Monday, December 27, 2010

Lupus Moon (the novel) Update #2

Had a nice day of outlining; got up to Chapter 14. This puts me right in the middle of the story, with a big action sequence coming up. I expect work on the outline to slow down this week, as my day job takes precedence, but I'm leaving off in a very good spot. It'll be extremely easy to pick up and continue, as, somehow, the bits and pieces from my now SIX sources are falling together nicely. I'm always leery when things come this easily. Hopefully there's not a monster of a block waiting for me around the bend...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Relaxing (and Working) This Christmas

It's been a great day. No gifts (we'd received those well in advance of December 25 - and it was MUCH appreciated), but great company, excellent food and plenty of rest. I'm not with my immediate family this year, as I choose to split and alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas between my "home home" and my girlfriend's mother's home. Normally that wouldn't be that big a deal, except that my youngest brother decided at the last minute to come down from Missouri for Christmas - after I'd already made plans and left town. It's been three years since I've seen him, and I'd hate to miss him, but as they say, "It is what it is."

I went ahead and brought both Lupus Moon and The Life and Times of Abigail Waller with me. It was late last night when I found myself interested in working (thanks to a nap earlier in the day), so I set a goal of knocking out five pages of rewriting on the web series. I accomplished six, so things were great. I went to bed at 3:20 AM wanting to stay up and do more, but knowing I needed to get to bed to avoid sleeping so late the next day (folks get up early around here). I knocked out another page earlier and have set a goal for nine more tonight. If I reach pay dirt and can repeat tomorrow, I'll be done with Season One - and maybe I can get some work on the novel in...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lupus Moon (the novel) Update #1

I didn't get around to working on the book today, but yesterday was a great start. I got the prologue and four chapters outlined, and better still, I know exactly where I'm going when I resume working - something I always try and to accomplish when I stop. I'm excited about the amount of "original story" I've gotten in so far, and up to this point, it's mixing well with the newer material (I even found a use for a minor character from the 2003 treatment that I'd long removed). I really think this is going to turn out to be something special.

I'm not sure when I'll get back to the book. Tomorrow's going to be heavy with me doing some work for the day job (feels weird for me to write that - long story) as well as getting laundry done and clothes packed to head out of town for the Christmas holiday on Thursday. Although I'll have computer access, I'm not planning on taking Lupus Moon with me - that honor goes to my nascent web series The Life and Times of Abigail Waller, whose Season One scripts are still in rewrites. But who knows? I might just take both projects and let the creative winds decide what I want to work on...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Back on the Block

Well, I started on that script I mentioned in my last post (really, just sketched a few of the characters). But that's about it. Don't get me wrong - I fully intend to return to Corner Store. I just... got... sidetracked.

I recently started a new job in insurance and, although it's taken some time to get everything ramped up, it's about time for me to get out there and get to selling. What that's meant is that I've had little time for writing. Sure, I've spent craploads of time daydreaming about stuff, but that's not the same as putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as it were). I did manage to do some rewriting on Season One of my web series during a weekend trip to New Orleans, but outside of that - nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

But now that things are falling into place job-wise, it's time to get back to work. Lupus Moon has been on my mind the past few days, and I've been going over the story in my head - picking up where I left off, wondering if I even want to continue in the same vein, generating brand new ideas that would result in a total re-haul of the story - all that good stuff. I'm still trying to adjust to the fact that I'm writing a novel and not a screenplay, so I don't have to be as paranoid about moving the story as quickly as possible. As result of all the mental sifting and dredging, I've come upon a course of plot that I think will result in a kick-ass book. But to pull it off, I'll be drawing from no less than five - that's right, FIVE - different sources:
  • The last two outlines I started, but never completed
  • A list of ideas to incorporate into the story
  • The last draft of the screenplay
  • The second, 2003-dated treatment for the screenplay
I'm sure there will be another source or two that pops up (some scribbled notes from August 2009 hold a couple attractive ideas, and a Word file with some collected thoughts is bound to tempt me with others), but the aforementioned are locks. It's going to be a fun, messy, massive undertaking - but I'm very much looking forward to it.

Now to get started...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Taking a Break

Burnout is one tough sonofabitch.

I've decided to take a break from Lupus Moon. Just a little respite to rest my brain and gain some clarity. This past week was spent tossing around old ideas, characters, scenes, dialogue - you name it. I can't fathom how many permutations of the story I went through, all in the name of literary freedom. I realize that with reworking the story as a novel comes the ability and opportunity to expand, expound and incorporate previous material to enhance what I already have, but I took it way too far, stressing so hard about "getting it right" that all I wound up doing was frustrating the hell out of myself. Nothing seemed right. Then something did, only to seem totally wrong again the next moment. It got to the point that the whole thing felt like a chore - one I was losing interest in.

So I'm stepping away from it for a bit. I left myself in a good place, having hammered out the back story and motivation for my villains (creating conflict within that faction), the effects of which will obviously affect, influence and inform the rest of the novel. I have my heading, so I should be able to dive right into it whenever I return.

In the meantime, I'm going to return to familiar territory and develop a couple screenplays - one a reworking of and old short and the other a contained comedic feature that's the new number one contender for debut feature. Think Friday meets Barbershop meets Clerks. The most exciting thing about the latter project is that it's 100% new - not a rewrite of older material. I'm free to do whatever I want without the spectre of a previous draft to get in the way (where I'm fighting with myself to cram new material with old). It'll be interesting to see what I can do when I apply the skills and tactics I've picked up on a project that's "from scratch". It's been that long...

KS

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Tale of Two (Make That Three) Outlines

Somehow, I thought this would be easier.

Not that I think writing a novel is a cakewalk; it's not. But I thought it would be easier to build an outline for a book based off an existing screenplay - even with the re-integration of old ideas. Things were going good until I hit a snag in the second act (Do novels have acts?) that forced me to re-examine my story. Then it happened. An old idea re-emerged, one that would have catastrophic effects on the entire story. I liked the idea so much at the time (giving my protagonist and chief antagonist a shared history), that I put it in. Of course, it was like trying to shove a cube in a round hole, which meant that major changes needed to be made; so much so that I started a second outline. Whole new beginning, totally different intro for my heroine, beefed up tension between two of the villains - good stuff. But now, something seems off. I tried to dismiss it as apprehension rooted solely in the fact that this new outline is a drastic departure from the "real" story of Lupus Moon - at least the story I've worked with for so long that it seems "right." However, and despite the advantages it has afforded me plot-wise, the new outline still feels wrong.

The answer? A third outline - one that combines elements of the first two. I have no idea if this will resolve my nagging psychological misgivings, but it feels like the best way to tackle the problem, so I'm going to listen to my instincts. The root of the problem is simple: I envision this novel as the first in a series, same way I did when Lupus Moon was a spec screenplay. And I want to make the first story as kick-ass as possible. First impressions mean everything and I'm putting a shit-ton of pressure on myself in an effort to swing for the fences. Part of me thinks maybe I should relax - take some more time away from the project and come back fresh. The other part, though, wants to grind it out - figure out the problems and keep it moving. I was lucky enough to finally land a new job, and the potential compensation is such that I'm immediately able to make plans for things I thought I'd have to table indefinitely. Which, of course, means a return to filmmaking, and a renewed desire to work on scripts for shorts and my in-development web series. Just one more thing to add to the pot to complicate things.

But hey, better to have multiple equally-desirable projects to try and juggle than nothing at all, right?

KS

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Finally - Movement!

Took some time away from the project to get my head right. A lot has been changing lately, and I had to make sure I wanted to move forward with the Lupus Moon book project. I guess I'm not completely over my switch from screenwriting to novel writing, as I've been having urges to work on a couple scripts. But without the resources to push those projects past the page, I've finally settled down enough to start working on the outline to the book. It didn't take long to realize I could - and had to - make changes in order for the story to work as a novel, and that, combined with the re-integration of ideas from previous versions of the story, are ironically coming together in a way that's going to make the screenplay better. So maybe it was a blessing that the current draft of the script didn't garner attention. I'm not certain, but I'm sure time will tell...

KS

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A New Beginning

It's been suggested to me before. I ignored it. Then it would come up again. I'd reply, "Maybe. Never say never," then quickly dismiss it. After all, why would I switch gears and write a novel when I was going to be a big-name screenwriter? I mean, I'd spent the last ten years of my life writing, rewriting and submitting screenplays (getting rejected by the best, mind you - I have the letters to prove it) and you want me to just brush it aside and start fresh in a whole different discipline? This isn't what I signed up for. Sure, I had written narratives before and was pretty good at it (my sixth grade English teacher would corroborate my claim), but since 1992, it was all about the movies. That's where I was going to make my name and not a damned sole was going to stop me.

Until they did.

Flash forward to 2010. I've written roughly 15 features and 14 shorts - two of which I self-produced. But have I sold anything? That would be a big, fat "NO." It's not for lack of trying, never that. In fact, I've had two options - the same script - both times, however, the person optioning the script wasn't serious and nothing came out of it. My latest script, Lupus Moon, did absolutely nothing on the market (except add to the awesomeness of my rejection pile). I'll admit, it was a scaled-down promotional attempt - queries went out to 46 or so agencies - but it was what I could afford. I still have a couple options in mind for promoting the script, but if the first run was any indication, no one's going to be interested.

Why? Beats the hell out of me. I thought it was a slick, shrewd move: vampire flicks are all over the place. They've been in vogue for years, but sooner or later, folks would get tired of them and it would be time for another creature to have their day in the sun. A couple of the big franchises, Underworld and Twilight (and True Blood on the small screen), featured werewolves as well, and The Wolfman had just come out last year. I'd had the idea for a story about a werewolf hunter - a female version of Blade - since '98 or '99, so it was the perfect time to strike. Or so I thought. I received compliments on the script from the guy I paid for coverage, but that was about it. Everyone else either claimed they weren't seeking new clients or hid behind the ubiquitous "no unsolicited material" line. Then there was the one agency who scribbled a handwritten note on the back of the very query I'd sent to them: "No wolves please." I guess if I'd submitted the 138,267,948th vampire script, I might've gotten read.

In the end, I think perhaps my script was the victim of my not having connections. Everyone knows it's not about what you know, it's who you know and with me being in Texas, I don't exactly have the inside track to Hollywood agents (and the big agencies won't even sneeze on you if you aren't served up to them on a silver platter by someone who knows them). So here I am, with a solid script, ideas for sequels, the willingness to sell - and the figurative door slammed right in my face. I can't even get a chance. So what am I going to do?

I'M TURNING LUPUS MOON INTO A NOVEL. This time, it was my best friend Anthony who brought up the idea of remaking the property as a book series. Others had mentioned it before, but it stuck with me this time, probably due to my frustration at having no luck with the screenplay. I have a great concept, and a cool kick-off story to the franchise; it didn't deserve to die off just because a bunch of suits didn't want to give it a chance or take a look at it (heaven forbid they want to consider an original idea in the "creative" cesspool that is present-day Hollywood). So I thought about it. Considered it. And thought about it some more. Not so much because I was wondering whether or not the story would work (I knew it would), but because I was unsure if I could pull it off. I hadn't written a narrative story in years (blog entries don't count) and even then they were short stories designed to facilitate the use of that week's spelling words. I was so used to the present tense writing required of screenplays that it felt downright weird to write something in past tense. I literally picked up a novel to see how it was done (shows how long it's been since I read one). But, like so many other things, I'd grossly overstated the adjustment required to go from script to prose, and after a few practice pages I'd slipped back into form...

Which brings me to now. To be clear, I have no idea whether or not re-purposing my story as a novel will pay off. I don't know if it'll be good, or even if anyone will want to read it. And after it's done, I can't promise that I'll ever want to write another book. But I can say this with certainty: I'm extremely excited about this path and the possibilities. I look forward to expressing my story in a new form and being able to add to its depth in a way screenplays don't allow. I'm re-invigorated to write and look forward to sitting down at the computer and digging in (something I was afraid I was losing my love for). And I can't wait to see where this fork in the creative road takes me.

I'm strapped in for the ride.

KS

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Introduction - The Life and Times of Abigail Waller

I mentioned this project in a previous post as one of the projects I'm currently developing, spurred on by the DOA performance of Lupus Moon and my mounting frustration with the spec route in general. I'm excited about what I have so far and the potential this project has.

Background on the Project

The Life and Times of Abigail Waller began as an idea for a TV show in August 2008. I've had a few TV concepts over the years, and like the rest, I'd jotted down the basic premise and shoved it in an overflowing zippered binder with countless other ideas and concepts. My first love being writing for movies, TV writing was something I never gave a lot of thought to - primarily because I didn't know much about it. Writing a movie is simple in theory: sit down, write a 95 to 120-page story, promote it, rinse and repeat. Episodic writing was a whole 'nother animal. I also knew the only way to succeed in it was to move to Hollywood, and I wasn't ready, wanting or planning to do so. But I had some ideas, so I stashed them. Who knows? Might come in handy some day. Never say never.

The idea to do "Abby" as a web series came earlier this year, after attending an industry event where the creators of the web series Pink were on hand to talk about their series. Even before this event, I'd heard about people going the route of producing their own shows, but it just didn't click with me. I was too busy working on one screenplay or another. But after listening to their story, I was intrigued by the possibilities, so much so that I started rummaging through my mental rolodex of ideas for something that could be turned into a series. "Abby" was one of the first concepts that came to mind.

I was hot on the concept for a while - even coming home and jotting down quick notes, episode and promotional ideas and filling out a character bio sheet on the protagonist. But then I got sucked back into whatever feature script I was working on at the time (probably Lupus Moon), and Abby languished on the coffee table in my office for months. But now, thanks to recent events, she's front and center.

So What's It About?

The Life and Times of Abigail Waller (or "Abby," for intents and purposes) follows the adventures of a 31-year-old professional Black woman as she juggles work, family and relationships. I'm pitching the concept to people as "A Black Ally McBeal," but I could use a number of shows to get the point across. Throughout the life of the show, there's several topics I'd like to address, including women choosing bad men for relationships, the debate over natural versus permed hair (Abby will be natural, BTW), being a Black female in White male corporate America, dealing with messy and jealous “friends,” interracial dating, and self-image (“Oh, big lips are sexy ‘cause a white girl like Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson has them, but they weren’t when the sistas had them? Suddenly big butts are sexy because J. Lo and Kim Kardashian made them so? I guess the millions of sistas throughout history were invisible”).

The show will be classified as a dramedy, and it will be shot here in Houston. I'm aiming for 7 to 10-episode seasons, with five seasons planned, but I'd love to do more if I can keep the show fresh and entertaining. The first season's episodes are planned out, along with several episodes in the following seasons. My target demographic is the very underserved group of Black women, age 22-50, and the working distribution schedule is one episode every two weeks, with vlog and blog entries from "Abby" in between - effectively doubling the length of the season while keeping the viewer engaged. To my knowledge it's something that hasn't been done, but there's a ton of web series out there and many have GREAT ideas. I've also put together plans for promotion, funding and tie-in merchandise, so I'm looking to do big things with this series. It's all a crap shoot - but at least it's my crap shoot.

Last Looks

There's a lot that needs to be done to get this project off the ground, but I'm enjoying each step of the process. If things go well, there's another web series or two I'd like to launch. Who knows, maybe the episodic format I was leery of all along was the one I was supposed to follow - the one that finally winds up opening doors for me...

I guess we'll see.

STAY TUNED...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Yet Another Rejection

Got another rejection today on Lupus Moon - this one from the Stone Manners Agency in LA (after I resent my original query due to an old address from my Winter 2008 Hollywood Representation Directory). This makes the sixth confirmed rejection out of the 50 queries I sent out and not a single request for the script. I've never had a script bomb like this before, and I'm not gonna lie - it hurts. It shouldn't, with me deciding to launch out on my own, but I can't help it. Here I am, with what I feel is my most commercial script, and it gets the biggest rejection. I wish I would've known this before I spent so much time on the script...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Change in Focus or: Time to Put Up or Shut Up

It's over. At least I think it is. For now. Maybe. I'm not certain. But I'm pretty sure.

Since 1992, my plan had been to sell 3-4 spec scripts to Hollywood, then either use the money the self-produce/direct the next film, or offer the next script to a studio for a deep discount in exchange for the chance to direct. Seemed like a sensible enough plan at the time. And it stayed that way for the next 18 years. Through that time, I settled for less out of life and directly/indirectly imposed the same on the woman I love in the quest for that dream. There were trips we could've gone on, furniture we could've bought, repairs to my car that could've been made (that might've kept it from getting stolen) and all matter of things that we went without because we didn't have the money. But I had the Dream. And that's what carried me through some of the darkest of times.

Now the Dream is dead. At the very least, on life support.

At 32, knocking hard on 33, I've gotten tired - sick and tired, actually, of not doing anything. None of my screenplays have sold, I've suffered through two horrible options, and because of lack of funds, I haven't been able to shoot a short the way I want to since 2007. I've since stopped calling myself a filmmaker when speaking to others, opting to simply go by "writer" or, occasionally, "screenwriter." And let's not mention all the other stuff that's been on arrested development (especially marriage to a certain person with patience rivaling anyone or anything in the known universe).

It's gotten to the point that I'm not even interested in going to film events around town. Last night a major event was held and, technically, I could've gone. But I didn't - chiefly because I couldn't stand to sit and listen to others cheerfully talk about their projects, the fun they had and what they had up next - while I had nothing to look forward to.

I thought I was good enough once. Good enough to break through and sell a screenplay to someone in Hollywood. I even had my list of projects to write and sell, vs. projects I wanted to direct myself. It was a happier time earlier on, before rejection after rejection began to wear on me and slow down my writing process, forcing to obsess over every single comma, semicolon, period and double dash. I've gotten compliments on my work. Even with my most recent, the reader told me my script was a "fun read." Yet it's translated into nothing. I thought for the longest I wasn't getting through because I was Black and so were my scripts, but after the cold reception for Lupus Moon, a mainstream-targeted (there's only three Black people in the script, and one of them, the heroine, is technically half-Black), tentpole-ready, franchise-able project, what am I left to think?

Truth is, though, I still think I'm good enough. Call it arrogance, seeing things through rose-colored glasses or just plain, good old-fashioned delusion, but I think I have what it takes. At least the potential. It just hasn't come together for me. And, for the first time since making The Decision in '92, I doubt it ever will. It's a humbling realization, and an emotionally (and ego) crushing one. It's one I've never allowed myself to give much credence to, but the time has come to re-think things. Everything.

So where does this leave me? The answer is at the same time empowering and terrifying:

"Fuck Hollywood. I'll do it myself."

Sure, it's easy to say, but astonishingly hard to do. But I don't have a choice. I love writing and filmmaking way to much to walk away; it's my life's passion. So, I'll have to strike out on the path that so many others have and focus solely on self-created content. It's a first for me, not having the comfort of the Dream to fall back on. And it's scary. VERY SCARY. I don't have the support system many other indie filmmakers have. I can't ask my family for money because I know their reaction (I often feel they believe less in me than I have at my lowest). I don't have an uncle or grandmother willing to invest $50,000 in my first feature, nor do I possess rich friends (I have a lot of people who call themselves friends and say they believe in me; I wonder how many of them will run or avoid my calls if/when I ask them for money). I'm not in with club and bar owners, and I don't happen to know somebody who knows somebody who's dad owns/has access to an office building or lakeside cabin. Basically, I have nothing. That's not to say it can't be done, but the odds are staggering.

I alluded to several projects a couple of posts ago that comprise my working slate. The only difference is that I won't also be working on a script for Hollywood. I had started a final polish of Lupus Moon spurred by my own feelings about the last draft (and incorporating notes from the coverage I received), but I'm shutting that down as of now (unless a positive response from the queries still out there prompts me to continue). I was also developing Deuce as the third independent feature, but I'm shutting that down as well (no need working on a script that far down the road right now). Moving forward is development on the short films Nisa's Solo and Revelation, as well as the military-themed TV pilot BRAT (working on that with a college friend), and a comedic webseries, The Life and Times of Abigail Waller. I'll be financing everything myself, so needless to say I'm looking for a good job.

I don't know where this road will take me. Then again, I guess I never did. All I had was a hope and a Dream. And though the Dream is dead I still have my hope and determination, which I'll use to shield myself as I traverse this newly-altered path to my ultimate destination - my GOAL.

I've talked about being a filmmaker for years, and I'm tired of it (I'm sure others are, too). Time for me to put up or shut up - for good.

STAY TUNED...

Lupus Moon Update #20

Things aren't going as planned.

The queries for Lupus Moon have turned up nothing positive (well, that's not entirely true. I did learn that if you send a self-addressed stamped envelope with your query, it DOES increase the instances of agents actually responding to you). I sent out six email queries on August 2nd. To date, none of the bastards have responded. Now, I know agents are busy people, but I can tell you with the utmost confidence from my extensive experience in dealing with them (read: getting rejected), that it doesn't take this long to say "yea" or "nay" via email. So basically, they just chose to ignore me. Thing is, most of the companies I sent emails to expressly state they want their queries by email. So... why wouldn't they answer them? I've never had to wait this long before; I'm generally rejected within two days. Long story short - I won't be hearing from them.

The day after the email queries went out, I snail-mailed 46 queries. Within a week I had five of them back - two self-addressed envelopes (rejections - good news travels by phone or email) and three that didn't reach their destinations for various reasons. The addresses I had came from the Winter 2008 edition of the Hollywood Representation Directory, so I thought they'd be the same.

Wrong.

I'm leery of dealing with an agency that moves around too much, but a couple of these returned envelopes had SASEs in them, and I was determined not to waste them. So I looked up the agency addresses online, stuffed new envelopes with the SASEs and re-sent them. Since then, I've received three more rejections and had four more mis-addressed letters come back. That leaves plenty of others in play, but again, going from experience, if it's been this long, I might as well chalk it up as a pass.

So it looks as if Lupus Moon is dead in the water. I'm in Texas, so I don't have the personal connections that I might if I lived in L.A. - the type that could refer a script to a friend who happens to be so-and-so at such-and-such studio. It's also a bad market for specs; I read a report that Hollywood's bought half the number of specs that they bought at this time last year, and you don't have to be a film geek to see that Hollywood is serving up heaving helpings of (rehashed) familiarity in the form of countless remakes, sequels and movies based on obscure, but known properties (BATTLESHIP the movie, anyone?). So what am I going to do?

I have one more play for Lupus Moon. One more, before I shelve the project to be unearthed at some indiscriminate future date. I have a list of 10 companies I want to query, using an online service that guarantees everyone you send an email to will respond within five business days. Better still is that you can search each company in their directory and see what they're looking for. Oh, you're looking for action and horror scripts? Guess what, I have something for you. I've got this script called Lupus Moon... The only thing that's keeping me from setting it us is the cost - not a lot, but it's money that can be better allocated at this time. Until I get a job, that is (that's in the works).

There's other options, but I'm not up to investigating them right now. I could turn Lupus Moon into a comic book, or even a novel or series of novels. But the research and start-up on those avenues are intensive to the point that I could be working on something else within the realm that I'm readily familiar with. So, barring any miraculous turnarounds, looks like Lupus Moon is done - for now. I tried, and for what it's worth, I feel I have a pretty good script. That's something I can always be proud of.

So what's next? Glad you asked. Kindly read along to the next entry. In other words,

STAY TUNED...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Updates/Housekeeping

The last time I blogged, I had completed Lupus Moon and was submitting it for coverage. It was supposed to only take two weeks to come back, but here it is a month later and still nothing. Needless to say I'm annoyed - VERY annoyed - but that's not the only thing going on with CME...

I also mentioned a new project in my last post, but I didn't want to go into detail until I felt I had something in the way of a story. A huge part of that was because I was thinking it would become the new #1 contender for our debut feature. I'm glad I didn't announce that because, since then, I've decided it would work better as the third feature, with a couple older scripts being the first and second projects. All of this is a long way off, of course, but I like to have a roadmap - a plan, if you will.

As of right now, my romantic comedy, Thief of Hearts, is slated #1 with Charity, a thriller, at #2. I've gotten a good reaction from both these scripts (Thief of Hearts was optioned at one point, but that went nowhere). Following that will be the feature I'm currently working on, the action/drama Deuce, which tells the story of a Houston neighborhood overrun by a gang dealing in drugs and violence, and the vigilante group that offers to run them out. It's got a lot of Original Gangstas in it with just a hint of Drop Squad. The original idea was birthed in 1996 and the name comes from the moniker of a clique of friends I was a part of in high school (which, in turn, was taken from the movie South Central). The first draft was written in 2000 with a second draft being struck in 2001. Though the story will remain largely the same, I've got several new ideas I can't wait to incorporate. More on this project in future blogs.

What about Hardwired - the script I was originally planning on going into after Lupus Moon? I put it on hiatus, but that might be changing soon, with me developing it in tandem with Deuce. If Lupus Moon takes off in Hollywood, it'll be in my best interest to not only say I'm working on my next script, but to have something to show as soon as possible - because they will ask what else I have.

So what does this mean for CME in the short run? Well, that's just it - shorts. I've got about 12 written, unproduced scripts that I'm looking at getting to make at some point. Some are a little larger in scope, but several are smaller and require minimal budgets. The drafts are older, so of course they'll require rewrites, but it'll be nothing like fixing up a feature. I've got an initial slate of five selected: Nisa's Solo (drama), Revelation (drama), Ice Cream Man (comedy), The Attucks Three: Leaders of the New School (mockumentary) and Texas Backwater (horror/comedy). The last one may change as it's much larger in budget, but it's a project I've loved for a while. But, like any pro wrestling line-up, this card is subject to change.

STAY TUNED...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #19

LUPUS MOON IS COMPLETE! (for now, anyway)

Put the finishing touches on the dialogue pass today, and I've wasted no time in setting up the coverage. I'll be heading out of town for a few days and I really wanted to get this ball rolling so I could relax while things were still moving ahead.

As I worked on the dialogue pass, it became clear to me that the script could benefit from one last pass, focusing on everything. I think the action pass took so long, that I got better as I went along, something I noticed as I moved through the quicker dialogue pass. But that's all window dressing: the script is ready for coverage. Of course I'm hoping for the best, but this will be the biggest hurdle thus far on the road to (hopefully) selling it. If things go well, I'll knock out this "last looks" pass before I send the script out to agents.

But there's no rest for the wicked. I was originally going to launch directly into Hardwired, but due to recent -- how shall I put this nicely -- events, I'm thinking of going in another direction. There's a lot to be hashed out about it, so I'll wait until things are further along before I talk about it here, but I'll start developing some ideas about this weekend (I know, I said I was going to relax, but that meant from Lupus Moon, lol). I will say this - it would be a HUGE STEP for my career.

Here's hoping things turn out well for that as well as this coverage. But I guess I'll find out soon enough.

STAY TUNED...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Regarding Script Coverage...

I've recently been in a back and forth with a fellow screenwriter who's relatively new to the game, and had a few questions regarding screenwriting. I'm always happy (not to mention honored and flattered - it's not like I've sold anything. Yet.) to help out where I can. My friend's last set of questions had to do with script coverage (I had mentioned that I received a "Consider" ranking on a screenplay I had sent in) and after answering the questions, I thought I'd share both queries and responses here, for anyone who may benefit.

HOW DID YOU RECEIVE A "CONSIDER?"

I received a "consider" simply by submitting a well-written script. Well, I say simple, but we both know that's easier said than done. The draft I submitted was competently written, nothing flashy or overly stylish. It's nowhere near the level I can do now, but it was solid. I had taken my time to write, get opinions and rewrite. I had basic formatting down from a book I'd had since college, so that helped.

WAS IT HARD TO DO AND WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING FOR IN A SCRIPT?

As for what they're looking for: a well-written script. That's all. It doesn't even matter what genre, because they're not there to judge. Some companies do add in a category addressing the marketability of a script, but that has nothing to do with the QUALITY of it. As long as you present well-rounded characters, a protagonist, antagonist, increasing complications, a well laid-out plot and a theme weaved into the main and/or subplot(s), you should be good. Well, and, make it interesting.

WHEN I'M WRITING A SCRIPT, HOW CAN I TARGET A "CONSIDER" FROM THE COMPANIES THAT GIVE IT COVERAGE?

There's no way to target a "consider." Just write the best script that you can. And learn how to take criticism (It took me a while to master that - at least without getting angry if the person had actual criticisms - ultimately, the anger/embarrassment was really at myself. Long story). Solicit at least three opinions from folks, writers or not, that you know will give you honest feedback. I say "writers or not" because while another writer can give you valuable insight on format, description, enhancing theme, action or dialogue, the average person will tell you if they like your story or not, which is important. After all, they're the ones who will make your movie a success or failure when (cross your fingers) it gets produced and projected at the multiplexes. Therefore, it never hurts to know that Joe and Jane Q. Public are on your side going in.

Lupus Moon Update #18

Finished the action pass on the script last night and will start the dialogue pass later today.

The current page count is 109, with is one page shy of the page limit I originally set. I don't expect the script to get longer at this point; if anything, it'll get shorter as I polish the dialogue. This pass shouldn't take nearly as long and in a perfect world, I'd love to have it done by Friday. But if it bleeds into the weekend, I won't mind. I'm looking forward to sending this off and jumping into Hardwired, though.

STAY TUNED...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #17

Still slogging through the action phase of rewrites. On page 97 of the screenplay. Good thing is I've whittled the total pages from 116 to 110, which was the "if I had my way" goal when I started the script. I might be able to get it to 109 before I'm done, which would be icing on the cake.

There's a lot of action in this script - perhaps more than I've ever written - so I'm trying to make sure it's as smooth and quick a read as possible - and it still might be too much. I've mentioned the screenplay for Batman Begins before and, thinking back to it, I'm amazed at how much action Goyer and Nolan packed into such short action bits. You see the action onscreen and it's all there in the script; it just doesn't take as much room in their script as it does in mine. Still, they used some techniques and styles with their work that I don't feel natural using, and at the end of the day, I gotta be me. I know I should have read more action scripts before I got into this to see how others have handled it, but I was just too eager to get at it.

Either way, I can't wait to see what the coverage company will have to say about it. Hopefully this is much ado about nothing. I certainly hope so.

STAY TUNED...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #16

Still in rewrites.

Completed installing the new climax and now I'm roughly halfway through phase two (action), with the final phase, dialogue, still in the wings. Things are going well, but I can't wait for this to be over. I'm ready to work on some new stuff.

STAY TUNED...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #15

Rewrites are taking much longer than I wanted them to, but I'm confident the final product will be worth it. Shaundra gave the first draft high marks with minor issues. The most damning criticism? Something I secretly knew, but didn't want to admit. but it didn't change the fact.

The climax sucked.

Not that it wasn't set up well. On the third night of the full moon, Tristan unleashes his entire pack on Weeping Springs and it's up to a combined effort from Alex, Kristen, Neiland and the folks of the town to end their reign. Alex fights her way through Weeping Springs - cache rapidly approaching empty - until she reaches the lycas' den, a dilapidated gold mill in the mountains. There, the final henchmen are dispatched before it's Alex v. Tristan...

And that's where the script goes to shit. This isn't some mysterious lapse in writing ability. I know exactly what happened. I simply got tired. Tired of working on the script. Tired of not being done with it. Tired of writing fights. Tired of creatively wringing out my brain. Just plain. Good ol' fashioned. Tired. I was so happy to write "FADE OUT." that I willingly offered a draft for feedback who's climax I knew was less than. If Shaundra didn't like the final fight I had already prepared my safety net...

"I'll fix it in rewrites."

And when she came back and said she felt the climax was, indeed, wack, I said just that. I just needed time. To sit back, get a breath, gain some perspective and come back to it. And that's exactly what I did.

I'm in the process of installing the new climax. One that I ran by Shaundra Friday night and she seemed to like more. In the interim, I'd created/laid out my new step-by-step system for writing and editing scripts, as well as put together a personal format guide to streamline my process. Lupus Moon will be the first vict, er, product of this new system. I don't know how long it'll take to complete, but it's more about getting the script as sharp as possible before it goes out for coverage. A lot's riding on this, and you only get once chance to make a first impression.

And I plan to knock 'em dead.

STAY TUNED...

Playing by the (New) Rules

"What's your style?"

A question I've always dreaded. Simply because I had no answer. What was my style? In a profession where there's a specific format for composing a screenplay, what is style? Sure, I can point to a few famous screenwriters and tell you what their style is - it's so off the beaten path that it stands out (Shane Black is famous for his side comments to the reader and even himself in his scripts). It's also the thing screenwriting teachers and books tell you not to do. So what do I do to set myself apart?

I've seen it said before and now I can proudly attest to the truth of it: You won't know what your "style" is until after you've written several screenplays. It takes that long to get the rules down - the basics - and combine them with your particular set of likes and dislikes to create what will become your signature. It's more than just periods, commas, white space and colons - but how you use them.

In trying to determine what my style would be, I made a mistake common to amateur screenwriters - I would read scripts by other writers, like some of the things I saw or say "Hey, it worked for them and they got sold," and copy them into my script. They weren't my organic creations, therefore I wasn't invested in them, and when I saw another writer do the same thing a different way, I'd decide I liked their way - and my "style" would change again. The result wound up being several scripts, supposedly completed, all with different "styles." And when it came time to prep one to go out, I'd always feel the need to revise it to match my current set of standards: I'd waste more time rewriting the same few scripts over and over and not moving on to new things.

In my opinion, there's two issues at play when it comes to determining one's style - format and preference.

Regarding format, for years I've suffered from the lack of an irrefutable set of rules for my scripts - techniques set in stone so that I'd spend less time agonizing over things - like how to format a move from one part of a location to another, such as going to a bedroom inside an already-established house - and more time writing. Sure, there's a shitload of books out there on proper format, but what happens when you're faced with something that's not covered in the books?

It took a couple of days, but using information gleaned - read: stolen wholesale - from this document (which DID have rules for moving from one part of a location to another), combined with Cole/Haag's Standard Script Formats - Part I (Screenplay) - considered by many in the industry as the final word in script formatting, and a few of my own personal choices, I was able to fashion a personal format sheet. It's already been a tremendous help; I've been able to adhere to the rules without feeling the need to change something based on what I saw a Shane Black or David Goyer do).

Preference is something I struggled with as recently as Friday, April 23, 2010. I've been reading the screenplay for Batman Begins, written by David Goyer and Christopher Nolan. It's a great script for a great movie, and a really fun read. The thing I love most about this work (besides the command of vocabulary; I've learned several new words from reading this script) is the efficient way in which action is handled. I'm one of those writers who, against all good reason and sense, feels the need to fully choreograph fight scenes. Besides being maddeningly complex (I'm no fight coordinator - I've never even been in a real fight), it takes a lot of space on the page, which can really slow down the read and make a studio exec's eyes glaze over. In Batman Begins, Goyer and Nolan employ the liberal use of short, choppy sentences - sometimes only bits of phrases separated by dashes or blocks ending in ellipses - to depict action scenes. By dropping all unnecessary words, the reader gets all the action as quickly as possible, which also best mimics the way the viewer of the finished film will see it. In short, it's genius.

It's also not my style. After reading most of the script, I decided that's the way I'd write - and Lupus Moon would be the first recipient of my new preference in word efficiency. Problem is, as I continues to alter my baby, it, well, just didn't feel... right. I was forcing myself to be someone else, actually to rip them off completely. What I read with such admiration in Goyer and Nolan's script was bombing miserably in mine. In short, I was fucking my script up - royally.

There's still plenty I can take from reading Batman Begins. I need to improve my descriptive verb and adjective use, and expand my vocabulary - especially in the area of technical, fighting and mechanical terms (I've already picked up a few new words for actions I frequently use in my work, so that's a bag full of win in of itself). The most important thing, however, is a fresh prospective on my preferences in sentence structure. While I'll continue to work on keeping my descriptions and action as pithy - and powerful - as possible, it's more important to "do me" than try and ape someone else. In the long run, the script will be better, no matter how many words used.

So what's my style? Since I'm still working on Lupus Moon and putting all this together for the first time and have yet to see or feel the result, I guess my best answer is,

"Lemme get back to you on that."

Back to the Night Shift

A couple months ago I made the decision, in an effort to be more like the professionals, to set a schedule where I did my writing in the morning when I got up. It worked well and I liked it fine (I even completed the first draft of Lupus Moon following this plan), but i could never escape the fact that I just wasn't being myself.

I've always been a night writer. It's when I'm at my best, it seems. I've spent countless days just wasting away the daytime hours, saying I was going to write, only to finally sit down in the late afternoon or evening and getting started. I also have a knack of dating and time-stamping my drafts and treatments when I finish: a quick glance at the times shows I'm very much a night owl. It's just me. Hell, my favorite comic book superhero is Batman ( I have a Bat-logo hanging above my office computer and I even call my office the Batcave), the ultimate late night worker. I was missing working those late nights when most everyone had settled down until morning, when a combination of an earlier nap and the peaceful calm resulted in a brain that was at it's sharpest creatively. I'd even bought a coffee maker in December to assist with late-night writing sessions (but it worked just as well to help me get up in the morning).

So, after doing some thought about it (there are plenty of professional writers who work at nights, btw - I don't know what I was thinking), I decided to go home to the night shift. I've been back at it for a couple weeks now and it's already yielded results. Plus it just feels right, and that sense of zen is coming through in the writing. of course, I'm free to write during the day if the inspiration is there, which only adds to productivity.

Moral of the story: No matter what you see others do, you are your own person. Be true to yourself. You'll be happier and, most likely, more efficient.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hardwired Update #2

I already have Acts I and III plotted.

I knew they'd be easier, since the setup and ending were going to remain much the same, save for a few changes. Act II is where we have the meat, and it's where I'm going to be fashioning the new heart of the story. That said, I'm going to take the weekend away from Hardwired and work on a couple other projects I haven't been able to touch, getting back to it some time next week (unless Harvey and Lenny call to me earlier ;).

It wasn't a conscious decision, but somehow I've fallen into the idea of moving around and working on different projects concurrently. I'm liking it because it keeps me fresh and lets me satisfy those voices that are wanting to work on this and that, as opposed to going "balls to the wall" on one project only. I've got a TV pilot that I've yet to work on, as well as a web series concept that's been laying around the Batcave since November. I think I'll show them some love.

At least that's the plan for now. With me, things are always subject to change. But until they do...

STAY TUNED...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hardwired Update #1

Officially started the rewrite yesterday, adding notes from a couple different sources to the script document. Now that everything's in once place I can get to work restructuring the story. Because of the change in direction with Harvey's life at the beginning of the story (see the "Hardwired - The Introduction" post to get caught up), the original beginning sequence needed to be tossed out, but fortunately, I quickly came up with another that, at least right now, seems to work perfect in terms of setting Harvey up and giving some emotional insight to where he is when we meet him.

Much of the story will remain the same, but with the script currently running 131 pages, I was glad to see a lot of stuff that needs to be taken out. My goal is to get this down to about 110 pages. The way I come up with my page goals is funny. For me, it's about instinct - what feels right. And for some reason, 110 pages feels the perfect length the fit what I have in my head. Of course, if I get it all out and I come in under 110 - that's great, too.

In my notes I had an idea to add a third twist to the climatic scene. The two I already had were major, but I'm confident this third turn will add to the story and not cheapen it. Historically, I haven't been a huge fan of twist endings (and I hate when they're done to the point of numbing my concern for the story), but this story lent itself to it, so hey, why not put them in? I'll admit, it does make the story more interesting. Maybe this is a sign of my continued growth as a writer.

It's also looking like a supporting character, who dies in the original draft, might live through this adventure. In the original draft, the character's death marks the "all is lost" moment for Harvey, the biggest loss and setback before charging into the third act. But now I have a new "all is lost," and it hits closer to Harvey's core than the previous, so the former, while I'd love to keep it, just feels like too much. If I go this route, it's going to affect the new ending I planned, but that's not that big a problem. I'll be able to tell better when I get into re-structuring. I have a nascent idea for a sequel, so I could save the original character's death for that. Hmm...

As for tone, my actor friend was in favor of something hard-hitting and gritty, which I liked as well. As time went on, though, more and more humor found its way into the script. This is by no means a comedy, but I liked giving Harvey a deadpan, yet biting sarcastic streak - a world-weary intolerance for bullshit. Any type of witty humor is my favorite, whether it's sarcasm, parody or satire, so it's something that's going to appear in my scripts on a regular basis. At the end of the day I think Hardwired is going to be very similar in tone to Mel Gibson's Payback - which, if I can achieve that, will be perfectly fine by me.

More on the script as I go along. I'm anticipating an easier write than Lupus Moon, but I think that's my natural optimism speaking more than anything. Guess there's only one way to find out.

STAY TUNED...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hardwired - The Introduction

With the first draft of Lupus Moon in the proverbial can, next up is Hardwired, an action/crime script that's a really a rewrite of a script I wrote a couple years back. Based on a concept by an actor friend, the original story was about a guy who's a family man by day and a hitman by night. In the script, he's hired by the head of a crime family to exact revenge on the members of a rival outfit responsible for the apparent murder of his daughter. Our hero(?), HARVEY, accepts, but is unceremoniously saddled with LENNY - himself a hitman for the crime family - under the pretense that a job of this magnitude calls for more than one gun. Together they set out to fulfill the contract, while Harvey works to makes sure his dual lives never cross paths.

The initial script was fairly received by my actor friend and his producing partner, but there were some valid criticisms, primary of which was the lack of development in the antagonists. The "rainbow coalition" of thugs brought together with the promise of making money and running the streets just didn't click, and came off more as a bunch of stereotypical, one-note archetypes.

Another major flaw, in my opinion, was the shortage of "danger moments" where Harvey's double lives threatened to encroach on one another. If a movie's supposed to be about a guy living a double life, there has to be those recurring moments where the ruse nearly falls apart, if not collapses altogether. Without those, I really missed an opportunity to get into the heart and soul of Harvey, and that lack of emotional resonance hurts the script.

Flash forward to 2010. Hardwired is a project that, while I'm writing it to sell to Hollywood, could easily be made independently here in Houston, starring my actor friend as Harvey (I know he'd love that). So if the studios pass on it, the script will immediately wind up in my "self-produce" queue along with the other projects already on that list. But as far as the story goes, I'm eyeing a couple major changes. Harvey is going to stay a hitman, and he's still going to be stuck with Lenny for the contract (at one point I considered taking Lenny out completely), but instead of the dual-life setup, when the movie starts, Harvey's life is going to have already gone to shit. His wife, to whom he'd promised he'd quit the hitman life, will have separated from him and taken his kid, effectively kicking Harvey out of his own house. This will put Harvey in a dark place right from the start. Emotional conflict will come from his attempts at reconciliation with his family while at the same time working the contract - maintaining an allegiance to an occupation he feels is the only thing he's good at, even if it means the deconstruction of his family.

On the antagonists' side, I'm going to make them all of one race; in fact, they'll be a family. They'll have their own purpose for being and their own goals (unlike in the previous draft). I plan to strike a balance with them of malignance and sympathy - the way the Magneto character was portrayed in the X-Men films (yes, even the third). A secondary villain, only present before in a half-assed attempt to add another dimension to Harvey and provide conflict that could be reappropriated, will be totally deleted. The double twist at the end will remain intact, however, though one will be tweaked a bit.

When I wrote the first draft, Shaundra called it the best first draft I'd written to that point. I can't wait to see what I do with it now, with a few more years of writing under my belt. I'm looking for a fun ride with this one.

At least there's no werewolves in it.

STAY TUNED...

Lupus Moon Update #14

THE FIRST DRAFT OF LUPUS MOON IS FINISHED.

Pretty much, anyway. There's several notes I've made for things to go back and add, but they're all small and wouldn't take much work. As it is, the draft reads from beginning to end and relays the story, so I'm calling it. The script is 113 pages which, for those unfamiliar with screenplay format, means it should yield about a 113-minute movie. I was perfectly comfortable with this script going a full 120 pages, so bringing it in under that is a bonus. I'm sure it'll get trimmed more in rewrites.

I'm pretty happy with it, but if there's one area that bothers me, it's the action scenes. Most screenwriters write fights by hitting the high notes - not being overly-specific with the play-by-play. There's nothing wrong with this and it makes sense (whoever directs the script will most likely bring in a fight choreographer and change what you wrote anyway). I've even heard of one screenwriter simply writing "They fight." For some reason, I just can't do that. To me, it's lazy to write everything else in detail, then skimp when it comes to the combat. I just haven't allowed myself to get over that feeling - but I'm gonna have to. Writing fights is hard and it takes a lot of time and, while I enjoy coming up with them to some extent, I'm tired of doing them. When you roll your eyes and sigh because you realize there's a big fight scene coming up and you don't want to deal with it - that's a problem. So simplifying my fights is something I'm really gonna work on.

I'm gonna take a break from Lupus Moon for a few days, give myself some distance and a change to get back at least a shred of objectivity. There's some other projects I've been really wanting to work on, so that'll fill my time. It'll be great to work on something different. I'll start back on Lupus Moon next week with the first rewrite, after which I'll be ready for feedback (unless Shaundra wants to read it first) before I send the script off for coverage.

But I'm happy I stayed with it. In the end, I hope it was worth it. Time will tell. In the meantime, I'll keep you updated on the process as I get this script ready for the Hollywood market.

STAY TUNED...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #13

Closer... ever so much closer...

I'm in the middle of the climatic sequence - page 108. I really wanted to have this thing completed last Friday, but it just didn't come to pass. I thought maybe I'd be finished earlier this week, but again, no dice. The hangup has been in plotting the final fights. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I'm merging material from an earlier treatment with where the story is currently headed; there's characters that no longer exist, the location of the climax has changed, as has the dialogue leading into it. Every change creates a ripple effect where everything after has to be adjusted.

Also an issue were the weapons Alexandria has at her disposal as she goes into this final conflict. The trick is to make the fight as "real" as possible, without ignoring all the logic that's come before. In the original treatment, Alex is progressively stripped of her weapons and is forced to go hand-to-hand with the big bad for much of the final fight after taking out his final minions. The way the script is now, Alex has a few weapons left. It only makes sense she use what she has, especially when the silver weapons take care of the werewolves (called "lycas" in the script) quicker than any other means. BUT, I also don't want her to plow through the last two henchmen on the way to the showdown with Tristan, the big bad. It's a balancing act that took more time than I anticipated.

Add to that some last-minute weapons and locations research and it comes together as to why I'm not done yet. But the light at the end of the tunnel is shining bright, and with these last lingering issues resolved, I'm poised to knock this thing out. I'm looking forward to finishing and taking a few days off before diving back into the script for the first round of rewrites.

It's been a LONG road, but I'm glad I stayed the course and remained persistent. I'm excited with the result and can't wait to share it.

STAY TUNED...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #12

Had a great couple days with the script. Knocked out 10 6/8 pages yesterday and tacked on 5 7/8 today thus far. Much of it was previously written material that was either re-incorporated or updated to fit the current direction, but the rest are legitimate, first-time pages.

I'm sitting at the bottom of page 72 with a final page goal of 120. Needless to say, I'm getting there fast. A lot happened in those pages: a mentor dies, Alexandria winds up in jail - things are generally going downhill, just as they should. I'm in the middle of a dialogue scene with a bit of an unexpected twist, with another fight scene right around the corner.

To make matters better, the draft has gotten extremely positive feedback from Shaundra, who's read 66 of the pages (not counting today's work). I'm feeling very strong about this script and will be looking for feedback from other sources when the time is right. I don't want to sound egotistical, but if this script doesn't sell or at least generate attention, something's wrong. It's got several commercial elements in it, the type Hollywood salivates over - and that's by design. The reasons I can see for the script being snubbed (besides lack of good writing, which I'm taking steps to ensure is NOT an issue) are the protagonist's race (mixed, African American and Caucasian) and gender (female) - neither a fair of valid reason.

But I'm getting ahead of the game. I have to finish the script first. Until then --

STAY TUNED...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #11

I'm up to page 48 as of this writing.

It's been a hard week of writing. I haven't had the output that I'd like, despite working most of my scheduled time and some overtime. I had a few dialogue scenes that gave me fits, mainly because I was trying to incorporate new material with existing material while finding a way to bend the whole thing to fit the direction the story is going in. It's a lot easier when you're molding "like" material for the first time. Everything matches and the experience is less taxing on the brain. Funny how being mentally tired, even when physically fine, can shut you down all the same.

I still need to work on getting a maximum amount of rest each night, though. Lupus Moon, plus a new, more aggressive workout routine, have taken a lot out of me this week. Even a new "wake up mix" on my iPod isn't helping. I've noticed that when I'm not listening to music my writing seems a lot sharper the first time around. Thing is, I'm often forced to listen to music (on top of my morning coffee) continuously to stay awake - otherwise I find myself crashing a lot sooner than desired.

But progress is progress. I'm happy to be moving in the right direction, and I'm motivated. I let my girlfriend read the first 27 pages of the current draft earlier this week, and she was VERY complimentary and excited to see where the story was going. Even though Shaundra's my girlfriend, I know for a fact her opinion isn't biased -- she hasn't hesitated to tell me she didn't like two scripts I wrote in the past -- at all. Her mother's the same way, having given me valuable insight on other scripts. I'm glad that she's excited; maybe all the hard work and 38,000 versions of the story will pay off in the end. I can't wait for her to read the new pages.

Until then, time to get back to work. Gotta keep this Long Train Runnin'.

STAY TUNED...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #10

I started the rewrite today on what I'm calling the "Genosha Version" of the script, spurred by the most recent changes in character and direction (including NOT going with the religious/false prophet theme mentioned in the previous update). I'm coming up with some great stuff and I feel like I finally have the story of Lupus Moon tied down. Of course, I've said that many times before, so only time will tell. But I'm really digging where this is going.

I didn't realize when I started how little actual story I had and how much of it was unassigned imagery in my head. I did, however, come to the realization that the seemingly limitless permutations of the script aren't bad things; it just means there's a multitude of angles I can take on this, and many ideas/topics I can cover. Even though it's been trying, i still think it's a blessing to have too much than too little. And when/if the time comes to write the sequels, I'll have a lot to draw on.

I finished the day with 12 pages, half of which is probably brand new material with the other half being re-appropriated from before. I want to keep pushing, but I'm tired as hell, so I'm calling it a night. I'll be back at it again at 7:00 AM tomorrow morning. I'm looking forward to seeing what a new day brings.

STAY TUNED...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"So What Genre Do You Write?"

I had my eyes opened the other night...

I read a blog by screenwriter T.R. Locke a few days ago giving tips on how to snag that most elusive of Hollywood types - an agent. In the blog, T.R. recommended that writers find one genre that they like most and concentrate on becoming a master of that genre, as opposed to pushing yourself as a "versatile" writer. According to T.R., in Hollywood, if you aren't pigeonholed as "the guy for this" or "the girl for that," then it's hard for an agent to market you because no one want to take a chance; they need to feel comfortable that the person they bring on can give the screenplay they want (kinda the same way you know what you're getting when you hire certain actors for a role).

I'll admit. I've been that guy. When I started writing screenplays ten years ago, the last thing I wanted was to be boxed in to a particular genre. After all, I had ideas all over the spectrum, and I damn well wanted the freedom to work on what I wanted, when I wanted. It annoyed me a bit when people asked me what my genre was, because it was alien to me that people wouldn't just assume that, as a writer, I could and would write anything. Sure, most writers are known for one thing, but that wasn't going to be me. I was going to master it all. I was going to make sure I was available for any writing assignment that came up. I'd be just that damn good. And, above all, I didn't want people to assume that just because I'm Black, all I could (or would want to) write would be "'hood movies."

So I'd quickly rebut that I wrote in almost every genre. And truthfully, the scripts I have in my file cabinet run a gamut of specifications: comedy, romantic comedy, thriller, action/adventure, drama, mockumentary, slasher and, yes, "urban drama" (i.e. "'hood movies"). But after reading T.R.'s blog I realized four things:

1. He was right (think about the "name" screenwriters you know. Chances are they work primarily in one genre).

2. Of all the scripts I've marketed, none were in my favorite genre.
 
3. I've never specified what my favorite genre is.

4. The scripts that I should be writing are going to be diametrically opposed to the scripts I'll be producing independently - for the time being, at least.

This, of course, caused me to reflect on what exactly I've been doing for ten years and it's lead me to the conclusion that I've been severely dicking around. Seriously. Sure, I've been writing and constantly getting better, learning more and more tips on how to best apply and augment my craft, but it doesn't address the issues above. So, in response to my forced epiphany, a new direction has been forged with regards to my professional screenwriting aspirations...

1. I am now an action/adventure screenwriter, heavily influenced by sci/fi and comic books.

2. I will only be marketing screenplays that fit the above categor(y/ies).

As a filmmaker, however, I'll continue to remain unlimited in what stories I can tell. It's almost like a Jekyll and Hyde thing - but it's far from unprecedented. The list is long of actors and filmmakers who've had to linger down on one route so that eventually they could build their own. Using funds from script sales to make my own movies was always my plan; just now my attack will be focused. With any luck, the next ten years will not be as fruitless as the first

Thanks, T.R.

Lupus Moon Update #9

Well, things have changed... since the last time they were supposed to change.

In my last post, I said the story was going back to its original roots, circa 1999-2000. Yeah, well, not anymore. I've once again taking things in a different direction. I've actually been working on the story for the past several days and, I must say, things are looking good.

So what's the new direction? A while back, I had the idea to infuse Lupus Moon with a religious theme - the idea of false prophets and those who blindly follow without questioning because purports to share the same beliefs. The story would set up the big bad as a charismatic preacher type, working to "convert" the masses - using God as a cover. On the other side would be another preacher, a good, but less flashy man, who's seen his flock decline because of interest in the former's message. I got off this track during the myriad rewrites/re-imaginings, but with the recent restructuring combined with the desire to strengthen and deepen the story, it's a path that re-emerged as one that would allow me to create deeper, richer characters and actually have meat to go with the message of the script.

Acts I and III have pretty much been locked. The first act features a lot of new material, of course, but the final act is very much the same, save for a character switch in one scene, and a new location for the final battle. Act II will be the hardest, because now I'll have to develop the characters and their interactions differently, create the bulk of the new material, and infuse it with the new theme. Hopefully it'll be more time-intensive than nerve-wracking. I do hate that there's a couple cool scenes I couldn't fit in. Try as I might, they just weren't going to work with the existing framework and timeline.

Oh well. Guess I have a head start on the sequel.

STAY TUNED...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #8

Wrapping up today's work, the first day of restructuring the script (in case I chicken out, I saved the version I've been working on so I can run back to it's comfortable, assuring embrace). Actually, I didn't change anything, so much as I made a bunch of notes about changes I'd like/could see making. To say the changes would be catastrophic would be putting it way too mildly. But I'm really liking the potential it has.

Strangely enough, most of the changes are in the form of old scenes from the original treatment I wrote for Lupus Moon, circa 1999-2000 that were jettisoned when I decided to take the story in a slightly, yet radically different direction (I know, makes no sense). The more and more I made notes to re-incorporate those scenes, the more and more the story started to change back to the original, yet there remains a large amount of the newer material. The result is a happy medium that could mesh to become the official Lupus Moon storyline. Werewolves are still running amok in Weeping Springs, Alexandria Craine still shows up to take them out - I've got something old, something new, something borrowed - it's a perfect mess. But I feel bringing back the older material is somehow bringing back a lot of the fun I had when I originally dreamed up the script, and that's got me excited to jump in and see if I can make a whole of these disjointed parts. Kinda like putting the Constructicons together to form Devastator.

Tomorrow I'll start mixing and matching. Today was about getting all the pieces out and in one place. It's very likely I'll be excising a character or two, and their storylines with it. That part sucks; I've put a TON of work into developing those bits, not to mention writing the pages. But, as the saying goes, "Writing is rewriting," so sometimes there will be casualties. But it's all good, especially if I come out with something better than I had going in - and that's where I think I'm headed now.

We shall see.

STAY TUNED...

Lupus Moon Update #7

Starting the re-structuring work on the script today. Scared as hell. Hope I don't get into it, only to slam into a brick wall somewhere in the second act. We'll see how it goes. Wish me luck.

STAY TUNED...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #6

Things have been going great with the script. My new schedule's got me being more disciplined and, more importantly, writing something every day (at least during the week). I'm currently on page 48, and things are heating up. One problem, though --

I'm stuck in a dead scene.

I know what I want to happen, but it's just not feeling right. There's something a bit wrong with the pacing and the whole thing is feeling uninspired. I've been trying for the last two days to shoehorn a daytime gun battle in because I feel like I need a confrontation there, but it's just coming across flat. I thought about taking it out, but then there'd be a hole; somehow I need Alexandria to be captured by the police because in the next scene she's being interrogated about the weird happenings in town.

While heading out for tonight's dinner of Whataburger, it occurred to me that the events leading up to the gun battle needed work. It starts in a public park with Alex(andria) shooting an arrow into the chest of a werewolf chasing two siblings. Naturally, there would be people in the park - it is a small town - so I don't think my heroine would be so quick to pull out a compound bow in front of innocent bystanders, as is currently written. But even if I fixed that issue, there's the matter of the scene just being... blah.

My solution? Go back and rework/reorder some scenes. In the process, I'm going to reintegrate several bits that were removed for whatever reason that seem like they'd work now. I'm also hoping to address what's looking to be a problem of lameness and lack of direction with the villains. I figure better to nip it in the bud now than to keep going.

I'm not sure how long this will take or how long it'll keep me from finishing, but while I'd love nothing more than to knock this out and move on to Jillted, I know I need to take the time to get this script as sharp as I can. At this stage in my "career," it'd make zero sense to rush something out only to still have it go nowhere because of underdevelopment and weak writing.

So it's (kinda, sorta) back to the drawing board. I'm still excited about the script, which is the most important thing. I look forward to seeing what comes of it.

STAY TUNED...