Friday, August 23, 2013

Screenwriting links: Friday, August 23

WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle [NY Times] (Also known as Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing)

Meet 'Drinking Buddies' Director Joe Swanberg, the Man Behind Your Next Favorite Movie [Complex]

'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Producers Talk Coulson, Crossovers And More [Huffington Post]

The Business of Screenwriting: Three scripts [Go Into the Story]

The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers (And How They Can Help You Succeed) [James Clear]

'Short Term 12' Director Destin Daniel Cretton On His Breakout Success, And A Surprising Rejection Along The Way [International Business Times]

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Universal Pictures Launches Emerging Writers Fellowship

Universal Pictures announced on Thursday that it has created an Emerging Writers Fellowship designed to identify and cultivate new and unique voices with a passion for storytelling. 
Emerging writers who are chosen to participate in the program will work within the studio to hone their skills and gain access and exposure to Universal executives, producers and other key industry professionals.  
Universal's co-presidents of production Peter Cramer and Jeffrey Kirschenbaum will oversee the fellows. 
“This fellowship is a great opportunity for aspiring writers but it’s also a great opportunity for Universal,” said Cramer.  
“As audiences continue to be even more discerning about the films they see, finding new voices with unique and creative ideas is extremely important for our business,” added Kirschenbaum. 
Under terms approved by the Writers Guild of America West, the Emerging Writers Fellowship will allow Universal the opportunity to expand the community of writers with whom the studio works.
 From the Fellowship's official website:
Fellows admitted into the program will be hired under a writing service agreement and must be committed to working full-time for one year. 
This program is not intended for candidates who received Producer, Director, Assistant Director, Co-producer, Associate Producer, 2nd Unit Director, Director of Photography, Writer or Source Material credits on any feature film commercially released theatrically or television show that has been aired within the U.S. Candidates may not have any attachment to third-party projects that are currently in development. Any candidates who do not meet the aforementioned criteria will be disqualified.
I wonder if "attachment" means that you've been paid to develop something?  What if you haven't but are working with producers/etc.?
Universal Pictures’ will entertain applications for the fellowship beginning on September 3, 2013.  Interested applicants should submit an original screenplay as well as additional background materials in order to be considered.   All semi-finalists will then be asked to submit a second screenplay.  Ten finalists will be selected and interviewed in Los Angeles.  Up to five fellows will be chosen to participate in the program. 
A link to the submission application will be available at midnight on Sept. 3, 2013. Applicants must submit all of the following materials in order to be considered.  Only online submissions will be accepted.  The submission window will only be open for 30 days or until we receive 500 applications (whichever comes first). Applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible as only a limited number of submissions will be accepted. Universal Pictures reserves the right to close the application window at any time.
If you want to apply, you'll need a WGA-registered feature script that's a Comedy/Romantic Comedy or Action/Adventure/Thriller (other genres not accepted), two letters of recommendation, a resume, legal release and statement of purpose (see the site for more details.) Note that if you make it to the next round you'll also need to have a second feature ready.

As for the limit of 500 applications - I can only imagine that Universal's site will crash when thousands of writers try to submit.

Good luck!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The wrong way to network

Thanks to Justin Kremer for alerting me to Marc Ensign's amazing/horrifying article about a "semi-professional networker" who spammed a ton of people he had just met in the hopes that they could submit their poor female friends to his romantic advances. Some tidbits:
sorry about this mass email, but it’s more efficient on my end. i’m also kind of a “semi-professional networker” with 10,000 people in my gmail contacts list, 1,000 friends on my various FB accts (even though i don’t use FB myself), 1,000 followers on Twitter, and google will “auto populate” my name, so perhaps some of you “beginning” networkers will learn some tips of how i’m always trying to create a “win-win” (this skill set was stressed a lot when i got my MBA from NYU) 
These are my Hard (Objective) Dating Parameters which are NOT Flexible:
(this means I am only willing to pay for introductions if ALL these criteria are met)
(if you want to set me up w someone missing 1 of these criteria, I may accept, but will not pay for that)
  • Age 27-35 (ideally 28-34)
  • No kids, wants kids in the next 1-2 years
  • College graduate, doesn’t have to be a great school, but needs to have finished the degree
  • Skinny (i.e. dress size 0-2, if you don’t know what that means (many men don’t) it means very skinny)
  • Caucasian (not black, not Hispanic, not Asian)
  • Healthy lifestyle (defined as no smoking, no drugs, good diet, no hard drinking)
Where, where to begin?

First off, this guy may not actually be the most abhorrent dude looking for a woman this way. In case you want to feel even more hopeless about dating, be sure to read this Elle 'Ask E. Jean' column from last year about an entrepreneur looking for help finding a woman who's "very thin (but not because she’s starving herself or has food issues—I want someone who will be thin her entire life)" and has some anatomically improbable sexual abilities I won't repeat here.  

Dating facepalms aside, Mr. "Professional Networker" has provided an amusing launchpad for a discussion about networking - a necessity in the entertainment industry that most people hate or at least struggle with. A few years ago, I blogged about respectful networking - but it might be a good time for an update. Here's the basic rule: don't ask strangers for favors right off the bat. Stop thinking, "how can they help me?" Instead, ask, "how can we help each other?" Look at it like making friends. Ideally, you can all climb the ladder together and help people along the way. At the beginning, most of your contacts probably won't be able to get you an agent or buy your script (news flash: you're probably not ready for that, anyway), but maybe they can give you notes or tell you about assistant job openings. Slow down. Relax.

Also, don't be that person who shamelessly accosts big writers after panels. Why would they want to help you before their friends, loyal assistants, etc.? Make friends, because people want to help their friends. Don't be frustrated or discouraged by this; at some point, you're going to be the friend who's getting a favor.

(And this really should go without saying, but don't show up late to a networking event, spam a ton of people with a grammatically incorrect email, brag like an asshole and ask people to find you a fictional perfect woman. If you need a date, at least be self-aware, funny and generous with your money like this ad exec who's offering her friends $10,000 for a husband.)

Sometimes you will meet people who are farther along in their careers than you, and they might even be cool and nice - but be wary of asking for favors too quickly. If they want to help you, they'll offer. Many writers and producers in the industry like to be mentors - but not everyone does. You can't force it to happen. You might simply start by asking for advice, and see what develops after that. Tip 1: if you're asking things over email, be succinct. Too many new writers bombard people with rambling five-paragraph emails. Pros are busy. The shorter your email, the less likely people are to get annoyed and ignore you. Tip 2: be specific with what you ask for. When people say things to me like, "I want to be a writer, now what?" I think maybe they haven't done their homework, and I feel like it's a lot of work for me to figure out where to start. Being specific with my internship supervisor is what got me a job at an agency. Tip 3: don't ask a million questions or favors. Tip 4: remember that everyone likes to be congratulated on their successes. If you see someone pop up in the trades, you can send a super short "congrats" email without a question or request for a favor attached. Go Into The Story has some more good networking email tips here.

If you're really bad at networking or feel really nervous meeting new people, just remember that we all came here for a reason - and we all have a lot in common. Talk about your favorite shows or movies. Maybe even talk about (gasp!) something non-work-related for a second. I wasted a good fifteen minutes on Twitter tonight talking about the best burgers in LA. Be a human. If you go to a big networking event, you can also make an attainable goal for yourself, like that you're going to talk to at least two new people, or that you're not allowed to look at your phone for more than a minute at a time. Remember that there are probably a lot of other people dreading it the same way you are.

When you're new to the industry, I say go ahead and meet as many people as you can, whether it's forming a writing group or doing drinks with assistants you talk to on the phone at your job. But at some point, you'll probably let go of the "I have to meet everyone!!" mentality and just start hanging out with the people who have become your friends. You'll develop an aversion to all the well vodka, and you'll realize that you can't hit it off with everyone, anyway. It's just the natural order of things. Sometimes people you met once and didn't stay in touch with make a big sale or get a promotion, while other people you devoted a lot of time to end up quitting the industry to teach English in Cambodia, rendering them useless in your climb up the ladder. It happens. Gotta let it go.