Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Slamdance, too



Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sundance News

Since there are no exclamation points in the title, you might have guessed that the film did not get into Sundance. I had a good sulk about it, and I'm still disappointed, but I'm moving on. Still hoping for other great fests to invite us...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

To Do List

  • Course evals
  • Annual tenure review (Monday afternoon)
  • Wait on festivals to respond
  • Accept inevitability of not getting into Sundance or Slamdance, since I haven't heard from either yet.


  • Thursday, November 17, 2005

    I am an idiot

    i got a call tonight from the festival programmer at one of the film fests we entered. i was just about to get excited when he told me that i had send them a dvd case with no dvd in it!

    Idiot, idiot, idiot.

    i did four or five entries that one day, and i don't know how i missed that.

    i'm fortunate that the one empty i sent (god, i hope it was just the one) was to a smaller indie fest. i mean, the guy was nice enough to call me.

    so tomorrow i have to fed ex it to him.

    i just feel like a complete idiot. really. it makes me worry what else i might have screwed up.

    Update: I fed ex'd (fed exed?) the DVD this morning. Should be on his doorstep by Monday.

    Still feel like an idiot.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005


    I'm still in rant mode over my screenwriting class, so this is more of that...

    Why do students take this class, I wonder? Do they just assume it's going to be easy? I guess, as electives go, it certainly SOUNDS more interesting than other so-called "communication" courses. But don't they know they have to write a screenplay?

    I swear, the god-awful crap most of them turned in this week was so... well... god-awful. I've read lots of bad writing. But this stuff was -- and I'm really not joking here -- painful to read. After a while, I was having to take breaks just to slog through it. And when they send me more stuff to read, I cringe and avoid it.

    I, of course, kind of expect the stories to be immature, and there's a good deal of 'telling' when they should be 'showing' (basically, all their characters have amazing self-knowledge and proceed to tell all the other characters exactly what they're thinking and feeling). So that stuff, well, it takes time to get better at it. I do know that.

    What REALLY bugs me is when they just ignore me. Well, it's not really ignoring. 'Ignoring' implies that they heard what I said, thought about it, and chose not to do it. I would be giving them too much credit if I said that. It was clear from their submissions that they simply weren't listening.

    I go overboard in making this easy for them. Screenplay format, while tedious and bordering on insanely over-detailed, is nevertheless absolutely essential to making it as a screenwriter. You just have to do it right. There isn't much room for error. If you submit a really badly formatted script, you are assumed to be a complete amateur.

    So I teach them basic format. And I give them a simple Microsoft Word template -- they can download it from the course Blackboard site. And if they use that, it's basically just point-and-click.

    Yet I still get submissions so far afield from proper format as to make me question if they came from students actually IN the class.

    I tell them not to use a lot of parentheticals (the little 'personal directions' in parentheses under a character name, used to tell the actor how to say the line). And I get scripts with parentheticals on every line of dialogue. Every line.

    Do not center your dialogue, I explain. Or your character names. So of course I get several submissions that have done just that.

    Don't start every scene with characters engaging in small talk when they run into each other. Yes, we do this in real life. No, we do not see it in movies. Can you guess how many scripts had meaningless small talk at the start of every scene.

    I have seriously lowered the standards of what I expect I'll read from these students. I don't think they'll write anything remotely produceable. But this semester's bunch really has hit a new low in quality. And it has made going to this class a chore.

    It also hasn't helped that many of them don't show up at all. And they turn in assignments really late. I expect one or two of those in your average class. But out of a relatively small class (15 students), I've had 5 or 6 who have done very little of the work. One-third of the class?! That seems insanely high to me. And their slacking affects the other students, because they are all in small groups, and these small groups are supposed to critique each group member's work. So two people from a three-person group are consistently absent and don't do the work, and the one person in the group who DID do the work suffers.

    Sigh. Just a little pissed about this tonight. I could legitimately fail 5-7 people in this class. I just don't like doing that, and especially not that many. And, while I am loathe to admit it, I don't have tenure yet, and good student evals matter a great deal here, especially in a course like this -- basically my specialty.

    Am I saying that five years from now, when I have tenure, I would just fail these people?

    Yeah, probably. I probably would have called each of them to my office weeks ago to tell them they should drop the course or accept an inevitable F. Frankly, I'm embarrassed to have these students leave my class and say they learned screenwriting from me. I wish I could just fail them or force them out. But I don't like doing it, and more importantly, I don't feel empowered to do it.

    Which leads to a whole different post on the subject of how much weight in the tenure process should be given to student course evals. But I don't have the energy for that right now.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005


    Conversation just now in the kitchen:

    TerminalMFA: You know, you're forgetting a lot of stuff.
    Spouse of TMFA: Well, I csn't help it. I'm getting older. I'm in the next demographic. I'm 35.
    TerminalMFA: Yes, well, we in the previous and highly attractive 18-34 demographic miss you.
    Spuse of TMFA: We'll be welcoming you soon enough.

    I'm going to miss the 18-34 demographic. And I have mere months left to enjoy this most desirable and attractive of demographics. It's been a good ride...

    This post was apropos of nothing. Resume your regular blog-reading.

    That time of the semester...

    I spoke to two students yesterday who were at different levels of desperation in requesting extensions.

    One of them didn't have any legitimate reason. He's just struggling to come up with the topic for his major production assignment (a short film) in my directing class. So, what's the thinking here? I should just allow you to use 'creatively blocked' as an excuse when everyone else is expected to turn their film in on time?

    I was about to go into more detail here, but it's too depressing. Depressing isn't the right word. Annoying. This part of being a teacher drives me crazy. If you want to do well in my classes, if it's THAT important to you (and they all say it is), then give it the attention it deserves sooner.

    So, the film is in a brief period of 'stasis' right now. The picture is essentially locked (though, you know, I know the combination to the lock, and I will likely open that lock at some point, but for the moment it's not changing). Bringing the original HD footage in to the EDL (edit decision list) will take some time (especially because HD production students are in post on their final projects now, tying up the edit suite). Sound editing is in process. So I'm not doing a whole lot myself, which means my anxiety level is back up.

    This is my 'creative anxiety level' (CAL). My CAL goes up when I feel like I'm not doing anything creatively. I'm not working on a script right now. I'm not doing creative work on the film. I am, in fact, waiting to hear back from film festivals. Waiting is excruciating.

    And with, which I mentioned in a previous post, I can actually verify when film fests have received the preview screening tape/dvd. They actually go online and indicate somehow that the tape is logged in. And my screen shows a little green dot instead of a little red dot next to 'tape arrived'. Which is nice. It's nice to be able to verify that.

    But for someone like me, it also makes me antsy. Ready to hear back. These things are lengthy processes, though. So I should just be moving on to other things. But there's a lot of work to be done for classes, and my brain just isn't ready to tackle a creative project from scratch. I need some time for that.

    In any case, that's where my head is today. In addition to being 'out to fests,' the film is also out to a few key people who might like it (one hopes) and who might then review it positively for certain web outlets (you know who you are!). So I'm hoping to get some good buzz going, assuming the reviews are positive. And maybe that good buzz will translate into festival appearances or other good things for the film.

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    With apologies to Blogger...

    a few days ago, i wrote up a long post about festival entries, and (i thought) blogger ate it. so i posted a shorter version with the heading you see below this post. and (i thought) blogger ate it, too.

    so i figured the problem, whatever it was, must be fixed by now. it wasn't. cruised the help topics and found out blogger doesn't like the non-standard browser i use on my mac. okay, fine. so it was a 'known issue' (to them, not to me). but i've been posting from this browser for months now, with no 'issues', so why all of a sudden is it losing posts?

    anyway, i thought i'd get back to posting.

    the locked-picture-cut of the film has now been entered in a bunch more fests. on tuesday, i entered eight more festivals. that sounds like no big deal. but it took me the better part of the entire day to get those entries prepped and sent off (and that was while using, a festival-entry engine to which many fests now subscribe, meaning i didn't have to fill out every individual festival entry form. I just do a one-time 'Create Project' on, and then 'Enter Festival' for whichever fests i want to enter).

    WithoutABox saves time, no doubt. but every festival still seems to want their stuff done in a unique manner. some fests will accept dvd's for pre-screening purposes (i.e., not for actual showing in the fest, just for determining if you get INTO the fest). some don't want dvd's and will only accept vhs. among those who do accept dvd, many specify the ONLY kind of case in which you can submit your dvd. and what you should have printed on the case (running time, title, special tracking # issued by withoutabox). some require a press kit. some request but do not require one. some don't care about a press kit at all. some want hard-copy production stills. some will accept them in digital format. some want them but don't specify if one or the other is required or preferred.

    these requirements really aren't that onerous or ridiculous for an individual fest. it's when you're entering a bunch at one time that it becomes headache-inducing. so by the end of tuesday, i had a whopping tension headache.

    but, now the film is entered in 16 fests. i wish all 16 had the final picture cut, because i (obviously) think it's the best cut. but half of them will have that one. and it's a bit of a waiting game at this point.

    which is frustrating for me. i have to get on with other things while i wait to hear. first results will start to trickle in the first or second week of december (from sundance and slamdance). missing out on those would be a major disappointment. but as i've said from the beginning, i know they are longshots at best because of how competitive they are.

    the waiting kills me, because i am one of those people who has difficulty concentrating on the next creative project while the current one hasn't yet come to 'full fruition.' that's stupid, of course. waste of time. can't just sit here and wait for phone calls or emails that may never come. and even if they do, that's a lot of wasted time until then.

    but my head just isn't in a new script right now. i need to start one soon. i am at that creative-insecurity point where i haven't written a brand-new-from-scratch feature spec in a while, and i'm questioning my ability to pull it off. my last few attempts have either been aborted or just not that great. so i'm worried i won't be able to write another great one (assuming i have written a great one in the past, which i admit is a debatable point).

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    Stupid &%$#@ Blogger

    Friday, November 04, 2005


    it's amazing to me how much more laid back this semester has been compared to the frenzied panic i felt all last year. here it is, a friday with a significant portion of the semester still to go, and i spent about 10 minutes reviewing class notes for next week and then just didn't feel like doing it anymore. so i stopped. i am prepared enough. i don't have to re-read it a thousand times. last year, i would have been memorizing and highlighting.

    i admit, part of this is because this particular class underwhelms me. the students barely show any interest, and while i am trying to capture their attention, i am not going to spend hours and hours if they're not going to put in a minimal amount of work.

    in other news, i unofficially locked picture this morning on my film. wow -- can't believe i just wrote that. i mean, i can always 'unlock' it if i choose, so it doesn't have a real burning sense of finality. but we needed to start cleaning up sound and adding sound effects and ambiance, and we needed to capture the HD clips to replace the down-converted video (and color correct the HD as we do). so with those processes needing to begin, and with time winding down on the semester, it feels a little more like a i am walking towards a finish line rather than sprinting across it.

    but it still feels good.

    now i just wish i had been able to send THIS cut to all those festivals i already entered (eight so far). it's much better, especially the beginning.

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    "Real" writing

    i sometimes miss writing prose. i used to have a real knack for it (maybe i still do). writing for film is about crafting good images, and yes, it does involve good wordplay. bu that wordplay is essentially crafted to sell the script and communicate the vision. i.e., some of the best stuff won't be seen by anyone except as it is translated to image. and, even at its best, prose in a script is still depressingly utilitarian.

    so i was thinking today about my idea for a new script. it was something i was going to write, at one point, as a novel. so i opened up my idea file for it, and read through the prose intro i had written, and a few other passages i had composed. and they were pretty good, in a douglas adams kind of way (i love douglas adams' novels, as slight as they appear to be, because he had such a gift with language and verbal play).

    so i was reading my stuff and thinking, dang, now i don't want to write this as a script, because all of my really good ideas for it will be lost in the ether.

    but, because i have to get tenure here, i can't just embark on a novel as my next project. a novel doesn't get me tenure. i have to sell scripts, make films, etc. but i really want to write this.

    but, you know, that's just how i feel today. i don't know that i'll feel that way tomorrow or in a few weeks, and i do love film. i just miss writing words that everyone will see, as opposed to words that only the buyers and actors will see.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005

    Locking Picture

    I think we're going to lock picture by Thursday morning. Good solid 96 minute cut. Very happy with it. Just spent the last week re-cutting the opening and feel like it starts the film off much stronger now.

    I can't believe we're about to lock picture. It both exhilirates and stresses me out. I am ready for sound work to get started, though, and to see the film in its original HD format, because this down-converted compressed video is starting to bug me.

    So, next step is to bring the HD into the system for the clips used in the offline edit. Then color correct shot-by-shot. And the sound editor will be working simultaneously on cleaning up audio and adding effects and ambience.