How To Deal with, The Rules

There’s a book giveaway at the end of this post, so, what needs to happen is that you read the whole thing, first. Most of you will probably scroll to the end and enter, but trust me, I’ll know. I feel it’s appropriate to discuss the three ways to deal with the rules in what is ostensibly, a contest post. Win/win. So, that Guy Kawasaki will read, the three ways to deal with the rules are as follows:

  1. Learn them before you start
  2. Learn as you go, and finally
  3. Make them up as you go.

Simple, right? Not so fast, I’ve got about 700 words to go. Plus, explaining the rules will probably take more than that. Although, they do look rather simple and straightforward, come to think of it. So, maybe we should discuss, how to handle individual situations where the 3 ways can be used effectively.

Learn Before You Start

What’s the first board game you ever played? Chess, Checkers, Monopoly, Chutes & Ladders, or dare I say it, Candyland? In every case, you opened the box, took out the pieces, and there was this page of rules that came with. If you haven’t already played the game, you read the rules, hopefully, all the way through, and then you start. Simple board games that you played as a kid are easy, ones that are more complicated, have more rules and pieces, and finally, games that look simple but have multiple strategy guides/books published, are even more complicated, but that goes to playing the game well. In Checkers and Chess, you know how the pieces move, and you know what the ultimate goal is, however, how do you achieve that goal? Again, that goes to strategy, and I’m not trying to sell you a chess book. You’ve learned how the pieces move, where they go on the board, and what the goal is, so, chess or checkers at its base, is easy, and what are called perfect games, as they are finite to a point. Repeated play at a game like this will lead to improvement in your quality of play, and therefore, RTFM, as we say in the trade.

Learn as You Go

I once had a chiropractor tell me, “Life’s a game. Play the game.” I may have said this elsewhere myself, although, not recently, otherwise, I’d link to it. You’re born, you live, hopefully a long time, and then you die. Depending on your belief system, or the series finale of LOST, that’s not the end. In any case, no one handed you the above mentioned rulebook, therefore, you had to figure out most things yourself. Hopefully, you had a loving set of parents that pointed you in the right direction, for those things that you needed help with. This process continues into adulthood, and in the case of the meddling in-laws, probably long after that. You may find some new ‘games’ that you wish to play, and it’s at times like this, that I take the path of sitting down and starting to play. Like Twitter, or Facebook, for instance. Some of you may have actually read the privacy statement on either or both sites, however, as in at least one case, they’re constantly changing, therefore, you probably just clicked without reading. You got your account, and tried to figure it out. You may have even tweeted or written on your wall at some point. I don’t know, as my experience with Twitter should probably be a whole ‘nother post, if it hasn’t been already….

Make Them Up as You Go

Which brings us ultimately to, the 3rd option. The most fun, and quite possibly, the most dangerous. Sure, Twitter has rules, which are mostly guidelines, and the Twitiquette police will attempt to smack you down if you don’t follow their rules, however, the beauty of the system is, at least in this case, and for me, that I don’t have to play by their rules. I have mine. Mine are better, by definition. And since I’m making them up, I can change them, too. Again, win/win. I win, you win, he she or it, wins. In case of Grammar Police™, go directly to the Free Parking space on Monopoly, and don’t collect any money. Most of you have probably started with a $500 bill on this spot, and you’ve used the community chest money to add to it, however, that’s not in the rules. I was playing the game for a year before I found that one out, as I chose option #2 for that game. How To Win Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh This is probably the part you scrolled to when I said scroll to the end, so, the first rule of the free book giveaway is, go back to the top, and read the whole post. The second rule is, leave a comment, to prove that you’ve read it, and as the book comes out on Monday, by all means, rule #3 is multiple comments only count as one entry, and I’ll be tweeting this post out for the next 3 days. I have only one copy of the book to giveaway, therefore, best comment wins. Rule #4, all decisions of the judge are final, that’s me, and no purchase necessary, as I’m not really asking you to buy anything. I could, but then a purchase would be necessary, and we can’t have that, can we? Well, we could, but then you’d be breaking a rule. Which I’ll probably discuss next time. As always, adjust your expectations accordingly. And, Please, Retweet.

How To Write a Screenplay

Not to be confused by the book of the same name, if indeed it exists. Although, I may have inadvertently posted a link to it in the past. In any case, everyone has their unique perspective on what makes a good screenplay, and for the most part, they’re right, as far as they’re concerned. Get your good screenplay into their hands after you take their advice, and you may very well hear them say, “That’s a good screenplay!” as they hand it back to you, with a stack of voluminous notes, or, more likely a rejection letter. Sometimes, you don’t even get that. I’m still waiting for one from Stan Lee’s company, but that’s not what this is about.

Most of the advice out there is generic, and given by everybody, and of course, should be listened to. At the same time, this advice may not speak to you, which is why you have a stack of rejection letters next to your pile of award winning screenplays. Rejections include, but aren’t limited to:

  • We’re not looking to take on new projects at this time
  • We don’t make movies in this genre
  • While brilliant, we feel the audience for this is too small

Three polite ways production companies in the past have told me “No.” I’m sure I’m forgetting most of the rest of the rejection letters I haven’t received, simply because, I was brought into one company, thinking I was about to sign a contract, and they told me why they wouldn’t be able to make my film, and took up 15 minutes of my time. I could name the company, by there’s a slight chance I may work with them in the future.

How are these decisions made?

If you’re lucky enough to get your script in the hands of a decision maker, which we’ll define as someone that is able to take your stack of 120 or so pages of brilliance and turn it into a movie that will play at a theatre or drive-in near you. As always, if there aren’t any of these near you, move.

To continue, of those 120 pages, the above named producer might not read any of them. He hands them off to a reader with a check for $50, and in return, gets back a page or three of coverage, as to why your screenplay sucks. Then he has his secretary write his company’s version of a rejection letter, and you may or may not get one. Well, lately, they’ll make a phone call to an agent, and have a polite conversation. Or, they’ll put the agent on a ‘list.’ Don’t be on it.

The reader, can’t live on $50 a day, so, he’s reading 5 or 10 scripts a day, more over the weekend, if he’s a freelancer. If he works for a studio or a production company, it’s probably part or all of his job description, for which he can earn a meager living, until such time as his script is made into the next big budget production.

What this means to you, and as always, I’ve buried the lead, is that he’s not going to read all 120 some odd pages of your screenplay. I know this, because I was once told when I was handed a script to cover for the first time, “Read the first ten pages. If you like them, read the last ten. If you like those, then read the rest. I’ll want your coverage in an hour.” This was when I worked at a distribution company, no less.

This is why you have to grab the ubiquitous ‘them’ in the first ten pages. Ten is good number, as Monk would tell you. My advice is simply this: If the first nine pages aren’t interesting, I’m not reading the tenth. I’ll take that one step further. You need to be interesting in the first 8 pages. This is actually a recursive function, and you need to grab me on the first page, otherwise, I’m not turning to the second one.

Can you write a one page screenplay?

In proper format, no less. It’s harder than you think, however, there’s a few contests out there that ask you to do exactly that. Because if you’ve written a really good one page screenplay, and it’s more than one page, I’ll probably turn to page two. A real page turner, as they say in the trade.

I look forward to your comments.

72 and sunny in Redondo Beach.

e You next time.

Why Your Screenplay Isn’t Selling

An interesting conversation came up in the Filmmakers group on Linked In. 92 comments as of this writing, some by me. It has at this point degenerated to the usual thing that happens with any conversation that lasts longer than a day on Usenet, well, in this case, the ‘net itself, the inevitable name calling and insults have begun to fly, complete with accusations of posting a discussion simply to generate business, being the most heinous.

I’ve decided to take a left turn, and leave the discussion, at least temporarily, and deal with the root of the problem, which is stated above. Put simply, the screenplay you wrote isn’t selling. You want to know why. There are several reasons which may or may not include:

  • It’s not long enough
  • Characters aren’t interesting
  • Your story makes no sense
  • The reader was having a bad day
  • It hasn’t been read yet

Those last two you can’t control, and here’s why….

Everyone is writing a screenplay!!!

Well, that may be an exaggeration, however, it seems that way sometimes. Those of you that understand niche or vertical markets can do a simple search on the word screenplay, and figure out there’s money to be made out there, but it seems that lately, the money is to be made by those that tell you how to, or more importantly, how not to, write a screenplay.

A little history lesson, for those that have read this far…. Back in 1990, Joe Eszterhas was paid $3 Million for a spec script entitled, Basic Instinct. You may have seen the resulting film. In theatres no less, if you were born before 1975, in 1992 when it came out. For the two or three of you that aren’t in the industry, a spec script is one you write on the speculation that someone will buy it, as opposed to a writing assignment from some production company, studio, guy down the street, etc. that you’ve hopefully been paid to write.

And this was twenty years ago, when you could actually buy something with that kind of money. This would’ve been ok, had the mainstream media not picked it up, and run with it, creating an entire industry as a result. The aforementioned “How To Write A Screenplay” market.

So, here we are, twenty some odd years later, and believe me, they’ve been some pretty odd years, and you’ve written your first screenplay. Or your tenth. Doesn’t matter, none of them have sold. The biggest reason being none of what I mentioned above, but it’s simply this: Your screenplay sucks. Well, that may be a bit too harsh, but it goes to the first three reasons above. Without giving a course on how the industry works, or rather, is suppose to work, yours is not the only one that sucks. The ones your friends, neighbors, co workers etc. are writing all suck, too!!!

Sturgeon’s Law Revisited

“95% of everything is crap.” And that includes, in this case, your screenplay. And maybe mine too, for that matter, but this isn’t about me. Having just spoken to someone at the WGAW Registry, I can tell you that they register upwards of 75,000 pieces of material a year. Most are probably screenplays, some could be treatments, they don’t know, as they don’t read them.

And that’s just the registered amount. There’s probably a similar amount of material that will never see the light of day for whatever reason, up to and including, the writer didn’t know any better. But this isn’t about intellectual property, either. You’re in competition with all those other pieces of crap. And that’s not even a representation of the movies that make it to the big screen, or, the direct to DVD market, etc, simply because, 95% of all of those are crap as well.

Which is why most of you out there believe that you can do better. Well, go ahead and do it. I know I have. Again, not about me. You’ve bought a book on how to write a screenplay, at the aforementioned link I provided, now what? No, I’m not selling anything. I do that elsewhere 🙂 Given the 90/9/1 rule of participation, most of you that buy that book, aren’t going to read it thoroughly enough to write a great screenplay. Which might be the title of the book you bought, I don’t know….

I’ve gone way off on a tangent, so much so, that I’m not even near the original circle anymore, but to summarize, and conclude thusly, Of all the piles of screenplays out there, even if yours is the greatest screenplay ever (this week) no one may ever know. Yet another example of The Law!!! as it applies to moviemaking.

More later. Much later.

Yet Another Random Bloviation

I have a friend, whom we’ll call Mark, because that’s his name as I’ve previously discussed, that I simply don’t understand. I could make a list here, however, I’ll proceed to delineate in a grammatical manner, as opposed to the Modern Major General. One day I’ll record that song for you. Beware. Or….

In an attempt to stay on topic, as I do indeed have one, he’s one of the people in my life that I’ve known the longest. Met him in high school, actually. He was a grade behind me, however, as I was a year ahead of myself, he’s slightly older than I am. By all accounts, especially, bank, he’s more successful than I am, as he has more money. Enough to the point where I approached him for a donation for this year’s 168 Project film.

And that’s where the confusion started. And, for the most part, continues.

He called me today, and we had almost the same exact conversation we had the last time. He’s telling me how he’s a day trader now, and looking at Apple at around $227 a share. I asked him what he’s going to do with all his money, and he said simply, “I’m going to make more money.” Ok, then what about after that? He told me he bought a new car, that has only 203 miles on it. That would be fine if he bought it last week, however, this was apparently right after our last conversation almost 2 months ago.

I again solicit a donation for 168 Project films, as I’ve decided that at least for me, this needs to be a year round ministry. He politely explains that he’s not into church as I should know, to which I simply reply, “It’s not about church, it’s about filmmaking.” This really didn’t get me anywhere, so I pressed on, “What are you going to do with all your money???” Make more, came the same reply. Now, he still lives in a one bedroom apartment, and furthermore, tells me he has no friends.

I am, as I stated above, confused.

Money at its base, is a tool. Its value is whatever you believe it to be worth. In and of itself, your dollar bill is really a fancily printed by the government piece of paper, that most have agreed can be traded for goods or services. I was having a conversation with Warren Whitlock about this recently. Is your time worth money? I bill myself at $150 an hour, minimum 2, meaning that I value my 24 hour day at roughly $3600. Which is now, my speaking rate. There’s a rider attached that you probably can’t meet, therefore, I’m destined to not receive any speaking engagements….

But this isn’t about me.

I simply pointed out that Mark is going to grow old and die alone, unless he does something with his money. He apparently decided a long time ago, that he’s ok with this. My guess is that this conversation that I had today will preclude him from calling me for another three or four months, so I won’t have to have the same exact conversation again.

Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Having Already Tried Different…

As Seth Godin suggests, I have to say, my failure rate was smaller, however, I still failed. I guess having high expectations isn’t always the answer. The Law!!! enforces itself at the strangest times. All roads don’t necessarily lead to Rome, or any other city for that matter. Some of them are dead ends. However, you can’t know that, unless there’s a signpost stating such. “At the signpost up ahead, your next stop, The Twilight Zone!!!” As Rod Serling used to narrate.

Remembering that if things were different, they wouldn’t be the same, and that I’m unique, just like everybody else, I submit to you the following: I’ve been put on a path by whomever you believe is a divine entity, and I firmly believe I’ve been put there to do great things. It’s just that sometimes, you get knocked down, therefore, you should get back up again.

But what if you can’t?

Well, that’s a problem.

Not really, simply ask for help. The key is in knowing who to ask, when, and for what kind of help. An offer of help is different. If you receive an offer of help, make sure there are no conditions. And make sure they’re offering to help you, and not in reality, themselves.

I’m pretty sure if I ruminate some more, all of this will make sense, however, there’re no guarantees. Sometimes, one must bloviate all the bad writing, in order to create genius, however, most of the time, it’s simply bloviation. And the dictionary still doesn’t have this word in it, even though, dictionary.com does.

Where were we? As always, I’m in Redondo Beach. It may or may not matter where you are. Where are you going? My acting coach used to ask that whenever someone rushed him. The question itself has several implications, which I could spell out for you, if you’d like. The sense I always took was, “Your career in the industry is already there. You won’t get there any faster.” Now of course, the industry in this case is, the business, however, your industry may vary.

So, in conclusion, you haven’t been put on the wrong path. You may however be spinning in place. Don’t get dizzy, as two things will happen, maybe more if I were into lists, however, you’ll lose your balance, AND it may take you longer to get where you’re going. Stay the course. Move ahead. Try to detect it. It’s not too late.

Wow, Devo flashback. Oh, that’s right, we’re in the 80’s again, as everything happens in 30 year cycles.

Adjust your expectations accordingly.

Almost 30 Thousand Tweets Later….

In less than a year. Some might say I tweet too much. Others, may not even see my tweets. I’ve had several varying opinions of what Twitter is, was, and will be. Most still hold today. I’ve posted them here and elsewhere, therefore, they don’t need repeating, however, they might need to be linked to. Or for those of you that are afraid to end a sentence with a preposition, to which I shall link.

I’ve talked in passing of The Experiment. Which continues. If you have yet to figure out what The Experiment is, then you have three choices, instead of the usual two. We’re so used to binary decisions, which come downto this or that, that we rarely consider, the other thing. Or, things. I have as of this writing almost 3600 followers that have decided to come along for the ride. Which would be an ‘E’ ticket, if Disneyland still gave out ‘E’ tickets.

I’ve tweeted about several subjects that interest me, and I’ve figured out how to tweet from more than one place. Hopefully, when this entry gets posted, you’ll see it first from a tweet that’s automatically generated. Then again, maybe not, as the last time I posted here, the link didn’t get saved to my bit.ly history. Not clear to me why that happened….

I’ve actively solicited funds for my participation in The 168 Project, which will always and continue to be my main focus. I’ve seen the work that myself and others have done as a result of this ministry, and it continues to amaze me that you can do quality work quickly to a deadline. Especially when that work is a ten minute film based on a Bible verse, and completed in a week or less.

I’ve made some good online friends, while at the same time, have been blocked by others, simply because I had one disagreement with them at some point in the past. In every case, I would still choose to follow them if I could, however, this privilege has been denied me. I could name names, however, I don’t want to embarrass them. I wear their block as a badge of honor.

I’ve discussed how Sturgeon’s Law comes into full force at the strangest of times, to the point of describing it as, The Law!!!™ I have mastered ideas, this one included. I’ll leave the thought leadering to those that have adapted the quaint practice as their mantra. Because as always, there is a third choice to the lead/follow paradigm.

A new conclusion that I’ve come to is simply this: I’ve enjoyed my time here, and will continue to do so. You may now reevaluate one of the three choices you made above. Your mileage may vary, Please retweet.

72 and sunny in Redondo Beach.

Adjust your expectations accordingly.

With Apologies to David Gerrold….

I used this phrase in something I wrote a lifetime ago, and I repeat it here, to expand on his original concept. Which I probably never would of come up with on my own, however, the sentiment may be garbled from the original article he wrote in Starlog roughly 30 plus years ago, and may need updating as well.

The concept is relatively simple which I go into at the link provided however, to reiterate and bastardize, your workplace is either a sandbox or a litterbox, and you should act accordingly. If you remember from kindergarten, when you played in the sandbox with your friends, and everyone in kindergarten was your friend when you played in the sandbox, you built a community, roads from your castle to the next one, shared your shovel and pale, and generally had a great time. Because you were playing. In the sand.

Now as you all know, a litterbox is used by a cat, to do its shall we say business, and when it’s done, it gets out. No playing allowed, encouraged, or even available. If you’re the owner of said cat, you need to clean up after it every once in awhile. I’d quote an actual length of time here if I’d ever owned cats and had to perform this action myself, however, I’m deathly allergic. To cats, not sand.

Some of the more astute among you may be saying to yourselves at this point, ”But wait. I’ve seen a cat use a sandbox as a litterbox!!!“ It is for you that the rest of this article is intended. Simply because, it doesn’t happen overnight.

A process like that takes time. When you get hired, you’re having fun, meeting new people, adapting to your workspace, and generally having an overall good time. For awhile. This awhile could last years, if you’re lucky. However, you might one day get passed over for a promotion. Or moved to another office, or worse, cubicle. If not another location within the company entirely. Hopefully, you don’t have to pack up your family and move them too. You don’t get the raise you wanted. Someone else gets put on the project you worked hard to get. Suddenly, you realize you’re on your own, and maybe it’s time for an entirely new situation. Your sandbox has become a litterbox.

These types of things happen all to quickly in the business we call show, and for all the wrong reasons. As an actor, you may get the part you audition for, however, you might not like the director. Or, worse, you like the director, but you don’t get the part. You read for a part, and get a different one. Not necessarily a bad thing, however, it’s not what you were expecting. Remember, its not Show Friends. Not be confused with the show Friends, which was actually quite funny on  a more than an occasional basis.

If you’re not part of the cast, and you’re a crew member, it’s even worse. There is a specific pecking order on every movie set, and unless your the director, or most of the time, the producer, you’re answering to someone else. Now, this may be all fine and good if you end up in the sandbox situation described previously. Everyone works together for the common goal of a completed film, on time, and hopefully, under budget. This situation is magnified for The 168 Project, which you may have read about either here or elsewhere. There is a specific timeline, and deadlines have to be constantly met, all the while putting together a ten minute short film in week. It’s not for the faint of heart, and it’s certainly not for those who would turn the sandbox into a litterbox, simply because, there isn’t time for that.

This will be my 3rd year in a row creating a short film based on Bible verse within a week, and the theme this year is “Hearing God.” Pray that I do, and that He speaks through me, on this incredible journey, which I have chosen to undertake. Again.

72 and sunny in Redondo Beach.

Adjust your expectations accordingly.

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