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...