money in a hyper-competitive marketplace that is changing at warp speed. We know there’s more Star Wars movies coming. How kids born today will be watching them in five-six years is anyone’s guess. So we screenwriters have to remember that Producers and Agents are not waking up and saying “How can I make some screenwriting dreams come true?” They’re waking up trying to survive – just like we are.
You’re talking to people who are balancing multi-million projects and making high stakes decisions with their careers on the line. Understand that before you walk in the room. Your script may be a huge part of your life but in context, it is a smaller piece of a much, much large industry with probably a million other decisions to be made even if you’re lucky enough to get a yes. They may look at your project and say “can’t make that work right now” but the more you pitch, the more they hear your voice, the more likely it is they will soon be making it work.
I’ve gotten tons of passes. I’ve gotten zero “don’t come back.” In fact, I’ve gotten many “Not for us at this time, but we’d love to hear future ideas.”
Industry rejection is not permanent: Let’s say a company passes on you but you do some rewrites, maybe find a manager or that same script wins a few laurels on the festival circuit. That company maybe very open-minded to revisiting your idea. They don’t know everything and they know they don’t know everything.
Production slates and management needs are constantly changing. Today’s “pass” could very well be tomorrow’s “Where have you been??” which leads us to…
Research Who You Pitch: This is a very important point because it’s something agents, managers and production companies say all the time. Many aspiring screenwriters think that casting as wide a net as possible is the best strategy with queries and cold calls. If you’ve written the most revolutionary horror movie in years, chances are the company producing 10 rom-coms a year isn’t going to buy – or even waste their time hearing the pitch.
Yes, there are exceptions to every rule and maybe your horror will be what turns “Rom-Com Productions” into the next Blumhouse. It’s still a smart strategy to focus your efforts onto the people who are representing and producing the material you like to write.
I’ve made this mistake myself. I got a read from a manager who I didn’t realize repped like 80% comedies so my gritty crime drama got a pass with a “needs a lot more jokes.” Oops. I’m much, much more careful now and learn from my mistake, you’ll save some aggravation by heading off some of these rejections at the pass.
Every Pitch/Rejection Is An Opportunity: I know that sounds real saccharin but it’s true. This past year alone I had two rough pitch sessions. The people passed but the questions they asked me pointed out some clarity problems in the pitch. I put my “well, fuck you” aside and used their questions to rework my pitch. As a result, I’ve heard “YES” several times since. So quite frankly, if I saw those folks again I’d happily shake their hands and say “Thank You.” Those rejections actually helped me out huge and on a purely pragmatic level.
Listen to how people are responding, what questions they’re asking and the notes they’re giving. There is no better window into what the other side of the desk is looking for.
We Already Have Something Like It: One of the best you can get. Sure, someone got there first, but it also shows your idea is relevant and you’re onto something. If someone is buying and idea like yours, then in this competitive market it’s likely someone else is looking to buy yours. This pass is a big, flashing sign that says “KEEP GOING.”
If They Do Hate It: If you believe in your story, with your heart of hearts and think it should be told to the world and then you pitch to someone who responds “That’s dogshit” well, smile, say thank you and move on. Don’t look back. They’re probably not going to like your voice or your stories so you need to find the people who will.
I don’t always love to hide behind the blanket of “subjectivity” but there IS a matter of tastes to this business. That said…
Your Script/Pitch May Actually Be Terrible: Here’s the one none of us want to deal with but until it gets made, the idea of your script not working at all must remain on the table. Screenwriting is a strange vocation because even when we’re “done” the script is still a launching pad for production and post-production. And the script will go through changes, sometimes HUGE changes, during those processes. Scripts are constantly fluid and subject to reworking.
If your scripts are really generating no reception, no reads, no buzz or heat, it’s a good idea to take as objective a look as possible at the material. Maybe it’s your pitch. Maybe it’s how your idea is being presented. Maybe it is in fact your script.
A circle of readers or being a part of a writer’s group might help you out with this. If you don’t have access to that, there are sites like The Black List and script consultants out there to give you notes and coverage to get your story where it needs to be. (VET any script consultants. Don’t just give some schmuck who’s written two unsold scripts $$$ for notes. I’ve won awards and wouldn’t even think of charging – even if I did have time to read a stranger’s scripts.)
So yes, the possibility your story isn’t working has to be considered during this discussion. Sometimes it is you, not them. But the doors are not slammed to you. If your rewrites help and you get the story on track, the same people who said no before may become your new champions when it’s ready.
Being as objective as possible or having the perspective of a reader are vital tools to being any kind of writer. So you can’t always chalk up the “no’s” to “well, what do they know?” Hell, constantly trying to improve your writing is a part of the quest – yes or no. Sell 12 scripts last year? That’s great, you should still be trying to get better.
There is no avoiding rejection and “PASS” on the screenwriting journey. But if you arm and prepare yourself properly, you’ll be able to survive this minefield. How many and how much you can take is up to you. I suggest you take all the no’s on the chin and learn everything you can from them. Say Thank You and put that pen back to paper.
Because one yes will wipe all the no’s.
The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:
Daphne Ashbrook is an actor who has probably appeared in your favorite show. With a resume in theatre, film and television shows ranging from “Knight Rider” to “Murder She Wrote” to “NCIS” to “The OC,” just to name a few, Daphne’s honed her craft into an incredibly successful career. She is a favorite among science fiction fans as well for being one of the few people to appear in both “Star Trek” and “Doctor Who.” In recent years, she’s branched beyond acting by releasing several albums “Grace Notes” “All Good Dreamers” and penning a memoir on acting “Dead Woman Laughing.”
Daphne’s latest adventure is writing, producing and starring in a new short film, “Once More, With Feeling.” Inspired by a true and frightening turn of events during a trip to Joshua Tree, “Once More, With Feeling” tackles intense issues such PTSD and suicide but with a humorous slant as well. As you’ll hear, Daphne’s indefatigable spirit is sending her on an artistic journey where she has to relive her fears. This is a great and inspiring listen which brings home the courage needed to bring your vision to life. Enjoy:
Once More, With Feeling IndieGogo fundraising site:
What happens when you discover a powerful emotional connection to someone three times your age? Gregor Collins tells us in his open and honest memoir “The Accidental Caregiver” which was turned into a stageplay that premiered in January 2015. In 2008, Gregor found himself employed as caregiver to famous Holocaust refugee Maria Altmann. What occurred from there was an unexpected journey which opened up Gregor’s mind and heart in ways he could not have predicted.
Gregor Collins is a writer, actor and producer based out of New York City. Like myself, he’s got an extensive career in the world of reality TV. The Accidental Caregiver and other works has propelled Gregor’s career in new directions that have made him realize that living the creative life means taking control of your own destiny. During this interview we talk about the emotional honesty needed to be an artist but also the courage to stop waiting and start doing. Enjoy:
Sometimes when thinking about making a short film, it’s easy to get caught up in the limitations of the format. “There’s not enough time to develop story or surprise people.” Filmmakers Stacy Gueraseva and Travis Rust have made a short film that disproves those misconceptions. The just released “Synergy” is a short they made in February that’s a topical comment on social media and infomericals with plenty of comedy, twists and turns.
Stacy Gueraseva is an experienced magazine editor and non-fiction author. You may recognize her name for her book “Def Jam Inc.” Travis Rust is a seasoned unscripted TV editor and has made short films before. In addition to their own experience, they assembled a trusted cast of talented people.As a husband & wife team, this is Stacy & Travis’s first film together. They tell us how they divided their labor but also trusted their instincts and welcomed the input of theircast & crew. Enjoy:
Episode 30 of the Express welcomes a fearless filmmaker from a production company that’s tackling important stories head-on. Writer/Director Ramon Hamilton founded Think Ten Media Group along with his wife, Producer Jennifer Fischer. Think Ten is telling stories of very human struggles with some of today’s most important issue as their backdrop.
This week sees the launch of their new web series The wHOLE which is an unflinching look at solitary confinement. Ramon endeavors to look at all sides of an issue within his story without losing the intimate, human element. We also talk about how he embraces the limitations of shooting on a smaller independent budget. This is a very informative listen for people looking to write important dramas and for people who want to make movies but don’t have access big studio money. Enjoy:
I’m very pleased to welcome fellow New Jersey native, filmmaker Kyle C Mumford to the Express. Kyle’s artistic journey through life has seen him wear many hats in the entertainment business. Kyle has extensive experience editing, sound mixing, screenwriting and is the director of several short films. His latest short, “Jamie And Jonathan” is tells the story of a failed writer driving his estranged son to a funeral.
“Jamie And Jonathan” is a drama exploring the meaning of fatherhood but is filled with lots of comedy as well. Kyle and I talk in detail about the how connected and important comedy is to drama. Kyle tells us about his experiences in various positions has helped him become a better director. And he also tells about how he became a screenwriter despite being told in his youth it was impossible because he has dyslexia. Kyle has proven it’s very much not impossible. Enjoy:
For more on Jamie And Jonathan and how you can contribute to the film:
I know a lot of editors whom I’d like to bring on the Express and I’m starting with one of the most unique that I know. Crystal House is an experienced online editor. The online/offline process is one of the most overlooked and possibly least understood aspects of post-production. Crystal tells us how that process works, how online editors are different from offline editors and the challenges of each. Crystal does offline editing as well and tells us all about editing the fascinating upcoming independent movie “Stand.”
Another reason I asked Crystal in the show is because of my love-affair with paranormal stories. Crystal is studying the science of Ufology, which is the study of UFO’s. We take a side-step away from industry talk for a bit to talk about UFO studies and some truly creepy stories from around the world. And Crystal tells us about a very unusual but well-documented sleep disorder she suffers from which launched her interest in this subject. This is fun yet very informative interview. I hope you enjoy:
I’ve got a slew of interesting artists and filmmakers coming up on The Express and we kick things off with Jon Matthews. A graduate of NYU film school, Jon’s latest project is a documentary that seeks to both unify and inspire. In “Psalms: The Making Of An Album” Jon is planning on bringing together a group of Jewish Appalachians and Jewish Ugandans to record an album together.
This is a concept that’s eye-opening in breaking regional stereotypes but also aims to get to the root of our cultural roots. There is currently a kickstarter campaign to help finance the film and the recording of the album. Jon tells us how a series of chance meetings and a love of his home-state of West Virginia inspired this unique endeavor.
Jon’s made a previous documentary about his family as well as an NYU film starring James Franco, Whoopi Goldberg and Olivia Wilde. Utilizing his successes, Jon’s career is now broadening into the world of screenwriting and commercial directing. In this interview, Jon tells how all of these skills intersect. And we’ve even got some tips on networking. If you’re looking to write your first script or make your first film, this is a very valuable listen. Enjoy:
It’s always scary whenever a screenwriter thinks of the production executive who will oversee their script. But M. Dal Walton III joins me for Episode 22 to tell you why screenwriters have nothing to fear. Dal has served for years as production executive guiding movies such as “Narc”, “Once Fallen”, “16 Blocks” and “Righteous Kill.” Dal tells us about how a production executive is there to help a script become the best movie possible. Yes, it’s true – they’re actually on the screenwriter’s side!
Dal has also worked as a manager for years and goes into detail about the manager/screenwriter relationship. Dal is now moving to the other side of the desk becoming a director and writer himself. Having seen many changes in the business over the years, Dal gives some great observations about why this is one of the best times to be screenwriter or director in Hollywood. An invaluable and experienced source of how it works inside a production company, Dal is very generous here with his insight. This interview is helpful to screenwriters everywhere whatever their skill level. Grab a pen, take some notes and enjoy.
We kick off December with Episode 21 of the HTD Express. Simone Bailly is an actress who’s worked across many genres in television and film. You’ve seen her in recent sci-fi icons like “Stargate: SG-1,” “Battlestar Galactica” and “Smallville.” But she’s also appeared in dramas like “The L-Word” as well as a new independent feature about modern romance “Life Partners” alongside Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and Gillian Jacobs (Community). This being the digital age, you can rent “Life Partners” on itunes right now but it also opens in theatres this Friday, December 5th, 2014.
Simone has experienced the acting industry in both Vancouver and Los Angeles. She shares with us an actor’s perspective on how to approach character. For screenwriters everywhere, this conversation offers a new angle of looking at your scripts. Simone tells us exactly what goes through the mind of the person who is handed a script and tasked with bringing characters to life. We also talk about the pros and cons of taking risks to stand out from the crowd. There’s a lot of insight in here about how close acting and screenwriting actually are. Enjoy:
November 15th, Midnight PST will be the final deadline for the 2015 Blue Cat Screenplay Competition. I’m very delighted that due to some last-minute scheduling, the founder and judge of Blue Cat, screenwriter, director and teacher Gordy Hoffman kindly took time out to tell us about what this very trusted screenwriting contests. Blue Cat is in its sixteenth year and has helped launched numerous writing careers, including “Rodham” screenwriter Young Il Kim and “Prisoners” co-writer Aaron Guzikowski among many others.
Gordy has been a huge asset to aspiring screenwriters since he launched Blue Cat and you’ll hear why as shares some of his great insights here. Every script that enters Blue Cat gets written feedback. Gordy tells us how writers should handle and address that feedback. Gordy also tells us what a writer should be concentrating on before they enter any contest. The good news, it’s all about the writing and not marketplace dictates. If you’re an aspiring or amateur screenwriter, inside or outside LA, looking for a door to get into the business, contests like Blue Cat are a great way. Find out why here and Enjoy!
Sorry it’s been a while with a written blog dear reader but I’ve been too busy interviewing industry professionals for your listening pleasure. Thanks again to everyone who’s listened, shared and spread the word about the podcast. It’s very much appreciated and as long as people are tuning in, I’m going to keep recording.
The next two week’s shows are scheduled despite the fact that I’ll be taking a trip to the most liberal part of the Lone Star state for arguably the best festival for screenwriters in the country. How liberal is Austin? There are streets where it’s legal for women to be topless in public. For real. I think you can figure out how I found that out.
Don’t get excited, this blog isn’t about public displays of bosom. Get excited, this blog is about the Austin Film Festival. Now, it’s not meant to be a foolproof guide and I don’t claim to know everything about the festival. I should also point out this blog is not authorized or under the auspices by the AFF, it’s just me talking about it. Last year, I was fortunate enough to place 2 of my scripts into the Second Round of the 2013 Festival and it was an amazing, even career-changing experience. It was also the Festival that validated me as a writer and industry professional in ways I didn’t realize.
The AFF opened my eyes to new ways of looking at writing. This blog and podcast are actually the direct result from a panel with “You’re The Worst” (GREAT show) showrunner and writer extraordinaire Stephen Falk. I met some people whom I like, admire and look forward to years of friendship with. I got to shake hands with some great writers who wrote some of my favorite movies. I even get a tutorial on Westerns from this gentleman:
With the festival coming up next week, I figured this was a good time to share some do’s & don’ts I learned from my experiences last year. Take all this with a grain of salt but I dare say these are some pertinent suggestions from myself and others.
FOR THOSE TRAVELING:
The Festival can actually start before you get to Austin. Last year for me it started on the plane as my slumber was awakened by folks in neighboring seats talking about the movies they were showing at the Festival. An hour of friendly conversation later, business cards were exchanged and the networking was underway – 35,000 above Arizona.
Don’t accost people in the airport of course but chances are you’re flying with fellow festival goers. And they’re probably just as scared and nervous of the festival as you are. After all, we wouldn’t be writers if we were great with people. If the opportunity presents itself to talk to folks, take it. The filmmakers I spoke to on the plane (unless they read this) have no idea how much they put me at ease. It was a relief to meet folks who were excited, friendly and nice while still in the air. My nervousness about the festival went way down.
(More on those films at the bottom of the page. They’re great, check ’em out)
THAT MAGIC AGENT
Speaking of nerves, if you’re a 2nd Rounder or above, the spotlight is a bit on you. You’re now a recognized writer and hopefully at the festival you’ll meet that one agent or manager who can open all of Hollywood’s doors for you to finally make it as a professional screenwriter. Only one problem – that person doesn’t exist. There is no agent or manager who can magically do that. Sorry. Keep reading though and keep writing because there’s actually better (if slower) solutions.
Ed Solomon, the screenwriter of “Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, “Men In Black” among many others, brought this home in the very first panel I went to. He was at the very first AFF and reminded us all it’s not about finding the agent who will help you leapfrog above everyone else. It’s actually about meeting everyone else, working with them, making connections with other creative people to ultimately improve your craft and become the hot commodity that all the managers and agents chase. I can’t remember his exact words but he was almost like a football coach telling us how to play the game right and smart as opposed to just rushing the field, trying to kill the other team.
As screenwriters, we’re in competition for jobs and work sure, but we’re all in it together. We’re all on the same team.
TALK TO EVERYONE
Talk to everyone. Everyone. Every. One. Talk to directors. Talk to filmmakers. Talk to writers who write the same stuff. Talk to writers who write different stuff. Talk to writers who’ve written 30 scripts. Talk to writers who’ve not even finished their first screenplay. Make sure you say Thank You to the staff who are working tirelessly to make this happen and love movies as much as we do. Talk to everyone.
No, that magic agent isn’t there. Probably isn’t there 😉 But that long lost writing soulmate might be. The Paul Schrader to your Martin Scorsese. The Larry David to your Jerry Seinfeld. The Stone Cold Steve Austin to your Vince McMahon may be standing next to you in line.Talk to them.
If you talk to someone and you don’t like each other or it’s awkward, who cares? Wasn’t meant to be. Move on.
For many folks outside of LA, it’s hard to find other writers or people who understand the life & struggles of screenwriter. The AFF is your chance to be in the room with like minded people. Talk to them.
I collected something like 160 business cards last year. For real. I counted. I handed out well over 250. Again, I counted. You’re not going to stay in touch with everyone. Just the way it is. And not everyone is going to stay in touch with you. Life happens. (Stupid life) But you will strike up real connections and friendships the wider net you cast.
I’ve probably stayed in touch with about two dozen or so people from last year’s AFF. Over the past year, they’ve been friends and colleagues and we’ve helped each other stay sane in the good fight of screenwriting. This year, we’ve already get plans to reunite and catch up at some of the events.
DON’T GET MAD ABOUT THE LINES
One of the bad news about Austin is there’s a fair amount of lines. Lines to get into the big panels with the wicked famous guests, lines to get into the movies, lines at the BBQ. Lines. Lines. Lines.
Here’s the good news. Lines are a great place to meet people. Some of the best conversations I had last year were in lines. No one likes lines. Everyone’s exhausted. Everyone is a writer. Ice is broken. Get talking. About your favorite movies, about your favorite scripts, about your favorite BBQ joint you’ve found. If the person you try talking to is unreceptive. No worries. There are THOUSANDS of other writers to meet and connect with. But lines in Austin are not an annoyance, they are an opportunity.
FIRST DATE BEHAVIOR
My friend and colleague Stephen Scaia used this line to describe the festival to me. He won the festival overall a few years back and on next week’s show talks about how that launched his career.
What does this mean? Be yourself, be cool and comfortable but remember you are trying to make a good impression. I have a T-shirt collection that is such that I could wear a different T-Shirt every day of the year. I only wore T’s on my travel days. The rest of the time, button downs and suits. In other words, what I would wear to a meeting or interview.
In some ways the festival is one giant meeting. Yes, it’s wicked fun but it’s also intensive. For screenwriters, the AFF is like graduate writing programme crammed into a weekend. You’re doing panels, taking notes, sitting under the learning tree all day long. (Some days, yeah no lunch – eat later or bring a granola bar to munch on during lines.)You’re going to be getting schooled by award-winning screenwriters, directors and producers. The very best in our field is going to be at the front of the room telling us what’s what. Dress accordingly.
IT’S OK TO BE A GOOD WRITER
Promote yourself. It’s OK. Doesn’t mean you should walk around handing out your script but it’s OK to tell people that you are in fact not just a writer, but a good one. We get so self-conscious about our writing, don’t we? It’s actually easier for us to promote other writers as opposed to ourselves sometimes. Pretend you are another writer. Be confident in the work you are doing. You are telling a story. People out there want to hear it.
AFF validated me more than I can say. You will hear professional writers talk about the same problems you face when writing. Listen to their process and how to solve some of those problems. Sure, they may be running shows on TV and may have written 50 movies. But in Austin, they’re not on the mountaintop. They’re side by side with you and they’re there to tell you to “Keep Writing.”
Chances are as you listen to them describe their struggles and problems, they will be sending you the message that you are in fact, doing it right.
DON’T BE THAT GUY
Don’t hog all the questions during one of the roundtables. At the roundtables, you may only get 20 minutes with one of the industry pro’s. Don’t do all the talking so that no one else gets in. I had to block some guy last year who asked like 20 questions and kept cutting off someone else who had only 1.
Don’t hog all the time with one of the big celebrities. There’s a fair amount of accessibility at the AFF. Some of the celebrities are happy to talk to everyone. But don’t hog all their time and not let anyone else in. It’s rude, it’s ugly and it’s unprofessional. Here’s the other thing. If you really are truly making a connection with that celebrity and they want to work with you and hire you, that’s all the more reason to get out of the way. You’ll get to talk to them all year. Some of us may only get a few minutes at the BBQ or in the bar. It’s a lot more impressive to be gracious and generous than snobby and inconsiderate.
Unfortunately, even at the best events with great people, it happens. Don’t be that guy.
THE FILM & FOOD PARTY
DO IT!Oh my God. Sooooo Good. There’s a sampling from a ton of Austin restaurants. So yeah, you get to walk around talking movies with folks while professional chefs shove lobster mac & cheese, smoked salmon and authentic Texas BBQ at you.
Honestly, I can’t imagine going to AFF and not going to this event. And fortunately, the actual festival starts in earnest at noon the next day so don’t worry, have another glass of wine.
LET’S TALK ABOUT DRINKING
We’re all adults and I’m not trying to lecture. There’s a lot of meeting, chatting, networking that happens at the parties and in the bars. And if you’re like me, you like a glass of beer. By all means, imbibe but bear in mind this is still a professional event. Share a beer with your favorite writer. Don’t get frat house drunk and puke on his shoes. Don’t be remembered for all the wrong reasons. A few people last year got the wrong kind of drunk at a few of the parties. Trust me, people notice. Have some beers. Don’t have all of them.
GET SOME BBQ
Last year I met some folks who wrote two dozen screenplays. I also met some folks who either hadn’t finished their script or felt their script wasn’t ready for the festival. I actually admired those folks more because they’re taking the time to sit under the learning tree and are striving for excellence.
Some people, though, don’t agree. Megan’s scripts weren’t in the festival last year but she came with me for the experience and the education. Yes, we did run into a few folks who actually looked down on her for assuming she didn’t place. That’s not cool. Festivals are subjective and not the only way one’s writing is endorsed or noticed.
We ran into a guy who ignored Megan but would only talk to me because I was a second rounder. Then a few minutes later he met a finalist and completely ignored me. I consider this “Wrong Festival Etiquette 101.”
Because here’s the thing – this year, Megan is a twice 2nd Rounder. We both have won various contests this past year. And for AFF this year, I’m going with Megan for the experience and education. Just another writer there to enjoy myself. But I know I will bump into at least one person who will think I’m not a qualified writer.
GO TO THE MOVIES
You’ll meet a lot of filmmakers. You probably won’t be able to go to the all of their movies which sucks but there’s only so many hours in the day. But GO. Make sure you see some of the films there. Yes, there’s marquee premieres but with all due respect to the big guns, there’s some real gems in the various competitions. Great stories that studios or more commercial production companies can’t/won’t tell. Also, if you’re thinking of making a short or an independent feature someday, definitely make the time to hit at least movie a night. Take notes at the Q & A. Put the Q in Q & A. Talk to the filmmakers and learn from their mistakes and ingenuity.
And quite frankly, screenwriters, even if you’re not going to direct one day – talking to directors only helps us to look at our scripts in new and inventive ways.
DON’T FORGET TO ENJOY EVERY SECOND
Don’t let any of the above mentioned don’ts affect your good time. Last year I flew back to LA thinking “There was my career before Austin and then there’s my career after Austin.”What’s happened to me since?
-Completed Three Pilots in the past year.
-One of those pilots won The Chicago Screenplay Contest and The Hollywood Screenplay Contest.
-That same pilot also has ratings of7,8 & 8 on The Black List. I got an email saying I’m in the top 5%.
-Also finished a feature script from scratch.
-Launched this blog & podcast.
-The networking skills I learned tripled my contacts.
-Those same networking skills have led to consultation employment in that field.
-I remain unsigned but as I write to you my work is with several management companies with meetings scheduled for the next few weeks.
So, yeah, the Austin Film Festival was very very good for me and if you’ve not entered a script yet, I highly recommend making it the best you possibly can, enter it into the festival and save up for the trip. Because I believe immersing yourself into a weekend with some of the very best screenwriters and filmmakers is worth going whether you place or not.
Keep your eyes, ears and mind open. Take in all the knowledge from the pros. Learn from people who write different stuff from you. Use everything you see and hear to arm yourself for coming year as you keep writing, keep producing and keep fighting the good fight.
If you are at AFF and would like to meet, I’ll be in the Driskill bar. You can’t miss me, I’ll be the guy with the pens.
For more on the AFF Experience, check out my interview with Mike Sundy:
Thanks to the filmmakers I met on the plane. Check out their great movies:
On Episode 14, I sit down with fellow screenwriter Mike Sundy. I met Mike last year through mutual friends at the world famous Austin Film Festival. The AFF is one of, if not the very best, festival for screenwriters. Mike tells how he used being a finalist in the AFF to improve his skills in both writing and networking. I’m happy to report Mike joins us fresh on the heels of optioning his AFF Finalist script – “Santagate.”
In addition to screenwriting, Mike has also written a children’s book and works as a Digital Asset Administrator for bay-area based animation studio Pixar (yes, that Pixar.) During this interview, Mike provides some invaluable, practical advice for how to honestly evaluate your own scripts in order to improve them with each draft. He also gives a great methodology for finding trusted readers and we both share our experiences on how to best utilize the fantastic Austin Film Festival. I hope you enjoy…