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Screenwriting Expo
November 17, 2005 11:38 AM   Subscribe

How I Ended Up In Big Pitches - article in London Times about last weekend's Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles. Features Warren Hsu Leonard, William Goldman, Brian Watanabe, David Freeman, Michael Hauge.
posted by nromanek (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I think I've figured out what's wrong with my life. I have too many traits on the points on my personal character diamond. Thanks for nothing, Scientology!
posted by david wester at 12:01 PM on November 17, 2005


OK, here's my pitch:

The Terrell Owens Story-- A disgruntled star player gets suspended by his team. One day he is bicycling to keep in shape and as he enters a tunnel, he is about to get run down by a truck. His guardian angel sees what is going to happen and pulls him from his body to save him the pain. Turns out his reflexes would have saved him and he wouldn't have died, so the higher ups in heaven agree to put him back in another body so that he can go to the SuperBowl and fulfill his destiny. He tries on a number of different bodies, ultimately taking over the body of another star receiver with a team on brink of making the playoffs. Does he make the same mistakes again or does he rise above it all and make the ultimate sacrifice--shutting his mouth-- for the team?
posted by notmtwain at 12:05 PM on November 17, 2005


FYI, Warren is MeFi's whl.
posted by dobbs at 12:19 PM on November 17, 2005


Donald Kaufman: I'm putting in a chase sequence. So the killer flees on horseback with the girl, the cop's after them on a motorcycle and it's like a battle between motors and horses. Like, technology vs. horse.
posted by billysumday at 12:33 PM on November 17, 2005


Expo report:

Great things about the expo:

* cost - $75 to sign up. $4 for 90 minute seminars by some great speakers who are industry pros with real experience. Free talks by some giant names. Got to listen to William Goldman, David Koepp. John August and Josh Whedon were there also.

* content - best thing about the expo for me was that I came away with a more realistic feel for how the industry works. Also some good talks on the craft of writing. Top speakers for me were: Mark and Elaine Zicree, Linda Cowgill, Dov Simens.

Some more things about the expo, some good, some not so.

* crowds - 4000 people attended so it was noisy. The upside is that you get to meet some like-minded people. Despite the numbers there were no problems getting in to the seminars (graded "beginner", "advanced" and "pro").

* confusion - they lost my registration info, but the administrators was good enough to remedy the situation right away.

* crassness - the peddlers were out in full force. This was regrettable in at least two cases. Karl Iglesias and John Truby are both noted for giving good concrete advice on the nuts and bolts of screenwriting. *But* in one of Iglesias' seminars we were treated to a continual stream of promotional references to his books/DVDs/talks. And Truby did a hard sell at his booth in the expo. A bit of a turn off for me.

* swag factor - some pens, a "Do Not Disturb - screenwriter at work" sign, a "Day jobs suck" button. Hilarious peddling literature: "How to make a six figure income as a script consultant!!". "Pay $1500 and we'll e-mail your pitch to a thousand people!".

* Hunh? moment. At one of the seminars the speaker went on about the richness of the visual metaphors in the movie "English Patient". Particularly the contrasting use of "dryness" and "wetness". The only thing is the movie takes place in a *desert* so dryness comes with the um, territory.

* telling statistic. 1000 scripts were sold in Hollywood last year. Of those 70 were spec scripts, i.e. new writers.

* computing woes. To take part in the pitchfest, where you meet for 5 minutes with a rep from production companies and agents, you had to book ahead over the Net. Trouble was their little web app's not built to take the traffic. So you basically had to keep clicking continuously for *six* hours to get a slot. I'm glad I gave up.
posted by storybored at 6:16 PM on November 17, 2005


Big in pitches. Big in pitches.

Because when I read it on the front page, I thought "big pitches" was a Spoonerism.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:46 PM on November 17, 2005


Hunh? moment. At one of the seminars the speaker went on about the richness of the visual metaphors in the movie "English Patient". Particularly the contrasting use of "dryness" and "wetness". The only thing is the movie takes place in a *desert* so dryness comes with the um, territory.

Well, after a gap of almost a decade since I've seen it, I can still instantly think of three scenes which use water metaphors/imagery: the couple together in the bath, the bomb technician washing his hair, and the painted swimmers in the cave. There's probably more, but I would say that the water/desert imagery is pretty productive for that film.
posted by jokeefe at 11:38 PM on November 17, 2005


telling statistic. 1000 scripts were sold in Hollywood last year. Of those 70 were spec scripts, i.e. new writers.

Not exactly. A "spec script" is any script not written on assignment. Imagine you are an unsold writer, and you show your spec script A Thousand Magic Unicorns Vs. The Black Hole of Death to a producer. He says, "This is a brilliantly written script, but the budget is too big for my company to make. But I want to hire you to adapt the classic novel Whispers of a Coffee Shop." Whispers of a Coffee Shop is now the first script sale by a new writer--but because it's written on assignment, it doesn't show up as one of those 70 spec script sales.

And two years later, when you finally sell A Thousand Magic Unicorns for $10 million, it will count as one of those 70 spec sales, even though you are no longer a new writer.

Admittedly, it's pretty rare for a new writer to get an assignment without first selling a spec. But it does happen--in fact, it's exactly what happened to me.

On the other hand, it is probably more common for an experienced writer to sell a spec than for a brand new writer to get an assignment, which means that that "70 spec scripts" number probably understates how hard it is to break into the business, and so your overall point is still absolutely on the mark. I just didn't want people to misunderstand what "spec script" means.
posted by yankeefog at 3:34 AM on November 18, 2005


"A Thousand Magic Unicorns Vs. The Black Hole of Death"! You stole my spec script idea! Guess it's back to the drawing board...
posted by whl at 10:16 AM on November 18, 2005


Thanks Yankeefog for that important clarification.

Unfortunately, I didn't come across how many of those 70 specs were actually new writers. That would be nice to know.

Re: English Patient ...I would say that the water/desert imagery is pretty productive for that film...

I've no quarrels with the water imagery. It's the desert imagery issue that's the Hunh part. It'd be hard to make a film of The English Patient without a desert appearing in it. So to say it's part of the image/metaphor system is, imo, a little strange.

Another example of film analysis gone wacky: Truby in one of his seminars claimed that a storytelling technique that's often used is that of the Island. E.g. Mysterious Island, Island of Doctor Moreau, etc. He then went on to use King Kong as an example. He said that what makes the film so great is that there are two islands representing two different societies: Skull Island where Kong is found, and Manhattan where Kong dies. I don't know about anyone else but to me, the Empire State Building is more memorable and iconical in the movie than Manhattan Island.
posted by storybored at 10:49 AM on November 18, 2005


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