#1–Bill’s top 10 highlights for the 2008 Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference

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Over the next 5 days, I am going to post the highlights of this year’s AFF screenwriters conference.  Well, my highlights, that is.

To kick things off, here are numbers 1 & 2.

Enjoy!

– – – – –

1. Hit a deer – Okay…I don’t know whether this qualifies as a “highlight”, per se.  More like a “lowlight”.  But it was a major event associated with this year’s trek to Austin.  A defining one, if fact.  That means it makes the list.  Hell, if anything, to honor the poor deer that gave its life in the name of getting our butts down there to participate in the conference.

First off, any illusions Robbye and I had of this year’s road trip being a replay of last year’s breezy cakewalk were pretty much killed by the time we got to Des Moines.  It started raining 30 miles into Iowa and continued the entire night—through every state—and didn’t stop until we pulled into the hotel parking lot.  The deer, however, was a little “adding insult to injury” the Universe tossed in for good measure.

It was 2:45 AM.  I’d taken over driving duties a few miles outside of said Iowan town, and we were about 10 miles south of Emporia, KS.  Robbye was sound asleep in the backseat.  The choices for the time being were heavy mist or fog.  It was a toss up which one I preferred.  They both sucked.  I had just passed though a patch of fog, when…

“SHIT!”

Right in front of me, a beefy buck, not more than five feet off the driver’s side front fender.  Saucer-eyed and doing the death-dash across I-35.  Thank god my reflexes were working.  I locked up the brakes for a second, slowing a bit, and turned with the deer.  That, if I say so myself, is what saved us from a much worse situation.  Well, for us, that is.

The deer, I’m sure, went instantly into the next world.  His head bounced off the fender and then took the mirror.  He spun around, I think, and hit the backdoor, where Robbye’s head was resting, and then he was gone.

The humans involved in the incident were, needless to say, a tad shaken.  We stopped a few miles up the road at an all-night gas ‘n sip and called the sheriff’s office.

“Yep.  That kinda thang happens ‘round these parts.”

The car, which was a rental, looked a little crunched, but it worked fine.  We’d bought the damage waiver, so we decided to keep going and call the rental company later when it was open.  See what they said.  They said, “Dang.”  But other than that they said go on with your trip.  So we did.

The good news, if there is any, is that it only added to our celebrity at the conference.  People we didn’t even know were grabbing us in the Driskill lobby and party venues.

“Aren’t you the people who hit a deer?”

“Umm…yes.  Thank you for reminding me.”

2. Chatted up Lawrence Kasdan – For nearly 30 years, Lawrence Kasdan has been one of my heros.  It all started with a little movie he wrote called RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.  You mighta heard of it.  He was cool.  HE wore a fedora, just like Indy.  And he wrote the coolest, snappiest dialogue I’d ever heard.

Then he wrote the script for a movie called THE EMPIRE STRIKES back (and, I learned later, basically wrote the production draft of STAR WARS…suddenly things made sense).  Stick a fork in me.  I was done—a fan for life.

I don’t think there’s a Lawrence Kasdan movie I haven’t seen.  But more important, as I got older, and my journey to a career in the movies took some unexpected detours, Kasdan’s story gave me hope.  He was a working guy.  He had a family.  He didn’t live in Hollywood.  He came into the game a little later than conventional wisdom suggests.  Yet, he wrote and taught himself the screenwriting craft, and when he thought he was ready, he went for it.

My good friend Carol, whom I met somewhat serendipitously 5-6 years back, turns out is one of Kasdan’s best friends.  She edits nearly all of his movies, and her husband has been DP for many of Kasdan’s films, too.  And every time we would get together, she would tell me, “You have to meet Larry.  The two of you would get along so well.  You come from such similar backgrounds, and your sensibilities are similar, too.”

Uh…let’s see.  Meet my screenwriting hero.  Okay…sign me up.

Unfortunately, schedules and the like never quite lined up.  And then…

It’s Friday night at the AFF, and Robbye and I are waiting for the bus to take us to the Texas Film Commission BBQ.  Who do you think is standing five feet away?  Yep.

Robbye was nudging me.

“Say hi to him.”

“No.”

“If you don’t, I will.”

That worked.  I hate it when she calls my bluff.

I’d sat in on a panel he’d done earlier in the day, so I opened up the conversation on that…seemed like a decent opening.

“I enjoyed your panel.”

Sheer genius, in fact.

Well, maybe not, but it got the ball rolling.

I got to tell him about our mutual friend, and he perked up immediately.  And that’s how I got to talk to Lawrence Kasdan the entire bus ride.  He asked me about what I was doing there, and I got to tell him about winning the AFF in ’05 with RUNAWAY.  And he congratulated me.

Lawrence Kasdan.  Congratulating me.

When I said good-bye to him, we were talking about possibly making the get-together Carol had been talking about happen sometime when we were all in LA.

And as I walked off the bus, my only concern was whether or not I’d wet myself.  After our very pleasant conversation, that woulda been…you know…awkward.

The skinny on Austin

Man!  Tempus really does fugit, don’t it?

I can’t believe it’s just a week till the start of the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference.  It seems like the last one was, like, a month ago.

I am truly looking forward to this year’s conference.  When the AFF contacted me about being a panelist this year, I told them that I would love to and that I would also be happy (and in some respects more happy) moderating some panels.  They really took that message to heart, and I am involved in some really cool panel discussions.

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I think it’s a really good idea, having actual screenwriters moderating some of the panels.  Being that the participants are, you know, screenwriters, guys like me know the questions they’re burning to get answered.  Because they’re same same one I want answered.

I notice there are a number of other screenwriters moderating panels this year (one of them being my good friend, Karl Williams, who is one of the most intelligent, articulate, AND funny guys I know.  And the guy can write, too).  It’s a good thing.  I believe it will make for a fuller, more engaging, and educational experience for the participants.

Okay…enough babbling.  Here’s the lowdown on the panels I’m on during the conference:

THURS. 10/16, 1:00 PMGETTING THE MOST OUT OF COMPETITIONS: What can competitions do for writers? Attending the Austin Film
Festival is only the first step in having your work progress in the
industry. Learn how to make your work stand out from the rest and get
the best experience possible from the festival.

This is the third year I have served on this panel, and I have to say I absolutely love it.  For one thing, the room is always packed, and the energy and excitement from the audience is palpable.  It’s great being in a room with so many passionate people, and it’s an honor to be a part of their writerly journey.  Another cool aspect is, though we do talk about competitions, we can’t help but speak to the whole picture–the entire spectrum of things serious amateurs should do to help make their first break.

And it’s always a pleasure to serve on a panel with Greg Beal of the Nicholl Fellowship.  That guy…he’s not only very bright and always has some entertaining and pertinent story that perfectly models the point we’re trying to make, but I swear he remembers every script that funnels through the competition.  In a contest, by the way, that receives upward of 6,000 entries each year.  It’s uncanny.

SAT. 10/18, 3:45 PMKNOW YOUR RIGHTS: POST PRODUCTION: You have the right to know if you are getting a fair deal on your
screenplay or film. From distribution and financial responsibilities to
maintaining the rights to your own work, How do you get your film seen
by its audience while protecting your own future? Come hear from
lawyers and filmmakers in the know about how to preserve your own
intellectual property.

Funny…I was checking this one out because I thought it sounded kinda interesting.  As a guy who’s been there AND who’s also been dipping his toes into the producing pond, I wanted to hear what the Hollywood brain trust had to say on the subject.  Then I noticed my name in the moderator spot.  Cool!  I guess it’s a lock, then.  I’m goin’!

Seriously, especially considering the current state of the industry, understanding the rights game and distinguishing fact from fiction is of paramount importance to fledgling writers.  It’s the first step to avoiding being the main character in a cautionary tale people talk about at future screenwriting conferences.

SUN. 10/19, 11:30 AMTHE ONLINE WORLD: Writing, creating and exploring content for the web. The interweb
provides infinite options for reaching new audiences. How does that
access translate into making a living from producing content for the
web?

One needs to look any further than this very articulate and more-than-slightly disturbing commentary by Mark Gill in IndieWire to know at the very least the Internets are THE (to use a little Presidential campaignspeak) game-changer in out industry.  It’s the new talkies, the new color, new TV, the new cable, the new VHS, and the new DVD.  In some respects, it’s all of those all rolled up in one.

In fact, when I talk about its impact on the movies, I equate its significance to the invention of movies, themselves, and how that impacted legit theatre.  I believe it’s going to fundamentally change the way people look at entertainment.  And, oh yeah…it already has.

Sun. 10/19, 2:30 PMNICHE PROJECTS — With an ever-expanding landscape of independent film, how you get your
film seen by its demographic? Learn from independent filmmakers who
have successfully found their audience and had an impact.

First off, what I just said about Mark Gill’s commentary in IndieWire.

Second, this is such an intriguing concept for a panel.  I have to admit, at first blush I would’ve been tempted to pass over it.  I didn’t really get it until I read the description.  But think about it.  In today’s world, the distribution channels are favoring movies that can find a niche–over mainstream ones, even. 

In reality, this is probably one of the most important panels that anyone could attend at this year’s conference, and I feel quite fortunate to be trusted to moderate it.  As evidence of its importance, I will refer to Peter Broderick’s excellent article in the 9/15/08 issue of IndieWire, titled "Welcome to the New World of Distribution".  In it, he outlined 10 things filmmakers and distributors need to realize in today’s movie marketplace.  Here are the two that I think apply here:

"4. CORE AUDIENCES – Filmmakers target core audiences. Their
priority is to reach them effectively, and then hopefully cross over to
a wider public. They reach core audiences directly both online and
offline, through websites, mailing lists, organizations, and
publications. In the OW, many distributors market to a general
audience, which is highly inefficient and more and more expensive."

and…

"10. TRUE FANS – Filmmakers connect with viewers online and at
screenings, establish direct relationships with them, and build core
personal audiences. They ask for their support, making it clear that
DVD purchases from the website will help them break even and make more
movies. Every filmmaker with a website has the chance to turn visitors
into subscribers, subscribers into purchasers, and purchasers into true
fans who can contribute to new productions. In the OW, filmmakers do
not have direct access to viewers."

Okay…  So there you have it.  Very exciting.  I am happy that they’re using me so much this year and that I am going to be quite the busy boy next week.

I am also, by the way, going to be judging the pitch competition again this year.  That’s always a blast and a real highlight for me.

Not certain what’s going to happen with the Filmcatcher commentary.  The project kind of fell through, which was a bummer.  The Filmcatcher folks really wanted to do it, but they have tons of festivals they’re trying to cover this year.  In the end, they felt like they simply couldn’t put the resources into covering the AFF they would need to in order to do it justice.  They’re hoping next year…We’ll see what happens.

I may still do some blogging for Filmcatcher on the AFF.  With the lack of a laptop, I am not certain how feasible that will be.  I am trying to figure that out this week.

Meanwhile, I am also excited because Robbye and I will be road-tripping it down there like we did last year.  We had such a blast.  I’m quite psyched for the sequel.  Sans our car getting towed, that is.

Re: “What else you got?”

My good friend, Seth Talley, sent me an email this morning suggesting that I take a peek at one of the threads on Wordplay and chime in.  Thought it might be good to also post my response here, too.  Since, you know…this blog has at least something to do with…ummm…writing.

– – – – –

First off, thanks to Seth for the props in this thread. He asked me to poke my head in here, so…

Yes…yes…I, apparently, was one of the chosen few. My first script sold. Meaning the first screenplay I’d ever written.

Yes, it felt great. Still does, in fact. I got great reviews,
screened at most of the A-list festivals, and won a national award.

And you know what? That was three years ago. My career is
moving forward (FINALLY!), but I suffered greatly from "What else you
got?" ‘Cause my answer was "nuthin’."

It’s taken me quite awhile to recover from my own initial (and
humble) success. It has been both a blessing and a curse. I struggle to
get work, and I struggle to get and then keep and then get an agent. At
this time, in fact, I am without one.

Someone in this thread said something along the lines of
(pardon my paraphrase) "First time scripts sell on premise as opposed
to execution." I think this concept is profound and largely true. I
think my first script was pretty good, but I look back now on the
version that was sold and I go "oy!" The producers obviously saw
something, but I believe that what they saw were more the raw materials
that could be shaped. And, quite frankly, I think the fact that the
production company could shoot my script for a smallish budget had as
much to do with them buying it as anything.

Thank God I became friends with the head of the production
company. Thank God he graciously let me stay on and do my own rewrites.
That, my friends, is where I started to realize just how much I DIDN’T
know about screenwriting. Every day I was wringing my hands and
gnashing my teeth because trying to keep up with these folks who had
made a helluva lot more movies than me (read: any) was one of the most
difficult and exhausting experiences of my life. I am proud of the work
I did and proud of the contributions I made to the movie, but I felt so
unprepared. So behind the eight-ball all the time. I suppose I would
have felt some of that no matter what, but it was amplified to the nth
degree because I was such a newbie–even more accurately, like a
"nobie".

I look back, and I sometimes wish my path would have looked
more like Larry Kasdan’s. He kept the day job and wrote five or so
scripts. By the fifth one, he *felt* ready. Then he moved.

My path, however, is my own. I have no regrets and, in spite of
the underlying tone of this post, I know that I am one lucky
motherf*cker.

My point, however, is this–if writing to sell is your primary
reason for writing a screenplay, stop and rethink. For one thing,
writing for money (i.e., to get rich) is an oxymoron. For the
other–and this simply echoes sentiments already well-expressed
here–writing isn’t about selling something in the first place. It’s
about your passion. Your calling. All of the best writers I know would
write even if they could never make money at it. It’s nice that some of
then do, though, because it’s nice to put bread on the table, too.
That’s reality.

It’s been eight years since I told myself I wanted to be a
screenwriter. Three years since the release of RUNAWAY. During this
time, I have gotten paid a smattering on various assignments. Not
enough, however, to fully sustain me. It’s been a difficult road. Far
more difficult than I’d imagined and far, far more difficult than
*before* I sold my first script.

I’ve written five more scripts in the past three years. FINALLY
I am feeling what Larry Kasdan felt. Ready. Educated. Versed (at least
at a base professional level) in the craft. Happy that the sixth draft
of my latest script (versus my 11th of RUNAWAY) is getting great play
in Hollywood and has that high-pro glow.

Oh yeah…and by the way? Eight years is ahead of the curve in this business.

As my amazing and wonderful wife would say, "Calm the hell
down." Don’t be in such a hurry. This is a journey. A long and arduous
one. It’s not for the feint of heart. If you’re standing at the
starting line and already grousing, there’s something wrong. And it
ain’t the process.

Hopefully I don’t sound too offensive here when I serve up a
little tough love–screw your head on straight. I gotta tell you,
reading the original post left me with a familiar feeling–one that
I’ve had a number of times as I’ve traveled around the country talking
to would-be screenwriters and listening to some of them complain like
that. It’s the feeling of, "Oh…I guess that person’s not going
anywhere."

My grandpa used to tell me, "Keep your ass up and your beak
down." Keep working and embrace the struggle. Because the struggle’s
not going anywhere. It’s part of the process. Part and parcel with it.

You’ve written a screenplay…congrats! Now be a writer. Do it again. And keep doing it. Every day. And maybe…one day…

All the best to you…Bill

Bill’s Interview w/Box Office Magazine on Breaking in as a Screenwriter

Knock! Knock! Knock! Housekeeping..!

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I know everyone’s been waiting with bated breath, and I can finally speak up and officially announce that I will once again be a panelist and pitch competition judge at this year’s Austin Film Festival and Screenwriters Conference.

I am not certain in which panels I will be participating.  The conference folk have told me that I will be getting an email about that shortly.  I did, however, express my interest in moderating a panel or two again this year, since I had a lot of fun doing that last year.  Apparently that’s gonna happen, too.

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Another thing I know is that I will be covering the conference on behalf of filmcatcher.com.  The Filmcatcher folks, AFF folks, and I are having a conversation tomorrow about what exactly that means.  Filmcatcher would like to have me doing some on-camera interviews with festival luminaries, panelists, and participants.  If that’s not in the cards, I will at least be blogging again this year.

Which, I learned, (re: the AFF blogging last year) was quite the popular thing at ol’ Filmcatcher.  I was talking to my friend, Al Klingenstein (President of Filmcatcher and RUNAWAY producer), and he said my blog entries got a lot of hits.  He also said that they got a lot of comments that people thought my entries were both highly entertaining and informative.  That’s kinda cool.  I certainly had a lot of fun doing that as well.

I’ll let y’all know when I hear more details on Austin.  For now, mark your calendars for October 16-19.

As for the missus and me, I am hoping we’re in a position to repeat our road trip adventure of last year, sans having our car towed for bogus reasons.  We had an absolute blast driving down there and back last year.

In the meantime, Aadip Desai, President of the Northwest Screenwriters Guild (and fellow AFF panelist) asked me to respond to a few questions about the AFF for an FAQ his organization is putting together.  I don’t know exactly what he’s doing with this info yet, but here is how I responded.  Hopefully it helps some other folks considering attending the conference.

– – – – –

Why should I go?

You should go to the AFF conference because it is simply the event for screenwriters…hands down.  You’re going to learn more and meet more industry people in four days than you ever thought possible.  You’re going to gain insight and knowledge—particularly in the realm of how to move from serious amateur to professional screenwriter.  And you’re going to have access to Hollywood types that can help you move your career forward.  Some of the best professional relationships I have were begun at the AFF.

And you’re gonna spend four days with your people.  AFF is like the mothership from Planet Screenwriter.  It lands once a year to call its people home.

Which badge should I get? How much are they?

I know money’s always tight—especially for writers—and the “big badges” come with a hefty price tag.  But if you’re attending the AFF, there is no question that you should purchase the producer’s badge.

Yes…it’s $585 ($650 after Sept. 22).  But it gets you into EVERYTHING.  Most significantly, it gets you into the parties, where all the panelists and industry guests are hanging out.  It’s where all the networking is happening.  Not to denigrate the importance of the panels, but that’s where the industry talks at you.  The parties are where the industry talks to you…and they’re friendly (read: liquored up).

Which days should I attend?

You should arrive Wednesday night, get a good night’s sleep, and be prepared to do everything though the Hair of the Dog Brunch on Sunday morning.  Just assume you’re not going to get much sleep.

How do guests get into events without having to pay for a conference badge? I.e. how can our spouses/partners/friends go to parties with us?

I believe spouses need to purchase a producers badge to attend all the parties.  And I would encourage that.  Having my wife with me at networking events is like having another me promoting me.  And she’s much easier on the eyes.

If you don’t want to/can’t spend that much, I would suggest purchasing a weekend pass for them, which gets them into a few of the key parties and all the rest of the stuff.  Here’s where you go to get info on all the badge options.

Bottom line, though..?  You’re spouse is gonna be pretty bored (and a little ticked) if their stuck in some hotel room and you’re out mixing it up every night till 3-4 in the AM.

Where does all the action happen? Where should I stay?

Here’s where I defy conventional wisdom.

A lot of people stay at the Driskill (where all the action is) or the Stephen F. Austin.  That’s fine…if you never need to sleep and you want to overpay for your hotel room (upwards of $300).

Me..?  I’m a cheapskate.  And I think, why should I spend a ton of dough on a room when all I care about is a bed and a shower?  I can rent a car (which is a smart investment, anyway…I’ve made some great contacts just because of the words “Can I give you a ride?”) and a cheap room up I35 for less than half of what the downtown hotels cost.  AND have an honest shot at a few winks.

Plus, it’s out of the fray.  I’m an introvert (as I guess some of my fellow writers are, too), and I need that quiet every once in awhile to recharge my batteries.  It feels more healthy.

Do I need to rent a car to get around?

No…but see above.  I recommend having one.

Which events are a "must attend"?

As I mentioned above, all of the parties.  And hang out in the Driskill bar every night.  That’s where you meet people.

The other thing I would encourage everyone to try is the pitch competition.  It’s not expensive, and you get a chance to pitch your script in front of real, live production company folk.  The feedback you get alone is worth the price of admission.  But I’ve also seen writers get requests for scripts out of both preliminary and final rounds.  And the winner gets lots of cool stuff (including a producers badge for next year) and a national award for their resume.  Hmmm…

Oh yeah…and any panel where Bill True is speaking.

How does the pitch competition work? How should I prepare?

You should practice your pitch, if anything, to hone it to 90 seconds or under (which is the pitch competition time limit).  You’d be amazed at how many people have trouble with that.

I did an article for the Great American Pitchfest newsletter last November that speaks to some things I think can help pitch competition participants.

At AFF, each round consists of about 15 people delivering their 90-second pitch to two judges, who are industry folk (screenwriters like me or production company execs).  Each pitch is scored, and the top two from each round move on to the next round.  The winners of that next round (about 6-10 in total) go on to the final round, which is a really cool event unto itself.

How do the roundtables work? How should I prepare?

At the roundtables, you sit at a table with six other participants and the each panelist spends 15-20 minutes at your table.  When time is up, the panelist moves to a new table, and another one takes his/her place at your table.  The idea behind the roundtable is that it’s a conversation between the participants and the panelist.

The only preparation you need is to come armed with the burning questions you want answered.  Here’s your chance to ask them.

They’re well worth the time.

One tip, though…questions to NOT ask include: Can I give you my script?  Can I get your email address?  Can I give you my card/get your card?  These roundtables aren’t an appropriate place for you to hawk yourself.

You will sell yourself best by maintaining a position of poise, asking intelligent questions, allowing other people to talk, and really listening to what the panelist has to say.  Then, at a party later on, when you run into that panelist, you will impress them by saying that following: “Thanks for the great roundtable conversation today.  I really appreciated what you had to say about [insert favorite point here].”  Instant conversation starter.

What should I bring with me to the conference (business cards, leave-behinds, etc.)?

Bring business cards.  If you get in a conversation with someone, you want to be able to give them your contact information.

I wouldn’t schlep anything else around with you.  No scripts (if someone’s interested, you can email a pdf to them later), no one-sheets, no DVDs…no nothin’.  I can’t tell you how much stuff I get handed to me at these conferences, and (as much as I hate to admit) it all goes in the circular file.

Make it easy on yourself and the panelists.  They don’t want to be sold.  They just want to be people.  And they already are inclined to help you if they can.

What can our guests do while we’re in panels?

Sit next to you.  Or save a barstool for you at the Driskill.  Movies start at 5 PM, so that’s no an option.

What’s the weather like that time of year?

70s daytime.  Jacket weather in the evening.  It’s a beautiful time of year in Austin.  Perfect weather.

How do people dress?

Standard screenwriter attire.  I wear jeans and a collared shirt.  Always.  It’s casual, but I wouldn’t wear shorts.

Follow up on INCARNATION reading…

This got posted all around the globe this morning…more later from the OLU angle.  We gots lotsa catching up to do.  I promise that in the next day or so, as the smoke starts to clear, we’ll be kickin’ it again OLU-style.  ~B

– – – – – – – – – –

Incarnationcover
Dean and I want to express our sincere and heartfelt thanks to Robb Mitchell, the Screenwriters Workshop, and the great actors who lent their talent to the recent reading of INCARNATION at the Ritz.  We also want to thank the folks who came out last Tuesday night to experience this stage in the script’s evolution.

Feedback sheets have been compiled and scores tallied on the INCARNATION reading.  The first question on the sheet was: "How did you feel overall about INCARNATION?"  Respondents were asked to rate it on a scale from 1-5, with 5 being "excellent".

I am happy to announce that INCARNATION received an overall rating of 4 on the surveys.

Of course, Dean and I would have loved it if the script would have garnered 5s across the board on this survey, but neither of us expected that.  In fact, I think either of us would be hard-pressed to rate it there, ourselves.  We know that it is a work in progress, and we appreciate all of the constructive feedback the ScriptNight process has yielded.

Three weeks ago, I was having lunch in LA with a former studio exec at Paramount who is starting up a production company with the former head of Paramount Classics.  This person, by the way, loved the current draft of INCARNATION (though he was far less fond of even the last draft), and is one of several Hollywood folks interested in it.  Anyway, he told me that as a writer, you know you’re on to something when people either absolutely love or absolutely hate your script…if all of your feedback is just okay, you’ve failed artistically as well as commercially.  This is one of the "truths" this man believes has been revealed to him over 25 years in the Hollywood development trenches.

Well, I am happy to say that it looks like INCARNATION successfully passed another milestone.  People love it, and people hate it.

I guess we’re on to something.

As I write this, Dean and I are considering opportunities presented by at least three players with Hollywood ties to produce INCARNATION.  And these are just the expressions of interest that came to us as a direct result of the reading.  Again…what a debt of gratitude we owe to Robb and company for providing us a venue to make that happen.

We’re in the process of compiling and considering all the great feedback we’ve received, weighing it against what we experienced and the feedback we’ve gotten from Hollywood production companies that have expressed interest in the project.  The next incarnation of…well, INCARNATION already feels palpable, as you’ve helped us to see a number of ways to make it a better movie.

One person that attended the reading had, I believe, the most insightful perspective on INCARNATION in its present form.  He had read the script two drafts ago and wanted to see how it had changed over the two subsequent drafts.  His comment was that he really liked the “quiet and touching art house version” of the script he read before, and he also thought that we would like the “emerging Hollywood movie” that the current draft represents.  His take, however, was that it felt like the script was still in transition—wanting to be one or the other, but not quite deciding which one it wants to be yet.

That comment made perfect sense to me.  It’s what I knew, what I felt, but it was an amazing thing to have someone else speak it back to me.  The cool thing about this script right now is that there is so much commercial interest and audience interest from both sides of the fence—art house and mainstream—that our job now is to land on one side or the other, then to hone the thing to a sharp edge.  Because that’s all part of the process.  We know that the company and the people we opt to work with to bring INCARNATION to the screen will help us in that, and we’re excited to take that next step in this journey.

So…INCARNATION.  Thanks for loving it, and thanks for hating it.  Thanks for sharing this moment with us.  It means everything to us.  And everything to our project.

And thanks for your encouragement, for your voices, and for your ongoing support of filmmakers who decide to live here.

Umm…this is cool.

Quite cool (click to see it full size)…

Incarnation_swwsm

All that, and I have yet to take a breath and update y’all about Robbye’s, Dean’s, and my grand adventure at the Great American Pitchfest.  I will do that, but it’s gonna take a little time, as there’s a lot to tell.  Look for that tomorrow or Friday.

In the meantime…we’re sittin’ here in hog heaven in anticipation of next Tuesday night.  There will be press in the Minneapolis StarTribune, the Mpls./St. Paul Magazine website, and other publications over the weekend.  Because you, however, deserve the scoop straight from the horse’s mouth, here is the press release:

Minnesota Screenwriters Workshop

 

Scrptnite_large

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Hollywood Meets the Twin Cities: Upcoming ScriptNight Reading of INCARNATION to Feature Local and National Talent

Minneapolis, MN – The Minnesota Screenwriters Workshop
is proud to announce it has chosen Incarnation, a new project by
award-winning Minnesota-based filmmakers Dean Lincoln Hyers and Bill True, to
be part of its prestigious ScriptNight Reading Series.

The script, written by
True from an original story by Hyers and True, will be read by professional
actors hailing from both the Twin Cities and Hollywood
this coming Tuesday, July 8, at 7:30 PM at the Ritz Theatre, 345 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis, MN.  The staged reading
will be directed by Hyers

Hollywood actors John Ashton (Beverly Hills
Cop
and Gone Baby, Gone), who appeared as the title character in
Dean’s debut feature, Bill’s Gun Shop, and Chris Mulkey (Cloverfield) are scheduled to appear
side-by-side with some of Minnesota’s top actors, including Sue Scott (Prairie Home Companion), to bring voice
to the script.

The event is open to the public, and tickets are available at the door for
$10.

There will be a Q&A and reception immediately following the reading, so
everyone will have an opportunity to discuss both the script and the experience
with the filmmakers and actors.

The ScriptNight reading series, produced by Robb Mitchell and Mark Gallagher,
runs 3-4 times per year.  Recent presentations include scripts from John
Carrol Lynch (Zodiac), Shawn Otto (House of Sand and Fog),
and Christine Walker (Factotum). The Incarnation event is being sponsored by Best Buy, the Minnesota
Film & TV Board, Fredrickson & Byron law firm, emixie.com, and
SagePresence.

Incarnation focuses on the story of Harry Bayer, who, after
years of searching, stands at the brink of confirming a seven-year-old girl,
Shanice, is the reincarnation of his wife.  But his only avenue to reach
her—Polly, the girl’s fractured mother—just lost custody.  As Harry helps
Polly pick up the pieces of her life, they unexpectedly fall for each
other.  Then FBI agent Artie Neckman arrives on the scene and raises
suspicions that point to Harry being a potential danger to Shanice.

True and Hyers are collectively in development with at least four film and TV projects for both Hollywood and independent production
companies.  In addition, along with their partner, communications expert
Pete Machalek, M.A., they formed SagePresence, a consortium of filmmakers who
specialize in bringing the professional equivalent of “stage presence” to
organizations such as Target Corporation, Prudential, Symantec, and The
Department of Homeland Defense.

BILL TRUE
(screenwriter) was named one of New Mexico’s premiere new playwrights in the ‘90s for his
play Hell is a Diner.  For the
next seven years, he worked as an actor, writer, and director for various
community and professional theatre companies, including the American Southwest
Theatre Company and the Guthrie Theatre Lab.  He was hand-picked by
Tony-Winner Tim Rice to play the title role in the American Premiere of his
rock opera, Blondel. For nearly a decade, Bill was a Product
Director and Director of Communications for Fortune 200 Express Scripts.

Bill’s debut feature, Runaway,
premiered to universal accolades at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Since
then, it has gathered an impressive bouquet of laurels, including screenings at Toronto, Woodstock,
Vail, and Avignon.
Bill also won the top prize at the prestigious Austin Film Festival and
Screenwriters’ Conference for his work on Runaway,
which is slated for release in 2008.

More information: www.billtrue.net.

DEAN HYERS
(director) was already showing feature films he wrote and directed at film
festivals around the nation by the time he was 18.  Upon graduating from Gustavus Adolfus College,
Dean launched his own interactive media company, Digital Café, as his entrée
into the movie business.  Through Digital Café, Dean directed and
distributed electronic promotions for mainstream Hollywood blockbusters like Godzilla, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: the Movie,
and Die Hard III.

Upon selling Digital Café to advertising heavy-hitter
Campell Mithun in 1999, Dean returned to the director’s chair with his debut
feature, Bill’s Gun Shop, which Dean
also produced.  Dean took top honors at the SMMASH Film Festival and won Minnesota’s top
directing prize, the DL Maberry Award, for his work on Bill’s Gun Shop, which was subsequently released through Warner
Bros.

More information: www.deanhyers.com.

If you are in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 21…

Okay…so I will do a more formal announcement about this exceedingly cool thing tomorrow or Sunday.  At the moment, I have to admit that the week has left me exhausted.  It was difficult generating sufficient steam to power myself through meetings and the minutia of my day, even.

I need to rest.

Gapf
But!  First…I need to give you all a heads up that RUNAWAY will be screening in Los Angeles at 8 PM as part of the Great American Pitchfest.  An event they’re billing as a "Screenwriter Showcase".

Runawayreviewv2
It’s a pretty swank event, the Pitchfest—well attended and well advertised.  The Pitchfest folks and I hit it off really well in Austin last year, and they are big fans of the movie.  They know I’ve got some things in the pipeline and other things I am trying to get off the ground, and they wanted to spotlight an up-and-comer who could use the exposure in Tinseltown.

The details are just getting finalized now, but here are the particulars that I know so far:

DATE: Saturday, June 21

PLACE: Burbank Marriott Hotel and Convention Center — Academy One Ballroom.

COST: FREE!

TIME:  Doors open at 7:30, screening at 8:00.  After the movie, there will be a short interview with me and a Q&A, and then a reception with appetizers and beverages to follow that.

Very cool.  I am quite honored and don’t know how to adequately thank them.  Equally cool, it’s a way to get RUNAWAY back in the environment in which it performs best…in front of an audience.

Tell all your friends!  And hope to see you there.

The script, my friends, is done.

It’s a day late (or several days late, depending on how you look at it).

Hopefully, it’s not a dollar short.

At 5:19 this morning I made my last edit.  I hit save, converted to .pdf, and sent off to Dean for his take.

I will have one more quick pass this afternoon sometime to integrate Dean’s notes (which seem, so far, to be minimal).  From there, it’s off to the producer of the ScriptNight reading, so he can get the script to the casting director.

I will, of course, want to take one more read.  You know, the one where I am actually awake and have my wits about me.  The one where I am not rocking back and forth and drooling like I’ve been locked in some rubber room for too long.  That’s when I will trust the work is valid.  And it is then that I will, I am certain, make the "final" changes that constitute this draft.

That’s the version I will trust to send to the TInseltown producers and such who have expressed interest.

Billwork2

For now, my life–like my office–feels like it’s a complete mess.  I am certain that’s not the case, and that all it takes is a little tidying up to be good as new.  Over the course of this week, however, as I have locked myself away day and night to cross this finish line, I could hear balls dropping around me right and left.

That’s not a good feeling.

And it’s a strange thing to know it’s happening, yet know that your life at the moment depends on your keeping focus on achieving one particular goal to the exclusion of nearly everything else.  And that in order to do it service, the process of achieving said goal, in fact, demands it.

You bracket that feeling away and soldier on, knowing that the fabric of your life is
unraveling some in the process.  Your hope being that the pieces of your life are
still relatively intact when you return to "normalcy"–at least
intact enough that you can them pick up and that they will function reasonably well when you put them back in place.  You trust in that…in your ability to do that and in the strength of your relationships with the ones you love, who suffer the most when you step away.

It’s the thing, by the way, that I am not certain I like about writing.  It’s certainly the hardest for me to wrap my head around because I’m the "I want everyone to like me and to have everything be okay" guy.  And yet, for some reason, I accept the "not okay-ness" of this life.  I submit to it willingly.  And with gusto.  And abandon.

I guess that’s why I say it’s a calling.

That said, I am going to start tidying up.

Billwork1

Yes…those are beer bottles.  More than I realized.  And dirty dishes piled up.  And something nasty is wafting up from the garbage.

And then there’s getting the tabs for the car, which should have been done Monday.  And paying some bills to, you know, keep our home working.

And touching base again with what makes it all worth it.

Robbye and I are heading off to a Haley Bonar concert tonight.  A CD release party for her new album.  It was a Mother’s Day gift for Robbye.  I am looking forward to spending some quality alone time with her.  To enjoying some of our favorite music together.

And maybe this time she’ll actually talk to Haley!  (I will let Robbye explain sometime…  [wink])

Hold, please…

Hello, OLU Reader.  You have reached Bill’s blog.  Bill isn’t available right now because, as you know, THE SCRIPT, MY FRIENDS, MUST GET DONE!  Bill will make his triumphant return to the blogshpere just as soon as he puts this @#&$^%&@ to bed.

In the meantime, perhaps you might enjoy a little music while you wait.

Got a message from my friend, Jason Morphew, who, you might remember was the original composer/songster on RUNAWAY.  Things happened and yada yada, and suddenly one day his music is off the movie.

Don’t get me wrong–I love Robert Miller’s haunting score.  It’s one of the most impressive parts of the movie.  And when I first heard the chilling and mournful strains of the main theme, I was nearly moved to tears.  Uh…yeah.  That kinda good.

The biggest loss when Jason left the project, I believe, was the hole left where his uber terrific Bull in the China Shop of Love used to be.  What a cool song.  Funny and poignant, innocent and menacing all at the same time.  And it’s hip and catchy.  Nothing against The Libertines’ song, which is a worthy replacement.  The movie was, however, designed around the Morphew song, and its absence shows.  And the experience of the movie–over the top uber magnificent as it is–is somewhat diminished as a result.

Anyway, got a little side-tracked there.

Vaporizercover
Jason’s new album, Vaporizer, has hit store shelves, physical and metaphysical alike.  In his email announcement, he included an mp3 of one of the tracks, Taking Things for Granted, which is kinda flowery and boppy, but also carries a subtle aspect of ennui that gives it unexpected heft.

The tune is downloadable on his MySpace page.  But in an effort to save you from the torture that is MySpace, I have included a link to the mp3 here:

Taking Things for Granted by Jason Morphew

The album seems to be getting some good buzz and positive notices, with one reviewer calling Jason "one of the most gifted songwriters now going."

Not bad.

You can purchase Vaporizer on iTunes, or by visiting Jason’s website.

Congrats, Jason!  I hope over-the-top success solidifies around Vaporizer.  (yes…I just had to say it.  The temptation was simply too great.)

The script, my friends…

This is gonna be short today.  The recent embarrassment of riches in my professional life have had one downside.

This INCARNATION draft..?  Still not done.

Ack!

Incpt
I’ve got the producer of the July 8 event emailing me this morning asking for a draft of the script, so he can get it to the casting agent.  And we’ve got at least two Hollywood actors who are considering doing the reading.

The script, my friends, must get done.

I have been trying to carve out the time to simply finish it.  This week, for example.  But something always comes up.  Now it’s Friday, and I am barely further than I was on Monday.

The script, my friends, must get done.

There are at least two companies interested in buying the thing.  There is another production company interested in looking at it as a Dean/Bill project.  There are a couple of folks interested in possible financing.

The script, my friends, must get done.

I gotta lock myself away.  With the exception of the Super Sale tomorrow, which is a Heavir-Schlafer tradition that deserves its all due respect, and Robbye’s 40th B-Day gathering, which is a once in a lifetime thang, I gotta go into my cave.  I have to somehow make the time to put myself in the mental zone, so I can see how all these pieces fit together.

The script, my friends, must get done.

Yet, the floor drain in the basement is backing up.  One of the cars might be on the fritz.  Bills must be paid.  Loved ones require care and attention.  Dogs and cats must be let out and fed.  And businesses must be run.

But somehow, for a moment, I must close the door and escape into this world my mind has conjured.  Because the Universe I live in on a day-to-day basis is telling me the solution to all that stands in front of me right now is simple…

The script, my friends, must get done.