Humble Pie

“If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” – Sir Isaac Newton

I had an epiphany tonight. After having taken a couple weeks off from writing to let feedback simmer and to take the family on a vacation, I was extremely humbled by a single tweet that shared this blog along with a few nice words. And just like that, presto…renewed motivation.

Then came the weekly Sunday night @scriptchat on Twitter. Tonight’s guest was Eric Koenig (@EricKoenig123), a dentist whom this past year sold his first feature, Matriarch to Paramount. You can read more about Eric and his incredible story here. Back to the epiphany…

I realized that the incredible network of writers that I have come to know on Twitter range from the produced, bought, optioned Hollywood insiders, to experienced and knowledgeable writers on the verge, to writers like myself who have a few projects under their belts but are still learning, to writers just starting out.  And it doesn’t matter where each one of us is at in our dream chasing journeys, as long as your respectful, courteous, and genuine, there are writers around you that WANT to help you succeed.

We read each other’s scripts and give usable notes and honest feedback. We favorite, like, retweet, repost, and share each other’s tweets and pictures. We answer each other’s questions. We lend a hand, an ear, or the right verb when needed. We pick each other up when one of us falls.

We do this because we all want nothing more than to see one of us succeed. To make that sale, to sign with an agent, to have our movie made. We want this SO BADLY for each other because we can say we knew you when…

We can say, “Hey, I gave that writer some notes on that script!” to our friends when it opens in theaters everywhere on Friday night. We hold the belief that you’ll pay it forward, that you’ll reach back down and do what you can to pull others forward who have put in the time, sweat and tears to write a great script. But most importantly, we all root for each other because if you make it, that means we can too.

Every writer who BREAKS IN keeps the dream alive for the rest of us. We look on and think, if I work just as hard, and I continue to learn and get better from every draft, I too can be a screenwriter.

When I make that first sale, I will not have done it on my own, because I will be standing to the shoulders of Giants.

It’s Been Way, Way Too Long

In the seven months since I started this blog I have written two feature length scripts and a short. Every time I sit down to make a new post the guilt strikes me hard.  If I have time to blog, then I have time to work on a script.  Time is such an invaluable and hard to come by commodity for me the latter usually wins out.  So it’s not to say that the time away from blogging hasn’t been productive, it very much has been. I started this blog as a means to hold myself publicly accountable towards my writing goals. While that’s still a focus, I think I need to use this medium as an outlet to work through writing blocks, brainstorm ideas, and basically just bitch about things that bother me. So here’s the latest.

I think I’ve gotten pretty good at the networking game via Twitter. I’ve made some strong, positive connections with more experienced and established writers than I. Some have even offered to give me notes on my latest script. So here comes my two cents on the consultant debate…while I didn’t like HOW the anti-consultants presented their position, I do agree with them when it comes to seeking someone’s professional advice and criticism.  I don’t believe you can pay someone money for their honest opinion.  Human bias just doesn’t work like that.  @jwillis81 got things going with a twitter rant that spoke volumes to me. He mentions times as a consultant when he what he really wanted to do was to tell the writer to kill the story or idea, abandon or rework it completely. But these were PAYING customers and he felt BAD taking their money to NOT be honest with them.

I believe I experienced this exact scenario when I entered the @bluecatpictures screenplay contest. I choose Bluecat because it was relatively cheaper than other contests and they provided feedback.  When the feedback came it was the first time I had ever put myself out there for others to critique. And the feedback was GOOD.  I compared what I received with the examples provided on the Bluecat website and mine was on the positive side. The reviewer had more GOOD things to say than NEGATIVE.  So I was a little more than disappointed when I didn’t make the top ten percent.  How could I receive such affirming feedback and then not be one of four hundred DECENT scripts? 400! This was quite the blow and setback to the pursuit of the screenwriting dream.

What I realize now is those wiser than I, like @jwillis81 and @courier12 who are adamant about NOT paying for notes, are absolutely right. But more importantly, there are going to be setbacks, I’m going to be told no and what I’ve written isn’t good enough and that I’m not good enough. But that is ALL PART OF THE PROCESS of improving and getting better.

I recently got HAMMERED on some notes that a fellow writer provided me.  I knew that the script was still pretty ROUGH and in need of a lot of work. But I couldn’t put my finger on what was needed. My first pass of her notes stung, pretty badly actually.  But the more and more I read through them it became clear how spot on they were.  Her notes provided exactly what I needed. I don’t believe I would have gotten such unbiased and helpful notes had I been paying for them. I don’t believe the reader at Bluecat was as honest and helpful as I wanted them to be…as I NEEDED them to be.

So I rewrite. And then rewrite some more. Because that’s what we do, right?

In the meanwhile, I am going to do my absolute best to make at least one post here a week. As always, please drop me a little note if anything I’ve said here has resonated with you even a little bit. Follow me @mcorcoran15 and everybody loves a retweet. Until next time…

Michael

Am I Doing It Right?

Today is the day I’m supposed to get feedback for both my feature entry and my short entry to the BlueCat Screenplay Competition. While I’ve been anxiously waiting to hear what they think, I forge on with other projects.  I’ve started writing a rom-com spec and have outlined another spec, a spy thriller.  My game plan hasn’t really changed. Get the BlueCat feedback, re-write/polish, and then I’m going to try the Blacklist with it.  I’ll give it a month, then after that I’ll probably put that one on the back burner.  It’s gotten some read requests but no real traction as they like to say.  And that’s ok. It was a passion piece and it has helped me take several positive steps forward on my journey towards reaching my goals of being a professional (paid) writer.  I have learned a tremendous amount.

One of the more positive experiences having come from writing and trying to sell a spec screenplay is that it has given me a context in which to engage in conversations with some pretty well-connected people in the industry via social media.  Twitter has become the go to medium for connecting with industry people.  So far, I like to believe that I’m doing it right and yes, there is a wrong way to do it.

I try to just be me. I’m honest and forthcoming in my online interactions. I ask questions about people’s projects and interests.  I congratulate them when they share their successes.  I try to do this for everyone, not just the famous people or the bought, sold, or produced people.  I don’t have to “know” them to shoot a quick “congrats, great job!” tweet their way.  Trust me, it means the world to some one to get that little notification that says you’ve been mentioned in a tweet.  Every Friday the Twitter population participates in a great practice of sharing user’s handles with all of their followers, encouraging them to go and follow these individuals themselves.  It’s called Follow Friday, denoted with #FF.  If you get a mention in a #FF from me, it signals that I interacted with you that week in way that was educational, inspirational, or encouraging to me. I use #FF as a means of saying thank you for making me a better screenwriter.  There is a small collection of people on Twitter that I have referred to as the “Cool kids.”  These are established industry people who have been beyond kind in answering my questions, entertaining my little anecdotes, or whom have shared an article or blog post that was both inspiring and educational.  Again, my way of telling them thanks.  It’s silly, childish, and cheesy…but man it would be cool to get a #FF from one of the Cool Kids.

I believe I’m doing it right.  I do my best everyday to pay it forward; to share something or to mention some one in some way that helps them or moves them along on their own journey.  These are invaluable connections we make here in cyberspace.  I very much hope to meet some of these people someday. I’m going to leave you with some thoughts on hope. But as always, please leave me a note in the comments and let me know your thoughts.  And of course, follow me at @mcorcoran15 and feel free to give a retweet. 😉

 

 

Making Things Happen

After sending out over 200 query emails to producers, agents, and managers I’ve garnered four read requests and plenty of replies informing me of their company’s no unsolicited material policy.  In conversations with other people much more in the “know” than I, it was explained that a query letter is not unsolicited material.  Sending some one an email saying, “Hey, I wrote a movie, this is what it’s about…” is not solicitation.  If they want to read the script they’ll ask for it and when that happens, it’s no longer unsolicited.

Unsolicited.  That word is beginning to lose its meaning for me.  The more times I type it, see it, or say it out loud it transforms into nothing more than a jumble of letters and sounds.  To any other aspiring writers out there, it’s just a word that the gatekeepers use as a means of intimidation.  Be braver than them.  I found such courage this week when I actually cold called a couple of production companies.  Having researched the assistants for producers, I simply called and asked to speak to them.  One patched me through and viola, a connection.  Let me be a little clearer…no I didn’t get to tell him about my script or anything more than I’m a screenwriter and I’ve written a spec. But I was able to introduce myself, converse with this person, and being from the same city as this assistant, I was able to make a joke about an affinity towards a certain type of deep dish.  Who knows if this assistant and I will ever cross paths again. If so will he remember me?  Maybe, maybe not.  But what matters is that I made the call and spoke to some one.  To me, it’s a connection.

I’ve been told I’m being proactive.  That’s just who I am I guess.  I’ve never been some one who sits by waiting for things to happen.  I’ve always sought out opportunities to make things happen.  My screenplay, Breaking the Plane (#BTP) is entered in The BlueCat Screenplay Competition right now. I choose that for the price and for the feedback that’s included.  Being from outside of L.A., you can imagine how hard it is to find industry people to read your screenplay and give you some feedback without needing a few hundred bucks just to do so.  I plan on taking the feedback and polishing it up and then listing it on The Blacklist next month.  For the same price of a decent contest entry I can get a month’s worth of exposure plus a paid read.  Who knows…could be good.

In the meanwhile I’ve started writing the next spec script.  A rom-com that I personally believe to be pretty high concept.  Yeah, I’ve learned what that means too and that it also means something slightly different to different people. More on that in the near future.  To you fellow aspiring dreamers out there…go make something happen.  Just one thing.  Take that one thing that scares the hell out of you and go try it.  Send an email, make a phone call, enter that contest…because every time you do, you chip away at the fear factor of it until you make that one call with such confidence and moxie that all they can do is say yes…or at least not no.

As always, please leave a comment or drop me a note via email or twitter.  I would love to know your thoughts and to have your questions. Until next time…

It’s Been Too Long

It’s been a few weeks months between posts mainly due to, I happily report, that I spent the summer months finishing my spec script #BreakingthePlane.  Thanks mostly in part to timely and powerful feedback from the Unknown Screenwriter . It has been incredibly motivating to NOT be told I suck.  But all of that is no excuse not to be posting here.

I started this blog as a means to hold myself accountable regardless if anyone ever reads it or not. Only two posts in I haven’t been doing a very good job.  It’s not all bad though as I mentioned above I have been writing.  I put the final touches on my spec back in August and then spent most of September sending out query letters to producers and agents.  I’m currently up to 160 queries sent.  Out of those I’ve gotten about dozen or so “no thanks” or “we don’t accept unsolicited” or the ever motivating, “this sounds great, but I’m not taking on any new projects/clients right now. Best of luck!”

The highlight of this journey so far has been the one single read request from a producer from NuImage/Millennium Films.  She requested to read my first thirty pages.  So I waited a day, registered my full script with the WGA, took another pass over the first thirty pages, and sent them to her.  Another week went by, I grew evermore anxious, but then I received the following reply:

Thank you for your submission. I read this and think it would make a great movie but discussed with my colleagues and they passed stating that this would be a hard sell to the foreign market. As you know, we are an international distributor and must pre sell our films to the foreign market. American Football wouldn’t be of interest to our foreign buyers therefore, we must pass.

 Best of luck with your project.

DID YOU HEAR THAT?! She thinks it would make a great movie! Now, I am not so naive to not consider this could just be her being nice.  But you know what? I’m gonna hang my hat on it.  I don’t suck.  This has been my number one concern all this time.  I read scripts, I see movies, I study structure and character development…but is what I’m actually putting on paper good? I’m beginning to think it is.

I strongly encourage you to leave me a note, a message, an email or whatever letting me know your thoughts.  In my next few posts I will continue to update on my current projects, a short that I am finishing up for The Bluecat Screenwriting Contest. I won a free short entry last spring.  I will also be entering my feature spec #BreakingthePlane as well. Deadline is next Wednesday the 15th.  No holding back now.  No  more excuses not to enter.  I’ve started another spec as well that I’ll talk more about next post. Until next time…

Thanks and have a great day!

What I’m Learning As I Go

After not having written any pages in the previous three days, I have had a nice little burst recently.  I banged out four pages and upgraded my outline.  My first script I wrote ten years ago I remember only listing my scene titles.  My second script two years ago came about after having read Michael Hauge’s book “Writing Screenplays that Sell” and Syd Field’s “Screenplay.” Both of these books were instrumental towards my first endeavor into trying to understand structure.  I utilized the notecard technique when outlining the second script.  At the time it did help me see my scenes and organize them properly to insure the story was moving forward.

Here I am now, twenty pages into screenplay number three and am still tweaking my outline.  Christopher Vogler’s work with his book, “The Hero’s Journey,” has always spoken to me.  So my outline this time around follows the Hero’s path.  While this has provided me initial direction, I have learned through other struggles to never become content or complacent, but rather to always be looking for or at least aware of a better way.

As of recent, when I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated, I turn to the blogs.  Balls of Steel by Jeanne Veillette Bowerman at Scriptmag.com has been my go-to source of inspiration and guidance.  It was this post of her’s that led me to a post made by another scriptmag.com blogger, Brad Johnson.  His Spec in the City post about sequencing was exactly what I needed at the moment that I needed it.  This five part post on sequencing and how to keep the story moving and the audience interested was a gold mine of information! Bouncing between the posts, my outline, and my script, I’ve written four pages in the last 24 hours!

Writers write.  I honestly believe this now.  Everyone in this community has a blog and there is something to learn from every post made. As I continue to dream and write I am learning a tremendous amount about the craft, about myself as a writer, and how to continue to keep improving everyday.  I sometimes get nervous that I won’t make it as a screenwriter because I wasn’t a film student, I didn’t study writing, heck I wasn’t even an English major! But I know I can write. I have written my fair share of academic research  papers.  Even these need to tell a good story. There is so much information readily available by those that have experienced both success and failures at screenwriting that feel as though I’m going to film school every time I read a screenwriter’s blog.  Have a question for the professor? Follow them on twitter, introduce yourself, and start a conversation.  Go to their website and find their email address and write to them. I have yet to find a screenwriter or reader who, when given respect and courtesy, isn’t willing to answer a couple of questions regarding their work and their craft.  If only Will Hunting had Twitter and a blog back in the 90’s he could have saved himself that $1.50 in late fees at the public library! Every time a fellow screenwriter answers a question or shares an insightful post my anxieties of not having a writing background begin to fade. I only hope that someday I am able to pay it forward all the same.

As I mentioned in my initial post, I am writing this blog to be held accountable for my efforts and progress towards my goals.  After a dry week of writing I am pleased with the progress I’ve made the past couple of days.  Feel free to let me know your thoughts. If it’s been too long between posts please give me that virtual kick in the rear to get me going. Accountability. Leave me a message here or follow me on twitter @mcorcoran15.  I would love to hear from the experts as well as those who are on a similar journey of their own.

The Why Before The Who

Before I introduce myself, I feel it is more important to explain why I have chosen to start a blog.  The uses for Facebook continue to grow everyday.  Having an interest in fitness and healthy eating, I have recently come across a plethora of pages devoted to individuals on their weight loss journeys.  Men and women alike can share in celebrating weight loss victories in addition to finding support from one another when they slip up and miss a workout or splurge on a craving.  These Facebook pages go beyond just being a community of supporters.  The main goal of such pages is accountability.  People document their progress with pictures of themselves before, during, and after their weight loss.  They document and share their workouts, their meals, their fears, hopes and dreams.  Again, accountability.

I have a dream of becoming a screenwriter.  I want to be held accountable for working hard every day to take at least one step, to do one thing towards achieving this goal.  Just as those trying to lose weight to look better or to feel better or simply to live a healthier lifestyle, they need that push, that constant reminder.  They put themselves out there as a means to staying dedicated and committed to reaching their goal. So this is me, putting myself out there. I invite you dear reader to share in my journey as I document my trials and tribulations.  I am inspired by all of the blogs and resources out there regarding screenwriting and making movies.  Many of these blogs are written by individuals who are young, aspiring, either studying filmmaking or screenwriting or living in Los Angeles working on movie sets or for production companies and agencies.  I am none of these.

I became a mathematician in 2000, earning a Bachelor’s degree in math and a certificate in secondary education.  Sounds pretty cool, huh?  The not-so-sexy description of what I do is teach high school math.  I wrote my first screenplay ten years ago.  After that my focus shifted as my wife and I were starting a family.  Four kids and a master’s degree in education later I went back to writing and wrote a second screenplay.  A teacher’s strike, change of schools, and second master’s degree in education once again put my screenwriting on hold.  For a long time I believed teaching was my calling.  I still believe that.  However,veryday that goes by, society continues to take a little more of the fun out of it for me.  But that’s a post for another day.

I didn’t simply watch a movie and say to myself, “I can do that.” I did not wake up one day and say, “I’m going to write a movie.”  I’ve loved movies my whole life.  I was raised on Star Wars, Schwarzenegger, John Hughes and Goonies.  These were the inspiration for the characters I created to be my friends as a child.  My love for movies really peaked after high school graduation in 1997 seeing Titanic, As Good As It Gets, and my favorite, Good Will Hunting.

Telling stories has become instrumental in my success at being a teacher and engaging my students.  My dad could really spin quite a tale about a reckless and rebellious youth as a teen in 1960’s Evanston.  The more I share his stories with others, the more fantastical they become to me.  So this is what I want to do. I want to tell stories.  Good ones. And I want you good reader, to hold me accountable.

Come back every once in a while and check in on me.  Share in my victories and lift me up after my defeats.  I promise I will work hard, I will write everyday. I will be relentless in my pursuit of this dream.  And I won’t let you down.

Thanks and have a great day!

Michael