Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Linnea: You recently signed with a manager from LA, though you are based in Florida. How did you accomplish this, and what advice do you have for those trying to acquire managers themselves?
I created a marketing campaign for myself and my specs, targeting managers, agents and producers whose past projects implied they might respond to mine. I looked at produced films in my genre and noted who was involved. I emailed most of my queries and, whenever possible, I dropped the name of someone we knew in common in the subject line (with that person’s permission, of course).
For example, I saw that a well-regarded writer had worked on this one film I researched. I’d met the guy in chat on one of the screenwriting boards and he seemed nice enough, so I dropped him a note. I told him what I was doing and asked if he knew of anyone at the film’s production company who struck him as hungry and sharp. He gave me a name, allowed me to use his, and I queried the guy – a producer at Sony. The producer read my spec and, while it wasn’t for him or his company at the time, he responded to the writing and asked to see more of my work. (One year later, he’s at a different company and has a bigger title...)
My advice? Network, especially with well-placed people who are hungry and sharp. But before you do that, make sure you’re writing at a professional level. (If you have to show your stuff to someone else to be sure… you’re not there, yet.)
Linnea: Not only did you sign with a manager, you also sold your script, AMERICAN SUMMER, to a production company and the movie is currently shooting in New Orleans. When you received word that your script was being produced, what was running through your mind?
I was thrilled when the script (originally called POOL BOY) was first optioned but never allowed myself to really believe it would get made -- even when the producer got talking about investors and locations. I didn’t really believe it until I pulled up to base camp my first day on set and saw dozens of trailers. I think what ran through my mind then was, “I made it…” On a more pragmatic level, I was – and am – very happy to be even indirectly responsible for bringing more film work back to New Orleans.
Linnea: On your blog, www.mentalorigami.blogspot.com, you say that writers sometimes feel disconnected from the production of the script. How did you handle this challenge?
By writing another one. I knew that if AMERICAN SUMMER actually got made, I’d want to leverage that into meetings where I’d need more to talk about than my one other script.
This kept me busy during the months of pre-prep and kept me from dwelling on the iffy-ness of the movie (and the business in general).
Linnea: Has the production process influenced your writing at all?
I have a better understanding now of what things cost in a script and what some of the challenges might be for the director and cast when it’s time to shoot.
And I now know I can write four drafts in two months, if I have to…
Linnea: You have attended the Austin Film Festival several times, and I've heard that you keep a notebook with quotes and notes from previous AFFs. What is it about AFF that continues to draw you year after year?
I live in a town thousands of miles from LA or NYC, where nobody but my husband gets me or what it means to be an aspiring screenwriter.
But for a few days each October, I’m in Austin, surrounded by people who are the same brand of crazy I am… and well-known pro-writers hang around with the rest of us and prove that our impossible career goal is not so impossible after all.
Linnea: Are there any quotes or notes from your notebook that have stayed with you?
I’ve got a bunch of quotes I’ve saved from various panels and roundtables over the last four years I’ve attended AFF. A few of my favorites:
To be a writer, you have to be in an atmosphere of support. It’s crucial to not be an alien in your environment. – Bill Wittliff
You start by asking “What is life about?” And then you make it funny. – Garry Shandling
What you’ve chosen to do is hard. It doesn’t get any easier. So when you get stuck, when you fuck up, you’ve just got to forgive yourself. – Shane Black
(“Forgive yourself” became my mantra for a while…)
Early Registration ends in two days! Find out more information on Badges on the AFF website.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Ed Solomon is a confirmed panelist (schedule permiting) for this year's Austin Film Festival and Conference. Ed has been responsible for many films including Men In Black, Levity, Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure, and currently Tokyo Suckerpunch ( staring Tobey Maguire) and Nowhereland (starring Eddie Murphy). While gearing up for the 2007 AFF Conference, I had a few minutes to ask Ed Solomon some questions about screenwriting.
Linnea: Your body of work crosses over several genres. What attracts you to a project as a screenwriter?
Ed Solomon: I like something that draws me in and makes me excited to go into its world. Usually that’s because it says something to me in an emotional way. It’s not usually a logical decision; ie, “what’s best for my career?” or “what should I do?” It’s more like “this feels like there’s an energy to it — a sense of movement.” I like to know that there’s a journey within it, that the characters can really move through the idea. I don’t care about genres. The question is: what’s the best milieu through which this story should travel? I wanna know it’s a world I understand (emotionally, not necessarily intellectually) and am interested in exploring. If it’s a comedy, can I make it funny? Is it original? Is it something I’ve done before?
Linnea: How did you transition from being a joke writer for comedians to writing scripts?
Ed Solomon: Most joke writers make lousy long-form writers. And I certainly struggled with my bad habits — like stretching truth to go for a joke, thinking outside the story as opposed to from within the story, or from within the characters. But my actual step by step transition was: In college I wrote with some comedians. One of them (Garry Shandling, who almost entirely wrote his own material) introduced me to a tv producer named Marc Sotkin, a really great, really funny guy who was going to be producing Laverne and Shirley. I was a senior at UCLA, and I invited him to come see a play I wrote being performed. Based on the play and on Garry’s recommendation, Marc hired me as a staff writer on the show. I was paired “on paper” with another guy, Nick LeRose — in other words we were ostensibly “partners” -- but that was only so that they could hire two of us for the price of one. In hindsight they should have hired FOUR of us for the price of one: I wasn’t worth much more than that. I was too young to really know what I was doing. After that I wrote a spec screenplay or two while returning to jokewriting and doing (lame — seriously lame) stand-up comedy, then — thank God -- set up the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure script (a spec which I cowrote with my college friend Chris Matheson, who is quite brilliant and still a great friend and sometimes collaborator) for $5000. That was the end of 1984 (I was 24), and that was pretty much the beginning of my movie writing career. (I did work with Garry from 86 to 88 on “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show”.)
Linnea: You have attended AFF several times since its inception in 1994. What keeps you coming back to talk with burgeoning screenwriters and filmmakers?
Ed Solomon: It helps me on a lot of levels. I learn stuff. I meet interesting people — those on the panels and those in attendance; we’re all doing the same thing. And I love the festival – the people running it, the people who come. It’s really great to meet people who aspire to do the thing you take for granted. It’s ennobling. And I love Austin. And I love free plane trips.
Linnea: What is the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring screenwriter or filmmaker?
Ed Solomon: Make your own rules.
Buy a badge now and talk to Ed Solomon in person at this year's Austin Film Festival and Conference!
Only 10 days left for early registration. Purchase a Producers Badge during early registration and be entered in to win a FREE NIGHT STAY AT THE STEPHEN F. AUSTIN HOTEL FOR THIS YEARS CONFERENCE!
picture from the set of Levity, Ed Solomon and Holly Hunter.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Being the bright folks they are, the folks at AFF realized that a panel with David Milch, Shane Black and Sydney Pollock might attract, you know, more than a handful of people. So they did the wise and prudent thing and moved the venue to the historic Paramount Theatre. Okay, so imagine a cool, old theatre with beautiful Grecian frescos?, murals? carvings? Man, I'm not good at this design stuff. It's just a very cool venue, okay?
David Milch, Shane Black, and to a lesser but still important degree, B.J. and Pollock, had good chemistry. Or maybe they had great chemistry. All I know is it was magic. Remember, I'd seen Milch only hours before and he was funny. He was great. He was helpful. But up there on stage with the Others, he was more than that. I've also seen Shane give good panels, be funny and helpful and whatnot. (Side note: Shane Black and Scott Rosenberg on a panel together is always worth the time. Also good chemistry there, but in a guy-ish sort of way.) Yeah, so, I've seen Shane on panels over the years and I have to say that here, in this instance, he was more than I've ever seen him be. He was present, funny, brilliant, open and raw and yet, he had an aire of a man who's come into his own. He sat up there with Milch and Pollock and he owned his place at the table. That was very cool to see.
The day before TBPE, Sydney Pollack was walking in the lobby of the Driskill. (yes, I just now realized I've been misspelling his name. I'll have to apologize the next time I fawn over him.) Anyway, in the time I was waiting with my kids, Jon and Bryan for my ex to show up, Mr. P. walked by toward the cafe. Jon or Bryan said I should go up to Mr. P. and say something. I didn't. But then, when Mr. P. walked toward us on his way back (he'd bought coffee), I did go up to him. I had nothing to say, really. I just gushed and said hi. I'm such a goober.
Anyway, the point is, if I'd had anything coherent to say, I would have told Mr. P. how much I enjoyed his movies. I think he has a gift with actors and everyone knows actors are crazy which may be why he handled being on stage with Milch and Black so well.
(Again, and for the record, I'm not exactly sane, so my comments on the mental capacities of Mr. Milch and Mr. Black are not judgemental, merely observational.)
You know what was! cool about Sydney Pollack? He started off by saying he's not a writer and he wasn't sure he belonged up there with the other two. That's a cool way to give props to writers. And for most of the panel, unless Barry Josephson asked him specific questions, Mr. P. sat and listened and laughed as Milch and Black spoke. Still, I was impressed with Mr. P.'s attentiveness and presence. What can I say? I'm easy to please.
Okay, so now that I've taken FOREVER to introduce the players, let's see if I can remember why I keep calling this the Best Panel Ever.
I think, more than anything, I'll remember how the panelists took time out of their funny and often personal stories to address the audience. More than once, they pointed out specific examples...they found teachable moments in what was being said and THAT made the panel more about us, the audience, than it did about them. It wasn't just an ego session for three big filmmakers. It was an informative session for all of us. Do you know how cool that was? I think you do, or you can imagine.!
"So anyway, there you go." That was my favorite teachable moment. It was a moment where David Milch, whose mind zips around at warp speed and wanders very strange paths, pulled something from a personal story Shane Black had just told and turned it into something we, the audience could use. There, in that moment, when the audience could have been left with just one example of how a person's pscyhe ends up in their writing, Milch ADDED to the moment by pointing out the value of what wasn't said.
My friend, Glynis, suggested elsewhere that if a recording of that panel is available for purchase, people should buy it. I know I will, if it's available. Otherwise, I'll be left with this feeling that I was witness to an amazing moment in time where three generous, brilliant people came together, without ego or even self-preservation, and gave to others in a way that was inspiring and thought-provoking. That's not a bad feeling with which to leave the Austin Film Fes! tival after nine straight years of attending. Not a bad feeling at all.
We are quickly approaching our early registration deadline. Purchase your Producers Badge now and save $150 dollars on the Producers Badge! Please feel free to call and register over the phone at 1.800.310.FEST
After May 31st Producers Badges will be priced $585 and Conference Badges at $350.
We would love to hear your Austin Story! Please send yours to linnea(@)austinfilmefestival.com.
Release of Subversive Festival Favorite to Begin with DRM-free Downloads and B-Side Grassroots Screening Launch.
AUSTIN, Texas--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Specialty distributor B-Side Entertainment has secured worldwide distribution rights to the documentary PIRATE RADIO USA. In the spirit of bypassing mainstream media channels, the film will be released initially on May 22 via DRM-free download on BSIDE.COM, the company’s forthcoming online marketplace for independent films. The digital launch will be escalated in mid-Summer with a widespread grassroots screening release.
In PIRATE RADIO USA, DJ Him (director Jeff Pearson) and DJ Her (producer Mary Jones) take viewers on a rock-n-roll tour through the underground world of illegal radio in America, where people play what they want and say what they want – unless the FCC catches them. The film uses a riotous DIY approach to show low-wattage radio “Davids” as they battle to free the radio airwaves from mass media “Goliaths” and ultimately discover the real price of freedom.
B-Side, which also provides free online community technology to dozens of international film festivals, identified PIRATE RADIO USA as an audience favorite at the 2006 Austin Film Festival (AFF). AFF’s B-Side Festival Community members posted thousands of film ratings and reviews during the event, and B-Side recognized the film’s potential through its overwhelmingly positive audience feedback.
“Our festival technology helps us find movies that audiences love in places that other distributors are not even looking,” said B-Side CEO Chris Hyams. “Our proven grassroots exhibition model, combined with the upcoming launch of bside.com, will give Jeff and Mary the audience they know is out there and the economic terms they deserve.”
Director Jeff Pearson agrees. “There are tens of thousands of pirate radio fans in this country, not to mention millions more who are passionate about defending free speech, spreading social justice and fighting media tyranny. We’re convinced that B-Side’s innovative model will not only reach traditional independent film fans, but also the vast untapped audience of people who care about the film’s larger message.”
“Through the B-Side Festival Community, we were able to deliver a richer festival experience to our audience and create significant new opportunities for our filmmakers,” said Barbara Morgan, Executive Director of the Austin Film Festival. “We feel B-Side is emerging as a major player in the independent film landscape, and we are thrilled this partnership led them to acquire PIRATE RADIO USA."
More details about the film’s release will be available in the coming weeks at http://www.bside.com/ and www.pirateradiousa.com.
About B-Side Entertainment
B-Side Entertainment is a specialty distributor and online marketplace for independent films. Through innovative online marketing, alternative distribution models, and strategic partnerships with IFC and dozens of international film festivals, we help movies find their audiences, and introduce fans to their next favorite film. In 2006, B-Side established a groundbreaking grassroots screening model to release the electrifying music documentary Before the Music Dies (http://www.beforethemusicdies.com/), which has become a sensation among music fans.
Monday, May 07, 2007
There are Many Winners at AFF: 2006 Semi-Finalist, Dwayne McKenzie, On the Conference and Writers' Ranch
MARY: Dwayne, last year was the second time you have entered the Austin Film Festival Screenplay and Teleplay Competition. What made you come back and enter again?
DWAYNE: Sucker for punishment? At least that’s the way it can feel sometimes. But I figure if you write teleplays or screenplays, you do it in the hopes that what you write will make it to the small or big screen. Otherwise, you’re writing a diary. So, eventually, you need to get read by people who can and do make that happen. My impression of the AFF is that it’s one of the few competitions that can get some attention for scripts that advance. And you don’t need to win the competition to have some great results. So when I felt I had a script that was worth sending out, the AFF was on my short list.
MARY: You also attended the festival and conference last year as a 2006 Semi-Finalist with MOXIE, which was co-written with JJ Masley. What made you attend and how was your experience?
DWAYNE: Thinking back, I think there were a couple of reasons why I decided to make the trek out to Austin, aside from the repeated promises of BBQ. I know a big part of it was that there were special panels for Finalists and Semi-Finalists, and then some more for Second Rounders. Those smaller panels looked very interesting and, let’s face it, they gave those writers advancing in the competition a chance to get up close with some pretty talented people. Besides that, the lineup of panelists, films, and documentaries just sounded like a good time. I’ve never been opposed to a good time. The focus of the festival on the writer in the whole equation is unique, and it shows at the conference. I’d strike up a conversation with a panelist and end up having coffee and talking about views on what kind of stories we’d like to write and see on the screen. I live in
MARY: After the festival, MOXIE was selected to apply for the 2007 Writers’ Ranch. Currently, the first week of the ranch is complete, but the second week is coming up later this month in LA. What has been your experience so far with the ranch, and what made you apply?
DWAYNE: I definitely wanted the opportunity to sit with the likes of Jim Hart and Herschel Weingrod for a week and learn what I could, but my main goal was to make MOXIE as good as it could be. The story was inspired by my Mom and in first creating the character of MOXIE (a 10-year-old girl), I drew bits and pieces from my nieces and nephews (some pretty cool kids). So, I’ve had a lot invested in the script and I wanted to do it and them as much justice as I could. As far as my experiences there, it far surpassed my expectations. I knew going in that there were issues with MOXIE but wasn’t sure of how to fix them. By the end of the Ranch, I could see the entire rewrite. I think I can safely say MOXIE is vastly better now, and it was the feedback and tools that Jim and Herschel provided that sped up that process.For more information on the Writers' Ranch and this year's Austin Film Festival and Conference check out www.austinfilmfestival.com. And DON'T FORGET upcoming deadlines for the Screenplay/Teleplay Competitions (May 15th/June 1st) and Early Festival Registration (May 31st).
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
….we all wandered over to the Conference Welcome Party over at an open air bar on 4th Street. There we saw loads of familiar friends -- fellow writers from previous festivals, now-familiar faces from the festival (including Conference Director Maya Perez), whom I accosted in my usual way. She laughed and offered to buy me a beer. "But the beer's already free!" I said, tossing her the set-up she wanted and needed. "Exactly! Which is why I offered to buy!" (Oh, the fun we had.) I elbow Maya and ask her to confirm that the blazer-clad gentleman behind me is in fact Lawrence Kasdan. She peeks, nods, and dashes away to take a phone call (likely to order some more plagiarizing... the woman is nefarious, I tell you). I suck back my fourth Dos Equis, breathe deep, and stomp over to meet Mr. Kasdan.
I always feel very uncomfortable with these sorts of fan-boy intros, as on the one hand I absolutely wish to respect the man's privacy: he didn’t come to the party, after all, just to be slimed and drooled upon by my adoring ilks, but on the other hand he has enjoyed a great deal of financial success thanks to guys just like me, and if he doesn't want to meet fans, then by jumped up Harry he shoulda stowed his candy ass back at the hotel. (And, yes, this is in fact what my normal every day interior monologue sounds like, and yes, it concerns me as well...)."Mr. Kasdan, I'm sorry to annoy you at a party like this, but I can't let you stand within arm's reach and not ask to shake your hand, sir. You're maybe the reason I ever considered becoming a screenwriter, and I am a huge huge fan of everything you've ever written. Especially Continental Divide."He smiles and shakes my hand. "Wow-- that IS going back a ways!"He turns out to be, like a surprising and refreshing number of the Hollywood folks I've met, a surpassingly kind and decent guy. he accepts my little bit of ass-kissery, and then does something truly cool: he checks my ID badge, reads the name of my script from the festival contest, and insists on talking to me about my writing for a minute or two.Lawrence Kasdan! Lawrence FUCKING Kasdan! I give him the briefest possible description, and he smiles and nods and says "wow, that really sounds interesting. I wish you all the best with that, really." I thank him, tell him to enjoy the rest of his evening, and turn to leave, where I see something else remarkable: Kasdan's wife, Meg, standing back, smiling and watching her man make a 42 year old father of four blush and giggle like a smitten schoolgirl. I lean in and tell her thanks, and she smiles and asks for what? "For sharing him with folks like me. It means a lot." She smiled and patted my arm. I toyed with the idea of copping an ass-squeeze, but opted against it.
Register Now for a Producers Badge for the 2007 Austin Film Festival and enter in to a drawing for 1 free nights stay at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel during the 2007 AFF Conference.
For more on this particular blog go to: http://abucketoflove.blogspot.com/2006/10/aff-2006-let-slip-poodles-of-war.html
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
'The Ballad of A.J Weberman' is a documentary film that observes the obsession of A.J Weberman, Bob Dylan's most infamous fan and founder of garbology, the study of trash. As Weberman attempts to understand Dylan's world, the film portrays just how far he will go to get the information he craves. An animated depiction of a recorded conversation between Dylan and Weberman depicts the bizarre relationship these men share. Through 'Dylanology,' Weberman attempts to analyze every aspect of Dylan's life and career in his own erratic way."
The film won the Raindance Award from the British Independent Film Awards. For more information visit www.balladofajweberman.com
May 6th • Teaching Austin: 125 Years of Public School Education @ 7:45pm, IMAX Theater, Bob Bullock TX State History Museum
May 20th • Flatland @ 3pm, Regal Arbor
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