Barb goes to Hollywood – the end?


Just adding a final note here.

Considering that none of my beloved screenwriter friends has sold anything in the past 3 years, in spite of the good quality of their works (haven’t read them all, but a couple of them are very good, so best of luck to them).

Considering that even my Muse’s prodco hasn’t started production on an excellent blacklisted 2007 screenplay, while the also blacklisted that year Jennifer’s body made it to the silver screen (yuk!) and the difficulties he is experiencing with his current project.

Considering that his manager didn’t bother answering my query letter and that I’m a moviegoer, but not a cinefile, and that I’ve never been on a set in my life.

Considering all of the above, I won’t write many more scripts in the future, but I will send my latest “baby” Choices to the Nicholl Fellowship next year. And maybe one day I’ll write a low budget story and shoot it with friends – but not this year. Maybe next?

Writers on writing – Peter Morgan


In the Sept/Oct issue of Creative Screenwriting, Peter Morgan says

he’s already moving on to the world of fiction where he can make the kind of decisions only a writer can make.

I come from the world of fiction. The three years I spent writing screenplays I felt trapped. When last summer I decided to go back to prose, it was liberating.

Still, a particular story needed to be a movie, not a book, so I wrote another screenplay. When you’ve done both for some time, I think you can tell if a story is a book or a movie.

Screenplays have a very specific pacing, and sometimes it’s fun to follow your own rhythm or, like Peter says, being

actually able to write what comes out of my heard.

You can dream big, regardless of budget or whatever – a book is cheaper to produce than a movie.

Besides, I’m a movie-goer, not a filmmaker yet. And I’m a writer. Like Peter says

I write because in the end, the choices that we writers make are more interesting than any other choices anybody else makes throughout the process that follow us.

As for me, I might be a proficient (undiscovered) writer, but I’m also in an age where I know I can still hone the craft and learn something. I’m better than ten or even five years ago, but I still have a long way to go.

That’s the editor talking again… sigh.

10.000 hours


I heard about this theory by Malcom Gladwell:

The best way to achieve international stardom is to spend 10,000 hours honing your skills.

On Creative Screenwriting Sept/Oct issue, Editor Bill Donovan said that Blake Snyder wrote

That’s about how much time anyone must log at a particular skill before he or she starts to get good at it.

I can’t do the maths (how manyΒ  years is 10000 hours?), but I’m sure I wrote way more than that. Therefore I’m a pro (according to this rule).

10000 hours is 416 days or so, 24 hours a day (thanks, calculator). Let’s say I write approximately 2 hours per day, it gives 13 years and a half to get to that 10000. I’ve been writing constantly for 31 years, I guess I did some overtime! πŸ™‚

Of course the first attempts on any form weren’t than good, but I can consider myself a proficient novelist for sure. And a fairly good screenwriter, having written a certain number of screenplays in three years, half of which will never leave my drawers, the rest who knows. Phew, at least this exam is passed! πŸ˜€

What’s next? Trying a TV script after so many spec features. Because (citing Bill Donovan again)

in TV, you, the writer – not the director – are the boss

as if I still needed to boost my ego (sometimes I do, I’ve said it before, my ego is like a yo-yo). But also because there’s this particular story (in novel form at the moment) which I think would make a nice mini-series for TV.

But it’s a project for next year.

Musings on The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood


I love how Joe (I’ll skip the Hungarian unwritable family name) talks about Mc Kee and other screenwriter gurus who have never written a screenplay in their lives. I like his humor, even if he obviously talks to male writers, as if he didn’t consider women writers at all… but whatever. He’s the screenwriter as God, so I’ll let him say what he wants. He made a lot of money and lost it all – just like Shane Black, I guess.

Age issue: I’m probably too old for this, luckily I don’t look my age! πŸ˜€ I’ll just have to hide my passport when I go to meetings, hahaha! πŸ˜‰

“Artists spend all their time thinking about imaginary beauty” (Zsa Zsa Gabor) – I totally agree with this!

Oh, and I LOVE this:
“Most of what is written on how to write a screenplay is written by people who don’t know how… There aren’t that many who do know how, and those who do know how tend not to tell. For the very obvious reason: they don’t want to train their own competition. These are not unknowns, but it’s on the level of the mortuary trade – it’s passed on by word of mouth” (screenwriter Dan O’Bannon of Alien)…

I’ll update this while I read the book! πŸ˜‰

One more pearl from the Eszterhas himself:
“Don’t be a screenwriter; be a writer who just happens to write for the screen. Don’t spend all of your time in dark theaters watching movies. Live. Love. Immerse yourself in the messy entanglements of the real, not reel life. Listen to human beings talk, not characters created by other screenwriters who spend all their time in dark movie theaters. (…)”

More (was before in the book, but I’m doing this at the office, so I’ve gone back for the purpose of this note – yes, I have a lot to do today):
Don’t live in L.A. (…) Forget everything you’ve heard about networking. It is not who you know in Hollywood. If you write a good, commercial script and start sending it out – someone will recognize that it is good and commercial. It is a town that runs on greed, filled with desperate people wo will do anything to make money. If they think your script will make them money, they will option or buy your script. You can write your script anywhere. I suggest that you write it anywhere but in L.A. You won’t be able to write real people if you stay in L.A. too long. L.A. has nothing to do with the rest of America. It is a place whose values are shaped by the movie business. It is my contention that it is not just a separate city, or even a separate state, but a separate country located within America. Real Americans live in Bainbridge Township, Ohio.”

******
OK, part 2 – more pearls of wisdom!
“Hollywood won’t corrupt you, but your family might. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo: I begin to realize why people believe the legend that Hollywood corrupts writers. But they’re quite wrong. All Hollywood does is give them enough money so they can get married and have kids like normal people. But it’s the getting married and having kids that really corrupts them.”

“Keep your name out of the trades. Mike Medavoy: I told my writer clients to ignore the big splash announcements in the trades about some unknown writer getting big bucks for a script, because often these guys are never heard from again.”

I LOVE this one:
“Write original screenplays, not rewrites. Director David Lean: We want someone who has written original stories. We don’t want a scriptwriter who has spent his time embroidering on other people’s ideas.”

Don’t pitch a story; write it.. (…) Real writers sit down and write: wannabe writers sit around and talk. ”

“The greatest fun in screenwriting is not getting a lot of money… (…) the great fun in screenwriting is writing your first draft without anyone elses’s ideas cluttering or polluting it. Just you and your muse and the empty page or blank screen. Creating. Playing God.” That’s what I like about writing most – playing Goddess and creating worlds, characters and whatever…

Hedy Lamarr: “In my experience with writers, I found that those who talk less are more talented. I sat a whole evening with Otto Preminger and Tennessee Williams and Mr. Williams said just ten words.” I say – writers write, don’t talk! πŸ˜‰

This is interesting: “Don’t do an outline for yourself. It will lock the characters in step too much and not give them enough room to plot the course of their own actions in the script. Give them the freedom to tell you what it is they want to do or say. Do a character sketch for yourself instead. Spend a page on each character. His/her back story, background, physical descriptions, interests, relationships, dreams, failings. do it for all the major characters. Study it for a week, reread it and think about it as much as you can, and revise it as the week goes along. At the end of the week, do a final version of it, and start writing your script. Keep your character sketches handy and reread them as you continue to write your scritp.” This really sounds like writer’s advice – and I could do that (but I usually don’t outline, just start writing, and maybe do an ID sheet of the main characters… this way sounds good, though. I’ll try it and let you know after I write the next script!).

Oh, and can you believe he writes his first draft longhand? He uses a pencil, I use a pen, but for his same reason – it puts me more in touch with my characters!

****
Part 3 – this is getting more fun and interesting while I read! The first person who says don’t be too meek, don’t be open to too many ideas about changing your scripts, fight the morons if they want to change what you’ve written.

“Don’t let ’em convince you to rewrite it.”

“If your scripts gets butchered, Robert McKee may have done it. McKee told a reporter in Melbourne, Australia, that he works for studios sometimes as a “story doctor”. This is a doctor whose patients (his own scripts) have all died (unproduced) except for the one patient who lived and became a television movie. First he teaches you how to write and then he kills what you’ve written.”

****
Part 4 – the end
The rest is mostly Hollywood gossip and warnings, which is fun and entertaining and also sort of discouraging. He even suggests to write novels instead, with the pros and cons of publishing. And ends with the story of his script, the funniest anybody in Hollywood ever read, and that nobody made.

So I guess all you have to do is keep writing, and writing, and writing – a new script a year or two, maybe (I’m a fast writer, like William Goldman, but don’t show you’re too fast or they’ll think the script sucks to matter what. But don’t be to slow either…)

Barb goes to Hollywood Part 5 – first half of 2009


Okay, I’ve made up my mind about the comic project, it’s going to be four short stories included in one volume – the four seasons or something like that – with four different artists including me. The only story still to be written is mine, but I’m not worried about it. The other three are “recycled”, two from the 80s, one from the 90s.

(note: this project never saw the light of day due to lack of commitment from guest artists)

I’m also working on the Radioplay for the BBC, the contest expire March 31. (I didn’t place)

Then I’ll give a shot at a stage play in Italian for my friend who runs an actors lab for his son. For the rest of the year it will be prose, as I plan on finishing at least a first draft of all five books of the Immortals (as of November 2009 I still have to rewrite Earth… but I know I’ll do it by December!)

So, what have I done? I revised Air and gave it to Abby for editing. I revised Fire and left it there, waiting for editing. I’m rewriting Water. I wrote two short graphic novels, a 46pages for the excellent artist Giuseppe Iannolo, a 24pages for myself, that I will probably post on Facebook in English and colors and print in Italian and b&w.

I’m bored at the office, so I’m using this time to keep myself awake. I have a very interesting book to read – the Devil’s guide to Hollywood – but reading makes me fall asleep after some time.

In a month I’ll be in Paris for the first book fair of the year – and a Film Festival I still don’t know much about, except I sent a screenplay to their contest. Then I’ll be improvising with the rest – especially Bookexpo America, but there’s time for that one!

I went to Paris to the book fair and MAYBE found a publisher (of comics) interested in the comic book version of KNIGHTS, which will be called LA CHANSON DE ROBERT again. I sent him an e-mail as requested, but haven’t heard from him again. (That was March. Still haven’t heard from him. Guess I can live without him.)

I have a new artist doing a one-shot for me, an heroic-fantasy story. He’s very good, so I hope we can work on other projects together. I also did my own short comic and posted it on Facebook.

Prose-wise, I finished editing Water this morning. I’ll take a break to write a screenplay, then dive into Ether. I have booked a two-weeks tour of the Far West, so instead of June, I might end the Books of the Immortals by July. I should start writing the query letter and synopsis for Air, though, and start searching the internet for agents/editors/publishers… I want to print a couple of comics with Lulu.com as well.

What else? Guess I’m not going to Hollywood anymore and stay on safer ground. After all, I started with comics, I might go back to that – if I can find an artist. I’ll have to check the Dargaud Lab, in search of a partner. At least it’s only one, not a whole team (or crew) as needed for a movie! And I can fly with my fantasy as much as I want – special effects don’t cost more than modern day stories when the artist is good!

That’s all from the Yahoo blog archive… everything else on this topic will be recent stuff! πŸ˜€

CS Open – Expo 7 – November 2008


CS Open 2008 presented by Coverage,Ink.

Round 1 Section 1

PREMISE

Your PROTAGONIST has just discovered that his or her own SIBLING has double-crossed him (or her). All signs indicate that the brother or sister has been leading on the protagonist on to accomplish a goal. Feeling betrayed and angry, your protagonist confronts the sibling, who reveals a secret that rocks your protagonist’s world. Remember to think outside the box. How you handle this scene, the setting and the style – dramatico or comedy – is entirely up to you.

MY SCENE (screw formatting one more time)

INT. LIVING ROOM – NIGHT

Sherry, a pretty 20somehting, switches channels on TV, not really paying attention. Sometimes she glances at the clock on the wall.

When the clock hits 7.30, the front door opens. Sherry stops playing with the remote and pretends to watch whatever is on.

Chris, 25, comes in with a frown.

He throws his suitcase in a corner and his jacked on the couch, almost hitting her.

SHERRY

Hi, hon, how was your day?

He kicks off his shoes, frowning at her.

CHRIS

Can you switch that off? We need to talk.

SHERRY

Sure.

She switches off the TV, throws his jacket on a nearby armchair and pats the couch near her.

He slumps himself near her, truing to figure out how to do this.

CHRIS

What’s on your mind, Sherry? I thought we were family and we shared everything.

SHERRY

We do. We were born in this house, weren’t we.

CHRIS

Yes, but I’ve heard rumors. What’s up?

SHERRY

Well, I have a degree, a boyfriend, so I want to getΒ  married and get on with my life.

CHRIS

And where exactly did you meet him?

SHERRY

A club downtown. We get along very well.

CHRIS

Are you aware Eddy Johnson works at Goldberg Corporation?

SHERRY

That’s how we started talking. About you.

CHRIS

Guess that’s why the prick can boast around he screws my sister! Why didn’t you tell me?

SHERRY

I am now. Anyway, as you don’t seem to have a steady girlfriend, I was wondering if as a wedding present you could leave me the house.

CHRIS

What?

SHERRY

Yeah, I mean, this is perfect to start a family and as you don’t seem to like Eddie very much, you might as well move out.

CHRIS

Why Eddie? What’s wrong with Mike?

She snorts.

SHERRY

He’s your best friend.

CHRIS

I thought that was a bonus!

SHERRY

It’s not. I’m sick of your perfection, Chris. Get out of my life!

CHRIS

We are familyy! And you kick me out for a total stranger?

SHERRY

You know what I liked about Eddie? The way he talked about you. We both hate your behavior.

CHRIS

Sherry, I’m your brother! We’re everything that’s left of our family!

SHERRY

Relatives can be worse than snakes! I’m sick of you, Chris! If you won’t leave on your own, I’ll make your life so miserable- –

CHRIS

You’re doing it already. After I took care of you all these years- –

SHERRY

I used you, Chris. But I don’t need you anymore.

He’s too shocked to react. He stares with horror at his beloved younger sister.

She looks distant. She slowly smirks.

SHERRY

Eddie and I will be very happy in this house.

Chris can almost fear his heart break.

CS OPEN 2008 SCORESHEET

Structure 20

Dialogue 21

Style 22

Originality 21

Total 84

Comments: nice touches early on. Felt the dialogue took a while to find its rhythm. Payoff wasn’t big enough. Good charcter dynamic, though.

Note: I used a revised version of this scene in my rom-com “Six Months”I used the contest to work on my screenplay! πŸ˜‰

Barb goes to Hollywood Part 4 – October-December 2008


I went to Romics (Roma comic convention) and met a few ‘ziners I hadn’t seen in ages; I decided to start a new comic book – very slowly. Then I met a “new” artist (I had seen him in the past, but didn’t know how he draws) and decided maybe next year I’ll write a project for him.

I got the coverage of my historical mystery, and as soon as I get back from the US, I’ll start working on the rewrite. Watching again “Amadeus” also gave me some ideas to improve it.

I finished the first draft of “Fire” while “Air” is under scrutinity of my writers group – and already had an offer of pubblication from a US vanity press who wrote after I registered it at the Library of Congress… where’s the privacy over there???

I’m back, back, BACK! Two weeks in the US. First being a tourist in NYC, meeting old friends and walking up and down Manhattan – a very nice Best Western in Chinatown. Then being a screenwriter in LA – the Expo moved downtown, but I still don’t like LA. It was hot, the hotel was 1 mile from the LA convention center and I don’t like the town. But I made new friends, and listened to a couple of interesting panels. And I think I’m a storyteller, not a writer, I’m not sure which is the best way for me to tell my stories: screenplays? comics? novels? we’ll see… Finally being a tourist again in the windy city of Chicago. Both there and in NYC we brought the Italian sunshine, even if the last day in Chicago we saw some snow – it was chilly, but I was soooo happy!

Now I’m back, computer-less, as it’s still being repaired. I’ve rewritten “6 months” (script) and will rewrite “The snuffbox mystery” (script) before sending them out to Scriptshark and a couple more competitions… then I’ll be back working on Air. Editing it and Fire and writing the other three books will keep me busy for most of next year, along with Jessamine (comic) and other comic projects with other artists.

So 2009 is for prose and comics, I’m putting the screeplays on hold – I’m not writing new ones, but will keep sending out the completed six somehow.

See you next year!

Barb goes to Hollywood Part 3 – July-September 2008


I got an e-mail form a producer who is doing – guess what? – a screenwriting course in LA for about 1000$!! He might be the vice-president of a good company, but geez, he could at least have answered my query. Or am I supposed to write and ask him? This Hollywood protocol is killing me.

I know I want to keep writing, but I still don’t know what is the best way. Scripts have many rules, but so have heroic fantasy novels. Maybe I should try drawing a new comic, with my own pace. Or self-publish with some POD company like Lulu.com – I could reprint my comics. Or maybe start my web space.

The summer is almost over. I did finish the two Books of the Immortals I had decided to write – now I’m letting Fire rest for some time, I need to edit it before sending it out like I did with Air, but I need to stay away from it for some time. Air is out to my Brit teacher, my Aussie pal and a Yankee girl who lives in Roma + I’m giving it in bits and pieces to the writers group starting this month (3 chapters per session).

I’m researching for screenplays again, my Louis XIV story; then I want to translate in Italian my body switch, just to give the italian movie market a chance. I already booked the next Expo – moved to the L.A. Convention Center – probably the last I go to as a visitor: but Peter is right, it might not help sell scripts, but it allows you to spend a few days networking with other writers.

For 2009 there are a few prose projects as well as screenplays. I’m going to do both from now on, it’s two different media, and I like both. I only have to figure out which is the best way to tell that particular story. I might even go back to graphic novels at some point. But more on this later!

Yesterday the writers group gave their comments to the first three chapters of Air. Considering that in the meantime I discovered I’m 20.000 words short of novel-lenght, I enjoyed very much their feedback and look forward to working in it again. Not before the end of the year or beginning of the next though…

As for Fire, it’s 30.000words short of novel-lenght, so I will add another paralel story-line before going to Air revisions, so I’ll have the second novel in revision-mode while I’ll be shopping the first!

As for screenplays, I wrapped up research for the XVIII century script – now I only have to sit down and pour out that damn first draft. If it doesn’t work, I’ll drop the idea, but it was fun doing all that research and downloading all those books from the internet, as they’re all in the public domain.

workshops vs. writing courses or panels


I’ve done a few of both, in Italian AND English, as a way of spending a vacation with like-minded people. I’ve met lots of (screen)writers, kept in touch through Facebook or e-mails, exchanged writing, learned some tricks, but I think I have enough of “courses” or panels like the Screenwriting Expo.

Workshops are another matter. I never pitched at the Expo, but I did do the CS Open for the thrill of writing on the spot with a deadline (one hour and a half) and a premise. Now I’ve tried prose workshops, writing on the spot poems, characters and POV scenes, getting new ideas and enjoying the thrill of improvising. The technique doesn’t matter, it’s good to keep you mind (and writing skills) awake.

I hope to do more, even with the writers group – it would be interesting to do one month a workshop and one month the critique of our pieces, I’m sure I could come up with new “exercises” whenever the workshop comes on. Then I can post them here, tee-hee! (Snoopy’s chuckle is my fave!) πŸ˜€

CS Open – Expo 6 – October 2007


2007 CS Open Presented by Coverage,Ink

Round 1, Section 8

PREMISE

Your PROTAGONIST, who has been a humble failure his or her life, meets up with a uber-successful HIGH SCHOOL SWEETHEART. Sparks fly; the attraction is still there. But both are involved and live in different worlds. Write the scene in which the Sweetheart decides to try to help the Protagonist – who is not all that sure he wants to be helped. How you handle this scene, the era, setting and style – dramatic or comedy – is entirely up to you.

MY SCENE (screwed up formatting as usual)

INT. COFFEE SHOP – DAY

BRENDA, thirtyish bank teller, sits with a coffee, looking nervously around.

She checks her watch, sighs, taps her fingers on the table, tries to take a deep breath to focus.

CHRIS, handsome businessman about her age, comes in.

She freezes as he looks around.

He sees her, smiles and waves, then joins her.

CHRIS

Hi, there. Have you been here long?

She shrugs.

BRENDA

Nah. Just got here.

He sits in front of her.

CHRIS

You used to be always early.

BRENDA

Actually, I was. And you’re still very punctual.

A WAITRESS comes, looking at Chris.

WAITRESS

What will you have, sir?

CHRIS Just coffee, thanks.

He keeps staring at Brenda, who fidgets with her cup, not daring to look him in the eyes.

BRENDA

So, here we are again, so many years later… you’re a successful man and I’m… a bank teller.

CHRIS

Well, it’s a job, isn’t it? Any boyfriend, husband?

The waitress brings his coffee. Brenda still can’t look at him.

BRENDA

I’m not that good with relationships.

CHRIS

Who is? – How are you doing with your comic drawings?

BRENDA

I stopped altogether.

Chris looks surprised.

CHRIS

Why?

BRENDA

I wasn’t good enough.

CHRIS

I liked them!

BRENDA

Well, you’re not a publisher, are you?

CHRIS

No… but I know a couple of publishers now.

BRENDA

I’m not a good enough artist and couldn’t find anyone to team up with.

CHRIS

My ex wife is pretty good, but I wouldn’t recommend her anyway.

She smirks.

BRENDA

You married an artist?

CHRIS

Yeah, well, she has too much of an attitude, and she’d never team up with anyone, but some of her friends might, if you wish.

BRENDA

Thanks, but that part of my life is over.

CHRIS

But why? You were good at telling stories! I remember that one- –

BRENDA

Chris, please. I don’t want to be remembered as “the one that draws cartoons”.

CHRIS

That’s why I’ll help you find someone else to do the drawings.

Brenda ponders. She still avoids eye contact.

BRENDA

And then what? You find me a publisher?

CHRIS

Why not.

BRENDA

Why would you do that? We’ve been history for so long, you have a successful life to take care of…

He puts his hand on hers across the table.

CHRIS

My life isn’t perfect. And I’d love to help you with your dream.

She frees her hand and folds her arms.

BRENDA

You’re always so sweet… but it’s not my dream anymore. We live in different worlds, Chris, just forget we met.

CHRIS

I will not forget. I won’t get rid of me that easily.

She stands, looking exhausted.

BRENDA

I have to go back to work.

She walks away.

CHRIS

(under his breath)

Damn!

Suddenly he runs after her.

EXT. STREET – DAY

Chris runs to reach Brenda who is walking fast. He grabs her by the arm.

CHRIS

Brenda!

She glares at him.

BRENDA

I’m going to be late.

CHRIS

This will only take a minute.

She folds her arms and waits with a mix of hostility and hope.

CHRIS

I’m sorry I brought up the comic drawing thing, I hoped to be helpful, but obviously I’m not, sorry I mentioned it, I though… I’m only truing to… what I mean is, can we keep in touch? See each other again? And again?

She was holding her breath without even knowing, so she lets it out before answering.

BRENDA

Yes.

CS OPEN 2007 SCORESHEET

Structure18

Dialogue21

Style 20

Originality22

Total 81

Comments: Good dialogue – puts a lot of awkward tension on display. Not enough visuals, though, and not enough action. Even when dialogue is good, too much talking heads gets dull.

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