Tilt Interview Part 2: The Screenplay

September 15, 2010 at 9:48 am

Filmmakers. Fans. Independent Film

Read Part 1: The Movie HERE.

I love absolutely everything about movies but without a doubt my passion lies in screenwriting.  It’s an addiction.

Even when I’m not working on a script, I’m either writing about it on this blog, reading other people’s posts online or flipping through a book on the craft.   I simply can’t get enough.  I’m always looking for inspiration and trying to learn more.  Where better to start than talking to other indie filmmakers out there?

In the second installment of my interview with filmmaker Phil Holbrook (@philontilt), we talk about how the screenplay came together for his first feature film: Tilt.  We also hear from the screenwriters themselves.

Part 2: The Screenplay

King Is A Fink

Throughout this series, I’ve discussed Phil’s deep connection to the film community on Twitter.  It began by taking an interest in other people’s work.  This allowed him to build up a huge network of filmmakers and screenwriters throughout the world.

Enter Julie Keck & Jessica King (@kingisafink).  The screenwriting duo are also a big part of Twitter’s growing film community.

“We joined Twitter last year as an experiment, and we quickly realized that there was a supportive and fun film making community that we never knew we always wanted. Phil was one of the first people we connected with”

The tandem became good friends with Phil and eventually began discussing the possibility of working with each other.

“When EgoFest opened for submissions last year, they (Julie & Jessica) sent in two of their short films.  After watching their short, Snow Bunny, and loving the characters, I knew they were who I should ask about possibly writing TILT.” says Holbrook.

It’s definitely a new age for independent filmmaking. Even a series of messages limited to 140 characters can lead to new and exciting opportunities.

Twitter provided Phil with such an opportunity and he wasn’t about to pass it up.

“The screenwriting process for TILT has been different from anything else I have ever done.  I basically told the screenwriters the dream.  I didn’t give them my notes.  I didn’t give them anything else.  I told them that if they were interested, to take the idea and make it their own.  That’s exactly what they did.”

The pair were instantly excited about adapting Phil’s idea for Tilt.

“We found ourselves faced with an opportunity to collaborate with someone whose work we respected, we fell in love with the idea of sharing the responsibility (and the work) of making a feature”

Twitter got them together.  It was time to get to work.

Collaborating with a team of people is what makes filmmaking such a unique and amazing experience.

Still, adapting someone else’s idea can be challenging when you are in the same room let alone in different cities.

The Tilt team tackled these challenges head on.

“Phil told us from the beginning that we weren’t writing a script FOR him; instead, he wanted us to write a screenplay based on his idea that was ours through and through.  This took a lot of pressure off; we were free to write a movie based on Phil’s idea that was still reflective of our sensibilities.  It was also important that we didn’t have to think of Phil as our ‘boss’. Instead, we submitted our work to him as our colleague, eager for his approval, surely, but also hungry for his feedback and open to his ideas.”

Using Twitter and Skype, they continued this process for months.  Little by little the screenplay for Tilt began to take shape.  Phil’s vision for the film was becoming a reality.

“We have had Skype meetings to go through the script at different phases.  Of course, those meetings were not always butterflies and fluffy clouds.  We had some difficult times, but we always worked through them and now have a script everyone is very proud of.  This process has probably been the most difficult thing I have ever done professionally, and most definitely the most rewarding.”

You always hear about the nightmares of working with other people in a creative medium.  Everyone wants input and nobody wants their ideas to be ignored.  The trick is to find a balance and keep an open mind. When you achieve that balance the results are extremely rewarding as the script will always get better.

Creative bliss.

This is a balance Julie, Jessica and Phil have mastered.

“The conversations we had as a group about the screenplay weren’t always easy, but we can safely say working through any rough patches we hit made our screenplay stronger. We’re very happy with the final result. It’s the best feature we’ve written so far and we can’t wait to see it up on the big screen.”

“They have crafted an amazing script.”

With the screenplay completed, it was time to move on to the next step.

Funding…

In the third part of this series, we will go in depth and learn about how you can use Social Media tools like Twitter and Kickstarter to fund your movie.

Visit the film’s blog here for more on Tilt.

Check out Julie and Jessica’s site KingIsAFink as well.

10 Flicks: Movies That Make Me Feel Like Writing

September 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm

10 Flicks: Movies That Make Me Feel Like Writing

I feel like watching a movie writing.

Any other screenwriters out there have a list like this?

Now, a list of your 10 favorite movies would fit as well but I’m talking about specific movies that light the creative fire inside.

The list I came up with may seem random at first but each an every one of them share two things in common.  The first is the effect they have on my creative ignition and the second is how they all involve creativity in some way. I will now elaborate.

Antitrust

Computer programming

When I was in university, I accidently got myself into a core Java introductory course and ended up loving it.  I wound up staying for the entire year and learned a ton about object oriented programming and the Java language.  It’s really nerdy but interesting stuff.

The idea of structuring a program reminds me a lot of the screenplay format.  Writing a script is one thing but learning when to separate paragraphs and strategic use of white space are invaluable tools to master.

So when I watch Milo (Ryan Phillipe) talking about bottlenecks, start-ups and adaptors, I want to load up Final Draft and work on slugs, transitions and plot twists.

PS: This is a pretty awful trailer.

Sideways

Novels

Paul Giamatti is a struggling novelist who is in a rut and wants nothing more than to be a published author among other romantic and wine related desires.  It’s the scenes that involve his writing that interests me the most.

I’ve never really wanted to tackle a novel but I’m passionate about screenwriting and so I can relate. Sideaways is a fantastic movie with an equally impressive screenplay.

As Good As It Gets

Novels

Awesome movie.  I love original dramas like this.  It’s such an interesting story and Jack Nicholson’s Melvin is a phenominal character.  I’m a huge fan of his workspace and how he basically narrates what he is writing as he writes it. I’m an even bigger fan of his discipline, churning out the novels and making it look easy.

Dangerous Minds

Poetry

The school fight in this movie is among my all time favorites.  It’s such a scary thought to know you have to fight.  Thankfully I’ve never had to face that situation.  There’s something about the classroom scenes that inspires me to hit the keyboard. I can’t really explain it but I’m happy it has that effect on me.

8 Mile

Rap/Writing

Rap may seem slightly off topic but it’s the passion to succeed that inspires me.  B-Rabbit is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his dream.  Who doesn’t find themes like that inspiring?

Good Will Hunting

Mathematics

The amount of research that must have gone into this screenplay is amazing.  I don’t understand half of the math good’ ol Will is talking about and quite frankly I don’t want to.  There are so many conversations that I love about working hard to solve problems. It is easy to translate that into solving story problems within a script I’m working on.

I don’t know math but I’m willing to work on a description or a line of dialogue until it’s perfect.

The Prestige

Magic

Two competing magicians constantly trying to gain an edge and become the better performer.

Christopher Nolan can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned.  The Prestige is an amazing film.  There’s just something about people who are passionate about their crafts that inspires me.

PS: This is an awesome trailer.  Take that Antitrust!

Adaptation

Screenwriting

It’s a movie about screenwriting!  It’s such a weird story but I love the originality of it.  I like to think that many people saw this movie on my list instantly understood why it’s here. So much talk about story and structure.  I love it!

Proof

Mathematics

Again the theme of problem solving serves as my inspiration to be creative.  Proof is a movie that very little people I’ve talked to have seen.  I just decided that my new goal for this post is to directly cause someone to watch this movie. (Or at the very least consider it.  Feel free to comment if I succeeded.  Don’t leave me hanging.)

A Beautiful Mind

Mathematics

“Find a truly original idea.”

There’s a lot of math films on this list.  This movie is just as inspiring to me.

The characters care so deeply about their field that it’s hard stop that dedication from infecting my brain with creativity.  I think out of all the films on this list, A Beautiful Mind is the only one batting 1.000 for getting me in the mood to write.  The others come close but this flick his the perfect notes on every single viewing.

Along with the other films on this list, it is one of my go-to cures for writer’s block.

Era 7: A Screenwriter Evolves

September 1, 2010 at 9:39 am

Era 7: A Screenwriter Evolves

September 1st.

My personal screenwriting year end.

It’s an extremely important date on my calendar because it gives me a chance to reflect on what I’ve accomplished and set some goals for the new year.

This will be the seventh anniversary of this holiday and I consider it a new era.

Era 7 has begun.

It sounds strange to number each era but I feel like each year should be a leap forward.

New year.  New goals.

It’s time to evolve.

Like every September 1st, I go back and review literally everything I’ve written as well as everything I didn’t.  This year is especially important because I really didn’t write that much.  I spent a lot of the last year and a half being a director with Playing Through completed and The Climb in post.

Sadly, directing those films in addition to my career left me with little to no time to write.

Until a few months ago when we wrapped The Climb.

I suddenly realized I had regained my free time.  Screenwriting had returned and with it, a new focus.

Era 7 is going to be my most productive to date. You can only truly call yourself a writer if you shut up, sit down and write screenplays.

Before I get to next year, it was time to reflect on the previous 12 months.

Like I said, I didn’t write much but that doesn’t mean I wrote nothing at all.  I finished a number of short film scripts and put a serious dent into my latest feature script.  I also went back and rewrote some old scripts to get them ready for potential competitions.

It’s been a while since I entered a screenwriting competition and it’s time to put myself out there again.

I’ve spent the last few weeks finishing up old projects and I started writing a series of shorts I’m thinking could work well as a web series.

Now it’s time to focus more on my feature screenplays. I haven’t finished one in a while and it’s time I fixed that problem.

Era 7 will be the year of the feature screenplay.  I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ve got 3 stories I’m planning on writing this year and I’ve never been more committed to creating entertaining scripts.

My goal for Era 8 is to be able to look back on my accomplishments and be proud of the work I’ve done this coming year.

There’s a lot to do but I feel like I’m a screenwriter again.

When it comes to being passionate about something, it doesn’t get any better than screenwriting for me.

Bring on Era 7.

Dexter & Screenwriting

August 30, 2010 at 9:56 am

Dexter & Screenwriting

I’m currently reading the first DEXTER novel by Jeff Lindsay: Darkly Dreaming Dexter

It’s a fantastic book.

I’ve already got the second installment on standby and I can’t wait to read more about one of my favorite characters.

Obviously, I’m also a gigantic fan of the Showtime series based on the beloved serial killer.

For more than 4 years now, I’ve been completely engrossed in the groundbreaking show.  It’s unbelievable how good it is if you have yet to see it.  I know I don’t have to explain how amazing it is to those that have.

It literally gets better and better with each successful season.  I’m still shocked at how season 4 ended.

It was one of the most entertaining hours of television I’ve ever seen!

Now, season 5 has raised the bar even higher while delving deeper into the mind of a fascinating character.

This blog is normally slanted more towards the film industry and the movies that inspire me but there is no shortage of inspiring tales on the tube.  The last 5-7 years have been especially gratifying with shows like Lost, Prison Break, True Blood, Mad Men, The Walking Dead and more  grabbing a stranglehold of my imagination.

Dexter is number 1 on that list.

For me it’s all about the writing. The writing on that show is incredible.  Each new episode is so unique, original and clever.  It’s just damn good writing and I have a high level of respect for that team and what they accomplish each week.

They are constantly challenging  themselves to write Dexter into corners and lead him into inescapable situations.  Just when you think they can’t think of a plausible way to get out of it they hit you over the head with a solution you never even thought of.  That group of writers must love going to work everyday.

I’m thankful Dexter exists.

dexter & screenwriting

Last week, I was riding the subway on my way to work reading my Dexter novel.  I had a moment of inspiration just like I would if I were watching the latest jaw dropping episode.

Except this time it wasn’t the ideas and the execution (pun intended) that inspired me.

It was the language, the subtleties and the detail.

The world of Dexter is so well developed that it’s hard not to marvel at the genius of it.

It got me thinking more about word selection and precise and interesting descriptions.  I started thinking about the newest short screenplay I’ve been rewriting the last few weeks.

In that moment, as I sat on that train, my book lowered and I made a decision.

This week, I’ve challenged myself to improve the language of my screenplay.  So I’ve decided to print it out and write from scratch keeping only the absolute best of the previous draft.  The story is out there but now it’s my responsibility to make sure that it’s well told and as entertaining as possible.

I live for moments of inspiration.

Whether it’s a novel, a television series or a film, I’m always on the look out for hidden moments that kick start my need to write.

And I love to write.

The Screenwriting Balance

December 9, 2009 at 1:20 pm

writing vs career

The Moneymaker

I consider myself lucky to have a career that I love.  It really is a dream job is you are a fan of sports and want to work in Television.  It’s been nearly 4 years now and I still love it just as much as my first day.  Yet I’m still trying to find time to write. I’m always thinking about scenes or characters but you can’t call yourself a writer unless you’re in front of a blank screen typing words and sentences.

Over the last few months, I’ve been reorganizing my entire life.  Everything from finances to scheduling to working out more.  I’m in a better position overall now yet I’m still trying to find time to write.

I think it’s different for every writer out there.  Those of us who need to write but can’t find time end up feeling guilty and unproductive.  Or at least, that’s been my experience.  I’ve read every book I can find on screenwriting and nearly every one of them discusses procrastination and how hard it is to find balance.  I think the difference between successful and non-successful writers is the amount of time they are able to find to get the work done. You have to assess your time and prioritize.  I’m currently assessing and prioritizing.

Over the last few weeks, I finally returned to screenwriting after nearly a year away.  While I definitely missed it, I don’t think it was as bad because my career and my company are both creative endeavors so I still had outlets to express myself everyday.

Two weeks ago, I wrote non stop for 2 full days.  I was on fire again.  It was like I never stopped.  Have you ever written so much so fast that you feel like your fingers can’t keep up?  There were so many moments when I actually stood up from my chair because I was too pumped up.  Now, I’m not saying what I’m writing is going to change the world.  I’m just saying writing makes me happy.

Rule 1: Write words and sentences

Since that day, I’ve been having trouble finding time to write.  Finally, I started really examining why I’m not writing pages everyday.  Normally, I don’t work until at least 2pm so I could be writing every morning.  Some weeks I don’t work until 5 or 6 in the evening.  That’s practically a day off with the amount of work I do beyond my career.  So why can’t I find time?  I have a theory.

INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM – MORNING

9:59am.

A young man in his mid twenties is sleeping soundly until 10 o’clock arrives and the alarm blasts music into the room.  The young man, JASON, flies out of bed and across the room to turn the music off.  Just as quickly, he slides back into bed and closes his eyes.

INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM – LATER

12:23pm.

Jason’s eyes open slowly.  This is a well rested individual.  He casually turns his head to look at the clock then lowers it in shame.  He slept in again.

The Screenwriter

That little skit above is an example of what happens when you work until 2 or 3 in the morning.  Sometimes, you just need to sleep.

I’ve learned that I have a unique list of requisites to check off before I feel like I can write effectively.  In the past, the most important factor was having a day off.  For some reason, I find it very hard to sit down and write knowing I only have an hour or two before another part of my life takes over again. When I have a day off with no plans, I usually get a lot accomplished.  I just have to accept the fact that I have a full time job and it’s not going anywhere.  So why not write for a few hours?  It certainly doesn’t make my life worse.

I believe that’s my single biggest problem.  Being unable to write because I have to work later that day sounds more like an excuse to me now.  Those 2 days of writing a few weeks ago taught me that even if I can only write for an hour a day, I’d still be happier than not writing at all.  I think I’ll still struggle with being on a roll and having to leave my desk but perhaps that will make it easier to sit down again once my shift is over.

Every writer with a job has to deal with these problems but finding that balance is the difference maker.  I’m no longer a writer because I’ve written a few scripts here and there.  I’m a writer because I sit down in front of a computer screen and type words and sentences. Doing so causes extreme levels of happiness and satisfaction.  This is what being a writer means to me.

PS: It has occurred to me that writing this post took up some potential screenwriting time.  I don’t feel guilty because I’ve found that balance.  I’ll have some time before my shift tonight.

PS #2:  If not, I always have my iPhone and the screenwriting apps I’ve downloaded. The bus ride to work is always fun now.

The Screenwriting Balance | Screenwriting Blog