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                 
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The Big “L” – 1/12

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I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more distraught during the writing of a post. I don’t know that I’ve ever sat down and written feeling so helplessly frustrated.

Yesterday was a failure. An enormous failure. A huge, whopping, capital “L”.

The day began great, with big plans and lofty ambitions. Everything was set and ready, the props were in order, and I even purchased a knock-off “selfie-stick” to help with coverage(Just Leasing was to be filmed on my phone camera, you see).

A few hours into filming, I locked my phone into place on a cheap tripod that is built for such a purpose. The mount simultaneously pressed and held 3 buttons on the side of my phone that led to a full system reset. Not only did I lose all my contacts and settings, but the footage was immediately washed.

It gets worse.

We came close to shooting the scenes over, but doubt entered the minds of the actors, perhaps with good reason – there was an arguably noticeable error in logic for a crucial scene, and tinkering with it affects the rest of the episode.

A long enough discussion led to an inevitable decision to postpone filming until a later date. We broke for lunch at a local taco shop. I brought in my laptop to show Jordan and Catrina, who are also involved in Cheaters Prosper, some of the scenes.

I store the footage on an external, 3 terabyte hard drive that attaches to my computer by a USB chord. When I finally found a particular scene I wanted to show, the external hard drive fell off the table and smacked a metal piece beside my seat, breaking it instantly. I am no longer able to access the hard drive, and it makes a clicking sound when I plug it in.

I can’t tell you how upset I am. I can’t even pinpoint what I am most upset about. The good news is, even if the data from my brand new $139 hard drive is irretrievable, we will only have lost about 5 pages of film, as my brother and friend still have saved copies of the remaining footage.

I don’t believe in blind persistence. I don’t believe in trying to make something work that cannot, nor do I believe in trying to do something you are incapable of doing. I do not like to waste time. I do not like to lose.

But when I deem a pursuit worthy of fighting for, I fucking fight.

So what is the lesson learned today? What is the meaning of all this?

The lesson is simple. Today was a shitty day. Bad things happened. For Spiritual reasons? For failing to be more conscious of sensitive equipment? For no reason?

You will never learn by focusing the factors that led to failure. If you want to be a critic, a hater, or another captain hindsight, go ahead and focus on the aspects of things that influence demise. But in order to find success, you must keep your eyes the actions that breed it.

Verizon saves texts message conversations in cloud storage, and I was able to retrieve the phone numbers of every person I’ve conversed with over the last 90 days. That is sufficient to store the numbers of every person whom I consider an essential part of my life.

There are specialists who have the technology to retrieve data from damaged hard drives. For an external one such as my own, the customer must pay a pretty penny ($500 is a good estimate). Perhaps the company that manufactured my hard drive may be able to help me for a nominal fee.

Or, we could always re-shoot. The actors have their lines down pat, and the only difficulty would be getting the actors to do the 4-5 hour shoot all over again. It would move faster than before thanks to having gone through it once already.

I guess my point is this – you can’t just fold once things go wrong. You can’t allow harsh critiques of your work to convince you’re not cut out for writing. When things go wrong, you must seek out ways to fix them. Errors happen, and they’re part of any game.

I’m afraid to take my next step forward, but in the walk of life the only other option is to retreat. I’m not going to retreat, and I’m not going to stop. I’m going to run until I reach that Goddamn finish line, and if I have to crawl by the time I get there, so be it.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Just Leasing (And C.P.) – 1/11

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I miss that cheeseburger. That’s my brother behind me.

Today will be the first day for filming Just Leasing. This is a secondary project that I do not consider nearly as important as Cheaters Prosper. In other words, I would like to knock out the 22 pages in a relatively short time frame.

The biggest issue we’re going to face today will have to do with filming it. Two camera persons are dedicating a ton of time to Cheaters Prosper without pay, and I do not feel right about exploiting their generosity for another project.

Subsequently, I’m left with 4 actors and no camera person. I’m currently leaning toward filming the footage on my camera phone. My friend has a tripod that I believe I can strap my phone to and get wide coverage with.

For the close shots, I honestly think I may buy a selfie-stick. I saw one at the local liquor store the other day, opened my lips to begin a joke about the kind of morons who waste money on that type of thing. I shut my lips when I realized it might be essential to filming Just Leasing.

This is going to be a rough week for Cheaters Prosper. My friend, whose home we need for a location, hasn’t been getting back to me. The people who I’ve contacted on Craigslist in order to possibly purchase their poker tables haven’t responded to me, either. On top of all that, I feel I have a responsibility to myself to attend drill night this Thursday night. I missed it last week, and am certain that devoting an hour and a half of my time to the local fire station is imperative for my future as a firefighter.

I will be posting some behind the scenes footage from Just Leasing tomorrow. Until then, enjoy some goofing around from last week’s shoot for Cheaters Prosper.

  • Thomas M. Watt

 

Cheaters Prosper – 1/8

20160106_122300Just wrapped up the third day in a row of heavy duty filming. I’m exhausted, but happy. I’ll get to today’s filming in Saturday’s post. Today I’ll discuss yesterday’s shoot.

El Nino struck Southern California for 2 straight days. The first day didn’t affect us much. Wednesday was much more trying.

Not only were we freezing our asses off, but the downpour came sporadically. The scenes we shot were all outside, and on several occasions we had to cut the scene early to protect the equipment. The rain fell so hard we actually added a line to the script – “It’s raining, let’s go play inside.”

Thankfully, conditions improved so that line can be omitted.

The biggest difference in writing for film versus writing for books is that you have to consider your budget in each and every scene. I can’t afford to have any car accidents, expensive props, or high-octane action sequences. I wrote this script knowing full well the dramatic twists would have to come from relationships. Good stories move us emotionally, so this isn’t as limiting as one might think.

Dan filmed for the second day in a row, and got more footage and takes than I could have possibly requested. One reason I think this Independent film will be great is the devotion of all the individuals involved.

It’s incredible to see so many individuals come together and put forth so much effort into making this project the best it can be. I’m not paying anyone, and therefore they’re not obligated to put in the amount of time they are dedicating to this.

Dan filmed until we ran out of daylight and shot every scene I hoped to complete. I’m really happy he did, because everything we filmed takes place during the same day in the script. I was terrified of having to re-shoot, because shooting exterior scenes with rainfall in Southern California is a surefire way to get some major continuity errors.

I tried to upload a video of the footage to youtube. For some bizarre reason, the audio plays fine while the video only shows up when it is paused(on my computer at least). Going to take a crack at fixing it tomorrow, but thought I’d attach the link to this post anyway, in case it is fixed automatically.

The video below features behind the scenes difficulties and a rough, rough edit of one of the scenes we filmed. There is no color grading, audio syncing, or any kind of real editing. All I did was trim shot and put together bits and pieces from the four different angles we had. Unfortunately, one of the takes was recorded with an ambulance passing in the background, so that one’s worthless.

I’m looking forward to telling you all about Thursday’s shoot, with my brother back at the camera, tomorrow.

  • Thomas M. Watt

 

Cheaters Prosper – Mary

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Writers Digest Writers Conference

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I went to a writers conference this weekend. At the conference, there is a thing called a ‘Pitch Slam.’ Now, if you’ve never done this, and you are a writer, I highly advise you to fork up the money and go to a writers conference. The pitch slam alone is worth it.

Why?

Because it gives you a chance to meet face-to-face with an agent. You will pitch your novel, and they will either request an email from you, or insist you please leave their presence immediately. The benefit is you get to find out where your novel stands, and build up a new-skin for enduring the business end of writing. 

If every agent rejects your manuscript, it is a good thing. Either learn how to pitch better, or set the piece of garbage down, go outside, and try to pretend like you are a normal human being who doesn’t know what this drug called ‘writing’ is all about. Time saver. 

Now, as for the writers conference in general, it was one of the coolest experiences of my lifetime. There are lectures all weekend covering all the facets of writing. From those who wish to learn more about the craft, to those which wish to learn more about business. 

And I pride myself to a point of bone-headed-arrogance on never bothering with ‘tricks of the craft’, but even I learned something which will be pivotal to my story, in relation to suspense and captivation. Here’s a hint – When your character is motivated to succeed in his quest by a good heart, it isn’t quite as exhilarating as the knowledge that he will certainly be murdered if he fails.

Furthermore, besides the lectures and the pitch-slam, there is the collection of writers. Writers ranging from your typical, “Aw hell, I’ll write a book shit. What’s it but a few purty words put to-gather?” To my new friend Joe, who is spending this entire week pitching screen plays to Hollywood execs. And yes, he’s already received some serious investments for his online show, “Precipice.” You can check it out at http://www.precipicetheseries.com 

Then, lastly, there is the canoodling. You get to talking with these people. The writers, the speakers, the agents, the teachers, the published authors. On Saturday, we all stood around and gingerly sipped alcoholic beverages with one another.

Word of advice from McWatty9 – If you ever want to make a great connection with someone, get drunk with them and talk about B.S. the whole night. Trust me, you will make a far greater impression then pitching your book to someone who just finished listening to book pitches for twelve hours.

So, in summary, if you are truly serious about getting published, go to one of these events. It is far easier to ‘make a name for yourself’ with a handshake and an introduction then it is to write so many published articles your name is ingrained in every reader’s memory. 

Thanks to Writers Digest for hosting a great event.

– Thomas M. Watt