Conquering The Ordinary Afternoon

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There’s a natural enemy out there that I dare say all writers have to confront at one point or another. That enemy is – real life.

Whatever your genre, be it deep space fantasy adventure or small intimate character drama taking place in one room, a writer has to immerse themselves into their imagination as fully as one jumps into the deep end of a swimming pool.

I often cite the analogy of writing to swimming. You’re still on the planet Earth, you’re still amongst matter, you’re still able to move around and see even if you can’t utilize all your senses. Being in the space of the imagination is just like that – you’re still on the planet Earth, you’re still able to move around and see if you can’t actually talk to, touch or interact with your created world or characters.

The act of writing can take the writer into “a zone” if you will. Others have compared this to the zone an athlete gets into during a big game. Complete and total focus on the task at hand. I can tell you from experience that I’ve felt time disappear when writing. I’ve emerged from writing sessions actually confused about the time and date. When one commits as much of their mind as they can to their story, it’s often hard to switch gears back to the real world.

And as hard as it is to come out of the zone, it’s sometimes even more difficult to get into it. Especially when stupid, pesky life gets in the way. Writing during the week with a day job is, I’d suggest, one of the biggest challenges of writing. You don’t want to get fired so you can’t goof off doing your screenwriting at work. But work and even commutes alone (hi, 405) can take a ton of energy, physical and creative, out of you.

If you just write on the weekends, those aren’t so easy either. Let’s say you’re not hungover from an evening of Washington Apples and lite beers, you use your Saturdays and Sundays to go to the bank, do your grocery shopping, get your oil changed, see family members who are asking why you’re so busy writing and not seeing them. Precious hours to jump into the pool and swim with your stories fill up quickly.

It’s not always easy to imagine how to fend off an invasion of giant aliens on the surface of Mars while picking up your dry-cleaning or remembering if you already have corn on the cob at home. So after being at the Doctor’s office, day-care, on a dog walk or whatever, it’s hard to then jump into your extraordinary nature of your story in the middle of a perfectly ordinary afternoon. The stresses of real life can be the arch-enemy of your imagination.

Fortunately, there are ways to find the time and/or get into the zone so to speak without letting the fridge go bare or the tires fall of your car.

This list is by no means definitive, of course, but these are the things that have helped me manage my wicked fun workload with the annoying responsibilities of the real world. To add some credibility to that, this year I’ve completed several treatments, two pilots and two feature scripts. And I’m on track to finish two more feature scripts. Maybe more. Time and workflow management are not a pipe dream.

WRITE EVERY DAY: Writing every day isn’t just about completion. The more you write, the more it becomes habit. The more it becomes habit the more it becomes weird when you don’t write. My schedule got flipped around two weeks ago and I couldn’t write during a particular day. I can’t begin to tell you how that threw me off. Like one of those days when you’re constantly late or everyone seems to be in your way. The universe is just off.

About 4-5 years ago, getting into the writer’s zone was hard for me. It would sometimes take me an hour to warm up. That was not so good when some days I only had an hour to write. But force myself to write every day I did. (Yes, you are going to miss some, don’t panic) But before I knew it, I’d crack my software open and bam there I was, right in the zone.

Writing every single day and writing A LOT solves a ton of a writer’s problems. Including but not limited to getting in the zone.

WRITING RITUAL: Something else that helped was a ritual. I write to music (“yeah, no shit, everyone does”) but I choose specific soundtracks and music to each story. For example, earlier this year I wrote a story with heavy religious themes so I queued up some Gregorian Chants and things like that. I like to write to soundtracks and techno so I’ll choose accordingly material that matches the story I’m writing.

But the specifics aren’t as important as the ritual. Something that can hold your hand as you step into the pool. Queueing up the music helped a ton for me. I know other writers who can’t write without their favorite cup of coffee or tea at their side. All for it.

Maybe one likes to exercise before they write or do 15 minute meditation. Whatever works is whatever that works.

Just don’t do the whole “I can only write when I drink” thing. That’s more or less a myth and can lead to severe alcoholism and other destructive behavior.

CALENDAR: The best $14.95 I spent this year was on a calendar that’s on the wall right next to my desk. It’s so basic, so simple and yet you’d be surprised how many writers I talk to who don’t use one. When managing multiple projects and a day job and a family, looking at the week or month to see where you can work on what is a no-brainer. My stress level has plummeted just by being able to mark down “OK, Tuesday and Wednesday I’ll write this then Thursday and Friday I’ll write that.”

I know we like to think of ourselves as artists who are prisoners to their muse and the vagaries of inspiration but we’re also professionals who can be organized and pragmatic.

And it’s all in pencil so as the schedule gets messed up or you have those days where your writing time is just eaten up you can roll with the punches.

Seriously, next time you find yourself asking “where am I going to find the time to write this week?” Look at the calendar, you’ll find it.

PAD AND PEN: Even cheaper than a calendar are a notebook or notepad and some pens and/or pencil. We’re writers, not typists. I’ve filled more notebooks than I care to admit with story notes, character thoughts, ideas and concepts. I keep one with me just about everywhere I go so if a thought strikes from out o nowhere, I can write it down instead of shoving it away while talking to my mechanic. There’s also apps that do this on most if not all phones. Something strikes you as interesting? Write it down. No excuse not to.

UNPLUG: I don’t do this as much as I used to but I know other writers swear by it. The internet is a source of endless distractions. From twitter to facebook to instagrams of lunch to news to politics to games starring candy to adult entertainment and even looking up obscure movies on imdb. (Seriously, how can anyone with an internet connection ever be bored?) If all of those things are whispering in your ear like the devil on the shoulder – unplug. All of those things will wait. Any emergency will call you personally. Turn off the internet and fight to forget about it for a while. It’ll be hard at first, missing the endorphins those little notifications set off, but that rush will be replaced by writing – and finishing – more.

EMBRACING THE ORDINARY AFTERNOON: After a while of writing a lot and honing your craft, the real world becomes not distraction but an asset. And I mean for your writing, not just living. Many a writer has written about the importance of unlocking yourself from the keyboard.

Revisiting the first point, if you write every day, your story becomes a part of your subconscious. You’ll dream about it. And soon everything in life becomes connected to your story. Let’s say you’re stuck on a fight scene but then at the grocery story you’ll see two people trying to get the shortest line which may set off a line of thinking that actually cracks your problem with the scene. Nicholas Meyer has famously told the story that he didn’t know how to direct Star Trek II until playing with some rubber ducks in the tub.

“A writer is always working” is an old cliché but it’s not without some truth. Our stories are never far from our thoughts. There’s no clock where we punch out at the end of the day. Once our minds are trained to it, we have no choice but to design our tales while in line at the DMV, on hold with the cable company or while pretending to listen to our significant others.

Real life then becomes not a distraction that gets in the way but a necessity to keep our minds fresh. We’ll see the trees if we walk out of the forest so to speak. Still, it always sucks on those days when you can’t get back to your keyboard but this is an imperfect science looking at an imperfect craft.

As writers we have the privilege (insanity?) of straddling two worlds. We get to be there for our real friends while ruling over the lives of our imaginary ones. We shudder in terror at the atrocities on the news while staying up late creating disasters for our characters to overcome. Those two worlds seem at odds but in actuality, they should work in synch with other or crossing over as needed to get your story to where it needs to be for you to tell it.

So next time you’re picking up dry-cleaning, don’t forget to figure out how to fend off an invasion of giant aliens on the surface of Mars.

Mars

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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What Quentin Tarantino Taught Me About Buying In

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I’m not the biggest fan of Quentin Tarantino. I like his work but I’m not a devotee like so many are. I’m not an authority on his career. I actually prefer Reservoir Dogs to Pulp Fiction. And I’ve not seen his last two pictures. (Mr. Tarantino, if you’re reading this, don’t be mad, they’re in my queue.)

I also didn’t grow up watching kung-fu movies. My Saturday mornings were filled with WWF action called by Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan. And then there was NWA World Championship Wrestling at 6:05 on the Superstation TBS. So Hulk Hogan & The Four Horsemen filled my over the top action quota for the weekend.

Many years ago, Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 arrived in the mail. Yes, I still use DVD. I like physical media. Old school. I was curious about Kill Bill but not overly excited. I didn’t run to the theatre to see it and basically was watching it to keep up with the buzz.

I popped Volume One in and relaxed on the couch. A mere few minutes in, Uma Thurman confronts a suburban mom in her doorway. There’s that noise, you know the one, as Quentin closeups on their eyes narrowing in focus. And then BAM they’re fighting all over the house in as high stakes a life-and-death struggle as I’ve seen.

That was it. I was in. Wherever Tarantino took me, I was going. Oh Quentin, My Captain. He could have taken me to the villain giving a monologue while making a sandwich and I would have been riveted. Oh wait, he did and I was. I watched the whole thing from the edge of my seat loving every second. I wanted to shake Quentin Tarantino’s hand and buy him a beer for the experience.

I was hooked. We often talk about the hook as vital for the early pages of a screenplay. But makes an effective hook can be quite elusive. Whatever the genre, the hook is the thing that makes someone want to keep reading, pay money for a box-office ticket or drop the remote while saying “Ooo, what’s gonna happen next?” But we know all too well how hard that interest can be to capture in our gigantic media and ever-busy world saturated with distractions & content.

And let’s be honest – a hook also can help the filmmakers pull off the slight of hand of hiding a film’s flaws by seducing the viewer into the journey. We’re trying to get you so into the piece, so interested in the story that hopefully don’t notice the joins or figure out those trespasses they make fun of Mythbusters. If you’re on the edge of the seat about how they’re going to rescue the princess, you’ll overlook the obvious shot of the stunt-double in Act 2.

To borrow a phrase from sports, a hook makes the viewer buy into the movie the way a player has to buy into a coach.

Friends chatting about movies can be an invaluable resource for screenwriters and filmmakers. It’s a first hand focus group where people are talking about what they like and don’t like about a movie. Not over-analysis or overused jargon about inciting incidents and payoffs.

That being said, I’d suggest gently that people don’t always know how to accurately articulate what it is they didn’t like about a movie.

Some examples:

“It had no plot or story.”  If you think a summer blockbuster had no plot or story, I have a long list of 60’s art films for you to check you. Movies that have no plot or story aren’t released widely. You may not like the plot or the story, you may find the story very boring or you may not really care about it. But it’s very difficult to find a movie with no plot or no story.

“It was sooooo bad.” Problem with this is bad is a relative term. You hear it all the time – objectivity planted onto subjectivity. I’ve heard it was “soooo bad” about movies that have won awards on every level with a fierce loyal audience behind it.  I’ve heard it “was so bad” about some movies that when I finally saw them I was expecting such dreck that I actually said “it’s not that bad.” The reverse happens to be true as well. I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience.

Fortunately, no one has ever told me a script of mine was “sooo bad” but if they did, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Obviously I thought it was good. Chances are another of my readers liked it as well. So how do I fix “sooo bad?” I can’t. Boring? Sure, we can pick up the pace. Low-stakes? Can do, we can ramp those up.  Too many story threads? Cut & combine. But sooo bad? I’m gonna have to ask you to be A LOT more specific.

And if I’m hearing my friends complain about a movie and someone says “I just didn’t buy it.” A-HA! Now we’re talking. Usually, there was something that was a bridge too far when it came to suspending disbelief. And that’s important and something us screenwriters can work with:

*Was there an inconsistency in character behavior?

*Was the emotion of the story not the right pitch?

*Was world of the script something the viewer couldn’t believe could happen? (Not necessarily realistic, but credible.)

Can we answer those questions within the story enough to get the audience to buy in? That is the great quest but you can see how much easier those questions are to work with. And some of them can be answered by a great hook.

See, it’s easy to say “Come up with a great hook that gets the reader/viewer interested.” But it’s more than that. You need a great hook that seduces the viewer into another world they don’t want to turn away from.

Every movie has a hook somewhere in the top. Movie history is overrun with great hooks that make people say “I’m not going anywhere.”

*The HUGE spaceship that kicked off Star Wars

*Jack Burton’s driving monologue at the top of Big Trouble In Little China

*Harmonica’s first gun fight at the top of Once Upon A Time In The West.

Hell, at the top of Annie Hall, Woody Allen tells you directly some of his favorite jokes that are the theme of the movie. In some ways, he’s saying “This is what this movie’s about. Let’s go.”

Those are a few of my favorites. You can probably think of hundreds more. Talk about it with your friends this weekend. It’ll be fun.

You don’t want to lose the viewer. You don’t to let up the excitement/drama/stakes, all those synonyms for story. BUT the lightning in the bottle is get that hook that grabs people and doesn’t let go, that makes people, “Oh, I am IN” or “How will Harry & Sally finally get together?” “How are they going to catch that shark?” “How is Bruce Willis going to fix that little kid?”

Quentin Tarantino is a MASTER of the hooks. The Madonna chatter at the top of Reservoir Dogs. The robbery at the top of Pulp Fiction. And my favorite, the fight at the top of Kill Bill.

He cinematically tells you in 30 seconds or less, “This is the story I’m telling. I make no apologies for it. And I’m not holding back.” (For the record, that’s not an actual quote, just my interpretation.)

Because here’s the sad truth. Sometimes, the viewer just isn’t going to buy in.

I’ve watched movies that are objectively of a very high quality, that have been made by intelligent artists with the most painstaking care, that are honest and raw with a real message. And I still just don’t like them. You can say the same thing. I can guarantee it. (Again, the “sooo bad” being relative to the point of meaningless.) I just didn’t buy in. I can usually point to something specific that undid the hook. 

This is meant with the highest respect to the filmmakers and this is all a matter of taste, but…

*Room: I don’t know of a mother who wouldn’t figure out how to escape through that skylight during those 5 years.
*The Dark Knight: The Joker’s henchmen engaged in basil exposition dialogue during the bank robbery for reasons I saw as just moving plot, not story. Also, Batman beating up the cops of Gotham City isn’t a Batman story I’m interested in.
*High Plains Drifter: A cowboy raping a woman is horrible and unacceptable whatever era the movie was made in or portraying.

I could not buy into those movies. If you could, great! I’m glad you enjoyed them. What bothered me didn’t bother you and fair enough. Goo goo g’ joob. (Well, High Plains Drifter is a tricky one to justify. I’ve seen attempts but no, he raped that woman so fuck that movie.)

So sometimes that Hook doesn’t work. Sometimes we’ll look right at the stunt-double and change over to Food Network. What’s the answer? How do you get that great hook?

There’s simply no surefire answer. No one knows that and be dubious of anyone who does. But what I’ve learned, I’ve seen clearest in Quentin Tarantino’s films. “This is the story, no apologies, come along if you can.” In other words, if you know not everyone will buy in, there’s no reason to compromise your story. Stay as true to it as you can when inviting the viewer along for the ride.

I don’t write universal stuff. Not everyone will like my scripts and that’s quite frankly OK. Because to try and please everyone would actually undermine the stories.

So the hook shouldn’t be a cheap trick or gimmick. A dead body for the sake of a dead body. Like bad magic, people will see right through that. They’ll be insulted and uninterested.

I believe the Hook has to be something at the core of your story. Something that could define WHY you wanted to write this story. Something about what’s possessed you and made you obsessed with it. Something that will offer that same possession to the audience. Or a moment that will lead to that core of the story.

One of scripts I’ve written is about the French resistance of teenage girls fighting the Nazis during World War II. I got the note from several producers and writers that it took too long for the action to begin. A fair note and something I could work with. So I added a flash forward. The very first shot on the very first page is my lead character, Sophie, pointing a rifle at a Nazi soldier. Before they even speak, the core of the story is there both visually and on the page. The feedback and interest in the script went through the roof. Fingers crossed you’ll get to see it one day (and that you’ll buy into it.)

Revisiting those examples above:

*The HUGE spaceship that kicked off Star Wars

(A love letter to Flash Gordon, the inspiration of Star Wars, but it’s the start of Darth Vader’s chase of the heroes throughout the trilogy. Central to the story)

*Jack Burton’s driving monologue at the top of Big Trouble In Little China

(It’s ridiculous and funny but Jack is essentially describing his whole philosophy. He’s introducing himself to the audience)

*Harmonica’s first gun fight at the top of Once Upon A Time In The West.

(Harmonica’s revenge is the driving force of this story. We get started page 1, shot 1.)

No, you won’t seduce everyone with your hook. Someone’s going to read your script and say either “eh” or “that sucks.” But that’s not your audience. Your audience is the people who will get hooked by what your saying and stay with you for the entire ride.  And if they do, then your story will truly resonate with them the way it resonated with you. Or in ways you never even though of which can be the most fun at all.

Keep writing. I’m pulling for ya. And I hope people are buying in.

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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A Tiny Bit Of Inspiration: An Interview With Kyle Newmaster

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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.

at piano        At Abbey Road

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:

http://www.kylenewmaster.com/

Kyle’s IMDB page is here:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1786083/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

For samples from his Kinect soundtrack:

https://soundcloud.com/kylenewmaster/sets/kinect-star-wars-soundtrack   

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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The Success Of Failure: An Interview With Jennifer Sharp

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Screenwriters constantly have to do deal with feedback and notes. They should always be listened to and considered. But then there’s THOSE reads. Those reads that say “this script is horrible” or “you can’t write.” Festivals and coverage services can be great sources for criticism but you run the risk of sometimes getting that kind of reaction.

Joining me to talk about how to handle that is Jennifer Sharp. Director of the feature film “I’m Through With White Girls” and an award-winning screenwriter as well, Jennifer shares some of the soul-crushing reads she’s received. But she also talks about how that doesn’t have to be the end. This a great conversation about having the resiliency to block out those who hate your work and finding the people who will love it. Enjoy:

For more on Jennifer and her films, check out her homepage.

www.jennifersharpfilms.com

Jennifer can be found on twitter with her brand new handle: @jensharpfilms

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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What Screenwriters Should Say When Rejected

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“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 up  to 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:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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Perspectives On Entertainment 2 from Ron Greenfield

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After months of interviewing others, I was very delighted and flattered to be interviewed by my friend and colleague, Ron Greenfield. Ron offered one of the most informative episodes of the Express thanks to his hands-on, in-the-room experience in many areas of the entertainment business.

Just released is Perspectives Of Entertainment 2 in which Ron interviews a great number of esteemed artists pursuing the creative life. It is a great thrill that he included me in such august company and I hope I was able to offer some valuable words.  This new collection is a must-read for those looking to break-in to show business or those who just fascinated by it because you’re hearing from folks who have truly “been there, done that” and are still doing it.

From the Press Release:

Ron Greenfield is a recognized authority on the Entertainment Industry who has just released his second book, “Perspectives on Entertainment 2, Pursuing Our Passion” on Amazon  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B014GBQTIA and iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1033732329  It is an exploration into the creative process, conducted through a series of interviews, with extraordinarily talented individuals, providing an insider’s view into the highs, lows, triumphs and setbacks they have encountered in their respective careers in this industry.

Each person sheds light on their individual creative process which enables them to work and realize their creative ambitions under the illumination of the entertainment spotlight. The conversations vary in length, but get to the heart of the matter: their creative aspirations, ambitions, and the work they do. Each interview is an excursion, moving through the worlds of the Broadway Theater, dance, and nightclub performers to the complexities of game development, writing, pod-casting, acting, and preserving our film heritage.

“I’m the audience…There has to be something relatable to the audience…something that is unique.” – Neal Rubinstein, Broadway Producer

“I’m here to sing for you and to take you away because I’m an entertainer. I’m singing about something you can relate to.”   – Karen Wyman, Entertainer and Performer

“I always felt a bit more comfortable with costume design…I like working with actors, and I like the collaboration it involves.” – Jess Goldstein, Costume Designer

“…the bar is set very high these days, and so the people I represent and other publicists represent have to have something special to stand out above the crowd.”  – Lisa Wartur, CEO and Publicist, Noodlehead Productions

“You have to write, write, write, all the time. Write screenplays. Write treatments. Write notes… Help inspiration out with exploring this stuff actively.”Tim Davis, Screenwriter

“I trust my intuition more than anything. I usually go with my first initial reaction after reading a script where it comes to creating a character.” – Jeffrey Staab, Actor

“It’s the director’s vision of what he is really allowing you and focusing your eyes to see.” John Carpenter, Film Historian and Preservationist

Ron Greenfield is the CEO and creator of www.aspectsofentertainment.com , and an acknowledged expert on the entertainment industry. He writes extensively on subjects pertaining to the industry and creativity through his blogs, articles, videos, and featured interviews. For more information and/or interview booking, speaking engagements and television appearances, please contact him at: info@aspectsofentertainment.com

My interview with Ron Greenfield can be found here:

https://handsometimmydexpress.com/2014/10/14/aspects-of-entertainment-an-interview-with-ron-greenfield/

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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Once More, With Feeling: An Interview With Daphne Ashbrook

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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.” 

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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:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/once-more-with-feeling–2/x/3052639#/story

Once More, With Feeling FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/OnceMoreWithFeelingmovie?ref=hl

Once More, With Feeling website:

http://once-more-with-feeling.weebly.com/

Once More, With Feeling IMdb:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4813566/

Daphne Ashbrook’s website:

http://www.daphneashbrook.com

Daphne Ashbrook Official FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/reallydaphne?ref=hl

Matthew Jacobs’ “Doctor Who Am I” website:

http://www.doctorwhoami.com/

The Official “Doctor Who Am I” Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/doctorwhoami?ref=hl

The Handsome Timmy D Express is proud to be a part of:

The Dan & Travis Show Podcast: An Awesome Thing

http://thedanandtravisshow.libsyn.com/

and 

The Chronic Rift: A series of podcasts that attempt to “find the culture in pop culture.”

http://www.chronicrift.com/

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