Monday, April 26, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the theater yesterday.

What an amazing storyline and plot! Extremely complex, and dazzling to comprehend. Sure they left out a character from the book (and not I’m not telling you which one) but that’s par for the course.

What I really wanted to draw your attention to is the character of Lisbeth Salandar, played masterfully by Nooma Rapace.

You’re shocked when you first see her, but over a series of extremely harsh events, understand why she is the way she is. She’s an incredible character. She’s tough, she doesn’t take crap from anyone, but she’s also extremely intelligent… and extremely likable. Kudos to the screenwriter for capturing that from the book!

Currently the movie is being rewritten for Hollywood, and there are rumors swarming that Brad Pitt will play one of the main characters, if not the lead. I’m interested to see who they will bring in for Lisbeth. I don’t think Angelina could pull this one off as well as Nooma did. Maybe they can just keep her in the role and she can speak English…? Who knows. By the time it actually makes it to production it will have circled Hollywood a few thousand times.


I can’t see how Hollywood could make this movie any better.

So, if you get the chance to see this movie, go see it. Be warned: This movie is NOT one for the kids.

Tell me what you think about it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Don't Waste My Time

Someone heard that I’m an up and coming screenwriter. This person, who I will, for all intents and purposes of this blog refer to him as: Raul. Which of course, is NOT his real name or ethnicity.

Raul sent me his “life-changing manuscript.”

He certainly changed MY life. I don’t think I’ve ever been so incredibly bored with a script in all my life. When you begin to dream of going to a dentist for a root canal, you know the script is bad.

The premise was shaky, it was poorly constructed and he repeated himself at LEAST ten times a page. And no, that’s not an exaggeration.

Granted, I started in the same place Raul obviously was. Thank goodness I had the sweet feedback from a Hollywood producer that said basically, “You’ve got great ideas, but you need to learn more. This won’t cut it.” Keeping that in mind, I attempted to extend that same wisdom to Raul. I called him.

“Raul, what is your script about?”

“Oh, it’s a life-changer.”

“Raul. That didn’t answer my question. What about it is life-changing?”

“The character’s journey.”

“Okay, what is the journey? Because I didn’t see it. At all.”

Raul proceeded to speak but never said a word. I tried to rephrase.

“Raul, what color is your car?”

“Do what?”

“Your car. What color is it?”

“Well, it’s kinda bluish-green, more green than blue, but when the light hits it, it shines blue. Teal? Yeah maybe that’s the color. Or seagreen?”

Bingo. I located him.

My advice to Raul at that time was to 1.) purchase Save The Cat! By Blake Snyder and Your Screenplay Sucks! by Will Akers. I gave him some general pointers such as: Never repeat yourself. Write short concise sentences. Vertical structure is great.

And then he asked me the inevitable question: “Did you like it?”

Heck no, I didn’t like it! I’d rather be kicked in the face by a Clydesdale! Of course I couldn’t SAY that!

“Raul, I can’t see how this is a life-changer. I couldn’t get through it.”

Raul proceeds to tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about and when it gets bought he’s going to post nasty comments all over my blog. I tell him to calm down, he contacted me for serious advice and that’s what I’m giving him. I also tell him if he wants a group of cheerleaders for his scripts he needs to keep within his family. I explain that I am as objective as possible. I actually WANT him to make it and I point out that I’m being much nicer than anyone in Hollywood would ever be. His script was amateurish and would never make it past the reading floor. I tell him I started out the same way. We all did. All he has to do is listen, make some adjustments and rewrite.

“It’s perfect the way it is. I finished it last night. It’s complete.”

At this point my jaw drops to the floor with a loud *clunk!*

“You sent me your first draft???”

“And the final one. It’s perfect the way it is.”

I realize Raul is narcissistic and will not listen to reason. I will help people as long as they want or need help. But this guy, I do NOT want my name associated with. If you ever bump into him, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. 

“Raul, that script will never make it to a producer. And if it does it will only be because you know someone. You do know that writers rewrite all the time, right? On the set, etc.?”

“I won’t need to. It’s perfect the way it is.”

You’re an idiot, Raul.

I had the opportunity of speaking to Derek Haas, screenwriter of blockbusters like WANTED, 3:10 TO YUMA, & THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS.

I asked him, "Derek, how many drafts of WANTED did you go through before it was made into a movie?"

Derek's reply: (NOTE: THIS IS A WELL KNOWN SUCCESSFUL SCREENWRITER SAYING THIS!):  "Oh I had about 84 drafts on my computer by the time it was ready to be shopped around."

84. 84 drafts, Raul. 84.

A screenplay is the bones of the production. You provide the structure for a story. The director comes in and adds the flesh to it, with the actors, the sets, and the vision. The producers come in and make it look pretty and gus it up, make it presentable for the viewers. It’s a team effort. Even if this guy somehow sold his horrible slaughter of verbiage, he’d be fired on the spot for not being willing to rewrite. The only award Raul will be receiving is Employee of the Month at his local hamburger joint.

If that sounds harsh, I’m sorry. This is a tough business to get into. And you can’t break into it if you aren’t willing to work and do what it takes to make your work better. If your pride gets in the way of that, well, then that path is all yours to walk. Alone. I’m not going with you.

So, dear readers and adoring fans, if you plan to send me anything to read, please make sure you have rewritten it a few times and be prepared to hear the truth about what I think. Friends will pat your hand. I won’t do that. Friends will tell you your work is awesome. I will look for holes you need to fix and dialogue that is boring and trite. I will never call you names, but I will encourage you to take a long look at your work.

Your work is NOT perfect.

Neither is mine, for that matter.

But I’m willing to rewrite it. Even it means 84 times.

Monday, April 19, 2010

DRAW Wins Honorable Mention!

I’m on my way!

Tonight (well yesterday night by the time I get this published) was the awards ceremony for the Vanderbilt Film Festival.

You may remember on March 19th I had entered not only my first short film contest, but it was also a 24 hour contest. This is what I submitted:

DRAW from ScreenwriterChic on Vimeo.

We didn’t win the overall competition, but we did win Honorable Mention! I consider this an honor. I can’t tell you the feeling I get watching a movie I made, my creation, up on the silver screen, and hear belly roll laughter from the audience. I can say with pride, that no other short film we watched had as many laughs at mine. And no, I’m NOT being biased with that one.

So, since I will obviously need the practice later on in life, here’s my acceptance speech:

"Wow! Thank you so much! Gosh! This is heaver than I expected….

“Thank you, God, for honoring me and humbling me at the same time. Never let me forget who I am or where I came from no matter where any award comes from. I’m nothing without the great grace You’ve bestowed on me. I appreciate the favor, the love and the mercy You show me every single day. I’m nothing without You.

“I have to thank my cast and crew, Kristy Miller, who was my production coordinator and made all the phone calls I didn’t want to. Ann Eubank McKinney for lending me her son for the boom mike (you’ll go far in life, Will!). The cast, Bree Miller… you did great in your first onscreen performance! Michael Haney… yes, your accent did keep changing but we all loved it… Sean Young… you stayed up all night and performed every time I needed you too and were simply fantastic! Keagan Haney… you added depth to the role of Charlotte. Hard to do when you’re twelve but did it magically! And of course, my sweet Elijah. Elijah, you never cease to amaze me. You learned not only your lines, but everyone else’s! I’m in awe of your professionalism and eagerness. You never got tired, never complained and were always ready when I needed you to be. I’ve never been more proud!

“To Craig, my husband who puts up with my writing madness, mania, frustration, mood swings, hopes, dreams, and fears. You’re one in a million.

“Thank you to Will Akers who prompted me to enter the competition. Will, I appreciate you letting me learn from you. I hope to work with you again in the future. You have great insight.

“I also want to thank Dr. Louise Hanson and Jen Swails-Wenger, my bosses. It was their allowing me to audit Will’s classes that I ever 1.) knew about the competition and 2.) had learned enough where I was comfortable enough to give it a whirl. Thanks for allowing me to follow a dream.

“To everyone who’s cheered me on and prayed for me: THANK YOU. It’s the best feeling in the world to know that you have someone rooting for you. I can actually feel your warm wishes, thoughts, and prayers if that makes any sense. Please continue! I want to create, I want to work, I want to infiltrate Hollywood with movies of purpose and value. And I’ve started with DRAW. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Until next time, sweet readers….

Keep dreaming… keep writing!

Director/Writer Marti with the cast of DRAW enjoy the Golden Slate Award

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nuggets from a WME agent

Got to sit in on a discussion panel with WME Agent Alexis Garcia. I’m always interested in learning the different facets of Hollywood. Alexis’s created quite a niche for himself. He’s extremely smart and knows the game.

Here are some nuggets I was able to put into my trusty laptop. (Alexis talks FAST!)

“If you want to be in the entertainment business, get into a mailroom as soon as possible. If you want to be an agent, get into the entertainment business as soon as possible. If you’re curious and aren’t sure what you want to do in the entertainment business, get into a mailroom as soon as possible. If you want to be a screenwriter, that’s hard. Because it’s hard to balance writing and… you should be writing all the time.”

“To get screenplays noticed, it’s a Catch 22. It’s a Catch 22 and it’s not fair. Seriously. It’s not. If you’re a good writer, you’re better than 90% of what’s floating around in Hollywood right now. Seriously. Trust me, I’ve seen it. I know. I’d have to say do screenwriting contests, labs, foundations, festivals. Query letters are dead. No one sends them and if they do, no one responds. It’s a digital age. Everyone sends query emails. If you have something that’s targeted for the person whose email you’ve found, the it’ll find its way in. Just keep plugging. But if it’s good, someone will see it and say, “Hey, this is good. Let’s move this along.”

“In regards to marketing, a lot of marketing people didn’t start in the mailroom. What you learn more than anything else is, you see all the information pouring into and out of the agency. Now you’re seeing how the agency works. If you see how the agency works, you see how the town works. And it’s all about information. The information we see and control.”

“Entertainment is closely related to sports management. Very closely. We (WME) do it. For marketing. We represent Serena Williams. At the same time, she’s also repped by IMG. We have different functions.”

“I remember trying to go online when it was dial up and trying to read Variety. Now there’s and Nikki Finke. There’s so much info. I would say, in order to be successful, to be way more educated about how the business operated and what the trends are, how deals are made. It’s competitive.”

And for those of you who are wondering, who IS this Alexis guy?

Alexis Garcia

The Official Alexis Garcia blurb:

As an agent in WME Global, the finance and distribution group at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, Alexis works to create advantageous financing packages and innovative distribution deal structures for the group’s financier clients and the agency’s content creators. WME Global functions as a consulting group within this rich content and talent ecosystem. Equity, foreign markets, brands, new media platforms – WME Global provides a connection to every traditional and innovative source of project financing throughout the world. And WME Global agents have unparalleled expertise in securing distribution deals in the US and abroad.

Within the group, Alexis focuses on global financing sources and regularly consults for financier clients in evaluating projects and structuring deals. Alexis joined Endeavor in 2006, prior to which he practiced entertainment law at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton and O’Melveny & Myers, where he counseled entertainment industry clients, both at the studio and independent level, in the development, production, financing and distribution of motion picture and television content. Alexis earned his J.D. in 2002 from UCLA School of Law, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Entertainment Law Review and Business Editor of the UCLA Law Review. He earned his B.A. in English and Theatre from Vanderbilt University. He is a regular speaker on film financing and distribution and serves as a board member of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers and a member of The Next Generation of the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

Among film projects Alexis has worked on in his career as a lawyer and agent are Be Kind Rewind, We Own the Night, Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov’s 9, Brokeback Mountain, Che, Black Dynamite, Transsiberian ,and the upcoming major studio releases Kick-Ass and Robert Rodriguez’s Machete .

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ask questions!

James Benning
Every opportunity for a new experience, I take it. (You should do that, too, by the way. How else can you experience the adventure?)

I was invited to attend a viewing of James Benning's latest work, RR. (That's Railroad for numbskulls like me!) I gratefully accepted, and dressed up my kiddos in their nicest garb and for the sake of culture, trucked them to the event. (I'm happy to say they were extremely well behaved, perhaps for fear for their lives, but nonetheless, made me proud).

Originally, we were to eat dinner with James, but alas! His flight was delayed. We ate by a nice fountain outside and at 7:00pm on the dot, took our seats. I let the children choose our spots...the second row.  And the movie began.




Did I mention, trains? No music. No actors. Just: Fade In, train tracks, a train appears and goes by, leaves. Fade Out. Fade in, train tracks, a train appears and goes by, leaves. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. For 48 shots.

We were not prepared for this.

However! Thanks to my excellent parenting skills, the children remained silent and still.

Twenty minutes in, my youngest leaned over to me and whispered, "Are there any people in it?"

"I don't think so," I replied.


Once they got past the shock of a film with no plot, shooting sequence, or sex scenes that I make them cover their eyes for, they resigned themselves that for one hour and one minute, their life was: TRAINS.

Actually, it was quite a good film. The sounds, the scenery. Variation. Just an hour and one minute of trains.

The film ended. Applause from all. Then, the Q&A session. A few generic questions pop up. And then, James Benning, director of RR, points in my direction and says, "Yes?"

I look to my left and my beautiful twelve year old daughter has her hand raised.  And that's how it all started. Between her and my thirteen year old son, they dominated the questions. And they weren't "froo froo" questions. They were insightful:

"What prompted you to make a film about trains?"

"Did have a schedule or did you wait for the trains?"

"How long was your longest wait?"

"Is there anything you would change about it?"

"What DON'T you love about trains?"

"There were alot of southern routes, as seen by the landscape. Were any of the shots up north?"

"Will you ever do an animated film about trains?"

And my youngest: "Can you make a movie about super heroes?"

Afterwards, people praised the children for having such great questions and hailed me as an awesome mother for bringing them to the event. I, of course, beamed with pride. It's a family business, this film stuff.

I snapped a quick pic of the kiddos with James and the evening was complete.

My children's first avant garde film, first time to question a director, first time to a screening.

In the car, my thirteen year old commented, "You know, the movie was kinda boring with all those trains. But, now that I've met the director, it seems kinda interesting."

Spoken like a true critic.

Friday, April 9, 2010

How Very Interesting...

A nice man named Chris came to class yesterday. He's worked extensively in Hollywood as a writer.  We really got to pick his brain.

Of all the nuggets of wisdom he shared, this was my favorite, and you, lucky fan, shall have it passed to you!

He said in regards to writing: "The more you're paid in Hollywood, the less of a voice you have."

"If you are hired by a studio, it's because they want you to script their idea. If you want to have a voice, stick with independent film companies."

Very sobering.

It all relates to happiness. Think about it! Can you write stuff you really don't give a rip about for half a million dollars? Would you be happy doing that?  Or are you the type that absolutely MUST write what's in your heart every single time?

Me? I look at writing jobs as mountains to climb, races to win, and victories to pursue. It's where your heart is.

No matter what you write, a director WILL see it differently. And he/she WILL see it differently from the producer. Does that matter to you? Will it grate on you to see a different version of what you had rolling around in your head? If that keeps you awake at night, perhaps you DO need to pursue smaller and independent companies. But's it's completely up to you.

Where is your heart?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Musica Campesina!

Musica Campesina!
Pablo Cerda, Marti King Young, Alberto Fuguet

Last night we wrapped on a five day shoot. It started as a short, it really did. However, director Alberto Fuguet stated, “I have well enough for a feature. I’ll do it and release it in Buenos Aires first.”

One week of non-stop shooting, sometimes 19-20 hours a day. Rough. Grueling. And SOOOOOOOOO much fun!

Yours truly started off as the production assistant on the movie, Musica Campesina. I got promoted to Line Producer!  (The movie’s about a Chilean man with a recently broken heart who throws himself into the Nashville scene. The script is quite poignant and moving.)

(My car is in the movie, so all of you MUST see it at some point! When you see the obnoxious yellow car, you can say to yourself, “I know that car! It’s Screenwriter Chic’s!!!!”)

Day 1 on the set: Because of working another job, I come on two days into filming. Not too much has been done. Sarah Childress, the producer (whom I just meet) introduces me to Alberto Fuguet. She tells him I have “great street credit.” I learn there has not been another to assist Alberto and many locations have not been secure. Alberto is overjoyed at my arrival and gives me a list of things to do. Thankfully, I have a notepad and two pens with me and appear prepared and that I know what I’m doing. Alberto calls me his “glue” for the production. He declares that all of his emails should go though me and I will keep everyone in the loop. (I about pee myself…how did I get to wield such power?)

We film Pablo at dusk looking at the Nashville skyline. Very nice take.

Alberto tells me that he wants to film at a certain diner the next day, but the manager yelled at a student and refused. He begs me to try again. I’m told filming begins the next day at noon.

Day 2 on the set: Before the daily production meeting, I drive myself to the diner Alberto wants. I personally speak to the manager. He was quite nice, but worried that we would invade his customer’s privacy. I explained there were no lighting crews or huge cameras, and that we would come at his least busy time. I listened to his concerns and addressed them and secured permission to film in the diner. I call Alberto and he hails me as a miracle worker. In fact, the entire crew does. I do a happy dance (but on the inside).

We film Pablo doing research in the Vanderbilt library. I never knew the library was that big OR that creepy. If you ever go there, bring a friend.

2:30pm Producer Sarah Childress and I leave the crew. I leave for my class with Will Akers on screenwriting. Sarah leaves to teach her class at Vanderbilt. It was so hot out, I was thankful to spend a couple of hours in air conditioning, actually. Will was good enough to let me take a break during class and purchase two liters of bottled water, both of which I downed before I returned to class.

Sarah Childress, Producer and Sound Back Up

5:40pm Sarah and I go shopping for food and then rejoin the crew on location at a house. Sarah works sound, I work the slate and continuity. Ten people on set. Alberto gets antsy. Too many people on set for him. Pablo is happy he has food.

We move to a bar called Fiddle & Steel in Printer’s Alley. It’s amateur night. The bar graciously gives us permission to film. The patrons have no clue Pablo is an actor. He sings one song. The crowd cheers him on, “Uno mas! Uno mas!” Reluctantly, Pablo sings another song. The crowd cheers and congratulates him. It was perfect for the film and it was extremely fun to shoot. I get home around 1:30am.

Day 3 of shoot: Before heading to the production meeting, I swing by Jason’s Deli for menus for the cast and crew. Somehow this gives me more kudos since I thought to ASK what they wanted instead of choosing for them. I also bring my sixteen year old son, Michael, to the set with me. He’s the official runner of Musica Campesina. He’s a hard worker and almost gets adopted by Pablo and the director. Michael’s first time to help with a “real” movie. His life is changed forever. I could see it in his eyes.

Michael sits in for lighting as Alberto preps Pablo

At the production meeting the schedule changes, the script changes. No problem. Alberto is great at rolling with the punches and is ready to get filming done today. We are slated to work on production until Monday, but he’s adamant we will finish today. Pablo wants to sight see on Saturday and Alberto wants to make sure he gets to do that. The crew is on board. As we head up to a room in the Embassy Suites for a scene I call the three actors and give them times and locations to meet us. Pablo does a great job in his scene.

12:00pm We change locations for a scene involving day laborers. Pablo gets filmed walking down the street and then waiting for work. I almost was the one that would be in the movie “hiring him”, but a drug dealer came out with his posse and started asking questions, and in a not so pleasant manner. Pablo declares the set is unsafe and wants to leave. It was and we did.

We change locations and move to a rooftop pool, film a scene there. There is a bathing beauty who’s fallen asleep beside the pool and has no clue that she played an intricate part in the background.

Michael drives me to pick up the lunches and we return to the crew at their next location, which was the house from the day before. Everyone is thrilled to have real food in a sitting and not have to munch on granola bars and fruit in between takes.

We film at the house, and James and Jeffrey create an impromptu song from three words that Pablo gives them. It’s in the film. Great stuff.

We change locations to get a scene outside a pawn shop. This was an interesting shoot. As Pablo walks down the street, the owner runs out screaming at us. Something about privacy laws. Michael is inside the pawn shop and reports that she went back inside afterwards and was swearing about “Latinos in this country.” As we’re packing up, she returns outside and screams more not nice things. I personally was embarrassed. Not that we were filming there, but because of her attitude toward Alberto and Pablo, visitors in our country. It was shameful. She said that it was illegal to use the name of their business in the movie. Well, she didn't say anything about my blog.

And the name is SO terribly creative, too!

We move to a billiards hall and I learn that it hasn’t been secured with approval to shoot. I run inside and speak to a skittish bartender. Another miracle worked and we’re good to go. Michael is in the background of the scenes playing pool along with Will, a student in Sarah’s class. They both loved it.

I’ve become a timekeeping Nazi by this point and announce we need to get to the next location. We hurry off to the Greyhound bus station in Clarksville, TN. The crew, an actor named Ty, and Pablo will film the bus ride from there to Nashville. It’s my job to drive them there and drive the car back. Because of all the people needed, it takes two cars to get everyone there. Michael drives my car, and I drive Ashley’s. (Ashley is our camera operator. She is one of the hardest workers I have ever seen and has an upbeat and sweet disposition.) We leave before the buses to get gas for the vehicles. The arrival time back in Nashville should be 9:30pm and no one has eaten dinner. We pull in at the gas station to grab some food for everyone. A man has a seizure and our vehicles are blocked in by an ambulance for thirty minutes. We’re late and I’m freaking out. I hate being late. HATE it. I drive like a bat out of Hades and get to the bus station ten minutes after they’ve arrived. Luckily, I have food as an offering and the cast and crew are THRILLED to eat.

We head to a laundry mat for a scene with Pablo and Karin. I take Ty home and meet the crew. The doors are locked and a redneck sixteen year old girl comes to the door. She’s obviously working there. She refuses to let me in stating, “We close in ten minutes.” I have the suitcase of props with me and point to it. “It’s laundry,” I say. “We close in ten minutes.” She has an attitude and my blood immediately boils. She won’t let me in. Finally, I yell over her head to Alberto, “She won’t let me in!” He runs over and says, “She has my clothes.” The girl curses and throws open the door. May I also point out that there is a cell phone glued to her ear which she never removes? I grab some props and give them to the actors. I make sure I keep away from the Redneck Queen of Dirty Laundry for fear of having such lack of sleep that I could deck her. Ashley begins to film Pablo and Karin talking. Russell (sound guy) has his boom and records room tone. Redneck Queen starts screaming to screw up our shot. She says that we can’t film and no one told her we had permission. (Even though we did. She didn’t want to hear it. The entire deal was a control issue for her.) Russell says that he’s recording sound and there’s no law that says he can’t record sound. The trailer park in her really comes out now, and she threatens to call the police. “I find that unlikely as you never remove the phone from your ear.” She starts cussing all of us out. A sixteen year old girl. Poor thing. She’s so lost. By this time, Pablo has had enough. “Let’s go.” He leaves. The girl says, “I’m just doing my (#*%&(#&(# job you %!@&@%#@ wetbacks!” Alberto: “It’s one thing to do your job, and another thing to be rude.” She starts cussing again and he slams the door in her face. Russell peeks back in and announces that her dryers are broken and laughs. I’m glad I’ve taught my children better than her. What a horrific person. And so young. I pity her children. Again, I was ashamed by the representation of my country to visitors.

We move to another laundry mat at the Americana. The landlord stops by and she is thrilled that a movie is being filmed at her place. She gives us free parking passes so we don’t get towed. The scene is a success.

Change of locations to a motel. Awesome murals in the room. (Just don’t sit on the bed). Pablo earns his money for these shoots. The pool is closed. Ashley sets up a camera in the bushes. He jumps over the fence to the pool in his underwear. He jumps in (and it was COLD last night) and comes out, takes a drink. Looks amazing. He hops back over and we go back to the room. We all take pix together.

And it’s a wrap!!!!

Alberto & Pablo (that's my writing on the slate!)

Last  night was the wrap party. Perhaps I’ll post pix.
I had a wonderful time, met some wonderful people and hope to do more of this in the future. Just one more step for me to take over Hollywood!

How 'bout you? Got any good stories?

Wrap Party: Me, Sarah Childress (producer) and Ashley Zeiger (Director of Photography)