The Little Green Monster

I am currently 62 hours away from being done with my IndieGoGo campaign for Tales of the Sword, Episode Two: “The Scarlet Stalker.”  We started with a goal of $6,000 and we’re at $825 right now.  I’m very thankful for all the wonderful people in my life who donated, but last night I started feeling down.  Why?

Well, Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk started their IndieGoGo campaign for Con Man.  In a day and a half, they have managed to raise $1.2 Million (give or take a couple hundred thousand).  It’s not surprising.  In fact, my little fan girl squeed with the rest of geekdom and I’m going to donate as soon as I have some funds.  This donation is coming from both the desire to see them create lots of content, but also because I want to get access to their production blog so (as a professional) I can see how they run their project.  They are stars that have a rabid fanbase.  They are great actors and have a really exciting webseries.  I’m happy for them, and for me as an audience member who will get to see their creation.

But the creator in me was super jealous.  For just a second.  But only for a second, because I’ve done a lot of personal work on this and I have already come to realize what jealousy really is for me.  Behind the “I want what they have” grabby feeling is really longing, sadness, and doubt.

I came across this picture of ‘the green-eyed monster’ (jealousy) on the internet and couldn’t find an attributive tag, but it really summed up visually what I was feeling:

greeneyedmonster

When I’m feeling jealous, really what’s happening inside is that I have a longing for something good to also happen for me.  I am sad that I am not where I want to be with my own project.  But the kicker is I am feeling doubt.  The doubt comes from those moments of doubting my project is as interesting/wonderful as the other person’s project.  It’s doubting my ability to really do justice to my own work.  But it goes deeper than just the project…  These sorts of feelings attack us where we live.

My feelings are really about whether or not I’m loved.

This may seem illogical, but often we are equating our work getting funded with people valuing and loving us.  But only we can decide we are loved and it’s enough; no one can do that for us.  So we have to take this emotional response and return it to its more realistic state.

It’s really hard to reframe and think that funding really IS about the project and a billion variables, none of which have anything to do with us being loveable or worthy.

So I kick myself a little and then I sit back and look at the reality of things.  Nathan and Alan have been where I am now.  They even talked about it in their interview with i09.

Most all of us who don’t have a show-biz family or aren’t independently wealthy have to start out somewhere.  We hold down the day jobs.  We do creative work when and where we can.  We keep hoping and we don’t give up.  And for some, that is eventually rewarded.  But we wouldn’t have it any other way; we are committed to living creative lives and trying to make that work financially.

Today as I am winding down my campaign, I am thankful that I can be doing this at the level that I am, learning, making mistakes, and hopefully making content people will love.  I don’t believe in a world of scarcity, so I think there is enough for all of us to get what we need.  I will be cheering on Alan and Nathan and hoping that one day, they’ll be cheering me on as well.

Posted in Hollywood, Webseries

What I’m Learning from Basketball

No, I’m not playing.  The last time I did that was mandatory participation in High School PE.  What I am doing is watching the Miami Heat.

In past posts, I’ve shared how I learned from Ray Allen that you have to practice over and over again so you perform in the clutch.  It’s helped me deal with the idea that re-writing is a muscle and you have to work it out.  I was sad to see Ray Allen go, but I was happy I’d gotten the time I had with him on the team.

And then there has been lots of turmoil and shifting of personnel this year.  Lebron left.  I was only mad that he tried to take half the team with him.  We tried some new additions, some of which worked and some didn’t.  Recently they just let go of Norris Cole, whom I totally dug.  It was hard to watch him play against the Heat, and I have to admit that I cheered when he landed some shots.  But it was nice to see him get a warm welcome by the fans and press, and by his former teammates and coaches.  I was just a little sad.

norris norris 2

 

So how does this remotely apply to a career as a writer?  I think in two ways.

The first is that I hate change.  I’m the kind of person who goes into restaurants and orders the same thing most all of the time.  I like that feeling of stability throughout my life.  I like to plan, to have a schedule, and to have a pretty good idea of what I’m doing with myself for the next month or so.  I have some sort of idea that if you have a good thing, you shouldn’t change it.

This is not really how the world works.  No change leads to stagnation and boredom.  No change allows the people who are innovating (and writing new and exciting screenplays) to rush ahead of you in the race to get funding and attention.  It lets others study your moves so that they can anticipate (or counter) your every move if you’re in a competitive framework.  And you also can’t always do the things that used to work for you.   As I get older, that point gets shoved home repeatedly.

And the Norris Cole thing… I know he has two championships under his young belt now, but I’d like to think that maybe he’s got a shot at being the Dwayne Wade for some other team.  And maybe he wouldn’t have ever gotten to change and grow and become that if he’d never been traded.  At least I can hope this will bring out the best in him.  And I have to appreciate that we had Ray Allen but that he used to wear other colors.  Which leads me to my second point…

What we don’t often want to talk about is what we do when we’re not doing well.  Sure, half of the population whines and complains ad nauseam when things aren’t going right.  But in most cases, people stop there and don’t get to the point of the discussion which asks “how can we fix this?” and “what are our steps we take to get to the point where things will get better.”

The Heat impress me as a really class act, grace under pressure.  They haven’t been afraid to try a whole bunch of things to fix what’s not working, including that personnel shuffle I mentioned earlier.  I like the idea of building/rebuilding and maintaining yourself throughout as a class act.  I don’t think it’s bad to show weakness at this point in my life.  I even think that maybe it’s helpful to show that you’re not bulletproof.   Maybe my sentiments stem from the fact that I’m just a baby in the business.  But I’d like to think that showing you can fix things when they go wrong illustrates resilience and ingenuity.

I also think that basketball is teaching me that our personal connections are important, and if you treat everyone with respect, things won’t be horribly awkward when you meet them again, either as your opponent or as a returning team member.  I see players from opposing teams chatting and hugging it out before or after games, and I know that when the competition is over, they’re still friendlies.  Hollywood is an incredibly small “town,” and I’d rather not be the one who’s embarrassed about their behavior when that awkward reunion rolls around.  I want to be the one hugging it out.

It’s possible I’m dead wrong.  I’m not an expert.  But it’s what I’m thinking about right now.

Posted in General Update

The “Crowdfunding Hermit” Conundrum

It’s not that I don’t like people.  I do.  I like them a lot.  It’s just that I work.  Also a lot.  Two jobs worth at this moment.  But I’m also attempting to run an IndieGoGo campaign for the next episode of my webseries, Tales of the Sword Episode Two, “The Scarlet Stalker.”

One of the members of my awesome team pointed out to me the other day that it might be a good idea to get out in public and meet people.  You know, kiss some hands, shake some babies… “press the flesh,” as he called it (and yes, I had to ask him what that meant, too).  And I agreed whole-heartedly with him: there’s not much more effective than sharing your passions and projects with the public IN PERSON.

But I don’t have any networking events on the horizon.  I barely have time to hug the boyfriend, pet the cat, and watch an occasional episode of Scorpion.  I don’t have any regular groups, like book clubs or bowling leagues, and they frown a little on pimping your projects to the public while you’re at work.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to widen my digital footprint every since I read the article by Etta Devine for Ms. In the Biz entitled, “5 Reasons You’re Not Ready to Crowdfund.”  She talks about a “digital footprint,” and I’ve steadily been trying to increase mine.  I try and tweet more.  I occasionally wander over to Google+ to post, though more often than not I’m not engaging with other people save for the occasional +1 on someone’s Firefly or Dr. Who meme.

But I really want my campaign to be fun for me, something that I hope will translate to my audience out in the ether.  I want to have legitimate connections with people, to feel like I’m not just jumping in the middle of someone’s virtual conversation and asking them for money for my project.

Which I guess leads me back to my issue.  I feel like talking to people in person who haven’t already expressed an interest in what I’m working on is the equivalent of busting into a conversation I’m not a part of.  Perhaps I just haven’t practiced the art of steering the conversations to my own nefarious purposes.  Perhaps I’m just not making the connection that my passion and enjoyment should be leading my real life, too, so that I’m so bursting with fruit flavor about my project that people can’t help asking me what’s the secret to my glow of excitement.

And I am excited.  I’m just trying to figure out how to make you see that through your computer screen at the moment.

Posted in Webseries

Of Crowdfunding and Pre-production

On Monday we started the IndieGoGo campaign for Tales of the Sword Episode Two:  “The Scarlet Stalker.” 

I had been waiting a while for all the planets to line up, for people’s schedules to clear, and for the optimal time to start the fundraising and pre-production on the project.  As you might imagine, none of that happened.  People’s schedules get filled up with other things, my own included.

It’s been pointed out to me that I approach the element of planning and crowdfunding a little differently than other people.  I admit I don’t know exactly how much this episode is going to take to shoot.  I have a ballpark estimate.  Am I worried about that?  Not really.

You see, I had a ballpark estimate for Episode One.  I was off by about 3x what it actually took.  There were things that we had to fund that I had no idea we’d need.  Also, part of the notion of crowdfunding is that you get a set amount, and then you have to figure out how to make something that’s not a POS (to the best of your ability) and you can’t just throw money at the problems that arise because there is none.  If I get a small amount from the crowd, then I make adjustments (we don’t REALLY need extras, do we?).  If I get a large amount, then we shoot things as we initially imagine them.

I was having a conversation with my DP about this, and he was amazed that I would proceed when I didn’t know exactly how much the shoot was going to cost.  I told him about the ball-park figure, and he just shook his head.  It’s just not how he works.  My boyfriend had the same response.  He couched it in a metaphor that was at least more amenable to me :

I understand that it’s rough for people to follow a leader without a concrete, actionable plan in place.  I have a plan, but to me, it’s fluid.  It’s changeable.  It’s a “tentative plan.”  I’m comfortable with that.

I guess I feel like it’s not all that helpful to say I have a definitive budget when I know that it’s probably not.  I feel like that’s a lie to myself and to others when I know that there’s a ton of things that are going to change.  But I think it makes people feel better to have something concrete sitting in front of them so they appear to be on solid ground.

So I guess if I’m learning things, I would say that in building my next budget (monetarily and time-wise) that I need to build either 3x what I think I’ll need and tell everyone that this is the definitive budget.  It will make them feel better, even though I will know that regardless of what I set it at, there will be changes.  Maybe I will tell everyone that we have a solid, 95% plan, all the while knowing that we’re probably at 12% (which is, after all, better than 11).

Posted in General Update, Webseries

Practice and the Team

Yesterday I got some good and bad news.  I got the letter from Austin Film Festival that my screenplay had made it through the second round but had not made it into the semifinals.

I was sort of happy because being in the second round meant that my script was in the top 15% of around 6,764 entries.   That means about a thousand scripts made the cut.  However, semifinals are just 8 scripts, finals 3, and then 1 winner.  These sorts of odds are actually better than the ones for screenwriters in Hollywood from what I can tell.

I knew the script needed revision.  I’d had the privilege of getting notes from some great (and sometimes brutally honest) people and I knew I had work to do still.  I’d gotten the notes AFTER I’d sent the script in to AFF, but I think I knew that it needed revision even at that point in time.

The thing is, you hope that like in gradeschool, you’ll get some sort of “pass” for effort, for the innate talent a reader might see in your script.  But in the business of screenwriting, the only “pass” is the “we don’t really see your script working for us; best luck in the future!” sort of rejection.  Rather than moving you up, they are moving on without you!

I suppose I have a character defect that I’m still working on.  Things came way too easily for me when I was young.  I didn’t actually NEED an outline for writing until I was working on my Masters.  I’m not trying to brag here.  I’m trying to admit that it made me a little lazy.  I have some notion that everything is supposed to come easy, and that I can coast through my writing career in the same way I did almost all of my education, with the equation of least amount of effort for maximum grade.

So I’m working on this character defect.  I realize I can’t expect to roll out of bed and write a brilliant script.  I can roll out of bed and write a pretty good script.  But not one that will make the cut, that steep percentage that’s required to get a script sold and made into a film.

I was lamenting about all of this to my SO last night at dinner, and he gave me a great metaphor.  He used the example of LeBron James.  LeBron had tons of innate potential, was on his way to becoming great, but he had holes in his game and didn’t really have a team built around him to help him rise up.  It took him coming to Miami and working with some talented folks to help him develop his skills.  He now has an awesome three point shot and a much better free throw percentage.  He had an incredibly talented team around him that made it possible for him to shine and for all of them to become a championship team.

Now LeBron couldn’t have become what he is without the other players who worked and sacrificed for him.  I think of the fact that Chris Bosh pretty much had to remake himself as a player so the team could pull off some of it’s objectives on the court.  And you can’t have a triumvirate without the amazing skills and never-give-up attitude of Dwayne Wade.

But it’s Ray Allen that I’d like to use as a role model I think.  I appreciate that he’s always cool under fire, he’s dependable, and he always pulls it off in the pinch.  He’s solid.  He celebrates for a moment (his gunslinger move!) and then he’s back at work.   If I had to say someone epitomized the cheesy advertising slogan, “Never let them see you sweat,” then it would be Ray Allen (metaphorically speaking).

Extended sports metaphors aside, I have a really talented team around me.  I feel like that is really coming together.  But I need to adopt the belief that you always have to put in the practice and hard work to get better.  You can’t rely on some innate talent you might have.  You have to practice the “free throws” of writing until you can get that swish almost every time.  You have to practice so that it’s all second nature.  You have to practice so that you can execute your moves as flawlessly as possible under pressure.

Chuck Wendig terms the first drafts as “forging the sword,” which of course I like love, not just because I have an affinity for sharp pointy things but because I’ve always hated the term “puke draft” when applied to anything that’s come out of me creatively.  I like the idea of forging the sword, and then during the rewrite, sharpening it until it’s deadly.

I know I’ve gotten better with every script I’ve written.  That’s been the point in sharpening when you’re hacking off rough edges.  But in order to make the cut, I need all the finer skills to hone the blade.  It’s only by hard work that I can get my scripts up into that 1% echelon.

I’m not a fan of hard work.  But my team deserves my best, and really, so do I.

Posted in Uncategorized

Cannibal Clown Killer – Episode One Trailer

Last year I helped pen a webseries called Cannibal Clown Killer with a group of talented writers, including J.T. Carlman, Chris Lewis Carter, and Patrick Higgins (also the director/producer).  Patrick went into production and shot the first episode, with plans to shoot the rest if investor capital could be gained.

Kelly Kula stars as our Hero, who is attempting to gain vengeance on the clowns who killed her parents, and she’s killing any clown who dares stand in her way!  The episode is shot by our friends at Inner Image Media.

Last night at Lionsgate, the cast, crew, friends, and interested parties screened the first episode, “Kill ‘Em If They Can’t Take A Joke.”

Although the episode is not up for public viewing, here is a trailer for Cannibal Clown Killer:

 

Enjoy!

Posted in Webseries Tagged with: ,

Tales of the Sword is live!

IMG_0044f

We have now launched the first episode of my webseries, Tales of the Sword!

Episode One, “A Lady’s Honor,” is set in the 1790s.  It’s the story of a brother’s quest to protect his sister’s honor by challenging her paramour to a duel.  However, is he really trying to protect her honor, or increase his?

Check out the progress of the webseries at Tales of the Sword!

 

Enjoy!

 

Posted in Webseries Tagged with:

The Business of the Business

This phrase has been used to describe those sorts of things involved with being a screenwriter which are not a part of the writing process but part of making a professional career out of screenwriting.  Most all of the writers I know, myself included, love the writing (or having written) part of the equation, but struggle mightily with the business end of things.

Right now I’m in post production on the first episode of my webseries, Tales of the Sword.  I’ve found that everything takes three times as long as you think it will take and costs at least that much more.  Things move especially slowly when you don’t have a lot of money to throw at problems.  And since we are a small operation, it falls to me, the producer (as well as writer-director), to do most of the things which fall into the marketing and advertising category.

I’ve been reading some books on producing, and I’ve learned a lot from those tomes of wisdom (which I will provide titles for below).  One of the things I learned was that there is a position know as a PMD, Producer of Marketing and Distribution.  I realize I’m not helming a feature film at this point, but it would be great to have someone else to figure out how to put together a FB page, and Indiegogo campaign, reach out to twitter groups and followers, and the myriad of other things I am trying to do for this series.  I really want a PMD!!

Alas, since I had no idea a professional like that existed, it is not in the budget.  It’s not that I can’t do these things… In the words of Stuart Smalley, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”  But it’s a lot for one person and I haven’t figured out how to get my heart into the process.  I don’t want to be one of the self-promotion machines where you can tell they don’t care about you and your niche (fill in the blank) group and are just trying to sell you on their latest product/project.  I want to tweet because I’m excited and having fun, not because I have to or I’m going to fail.

I want what I do to be because I’m inspired.  But here is the catch… I can’t do what I am inspired to do (write and make movies) unless I can make the business side of screenwriting work for me.

For many writers, the business side includes finding a manager or agent and taking meetings.  For me, because I’m going the DIY route, the business is learning how to produce, learning how to be a media maven, learning how to be an accountant, learning how to be zen when things go poorly or slowly, learning how to pick up new skills I never thought I’d need…

Through all this, I try to remember why I create and why I want to keep creating.  But producing is hard, and I haven’t gotten my second wind yet…

Book Links:

Suzanne Lyons, Independent Film Producing: The Craft of Low Budget Filmmaking

Sidney Lumet, Making Movies

…and currently reading Stacey Parks, The Insider’s Guide to Independent Film Distribution

 

Posted in Uncategorized

“The beginning is a very delicate time…”

Every since I was a young girl, I wanted to be a writer.  I’d pound away on my parent’s old manual typewriter and create new worlds on paper.  When I was in Jr. High, I used my computer science class to write a Choose Your Own Adventure book.  But when I got into High School, there was a lot of pressure to choose a career and a field of study.

And of course EVERYONE knows you can’t make a living as a writer, so…

I went to college to study English (with a minor in Drama) with the intention of becoming a High School teacher.  And I did.  I taught Jr/Sr High in a very small town, then went back to the university to get a Masters degree.  My focus was Medieval and Comparative Lit.  Which basically meant I would be, for the most part, teaching introductory comp and rhetoric to disinterested college Freshman.  But it was a job with a paycheck, retirement, and the joy of knowing you were changing the world one mind at a time.

It was at that time my Brother was looking for a short script to direct.  He approached me and I started putting some words onto paper.  I had to make some adjustments, as screenplays weren’t like stage plays, but there were many things which translated.  I wrote a short, then wrote a feature script, then another short… and I was hooked.

I hopscotched over two states and finally landed in Los Angeles on April Fool’s Day, a very apt moment for me to arrive.  I’ve been here almost nine years now, and I love living in this crazy town.

I worked at a variety of day jobs and I can tell you that no matter what I might have thought of them at the time, each one was a critical learning experience to bring me where I am today.  I’ve grown over time to accept that I have the desire to Director as well as be a Screenwriter, though Producing is really difficult and something I have only taken on out of necessity.  But someone has to do it!

Anyway, this blog is where I’ll keep people updated on my writing, film career, and all sorts of things related to Hollywood.  I’m looking forward to having many grand adventures to tell you about ’round the proverbial campfire at night.

May you be blessed~

M

Posted in General Update