DateNight Prep

A pitch is where you, a writer, a person used to working long hours all by yourself, a person usually socially awkward with bizarre idiosyncrasies, a person who chose writing for a living because you can’t express yourself in words, a person who is the furthest and farthest thing from any type of salesperson, must now sell your idea.

Never have a meeting. Always have a conversation.
Tim Clague (emphasis added)

Less than a week to go until DateNight 1.1, and the familiar tendrils of fear and self-loathing plait my intestines.

I’ve searched my archives for articles and posts on pitching. Recommended reading: from the US, Kay Reindl and Murderati; from the UK, Danny Stack and Tim Clague.

I’ve drafted leave-behinds. Single-page distillations of the project*, not only do they succinctly describe the project (‘It’s a situational comedy about a jive-talking skateboard’), they’ll be a crutch for whatever I end up blathering (‘Did he just say it’d contain coarse lang- whoa!‘), and will quite handily include my contact details.

I’m practicing smiling. I’ve been told that I come across as rather serious and unsmiling. I’m looking to strike a balance between confidence and humility (‘Yeh, shucks – I so rock’) that won’t unnerve people.

Which leaves the spiel. An interesting observation: instead of writing to be read, I have to write to be heard. And as with dialogue writing, it’s not just content I have to worry about (the leave-behind is a big help there), I need to ensure that I provide sufficient motivation:


... A jive-talking skateboard.


Called Samuel L Jackson.


Called -.

Producer can only blink rapidly, momentarily struck dumb.


And his sidekick, a laid-back surfboard. Called John Travolta.

The Producer leans forward:


(leans forward)

Tell me more.

* Despite my complaints about synopsising, those hateful little documents have been quite helpful.


Point & Click

This week, in lieu of my usual witterings, I offer you:

  • At The Editing Room, Rod Hilton writes ‘abridged scripts’ of popular films – but in an indecently irreverent spirit that harks back to web classics “movies in a minute” and “movies with bunnies”. Behold his takes on The Bourne Ultimatum, The Departed and Ronin.
  • Former Paramount Theatre manager Dan Slevin used to throw together the best – the best, I tell ya – weekly e-newsletters. I may have been in the wrong city at the time (Christchurch, then Dunedin), but the reviews, descriptions and one-liners were a pleasure to read, and welcome heads-ups on what might (eventually) hit the South Island. He’s now the Capital Times film reviewer – and generously reprints his reviews at his blog, Funerals and Snakes.
  • And for something different, try where literary quizzes (what novel opened with “Call me Ishmael”?) gleefully rub shoulders with polls like which Spice Girl to eat first when all the food has run out on your desert island. (Fedora-tip: NZBC.)

Update:  the page now says “This account has been suspended – please contact billing…”. Guess you’ll have to take my word for it.


Needs Must and All That

Danny Stack‘s latest Story Vault about dramatic need, along with Jane Espenson‘s post on the need for story/character stakes, got me thinking.

My path to film analysis was as follows:

    • blind acceptance –

Okay. She has to go back into the house for the cat because she loves widdle Ferdie.

    • followed by a curious questioning –

But why would the previously right-thinking Bindy go back into the house she’s just escaped from? Shaka the left-handed half-blind machete surgeon IS STILL IN THERE!

    • until I realised that there was a correlation between the VCR counter and such out-of-character behaviour –

[With 0:62:25 elapsed and 0:28:42 remaining] Bindy has yet to run Shaka through the bandsaw, detonate the C4 in the basement, and have a topless clinch with Chad the newspaper boy*.

It was likely after a three-hour-long (subjective) ninety-minute film that I had my I could’ve done better’n that moment and, still in that bubble of complete and utter naivete, started plotting my ideal action film:

    • Draft one:

The Hero’s dog is killed. Vengeance is sought. A helpful dog joins our Hero as the Sidekick on his journey. The Baddies are vanquished. The Sidekick is adopted.

    • Hm. Draft three:

The Hero’s family is massacred. Vengeance is sought. A helpful Waif joins our Hero in his quest. The Waif is kidnapped by the Baddies but not killed. The Baddies are pulped. One. By. One. The Hero rescues the Waif and they kiss.

    • Meh. Draft fifteen:

The Hero’s family is threatened – there’s a close call involving the Baby. The Hero and his Plucky Family hit the road but the Baddies are always a step behind. The Hero’s Dog is revealed to be a mole. The Hero is conflicted but is interrupted by an extended Woo-drenched firefight, at the end of which the Hero sacrifices himself for his Plucky Family – but is saved by a last-minute, redemptive and fatal act by his Dog.

I learnt an important lesson during those rewrites**: if I don’t make the reader care it’s just another exciting-but-quickly-forgotten carnival ride (or an excruciatingly interminable cuppa with your parents’ friends).


* How do I know all this? Because these scenes are in the trailer I’ve seen a dozen times already and they haven’t happened yet (although in this instance I’m going to be short-changed by Chad and Bindy sharing a chaste kiss before an abrupt end-credit-roll).

** I also learnt that reusing elements from earlier, discarded drafts is Writing Smarter.


Point and Click

Cruisin’… cruuuisin’… cruuuisiiiin’…

  • Just discovered the gorgeously effervescent Julie Goes to Hollywood, previously Things They Don’t Tell You in Film School, whose Bunuelesque observations on Juliewood, California have to be read to be believed. Meet her here; see her here.
  • Donna of Mike and Donna’s Adventures fame has been busy. Mike’s travels provide proof that real life will always be much crazier than whatever fevered imagination can provide.

Pro Bono or Bust

A while back, Danny Stack posted about working pro bono. It was, of course, an excellent piece – a case for being careful, weighing up the risk, and going in with your eyes open.

I’m with the New Zealand Writers Guild – “no writer should work for nothing”, particularly if you’re already a professional writer.

The following came to mind when I read Mr Stack’s post: casting director Di Rowan – who introduced the world to Anna Paquin and Keisha Castle-Hughes – said in an interview with Onfilm:

“[People] say to me, “Could you just cast this one part? And you’re not going to charge me, are you?” That puts me in a terrible position. I feel like saying, “Hang on a minute, I’ve got a builder here at the moment, I’ll just ask him if he’ll do this day for free and if he says yes, I’ll do your day for free as well.”

Hell, yeah.


Point and Click


Point and Click

  • Mr T over at Unkreative has finished – well, 98% finished – principal photography on 5. Onwards with post it is. Don’t forget to cruise some nice pics here.