Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's Been a While. You Know What That Means...

If you guessed "This fool's changed directions again," you win the showcase showdown!

Where do I start? Guess I'll be short and to the point: Hardwired's on hold (again, indefinitely), Thief of Hearts is DOA, The Life and Times of Abigail Waller is back in pre-production with a casting call underway, and I'm planning on finally breaking ground on Lupus Moon, the novel.

So what the hell happened? Back in late September I finished the latest round of rewrites on Thief of Hearts and sent the script off to a production company I thought would be more welcoming of it in terms of its characters' ethnicity - ie: Black. It was really my last-ditch effort with that script as I felt tired of working on it and wanted to move on. A couple weeks ago I received my response - it was a pass. The reader expressed her resignations with the script, and although I didn't agree with a couple of them, my general feeling was an overwhelming "Oh well. Moving on." I had hoped the script would do better, but I didn't expect it to. How could I, after all these years of writing and getting rejected? So I did what felt most rational to me given my situation and fatigue with the script -

I declared it dead. It was Kenny Rogers who famously sang that "... you gotta know when to fold 'em..." and dude's right. Sometimes a script just doesn't work. It's fatally flawed, either in concept, or in the writer's inability to translate thoughts to words and logic on the page. I first conceived Thief of Hearts on July 2, 1999, completed the first draft in 2001, and have rewritten it extensively off and on ever since. The script is registered with the Writers Guild of America, West, has advanced in competition, earned a rating of "Consider" from a major coverage company, and even been optioned. It's brought me a lot of joy - and a mega-ton of frustration. And now it's time to move on. Maybe one day I'll return to it and take another stab at the story. Maybe I won't. But for now I just want to work on something new.

Which is why I put Hardwired back on the "injury reserve" list and decided to move forward with the web series and the novel version of Lupus Moon. I'm done chasing Hollywood, and am more content to try and carve out a path for myself independently. Sure, I'll try and place the novel with a major publisher, but with the internet and self-publishing houses being in great abundance, a "no" from the gatekeepers have about a showball's chance in an Arizona desert of stopping me from getting the book out. And even though it's a story I've worked with before (extensively), the chance to flesh it out in long form more than revs up that excitement that writing brings me while satisfying that need to create. I've got some new ideas to spice up the story, and I can't wait to implement them.

Should be a wild ride...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Update - HARDWIRED #8

It's been May since I last worked on this script, but now it's time to pick it back up and finish it. I left off at page 44, but since I've made a couple (hopefully final?) tweaks to my personal style, I'm going to go back and start from FADE IN:

Nothing should change from a story standpoint, unless I see some conflict or drama that can be heightened; the last outline I did felt like the backbone for the final version of the story - or, simply, it just felt right. But if something is going to get adjusted, now's the time.

I break ground (again) later today. With a renewed focus and comfortability (thought it was a real word, but apparently, it isn't) in my own skin, I'm really looking forward to playing with this script. Updates as they come...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Update - THIEF OF HEARTS #3

FINALLY!!

I finished rewrites on Monday and got the script off to my last prospect - someone who had previously agreed to read the script. It feels so good to be completed and I really think it's a fun read, coming in at 108 pages. I hope the person I submitted to likes it, but time will tell. In the meantime, I'm moving on to Hardwired.

As for the six entities that I submitted queries to, five through Virtual Pitchfest and one through direct email, I've heard back from the five submitted through the site (the last one came back tonight, technically seven days after I submitted as opposed to the five days the site advertises, but it included the weekend, so I'm not complaining). They were all rejections. Each said "No thanks, but thank you for submitting!" - per an obvious preset response choice afforded them by the site - with them adding that they were not interested in the subject matter at this time - which could mean anything. One, a major studio, was nice enough to say that they had a preponderance of romantic comedies in development, production or recently released. I respect that, and appreciate the explanation. At least I know "what time it is" there.

But I'm not deterred. The person who's opinion I'm most interested in is reading the script now. And even if they're not feeling it, it's not the end of the world. I've got one more, albeit weaker, card to play with this script - but for now, I'm moving on...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Girl, Interrupted

I've decided to put the web series on hold. Again...

I'm going back to the plan I had of completing Thief of Hearts, Hardwired and Jillted and submitting them to Hollywood before moving on with anything else (Lupus Moon was once a part of this, but I'm going to hold onto that and do my own thing with it). It's gonna simultaneously suck and blow, but I feel it's necessary to clear a few "what-ifs" from my mind and move forward with a chapter fully closed.

I've probably gone over this before in a previous post, but the gist is that the three aforementioned scripts represent my best shots at this time of selling a script to Hollywood or gaining representation and/or writing jobs from my work. I'm tired of the years of writing and submitting and getting nothing, and I'm ready to forge ahead with creating my own path through independent action (web series, shorts - eventually building to features). BUT, before I make that move and turn my back on Hollywood, perhaps for good, I want to have the piece of mind that I tried everything I could in terms of courting LaLa land. And that means taking a few of my most commercial ideas, rewriting them per my current skill level, and trying promotional sources I've never used but wanted to. It's a last-ditch effort. And if it fails, I can feel confident I did my best and move on without any nagging musings.

So The Life and Times of Abigail Waller is, again, on hold. I don't know when I'll return to it; it's based completely on how long it takes me to finish the features and send them off. But I've rediscovered my writing focus (as much as I hate to admit it, the job has forced me to be more disciplined with respect to making the best use of my time) so it might not be too long before I'm back to pre-production on Abby --

And I'm really ready for that. :) 

Friday, September 23, 2011

D'oh! (or Lack Thereof)

Not a happy camper.

Didn't get my check at work today. Apparently, I missed the fact that checks stop being distributed at 5 PM. And since my training class starts at 3:30 PM, and I didn't pick it up before class started, I'm SOL. Funny thing is we took our first break just before 4:55 PM. I shot straight to the check pickup spot and was there at 4:55 on the dot --

And they were already locked and gone. Really? They still had five minutes (betcha they won't let me leave five minutes early)! Typical Black folks. Always wanna show up late and leave early. At least my direct deposit kicks in next pay period...

Oh. And I'm on page 103 of Thief of Hearts with a current page count of 112. Yay.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Update - THIEF OF HEARTS #2

Made it to page 96 on the rewrite before I went to work - but the total page count has swelled to 113 (when I started, the script was 98 pages). I know some things are gonna have to go; I'm just not sure of what all will be included. The first date between the two leads doesn't happen until page 41, so getting to that point earlier is something I'm interested in. It sucks, cutting material you've slaved so hard over, but to paraphrase the famous screenwriting idiom, sometimes you have to "kill your darlings." Things is, I don't know what to cut that won't hurt the story. I'll know for sure when I go back through the script.

As for today, I'm hoping to get another few pages covered on my lunch. We're in training now, and our trainer's been giving us anywhere from an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and forty-five minutes to eat. Since I'm on a laptop now, I've been making the best use of my time.

Which reminds me - I need to find a few really nice writing spots...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Query for Your Thoughts... Pt. 2, or, And They're Off!

Sent off the rest of the queries for Thief of Hearts yesterday through Virtual Pitchfest. I got two responses back quickly, which, in my experience, is never a good sign. Sure enough, they were rejections. Thing is, they're both from companies I've queried before - multiple times, in fact. And they've always rejected me (I keep separate databases for first-time submissions and companies I've queried on more than one occasion). What made this time different in the case of one company was that I was submitting directly to an individual I never had before (I think; at least there would be a new name to attach to my deferment). With the other, they intimated they were looking for a romantic comedy. Since TOH is such, I thought they'd be more receptive this time -

They weren't. Oh well, never fear - I'll never make that mistake again...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Query for Your Thoughts...

Rewrote my query letter for Thief of Hearts today. I'm not done with the script yet, but at 80 pages out of 111 (at this point), I figured, "What the hell, I'm gonna do this now." Of course the fact that I hate my job - I'm only in training, mind you - and am desperate for a final escape from the Rat Race might have something (read: everything) to do with it. It's been a long time since I was in the query game, and I must admit it felt great to run in a familiar circle. I didn't get all the letters out that I plan to today (1 out of 6), but I'll get the others out tomorrow.

Then the waiting game begins...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to Work

Finally got back to work on Thief of Hearts today. I didn't get a lot of pages done, but I did some good work as far as ideas and restructuring. I have a second interview for a new job tomorrow morning, though I've already been told training starts next Tuesday. With that on the horizon, as well as The Reel Deel and the web series, I've set a goal to be done with this rewrite by next Tuesday and have the script ready for submission. The sooner I get this done, the sooner I'll know if this script has any legs - or if I should table the project and produce it myself some day. Either way, I will have satisfied the "what ifs" surrounding the script. With a week of free time before training begins, I should have no problem meeting my goal if I stay focused.

At least that's what I'm telling myself...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Dealings

I just can't seem to stick to a plan. But hell, I knew that going in...

It was supposed to be simple. I was supposed to work on Thief of Hearts online and Jillted offline. That's it. I had gone as far as I could on Jillted, which meant all my energies were to be directed at knocking off Thief of Hearts and getting it submitted.

But I couldn't leave well enough alone.

I went ahead and created The Reel Deel, and put The Life and Times of Abigail Waller into pre-production.

The Reel Deel is a movie review blog. I'd toyed with the idea of writing movie reviews several times in the past, and even wrote several, which were received well by the few who read them. Shaundra's always been big on my writing, and suggested that maybe a blog will work. I thought it would be fun and, hopefully, a source of income if the blog caught on. Anything to earn a permanent escape from the Rat Race. I decided to go with the WordPress platform for its expanded capabilities, and I've enjoyed learning it while building and customizing the site. I haven't updated it as much as I'd like to lately, but I've got several ideas for essays to come and I look forward to getting back to it.

As for the web series, I just couldn't wait any longer. I want to make something, and "Abby" seems like a good place to start. The idea has been pushing its way to the forefront of my creative mind for a while, and the recent success of Issa Rae's The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl has done absolutely nothing to quell that desire. At all. So, with frustration mounting and the hunger to do something eating away at my mind and soul, I decided it's now or never. I've found a location for the pilot episode and if things work out, we'll move on to casting. I'm scared shitless about this. I won't lie. But I've gotta do this, and folks have done more with less. I'm fully aware of my fear of failure and that I make things more difficult than they really are, so I'm just going to push forward because, again, this has to happen. I really want it. And it's high time I confront my fears and put those fuckers on their asses - hopefully for good.

So there it is. Two new projects in the works. I'll get back to Thief of Hearts soon, hopefully this week (I'm in the process of getting another job, so my schedule is unsure). In the meantime, check out the pages for both projects and offer feedback if you like. I'd love to read what you think.

Onward and upward...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Updates - THIEF OF HEARTS #1; JILLTED #2

Things are going good with both scripts.

Online, I'm on page 14 of the THIEF OF HEARTS rewrite. I haven't knocked out as many pages as I would've liked, but there's no one but myself to blame for it. I simply have to be more disciplined with my time, juggling it between work, writing and web surfing. Working out fell by the wayside a month ago, but I'm planning to return with (yet) another modified routine. Oh, and by the way, Facebook is the devil...  

Offline, I finished the outline today for the JILLTED rewrite (in case you're interested in reading entry #1 on this script, you can check it out here). It feels pretty good, but I won't know for sure until I get on the laptop and start hashing out pages. But that will be a while from now. As it stands, once I'm finished with THIEF OF HEARTS, I'll probably pick up HARDWIRED next and knock that one off.

Now that I'm finished with JILLTED for the time being, I need a new project to outline - and I've already made a choice. A while back (a couple of years now?) a college friend and myself started collaborating on an idea he had for a TV show. We got pretty far with development, up to the point where I was supposed to write a first draft of the the pilot, but I got distracted by whatever and the project slipped into limbo. Until now. It's going to be amazingly refreshing to work on something "for the first time" as opposed to the litany of rewrites I'm facing.

I'm very much looking forward to the challenge.

A Major Upgrade or: Another Fine Mess

Shaundra got herself a shiny new computer. And if I'm not careful, it's gonna cause me some serious problems...

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for her. I really am. First, her HP laptop of a few years crapped out, then the Acer laptop that was purchased to replace said HP developed issues due to what turned out to be defective memory (after only being with us a few months, mind you). While dealing with the Acer issue, Shaundra mentioned her misadventures to her mother - who should be up for sainthood somewhere - and her mother offered to buy her a new system (a desktop, what Shaundra wanted).

The new hotness was supposed to arrive in a couple weeks, but, with speed normally reserved for past due notices, the computer showed up two days ago. Formally installed yesterday, the new Dell system (my brother Frederick would be so pleased), with an i5 quad core processor and 24-inch monitor is a thing of pure beauty...

And, potentially, a beautiful disaster.

It didn't dawn on me until after the computer was ordered that the thing would be strong enough to edit video - as in the HD video I'm planning to transition to. The HD video that I'm not supposed to be thinking about until after I've finished four screenplays to send to market as part of my last-ditch effort to sell a screenplay in Hollywood before I hang it up and work on self projects (like, say, a certain web series).

I've been saying for the longest that the only thing keeping me from making films (besides the lack of a rich uncle; anybody got one I can borrow?) was the lack of an editing system that could handle the footage I wanted to shoot in. Now we have one. In the next room. Mere feet from me. And yes, I have permission to use it (what kinda guy do you think I am?).

So with the time it's going to take to rewrite these screenplays, my constant writer's insecurity that never fails to remind me that my scripts probably suck, and the ineffectively-neglected burning desire to get back behind the camera and show the city of Houston, and the world, what I can do (myself included; 2007 was the last time I shot something), how long can I hold out before I say "fuck it" and declare pre-production on something?

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Everything Old is New Again."

It's funny how things tend to be cyclical.

In reworking the stories for THIEF OF HEARTS and JILLTED, I've found great help and inspiration from a source I least expected - old drafts of the respective scripts.

In the case of THIEF... I found myself opening what's probably the third draft of the script as part of the conversion from my old computer to my current laptop, and the updating of my screenwriting software. With so many files similarly named, I had to open a few to suss out which file contained which version of the script. Curiosity got the better of me, and I opened a draft marked "original." Not only was I pleasantly surprised by the quality of writing (though still not to my current skill level), but I was reminded of several great bits that would work well in the current draft as I try to add depth to the leads. Old dialogue, jokes - just generally good stuff. So I decided to re-incorporate the best of that draft with the current version and the new ideas Shaundra and I have generated. It's already paid dividends, saving my backside in a scene where the male lead needs to have more deliberation over an event which ultimately kicks off the main story.

I've always had issues with JILLTED'S first act. Getting the main character, Jillian, from picked-on high schooler to vengeful killer in a fluid manner managed to consistently elude me, and with each new idea, each tweak of this character or that, I was unwittingly moving further and further from what the story was supposed to be about. Sure, I'd managed to finally work out an outline for the script, and even convinced myself that I liked it, but putting down the script for a while and coming back to it only served to make the unwieldy first act stick out even more. Where had I gone wrong? Could I get this thing to work? When WAS the last time this worked?

It worked when JILLTED was VALENTINE'S DAY, its original name (changed in no small part because of the Warner Brothers movie of the same name and genre that came out after I conceived my story). In that draft the lead was male, not female, and his transition from nebbish nobody to calculated killer just plain flowed. That, combined with the realization that I was slowly but surely getting away from the essence of the story led me to yet another "duh" fix - just do a straight translation. Just as Dexter became Jillian (yes, my killer was named Dexter, and this was WAY before the Showtime series - just my luck, right?), the female characters who were killed off in VALENTINE'S DAY became Jillian's male victims in JILLTED; with a few small tweaks, even the transgendered character's personalities and motivations remained the same. At the same time, I was able to keep best of the "new" material I had come up with, and the result was a surprisingly smooth mix that, when compared to the two drafts that spawned it, had all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses - kinda like a certain daywalker out of Marvel Comics... 

I guess the takeaway from this is that I should be careful of over-analyzing my work, and to not get so lost in reinvention that I forget what made the story work in the first place. Well now I know - and as any child of the 80s can tell you, knowing is half the battle...

Yo Joe!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

On the Table

I guess if you asked me to descibe myself in one word, I'd have to say I'm "fluid."

I change my mind a lot about what I want to work on in terms of my writing. I'm more decisive in other realms of my life (for the most part), but when it comes to writing, it's always been a battle of what I feel like working on versus what I think will advance my career quicker. Things are no different now: I spent years writing screenplays to try and sell to Hollywood so I could fund certain projects I know they wouldn't touch; then I got tired of not having success while dealing with the burning desire to do the projects I wanted, leading me to want to go ahead and "go indie" (the web series, shorts, comics, an entertainment blog); now I'm back to working on specs - with a lot of metal flip-flopping going on between those periods. But I've got a goal and a plan, so I'm gonna do my damnedest to stick to them.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I'm currently rewriting a romantic comedy called THIEF OF HEARTS with designs on submitting it to two particular production companies - shingles I think would be receptive to the material. But I have three other scripts I think would play to a "broader" (read: white) audience: HARDWIRED, LUPUS MOON, and JILLTED. I have other stories that might work broad as well, but they're either not scripted, or, in the case of one called REPO'S PROXY, not enough of a sure bet to run with right now.

The plan is to complete the four former screenplays and put them out on market and gauge the responses. If I make a sale or two (even a decent option), great; If I don't, oh well. Regardless of the outcome, these four screenplays represent my last attempt at courting Hollywood before I turn my attention 100% to indie production. Sure, I've said something close to this before, but the difference between then and now is that with my current plan, there'll be no lingering questions, no "I wonder ifs..." As it stands, I have a few scripts that are, I think, my best shots at gaining Hollywood attention. If I quit now and went indie, I'd always wonder how those scripts would've played with agents, managers, and producers. But if I take out that guesswork, I'll be 100% free and clear to work on whatever project I choose with no regrets, wonderments or distractions. Sure, it would be a tough field to hoe, but those are the cards I've been dealt.

I'm working on two of the scripts concurrently - re-scripting THIEF OF HEARTS on the laptop while reworking the story for JILLTED during my lunch breaks at my job. Both are going well, and I hope it continues (I'm just getting started with each). I won't be able to repeat the process with HARDWIRED and LUPUS MOON (which I'm still planning to adapt into either a novel or graphic novel), since they're both at the "computer stage," so I'll just decide which one to work on when it comes time (most likely HARDWIRED, since I'm already in the middle of a rewrite on that).

It's going to be hard to stave off wanting to work on the web series, short films, entertainment blog, or my nascent comic book properties while I grind out these screenplays (it already is, especially after reading about a sista who signed a contact with UTA and 3 Arts Entertainment on the strength of her web series after only seven episodes), but that's the challenge ahead...

I just hope "Mr. Fluid" can stick to the game plan.  ;^)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Back in the Saddle

A lot has changed in the last month and a half. I let go of the home internet business, got a new job working at an electronics store, bought a new computer and, finally, returned to HARDWIRED.

And made the decision to table that script and work on another project.

There's nothing wrong with HARDWIRED; in fact, I still love where it's going. It's just that I have an opportunity with another screenplay that I want to jump on (I'd been putting it off to finish HARDWIRED). I really should have been working on this script since the first part of May, when the opportunity arose, but, wanting to finally complete a script I'd picked up and put down a few times before, I told myself I'd get to it after I wrote "FADE OUT." on HARDWIRED.

But the grind of my new job and the time it takes away from writing, plus the frustration of stagnation in my personal and professional lives, have forced me to reconsider. The opportunity is the direct submission of a screenplay to a Hollywood production company that very recently had a film in theaters - something extremely coveted in the realm of the amateur spec writer. So why would I drag my feet (beyond the totally-true-yet-still-bullshit reason of wanting to complete an in-progress screenplay first)?

I'm sure it has a lot (and by "a lot" I mean "everything") to do with my old nemesis FOF - Fear of Failure. The screenplay in question is THIEF OF HEARTS, a romantic comedy I last worked on in 2006, soon before it was optioned by a production company out of Atlanta. It was a solid script (for my ability at the time, anyway), and the producer at the company really liked it, as well as the few others I'd let read it. Names were tossed around for the lead and supporting roles, and it looked like I'd finally have that first script sale. But then things went south, and it'd be another three years before I'd regain control of my material. Since then, I've sat on the script with no solid plans and no idea of what, if anything, to do with it (for a brief moment, it was slated to be my debut feature, but that was dropped in favor of a different work). The script was written to sell, and I had already marketed it the best way I knew how to Hollywood and was lucky to get the bite that I did - only to see that fall through...

But now a new opportunity has arisen, and my writing has gotten better in the years since I last touched THIEF OF HEARTS. I still love what I have, but after re-reading the script, there's a lot of room for improvement - and I've got some great ideas on how to enhance the story. Shaundra gave the script another pass as well and offered her own kick-ass ideas; the best part is they can be implemented without changing the structure of the screenplay.

It'll be fun to revisit this script. The fifth feature I ever wrote, it represents a return to my roots of sorts. Shaundra told me years ago that this would be the first script I sold.

It would completely blow my mind if that were to actually come to pass.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Up to Speed

After months of being confined to a computer unfit for this mortal coil, and thanks to the sale of my baby, my Canon GL2 camcorder (my first video camera - sniff), I've finally been able to upgrade to a new system - my first laptop (a symmetry of firsts, I'm just realizing). I'm still not used to being able to scroll through my Facebook so fast, or watching any video on any site that I want without fear of a script error that freezes my progress for 15 minutes at a time.

Along with the hardware, I also made a change to my screenwriting software, upgrading from Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000 to the relatively-new, shiny Screenwriter 6. I fell in love with it from the first start-up; the organizational features alone have me drooling at future prospects.

So what this basically means is that I have no excuse for not being more productive. I can even take my writing with me on the road - something most take for granted, but a baby-fresh boon to me.

Next up, a new editing system. In due time, of course. But progress is being made...

Monday, May 23, 2011

HARDWIRED Update #7

Today was the day I was supposed to be done with the first draft.

Note the use of the words "supposed to."

I was already grossly behind on my schedule, but I wound up taking last week off from the script (ironically, right after telling a college friend that she should write everyday) to tend to other business, namely, using my writing skills to try and help bolster our online home business. I almost got back to it today, but decided to do my online work first and hit the script after the gym. But today's workout (and not getting as much sleep as I should) took more out of me than I'd bargained for, and I wound up taking a nice sound nap. Afterwards, there was Facebook, taking the dog out, dinner, TOUGH ENOUGH and MONDAY NIGHT RAW, more Facebook and now this blog. I'm hitting the bed when this is done.

I'm currently on page 41. Not horrible, but not where I'm supposed to be. I don't know when I'll get back to the script for certain - could be tomorrow, could be a week from now. My number one priority is doing my part to build our business; gotta make money to live. Plus there's a few other things on my mind, personally and professionally. I'll have to take care of them or set them to the side so that I can focus before going back to Hardwired.

And then it all depends on mood. I didn't expect to want to work on the script today, but I did. That's a good thing. But I am where I am for now.

For now.

Monday, May 9, 2011

HARDWIRED Update #6

I started a new routine today, and it's already yielded positive results.

I've gone back to writing on a regular schedule, which calls for me to write for four hours first thing each morning Monday-Friday. I tried this tactic a while back, but for whatever reason (probably lack of discipline in going to bed on time) I fell out with the schedule and went back to writing whenever - which got me nowhere. I've always considered myself a night writer, and looking at the time stamps on most of my scripts and treatments back up that claim, but I've found myself just as adept at working in the morning. In reality, I doubt it has so much to do with the time of day as it does the fact that I'm fully focusing on the work. And with me taking on other writing duties and returning to the gym after a two-month layoff, making the most of the time I have available has become more crucial than ever.

As for the script, I knocked out five pages today. I would've loved to get more, of course, but what I did get was good stuff. I ended the day on page 13, but the thing that's bothering me a bit is that it marks the end of the first act. I don't think I've ever had a script with such a short setup. Most screenwriting books suggest the first act end anywhere from page 25 to 30 (for a 120-page script). I'm expecting HARDWIRED to come in around 110 pages, so for me to be launching into the second act this early is strange to say the least. But that's where I am (I considered the possibility that I somehow don't know when an act is over, but c'mon, I've been doing this for 11 years - I know when an act is over).

I'm looking forward to tomorrow. If I can establish a steady rhythm of working on this script, it'll make the thing better in the long run. I truly feel that. The best feeling I can have at this point is not being able to wait until I get to work on the script again. "Get to work on the script" - sounds like a privilege, doesn't it?

That's exactly what it feels like.  : )

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Reel Deel Review - THOR

Going into my favorite movie theater to check out Marvel Studios' latest superhero film, THOR, I wasn't sure what to expect (surely it wasn't the rude box office employee who, when approached, dismissively pointed an index finger at another available co-worker - never bothering to quit yakking to his friend or even look at Shaundra and I). I had followed the production for a while, and remember being excited when I got my first glimpse at Chris Hemsworth (who, at 6'3", has the stature for the part) as the god of thunder in full regalia. I dug the colorblind - though controversial - casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall, a character who's super keen senses make him an indispensable member of Thor's home realm of Asgard. And I was intrigued to see what Kenneth Branagh would bring to the film as director. I felt the choice of such a weighty name to call the shots meant Marvel was taking the film seriously, making sure the material didn't slide into the oft-reviled realm of camp. All in all, I was hoping the film proved a worthy companion to its Marvel-made predecessors IRON MAN and THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Basically, I didn't want it to suck.

And the movie didn't let me down.

I'm a self-professed comic book geek (who, strangely, never read comic books), but Thor was a character I didn't know much about, so I didn't go into the film with too many hard and fast "rules" that couldn't be broken. I knew the very basics, so I was more or less able to experience this film as a "noob." I have a feeling, though, that even if I was a die-hard Thor fanboy, I would've absolutely loved this film.

Here's a quick, non-spoilery run-down of the story: Thor, son of Odin, king of Asgard, is a cocky, arrogant jerk who, after getting in over his head and destroying a peace pact with another land, gets stripped of his power and cast out of Asgard. He lands on Earth where, before he can regain his power and return home, he must learn how to "get over himself" and be the type of man who will one day rule Asgard. Meanwhile, machinations occur in Asgard to make sure that will never happen.

What I love most about the Marvel films is the building of a shared continuity. In Marvel's world, their various superheros and villains know of each other, and aspects from previous films carry over into others. Hence, we get references to a pioneering scientist in gamma radiation (the Hulk, for the uninitiated) or one government worker asking another if a strange metallic mechanism is "one of Starks'" - a shout-out to IRON MAN. The same thing isn't happening across the pond with the Warner Brothers-produced DC Comics movies. Christopher Nolan's Batman has no knowledge of Bryan Singer's Superman, who, in turn, knows even less about Martin Campbell's Green Lantern. It's a ludicrous way to approach the films, especially when the news hit that Warners is planning a joint Justice League movie for 2013. Reps for both the Batman and Superman franchises have said that their versions of the characters will not appear in the Justice League films, in effect making the upcoming THE DARK NIGHT RISES and MAN OF STEEL movies part of their respective franchises, yet lame ducks when it comes to the overall scheme of things.

But enough about DC (Doesn't Care). Back to Marvel.

I loved everything about THOR. The sets, the costumes, the plot, the acting - from top to bottom, I found the film to be spectacular. Sure, there were a few effects shots that looked, well, fake - but they didn't detract from the moviegoing experience at all because the story was so enjoyable. I read another review that complained that the earth-bound portions of the movie felt like filler and that the romantic sub-plot between Thor and Natalie Portman's Jane felt forced - but I didn't find it to be those things at all. In fact, it's those scenes that are vitally necessary to Thor completing his character arc from a pompass asshole (who can back it up, however) to a man worthy - and thoughtful - enough to rule a kingdom. In our theater, we even had a girl crying during one of the more touching parts between Thor and Jane. I'm not going to say it warrants all that, but the scene was very well handled.

I also dug the handling of Thor's brother, Loki, god of mischief. Instead of going for the simple "he's just an evil guy" gimmick, Branagh and the five credited writers (!) employ a layered, nuanced approach, giving Loki emotional, understandable, if not almost-justifiable reasons for his actions. I felt for the guy, and Tom Hiddleston did an amazing job with imbuing his character with equal parts compassion and brewing menace. And yes, in one scene we get to see him in his traditional long-horned helmet (geek moment!).

The dialogue is crisp, the character interplay simply pops (props again to director Branagh) and the action beats deliver big time (I loved the various ways Thor used his mighty hammer, Mjolnir, to dispatch his adversaries). There was one moment of coolness that was so hardcore it felt like the crowd was going to erupt in cheers, but seeing as how we were a (surprisingly) respectful crowd, we didn't. Quite. But the electricity was there.  And something else that surprised - and impressed - me was the amount of comedy in the film. Nothing overbearing at all, but it was very organic and believable, especially given the main character is a god from another realm who's stranded in a strange land.

Bottom line - go see the movie. It doesn't matter if you're a comic book geek or not; there's something for everyone in this movie. And I shouldn't have to tell you this if you've seen any of the other Marvel movies, but make sure you stay until the end of the credits.

Just saying. ; )

Reel Deel Rating: 5 Reels (out of 5)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hardwired Update #5

I haven't written anything since April 28. According to my schedule I should be on page 44, but instead I have 8 3/8. But I'm not deterred. Not even discouraged. The past few days have been taxing in terms of available time, with a shifting schedule that wrecked havoc on my plans. And when I was free, I was either too tired to focus or stay up, much less write. On top of that, we had an unexpected (aren't they all?) technological crisis that totally mucked up the last two days, requiring our immediate attention so that we can move forward on business affairs that will ultimately allow us to return to producing films. Long story short - I just haven't been gittin' 'er done.

But it's cool. My personal schedule is settling down, so I'll be back at it tomorrow (I hope; Nisa's Solo and Revelation have been calling to me, as well as the web series - eagerness  to "do something" can be a VERY distracting thing). And maybe I can make up some ground this weekend. It's all good. Progress is progress.

But I really gotta do better...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hardwired Update #4

The outline for Hardwired is complete. And I gotta say, I'm pretty fucking excited about this thing...

I get to work on the screenplay tomorrow. With all the new material I've added, this really feels like a script that can get me the attention I'm looking for on the marketplace. At the very least, it should be a damn good writing sample. It's got a little of everything: action, excitement, love, hate, loyalty, betrayal, a hot sex scene, and a couple killer twists. If you're a fan of mob/crime films, I'm sure you'll love Hardwired (I sound like such a Hollywood shill, but I'm that confident in the material). It's been a while since I was this excited about a script and I'm certain it'll show in the writing. I can't wait to get some feedback...

Besides the schedule I mentioned in my previous post, I've also decided to get back into the screenplay contest game. It's been a while since I put anything out there, and for credibility's sake, it would be great to have some new accolades to go along with my previous ones. I've identified a few competitions with deadlines coming up soon, if I adhere to my schedule, should allow me to complete the script in time to submit. I don't even have to win: just placing among the semi-finalists or finalists is enough to give my script that extra "umph" when it comes time to go out to Hollywood with it (but a win, needless to say, would be AWESOME). Depending on how much time I have, I may even submit another of my scripts, say Lupus Moon or my AIDS drama A Mile In My Shoes. One contest is strictly for web series pilots starring a Black female - can anyone say The Life and Times Of Abigail Waller? Of course, this is all contingent on having the finances to enter these competitions (the job hunt continues).

Back to Hardwired; my schedule calls for 5.5 pages to be written a day. Seeing as how this is a rewrite, there's a good amount of existing material that I'll be keeping, so that goal should be easy to meet. I know there will be snags - I can get obsessively picky about dialogue and the exact order of words - but I'm looking forward to meeting and overcoming those obstacles and turning out a kick-ass first draft. When it's done, I'll be soliciting feedback from various people (if you want to be in that number, let me know via my Facebook page). I'll then take a couple weeks away from the script (probably start setting up my next project) before launching into the rewrite phase, followed by another one-week cool-off before polishing the script and submitting it.

I won't be posting daily updates, but I look forward to sharing the process of birthing and marketing a screenplay - at least from my perspective. I'll do my best to keep it upbeat and entertaining, just like the script I'm about to write. If you're a writer, I hope I write something that you can take away that will make your work and life easier. If you're not, I hope you simply enjoy the ride.

I know I will.  :^)

New Plan of Action

A couple days ago I decided to revive and revise a writing schedule I'd put together a while back. The purpose behind the schedule was to simply maximize my efficiency by giving myself hard goals to meet and a timetable in which to do it - not to mention treating my writing as what it is and can be: a job. Plus with all the new ideas I've had floating around my head lately, this should help me get through projects faster while keeping my skills and creative juices at their sharpest.

Hardwired will be the first script to go through this new system. The schedule is designed to go from concept to finished and polished screenplay in 11 weeks. It's aggressive, for sure, but I think it's totally workable. Since this is a rewrite and I formulated the schedule as I was putting together the outline together, I'm coming in at phase two of seven - writing the first draft - which I plan to have done in four weeks. Things fell together really well in the outlining phase and what I have is very detailed, so I'm hoping for a smooth write. With a 5.5 page/day writing target, I break ground on the script tomorrow.

Wish me luck!  :^)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hardwired Update #3

The biggest problem with being in a creative burst is when I'm mentally pulled toward working on several different projects at the same time. I prefer to be linear; knock one thing out at a time and move on to the next. That's not where I find myself currently, and, along with the new ideas that crop up (had a cool concept for an alien sci-fi/action adventure script hit me yesterday), it's easy to get caught up in the paralysis of analysis - getting absolutely nothing done while I'm trying to figure out what exactly I want to do.

Maybe it's the writers block I've run into while working on Lupus Moon. Maybe it's the frustration over being broke and not having the money to shoot anything, forcing me to sit on the sidelines and be stagnant. Maybe it's something else altogether. But whatever it is, my brain has responded by going into creative overload. New ideas have been rolling forth, and I'm really liking what's been coming out. All I have to do now is capture them.

So after hours and hours of hemming and hawing - and deciding to take a break from the novel that I JUST started, barely (I just wasn't "feeling it") - I set a course and picked up Hardwired (those not familiar with this project can get up to speed here). Glancing over the last set of notes I left for myself, there was one major change I wanted to make that wasn't recorded - the deletion of Lenny altogether. The thinking behind this was to push Harvey to the forefront instead of having him share the spotlight in what was basically a "buddy hitman" script. I wanted to take the story darker - really focus on Harvey and his demons, forces so unrelenting that it ultimately cost him his wife and son. I was really digging this (and still am), but as I worked my way through rewriting the rest of the story, things just kinda... fell apart.

I LOVED the story I had crafted. I was impressed by the twists I had worked in and the reasoning behind those twists. Thing is, to pull those twists off I needed Lenny. I hadn't realized it, but he was the glue that connected Harvey's mission - where it turns out - with where it began. Without him, the setup and logic for the script's biggest twist goes out the window. There's another character involved that's just as necessary, but I thought I could get by with just one of them. That's not the case, which left me with the proverbial irresistible force (Harvey in the spotlight as a man destroyed by his own actions) meeting the immovable object (a bomb-tight twist that really heightens the script and the reasoning behind it). I mulled the possibilities for hours, and I went to bed last night with the conclusion that I had no choice: I had to keep Lenny in. But what about Harvey's spotlight?

I think I have the fix. After more tossing around in my head and talking with Shaundra, the current idea is for Lenny to come attached to the mission as before, but be less adequate as a mafioso, and younger, too. He'll be open about his loathing for his life, and his plans to leave it - a complete foil for Harvey, the older, gruffer, polished killer who just can't leave the life alone. I also plan to get Harvey alone as much as possible, where we'll see him deal with his demons, and try haplessly to re-connect with the family he forsaked for his craft. It'll be a delicate dance, but if I can pull it off I'll be stoked. And I think it'll be a helluva script.

The plan for this script is to sell it to Hollywood, or use it as a writing sample to get writing work. I know I said I was leaving this alone, but I guess you can't keep a good dream down. But I feel this script (and, eventually, Jillted) will be the most commercial thing (read: white) I've written with the exception of Lupus Moon. So basically, I'm still in uncharted territory when it comes to this type of script.

We'll see how it goes...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lupus Moon (the novel) Update #5

Why do the projects I love so much bring me so much trouble?

It's enough to make me wonder if I'm really cut out to be a writer - whether or not I have the talent and creativity. It's enough to make me wonder - yet I don't. I know the ability is there. And definitely the desire. So what is it? Oh yeah. That...

The problem with Lupus Moon as it exists is that, once again, I'm caught between writing a new story, yet working with pre-existing elements - elements that I like very much and that can work together in the same story, but they clash with the new stuff I'm bringing in. I want it all to play nice together, but there's fights on the playground - and no one's winning. I've considered jettisoning the entire thing and starting from scratch, but I inevitably wind up back where I am now, concept and all. Bottom line is the basic story is the right story. I just haven't found the right way to express it. And that frustrates the living hell out of me.

I'm still caught up in the outline and I'm just sick of it. Of course, the problems are 100% self-inflicted, but that doesn't them any less irritating. Things were going good. Alexandria had her issues with Tristan, who, in turn, had issues with Slasher and his pack. It was shaping up as a helluva three-way dance fueled by hatred, jealousy, betrayal and loyalty. A supporting character's death was pushed back to maximize impact, and I'd even found a way to work in more action while upping the tension between Alexandria and the now-grown and badge-carrying Kristen. But a funny thing happened on the way to "The End..."

I made the decision to make Tristan a series-long villain. All the great series of books have them. Ne'er-do-wells who return over and over to menace the protagonist, becoming iconic for their direct opposition to the hero what she/he stands for. A nemesis. And if I was going to write this as a series I needed that Moriarty, that Voldemort, for Alexandria to face off with. As soon as the decision was made, my head was rushed with ideas and possibilities - back story bits and future plans - that I was lucky enough to capture on paper. From that, a hint of a general direction to the series took shape, and I very much intend to keep on that course. It'll be tons of fun - that is, if I can get past the first book.

Making Tristan the big bad exposed a major problem with my story. If someone is going to be around for a while, I feel they should be prominent, play a major role (sure there's plenty of examples of long-running stories where someone develops into the big bad over time - I'm thinking of some now), or at least have their influence felt throughout. The way my story was structured, with Slasher and his pack conspiring against Tristan, gave Slasher too much power in my mind while reducing Tristan, putting them on equal footing. Tristan needs to be the front-and-center badass, not a guy who's getting upstaged or distracted by someone in his own camp. He was also not active or involved enough. basically, he was just too weak. I decided to go back to the idea of he and Alexandria having clashed before, so if he was THE MAN then, he needed to be THE MAN now.

But, of course, going back through my existing story and implementing changes only opened up huge fissures in what was starting to become a whole story, leading to a deadlock. Then you factor in cramming new material with semi-new material already intermingled with old material and you transform that deadlock into a full-grown clusterfuck. Hello, clusterfuck, nice to see you again...

I'm tired of dicking around with the story and my outline sheets have been so scribbled over there's no more room and they're barely legible. And I'm not about to start a new outline. So what am I going to do?

I'm starting the book. Simple as that. Just dive into the fucker and fix everything as I go. It's still the same basic story - just the way the the end has changed. It'll also let me know if I even want to continue this as a novel or turn it into something else, like a comic book. And it'll give me something to show for all my talking. Nothing like posting actual pages versus standard text updates to get the comments and "likes" rolling in (and people suddenly believing you're doing what you said you were - show and prove, I guess).

Updates should be very interesting from this point forward. Enough with the backstage dawdling. Even though things are not as solid as I'd like them to be, I can't wait anymore. The time has come. The curtains are raising, and the crowd is settling into place.

It's showtime, folks.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lupus Moon (the novel) Update #4

The goal going into this weekend was to have the outline finished by Monday...

Yeah, that's not gonna happen...

Don't get me wrong. Things are going good. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. And for the most part, I know exactly how I'm going to get to the end of the story...

It's just that doing the work is another thing altogether.

See, I'm distracted. During my (unexpected) time away from writing, a lot happened. The Oscars came and went, and there was a lot of talk about the "Oscar White-Out," the lack of nominations of people of color after a decade of progressive advancement in the area. Many in the Black entertainment community and fans of the same were frustrated by the apparent slight of Black talent - but others, including myself, saw it differently. We believed that there was no Black piece of work that was Oscar-worthy last year (at least on the studio/major independent scene). Sure, there were a few great smaller films that were released (at least I heard they were great - I haven't laid my peepers on them - yet) and yes, there was For Colored Girls, which certainly dealt with heavy issues, but from what I've heard (haven't seen it, either) it reeked with melodrama and was handled with the typical Tyler Perry heavy-handedness that is the antithesis of subtlety. Basically, it wasn't going to cut the mustard.

Idris Elba spoke out about the Oscar nominations and the current state of Black Cinema, and Anthony Mackie took it a step further, saying that Blacks in Hollywood were being "lazy" on their game. Again, the cry for quality Black projects was being sounded and all of this was hitting my eardrums and reverberating throughout my creatively-impressionable skull. I had, at one time, planned to make my return to filmmaking with a dramatic piece, a dramatic short I thought would be the perfect "I'm back and look what I can do now" vehicle. But over time, that project got bumped back behind the eventual premiere of the Abigail Waller web series. Now, not only was the project brought back to the forefront of my brain - not only was I considering putting it back before the web series - but now I was thinking of back-dooring the project with another dramatic short I'd written year ago - creating a dramatic one-two punch I'm sure would put my name out there while meeting the demand for more meaningful work.

Nothing's set in stone (with me, it rarely is), but that's my working plan - and it goes past the proposed two shorts. The web series is still very much on the docket, as is the novel, but I've also started to think about what my first feature will be. The previous choice was recently scuttle-butted when a trailer for an independent film with the exact same premise hit the net (even the name was the same - sigh...), leaving a hole at the top of my ever-evolving slate. I'm technically still mulling options, but a choice has all but been made. But I'm going to give it some time to see if that feeling sticks, or if I'm just temporarily high on a particular concept. We shall see...

So what does this mean for Lupus Moon? It means I've got to get grinding. I've put too much work in the novel to just leave it hanging, but there's no way I'm going to be able to stymie my desire to work on these other projects. Nor should I. It's about to be some fun times in the Batcave...

I look forward to seeing (and sharing) what the work produces.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Welcome Back, Old Friend

Tonight was the first time I sat down to work on the book since... well, I can't remember. But like the old Wolf Brand chili commercials would say, "That's too long."

I didn't do much tonight. Basically I picked up the outline and looked it over, more or less re-familiarizing myself with the work and remembering where I was going when I left off. I never expected it to take this long to get back to working on the novel - it's just that life got in the way. More specifically, my "day job." It's taken some time for me to get up to speed on everything and get myself comfortable, but I feel like I'm there, so I'm hoping to start bringing some money in while getting back to being creative. Which is good, because going for so long without working on anything had me feeling like I was losing myself. Yet, at the same time, it's given me a certain type of clarity - a chance to evaluate myself and decide where I want to go and how I want to get there. A recharging reaffirmation, if you will.

I'm ready. Let's get it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lupus Moon (the novel) Update #3

Just thought I'd post a few pics of the novel, still in the outlining stage. Things are moving well at the moment, after going back over what I had thus far to implement yet more new ideas, as well as do some world-building (vocabulary, character motivations and types, plot ideas, etc.). It won't kick in until later books, but it's going to open major doors as to how I can structure the stories by not confining them each to a three-night cycle, which has only ramped up my excitement for them.

Anyway, here's the pics...
Ideas and scenes from various iterations of the story: 2010 original screenplay, current working outline, secondary notepad with additional chapters, 2003 handwritten script treatment, 2009 note sheet, 2010 printed Word file and index cards used to write the original screenplay (not pictured, original 2000 handwritten treatment).

Another view of the table.

Closeup of the outline and secondary notepad.

Secondary notepad, containing chapters that will go between those already written in the outline.

Page from LUPUS MOON screenplay.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A New (Old) Script on the Horizon?

I know I'm supposed to be working on the web series and the book and leaving the Hollywood pursuits alone, but over the last few days, I've had some strong yearnings to work on one of my screenplay concepts - a first draft that was in the midst of some major rewriting when I put it down. It's called Hardwired, and you can find out more about it on a blog entry dated March 17, 2010 here.

At first, it was a script to be shot here in Houston. Then I decided to market it around Hollywood, thinking it could be commercial enough to sale and use the money to fund other projects. Then, I decided once more to keep it independent. Well guess what?

The challenge here is that I could see the script as both something that could sell and something I want to make here in town. But when it comes to the story, a big difference exists between what you can write for Hollywood and what you can write for your own shoestring budget. I went back and forth as to how to approach the rewrite, even deciding at one point to write two drafts, one for a large budget and one for a more modest cost. But the final answer is I'll write the best story possible and worry about cost later. So if I want that big explosion in the train yard - it's in. Another scene where a car gets shot to ribbons with the hero inside? Check. But in all this, the biggest change is going to be with the hero, Harvey. In the initial drafts, he was a white man in his mid-late 40s, early 50s. I'm rewriting him as Black, probably the same age range. The story won't be changed as a result of the racial difference; it's just one of those "what if...?" questions that really stuck with me. And I can already see the poster...

I'm fairly certain I'm going to break down soon and start playing around with the script. It's calling me. And when I'm done, I'm eager to see what Hollywood will have to say (I'm already working on a marketing strategy). I know I said I was 100% into self production and that the "dream" was all but dead, but when something has a good feeling about it, you just kinda have to go with it and see.

Who knows?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Abby Waller Promo Graphics

I'm also developing an original web series, The Life and Times of Abigail Waller. These are graphics I made up myself. I'm nowhere near a Photoshop expert, but it gets the point across.You can follow the progress of this project on FacebookTwitter, or at it's own website.



Lupus Moon Promo Graphic

Just a little something I whipped up in Photoshop to help promote the book. Right now it's on the Facebook page for the project. I might make an adjustment or two, but I really dig it; thinks it sets the tone for the story perfectly.

Hot Like Fire...

So we're sitting here, minding our business, when WHAM! Something thuds somewhere loud enough to shake the ground. We're startled, dog's barking. I go and check it out.

Nothing.

Come to find out it was a package that was tossed onto our balcony (we're on the third floor)! Better yet, it was a porcelain coffee mug! I assumed at first it was one of our sorry-ass neighbors, because only a few folks would know which balcony to throw a package onto. Them and... no... it couldn't be...

I grabbed the box and high-tailed it to the mailboxes and, sure enough, the mail truck was there. I asked the mailman if he delivered the package, and he admitted he did - claiming he threw the package on the balcony to keep anyone else from getting to it. WHAT?! Are you f@%king kidding me? What if it landed on the balcony below us? What if it smashed a window? What if the damn mug shattered? What if it hit our dog, a laptop - US? The package was several pounds. Dude should've known better.

Shaking my damn head...