Contest entries sent; bring back some money

I’ve made some headway on the screenwriting front in a few different ways. I entered a couple contests, wrote a lot over the weekend and have found some allies in my writers’ group who seem to want me to succeed. That feeling makes a difference.

First off, I entered “Paper Cuts” in the Nxt Stage Film Festival in the web series category. I shipped off a DVD yesterday along with my entry fee, a completed entry form and a postcard they’ll send me to let me know they’ve received it. I don’t see much info on when the festival is or when I’ll hear if I’m accepted or not. That makes me feel a little anxious about the contest’s legitimacy and all, so this could end up being more of a valuable lesson than a career changer. We’ll see.

I also entered the Sixth Borough Screenplay treatment contest I mentioned earlier this month. I elected to receive early feedback, with the option of re-submitting to the contest after making any changes. The winner of that contest will be announced Aug. 15. That was the contest that recommended I register my concept with the WGA, which I did; now I can write more freely about my screenplay, because I have documentation of creative ownership. Or something. If someone took my idea, I could legally use my registration with the WGA as evidence in my favor in a court of law. This will not happen, but it’s a load off any writer’s mind, I’m sure.

This past Sunday, I added several pages to the screenplay itself while sitting at the Lennox Cup O’ Joe with Eileen, who is right in the thick of completing her masters’ thesis paper. We sat there for a few hours, each writing, only looking up to ask occasional questions and moving only to order still more coffee. This might not sound like the best quality time, but you don’t know Eileen and me. I did take a break for a moment to crowd source on Facebook and ask my friends to name one of my characters. I got more than a dozen suggestions for female names, one of which I ended up using. I’m hanging on to the rest.

Finally, I went back to my writers’ group at Kafe Kerouac on Monday night. Even though I made some changes to my treatment, I didn’t bring the revised version. I should have though, because it turned out some new people showed up, including SNP’s own Donovan Campbell! It’s a small city, you guys. The people who were there last week asked about my progress and I promised to bring my outline next time.

“It’s like 8 pages long and messily written,” I warned them.

“That’s okay,” said Mike, the owner of the cafe. “I like discussing ideas more than I like correcting grammar.”

You kind of get that idea from talking to him, too. I also had a great conversation with two other members I hadn’t spoken to yet. One is an actor who gave me his card and wants me to send my outline directly since he’ll be absent next week. The other is a playwright who seems to be just the right mix of riotously witty and slightly jaded, ala Garth Bishop from SNP, and who is becoming reluctantly interested in writing for the screen as opposed to the stage. We are Columbus, Ohio’s own Algonquin Roundtable and I just fell right into it like a pig into a mud pit.

Last night I started working on an online portfolio, where I will be putting all the multimedia work I create. I wish SNP had saved the one and only video I did for them, because it would be most professional platform my videos have seen yet. But, alas. There’s only so long you can hang on to a video of four wailing infants and their bewildered, but ridiculously attractive, parents.

In the tradition I’ve maintained on The Sleeper Hit, here are the costs I’ve been met with in my pursuit of happiness (coffee consumed not included):

Nxt Stage entry fee, with postage: $31.22

Sixth Borough entry fee: $30 ($20 + $10 extra to get early feedback and the chance to re-submit)

WGA: $20 (standard non-member rate for any work)

I’d better not enter much else for a while. This stuff adds up quicker than I thought.

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Screenplay Q & A

What went wrong, Lindsay?

Pam, a good family friend (and essentially honorary family member), posted a very good comment on my latest screenplay post. She had a couple questions about my screenplay and I realize I haven’t said a lot about it. Part of this is out of paranoia of my ideas being stolen and part of it is because I feel silly talking about the story when it’s still in its early stages. But, since she asked, and since I love nothing more than talking about it, here goes.

I keep referring to “Rush Week” as “‘Mean Girls’ goes to college,” which, a friend recently pointed out, is not helpful if you’ve never seen that movie. “Mean Girls,” written by Tina Fey, stars Lindsay Lohan before she was crazy. She plays a high school student who, until recently, was home schooled. She begins public school and, in spite of herself, ends up running around with the cool kids. Completely disgusted by their horrible personalities, she decides to exact revenge on the popular crowd on behalf of her real friends, a couple of misfits. My screenplay takes place in a college setting and centers around a college freshman who seeks to go undercover for the school newspaper and write about the five sororities on her campus. She writes mean things about them, they retaliate with mean spirited pranks, she guns for them even harder, she finds redemption and realizes she may have been wrong in her initial impressions of Greek life. It’s based on a real article I once wrote about the rush process at my college that pissed off about every sorority on campus, except instead of thinking I might have made a mistake, it took me a few years to realize I may have been a little too hard on everyone involved.

Q. Are you looking for a commercial “hit” or just seeing if there’s an audience for your message?

A. This is, in my mind, more commercial hit material than my masterpiece. I am really proud of what I’ve written, but I am also writing it while keeping in mind its mainstream potential. This is not an indie film script. I’m hoping to write my “Little Miss Sunshine” down the road after I have some more experience. As for a message, I like to think this is a story about journalistic ethics. But since most people couldn’t care less about ethical journalism, let’s say it’s about sorority girls and non-sorority girls learning to be nice to each other and not dumping pig blood on anyone at the prom. That sounds far more interesting.

Q. What’s your target audience? If you need to expand your world, you might want to think about who exactly you’d like to have read your script. Will your audience be your age? Your dad’s age? Tall? Married? Precocious? (Hannah [my ten-month-old niece] might be interested in eating your script).

A. My audience will likely be the 18-34 demographic – maybe college educated, maybe not. This is a PG-13 script, not R. A web site I read recommended I “interview” my major characters in order to get to know them better, and as a result, write them better. Make them seem more real to the reader. I am hoping to do this exercise very soon because I think it will help my dialogue flow a little easier.

So, thanks Pam, for asking some good questions. I am writing a lot this week, and it’s very encouraging to me to know that people are interested in how it’s going!

Screenwriting update

Work on “Rush Week” (tentative title of my first feature-length screenplay) continues slowly but surely. My draft is somehow spread out over several Google, Celtx and Word documents, and random lines of dialogue and partially written scenes are hastily typed in the “notes” section on my iPhone. It’s a mess. However, I’ve been frequently adding to and fleshing out the outline I wrote about last month and even sent it to another human being (gasp!) for comment.

I also finally sat down and wrote a one-page treatment of the script. The day after I did that, I saw a treatment contest online being sponsored by Sixth Borough Screenplay, an organization I follow on Facebook and Twitter. The top prize is $1,000, some screenwriting software and a sit-down conversation with a Hollywood insider and author of “Mind Your Business: A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide To Your Writing Career.” Anyway, since I’ve already written the treatment I may as well enter. In the rules section they “highly recommend” you register your treatment with the Writers Guild of America, so that will be interesting. Here is the form to do so, and each registration is $20. You don’t have to be a member to register your work.

So, I know I didn’t reach my goal of completing a screenplay during the winter of 2009-2010. That sucks. But, I am not giving up on myself so easy. Yeah, I was cold and lazy and hibernating all winter, but now I’ve got loads of time on my hands and some motivation. I’m finishing this screenplay, dang it. And I know once it’s done I’ll have some eager readers, right? Ha. On that note, shoot me an e-mail if you are willing to look over my treatment. If it’s not interesting as a one-page read, it’s probably not going to be interesting as a 90-page screenplay, so I need some early guidance.