At Larrrrst!

I may be jumping the gun here, but word from the director is that Pirates of the White Sand is finished. What can be fixed, has been fixed. I haven’t seen the result yet, but I’m stoked.

Holy crap. More than five years for a 14-minute-long film. I’m not sure I even want to know how many hours fuego’s put in on the thing, but I suspect it’s a large number. This summer between rounds of croquet in Moravia I got glimpses of progress, and a few more tantalizing looks in Santa Fe this July, and the audio was improving steadily.

For those who don’t know, my brother and I co-wrote a script that won the Fellini Award at a screenplay competition. The seven winners were assembled for a week, given crews of uncertain capability, and after three days of shooting and four of editing the films were judges by a star-studded panel. Ours was easily the best script but was hobbled by technical difficulties. Still, we won the Audience Choice award, and our star took best actor. Several other folks donated time as well; I’ll try to put out a thank-you post when I have time to come up with a list. Everyone loves lists!

For the last several years my brother has used his film expertise and connections to gradually work away at fixing the technical flaws. Now, he says he has run out of things to fix.

If I was smart I’d wait until I talked to him to make this announcement, but I’m just too damn excited. Another step toward world domination complete!


This Might Be Fun

I’ve written quite a bit about my participation in the Cyberspace Open, and Long ago fuego and I were winners at the Duke City Shootout. Here’s a contest that combines the two: The 48-Hour film Project. You are given prompt, a prop, and a couple of other constraints, and in the next 48 hours you write, produce, and edit your entry.

I think I have the right group of friends to do this. It’s a bit pricey to enter, but the biggest problem would be getting us all to the right place at the right time. San Jose’s in August. Anyone want to come play?


Duke City Shootout Now Accepting Submissions

Got an idea for a short film but despair of it ever being produced? Buck up, Sparky! The Duke City Shootout is here to make your film dream come true.

What you do: Write one of the best 12-page screenplays ever. Send it in.

What they do: Choose the best of the screenplays submitted, bring you out to Albuquerque, and provide you with a mostly-skilled crew and (usually) a film industry mentor to help you get the job done. Cameras, grip, and whatnot are provided.

What happens next: After casting local talent and getting everything ready, teams have three days to shoot and four to edit, before the films are judged by an industry panel and then shown in a big theater packed with enthusiastic people. It’s a good time. You can read of my experience in the Shootout Under the Pirates! category. I advise starting with the oldest episodes and working forward in time.

If you have a flair for writing cool short movies, you really can’t go wrong with this festival. It’s a lot of work getting a film to the screen, but here’s a chance to make it happen. Check out The official Duke City Shootout Web page for the lowdown.

What are you waiting for? Get to work on that script!

Screenplay Taxonomy

When writing a screenplay, the word ‘scene’ has a very specific definition. More or less, whenever the scenery on screen changes, it’s a new scene. Walk from the kitchen to the living room, new scene. Walk back, new scene. Simple enough. At first blush it seems similar to the scenes of a stage drama, but it really isn’t. In a screenplay, scenes can change quite frequently, and may only last a few seconds. You can have many scenes that fill the dramatic role that a single scene does on stage. For instance, in a screenplay, the scene can change several times during the course of a running battle.

I’m working with script-writing software that allows me to rearrange scenes, but what I really want is a way to manipulate the groups of scenes that comprise the larger dramatic unit. All the scenes that are part of a chase, for instance. I’ve been fooling the software by calling the scenes that make up the sequence “shots”, so they are treated as part of the same dramatic unit. While this leads to correct formatting and lets me manipulate my script the way I want to, it subverts the meaning of ‘shot’ in a screenplay. It’s not a bid deal for me since calling shots is way, way, down the production road, but it’s still a little off to mislabel script elements like that.

From a storytelling standpoint, the larger unit is the important one — the continuous action that can span several scenes but has a clear identity in terms of the story. I think ‘sequence’ is the word I’ve heard used in that context, but it’s imperfect, and the script-writing software I’m using has no concept of the sequence to help me organize my scenes. Jer’s Novel Writer allows the user to define things like that quite easily, and JersNW performs way better than Celtx on my old laptop, but Celtx provides other shortcuts and automatically formats things in an industry-standard way.

I think it would take me two months to make a screenplay version of JersNW. (If I didn’t use the time to also upgrade the way the documents are structured, which I would do.) It wouldn’t have all the features to help production that Celtx and Final Draft have, but it would be writer-friendly. I often joke that Final Draft is a fine piece of software once you have a final draft – it’s not very good for the actual writing. Celtx seems to want to pursue Final Draft, once again at the expense of the writer.

But all that’s a digression. I really just wanted to ask folks if they knew a better term for ‘group of scenes that comprises a dramatic unit in a screenplay’. It really seems like there should be one.

Bangin’ Out Scenes

My brother sent me a link to a screenwriting contest this morning that looks like it could be pretty cool. One of the best things about this contest is that it can’t eat up a whole lot of my time. That’s the point of the exercise, in fact.

The contest is an elimination tournament of three rounds. For each round the writers are provided a premise, and writers must produce a 3-5 minute scene based on the premise. Only the best go on.

In the first round, participants have a weekend to prepare the scene. The submissions are graded and the top 100 writers advance to round two. The site promises feedback for each entry, but I don’t expect they will have time for anything terribly in-depth. Creativity is 25% of the score, and all over the site writers are encouraged to ‘think outside the box’.

Round two: A new premise for another 3-5 minute scene, and a new deadline. Overnight. The top ten advance.

Round three: Ninety minutes.

The top ten finalists will be judged at the Screenwriting Expo. Actors will rehearse and perform three finalist scenes before the expo audience, in what promises to be a pretty fun event. The winner walks away with a cool three grand and some pretty serious bragging rights.

I’m not sure how many people will be participating, but I will be one of them. It would be fun to make it to the second round, but a lot depends on whether the genius idea strikes at the key moment. I expect the competition will be pretty fierce. I’ll just sit back, relax, and let fly, and hope it sticks. With an entire weekend, the danger is over-editing or trying to do too much. The second round may actually be easier.

I’ll post each of my scenes here, as well. In fact, what the heck — I’ll do the following rounds even if I don’t advance, just for the fun of it, so there will be a total of three scenes here, no matter what the judges say. At the start of each round I’ll echo the premise in these pages, and if any of you care enough you can brainstorm rough ideas how you would treat the premise in the comments. If someone else wants to participate (either officially or as a shadow) I’d be happy to make a page here to share everyone’s results. Let’s make it a party!


The road trip was a success! Two went south, and three came back. In the meantime we saw a not-very-rough rough cut of “this is Awkward”, the latest Brat?i Síg?í production. (Although, I must admit my participation in this one was more limited.)

I must say the cut looked pretty good! Our editor made a decision that was a bit out of the box but worked really well, and the assembled audience laughed out loud often. Perhaps they were an easy crowd since many of them worked on the flick, but much of the laughter was genuine. I was among the laughers.

Between screenings of “This is Awkward” the old classic “Pirates of the White Sand” played (an edit I had not seen before), and also pulled in its share of chuckles and guffaws. Overall, it was a successful evening for our little production.

The trip back north included the other half of the Seeger Bros., who is visiting here in San Jose for a few days. Maybe we can put together a movie!

Could it be? Another road trip already!

Yep, tomorrow we load up the other car for a trip back down to Los Angeles. The event: a screening of This is Awkward, a series of four very short films directed by fuego, and executed by an assemblage of film professionals. You might have heard about it somewhere. My sweetie and I starred in one of them, and it was a hoot! Another one is based on a story I wrote and adapted for the silver screen (which was then re-adapted to the circumstances of the location). I’ve heard interesting stories about the other scenes as well.

So, if you’re in the LA area on Tuesday, June 23rd, I’d love to see you at the premiere! Things start at 3 p.m. and will continue from there. Drop me a line if you want directions.