In spite of the resurgence of the pandemic, which is both a national tragedy and a national disgrace, the creative wheels continue to turn and this week has already brought an few unexpected doses of good news.
As the image above tips off, all three of the scripts I submitted to this year’s Final Draft screenwriting competition have made it through to the Quarter-finals. Two features and a sitcom pilot. This means that for 2020, I went eight-for-eight with my script submissions. ALL of them placed somewhere in every competition I entered. As I tell writers all the time, even established writers much more successful than I am, the legit contests are one of the very very few places you can get a real evaluation of your scripts at a low cost. Let’s face it, your friends are going to be too nice, and those “script reading” services can cost hundreds of dollars. But a $25-$40 “entry fee” is a small investment in a script you believe in and think might be “good enough” to put out into the world. True, great, sellable scripts get rejected by contests all the time, but if you submit a script to 3 or 4 competitions, if it really is as great as you think it is, it is going to eventually ‘pop’ in competition.
Now the anticipation builds while I wait for them to announce the Semi-finalists. lol.
I received an email yesterday from an editor at the Los Angeles Times. They are putting together a book of “Greatest Hits” from their LA Affairs column and they want to include my 2012 submission in the collection. That, plain and simple, is pretty thrilling.
Good news of any sort has been in short supply this year – for me, for everyone I know, and probably for you too. So I am both thrilled and grateful for these bits of blue sky.
Stay Strong & Stay Safe Everyone.
Tonight Airplane Live goes live in front of an audience. If you’re a fan of the 1980 movie you’ll love this staged adaptation – true to the original, but with a few additional twists.
I was asked to direct this play by my friend Chrisi (the writer) and it has been an enjoyable 2 months of rehearsals, run-throughs and the usual ups and downs of trying to get a piece of theater ready for an audience.
Granted, Pinter… it ain’t, but watching the actors individually find their way through the material while everyone figures out a way to come together as an ensemble is always kind of magical. I know that sounds hokey, but it is true. I’m happy I was a part of the process.
The LA Weekly has already listed the show as one of the top things to do in Los Angeles this weekend, and tickets are already moving briskly. It should be a good run.
Don’t miss it!
For every cynic who likes to trot out the “making a big deal about the ‘New Year’ is useless and arbitrary” line, there are more of us who disagree. For whatever reason – culturally, socially, humanly – most of us 6+billion people collectively agree that, 18 days ago, something old ended and something new began. That collective thought has a power all its own – in ways that will probably be scientifically proven within the next 30 years tops (I’m lookin’ at you, Quantum Physicists) …well, assuming we don’t destroy ourselves before then.
Part of that excitement to come out swinging when the New Year bell rings, at least from my perspective, is a reaction to how little seems to get done in Hollywood between mid-November and January 2nd. “The Holidays” are something to be waited out. We wait for the new year to start. We wait for new budgets to be approved and for new hires to start and for everyone to be in the right mood to start thinking about new ideas & new projects.
And now that time has finally arrived.
One of my first to-do goals for 2016 has been to get my work in front of at least 30 new people by the end of January. This is a big deal because, while no one would ever call me ‘lazy’ as a writer, I have been very guilty of not being “proactive” enough when it comes to getting my completed work seen & read. I know that is on me to change. So, I am happy to report that so far in 2016, I have already gotten my pitches & loglines and at least one of my five spec sitcom pilots into the hands and reading piles of at least 14 new people (yes, contrary to most of what you hear, producers, agents & managers are people.) So far the response has been positive and hopeful. People want to read more and, really, that is all you can ask for. …but that doesn’t mean I’m going to slack off. The month is half over and I’m only halfway to my goal.
Meanwhile, I’m also still doing shows. I’m excited to start the new performance year off with a return to STRONG WORDS this coming Saturday in Silverlake. Maybe we’ll see you there?
I’m thrilled to report the latest great news: The good people at the Austin Film Festival’s screenwriting competition just informed me that not one, but TWO of my spec sitcom pilot scripts advanced in their annual competition… so it looks like I will be visiting that sweet, weird city again this October.
Regular PlanetOC readers will recall that I attended the 2011 festival because one of my scripts (also a spec sitcom pilot) called “Mass MoCA” made it into the top 5%-10% of submissions last year. I had a great time at the festival, met some interesting and creative people and learned an awful lot, so I’m really looking forward to attending the festival again.
For anyone who isn’t a regular reader and doesn’t know what a big deal this is (to me, anyway,) let me explain. The screenwriting contest that the AFF puts on every year is considered the second biggest & most influential writing contest of its kind (it is generally agreed that the Nicholl Writer’s Fellowship competition is #1.) This year’s Austin contest drew nearly 7,000 entries, so having both of the scripts I entered land in the top 5-10% (again) is a pretty solid accomplishment… and when you couple that with last year’s strong showing, it demonstrates a certain level of consistent quality in my comedy writing – especially when it comes to sitcom pilots. As I said, I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Here are the quick loglines for both of the scripts. I might post them on this site for downloading at a later date, but for now I’m keeping control of the material and only sending it out to specific industry folks etc.
“‘Arrested Development meets ‘Game of Thrones’ in a sitcom of Epic proportions.”
I <3 YOU, LULU
“In the tradition of ‘I Love Lucy,’ a successful young musician and his totally loose-cannon of a wife, both madly in love with each other, take on the world.”
…now if you’ll excuse me, I have to continue my preparations for this Thursday’s big “Don’t Tell My Mother” show… and I have to book my flight to Austin.
Greetings. In an effort to (for once) not bury the lead, I’ll let everyone know that the big news is this: One of my scripts has “advanced” through the competition in the Austin Film Festival’s top-notch screenwriting contest. My submission in the “Original Sitcom Pilot” category made it into the top 10% of entries (out of nearly 6000) which is, apparently, a big enough deal to land me an invitation to the festival along with some “special access.” Who can say no to special access? …so I’m now mapping out a late-October trip to Texas, my first-ever visit to the Lone Star State. And since I’m being a bit self-aggrandizing with all this, I’ll mention just one more thing: The script that did so well in this contest is a different “sitcom pilot” than the one that was a ‘finalist’ in the LA Comedy Shorts screenwriting competition last Spring… so that’s two respectable showings for two separate scripts in just a few months. Not bad, and I’ll take it… sooner or later, people are going to notice these sorts of things.
More than telling the world or blowing my own horn, the preceding paragraph was mostly written for my own benefit – I sometimes need to remind myself that I do know what I’m doing when I sit down at the keyboard. Lately I’ve been wrestling with a 3rd draft of a script that just isn’t working… and it seems that the universe itself is telling me that this particular idea/script just isn’t going to come together in a satisfactory way. These things happen of course, but they can really take the wind out of a guy’s sails… but we keep typing/rowing until the wind finally picks up again to launch us in new directions.
And finally: Check out the calendar of upcoming shows (to the right –>)
I’ve got another reading/essay show coming up on Friday 9/30 and I’m very psyched for it. Come on by if you’re in LA (but call ahead, this show sells out every time.)