Wednesday, September 11, 2013

NETFLIX

My documentary MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS is now streaming on Netflix.  Check it out.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

TWITTER

You can follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

COMING SOON TO INTERNET RADIO




Tens of thousands of screenplays will travel into Hollywood this year only to get turned away at the border.  Most screenplays fail at the idea stage, lacking a cinematic concept and basic dramatic constructs.   And those who deal in the script trade can detect most of the catastrophes from a simple query letter. 

THE INSIDE PITCH is a live half-hour Internet radio show that features writers pitching their story ideas to Hollywood executive, filmmaker and educator Christopher Lockhart, who will provide constructive feedback – either of the nurturing or punishing kind. Writers may be critiqued on pitching style, story elements or anything else that pops into Lockhart’s mercurial head.   It’s a fun and fast and furious 30 minutes that provides an inside look at how a story professional dissects a pitch.


Writers can follow the link to find the show and call in at 646-716-9113 on Monday February 25th from 6:30-7:00PM ET/3:30-4:00PM PT.  The show will be archived afterward for convenient listening 24 hours a day. 

This is the chance to have a meaningful dialogue about the strengths and weaknesses of your story and earn a passport through the border patrol. 
   
THE INSIDE PITCH Internet radio show is your opportunity to finally get someone from Hollywood on the phone.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"THE INSIDE PITCH" ON FACEBOOK


The part-time blog now has a full-time presence on FACEBOOK.  Come join the conversation HERE.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS" ON DVD


My documentary MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS has arrived on DVD. The film made its theatrical debut in 2010 and its broadcast premiere on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011. It's available for purchase at most DVD online retailers like Amazon and via digital purchase or rental on iTunes.




The film is part of the "OWN Documentary Club," which features other titles like Bailey and Barbato's Emmy nominated "Becoming Chaz" and the Forest Whitaker produced "Serving Life." MVP has played at film festivals around the world and won the "Documentary Channel Audience Award" at the 2011 Nashville Film Festival, amongst other accolades. (It's playing in Calgary, Canada this month and in San Luis Obisbo next month. )



The documentary follows three Pennsylvania high schools en route to the Freddy Awards, a live television event that's sort of the Tony Awards for high school musicals. Matthew D. Kallis directed the film. I produced and wrote the documentary after coming upon a clip from the Freddy Awards on Youtube.




The DVD features eight additional minutes that were not seen on the OWN broadcast. The EXTRAS include an introduction by Oprah Winfrey, a reunion with cast members, nine deleted scenes, an outtakes reel and filmmaker commentary.

Here's the trailer:





Here's a review from a September 2011 issue of "Star Magazine."


Follow MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS on FACEBOOK.




On another note, I'll be the guest of Final Draft's "The Insider View," a live webinar on March 20th. You can find all the information HERE.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

I WROTE A 120 PAGE SCRIPT BUT CAN'T WRITE A LOGLINE

I recently updated my article on logline construction called "I Wrote a 120 Page Script but Can't Write a Logline."

Along with additional information and analysis of eight loglines, I've also added 300 loglines (from produced screenplays) to use for study or as examples and templates.

The article is in PDF form and free to read or download HERE.

For the first time, I've enabled the "comments" section of this blog. Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions on loglines.






Monday, November 14, 2011

SCREENWRITING CONTESTS


It seems like a new screenwriting contest is born every day.   Many make promises or allusions to opening Hollywood doors and exposing winning scripts to green-lighters.   And new screenwriters shell out entry fees hoping a win will be their golden ticket inside.  Unfortunately, most screenwriting contests do not have the clout or visibility level to help a writer achieve that objective.   

I don’t have a problem with contests, because they are helpful in keeping writers goal oriented, providing some adrenaline and hopeful thoughts, and maybe even boasting rights.  Some contests actually shell out prize money that can help make writing the next script a little easier.

But since most contests are ineffective in forging Hollywood careers, they aren’t a viable way into the business.  Using a contest or two as an adjunct to better writing and smarter networking is wiser strategy, in my opinion.  Two contests that have been effective in opening doors for writers are the Nicholl Fellowship and the Trackingb Contest.   Both are very different but have better odds than others in introducing new writers to Hollywood.

While there are lots of pros and cons with screenwriting contests (probably more of the latter than former), my bone of contention is in the judging process. 

The judging in most screenwriting contests is disingenuous.  Since contest judges get paid very little or nothing at all, it’s absurd to assume that a judge, assigned 30 scripts (as an example), will read each script cover to cover.    Let’s say it takes a judge 90 minutes to read a script.  (It takes me two hours to read a 120 page script, but I’ll speculate at a faster rate of speed.)      A judge will have invested 45 hours into reading those 30 scripts.   If he gets paid ten dollars a script, he’s earned about $6.60 an hour.  I guess in these hard economic times, any salary is appreciated.  But, in reality, the way to make that $10 a script fee pay off is to reduce the amount of hours put into reading.   That $6.60 an hour can easily be transformed into $13 an hour by reading the 30 scripts in half the amount of time.   How is that accomplished? By simply reading the first five or ten pages of each script and tossing aside the screenplays that suck.   This is a reality of screenplay contests.  This is the way most judging occurs.  There is little to no transparency in this process.  Because judging is done at home, away from contest administrators, bosses can turn a blind eye to the practice.
 
Ethically speaking, this is the way Hollywood itself treats scripts.  Most agents or producers aren’t going to read more than ten pages if they cannot connect with the material.  Of course, the difference between Hollywood and screenwriting contests is that Hollywood doesn’t charge the writer.  Contests charge entry fees and, I suspect,  some contestants believe their scripts are read from fade-in to fade-out.     I’d have more respect for contests if they simply described the entry fee as an administration fee that did not guarantee any script be read in its entirety.    But that might turn-off potential contestants, who believe their script should be read cover-to-cover.  (And I happen to agree.)     This is the dirty little secret of screenwriting contests.  

I’d say that as a script progresses toward finalist status, it’s far more likely to be read from beginning to end.  If a script is bumped out early – probably not.     In defense of contests, can anyone say that the voting process for, as an example, the Oscars or Golden Globes is done with anymore integrity?   The process of getting into film festivals probably isn't any better either.   As a result, writers entering contests might suspect some of these indiscretions yet choose to accept them with the hopes if they win the big prize, it won’t matter in the end. 
   
Since contests seem to be more popular than ever before (thanks to the Internet), Sean Hinchey has penned a new book called WRITE IT TO WIN IT!39 SECRETS FROM A SCREENWRITING CONTEST JUDGE.  I wrote the foreword.  The book takes an insider's approach to contests and offers a no-nonsense, practical look at screenwriting that focuses on contests but is a solid tutorial on the craft of writing a script.  


Love or hate these contests, there is a proliferation of them – probably enough that an assiduous contestant could enter one for every day of the year.  And for those writers, who seem to make contests their business, this is a book worth your time and investment. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

GOTHAM INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS


My documentary MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS is one of 29 films (both fiction & non-fiction) in the running for the "Audience Award" category at the Gotham Independent Film Awards sponsored by the IFP and Film Genius.

You can vote for MVP HERE.

1) You need to register your name, e-mail and password. (Quick & easy process.)

2) Then vote for FIVE films by clicking on "vote" next to the thumbnails. (You must select five films in order for your votes to count.)

3) After selecting your five, click on SUBMIT VOTES toward the top of the page.


The five films with the most votes will get the nomination.

Thanks for supporting independent filmmaking!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

MVP PREMIERES ON SEPTEMBER 8 AT 9PM ET/PT


My documentary finally airs on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network this coming Thursday September 8th at 9PM ET/PT.

The film revolves around the "Freddy Awards," a live television event in eastern PA that celebrates high school musical theater. In the vein of "Spellbound," the doc follows three teen theater troupes and their creative journeys to, what some consider, the Tony Awards for high school musicals.

The film examines the disparity between sports and the arts in our schools and is a love letter to performing arts education - which was a big part of my high school years.

The International Documentary Association (IDA) called it: "The feel good documentary of the year.

The above review is from this week's "Star Magazine."

Here's Matt Roush's review from TV GUIDE:



Sleeper of the Week: Like a real-life Glee, and possibly the most charming and disarming documentary since BBC America's The Choir last summer, the OWN Documentary Club presents Most Valuable Players (9/8c), which puts the spotlight on the "Freddy Awards," a yearly competition for high school musical theater in the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) region. This 90-minute film tracks three high schools as they put on their shows — the rivalry intensified when two schools decide to do Les Miz — then sweat out the nominations and awards. The camaraderie among the theater kids is touching and funny, and the emotion is palpable when the awards' ebullient coordinator is diagnosed with cancer but is determined to present the award for that year's outstanding musical production. I can't remember when I last enjoyed a Tony broadcast this much. A genuine treat.


Please tune in or set your DVR!





http://www.mostvaluableplayersmovie.com/


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

OPRAH'S AN MVP



The Oprah Winfrey Network's Documentary Club premiered in May with BECOMING CHAZ, the story of Sonny and Cher's daughter (Chastity) transitioning into a man.

OWN airs one of the club's feature-length documentaries a month.

My doc MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS airs this fall (TBA).

Here's a SNEAK PEAK at some of the Documentary Club's films.

Find OWN on your TV channel line-up here.






Follow MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS on Facebook.


The film is available for educational licensing through ro*co educational.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

AT LEAST HE'S TRYING...

The arrival of query letters is a daily occurence. Hundreds a month. They most often arrive through e-mail, but the USPS still delivers a healthy amount too.

Today I received one with a Triboro NY postmark - which encompasses Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. I grew up in SINY, so it caught my eye.

When I flipped over the small envelope, there was a protruding piece of film strip. The end of the strip had been folded into the envelope, allowing the rest to hang out. The sealed envelope flap kept it in place. (When I inspected the film strip up to the light, it revealed Naomi Watts and King Kong.)



I opened the envelope to find nothing but a blank piece of blue paper, the size of a business card.

But the outside of the envelope was adorned with a tiny stamp - three simple Youtube search words - which led me to a video. I was greeted by a young man with an accent who opted not to pitch his project but to explain instead how several of his ideas had transpired into big Hollywood movies conceived by others. He felt certain that his lastest idea would also be commandeered by Hollywood, and he was giving me the opportunity to snatch it up before someone else stumbled upon the same concept.

I didn't find his pitch as interesting as I did another video which documents his preparation for the query assault. Over 1000 of these little envelopes proliferated the town.

I suspect his strategy won't be all that successful, but he clearly demonstrates an active desire. (He just needs a script to back it up.)

But all this prompts me to ask: What have you done today to get a step closer to success?

Here's the initial PITCH.

Friday, January 14, 2011

THE ED LIMATO MEMORIAL SERVICE



Legendary talent agent Ed Limato, who died July 3, 2010, was celebrated Tuesday night, January 11, 2011 at the Paramount Theater on the lot of Paramount Studios. 500+ guests attended. Producers like Jerry Bruckheimer and Joel Silver, studio heads like Jeff Robonov, agency gurus like Ari Emanuel and Bryan Lourd, movie stars galore and many of his co-workers from throughout the years came to pay tribute to the man who all agree was the last of a dying breed. Limato spent most of his career at ICM and William Morris (later WME).



The evening was orchestrated by Limato acolyte-turned WME talent agent Andrew Finkelstein, who personally handled a few of the agent’s fabled Oscar parties, and treated this event as if his bare-footed boss were present. Gina Wade Creative Inc. helped organize the celebration.

Ed Limato’s family was present, including his sister Angela. His 99-year-old mother, who survived him, died in Mount Vernon, NY just six days before the service.

Limato was eulogized by his four most famous clients: Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Denzel Washington. Talent manager and former Limato assistant Richard Konigsberg hosted the evening, which began with WME head Patrick Whitesell remembering when he was a young agent chatting with Limato on the phone. Limato asked what Whitesell was up to, and the younger agent responded, “Trying to be you, Ed.” Whitesell mused that all agents wanted to channel a piece of Ed Limato.

A video featuring film clips with Limato clients offered up some of the most successful and beloved movies of all time like "Lethal Weapon" (Gibson), "Field of Dreams" (Costner), "Pretty Woman" (Gere) and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. Also, a lifetime compilation of Limato photos, accompanied by some of his favorite songs, brought him back to life for a moment. And amazing twenty-three-year-old baritone Elliot Madore sang “Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen” from the German opera “The Dead City” by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. (Korngold wrote the terrific score for Errol Flynn’s 1938 classic “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”)

Guests were given a card adorned with a picture of Limato on one side and a list of his favorite classic movies on the other. When Richard Gere took to the podium, he observed that none of his films were on Limato’s list. He polled Gibson, Pfeiffer and Washington in the front row, rhetorically asking if any of their films were on the list. They all shook their heads.

Richard Gere had been a Limato client for over 30 years and referred to his agent as, “A fiery, passionate person. Ed was so Italian. He was an opera.” Gere fretted over the fact that for the first time in his career he had to meet with new agents. Denzel Washington confirmed the fact that the protective Limato never introduced him to other agents. Gere also noted that it was the first time Limato’s four clients had ever been in a room together. WME agent and former Limato assistant Troy Zien, speaking on behalf of the former Limato trainees and assistants, said there was a reason the quartet had never been in a room together: It was the way Limato wanted it. They were all his favorites and he insisted on preserving that for each of them.  

Gere remarked that he had been in Detroit filming, heard that Limato didn’t have much time left and flew to LA to be by his agent’s side. On the way to Limato’s “Heather House,” Gere got the call his longtime friend had died.

Michelle Pfeiffer was 23 when her agent resigned and turned her over to Ed Limato, a name she recognized but a man she’d never met. Limato always envisioned her as the Marilyn Monroe-type, which wasn’t quite in line with her thinking. He once called her before an award ceremony and told her that Giorgio Armani wanted to dress her. She responded, “Who’s that and why on earth would I need someone to dress me?” “I think it’s a good idea,” he told her. She followed his instructions, but instead of settling on one of Armani’s classic beaded gowns, she chose a black dress suit instead. “Poor Ed,” she said, “I fell a tad short of the glamour-puss he had envisioned.” After playing some character roles, Limato tried to chaperone her back into the glamour parts. He once warned her in his inimitable style, “If you think your public wants to see you in another wig and accent, you’re mistaken.” Michelle Pfeiffer’s memories were heartfelt and romanticized – like a daughter dreaming about her dad. She remembers just hanging out in his office while he worked – simply because she felt safe there.

Denzel Washington told the audience that he grew up in Mount Vernon, NY where Limato was born and, coincidentally, lived in a house that Limato's father had built. He spoke about Limato being openly gay and proud. An emotional Washington, a terrific orator, had to stop on several occasions to regain composure. He finished by noting that the light from a star takes eons to travel to earth, so Limato’s light would shine down for years to come.

A confident Mel Gibson took the stage without a hint of controversy. Ed Limato made Mel Gibson a superstar and Mel Gibson made Ed Limato a super agent. If anyone deserved to be there, it was him. If Gibson really is an anathema in Hollywood, you wouldn’t have known it. Gibson remembered the irreverent side to Limato in his funny, frenetic and literate way. He was sure “Eddy” was in a better place. He confessed to signing with Limato simply because upon first making his agency rounds, Ed Limato was the only agent who didn’t brush him off. Instead, he sat the future Oscar winner down and offered him a cup of coffee. He even joked that the agent taught him his “phone etiquette.” He closed by remembering that Limato once made him promise he would never have another agent after him. Gibson took a quick, sly glance at the room full of agents and then up to the heavens, saying he had kept his promise.

Troy Zien remembered the endless stories of assistants appeasing Limato. With the help of a power point presentation, Zien illustrated two identical cups of coffee. He asked the audience if they could tell the difference. They couldn’t. Neither could Limato, he joked. It seemed that the life of a Limato assistant was easier if, at around 4:00pm, he simply switched out the boss's cup of coffee for the decaffeinated kind. Limato never knew, and the late afternoon had fewer bumps.



Limato kept a massive fish tank in his office with all kinds of exotic fish. The tradition began, it seems, when Pfeiffer gave her agent a puffer fish 20 years ago. That fish died, but to prevent Limato from grieving, the assistant simply replaced it with a look-a-like puffer without telling the agent. Over the years, assistants switched out hundreds of dead puffers.** As far as Limato knew, it was the same fish Pfeiffer gave him all those years ago. Pfeiffer enjoyed the story, as she had never heard it before.



Zien pointed out many of Limato’s eccentricities – like his refusal to take down his Christmas tree until Valentine’s Day – in spite of the fact that by Martin Luther King’s birthday, it was already reduced to a pile of twigs with barely enough substance to hold the fading tinsel.

The evening concluded when Sir Elton John took a seat at the piano. He reminisced about Ed Limato visiting him in France each summer. Then he played a moving rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” There was something surreal about watching this music icon perform in such a small venue. One guest said she wanted to close her eyes and get lost in the song but refused to take her eyes off Sir Elton.

Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were served afterward in the lobby and then the bravest of movie fans ventured back into the theater at about 9:30pm for a two hour and forty minute screening of Judy Garland’s "A Star is Born" - one of Limato’s favorite films. (I once told him that I preferred the Janet Gaynor/Fredric March version. He looked at me with genuine disdain and asked, “How can someone so smart be so dumb?”)



When it was all over, the consensus was the celebration of Ed Limato’s life was exactly the way he would have wanted it.

On December 16th of 2010, the “Limato boys” (those who had worked for Ed over the last decade or so) gathered for dinner and drinks at Madeo’s in West Hollywood in his honor. It was Limato’s favorite Italian restaurant.



Afterward, we went up to Heather House for a private celebration of the man. In July 2009, we had gathered around him on his living room couch for a picture; it was Ed Limato's final birthday. This past December, we posed around the couch again.




** My favorite fish story is attributed to Limato assistant Jared, who left the office blinds open at the start of a hot summer weekend. When we returned to work on Monday morning – all the fish had been boiled. Thousands of dollars worth of fish had to be replaced before Mr. L arrived and discovered his beloved aquarium had been reduced to seafood bouillabaisse. (Jared is now living happily in Michigan.)


Below is a recipe for Limato's favorite Cabbage Soup Diet:








ED LIMATO JULY 10, 1936 - JULY 3, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

IF YOU'RE SURFING THE NET...





Check out the "Roundtable" series produced by The Hollywood Reporter. The series features writers, directors, actors and more in group interview settings. Some of Hollywood's most talented and influential filmmakers & performers discuss provocative topics with candor and humor.








The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has spent years producing in-depth interviews with TV artists, legends and pioneers for its "Archive of American Television." The sessions (some several hours) examine career details and the history of broadcasting. This is an incredible and important resource for anyone who's ever watched television.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

OWN Documentary Club







My documentary MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS has been acquired by Oprah Winfrey for her new cable channel, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. OWN will premiere on January 1, 2011 in 75+ million homes.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS joins a line-up of cinematic documentaries comprising the network’s upcoming documentary film club, similar to Oprah’s book club, set to begin spring 2011.

OWN has partnered with ro*co productions, a renowned documentary distribution company - with a library that includes “Jesus Camp,” "Born into Brothels," “Hoop Dreams,” and “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” - to identify and recommend films for the network. OWN will air one documentary each month in primetime and build a multiplatform "experience" around the film to turn it into what the network calls an "event."

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS follows three high school theater troupes and their creative journeys to the “Freddy Awards” - a live, televised event modeled after Broadway’s Tony Awards - that recognizes excellence in high school musical theater. The film demonstrates that arts education encourages the same teamwork, camaraderie and confidence as sports – in spite of the inequity between the two in high schools across America. The film is directed by Matthew D. Kallis.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS made its theatrical debut in New York City and Los Angeles this past summer as part of the International Documentary Association's DocuWeeks. The film is currently playing the film festival circuit, having premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival in Northern California last month.

Other acquisitions for the OWN "doc club” are “Family Affair,” “Life 2.0,” "One Lucky Elephant," “65_RedRoses,” and “Sons of Perdition.”

MVP plays next at the Stella Artois St. Louis International Film Festival on November 17th @ 7PM at the Tivoli Theater, and will travel to New Zealand in February 2012 for the Documentary Edge Festival.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

MVP in San Francisco & Chicago


My documentary MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS will make its film festival world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival in California. It screens on October 10th and October 15th. TICKET INFO.

We'll also be participating in the Chicago International Children's Film Festival on October 23rd. TICKET INFO.

And come see us at the St. Louis International Film Festival in November. (Dates TBA.)

Critics have called MVP "a heartfelt Valentine," "a winner," "infectuous," "a happy film."

Michael Lumpkin of the International Documentary Association calls MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS, "the feel good documentary of the year."

LISTEN to Claudia Puig (USA Today) and Lael Loewenstein (Variety) review the film.

And here's what Kevin Thomas, the venerable Los Angeles Times film critic, said about MVP:

Matthew D. Kallis’ irresistible documentary “Most Valuable Players” charts the sixth year of the Freddys, which are the equivalent of the Tony Awards for the high schools of Lehigh Valley, PA.

Kallis discovers a win-win situation all around. The students get both a terrific, joyous experience in performing and a great learning experience. The non-profit State Center for Performing Arts, where the locally televised Freddy Award ceremonies are held annually, is a glorious old movie and vaudeville palace superbly recycled, in turn gets much-needed publicity for its entire calendar of events. The Freddys, named for a 1940s manager of the theater said to haunt it benignly, has become a major event throughout Lehigh Valley.

Of the many high schools in Lehigh Valley with stage productions in competition for the Freddys, Kallis wisely focuses on just three: Freedom High in Bethlehem, Emmaus High in Emmaus, and Parkland High in Allentown. By coincidence both Emmaus’s small high school and the much larger Parkland have chosen to compete with the formidable “Les Miserables”—and had scheduled to perform them locally on the same night. Meanwhile, Freedom, another big school, is weighing in with “Bye-Bye Birdie.”

Among those individuals who stand out are Shelley Brown, a former PBS producer who is the president and CEO of the State, a chic, savvy woman of much warmth; Vic Kumma, the Freddys coordinator and a beloved local hero; and Freedom High drama teacher Jennifer Wescoe, who has a gift for keeping her students grounded while inspiring them to soar. Among the students who make the strongest impressions are John Andreadis, a charismatic soccer player cast as “Birdie’s” Elvis-like hero and Zachary Gibson, sidelined from sports by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, who found a new avenue of achievement on stage.

Kallis generates suspense and handles an unexpected, potentially tragic development with grace. Generous glimpses of the film’s three competing productions suggest that they are most impressive, and as for the expertly staged Freddy ceremonies, they look to be more fun than the Tonys themselves.




MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS website

Thursday, August 26, 2010

WHAT'S NEXT FOR MVP?


My documentary had a successful two-week run in New York City (at the IFC Center) and in Los Angeles (at the ArcLight Hollywood). It was a lot of fun and a great experience to share the indie doc with audiences on both coasts.

Thanks to everyone who came out to support the film and performing arts education. Special thanks to the staff and volunteers at the International Documentary Association.

In October, we begin the fall film festival circuit and will be traveling the country, making stops in San Francisco, Chicago and St. Louis, to name a few cities. Join me at Facebook, the MVP website or this blog to stay up-to-date on where the film will be in the next few months.

LISTEN to what USA Today critic Claudia Puig and Los Angeles Times/Variety critic Lael Loewenstein think about MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS.


Sunday, August 15th's showing of MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS at the ArcLight Hollywood.

Friday, July 16, 2010

DOCUWEEKS


My documentary MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS, directed by Matthew D. Kallis, will make its world premiere at the International Documentary Association's DocuWeeks™.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS demonstrates performing arts education in action, as it follows three high school theater troupes and their creative journeys to the "Freddy Awards" - the Tony Awards for high school musical theater.

The 2010 edition of DocuWeeks™ will present 17 feature films and 5 shorts from over a dozen different countries in theatrical runs designed to qualify the films for consideration for The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ annual Oscar® Awards – and give documentary fans a chance to catch some of the best examples of the genre.

“Once again DocuWeeks™ gives film-goers in Los Angeles and New York City their first opportunity to see some of the year’s most celebrated and talked-about documentary films,” says IDA Executive Director Michael Lumpkin. “With award-winning films from Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, SXSW, and Silverdocs, this year’s program is an outstanding collection of must-see films.”

Lumpkin said the IDA was impressed with the quality of MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS and the skill in which the students' talents are displayed. "This is just such a wonderfully engaging film with great characters," he said. "It's made so well you really get caught up in the excitement, the competition and the talent of these high school students."

Some past DocuWeeks™ participants are Jesus Camp, Spellbound, The Wrecking Crew, Garbage Dreams and Oscar® winners Born into Brothels, The Blood of Yingzbou, Chernobyl Heat and Taxi to the Dark Side.


MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS will run at the IFC Center in New York City from August 6th - 12th.

And in Los Angeles at the ArcLight Hollywood from August 13th - 19th.

Tickets for the New York City run can be purchased HERE.

Tickets for the Los Angeles run can be purchased HERE.

Tickets can also be purchased at the box-office.

Meet the cast & crew during Q&As in New York City on August 6th, 7th & 9th - after the PM showing. And in Los Angeles on August 14th, 15th & 17th - after the PM showing.


FLIER with live links.





Read the IDA's interview with director Kallis HERE.

Join us on FACEBOOK. Visit our IMDB page.

Friday, July 02, 2010

REMEMBERING ED LIMATO



Iconic Hollywood talent agent Ed Limato, who spent more than four decades guiding the careers of superstars such as Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Denzel Washington and Steve Martin, died Saturday July 3rd at his Beverly Hills, CA home surrounded by friends and family. He was a few days shy of 74.

While the laity imagines a Hollywood talent agent as something they've seen on “Entourage,” Ed Limato had his own definition. He was in a class by himself - an iconoclast, as Vanity Fair once called him - a talent agent who glided through Hollywood with poise and panache. He hearkened back to the Golden Age, a time when men were more refined and elegant, as if he were preparing for an evening at the Mocambo. Yet despite his reverence for Hollywood of yore, his client list kept him active and relevant into the 21st century. He was as colorful as he was powerful. Always handsomely coiffed and impeccably dressed, Limato would promenade into the office wearing Italian suits of mustard yellow or salmon pink, rallying to his assistants, “Let’s talk to the stars.”

Limato’s love for old Hollywood was not just apparent in his demeanor, his two acre Coldwater Canyon Estate, known as “Heather House,” was built in 1936 by movie stars Dick Powell and Joan Blondell and later owned by George Raft. The game room was adorned with Hirschfeld caricatures acquired from the old MGM commissary, and his screening room was named after Marlene Dietrich. He even gave his assistants a list of classic Hollywood films that they were to watch and report back to him with analysis.

Limato is the last of the great Hollywood talent agents – a breed that dwindled with the loss of Stan Kamen and Irving “Swifty” Lazar. Over the years, his client list read like a who’s who of Hollywood royalty and Oscar winners, including Antonio Banderas, Michael Biehn, Nicholas Cage, Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Claire Danes, Geena Davis, James Franco, Matthew Fox, Ava Gardner, Melanie Griffith, Goldie Hawn, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Thomas Jane, Frank Langella, Jennifer Lopez, Derek Luke, director Adrian Lyne, Madonna, Matthew McConaughey, Bette Midler, Liam Neeson, Sam Neill, Nate Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dennis Quaid, Doris Roberts, Diana Ross, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep, Paul Walker and Marlon Brando. To Limato, his clients were less business and more family. He was known to cry when one would leave him for another agent. Instead of family photographs in his living room, he kept exquisitely framed headshots of every actor he ever represented. He was loyal and stood by clients Gibson, Robert Downey, Jr. and Winona Ryder during their darkest times. But Limato could be as difficult and obstreperous as any Hollywood bad boy, throwing tantrums and hanging up the phone on the most powerful players - often following up with an apology or bouquet of flowers. During fits of rage, he was masterful at name-calling; he might have coined the phrase “bucktooth wonder fuck,” for example. When a battle of words didn’t satisfy Limato in his feud with the NY Post "Page Six" editor, the agent took revenge at an Oscar bash by dousing the gossip columnist with a double vodka on the rocks and two olives. The following award season, Variety joked that a “Limato Drink Protector” was a necessary party accessory.



Edward Frank Limato was born in Mount Vernon, New York into a middle class Italian American family. He left home and traveled the country, earning money as a disc jockey. Continued restlessness took him to Europe in 1966, where he eventually landed a job on the set of “The Taming of the Shrew” as an assistant to director Franco Zeffirelli. From a very young age, Limato loved movies and movie stars. He seemed obsessed with the business of Hollywood and studied the trades. In a 1990 Vanity Fair article, actor Michael York, who met Limato on the set, said, “I was the first person to tell him he should be an agent. I told him he must obey his destiny and go to the mailroom.” With the help of Zeffirelli’s agent, Limato returned to New York and took a job in the mailroom at Ashley-Famous Agency, which eventually became International Famous Agency – where he was promoted to junior agent. Later, Ashley-Famous merged with Creative Management Associates to become International Creative Management. He transferred to ICM’s west coast office but was lured away to the William Morris Agency in 1978 by Stan Kamen. He remained there until 1986 when, after a series of secret meetings with ICM CEO Jeff Berg and agent Sam Cohn, he returned to the agency that gave him his start.

Limato was a voracious reader and believed that good material was the key to stardom. He suggested Michelle Pfeiffer for the role in “Scarface,” which launched her career. He begged Richard Gere to star in “Pretty Woman” after the actor expressed trepidation. Over the years, Limato watched joyfully as his clients ascended to the Hollywood “A’ list. They took him along too, and he was eventually named ICM co-president.

Although it’s common for clients to jump from agency to agency, Limato inspired loyalty from the likes of Gere, Gibson and Washington, who have been with him for most of their careers. He was often criticized for maintaining his own agency within the agency, because his office consisted of three trainees (he referred to them as "number 1," "number 2," and "number 3), a personal assistant, an attorney and a story editor. But while most agents are all about the deal, Limato serviced the client. Because of his unique style, Gere, Gibson, Washington and Martin did not have managers. Limato was a full-service agent.

In 2006, ICM merged with Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann, primarily a TV literary agency. But within a year, the seams at the new agency came apart. Limato claimed both his authority and stature were being undermined by the new regime, which, he alleged, planned on forcing him into a consultant position and early retirement. Limato wanted out of his contract. ICM refused. The dispute was taken to arbitration, where Limato challenged a 3-year non-compete clause, which forbade him to work for another agency. The battle became a publicity nightmare for ICM, as it played out in the national news.

During arbitration, Limato’s lawyers argued that his contract dated back to the mid-90s and was bound by an obscure California law known as the "seven year rule,” stating that anyone who renders extraordinary or unique services cannot be bound to a contract for more than seven years. On August 13, 2007, the arbitrator found in favor of the agent and against ICM. With Limato a free agent, Variety wrote, “"Ed Limato's arbitration victory over ICM…puts into play not only one of Hollywood's most senior and revered agents but also the most important client list in a generation." Limato was one of the few talent agents who could boast a fistful of clients with salaries of more than 20 million dollars a film plus first dollar gross. Almost immediately, he and his talent list made a return trip to the venerable William Morris Agency, which merged with Endeavor in June 2009 to form WME. Some industry insiders claim that ICM has not yet recovered from Limato’s exit. At his new home, he brokered deals for Denzel Washington to star in “The Book of Eli” as well as his Tony winning Broadway triumph in “Fences,” Mel Gibson’s return to the big screen in “Edge of Darkness,” and Richard Gere’s upcoming spy thriller “The Double.”

When Limato wasn’t negotiating deals for the rich and famous, he served on the boards of Abercrombie & Fitch, the LA Conservancy, the American Cinematheque, and the MPTF.

Limato’s fame as an agent might have only been eclipsed by his annual Oscar party, a relaxed but star-studded event that was held at his home the Friday before the Academy Awards. Limato reigned supreme over the party in flamboyant regalia and bare feet. The guest list looked like the hall of fame from politics, movies, TV, music and literature. Invitations were coveted and entrée to the event was often sport to Hollywood lounge lizards and posers who struggled to find a way in. But Limato protected the list like Moses did his Commandments. One year, the wife of a great movie star called to say her husband couldn’t attend and asked if she could bring a guest instead. Not only did Limato say no, he uninvited the wife – who was not on anyone’s “A” list.

Even in his final days, Limato played host to those who came to say good-bye. He passed away surrounded by the conviviality that always made him happy. Judy Garland sang in the background as movie stars, their spouses and children, fellow agents, co-workers, producers, studio heads, old friends and family gathered around, brought flowers and food, ate homemade Italian meatballs, drank cocktails, laughed, cried and shared stories of the talent agent who could outshine any star in Hollywood.

This was, perhaps, his greatest tribute. In Hollywood, when one can no longer help another get ahead, he becomes irelevant and obsolete. In the end, Limato could be of no help to anyone. He couldn’t slip a script to Mel or convince Denzel to star in a movie. He wasn't taking your call. The negotiations were over. But visitors came in droves anyway – a procession fit for a king. They came not to get ahead, not to make a deal but to simply show their respect and love.

Ed Limato is survived by his 99-year-old mother Angelina, a brother Paul, a sister Angela, and several nieces and nephews.

He had no children but nurtured and inspired a tight-knit group of young Hollywood professionals - his entourage - who learned the business from him.


Ed Limato taught us how to work, how to live and how to die. He was our patriarch.

Monday, May 10, 2010

BUCK SLIP #4

The LA TIMES gives a shout out to my new documentary "Most Valuable Players."



I'm teaching another online workshop called "HOW TO TALK ABOUT YOUR SCRIPT" on Sunday May 23 from 9AM-11AM PST. You can find the details HERE.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS



We had an advanced screening of my documentary on April 16th in the Lehigh Valley, PA, where the film was shot.




You can see the trailer HERE.




You can see some TV news footage HERE.



Become a "fan" at our FACEBOOK page.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

BUCK SLIP #3

I'm leading another online workshop called "Navigating the Script Maze" on March 27th from 9AM - 11:30AM (PST). These interactive Internet classes have been a lot of fun and an easy way to take the show on the road without having to travel. Find all the info HERE.



My documentary MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS will have an advanced screening in Easton, Pennsylvania (the town where it was shot) at the State Theatre on April 16th at 8:30PM. For those in the eastern PA/western NJ area who might be interested, you can find the info HERE.




Across the USA, high school sports are regularly lavished with funding, publicity and scholarships, while theater departments struggle to put on the school musical hoping for some recognition of their own. It's no different in the sports crazy Lehigh Valley, PA, except for the "Freddy Awards," a live television event that recognizes excellence in local high school musical theater. Illustrating that arts education encourages the same teamwork, camaraderie and confidence as sports, MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS follows three theater troupes on their creative journey to the elaborate award ceremony - the "Super Bowl" of high school musical theater.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS is an emotional journey, reminding us why the performing arts must remain vital in the lives of young people. In the face of shrinking budgets, schools and communities must band together to preserve and nurture arts education.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

TEN TIPS FOR 2010

I’m weighed down at work and busy in post-production on my documentary, so I’m continuing to turn over blogging duties to Adam Levenberg. I’ve received a few nasty letters from people complaining that I’m hocking Adam’s script consulting services. Adam does provide a service, and I provide a link to his site. If one is in the market for a consultant, Adam should certainly be considered. He has good, practical advice and industry experience.

Not everyone will agree with everything he has to say here. (I don’t.) Not all advice is right for all people. Experiences are varied but Adam tells me , “I don't even write the posts; it’s all the unrepped writers I deal with who hand me the content.” Since we are already one month into the New Year, Adam has ten tips for success to think about over the next eleven months.



1) Goal #1 for 2010 is to learn how to write a movie. Hollywood studios churn out movies for better or worse over 99% of the time. Unrepresented screenwriters achieve this far less than 1% of the time. Here’s the amazing news—If you learn how to write a movie and you have decent creative writing skills, the sky is the limit! My biggest fear when I opened my consulting beyond producers and actors to unrepresented writers is how to handle a client who already had the education of screenwriting down but just lacked a creative spark that made them worthy of passing along to agents. Would I give a refund? What would I say? Shockingly, this has never happened. I truly believe ALL competent creative writers have a spark, it’s the technical shortfalls that hold them back from delivering a competent screenplay.

2) Educate yourself properly and own SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder and 45 MASTER CHARACTERS by Victoria Schmidt. SAVE is a great read from cover to cover, 45 is more of a resource tool to keep on the shelf. These books prove character and structure are NOT opportunities to express your creativity. Save that for situations and dialogue. After being around 10 years in development, I learned from both of these sources and find the breakdown of information more user friendly than others which bury great info under hundreds of unnecessary pages. The problem with reading most books or attending a conference is that the education is 100% passive. Many writers treat this stuff like they’re perusing a People Magazine, like it’s food for thought—until they turn the page and forget everything they read. Whether you like Snyder’s beat sheet or some hybrid of various methods, You should know the beats of your favored structure by MEMORY. And don’t ever read another book on screenwriting without a pen to circle your favorite parts or things you don’t understand and need to research further. Also, don’t tie new learning directly to your old screenplays. I know many writers who read a book or attend lectures and think backwards, constantly evaluating “how can this new information benefit the script I’ve already written?” It’s a totally natural habit, but one you’ve got to break. Learn first, snap out of it when your mind starts to drift to old material.

3) Find an honest consultant and use them. For the record, I appreciate this is self-serving. I also agree with those who think most consultants are liars, frauds, and the rest are well meaning but entirely incompetent. But I’ve never heard anyone say that attending a conference or pitchfest is a waste of money and those are passive—you don’t learn anything about YOU. If you can afford it, work with someone NOW before you embark on a new script—hiring an expert is not about making a sale, it’s about learning what you need to find out so you don’t write another script with the same problems as the last. If money is an issue, save up and be ready to hire someone in six months when your next script is done. It’s not Hollywood’s job to give you free feedback and you don’t want to waste a year getting occasional comments from production companies when they pass on your script, or rely on friends, family, or other unrepresented writers. The needs of an unrepresented writer are specific and unique.

4) The Beat Sheet Comes First. A beat sheet is a treatment broken down into the specific structural moments you need to create a film narrative. If you need to start with a formless treatment as a brainstorming activity, go ahead. Do a beat sheet next. You should always know the major beats, the hero’s arc, and how the story ends before jumping in. You should also have several IDEAS OF VALUE in advance (although you’ll come up with more as you write the script).

5) Be willing to NOT move ahead to a screenplay after completing your beat sheet. Some writers need to write 3-5 full beat sheets to find the idea they are excited about and that work. Not all stories are movies. Most aren’t. Yet some writers finish a beat sheet and reflexively jump into a first draft. Don’t. You’re better off writing twenty beat sheet outlines over the next year and waiting until 2011 to pick the best one to take to the next level (a first draft screenplay).

6) Your ticking clock is 3 months for a first draft, six months TOTAL. If you can’t finish the first draft of a screenplay in three months, you don’t know where your movie is going. Dump it. You’re not going to “figure it out” by wasting more time. And if you need to spend another 90 days rewriting, go ahead. Then put it aside. The changes new writers make can take months (if not years) to change less than 10% of the script. That’s not rewriting—that’s TINKERING. Your time is valuable. A script you can’t close in six months is probably not valuable.

7) Page Count Counts. Unless you’re writing a contained thriller like PANIC ROOM, toss any scripts you have that are less than 100 pages. Your first draft can be overwritten because you’ll go back and cut, so don’t be afraid to hit 125, but just don’t send it out until you’ve knocked it down to 110-115. Comedies and horror scripts can be slightly shorter. If you think scripts should be 120 pages or are currently trying to market a 90-page script, I guarantee there are 20 more things about modern day screenwriting you really need to learn before you send out another query letter.

8) Present day reality and a single hero until you get major agency representation. Set it in the United States too. I realize this is an unpopular statement so this one is for my good friends only—if you want to take advantage of it or ignore the rule, go ahead. I don’t tell you not to write period pieces or alternative reality/futuristic scripts because they are not “commercial”. Fuck commerciality. I just know these scripts require expert level writing. Same goes for ensemble pieces. Until you NAIL a great hero and take them through an arc, doing that with several characters is out of your league. If you’re writing a rom-com, favor one character over the other. If you have a passion piece that violates these rules you absolutely “must” write, do it already! Write it in less than six months and move on.

9) Have a source movie to follow for your first draft. Have you ever watched POINT BREAK and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS back to back? How about TRAINING DAY and THE RECRUIT? When you’ve sold a few scripts, you can fly solo. And stop worrying about being “too close” to another movie. I hear that every day from unrepresented writers but never once heard an Oscar nominee or million-dollar superstar be worried their movie was too similar to something else structurally. And take notes when you watch your “buddy movie”, break it down scene by scene on paper to follow for your own outline. By your third draft, it will mutate into something that is barely derivative. Also, watching movies passively isn’t “research” anymore than doing drugs is “experimenting”—experiments and research require HARD DATA. Follow this rule and you’ll at least write something that qualifies as a movie.

10) Fill in the blank. Why do you think you haven’t sold anything before? Take the following reasons off the table—“I haven’t found a great agent” or “My scripts haven’t made it into the right hands.” This may be true, but you’re not going to move forward if you focus on those. Make your own rule for 2010. Don’t make it about success like “I’m going to be represented….” Instead, think about how you can improve yourself and your writing together. I’d bet there’s at least a dozen people reading this who might agree they’d be better off hitting the gym at night for a few weeks and cutting back on their writing time instead of being planted in front of a screen. Maybe reorganize your house, donate everything you don’t use anymore to charity, buy a new rug or lamp, toss out those throw pillows that have been on the couch for the past eight years and get new ones, deal with those piles of stuff stagnantly taking up space because your closets are full of things you never use…Or get in your car and drive to someplace interesting an hour away to reboot your brain. Change your perspective. It might do more for your writing than writing itself!


You can find Adam’s website HERE.




I’m leading an interactive writing workshop online called WRITING FOR MOVIE STARS. While we spend so much time discussing concepts, we often forget the importance of characters – especially in a time when attracting talent is crucial to financing a project. We'll discuss ways to design and construct strong characters. The class will be webcast live over the Internet on Saturday February 27th at 9AM PST. The first two hours will be devoted to the topic, where students can pitch their protagonists and we'll discuss the strengths and weaknesses in relation to the concept. The final half hour of the class will be open to a general Q&A (ask anything) and to loglines and pitches. Tuition is $25.00. (Class size is limited.) The workshop was designed for writers out of the L.A. area who don’t get the opportunity to sit in a classroom with other writers and industry people. This is a way to bring Hollywood to you.

All the information can be found HERE.





Questions and comments for THE INSIDE PITCH are welcome at theinsidepitch@sbcglobal.net.

Monday, January 11, 2010

BUCKSLIP #2

Congratulations to Scott Keiner for winning the twoadverbs.com logline contest for his adventure screenplay LORD OF THE JUNGLE.

A dark re-imagining of Edgar Rice Burrough’s public-domain novel Tarzan of the Apes, told from Jane’s perspective. A young woman travels to the West African jungle in search of her long-lost parents but struggles to survive when a violent, jungle creature (known to local tribesman as “Tarzan”) attacks her expedition. Discovering that Tarzan may hold the secret to her parents disappearance, the young woman fights to keep Tarzan alive as British mercenaries and local tribesmen hunt them both through the jungle.




MIEP GIES dies at age 100. Although she couldn't save Anne Frank's life, she did save her diary. My condolences to the Netherlands. And the rest of the world too.




Over the weekend, I taught an interactive Internet class via webcam. I'll be doing another on Saturday February 27th and will provide details here in the coming weeks for those interested.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SCREENWRITING FALLACIES

The response to Adam Levenberg's previous two articles here has been positive, so he adds yet another entitled THE FALLACIES OF THE UNREPPED WRITER:



At the age of 16, I spent the summer at UCLA taking two classes, including an introduction to screenwriting taught by Chris Lockhart. In retrospect, I feel very badly for Chris, as those six hours per week (with only a handful of other students) allowed me an absurd amount of access to ask every question under the sun about screenwriting, movies, and the entertainment business. So I definitely appreciate his invitation to share this blog space and some of the information I've acquired that unrepresented screenwriters can use to their advantage.

I eventually graduated from USC Cinema with a degree in Critical Studies and then stayed in L.A. to work in the world of feature film development. During this time, I exclusively focused on writers, specs, what was selling to who, tracking down film rights, helping to build franchise properties, and evaluating books for feature adaptation potential.

When I opened up my consulting services to unrepresented screenwriters last year, I was surprised to hear many false assumptions repeated over and over. And quoting the great Shane Black "when you make an assumption, you make an ass out of you--and umption!"

The following include some of the "greatest hits" I continue to hear on a near daily basis. While I completely understand why a writer might embrace these fallacies, they are simply not accurate. As you proceed, remember that my advice is directed towards writers who have yet to secure a major literary agent or manager in Los Angeles.



Fallacy: I'M A HUGE SUCCESS IN MY FIELD, WHERE'S MY WRITING GIG?

A successful comic book writer recently moved to Los Angeles and asked me how he could find paid jobs writing movies. I suggested he get in line with the screenwriting teachers, television staff writers on hiatus, and successful authors who want those jobs as well. All those people are camped out behind the working feature writers, who are "in demand" by virtue of the fact they're already working. People always want what they can't have.

Writing for feature films is a specialized field with extraordinary competition. There is no such thing as career stability. Winning an Oscar twenty years ago will not sell your pitch today. There are many more experienced feature screenwriters who would like to work than actually are working at any given time. And they've got credits, sales, and pre-existing relationships with producers, actors, and executives. Until you sell a spec, don't expect to beat them out for an open writing assignment.

But if an Oscar winner's spec and yours go out the same day, guess which one is more likely to sell? The better script.



Fallacy: AN AGENT WILL REPRESENT ME BASED ON MY TALENT!

The only reason an agent will take you on is if you hand them a spec they can sell. They put it on the spec market and if successful, you're the hot new thing. The agent pockets a nice commission and tries to get you paid work, either rewriting or selling a pitch. A good agent is qualified to discuss a concept or give some feedback on a script, but its not their job to help you develop creatively (although some do).

If an agent sees promise in your work, maybe they'll look at another script you wrote, or your upcoming spec. This is not representation.



Fallacy: TALENT ATTACHMENTS WILL HELP MY SCRIPT SELL!

This one drives me absolutely insane.

If you can't land a respectable literary agent or manager, its a waste of your time to go after talent. It's worse than a waste of time, its annoying to everyone you're contacting. Stick to landing an agent and if they think a specific attachment will help, let them handle packaging.

Keep in mind, there are a very limited number of actors and actresses that studios buy screenplays for. Just because an actor has appeared in a huge movie, or even starred in one does not mean they have the power to get scripts purchased on their behalf. Even if you work in Hollywood, this is insider information that changes each and every month.

And nobody cares about the bargain basement actors for hire that you're capable of attaching on your own. Just because you have a letter from Wilfred Brimley's manager expressing his interest for the role of "Gramps" does not make your query letter more attractive to a production company. It just makes you look like a moron. And fuck you for wasting Mr. Brimley's time, the man is a national treasure and has better things to do then read your spec. That diabetes testing equipment isn't gonna sell itself.



Fallacy: THEY SAID NICE THINGS ABOUT MY SCRIPT--WHICH MEANS THEY LIKED IT!

One writer I recently spoke with claimed a production company really liked her script and would put it in the "keep pile". "Not for us at this time" is also a flat out pass. So is "we liked it but have a similar project".

Oh, don't forget "we enjoyed it but our slate is full". This is just a fuck you--there's no such thing as a producer too busy to set up a project.

Then there's the coverage companies, contests, and consultants. If you've paid money to ANYONE who claims your script is great, here's how you determine if they really meant it: Did they refer your script to a major literary agent or manager in Los Angeles?

If not, they may have given you an honest response but aren't connected enough to the industry to get your script to anyone important. If that's the case, why pay them in the first place? Another possibility is that they routinely tell clients they loved the script. There's a consultant out of NYC who gives fawning, glowing coverage to any spec in proper format. Most of the L.A. based coverage companies want you to feel good about hiring them as well.



Fallacy: THE RIGHT PERSON HASN'T READ MY SCRIPT YET!

When you go to the movies with friends, you might sit around after, drinking coffee and debating the quality of the film. Movies are different than screenplays and have far more elements to critique, such as performance, direction, cinematography, costumes, music, etc. Comedies that work on the page often fall completely flat.

The big mistake often made by unrepresented writers is assuming that a pass is based on the reader's personal taste. This is not the case. I once had a boss who suggested I see a gross-out comedy because the script was really funny. I asked if she was going and she replied "Ugh. I hate those movies!" Professionals keep their jobs by effectively evaluating the quality of screenwriting and marketability of the premise. Taste is a luxury used to inform what executives watch in their free time. A professional in the development world can evaluate any genre and determine which material has true value.

A great example is CRANK. The movie is a hyperactive hard-R thrill ride with limited audience appeal due to excessive violence and chaotic camerawork. But the screenwriting excellence of Neveldine & Taylor can be appreciated by anyone. They write wildly visceral action and smart, funny dialogue guaranteed to give you an adrenaline rush. Whether you care enough to finish the script is a matter of taste--but the talent of the writers is a given.

This week's smash hit is 2012. Many critics have said the visual effects are amazing but the script is weak. Really? I dare anyone to find the 2012 screenplay online and read the first 10 pages. Roland Emmerich is the master of memorably introducing an army of disparate characters, their backstories, locations, and present day dilemmas while putting a smile on your face with sharp dialogue and witty banter. This isn't "good" or "bad" screenwriting. This IS screenwriting.

Hollywood knows how to spot a great writer, even if its just emerging talent. If your writing is funny and makes a reader laugh, it doesn't matter if your script sucks and you don't understand story yet--someone will recognize your talent, call you, and walk you through the process of writing another idea. Same thing if you can write great action or inspire great chills in a thriller or horror screenplay.

So if you've made multiple submissions to production companies and gotten generic pass letters as a response, its time to stop "marketing" and start evaluating where the material falls short.



Fallacy: SELLING A SPEC WILL SOLVE ALL MY PROBLEMS!

Okay, in fairness nobody says this directly, but its definitely a common motivator for success.

Writers often believe that selling a screenplay will allow them to start a new life, buy a house, get a divorce, quit their job, or gain the respect of family members and friends. If you're counting on a screenplay to facilitate this change, its time to reassess your life plan. And the way you approach writing.

Writing with an eye towards a financial outcome completely destroys your ability to have fun with the process. And fun is where all of the best material emerges from your brain to the page! Writers who equate the sale of a screenplay to an outcome in their life can be guaranteed the script will never ever sell and their life will continue to suck.

So if there's a shakeup you've been waiting for, don't let the sale of a screenplay be your excuse. You know better now. Act accordingly.



Adam can be contacted directly at: adamlevenberg29@gmail.com



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INSIDE PITCH reader Andrew Sherman e-mailed me this reflective and rambling missive on Adam Levenberg’s “FIVE TYPES OF HIGHLY UNSUCCESSFUL SCREENWRITERS.” He titles his discourse "THREE UNREPRESENTED WRITERS YOU DON'T WANT TO BE!"



The "Five Types of Highly Unsuccessful Writers" have at least one thing in common: they refuse to accept and/or acknowledge that the movie-going audience is their boss.

When Billy Wilder (and his collaborators) were writing and making movies such as Double Indemnity, Lost Weekend and Sunset Blvd., they were not trying to make "great" movies. They were simply trying to make a movie that would "entertain the average guy on the street."

I don't (never have or never will) write with awards, contest wins or with "greatness" in mind. I write to emotionally move an audience (whether it be the reader or moviegoers) and to engage the audience for the entire length of the script/movie.

Success as a screenwriter is based on the same principle of success in any other field: having a successful routine and sticking to it daily. Ask a writer what he was doing today, last week, last month and last year and to the degree that the answer is related to writing is the degree to which the writer can expect success. Ask Tiger Woods the same question and the answer will be golf related. Ask Roger Feder and the answer will be tennis related.

For example, the rise and fall of the boxers at the Kronk Gym in Detroit can be easily summed up by the changes that took place in the locker room before and after training. In the years when Thomas Hearns and others were winning title fights, the talk of the trainers was always about some Sugar Ray Robinson-Jake LaMotta fight that was on TV the other night. When the championships and title fights started to elude the boxers, the talk in the locker room was about some slut that one of the trainers banged or about some party the boxers were looking forward to.

Like "The Independent," who thinks TOO MUCH of writers like Tarantino, Kauffman and Smith, there were boxers who thought TOO MUCH of Ali and tried copycatting his style. The results were similar.... the copy cat gets KO'd. Both think too much of their idols to the point of throwing away one of the things that are of most value: their own voice. If a producer wants to work with Tarantino, the producer will hire Tarantino, not writer-android number 11,694.

Sometimes, "The Librarian" uses research as an excuse for not writing... he's like the "professional college student" who's always studying but never graduating into the real world. And when they do write the 171 page first (and usually only) draft, it's a mess because they have too many sacred cows and will refuse to "kill their babies" in order to make the structure work.

"The Award Winner," the ones I know, refuses to understand that he can use theme in order to make his important point while entertaining an audience with a compelling story. Not only does he have to preach but he feels he must let the reader know that she is being preached to.

When did my breakthrough script come? When I sat back and reflected on the history of my writing... from kindergarten on.

I remembered I wrote something in the First Grade and Mrs. Johnson, my teacher, put it on the board with three stars.

I remembered in junior high school... Mrs. Boyd gave the class a book assignment. We could choose any book but the book had to be at least 200 pages. The day before it was due, I found a (30 page?) Marvel comic book on Magneto and wrote the report on that. A week later she handed out the papers with the grades on it: I received an "A++" (PLUS PLUS) with her handwritten note: "This is so well written and entertaining...!"

I remembered in high school, I spent most of the semester skipping my last class... my English class. I entered Mrs. McMillian's class two weeks before the finals and she dragged me to the principal's office saying I shouldn't bother because I had an automatic F. I asked her what the final assignment was and she said the entire semester was devoted to preparing for an essay. She made a big deal about how the students sweated to prepare for it and there was no way I could pass her class. Since the principal told her I had to be placed in her class for the remaining two weeks, I asked if I could write the essay anyway.

I received an "A PLUS" for my essay on inflation entitled "The Invisible Hole In Your Pocket." She HOUNDED me about how I came up with the title, about how interesting I had made the intro and told me she wanted me to read the essay in front of the entire class. I left to go to the bathroom and didn't return until a week later to have my report card graded and signed. She told me it was the only "A" she handed out in the class that semester.

In an Adult Ed class, I wrote an essay entitled "Technology v.s. The Constitution," which explored how the current laws were out of date in regards to advances in technology. The teacher gave me an "A" and wanted to set me up on a blind date with her daughter.

I reflected that I didn't know who Robert McKee or Syd Field or any of the other gurus were when I was writing those things. There was no internet, no screenwriting magazines and I hadn't even read a script at that point. I decided that I am, indeed, a "writer" and I just needed to respect the craft of screenwriting as opposed to focusing on the art... the same way I had respected the craft of lyric writing for so many years.

The difference between a craftsman and an artist is that an artist can do whatever the hell he wants while a craftsman works within the range of some expected specifications... someone who builds houses cannot build a front door that is only three inches wide or a front staircase that is the length of a football field... but an artist can. But once the artist seeks payment for his work, he becomes the employee of his audience and needs to cater to working within the range of their expectations/specifications... in short, he becomes, or is expected to become, a craftsman.

Then I put all my screenwriting books in the closet, disconnected my computer from the internet and wrote a screenplay that ended up taking me half way around the world and continues setting me up to be considered for high profile writing assignments.

I haven't had a big sale because simply haven't written (completed rather) a script that is worthy of a big sale. It has nothing to do with the imaginary bullshit slump in spec sales. It has everything to do with what I'm putting on paper and everything else are just excuses that losers use for losing both the big game and the blow job happy cheerleaders to the winners... the winners who focused on their daily routine instead of allowing every distraction imaginable to enter their lives.

For me, it's not IF... it's WHEN and as long as I find a way to pay the bills, when doesn't matter that much because, sale or no sale, option or no option, writing assignment or no writing assignment... I am protecting my writing routine and I am sticking to my writing routine.

Okay, my once-a-year rant is over. And on the positive side... this email didn't come from the Netherlands, I didn't ask for your credit card number to help a relative in Nigeria nor did I make any promises regarding penile enlargement.


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The three finalist loglines have been chosen by the twoadverbs membership. The titles are:

HORROR COMIC
INVASIVE SPECIES
LORD OF THE JUNGLE

The loglines will be presented to a panel of industry professionals and the winner will be announced on Christmas Eve in the forum at twoadverbs. Good luck!


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