The Old Man and the Tree – Part 1

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Harker glared out his window at the fallen tree. It hadn’t moved for the past twenty years, then last night it had just decided to keel over. Now he had to clean it up.

Harker tugged a boot on with one hand on the kitchen chair.

“Stupid goddamn tree,” he muttered. “Why you were planted is beyond me.”

It took him thirty minutes to get his boots on. Harker threw on his fleece, than stared out the window again. He checked the cell phone that cost him an arm and a leg, than sighed and tossed it at his recliner.

Harker took with him a shovel and a wheelbarrel. He smeared the humid moisture from his forehead and groaned. He nudged the dead tree with his shovel.

“How the hell am I supposed to get rid of you… stupid goddamn tree.”

Harker turned around and headed for his backyard.

“Mister!” called someone.

Harker turned around. It was a little boy with a sharp smile and a stick of chalk.

“What?” Harker said.

“Want some help moving your tree?”

“From who?” Harker stuck his hand above his eyes like it were a visor, then squinted as he searched the street from one side to the other.

“Well… Me.”

Harker shook his head and turned around. He carried on toward his backyard muttering to himself. The child had no business trying to look courteous here. This tree was a serious problem, and the last thing Harker needed was some dumb kid making the job even more difficult.

That was how Dotty used to be. She’d always try to help Harker with his do-it-yourself projects, but would only ruin them. If he was toying with his engine, she’d beg him for a peek. The second he let her have a look, she’d break something. He’d turn, find a wrench in her hand, then ask her what the hell she was doing. And for some dumb reason her response would always trick him into laughing and forget all about the trouble she always caused.

But that was Dotty, and Dotty was dead. Now Harker was blessed enough to take on his do-it-yourself projects with nobody to hold him up. That was the biggest difference he’d noticed with his age. Ever since the kids moved out of state and Dotty passed away, Harker finally had time to do the things he wanted to do, uninterrupted.

Harker realized he’d been standing in his backyard with his hands on his hips for an easy five minutes.

“What the hell am I looking for?” He said to himself.

Harker spotted a saw. “You,” he said as he pointed at it. Harker strode over, picked it up in practically no time at all, then started on his return trip to the front yard.

When he reached it, he couldn’t believe his eyes.

“You’ve got to be goddamn kidding me,” he said.

…To be continued

  • Thomas M. Watt

 

 

TrackingB Screenplay Contest

 

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I’m determined to finally get some exposure for my work. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided to begin looking for representation. According to one article, TrackingB holds a great contest annually that frequently results in representation for it’s winners. The panel of judges is impressive:

THE INDUSTRY PANEL

Berry Welsh – SVP, Production & Development – Tribeca Film
Megan Spanjian – VP, Scripted Television – The Weinstein Company
Peter Dealbert – Lit Manager – Pacific View Management
Melissa Darman – TV Lit Agent – Verve
Dustin Davis – Director, Current Series – ABC Network
Brad Petrigala – Lit Manager – Brillstein Entertainment Partners
Ryan Andolina – Development Executive – Amazon Studios
Amanda Krentzman – Director of Development – The Jackal Group
Jillian Apfelbaum – VP – Imperative Entertainment
Ryan Cunningham – Lit Manager – Madhouse Entertainment
Chris Mills – Lit Manager – Magnet Management
Justin Killion – Producer – Cool Guys & Nerds/1st look deal at ITV
Mike Goldberg – TV Lit Agent – APA
A.B. Fischer – Lit Manager – The Shuman Co.
Josh Goldenberg – Lit Manager – Kaplan/Perrone
Erin Betz – Coordinator, Drama Development – ABC Network                                                           Josh Adler – Lit Manager – Circle of Confusion

They will host a feature length script contest later this year, but currently are accepting entries for their television pilot competition. I’m going to enter Just Leasing and Cheaters Prosper once I feel they are ready. I encourage any of you to enter the contest as well – let me know if you do, that way we can hold one another accountable. The final date for entries is March 26th, and the winners will be announced around July of this year.

*Final Cut Pro is the industry standard for screenwriting, but I use a templateSCRIPT TEMPLATE (with instructions). If you’re new to screenwriting, feel free to download my screenwriting template here.

  • – Thomas M. Watt                 

Lisa Emme – Tooth and Claw!

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Thomas M. Watt: Today we’re featuring one of my favorite indie authors, Lisa Emme. She’s the author of the Harry Russo Diaries series, and the first installment (Dead and Kicking) continues to receive 5 star reviews. What motivated you to write this series?

Lisa Emme: It sounds totally cliché, but the characters motivated me. I had this idea for Harry, the entire opening scene of Dead and Kicking in fact, playing out in my head for some time. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What happened next? Who was Harry? I’m a huge urban fantasy and paranormal romance fan, so it was natural for me to think that this was a story I wanted to learn more about, a story I’d want to read, so I started writing it. I had to write it so I could find out what happened!

Dead and Kicking features zombies, vampires and communication with the dead. Does the sequel introduce any new horrifying characters or paranormal activities that you’d be kind enough to warn us about?

LE: As a matter-of-fact, yes. Book two, Tooth and Claw, introduces you more to the Fae side of the supernatural world. There’s a psychotic ‘elf’ (he hates being called that), blood-thirsty pixies and even homicidal redcaps. For those not familiar with redcaps, they are called that because they soak their hats in the blood of their victims so that it drips continually down their faces in gory streaks. Of course, werewolves, vampires and zombies are still in the mix as well. Harry’s world is bursting with supernatural beings. There’s never a dull moment.

If Harry Russo met Cole Sear from The Sixth Sense, how do you think their conversation would go?

LE: Ha! That’s a good question. Hmmm, maybe something like….

Cole: I see dead people.
Harry: Yeah, kid. I know. Me too.
Cole: They’re just walking around like regular people…They don’t know they’re dead.
Harry: Yeah, I get that, but listen kid, you probably shouldn’t go around telling everyone that you see dead people. They’re going to think you’re not right in the head. You know what I mean? They’ll think you’re a…
Cole: That I’m a freak.
Harry: Yeah, something like that. So keep it on the down-low, all right? And if a ghost is bugging you, just tell them to take a hike. You’re not their grief counsellor.
Cole: You ever feel the prickly things on the back of your neck? And the tiny hairs on your arms, you know when they stand up?

Harry: Okay, now you’re kind of just creeping me out, kid. Enough already.
Cole: I don’t wanna be scared anymore.
Harry: Look…if all else fails, use this. [Harry hands Cole a Taser] Nothing gets rid of ghosts faster than a 1200 volt jolt.
Cole: [Looks at the Taser with glee] Thanks, Harry.
Harry: Don’t mention it, kid. I mean, really…don’t tell your mom I gave you that. And if Tommy Tammisimo ends up flopping on the ground like a fish, I’ll deny ever having met you.

Before Harry Russo embarks on her second journey, she stops by your house and asks for some advice. What do you tell her?

LE: I would probably tell her to get her head out of the sand and quit denying her abilities. I’d also tell her to quit pretending she doesn’t just want to throw herself at Nash and to go for it. But that’s just me, and maybe I’ve been single too long…

You’ve mentioned that you were an avid reader before deciding to craft your own tales. Do you view stories any differently now that you’re designing them?

LE: That’s a tough one. I guess I do. I think it’s hard to take off that writer hat once you have it on. I find myself analysing an author’s style. How they write their dialog, how they handle scene transitions, the POV they write in, etc. Everything I read is a learning opportunity, a chance to think about what really worked and didn’t for the story. I actually think that the way I see stories changed before I started writing. In fact, it’s probably why I decided to start writing. I can remember reading a book and it turned out that it wasn’t particularly well written (it was just plain awful), yet it was hugely popular, I mean insanely popular and I thought to myself that I could write a much better story.

Thank you so much for dropping by, Lisa!

Thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity for your readers to get to know me. I hope if they want to know more they’ll stop by my website (www.lisaemme.com). I’d love to hear from them.

Author Bio:

Lisa Emme is a Canadian who proudly ends her ABC’s with ‘zed’. A self-professed book-a-holic, she has spent the last few years trying to stem her book hoarding tendencies by writing her own stories and by avoiding the bargain table at the bookstore like the plague.

A bit of a thrill seeker, Lisa has tried such death defying activities as bungy jumping off a bridge and rappelling down the side of a 17 storey building. She’s also single-handedly raising a teenager.

Lisa has worked as a veterinary assistant, playground instructor, bank teller, store clerk, waitress, telephone solicitor, research writer for an environmental think tank, computer programmer, and systems analyst. Her passion, however, is writing. What else is she going to do during the long, cold, prairie winter?

Lisa would love to hear from you. You can find her here:

Website: www.lisaemme.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/LisaEmmeBooks/
Twitter: @LisaEmmeBooks
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/LisaEmmeBooks/
Instagram: www.instagram.com/lisa.emme.books

ORDER TOOTH AND CLAW TODAY!!

  • Thomas M. Watt

Cheaters Prosper Update – 12/31

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From left to right: Jordan, Dylan, and Catrina

Today I spoke with Catrina, the lead actress in Cheaters Prosper. I mentioned previously how disappointed I was to discover she and her friend had dropped out from the sitcom they encouraged me to write for them. Today I learned that her grandmother had died in the past week. Goes to show why you should never rush to judgment.

Furthermore, Catrina decided that she is now willing to participate in Just Leasing, though her friend is not. Even more impressive, she read the latest draft of Cheaters Prosper and gave me some really great feedback.

I’m truly astonished at how blind I am to the female perspective.  Catrina provides character insights that are abundantly obvious to her, yet evade my understanding completely. I’m beyond grateful to receive her input, and terribly regret ever doubting her dedication.

The ball returned to rolling today. My brother received a new camera that is capable of shooting longer scenes in RAW. I have a severely limited understanding of cinematography, but from my limited comprehension it seems he prefers to shoot by recording thousands of still frame photographs that flow together fluidly enough to provide beautiful motion pictures. His former camera could only handle shooting in this format for thirty seconds or less, and constantly skipped frames. The camera upgrade should prove highly beneficial.

Furthermore, the first delivery of aluminum pieces came in for him today. The pieces are going to be welded(I think) together to build a circular dolly. The climatic scene takes place at a poker table in my garage. When the dolly is completed, my brother will be able to film one continuous, orbiting shot of us conversing at the table. I share his excitement with this vision, and am sure it will be an incredible scene if he can pull it off.

I contacted each of the involved actors, and was happy to learn they are all looking forward to shooting 1-3 days next week. There are a few scheduling conflicts, but I’m confident I will be able to organize the scenes appropriately over the weekend.

Will keep you updated.

Stand up comedy – 12/30

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In a previous post, I mentioned how the 2 girls who pushed me to write a sitcom episode hadn’t been getting back to me. Yesterday my worst fears were confirmed when Catrina called and informed me they were opting out of the project. This really bothered me, but I got back on the horse today.

While driving to get a cup of coffee and planning to look for new ways to break into the screenwriting community, I decided to take a giant leap out of my comfort zone. I looked up “Stand up comedy open mic” on my smartphone and found a bar offering just that not too far away.

I drove over and took the initiative to meet a few of the stand-up comics before they performed their sets.

The main person I talked to was a comic by the name of Brian Mathews. I asked him a variety of questions, and as I had hoped, he led me in the right direction.

I learned that it is typical for a new stand-up comic to bomb during their first 6 months of performances (a lesson I would confirm a short while later). More importantly, he informed me that it takes, on average, about 2 years before you start getting paid to perform.

Even then, the pay is not great – 25 bucks for a set is the standard rate, while a full 45 minutes of material may net you $75. While this may sound like a great hourly rate, it’s easy to overlook the fact that such a long set would take hours and hours to prepare.

Nevertheless, I’m happy I got to talking with him. One of my biggest goals for the new year is to meet more people with similar aspirations to my own. Networking has always been an area I’ve avoided, but I’m convinced it is necessary if I’m going to make any sort of career in the entertainment industry.

Posted below is a short clip from Titus Jones’ set. He was hilarious and kept the crowd laughing the entire time he had the mic. Check him out and tell your friends.

  • Thomas M. Watt

 

Cheaters Prosper Shooting – Day 1

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On the set of Cheaters Prosper

The first day of shooting was a success! The actors were great, my brother (director of cinematography) did a tremendous job, and I’m so grateful my friend Eric allowed me to use his house for the above location.

The most enjoyable part for me was hearing dialogue I wrote down acted out right before my eyes. It’s kind of a surreal moment when you remember hatching the lines in the first place as you observe them being performed right in front of you.

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From right to left: Jordan, Dylan and Katrina

The actresses did a great job playing characters who, in their view, would be better off leaving the men they are linked to and eloping together (my character is a misogynistic jerk).

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Scott plays “Jax”, the lead

Scott, featured above, had his work cut out for him. He was the only person involved in both scenes, and subsequently had A LOT to memorize.

I was hoping to film a third scene tonight, but time did not permit. Altogether, my brother estimates that we filmed 2 minutes worth of material over the course of 6 hours. Looking at the script, I see we covered 6 pages, or 10% of the story (55 pages total). 1 page typically equals 1 minute of onscreen time.

Regardless, I’m happy with how everything turned out. Everybody showed up, had their lines down, and put a great amount of effort into bringing this script to life.

Many of those involved are going away for the holidays, so we won’t be able to film again until after the 1st, maybe even after the 5th. I will continue you to keep you all updated!

  • Thomas M. Watt

Author of Master

Cheaters Prosper – Mary

carboard

Old version of Mary

Today I received a concerned phone call from my acting friend Catrina. She had just read through the script for the independent film I wrote and pointed out two big problems:

1.) Her name is Catrina, not Katrina

2.) The women in the film were boring, cliche, and cardboard!

I apologized immediately for spelling her name wrong in the script. As far as her observation, I knew she was dead right – I’m more than aware of my limitations as a writer. Creating a strong female lead that is true to life is definitely something I have to work on.

She made some great suggestions, many of which I intend to implement. The most important observation she made was that the character needed some work. So, I consulted one of the best books on writing there is – The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri – then consulted his 1st chapter on character. Here he lays out the guidelines for creating a tridimensional character, which I intend to share with you. The 3 parts he outlines are:

1.) Physiological – What does the character look like? Appearance affects our perception of the world. Whether we are big and strong, are small and weak, it will have a serious impact on how we interact with the world around us.

2.) Sociological – Social standing; class status. A rich person will have a much different reaction to a $1000 suit than a person struggling to purchase a burrito after work.

3.) Psychological – This is the product of physiological and sociological influences. How we look, and how we rank in society, have a profound effect on everyday thought process.

Egri goes on to list question specific to each of the three criteria. By answering each of these questions for Mary’s character, I was able to bring the character to life. She transformed from a nagging girlfriend who wanted nothing more than to get married (literally nothing – she might as well sleep whenever her protagonist boyfriend leaves her side) to someone I’m generally interested in getting to know.

Mary is now a mildly schizophrenic, passionate artist who cares deeply for the man she loves yet has serious distrusts for most others. She comes from wealthy parents whose marriage was a sham, as they were more comfortable hosting swinger parties than kneeling in the front pews at their local Catholic church every Sunday morning.

To take my analysis of Mary to another level, I decided to take a personality test and answer each question as if I were her. Turns out Mary is an INFJ, a type that makes up less than 1% of the population and lives according to their “inborn sense of idealism and morality” (16personalities).

With my newfound understanding, I’m going to return to the script tomorrow and asks myself how this living, breathing character would react to the many different scenarios she finds herself in. I’ve also enjoyed this process so much, I would like to do the same for the four other significant characters in my Indy film. Only problem is, shooting starts Tuesday!

  • Thomas M. Watt

Author of Master