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SplendoraHeader Hey gang, been a while since I updated this.  So what have I been doing with my time?  Writing, of course!

Thought I’d tell you about my latest spec script…

SPLENDORA.

Here’s the logline: For her 18th birthday, a sheltered teen just wants to kiss a boy. Instead, she gets supernatural powers, a kidnapped mom, five deadly sisters to battle, and the disturbing news that her dad is the Prince of Darkness.

The script was recently in the Top 15 Uploaded Scripts at The Black List and it’s enjoyed a lot of attention as a result.

What people have been saying:

“One of the best un-repped scripts I’ve ever read.”
– PDFScreenplays.com

“The script is a fun blend between action, fantasy, and comedy and has a very original premise.  A consistent string of comic and thrilling sequences, Splendora is a well-written script that isn’t too far from being production ready.”
– Blcklst.com

“[The] writing style is already industry standard.  Confident and strong.  Not too many Black List finalists give a reader this much old-timey rollicking good fun.”
– 10ptt.com

If you’re an agent, manager, producer, or executive and would like to give it a read, shoot me an email HERE.

HP_Quote_Kirn

“Just when you think you’ve reached the epicenter, the VIP room within the VIP room, a shift occurs, a reversal of perspective, and you find that you’re on the inside looking out with much the same sense of longing and displacement you felt when you were looking in. There’s always another, cooler party behind the next locked door.” – Walter Kirn on attending the Oscars after the film adaptation of his book, Up in the Air, was nominated for Best Picture.

So you’ve finished your first draft.  You probably started with an outline, but found that your characters took you to new places and new discoveries.  How can you tell if it all fits together coherently?

Try writing a trailer for your script. 

I adore movie trailers.  I probably watch at least one a day.  Either new movies coming out, or revisiting old ones.  The great thing about trailers is they get to the heart of the film.  From a good trailer you get an idea of tone, theme, characters, and story.

And while it might be hard to pick these things up from a 120 page screenplay, where the scale makes it all a little fuzzy, a trailer helps you focus in on those important moments.

So figure out those character introductions, those key scenes of dialogue, those big set pieces.  Put on your editors cap.  Figure out what beats are most important.  And write it all down in a three or four page document.  Pick out a few songs to set the tone.  Play it over in your head.

It’s a great way to figure out what beats you’re missing and/or what scenes need more clarity.  And if you can’t find those scenes or bits of dialogue that sum up your character journeys and themes, maybe that’s a good place to start on your rewrite.

Here’s a few of my favorite trailers to inspire you:

 

 

Part nine in a series where I lazily ask the same five questions of professionals in the fields of comics, film, music, and more in order to get an idea of what success looks like (or doesn’t look like) in creative industries.

Josh Parkinson is a screenwriter and all-around amazing dude living in Los Angeles.  His screenplay Free Country made the Black List (of best unproduced screenplays) in 2010 and led to jobs at Warner Brothers, Paramount, Mandate and Media Rights Capital.  He most recently wrote on the third season of HBO’s Eastbound & Down.  I will be forever grateful to Josh for his kindess and for turning me on to Korean BBQ.

At what point did you consider yourself a success?

Depends on what you mean by success.  If you mean paying off 90% of my debt and not feeling guilty about eating out more than once a week, then I’d say maybe two years ago.

If you mean being rich and famous and showered with gimme-work, you’re talking to the wrong guy.

How long did it take you to get there?

See above.  I know a few dudes I’d call established but for the most part it’s a freelance hustle which means never really feeling like you’re “there.”  It’s more like lots of competition in a jittery, screwy market that’s often–if not always–impossible to read.  The dudes I know who are established would probably even tell you they’re not, and they’ve been doing it over a decade.

Who do you look at in the film industry as someone you respect, that is “doing it right?”

Dave KajganichJeff NicholsCraig ZobelDavid GreenJody HillRobert Rodriguez.

What’s the biggest surprise for how you expected life to be at your level vs. how it actually is?

There’s not nearly as many hookers as I expected.  Just kiddin.

I don’t know really.  I wrote fiction for years before screenplays and that’ll breed in you a pretty good habit of never forming expectations of any kind, especially around recognition or compensation for your work.  I guess the fact that there’s an industry in America that does compensate appropriately (or at all) for creative work is still the biggest life surprise for me before and after my change in focus.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to break in to screenwriting?

This’ll sound like a broken record to people who know me but my biggest piece of advice is always to have something ready.  You can’t control when an opportunity is gonna come up but you sure as shit can control having a piece of product ready when one does.

Josh has a minimal (non-existent) internet presence, but you can keep up with his work via imdb.

This is the second part in an interview series I’m doing asking the same five questions of creative professionals.  The goal is hopefully to give young writers, filmmakers, artists, and musicians a more realistic view of what success (or ‘breaking in’) looks like in each of these industries.

Kevin Miller is a screenwriter and filmmaker from Abbotsford, BC.  His many credits include the feature films No Saints for Sinners and After… as well as the documentaries spOILed and Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Kevin’s latest film is also his directorial debut, a feature-length documentary called Hellbound?, which takes on the traditional doctrine of hell.  He also teaches screenwriting at film schools and conferences around the world.  I’m privileged to call such a smart and talented guy my friend.  Even if he is Canadian.

At what point did you consider yourself a success?

I still haven’t reached that point, to be honest. I saw an interview with Conan O’Brien the other night where he admitted that even after nearly two decades on TV, he still worries it’s all going to end 30 minutes from now. I can certainly identify with that. I think every creative person’s deepest fear is that one day they will be revealed as a fraud.

Even though I’ve worked on a number of films, some of which have been well received and earned millions of dollars, I always feel like I have to put a footnote beneath each one explaining the parts that make me cringe.

On another level, with my current film, Hellbound?, I feel a huge step closer to feeling a bit more secure about my abilities. That’s because on this film, I have a much fuller sense of authorship than on any other. Typically, I’ve been a screenwriter, co-writer and/or associate producer. On this film, I raised the money, put the team together, wrote, directed and assisted in the editing of the film. And now I am helping to manage marketing and distribution as well. So while it’s far too early to tell if this film is a success, it is a tremendously satisfying creative experience. And the fact that our film has already earned the approval of so many of my friends and mentors helps me sleep a little better at night.

How long did it take you to get there?

Not sure if this question is relevant in light of my previous response. I’ll let you know when/if it happens. However, I can say there have been brief moments going all the way back to the first line of poetry I wrote in grade 5 where I’ve had a flash of insight that says, “Hey, I think I might be onto something here.”

There’s always this gap between what you envision and what you finally create in the end. I can say I think that gap is closing steadily. But I think it’ll always be there.

Hellbound? Official Theatrical Trailer HD from Kevin Miller on Vimeo.

Who do you look at in the movie industry as someone you respect, that is “doing it right?”

I’m a big fan of two types of filmmakers. The first are writer-directors like Paul Thomas Anderson, the Coen brothers and Darren Aronofsky who manage to retain their artistic integrity while employing the entire myth-making machinery of Hollywood to their advantage. These guys consistently produce beautiful, insightful and important films. I’m truly in awe of their work.

The other type of filmmaker I admire is exemplified by people like George Lucas and James Cameron. These guys aren’t content to simply make movies. They see so far beyond the curve that before they can even make their movies, they have to change the way movie-making is done. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of every film they’ve created. But I have a deep appreciation for their commitment to innovation and excellence. It’s also humbling to be reminded constantly of how small my mind is in comparison.

What’s the biggest surprise for how you expected life to be at your level vs. how it actually is?

The money! (Or lack thereof.) I think everyone enters this business thinking/hoping that one day they’ll win the lottery, so to speak. Not true. At least not in my case. I can’t complain–I live in a relatively new house on the edge of town, I’m able to treat my kids to nice presents at Christmas and so on. But I’ve been a freelancer for 12 years, and that doesn’t always equate to financial security. We have had many highs and lows over the years.

People also expect this line of work to be somewhat glamorous. I know I certainly did. However, you quickly learn that the glamorous moments–if they even happen–are fleeting at best. Most of the time I’m in the field, on a plane or in my office at home. I jokingly tell people that making movies is about long hours of self-torture and self-doubt punctuated by brief moments of elation. So celebrate those moments when you can.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to break in to screenwriting or filmmaking?

Two things:

1. There is no substitute for learning your craft. A few lucky people can fake it for a while. But if you want to have a long, fruitful career in this industry, you need to work, work, work. Educate yourself. If you’re a writer, write. If you’re a filmmaker, make films. I’ve learned more about making spoof movie trailers with my kids than I have on actual film sets.

2. You’re only as good as your network. Like any business, film making is based primarily on relationships. I’ve gotten most of my jobs through connections from previous projects. What you know–and are able to do–is important. But who you know is vital. The thing I would warn against is using networking as a form of procrastination. I know people who feel like they’re filmmakers or screenwriters just because they’re able to score meetings or because they’ve met someone famous. The only thing that makes you a screenwriter or a filmmaker is the credit on the screen.

You can keep up with Kevin and his new film Hellbound? at hellboundthemovie.com.  And you can now view the trailer on iTunes!

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