Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Moneychanger

A Different Take . . .

. . . on the tooth fairy

My Mother's An Alien . . .

A (really old) thumbnail for a film production company logo.

Slamdance Results

Well, it's official.

Slamdance has announced their 2006 screenplay competition quarterfinalists and my script was not among them.


I got pretty decent feedback from a Slamdance reader so I'm not upset or anything. But I am curious about something. I've read testimony from a lot of contest winners who have experienced success at multiple competitions -- sometimes year after year -- and not one of them has ever claimed to have done very well at Slamdance. Maybe the readers over at Slamdance are looking for something uniquely different in a screenplay. More likely, my script just isn't quite there yet.

Oh well. No use crying over bent brads. I wish the 2006 Slamdance quarterfinalists the best of luck.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Marker Monster

I don't remember when or why I did this, but it was most likely inspired by the visual development stuff from Pixar's "Monsters, Inc."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Roger Avary

In my last post, I quoted a segment of something screenwriter Roger Avary said on his website ( His advice is so good that I couldn't resist posting the rest of it here.

For those of you who don't know, Roger wrote and directed 1994's "Killing Zoe". He also cowrote "Pulp Fiction" with Quentin Tarantino and is currently working with Neil Gaiman on a screen adaptation of the classic "Beowulf".

Everything that follows is Roger's:

Remember the Three P's:

Persistence: Believe me, there's plenty of talentless people making real good livings in Hollywood. It's not luck. Edison didn't believe in luck, and neither do I -- good or bad. It's all about keeping at it. If you work at it long enough, and learn from your mistakes, eventually something is going to happen.

Passion: No one wants to finance the film of a passionless individual. What most people want is to ride your passion. They want to feel that they're going to be part of something magnificent and exciting that's going to change humankind. Can't do that without passion. And if you're not passionate -- fake it.

Positive-Visualization: Trust me, you're going to go through some dark times. You absolutely must remain focused on the positive future. Visualize where you see yourself at nearly every step along the way. Soon you look back and realize you've actually gone somewhere. Visualization is key.

As far as your scripts go, keep writing. Keep sending them to whoever will read them. Just know that you can't expect anyone to do it for you. You have to do it yourself. And if you really need to, you'll shoot your movie on 8mm.

On Failure

There's a really great essay about failure over at The Artful Writer blog.

It's certainly not uncommon to read about the lack of success in this business but this piece is especially timely for me (see my recent post). Failure happens to be one of those subjects that has for a long time both hindered and motivated me and there's a reason for this.

I submitted portfolios to Walt Disney Feature Animation twice a year, for four long years before finally being accepted into the company's Character Animation Internship. That's a whole lot of failure. When I wasn't spending weekends drawing at the zoo, filling sketchbooks with cafe drawings, or writing letters to the current manager of training, I was amassing large amounts of written inspiration to keep me going.

And now -- more than eight years later -- I find myself relying once again on that inspiration.

So, in the spirit of the thread started by Craig Mazin, I have selected to list here some of the more powerful comments that I've unearthed on the subject of "not succeeding":

"Failure is the opportunity to start over again - more intelligently"
-Henry Ford

"Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm"
-Winston Churchill

"To those in need of encouragement, remember this: Beware of quitting too soon. Dr. Seuss' first children's book was rejected by 23 publishers. The 24th publisher sold 6 million copies"

"Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unrewarded talent. Education alone will not: the world is full of educated failures. Persistence alone is omnipotent"
-Calvin Coolidge

"It's all about keeping at it. If you work at it long enough, and learn from your mistakes, eventually something is going to happen"
-Roger Avary

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit"
-Richard Bach

It's important to remember that each one of the individuals listed above has, in my book, been enormously successful, and every one of them appears to advocate "coming up short" once in a while. Heck, some even praise it. Growing up, I was always suprised by the amount of people out there who resented the enormous success of a Michael Jackson, a Michael Eisner or a Michael Jordan but I would venture to guess that very few of those people ever witnessed the countless times those guys slipped and bashed their face as they clawed their way up the career ladder. I read recently that Stephen King got rejected 75 times before he got published. That's probably a lot fewer rejections than most writers get . . .

I'm not sure who said it, but there's another great quote which reads:

"A man's life is interesting primarily when he has failed -- it is a sign that he tried to surpass himself"

I hope that the above quotations serve in some way to enhance your outlook on life. Wisdom like this has been a pretty invaluable thing to have it in front of me when things get frustrating.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Creeeaature . . .

Per your request, Paul . . .

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Screenwriting Competition Update

"Fall seven times, stand up eight"
Japanese Proverb

I returned from vacation to a fresh pile of rejection letters.

The bulk of the mail came from a gaggle of literary agents expressing disinterest in my latest picture book manuscript but there were also a couple of pretty big disappointments in the screenwriting department as well.

Sundance Screenwriter's Lab: Despite Sundance's excellent reputation for finding and nurturing new filmmakers, this is my first year submitting to them. Sundance asks for the first five pages of your screenplay, along with a bio, cover letter, synopsis and letter of interest. Based on the strength of your first five pages, the directors of the program determine whether or not to request the balance of the script. The folks at Sundance didn't say why they chose not to read the other 109 pages of my script, but the fact that it's a historical drama probably didn't help -- Sundance tends to favor lower budget independent films in the vein of "Reservoir Dogs" or "Boys Don't Cry" .

Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting: Nicholl is regarded by many to be the most prestigious screenwriting competition out there, so I was encouraged when my script last year placed in the top fifteen percent (there were 5,879 entries in 2005). This year, my rewrite of the same script finished in the top six percent, missing the quarterfinals by a lousy one percent.

I submitted to a few other competitions this year but I'm not nearly as concerned with those results. Free software and magazine subscriptions just don't carry the same weight as actual industry recognition and the chance to meet with agents, managers, producers, and studio executives. I keep reminding myself, too, that submitting to screenplay competitions is just a small part of the overall plan. There's always the chance (however rare) that I'll get a call from that producer or agent I queried last month.

And if not, well then there's always next year's Nicholl Competition.