Monday, January 30, 2006

Agent News

A while back, I mentioned that my friend in L.A. was going to take one of my scripts to his agent (and was going to manage me and my work himself).

So, he gave the script to his agent before Christmas. Weeks pass. The man kept not having time to read it. Which is normal in Hollywood. I'm hardly a priority for him. The next thing was that he had a funeral to go to. Promised my friend (his client) that he'd read it when he got back.

Friend called -- he lost the script. You can see where this is leading, right? So friend emails him a new pdf cop, he prints it out, promises to read it this past weekend.

So today, you could say i'm waiting anxiously. I was anxious this morning, before L.A. had even woken up. As the day wore on, to be honest, I kind of forgot.

And then I got a call from my wife -- seems my eldest daughter slipped on the gym floor in school and smacked her head hard enough to knock herself out. Okay, parental freak out. She woke up in the nurse's office, a little freaked herself (she's seven, and obviously justifiably upset at waking up and not remembering falling or anything).

Wife is at the doctor's office with her now -- I just got out of my class and am waiting on a phone call to see if I need to rush over there or if they're on the way home already...

So I'm sitting here trying to decide if I should just head over there, worried I might miss them if they're already headed home...

And THAT'S when my friend calls. I tell him the injury news. He says, "Well, that's your bad news for today. Do you want to hear your good news?"

So, Agent liked the script. Thinks it's very strong, a sellable piece, very timely, very 'now.' He as a few notes, but from what he relayed to my friend, they're not major. We're setting up a phone meeting between all three of us tomorrow, at which time I'm guessing he'll tell me what he thinks, give me his notes, and see if I can execute the notes. Friend tells me that the best-case scenario, what he's hoping for, is that Agent says "if you can execute these notes, I'll take it out to ## people in town."

So, think good thoughts. I need to "give good phone" tomorrow. And I was explicitly told by my friend to be sure not to be a dick when listening to his notes, lest I make both of us look bad. Not that I usually am one or anything, he says. He just wanted to warn me because it's HIS relationship with the agent on the line...

Going to go check on my daughter now. Think good thoughts there too, obviously.

Festivals, by the numbers

Didn't know I'd be updating this the same day I posted it. US Comedy Arts said 'no thanks' this afternoon....

  • Number of festivals entered: 33
  • Number of festivals who have rejected the film: 10
  • Number of festivals who have accepted the film: 0
  • Number of rejecting-fests who never bothered to tell me we were rejected (i.e., I found out only by NOT getting contacted when others were hearing they were in): 3

    List of fests:

    San Francisco Indie Fest
    Syracuse International Film Festival
    DC Indie Fest
    Durango Independent Film Festival
    Beverly Hills Fine Arts Industry Showcase

    US Comedy Arts (HBO)
    Florida Film Fest
    Crossroads (Jackson, MS)
    Gen Art (NY)
    Ann arbor Film Festival
    NY Underground Film Festival
    Atlanta Film Festival
    Houston Worldfest
    Los Angeles Film Festival
    Seattle International Film Festival
    Palm Beach International Film Festival
    New Directors/New Films (NY MoMA)
    Staten Island Film Festival
    Brooklyn Underground Film Festival
    FilmFest DC
    Boston Independent
    Dances With Films
    DIY Film Festival
    Santa Cruz Film Festival
    Seattle True Independent Film Festival
    Cosmos Film and Video Festival

    **Cinequest did reject the film from the main fest, but they extended an invitation to their online festival. I politely declined, after thinking on it for a while, because I didn't want the film to premiere online. Since it's a feature, I didn't think it would be a great way to start off a festival run, and I was concerned about how it might affect distribution deals in the future.

    I'll update this post as new results come in and as I enter new fests.

  • Sunday, January 29, 2006

    Mr. and Mrs. Smith

    Finally getting around to watching Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie, and I can see that it was worth waiting for the DVD (or, perhaps, worth not bothering at all).

    This movie is boring the hell out of me (otherwise I wouldn't be blogging about it right now, one hour and ten minutes into it, would I?). The scene at the moment: Brad Pitt is sneaking back into his house, I'm not sure why (to remove evidence? get a weapon? burn all of the things he gave to his wife? that last one is what he told her, but it doesn't seem like that's what he's actually trying to do).

    So they're trying to kill each other in the house (shades of ˆThe War of the Roses, but with guns, and significantly less wit).

    Problem: I don't give a flying flip about either of these characters. They're like Warner Bros. cartoon characters. They're highly-skilled assassins, but you know, the story didn't actually take any time to make us think of them as real people, instead of movie 'types', before they started going after each other. It's stupid, banal, and pointless.

    Watching Brad Pitt brutally kicking his wife on screen -- not really doing anything for me either.

    Again, to reiterate, I just don't care. When they get the 'drop' on each other, about to shoot, and Brad acts all 'husbandly' and stops, and then they kiss... it's not because this moment was destined to happen. It's because the movie needs it to happen, or the movie would end. So, even though there's no real attraction between them, they 'throw down' passionately.

    I'm still writing because it's still boring. The idea that they would have a passionless marriage until they find out the truth, and would then be so turned on by each other... it's a writer's conceit, an idea that's not actually developed by the writing, the acting, or the directing (which is focused on whizz-bang effects and cool action, and not on character at all).

    And if I see Angelina Jolie do one of her "I'm so hot and tough and smart" poses, I think I'll vomit.

    Friday, January 27, 2006


    SXSW says 'thanks, but no thanks' to my film today.

    makes me want to use certain profanities, but i'm refraining...

    UPDATE: a couple of hours later, and while i'm still down, i feel better after cooking chocolate chip pancakes for my kids and watching them perform a 'roller skate show' in the garage.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2006

    Writing for the market?

    I'm struggling lately with what script I'll write next. I've written about a dozen or so feature film scripts (only a few of which, perhaps four or five, I now consider good enough to circulate or still own outright). And in most of those cases, I simply came up with an idea and went with it. Commercial considerations really didn't enter into it for me. I wrote where my heart told me to go (or my brain, but I am using heart to indicate artistic interest).

    But after years of relative obscurity and some degree of futility on the 'market,' and armed with someone acting as a de facto manager, I am trying to think more strategically. I am trying to write for the market.

    In screenwriting, it is generally acknowledged that, if you want to write artsy fare, you have to make your bones, so to speak, by producing something that will sell and, in the best case, that will be a hit. You are then relatively free to write unusual things. The reputation you attain at writing something successful (i.e., financially rewarding) means people don't automatically reject the unusual work you do in the future. American Beauty was Alan Ball's first produced feature, you say? Yes, but he slaved away on the Cybill show on network TV for several years. What about Charlie Kauffman, whose first produced film was Being John Malkovich? Well, Mr. Kauffman was a sitcom writer, too. He worked on Fox's Ned & Stacy, among other things.

    My point is that these writers proved they could do traditional 'good' work. While they were working on their weird and wonderful spec scripts, they were doing good, solid work.

    Which brings me back, uh, me. I'm trying to think strategically, to write something that's good and solid and that will sell.

    But writing a new spec is a big commitment of time. So I don't want to write something that's not satisfying or moving me towards my personal goals as a writer.

    I have several good ideas I could be working on, but none of them is particularly commercial. One of them has commercial possibilities, but there was a pitch sold by a major comedy writer in Hollywood a few months ago, and while the two ideas aren't really that similar, the presence of one key 'location' (the segment of the world in which this particular story takes place) in both that pitch and my idea means that I probably shouldn't bother writing it.

    So I've spent days just trying to think of a great commercial idea that is also something I WANT to write.

    This is a lot harder than you'd expect.

    Monday, January 23, 2006

    How do you respond to rejection?

    I'm still figuring out how I respond, but I've noticed a trend, at least with regard to the film. Whenever I get rejected from a fest (or when I suspect I have been rejected, but I haven't yet gotten an official notice -- i.e., when people on the Withoutabox Message Boards are posting that they heard from XYZ Film Festival, and I haven't heard anything), after I've dealt with my sad feeilings over not getting in, I find myself searching the festival listings for other fests to enter.

    Last night, I identified about 5 or 10 new fests to enter. I sent off three more entries this morning (the three with the closest deadlines).

    Come to think of it, I am pretty sure I do this with scripts, too. It's on a smaller scale there, but when I get rejected by a production company or agent, I usually start searching out other places to submit.

    It turns out rejection is a pretty big motivator for me.

    Of course, I should probably be spending more time looking at why something is being rejected. But when I do that, I end up questioning everything.

    There is a fine line between "believing in your work" and "unwarranted arrogance." There is also a fine line between "editing your work in response to criticism" and "insanity" (i.e., changing stuff in response to every critical remark.

    I don't walk those particular lines very well. I veer wildly from one to another, careening like a drunk driver. I go from anger ("how can they not like this? those idiots!") to depression ("i suck -- i am mediocre at best") in the span of minutes.

    It's weird to be me. I haven't yet figured out how I can be so sure of myself and so unsure of myself at the same time... how I can hear a compliment and pick out (and obsess about) the one minor criticism within the compliment.

    At the heart of it all, I suspect, is an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy, a belief that I have nothing worth saying and no skill in saying it.

    Saturday, January 21, 2006

    I hate writing...

    ...I love 'having written.' So said Dorothy Parker, and often I couldn't agree with her more (though, there are times when the writing process is invigorating, and I feel a little like Anthony Michael Hall at the end of The Breakfast Club, reading his essay and punching his own shoulder, knowing he's written a gem).

    But in general, the writing process is a chore. Today, surprisingly, I really want to write. But I can't.

    Because I don't know what to write about. This is frustrating me beyond belief. I have several ideas I've been working on. They're in various stages of development, but none of them is the idea I want to tackle next.

    So I'm sitting here (surrounded by my brood, by the way -- so it's not like I would be getting much writing done anyway), desperately wanting to write something and having nothing to write.

    This sucks. I need to decide what I'm going write next. I haven't written a new spec in... um, too long.

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006


    ...I'm feeling better today, having come to terms with the fact that one person (or group of persons) did not like the film, and that's bound to happen. It's not everyone's taste.

    It would help, of course, if OTHER people (i.e., thosw reviewing the film) recognized this and didn't just declare it so boring that they started chatting with others in the room in the first 10 minutes.

    Okay, I'm still stinging a little. But I'm hopeful with regard to other fests, and I have to remember that others have found the film funny and insightful. It's not just me and my subjective opinion.

    Monday, January 16, 2006

    Darkness Descends

    My mood is particularly bleak today. As noted below, several fests seem to be notifying today, and I haven't heard a word. One of them is a major. The other two are relatively small and minor -- i.e., I was hoping to easily get into a few of those.

    Granted, no fest is a given. But finding out that people are hearing from a tiny indie fest, and me not hearing anything, with my mood already low... well, I'm having a hard time even making my dinner tonight. I'm longing for 24 to come on so I can get lost in escapist television and perhaps forget that the film I've labored over is falling flat with so many festivals.

    I just want to use some choice profanity and go on a rampage for a while. But (a) it wouldn't solve anything, and (b) I have a wife and three little kids, none of whom would appreciate the purpose of the ranting.

    But really, just a lousy lousy day right now.

    : This day keeps getting better. An indie film screening series to which we submitted the film said, via email: "I must say that it was shot quite well and looked very professional. Even the actors did a good job BUT at 93 minutes it was just not funny. Everyone watching started looking the other way and talking amongst themselves about 10 minutes into the film."

    Uh, ouch.

    BlogRoll Update

    I've added some links I've been meaning to add, and deleted some that were inactive. So, check out the new links. Many are film or screenwriting-related. And a few are academic blogs I've been reading for a while but hadn't yet added to the roll.

    Festival Frustration

    I am still waiting on word from many festivals, and of course I am confident we'll get into SOME festival at SOME point (I am, I suppose, MOSTLY confident of this).

    But as I peruse the festival messageboards on Withoutabox, I frequently see messages from people, fellow festival-waiters like me, who say things like "I haven't heard anything, but they emailed me for a photo of the director. I'm taking that as a good sign."

    Well, duh, of course it's a good sign.

    I, on the other hand, have heard nothing from any festival. I am growing increasingly frustrated, anxious, and -- yes -- depressed. I keep asking myself: does this film suck? What have I done wrong?

    I really do believe in the film, but it's hard to keep believing in the film with rejections (or implied rejections) coming at you at top speed.

    Saturday, January 14, 2006

    Petty Grammar News

    I flipped on TNT during halftime of the Broncos/Patriots playoff game (I am a football fanatic, what can I say?). And on the bottom of the screen is that helpful text (for latecomers) indicating what movie is playing.

    It read: Your watching Underworld on TNT.

    Maybe it only bothers me that a broadcast television network would screw up a basic grammar rule. I actually went to their website, got a general email address, and sent an email explaining that YOU'RE = YOU ARE. I know it will be ignored, and whoever reads it will think I am being petty. But it made me feel better.

    The only thing worse would have been if it said: Your "watching" Underworld on TNT.


    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Delurk, you slackers!

    Okay, it's National Delurking Week, which is my latest excuse for begging people to leave comments. If you lurk here, drop a comment. I'm curious how many people are actually reading me (some days, honestly, I don't blog because I sense I am talking to myself).

    Update: A day later, and only ONE delurker? Come on...

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Hoping for SXSW

    Still nothing from all the fests we sent the film to, other than the rejection from Sundance and Slamdance, and the implied rejection from San Francisco Indie Fest (implied by the fact that the fest is in three weeks and I haven't heard squat, in spite of my emailing them to see if we were in or out).

    The one I'm waiting and hoping for at the moment is SXSW (South by Southwest). Great fest in Austin TX, very reputable, would LOVE to premiere there.

    I haven't heard a peep from them yet. They are supposed to announce to the lineup in early to mid-February. Some people HAVE heard from them. Their website give the following "insider tip':

    No news is good news. If you haven't heard from us, it means your film is still in the running. Please don't call us panicked unless you still haven't heard from us at all by February 13.

    So, I am HOPING this means we truly are still in the running. A SXSW premiere would make my year.

    Say a prayer and think good thoughts for us...

    Sunday, January 08, 2006

    And so it begins...

    Classes start tomorrow morning. I'm vaguely prepared. What I mean to say is: I finished (mostly) the syllabi for my two spring classes before finishing out the fall term. I had planned to do a little more revamping, but this week got away from me and, well, the ride is starting, so my hands are inside the cart for the rest of the semester.

    Not sure the metaphor really works, but I think you catch my meaning.

    Thursday, January 05, 2006

    Festivals and Difficult Decisions

    Got another official rejection from a top 10 festival today. On the plus side, the film was invited to the 'online' component of this major fest. But you know, I don't really want the film to premiere online. I want it to have a theater premiere. I think it deserves that.

    So, I turned down the online fest yesterday.

    Then today, the official rejection from the main festival came in. I knew it was coming, of course. By getting into the online fest, I knew was automatically out of the main fest.

    But it still hurts a little.

    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

    Break Tally

    so, my tally of books and movies over the break...

    Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe
    Walk the Line
    Fun with Dick and Jane
    (again, tomorrow, with my eldest daughter)
    History of Violence (finally came to the cheap theater in town, seeing it Thursday)

    I got several graphic novels for Christmas, so...
    The Dark Knight Returns
    Superman: Secret Identity
    (a so-so novel by Robert Mayer)